How my part-time food blog side hustle made $3,391.07 in December 2021! I share my strategies for taking your blog side hustle from hobby to business one post, and one month, at a time.
Welcome to the November 2021 Fork in the Road income report! If this is your first time reading one of our monthly traffic and income reports, my name is Kristina and I am a registered dietitian and the face behind this plant-based recipe and sustainable kitchen blog. Find out more about the site and the content shared on Fork in the Road here.
If you’re new to my income reports, make sure to check out my last update — November 2021 food blog income report — to get caught up.
Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in November? Read on for my income and traffic report, my analysis of what worked (and what didn’t) and the goals I’m working toward in months to come.
If this is not your first time reading a Fork in the Road income report, you can skip this section and head right to the income and traffic report below.
You might be wondering why I am sharing how much money I make from my food blog with the world. Why would I want to put myself out there and share the nitty gritty details of the money this blog is bringing in?
The main reason for sharing this information is to inspire you to start taking your own blog seriously. I found other food blog income reports very inspirational in my own food blogging journey, and reading about other bloggers’ successes (and failures) has been invaluable over when I was low on motivation and needed a push to keep going.
I especially want to share because so many blog income reports are from established bloggers who are raking in tens of thousands of dollars, and I want to show what realistic growth (and the inevitable plateaus) look like when you’re also working a full time job. No one starts out bringing in the big bucks, it happens with time and consistency (the latter of which I sometimes lack!).
The other reason for sharing is a bit more selfish: while I’ve done well creating new content and mastering food photography, I haven’t been great at tracking my own progress and setting attainable monetary and business growth goals.
I have a ton of ideas for the blog, but sometimes not a lot of follow-through due to time restraints and not knowing where to start on everything I want to accomplish. Sharing my monthly food blog side hustle reports with you is a way for me to stay accountable.
In these reports I share a month-by-month analysis of what I’m working on, how the blog has grown, what’s working and what isn’t, and my goals for the future. I share this to stay accountable and so that you can learn and be inspired to keep going with your food blog journey as well.
💰 December 2021 Income Report
Below is a table showing revenue, pageviews, and content posted for each month of the last year. I keep this table updated to show incremental traffic and income increases (and setbacks) over the course of a year.
TOTAL INCOME: $3,391.07
- Display Ads: $3,254.26 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $136.81
TOTAL EXPENSES: $602.19
- Website Upkeep Total: $72
- Website hosting: $11 (Cloudways)
- Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
- Tasty Links: $4* (automatic linking plugin)
- Photography + Video Total: $65.94
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $52.99
- Canva: $12.95
- SEO + Keyword Research Tools Total: $37
- SEMrush: $25 (shared account with other bloggers)
- Keysearch: $12
- Email service provider: $79* (Kartra)
- Learning (courses, ebooks, memberships, etc.): $8.25
- HashtagJeff SEO membership: $8.25*
- Writer + Virtual Assistant: $340
+Expenses with a plus sign are new for the month and explained in the expense review below.
*Expenses listed with an asterisk are paid annually to take advantage of annual discounts, but I include the monthly amount here to show how much the blog costs to run each month.
**Expenses crossed out are those that I paid for last month but decided not to pay for going forward. I leave these here for the first month I don’t pay for them to show how expenses change month-to-month.
NET PROFIT: $2,788.88*
*Note that the numbers here are an estimate and are not reflective of actual money in and out for the month. I report money earned, not received, for the current month as my ad company pays two months after money is earned. I am also showing a breakdown of expenses to give you an idea of how much it costs to run a blog every month, however many of these are paid annually and not monthly.
Income + Expense Review
Let’s talk about income…
Shocked. Sad. Really bummed.
That’s how I felt most of December, a month I thought was going to be the best yet in the site’s history and turned out to be a huge bummer.
What happened? I’m positive that the site was affected by the November 2021 Google algorithm update, which resulted in an unknown amount of traffic loss and therefore much lower income. You’ll see in the traffic section below that the site had 15% less traffic than November, when historically December has been the highest month of the year.
My thoughts about it: I’m not going to lie, I was very bummed about it most of the month. I worked really hard in 2021 to update TONS of content on the site, I created winter recipes basically all year, and I did a lot of small things that I knew would make the site better.
To see the lowest traffic month since last February on a month that should have had through-the-roof traffic was a big letdown.
I pulled back on content creation at the end of December because I just needed a break from obsessing over the site. This lasted through most of January 2022 (the time of writing). But now it’s time to get real with myself…
Real talk: EVERY site goes through this at some point, it’s the nature of the game. And if I have to get really honest with myself about the site, there are A LOT of things that can be done to make it better, so this was a kick in the pants to just keep pressing publish and working to make the site the best it can be.
