Consider the next part of this post as an update to this one from two years ago where we first broke out a few pie-charts to generally illustrate how we spend our time and how we make money as bloggers (because even our parents get confused about that sometimes). Things have changed over the last couple of years – not dramatically – but enough that we felt it was time for an update. So let’s kick this charty goodness off. Behold, a very simplified / approximated breakdown (all the pie charts in this post are very general guesses, btw)…
First, we should point out that this is not a complete representation of our waking hours – it’s just our “work” time. So you can see yesterday’s “Day In The Life” post for a better sense of how things like parenting, cooking, and running errands fit into the mix. That being said, the interesting thing to note here is that the majority of our work time is spent running a website (blogging, interacting, and managing a business) not doing DIY projects, as some might assume.
We always describe our job as a mostly-desk job. We might get to paint or build something while Clara’s in bed for the night (which is when we used to do projects when we both had day-jobs anyway), but between the hours of 8am and 6pm we’re most likely found on the computer sizing photos, writing posts, organizing giveaways, emailing about our book or the showhouse, answering comments, doing our expenses, or coding something. But let’s dive in a bit deeper to get a closer look.
When we look at how some of these areas break out, there are two changes that are most notable to us:
- We’ve managed to streamline the managerial aspects of our business. Simple changes like using Rafflecopter to run giveaways (which also saves us from approving thousands of comments and allows us to accept more than 10,000 entries without the site crashing) along with hiring out more of our accounting have made small but significant impacts. But perhaps the biggest is a shift that we’re making in our advertising program. We’re currently transitioning our 4-year-old private sponsor system out (private sponsors = people that we manage directly, so I was manually uploading 30+ ads and invoicing 30+ people). We’re upgrading to a more auto-pilot system that is managed by a third party who can serve/place/bill automatically. The kinks of the new system aren’t all worked out, so I don’t have any other helpful details to share yet, but it promises to save us lots of time in ad renewal notices, invoices, and even writing sponsor shout out posts (which have been phased out as of this month). In addition to being more efficient for us, we’re aiming for a more pleasant experience for you guys (less sidebar clutter, for one!) and a more effective, flexible system for our advertisers (so they’re not one of 30 boxes blinking on our sidebar).
- Which enables us to give more time to side gigs. Freeing up some managerial time allows for things like book #2, the showhouse, and a secret project that has to stay secret for now (ARGH, SECRETS!) to take up more of the pie. It could be argued that this is a bad thing (doesn’t it take away from spending more time on projects or posts?) especially when side gigs don’t contribute to the majority of our income (more on that in a moment), but to us, they’re the opportunities that we can’t pass up: they keep us fresh, help us grow professionally, and stretch us in new ways. And because they’re still only about 19% of our total time, there’s still just as much room for projects and other blog stuff as there always has been, which still make up 80+ percent of the pie.
Obviously this isn’t a perfect model of time management or how to run a blog. We’re constantly trying to improve our processes so that we can put the most time into activities that invigorate us, help and entertain you, and – let’s be honest – put money in Clara’s college fund. One thing some people suggest is “why don’t you spend less time responding to comments?” or set them to auto approve for repeat commenters, but the reason we keep comments in moderation is so we don’t miss questions. If we auto approve some or all of them, questions will slip through (they not only roll in on current posts, but old ones as well). And since we believe connecting with you guys and offering additional info is a big part of what got us here, we’d never want to phase that out.
Speaking of which, I think it’s time for our next chart:
Unlike last time we did this chart, we’ve now collapsed all of our advertising – private sponsors, ad networks, and Google – into one chunk. That’s partially because those slices of the pie are rapidly shifting while we’re in this sponsor program transition (you may notice over 25 fewer ads on our sidebar by the time it’s done). But it’s also to make it crystal clear that the majority of our income comes straight from sidebar ads. Much like how magazines or newspapers keep their doors open thanks to advertisers, blogging seems to follow that model as well, at least for us – especially since we don’t do other things like sponsored posts to make additional income. Although that red affiliate slice of the pie is from sharing some things we love on the sidebar (clearly marked as affiliates, under the “We’re Digging” header). Generally we like to keep all of the money-making stuff relegated to the sidebar, so our content is clearly just us talking about what we like/use/buy with no other reason than we genuinely like it.
