I want to start out by saying that it feels pretty strange to be writing another blog income report…especially for 2020.
I also considered not writing one for a while since, frankly, this year has sucked for millions of people around the world.
And I’m not talking about the kind of suck where people can’t travel, or find their favorite product at the grocery store, or watch their favorite sports team.
I’m talking about the kind of thing like losing your job, going into debt, and having a myriad of other personal problems.
However, there are ultimately two reasons why I’ve still decided to write a blog income report for 2020:
- One of This Online World’s goals has always been to provide transparent income reports so people understand the realities of making money with a blog.
- I want to highlight the positives that have come from this mess of a year because they still exist.
This isn’t going to be a post that tries to convince everyone to start their own blog or begin making money online because I don’t think these options are always viable, especially if you don’t have much money right now.
Instead, this blog income report will provide a completely honest look at what This Online World earned in 2020, the cost of doing business, and some personal updates since this year has definitely been a wacky one.
Before we start, I’d also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, share, and even email me your thoughs over the years.
I feel like I’m a very different person since I started this website back in college, and I’m grateful This Online World is something people actually care to read.
Anyway, without rambling on, let’s get to it!
Want to start from the beginning? Checkout:
- 2018 Blogging Income Report – Making $1,761 From Blogging.
- 2019 Blogging Income Report – Making $7,000+ From Blogging.
My Blog Income Report – Making $22,000+ From Blogging In 2020
This year has been the most dramatic increase in my blog as a business, and I think it ultimately highlights the fact that creating a profitable blog is a marathon, not a sprint.
It takes time to nurture a blog into a profitable business.
However, you’ll sometimes find that it just takes that one lucky break for your blog to really start rolling.
For me, the big break in 2020 largely came from switching up my display advertising provider to show more profitable ads on my website.
I’m going to talk about that income stream and every other major stream of blog income for 2020 in the name of transparency, so let’s get to it!
1. Display advertising
In 2020, my blog earned $15,085 thanks to running Mediavine advertisements.
I’ve written about Mediavine before in my Mediavine review, and this is undeniably the most significant change I’ve made to my blog to-date.
It also represents how blogging is very much a case of putting in months or years of effort in order for something to finally click.
When I started blogging, I used Adsense, Google’s advertising network, to make money.
After over a year, I switched to Monumetric and increased my blogging revenue by 400% compared to the pennies I was earning with Adsense.
I then used that extra income to redesign my website, outsource Pinterest marketing, improve SEO, and funnel the revenue into growth.
That growth helped me reach the 25,000 monthly session requirement for Mediavine (it’s 50,000 now sadly but they are working on a lower-tier product as well for smaller bloggers).
So, in reality, getting into Mediavine was really just a series of smaller steps and advertising networks…not such an impossible feat when you look at it that way!
2. Affiliate Income
Alright, time for the second major category of blogging income I rely on: affiliate income.
I’ve honestly always struggled with affiliate income, so I’m pretty pumped that this year has shown much stronger signs on the afiliate side of things.
There’s really two main reasons my affiliate income has improved, and this is what I suggest other bloggers consider too:
- I have more variety in my affiliate offers.
- I have more affiliate links on my website.
This might sound like stupid advice, but it finally hit me this year that in order to really earn affiliate income, you gotta get some hooks in the water and actually get those clicks!
So, this year, I’ve used the following affiliate networks to make money:
- Aragon Premium – $1,553.16
- FlexOffers – $1,496.92
- Impact Radius – CA $1,801 or $1414 USD,
- Rakuten – $705.
- Hosting ones (SiteGround and Shopify) – $174.
- CJ affiliates – $25.92 (lol).
- Monumetric Referrals – $245.59.
- Printifty (from my post on starting an Etsy POD store) – $325.37
In 2019, I basically spent all of my efforts promoting SiteGround and Shopify, and the results were okay.
However, this year, I work with way more partners, and I do a better job at actually promoting links on my page.
One strategy I’ve started is plugging related affiliate offers at the end of some post intros.
I’m not even an affiliate for Pei, but the post gets organic traffic and then pushes people towards offers I do make money on.
Anyway, those are my little tidbits for any bloggers out there who are trying to grow their affiliate income.
Now, time for some more proof!
As you can see, here are my earnings from Aragon Premium, my new favorite financial affiliate network:
My post on Uber Eats vs DoorDash is also doing great thanks to some FlexOffers links:
Finally, direct affiliate programs from things like Rakuten, Printify, and Monumetric have also done well this year:
Monumetric referrals are also pretty awesome since you get 2% of the publisher’s revenue for the next 12 months!
Another affiliate program I’m very happy with is Printify, which I promote from my post on using Printify with Etsy.
