How We Made $16,389 in One Month (while Island Hopping!): Income Report April 2019
I’m staring at an Excel spreadsheet where we track our earnings each month, and frankly, I can’t believe the number I’m looking at:
Two years ago, I would have called you crazy if you said earning this much through a blog was possible. Even 6 months ago, I couldn’t have imagined this. Yet here we are, looking at a number that exhilarates me and makes me sweat at the same time.
We published our very first income report last month, and it still feels super weird and scary putting all this information out there. It’s kind of like that dream where you show up to school naked. I have this urge to cover up...
But we received such an incredible response last month when we shared our earnings, that we knew it wouldn’t be the last time. We were flooded with emails, Facebook messages, and comments thanking us for being open and transparent. We heard from readers, former colleagues, family, our former teachers, and friends we haven’t heard from in years.
Knowing we were able to answer some people’s curiosities and potentially aid others in their entrepreneurial journey means so much to us.
So again, we’re pushing past the awkwardness we feel for sharing this, and we’re puttin’ it all out there. Naked and a little afraid...
April 2019 Two Wandering Soles Earnings:
Important Note: As we explained in our first income report, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. And our goal in sharing this number is not to boast, but to share how we make money in hopes of helping others on this journey (or to answer the question we are constantly getting asked: “So, like, how do bloggers even earn money anyway?!”)
Reading other bloggers’ income reports have helped us a great deal as we have grown our website, and we hope to give back and be a resource for others.
What April Looked Like for Us
After a short trip to the US in March for a family wedding, we returned to Chiang Mai at the beginning of April and dove headfirst into work.
Launched our Free Blogging Bootcamp Course
Celebrated Katie’s 31st birthday in the Thai Islands
Paid off 2 student loans. YAY!!! (Sadly, we still have many more…)
Blogging Course Launch
Our big project for the month was creating a Free Blogging Bootcamp! We poured hours into making this course super useful to anyone out there who wants to start a money-making blog. (If that sounds like you, sign up now!)
Vacation in the Thai Islands
Katie’s 31st birthday fell at the end of April, and thankfully we finished the course right in time to CELEBRATE! Katie’s brother came to visit us in Thailand, so we decided it was the perfect excuse for a little getaway to the islands! Scuba diving, beach days with cocktails, and NO WORK. It was blissful.
Paying off Student Loans
One of the biggest feelings of accomplishment has come from being able to put our earnings toward “adult things”, like a retirement fund (who ARE we?!) and starting to chip away at the massive iceberg that is our student loans.
And while we still have lots of that iceberg left to uncover, we were able to pay off two (smaller) loans with cash this month, totally nearly $10,000. So yeah, we’re not exactly doing anything too exciting with our earnings (yet), but it feels very satisfying regardless.
Takeaway from the month of April
Even though we took off a week for birthday celebrations and travels, we still had our highest earning month yet. We worked hard AND played hard in April, and it was one of the most rewarding months of blogging we’ve ever had. And not just because of the money.
During the month of April, we were absolutely overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the sheer number of meaningful messages we received. And honestly, those messages are a powerful form of currency as well.
Back before we were earning money on this blog, it was reader messages that kept us going. We’d be on the brink of quitting Two Wandering Soles (blogging is hard work!), and we’d get a message from someone thanking us for writing articles that helped them plan a trip to Thailand where they proposed to their girlfriend. And when we’d be ready to give up again, we’d get a message from a classroom of students who watched our video diaries from our trek to Everest Base Camp during their Geography unit.
So the month of April was extra special for us. We were reminded why we started this blog in the first place. And we closed out the month filled with gratitude, energy, and excitement for all that is to come.
We’re going to go over exactly what worked for us this month, and we’ll share what our focus is going to be in the next 30 days.
April 2019 Website Statistics
As bloggers, our income is directly related to how many people are visiting our website. So before we talk money, let’s go over our traffic for the month. We’re also sharing how much we grew compared to the last month.
Pageviews: 290,098 (growth of 5.4%)
Unique Visitors: 174,905 (growth of 4.7%)
Sessions: 214,981 (growth of 5.7%)
Social Media Followers: 28,585 (growth of 2.7%)
Email Subscribers: 9,422 (growth of 8.3%)
Here’s a few snapshots of our April 2019 Google Analytics. Click on any image to view them in a larger size:
TOP TEN TRAFFIC SOURCES
MOBILE VS. DESKTOP VS. TABLET
TOP TRAFFIC CHANNELS
Let’s Break it down!
