Side hustles are a great way for individuals to turn extra time into extra cash. Sometimes these side hustles are serious business endeavors that earn significant money. Other times they’re simply hobbies that begin to earn a little bit of cash on the side… almost by accident.
Blogging is one of those activities that can span the entire spectrum of ‘profitable side hustle’ to ‘hobby’. Some blogs are businesses where the owners make major incomes, and others on the ‘hobby’ end of the spectrum make absolutely nothing.
It should come as no surprise that the venerable Internet Retirement Police often turn their criticism towards personal finance bloggers. After all, it is possible to make money blogging. Sometimes a lot of money!
“Your not really retired! You can probably live entirely off the blog income!”
“I could quit my day job too if I had a super popular blog like yours! You’re making a TON of money off that blog.”
Trust me, I’ve heard it all.
Well, today I’m going to counter some of these ugly criticisms with actual numbers. I’m going to share my blog income numbers and let YOU decide if this blog is the main source of my retirement income.
Or, perhaps you’re just one of those people thinking about starting a new blog as a side hustle. You’re trying to decide “Is starting a blog really worth it?”.
Well, today’s your lucky day kids, because I’m opening the kimono! (Close your eyes for the naughty bits)
How Blogs Make Money
First off, let’s cover all the different ways that blogs typically make money, and then I’ll address each income source separately.
Blogs generally can make money from the following sources:
Advertising. This means putting display ads in various places on the blog. These ads earn very little money unless someone actually clicks on one of the images. It’s probably the most obvious and straight-forward forms of blog income, but also one of the lowest paying.
You need A LOT of views and A LOT of clicks to make any significant money from ads. Google Adsense is probably the most common provider of ads for small blogs.
Sponsored Content. Sponsored content (at least for personal finance blogs) is usually in the form of a seperate blog post dedicated to promoting an investment product or service. Like a blog post extolling the benefits of Reality Shares or Motif Investing.
Say I one day published a post dedicated to telling you how awesome “Jim’s Brokerage Service” is. Well, that post could be sponsored content. “Jim’s Brokerage Service” would be paying me to post that. These posts can either be authored by the blogger or the business that’s selling the product (it’s hard to tell sometimes).
Selling Products Or Services. This is where a blogger uses his/her blog to sell some product they’ve personally created. Maybe they’ve written an ebook, created an online class, or are offering some other kind of service. These are all examples of products that people create and sell on their blogs, and they’re very lucrative sources of income.
Affiliate Income. Affiliate income is money bloggers earn by linking to other businesses selling products or services. Anytime you see a blogger linking to another business from their blog, it’s probably an affiliate link. While it doesn’t cost the blog reader anything extra, this can be a big source of blog income.
Does Mr. Tako Escapes Make Money?
Yes, this blog actually does make some money. Even though I started blogging back in 2015, the first year I actually earned enough where I needed to pay taxes on the income was 2017.
Let’s look at each of the different possible income sources to see where I made money…
On the advertising side, I use Google Adsense to provide the ads for this blog. It only makes a tiny bit of money under most circumstances. For every 1000 impressions recieved, I probably only make about $0.12. On an average day, my blog sees anywhere from 3,000-5,000 impressions.
That’s less than $1 per day.
However, when readers click on an add, that’s when the real money comes in — I earn about $1.00 from each click. Yes, you read that right, a dollar!
So how much do I make on average from the ads on the blog? Well, it varies from month to month (and how much people click), but here’s how much I made each month last year in raw Google Adsense income:
Not too shabby, eh? For the whole of 2017, this blog made $1,155 from Google Adsense, with a total of 1,131 clicks on ads. This is an average of $96.28 per month.
For 2018 so far, the advertising numbers look like they’re going to be very similar to 2017.
Have you noticed that I don’t put any sponsored content on my blog? While some people claim this kind of content is no different than placing ads around the borders, I beg to differ.
I want my readers to come to this blog for quality content, and I think sponsored content is a huge turnoff. I personally have stopped reading blogs that accept sponsored content because it’s so sleazy. I believe it’s likely that my readers would do the exact same thing.
Therefore I won’t and don’t intend to publish sponsored content on this blog. I earn $0 from this category.
For many blogs, the products they sell are a huge source of income. Unfortunately, I don’t have any products for sale!
