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Q3 Income Report: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

In my Q3 2019 Income Report, we’re looking back on what worked, what didn’t, what lessons we can learn and how we can best move forward to achieve our dreams. I’ll also share my business strategy and tips that helped me earn over $41,000 in three months blogging.
In my Q3 2019 Income Report, we’re looking back on what worked, what didn’t, what lessons we can learn and how we can best move forward to achieve our dreams. I’ll also share my business strategy and tips that helped me earn over $41,000 in three months blogging.

Welcome back to Root + Revel’s traffic + income reports! You might remember back in January 2018 we published our very first income report–it was actually for the entire year of 2017 (hint: I earned over $75,000 blogging in just my second year of blogging!).

It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for just over 4 years now, and even more amazing that my income went from $6,500 in my first year of blogging to $150,000 in my third year (including $58,000 while on a four-month maternity leave), and I’m getting dangerously close to hitting my target of $200,000 in revenue in my fourth year. #fingerscrossed

I know sharing my income with you might seem a little crazy, but let me explain.

TLDR: If this isn’t your first rodeo and you’ve been following allowing with these income reports for a while, you can skip to the next section titled Total Income.

For years, I’ve been reading the income reports of many successful bloggers, like Pinch of YumMaking Sense of CentsSmart Passive Income and Show Me the Yummy.

And they’ve inspired me so much, not only to know what’s possible in the world of blogging as a business, but also with their incredible ideas and generosity in sharing their mistakes and successes along the way.

And now, I want to return the favor. I feel like I’m at a point with Root + Revel where I have something valuable to share about making money online, something that I hope will help you learn how to make money doing something you love, something that lights you up every day and makes you excited to get to work, something you’re passionate about, something that impacts others for the better, something you can do from your couch in your jammies or on a beach in the Caribbean or at a desk in a co-working space at whatever dang time you please because YOU’RE YOUR OWN BOSS.

Please know, the goal of these income reports is not to brag or show off or pat myself on the back (though it’s always a good idea to celebrate your own successes, too!). Rather, my goal with these income reports is three-fold:

  1. to help anyone interested in starting a blog learn the ropes and find inspiration and motivation to be successful and change your life, whether that’s simply finding an outlet for your passion, improving your financial situation by making some extra money, or finally quitting your job and making six figures working for yourself. I hope that by sharing my own journey, my transparency and story might help you to achieve your dreams.
  2. to show fellow skeptics (hi, I used to be one of you when I was a full-time journalist who wrote for real publications and turned my nose up at bloggers who were running their blogs without integrity, transparency and a business mindset) that it IS possible to make money online and to do so while keeping your soul intact.
  3. to help myself. Yes, I’ll admit it. I do have some selfish motivation for publishing these income reports. Because quite honestly, it’s a great opportunity for me to reflect on my business, to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, to learn from my mistakes and to track my achievements.

I’ve been self-employed for nearly a decade at this point, but since I began blogging full-time in January of 2017, my life has exponentially improved.

I’m finally writing the stories that I want to tell, I’m finally helping others to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives, and I’m doing it ALL on my own terms.

I’m so proud and happy to report that life is so much better now that I’m truly my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day–I wake up excited to work, I’m always learning something new and I love the challenge of running your own business, constantly coming up with new ways to monetize and help people, simultaneously.

Alright, enough talk. Let’s take a look at the numbers for Q3 2019.

 

Gross Income: $41,497

*Note: $41,497.34 is what I earned on an accrual basis, but I’ve recently started using Quickbooks and have switched over to the Cash method of accounting. So my revenue for Q3 using the cash method was actually $41,147. I only mention this because now I only use the cash method for tracking expenses, and to compare apples to apples, I will be sharing those numbers below.

Expenses: $37,742

I’m changing up how I report my expenses a bit here to streamline and simplify. Instead of listing out the exact expenses for each item, I’m just going to list out some of my favorite resources and services that I use every month to help me keep the blog up, running and profitable.

