How I went from $800 to $32k in a year with this blog.
My 2022 Annual income report.
My biggest goal with this blog has been to help readers save money on groceries while eating great foods and recipes.
So many people settle for a bowl of cereal or ramen when they're trying to save money on food, but I wanted people to think beyond the bowls of cereal, er, rather, BEEYOND CEREAL. See what I did there?
Anyways, as a frugal foodie and lover of grocery budgeting, I felt it's only right to share income reports too. But, I don't have the capacity for monthly or quarterly reports, so an annual report was more my speed.
I started this blog in April 2020 while my school-aged child was receiving virtual homeschooling from mid-march to the end of the school year in June.
At the time, the four of us (husband, children, and me) were living in a single bedroom of my parent's 1000sq ft home because we were paying off debt and trying to "restart" adulthood correctly.
Our 20's were rough, and we did acquire the typical American debt- credit cards, car loans, a mortgage, etc. But a little persuasion from Dave Ramsey had us realizing that we wanted to be weird and remove all the debt from our lives. (If you know, you know).
By making this sacrifice and living with such minimal means, we were able to remove over $100k of debt in 2 years.
How the Blog Got Started
This wasn't my first blog, but it was always my end goal.
In 2017 I started a personal finance blog called Struggle Today Strength Tomorrow. (It no longer exists, but many of the food-related articles were refurbished and are being added here).
I had wanted to start a food blog, but because of our living situation, I figured starting a finance blog would be cheaper (which, technically, it was since there were no props, cameras, etc.)
After doing that for several months, I started freelance writing articles for other food bloggers. I can't disclose who (nondisclosure agreements), but I can tell you several were decent-sized names, and they're pretty popular.
I used the money I earned from freelancing to pay for the costs associated with the finance blog, and then eventually, it helped pave the way for this blog too. It takes money to make money.
I also took the time to write for other niches like Booster Clubs, Money Marketing, Wedding Photography, etc. This is where I truly settled into the idea of food blogging, knowing for sure that it was the only thing for me.
How We've Grown
What started in a small corner of my parent's dimly lit kitchen with their orange-tinted lights and no natural light-bearing windows moved a few short weeks later to a subfloor two bedrooms apartment.
My goal at the time was to simply put 100 recipes on the blog by Christmas so that there was plenty of content to sift through.
We lived there for a year, virtual schooling our oldest child in 2nd grade, before moving to Florida in May of 2021.
We moved into my in-law's home, helping to refinish their home as new projects arose (including new insulation, a kitchen renovation, rewiring, etc.).
During the day, when everyone was at school or work, I stayed home with my husband and cranked out hundreds of new recipes for this blog.
By living in their home, I was able to save money on rent (we still paid rent, but it was far cheaper than anywhere else). With that "saved" money, I could afford to buy the products, services, and ingredients necessary for this site.
All the hard work I put in paid off because, in December of 2021, I was able to apply for Mediavine ads because I officially had over 50,000 monthly sessions to my blog. This is a monumental feat for a blog that was 1.5 years old!
From January 1st, 2022, to December 31st, 2022, I made $32k. A huge jump from the previous year's $811.09.
Here's how I did it
Thanks to my first blog, I knew all about SEO, so when I started writing for my food blog, I knew how to write so that Google would favor me (or at least, I hoped I knew).
It turns out Google's desires are constantly changing, and some of the writing styles my food blog clients had me using were outdated, so I had to update my site a few times to win favor with Google.
When I first started taking photos, I couldn't afford a camera.
In fact, I didn't get a camera until late October 2020, so from April to October, I was using cell phone photos (and they were pretty bad).
I saved up for months to afford the best "cheap" camera I could afford. I bought a Canon EOS 2000, and I still use it to this day.
I started with foam boards and Dollar tree trifold boards covered in adhesive countertop-colored contact paper before moving to cheap vinyl backdrops and a large backdrop holder. We tripped over the feet of it daily as it became a permanent structure in our tiny apartment kitchen.
It wasn't until July 2021 (after we had moved to Florida) that I was finally able to afford the GOOD backgrounds.
Replica Surfaces. These are expensive and worth every penny. They were a total game changer for me, and from that, my photography skills really took off!
As with all things in life, it's important to have goals. Every year I set new ones.
- The first year my goal was to simply put 100 recipes on the site.
- This helped me to see what the site looked like when "full" so I could organize the recipe folders, change layouts, and get a feel for the direction I wanted to go.
- The second year I wanted to reach Mediavine numbers so that I could qualify for the good paying ads.
- This was made even harder as Mediavine had recently gone from a 20,000 minimum to a 50,000 minimum monthly sessions threshold, so I had to work twice as hard as the food bloggers that came before me.