What would I sell exactly? A cookbook? All my best recipes are posted to the blog for free. How about my super secret stock trading system? Too bad there’s no real secret — patience and compounding are pretty much all an investor needs. Well, that and maybe a few other things I’ve already posted about… but really there’s no secret formula or magic trading systems.
How about Mr. Tako t-shirts? Would anyone be interested in one of those?
(No Mom, you can’t buy a shirt! This is just a joke)
Until I can think of something of worthwhile to sell on this blog, my earnings in this category are going to remain $0.
Ok, now here’s a category where I do actually earn a little income!
While there are many businesses that offer affiliate relationships to bloggers, many of them are extremely picky about who they accept into their programs. Amazon is the one I primarily work with because they’re not discriminating jerks like those other guys.
This means from time to time I’ll throw up a link to something readers can buy off Amazon. Maybe it’s a book or some item I recently purchased. If readers decide to purchase that item off amazon using the link, I see a few pennies from the sale (typically 3 to 5 cents per dollar).
(For all those folks that have done so — Thank You!)
As you can probably guess, this income source isn’t going to generate big money. (Probably no new Mercedes for me!)
Here’s my results for all of 2017:
Yep, nothing too exciting. I guess I’ll need to stick with that 12 year old Honda awhile longer. For all of 2017 I made $323 from Amazon affiliate links, which is an average of about $27 per month.
Again, my 2018 numbers are looking very similar to what I saw in 2017 and I can probably expect to make about the same amount of money.
What About Expenses?
Let’s not to forget that despite all these awesome dollar signs I’m flashing around like some kind of hot bling, blogs actually do have expenses.
In my case, I pay $3.73 monthly to Squidix for my web hosting, and last year I paid $13.75 annually for the domain name MrTakoEscapes.com. This means the blog had $58.51 in regular recurring expenses for 2017.
There’s also self employment taxes to pay after expenses. Don’t forget the taxes! In 2017, self employment taxes were 15.3%, which must be paid in quarterly installments, or a penalty has to be paid at the end of the year.
At the end of the year (after expenses), MrTakoEscapes.com made about $1,202.
How Much Time Does It Take?
Based on the numbers I’ve shown you above, I’m earning about $100 per month from the blog. So, how much time do I investing into writing posts and managing it?
Well, last year I wrote 102 blog posts (roughly two a week). On average, it takes me about 8 hours to write a complete blog post, including research.
(Yes, I know I’m a slow writer!)
Crunching the numbers, this means I invested 802 hours into writing blog posts and earned $1.50 per hour for my effort (after expenses).
This doesn’t include the time spent managing the blog or responding to blog comments, which can take up to 4 additional hours per week.
Final Thoughts: Why Do I Do It?
So am I really “living off my blog income” like the IRP claim? Is the blog providing me an easy life of financial independence?
Ha! Not even close! The Internet Retirement Police can go suck an egg. My income is earned primarily from my investments.
So why the heck do I do it? This blog makes significantly less than minimum wage. Why not go get a job flipping burgers at McDonalds instead?
Well, let me say it clearly: It’s not about the money!
On the spectrum of blogs that exist out there, Mr. Tako Escapes fits more on the “hobby” end of the blogging spectrum. I’m really not looking for another “job”.
I primarily write this blog for three main reasons:
1. To Leave a Legacy. I want to leave some lasting investing advice for my kids. As I mentioned in the About page for this blog, there’s just too much useless investing noise out there. Too many half-truths. Too many guru’s that just want to steal your money. Most investing advice is actually about taking your money, and this is an area where I believe I can actually help my kids.
I’m actually writing with the intent that they’ll read this someday.
Unfortunately my kids are far too young right now to understand investing. The blog is my way of recording those important things I want to tell them about life and investing (which they can read when they’re ready).
2. A Different Voice. I also write because I feel there’s room for different voices out there in the personal finance space. There’s many different ways to reach financial independence, but there’s far too many bog-standard blogs that read like generic copies of one another.
If you’ve read many personal finance blogs, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Clearly, I don’t fit in that mold!
3. It’s fun. Yep, this is a passion project. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy writing about personal finance. I find it to be a lot of fun. The process of writing really gets me thinking hard about a topic, and there’s always plenty of research required for each post. Writing on this blog keeps me constantly learning, which I love to do!
So yes, blogging for me is more of a labor of love than a labor of money. It won’t pay the bills, but it’s fun anyway.