In all of my monthly blogging income reports, I share not only my income but also my monthly expenses. I usually don't dive too far into my business expenses, as they don’t vary much month to month.
But, today, I am going to go deeper into my monthly business expenses so that you can see exactly what it takes to run my blog each month.
Now to run a successful blogging or online business, your expenses may be different than mine. And, you definitely don't need to spend a lot of money with a new blog – I certainly wasn’t in the beginning.
I created Making Sense of Cents six years ago, and since then, I have earned over $1,500,000 with my blog and around $979,000 in just 2016 alone.
When I first started my blog, I spent almost NOTHING on blogging expenses. In fact, I probably went a few years where I was only spending about 1%-2% of my revenues on blogging expenses.
The funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. At first, it was just a hobby to track my own personal finance progress. And, when I started in 2011, not only did I spend very little on my blogging expenses, I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!
Even though my blog began as a hobby, I quickly realized that it allowed me to keep track of how I was doing, have a support group, and more.
Related articles on how to make money with a blog:
- How To Start a WordPress Blog – This article shows you how to create a blog. If you are interested in starting a blog, you MUST read this.
- The Ultimate Guide On How To Start a Blog – Here, you can find ALL of my blogging-related and how to make money with a blog articles in one organized place.
- The Ultimate Guide To Making Money Blogging – How I Earn Over $50,000 A Month Online – This tells you about the many different ways to actually make money with a blog.
I didn’t actually start making money until a friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.
That one deal sparked my interest in learning more about how to make money blogging and to take my blog more seriously, and part of this came from learning which blogging expenses were necessary for me.
Blogging changed my life for the better – I work from home, travel full-time, have a flexible schedule and more. It allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.
Now that I am earning a great living from my blog, I am spending a little more of my monthly income on blogging expenses.
My expenses are still pretty low, as I am currently spending less than 5% of what I earn each month on expenses. However, 5% of my current income, which has grown a lot in the past year or so, is significantly more than when I was only spending 1%-2% of my income on my monthly blogging expenses.
Also, this does not include taxes. Taxes vary from person to person, and I as mention in every single one of my business income reports, it ends up being somewhere around 30% for me. Remember, though, that doesn't mean it will be the same for you.
Like I said, I don’t include taxes in my monthly blogging expenses, and as you read through my monthly expenses, remember that every blog and business is different. Part of being a successful is finding what works for you and your business.
Below are the main areas where I spend money on my blogging business:
When your business is blogging, a computer is one of the most important tools you need to run your business. Because of this, I am often asked what kind of computer I use. Many people think that you need something extremely expensive.
However, that just isn’t true.
Since I began my blog six years ago, I believe I've only had two laptops (including the one I have today), and they have both been Macbook Airs.
My first one was the 11-inch version, and I eventually upgraded to the 13-inch version, haha!
My sister has a $600 Acer laptop, which she says works great – proof that you don't need to spend a ton of money in order to have a blogging business.
The actual blog: design, hosting, etc.
Paying for blog hosting is something that has completely transformed my business.
If you want to make money blogging, the first thing you will need to do is make sure you have a self-hosted blog, such as through Bluehost, which is good for beginners. I have since upgraded to BigScoots because as a blog grows, you may need to adjust how you suit your needs. However, it's a switch that can be done at any time, and I always recommend starting with a more affordable hosting service.
I recommend starting on a self-hosted WordPress blog (this tutorial will help you start your blog the correct way). I know I say this a lot, but I do not recommend Blogger or WordPress.com (you want the self-hosted version, which is WordPress.org – confusing, I know). Buying that $10 domain name from Blogger or GoDaddy does not mean you own it either.
Advertisers, companies, and readers will know you are still on Blogger or free WordPress, which can look unprofessional. Plus, when you use a free version, your blog can be deleted at anytime and for no reason, and it even happened to me. This can hurt your chances at earning your income online.
Seriously, just trust me. Go with self-hosted WordPress, and it will significantly increase your chances of monetizing your blog.
So, to recap, the positives of being self-hosted on WordPress include:
- You have a more professional website, meaning you may be able to make more money on self-hosted WordPress.
- The ability to have complete control over your blog.
- You own your blog, and it can’t be deleted for any reason.
