Income and expenses are such a hot topic in the blogging world. Why? My guess is because many of us are inclined to become consumed with seeing how we rank amongst our peers. Am I right orrrrr #amiright?! As much as we don't want to admit it, I think many of us rely on others to see if the income we're bringing it for ourselves really stacks up against those in our niches and with similar following counts.
Spoiler alert: the reason I'm writing this post for you today is not to feed that urge. I won't be sharing actual numbers with you. Why? I mean, because it's personal. Right?
That being said, I'm going to break down in percentages where my money comes from and where it goes each month, with the goal of giving you a better idea of profit margins and how everything adds up. Spoiler alert #2: I dropped out of my psych major and switched to sociology in college because I sucked at stats. Juuuust sayin.
The majority of my monthly expenses are broken up into 4 categories: Business development, Marketing, Memberships and Software + Misc. For the most part, my expenses remain the same each month. I try to mentally designate how much I plan to spend each month on business development and marketing. Of course, some months I go over and some I'm under, however I've found that consistency is KEY when determining a monthly allowance for your brand.
As a style blogger, I do not include clothing purchases in my expenses. For one, I can't write them off, so adding them into the mix would throw off my budget and make things a bit more confusing come time to do my taxes. While I often shop for my blog, I'm also shopping for me, and I've never considered that a part of my business. I've been asked whether or not I set a monthly shopping budget for myself and the answer to that is no. Before you judge - no, I don't go on a wild spending spree each month! Rather I have a pretty solid idea of my profit coming in each month and choose to spend a piece of that accordingly.
Here's how each category breaks down...
58% of monthly expenses
So what's considered business development? Basically anything outside of marketing that is helping to grow my business. Photography is a large chunk of this. I typically shoot 10 or so looks once per month, sometimes twice. Also included here is if I'm paying my web designer to update something on my blog or purchasing any programs or graphics to use on my website.
21% of monthly expenses
If there's one budget you prioritize, it should be your marketing one! I quickly learned that there was only so much I could do to market my brand when I was just starting out. Spending the time to promote my blog was taking away from my actual content creation and it was a catch 22. While I knew I needed to market my brand, I also needed to have actual content to market and doing both wasn't leaving me with much of a life.
Some ways I invest in marketing for my blog: giveaways (which have proven effective when done within my niche - I personally do not recommend the huge international giveaways!), ads (I try to run 1-2 per month to increase my reach), email marketing and monthly newsletters sent to my subscribers, and scheduling platforms like Tailwind for my social media outlets (get a free month here).
13% of monthly expenses
I have yearly subscriptions that bill monthly to Adobe Creative Cloud (this includes software like Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. - all needed for my photo editing and web design!). Also included in my memberships are my monthly web hosting.
It's beyonddd easy to get caught up in signing up for a handful of $10 a month memberships, which ultimately add up! My advice here is to simply get what you need, not what you think you need or what you want. For instance, I know a lot of bloggers who pay for invoicing software but I've cut this expense by signing up for and.co, which is a user-friendly invoice producing and expense tracking software that is completely free. Cut costs where you can here (hello, higher shopping budget!).
Software + Misc.
8% of monthly expenses
The remaining 8% of my monthly expenses go to software and miscellaneous items like a one-off domain upgrade or a set of graphics on Etsy. This number varies from month to month and is usually pretty low.
The majority of my monthly income is broken up into 4 categories: Sponsorships, Affiliates, Product Sales and Consulting. Unlike my expenses, my income is all over the place from month to month. However, one thing that remains pretty constant is where it's coming from.
The truth here is I could have a month where I make $5,000 in a matter of weeks from a brand deal OR I could have a month where I have zero brand deals and make $300. Income is income, and I'm grateful to have been able to turn my blog into a business (still so many more things to accomplish, of course) but DUH - the more income, the better!
I hope my breakdown is able to give you a little more insight into where the money comes from and what the bigger picture looks like. So often so many of us are quick to get caught up in putting all of our eggs in one basket and expecting a grand result. For example, those of us who spend 18 hours a day pushing LiketoKnow.it (cough cough). By the way, I have nothing but the utmost respect for rewardStyle and am proud to be a part of the platform. My point here however is that you have to look at ALL of your options - it's so, so important!
72% of monthly income
I need to start out by saying that 72% of my monthly income coming from sponsorships did not happen overnight! It also didn't happen from me sitting back and waiting for brands to find and reach out to me. When it comes to bringing in income, I spend the majority of my time securing brand deals. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes: finding contacts, crafting pitch emails, waiting for responses and sending follow-up emails, negotiating terms, thoroughly reviewing contracts, coming up with a creative vision for the collab, shooting content, editing content, drafting sponsored posts. OMG - the list seriously goes on.
Working with brands is not an easy feat and with deadlines in the mix, can come with a lot of stress. That being said, they can also pay off in a major way. Not only in terms of actual money, but in terms of exposure for your brand, new press and great relationships founded with potential for future collaborations.
I know I'm not alone when I say that the majority of my income comes from sponsorships. There's something to be said about working your butt off to secure those brand deals!
6% of monthly income
When you join an affiliate network, you are directing readers to a product or service in exchange for a commission on clicks or sales. There are so many (definitely too many) affiliate networks out there. From my experience, the top two affiliate programs used by bloggers are rewardStyle and ShopStyle.
Here are my thoughts on affiliate networks: they're a great tool to have in your arsenal for a consistent monthly paycheck. With rewardStyle, I bring in sales each month whether someone purchases something in a blog post or shops for it or via Instagram. Some bloggers have conditioned their audiences to shop, shop, shop through these platforms and seriously make a killing. This, however, all depends on audience; and let me tell you, the percentage of people making a killing in say, the top 10%, is slim.
So often we see bloggers pushing affiliate networks and linking to no end which in turn makes us feel like we should be doing the same. "I'm not making enough money through my affiliate network. Maybe I need to be posting more, like X." - and then you end up spending ALL of your time making collages, Instagram story templates, etc., etc.
I don't know about you, but spending ALL of my time on 6% of my income seems pretty counterproductive.
So while I really do support affiliate networks and consistently use them myself, I've learned that they're one tool out of MANY that you need to be utilizing.
13% of monthly income
While product sales are also a small chunk of my monthly income, I find that they are what my readers find most value in. About a year ago, I opened up a "digital shop" on my blog where my readers can purchase media kit templates and Lightroom presets for photo editing. This is another income category that widely varies from month-to-month. I find that when I'm pushing new products or reminding people that they're there whether it's through a newsletter, Instagram story, etc., I'll usually see a spike in sales. To give you an example, one month I made upwards of $1,000 and the next I made $40!
9% of monthly income
The remaining 9% of my monthly income comes from consulting. This is not a service I openly market, but every so often I'll pick up a client or two who's getting started with their blog or looking to grow their brand. To be honest, as small of a percentage as 9% is, this is what I enjoy most! I love consulting because I feel like I'm not only connecting with my clients but I'm providing authentic value to them and watching them grow. Definitely more fulfilling than taking a picture of a candle and posting it on Instagram 😜.
Stressed out yet? I remember that time when I was like, 'I can't wait to start a blog! It will be such a fun and uncomplicated hobby and I'll still have plenty of free time!' All sarcasm aside though, I honestly wouldn't have done anything differently - and hey - I still wake up every day excited to build my business so I'm counting it as a win.
Hope I cleared up some of your questions in this post and it was what you expected! As always, if you still have questions, leave me a comment below. I'd also love to know what you want to see next on the Behind the Blog series!
Image(s) credit: theeverygirl