The number of people who read that post and then actually make money with POD (using Printify, which then pays me a cut) is pretty neat.
Ultimately, my advice for other bloggers is to take a few weeks and dedicate it to diversifying your affiliate networks and offers.
You don’t even have to rank for highly-competitive affiliate posts; sometimes, pushing affiliate offers in less competitive but related posts works just as well!
3. Writing On Medium
Making money on Medium has been a frequently mentioned topic on this blog.
After all, my Medium post is one of the most popular posts of all-time.
Plus, Medium helped diverisfy my income early on and has even recently gotten me mentioned in places like The Penny Hoarder!
Anyway, these days, Medium is still slowly chugging along and earned $1,169.45 dollars in 2020.
Again, this is basically all syndicated content, and I barley publish on Medium these days (so I’m categorizing this as blogging income).
It’s a nice source of passive income right now, but hey, every little bit counts!
The earnings are falling off lately, but I might try a bit of original content and some more syndication in the future to liven up the account.
I Started A YouTube Channel!
All-in-all, I earned $22,194.41 dollars from blogging in 2020.
However, strangely enough, one of the most exciting things I tried this year is starting a YouTube channel to promote This Online World.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I started, and I had never really tried audio recording or editing videos before.
However, for the sake of traffic diversity and trying to make money on YouTube, I figured it was finally time to give things a go.
Somehow, what started with a terrible quality video I made in the middle of Medellin, Colombia eventually turned into a humble channel that’s approaching 8,000 subscribers for the year!
Not too shabby!
Additionally, the channel earned just shy of $4,000 for the year which is absolutely insane since most of this revenue came from one video that’s still chugging along.
I’ve probably spent about $2,000 at this point between trying two cameras, editing software, lights, and various YouTube channel expenses.
However, this new side hustle has been so fun, and I’ve also met some pretty cool people in the process as well.
Plus, it’s also cool to see that over 400,000 people ended up watching a video!
I’ve written about blogging vs YouTube and decided they each have their merit, but I’ll definitely say the viral potential of YouTube is pretty awesome.
If you’re a blogger who wants to tackle a new traffic source in 2021, my advice is definitely to give YouTube a go!
Extra Reading – How To Get Your First 1,000 YouTube Subscribers.
Okay, time for the most interesting part of my 2020 blog income report (in my opinion).
The one thing that has always infuriated me about other income reports is that they rarely show proof of income and they just brush over expenses.
And, while it’s nice to believe you can make $50,000 per month blogging (without proof lol) and have a profit margin of 90% or something, let’s be real…blogging is an expensive game.
Google is the most competitive traffic source out there. To compete with the big players, you need to work and spend smart.
So, the main change for blogging expenses in 2020 was beginning to work with two awesome freelance writers to help beef up my content output (again, more hooks in the water…this might be the theme here).
Aside from that, hosting upgrades, outsourcing Pinterest, and a SEO overhaul were some of my significant expenses.
My 2020 blogging expenses include:
- Freelance Writers – I paid $5,689 to four different writers in 2020.
- Pinterest Marketing – I pay approximately $1,750 per year for my Upwork Pinterest VA.
- Tailwind for Pinterest – $240 per year due to a Tribe Upgrade. Ditching this in 2021.
- SEO Overhaul – $550.
- SiteGround Hosting – $255.60 since I upgraded to SiteGround’s GrowBig plan. This cost won’t continue for 2021.
- BigScoots Hosting – $99 – I switched to BigScoots in October so there’s been three months of added expenses for hosting.
- YouTube – $564 on things like Thumbnails, some software, graphics for channel, music, and TubeBuddy.
Total Expenses: $9,147.60
Total Blogging Profit: $13,046.81 (58.78% profit margin, not too shabby!)
And not one Bluehost sale! I’ll be damned! 😛
Now, a few things I want to clarify here!
Firstly, the two freelance writers I’m working with are unreal, and the money I’ve spent on articles is certainly money well-spent.
My strategy with them has been to give them low-competition keyword articles to write, and I’m definitely seeing the impact slowly but surely of the increased content output.
Secondly, I suggest checking out my Tailwind review to see why I don’t advise new bloggers to pay for Tailwind and for existing bloggers to consider if the annual cost is worth it or not (Tailwind kinda sucks right now).
Thirdly, for my SEO overhaul, I paid Grayson Bell’s team at iMark Interactive about $550 to help improve my website.
Grayson’s team is very respected in the Mediavine blogger community, and the work they did was pretty stellar!
Finally, the reason I’m currently paying for two hosting plans is because I have switched to BigScoots instead of SiteGround (but prepaid for the entire year of SiteGround).
The reason for the switch is because BigScoots is faster than SiteGround and has more room to grow.
Since speed is so important for ranking, I figured the extra monthly price is worth it.
