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The business of blogging | money matters

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When people ask me what I do, I usually say, “I own my own business.”  This suffices for those who aren’t curious or inquisitive at all.  For others, though, they press further.  “What kind of business?”  And that always stumps me, because my business it multi-faceted and it isn’t easily categorized.  Insurance companies and accountants often scratch their head when they are trying to define what I do in one word.

I usually boil it down to “blogger”.  It was hard to me to call myself that for a while, because I always thought of bloggers as guys in their mom’s basements ranting about sports or politics.  But, after pecking away on this URL for over 6 years, I have embraced the title.

It seems that a lot of people have the same misconceptions about “bloggers”, so I get some quizzical looks when I claim that job title. Like it can’t possibly be a real job or one that actually makes money.  And that usually leads to a follow-up question for those who can’t resist…

“So, how do you make money?”

And that is what we’re going to talk about in this first post in a series on the business of blogging.  Since we’re talking about business, let’s talk about the money.  I mean, if it doesn’t make money, it’s not much of a business, right?  No, it’s a hobby.

mms-5349

Now, I’m going to talk about my business specifically, but obviously all blogs and blogging businesses are different.  So, just know that going into it.  Also, my business has evolved a lot over the years and the money side has as well.  How it is now isn’t how it started, so keep that in mind, too.

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INCOME

My business income is broken into two broad categories – Services & Products.  Here is how it broke down over 2016…

income-2016

Let’s start with the larger piece of the pie, the products/merchandise income…

This is income from furniture & antiques sold in the studio, at events, and online, the MMS Milk Paint line, book royalties and direct book sales, and other miscellaneous products like artwork, brushes, and t-shirts.

The services wedge of the pie includes advertising and sponsorship earnings through the blog, freelance writing, styling and photography jobs, design royalties and advances, and speaking engagements/appearances.

I’ll break both of these down further in a future post in this series.  This is just a flyover.

The beauty of a diversified income is that I don’t have to freak out if one area is on the decline or has a bad month.  I can simply step things up in another area.  And there are even “dormant” sources of income that I can start again, if ever necessary.  This would include taking custom upholstery and furniture work, design clients, painting murals, or selling out of a retail space.

There is an ebb and flow to all industries and diversity helps you ride the rollercoaster a little more comfortably.  The fact that I like variety helps, too!  It suits me to have my fingers in a lot of different things.

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EXPENSES

Keeping all of that income as pure profit would be awesome, but as my income has grown, so have my expenses.  Here is how they broke down in 2016…

expenses-2016

  • Payroll Expenses – covers my employees pay, but a large part of that wedge is my taxes, since I pay almost all of them through my payroll.
  • Milk Paint – This is milk paint I purchase for resale as well as investments I have to make in the line, like labels, bags, etc.
  • Furniture & Accessories  – These are things I purchase to resell.
  • Supplies – These are things I purchase to use, like art supplies, props for photoshoots, fabric, materials for projects, tools, computers, camera equipment, etc.
  • Professional Fees – These are experts I hire to support or council me in various business matters.  It includes my accountant, lawyer, and business coach.
  • Other – This is travel costs, all of the expenses related to my studio space, web hosting, tech support, subscriptions, advertising & promotion, and anything else that doesn’t fit in a neat category.  This wedge also contains the rest of the taxes I pay.

MMS_Divider

So, how does all of this translate to useful information for an aspiring or new blogger?

  1.  Blogging can bring in a full-time income.  I think in most cases, though, the blog alone doesn’t earn a full-time income, but when paired with all of the other business opportunities a blog can bring about, it can be a successful business.
  2. If you started a blog and you’re disappointed in the revenue it’s bringing in (or lack thereof), start developing other aspects of your business to create diversity and take some pressure off of your blog.
  3. When you’re planning and dreaming, it’s easy to focus on the income, but it’s also important to be realistic about the expenses.  Every idea takes money and time to get off the ground.
  4. Keep in mind that it takes time to build up to the point where a blog business is profitable.  I worked for free for almost two years before I started to get some good income.  Be patient and persistent.

