2021 Blog Income Report + Year in Review

December 31, 2021

Every year, I like to reflect on my blogging progress, share my new goals, and basically offer a more vulnerable peek into the life of a blogger.

A heads up that I will get into the weeds with some numbers; I share these income and traffic stats since I’m nosy myself and love reading others’ reports. I also think transparency is important, for both my audience and other bloggers. I actually pledge to donate 10% of my take-home blog income, and so I want the numbers to be clear.

This is an extremely long post that I spent days writing, so if you want to skip around, use the table of contents!

2021 Blog Income Report

I’ll break this down month-by-month and by category within each month. These are the categories that you’ll see:

  • Ads: The ads you see throughout my blog that are managed by an ad network.
  • Affiliates: Links to products/services within posts. I get a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to the buyer.
  • Sponsorships: Creating content for companies to promote their products/services. 
  • Consulting: Sharing my experience and knowledge with brands or researchers.
  • Talks: Presenting on a specific topic (like sustainable fashion or social media) to an organization or school.
  • YouTube: Revenue from AdSense.
  • TikTok Creator Fund: Revenue from getting views on TikTok videos.
  • Ko-fi: One-time donation platform.

Keep in mind that this is money deposited in my account during that month; I usually have to wait 1-3 months to get paid from ads and sponsorships. So, some of my 2021 work will actually end up on next year’s income report.

January: $1,288

Ads: $251.84
Affiliates: $1,030.08
Ko-fi: $5

February: $839.94

Ads: $367.72
Affiliates: $372.22
Consulting: $100

March: $857.72

Ads: $257.73
Affiliates: $499.93
Sponsorships: $100

April: $803.56

Ads: 204.15
Affiliates: $464.64
YouTube: $134.79

May: $1,669.37

Ads: $333.18
Affiliates: $431.19
Sponsorships: $895
Ko-fi: $10

June: $1,114.76

Ads: $331.71
Affiliates: $683.05
Sponsorships: $100

July: $1,533.49

Ads: $405.46
Affiliates: $474.31
Sponsorships: $500
YouTube: $108.53
TikTok Creator Fund: $45.19

August: $1,083.92

Ads: $443.60
Affiliates: $630.32
Ko-fi: $10

September: $1,601.22

Ads: $240.20
Affiliates: $529.82
Sponsorships: $620
YouTube: $116.93
TikTok Creator Fund: $94.27

October: $1,259.57

Ads: $242.99
Affiliates: $621.58
Sponsorships: $380
Ko-fi: $15

November: $2,339.70

Ads: $186.05
Affiliates: $819.25
Sponsorships: $20 (making up the difference from a previous partnership)
YouTube: $104.40
Consulting: $400
Talks: $800
Ko-fi: $10

December: $2,260.65

Affiliates: $672.65
Sponsorships: $1,228
Consulting survey: $50
Talks: $300
Ko-fi: $10

Total: $16,651 before taxes and expenses

Expenses: $2,641

Running a blog isn’t cheap! Here are some of the major expenses I had this year:

  • Equipment for video and photos: $646.31
  • Used running tech to test in reviews: $534.03
  • Tax consult: $300
  • Video editing subscription: $120.88
  • Canva Pro: $119.40
  • LLC filing: $99
  • PayPal fees: $73.07

The rest were other miscellaneous courses, fees to maintain a website, digital tools, etc. 

Total after expenses: $14,010

breakdown of my blog income by category, with affiliates making 43.2%, sponsorships 24.6%, and ads 19.7% as the major categories

In 2020, I made $4,300 from my blog, so I’m happy to see this be tripled!

This is actually pretty short of my goal of $25k though. I was hoping I could make livable income solely from blogging starting June 2021. Before May, I was working freelance for a startup and couldn’t get insurance through them. I was originally expecting to need to buy dental and vision insurance on my own since I’d get kicked off my parents’ plan when I turned 25. 

I ended up taking a full-time job from the startup in late April, so I no longer needed to get private insurance or to rely on blogging income. This gave me less time to blog, but also freed me up to create content for fun since I didn’t need to think about money as much.

So, all in all, I’d say it was still a successful year income-wise. Given that I spend around 20 hours/week on blogging, it’s still not a great hourly return (~$13/hour before taxes), but it’s sure better than the $4/hour from last year haha. 

Donation to Sustainable Non-profit/Mutual Aid Fund

In April, I pledged to donate 10% of my take-home blog income to a sustainable non-profit or mutual aid fund (on top of my regular personal giving). Since a lot of my content is about sustainability, it’s only right to give back to organizations and people who are finding solutions on-the-ground. 

