Man I cannot believe 2015 is over! It really seems like I was in Curacao for my solo vacation just a few months ago, but it was a year ago! And I swore my nephew was born the other day… time has really flown. Anyway, here’s a recap of 2015 that’s broken down into three parts: blog summary (number of views & visitors, best posts, etc), blog and social media milestones (follower numbers and exciting opportunities), blog income for the year (broken down by income stream), and my goals for 2016!
2015 Blog Summary
There were 209 posts on the blog, and the blog was read over 330,000 times by people in 129 countries! This means that 65% of the world has heard about the blog, which is so crazy and cool! The best day for the blog was November 23rd, when 2,606 people all decided to come see what I had to say.
The two most popular posts from this year were 5 Reasons You Should Try Bob Box Braids and 5 Things You Must Do After Taking Down Braids. I guess people love them some 5 things posts! Interestingly enough, the posts that had the most views overall on the site weren’t from this year, but Being Confused During Your Natural Hair Journey (mostly because the feature image has been repinned hundreds of times), How to Properly Take Down Protective Styles, and Best and Worst Protective Styles for Working Out.
The key to all these articles going “viral” were Pinterest and Facebook, so I’m going to be more intentional about pinning images from my instructional posts, and sharing posts regularly on Facebook. It’s also clear that people are interested in protective styling, which is perfect for me since I’ll be doing lots of it in 2016 as I nurture the front of my hair back to health.
Major Blog & Social Media Milestones
Aside from growing my blog readership immensely, my social media channels really grew in 2015. I reached 500,000 blog views in November, a little over two years after starting. I saw tremendous blog growth over the summer, when I wrote lots of articles about protective styling, and was publishing nearly 5 times a week since there was a new slew of blog writers and I was off from school. The September/October dip was a result of me going on vacation, then working 3 jobs, and I was really struggling to juggle everything. I’ve also grown my email list from a bit over 300 to over 1200 people, largely due to my 5 year natural hair giveaway!
As for social media, I started off 2015 with about 8,000 Instagram followers, 10,000 YouTube subscribers, 2,700 Facebook followers, and less than 1,000 Twitter followers. At the end of 2015, I’ve doubled my IG following to almost 18,000, my Facebook following to 5,100, and my Twitter following to 2,100. I attribute my Facebook and Twitter growth to Rashida Thompson, who was handling my social media before the birth of her beautiful baby. For Instagram, I started taking better lit photos, posting at the right time, and really was just myself! YouTube has been growing much more slowly, with me still under 15,000 subscribers, but I’ve started posting videos twice a week, and I’ve invested in a better camera, lighting, and editing software to increase my video quality. If you’ve noticed, let me know!
I didn’t set any goals for 2015 until July when I saw a surge in social media and blog engagement, and I set pretty lofty goals of 20,000 IG followers, 20,000 YouTube subscribers, 5,000 Facebook fans, and 3,000 Twitter followers. Though I only met my Facebook goal, what was more exciting than these numbers was the different opportunities my blog brought about in 2015. From eating dinner at the James Beard American Restaurant while in Milan to doing speaking events in South Africa, Nigeria, and returning to Kenya for the second time, plus getting paid and flown around for natural hair events in the US, 2015 was the year of my official arrival as a blogger!
Blog Income Report
Now the juicy part! The blog has been funding itself since college when I used to do people’s hair in my dorm room, and I’m pretty meticulous about keeping it’s income and expenses separate from my personal ones. I used a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my income and expenses for the year so I can file my taxes properly, especially as the blog is its own LLC.
Bottom line: The blog grossed $13,319.88 in 2015, up from 2014’s income of $8,835.82. While that may not seem like a big jump, if you remove 2014’s income that came from styling people’s hair (during my stint as a professional Havana twister), my blog income was closer to $6,000. A doubling of income sounds successful to me! Rather than break it down by month, let me identify some of my income streams.
