How my part-time food blog side hustle made $882.94 in May 2020! 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 May 2020 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-forward recipe and sustainable living blog. Find out more about what we do at Fork in the Road here.
It has been a year since I posted my last income report (April 2019’s review) and while I mean to go back and do a report for each month of the past year (and an annual review post), I would like to get on track with the current month, so that means jumping ahead to the present day.
So much has happened in the last year that I’m including a small recap section below to get you up to speed, and then I’ll dive into May 2020’s full review.
Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in May 2020? 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 the coming month.
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 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, 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 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 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.
What’s happened with the site since the last income report
It’s been a year since my last update and in that time there have been major changes both in my life and in the world, including:
- I moved from Berkeley, CA to Sacramento, CA. My husband and I spent six years in the Bay Area and were very sad to leave Berkeley especially (it will always have a place in our hippie hearts!) but we decided to buy a house in Sacramento because…
- We had a baby! I gave birth to a healthy baby girl in October 2019. She is now 7 months old and is becoming quite the little character. Having a baby really puts life, and life goals, in perspective and I have a renewed drive to take this blog to the next level.
- Fork in the Road got a makeover. We have a new custom site design! After years DIYing everything on the site, I decided to bite the bullet and get a custom-designed theme from Purr Design. I absolutely love the design and am happy I invested in the business to create a cohesive visual brand.
- The world is on fire. Well, not literally, but it does seem like 2020 is making out to be a dumpster fire of a year. With Covid-19 and social uprisings, the world is in flux and nothing is certain.
- I was furloughed from my job. My maternity leave ended in late February and I went back to work at the beginning of March 2020, and then three weeks later I was furloughed due to the pandemic.
So to recap, this blog became my full-time income overnight. No longer a side hustle? I still consider it one because I do technically have a job still, even if I’m not working currently.
But also I realized very quickly that trying to get anything done with an infant at home is near impossible, so it’s still a “side hustle” while momming is my full-time (24/7!) job.
The blog was largely stagnant for most of last fall and the beginning of 2020. I didn’t have the energy to throw myself into it while I was pregnant and having a newborn put a wrench in things at the beginning of the year. But now that I find myself a stay-at-home mom (something I never expected to be!), I have a renewed interest in making this thing work.
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s get into the details of how much money this little food blog made in May 2020!
May 2020 Income Report
TOTAL INCOME: $882.94
- Display ads: $366.23 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $16.71
- Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing, Photography, Design: $500
TOTAL EXPENSES: $203.70
- Website Upkeep: $91.25
- Website hosting: $10 (Cloudways)
- Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
- Photography + Video: $9.99 (Adobe Creative Cloud)
- Email service provider: $29 (ConvertKit)
- Content + social media management: $73.46
NET PROFIT: $679.24
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 May 2020.
You may remember from my April 2019 report that I was finally accepted to the Mediavine advertising network. I have now been with Mediavine for a year and made over $7300 in display ad income over the past 12 months.
My best month was November 2019, when I had a huge spike in traffic due to Thanksgiving and the holiday season and made over $1100 in one month. However, January hit and while it has typically been a good month for me in past years, my traffic started to fall midway through the month and never went back up.
Looking back now I believe I was hit by the January 2020 Google algorithm update. Every few months Google changes its algorithm and some sites benefit and some do not. There were two previous updates in 2019 that hit food bloggers hard that I seem to have escaped, but then January hit and I lost about 20% of my traffic across the board.
Then two months later the world stopped because of the pandemic and ad RPMs took a nosedive in March 2020 and they haven’t recovered. My average RPM in May was an abysmal $11.64 after months of $20+ RPMs last fall.
Traffic is down for Fork in the Road and ad rates are down for everyone, so income is down overall. Hello summer slump!
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 May 2020 I made about $16 in affiliate income from Amazon. This a small amount, but like I mentioned in the ads section above, traffic is down overall and I haven’t put a lot of effort into affiliate marketing so this isn’t surprising.
One thing to mention that changed in the affiliate marketing world this month — Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates, significantly dropped their affiliate commission rates. This means that previously if someone clicked an affiliate link and purchased an item through my site, I would receive anywhere from 4-8% as a commission. Now that rates are much lower, I’m averaging 1-3%.
While I never had high Amazon earnings, this was a huge hit for many bloggers who rely on Amazon’s income. It was especially hard because it came at a time when Amazon is doing very well (at-home shopping is at an all-time high in the pandemic) and many bloggers are losing income through ads.