  • Active Campaign (this is how I email my list; I used to use ConvertKit )
  • NerdPressThe tech genius who manages all the backend code for my website
  • Molly CahillInstagram management
  • Gusto: Payroll (super easy and incredible customer service)
  • Quickbooks: Bookkeeping and invoicing software (save $100 off your first year with our link!)
  • 238 Accountingbookkeeping and money mindset coaching
  • Leadpages: The tool I use to make opt-in pop-ups, forms, and landing pages
  • Teachable: The best platform for creating online courses (like this one!)
  • Crowdcast: An affordable platform for hosting webinars and live streaming videos.
  • WP Recipe Makercreate cute recipes cards and essential for any recipe posts for SEO + organizing data
  • NutrifoxAllows you to create custom nutrition labels effortlessly
  • Milotree: A smart pop-up to grow your email list, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest
  • Food Blogger Pro: The very best online blogging school
  • The Blog VillageAn online blogging school with tools for tracking social media growth all in one place and creating a media kit
  • Audible: My favorite way to “read” business and personal development books (here are some of my faves!)
  • TailwindThe scheduler I use for Pinterest (Tribes + SmartLoop are great!)

*Note: I did not include my owner’s pay and shareholder taxes expenses above, although I do pay myself a salary from Root + Revel’s gross revenue. 

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Net Profit: $3,755

Whew! I know that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I hope people will takeaway from these reports is just how much work, energy, thought and heart goes into running a blog. It’s not just as simple as slapping up a few words and an iphone photo and pressing publish.

Before we get into the details, I also wanted to share my traffic totals for Q2 2019.

Traffic + Overall Growth

Traffic Overview: 327,764 pageviews (an average of 109k per month)

*Note: I’ve been talking a lot about the Google Medic/E-A-T update that took place this summer; it has really hurt my traffic, and thus my revenue. Before the update, I was getting around 225,000 pageviews per month. After, I’m only getting 109,000 pageviews per month. We’ll talk more about this below but wanted to make a note here. 

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel in Q3 2019:
  1. DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
  2. How I Got Pregnant with PCOS on my First Try
  3. How I Reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance Naturally!
  4. PCOS Diet for Hormone Balance*
  5. Top Sources for Organic Meat Delivery

*So cool to see the PCOS Diet post moving into the Top 5 for the first time ever!

Email List: 13,831 new email subscribers

Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in Active Campaign. You can see that I gained roughly 4,610 new subscribers per month in Q3.

My goal for 2019 was to get 1,000 new subscribers per month and we more than quadrupled it last quarter. WHOA! This is particularly exciting because we didn’t even run any giveaways or paid ads to grow our list, so it was truly all organic.

I also wanted to increase my open rate to 25%. Last quarter, we averaged around 22.31% open rate and in Q3 we brought it slightly up to 22.5%. I also wanted to increase my click rate to 5%. Last quarter, our average click rate was 3.59%, and in Q3 we brought it up to 4.56%. So we’re still just shy of our goal, but we’ve been working tirelessly this year to really clean up our email list and get it as optimized as possible and it’s been a lot of trial and error.

Another goal I set is reducing our unsubscribe rate. Last quarter we lost 20,246 subscribers after I did a huge purge of our cold subscribers and dealt with some issues of bots subscribing through a particular form. It was brutal, but it’s always worth it to make sure you’re only emailing your true fans, and not paying for subscribers who aren’t active.

Domain Authority: 53 (no change from Q2 2019)

This is a new metric I’m adding to my income reports, as SEO is such a focus for us right now and I want to track how our efforts are working.

Note: DA is a ranking metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a site will rank on Google, and is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. The closer you are to 100, the more traffic and better ranking you’ll have.

RPM: $123.90

Shockingly this number was way up, which I can only attribute to the 6FBA course sales, since our traffic and revenue were down so much.

