How my part-time food blog side hustle made $1056.25 in March 2019 — all while having a full time job! I’m sharing my tips and strategies for building a successful food blog and taking your blog from hobby to business one step, and one month, at a time.
Welcome to the March 2019 Fork in the Road income report! If this is your first time here, my name is Kristina and I am a registered dietitian and the face behind this green eating and green living blog. Find out more about what we do at Fork in the Road here.
I recently shared how I made over $20,0000 from my food blog side hustle in 2018, which was the first year I took the blog seriously after years of running it as a (very expensive) hobby. And last month in February 2019 I made nearly $1000 with relatively low traffic and no display ads on the website (yet!).
Why am I sharing how much money my food blog side hustle makes? I love reading other food bloggers’ income reports, however I often find them unrelatable because so many large bloggers either share astronomical amounts of money per month (because they’ve been at this food blogging thing for years), or do not work full time and therefore have more time to build their blogs from scratch.
So I decided to put my food blog side hustle experience out there so hopefully you will be encouraged to keep pushing to grow your own blogging side business.
Ok, ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in March 2019? Read on for my income and traffic report, and my analysis of what worked (and what didn’t) and the goals I’m working toward in the coming month.
Why would you share how much money you’re making from your food blog?*
*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 made from my food blog with the world. Why would I want to put myself out there and share the nitty gritty details of what I’m 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, 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 inspiration and needed a push to keep going.
I especially wanted to share because so many blog income reports are from established bloggers who are raking in tens of thousands of dollars, and I wanted to show what realistic growth (and the inevitable plateaus) looks 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 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. So 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. So I can stay accountable and hopefully you can learn and be inspired to keep going with your food blog journey as well.
Ready to see how Fork in the Road fared in March 2019? Let’s do it!
MARCH 2019 INCOME REPORT
TOTAL INCOME: $1056.25
- Display ads: $9.57
- Chicory: $9.57
- Affiliate Marketing: $46.68
- Amazon Affiliates: $21.68
- Feast Design Co: $25
- Sponsored Posts: $500
- Freelance Writing, Photography, Design: $500
TOTAL EXPENSES: $204.69
- Website Upkeep: $91.25
- Website hosting: $36 (Siteground)
- FacetWP: $8.25 (plugin that creates my recipe index)
- Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $30.98 (photo + video editing)
- Email service provider: $9 (ActiveCampaign)
- Content + social media management: $73.46
- Learning + Courses + Conferences: $29
- Food Blogger Pro: $29
NET PROFIT: $851.56
Income + Expense Review
Let’s talk about income…
If you’ve been reading other food blog income reports, you’ll know that no two blogs monetize in the same way. Some are high traffic with high display ad earnings, some are killing it at affiliate marketing, and some sell their own products and courses. And some are doing a little bit of everything.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the way Fork in the Road created income in March 2019.
As explained in prior income reports, In 2018 I had a few low-income generating display ads (Google Adsense and Gourmet Ads). I made very little money (under $20 a month) and decided the ROI was not high enough to sacrifice the hit to my site speed, so I decided to go without ads. I did, however, keep one small ad in my recipe card, which is the amount you see here.
My main goal for display ads has been to grow my traffic to the amount necessary to apply to Mediavine (25,000 sessions), a top tier ad network. As shown in the traffic report section below, in March 2019 I had about 22,000 sessions, which was just shy of what I needed to officially apply to Mediavine’s ad network.
However, I connected with another food blogger through the Food Blogger Central Facebook Group and she encouraged me to go ahead and apply even if I didn’t meet the full session threshold. I was hesitant, as I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t following directions and didn’t want to be denied and then not be able to apply later (not sure if this is even something they do, but I was worried). But I ended up applying anyway — and I was accepted.
Lesson learned? You’ll never know if you don’t ask! I applied mid-March, heard back from Mediavine that I was accepted about a week later, and officially had display ads up on my site in early April. Looking forward to sharing about this in next month’s income report!
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.
