Blog Income Report: Results from My First Blog Giveaway

(Last Updated On: May 15, 2017)

When I started my blog I loved reading income reports (Oh, who am I kidding?! I still love reading income reports!). Sometimes I’d be intimidated by a blogger’s success, and sometimes I’d be inspired, but I almost always got some new insight into how I could grow my own blog.

I finally get to write my own income reports now (HURRAY FOR INCOME!), and I want to make them as insightful and helpful to you as possible. Let’s dig in!

Blog Income Report | How I make money blogging | Results from a viral blog giveawayThis post includes affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy something using my link, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read more on my disclosure page.

Background

I started blogging in February 2016, but I didn’t make any money from my blog in 2016.

I knew that I eventually wanted to monetize, but in 2016 I was more focused on learning about blogging and growing my email list.

I always intended to turn my blog into a business though, so I invested in good hosting, a professional blog design, and a real email service provider, among other tools.

I was able to pay for all of my blogging expenses through freelance writing, but didn’t really make money directly from my blog.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to grow at your own pace. And don’t be afraid to invest in your blog.

My Goal

In 2017, my goal is to make $10,000 through affiliate marketing and selling my time management course.

There are other ways to monetize a blog, but right now this is all I’m focusing on.

Why I’m Not Doing Sponsored Posts or Ads

A few companies have offered me sponsored posts, and one company has asked if I’d be willing to host ads on my site.

I was flattered and excited to hear from them all, but ultimately decided not to go that route.

I had a blog years ago, and I wrote some sponsored posts. While it felt good to make some money from my blog, I realized that sponsored posts weren’t necessarily helping my reader.

As for ads, I didn’t want to clutter up or slow down my site just to make a few dollars a month.

Breaking Down My Goal Into Sub-Goals

In late December I did some serious calculations to figure out how I would earn $10,000 from my blog.

Here’s how it breaks down.

I want to earn $4,000 from affiliate marketing.

I want to earn $6,000 from selling my own products.

In order to reach these two goals, I need to get 3,000 email subscribers by the end of the year.

As for the $10,000? It’s the amount that I think I can realistically earn this year based on how much time I have to work and the pace my blog has grown historically.

Need help setting your own blogging goals or breaking those goals down into action steps? Sign up here for my free time management e-course.

This Month’s Progress

Income: $252.80

From ecourse: $226

From affiliates: $26.80

Find Your Tribe Online– $26.80

April started out with a bang, and ended with…crickets. I had all of my sales early in the month!

Expenses- $151

Teachable- $61

My course is hosted here. If you’re thinking of creating your own online course, Teachable has a free webinar to show you the 7 steps you need to follow to launch your course. You can register for this free training by clicking here.

ConvertKit- $29

This is the email service provider I use to stay in touch with my fabulous email subscribers. Check out this blog post to take a sneak peek at my ConvertKit dashboard and learn how CK works.

BoardBooster- $10

I use BoardBooster to automatically pin a new blog post image to all 45 of my group boards, and now the majority of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest. Want to learn how to use BoardBooster? Check out my tutorial video over here.

Canva for Work – $13

I pay for this design software because it’s easy for a beginner like me to use, and it saves my templates and branding materials, so creating graphics is much quicker.

Profit First – $17

Half a dozen people recommended this book to me in April, so I bought it! Even though I’m still a small fry, I thought the book would have useful tips for me on how to invest in my business as I grow.

How to Clone Yourself course– $5

This was a total impulse buy. 🙂 I love Amber McCue’s stuff, so when she deeply discounted her course, I bought it. I plan to use it now to help me organize my blogging systems, but I think it will really pay off in the future if I decide to outsource and hire a VA.

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Vyper.io– $9

This is the software I used to host my giveaway. It was great, and much cheaper than most of the other giveaway options. The price for a Lite membership has gone up, but I snuck in before they raised the price.

Shipping- $7

I mailed some planners to the giveaway winner, so I had to pay for shipping. 🙂

Overall, I’m pleased with how the month went. I got to pocket $100 (haha, so that means I earn about .50/hour). More importantly, I felt a lot more level-headed than last month. I’ve realized that there’s never going to be some magic bullet that instantly helps me earn thousands of dollars a month. The reality: I’m going to have to keep working really hard to make slow and steady progress. I can do that. I just need to get my mindset in the right place, and as we head into May, I think I’m there mentally.

