Let us start by saying this is the most uncomfortable article we’ve ever written, and pressing “publish” was harder than it has ever been before. You see, we both grew up in Midwest USA, a place where modesty is praised, and talking about money is taboo. Just like sex and colonoscopies.
But here we are, about to divulge how much money we earned in the last month…
The Minnesotan in both of us is squirming around trying to avoid this topic altogether, the way you try to avoid eye contact with that creepy guy at the bar. If I’m being totally honest, I’m petrified this article will come across as us bragging (God forbid!), which is not our intention at all.
So why are we sharing our income in the first place? Well, there are a handful of reasons...
1) You asked for it
We are constantly asked by friends, family, and even complete strangers: “How do you even make money on a blog?” At first, this question bothered me. Why did people feel they had the right to ask how much we make, and how we make it? It felt like a very private thing that everyone seemed to want to know.
But over the last year, I’ve done a lot of reflecting, and I have come to understand and actually appreciate the questions. I mean, wasn’t I asking the very same questions just a few years ago? Instead of asking people directly to their face, I was asking Google. But it’s the same, really.
Blogging is a very new type of job, and most of the time people just want to know how it’s actually possible to make money on a website. This is not a question that can be answered in a simple, one-sentence response. So in a way, this income report is an answer to all those people who have asked.
2) To inspire & educate aspiring bloggers!
We’ve found income reports incredibly helpful as we’ve grown our blog to what it is today. And honestly, there were many times we would have given up had we not known that it is in fact possible to make a living – a good living – as a blogger. We can only hope that this income report is valuable to other aspiring bloggers out there. This is the biggest reason we’re opening up about money.
If you’re an aspiring blogger, we have a whole lotta blogging information coming your way. If you want to be one of the first to know when we publish, send us your email here and we’ll shoot you the links straight to your inbox this week.
Plain and simple. Two Wandering Soles is a business, and just like any company out there, we have financial goals that we want to strive towards. This little corner of our website is where we can hold ourselves accountable.
We plan to continue sharing income reports in some form, and it will be interesting to look back on this journey of ours.
4) We’re proud of how far we’ve come
A couple years ago, we would not have been able to fathom earning what we are right now on a blog we created ourselves. And for that, we are proud.
Real talk… We find ourselves constantly having to justify our job. So often in fact, that we have an “elevator speech” of sorts. When we tell people we’re travel bloggers, we see the eye rolls and the looks of, “Oh, that’s cute. I wonder when they’ll get a ‘real job’.” When other people don’t take you seriously, it’s hard to take yourself seriously. Trust me.
This road to earning a full-time income on our blog hasn’t been an easy one. There are so many things nobody tells you about blogging when you first start. We’ve had our fair share of struggles and we’ve made every mistake out there.
So I guess in a way, pressing “publish” on this income report is a big milestone for us. And kind of a way to congratulate ourselves for not letting those eye rolls get in our heads (too much).
While we may have come a long way, we are far from done. There are many bloggers out there earning far more than us, showing us that there really is no limit to our dreams. And we still see a very long road ahead of us to get where we want to be.
Without further adieu, let’s start talkin’ numbers…
March 2019 Two Wandering Soles Earnings:
(And we only worked 10 full days during the month of March!)
That number looks good right now, but it hasn’t always been like that. This is our highest-earning month yet.
Our blog earning history… We’ve been blogging (on and off) for the past 5 years. But in October 2017, we moved to Chiang Mai and decided to give it our all and become “full time travel bloggers”. That said, we still had “side jobs” to help pay the bills as we began this uncertain path.
In January 2019, we finally let go of all other jobs we were working so we could devote 100% of our energy into this blog. And let me tell you, we have been seeing the benefits ever since.
Here’s our Monthly Earnings chart from the last year of full-time blogging:
What March looked like for us
One of the best parts about blogging is that even when we take time off, we’re still earning money.
During the month of March, we traveled to the US for a friend’s birthday celebration in Nashville and a family wedding in Minnesota. So in total, we only worked 9 days during this month. But it has taken a long time – a really long time! – to get to this point. And when we take time off, we typically make up for it with long work days or putting in hours on the weekend. It’s just nice that we can be flexible about when and where we work.
March 2019 Website Statistics
Before we can talk about how we earned our income, we have to go over our traffic for the month, as our income is directly related to how many people are visiting our website.
Unique Visitors: 167,044
Social Media Followers: 27,830
Email Subscribers: 8,695
Here’s a few snapshots of our March 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
It’s important to understand that when it comes to blogging, your earnings are almost all based on work you’ve done in the past. I mean, we have been building this traffic over the last 5 years.
Breakdown of our earnings
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.
Who are our affiliates
We have more than 25 affiliate programs we work with, from large companies like Amazon to independent tour companies we have gone through and just LOVE to promote because we had a great experience, like Desafio Canyoning tour in Costa Rica.
Here are our top-earning affiliates in the month of March (in no particular order):
One thing we are focusing on with affiliate programs is to make sure we are diversifying, as many affiliates have a high season where they earn us money easily, and a low season where our earnings are significantly lower. Next month, we are adding a few new affiliate programs to our arsenal that we’re excited about.
