How my part-time food blog side hustle made $2,078.17 in January 2021! I share my strategies for taking your blog side hustle from hobby to business one post, and one month, at a time.

a collage of food photos with a white graphic with the words

Welcome to the January 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 us and the content we share at Fork in the Road here.

If you're new to my income reports, make sure to check out my last update — December 2020 food blog income report — to get caught up.

Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in January? Read on for my income and traffic report, my analysis of what worked (and what didn’t) and the goals I’m working toward for 2021.


💡 Why I share income reports

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 from bloggers like Pinch of Yum, Making Sense of Cents, Midwest Foodie Blog, and Kate Kordsmeier of Root + Revel very inspirational in my own food blogging journey. Their posts have been invaluable over the last year 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.

a mocha matcha latte in a white mug on a table with holiday lights in the background
Mocha Matcha Latte, a recipe updated in January 2021

💰 January 2021 Income Report

Month#Posts#Views$Ads$Affiliate$Other$Total
Aug-20349,495$917.18$46.20$300$1,263.38
Sep-20542,190$959.19$49.46$250$1,258.65
Oct-20643,508$1,340.78$49.46$250$1,640.24
Nov-20445,683$2,024.79$79.85$150$2,254.64
Dec-20453,027$2,605.78$98.94$250$2,954.72
Jan-211961,107$1,737.18$315.99$0$2,078.17

TOTAL INCOME: $2,078.17

TOTAL EXPENSES: $1088.14

  • Website Upkeep Total: $72
    • Website hosting: $11 (Cloudways)
    • Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
    • Tasty Links: $4* (automatic linking plugin)
    • Website Engagement: $10 (Slickstream)
  • Photography + Video Total: $542.94
    • Adobe Creative Cloud: $29.99
    • Canva: $12.95
    • Equipment (new lens, lens extender): $500
  • SEO + Keyword Research Tools Total: $37
    • SEMrush: $25 (shared account with other bloggers)
    • Keysearch: $12
  • Email service provider: $79
    • Mailerlite: $0
    • Kartra: $79+
  • Content + social media management: $14.95
  • Learning (courses, ebooks, memberships, etc.): $342.25
    • HashtagJeff SEO membership: $8.25*
    • Eat Blog Talk Q1 Mastermind: $34*+
    • Creative Course Collective: $300*+

+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: $990.03


Income + Expense Review

Let’s talk about income…

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the way Fork in the Road created income in January 2021.

Display Ads

As mentioned in last month's income report, I had an excellent Quarter 4 and December in particular was amazing for ad income because my RPMs averaged in the $50 range for every 1000 sessions.

I knew going into January that things would drop as companies spend less money on display ads with new budgets at the beginning of the year, but I wasn't sure what to expect for RPMs considering mine were so high in December.

I'm happy to say my RPMs didn't completely tank and held steady in the $30 range for most of the month, which is double the amount of where they were one year ago in January 2020.

screenshot of mediavine display ad income for fork in the road blog in january 2021
January 2021 Mediavine display ad income

NOTE: You will notice that the photo above from my Mediavine dashboard is actually showing an incorrect number because I had a huge amount of bot traffic that came in on January 31st, which threw off my numbers (see traffic section below for an explanation). I've manually calculated it in the photo to reflect the true numbers (56,158 sessions and average $30.93 RPM).

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is when a blogger promotes another brand’s product or service and receives a small commission if the reader purchases after clicking through an affiliate link. In December 2020 FITR made over $300 in affiliate income from various affiliate programs.

I wish I could say there was some strategy behind this, but there was not. I was lucky in that a pin for one of my blogging resources (7 Steps to Set Up a Successful Food Blog) took off and my increased traffic meant people purchased through my affiliate links.

Affiliate win of the month

However, I will take credit for my biggest sale of the month, a $150 commission on a course for future dietitians that I recommend in my Future Dietitian Resources posts.

This month I updated all posts about applying to dietetic internships since it is the application season and I included new email optin forms and my code for a course that I recommend. This resulted in one sale, which was great considering the content updates I made were minimal.

I'm currently not pursuing sponsored post work. If I was approached by a company that aligned with the site, I would definitely work with them, but right now I'm not using my limited time to pitch sponsored work to brands.

a bowl of pesto on a white table
Beet Greens Pesto, a new recipe in January 2021

Income Takeaway

Overall I'm pleased with January's income, all things considered. Display ad income RPMs didn't completely tank, and I was pleasantly surprised by an influx of affiliate sales. It would be nice if the site's baseline income in slower months was above $2,000, so I'm going to do my best to keep this number up.


Let’s talk about expenses…

If you've been following along with my income reports for the last few months you'll know that I've been continually cutting expenses to get my monthly overhead down to around $200.

However, this month I decided to invest some profits back into the business.

First, I purchased a new camera lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.4) and extension tube because my older lens was started to produce very warped-looking photos.

I also invested in two masterminds, both for different reasons:

  1. Eat Blog Talk Quarterly Mastermind: This group of 5 food bloggers meets twice per month for three months and discusses blog growth, monetization strategies, and other food blog-specific issues.
  2. Course Creation Collective: This is an 8-month mastermind that covers everything you need to know about creating digital products, from ebooks to large online courses.

