Once a month FBC’s Managing Editor, Melissa Hartfiel, weighs in on the latest trends in food blogging, blogging for business and digs into some of the bigger blogging questions.
When you blog for a living, or for a significant part-time income, diversifying your blog income has to be a key concern.
The world of digital media, where we live, is evolving at an extremely rapid pace. Sometimes it feels impossible to keep up! And it's not unheard of for income streams to disappear, quite literally, overnight. (Pinterest stripping affiliate links without warning comes to mind …)
So lets talk about income diversification.
What is a Revenue Stream?
First things first. What is a revenue or income stream?
A revenue stream is, essentially, a way to categorize the different ways you earn income. So for a food blogger you might have a revenue stream for ad network income, one for sponsored content, one for recipe e-book sales, et cetera. Ideally, you'll want to have several revenue streams, with no one stream of income overshadowing the rest.
You can even consider revenue streams that are a by-product of your blog; for instance, freelance recipe development or food photography. Those clients likely find you through your blog.
Knowing Where Your Blog Income Comes From
Do you actually know what percentage of your income comes from ad revenue? Or sponsored content? Or any of your other income streams?
While you might have an idea or a vague general feeling about what percentage of your income comes from any one income source, you really need to sit down and tally up the numbers to get a good sense of where you are, before deciding where you'll go.
Look at all your invoices for the past 12 months along with any other payment receipts you might have and divide them into categories: ad revenue, sponsored content, affiliate income, e-book sales, freelance photography, freelance writing, cooking class tuitions … as many as you need.
Going forward, you might want to track your revenue in a spreadsheet by category to make it easy to add up. Or, if you use an on-line accounting software package, you may be able to set up products or services and track your revenue as you bill. We do this with Quickbooks On-Line and it makes reporting on our revenue streams as easy as clicking a button!
You may even want to create sub-revenue streams. For instance, you may have a stream for ad revenue that's broken out by Google AdSense, your main ad network, and ads you sell yourself on your site.
Tallying everything up is a great way to see what's performing and what's not. Once you see cold, hard numbers, you might be really surprised!
Reviewing The Numbers
So hopefully, upon reviewing the numbers, you found that you weren't putting all your eggs in one revenue basket. If you did, then it's definitely time to diversify!
What did you find? Ideally, in a perfect world, you'd have four or five revenue streams that all contribute 20 to 25 percent of your overall income. That way, if you were to lose any one income stream, it wouldn't have a major financial impact on your business.
But the world isn't perfect, so it's more than likely you have a few income streams, with one of them being the main contributor to your income. If that's the case, then now is the time to take action.
The Why of Diversifying Your Blog Income
The digital landscape that we occupy changes remarkably fast. Think about it … 10 years ago sponsored content was not the norm. Ad networks were in their early stages, and in that 10 years many would argue that ad network revenue has peaked and is now on the decline as consumers become indifferent to ads and bloggers become more protective of their real estate.
Instagram and Pinterest didn't exist. Facebook was just starting to be available to the masses. How many blogs built up big, big audiences on Facebook's platform, only to find themselves struggling when the feed algorithm started throttling their content?
Pinterest recently stripped affiliate links from pins overnight with no warning, removing income streams that, for some bloggers, amounted to four or five figures a month. That's a lot of income to have disappear overnight!
Instagram has slowly been rolling out changes to how their platform works since being bought by Facebook. There are many influencers whose entire businesses are built on the platform and who don't have blogs or other social accounts to fall back on should Instagram implement a significant operating change. (These are all reasons why it's so important to own your own real estate, even if it's not your main channel of communicating with your fans.)
These are just a handful of the reasons why it's so important to have multiple ways of earning an income as a blogger or influencer — and why it's so important to watch the trends happening in the industry and keep an eye out for warning signs. (For instance, if you don't like how Facebook functions and then they buy your favourite social channel … start paying attention!)
The How of Diversifying Your Blog Income
There are so many ways you can diversify your blog income. We've written about many of them, from thinking "outside the bowl" and "making dough" to 14 Ways to Earn Income from Your Blog by Dianne Jacob. There are even more articles to check out in our monetization resource section.
The possibilities are really endless — you just need to use your imagination and think of things and content that will be useful, enjoyable or solve a problem. But in a nutshell, here are few things to look at:
- Ad revenue.
- Sponsored content — on your blog and on your social channels. Don't forget sponsored video content, which is hot right now.
- Freelancing — as a food writer, recipe developer, food photographer, food stylist, video producer, etc.
- Creating a product — an ebook, a cooking class, a menu plan service .... Ask yourself what people need.
- Building a community around a common interest or concern and providing them with exclusive content.
- Affiliate income — try multiple affiliate programs (but make sure they're a good fit for your content).
- Hosting events.
These are just a few ways you can get started diversifying your income. So, keep tracking your revenue and where it's coming from, pay attention to trends that are emerging in the digital content space, key an eye on ownership changes and also note when trends are declining (often your revenue in that are will start to drop). Keep on top of all these things and constantly make small adjustments to meet the changing landscape and you should be able to maintain a stable (and hopefully growing) blogging income!