If you want further proof, take a look at my past income reports. You can tell that my income through blogging didn’t take off until I switched to WordPress. Right there is a lot of proof that being self-hosted on WordPress is the way to go!
My blog images.
For my own photography, I usually just use my iPhone. Sometimes, Wes will use the GoPro or the Canon DSLR to take photos. I would like to start doing that more often, as well as possibly purchasing a drone to capture more of our traveling adventures.
One question I’m asked a lot is about where bloggers can get photos to use on their blog.
Photos can be an extremely important part of your blog. They are used as a focal point to draw readers into a blog post, social media, Pinterest, a homepage, and more.
I get my blog photos from three main sources:
- My own photos. These are usually found in my RVing-related content and Instagram. Photography is an area that I'm still looking to improve upon, so I typically use the two forms below for the majority of my pictures.
- Unsplash. Unsplash is great for landscape and other photography.
- Haute Stock. For my Pinterest photos and horizontal Facebook photos, I primarily use Haute Stock.
Lately, I've been using Haute Stock the most. Their photos are clean looking, appealing to the eye, and are perfect for my blog.
The price is great too.
The smallest package is $99 for three months. That means you can download as many photos as you want (yes, you can download ALL of them) for just $99. This is the package I have, and I know it has been a great value for me.
Taking part in interviews.
I do many interviews via email, where an interviewer may just send me questions in text directly through email. But, I also do some via phone or through a podcast.
When I’m on a podcast, I use this microphone – Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone. I purchased it a few months ago at the suggestion of many podcast pros, and it has worked out very well. It is much better than the microphone that comes with a laptop, so I highly recommend purchasing it if you will be doing many interviews like this. Interviewers will love you for having a professional microphone – trust me!
Courses, guides, and ebooks.
I believe that in order to be a successful blogger and to learn new ways to make money blogging, you will need to invest in learning new strategies, such as through ebooks, webinars, courses, and more.
Because of this, many of you have wondered about the tools and resources I use to improve my blog.
Below are some of my favorite blogging tools and resources:
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – I earn over $50,000 a month through affiliate marketing, and I share my exact strategy and tips in this very informative online course. If you're a blogger, then you NEED this course to learn how to make money blogging through affiliate marketing. I love hearing about how this course has helped other bloggers grow their income.
- Building a Framework – Abby Lawson is a successful blogger and has written an ebook that teaches you how to do the same. It's FULL of amazing information, and it's affordable. Not only is she a friend of mine, we're in a mastermind together, and I can honestly say that she knows her stuff! In her ebook, she teaches technical advice, how to write engaging content, networking tips, social media strategies, monetization tips, and more.
- 21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months – Lena Gott's course is full of great information on how to increase your page views. If you are feeling stuck or are a new blogger, check out this course! Lena went from 17,000 monthly page views to 400,000 and shares all of her best tips in this course.
- Facebook Strategies Worth Sharing – Facebook was an area that took me awhile to get. But, after quickly reading this book and implementing her strategies, I can say this book was definitely worth it! The author of this ebook grew her Facebook page from 2,000 to 100,000 followers in just five months! Crazy, right? I started 2016 with just around 6,500 Facebook followers and ended the year with 38,000. I owe a lot of that growth to the great tips in Facebook Strategies Worth Sharing. Growing my Facebook page has allowed me to reach new readers, improve my blogging income, grow my email list, and more.
As you can see, there are many great blogging resources. Each of these resources covers different aspects of blogging and/or making money online. If you have the chance, I recommend getting them all and taking your time with each one.
Creating my own product.
I launched my first and (so far) only product in July of 2016, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. After only one year of running the course, I earned approximately $434,698. And, this amount is continuing to grow month after month.
I've taken a few other online courses, and my favorites always happen to be on Teachable. As a student, I have always enjoyed how easy their platform is to use, and this made my decision to use Teachable for my course an easy one.
Teachable is also great because they make it easy to create your own course. I don’t consider myself super knowledgeable with technology, but I was able to do almost everything myself.
And, countless students have told me how much they love the Teachable platform, so I know it was a great fit!
I pay $99 a month for Teachable, and it's a fee that I happily pay. They have more affordable options as well.
You can read more about how I earn income through my course at How I’ve Earned $434,698+ From One Online Course Without Webinars Or Spending Money On Advertising.
