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Before we get started here, let me make something clear. You will see a lot of affiliate links in this post for the tools I use to maintain my blog, affiliate networks I promote companies and products from, apps that I use, etc.
You might be thinking, “great, another blog income report full of affiliate links”. Think what you want but this blog isn’t a hobby of mine anymore and affiliate marketing is one of the ways this blog makes money. If you click on any of those links and sign up or purchase something through those links, I make a small commission and that allows me to continue to build this blog and my business.
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Wow, 2019 was a crazy year!
For the full blog income report and review, I will be picking it back up from the last blog update and analysis I published back in August. Remember when someone approached me at the end of 2018 about buying I Like To Dabble for $30,000 and I turned it down?
Well…. *drum roll please*, the blog brought in that amount in 2019 alone.
Well, $29,887.26 but close enough. That is almost 3 times as much as the blog made in 2018 and makes me incredibly happy that I didn’t sell it right away. Imagine where it could go from here!?
Again, thank you gut.
Blog Income Report: $29,887.26
I didn’t create monthly income reports to refer back to each month since I just didn’t have the time with higher priority content I wanted to push out. However, I do have a couple of posts you can refer to for comparison over the course of 2018 and 2019.
- Make Money Blogging: How I Made $1,174.86 In March 2018 Blogging
- Side Hustle Income Report: How We Made $3,901.19 Extra in March 2019
- Blogging as a Side Hustle: Mid Year Blog Checkin, Income, Redesign & More
Onto the good stuff, the 5 figures of stacks I made this year. But wait, the blog brought in almost $30k but I didn’t get to keep all of that. And for good reason; expenses for maintenance, growth and tax minimization.
I know I’ve said in the past I wanted to lower my expenses with the blog but after seeing the ROI (return on investment) from my expenses with the overall growth, I want to continue to invest the earnings back into the blog and my business.
I Like To Dabble brings in money through the following ways:
- Ads: $9,438.68
- Affiliate and referral links: $13,407.65
- Sponsored partnerships: $5,932.50
- Digital products: $89.95
- Physical products (merch): $18.48
- Freelance projects: $1,000
As you can see by the list above, the blog launched products the second half of the year and even though they aren’t bringing in much currently, I am currently playing around with ideas to increase their income.
The digital product that I currently sell on my site is the GYST (Get Your Shit Together) Printable Bundle which actually brought in a total of $179.91 since it’s launch in August. I created it with Amanda at CrunchyHippieLife, so she gets half, of course.
I did have a couple of different Etsy shops I was playing around with this year (to experiment with adding new passive income streams) but they weren’t necessarily directly linked to the blog and it’s traffic, I am counting their income as separate for the sake of this review and analysis.
And now for the transparency piece that I like to include in all of my income report style posts, refer to the below set of screenshots from Mediavine (where I serve ads through), some from a variety of different affiliate networks and programs I promote (including FlexOffers, AWIN, MaxBounty, Shareasale, Amazon, and many more), Sendowl (where digital products are hosted) and Teespring (where merch is hosted).
There are many more affiliate networks and programs I am apart of that I didn’t copy/paste into here due to the fact that it would make this post go on forever.
I also earned a little over $2,000 from Airbnb referrals this year that I was able to use half so far for our Airbnb stays in Vancouver Island last summer. We have about $1,000 left to use that we, unfortunately, can’t cash out as actual money and can only redeem within Airbnb for stays or experiences.
This income wasn’t a consistent $2,000 – $3,000 a month though. Some months were as low as a little over $1,000 and the highest income month I had was right at $4,000.
Expenses and Taxes
The total expenses for maintaining and growing the blog in 2019 were $10,344.
What these expenses included were:
- Hosting, security and SSL with GoDaddy
- Semrush for keyword research, SEO improvement, and tracking
- Picmonkey for designs (what I use to create all of my featured and pinnable images and sometimes I use the free option of Canva for some in post visualizations)
- Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling and metrics tracking
- Convertkit for my email list
- Social Pug for social haring
- Wordfence for more security
- Site redesign (done by Kathleen Celmins – tell her I sent you)
- Vistaprint for business cards
- Quickbooks Self Employed for tracking income, expenses, quarterly taxes, etc
- FinCon which is a conference for personal finance media (+ flight, hotel and food)
- 1 freelance writer (which I need a new one)
- 1 Fiverr resource
- 1 Upwork resource
- Pinterest ads
- Sendowl for hosting my digital product
- The Money Mix Insiders Group that I am apart of (a blogging mastermind network that has really helped me up my blog and business this year since joining in September)
- Registering my LLC (and EIN)
- Social Warfare (which I no longer use)
- Adobe Stock Images (which I no longer use)
- Cloudflare (which I no longer use)
After expenses and using the 30% rule, I am looking at $5,862.98 in taxes. This includes the self employment tax that I am required to pay as a sole proprietor. I use TurboTax for my taxes which makes it pretty seamless along with the taxes I pay on the income from my full-time day job.
