Woah!

Is it really 2022 already? Did I really never get around to publishing income reports for October, November, and December?

Where the hell did the time go?

No matter. Let's get right into it and wrap up a pretty awesome business year.

First, if you don't know about me and my publishing my business, here's the scoop:

I run a couple of niche blogs or websites where I publish (what I think is) really good content. Most of it is discovered by people searching on Google. I monetize that traffic primarily with ads, so the more traffic I get, the more money I make – although I also recommend products here and there and earn affiliate commissions for those sales.

(The split on most of my sites is somewhere around 70% ads and 30% affiliate, with the ad share growing over time.)

I started my first site in April of 2017 and went full-time running it in February of 2018 – way too soon! It was making a little money but not much. I hustled my ass off and picked up freelance work for a while until I could scale the business up.

Here's where it all stands over the last couple of months:

October November December 2021 Total
Site 1 9,727.61 11,317.96 8,769.42 $98,937.45
Site 2 6,057.84 6,984.39 7,236.35 $64,745.76
Amazon Int'l (All sites) 240.70 256.50 176.92 $3,506.02
Totals 16,026.15 18,558.85 16,182.69 $167,189.23

(Sorry if the table is ugly, best I can do at the moment!)

It's pretty insane to me that a couple of simple blogs brought in over $160k this past year. Absolutely, wildly insane. The summer of 2021 was big for me. I gained some favor with the Google Gods and that's when I started making well above $10k per month regularly, with things going completely nuts in Q4.

I expect the numbers to come down a tad but not drastically in the first quarter of 2022, but all signs point to 2022 being a huge year for me and the business!

Note that not all of this is profit: So how much does it cost to run my blogging business every month? I won't bore you with a ton of line items, but basically (outside of what I pay myself):

  • Recurring expenses (tools, hosting, etc) $1000
  • Content (articles & video) $3500
  • Total - Around $4500

Here's a bigger picture recap of the year:

What went well in 2021

Here are some wins from the year. Some things I did well, others that just happened to go my way.

Traffic

2021 was a good traffic year for me. That is to say, nothing horrible happened.

In years past, I've had big peaks and valleys. I got rocked hard by an update in 2019, for example, and then recovered in 2020.

This time around, I gained a little bit during a summer update and lost a little in the winter, but nothing super noticeable on the graphs.

All in all, things held steady and grew accordingly as I published more content. The last 7 days, as of this writing in early 2022, are up about 50-60% overall on the same period in January of 2021.

Year over year growth is what you really want to see, so that's a huge success!

Ad Revenue

Ad revenue was fantastic for me this year, and not only because of strong traffic.

Both of my sites are on Mediavine, and my RPMs (Revenue Per Mille, or 1000 sessions) were up about 15-20% over 2020.

That means that even if nothing changed and I had the same exact traffic, I would have made more money over the course of the year.

I can't take much credit for this. Mediavine is a terrific company that's always innovating and improving their ad tech. They came out with a bunch of new features this past year that helped push those numbers up.

Publishing

Things didn't go completely as planned in this category, but I still have to walk away relatively pleased with what I got done over the course of the year.

Most months, I was able to publish 20+ posts of pretty good quality.

To some, that might not sound like much. But for me, my schedule, and the way I operate, it's pretty good.

The average post on my sites makes something like $20 per month, which is on the high side. 20-30 pieces of new content per month is a sustainable clip for me that enables really good growth.

I wish I could do more, and hopefully I'll be able to in 2022. But it's a solid start.

YouTube

The jury is still out whether the YouTube channel I created for Site 1 is a success yet. I've spent a lot of money on it and haven't made any back yet.

But I feel good about its progress.

In December, my videos got almost 60,000 views and the channel currently sits just under 800 subscribers.

If the numbers hold, I'll be able to monetize soon and start to get a handle on whether it's worth continuing to invest.

The YouTube Channel doesn't really drive any website traffic, directly, unfortunately. But my hunch says it's good for "the brand" and sends yummy signals to Google that I'm more than just a random blog.

I sold a site and started a new site

Selling a site was on my blogging bucket list when I got into this business, and I was able to make that happen in 2021!

It was really fortuitous and random, the way it came together, and I'll have to write about it separately.

But I had a small site (Site 3 in old reports) that was making about $50-100 per month. I was passionate about the subject, but it was really niche and was going to take effort to grow. So I decided to focus on my two big sites and was able to sell it to a couple of really great guys that also loved the topic.

In the last month or two, I launched another new site on a bit of a whim. I got a great topic idea one day that I found was completely underserved and decided to just go for it. I'll update on that one soon!

What didn't go well in 2021

2021 was an awesome year overall, but there were a few things I really struggled with.

Work time

If you've been following my reports, you probably know that me, my wife, and my kids have been sick constantly most of the year.

More than anyone else, it's been our toddler (16 months as of this writing), who seems to bring home a new bug or virus from daycare every other week.

And when you're the one with the flexible blogging job, guess who ends up in charge when sick kids are home?

Because of this relentless onslaught of illness, I didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted.

I was able to more or less keep the trains moving with content, but I really wanted to publish 30, 50 or more posts per month instead of 15-30.

I also really wanted to do more little things like update content, try new experimental traffic sources, clean up my site speed and design, etc.

But I barely had time for the bare minimum, so that's what I did.

All in all, I have to be pleased with how the year turned out given I was working about 10 hours per week, if that, many weeks.

"Extras"

Blogging and publishing is a really isolating business.

So I wrote out some goals for myself a few years back that were more social, like:

  • Being interviewed on more podcasts/Youtube channels
  • Speaking at a big blogging conference
  • Doing more networking and meeting more people
  • Teaching and/or giving back

With COVID raging everywhere, a sick baby at home all the time, and me working just a few hours per day – guess how many of those things I got done?

Yes. None is correct.

That left 2021 as a pretty unsatisfying year, ultimately, even though the numbers were great.

Assigning, editing, and publishing content over and over and over without any of the fun perks and extras kind of sucks.

I wish I could say I used all that extra time and flexibility to go rock climbing and hiking or do fun, enriching things, but mostly I just took care of shit in the house that needed to get done, including supervising my kids.

Not the most fun business year, and a big goal for 2022 will (hopefully) be to do better there.

One thing to note: I wrote a novel

I guess I did get to do one pretty fun thing in 2021:

I wrote an honest to God novel.

It's an 80,000 word contemporary fiction novel about parenting and fatherhood in particular. I started in May, finished a draft around Halloween, and completed revisions right before New Years.

Right now, I'm polishing it up and looking to get some feedback for another big revision.

I wrote it purely for the fun of it, but now that it's real, I can't help but look forward to trying to get it published this year.

Fingers crossed!

Wrapping Up

2021 was probably one of the hardest years I can remember having.

Financially? We did great. My wife and I are so, so, so lucky and fortunate to have made it through the bulk of the pandemic without losing a job or worrying about how to put food on the table.

But as a human being and a father, this year tested me and punished me in a lot of ways. I can't tell you how many days I did nothing but chase a baby around inside while my business and novel languished and I stunk from not showering and I wanted desperately to get back to something resembling a normal life.

I doubt 2022 will be normal. In fact, early days suggest it's just a cheap sequel of the last couple of years.

But I do look forward to growing the business and continuing to work on my book. Can't wait to see what I'm able to write in this space this time next year.