Be a Better Blogger, Vol. 4: Manage Your Money

Turning your blog into a business can be a very overwhelming process — and I’m speaking from experience.

how to start a blog, how to turn your blog into a business

Before we start, though, I should back up a moment. If you’re serious about making money from your blog (/turning it into a business), these are the things you should already be doing consistently:

  1. Producing high-quality content.
  2. Mastering social media engagement.
  3. Building short- and long-term relationships with brands.
  4. Growing your followers (on all platforms).
  5. Choosing and focusing on your streams of income.

For more tips on how to turn your blog into a business, bookmark this post to read later.  You can also read why I left my full-time job last year.

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Back-story:

Approximately one hundred million years ago in college, I was a communications major. In other words, I never really took business- or accounting-centric classes. Huge mistake, right? I know.

But — let me tell you — the process of going from hobby/part-time to full-time anything as an entrepreneur will require you to learn (or get a refresher on) some basic biz skills — in today’s case, proper money management: Building financial statement and implementing a better book-keeping system.

I know these sounds like things that one should want to do proactively, but quite honestly, these tedious tasks can feel overbearing when you’d prefer to focus on the creative aspects of your business.

tips-for-managing-your-blog's-finances

At the end of the day, though, they’re a few of the crucial steps in actually growing your hobby into a profitable business. So today, we’ll talk about some of the easy money management systems that I’ve put in place over the last year (!) that don’t require a ton of day-to-day work.

Here’s a few starting points (or good reminders, if you’re already on top of your shit) on where to start. And to note, I am obviously not a certified financial expert — this is my shared advice and experience based on what’s worked for me. 

Consider today’s post some tough love on how to get organized this season – so that you’re not scrambling this time next year when tax season rolls around.

Let’s get into it:

how to turn your hobby into a profitable business

1. Maintain an invoicing system.

This is one of the first processes you’ll need to nail when you start exchanging products for services/working with brands. Much like a contract (that you’ve already signed, right?), invoices manage information, payment details and expectations between you and the person or party you’re doing biz-nass with.

There are free invoice templates available in MS Word or Excel; there’s also websites that track everything digitally (PayPal or Freshbooks). I’ve tried ’em all, and I prefer the old-fashioned Microsoft Excel outlet – I simply create a master invoice template and then fill it in every time I need to invoice a client.

Some of the line-items I include are:

  • Invoice #
  • Scope of Work (SOW)
  • Partnership details/point of contact
  • Payment terms (usually 60 days)
  • The date the invoice was sent
  • The month of the partnership
  • The month payment is expected
  • When payment was received/deposited

*Here is a great resource on what to include in your invoice template.

juice-bars-in-chicago

2. Manage your shit in the Cloud.

… And while we’re on the topic of documents, I use Google docs for storing and managing just about everything: My invoice log, editorial calendar, overall income, expense tracking and so on. Syncing my life in cloud-based storage makes it easy to have all of my information on the fly/on either of my computers (desktop or laptop), which is clutch.

*Read more about Google Drive here.

3. Know how much money you’re bringing in.

I know. Duh, right? I’ve gotta be honest: One of the mistakes I made early in my blogging career was not tracking my income and expenses more meticulously. (I was still mainly blogging as a hobby back then, but… Details.)

In addition to managing that invoice log (to know what’s outstanding and what’s been paid), I have gotten a lot better about tracking my income on a monthly basis.

In addition, here’s an example of an Excel doc where I enter numbers and payments once they’ve been received and deposited — and to note, this is obviously a mock-up/not indicative of my actual income:

how to track blog finances, how to do a blog expense report, track blog income, make money blogging

Here, you can include any sponsored posts or projects you work on, as well as consistent, recurring monthly revenue streams (like Amazon Associates or rewardStyle).

You can manually add in your job’s monthly salary, too, so that you can see an overall snapshot; as well as the percentage of income coming from blog and from work.

This is especially advantageous for anyone considering leaving their full-time job to blog/pursue their passions and hobbies – that way, you can see what’s growing over time and where it’s best to invest your resources. Personally, I have seen the most exponential growth in sponsored content/direct brand partnerships. Know what you’re worth and don’t be afraid to charge a premium for it… Just don’t lie. Be sure you can walk your talk. 

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4. Track your expenses.

Dude, I need more coffee. Okay:

So, we’re making money and monitoring our income – wahoo! Now, it’s essential to keep track of expenses you’re incurring in order to keep your blog (PROFITABLE BIZ-NASS) operational. Reason being, you can deduct part of these from the money you’d otherwise owe the government during tax season.

Here are some things you should keep your receipts for and plan to write off:

  • Meals, networking & entertainment: Record with whom and what the purpose was.
  • Strategic development: Conferences, freelancers, online resources and so on.
  • Business travel: Keep that paper trail!
  • Transportation: Take an Uber to your photo shoot location? Yep, that counts. Log it!
  • Office supplies: This can include everything from coffee filters to Internet and cable. Work remotely? Awesome, read my post on tips and tricks from working from home here.

I log all of my expenses in an Excel document and then keep each receipt in a paper envelope (or in a folder on my desktop) — one for each month of the year.

*Again, I am not a Certified Public Accountant. Though I would absolutely be open to getting wife’d up by one… Ahem. Here’s a great article if you’d like to read more on how to file taxes as a blogger.

how to start a blog,

5. Use Consistent Payment Methods.

There’s nothing worse than trying to manage a hundred thousand different payment apps and processes. You know? By now (in life), we all know that money management takes a lot of attention – but thankfully, technology takes some of that financial stress off your plate.

