My 1st 18 Months as a Professional Blogger: Income and Traffic Report + Lessons Learned

Blogging Income and Traffic Report

I’ve been meaning to write this post for about 6 months now – then it would’ve been my first year instead of 18 months. Ha! Anyway, I know this post has NOTHING to do with food…or losing weight…or food prep..or really anything I talk about here on Organize Yourself Skinny but I feel compelled to write it.

Why?

Because I made it. I started Organize Yourself Skinny in March 2011 and in August 2014 I quit my full-time state job (making over $60,000 a year plus benefit and a pension) to work on my blog full-time. 18 months later I’m still going strong. Read about when I first quit my job here.

If you have zero interest in the behind the scenes of my blogging career or could care less about the money I make then go ahead and skip over this post. But…if you do want a peek then grab a cup of coffee and let me entertain you a bit.

I know exactly what it takes to create a full-time income from a blog. Actually, I’m making more than DOUBLE what I made in a year at my state job. This was a job (or career), that I was required to have an expensive Master’s Degree to get. I’m not saying I regret my decision to attend college and work where I did for 12 years of my life but…. it would’ve been nice to know there were other options.

A person like me who has an entrepreneur spirit and craves the freedom to be creative cannot be happy when I feel my wings have been clipped. Some see this as controlling on my part but I see it differently. I wanted control over my life and not to be a puppet for someone else. I knew that my talent and skills reached far beyond the cement walls of my office.

Also, in my former career there was zero room for advancement. No matter how hard I worked I rarely got more money or the opportunity to grow. If I did it would be maybe a $1000 raise and I should thank my lucky stars and not expect another one for YEARS. Cause budget cuts, ya know. Now I can make an extra $1000 without an issue or begging someone for it. The harder I work the more money I make. My salary is depends on me.

I appreciated the experience, and it helped me grow as a person, but there was no way I was going to sit around and wait for my gold watch. That works for many but not for me. I wanted more – much more – and knew I was capable of it.

I set a goal, worked hard, and then worked even harder. I wrote in the morning, at night, weekends, and whenever I could find a spare minute. I developed recipes on the weekends and did everything I could to be the best I could be.

All that work paid off because in August 2014 I quit my cushy state job and jumped head first into becoming a professional blogger. So I made it and now I feel it’s important to turn around on the ladder and help others up. It’s my turn to pay it forward.

This might sound hokey to some people but I pay attention to what the universe tries to tell me. I follow my heart, gut, and intuition. It got me to this place in my life and I know it will lead me exactly where I need to be. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time but never made the time to write it. Well in the last month numerous people have asked for my expertise. And that’s just in the last 4 weeks. Over the last couple years my inbox has received regular messages from aspiring bloggers asking for advice and tips.

Obviously there’s a ton of “how to” blog information on the internet. However, people are asking me for my advice, opinion, and thoughts. Why? Because, you relate to me, trust what I have to say, and can see for your own eyes that I run a successful blog and social media channels.

I started this blog 5 years ago and before that I dabbled writing a couple other blogs and also dipped my toes in selling on eBay. I have a decent amount of online experience and feel confident that I know what I’m doing. Not to say there’s not more to learn but I feel good about my blogging career. This is not a hobby for me. It started that way but now it’s now my career. It’s how I put food on the table and pay my bills.

A lot of “how to” bloggers only been blogging for a couple years or even less. They’re not doing this full-time. I’m not trying to be disrespectful but I think there’s a big difference in the knowledge between a blogger of one year compared to a blogger whose been working at it for 5+ years. Just like with any career. Don’t get me wrong there are AMAZING bloggers out there that share incredibly helpful information. I wouldn’t be here without them, specifically Pinch of Yum. Lyndsay and Bjork provide invaluable wisdom. Abby and Donnie from Just a Girl and Her Blog are great too. They haven’t been around as long but still provide helpful insight.

I chose not to write about blogging because I wanted to build a blog following without it. I wanted to prove that I could make enough money to quit my job without “how to blog” or income posts. That’s what I did. Besides a few affiliate commissions from Bluehost most of the money I made came from the content on my blog.

