Honest Blogging Income Report: Making Passive Income Online With A Small Dedicated Audience
Have you ever wondered how much money bloggers earn? Or who pays them in the first place? Before I started my blog, I had no idea that you could make a full-time income blogging.
But today, I’m living proof that it’s possible. So if you’re still on the fence about starting a blog, don’t waste any time and just do it!
After 3 years of blogging first as a hobby and then as part-time “side-hustle”, I am now finally a full-time blogger after quitting my job in February (2020).
The most amazing thing about this blogging income report is, however, that 99% of this income was made BEFORE I made the transition to full time blogging – since this income report accounts for the $100,706 I earned between starting my blog and March 2020.
If you’re new to my blog, or to my milestone income reports, be sure to check out the previous posts and follow along my journey from the very beginning:
– How I Made My First $100 Blogging
– How I Made My First $1,000 Blogging
– How I Made My First $10,000 Blogging
– How I Made My First $25,000 Blogging
– How I Made My First $50,000 Blogging
I’ve been writing these posts ever since I made my first affiliate sale and earned my first $7 with my blog. And I remember how big of a deal it was to earn my first $100 blogging – which meant I made back everything that I had invested into starting my blog.
So to get here is a bit surreal. But the strategist in me is excited to dissect this for you and tell you exactly what I did to get here, what worked and what didn’t.
One of the reasons I know what to focus on when it comes to my blog monetization strategies is because I track every single penny I earn with my blog.
So every single month (or year), I’m able to look back and see exactly what generated me that income, as well as what I spent money on to make that happen.
Not only did this help me keep on top of my taxes, but this method has helped me cut out a lot of unnecessary blogging expenses. And that’s why I believe that every blogger – even if they are brand new – should track what they earn and what they spend for their blog.
To help you do just that, I’m sharing the exact template that I’ve personally developed over the years to track my blogging income and expenses each year. Grab the tracker here.
What you should know about blogging income reports
My blog and content are built around experimenting with different online marketing strategies and testing everything on my own blog first, before passing on the effective tactics & tips to my students, clients, and readers.
A big indicator (but not the only one that matters!) of my blog’s growth is my income. And because I’m transparent about everything else, it’s important to me to also be transparent about this.
I also think that, as my income reports get “bigger”, the earning breakdowns can serve as a guide for established bloggers who want to scale their blogging business and grow their income, as I drew a lot of good advice from income reports created by my peers along the years.
Before I begin, it’s important for you to note that:
- This is my blogging income, but not all of it is profit. For the purpose of these milestone income reports, I share my blogging revenue, but I also have expenses and taxes. Besides the upkeep of my blog (which is quite inexpensive), I also invest money into my blogging education every year, outsource work to VAs, pay taxes and so on. However, I would say that about 60-70% of my income is profit, which beats a lot of brick and mortar businesses.
- All the income reported here has actually landed in my bank account. Income reports are notoriously untrustworthy because bloggers often report money they “earned” before they actually get paid. To avoid any discrepancies, I ONLY include funds that have landed in my Paypal or bank account in all of my income reports. So what you see, is what I’ve actually gotten paid.
- This is a 100% honest income report, but some numbers might be slightly off due to conversion rates. Because I live in the UK, I keep track of all my blogging income in British Pounds, which I have to convert to US Dollars for the purpose of this income report. So while I make every effort to convey only REAL numbers, there might be slight adjustments made to match the exchange rate.
- Up until this point, I haven’t blogged full-time. I think it’s important to note that I’ve been a full-time student and worked a full-time job (that then transitioned into a part-time) ever since I started my blog. Considering the fact that up until a month ago, I never gave my blog 100% of my time, I consider this proof that blogging can be profitable even as a side-hustle. (And that you don’t have to quit your job to “make it” – unless you want to.)