If you’re looking to upgrade your hosting, I definitely recommend looking into BigScoot’s plans!
Anyway, that’s the gist of how much I spent on blogging costs in 2020!
Overall, it’s been awesome getting to work with new and young freelance writers and to take on a more editorial approach sometimes.
Of course, you don’t have to spend money out of the gate to run a blog, and sweat equity goes a long way!
However, spending money on these things has helped me keep up with my full-time job while still blogging and let me dabble with YouTube. Sometimes, you just have to buy yourself more time!
Want to start your own blog?
I always recommend SiteGround for new bloggers because of their cheap hosting plan, reliable uptime, speed, and amazing support team.
Website Growth & Traffic Numbers
In 2020, This Online World received 559,388 sessions.
As for the breakdown, traffic was roughly comprised of:
- Organic – 78%.
- Social and Referral – 10%.
- Direct – 12%.
For social, Pinterest, YouTube, and Reddit certainly make up the majority of traffic.
For organic, it’s the same old Google show as it is every year.
Google has actually been pretty crazy this year with a series of broad algorithm updates.
Thankfully, I wasn’t hit too badly except for a slight dip earlier in March, and traffic has been holding fairly steady since.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit discouraged by some stagnant growth, but it’s definitely better to hold your rankings than to plummet.
Plus, I’m optimistic 2021 will see more organic traffic, and hopefully YouTube as the #1 social traffic source.
My tip for other bloggers really hasn’t changed too much: focus on quality, write for SEO and users, and be honest (honesty is somehow a competitive advantage, which is crazy to me).
Favorite Reads & Blogs
I’ve kept up with a bit of a tradition over my previous blog income reports and mention some of my favorite reads throughout the year.
However, this year is going to be a bit shorter because I’ve done an embarassingly low amount of reading this year despite how the year has gone.
However, some of my favorite bloggers and books this year include:
- Reverse The Crush – I’ve been blogging friends with Graham, the owner of Reverse The Crush, since my early days of blogging. RTC is awesome because it’s Graham’s real experience about becoming FIRE though blogging, dividend investing, and passive income. Graham’s also an incredibly nice guy and his dividend income reports are an inspiration to checkout. My favorite post from him this year has been on why you might pursue barista fire.
- Best Interest – Jesse’s blog is the real deal and he has so many awesome posts on personal finance topics and also adds in some nice history tidbits. He’s even guest posted on This Online World about flipping MTG cards for profit. My favorite post of his this year has been on the true cost of car ownership.
- Modern Teen – Daniel is a fellow twenty-something-year-old blogger who runs an awesome lifestyle blog for teens. Daniel also writes for This Online World, so you may have seen his author bio at the end of some posts lately. My favorite post from him this year was on 18 things to do when you turn 18.
As for books, I actually did a lot more financial reading this year compared to anything else.
A large reason for this was to create a YouTube video on my favorite personal finance books of all time:
I’m hoping to spend more time reading in 2021 and want to spend less time on my phone and more time with a book before bed, but we’ll see how that one goes!
Personal Update – I Guess I’m A Wanabee Digital Nomad Now?
I want to wrap up my 2020 blog income report with a bit of a life update since this year has been anything but normal.
At the start of the year, I actually quit my digital marketing job back home and moved to Medellin, Colombia for two-ish months:
During this time, I went all-in on making money with freelance writing, blogging, and figuring out how to make money online in general.
Living in Colombia was interesting.
It’s a beautiful country with warm, welcoming people. In fact, the Colombia most people conceptualize is, to a large extent, set in Escobar’s time and not reality.
There’s still some sketchy behavior, but hey, that’s any major city.
Anyway, between trying to learn Spanish, meeting new people, and loitering around in cafes and random Airbnbs making money with my laptop, I have to say it was one of the cooler experiences of my life.
After Colombia, I decided to head home before borders got crazy and wound up in Daytona Beach, Florida once again.
Florida has always held a special place in my heart, especially since it’s where I tried my first remote working experience in 2019.
While it’s not a digital nomad hotspot like Medellin, I love that Florida always marches to the beat of their own drum.
After two months of festering in the sun, I then returned home for a brief period before one last digital nomad stint for the year in Montreal, Canada.
I actually got to go to Montreal with six other friends, three of whom I spent my childhood growing up with.
Between living in an absolute trap house of an Airbnb, working out in parks (the city was in lockdown), and eating way too much poutine, the entire trip was a nice way to round out the year.
And hey, I even made a day-in-the-life video about the whole thing and turned 24 in that city!
I honestly had more travel plans for 2020, like trying the digital nomad life in Europe or Thailand, but I can hardly complain at what this year has brought.
Plus, if we can find a silver lining to this year, it’s truly that remote work and making a living online is only going to become more common.