Another interesting distinction is that as much as things like writing a book and having a lighting line might sound like cash-cows, they’re not things that we have experienced as high earners, as demonstrated by our chart above. But they’re a really big deal for us personally and professionally, so they’re well worth the effort and the experience. For those wondering, we still haven’t reached our royalty point on the book (more on that here) but we did hear from a publisher in China who bought the book rights from our American publisher for a nominal fee and is re-publishing it there in Chinese (which is really exciting to see – the cover’s going to be different and everything). So since we get a small percent of that fee for being the authors, that’s what that sliver represents. Admittedly the proportions represented above are a bit rough, since the goal was just to generally illustrate the point. So as long as we’re talking non-specifics, let’s move on to our third graphic.
After a couple of attempts to make a useful pie-chart, I gave up (these fluctuate so much that trying to quantify them just wasn’t working). But the point we wanted to illustrate was that some people think that blogging is a “zero overhead” profession, but if your readership grows, your business costs definitely rise with them. Here are some of the notable places that our earnings go:
- Taxes & Accountant: As exciting as those auto-pilot ad network checks are sometimes, a big chunk of that goes right back to Uncle Sam (around 33% of our total income bounces right out of our checking account across four quarterly payments). We use an accountant to help keep it all straight, but it has definitely been the biggest adjustment for us (going from banking/spending all of our paychecks in our previous professions to having to hoard a big cushion to send back four times a year).
- Retirement: Since we don’t have a boss taking 401k money out of our paychecks anymore (or anyone doing any company matching), we have to stay on top of our own retirement planning. We each have a SEP IRA and after year-end taxes our accountant calculates what our maximum contribution could be for that tax year and we try to invest as much of that as possible (as well as contributing to Clara’s college fund then too).
- Web Hosting: The biggest unexpected cost for us in blogging was web hosting and other fees – everything from hosting our site and photos (which are stored separately on amazon.cloud to keep the site from crashing) to paying a monthly fee for Rafflecopter and Vanilla Forums. These expenses actually add up to almost double our mortgage payment each month!
- Health Insurance: Another “perk” of being a small business owner is that you get to pay for your own health insurance. It’s not fun, but it’s definitely one of those “now I can sleep at night” investments in your business and family.
- Business Insurance: While we’re on the topic, we also pay for business insurance. This helps to protect our business (and us personally) if we were ever to be affected by things like a lawsuit or the death/injury of one of us (knocking on so much wood over here right now).
- Legal: This is a new expense for us recently because over the past year we’ve engaged a trademark and licensing attorney. Since our book was going to be titled Young House Love as well, we needed to fully claim the name – and she also helps us navigate some of the contracts that we’ve received for some of our side gigs (like our lighting collection). Plus, now we’re officially Young House Love™. Holla!
- Projects: Last but not least… everyone knows home improvement isn’t free – and while most of the things that we blog about would be costs that we’d incur anyway, we certainly work at a faster pace (and therefore spend faster) than we did before we were blogging full time. We get asked all the time if these home purchases can be write offs since we’re blogging about them for a living, but the answer is no. Since we’re fixing up our primary residence (and not an office or investment property) we could never write a cent of it off (and if we attempted to, we’d owe a big ol’ chunk of money to the government if we ever sold our house since it would be partially theirs instead of all ours).
And now let’s lighten up this numberfest a bit, shall we? Like previous years we thought we’d throw some random stats and facts your way, but this year I’ve spiced things up a bit visually. You know I love a good infographic…
Holy cats, have we really been blogging for six years?!