Note: RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille, or the revenue earned per 1,000 pageviews. When you look at RPM, you put the focus on optimizing your revenue as efficiently as possible, rather than just getting the most people to your site. For example, a site with 100,000 pageviews and a $1 RPM makes $100, while a site with 20,000 pageviews and a $10 RPM makes $200. This is good news because it means you don’t have to have TONS of traffic to make a great income. In fact, when you niche down and focus on providing as much value as possible to your current audience, you earn more money. 

Takeaways

What I Focused on in Q3 2019

Running a blog is a TON of work and each month I feel like I could fill an entire notebook with “what I focused on” details. But for everyone’s sanity’s sake, I’m going to keep this list simple and straightforward, and talk about the ONE thing I worked on in Q3: failure.

Yeah, this post is about to get all kinds of real and vulnerable…you ready?

This summer, with the Google algorithm updates, we were hit with our first major setback after nearly 2 years of steady, fast growth. It sucked, there’s no sugarcoating it.

Our traffic was cut by 70% with the June update, and then by another 40% with the August update. I tried not to panic at first and just let the dust settle and see what happened, but that became harder and harder to do when our revenue numbers started dropping alongside our traffic.

We went from making an average of $12,000 per month from ads and affiliates the first half of the year, to making $7,000 per month after the update. The $5,000/month loss came in fast and hot, hit us hard and left me rattled. Especially because my expenses didn’t change.

I’ll be honest, a lot of the time, I felt like giving up. I was so discouraged and defeated, like such a failure and, worst of all, I didn’t even see it coming. I was putting so many of my eggs into the organic search/SEO basket, thinking it was the safe and secure way to grow organically, and it all came crashing down on June 3, 2019. All my hard work over the past 4 years felt like it was a waste… like if I wasn’t careful my business could just disappear. It got pretty bleak there for a while.

But after I wallowed for a bit (okay, for a LONG time), I realized that challenges like this are exactly what I love about being an entrepreneur. Yeah, losing half my traffic and revenue was awful. But it forced me to think of new ways of doing things. It made me analyze what was working, what clearly was not, and figure a way out. Because as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable”. And this was no different.

Now I’d love to tell you that I put on my big girl panties and got to work right away and saw immediate results, but that’s so far from what’s really happened that I couldn’t even fake it. Here’s the truth: I’m still trying to figure out. I don’t have all the answers yet. But here’s what I know:

  1. It is still possible to make money blogging in 2019/2020.
  2. I need to diversify my traffic sources AND my income streams.
  3. I need to really focus on growing my email list and nurturing my subscribers.
  4. I have something valuable to share with the world and the internet means my impact can be huge.
  5. I can do this.
  6. I want to do this.

That last one is huge because there were some dark days that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to try. I am an achiever (any other Enneagram Type 3s 0ut there?!), I admittedly put way too much of my self-worth into my career/job title, my success/lackthereof and my bank balance. I’m working on it. But I’m not great at failing, or even struggling. And the past 5 months have been some of the very hardest of my entire career.

In some ways, the Google update came at a great time because it was around the time of our first soft launch for my course, the Six-Figure Blog Academywhich went SO well. Between the beta program and the soft launch, we enrolled 59 students and made $19,403. God knows where I’d be without that revenue and my amazing and inspiring students who keep me motivated.

But another speedbump came soon after during our October launch. I’m going to save all the details for another post and our October income report (we’re going back to monthly!), but spoiler alert: we lost money on launch #2 due to a heavy investment in what turned out to be failed Facebook ads. Ouch!

I’ve never had a penny of debt in my life, including student loans (a privilege, I know, trust me!), so being in the red has been a complete and total mindf*ck for me (pardon my French, but there’s no better way to describe it), and I’ve continued to struggle into the Fall with where my business is, which is so far from where I want it to be.

