How my part-time food blog side hustle made $4,988.22 in November 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 — October 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.
💰 November 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: $4,988.22
- Display Ads: $4,373.21 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $115.01
TOTAL EXPENSES: $1,959.19
- 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.): $505.25
- HashtagJeff SEO membership: $8.25*
- The Affiliate Lab: $497
- Writer + Virtual Assistant: $1200
+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: $3,029.03*
*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…
November was the month I was waiting for all year long.
November and December are typically the months that blog income is the highest for food bloggers, as searches are high for American Thanksgiving recipes and RPMs go a little wild around Black Friday.
How did Fork in the Road do? Great in that it was the highest income month of the year. But not so great in that traffic was no higher than it was in the last six months (more on this in the traffic section below).
Income was up all around:
- Display ads: Highest earning month so far with over $4300 and average RPM at $63
- Affiliates: Higher than normal, which isn’t saying much because I don’t focus on affiliate content
- Other income: I also did some freelance recipe development and photography this month that took totals higher than a normal month.
Why include freelance income in this report? If you’ve been following these reports for awhile you’ll know that I used to report freelance income in my reports. I stopped doing this because it wasn’t much monthly, and I wanted to include only the income I made from the blog and not a monthly recurring side project.
I decided to include this particular project because the brand that reached out found me solely from the blog, not because of my prior activity on social or from other contacts. So if the blog didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have been offered this project.
Overall I’m thrilled that the website pulled into close to $5000 for the month. It’s truly incredible that something that started as a hobby has now reached was some people would consider a full-time income, all while working a full-time job.
📈 November 2021 Traffic Report
November 2021 traffic: 78,812 pageviews
This is +3% from October 2021 last month and +72% from November 2020 last year.
Top ten traffic sources for November 2021
New content in November 2021: 21 total posts
- New recipe posts: 5 new recipes + 13 updated older recipes (complete rewrites)
- New green guides: 1 new green guide
- New resources posts: 1 new blogging resource (income report)
- New videos: 0
I’m going to be honest: I was expecting A LOT more traffic in November than 78,000 pageviews. After coming off of my highest months in July and August (around 80,000+), typically the lowest months of the year, I was expecting to go up to at least 90,000 last month.
It’s kind of frustrating.
I have put in more consistent work in the six months than I ever have in the past 4 years combined. I saw some incredible growth happening in the summer and the last few months have been a complete letdown compared to my expectations for quarter 4 growth.
Here’s why I think website growth may have stalled:
- No new content. I’ve been focusing on updating older content for months, which was needed, but I’m at the point where the older content that’s left is content that really is never going bring in high numbers no matter what.
- Lack of holiday-specific content. I’ve focused on very evergreen content in the last year, which means that a lack of holiday-specific content meant the holiday season wouldn’t be as high.
- Strange search fluctuations. Even though we’re out of the rollercoaster that was 2020, I don’t think the world is completely back to normal with how people are searching the internet so it’s hard to compare to past years.
- Google update. I definitely think that the site was hit by the latest algorithm update in early November (why do they do this in quarter 4?!). I didn’t lose a ton of positions, but I think secondary keywords may have been lost so my posts just aren’t getting the same amount of traffic as before.
It’s a bummer but here’s how I’ll reframe: I was able to build my site content to be evergreen and withstand the usual seasonal fluctuations that happen to most food bloggers throughout the year.
I’ll keep telling myself this and then see how things unfold in the beginning of next year!
💌 Email List Growth
~2100 subscribers (+100ish new subscribers in November 2021)
I mentioned in last month’s report that I finally reached out to my email list after months (well, years) of not contacting them. I ended up emailing my list two times in November and had some unsubscribes, which is to be expected, but also had some great replies.
I am also working on a secret project that required me to chat with at least five people in my audience (I’ll talk more about this in future reports). I ended up having 7 video chat conversations with readers, and it was amazing! I had some great feedback and takeaways and it helped me to put a face to my audience.
💸 November 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
($4,988.22/ 78,812) * 1000 = $63.29
In November 2021 the blog earned $4,988.22 and had 78,812 pageviews, which means the total RPM for all income sources was $63.29 This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $63.29, about $15 more 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
November was the four month of running my second recipe blog, a partnership with Val from Thyme and Joy.
Though we’ve only posted maybe 15 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 November with over 1000 pageviews!
I’m excited to give this site some much needed attention in the future and I’m thinking through ways to share more detailed reports in the new year.
📌 November 2021 Summary + Goals
Though I was disappointed that the site’s growth wasn’t bigger in November, I need to remember to look at the business growth in context of the entire year.
Compared to last November, website traffic has grown +75% and income was over double where it was one year ago.
This was the business’s first $5000 month (counting the freelance work I don’t include in the report), which is an amazing feat considering this started as a hobby and has grown into what some would consider a full-time income (maybe not in the high cost of living area I am at in California!).
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!
Novembers’s blogging goals were:
- Publish 5 times a week, Monday through Friday (nope, but still posted 20 posts total)
- Publish a mix of old and new content (yes, did 7 new posts and 13 updates)
- Stay at least one week ahead on scheduled out content (yes, we’re three posts out)
December’s blogging goals are:
- Only one: publish more new content! That’s it.
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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!