I mentioned in an income report last year that I took a break from pursuing sponsored post work. Sponsored work typically is very time intensive and because I was working full-time it didn’t make sense for me. I have also heard in the blogging community that sponsorship opportunities are down as brands are reducing marketing spending.
Freelance Writing + Photography
Freelance writing and photography is any content I create for brands or other bloggers. Even though this type of work means 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 May 2020 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. I am grateful for this income stream at the moment, as it makes up the majority of the money I’m making on the blog.
May 2020 was a lower than average month for blog income, because of very low RPMs and a traffic nosedive. The blog has always been a side hustle for me but now it’s suddenly become my main hustle, which was hard to wrap my head around. More on how I want to take the blog to the next level below.
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 worked full time for so long while also running the site, I outsource some things like tech management and use tools to automate tasks like social media and emails to my mailing list.
Also, 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, and have been able to reevaluate what expenses are important and which I can cut.
The amount I spend monthly is probably pretty standard for most bloggers with a site my size. However, now that I’m flying solo with the site I’ve had to take a hard look at my expenses and decide if everything I’m paying for is truly worth it. Compared to my April 2019 report, you’ll notice a few expenses no longer listed that I’ve decided to cut.
May 2020 Traffic Report
May 2020 total traffic: 37,237 pageviews for the month
This is -17% from April 2020 last month and +35% from May 2019 last year.
Top ten traffic sources for May 2020
New content on Fork in the Road in May 2020
- New recipe posts: 0 new recipe post
- Though I completed a huge project updating the recipe cards on every recipe on the site
- New green guides: 2 new green eating guides
- New resources posts: 0
Seeing my traffic at such a low number after months in the 45,000 to 60,000 pageviews range was hard to swallow. However, I know we are in a perfect storm of blog chaos right now: changing algorithms, global pandemic, and social protests that have been changing how people search food content.
There also the simple fact that I just didn’t post enough content, and I haven’t been posting regularly for awhile. More on this below, but it’s easy to see why the blog isn’t growing — I’m not posting!
Email List Growth
515 subscribers (+15 net new subscribers in May 2020, 2% growth)
I didn’t do much with my email list in May after doing two giveaways in April. I also took down my email subscribe popup signup forms and only used the built-in signup forms in my theme because I’m testing out different features. This resulted in low list growth, but I’m hoping in June to have new in-content signup forms inserted into key posts to drive subscribers based on the content they read.
May 2020 RPM: $24.45
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 May 2019 I earned $882.94 and had 37,237 pageviews, which means my RPM was $23.71. This means that for every 1000 pageviews I received, I made $23.71.
If we want to remove the $500 I made through freelance work and only look at ad and affiliate income, my May 2020 RPM was $10.28. Eeek!
May 2020 Summary + Goals
May was a hard month, I’m not going to lie. Losing my job, being stuck in the house, struggling to find time to blog with a baby at home, and seeing my site’s numbers lower than they’ve been in months wasn’t easy.
But at the end of the month I had a tough love talk with myself about why my site isn’t further along…and I know it’s because I haven’t been focusing on what’s important — content.
Yes, I can spend 3-4 hours a day doing things for the website like social media, Pinterest images, small admin tasks, fielding emails, reading articles…but these things don’t grow your blog. And they don’t pay the bills.
You know what does? Content. Creating more posts should always be my number one priority, yet I’ve let it slide in the past year because I began seeing the effects of my previous content and I rode that wave while doing the minimum. But there won’t be any future content waves if I’m not producing more content now.
However, I’m not being hard on myself because I understand I had a good excuse. I grew and birthed a human last year and I’ve spent most of 2020 learning how to keep her alive.
But now that she’s getting a bit older, it’s time for me to redirect the attention I have for the website to what will continue to grow it into the business I want it to be: content.
Looking forward to June 2020
I have hesitated to set any specific goals for the blog now because I’ve found that outcome-based goals like a certain amount of money or pageviews isn’t entirely in my control. So instead I want to focus on what I can do every day to grow the site, and that’s create more content.
- Content, content, content. I intend to create a lot of content around my niche topics, green eating and sustainable living, in addition to plant-based recipes.
- Consistency. I’ve pinpointed that writing is my roadblock and even if I have three recipes ready I will stall for days because I don’t want to write. So because of this I will aim to write for 1 hour a day to keep the writing muscle going.
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s May 2020 journey!
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