5 years later and with LOTS of experience under my belt I’m ready to share my knowledge, tips, and wisdom with aspiring bloggers who are serious about building a business around their passion and blog. Like I said, it’s my turn to help others up the ladder and it will be my pleasure to do so.

Starting in March I will post monthly blogging income reports. These reports will include my income, traffic report, and detailed blogging tips. I plan to go over the strategies that worked the previous month and goals I plan to focus on in upcoming months. These reports will focus on where I am right now with blogging.

Then starting in May 2016 I will have an entire blog dedicated to helping aspiring bloggers create a full-time living from their blog. Again, I know so much of this information is already all over the internet. But just like with this blog my new one will be based on my personal experiences and strategies that worked for me. I plan to walk you through the whole process of starting a blog and getting it to where I am right now. I’m so excited for this new journey. I love being my own boss and I know you will love it too.

It’s not really like me to talk about money. So writing this post was a little awkward for me. I like making money, who doesn’t? But…I think it’s important to stay humble. I see money as a vehicle for opportunity, freedom, and choice. Not to be materialistic and brag. Nobody likes a bragger. It’s not very becoming. However, like I said earlier, I get a lot of money making questions so I’m going to talk openly about the money I make working on Organize Yourself Skinny. I’m sharing the numbers with you because I want to be transparent. But more importantly to show you that it’s possible to create a very good income as a blogger. I hope you find these income reports motivational and educational because that’s why I’m sharing them.

Okay, let’s get to my income. To keep the privacy of the companies I work for I won’t fully disclose the amount I am paid by specific companies. The amount will be one lump some. Thanks for understanding.

Also, I’m including the monthly pageviews along with my income. Just to give you an idea on the way pageviews correlate with my income. Keep in mind though that my monthly income is typically from money I made a month or two before.

I will breakdown my income and list out my expenses for the year. After that I’ll go over some blogging tips I learned along the way.

My 2015 blog income

January 2015

Income: $9,001.40

Pageviews: 1,633,853

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February 2015

Income: 9196.78

Pageviews: 1,007,053

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March 2015

Income: $13,043.79

Pageviews: 1,275,499

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April 2015

Income: $7,980.32

Pageviews: 1,205,049

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May 2015

Income: $11,834.93

Pageviews: 1,091,122

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 1.05.13 PM June 2015

Income: $17,340.05

Pageviews: 897,860

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July 2015

Income: $12,202.43

Pageviews: 1,099,210

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August 2015

Income: $9,297.85

Pageviews: 1,061,438

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September 2015

Income: $11,435.41

Pageviews: 894,094

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October 2015

Income: 9,440.82

Pageviews: 823,852

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November 2015

Income: $9,400.81

Pageviews: 729,785

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December 2015

Income: $17,365.93

Pageviews: 719,471

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Total income for 2015: $137,540.52

Total pageviews for 2015: 12,438,286

 

Blog income breakdown for 2015

Ad networks

Adthrive: $33,755.19

Kitchen Daily (AOL): $33,287.41

Sovrn: $8,549.72

Yellow Hammer Media: $2823.1

Swoop: $2208.18

Google: $2089.23

Total: $82,712.83

 

Ebooks

Organize Yourself Skinny ebook: $18,856.6

Monthly Meal Plans: $3140.55

Total: $21,997.15

 

Private advertising: $12,000

* I work with companies privately to advertise on my website. They pay for ad space and other advertising opportunities.

Total: $12,000

 

Sponsored Posts: $7,950

* I work with Tapinfluence, iSway, Federated Media, and Lunchbox Media to acquire sponsored posts. Most of my sponsored work comes from Tapinfluence.

Total: $7,950

 

Affiliates

Bluehost: $1755 <- this money comes from a “How to Start a Blog” page I put together last year.

Amazon: $702.92

Plan to Eat: $3115

Shareasale: $154.66

Once a Month Meals: $125

Total: $5852.58

 

Expenses

Sythesis Hosting: $1764

Aweber: $1788

Internet Service: 945.33

Hot spot: $786.65

Cell Phone: $762.44

Paypal flow: $360

Paypal Fees: $1,591.57

WP Site Care: $1188

Staff: $2791.06

Facebook advertising: $525.03

Lawyer: $130.05

Groceries: $2198.50

Total: 14,830.63

Total income after expenses: $119,709.89

There you go. That’s my blog income for 2015.