I'll mention the 8-month mastermind more in my goals section, but I'm especially excited to get started in this group because I want to add digital products of some sort to the blog by the end of the year to help diversify income streams. Stay tuned!

Expenses Takeaway

I definitely spent more than usual this month, however I'm viewing these purchases as investments in equipment and in gaining skills that will help me to grow the blog/business even more in the year to come.


📈 January 2021 Traffic Report

January 2021 traffic: 61,107 pageviews

This is +15% from December 2020 last month and +45% from January 2020 last year.

screenshot of Google Analytics traffic for fork in the road blog in january 2021
January 2021 traffic from Google Analytics

NOTE: One thing you'll notice in the Google Analytics photo above is that the site had a big increase in bot traffic on January 31st. The site saw an additional 5,000 pageviews from spam traffic, which threw off monthly totals for traffic and RPM (and is adjusted within the photos). This seems to have happened to many websites, judging by comments made from other bloggers in forums I'm a part of.

Top ten traffic sources for January 2021

a screenshot of traffic sources from google analytics for fork in the road blog in january 2021
January 2021 top 10 traffic sources from Google Analytics

New content in January 2021

While I'll address my January goal of posting every day for 31 days in the goals section at the end of this post (hint: totally failed!), I did post a total of 19 new posts in January 2021.

Traffic takeaway

Last month I mentioned I was hit by multiple Google algorithm updates from late 2019 through the spring/early summer of 2020, resulting in stagnant traffic for the better part of a year.

My goal to overcome this is to do a complete content overhaul in 2021, updating every single blog post and page on the site to be the best it can be.

I will go into details more in the summary and goals section below, but overall I am pleased with the site growth in January considering we ended the month +16% over December (usually the biggest month of the year).

I know that this is predominantly because of the increase in content output, updating older content to be more searchable, and being consistent on Pinterest.

I'm excited to continue updating content and see what happens in the spring and summer, which are typically slower months.


💌 Email List Growth

~757 subscribers (+47 new subscribers in January 2021)

a screenshot of fork in the road's email subscriber growth from Mailerlite in january 2021
January 2021 Kartra email list growth

This month I decided to sit down and put a pen to paper and write down all of my grievances with my email situation (which basically is that…I don't have an email situation because I'm not sending anything out to anyone on my list).

So I made a list of my stumbling blocks (onsite optins, landing pages, ugly forms, ugly email templates, bad user experience in some programs, etc.) and then listed out what a perfect Fork in the Road email strategy would look like.

Then I made a decision: to invest in an email service provider that also includes unlimited landing pages, onsite forms, a payment system, and online courses so that when I'm ready to start selling digital products that I don't have to a) switch email providers AGAIN and b) try to connect many different services when I could just go with one service: Kartra.

It's way too soon to say whether or not I'm in love with it, but so far so good. A big goal for February is to finally get a welcome series started and update my optin forms so everything is automated.

roasted turnips and carrots on a white plate on a white table with a bottle of oil and bowls of salt and pepper in the background
Roasted Turnips and Carrots, a new recipe in January 2021

💸 January 2021 RPM: $34.00

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

($2,078.17/ 61,107) * 1000 = $34.00

In January 2021 the blog earned $2,078.17 and had 61,107 pageviews, which means the RPM was $34.00. This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $34.00, -39% less than the previous month (gotta love quarter 1).


📌 January 2021 Summary + Goals

If you read my report last month you'll know that I made the goal to post every day for 31 days in January.

And if you've read this income report so far, then you'll know I posted 19 new and updated posts in January.

Which means…I failed to reach my goal.

I actually made it 14 days in a row before missing a few days in the middle of the month when I had family in town. Then I posted every 2-3 days until the end of the month, for a total of 19 total posts.

What did I learn? It's near impossible to a post every day when you have a full-time job and a toddler without sacrificing quality.

But do you know what else I learned? I can cut distractions and do the work when I really want to. As evidenced by the fact that I posted more in January than I did for the four months prior combined.

I also learned that I do REALLY well with clear cut challenges. I had a very specific (and hard!) goal and, while I didn't complete it, I still produced a lot of content and got very clear on what needs to happen to the site moving forward.

So I think the month was such a “successful failure” that I've decided I'm going to try to “fail” again in February with different goals.


Goals for next month

With the knowledge that posting every day is near impossible for me, I'm tweaking my goals a bit for February 2021:

  • Post every other day. Post either a new or updated post every other day in February, for a total of 14 posts for the month (+ this income report, for a total of 15 posts).
  • Completely switch email list to Kartra + write welcome series. I want to have my entire email list switched over to Kartra, with optin forms and a welcome series in place.
  • Create one new lead magnet. I've been using the same lead magnet (a weekly meal planning guide) for over a year and I want to create a new optin to increase my subscribers.

Want to follow along with my progress? Sign up for blogging updates via email in the form below! I'll be emailing my list of fellow bloggers throughout the month about what's working, what isn't, and how you can implement my learnings to your own blog.

sliced golden beets on a cutting board
Roasted Beet Fries, an updated recipe in January 2021

Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s journey!

Make sure to check out the Food Blogging Resources page for past income reports and blogging tips, and sign up below to receive emails when new reports and blogging resources are live.

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!