I know… this isn’t exactly the kind of inspirational income report that makes you look at someone successful and feel like “Yes! If they can do it, I can do it!” and for that I am truly sorry… you have no idea how sorry I am that these are my current circumstances. I’m someone who likes to have it all together, and this post is totally going to ruin the image of success I try so hard to put out there. Even writing this post is making me feel all kinds of uncomfortable vulnerability and embarrassment and shame. It’s scary to really speak your truth, lay it all out there and show people what a hot mess you truly are.

But I want to be honest with y’all, and I think sharing the good AND the bad can be equally helpful. Being an entrepreneur, owning your own business, being your own boss is amazing. And it’s also FREAKING HARD. There are good months, and there are bad months; busy seasons and seasons of rest; it’s a constant ebb and flow. And I feel like I’d be doing y’all a disservice to only share the feast periods and leave out the famines.

Because the famines are real, they are a part of life, and certainly a part of business, and I happen to be in a famine right now. So there it is. But it is TEMPORARY. I am working my way out of it and I have so many exciting plans for the future.

A new website (don’t worry, Root + Revel isn’t going anywhere)
A new podcast for soulful, heart-centered entrepreneurs
An improved course (and maybe some new ones, too!)
A new Facebook community (come join us here!)

And so much more. So stay tuned. The best is yet to come… I can feel it! For the first time in many months, I know I am on the verge of a major breakthrough and I CAN DO THIS.

RELATED:  Top 3 Blogging Mistakes Keeping You From Six-Figures!

Goals for Q4 2019

Alright, this has been a doozy of an income report so I’m gonna wrap up here and just let you know that my plans for Q4: Prep for Launch #3 with a Pre-Launch runway that I’ve been learning about in Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy; Release my new website and podcast to the world; Step more into the Visionary role of my business. Stay tuned.

RELATED:  My January 2019 Monthly Income Report: $20,764.65

Featured Question:

Each month, I feature one question from a reader. But sadly we didn’t get any questions last month.

For next month, please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer. 

It’s All Thanks to You!

Please know, I am keenly aware that I have the flexibility, freedom and finances to work on this blog as my full-time job because of YOU–dear reader, sharer, Pinner, commenter, Liker, customer or silent follower of Root + Revel. Your support and participation in the R+R community reaches beyond just this website.

This month, I’ve been donating to a fundraiser that I’m also co-hosting for breast cancer patients. Please join me in this amazing cause (this month only!). We’ve partnered with the Cancer Support and Survivorship program at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital Cancer Institute to donate 100 Beautycounter care packages! Care packages can be sponsored with just $40 (or less–no donation is too small!) and we’ll cover the remaining costs including tax & shipping.

Would you like to sponsor any care packages this year and help us get safer products into the hands of those who could use some extra TLC? You can donate via Venmo (@Kate-Kordsmeier), PayPal (kate@rootandrevel.com), cash, check or here through the Facebook fundraiser.

I am so incredibly grateful for you. Thanks for showing up! ????

Comments

  1. Brroke Taylor says

    Thank you so much for your honesty and transparency! It’s so inspiring and insightful to hear how successful entrepreneurs react to and bounce back from difficult situations!

  2. Holly says

    Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of blogging and of your business. Sounds like a stressful few months but I know that if you built your traffic up once, you CAN do it again and WILL! That harsh fall in traffic must have been hard to handle. Thanks for being upfront and transparent. I always learn something from you each time I visit your site.

    • Kate Kordsmeier says

      Holly, thank YOU for your kind words! I’m so happy to hear you enjoy the site and learn from it! It was definitely a stressful, tough time, but I’m looking forward and am excited about the future!

  3. Kristina says

    I love the honesty here, it’s actually really refreshing because we all experience it. If every single income report was more and more money, more and more success, I think some readers would wonder why they’re the only ones experiencing setbacks. This blogging world is truly the wild west and I think this is an important lesson that it’s key to diversify. But excited to see where this new website takes you and your team!

    • Kate Kordsmeier says

      Thank you so much Kristina for the feedback! Sharing my experiences and helping other entrepreneurs is a huge passion of mine. It’s really good to hear that these posts are resonating and helping!

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