My top earners were

  1. Ad networks
  2. My own products
  3. Private advertising
  4. Sponsored posts
  5. Affiliates

My thoughts on the income I earned…

Obviously Ad networks are my bread and butter. I know ads can be irritating and some people really complain about them. But it is what it is. Right now ads are a part of my income structure and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. This year I’m working exclusively with Adthrive to provide the best premium ads for my site. I feel confident their team will work hard to make reader experience a #1 priority when placing ads on my site.

I made just over $20,000 with my ebook and meal plans last year. That’s not too shabby but I know I can do much better in this area. I worked really hard on my ebook and plan to create a strategy that will increase sales this year. Same with the meal plans. At some point this year all my meal plans will be combined into a power package. My plan is to to double my sales from ebooks and meal plans by the end of 2016. I will talk about strategies to accomplish this in later posts and eventually on my new website.

Affiliate sales will be a huge focus for me this year. Ad networks can be so unpredictable and I know there’s much more money to be made with my affiliates. Amazon alone has a ton of potential that I haven’t tapped into yet. Already in the last few months I’ve more than tripled my sales with the Amazon Affiliate program. I look forward to sharing my Amazon tips with you.

I have a love hate relationship with sponsored posts. I know there’s tons of money to be made in this area but it’s hard to find posts that are a good fit for my blog. One goal I have is to build relationships with the brands I already use and love. I have some ideas on ways to do that I will share later on. Private advertising falls into this category too. I want to work exclusively with companies I already use. I plan to contact these companies and pitch ideas on ways we could work together.

Those are my thoughts on the income I earned in 2015. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished but I know that’s also just the tip of the iceberg. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is the skies the limit. I’m not held down by anyone but myself.

Now let’s talk about some lessons and tips I learned over the last 18 months working full-time on my blog. You can also read this post I wrote when I first quit my job to work as a full-time blogger.

These lessons/ or tips are not in any order. Actually, in my experience, each one is equally important.

Taxes are serious business

There’s a lot of money to be made in blogging. Trust me, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would make just under 140k blogging. After a couple years of blogging I knew I could make enough money to quit my job but I didn’t think I would double my salary in a year. But I did. However, many bloggers are making double, triple, and more than that. It’s true. If you work hard, treat it like a business, and stay persistent there’s potential to create a 6-figure income or more, without a doubt.

The issue is the more money you make the more taxes you pay. Sorry, but it’s true. I’m sure you already know that so don’t get caught off guard. I’m not an accountant nor do I play one on TV. I save half my income and pay taxes quarterly. I have an accountant and talk to him whenever I need to. My advice is to talk to your accountant as soon as you can. If you plan to make money from your blog you will need tax advice. Do not delay on this.

On the same note, make sure to keep detail records of your income and expenses. Bloggers don’t have a ton of expenses and trust me every little bit helps when you need those write offs at the end of the year.

Traffic is everything

There are blogs with less traffic than mine who make a lot more money through affiliate and product sales. But in my experience, at the end of the day, traffic makes a huge difference with the income your blog generates. It makes sense. The more people that come to your blog the more money you make in advertising, affiliate sales, and product sales. However, looking at my traffic that isn’t always the case. There are some months my traffic was well over a million pageviews and I made considerably less than the months it was under. A lot goes into that. It could be a slow month for advertiser spending. Maybe I didn’t get as many sponsored posts. Or ebook sales could be down for the month?

Also, my traffic depends on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google. If one or all of them are playing nice my traffic is awesome. If not, then my traffic struggles. I have strategies in place to keep traffic consistent. Sometimes that takes more work than others. Blogging is not a set it and forget it business. I have to wake up everyday and work. It’s work I love and my boss is AMAZING but it’s still work.

My blog is 5 years old now so I see a lot more traffic from Google. This is great but I know I can do better. In the beginning, I didn’t spend a lot of time on Search Engine Optimization (did you just zone out). Basically, that means writing a blog post in a way where it shows up in Google searches. You want the 1st or 2nd page not the 10th page. There are many ways to do that. I’ve tried some and not others. There are whole books written on SEO so I’ll spare you the long drawn out explanations. However, I plan to talk more about this in the future.

