Bjork here, checking in for Pinch of Yum’s monthly traffic and income report. “Traffic and income report?” You say. “That sounds like something a government official would do, not a food blog.”
Here’s the dealio with these monthly reports:
We started doing these reports three years ago as an experiment. Lindsay and I wanted to see if it was possible to create an income from a food blog. Some people said it was and some people said it wasn’t.
Our first month’s revenue was $21.97. That didn’t included expenses, so when it was all said and done we probably lost money that month. Deterred we were not. (Actually, truth be told we we were a little deterred, but…) We continued to publish a report each month, outlining the things that worked and the things that didn’t work when trying to build a blog and create an income from it. It’s important to note that none of this happened over night. As I mentioned before, we’ve been doing these reports for over three years, and Lindsay’s been working on the blog (just about) every day for exactly five years now.
Wait…what? Exactly five years? Like five years AS OF TODAY?
Yep! Today, April 11th, is Pinch of Yum’s fifth birthday.
**confetti falls from the sky and this song starts playing**
Pinch of Yum has come a long way in five years. A huge part of that is the fact that Lindsay consistently shows up, creates content, and improves along the way. It sounds simple, but showing up every single day is really hard to do and it’s one of the most important factors that goes into building a successful blog.
Lindsay has learned a lot after five years of showing up and doing this blog thang. So, in light of the fact that today is Pinch of Yum’s fifth birthday, I asked Lindsay if she’d write this month’s report and share five things she’s learned over the last five years of blogging.
I’ll share the traffic and income, as usual, then I’ll pass it off to Lindsay.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. All of the products listed below are products and services we’ve used before. If you have any questions about any of the income or expenses you can leave a comment and I’ll do my best to reply.
- Bluehost – $8,165.00 –> this income comes from a page where we show people how to start a food blog in three easy steps.
- sovrn – $7,314.83
- Tasty Food Photography – $4,927.10
- Yellow Hammer Media – $4,044.76
- Sponsored Posts/Speaking – $1,200
- BlogHer – $1,270.55
- Genesis Theme – $1,014.15
- Gourmet Ads – $946.21
- Ziplist – $881.74
- Everyday Healthy eCookbook – $570.00
- Google AdSense – $408.61
- Federated Media – $393.77
- Amazon Associates – $347.42
- Elegant Themes – $315.50
- The Creamy Cauliflower Sauce eCookbook – $279.00
- Go Sugar Free Course – $124.50
- How to Monetize Your Food Blog eBook – $75.00
- AWeber – $28.80
Total Income: $32,306.94
- Travel – $1,503.89
- eBook Affiliates – $1,106.55
- Support Staff – $1,097.23
- Food Expenses – $981.33
- Media Temple (Hosting) – $549.00
- Amazon S3 and Cloudfront – $449.37
- PayPal Transaction Percentage – $268.90
- MailChimp – $215.00
- Photography Props – $167.00
- Cooking Gear – $143.80
- Coworking Space – $70.00
- LeadPages – $67.00
- Vimeo Plus – $59.95
- Adobe Creative Cloud – $53.55
- PayPal Website Payments Pro – $30.00
- Time Doctor – $29.97
- Shoeboxed – $29.95
- ViralTag – $28.00
- QuickBooks – $26.95
- VaultPress – $20.00
- E-Junkie – $18.00
- TailWind – $14.99
- Backupify – $12.00
Total Expenses: $6,942.43
Net Profit: $25,364.51
RPM is an advertising metric that shows you how much revenue your website earns for every 1,000 page views. It’s a helpful metric because it allows you to see how effective you are at monetizing your blog.
Below is the RPM that we had for Pinch of Yum in the month of March.
Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics. You can click on these images to view a larger size.
Top Ten Traffic Sources
Mobile vs. Desktop Traffic
Update on the Survey
Hello there! Me again. I know – I’m just all over the place on this blog.
Before we jump into the special five-year section of the post today, I promised to share some of the survey results, so let’s deliver on that promise!
Here are the results from a handful of the questions – we are still reading through the thousands of individualized comments with readers’ favorite and least favorite things about Pinch of Yum, so thank you for your patience as we try to process through those in a methodical and intentional way.