- I don’t have a huge audience. I said it once, and I’ll say it a hundred times more – you don’t need a huge email list, tons of blog traffic and to go viral on social media to make real money online. I’m currently still at under 30,000 pageviews per month + my email list is just over 10,000 people (that’s the only thing that grew since my last income report), yet I make more money than some bloggers who have 10 times the following that I do. Quality > quantity. I’ll unpack this more in this post, to show you how to play on your strengths and still make a full-time income with a small blog following.
- I rarely pay for advertising. Besides the Amazon ads that are running for my Kindle eBook, I don’t invest any money in ads. Most of my income, sales, and traffic come from organic sources. This way I keep my expenses low, and my engagement high.
In the name of transparency, I’d also like to mention that this blog post contains affiliate links. Any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission (at absolutely no extra cost for you), that help me cover my blogging expenses.
Without any further ado, let’s get started!
How I Made My First $100,000 Blogging
Let’s dive into what you came here for – my breakdown of exactly how I earned my first $100,000 blogging, how long it took me to do it, and what changed since my last income report.
Because I write milestone income reports, and not monthly ones, this breakdown also includes the first $50,000 that I made in my previous income report, allowing me to look at my whole journey as a whole.
But while it took me 2 years and 6 months to make my first $50,000 blogging, you can see the progress and growth I’ve made considering that I earned the next $50,000 in just under a year.
I believe this also reflects on the foundations of a good blog (which you can learn how to build in my free online course on how to start a profitable blog), the importance of establishing yourself in your niche and building a good relationship with your readers – things that I’ve been focusing on this past year.
All these things take time, and there aren’t any shortcuts to blogging success. This is one of the main reasons why I don’t encourage anyone to quit their job to become a full-time blogger – because it doesn’t happen overnight (no matter how much blogging knowledge you have).
Because I’ve been asked time and time again HOW EXACTLY do I make money with my blog, I’m about to break down the top income-generating strategies that have been fruitful for me.
For each method, I will include some takeaways and recommend some resources that I highly encourage you to check out, because I only list things that have helped me get to where I am. Let’s dive in!
💎 Affiliate Marketing Sales: $42,892
(+ $20,857 since the last income report)
Despite it not being a priority for the past year, my affiliate income has remained steady and a huge earner for my blog.
I’m also happy to report that 80% of this income was completely passive. Not only did I barely join any new affiliate programs in 2019 (I focused on championing brands that I was already an affiliate for), but I only published around 5 new blog posts for the whole year.
This means that a big chunk of this income came from content that was already out there (this includes my blog posts, my resource page, my free courses and some of my automated emails), that I was sending traffic to on autopilot.
I have Pinterest set up to send me traffic all year round, all passively and with little extra work on my part (I break down my exact strategy in my Pinterest eBook) and I’ve also worked on my SEO to improve organic visits.
Other than that, I had a few successful email marketing campaigns where I would send my list 1-3 emails about a sale or product that I was an affiliate for. The key is to find the right things to promote.
A big earner for that was the Ultimate Bundles affiliate program – you can become an affiliate for them here and promote their various bundles. (The have blogging, business, photography, homemaking, parenting, productivity, health bundles, and so on.)
They usually pay their affiliates 40% of each sale (which is awesome and quickly ads up), but because I was a contributor to their Genius Blogger’s Toolkit (which is an awesome bundle that personally helped me grow my blog – so I buy it every year), I received 70% commission.
HOW TO BOOST YOUR AFFILIATE INCOME
If you want to incorporate affiliate marketing into your blog monetization strategy or increase your affiliate sales, here are a few resources that will help you do just that:
- My Free Affiliate Marketing Course – if you’re brand new, and haven’t made your first affiliate sale yet, this is for you.
- My free list of 25+ High-paying Affiliate Programs for bloggers and content creators
- My Affiliate Marketing Training Bundle – if you haven’t made your first $1,000 in affiliate sales, and you’re still struggling to crack the code of affiliate marketing, this is for you.