As mentioned in detail in past income reports, I didn’t pay much attention to affiliate marketing in 2018 except to join Amazon Associates and link to ingredients and tools that my readers may find helpful when preparing my recipes.
However, at the end of 2018 I took the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course by Michelle from Making Sense of Cents, the queen of affiliate income promotions, and started putting the lessons into action with minor success by creating targeted affiliate content for my readers’ interests.
In March 2019 I saw my affiliate income raise from a measly $5 in February (ha!) to over $50 in March. This was a combination of more affiliate sales through my Amazon links — which I sprinkle in each of my recipe posts and in specific posts like gift guides — and from someone who purchased a website theme I suggested in my How to Start a Food Blog in 7 Simple Steps.
I’m still very interested in affiliate marketing and am looking forward to diving into it more in 2019. More updates to come!
A significant amount of the money Fork in the Road made in 2018 came through brand sponsorship of blog articles, food videos, social media posts, and emails directly to my email list. In March 2019 I secured one sponsored post partnership with a brand through a bloggers’ network site that connects brands and bloggers.
I mentioned in last month’s income report that I’m a little over sponsored post work right now, at least at the monetary level I’ve been accepting it at. Because I work full time I need to protect my time and make sure that the work I’m doing for the blog is lucrative and also aligns with my values, and the post I did this month was A LOT of back and forth with the brand with them asking me to completely reshoot the photos (um, no) and redo a lot of work at the last minute after already having the content approved.
While I think brand sponsored blog posts are fine occasionally, moving forward I will be more selective with the brands I work with and the amount I receive for sponsored content. Instead I would like to work on increasing more passive income streams, like ads and affiliate marketing. This may mean a drop in income in the coming months, but hopefully it means a more consistent increase later down the road. Stay tuned to see how this pans out throughout the year!
Freelance writing + photography
The biggest portion of my income in 2018 came from freelance writing and photography, but I decided to cut back significantly in 2019 and only kept one client month-to-month. Even though this type of work means that the content never ends up on Fork in the Road itself, I still include it in these income reports because without the blog serving as my portfolio, I would never have secured the work.
In March 2019 I made $500 from freelance photography, which should be about the same amount in months going forward. It’s an easy and fun project, as I get to shoot photos outside of my typical style, which I find builds my photography skills overall.
INCOME TAKEAWAY: March 2019 was an average month for the blog. I have been consistently making around $1000 from the blog, give or take a few hundred in either direction, for the last six months. I think in future months this total may decrease if I stop taking on brand sponsorships, but I’m ok with that because it means I can focus my energy on building my site’s content and optimizing it for search so I can replace that income with passive sources like ads and affiliate sales.
Let’s talk about expenses…
What you can see from my expense breakdown is that running a food blog means spending money to keep the blog running. I consider these costs of doing business, and because I work full time I outsource some things like tech management and use tools to automate tasks, like social media and emails to my mailing list.
Many of the expenses you see listed in this expense report are things that I pay annually, so I have divided out the monthly cost to give an idea of what it costs to run the blog each month. Before doing this for these income report posts, I actually had no idea that it costs me over $200 a month to keep the blog running.
EXPENSES TAKEAWAY: The amount I spend monthly is probably pretty standard for most bloggers with a site my size, however after laying out the expenses here I think there is some room to combine or cut back on some spending. I’ve been paying $20+ a month for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing but I haven’t edited a video since…November. So I think that expense will get the cut next month.
MARCH 2018 TRAFFIC REPORT
March 2019 total traffic: 28,015 pageviews for the month (+9% from February)
Top ten traffic sources for February 2019
New Content on Fork in the Road in Marcg 2019
- New recipe posts: 5 new recipe posts + 1 updated old recipe (new photos, rewrote post for clarity)
- New resource posts: 1 new food blogging resource post
Top 10 Posts on Fork in the Road in February 2019
- How to Rock Your Dietetic Internship Interview
- 4 Things to Do NOW as a Dietetics Student
- Nut-Free Chickpea Basil Pesto
- Colombian Ajiaco
- Homemade Bloody Mary Mix
- Cinnamon Golden Milk Latte
- Pasta with Clams in a White Wine Garlic Sauce
- Golden Milk Spice Mix
- Boozy Blackberry Lemonade
- Colombian Spicy Vegetable Arepas
TRAFFIC TAKEAWAY: In the food blogging world December is usually a great month for comfort food, January is great month for healthy food, and February your traffic drops off after Valentine’s Day. Then March or early April you may have an increase because of Easter, but then there’s a lull through the end of summer because people are usually out enjoying the warm weather.
