2020 Blog Income Report + Year in Review

January 2, 2021

me sitting on my bed with records decorating the wall

Ever since I started taking my blog more seriously (as of 2019), I’ve liked to look back at my blogging goals at the end of the year, and see how I did. I view my blog as a business and take it as seriously as I can (while still enjoying it as much as I can).

In this post, I’ll go over my income report, review my 2020 goals, and share my plans for the upcoming year. I’ll also do a quick recap of my favorite 2020 posts.

Why do I share all this info? I like to be transparent about my blogging journey—I love reading other bloggers’ income reports and following their growth. That said, I know this has been a hard year for everyone, and many bloggers (travel especially) watched their income streams dry up. I was lucky to be largely unaffected as a “niche-less” blog, but I want to recognize that this has been a challenging blogging year for all of us, in one way or another.

With that, let’s get into the numbers!

2020 Blogging Income Report

Note: my income from January to August was only from affiliate links, so there won’t be any extra discussion underneath those months. If you don’t know what these are, these links allow bloggers to recommend products/services and receive a small commission on any purchases made through those links (at no extra cost to the buyer).

My goal for the year was to make $1000 before expenses (I made $400 in 2019). Let’s see how I did:

January: $16.18

February: $47.35

March: $47.97

April: $182.29

May: $393.18

June: $504.76

July: $464.42

August: $377.78

September: $295.21

Affiliates: $263.68
Ads: $31.53

This was the first month I had ads on my blog. I started in the very last week of the month, so I didn’t make much. I actually hesitated for a couple weeks before joining my ad network (SHE Media), as they have a yearlong contract. I didn’t want to be “locked in,” but there also weren’t better options for my traffic levels.

I don’t love having ads on my blog, but they are the best way to make passive income, and I need to be paid to continue creating content.

October: $269.47

Affiliates: $137.09
Ads: $123.38

November: $1,005.21

Affiliates: $291.79
Ads: $253.42
Sponsored post: $460

This was the one and only sponsorship I took on for the year. I turned down most offers, and also had many brands ghost me after they initiated contact (thanks, my dudes). I’m hoping to take on a few more in 2021, as long as they align with my values.

December: $770.36

Affiliates: $397.42
Ads: $372.89

Other affiliates and income

Non-monthly/less consistent affiliates: $613.96 total
YouTube: $27.94 (qualified for monetization in November!)
Ko-fi: $9 (one-time donations of $3)

TOTAL INCOME BEFORE EXPENSES: $5,126.03 (about $400 monthly)

Keep in mind that this is before taxes and expenses, so I’ll make much less in reality. I also work at least 20 hours/week on my blog, and that’s a conservative estimate. In reality, I’m making less than $4/hour on my blog after taxes and expenses, which is really terrible returns haha. There are other bloggers who make more with similar traffic, so I’m going to try to strategize better for 2021.

Expenses

Blogging can be dang expensive! Here are some of the tools I invested in this year.

Tailwind: $104.88
Web hosting: $87.67 (paid $263 for 3 years in 2019, so not including it in totals)
Cleantalk spam filter: $19.44
ShortPixel image optimizer: $10.74
WP Rocket speed plugin: $44.10
Domain renewal: $12.99
Used camera from friend for YouTube: $487.55
Pinterest ad: $10
TikTok course: $15
Canva Pro: $119.4

TOTAL EXPENSES: $824.10

Total 2020 profit: $4,301.93

Since my goal was $1,000 (before expenses), I’m really happy that I hit 5 times that! I also made over 10 times more than I did in 2019, which is a great step.

Update on My Other 2020 Blogging Goals

These were my goals for this year, and how I fared:

10k sessions/month (was at ~2,800 in 2019):

This was the biggest surprise of the year. I actually achieved this in May and have since grown to 42k+ sessions (51k+ pageviews) in December.

200 clicks/day to my blog from Pinterest (was at ~5 in 2019):

I hit this in the summer, and was getting ~250 clicks/day at my best, but then the Pinterest glitch hit in October and halved my clicks.

1500 followers on Instagram (1000 in 2019):

I reached this goal in December, but I really didn’t think I would since I stopped posting on Instagram as frequently—I went from posting every other day to once or twice per week. I actually feel like I gained Insta followers by spending less time on the app; I’m pretty sure most of these came from TikTok or YouTube (or from one of my TikToks that was shared on Instagram).

100 email subscribers and at least one newsletter every 2 months (14 subscribers in 2019):

I’m now at nearly 200 subscribers, but I failed miserably at sending a regular newsletter (it was more like 3 over the course of the entire year lol). I love sending newsletters and even started a specific sustainable fashion newsletter, but it’s so difficult to find the time to write them. Mine usually end up being as long as a blog post, oopsies! If you want to sign up for my main blog newsletter, definitely feel free to 🙂

250 Facebook page likes (162 in 2019)

This was the one goal I didn’t reach (I’m at 213 likes), but I also stopped posting on Facebook since I didn’t see much returns from it. I’m not bothered by this one and will probably continue to neglect my page haha.