Now that you know a little bit about why we’re sharing our income and how many people are visiting our site, let’s get to the good stuff and show you where that money came from…
Have you heard of Affiliate Marketing? It can be a complicated thing to master, but at its core, Affiliate Marketing is simply recommending a product or service to others, and being compensated in return.
For instance, you get $50 for every friend who joins your gym! (Maybe you’re doing affiliate marketing without even thinking about it…)
WHO ARE OUR AFFILIATES?
We have nearly 30 affiliate programs we work with (just added a few new ones this month!). They range from large companies like Amazon to independent tour companies we have gone through and just LOVE to promote because we had a great experience.
Here are our top-earning affiliates in the month of April (in no particular order):
J-Rail Pass (train system in Japan)
12go.asia (Transportation in Asia)
We added a few new affiliate programs during the month of April, so we’re excited to see how they do. It can take a few months (or sometimes longer) for affiliates to take off. Typically, we track them over the course of 6 months or so, and then we discuss whether or not they seem to be performing well.
Lesson on Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates are different, and they perform differently for each blogger.
For instance, the big programs like Booking.com and Amazon work really well for some bloggers, and it brings them the majority of their “affiliate pie”. But for us, they’re just kind of meh...
We’ve actually had the best luck working with smaller affiliate programs. We work with a couple companies that didn’t even have an affiliate system set up when we approached them. But together, we created a tracking system and have brought them tens (and one company hundreds) of thousands of dollars in business – yay for them! – and we earn a pretty decent commission – yay for us!
If you’re a blogger reading this and want to incorporate more affiliates into your repertoire, brainstorm a list of tours you’ve done that were absolutely amazing (you don’t want to recommend something you didn’t love). Email them to see if they have an affiliate system or if they’d be interested in setting one up. It’s truly a win-win, because you’ll bring them business and be compensated for it.
And the moral of the story here is you’ve gotta find out what works best for you. It takes patience, a bit of experimentation, and the courage to put yourself out there.
Advertising continues to be a major source of income for us. We work with Mediavine, a 3rd-party provider who basically does all the work for us. Easy, peasy!
In our income report last month, we predicted our advertising income would be lower in the month of April, and we were right.
Even though our traffic was higher in April than in March, we made less money from advertisers.
This is mainly due to two things:
March is a great month advertising-wise. Since it is the end of the quarter, and the payout is slightly higher than months that are in the middle or beginning of a quarter.
We toned down the number of ads on our website. Our plan is to slowly continue to decrease the amount of advertising on our website over time. We love that this is a reliable and passive income source, but we don’t want the number of ads to diminish our readers’ experience. We are working on finding a good balance for us.
For the month of May, we are expecting our advertising income to stay the same, or even decrease slightly.
Advertisers tend to pay less money at the beginning of the quarter than the end of the quarter. Months that fall at the end of the quarter (March, June, September, December) earn more money.
While we plan to reduce our ad density (therefore less revenue), May can be a decent month for RPMs (“rate per mille” aka payout), so we’ll just have to see.
Sponsored Posts / Brand Partnerships: $100
During the month of April, we did a very small partnership, which required very little work on our end.
Our inbox is full of inquiries of companies interested in working with us, however we are always very selective with the partnerships we move forward with.
We love partnering with brands whose values align with ours, but finding the right partnership is tricky. Also, a high quality collaboration can be very time consuming, so we have been prioritizing other (more passive) income streams, like affiliates.
That said, we are currently working on a few exciting collaborations for the coming months.
Curated Content: $0
Curated content is something we create or sell to another brand. This can be quite time-intensive, so it isn’t a huge focus of ours. But every once in a while, a good opportunity presents itself.
We don’t have any curated content lined up for next month at the moment, so we don’t expect this category to be a significant part of our income. This isn’t an area we are actively trying to grow, but we are open to opportunities if they seem to be a good fit.
BONUS: Free Stuff: $0 value
As we explained in our last income report, this is a category that we are really dialing back on. We get dozens of emails each week from companies who want to send us free products or offers for free hotel stays.
Over the years, we’ve realized that these types of exchanges took a lot of time and effort on our end, with no monetary compensation. It would be awesome if we could pay for student loans in hotel stays, but until that becomes a thing, we’re trying to prioritize paid partnerships.
