Oh snippity snap, I’ve been waiting for this post since like August and it’s finally here! As the year rounds out, I am continuing the tradition I began last year of doing an annual blog income and growth report. I know some bloggers and creatives do monthly income reports but for me this is more about showing the potential of what someone can do with an online brand as opposed to just bragging about my coins. Plus I’m giving you some scoop into how I almost doubled my income and influence from last year!
As always (lol aka for the 2nd time), I’m breaking this post into four 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 2017.
Before I jump into it, I want to give a quick refresher of my 2016 goals: to continue doing sponsored posts that make sense for my blog and my life (yup!), to say no to opportunities that didn’t fit my vision ideologically or financially (this was pretty much the #yearofno), to expand my audience even more across the world (check!), and to build up my info product income stream (urm sort of but not how I envisioned it!).
2016 Blog Summary
There were 141 posts on the blog, down from 2015’s 209 posts (back when I had contributing writers). Even still, the blog was read over 500,000 times – a 50% increase! Which proves that quality definitely beats out quantity when it comes to blog posts. One of my goals was to have a wider international reach and according to Google Analytics, my page views originated from 209 countries – but since there are only 196 countries in the world, it seems to be counting territories separately (like US Virgin Islands doesn’t count as the US to Google). Anyway, the blog reached more people around the world so I met that goal!
The most read post in 2016 was 5 Things You Must Do After Taking Down Braids – which was actually written in 2015 but had 100,000 views this year alone. Shoutout to whoever keeps repinning it on Pinterest! The most popular post from this year was 5 Crochet Braid Patterns to Help You Slay Your Protective Style (58,000 views) – these 5 things posts are still winning! Most of my referral traffic comes from Google, with most people searching “marini naturals” (btw if the owners are reading this, y’all need to get your SEO together because I’m taking ALL your traffic!), and either “crochet braids” or “box braids”. I think the funniest search that led someone to my site was “can you relax your hair after braids”. I hope the reader found what they were looking for lol. Most clicks away from my site go to my YouTube channel or Instagram page, followed by a few affiliate links; this is great because my outgoing links are all monetized!
Knowing what my top posts and search terms are, it’s clear that I probably shouldn’t completely eliminate natural hair content on my site, no matter how badly I just want to do nothing with my hair. As I continue to grow my other blog verticals – especially fashion – I hope more of that content becomes popular for my readers.
Cool Moments & Social Media Milestones
The dopest blog moment of 2016 actually just happened, and if you missed my Instagram announcement, I am in the February 2017 issue of Sophisticates Black Hairstyles with the Creme of Nature 2016 Color Crushes! Runnnnn to your nearest drugstore and buy all the copies! I talked a bit in my IG stories about how grateful I am for the opportunity, but the truth is I can’t even articulate how big of a deal this is for me. God is just TOO good!!
I feel like 2016 was the year I became a “mainstream” blogger, aka I started having non-white readers (hey y’all!) and getting opportunities from brands that aren’t specifically black hair related like Rent the Runway, Vogue, and David’s Bridal. I will forever and always be a black blogger (kinda can’t hide it even if I wanted to try), but it’s nice not to be pidgeon-holed into that category.
Let’s run through some social numbers for 2016 with comparisons to December 2015 in parentheses:
- Instagram: 34,120 (17,600)
- YouTube: 19,376 (14,000)
- Facebook: 11,203 (5,100)
- Twitter: 2,891 (2,200)
- Pinterest: 909 (numbers not worth counting lol)
- Email list: 3,189 (1,200)
As was the case for 2015, I saw the most growth on Facebook and Instagram. The non-chronological IG algorithm that threw everyone in a tizzy actually proved to be beneficial, and I continued refining the look and feel of my Instagram feed with the help of professional photography, better photo taking tricks, and an Instagram planning tool. I put ZERO effort into Twitter (I honestly forget about it and simply autoshare) so I’m not surprised that it didn’t really go anywhere. My YouTube growth rate is roughly still the same, which is honestly pretty frustrating, but I’ve decided to focus on quality over quantity for YouTube so we’ll see how that does in 2017. I just really started using Pinterest for my brand (before I was just saving recipes and wedding ideas), and that is one of the things I want to master in 2017 since it’s such a great source of traffic.
Blog Income Report
If you skipped all the above just to come look at these financial numbers… you’re playing yourself! To understand how I made the money I did, it’s important to know what things I do on the blog and on social media to monetize.
