It’s been a while since we last posted an income report. In fact it’s been a while since we posted anything on LTB!
Kitchen Sanctuary and freelance work have completely taken over 2019 so far, but we’re hoping to change that and start posting more regularly on LTB.
So rather than post an individual income report for one random month this year, we thought it would be better to take a look at the first half of the year as a whole.
Note – there are some links in this post that are affiliate links – which means that if you click on them and then sign up to the service/product we get a small commission (at no extra cost to you of course). If you do click through then thank you so much, it helps us keep LivingTheBlog and KitchenSanctuary going.
Our Overall Income
Let’s start with the income breakdown – this is for 6 months (January 1st 2019 – June 30th 2019) and doesn’t include the advance money from my book (also this info is based on earning reports and invoices for work done in H1, it’s not based on money that has actually come in yet, so there may be some variations based on things like paypal fees or exchange rate fluctuations):
- Affiliate Sales: £974.61/$1282.38
- Freelance and Brand Work: £45,826.21/$60,297.64
- Ad Revenue: £40,880.58/$53,790.24
Let’s have a closer look at those income figures.
Affiliate sales = £974.61/$1282.38
This mostly covers Amazon affiliate sales. We include links in posts to products we recommend on Amazon. We don’t earn a huge amount on this, but we’re hoping to add more links to our posts over time.
The affiliate sales also includes a few sales of ebooks that I recommend. These include (these are affiliate links):
- How I earned $40k in my first year of blogging – by Chelsea from Chelsea’s Messy Apron
- Tasty Food Photography – By Lindsay from Pinch of Yum
- The Food Photography book – By Nagi from Recipe Tin Eats
All three of these books have helped me hugely in improving my photography and earning potential on the blog. I’ve read each of them at least 5 times, and continue to go back to them for reference occasionally.
Freelance and Brand Work = £45,826.21/$60,297.64
This includes a large contract we have with a brand, for which we’ve created many recipe videos for their own website and social accounts. It also includes a couple of pieces of sponsored brand work that appears on our site. I’ve bunched these together, as I’m not allowed to disclose the exact contract amounts.
Where possible, we try to keep brand work on our site to a minimum. We say no to 90% of brand work, only working with brands that we whose products we truly love. I think this helps to build trust with readers. No one likes feeling that they’re constantly having product recommendations shoved down their throat every time they read a blog post 😉
Ad Revenue = £87,681.40/$115,370.26
We’re currently with Adthrive for our ads. We’ve been with them for about a year and a half now and have seen our revenue continue to grow with them.
We continue to weigh up which is the best ad company for us to work with based on our own website and our readers’ experience. I’ll talk about this a little more further on down in this post.
When it comes to our outgoings, we’ve definitely seen an increase as our income and workload increases.
Costs by type – We’re excluding wages (our own and our VA) and business taxes here:
- Bank Charges: £302.45/$432.07
- Hosting: £1,388.46/$1,983.51
- Software: £4,566.73/$6,523.90
- Food: £1,800.74/$2,572.49
- Office Supplies: £186.84/$266.91
- Marketing and Advertising: £170.95/$244.21
- Camera and Computing Equipment: £10,710.44/$15,300.63
- Travel: £2,911.30/$4,159.00
- Training and Membership: £2,065.12/$2950.17
- Props: £1,342.40/$1917.71
- Other (occasional costs such as music licensing and legal fees): £740.58/$1,057.97
Our hosting costs have gone up in line with our reader numbers, and we now host our site on Cloudways. As your blog starts to grow you are going to need to move away from the cheap shared hosting plans to a more robust professional hosting solution. We moved to Cloudways and have loved it. We use Vultr and the speed is a lot faster than when we were on any shared plan.
Software is a big cost, but covers things like Adobe creative cloud (really important for photo and video editing) , SEM rush (an expensive tool that we’re still learning to use to help us to improve our google ranking in search results), Tailwind – a fantastic tool for Pinterest and Instagram scheduling and MailChimp for our email newsletters.
We test every recipe at least twice before publishing, so our food costs for blog recipes are relatively high.
Office supplies includes some stationary, but is mostly spent on coffee to keep us fueled during long editing and writing days.