- This year, I want to be able to be a part of the elite Mediavine publishers called Mediavine Pro.
- To qualify, you have to earn over $100k from ads within a year. Considering how I have earned $32k this year, this means my goal is to triple my annual income during year 3.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I make sure that I not only set my goals but that I also map out the steps to get from point A to point B and that I work diligently to get there.
To reach my 2023 goals, I will be increasing my social media presence. I have hired a Social Media manager to do this for me (my younger sister), and she has done an incredible job!
(I tried on my own for two years before hiring VAs to help me this year. I failed for those two years before bringing help in, so my lack of growth was not for lack of trying).
I will also be redoing older recipe photos so that they look nice. Trust me when I say some of the photos may look nice now, but they were first published while looking horrible.
Here is a photo collage showing an example of the improvement my photography skills took in just a few months with the help of a decent camera and my replica surfaces backdrops.
Shown here is my Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins and my Pepperoni Pizza Pasta Bake.
Here are some more steps I'll be doing
Besides just taking photos, I have every intention of doing videos for all the recipes, showing the step-by-step process.
This will be very useful for readers who enjoy watching food videos and seeing how things come together instead of just reading about it.
Unfortunately, it will have to wait until mid-2023 to happen as we plan to move out of the in-law home by summertime and into our own place, where I will have actual office space and be able to do so physically.
In the meantime, I'll be going through all of the recipes and updating the written content to make it more structured, helpful, and easy to navigate.
I've never been one for adding long-winded stories about my youth into the recipe posts, but these two years have shown me that there are some things I can easily clarify in detail to make sure every reader has the best success when it comes to replicating my recipes.
Not everyone knows what proofing dough means or how to know if it's kneaded well. Adding this information can be quite useful to many.
Increasing social presence
By increasing my social presence, updating photos, adding videos, and rewriting content so that it is more user-friendly, I will be doing everything I can to bring more people to my site, thus helping me on my way to my goals.
This is also basic SEO (search-engine-optimization) stuff, so it will help me to get seen more easily on Google as well, thereby leading to more clicks to this site from search engines. More people= more revenue.
Annual Traffic Sources
As I mentioned, I want to increase the traffic to my site from social media channels and Google. But for a reference point, let's quickly look at where my site's traffic came from this year.
Here are the types of traffic, percentage of annual traffic, and actual numbers:
- Organic Traffic (search engines like Google and Bing) 59.64% and over 488k sessions
- Direct Traffic (people clicking direct links, either via email, Google Web Stories, etc.) 23.29% over 182k sessions
- Referrals (clicks from links on other sites that share my recipes, etc.) 10.27% over 80k sessions
- Social Media 6.59% over 51k sessions
- Broken down:
- Pinterest 88.35% over 46k sessions
- Facebook 10.33% over 4k sessions
- Instagram 0.06% only 29 sessions
- Other (meaning, noncategorized traffic) 0.22%, almost 2k sessions
As you can see, my traffic is pretty good, but there are spots that need improvement (which, as stated, I am working on).
This year I had over 814k sessions (last year, I had only 215k). Over 70% of that was organic traffic, but because I've worked hard to build traffic from the other categories, the percentage has gotten smaller to make space for the other pie slices. The session numbers are growing great, though!
- January-57,223 sessions
- February- 48,962 sessions
- March-59,328 sessions
- April-61,467 sessions
- May-63,274 sessions
- June-59,639 sessions
- July-73,839 sessions
- August-84,139 sessions
- September-71,080 sessions
- October-75,571 sessions
- November-80,203 sessions
- December-79,939 sessions
How I Have Earned Money
Now that the backstory, goals, and details have been sorted, it's time to explain HOW I made an income off of this blog.
When it comes to ad money, the ad payout is net 60, meaning it takes 60 days from earning it to getting it. When I added Mediavine on December 22, 2021, I didn't get that $440 until March 2022.
From that point forward, I received a monthly paycheck.
- March- $438.30 (December earned income)
- April-$1,179.81 (January earned income)
- May-$1,371.67 (February earned income)
- June-$2,240.45 (March earned income)
- July- $2,463.77 (April earned income)
- August-$2,482.76 (May earned income)
- September- $2,571.69 (June earned income)
- October-$3,038.57 (July earned income)
- November-$2,789.84 (August earned income)
- December-$3,112.36 (September earned income)
- January- $3,324.55 (October earned income)
- February- $4,020.92 (November earned income)
- March- $3,258.48 (December earned income)
So if you look at it as "how much money got in my pocket this year, then I only made $21,689.12, but if you look at it as how much money I EARNED, then I made $31,854.95. I choose to look at the latter, especially since the money is guaranteed.