This isn’t to say we never will accept free travel or products in the future, but in order for it to be worthwhile for us, it has to be a very good fit.
FREE TRAVEL: $0
We traveled to the Thai islands during April, but paid for everything ourselves. This took off the pressure and made it a fun trip to celebrate Katie’s birthday rather than a “work trip”.
FREE PRODUCTS: $0 VALUE
We did not accept any free gear or products during the month of April.
Our Blogging Expenses: $717.95
Running a website can be expensive. Some of these costs happen on a monthly basis, while others are one-time expenses.
MailerLite: $35 – This is the service we use to send emails to our subscribers.
Gmail Suite: $12 – We pay for our own branded email addresses
Notion: $8 – Software to organize projects and tasks
Virtual Assistant (VA): $232 – We have a lovely assistant who helps us with tasks like managing Pinterest, working with guest authors, and optimizing our site.
Tailwind: $10* – Software for scheduling pins on Pinterest that we could not live without!
KeySearch: $8.45* – Game-changing SEO tool that assists in finding keywords
Hosting/Domain: $17.50* – The cost of just keeping this website live
Epidemic Sound: $15 – Royalty free music our YouTube videos
Amazon Prime: $10* – We use this for the cloud storage for our thousands of photos! (Plus, the quick delivery comes in handy when we’re back home in the US.)
Photoshop & Lightroom: $10 – Photo editing software
*monthly cost of annual payment
Web Designer: $360 – We hired a web designer in the month of March and are working on a site redesign, which should be complete in May. Super excited for this! (Note: In total, this is a $1,200 project. We paid a deposit in March, and will be paying the remainder when the redesign is complete.)
Our Net Earnings for April 2019: $15,671.10
After you subtract our website expenses, we netted a total of $15,671.10 for the month of April 2019.
April Travel Expenses
Part of being a travel blogger is, well, traveling. And we know all too well that traveling ain’t free.
We’re sharing our travel expenses for the month of April so you can get a better understanding of the finances of travel bloggers. I will say, however, that this trip was not “work-related”. It was a birthday trip that we likely would have taken regardless of if we were travel bloggers or not. And as we explained earlier, we paid for every expense on this trip on our own (aka no freebies!).
6-Day Trip to Koh Phangan, Thailand
Total Cost for 2 people: $1,166
This included: flights (from Chiang Mai), ferries, scuba diving, day trip to a Marine Park, motorbike rental, food, alcohol, etc. We weren’t going crazy with spending, but we also didn’t really try to stick to a budget.
Our Goals for the Month of May
Or main focus for the month of May is getting some backend work done… Basically, the least sexy blogging stuff there is.
All of these things have been on our to do list for months (maybe even years!), so we’re rolling up our sleeves and digging into the not so glamorous parts of blogging:
updating old content
fixing minor issues with our site
rolling out our website redesign
creating and improving email campaigns
Making these updates and improvements will hopefully improve our user experience, increase our traffic, and decrease bounce rate. Wish us luck!
Lessons from this Month
Lesson #1: Your work today will be paid out in the future.
One thing that we want to point out is that even though we put in a lot of hours during the month of April, the work we did didn’t bring in money. Zip. Zero.
In the world of blogging, your monthly earnings are most strongly correlated to work you’ve done in the past.
Knowing that we would still be making money this month allowed us to pour our time and energy into a passion project we knew wouldn’t exactly be raking in the cash (aka creating a free blogging course).
This type of freedom is one of our favorite things about this job.
Lesson #2: Blogging Income can (and will!) vary month to month.
We earned $2,209.08 more in April than we did in March. But we both know our earnings aren’t always going to trend upward every single month.
This is only our second income report we have publicly shared, and to an outsider it might look like our earnings are only going to skyrocket. But that simply isn’t the case. There’s a very good chance that our earnings next month will be lower, or the same as this month.
In the travel niche, for instance, a lot of our articles are seasonal. There are some months that are always going to be big earners because many people are planning a summer vacation. And there are other months where we should expect a dip in traffic (and earnings).
Blogging is amazing because we don’t necessarily have a salary cap. But it can also be unsteady and earnings can fluctuate. It is a business that will bring both good months and, well, not so great ones.
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We truly hope this income report has been informative (and/or interesting!). We’d love to hear any thoughts or questions you may have. Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!