It feels like Blogiversary 5 just happened, and that it was mere months ago that it was 2007 and we were posting tiny pictures and writing a few sentences each night about whatever was going on under our roof. All of the years of this adventure have been exciting, but the last 12 months in particular have brought things we never could’ve expected when we started this site: a book that somehow landed on the best-seller list, a lighting collection that we designed right here in Richmond with a local company, a short film on Oprah (what?!), and probably the most exciting thing of all to us… a new house in a neighborhood that we’ve dreamed about living in for longer than we’ve even been blogging.
For our sixth blogiversary, we wanted to start things off with a twenty piece orchestra to serenade you while you eat your Toaster Strudel and scroll through this post, but the logistics were a little tricky. So we decided to go for the next best thing: a week of blogiversary fanfare and behind the scenes banter (just like we’ve done for the past few years here, here, here, and here). And the festivities start right now. Here are a few of the things that we have on tap for this week:
- a day in the life post full of pictures & details about an average day for us (just keep scrolling for this one!)
- an awesome giveaway that just happens to involve plane tickets
- a mathy medley of pie charts and blog stats about how we spend our time, where our money comes from (and where it goes), along with a few pretty intense facts & figures (some of which even surprised us)
- a Q&A video full of answers to tons of personal questions that you guys submitted via Facebook
- a behind-the-scenes post about our recent Oprah stint (there’s a pretty funny story about how that day started out…) along with a clip for you guys
- a post about a side gig that didn’t work out (you win some, ya lose some, so we thought sharing something that didn’t work would be a fun pulling-back-the-curtain moment)
- a chance for you guys to tell us about yourselves, which John can’t wait to spin into an infographic-tastic recap for everyone
So on with the show! Some of our favorite blogiversary posts to look back on are our “Day In The Life” rundowns, since it’s fun to look back at what times were like in previous years – especially to see how our surroundings and our family has changed (click there to read the ones from 2012, 2011, 2010, & 2009).
But documenting yourself all day can make an already long day that much longer (ex: setting up the tripod to capture laundry folding), so this year we instituted an iPhone pic-only policy so that our day would be less filled with camera set-ups and more, well, like a real day in our lives. So forgive the crummy quality of some of the pics. That’s real life, yo.
6:15AM: John’s up. Today he goes for a run around the neighborhood, but some days it’s the gym (and some days it’s just staying in bed). Once back, there’s even a little bit of time to respond to a few emails before us girls wake-up.
7:45AM: Clara’s awake and she and John start the day slow with some playing in her room (they made a Lego dragon). I’m out of the shower and getting dressed, and Burger gets out of bed, but only for a second for a potty break. Then it’s back up to bed for him.
8:30AM: Everyone’s downstairs. Breakfast is eaten in various places, including Clara’s morning cup of yogurt while she takes in some Jake and the Neverland Pirates after some magnet-doll playing with me. I get a jump on reading, approving, and answering comments that collected overnight while John squeezes in a shower & a shave.
9:00AM: Running a bit behind schedule for school, I get Clara dressed quickly while John tosses her snack into her school bag. John and Clara are off just in time for the 15-20 minute drive to preschool (depending on lights). I hang back to proofread and double-check that morning’s post before it needs to go up at ten – making sure links work, all the images are in, and doing some last minute tweaks.
9:45AM: Clara’s dropped off at preschool so John runs a couple of errands on the way home, namely stopping at the grocery store to replenish the fridge. I steal a few minutes to respond to emails before hitting publish on the post at 10.
10:30AM: John’s home from the grocery store and I’m busy doing comments on the morning post. Once the food is put away, John takes advantage of the quiet house to focus on some computer work: backing up photos, responding to emails, and starting to select and size pictures for a post later in the week. I take some last minute photos for an upcoming post since the sun finally decided to come out and then I do some emailing about the showhouse before starting on a post for the next day.