To reframe (to make myself feel better): Is making over $3000 a month on a website I spent maybe a total of 15 hours on the entire month a bad thing? No. Could it have been a lot more if I wasn’t affected by the algorithm change? Yes. Do I have any control over that? No. Does that mean I need to give up because I had one less than stellar month? Absolutely not.
Keep on pressing on (the publish button, that is).
📈 December 2021 Traffic Report
December 2021 traffic: 68,131
This is -15% from December 2021 last month and +28% from December 2020 last year.
Top ten traffic sources for December 2021
New content in December 2021: 10 total posts
- New recipe posts: 3 new recipes + 2 updated older recipes (complete rewrites)
- New green guides: 4 new green guides (kitchen resource posts)
- New resources posts: 1 new blogging resource (income report)
- New videos: 0
Nothing much to share in the traffic takeaway that wasn’t address in the income review above. It’s hard to estimate the traffic losses because it was Quarter 4, typically a time traffic soars for food blogs, but I would estimate the total potential losses in December to be anywhere from 15%-30% based on predications from past years.
I’ll say it again: keep on pressing publish.
💌 Email List Growth
~2300 subscribers (+100ish new subscribers in November 2021)
Nothing major to report on the email list this month, other than I ended up starting a Flodesk account to get to know the software and see what they offer.
It’s an interesting concept: $19 a month (with a coupon code) for UNLIMITED subscribers. The email templates are beautiful and it would fit well for a food or other visual blogger who doesn’t need the bells and whistles of a full blown email marketing setup (lots of landing pages, link triggers, intense funnels and campaigns, etc.).
All of which I do not need currently for Fork in the Road, but my pesky little entrepreneur brain says “Yeah, but you might need x, y, and z in the future!”.
That’s the hard part of building an online business, is ignoring that voice and not making things more complicated than they have to be (the story of my life).
💸 December 2021 RPM: $63.29
What is RPM? RPM is Revenue per Mille, or the amount of revenue per 1,000 pageviews. The formula for RPM is:
RPM = (estimated earnings / number of pageviews) * 1000
($3,391.07/ 68,131) * 1000 = $49.77
In December 2021 the blog earned $3,391.07 and had 68,131 pageviews, which means the total RPM for all income sources was $49.77. This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $49.77, about $13 less than last month (note that this number is actually lower than my ad company RPM totals because my ad company takes a percentage of my earnings).
👩💻 Other Sites
Though I absolutely LOVE Fork in the Road and it will always be my blogging baby, my goal is to have a portfolio of websites and I even want to test the waters with buying and flipping websites in the future.
Below is an update on other blogs I have started, and I hope to flush this section out more as I dive into more projects.
Site #2: Recipe Blog Partnership
December was the fifth month of running my second recipe blog, a partnership with Val from Thyme and Joy.
Though we’ve only posted maybe 20 recipes and the site is so bare bones that it doesn’t even have a sidebar or about page, we actually ended the month of December with just shy of 2000 pageviews!
I ended up spending a bit of time at the end of the month putting a new theme on the site and doing some styling, so it looks great now and it’s actually a project I’m excited to work on more.
Sites #3 and #4
Wait, what? Site 3 and Site 4? Yup, you read that right – I now have 4 active websites (and a couple other ideas cooking).
I haven’t mentioned this in past income reports because I wanted to focus most of the income reports on Fork in the Road because it’s my main site. But my ultimate goal is to have many sites in my portfolio and to buy, build, and possibly flip them in the future.
So here’s my question to you: do you want to read about other site case studies beyond my main food blog? I am considering moving these income reports to a completely different site that will document my process of building many different website projects. Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d be interested in reading!
📌 December 2021 Summary + Goals
Not much to summarize beyond what was already said in the income section above, beyond being disappointed by the traffic and income from this month.
But, spoiler alert: things are starting to look up in January 2022 (when I’m writing this report).
I took a little time off from doing anything on the site for most of the end of December and the beginning of January, but the blogging bug won’t leave me alone for too long and I am back to full-speed-ahead publishing (when I can).
I’m also going to repost what I shared in last month’s report as a reminder:
I have to remember that I still run this site as a side hustle – I work a full-time job and I’m a parent to a toddler. Those things alone are enough to make you overwhelmed, so throw in a budding business and you can see that my time is stretched thin.
Running this site as a side hustle actually gives me the flexibility to invest in it more than I would if this was my only gig. I have to the freedom to grow it as fast or as slow as I need to. No pressure needed – though I certainly do put the pressure on myself from time to time!
Decembers’s blogging goals were:
- Only one: publish more new content! That’s it. (accomplished!)
January 2022’s blogging goals:
- Take a break from the site to refresh
- Get back in the swing of things when I’m ready
- Post more non-recipe content, because it takes less time…which means I can post more
If you’d like to follow along on my journey, sign up below for email updates!
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s journey!
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Do you have a food blogging question you want answered in a future report? Want to commiserate on your own blog traffic or income? Leave a comment below or contact me!