Another big chunk of our income this month was advertising. We work with Mediavine, a 3rd-party provider who basically does all the work for us.
The wonderful thing about advertising income is it is more or less passive. And each month since we installed it 1.5 years ago, it has raked in a pretty penny with basically no work from us. That said, it took us years of hard work to gain the traffic necessary to make advertising a sustainable income source.
Why Mediavine? Not only does Mediavine have some of the highest RPM’s (rate per million) in the industry, they are always coming out new tools to help their bloggers. Their customer service has always been impeccable and the massive Mediavine community of other bloggers is invaluable because of their knowledge and support. Can you tell we love Mediavine?!
Next month, we expect our advertising income to be lower for a couple of reasons.
March is an especially good month for advertising because it’s the last month of the quarter, so ads have an increased RPM and earn more money. April is the beginning of the quarter, so the RPM rate is lower. This cyclical pattern is important to keep in mind as we forecast our income throughout the year.
We’re planning to lower (slightly) the number/frequency of the ads on our website, as we want to find a balance between creating a good user experience while also not losing too much money.
Sponsored Posts / Brand Partnerships: $0
During the month of March, we didn’t have any brand partnerships or sponsored posts. Our inbox is full of inquiries of companies interested in working with us, however we are 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.
We have a few collaborations for the coming months, so in the future, this will be a portion of our income again.
Curated Content: $200
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.
In the month of March, we sold the rights for one of our photos to be printed in Outside Magazine. It isn’t a huge amount of money, but it was cool to see one of our photos in print. And the photo was already taken, so it required basically no work on our end.
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: $409.80 value*
*This is not included in our $14,179.97 earnings.
When we first started blogging, this category was super exciting to us. I still remember when we got our first free trip – a caving and fishing trip in South Korea. It was a $200 value for each of us, so we felt pretty damn cool. That was the first little feeling of “making it as a blogger”.
Now nearly 5 years later, we get a handful of emails a day from companies who want to send us their product or have us stay at their property. Over the years, we have received comped hotel rooms and experiences as well as free gear, all in exchange for our thoughts (whether good or bad). However, we are very much scaling back this type of partnership.
We take pride in all our work, and often spend hours creating content for these “free exchanges”. Often times, we felt the value we provided was worth far more than what we were getting in return.
Some travel bloggers include this in their reports as income, however, we are simply including it as a bonus section. I don’t know about you, but our student loans can’t be paid in backpacks or hotel stays. Those damn debtors only accept cash, so yeah... we will never include free stuff in our income total.
Free travel: $0
We didn’t do any travel during the month of March (other than a trip to the US for a family wedding!).
Free Products: $409.80 value
This month we only accepted products from 2 companies (that we are already fans of and have personally purchased in the past):
Our Blogging Expenses: $1,364.95
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: $10 – We pay for our own branded email addresses
Notion: $8 – Software to organize projects and tasks
Virtual Assistant (VA): $119 – 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
New Vlogging Camera: $700 – We bought a new camera specifically for shooting videos -- Yay!
Web Designer: $400 – We hired a web designer in the month of March and are working on a site redesign, which should be complete in about a month. Super excited for this! (Note: This is just the deposit on a $1,200 project. We will be paying the remainder next month.)
Creative Market: $22 – We purchased the rights to a new font to use in our updated website design.
Our Net Earnings March 2019: $12,815.02
After you subtract our website expenses, we netted a total of $12,815.02 for the month of March 2019.
Lesson Learned this month
Let go of your parachutes and you will fly.
Blogging is not a get rich quick job. And up until a few months ago, we were both doing other jobs on the side — Ben taught English on video chats though VIPKID, and I did freelance graphic design, writing, email marketing, and managed another brand’s social media.
They were great opportunities and ways to earn money remotely. But we realized they were sucking up time and energy we could be putting toward growing our own website. So in late 2018, we decided to slowly drop all of these jobs to focus only on Two Wandering Soles. January 2019 was the last month I earned a paycheck from someone else.
It was hard to let go of those safety nets — money that we knew was coming in each month. I was pretty damn scared to go all in.
But do you know what happened when we put all our time and focus into our website? We saw incredible growth and we earned more than ever before. And we have more energy to devote to our own projects, which is invaluable.
We hope this income report is either a) helpful or b) interesting to you. And if it’s both helpful AND interesting, then we’ve really done our job!
We hope it answers your questions about how bloggers can make a living, and perhaps has inspired you to consider starting your own blog. And we hope to continue making income reports in an attempt to be transparent and help guide others on their blogging journey.
We have big goals for the next year, and while the road ahead can seem like a daunting one, we are excited for all the possibilities that lie ahead.
If you’re interested in starting a blog or you already have one and want to get more traffic, we are about to release a FREE 5-day blogging mini-course next week! It will be packed with useful and actionable steps that will drive more traffic to your blog (thus, earning you $$$). Click through to add your name to the waitlist, and be amongst the first to receive the FREE 5-day blogging mini-course.
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