You'll notice that some months had higher traffic but lower revenue. This is because it's not a set-in-stone kinda deal. It's not 1000 sessions = $10. It's 1000 sessions = $29, or 1000 sessions is $5, or 1000 sessions is $50. It varies day by day with a thing called RPM. Rates per thousand.
These rates are set by the ad revenue company based on what the marketing companies are paying to have ads displayed on websites. I currently receive 76% of all income earned, and as my blog grows, the percentage will too. It can go up to 90%.
One day I can make $60, and the next day it could be $180. But I may have had more traffic on the $60 day than the $180 day, but that's just how it goes. Holiday RPMs are much higher than RPMs in January, and it dips again around the time school starts, etc. It's a cycle that's pretty repetitive and constant, so it's easy to plan for.
Other income made
If you noticed, there are blue highlighted links on my recipe cards and throughout the posts over the top of kitchen equipment needed (whisk, baking sheets, etc.)
These are Amazon affiliate links, and they earn me a very small percentage when you click and buy them on Amazon.
This is a very small percentage of my income, and by that, I mean it might afford us a pizza delivery a few times per year.
This year I made $129.98 from Amazon Affiliate links.
I also made over $20k from freelance writing for other food blogs this year, but I have not added that here as that is not technically money earned by the blog.
Note that on Jan 1, 2023, I will no longer be freelance writing for other bloggers and will solely rely on the income from this site to survive. Haha, no pressure.
I did not do any sponsored content this year (being paid to advertise products or ingredients in a recipe). This is another way that I could make money, but I chose to wait until my social media following looked more impressive. Higher followers= better pay.
Most companies won't want to sponsor someone with less than 500 followers. (Another great reason to raise my social media following!)
Last year, I made $811, but I spent $1458.52 on everything for my blog. From the cost of nice backgrounds at Replica Surfaces to the cost of a Tailwind subscription (they auto-publish content on Pinterest). Website plugins, New website theme (I use a FeastDesignco theme and plugin).
I also purchased a new computer, which easily ate up half of the costs (almost $700). For the past few years, I had gotten by with a refurbished Chromebook, but it was on its last legs, so to speak. So I went for an HP laptop that could handle the 20-50 open computer tabs and download speeds.
-A year later, it's starting to struggle under pressure, but I'll keep it going for as long as I can.
Gross $811.09 Expenses $1458.52 Net -$647.43
This year my expenses were much higher
Now that I was making money, I knew I'd have to make the necessary upgrades to my site. I made sure I couldn't do everything alone, so I picked and chose what to hire out to contractors and what I could DIY.
I hired a contractor to make beautiful promotional images for me at about $15 per photo. High cost, sure, but my image designs up until this point looked like rubbish, and her photos have gotten so many more clickthroughs and saves on social media- resulting in more followers and income.
This is an investment that I do not regret. The photos will be used for a long time, and I will continue to hire this contractor as she has done beautiful work.
More contractor work
Other expenses included hiring a VA. I have had 2 VAs in the year 2022. The first one lasted a few months, and after she ended the contract, I hired my sister.
She had done social media for a brick-and-mortar bakery she used to work at and showed interest, so I hired her at $20hr for a few hours per month to help me grow my Instagram and Facebook followers.
I also hired out some Google Web Stories. These are little slideshows you see promoted to you on your phone. They currently bring in about ⅓ of the traffic to my site.
They take about 20 minutes each to make when following a template, but doing one for every recipe is time-consuming and repetitive. It all adds up and time is money.
So I hired my Webdesigner of a sister-in-law to do these at a rate of $15 each, which is a few dollars more than anyone else, but she's family and puts up with me, haha.
At one point in the year, I had a few months where I paid someone $115 a month to drop links from my website into Facebook groups where other bloggers were asking for contributions for round-up posts.
Round-up posts are a collaboration of recipes from your own site and other recipe sites. This help to build a connection to other similarly branded niches and can be a great way to get more readers to your own site.
An example of a roundup post is 20 Delicious Summer Squash Recipes.
I canceled the contract after a few months, with the intention of resuming later in the year, but as time went on, I felt as though this wasn't a service worth continuing to pay for, so I simply did it myself as I was able.
My total expenses for the year were $7935.04.
Gross income $31,984.93 minus Expenses $7,935.04 equals Net $24,049.89.
Of course, I do pay taxes on all of my earned income, that is an additional expense, and it's one that is not listed here.
But still, not bad for one year! To go from $811 to $32k is a 3845.31% increase. Even with the calculated expenses, we're still looking at a 3000% increase.
I am pleased with the direction this year has gone. Our sacrifices along the way have not been in vain. I am truly excited to see what we can accomplish in 2023.
Thank you for reading, and if you haven't already- make sure you're following me on Instagram so you can help me reach my social media goals of gaining followers. 🙂 @Beeyondcereal