As I said, I’ll share more detail about the money side of the business, but it’s too much to pack into one post, so this gives you some things to digest until the next post in this series.

If you have any questions about the business of blogging that you’d like for me to address, just leave it in the comments section below…

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Comments

  1. I love how you broke it down into sections! I’ve been blogging since 2013 & just in the last 2 years have made income etc.. You have to spend money to make money..As much as I hate that saying it’s so true as stated above. Super informative & honest, Marian! Thanks!!

    Paige.Rose
    from
    http://www.TheQuaintSanctuary.blogspot.com

  2. Thank you for such a useful post!

    It’s interesting to see how you break down your business into sections of income, and it seems so sensible (and must have taken lots of continuous hard work!) to know there are dormant sources of income you can call on if you ever need to.

    It seems like you’ve built up something really strong for yourself & I’m really inspired by that!

    Flora
    http://www.theeverchanginghome.com

  3. I have a business question…maybe not so much about blogging. Please ignore if you prefer to keep this solely about blogging. I am trying to make (at least a little bit) of a profitable furniture restoring business. I have a space that is in an antique shop and it is going really well. But I would love to have more opportunities open in the future in relation to this to help my family. In your experience is it beneficial to do shows or markets? Another idea is to have a small etsy shop selling my small pieces? As always Marian…thank you…you are so talented and kind.

  4. Oh, how funny. I’d never call you a blogger as your main title. I’d say you have your own line of milk paint, etc. A true entrepreneur. Your readers are bloggers. haha.

  5. This was a super interesting post. I think since blogger is a newer career (in the grand scheme of things) there is a lot of mystery around how exactly it works. John and Sherry over at Young House Love did a podcast where they featured three professional bloggers that discussed the inner workings of blogging. It was super interesting! It seems like blogging is the same as owning any business–just like you point out. Thanks for the transparency. I think these kinds of posts help legitimize and clarify blogging as a profession.

  6. Teresa says:

    Very informative post about the world of blogging. Not to discourage anyone who is thinking about blogging but as reader I do see it being more competitive since you first began. I am glad you mentioned that making money at blogging doesn’t happen overnight and it is a real job for most bloggers not a hobby.

    I know you have invested more money as your blog and business has grown toward more high end camera and technical gear alone. Shannon mentioned two very successful bloggers John & Sherry @YHL (who live in my area) doing a live podcast. These two are also very diversified as they have written books, developed product lines and do public speaking and design events in addition to their blog.

    I look forward to your series on blogging. I assume you will touch on the subject of how sponsored posts work when you are compensated by receiving products as far as how it its taxed.

  7. Thank you for sharing, you’re so open and transparent, love that!

  8. I have an Etsy shop and have been tossing around the idea of creating a blog to compliment it. What platform do you use for your blog?

    • Julie says:

      Hi Katy – Do you ship furniture from Etsy? I was wondering what your experience is like if you do, and who you use to ship? Thanks Julie

  9. Carla from Kansas says:

    How do you find an accountant that understands a creative business. Are items purchased to display on your blog tax deductible? For instance maybe you are going to show how to build a crate. All the materials and tools deductible even if you then use as your personal decor? Or how about when you plank a ceiling to showcase?

    Thanks Marian.

  10. Carol S says:

    Perfect timing for me! I am just beginning to develop my sitemap in preparation for launching my on-line business + blog. I expect to have many facets to my business, too, since I know that it takes fingers in several similar pots to generate income. Looking forward to reading your advice. Any suggestions on wordpress.org vs. squarespace.com? Those are the two site builders I am currently reviewing. Thanks!