My email (newsletter) list.
My biggest blogging mistake is that I waited YEARS to start an email list and even longer to take it seriously. I started my email list around two years ago, but I didn't really start paying attention to it until the spring of 2016.
Yes, I waited that long!
After switching to Convertkit last year, I realized it’s one of the best things I could spend money on each month. I didn't really use my email list before Convertkit because I didn't really understand newsletters, and I also didn't realize how having an email list could help me. Wow, was that a huge mistake.
I can’t believe it took me until last year to spend more time on my newsletter, but I'm glad I've learned from my mistake.
Due to this, I recommend that all bloggers spend time growing their email list.
If you’re a blogger, here’s why you should have an email list:
- Your newsletter is all yours. Unlike social media websites like Pinterest and Facebook, your newsletter and email subscribers are all yours, and you have their undivided attention. You don't have to worry about some social media algorithm not showing your content to your readers, which means you aren't fighting with anyone else to have readers see your content.
- The money is in your list. I believe that an email or newsletter is the best way to promote an affiliate product. Your email subscribers signed up to hear what YOU specifically have to say, which means you definitely have their attention. Your email list, over any other strategy, will almost always lead to more sales.
- Your email subscribers are loyal followers. If someone is allowing you to show up in their email inbox whenever you want, then they probably trust what you have to say and enjoy listening to you. This is a great way to grow an audience and to grow a loyal audience at that.
- Email is a great way to deliver other forms of content. With Convertkit, I am also able to create free email courses that are automatically sent to my subscribers. This makes life easy because all a reader has to do is sign up, and then Convertkit sends out all the information that they need and drips out the content in whatever timeframe I choose.
I pay $439 a month for up to 65,000 email subscribers with Convertkit. It's expensive but well worth it. If you have a smaller amount of email subscribers, you'll pay less. I believe their cheapest package starts at $29 per month.
Virtual assistant and editor.
With blogging, there are a lot of little day-to-day tasks that I can outsource, and I recently hired someone to help me with these tasks. I know, this took me quite some time to do, and I definitely regret waiting so long.
My virtual assistant helps me with several daily tasks and spends a few hours each day doing routine tasks that I used to do, as well as new ones that continue to improve my blog. Some of the tasks my virtual assistant does include:
- Verify requests and moderate my two Facebook groups.
- Add Pinterest images to old articles on Making Sense of Cents.
- Schedule social media posts for new posts.
- Schedule social media posts for past posts.
- Reply to emails.
- Approve affiliate requests for the course.
- And much, much more.
I also have an editor as well. She helps me save a ton of time because instead of reading each article I write 85 times, I can just write it and send it over to her. An editor offers a fresh set of eyes that makes editing and improving my posts much easier.
I outsource my WordPress maintenance and the technical side of my blog to Grayson at iMark Interactive. I've used him for years, and I highly recommend him to everyone I talk to. Grayson is a big deal in the blogging community – I always joke that there should be a fan club 🙂
Some of the things he helps me with include:
- Technical problems
- Web host transfer
- Malware monitoring
- Monitoring my website to make sure it is live
- Database backups
- Website caching
And much, much more. When something goes down on my website or goes wrong, I contact Grayson and he ALWAYS fixes the problem.
It's nice to know that I can just send him an email and the problem is fixed quickly. He saves me a ton of time, which allows my time to be spent on areas that I am more useful in.
If you're a blogger, this is definitely a service I recommend outsourcing. You don't have to be an expert in the technical side of blogging in order to be successful, you just need a good behind the scenes person who has your back, like Grayson at iMark Interactive!
Whether it’s through sales of my online course, payments from advertisers, or paying for outsourcing, I deal with online payments on a daily basis.
And, there are four main ways that I actually receive payments:
- Bank transfer
For income from my course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, the payments are sent to me through PayPal and Stripe. Affiliate income from companies tends to be sent through PayPal, check, or bank transfer. Advertising income, such as with sponsored partnerships, tends to be paid through PayPal or a check in the mail.
A check or bank transfer has no transaction fees, whereas PayPal and Stripe do.
Well, there you go – there's the complete list of my monthly blogging business expenses!
Did anything above surprise you? What do you spend money on for your business?
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