NOON: Time to pick-up Clara at school. Since we’ve got a meeting right afterwards, we both head out. Once Clara’s picked up at 12:30, we swing by Jason’s Deli to grab a quick lunch before of our 1:30 meeting.
1:00PM: Back in the car to make the 30 minute drive to our appointment, which is photographing the Massey Street of Dreams for the quadruple House Crashing post we shared last week. This is already starting to feel like one of those days where we live in the car.
2:15PM: John’s photographing the homes while I gather info from our guide, Justin. I also steal away to publish the afternoon post from my phone at one point. Justin’s 10-year-old daughter was there so Clara spent most of the time playing with her new friend, although they eventually both ended up resting since we were close to Clara’s nap time, and Justin’s daughter was under the weather (hence not being in school and tagging along with us).
3:00PM: We leave the Street of Dreams to make the 40 minute drive home. I use the car ride to catch up on the comments that built up while we were touring. Clara reads a book in the backseat and John checks in with her periodically to make sure she hasn’t fallen asleep. Can’t lose a real nap at home by letting her drift off for ten minutes in the car!
3:45PM: We’re home and Clara is down for a nap. This is usually prime project doing-time, but I have a phone interview in a few minutes related to the Super Soul Sunday clip, and a showhouse call with the builder and his team afterwards. John gets changed into work clothes so he can caulk the sunroom’s trim & nail holes while I juggle two phone calls, a few emails, and attempt to finish the post I started earlier that day.
5:30PM: Clara’s up from her nap, so I go up there to grab her and we play in her room for a little while.
6:00PM: Family walk time! We don’t get one of these every night, but this weather is too gorgeous to skip one today. We talk about Clara’s school day, the upcoming posts we’re both writing, and what projects we each hope to get done the next day.
6:45PM: Home from our walk and time for dinner. Tonight’s a family favorite – chicken squares (update: here’s the recipe). Clara puts her mixing skills to work with me while I check in on comments again and finally finish the post I’ve been working on sporadically throughout the day. The thing about sharing 7 posts in a 5 day period is that we’re always working on finishing some that are already written, writing new ones, and answering questions for the ones that are already up.
7:30PM: Dinner is ready so we sit down to eat together. Clara gets her tomatoes and veggies down with minimal encouragement and even eats half of a chicken square. I clean up after dinner while John tackles a few emails that have built up throughout the day. Then Clara and I snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, finishing up the episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates that she started before school.
8:15PM: Bedtime for Clara. She votes for a different mix of helpers each night, but tonight it’s Mommy on teeth brushing and PJ changing duty while Daddy is in charge of reading the story.
8:30PM: With Clara tucked in bed, it’s time to squeeze in a few more hours of productivity before we stow our laptops for the night. John finishes the post he prepped pictures for earlier in the day while I catch up on any questions that came up on Facebook or Instagram during the day along with sending some book outline stuff to our publisher (yes, we’re officially working on Book Two! Ahh!). Eventually the TV gets turned on and we’re sort of half watching as we finish up some last minute emails, comments, and miscellaneous computer work. We can’t believe other than John’s sunroom caulking, we haven’t done much DIY at all, which means tomorrow will probably be a project-heavy evening (after Clara’s all tucked into bed) to make up for it.
10:00PM: To resist the urge to keep working, we clean up and turn the lights off downstairs, put our computers away, and head up to watch TV in bed. Our current routine is trying to catch up on old Scandal episodes on Netflix (John’s 70% into it and I’m about 120% into it thanks to his sister getting me addicted).
11:30PM: John has already fallen asleep a couple of times mid-Olivia-Pope tirade, so the TV goes off once that episode is over. With teeth brushed and contacts out, John has a second wind and reads a few pages of a book while I decompress with some Pinterest browsing on my cell phone along with some late-night texting with Katie Bower and Roo. Burger finally comes under the covers to snuggle between us, and the lights are out by midnight.