How my part-time food blog side hustle made $1258.65 in September 2020! 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 September 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 sustainable living blog. Find out more about what we do at Fork in the Road here.

If you’re new to my income reports, make sure to check out my last report — August 2020 food blog income report — where I shared that I wanted to put a stronger focus on content output in September 2020.

Ready to learn how Fork in the Road grew in September? 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 October.


💡 Why I share food blog 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 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 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 bowl of pesto sauce with a gold fork and radishes on a white table
Radish Greens Pesto, posted in September 2020

💰 September 2020 Income Report

TOTAL INCOME: $1258.65

TOTAL EXPENSES: $168.05

  • Website Upkeep: $87.08
    • Website hosting: $11 (Cloudways)
    • Website tech/development: $47 (iMarkCreative)
    • Tasty Links: $4.08* (automatic linking plugin)
    • Website Engagement: $25 (Slickstream)
  • Photography + Video: $29.99 (Adobe Creative Cloud)
  • SEO + Keyword Research tools: $37
    • SEMrush: $25
    • Keysearch: $12
  • Email service provider: $0
    • $0 (Mailerlite)
  • Content + social media management: $13.98
    • 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 listed with two asterisks 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: $1090.60


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 September 2020.

Display Ads

Traffic dropped a bit in September compared to August (see the traffic report below for more details) but display ad income stayed about the same. What changed?

RPMs! September RPMs averaged out to $26.84 per 1000 sessions, while August’s average $22.43. This means that even though traffic was down a bit, the site made more money for the traffic that it did have and the numbers evened out a bit.

screenshot of mediavine display ad income for fork in the road blog in september 2020
Income from Mediavine in September 2020

I compared September 2020’s RPM of $26.84 to September 2019’s RPM of $16.32 and saw a 64% increase year over year!

I think this is a combination of being with Mediavine for 1.5 years now (my revenue share increases by 1% each year), and starting to incorporate video into my posts.

In fact, video makes up about 25% of the revenue I’m making so that confirms to me to make even more video moving forward.

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 September 2020 FITR made $49.46 in affiliate income from various affiliate programs.

I’ve mentioned wanting to create more dedicated posts to affiliate partners in past reports, but that still hasn’t happened. I am in a groove with creating recipe content and even though it takes longer to create a recipe post, I find it harder overall to write other types of posts.

My goal for October: 1 affiliate-focused posts! Gotta start somewhere.

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 August 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.

pesto pasta on a blue plate with a gold fork on a white table with red radish
Radish Greens Pesto Pasta, posted in September 2020

Income Takeaway

Overall pleased with income for September. Though traffic dropped a bit revenue was about the same as September. I’m excited to see what happens in quarter four, when food blogs have their biggest season.


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.

Expenses Takeaway

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.


📈 September 2020 Traffic Report

September 2020 traffic: 42,190 pageviews

This is -14% from August 2020 last month and -11% from September 2019 last year.

screenshot of Google Analytics traffic for fork in the road blog in september 2020
September 2020 traffic from Google Analytics

Top ten traffic sources for September 2020

a screenshot of traffic sources from google analytics for fork in the road blog in september 2020
September 2020 top 10 traffic sources from Google Analytics

New content on Fork in the Road in September 2020

Traffic takeaway

September saw a 14% drop in traffic compared to August. A number of things could be contributing to this, but in general I view September as a transition month into fall when people are getting out of summer mode and into fall.

Throw in a global pandemic and it’s hard to make evidence-based conclusions.

However, what I noticed in September was that some high traffic summer-specific posts started to wane (all the tomatoes and carrot recipes) and the fall recipes started to pick up toward the end of the month (squash, pumpkin, and cozy cocktails).

But one thing is keeping me glued to my analytics: my new strategy of only posting articles targeting low competition, long-tail keywords.

Guys…it’s working. I’m seeing these posts rank VERY QUICKLY on Google because there isn’t a lot of other quality content targeting these keywords.

In fact, out of my top 10 posts from September, six are new posts that I’ve posted over the last few months using this method.

What is the method?

  • Low competition: Keywords and phrases that are not very competitive in Google search. For example, as a new or even intermediate food blogger it would be near impossible to rank for “chocolate chip cookies” because there are thousands upon thousands of chocolate chip cookie recipes on the internet. Instead, I’m finding keywords with lower competition and writing recipes for those keywords.
  • Long-tail keywords: Instead of targeting “chocolate chip cookies” I’m researching keywords that are more specific such as “healthy vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies”. Not as many searches as just regular cookies, but people are still searching it and because there is less competition it’s more likely that I will rank for those recipe (and if you’re wondering, yes I do have a recipe for those cookies).

I’m still trudging along doing keyword research this way and creating quality content, so I’ll continue to report my progress.


💌 Email List Growth

663 subscribers (+23 net new subscribers in September 2020, 4% growth)

a screenshot of fork in the road's email subscriber growth from Mailerlite
Fork in the Road’s September 2020 email list growth from MailerLite

Email Takeaway

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.

sliced radishes and small bowls of sugar, salt, vinegar, water, and fresh dill on a white table
Quick Dill Pickled Radishes, posted in September 2020

💸 September 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.

($1258.65 / 42,190) * 1000 = $29.83

In September 2020 the blog earned $1258.65 and had 42,190 pageviews, which means the RPM was $29.83. This means that for every 1000 pageviews the blog received, it generated $29.83.


📌 September 2020 Summary + Goals

I mentioned in last month’s report that I was starting to feel burned out in August. In September I took some time for myself and focused on self-care and just doing what needed to be done every day without trying to do too much (always my problem).

It worked and I was able to get out of my funk by mid-month. I started creating content for the blog again and it felt good and not forced.

I think it’s important to take time for yourself and to have hobbies that don’t revolve around a screen. In September I started a garden plot at a community garden and it was exactly what I needed to get out from behind the screen and out of the house to dig in the dirt outside.

However, we’re heading in October and I’m super jazzed to start creating again. I find that I can usually get into a flow of creating content for about a week straight before I need a break, so I’m going to take it day by day.


Looking forward to October 2020

I’m taking my zen attitude toward the site and channeling it into some super simple focus areas for September:

  • Content, content, content. Continuing my 2020 focus on creating excellent content and not worrying about the rest (social, email, etc.).
  • Video! I posted one video a month in August and September and saw success, so I’m going to do one more in October.
salad dressing pouring onto an arugula salad
Maple Bourbon Vinaigrette, posted in September 2020

Thanks for sticking it out and reading Fork in the Road’s September 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.

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!