Annual Expenses

I also pay for these services annually:

Hosting – WPEngine – $290

I’m not gonna name any names, but I’ve tried cheap hosting plans in the past and it always comes back to bite me in the butt. I don’t want to build my blog on a shaky foundation, so I pay for the best hosting. If you’re a new blogger and don’t want to shell out the big bucks, then I recommend SiteGround for hosting.

Domain name and professional email – Hover – $35

Did you know that most email service providers require that you send emails to your subscribers from a professional email account and not your personal account? Well, it’s true! So I get my professional email and inbox from Hover.

Email subscribers + Traffic

Current List Size- 681 (190 new subscribers this month)

I tried two new things with my email list this month. First, I did a big giveaway to get new subscribers fast. Several big bloggers in my niche shared my giveaway, and I was able to add 89 new subscribers to my list in 10 days. That’s about as many as I add in a month, so I was pleased. I’m also happy that most of those new subscribers have remained on my list. I was worried that many of them were just showing up for the giveaway, but would quickly unsubscribe. I did lose about 10 people, but that was fewer than I expected.

My other goal for the giveaway was to do a mini-launch with it and sell my course to these new subscribers. Well, that failed! No one bought. With only 89 new people though, it’s hard to know what went wrong. Most launches convert at 1-3%, but 1% of 89 is .89, so less than one person.

Basically, I’m not sure if people didn’t buy because a) I had attracted the wrong audience with my giveaway b) my sales emails were not very compelling or c) I just didn’t have enough people on the list.

I was disappointed, but also proud of myself for trying this strategy. I’m building my confidence with selling, so it felt empowering to send sales emails, get no sales, and realize that it’s okay. As I mentioned, most people stayed on my list anyway, and I think it was useful to get them used to the idea that I both offer great content and sell things through email. This great post from Sarah at Spitfire Scribe helped me realize why it’s so important to do both (provide great free content AND sell).

For the first time, I also deleted inactive subscribers. In ConvertKit, it’s pretty easy to do. I just clicked on “Cold Subscribers,” and sent two emails to the people in that segment. In the first email, I asked if they still wanted to hear from me and told them about the giveaway. In the second email, I asked them to click on a link if they wanted to stay on my email list. Of the 80 people I emailed, only one stayed on my list, and I deleted the rest.

It might seem crazy and scary to delete people from your email list, but it’s actually a smart strategy. The people I deleted hadn’t opened any of my emails in the past 3+ months. These people weren’t really “on” my list if they weren’t opening my emails. By removing them, I’m able to keep my email open rates high, which signals to gmail and other email providers that I’m sending high-quality emails. As a result, my emails are more likely to land in people’s email boxes.

Takeaway: It’s painful to see your email subscribers drop, but it may be worth cleaning out cold subscribers to keep the quality of your list high.

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Traffic

I’m still getting around 4,000 page views a month. I didn’t send any emails to my list linking to blog posts this month, though, so most of this traffic came from Facebook, Pinterest, and organic search. More and more people are finding my blog through searches, so I’m going to keep using the free Yoast plug-in to help me improve my SEO.

My Pinterest and Facebook referrals continue to grow too. I’ve really taken advantage of Find Your Tribe Online, a course I bought in January. The course includes spreadsheets with 400+ Facebook groups and 400+ Pinterest group boards in a variety of niches. I’ve joined so many group boards and Facebook groups, which has helped me promote my blog more.

Next Month’s Action Steps

For list growth

For once, I AM focusing hard on my blog content. The next few months are going to be crazy in my personal life. We pack up in Mozambique, go to the U.S. for 6 weeks to visit family, and then we move to India in July. I want to have all my ducks in a row with a serious content plan and lots of blog posts and social media updates ready to go. I can usually write a month’s worth of content in a week by batching my work, so I hope to have all my May and June content finished by the third week of May. You can grab my batching calendar and learn how this process works by entering your email below.

In order to grow my email list, I’ll write useful content and including plenty of calls to action to entice people to join my email list.

I’m also planning to reach out to the bloggers I feature in each post and ask them to share my post. The worst they can say is no, but if they are willing to share it could really help me grow my traffic and my email list!

For affiliate income

See below: This is the area that I’m not going to focus on in May.

For ecourse income

Create tripwire offers

A tripwire is a small product that you offer someone right after they download your lead magnet. In May, I want to work on two awesome tripwire offers: one ebook and one set of templates. I don’t expect to make tons of money from this, but I’d like to be able to provide a quick, cheap solution to my audience and show them how valuable my paid content is.