We’ve spent very little on marketing/advertising this year. We generally only use facebook ads when we’re working with a brand to promote a recipe we’ve created for them. Because we haven’t done a lot of sponsored brand work on the site, we haven’t done a lot of facebook ads.
We spent a lot on camera and computing equipment during the early part of this year – including a new camera (Canon EOS R), new lighting setup (Aputure 120d mkII and Aputure 300d) for videos and a new high-powered PC for video editing < Chris said he definitely needed all the new gadgets but I’m not sure….. You can check out all of our equipment on our tools and equipment post.
Travel has included a trip to Utah for the Everything Food Conference earlier this year. It also partly funded our trip to New York in March. That trip was half business, half pleasure. We created a video and blog post sharing some of our favourite foodie spots in New York. It has felt soo good to be able to spend some of our money doing the things that we enjoy, discovering new and delicious food and being able to learn, grow and network at the conference.
Training and membership costs have also been high this year as we’re continually trying to learn new strategies to build our site. This includes membership to FoodBloggerPro and We Blog North, plus a few others. Let me know if this is something you want to hear more about, and I can write a separate post on training, ebooks and membership sites that I recommend.
We started the year on a real high and hit our highest month ever for page views in January, Feb was pretty good too but then algorithms changed on Pinterest and Google and we started to lose traffic over the spring and summer. Our page views per month:
- Jan: 1,180,617 (YES nearly 1.2m views wooooo)
- Feb: 997,396
- Mar: 887,858
- Apr: 751,475
- May: 789,613
- Jun: 744,024
As is usual for our site, traffic started to tail off a little in March. This wasn’t helped by a Pinterest update in March, which has pretty much halved our Pinterest traffic.
If you followed any of our previous income reports, you will know that we normally have lower traffic over the summer months, and this will start building up over September/October time.
Our percentage of google traffic is slowly increasing over time. In October 2018 google traffic was 65%. Now it’s more like 72%.
As mentioned above, our Pinterest traffic has decreased, moving from around 16.5% of our traffic to 9%-10%. The Pinterest change occurred in March, so the 9%-10% is an average over Jan-June. Currently (as of October 2019), Pinterest traffic is more like 5.5%.
We’re working with a Pinterest specialist on this at the moment. We’re only a week in, but hoping to see some increase in Pinterest traffic over the next few months. More on this to come.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a steady change in balance of UK and US traffic. For the first few years, Kitchen Sanctuary had more US traffic than UK traffic. This has now flipped, and we’ve seen more UK traffic than US traffic in the last couple of years.
What did we spend the first half of 2019 doing?
I think this might have been the busiest 6 months in Kitchen Sanctuary history. Chris and I have been working full time (often 60+ hours a week) on Kitchen Sanctuary and freelance work.
- We created 80+ freelance videos between January and June. Doing this many videos in such a short space of time allowed us to start getting into a rhythm of videoing. I used to find videos hugely daunting, but I’m totally fine with them now. They take time and effort, but it’s become part of our natural blogging process. All of that freelance work was great from an earnings perspective, and allowed us to travel a lot in the first few months of the year. Not that it didn’t have its disadvantages too. I’ll talk about it a bit more further down in this post, and you can also see my post on some of my thoughts in this post on the pros and cons of freelance work.
- We went to New York – partly for my birthday, but also partly to try to get our first travel video shot and published.
- We also travelled to Utah for the Everything Food Conference (which was awesome btw).
- And (not work related) we got to surprise the kids with a trip to Disneyland in Florida. They literally found out that we were off to Disney when we were parked up in the airport carpark. Best surprise ever! We left our big cameras at home, and just spent a week enjoying Disney and eating lots of fried food.
- All that freelance work meant that we scaled back Kitchen Sanctuary a little – posting once a week (and occasionally once every two weeks). I hated putting Kitchen Sanctuary second, but at the time we agreed to the work, we thought we could juggle the freelance stuff and Kitchen Sanctuary.
- I also had work to do on the run up to the release of my book (Seriously Good Salads). I handed in the majority of the deliverables at the end of 2018, but had to start planning the release, including videos, review opportunities and endorsements.
- We also picked up a lot of great blogging tips and information at the Everything Food Conference that we started to implement in the second quarter of 2019.
