Sunday, December 11, 2016

Blog Thoughts, Year Two

As of this weekend, Invincible Summer is almost two years old! 2016 has been an eventful year, to say the least. This time last year, I was barely two months in to my first full-time office job, at a NYC biglaw firm. The year before that, when I first started this blog, I was still in law school and had yet to take the bar. Now, I am going into my second full year of work as a graduated attorney, having gone from biglaw to clerkship, with another transition, from clerkship to something else, soon to come. (My first "blogiversary" post can be found here.) 

State of the Blog

Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who comes by and reads along with me here at my little corner of the Internet! I am just so grateful and excited that people are reading, and always thrilled when people comment or otherwise reach out. With work, I haven't been as good about replying to comments here for much of this year, but I appreciate every comment so much. I also haven't been as good about commenting on your blogs (sorry!), but I've been having fun reading along, and I hope to be a more attentive commenter in the year to come.

I've been blogging, on and off, and in various places, for nearly half of my life now. For me, the most magical part about it all, the thing that keeps bringing me back, is how egalitarian a platform it is, how just anyone can put something of themselves out onto an Internet space and potentially have people from all over the world see it and engage with it. Through the blogs I've read, I've learned so many things about so many smart, interesting women. I've also gotten so much inspiration, both sartorial and otherwise.

These days, I sometimes think that blogs may be waning as a format. As reluctant as I am to accept it (I barely understood Twitter back in the day or even now, Instagram is still rather foreign, and I don't use Snapchat), it seems clear that other social media platforms are simply better ways to interact with a large audience. Still, blogging and reading blogs will likely always be one of my preferred ways of producing and interacting with Internet-based content. 

Affiliate Links and Income Report

In the interests of transparency, I thought it would also be good to discuss my experience with monetizing this blog. With all numbers, keep in mind that because I work full time, all additional income is taxed at my usual marginal tax rate (or possibly more, I've never previously had to do a tax return with additional "independent contractor"-classified income before). This means that, after all federal and state taxes are accounted for, any cash earnings I receive will likely be taxed at a rate of at least 40%+. Thank you again to everyone for your kind support throughout the year! 

As I mentioned in last year's blogiversary post, I found what limited discussions of blog income that were out there to be extremely informative, and I thought I'd add my own data point this year. Most of the information I had seen back then was on GOMI (which I no longer read as it's gotten dramatically more toxic). Incidentally, Carly from The College Prepster was kind enough to do a friendly and open AMA on r/blogsnark, which served as another data point, from the perspective of someone who has a particularly powerful personal brand. Another blog, Stylebee, recently did a thoughtful post about gifted items and sponsored posts that was also nice. Full disclosure: I have never posted on either GOMI or r/blogsnark in any capacity, though I do continue to read r/blogsnark. For a take on income and a very different blogging niche, there's also Pinch of Yum's monthly income reports. What would be fascinating is if any full-time, based in the USA, blogger out there also did a general discussion of the taxes and health insurance costs associated with being a full-time blogger, but that'd probably be too much oversharing for anyone to ever want to do. If my tax situation vis-a-vis blog income ends up dramatically different from what I expect, I will report back. 

For me, writing Invincible Summer is a labor of love, a fun hobby that occasionally generates a little bit of spending money (and now pays for the costs of my domain name with some extra). I don't spend any time optimizing my social media strategy or anything like that (which you can probably guess just from my largely inactive Instagram), and my Internet presence is very small. For the past calendar year, I average about 2,100 pageviews a month. Individual posts take me, on average, about an hour and a half to write, find or compile a graphic for, and edit. Some posts, especially the more serious ones, take significantly more editing time. As a general matter, I do not use, so the source of any affiliate links I utilize is clear when one hovers over a relevant link: "api.shopstyle" is shopstyle and something with "amzn" is Amazon, for instance.

Nitty-gritty details can be found behind the cut!

Last November, I began using Shopstyle affiliate links (aka "Shopstyle Collective" or "Collective"). I initially received $0.05/click, went up to about $0.073/click for a few months, and now receive roughly $0.065/click. Commissions are, to my knowledge, based solely on clicks and unrelated to whether people purchase anything. I am uncertain of the exact algorithms for determining the  "cents per click" commission rate, though I'm under the general impression that linking certain "high commission retailers," such as Nordstrom, more frequently may increase it. Their program requires users to accumulate at least $100.00 in earnings before users are able to "cash out" in the following month. It took me until July this year to reach the earnings threshold, and I cashed out ~$106. I've since accumulated roughly $46. (~$152.00/last year, $106 cashed out)

I was sad when Amazon stopped participating in Shopstyle, and I now use Amazon affiliate links for certain products, mainly Asian skincare products that are not available via Shopstyle retailers. They give a small percentage commission that requires someone to actually buy a linked product, and require a $10.00 minimum threshold for users to cash out. I've made $3.00, but it's been so sporadic and random (I'd only made $0.90 in several months, until about two weeks ago) that I do not seriously anticipate ever getting to the cash-out minimum. To my knowledge, and based on the information they provide to me, one can only receive commission for the items that one has specifically linked rather than, say, the user receiving a percentage of other unrelated sales. If I am wrong and that is not the case, and Amazon's model is at all like Rewardstyle's model, please do let me know, and I would no longer use it. (~$3.00/last year, none cashed out )

I started using Google Adsense around June, mostly out of curiosity as to what the earnings rates could be with a web presence as small as mine. They use dynamic algorithms and various methods to calculate income, so income can vary dramatically from day to day and week to week. The minimum cash-out threshold here is also $100, but at the rate I'm going, my blog would take two calendar years to get there. (~$20.00/last year, for 5 months, none cashed out)

This is not cash income, but I also use referral links at various times, including referral links for the budgeting software "old YNAB," Ebates, and Grana. My Grana referral links (10% for new customers on their first purchase, $20 store credit for me if a new user signs up and makes a purchase) are the only ones that have ever been utilized, and I received a total of $140 in referral credit this past year. (Thank you so much to everyone who signed up!) Now that Grana is a more popular and well-known brand, however, I think it is unlikely that future new customers would be signing up via my blog, as most people who are inclined to try out their products will already be existing customers. Grana also reached out to me after seeing my earlier review posts, partnering with me by offering three items that I could post about, and the first of these posts is here

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