How my part-time food blog side hustle made $1640.24 in October 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 October 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-based recipe and green living 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 report — September 2020 food blog income report — where I shared that I wanted to put a stronger focus on content output in October 2020.
Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in October? 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 November.[mailerlite_form form_id=4]
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 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.
💰 October 2020 Income Report
TOTAL INCOME: $1640.24
- Display Ads: $1340.78 (Mediavine)
- Affiliate Marketing: $49.46
- Food Blogger Pro: $7.00
- Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing, Photography, Design: $250
TOTAL EXPENSES: $151.94
- 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: $42.94
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $29.99
- Canva: $12.95
- SEO + Keyword Research tools Total: $37
- SEMrush: $25
- Keysearch: $12
- Email service provider: $0
- $0 (Mailerlite)
- Content + social media management: $0
Planoly: $8.99 (Instagram planning) Link.My Photos: $4.99 (Instagram bio links)
*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 I am cutting expenses month-to-month.
NET PROFIT: $1488.30
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 October 2020.
Well, quarter four is off to a great start! It was amazing waking up each day and seeing display ad RPMs (or revenue earned per 1000 sessions) increasing each day.
My average RPM for October was $36, which is outstanding for what my blog usually pulls in. Even with about the same traffic (see the traffic report below for more on this), my display ad income increased by $300.
I’m eagerly awaiting what RPMs will look like in November, typically the busiest time of year for food blogs due to Thanksgiving.
And which I would LOVE to see these high numbers all year round, I know I can’t get used to it because once January hits the money companies are spending on ads will decrease dramatically. If only it could be quarter four all year round!
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 October 2020 FITR made $49.46 in affiliate income from various affiliate programs.
I have mentioned wanting to increase my affiliate revenue many times in past income reports, but haven’t gotten the ball moving. This is an area I think deserves more attention and as I’m thinking through what 2021 will bring (more on this below in the summary), I want to start creating content specifically for affiliate programs I am a part of. More to come.
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.
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 October 2020 I made $250 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.
Overall pleased with income for October. I’m excited to see what happens in November, when people are searching for recipes all month long in advance of Thanksgiving.
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 a full-time job as well as run the blog 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 was spending $200+ on the website each month.
Over the last few months I have slowly cut away some things I have more time to do now to reduce monthly expenses for redundant services or those I’m just not using at the moment.
The amount I spend monthly is probably pretty standard for most bloggers with a site my size. My goal is to keep expenses below $200 a month to maximize profits.
📈 October 2020 Traffic Report
October 2020 traffic: 43,508 pageviews
This is +3% from September 2020 last month and -19% from October 2019 last year.
Top ten traffic sources for October 2020
New content on Fork in the Road in October 2020
- New recipe posts: 5 new recipes + 1 updated old recipe
- New green guides: 0 updated green eating guides
- New resources posts: 1 new food blogger resources
- New videos: 0 new recipe videos
Traffic didn’t move much in October compared to September, which is a bit disappointing. And even more disappointing is looking at where the blog was one year ago in October 2019 and seeing that it’s bringing in almost 20% less traffic.
I did a comparison of my most popular posts from this year and the last and saw that my older posts that did well last year are almost all getting 30-60% less traffic than they did last year.
This leads me to believe that I was hit with a Google algorithm update at some point in the last year. I believe that many of my older posts dropped in rankings and overall are bringing in much less traffic than they did one year ago.
In fact, I think it was specifically the January 2020 Google update and possibly also the May 2020 update — but that one is hard to tell because my traffic was wonky due to the pandemic.
For this reason I’m considering doing a search engine optimization (SEO audit) in 2021. There are many food bloggers who have done this and I’ve listened to tons of webinars and podcasts on the topic, but I think I need someone to take a critical eye to my technical SEO setup and let me know if there are any issues that I’m not aware of that may be causing me problems and that I don’t know have much control over.
The other issue — and the one I do have control over — is my content. I started this blog in 2016ish and had no idea what I was doing for a long time. That means there is a lot of low quality content that no one is searching for that is likely bringing my site down. I also have a lot of older recipes that could use revamping with new photos, new text, etc.
This will be a HUGE project that will realistically take me a very long time to complete; I’m estimating a year, and that’s if I work much harder than I have been over the last few months.
This has me really thinking about what my 2021 goals are for the blog and I have some big ideas, but I’m going to stew on them for another month and see what happens in November. Stay tuned.
💌 Email List Growth
705 subscribers (+42 net new subscribers in October 2020, 16% growth)
Not much to report on the email front. I haven’t been consistent with sending out emails to my subscribers, but I hope to get started with writing more email content soon. I have many ideas but time is always the barrier, so I think it would be best to start small with 1-2 a month.
💸 October 2020 RPM: $29.83
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.
($1640.24 / 43,508) * 1000 = $37.70
In October 2020 the blog earned $1640.24 and had 43,508 pageviews, which means the RPM was $37.70. This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $37.70.
📌 October 2020 Summary + Goals
Overall October wasn’t a bad month on the blog. Though traffic was stagnant, revenue increased and RPMs were amazing.
On the content front I was able to post/update 6 recipes, which is better than the two months prior. However, I still think there is a lot of room for streamlining my content creation process to post more consistently in the future.
While increased revenue was good, I am disappointed comparing the month to October 2019. After seeing that the site has experienced a 20% drop since last year, I spent a couple of days in a funk and feeling like I’m never going to move over this hurdle.
However, after thinking on it a bit and being realistic about the work I’ve done (or lack thereof) over the last year, I’m seeing it now as an opportunity instead of viewing it as a failure.
Yes, there is a lot of work to be done to update content, but this is an excellent challenge for the new year.
Looking forward to November 2020
I’m not setting any specific goals for November 2020, I’m mostly interested in how the month will play out with ad revenue and Google search.
So no big commitments, other than assessing where the site is now and figuring out a plan on moving forward. Stay tuned!
Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s October 2020 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.[mailerlite_form form_id=4]
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!