After taxes, I’ll take home around $11,000 from my blog this year. That means that I’ll be donating $1,100 (I’ll actually up it to $1,200 just to make sure I’m not short). I’ve decided to give this money to The Garment Worker Center’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. The money will go to garment workers in LA who have been making masks and protective gear, all while facing unclean conditions, high rates of infection, and subminimum wages. Since the industry often operates “off the books,” many garment workers also aren’t eligible for paid sick leave and unemployment benefits.

Screenshot of my donation to the Garment Worker Center

If you’re looking to give this season, I’d recommend the Garment Worker Center and this particular fund. The GWC was actually a major sponsor of the Garment Worker Protection Act, which passed in September 2021, and holds brands accountable for paying workers at least the minimum wage. Previously, brands got away with paying and average of $5/hour—this is because they were paying per piece sewn rather than by the hour, and since subcontracting made it difficult to hold brands accountable.

Feel free to suggest other sustainable fashion-related funds, as I’m always looking for more orgs to support (I may even put together a post).

Update on 2021 Goals, Wins, and Challenges

Goals I reached or semi-reached:

  • Figure out business-y stuff (LLC filing, taxes).

I became an LLC in February and also successfully filed my taxes for the first time as a blogger! I was planning to use TurboTax, but they charge exorbitant amounts of money for small biz filing different state returns and the Schedule C, so I went with FreeTaxUSA and maybe paid $27.

Side note: It’s kind of a scam how we even have to pay to file our taxes each year, but Intuit (the conglomerate behind TurboTax) has been lobbying the government for years to keep our taxes complicated.

A letter addressed to Lily Fang LLC

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

For those who aren’t familiar with blogging lingo: “sessions” are the number of times someone visits your site (you can have multiple “pageviews” in a session) and Mediavine is an ad network that allows you to earn income from blog visits. Before Mediavine, I was with SHE Media’s ad network, but Mediavine is known to have better management and higher pay.

I didn’t hit this goal until late November, but I finally made it! I’ve wanted to join Mediavine for almost 2 years now, and actually almost qualified in summer 2020 before they doubled their traffic requirements. I’ve never loved having ads on my blog, for visual and sustainability reasons, but it’s a nice way to get paid for the content I make without putting it behind a paywall.

I actually wish I’d applied earlier, as I’d been really close to the 50k sessions since June 2021 (about a few thousand off). Folks in my blogging Facebook groups let me know that they’d take people slightly under the threshold, so I actually applied at 48k sessions. I hit the 50k a few weeks later, right before I was accepted. I hope this little tip can help if you’re hoping to join Mediavine too 🙂

2021 blog traffic screenshot by the month. Traffic was mostly stable at around 50k pageviews, but hit 70k+ in November and 65k+ in December

  • Launch a new site with 5 posts by January 15

I launched Roaming Boston in late January with 7 posts that I brought over from this blog. The goal was to create a detailed guide Boston and the surrounding areas for both locals and visitors. I wrote about 1 post per week until mid-March, but then lost steam.

It was pretty hard to run two sites, manage the social media accounts for this blog, and also have another job to pay the bills. The Boston blog currently sits at 15 posts, and I didn’t touch it for 9 months until I had the inspiration to write a last-minute holiday post.

I’m really proud of launching the site, especially since I learned how to use a new layout, but I’m not sure where the future of Roaming Boston lies. I’d love to make it as successful as this blog and get on Mediavine, but I’m not sure if I have it in me right now, especially since I now have a full-time job.

  • Ignore the haters.

Since becoming more active on social media, I’ve experienced way more hate comments. I used to take them really personally and felt obligated to respond to them, but now I mainly ignore them. Sometimes, I’ll delete and block if they’re attacking me personally or clearly just trolling (it’s always the people with anonymous profiles). 

I’ve also developed somewhat of an avoidance strategy, not really looking at my comments after something goes viral. I hate that I probably end up missing genuine comments and questions, but I also have to protect my mental health, and I unfortunately can’t respond to every comment even if I wanted to.

If I do see hate comments, I also enjoy turning them into educational skits, since they’re usually misinformed opinions about sustainable fashion. These are some of my post popular TikToks/Reels since they talk about important concepts and have some ~controversy~ (make lemonade from lemons, right?).

Other goals that I reached or mostly reached were:

  • Post at least once per month on my sustainable fashion YouTube.
  • Do 6 sponsored posts that align with my values.
  • Continue to post once per week on this blog.
  • Maintain my blogging friendships and make 2 more friends!

Goals I gave up on:

I ended up abandoning some goals since they weren’t priorities, or the situation changed.

  • Regain Pinterest traffic after the glitch

I stopped posting on Pinterest in the early spring, as my pins were no longer getting seen, so I was getting zero blog traffic from them. Pinterest changed its algorithms significantly since they wanted to keep people on their platform, and they also had a lot of issues with spam filters. I used to get ~200 clicks/day from Pinterest, but I’m doing just fine without it now.

