Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How a Fashion Blogger Makes Money

I always appreciate getting a “behind the scenes” look at income breakdowns and the nuts & bolts of making a living as a blogger, so I thought I’d get on the other side of it today and give you a peek inside my income stream over the last 5 years. I was inspired by the ProBlogger’s recent income stream post, and although I don’t have 12 streams like he does, I think it’s interesting to look at how the income streams I do have have changed over the years.
To keep it easy, I just measured from January 1 to May 15th of each year:
This year is the first year I’ve had any freelancing income. And I also just added Google Adsense back into my sites late last year, so that is a relatively new income stream. I used Adsense in the very beginning back in 2004-2005, and it was good income for me, but never “great,” and back then it wasn’t as easy to control or manage, and they were mostly text ads. As soon as I started getting a lot of weight loss ads show up I took all the ads down and didn’t put them back on my site until last year. Google Adsense is always most profitable on sites that get a LOT of traffic, and you’ve heard stories about bloggers making many thousands of dollars from Adsense, but the reality is that for most bloggers, it’s more like hundreds of dollars.
In 2012, direct ad sales made up 34.9% of my income and affiliate commissions made up 65.1%.
In 2011, ad sales made up 47.9% and affiliate commission made up 52.1%.
It kind of goes like this back until 2008 and years prior when the majority of my income came from direct ad sales instead of affiliate commission:
I only have numbers beginning in 2008 when I started using Quickbooks to do my accounting (which I recommend highly), before that, I don’t even want to remember what I was doing!! But I think it’s very interesting to note the shift occurring between more of my income coming from direct ad sales vs. affiliate commission.
There are a few reasons for this:
  • In 2008, affiliate programs weren’t new by any means, but they were still relatively under-developed, and definitely not as focused on attracting fashion bloggers. Now, with Reward Style and Skimlinks, it’s so much easier to use affiliate links and create content around them, that I simply use them more often.
  • More and more smaller boutiques are taking part in affiliate programs now than were doing so in 2008; they’re so much easier to maintain now, and it’s a great way for a boutique or designer to make sure they are getting a satisfactory return. Several boutiques I worked with as advertisers prior to 2008 switched to an affiliate relationship with me, which led to the shift from ad income to affiliate income.
  • Direct ad sales is a lot of work. In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time seeking out and communicating with potential advertisers. It proved productive for me, but in recent years, I haven’t devoted as much time to that as I would need to to keep ad sales up. I also cut the number of ads I show on my sites to only 2-3 because I wanted to work very closely with my advertisers and give them more space to speak to my readers. Honestly, I appreciate that quite a bit of my affiliate income is passive, which makes it easier for me to focus on other projects.
While I don’t have 12 income streams like ProBlogger, I have 4 and I’d like to see that number increase, especially after really seeing how much my overall income has gone down slightly the last several years. A lot of things have changed in the world of blogging generally and for me specifically that have contributed to that:
  • The sheer number of fashion blogs out there now as compared to 2008 or before is staggering. I simply have much more competition now. Not that I’m complaining, but it definitely has an impact on my ability to make as much money as I used to.
  • I had to remove a large, very lucrative component of one of my sites several years ago, which I’ve never really been able to recover from. That was a BIG mistake and I regret it everyday, but I am trying to pick up and move on.
  • I am spending much more time creating content than I am reaching out to potential advertisers. I enjoy that more, but it has definitely contributed to a drop in income.
Overall, I’d like to do more consulting and freelancing to diversify my income quite a bit. I do feel like I’ve already let myself sort of fall behind on that, just trying to keep up with blogging, but my goal for this year is to add at least “consulting” to my income stream. In six months I’ll do a follow-up on this post so you can see how it goes!
What are your top income streams for your blog? Do you see a large % difference in ad sales & affiliate commissions?

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