Post at least once/week 

I published 59 posts in 2020, so that averages out to just over one per week. In March, my regular work was slow, so I actually published 10 posts, which was an all-time high. Things have slowed down since then, but I’ve still done at least 4 posts monthly.

Make at least 2 new blogging friends! 

I actually made several blogging friends this year, and I regularly chat with a few on social or in blog comments. I’m really happy I hit this goal, as the blogging community is so important. It can be difficult for non-bloggers to understand blogging challenges and wins, so having a network of fellow creators really makes the journey more exciting (I love rooting for others and celebrating their wins).

2021 Blogging Goals

I noticed that many of my 2020 goals were vanity metrics (i.e. followers), so I want to be more mindful of that with this year’s goals. Having a high follower count is pointless in and of itself; goals should really be more focused on engagement and results, like clicks, income, and relationships.

Here are my 2021 blogging goals:

Launch a new site with 5 posts by January 15.

I’m planning to start a second niche site, and it’s been super overwhelming trying to figure it out. I’m trying to do things differently over there and actually use a page builder instead of a premade layout, and finally get used to Gutenberg/the WordPress block editor. If you have any tips on managing multiple sites, please share your wisdom with me!

Make livable income solely from my blog(s) beginning June 2021 (let’s say 25k for the year before taxes).

This one is super lofty, but I get kicked off of my parents’ dental and vision insurance when I turn 25 in June. In the US, we’re allowed to be on our parents’ health insurance until age 26, but for some reason, dental and vision don’t count as “health insurance” and they’re all separate.

Since my main work is freelance/hourly, I don’t get any insurance from that job, so I’ll need to purchase insurance separately, or get a full-time job. Dental and vision should be cheaper than health insurance, but it will still be an extra expense. I want the ability to go full-time with my blog should I choose to do so, but I also need the extra income to pay for insurance.

I would also consider doing a full-time job if the circumstances are right, as it would be really nice to have benefits like insurance and paid time off. I love freelancing and the freedom that comes with it, but it’s exhausting sometimes.

Figure out business-y stuff.

I really need to sort out tax-related stuff and will probably need to hire an expert (let me know if you have any recs for people who work with bloggers!).

Reach 50k sessions by October 2021 (Mediavine ad network numbers).

I didn’t think I’d be anywhere near Mediavine this year, but it actually became plausible partway through the year (and then they doubled their requirements from 25k to 50k sessions *cries*). Still, I’m within reach again at 42.5k sessions in December, though I worry that most of that was holiday-related traffic.

We’ll see what happens, but I certainly hope I can get that 7.5k extra sessions in some month between now and October 2021, when my contract with SHE Media expires.

5k monthly clicks from TikTok

I started a TikTok in October in the sustainable fashion niche, and have since grown to 9k followers. Many bloggers raved about TikTok since organic reach and conversion to blog pageviews are really high. Unlike on Instagram, users will actually click through to your link in bio.

I find it very difficult to track TikTok pageviews since I don’t have the proper system set up, but I had 853 clicks to my TikTok landing page in December, and I imagine than many of them went on to read blog posts I’d mentioned in my videos. I think I can safely say I got at least 1,000 pageviews from TikTok that month. By the end of the year, I’d like reach 5,000 monthly clicks (so that will hopefully be even more pageviews).

Ignore the haters

Traditional blogging is really anonymous, as most readers don’t leave comments. It feels like you’re talking to a vacuum sometimes, but I also kind of like it since it’s less drama.

I had a YouTube video go somewhat viral in May, and it was the first time I truly experienced haters. In the video, I critiqued a popular fashion vlogger’s relationship with sustainability since it was a hot-button topic at the time, and allowed to to talk about broader issues with fashion influencers. I tried to be as respectful and constructive as possible, and most people received the video positively, but a few “stans” attacked me personally for it. All this put me in a terrible mood, and I spent way too much time going back and forth with people in the comments.

Since then, I’ve had other situations where people disagree with me on whatever topic, and are extremely rude or pushy about it. I also spent too much time engaging with these people, as the hateful ones are never open-minded and refuse to acknowledge nuance.

In 2021, I’m leaving all that behind and drawing personal boundaries when necessary. I actually did tell one rude and entitled person that I was muting the chat “as a personal boundary” because “I didn’t owe them anything,” and I was dang proud of that!

Other Goals:

  • Regain Pinterest traffic? Honestly don’t know if the glitch will ever be fixed though…
  • Post at least once per month on YouTube (usually video essays of my sustainable fashion posts).
  • Do 6 sponsored posts that align with my values.
  • Continue to post once/week on this blog.
  • Send both newsletters once every two months.
  • Maintain my blogging friendships and make 2 more friends!

me sitting on a ledge overlooking some mountains at sunset
(insert cheesy caption about looking towards the new year lol)

Favorite Posts from 2020

My blog covers a lot of different topics, and this was actually a cause of some distress this year, especially when it came to my Instagram account. I feel that there are people who only care about one topic, and I worry about annoying people by talking about something else. But ultimately, I write what I want, and these topics do fit nicely under the umbrella of conscious and active living.