Sponsored Posts & Videos: $5,090
I got opportunities for sponsored posts and videos independently and through networks like Clever Girls Collective, BlogHer, FameBit and Collective Bias. I prefer CGC because they actually have cool opportunities, like the Palm Breeze, Hanes, and Colgate posts that I did. For videos, FameBit is pretty cool because there’s a wide array of opportunities for people in every niche, plus they’ve expanded to opportunities for other social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I was a contributing writer for Black Girl Long Hair for a long time, and really enjoyed creating content that I cared about but perhaps wasn’t suitable for my readers here. Sadly, it became too much to write new content every week so I had to drop it, but it was a large source of income for me in 2015. Maybe I’ll take it up again once I’m done with my dissertation!
I did events in Johannesburg, Lagos, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, and Nairobi in 2015. I didn’t include the cost of my flight to Lagos because the trip was booked for me, but I made an ok amount of money as a guest speaker for events. This is gross income, so doesn’t account for times when I was paid travel and accommodation costs and then booked them on my own.
Affiliate Marketing: $1,123
Affiliate money is literally money while you sleep! My best affiliates are with hair companies that I truly believe in and would use anyway, like Fingercomber and Kinky Curly Yaki. I also played with Amazon affiliates and made some income that way, but the percentage returns are much less than for hair brands.
This is the money I made from Adsense ads on my website and YouTube channel, as well as ads from Mode Media, which I joined in August. The bulk of this is from YouTube views for sure.
Info Product: $686
The Fabulous Kinks course was a crazy endeavor, and I debated including it because I don’t know if I would consider it a success (honestly, it was kind of a hot mess), but it was my first standalone product so for a first timer, I think I did ok. I have lots of plans to improve and revamp this, and see the course as an opportunity for substantial income. Here’s a sneak peek!
Even though I made over 13 grand in 2015, I spent A LOT: nearly $11,000. I paid writers for the blog, and
bought invested in tons of things to help me blog better: a new MacBook Pro, a Canon T6i, lighting for videos, Genesis Framework for making customizable websites, CoSchedule for better social media scheduling, and two new websites. Plus I paid quarterly taxes so I don’t have a heart attack when April 15th rolls around, and consistently paid my internet bill because the cost of internet is an absurdity.
Goals and Vision for 2016
Rather than set numbers goals for social media or income, I decided to set ideological goals for the blog in 2016. I want to continue doing sponsored posts for content that makes sense for my blog and my life, whether it’s hair reviews, natural beauty, wedding related stuff, or travel. Though I’m not trying to be a full-time blogger – remember guys, I’m a PhD student too – the time I spend blogging has to be worth NOT spending time on my PhD, so I am going to say no to opportunities that don’t fit my vision ideologically or financially. I also want to have a wider reach, from readership to events – I want to expand my audience even more across the world because there are naturals everywhere!
Since I’m no longer writing for other sites, and I don’t plan on selling my soul to sponsored posts, I’m interested in building up my info product income stream and creating a new income stream as a blog/brand coach. The Fabulous Kinks course that I test rolled out a few months ago is being remodeled into it’s own standalone course system, so I’m hoping that will bring in steady returns. I’ve also got a wedding website project in the works, and I’m thinking about best ways to monetize that. Finally, I’ve started coaching up and coming bloggers and brands on website design, social media optimization, and monetization strategies, so that’s another area that should bring consistent income (btw if you’re interested, hit me up!).
It’s pretty daunting to have all my business up on the interwebs, but I’ve shared this for 2 reasons. The first is transparency – I want to justify the time I spend away from my PhD program doing something I love, because it also is profitable (so for everyone who keeps asking me if I’ve written that paper that was due two years ago… I haven’t because I’ve been busy making mula!). I also want people to know that writing once a week on your blog alone doesn’t bring in big bucks, but you have to diversify your income streams to see substantial returns. The second reason I’ve shared this is to inspire people – I know that when I started blogging in 2013, I didn’t set out to make money, but by following my passion to educate and encourage people to love their kinky natural hair, I’ve been able to earn extra income.