As I was writing this blog post, I got an email from Michelle’s list (Visibility Vixen). It wasn’t just about income reports, but a more general problem: oversharing what they earn without sharing the other stuff readers care about.
While most income reports have the best intentions and are meant to inspire, there’s another side to that. They can also be incredibly demoralizing.
One of the most common emails I get is something along the lines of: “I see hundreds of income reports from successful bloggers—what am I doing wrong?”
My number one pet peeve is when an aspiring blogger comes across all of these income reports and can’t take away anything of value. It’s not their problem. It’s the fact that so many of these income reports aren’t accompanied with relevant and useful information.
Even worse, some of them are misleading and don’t show the whole picture.
Many income reports don’t show traffic, referral sources, or other metrics that would be incredibly useful when analyzing an income report. You’re shorting your readers on value if you’re just waving around a flag with how much you made on it. Judging from emails from my readers, there are others that share that sentiment. But with income reports on the rise, it seems to be an unpopular opinion. (And honestly, just showing a traffic breakdown would be more useful than an income report on its own. They don’t take long to put together!)
Transparency: A Double-Edged Sword
Transparency has become a trend, not just in the entrepreneurial community, but in the business world in general. While transparency can build trust among your audience, it doesn’t come without consequences. Transparency without a look at the whole picture provides inaccurate information at best and misleading information at worst.
Back to income reports. If you share what you’re getting and not your profits or spending, you’re providing a grossly misleading image of what’s actually happening. It takes money to make money, and many bloggers don’t communicate that well. They don’t talk about the upfront costs of starting a blog and what they spend before they make money. You might be able to start a blog for $10, but how long does it take before you make that back? How much do you have to pay before you start turning a profit?
That is the kind of information that we should be sharing if we’re going to go publishing income reports. While some of us do, the vast majority of income reports I’ve come across can be summed up in one sentence: “Look! I can make money blogging and you can too!”
Inspirational? Maybe. Demoralizing? More likely. Valuable? No.
Yes, part of this is just a matter of opinion. But know that this can be just as (if not more so) harmful as it is helpful.
Why I Don’t Share Income Reports
Truthfully, I don’t share my income because I haven’t had the time.
I spend a lot of time trying out different promotional methods, as well as working with other companies to get started on their blog or social media. (I also spend a lot of time talking to people one-on-one!) More recently, I’ve been spending more time on my own business and that has taken away from the time I wanted to spend on this blog. I don’t want to waste my readers time by providing half the picture—my income—without sharing how I made that income.
Right now, I’m covering the basics. As I get more into monetization and affiliate marketing, I may share more information on specific income, but that won’t be the focus. And when I do share income, I want to be able to show the whole picture—what built up to that, what promotional methods worked for me, and what I spent on that didn’t work. (Which, in order to provide that picture, I need to get the basics out of the way!)
The other reason? I hate that blogging has become so focused on how much money you can rake in.
And you might be thinking, “Well, you have an entire blog dedicated to making a profitable blog! What a hypocrite.”
Yes! I want you to make money off your blog. But I really want to see people who already blog about what they love to make money.
I spent a good part of several years writing about gaming—without getting paid a dime—and I don’t think that’s fair to writers. Even if not all of their writing is paid writing, I think they should somehow get compensated for their time and effort. Many of my favorite journalists and bloggers have had to quit because they had to “get a real job” (translation: get a job they were miserable at and work 60+ hours a week) and make money. I miss the days when bloggers could write about whatever the heck they wanted to write about, without having to stress about the costs of covering a blog they could truly call their own.
Of course, some writers will disagree—sometimes they just write to write and that enjoyment is compensation enough. But the vast majority of writers I talk to want to do it for a living. And I don’t feel like that’s an unreasonable or unrealistic expectation!
How to Improve Income Reports
I’ve seen successful income reports that have worked wonders for readers, particularly ones that show traffic and any social campaigns for the month.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not hating on bloggers that share income reports. I’m just saying that if we’re going to wave our income around, it should be accompanied by useful and actionable information that readers can use and try out for themselves. Or, it should give the entire picture. Don’t just start cranking out income reports when you start making money—keep readers up to date and show things like traffic and growth even if you’re not making much income.
Even something as simple as including a quick traffic breakdown in addition to your income report can help readers draw conclusions as to what’s working for you. Kacie from A Brave Star releases monthly traffic stats on her blog. While they don’t include income, you get a good picture of her overall traffic and where it’s coming from. I find these a lot more useful than most of the income reports I come across.
But don’t make your readers play the guessing game. Otherwise, they’ll find their information elsewhere. Especially if your reports are intended to be informational, make them informational!
Link to other posts from your blogs that talk about how you get traffic to your blog. Share your favorite social media tips. Talk about your email list and how that performs in relation to other traffic. List your top performing posts. If your traffic took a hit, do you know why it took a hit? Don’t just list what you make! We know you can make money blogging and don’t need an entire post dedicated to what can be summed up in one sentence.
Listen to Your Audience
If you know what your readers want and you’re getting constant emails saying they want to see what you make and not how you made it, just take everything I said and toss it out the window. But I’m willing to bet they also want to see some of the how’s and why’s of your traffic and income.
On the other hand, if you get one or two readers just wanting to see some numbers, it’s not unreasonable to respond to those requests via email! I don’t take just one email and respond to it via a blog post (unless it really does justify an entire blog post). When I write a blog post off an email, it’s usually because, over time, I’ve received those questions over and over.
I know I got to talking about a little more than just income reports, but it’s a topic that, in general, I would love to see change for the better. What are your thoughts on talking about income? I’d love to hear your side of things!
And if you do know of any good income reports that get into traffic and information on how they achieved those numbers, feel free to share and I’ll link to them in this post!