In an effort to streamline what I use, I’ve been test-driving lately (per a sponsored request) is Square CashHere’s what I like about it:

square-cash-review

Square Cash is essentially a direct bank transfer, so the money goes straight to your whatever account you link.^ You don’t have to make an account – you just download the app, link a debit card and send whatever amount to the recipient. All they have to do is accept and link a card (if they’re not already a user). It’s similar to Chase QuickPay (but not many people I work with have Chase).

In other words, there’s no “middle man” or cashing out process, like there is with Venmo and PayPal. (Personally, this is a huge selling point for me. Anything to eliminate extra steps in my day, you know?) There are also no transaction fees for personal exchanges – and businesses only pay 1.9%.

^Having your “wallet” in your phone is nerve-wracking to me, too, but you’re protected on a number of levels with Square Cash. It requires your card’s security code before you can send money, too.

square-cash-vs-venmo

Quite honestly, I’ve found Square Cash preferable to its app/smartphone competitors – it’s been particularly useful in exchanging money with the same people over and over. Perfect for roommates, friends and girls’ trips (splitting bills and so on). It’s also great for paying part-time freelancers.

6. IN SUM…

There’s a lot of information in today’s post, so to recap, there’s a three key financial elements to taking your business to the next level.

  1. No matter how much it annoys you, stay organized and consistent.
  2. Hold other people accountable (using contracts, invoices, calendar reminders, etc).
  3. Hold yourself accountable (by saving receipts, entering data, monitoring your income and expenses).

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What are some of the things you’re focused on this season? I’d love to hear your personal processes and organizational tips (and I’m sure everyone else reading this would), so feel free to leave your thoughts, feedback, questions and blog back-links in the comments below.

Oh, and like Bey says… “Always stay gracious — [the] best revenge is your paper.”

Mic drop.

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**Read more entries from my “Be a Better Blogger” series here.

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Iron & Honey Photography

Join the Convo:

  • AWESOME POST! Very informative and useful, you definitively have some great tips. Thanks!

    Xo Ally
    http://www.allysoninwonderland.com

  • Vanessa

    Great, useful information!! Thanks for the tips!!! xoxo

  • Very informative post. One of the things I didn’t even think about.

  • so many good tips here! pinning this to refer to later. thanks so much, hallie!

    ps: would you ever do a post where you share a screenshot (or mockup) of your editorial calendar? I’ve been trying to get one going for awhile now and it’s just not sticking. would love to see how the successful bloggers like you set yours up!

  • MIC DROP IS RIGHT. You killed it in today’s post. 2016 is all about being more organized when it comes to my blog revenue and income. Thank you SO much for putting this together!

    Pink Champagne Problems

  • These are great tips! I absolutely love your blogging posts! They are so helpful and always teach me so much!

    Jamie
    http://www.treatsandtrendsblog.com/

  • This is so helpful! I did really good at keeping track the first half of last year and then I let things slip and I’m paying for it now. I’ve scheduled out time at the end of each month to go over what came in and what went out so I don’t have that happen again.

    I have a question for you: How did you decide when to have someone else handle your taxes for you? Or do you still do them yourself?

    I met with someone last year, but they didn’t “get blogging” and the expenses that come along with it so I ended up doing them myself with TurboTax. I probably could have written off more, but I a) didn’t think of those items at the time and b) was too worried something wasn’t “allowed.”

    • I can’t help much here, I’m afraid. I’ve worked with my family’s accountant for the last four years, so it’s just a matter of him and I learning the process together. I would ask around the blogosphere on this for recommendations! Or at the very least, be able to articulate why blogging is a business and how/why you generate income and expenses. Being able to explain that in general terms might help. I would also triple-check percentages that you can write off — 25% of your clothing/product purchases, for example (I think).

  • Wow! Great post and love all the photos!

    xx
    Merritt
    The Style Scribe

  • Great post Hallie. This is something that I wish was covered in more blogging conferences that I go to or really just in general. People seem to shy away from talking about money and logistics, but it’s such a HUGE part of growing your business!

    • Agreed (on both fronts)! This industry changes so damn fast it’s just a learn-as-you-go thing for all of us.

  • Love your learn posts! I just started keeping track of all of this sh*t this year, and phew it’s a process! Not to mention, I recently learned that you have to report all of your gifted items as income, so here comes another spreadsheet.

    Xx Taylor
    http://lightscameracatwalk.com

  • Erin (Erin’s Inside Job) and I just went to a conference where they told us that they had considered having a session on bookkeeping…. but then decided it was too much. HEY any help is still helpful!

  • THIS. It’s amazing, and the advice to keep track right from the start is invaluable. Thanks Hallie!

  • I’m definitely pinning this! Blogging and money is so overwhelming! I need all the help I can get!
    Kisses,
    Sarah
    EverydayStarlet

  • Awesome post! I’m consistently impressed with how open you are about blogging and how willing you are to share your tips and tricks! It’s great to see a kick-ass lady helping other ladies succeed 🙂

    xxo,Kristen
    http://www.southandsheridan.com

  • This was insanely useful. I love when experienced bloggers share legitimate tips rather than vague suggestions. Your posts are always spot on and I appreciate your openness!

    Jacy | lovelenore.com

  • Excellent advice Hallie! I’ll be revisiting this post again.

    Happy Monday
    http://www.lovecompassionatelee.com/thinkoutloud

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  • Do you do do quarterly taxes for your blog or just annually? Is there a difference?

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