- Carly’s Affiliate Marketing – Everything You’re Missing course – if you’re stuck at earning under $500 a month from affiliate marketing, and you’re getting enough clicks but no affiliate sales and conversions, this is for you! (I actually paid for this course myself and it was so worth it! It’s one of my favorite courses for advanced bloggers.)
- Pin To Profits: Affiliate Marketing – if you want to give affiliate marketing a try, but don’t have a website (or you would like to increase your earnings with Pinterest), this is for you!
💎 Digital Product Sales: $50,726
(+ $26,525 since the last income report)
Although I list it second, the main way that I make money blogging (earning me 51% of my overall income so far) is by selling digital products such as eBooks and courses.
In 2019 I launched my first proper online course (and the only digital product that I have for sale that’s priced at over $100), and this made a huge difference, helping me bump my revenue.
However, it is not my course sales that are bringing the biggest chunk of the income – but my eBooks. And for the first time ever, I’m going to share with you exactly how much I earned from each digital product I created.
Since the start of my blog up until mid-March (2020), I have sold:
- The She Approach To Making Pinterest Possible eBook – $20,314 (701 copies)
- Ebook Bestseller Bootcamp course – $10,648 (122 copies)
- From Zero To Superhero Affiliate Marketing Bundle – $7,427 (164 copies)
- The She Approach To Boosting Your Blog Traffic eBook – $7,244 (369 copies)
- The She Approach To Starting A Money-Making Blog eBook + paperback – $3,961
- Affiliate Programs Masterlist – $1,132 (45 copies)
Keep in mind that when I first launch a product, I offer it for half the price or even less. But as you can see, eBook sales account for roughly 64% of my overall digital product sales – which is crazy considering that my most expensive eBook is only $35.
And that’s why I encourage every blogger to have at least 1 eBook up for sale. Find out what tools I use to create and sell my eBooks below:
Besides running occasional sales or offering discounts and sharing these with my email list, I’ve done no active promotion for my digital products in the past year. (Read more about why I haven’t been so active with my blog at the end of this post in my life update.) No webinars or workshops, absolutely no paid ads or collaborations to promote them.
Which means, once again, that all this is basically passive income. And all these sales were possible because I’m strategic about my content marketing.
I create blog posts that drive my target audience to find out about my digital products, I get them on my email list, I have sales funnels in place that make me sales on autopilot, I have active affiliates that promote my products and so on.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to constantly “hustle” to promote your products or services if you’re intentional and strategic about how you advertise them in the first place.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY BLOGGING WITH EBOOKS
My experience thought me that it’s way more profitable to warm up your audience with a low-cost product – like an eBook or anything priced between $9 and $49 – before asking them to trust you to purchase anything more expensive from you.
If you’re planning to write an eBook, or you need some help promoting an existing one and making more sales, here are a few resources that will come in handy:
- My blog post series on how to write and sell your first eBook:
- My online course, teaching you how to launch a bestseller eBook:
- Ebook Bestseller Bootcamp captures everything that I’ve learned from writing and selling not 1, but 3 eBooks, and is designed to help bloggers and first-time authors self-publish an impactful eBook (that’s also going to help them make more money with their blogs/businesses). I know because my students are already doing this!
- Other useful tools & resources
- SEND OWL – The software I use to sell my digital products + host an affiliate program for them
- EBOOK SALES PAGE TEMPLATES – The exact templates I used to build stunning sales pages for my eBooks (without any design experience) – these are such a time saver
- TEACHABLE – The course hosting platform that I recommend if you want to create and sell online courses
- AMAZON EBOOKS FREE COURSE – If you have an Amazon eBook, or you’re planning to launch one soon, this course will teach you how to run effective Amazon ads and make more sales.
- LEAD PAGES – The tool I recommend to create sales pages for your digital products.