So, if you and your friends are still working remotely when travel opens up again, my vote is to go make some memories in a Airbnb, far, far away from home. 🙂
2020 Blogging Goals & Reflecting
I’ve always been amazed at the fact that if you write something down, it has a much higher chance of becoming reality.
Here’s a snapshot of my 2019 blogging goals from my previous blog income report:
Travel and launching a course were flops, but I’m still immensely happy of how things went overall.
Blogging income was hit pretty much on the dot.
As for YouTube, I’ll take 8,000 subscribers and daily growth towards that 10K!
I also quit my day job and now full-time freelance, so it’s been a pretty insane year from a career development perspective.
Here are the new goals for 2021:
- Blogging Income & Traffic – Scale to $30,000 – $35,000 (hoping to get This Online World to 75,000 monthly viewers and continuing to scale affiliate income). We’ll see how this one goes!
- Launch a Course – Okay, I actually mean it this time ;P I have a great idea for a course and I hope to start filming content for it in February.
- YouTube Subscribers & Revenue – 50,000 subscribers and $15,000 in revenue. I know this sounds insane, but I want to try more trending content and go for some viral hits, so I have high hopes!
- Freelance Stuff – Maintain freelance writing income and continue work with digital marketing agency.
- Travel Plans – Florida and Europe are on the list but we shall wait and see!
Again, thank you all for your support and for following the journey so far.
Final Thoughts – Is The Grass Always Greener?
I know I don’t normally share too much about my personal life, but this year, I feel like I’ve depended on This Online World more than ever.
Honestly, this is because there were a lot of stressful moments during the transition of a regular job to full-time freelancing.
However, I’m very fortunate that other income streams like making money on Upwork, YouTube, and working for a new digital marketing agency worked out quickly.
Anyway, throughout this career change, I pretty much developed the habit of working 60 to 70 hours per week.
I’m working on things I enjoy for the most part, but if there’s one major lesson I’ve learned over the past year that’s only hitting me now, it’s that it’s easy to fall into a trap of always thinking the grass is greener in another pasture.
See, the funny thing is that, when I started blogging, getting into Mediavine and making a living online was everything to me.
After all, I wanted nothing more than to quit my day job, become a digital nomad, and tromp around the globe with nothing but a laptop and backpack to my name.
This mental obsession caused me to eventually detest going into the office every morning.
I also ended a relationship because I had different life goals and then worked tirelessly to grow This Online World into what I thought it needed to be.
Anyways, at some point this year during a particularly stressful work week, I found myself daydreaming once more about a new scenario and how it would be so much better than what I was currently stuck doing.
And sure, while becoming a full-time YouTuber and living in a Dubai highrise would be sweet, I’m sure there’s some sorry fool living that sort of life right, miserably wishing they were doing something else.
I also realize there’s plenty of people who lost jobs this year and would love the chance to work 60 hours a week at any type of job.
The point is, humans are great at setting goal posts and then moving them right as we’re about to score.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a six-figure job, a flashy new car, or becoming a digital nomad; these financial milestones or lifestyles aren’t garaunteed to make you happy.
In fact, I’m increasingly finding that the things that make me happy and excited to get out of bed in the morning relate to broader life goals and almost always involve other people.
After all, in the words of vagabond Christopher McCandless, “happiness is only real when shared.”
So, my ultimate piece of advice (from my oh-so-wise 24 year old head) is that you need to remember the grass will always be greener in your head; especially when it comes to the different ways to make money online.
You can spend 60-70+ hours per week chasing an online business idea or promotion, but you better have some idea of what you want to do with the freedom that money ultimately unlocks.
Set ambitious goals and work hard to obtain them, but also take a moment to chill out and enjoy the progress and when you finally accomplish something!
Furthermore, don’t forget to take a step back to focus on other people and family.
Personally, I thought digital nomadism was the thing for me, but I’m not so sure anymore…maybe 2021 will have the answer somewhere!
All I know is that I’m grateful for everything I have, everyone who reads this blog, and for your continued support.
Thank you for three awesome years!
If you’ve had a tough year, I hope that things get easier for you and that you’re also excited about a world that is becoming more remote-friendly.
Hopefully, 2021 is full of new opportunities and plenty of new money-making ideas!
My bet is things are going to change for the better once the craziness is over, and I think it’s important to always remain optimistic if you can.
Anyways, that’s all for this 2020 blog income report!
I’ll catch you guys in the next one.
-Tom from This Online World.
Tom is a full-time blogger and freelance writer with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and the gig economy. His work has appeared on dozens of personal finance websites like Money Crashers, The College Investor, Investor Junkie, and more. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
If you’re interested in freelance writing services or want to partner with This Online World, please use our contact page to get in touch!