Another way I get traffic is by other blogger linking to my blog. If you’ve linked to any of my posts let me give you a big virtual smooch. I appreciate it. This helps get other readers to my blog but it also gives me a boost in Google searches. I try to return the favor as much as I can when I’m putting together blog posts. I love to share the love too.

I can go on and on about traffic. To become a professional blogger you need to take traffic seriously. In my experience, I find when my traffic is over 1 million page views a month I make at least $7 – $10 on average a month. My goal is to double or triple that by the end of the year. I plan to talk more about that in future income reports and on my new blog.

Income fluctuates

I know I touched on this slightly, when speaking about traffic, but I think it’s important enough to mention again. One thing I needed to get used to, and more importantly plan for, is that my monthly blogging income fluctuates. Some months I made over 17k and others I made less than 8k. If you’re used to receiving a steady paycheck (like I was) this could take a little getting used to. It can also be very scary the first couple times it happens. I remember being slightly panicked when this first happened. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills or worse would have to go find another “real” job. Not like that would be the end of the world but I love the freedom working as blogger gives me and don’t want to lose that. So keep in mind that fluctuating income is part of the job and something you need to be aware of if you decide to blog full-time.

Pay attention to statistics

 This relates to traffic but is a little different too. One of the first things you should do when building your blog is install Google Analytics. This will give you TONS of information on which posts do well. By “doing well” I mean the posts that people are coming to your blog to read. If you want to make money from your blog then you must write posts that get readers to your blog and bring them back. You need to bring value to your readers.

Checking your statistics keeps you in tune with what’s working on your blog. It also shows you where to put your efforts. It’s the best way I know to work smarter not harder. If your statistics show your readers LOVE meal prep and freezer cooking posts then why not give them more of it. Don’t spend time on content that doesn’t resonate with readers. Of course, you want to write content you enjoy as well. This is the reason you must be passionate about the blog topics you choose to write on.

The same goes with social media. You can view Facebook and Pinterest insights through your account. You can view the posts and pins that are popular and the ones that are alone in Social Medialand. It also let’s you analyze the times that are most popular to share content. Social media takes a ton of time so it’s important to make sure that what you’re doing is working.

Create goals and strategies to move them forward

When I consistently write out my goals, and create strategies around them, I see success. Period. Now do I always do this? No. Do I feel the pain when I don’t? Yes.

I can’t wake up everyday, shoot from the hip, and expect a business to evolve and grow. Just like I can’t expect to eat too much, exercise sporadically, and still lose weight. It doesn’t happen that way. Consistency is key.

Goals creates the vision, strategy creates the results.

If I set a goal for 1.5 million pageviews a month I can’t just throw a penny in the wishing well and cross my fingers. There needs to be a concrete strategy around that goal. For example, I could share 5-8 times a day on Facebook, send out weekly emails, schedule daily pins, and write 20 posts based on my top 5 popular posts from last month. I would plan my days around those strategies.

I find it helpful to plan a month ahead of time. I might not write out all my post but I need to go into the month knowing the topics/recipes I’m going to write for my blog. I plug all the topics into the month and then write out to-do lists for each week. Then every night I write out the tasks I need to do the following day. When I don’t do this I flounder and finish the week with nothing accomplished.

Work in batches

As a food/healthy lifestyle blogger I’m responsible for thinking up recipes, cooking the recipes, photographing the recipes, editing the photos, figuring out the nutritional information, writing up the recipe post, and scheduling the posts. One recipe takes me at least an hour to cook and photograph. I also write on other topics and trying to dabble into the video world. There’s a lot to do.

My best advice to getting everything done, without feeling totally overwhelmed, is to work in batches.

For example, if I have a bunch of recipes to create I will spend one day cooking and photographing the recipe. I can typically create and photograph 5-6 recipes in about 5 hours, depending on the recipes. Then I take 2-3 days to edit the photos, figure out nutritional information, and write up the posts.

With content/tutorial posts I take one day to write outlines and then I will finish writing the posts on another day. Content posts take me a lot longer than recipe posts because they require more thinking and writing.

When I was writing my ebook I scheduled 1 day during the week to only focus on that.