Some of this included:
- Starting to create processes for the work we do. This is with the hope that we can eventually start to bring more people on board with Kitchen Sanctuary. Documented processes makes this a much easier transition.
- Getting into the habit of batch working. I started figuring out a couple of years ago that I work better when I’m just concentrating on one type of work on any given day (I can’t flip back an forth between writing and photographing for example). We’ve started formally batching our work this year. Set days for photography, set days for video, editing, SEO for upcoming posts, post writing etc. They all have their own days.
- Chris also implemented a video script and video storyboard process – which makes filming days run SO MUCH more smoothly.
- I started doing some flash photography after a brilliant workshop with Joanie from The Bite Shot. She’s a genius and I love everything that she does (properly fan-girling over here). I’m now using flash photography for 40-50% of my photographs, and expect to build it up more as I learn more.
- We’ve put serious effort into SEO (search engine optimization) for our posts – including adding step-by-step photos, videos, nutritional information, tips and tricks into our posts. We’re doing this with all new posts and we’re slowly doing this for our old posts too.
So yeah. Phew.
It’s been a busy, crazy, fun, but exhausting year so far.
What didn’t work for us?
Some of the things we feel haven’t worked great for us include:
- The sheer amount of freelance work. I’m grateful that we got the opportunity to work on so much, which helped us increase our confidence, grow our skills and establish a rhythm and a style to our videos. The money also came in great too 😉
However, it did mean we got to the point that we felt burnt out. By the time we hit summer, we were exhausted and had lost a bit of motivation. But we also had the summer holidays and two energetic kids to entertain, as well as madly playing catch-up where we’d fallen behind on Kitchen Sanctuary. It’s now October, and we’re only just starting to feel like we’re getting back on track again.
- Pinterest changes. Oh Pinterest! Why did you do it to us? Pinterest implemented a major algorithm change in March 2019 – right before the company went public in April 2019. For us, it resulted in our Pinterest traffic falling off drastically. You can see our Pinterest traffic in the first half of this year in blue – compared to the same half of last year in orange.
We even tried re-enabling rich pins (the date of the red circle), which made it worse! So we disabled rich pins again (green circle) pretty quickly and recovered slightly. We have a post on how to disable rich pins if that’s something you’re interested in.
- Facebook. So bored of Facebook. I love the groups and conversations, but trying to get our stuff seen on Facebook seems to take more effort than it’s worth. For the time being, we’re just posting to Facebook whenever we publish something new on the blog, and the occasional extra post here and there. Will we do more on Facebook in the future? Not sure yet.
- Content schedule. Our content schedule started becoming increasingly difficult to manage. I used OneNote for years to manage our work and posting schedule, and it worked great (I wrote a post on my blogging timetable here) until it didn’t. We suddenly found ourselves managing so many different tasks, plus trying to keep mine and Chris’s schedule up to date and in the same place. It got little overwhelming. Any changes to the schedule meant hours or re-work. So at the beginning of summer we started moving over to a new blogging management tool. Trello!
I’d tried it before (along with a hundred other tools) and didn’t love it back then. But they’ve made some changes and now I couldn’t go back. Chris is going to write a post soon on how we plan out our blogging and posting schedule using Trello, so keep an eye out for it.
- Self-care. Nope, no time for that. House was a tip, we both put on weight, couldn’t fit in exercise, rarely got the chance to sit at the table for dinner. I even had a couple of melt-downs over the silliest the things. The first was because I had a bag of mouldy potatoes buried under some junk in the utility room and I didn’t have time to throw them out. I cried because I couldn’t throw out potatoes!
The second was because I couldn’t get my false eyelashes on for an early morning (4.30am) video we were due to film. I came downstairs a miserable mess and told Chris that I couldn’t go on like this any more. After allaying his initial concern (and alarm!) that I didn’t, in fact, want a divorce (I guess I could have chosen my words better!!), he literally sent me back to bed and told me to stay there for the day.
Self-care is important people! I don’t intend for us ever to get into that mode again. Our house is still pretty messy, but we’re back at the gym, making better choices with food (most of the time) and eating at the dinner table again. Hooray!
What do we want to change?
So what do we want to change or improve as we head towards the last few months of the year?