When I break it down, the total profit after expenses and taxes look like this:
- Total income before expenses: $29,887.26
- Total profit after expenses: $19,543.26
- Total after estimated taxes (19,543.26 * .3 = 5,862.98): 19,543 – 5,862.98 = $13,680.28
After everything, I had $13,680.26 left to go to myself. I put some of this in my new business account to put towards future expenses (after I got my EIN), some in savings, and some in investments in our brokerage account with M1 Finance (which I love since they don’t charge any fees).
Going forward, I want to put more money back into the business and blog to continue to grow it rapidly.
Growth and Metrics
I can’t believe the blog has grown as much as it has in 2019. To be fair, the blood and sweat I’ve poured into this baby are paying off.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Blogging is rigorous and it isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of time, dedication, consistency, collaboration, creativity, and elbow grease.
Now I only spend about 10 hours on it a week (5 if I am being lazy because I have a day job still and close to 20 if I am a little obsessive about it that week), but when I was starting out I easily put in 40 hours a week with late nights and early mornings.
Do you know that saying “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.”? It’s the biggest lie. It’s because I love it that I work so hard on it.
If you’re a creative being like me that loves the idea of their very own internet child like this and want to start a blog, take your crack at it and sign up for my free email course. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I am no expert but compiled some helpful information that I’ve learned since starting out almost 3 years ago.
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Since I’ve focused a lot of energy this year on SEO (search engine optimization) on my site, traffic has skyrocketed. It didn’t skyrocket only due to the search traffic though.
I was able to increase unique pageview traffic to the site by 63% overall and I think that is mainly because of how I’ve changed the way I write and share my content. That goes hand in hand when writing for SEO though because of the increased focus on user intent and giving your readers what they came for.
As I’ve been more intentional when writing my content and grown to be a better writer over time, I can see the results that came naturally with that. I see as I pour more soul into this business, the more it thrives.
You get what you put it in, my friends.
Refer to the below screenshots for 2018 traffic, 2019 traffic and then a comparative analysis report of the two.
The different strategies I use to drive traffic to my site are:
- Organic search
- Social Media
- Referral links from other sites
- Direct links (usually also through social media or email links)
- Email list (which google analytics doesn’t necessarily catch all under “Email”)
- Other (which is something I have yet to dive into to analyze deeper)
The below set of screenshots (because I love visual reporting!!) is the breakdown of each of those traffic sources for 2018 vs 2019 along with their percentages of users and sessions.
In 2018 my organic search traffic only accounted for 8.1% of my overall traffic. In 2019 that increased to a smidge over a quarter of my traffic to 26.8% and a total of 84,292 visitors visiting my site through organically keyword search.
It looks like my SEO work is paying off (and continues to do so). It is a long game and I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing it (at least not in the life of this site).
Top Pages in 2019
The following were my top 10 pages visited in 2019 with the top posts being:
- 45 Best Side Hustle Ideas To Start This Year
- Thrift Store Flipping: 6 Easiest Items to Flip for a Profit
- Make Extra Money: 28 Ways To Make An Extra $100 Every Day
- Cheap Travel Destinations to Visit This Year
- 15 Side Hustle Apps to Make Extra Money
- Capsule Wardrobe Experiment: Why I Wore The Same Outfit Every Day For a Week
- 14 Real Ways to Get Free Concert Tickets
- 7 Useless Things We Wasted Money On
- Frugal Living: 26 Tips to Live Big on a Small Budget
- Steady App Review: 10 Side Hustles That You Can Do Through The Steady App
Social media is a huge driver of traffic to I Like To Dabble as you can see with 55.3% of my overall traffic coming from social media alone (a total of 173,603 users).
Most of that traffic comes from the following social media platforms that I use the most:
- Pinterest (the biggest traffic driver of all my social media)
And some new ones I am getting in the habit of regularly sharing to and syndicating content on:
- Viral Content Bee
Email and Engagement
Since the beginning of 2019, my email list has grown 330% from about 1,500 to 4,963. The engagement from my emails has also gone up along with the relationship I have with my readers and followers.
I am much more personal with them now as I take the time to answer each individual email and message I get from my readers and/or followers (those that are appropriate for a response of course and are not trying to spam).
Along with the email metrics, the overall engagement on my blog has gone up as my content has improved.
Looking Back on 2019
As you can see, 2019 was the biggest year for I Like To Dabble since buying the domain back in April 2017. I even bought a second domain and started to build up another website (but have been lacking in staying consistent with pushing out content on it). However, this second website has nothing to do with I Like To Dabble and is a separate entity.