Thankfully I didn’t experience a drop in February or March because I also have specific niche content that does very well in January through March, my resources for future dietitians. This content is strictly for nutrition students who are trying to match to a dietetic internship, and the application due date is in February with interviews happening in March — hence the increase in traffic to my How to Rock Your Dietetic Internship post.
I’m also happy to see a few new posts in the top ten for this month, specifically my Homemade Golden Milk Spice Mix, which was posted in January. I spent a lot of time researching keywords and implementing SEO best practices on this post, so it’s nice to see that intentional work pay off.
Email List Growth
225 subscribers (+19 net new subscribers in March 2019, 10% growth)
EMAIL TAKEAWAY: I didn’t start actively communicating with my email subscribers until just a few months ago, so email list building and email marketing are brand new (but exciting!) topics to me.
In fact, after only a few months building an email list community, I’m finding I enjoy creating content for my list more than being on social media (I’ve mentioned many times how much I detest social media, but it’s a necessary evil…or is it?). However, there is a lot I could be doing to get more people on my list and then targeting them with the kind of information that they want once they are subscribed.
In February I had 19 new subscribers join my list, which was a 10% increase from the month before. This isn’t a very high number this month because I also went through and purged a lot of cold subscribers, or those who hadn’t opened an email from me in awhile.
I have a lot of ideas for my email list in the future, so as I experiment I will share what’s working (and what isn’t). Watch this space!
What is RPM? RPM is Revenue per Mille, or the amount of revenue per 1,000 pageviews. The formula for RPM is: (estimated earnings / number of pageviews) * 1000. In March 2019 I earned $1056.25 and had 28,015 pageviews, which means my RPM was $37.70.
This means that for every 1000 pageviews I received, I made $37.70. This means I’m bringing in a decent revenue, considering my pageviews are not very high and I do not currently run display ads. However, I would like to grow this in the future and I plan to do that through ads and affiliate marketing.
March 2019 Food Blog Income Report Summary
If I had to to sum up March in one word it would be: maintaining. I posted six new blog posts throughout the month both on the blog and through my email list. I was also building on growth from the few months prior and keeping up my traffic when food blog traffic usually takes a nosedive.
As I shared in last month’s income report, I found out I am pregnant the very last day of February 2019! This was great news as my husband and I want to grow our family, but towards the end of March I started to feel the first trimester symptoms and it was all I could at the end of a work day to stay awake past 8pm, let alone work on the blog.
However, March was a good month for the blog overall as I hit my longtime goal of being accepted to Mediavine and I was able to keep up with new content. This became a little harder to do in the coming months with my pregnancy and a few more life updates that threw a wrench in my business plans. More on that in future income reports!
2019 Goals Update
In 2019 I decided to define focus areas for the year instead of hard number goals. Below is a summary of the goals and an update on progress.
- Content, content, content. I intend to create a lot of content around my niche topic, green eating and sustainable living, in addition to the usual recipes.
- Update: In March I created 5 new pieces of content, which is a great target for my months content development.
- Consistency. Work 3-4 weeks ahead on content (blog posts and emails) so when life gets in the way the blog doesn’t suffer.
- Update: haha, yet again this did not happen. Not sure this is realistic with a full time job.
- Grow email list. Grow my email list, the Green Living Community, by sending weekly blog recap emails and share featured content not available on the website.
- Update: the email list grew, but I wasn’t consistent with sending out my weekly recaps.
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s Food Blog Income Report March 2019!
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Do you have a question about food blogging you want answered in a future report? Leave a comment below or contact me!