- PRE-MADE EBOOK TEMPLATES – If you don’t have the time, skills or patience to design your own ebook, you can always invest in a pre-made ebook design template. Creative Market has some stunning and really affordable ones, or you can work with a freelancer to create something from scratch.
💎 Coaching Services: $4,125
(+ $1,277 since the last income report)
On the side of my blogging business, I also offer 1-on-1 blog coaching services. While my intention was to open up a lot more coaching spots once I graduated from University, I ended up traveling a lot more than I anticipated after I got my degree.
Long story short, at the beginning of 2020, I gave my notice to my landlord, started packing and got ready to spend the rest of the year traveling and visiting family. I was planning to go full nomad for a year before the pandemic hit and I got stuck in the UK.
More importantly, I wanted to focus my attention on tasks that would generate passive income, rather than sacrifice time away from my family to show up on calls, or go through the entire process of vetting and signing each coaching client.
Therefore, I have only worked with 3 more clients since the last income report. But one thing that I did do, which is already helping me save more time when signing or managing new clients, was to start using Honey Book.
If you offer any type of services (coaching, photography, event planning etc), you can get 20% off when you sign up with HoneyBook here and completely automate your sign-up forms, follow-up emails, use it to send contracts or even get paid. This will save me a lot of time going forward!
Speaking of contracts, if you’re thinking of offering your own coaching or consulting services, make sure to have a Coaching Contract in place. This will not only build trust with your clients but you will also protect yourself legally and set clear boundaries.
You can mooch around Google for a free version but I love this coaching contract template from The Contract Shop. It’s an investment, for sure, but it’s key to protecting your coaching business, your clients and your time. (Not to mention this template has been drawn up by an actual lawyer!)
QUICK NOTE ABOUT COACHING VS DIGITAL PRODUCTS: One of my main goals going forward – for my blog and business – is to have a bigger impact, and help as many women and bloggers as I can.
Although working 1-on-1 with people can offer them a lot more value, selling digital trainings allows me to reach a lot more people in a lot less time. So while I do love coaching, and will continue to do it, it will never be a priority for my business.
💎 Ad Income: $1,374
(+ $564 since the last income report)
This is one of the parts of this income report that I’ve always been kind of ashamed to report. My ad income has never been great, and my blog traffic hasn’t really grown since my last income report (the fact that it remained steady is amazing considering that I’ve been on a weird blogging hiatus for more than half a year).
But ad income is truly passive income because you set it and forget it, so it’s a nice added bonus – especially since I only use Google Adsense to monetize this way, and I strictly limit my ads to no more than 3-4 per page.
That is still the case today, as I want readers to focus on clicking on my affiliate links or check out my digital products (which has obviously been working), rather than to click on ads, which will only earn me a few cents.
For my niche and overall blogging strategy, this is the right call, but there’s no reason why your blog couldn’t earn some serious cash with ads. (I know bloggers that casually earn $3-5k a month just with ads.)
⋆ Unsure about the best way to make money with YOUR blog? Take this FREE quiz to find out what the best way to make money in your niche. (It’s free, quick and incredibly fun!)
💎 Sponsored Posts: $1,149
(+ $452 since the last income report)
Working with brands has never been something that I’ve actively pursued, but it is something I’ve always been open to.
Besides that one free Airbnb stay that I negotiated in exchange for a blog post (this was way in the beginning when I was a lifestyle blogger), I have never reached out to a brand to collaborate. They came to me.
In fact, I turn down a lot more opportunities than I say accept because most aren’t a good fit for my content/audience or they don’t feel authentic.
Sponsored posts are also the OPPOSITE of passive income. You have to sit down and do the work for each project, and you only get paid once. (Vs affiliate marketing where you could write a blog post and keep earning from it years down the line.)
But some collaborations can be quite profitable – for example, I worked with 3 brands since the last income report, spend about 3-5 hours on the project and earned nearly $500.