Travel

I didn’t get to travel that much this year, but I did get to catch up on my travel blog posts and write about previous trips.

Berkshires Travel Guide: An Outdoorsy Weekend Itinerary

Living in Dijon, France: What to Expect + My Experience

Running

I didn’t run any in-person races this year, so things were slow on the running content side. I focused more on running tips and gear comparisons.

How to Find Your Running Motivation

Why You Should Also Share Your “Slow” Runs on Strava

Sustainability

This was the first year I started talking more about sustainability as a major part of this blog. I kind of fell into it when my first sustainable fashion post was well-received on Pinterest, and I continued writing about it.

Sustainable or Greenwashing? How to Evaluate Fashion Brands

The Gentrification of Thrifting: Is Thrifting + Reselling Ethical?

Blogging

Blogging about blogging is not one of my main niches, but I enjoy reflecting on this process every now and then.

10 Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

10 Things I Love and Hate About Blogging

If You Want to Start a Blog…

If you’ve ever considered blogging, I just want to plug my massive post on how to start a blog. It’s over 5,000 words and is a step-by-step guide to building your blog—whether you want to do it for fun, or to make money. I go over both free and paid options.

I’ve been blogging for around 10 years now, and I’m so glad middle school me decided to make an awkward little website to show off my garish outfits (they were really quite…special haha). Since then, my blog has changed a LOT and taken me many unexpected places, but I’m so glad to have this little space of the internet to share my thoughts.


 

If you read this far, a big thank you to you for supporting my journey. It means a lot to know that people are reading my posts, and I appreciate you (especially since this a more personal one). 2020 was a pretty decent year for me in terms of blogging, and I hope to keep creating content that I (and hopefully you!) care about.

Sending good vibes to you, and best of luck on your personal goals for this upcoming year!

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10 Comments

  • Nina | Lemons and Luggage January 3, 2021 at 2:40 am

    Congratulations on reaching most of your goals, Lily! This is the first time I read a blog income report as I always considered them pointless, but a) it’s your post, and b) I’ve been learning more into goal setting recently. This post was really inspiring actually. I obviously had major issues this year as a travel blogger, but I will still try to be more strategic this year and maybe even write some posts I find boring but that usually do well. Because after all, if certain posts are popular they obviously help people, and that’s what we want to do.

    I wish you all the best for your 2021 goals and can’t wait to find out more about your new site.

    • Lily January 3, 2021 at 10:28 am

      Thank you for reading, and for all your support, Nina! I’m so glad we became friends this year <3 I'm glad you found this post helpful. I agree that blogging strategy sometimes involves more "boring" posts that do well haha, but the good thing is that they're helping more people.

      Happy new year to you, and sending you the best for your goals too! Excited to follow along your journey 🙂

  • Diane January 3, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    Congrats on everything you’ve achieved this year, Lily! Onward and upward!!

    • Lily January 3, 2021 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks so much, Diane! So glad we’re friends and so happy for your blogging wins this year 🙂

  • Leigha January 6, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Lily! I just found your blog tonight after searching for reviews on SHE Media. I’ve completely neglected my blog for the past few years and have been wanting to get serious about it again – you have so many helpful posts and I can’t wait to click around more! Here is to making a new blog friend! 🙂

    • Lily January 7, 2021 at 10:40 am

      Hi Leigha! I’m so glad you’ve found my posts helpful. Thank you for leaving a sweet comment – excited to see where your blogging journey takes you 🙂

  • John B. Marine January 7, 2021 at 10:33 am

    I haven’t read everything from this post, but I just want to say I’m proud of you and how far you’ve come. I’ve followed this blog from the “A Burst of Color” days with a teenage Lily… to the wonderful woman you’ve become with “imperfect idealist.” You are determined and strong in all of your work. Having said this, I’m sure you will reach whatever goals you set out, as you’ve been a champion and a fighter all of your life. Keep up the great work and cheers, Lily!

    • Lily January 7, 2021 at 10:41 am

      Thank you so much for your long-time support, John! Wishing you a happy new year 🙂

  • Bucketlist Bri January 8, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    It’s me again! (lmao). I jumped over from your SheMedia review and I LOVED reading about how your year went. Keep up the great work with the blog and here’s to hoping we can both reach Mediavine this year, lol! xx Bri

    • Lily January 8, 2021 at 7:52 pm

      Hey Bri! Thank you, that’s so sweet of you! Yes, fingers crossed we can both reach Mediavine this year. <3

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    About Me

    I'm Lily, and I run races and go places (& blog about it). I also try to advocate for the planet & its people.
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