When I look back at the year of blogging as a whole, it is kind of a blur. There was so much going on and I got burnt out a couple of times.
I was able to bounce back and learned a lot from the ups and downs.
One of my biggest accomplishments this past year was mustering up the confidence to go to my very first FinCon and it was an amazing experience. I got to meet so many other amazing online publishers and companies that I’ve loved and followed for some time.
It is weird when you meet people from the internet in the real world, but also very inspiring.
Some other notable accomplishments from 2019 were:
- Completed a kick-ass redesign with the help of the lovely Kathleen Celmins.
- I joined The Money Mix Insiders group which is a mix of a blogging mastermind group, support group, and mentorship program that has really upped my blogging game this year.
- One of my posts was featured on Becoming Minimalist which exploded my traffic and ad income over the course of a week (check the traffic metrics above to see this spike and I am still getting referral traffic from it today).
- I mixed up my content and experimented with a few different things that I was really proud of, like this series and talking about real cringy stuff like MLMs.
- Increase my Domain Authority from 35 to 42 which helped with my Google search rankings
- Got to write a few posts for Business Insider
- Was interviewed a few times and am getting more comfortable in front of a camera
Setbacks happen and with me learning how to properly implement SEO (and improperly deleting old posts), Google hit my site hard in September, October and then again in November.
Refer to the below screenshot from Ubersuggest (which is an amazing free resource for keyword research, site audits for technical SEO, content ideas, and tracking your keywords ranking) that shows this hit from Google.
But it wasn’t completely Google’s fault. I had a few posts from the early days of my site that no longer pertained to the site and where I wanted to go with it, so I deleted them. What I didn’t take into account before deleting them was that they were actually pulling in organic traffic.
Hence some of that dip in organic keywords and traffic came from me deleting those posts.
In December and January, it is finally recovering as I work to update old content, create new high-quality content and obtain more backlinks.
Looking Forward to 2020
2020 is an exciting year for I Like To Dabble. I am already working on 2 new content series to launch in the coming weeks including a readers/followers Q & A an experiment series and a female entrepreneur series.
YouTube is in the cards as well but I am not 100% sure yet about how this will happen and don’t want to give any details away until I figure out those details first.
SEO will continue to be one of the primary focuses on my content strategy going forward into 2020 but also want to collaborate more with other bloggers and companies. I also love podcasts but have no idea how I could do a podcast that would make sense for this site (yet). So, I want to get on every podcast I can this year. If you have a podcast and need a guest, I would LOVE to come on (email me at email@example.com).
Let’s talk about the life realm really quick since this site is a lot and on the side of my full-time job as a software engineer.
I haven’t left my day job because healthcare is not cheap and I don’t think I can afford to live off of my blog income alone (at least not with the savings goals I am still working towards). Even with being almost 3 years in, I haven’t had the courage to step away from my cushy job and benefits yet. This isn’t something to be ashamed of so if you are in a similar boat, don’t stress. Don’t knock the hustle but don’t knock your day job either. Those benefits are a big deal.
I Need to Outsource More
PFGeeks had a question on Twitter about what I am cutting to make more room for my main areas of focus in 2020.
What things/tasks/projects are you cutting to make room for what you’re focusing on? Is the plan to outsource these things or just drop them all together?
— PFGeeks (@PFGeeks) January 3, 2020
To answer that, I am looking to cut the hours of mindless maintenance I do on Pinterest monthly. I hate using Tailwind with a passion even though I love the features it offers like Tailwind tribes and board performance metrics. However, I am also super behind in catching up with tribes and sharing content from them.
I am looking to hire a Virtual Assistant that is a Pinterest mega-genius to help me take these tasks off my plate. Pinterest is a big chunk of my traffic and I’ve been hesitant to outsource this until now because of …well ..control issues.
Onward and Upward
Wow, that was a lot to cover. This year has been crazy but a blessing. I never thought I would be doing any of this before 3 years ago but glad I decided to randomly buy this domain name on a whim after reading one of Making Sense of Cents posts about starting a blog.
If you aren’t sure about starting something because you don’t know what you are really doing, do it anyway and figure out the rest afterward. That is what I did and don’t regret a moment of it.
How was your 2019 in your blog, business or life in general? Was this helpful at all to you as you form your own blog or business? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
More ways to make money online:
- How to Become a Brand Ambassador: The Ultimate Guide
- 31 Best Work From Home Jobs Hiring Today
- Teach English Online: 10 Companies That Will Pay You to Teach and Work From Anywhere
- How to Make Money Fast: 12 Ways to Make a Quick $500 Without a Job
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Daniella is the creator and author of iliketodabble.com. When her wife Alexandra and her aren’t globetrotting or playing with their 7+ animals, they are hustling and working towards a future of financial freedom.