In my experience, while there are some niches that do better in this field (fashion, beauty brands have a bigger advertising budget) there are opportunities to collaborate with brands in every single niche, you just have to know where to look.
⋆ I’m not an expert on this topic – clearly. So I invited someone who is to teach you How To Increase Sponsored Partnerships And Make More Money Working With Brands in this blog post. Give it a read or pin it for later!
So if you are the type of blogger who would love to work with brands and get paid to write sponsored posts or create sponsored content for social media, go for it. And check out this super affordable course on how to find and pitch for sponsored posts.
If not, stop trying to do everything at once, and focus on getting better at what’s already making you money.
💎 Freelancing and VA work: $440
(+ $264 since the last income report)
When I started my blog, I wanted to experiment with every possible way in which you could make money online, so I offered my services as a Pinterest VA.
While I think that offering services and becoming a part-time virtual assistant or freelancer can be a great way to make some guaranteed money (especially if you need to make them quick), this wasn’t for me and I haven’t accepted any client work since.
EXCEPT for a couple of months ago when I got asked to record a personalized Pinterest strategy for an eCommerce business owned by an old client and I just couldn’t say no. (I have an online shop myself, and use Pinterest to drive traffic to it – so it was right up my alley.)
With more entrepreneurs, bloggers and online businesses looking to grow their traffic with Pinterest, there’s now a big demand for Pinterest VAs. If you are interested in becoming one and supplementing your blogging income, you can learn how to get started right now with this FREE Pinterest VA Prep Book.
TOTAL EARNED: $100,706
TIME ELAPSED SINCE LAST INCOME REPORT: 12 MONTHS
TIME ELAPSED SINCE BLOG LAUNCH: 3 YEARS + 6 MONTHS
📌 PIN THIS POST FOR LATER
My Blog Earnings Over The Years
Because my income reports look at my overall earnings, sometimes it’s hard to see my blog’s growth and progress. So I wanted to share with you a little snippet of my blogging journey as viewed through income generated annually.
Here’s what I’ve earned with The She Approach over the years:
2016 – $0
Started my blog in September and made my first affiliate sale (a whopping $7) in December, but didn’t get paid until January of next year.
2017 – $11,107
Made back all the money I invested in the blog shortly after which was incredibly motivating. Launched my first eBook to a tiny email list, and made $3,000 in sales for my digital products. Affiliate sales were my top earner for this year though. > How I Made My First $10,000 Blogging
I was a full-time student and had a full-time job this year + got my dog (which was a puppy at a time and needed loads of attention).
2018 – $27,708
Launched more digital products, including my Pinterest eBook (sold at only $15 during the launch) which made me over $2,000 in less than 7 days.
I was still a full-time student and had a job. Then I decided to take a gap year from University to focus on growing my blogging business – but I was still working full-time.
2019 – $53,088
My eBooks started to sell better, I wrote and launched my first Amazon eBook and created my first online course (and the only product that I have for sale that costs more than $60). My affiliate game and audience grew, so much so that I nearly doubled last year’s income overall.
Because of this, I decided to go part-time with my job, but I was also in the midst of my final (and the most demanding) year of University.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blogging income report, I didn’t go full-time with my blog until at the beginning of 2020, after I graduated and quit my job. Look out for my next few income reports to see if that impacted my blog’s growth.
Why you should start a blog in 2020
If there’s one thing that I want you to take away from this income report, is that you can earn a living blogging even if you don’t do it full-time!
You don’t have to quit your job, risk your livelihood and go all in from the get-go.
And the best part of it is that you can start a blog for a super low cost!
A lot of people feel that the blogging world is saturated and that there’s no more room for new blogs. But blogs aren’t like coffee shops – you’re not opening a Starbucks right across the street from another coffee shop.
There’s room for everyone online, and with a return to traditional blogging, there’s more readers looking for content than ever!
The current pandemic has pushed millions more people to browse the internet looking for information, entertainment and advice from blogs just like the one you want to create!