Now that I’m trying to create more videos I plan to structure the work the same way. I will shoot 2-4 videos in a day then take a couple days to edit.

I find it so much easier to work in batches. This helps me laser focus on one task at a time, stay productive, and accomplish more than if I was trying to do everything at once.

Schedule, schedule, and more scheduling

Working in batches is great and can help to streamline blogging tasks but obviously life happens and we can’t always get the tasks done we wanted to do. For this reason I strongly feel scheduling ahead of time is KEY to successful blogging.

It’s important to get ahead of the game whenever possible. This will keep you sane when emergencies pop up or when you need to take time off for whatever reason. The beauty of blogging is you create your schedule. However, if you don’t control your schedule it WILL control you.

Last summer I found myself stressed and rushing around because I didn’t plan ahead of time. My kids were off from school and I still had to get work done. I found that I did the bare minimum and often times didn’t go the extra effort because of time. Moving forward, I plan to have July and August scheduled in advance so I can enjoy my summer vacation and not worry about blog posts.

Blogging will give you the flexibility if you structure it that way.

I use Coschedule and Tailwind to schedule my social media posts. Honestly, I don’t know how I functioned without either of those services. Each one is incredibly helpful.

I like to have all social media scheduled at least a month in advance. That puts me in a happy place. I should mention I just hired a Social Media Manager who will take over scheduling my social media. This will free up a lot of time and mental energy so I can take care of other things with my blog.

Also, I currently have 2 writers for my blog. Their posts are scheduled a month ahead of time.

I write my posts 1-2 weeks ahead of time but soon plan to schedule 2-3 months in advance.

Again, the more you are ahead of the game the better experience you will have working as a blogger and I believe the more money you’ll make.

Protecting my work time

Protecting my work time is easily my biggest challenge as a full-time blogger. I have about 25 hours a week to work. I don’t have a time clock or anyone watching over me so it’s easy for those 25 hours to dwindle without getting a lot done. There are distractions everywhere. My phone rings, texts from friends, Facebook, kids are getting out of school early, kids are sick, my mom wants to go to lunch, laundry needs folding, I want to exercise, and a million other things. My work time can quickly go away if I don’t protect it.

One of the things I’ve done to protect my work time is treat my workday as such. I wake up everyday at 5:30am or 6:00am, exercise for an hour 5 times a week, and then get showered and dressed so I’m ready to work by 8:30am. I write my goals and to-do list the night before. This way I know what to work on when I’m ready. I schedule meetings or lunch dates on Fridays only, if possible. Instead of answering my phone I will schedule phone dates. I try not to text a lot. Basically, I do my best to stick to a schedule and protect my work time.

If you made it this far then YOU ARE AWESOME! Those are the lessons I’ve learned in the last 18 months. I have so much more to share so make sure to check back each month for my monthly income report. I plan to have it up by the 15th of each month.

I want to leave you with this…

Always remember, my blog started as an idea nothing more. I built it into a full-time tax paying business that changed my life. Nobody did the work for me. I didn’t get one penny from anyone to start this business. I did it all. I’m not saying I didn’t have emotional support because I did. But when it came to the blood, sweat, and tears that went into building what you see today it’s all me. I wrote the posts. I took the pictures. I edited the pictures. I dealt with all the technical problems. I negotiated with companies. I set up the affiliate programs. I wrote the ebook. Me. I hired people along the way but at the end of the day the success of this blog rest on my shoulders. Creating a good full-time income from a blog is possible. I did it and continue to do it. I have 100% confidence you can too. I look forward to sharing more of my blogging tips and advice with you.

What are some topics you would like me to talk about here in my income reports but also on my new blog?

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this! I was very close to emailing you and asking you more about your behind the scenes so I’m super excited to see that you are going to get into that more. My main question is how to get more traffic. I have a ton of ideas for how to make money but none of it makes a difference if I can’t get the traffic. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Awesome awesome. Congrats on your outstanding success! (And I guess I’m awesome too because I made it to the end of your post) 😜 Your comment about making your money without a “how to blogging” post resonated with me. As a newer blogger I read a lot of blogging posts, I come reports, etc and am slightly concerned that it SEEMS like those making money from blogging are teaching others how to make money blogging. Circular logic to me….glad to see how successful you’ve been before diving into that. And I’m happy you shared your income and traffic report. It’s helps us newer bloggers…though a million page views….omg….I’ve got a looking way to go. 🙂

  3. Marcia Freeman says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m seriously thing of beginning a blog and your information is helping to fill in a lot of blanks in my information. One question-(for now)-How do you contact sponsors/affiliate companies?