  • Send both my personal blog newsletter and sustainable fashion one once every two months

I didn’t send a single newsletter this year. I’m afraid to even check my subscriber count, as I don’t want to think about having something else to do haha. I would love to send the occasional newsletter, but I don’t have the bandwidth now.

  • Reach 5k monthly blog clicks from TikTok

I got 13k clicks to my TikTok links page this year (it’s unclear who went to read more on my blog). Unfortunately, 11k of those clicks were from January through July. TikTok also started trying to keep people on its platform, and even shadowbanned comments like “link in bio” on your own videos. 

I started TikTok mainly for blog traffic since Pinterest was dying, but it became a beast of its own. I started in October 2020, and I gained nearly 58k followers in a year! I do really like the platform—especially the creator friends I’ve made, the funny trends, and how casual you can be. But, I do feel like it’s changing, and it’s been a lot harder to get your content seen, which is really discouraging. 

I’m still planning to stay active on there, but it remains to be seen how active. TikTok was actually the main reason I was also able to grow 20k+ on Instagram in a year, as several videos I reposted to Reels got a lot of traction. It’s nice at least that content can be “stretched” and seen by different audiences.

me sitting on a turquoise chair against a white wall during golden hour
Here’s a random pic of me smiling to break up my rambling

2022 Blogging Goals

Make $50k before expenses and taxes.

Making money isn’t the primary reason I blog, but it is work (even if I love it), so I would like to be paid a living wage for it.

$50k is pretty dang lofty, but I’ve been getting more and more opportunities to earn money from my blog. In December, I was asked to give a couple talks to a corporate mindfulness group and write an article for a magazine! Social platforms are also starting to incentivize content creation, with Pinterest and Instagram offering bonuses. 

So while this is another 3x jump, I think it’s still at least somewhat attainable, especially knowing the head start I’ll have from the money I’m owed for projects done in 2021.

Continue to reject partnerships that don’t align with my values.

I turned down $5,000+ in gray zone sponsorships this year, and I recognize this is a privilege since I don’t rely on my blogging income.

One was a sponsorship with Chacos sandals, who offered me $2,500 for two TikToks. They ghosted me after I asked for more details about their sustainability and ethics (beyond their repair program).

Another was a deal with QuickBooks, who agreed to $2,400 for a single TikTok with usage in ads. I ultimately said no because the concept felt forced (how small biz can go carbon-neutral), and because QuickBooks is under the Intuit conglomerate—you know, those guys I mentioned earlier who lobby the government to keep our taxes complicated so they can profit.

I did accept a sponsorship with Afterpay after a lot of internal debate. While “buy now, pay later” services can encourage overconsumption and debt, they also make more expensive ethical brands more accessible. In this campaign, I was able to share some of my favorite sustainable brands and offer a gift card giveaway, so it felt more acceptable to me. I did turn them down on a later campaign since it wasn’t focused on sustainable brands.

I rejected several more partnerships from other companies, and I feel like I did a pretty good job overall of staying true to my values, so I’d like to keep that up (in case you’re curious, I ended up working with Boody Eco Wear, Afterpay, 2 Degrees East, Poshmark, Organic Basics, Boma Jewelry, and Ethique).  

Be unapologetic about my boundaries.

I got better at this this year, and even started deleting emails/messages immediately if they were asking for free labor.

It was sadly surprising how “ethical” brands would ask for free work. I had a free stuff app ask me to create unpaid content after I’d told them my rates upfront. A chocolate brand’s paid agency asked me to create a TikTok about how they were slave labor free—in exchange for a few bars of chocolate. A vegan bag brand offered me a 45£ voucher for 3 TikTok videos (the kicker is that their products were 150£+). The list goes on…

I also unfortunately had to turn down several requests to be interviewed for school projects and podcasts. While I’d love to help students, I wouldn’t have enough time for myself and this blog if I said yes to everyone.

I actually used to say yes, but most people asked me questions I already answered on my blog, and never followed up to share their project with me—both of which are really disheartening. A lot of folks also weren’t following me when they DM’d me, meaning they didn’t actually support my content and just needed a quote for their paper.

I hate saying no to people, but I also have to do what’s best for me. If I were to ever blog full-time though, I’d love to set up a monthly “office hours” where I could help out and meet the people in my online community. 

Give myself the space to not post on social media.

Social media moves really quickly, and it feels like you have to post constantly on Stories and to your feed to stay relevant. (Not to mention the rise of social media advisors who tell you to post 3-4 times per day on TikTok to grow!). I don’t want to feel obligated to create content; I want to do it because I have something to say. 

Get more regularly involved in my community.

I want to take the advocacy I do online into the community. It’s a bit trickier since I don’t have a home base this year, but I still want to do things like volunteering to help with community fridges, organizing a clothing swap, or educating voters about reforms. 