And that’s why RIGHT NOW is the best time to start a blog!
Join nearly 2,000 students who have taken my free course, and start a profitable blog this week – because I’m living proof that you can make money blogging if you do it in your free time!
And if you have no idea what to blog about just yet, don’t worry – I have a lesson in the course that will help you come up with an awesome and profitable topic!
DO I NEED TO BLOG ABOUT BLOGGING TO MAKE MONEY?
I need to address this real-quick because it’s driving me crazy. The answer is absolutely not!
The only reason why business bloggers (those who blog about blogging, online marketing etc) seem to be making a lot of money (and some of they are – that’s true), is because they are the only ones who are posting income reports to showcase it.
You’re not going to see recipe bloggers or home decor bloggers disclose how much money they make because their audiences don’t care. But in reality, I know bloggers in these niches that are easily making double what I make.
Here are a few profitable blogging niches that are killing it right now:
- food & recipe blogs
- health & fitness blogs
- homeschooling, homemaking, kids activities & parenting blogs
- financial & budgeting blogs
- DIY/ arts & crafts
- deep cleaning, decluttering, home organization
- gardening blogs & self-sustainability tips
- self-care, personal development, time management, productivity & working from home
- movie & book review blogs
But the rule of thumb is to start a blog on a topic that you are passionate about & knowledgable in. Audiences are not stupid – they can tell when bloggers just use regurgitated content to make it seem like they know what they are talking about. You’re not going to fool anyone…
Instead, be honest about where you are and what you know. Because you don’t have to be a certified expert to write a blog on a topic of your choice and still help people. (Just don’t pretend to be one.)
Final Income Report Takeaways & Advice
Every single quarter and year, I sit down and analyze what’s working with my blog, and what’s lagging behind.
My blog’s Income & Expense reports make it really easy to see what’s happening at a glance – and that’s why I think every blogger should track their earnings and outgoings every single month. (Grab my income tracker template here.)
A big goal for me this year was to focus more on passive income – so affiliate marketing and digital product sales, as I wanted to travel and spend more time with my family.
Years of only blogging part-time have served me well, because I managed to lay the foundations for that and still earn money with my blog, even when I took a couple of months off, allowing me to be there for my siblings in a tough time.
Every blog earns differently, but your business model can be what you make it.
But based on what worked for me this past year, here are a few things you should try if you’re struggling to grow your blogging income:
- Write an eBook. Ebooks are a super-low cost digital product to create, and they can warm up your audience to buying other things from you in the future. Find out how here.
- Include affiliate links in your eBooks. An audience that already bought from you trusts your recommendations. So be sure to give them relevant resources to help them on their journey – and if you’re an affiliate for those resources, even better! Grab my masterlist of 550+ affiliate programs here.
- Champion a handful of affiliates. Instead of constantly overwhelming your audience with brand new affiliate links, choose 3-4 affiliate programs or products that you truly believe in and promote them repeatedly (where relevant).
- Focus on long-term passive traffic generating strategies. Stop wasting hours in Facebook groups and learn more about SEO or improve your Pinterest game.
- Nurture your existing audience. Give them free value as often as possible. Keep showing up, ask them questions, listen to what they need from you and truly connect with them. And if you haven’t already, start an email list.
- Put your best content forward. If you want to stand out, create content that WOWs. Look to constantly improve your blog posts and digital products, and try to meet the standard that the titans in your industry have set.
- Don’t stop learning! Blogging is constantly changing, and you need to keep up if you want to be at the top. That’s why I always invest a small part of my profit into my blogging education. For example, I buy the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit every single year!
And there you have it – my 100% honest and transparent blogging income report that shows you exactly how I get paid as a blogger, and how my earnings have grown since I’ve started The She Approach three years ago.
Thanks for the insightful and informative post, Ana! You’ve given us a lot of helpful experiences and resources. You’re a blogging role model!