  4. Lynda Estrella says:

    Thank you so much and congratulations! I have been thinking about doing this for a while. After reading this you gave me confidence….

  5. Danielle says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. So much of what you said resonates with me. I know that I am made for helping the world better than I can at my government job, but I didn’t know where to start and how to generate that out of nothing. I don’t have the start up and I am so blessed in my current job to be able to work on passion projects in the community as it makes my employer look good, but I NEED to be doing so much more. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Great tips! Can you elaborate on your facebook advertising spend? Also I’m interested to know how you were able to grow your facebook fan base in the 300K’s that’s super impressive!

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey in such and encouraging light! I am new to blogging, but feel confident I have found a great community to share the experience. Congratulations!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing so much inspiration! Even though I seem to be stuck at 200K pageviews a month, it makes me know that my own journey is not impossible with the hard work that I continue to put in. I can’t wait to read more in May!

  9. You are an amazing person, I have been a fan of yours for about a year and a half. Thank you for sharing your success. Success of others inspires people to build their own dreams. I am ready to take that next step with your experience as a guidance tool. Thank you OYS.

  10. Thanks so much for this post. It has really inspired me to put the blood, sweat, and tears into making my blog into a six figure business. I love what you said about money being a vehicle for opportunity, freedom, and choice. Since page views are so important, do you have some tips onincreasing them?

  11. Thank you so much for this post! Congratulations on your journey! It’s very clear and informative for a starting blogger like me. I would like to monetize my blog from now on too.
    I have one question, do you only work with Paypal for all your cash flows, or do you also have a business account number that companies use to pay you?
    Thanks again and keep up hte good work!

  12. Thank you for this post! I am very inspired by it! I am a new blogger, and want to be where you are! I know I need to get more organized, and set some goals to see them come to fruition. Congrats on being able to quit your full time job!

  13. This is so inspiring. I’ve only been blogging a month but I’ve loved it so far. I really want to build my blog to the point I’m making at least $5,000 a month. Half the time I feel confident I can do so, the other half I feel paralyzed with fear of failure! It’s exciting to see others who’ve made it. Thank you for sharing this.

  14. This is SO helpful! Thank you for taking the time to spell everything out and for posting your income breakdown! I’m a bit of a newbie, so this gives me a good sense about where my priorities should be and if I’m missing any opportunities.

  15. Arthea Peters says:

    Thank your for sharing so openly. I look forward to reading more about this topic and your new endevor with another blogg.

  16. I have no words to praise the way you have explained and provided sich an indeth analysis of whatever u have been doing in your blog journey. U deserve this amount … I have just started my own blog journey and woman like u are always an inspiration to not to change our ways for what we have started. Thank u so much ….

  17. Wowwwwwwwwzzaa. Lol. I’ve read quite a few income reports and this goes down as a favorite. This is so in-depth, inspirational and just incredible. *knock knock* It’s May 2016, where’s that blog about blogging!?

  18. This is such a great post. I work as a full time VA for several really amazing and talented bloggers. Each one has their own goals and always looking for the next step. I’m happy to share this with them to help them all grow. Keep up the amazing work!

  19. S. Carvalho says:

    Hi it would be really valuable to hear about your first 12 months with the blog, your views and income over that period, and also how much you worked and what helped you in those early days.
    Thanks!

  20. Wow! Great article and thank you for going into all the details and breaking down your revenue streams. I love that you mentioned you decided to go all in as a progressional blogger. This is what I am doing and your blog posts are helping me formulate more thoughts on my strategy. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge and reiterating that you did the work!

  21. The statistics revealed above are awesome.Really appreciate your hard work to reach at this level.Going through your post gives a real motivation to new bloggers like me who are still looking for avenues to earn through blogging.
    Thanks for such an inspiring post.

  22. This is an amazing post. Thanks for sharing your expertise and experience! Congrats on your success 🙂

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