(Note – that second most popular option said I cook for myself and my spouse, significant other, or roommate.)
(Note – that second option said I only use comments for recipe reviews and ratings, and the third option said I like reading and/or leaving personalized comments.)
Finally, here’s a word cloud that shows some of the most popular words from the individual responses about what you like about Pinch of Yum. 🙂 Hooray!
To those who took the survey, THANK YOU! Major high five, and if I could, I’d give you mooooore cookies.
The survey, overall, has been so, so helpful for us, and I am excited to talk more about the process of creating and analyzing it in a future post.
Five Lessons I’ve Learned In Five Years of Blogging
I can’t believe we’re here. From 2010-2015 –> what a ride.
There’s part of me that just LOVES thinking about this day five years ago, April 11th, 2010, when I did my first post for Saturday Morning Chocolate Chip Muffins. I have this vision of myself in our outdated, poorly lit condo kitchen blindly “blogging” away, adding pictures in separate posts from the recipes just because I was just that clueless.
Also, to my eyes in 2010, this was the best muffin picture in all the lands.
Then there’s this – a Pesto Cream Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta recipe that was maybe my third post ever, and I remember noticing one day that this post had something like 15 views in one day whereas the other five posts had, like, 7 views, so obviously, I was really excited because this was one of my more “popular” posts.
100% serious – I remember the specific conversation I had with Bjork about how fun it was that people liked this post so much and how I should try to do more recipes with shrimp and pasta.
Good thing I was making it with a jar of Alfredo sauce, too, because Pinch of Yum is all about the classy recipes.
You guys! I am laughing out loud right now because, I mean, wow. How is this even real life, that Shrimp Alfredo with sauce from a jar is how Pinch of Yum started, and now we are still here five years later where this is my full-time job and we are in a place where we can TEACH and SHARE ideas for building an effective food blog?
Life, you crazy.
This afternoon I did some reflecting on five years and what that has meant to me when it comes to raising up my blog baby (had to) and developing my skills as a creative and as an entrepreneur. Still sort of weird to say that.
In celebration of today’s blog birthday slash anniversary, I’m sharing five big, core, straight-to-the-heart lessons that I’ve learned over the last five years since Pinch of Yum has started.
The five lessons in my list today are things I wish I could have sat down and shared with myself on that Saturday, April 11th, 2010, before I naively hopped on this blogging roller coaster and started down the path that would lead me to eventually call this my “real job.”
Lesson #1: You can’t do everything, but you can do more than you think.
I’m always encouraging bloggers not to try to do everything, and that’s a part of the message I would have given myself when I first started. Whenever you try to do every.single.thing, you will likely end up right back at good ol’ burnout. It’s not possible for one person to do it all.
But. But but but. That being said, one really valuable lesson I wish I would have internalized right from the beginning is the CAN DO lesson. This type of thinking would have given me permission to learn and excel at things that I didn’t think I could learn and excel at rather than boxing myself in as someone who was only good at the food stuff. Unfortunately, I feel like for too long I limited myself to thinking I was only able to do – or interested in doing – certain things (food! Facebook! comments!), and I always deferred to someone more knowledgable or experienced (helloooo, Bjork) to do “the hard stuff.”
What I’ve learned, and I wish I would have learned sooner, is that I CAN learn business, and I can enjoy it. I CAN excel at Photoshop. I CAN learn HTML and I can manage employees. I am not just a food person. I am a multi-dimensional human being more than I ever realized. I am capable, creative, and smart and I can learn how to do hard things – even when my more comfortable place in the world be in the kitchen making some spicy noodles. ♡
So this is what I would tell my younger, less confident self:
You can do more than you think you can. Yes, YOU, you small-town Minnesota cookie baking elementary school teacher. You can learn how to build a business. On the internet. Did you know that? YOU CAN BUILD A BUSINESS ON THE INTERNET. It’s not only possible, but you can be GOOD at it. Go out there and do it right now! Be awesome. Because you can do that!
You can also become a legit cook who does more than open a jar of Alfredo sauce. You can figure out that camera. You can even teach people how to use their cameras. And you can make a living doing this.