Bottom line: The blog grossed $22,646.50 in 2016, up from 2015’s $13,319.88. I still am owed about $4500 for projects completed this year, but I did surpass my goal of earning $18,000 even with just my received income! I break my income down into five categories:
Sponsored Posts & Videos: $13,175
Whereas last year most of my sponsored posts came from Clever and Famebit, early this year I got a good amount of work from Mode Media with the Target Swim campaign. But then Mode shut down abruptly and still owes me (and hundreds of other bloggers) at least $1000 that I will likely never see, and will just have to write off on my taxes. New influencer marketing networks I joined this year include TapInfluence (provided my Express, Dunkin Donuts, and Shea Moisture posts for example), Everywhere Society, and Fohr Card. For Instagram, I’ve been using an app called Popular Pays in the past few months to score gift cards + compensation to stores like Macy’s – this has definitely helped me build up my fashion & lifestyle content.
A good chunk of sponsored content also came directly from brands or marketers, and these types of opportunities – sans middleman – tend to pay more. I did an abysmal job this year of pitching myself to brands and plan to work on that for 2017. I also raised my sponsored post rates for 2017, because between wedding things and trying to keep the momentum in my PhD program, my time is now a lot more valuable.
The Creme of Nature color project, plus some work with Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dark and Lovely make the bulk of this income. I did just three speaking/hosting gigs this year, down from the six I did in 2015. Realistically, I probably can’t do many events next year – at least not until the summertime, so we’ll see how this number shapes up for 2017.
I soft-launched a blog coaching program this year, taking on people who were looking for better blog and site designs, or looking to start a blog from scratch. I love helping people find their voice, create stunning websites, and amp up their social media to grow their online brands. I think my clients would have gained even more from a group learning environment, where they could also talk to people starting off as well – after all it’s better to bounce ideas off two people rather than just one! Once the wedding and a good chunk of my dissertation is over, I plan to offer blog coaching in a small group setting rather than one on one.
Since I had more blog and YouTube views this year, I made a bit more in advertising, but again, this number doesn’t make nearly as much of an impact as my other income streams. I think one of the mistakes bloggers make when trying to monetize is thinking that all the money comes from ads – little to no money comes from ads! When Mode Media folded, I actually removed all ads from the blog to have a more distraction free reader experience. I don’t foresee adding ads (that’s a mouthful) back onto the site because I can definitely make that $500 dollars or so in other ways.
Affiliate Marketing: $969
My two strongest affiliates are protective style companies, and looking back on the year, I actually did not make that much content on protective styling, hence the lower revenue from affiliates than in 2015. Silly me because not only are those my strongest affiliates, but also some of my best performing videos and blog posts! Don’t be surprised if you never see my hair in 2017.
EXPENSES: about $15,000
This year, I decided to pay myself a “salary” of $500 a month, so that makes up the bulk of my expenses. I also use the blog to cover things like my cell phone bill (because I’m always on Instagram), clothing purchases and Rent the Runway’s monthly unlimited program (since those are worn in pics for Instagram). Since I now live in New Jersey, professional photography services are an investment I can afford to make (NYC photogs are ridiculous with their pricing). I pay for my editorial calendar, CoSchedule, as well as my newsletter service, and I bought a course or two, because clearly I love knowledge. As I did last year, I also paid quarterly taxes to reduce my sticker shock come tax time.
Looking Forward to 2017
I actually haven’t sat down to think about goals for 2017 because I’m so consumed with wedding planning, but here’s my off the head effort at some goals:
- Earn $15,000 in sponsored posts, 20% of which should come from lifestyle verticals
- Amass 75,000 Instagram followers
- Make $3,500 from services
- Do NOT compromise on my sponsored post rates
- Have a clearer understanding of how I want to leverage the blog once I’m done with my PhD
2017 for me will be about quality over quantity (I know I’ve already said it twice!). I believe if I can put out high quality content – videos, blog posts, social media posts, and coaching programs – then I should be able to earn more while doing less. I plan on only posting twice a week on my blog, which will take some getting used to because I was once posting five times a week! I really need to hurry up and finish my PhD, and I am desperately hoping I can finish it in the next two years. That said, it’s time to start figuring out what the heck I’m going to do once I’m done, and how the work I’ve put into the blog for the last six years will shape my future career path.
As a reminder, I’m sharing all my business hopefully to educate and inspire you to think creatively as to how you can build and monetize your influence. Hopefully you find this information helpful for yourself or someone you know!
Please share your favorite blog moment from the blog in 2016, or talk about your blog’s business goals for 2017!