One thing I really enjoyed doing this year was a free stuff “open house.” Since the house I was living in got bought by a developer, we had to try to get rid of everything, including stuff left behind by generations of tenants. I tried giving things away one-by-one in my Buy Nothing group, but ultimately ended up posting an open house event since there was so much to give. Around 10 people came, and they were really grateful, especially since some of them had just moved in. We were really happy since all the stuff would’ve otherwise been trashed.

I’d love to be part of more events like this in 2022!

group of people in the kitchen during our free stuff open house
Thanks to my roommate for snapping this shot!

Other goals:

  • Write a blog post once per week
  • Create a YouTube video once per month
  • Continue to stay in touch with my creator friends 

Favorite Posts from 2021

In case you missed them, here are the posts I was proudest of this year.

Sustainability

Sustainability became a larger pillar of my blog this year, and the most fulfilling posts to write were more philosophical/op-ed style.

Is it “Okay” to Buy Fast Fashion?

The Inherent Contradiction of Being a Sustainable Influencer

I also know that my Sustainable or Not? series was a reader favorite, as it reviewed fashion brands in-depth.

Running

Races finally came back this year after it was shown that being outdoors was pretty safe. It was exciting to be able to write race reviews again! I was luckily able to do 4 races, with my favorite being the Philly Marathon, where I PR’d.

Philly Marathon Race Recap

COROS vs. Garmin, From a Marathoner Who’s Had Both

me grimacing as I cross the finish line of the Philly Marathon
Nothing like a funny race face photo to brighten your day

Travel

This used to be mainly a travel blog, but I somehow only wrote 5 travel posts this year (oops!). This was mainly because I haven’t been able to travel much over the last couple years, and also since most of my travel posts ended up on my Boston blog. Still, here are the posts I liked best:

Quebec City Winter Itinerary

One Day in Yellow Springs: Ohio’s Hippie Town

If You Want to Start a Blog…

Every year, I have to plug my comprehensive guide to to starting a blog, whether you want to do it for free, or are ready to start a business. I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, so there are lots of tips I’ve picked up along the way. 


 

It’s been a pretty wild year, between my social platforms taking off, connecting with several like-minded creators, and being able to give back $1,200 from my blogging income. Thank you all for being here and for your support! Please feel free to suggest any future content you’d be interested in seeing, and sending my very best for 2022.

signature-8297872

7 Comments

  • Katie January 1, 2022 at 8:55 am

    I loved this post! Thanks for being transparent. I am fascinated by “how it’s made”, and I learned a lot from this post. I also love goal setting and tracking, so this was a great way to spend the first morning of 2022. Good luck on your 2022 goals!

    • Lily January 1, 2022 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! Best of luck to you as well 🙂

  • Nina | Lemons and Luggage January 4, 2022 at 3:18 pm

    First of all, congratulations on all the amazing stats! All of that is so well-deserved, as you really put a lot of time and effort into this blog.

    Secondly, I’d love to see a post about organizations to donate to.

    Thank you so much for the honest look at what it’s taken you to get where you are. I think these are all things bloggers struggle with but that aren’t talked about often. I like the boundaries you’re setting, especially when it comes to interviews. I remember doing one for a podcast about a year ago and feeling exactly the way you did: The person wasn’t actually following me so I wasn’t sure it made sense, but I agreed nonetheless, and in the end, it never went up, and I feel like I wasted hours of my life. But we learn from these things, right?

    I wish you all the best for this year’s blogging goals and can’t wait to see what else you share with us.

    • Lily January 4, 2022 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you so much for your support, Nina! I always smile when I see your comments. I will definitely add the post about sustainable fashion orgs to my content list 🙂

      I’m glad that you could resonate with my experiences (though the experience itself was negative, so I’m not glad we both had it). It is unfortunately how people will see bloggers as resources and not as people. (The other day, someone unfollowed me when I kindly explained to them why I can’t do interviews for school projects). Luckily, like you said, we do learn, and hopefully more non-bloggers can understand our boundaries as well.

      Wishing you the very best this year as well, in blogging and life!

  • Claudia March 15, 2022 at 2:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your journey as well as all the details. I’m just getting back into blogging after taking several years off. It takes a blogger to appreciate the success of another. All the research, writing, self-doubt, publish and wait. It’s almost like a winery in some aspects. Again, love your site and continued success with your business! Your hard work shines through.

  • Victormalcalaw April 22, 2022 at 9:28 pm

    This is an inspiring 2021 annual blog income report. Thanks for sharing.

  • Work Time May 2, 2022 at 7:45 am

    Nice inspiring report. I wish you good luck for this year and exaggeration of income 🙂

  • Leave a Reply to Victormalcalaw Cancel Reply

    I accept the Privacy Policy

    About Me

    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.
    Here is where I document my (mis)adventures and try to offer some helpful advice. Feel free to join me for the ride. Read More

    Follow Along

    ×