Learn, learn, learn, practice, practice, practice, do, do do. You can, you can, you can!
Lesson #2: Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay.
Ouch. I don’t like this one so much.
Here in Minnesota (proudly born and raised, yo!), outwardly pleasant communication is an expected way of life. People are just generally nice to each other, just, kind of always. And even if a person didn’t actually like something you did or said, heaven forbid that they might actually SAY SOMETHING to your face about it. Froofta. How abooouuut thooose Twins thoouugh?
And then – there’s my second world, The Internet. A total free-for-all of people who want to tell you in detail what they think about your work, your life, your beliefs, and YOU in general all from behind a screen without ever having met you.
I’ve had to work really hard to bring my overly sensitive, harmony-loving heart to accept that there are going to be people who just don’t like what I’m doing. Or maybe it’s actually that they just don’t like me as a person.
Freaking out. Panicking. What to do, what to do?
And yet – EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY.
I can specifically remember this comment I got while we were living in the Philippines – there was a person (hi, person, wherever you are! are you still reading this blog? I sure hope not.) who had misunderstood what I was trying to communicate with a story, and they left the most brutal, personally attacking comment I’ve ever gotten, of all time, ever. I tried to communicate privately with this person to remedy the situation only to have them come back again to the comments section with a renewed vengeance.
I was emotionally defeated – not just bothered, but really broken down – by words from a complete stranger on the internet.
The reality is that I think that comment would probably still make me upset today, but as a more experienced blogger, I have much tougher skin when it comes to comments, feedback, and letting people’s opinions affect me. I get emails all the time (okay, not all the time, but every once in a while) from people who express their opinions with words that they would never use if they were talking to me, face to face.
Or maybe they would? I don’t know. That’s not the point.
The point is that you need to make conscious decisions about which voices you’re going to let impact you. Now, in 2015, I understand that this People Don’t Like Me thing is just part of the deal – naturally, as you grow, you’re going to reach people who like you, and some who don’t, and some who feel the need to say something about it, and that’s that. Like water off a duck’s back. (annnnnd repeat mantra forever.)
What I would say to my younger self is this:
Strangers online who read two and a half of your posts do not get to have a say in your value as a person. So some people don’t like you? Okay, great. Thanks and goodbye. When you come across those voices that are only bringing negativity for the sake of negativity, you close the door, lock it, and keep moving forward, doing what you do with as much love and integrity as possible.
Lesson #3: Winning the mind game is everything.
The mind game, to me, is riding the teeter-totter between the big, excited part of your brain that says THIS ROCKS! THE BLOG IS AWESOME! and the small, crippling part of your brain that says TOO SCARY. I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH. WAHHH.
Winning that mind game is taking control of your own thoughts (as Bjork says, looking at your emotions from the outside) and not giving authority to the crippling self-doubt part of your brain. If I’m being honest, I think this has been the hardest thing about sustaining a successful blog for me. It’s not the workload, it’s not learning the skills – it’s winning the mind game.
Strategies for winning the mind game will work differently for everyone, but for me, I need to have some level of protection built into my routines in order to conquer the small self-crippling-doubt portion of my brain. I have a handful of rules that I’ve developed over the years when it comes to winning the mind game and I talk about those in this post, but one more thing that has been really helpful for me is learning how to deal with The Inner Critic, which is just another name for the thoughts that come from that small, crippling, self-destructive part of my mind.
I went to the Storyline conference last fall and one of the workshop facilitators said something about letting your Inner Critic say what they need to say (who do you think you are? you don’t know what you’re doing!) and then speak to it like you would speak to a child – with logic and reassurance (well, okay, you can do some research on Wiki or watch a YouTube video to find out how to do the thing you need to do.) So yes – I’m encouraging us all to have little voices. In our heads. What time is therapy again?
If I could say something to myself about this five years ago, I’d say:
Your mind is a gift and a tool. Also: it’s also not always trustworthy in giving you an accurate picture of yourself and your work.