  11. Dear Marian,
    Thank you as always. 😊 I have started thinking about possibly making money, being a year and a half into my blogging adventure. I’ve been reading Ruth Soukup’s book on How to Blog For Profit. It’s been encouraging to see I’ve mostly been on the right track, and I can see how far I have come. And then I get overwhelmed, thinking how much I have to learn and grow, how the blogging market is so saturated already, and so why do I even keep going? I guess the answer is, I have to be faithful with what I’ve been given and for now at least, this feels like the best way to do that. I think you have modeled that so well. Thank you for inspiring in creativity. And thank you for cheering on and mentoring the littles, so to speak. I have been so amazed at many in the blog world who want to empower and are not threatened by each other but celebrate each others uniqueness and what they bring to the world. (I know that’s not everyone, but am thankful for those that do).
    Thank you and many blessings!
    Cheryl

  12. Marian, I’m a far cry from being a professional blogger, but I aspire to one day have a reputable blog. Being a creative person with so many ideas swirling around in my head, the hardest part for me is finding a specialty to focus on. I would like to “monetize” my sight, but was told that I need more followers. My question for you would be ” what would be the best place to start? Should I hire someone to help me set up my blog? Set up some widgets? I’m so confused. I appreciate that you are reaching out to help others , but then you always have, because that’s who you are! Such a lovely thing to do and very generous. Thank you.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks so much for sharing that information. I feel like I understand your business better, which I like.

    You are generous to post info that will help aspiring bloggers understand the importance of diversifying their business, for the security and synergy it can bring.

  14. Julie says:

    WOW, thank you Marian. Very helpful as always. It’s so refreshing to get insight and friendly advice.

  15. Jennifer Phillips says:

    How does a blog make money?

  16. Great start to your series on blogging as a job. I blogged for years, also painted and sold signs (still do), then added Facebooking, Instagram, Pinterest….etc., and found something had to give! I rarely blog, as my profit comes from sign sales. For sales I need ADVERTISING! Anyway, it’s a vicious circle….well, more like a FUN merry-go-round!

  17. nicole says:

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to be so informative, Marian! I, too, would like to know about how tax deductions work with a blog . . .when you post about a trip, do you write off part of the expenses; or when you buy display items for your blog pictures -is there a percentage that you deduct as expense or the entire cost? Thanks so much!

  18. Interesting read, I have been reading your blog for along time. As a matter of fact, I did not even know what a blog was until I found an article of Pioneer Women and you where in her roll of blogs that she liked to read. Imagine a depressed 56 year old women who was not knowing what she should be doing next because of a door being closed to her. I read your blog and every one that you had written. A light went off , I knew that I wanted to do in some capacity what you were doing. I stared out small, and this is my 5th year of repurposing furniture, and selling smalls. I love what I do and it lets me be creative in so many ways. I tell all about how I saw your blog, and I just want to say, that you empowered me, and I have passed all that I have learned to others. Thank you for having a blog and know that you have helped others to follow their dreams.

  19. Deborah Delosreyes says:

    Great information. My hubby and others always suggest i start a blog but i am a little scared. In the meantime, I love reading yours!

  20. Sarah B. says:

    Thanks for this information. I work full time in education, but would like to expand my small etsy shop and start a blog. Of course, I would love to be a full-time artist and blogger, but I need my current paycheck. My question is about ads and affiliate links. Do they tend to find you or do you have to seek them out? Thank you.

  21. Not sure if this is too personal but my biggest concern for a potential small business is the cost of health insurance. Would you be able to address that?

  22. Thank you Marian for writing this series!! The is so helpful for us newbies just launch our own blogs and trying to figure out where to start!!

  23. Sounds like you have a business opportunity here Marian. Teach/train people how to run this type of unique business. Lots of good questions.

  24. Kathleen says:

    Thank you Miss Mustard Seed (Marian) for a “behind the scenes” look at the magic we see! I like the way you broke down the various types of revenue streams and your charts! Love your work & your blog! I am always inspired!

  25. I’m so glad you are willing to share about the art of blogging. I just started a blog a few weeks ago and I have so many questions. Is there a mentor program offered by any DIY/ Home bloggers? My main goal is not making a full income. Primarily, I want to communicate with people who share my interests and work on improving my home. If I could get a solid following and some sponsors to help me continue, I would feel like I was successfully a blogger. There are just so many aspects that I don’t understand at this point. I’m glad you said that it was two years before you began seeing major income. I really thought doing a variety of things would be a downside and I am glad you encourage diversity. I have a lot of things I’d like to do. I’d love to make the Haven Conference this year.

  26. What blog app do you recommend for a beginner that is just starting their furniture refinishing business?

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