- No more working to the point of exhaustion. Nobody should need to cry over potatoes.
- Spending more time on Kitchen Sanctuary content. This includes being consistent, posting twice (occasionally three times) a week, including a video for pretty much every recipe.
- Spending some time on Living the Blog. We both absolutely love talking about what we do and trying to help others achieve their blogging goals. It fills us with energy and enthusiasm, and that can only be good for us, and hopefully you guys too right?
- Getting ahead on content. We’re currently trying to get a month ahead, creating content, photos and videos, so if we need a break for any reason, we can take one and we’ll still have recipes going out on Kitchen Sanctuary. We’d love to eventually get two months ahead, but we’ll start thinking about that more in 2020.
- Starting to create our first self-produced product. A course? an Ebook? We’re not sure which one yet, but we’re in the planning stages and I can’t wait until we can spend some time on it. We’ve several days put aside in mid-November to get the work underway.
- Review of ad management on Kitchen Sanctuary. I want to expand on this a little:
Ad management – Adthrive versus Mediavine
OK probably one of the thoughts on your mind is that we have not make LOADS ad money given the amount of page view we have had, your probably thinking our RPM’s are a little low. We agree however,
We’ve been purposeful in keeping the number of ads we display as low as possible, whilst still bringing in a good amount of income. We haven’t implemented some of the newer types of ads (which take up more screen space and therefore result in higher income) as we’d like to ensure a nice balance between good reader experience and our own income.
This does mean that we’re probably not making as much as we could on ads. It’s something that we’re constantly assessing, reviewing and refining.
Right now we’re with Adthrive. Before that we were with Mediavine. We continue to weigh up which one of them will provide the best income and user experience, based on a number of factors.
Comparing our ad income to other bloggers with similar traffic and traffic locations, sometimes we’ve found that MediaVine bloggers have, on occasion, been earning a lot more.
It’s worth noting that many things can have an impact on ad revenue. One of the biggest is the location of the traffic sources. US traffic brings in a much higher ad revenue than UK traffic. This means we can’t compare our ad revenue to bloggers who have more US traffic than us.
Other factors include:
- Amount of traffic – sites with more overall traffic will receive higher earnings than sites with low traffic.
- Number of ads appearing on site.
- Subject of ads (certain types of ads pay more – such as political, weight loss and gaming ads). We try to limit the amount of these types of ads.
- Type of ads – small ads, larger ads, video ads.
So it is difficult to compare earnings with other bloggers on a like-for-like basis.
Adthrive have been fantastic at helping us to tweak our ad strategy and making suggestions. They’ve been super-quick to respond and we’ve already seen an increase in ad earnings recently through a few small changes.
Do you have thoughts on Adthrive versus MediaVine? Especially from a UK or European blogger point of view? If so I’d love to hear more from you. Drop me a comment or email me on [email protected]
In summary our turnover was a total of: £87,681.40/$115,370.26
And out costs came to a total of: £27,677.75/$39,539.64
So whilst we earned well over $100k, we did have pretty high expenses, resulting in a total gross profit figure of: £60,003.65/$75,830.62
We are soo happy and thankful that we both get to do this for a living. Chris always says if I ever catch him complaining about his job I should punch him.
I think that’s it for H1. I really hope you’ve found this info helpful. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.
6 thoughts on “Blog Income: How we made over $100,000 in the first half of 2019”
You guys are just awesome! Thank you for being so open and sharing what you’ve learned along the way, it’s fantastic knowing what is possible!
PS looking forward to that Trello post Chris! 😉
Trello post series is coming its in the pipeline 😉
You guys are such a massive inspiration. Also, it is an incredible amount of work. Hoping you get a well deserved time to self-care.
Looking forward to the new content on Living the Blog!
Nicky and I are looking forward to a bit of time off to decompress soon.
I love cooking recipes from Kitchen Sanctuary and occasionally day-dream about ditching everything that I do now (wedding photography and photography teaching) to do nothing but be filmed cooking! Maybe I’ll do it one day – you guys are an amazing inspiration, but I’m not sure how I’d ever get the idea past my wife! 🙂
Its always nice to dream. It took us a few years before we could fully support ourselves full time.