Keep talking to (non-blog) people in order to keep a rational perspective on things. Take a break when you need it. Stay away from websites that make you internalize weird things (Get Off My Internets – why? just why?). And when you feel yourself spiraling down into self-doubt, don’t panic, but don’t stay there, either. Reach out for help and get back up. This struggle will always exist, so learn how to master the mind game.
Lesson #4: Enjoy the now, because you’ll never be fully satisfied.
Annnnnd that sounds like the saddest thing ever. Let me explain.
As I’ve gotten to be a better photographer, I feel worse about my photography. I know what looks good more than I’ve ever known before, and therefore I have a more critical eye towards my own work.
Or as we’ve started earning more, I often feel less satisfied with our ebook sales or ad income. What would have otherwise been so incredible for an income stream can start to feel like “not as good as before.”
The myth is that you’ll get to a point with your blog or your business where you’ll have arrived. You’ll be set, nothing to worry about, you’ve made it and you’re completely satisfied. But that’s just that – a myth.
If I were to go back in time, I’d tell the 2010 Lindsay:
Settle down and enjoy the now. More viral posts won’t make you happier – it will make you hungry for more. Teaching a class on photography won’t necessarily make you confident – it will make you realize there are still a lot of things you don’t know. Having more time to work on your blog won’t mean you’re always caught up on everything – it will actually show you all the things you COULD be doing above and beyond your current workload.
So enjoy this moment! This one, right now. Don’t wait for an arrival point when everything will fall into place and life will be awesome – you are already living it. Your capacity for happiness right now, today, in this moment, with however many page views and Pinterest followers and comments you have, is just as great as it will be when you’ve supposedly “made it.” Choose to be happy today.
Lesson #5: Right now, just as you are, you are enough.
Bjork often tells me to cut myself some slack – that I have such high expectations for myself. A few thoughts on that.
A) He doesn’t see me in my sweats trying to take dog selfie SnapChats with Sage on a random Tuesday at 11 am. Pretty sure that’s the definition of slack.
B) In the moments when he’s right, it’s hard for me to see how self-critical I’m being because I’m in the middle of my own creative mind going oh my gosh, that picture is terrible, or I can’t believe I accidentally forgot the lemon juice in that recipe, or what are we going to do? that stranger hates my post.
I think this is really, really common for people who love to create stuff. We want to create, and we want it to be extremely good, and we want people to like it, and we hold ourselves to super high expectations and therefore we are overly self-critical.
If I could go back and drill something deep into my own consciousness back when the blog first started, I would teach myself that regardless of what’s going on with the blog, regardless of how good my posts and my photography and recipes are, even if I was the worst blogger in the universe, I am enough, just by being me.
Yep, we’re going there.
I so often struggle with this feeling that my value is based on my performance in life. But it is not.
I was enough yesterday. I am enough today. And I am enough tomorrow and then some.
I am going to leave you (aka myself) with this quote that really hits home from Shauna Neiquist’s book Bittersweet:
“This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER. Each of the three words has a particular flavor of poison all its own. The three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives.”
My final words to my former, inexperienced Pinch of Yum self:
Stop being so hard on yourself and detach yourself from the idea that your value as a person is dependent on the performance of the blog.
Even if you had never learned a thing about photography, or never made anything worth sharing, or if the blog never went anywhere, you, as a person, would have unsurpassable worth and you would be loved your friends, by your family, by God, and by your new dog (!) just exactly as much as you are today. End of story.
Every month we use a portion of the income from the blog to support a special project at The Children’s Shelter of Cebu. This month we’re supporting CSC by donating to their musical instruments. Adorable? Yes.
Right now it’s actually summer in Cebu and so the kids are done with school. One of the things that CSC does for the kids during the summer is provide different enrichment programs – some kids do sports, some do cooking classes, and some do music lessons. When we lived in the Philippines, Bjork actually taught the summer guitar class (pictured with his students above!), so buying musical instruments for these kids to continue their summer music lessons holds extra special significance for us.
To wrap up, I want to say thank you for being a big part of making our last five years so incredible.
I love you guys. Like, it’s the weirdest thing, but I really do feel like I love you.
In a friend way.
So… yeah. ♡