Promote course in relevant blog posts

I’ve only been selling my course through my email funnel, but plenty of bloggers I admire have mentioned that they don’t sell much through email. They are able to sell their courses on social media and through blog posts that get a lot of search traffic. I plan to write some amazing content and promote my course in those posts. I also plan to mention my course more in the blogging Facebook group I co-host (click here to join!). I won’t be pushing the course aggressively, but I do want people to know that I have a time management course, and it might be perfect for them if they struggle to plan for their blog or take action on their big goals.

What I’m not doing this month

I’m not going to focus much on growing my affiliate income. I’ve optimized old blog posts by adding appropriate affiliate links, and I’ve written some email funnels that lead from a free lead magnet to an affiliate offer. I want to wait and see how these email funnels convert before I change my strategy. Affiliate marketing can take a while to build momentum, so I’m trying to be patient and see what happens with the strategies I’ve already implemented.

I’d love to hear from you! What are you working on for May?

Need help growing your blog and making it profitable? Sign up for Master Time Management. This FREE mini course will help you get clear on your goals, prioritize your to do list, and cut out the b.s. tasks that eat up a lot of your time.

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  • This is a great blog post! I too love reading income reports, and I find the ones from bloggers who are more towards the beginning of their journeys especially intriguing. I love seeing how businesses gain traction. It seems like you are well on your way, and that your email list is growing strategically. I’m brand new, but it’s exciting to see your growth!

  • Great article Emily!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, as well as your trial and errors.

    I recently started a “Blogging- Behing the Scenes Series” where I share my success and failures as well and I know it isn’t easy putting yourself out there and sharing everything with your readers. So I commend you for being honest and helping others avoid the same mistakes.

    Here’s the link, if you chance a chance take a peek and let me know what you think. I would love your input. http://www.loveandpaperflowers.com/blogging-behind-scenes-march-2017/

    I love all of your op-ins throughout your posts. Did you make them through ConverKit?

    I wish the best of luck in your upcoming plans.
    Nataly 🙂

    • I love the idea of a Behind the Scenes Series, Nataly! I think a lot of bloggers feel nervous about sharing the tough parts of blogging, but starting any business is hard, and it can help other people to give them the full picture!

      And yes, I use ConvertKit for all my opt-ins. Thanks for the kind words…I’m not very good at making graphics, but glad to hear you think the opt-ins look okay!

  • Congrats!

    I love how detailed you are. I’m finding these income reports are harder for me to write for Twins Mommy. Anyways, I totally hear you about the cold subscribers. I’m doing that right now for my Elna Cain list and suspect to lose almost 1k in subscribers! Well, maybe lower like 800 but that’s a big chunk.

    The same may go for my Twins Mommy list. So it’s a uphill battle getting subscribers and nurturing them. I’ll lose a lot since I haven’t pruned my lists EVER!!

    I like the goals you set up. Tripwires are a great way to condition your readers to buy from you. The whole minimal value product thing…

    Good luck!!

    • It was definitely sad to delete subscribers, but it felt awesome to see my open rates surge! Plus, think of it as saving money. 🙂 At least with ConvertKit, it saves money because it keeps me from moving to the next payment level.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement with the tripwire. I should have started with a tripwire/MVP, but of course i jumped on the course band wagon! Oh well, this is the perfect task for a busy season in my year, not as many moving parts here as with my course.

  • Hey Emily, this is a great post and you go into so much detail. Thanks for sharing. It’s really encouraging to hear your steps and thoughts and that you shed some light on all the process. I’m at a stage now where I’m about to launch my fist eBook and once that is up I know I will have to do lots of promotions, joining group boards and Facebook groups. I’m going to dedicate ‘Promotion’ time each day to do that. It’s interesting for me to see you are not using Leadpages. So are you hosting anything on your blog then, like sales pages?
    Cheers, Kris x

    • Hey Kris, good to see you here! I think you’re wise to schedule promotion time. When I was creating my course I thought that would be the hard part, but it wasn’t! Promoting and marketing it is much harder. 🙂

      No, I don’t use Leadpages. I actually just bought Thrive Content Builder, so you’ll see it in my May income report. I’m going to use it to sell a set of done-for-you blogging schedules as a tripwire product. I just finished setting it up today, hurray!