When my site was exactly 2 months old on Oct 8 a Google Page Rank(PR) update occurred and my the PR became a PR2 – Is this good, bad or does it even matter? PR used to be a key metric that websmasters talked about but most people have now come to realize that PR on its own means nothing. But what about my site, it’s 2 months old and is already a PR 2 – do I care? (more…)
During my first year of blogging in 2007, I watched my new personal finance blog grow from earning nothing for months to earning a little over $500.00. The whole concept of making money blogging was surprising to me and frankly I wasn’t really prepared. I kept emails from my advertisers, but I didn’t keep track of the financial details like I should have. This unfortunately bit me at tax time the following year. After spending almost a whole day doing my taxes, I decided I really needed to keep better track of my blog finances. I immediately put an initial tracking system in place that focused on simplicity. I’ll be sharing that system with you further down.
Tracking your blog’s income and expenses
An essential part of treating your blog like a business, is tracking your blog’s income and expenses. Tracking income and expenses not only provides you with an up to date perspective on how your blog is doing financially, but it will also prove incredibly useful at tax time. For many, the accounting work behind a blog or small business can seem a bit overwhelming, but in fact it’s fairly simple and doesn’t require a great deal of time. Of course for larger blogs, where there may be contractors, employees, advertisers, leased office space, and many different expenses, the accounting can get a little complicated and an accountant is recommended. I personally have been blogging and earning side income for 6 years, and haven’t felt the need to use an accountant yet.
Income tax on your blog income
I mentioned taxes, unfortunately our government wants their fair share. Income from your blog is taxable and should be reported on your tax returns. The US tax system is a “pay as you go system”, meaning you have to pay taxes as your earn income. For those of you working for a company, your employer does this for you. If you’re independent or run your own business, you’ll need may need to make quarterly tax payments to avoid penalties.
There are rules called Safe Harbor rules that may apply to your blog’s income and can help you avoid penalties. You can read more on Safe Harbor rules in this article at Bargaineering. If you aren’t sure, always consult a tax adviser. Trust me, I’m far from being a tax expert.
How I track my blog income and expenses
there are many different options you can use to track your blog’s income and expenses: from very powerful software to simple spreadsheets. As I said, I love simplicity and personally use a combination of the following:
I created a simple Income spreadsheet using Google Docs that tracks my income and expenses on a monthly basis. The top portion contains any revenue from advertisers, affiliates, and my consulting/development work. I put a line item for each advertiser and affiliate so I can see which income sources perform the best. I also have a line item for each expense as well. These are things like hosting, software services, domain names, internet, etc. Breaking these out is a big help at tax time. I keep my spreadsheets for each year as well, so I can compare prior years with my current year expenses and income.
I use Freshbooks to manage all of my consulting and development work. Freshbooks is used to track my projects, time spent on those projects, managing my client contacts, client invoicing, and for reporting. Freshbooks has proven to be an invaluable tool for my services based business and has the additional advantage of giving my business a professional invoicing platform my client’s appreciate. Highly recommended.
I keep my business and personal accounts separate. I actually have three accounts at ING Direct. One is a a Firewall account that where all of my electronic transfers or payments come from. For example, if I receive a payment from Paypal, the Firewall account is the account that actually receives the payment. I do this to protect myself in the event any of my payment services accounts get compromised. I also keep a checking account that I use to make payments or purchases. I also have a savings account where I keep excess funds. ING Direct is a really great online bank with exceptional customer service. I’ve been using them for about 5 years, and have absolutely zero complaints.
If you would like to open up an ING Direct account for your business or personal use, contact me and I’ll send you a referral. You’ll get $50 and I’ll get $10. I’ve been using ING Direct since 2007, and have been extremely happy with them. They offer some of the best customer service I have ever worked with.
I also use Paypal for all electronic payments. I’m not a big fan of them, but they are pretty much the defacto standard right now for electronic payment. I prefer to not deal with paper check and cash payments, and thus get all of my payments sent via Paypal. I track all Paypal transaction fees as expenses and write them off as such on my taxes.
The other primary benefit of tracking your finances is so you can see how your blog or website is doing financially. We all want to be profitable, and keeping track of your income and expenses each month will let you see how you’re doing. Like most, I love income and despise expenses, so I minimize my expenses. I don’t generally pay for much of anything outside of hosting and I do pay a premium for that. With blog hosting, you get what you pay for and you can’t earn income from your blog if it’s down or slow. Don’t skimp here, you’ll regret it.
I also use my financial information to track which advertisers and affiliates are working for me, and which are not. I often change strategies, prune income sources and add new one’s frequently. My income and expenses spreadsheet is the primary driver for these decisions.
Keeping up with income and expenses for my handful of blogs and websites literally takes only a few minutes each week. Honestly, if I spend more than 30 minutes I’d be surprised. I’ve found that spending a little bit of time each week, saves an enormous amount of time quarterly and at the end of the tax year. Tracking your finances does not have to be complicated, do what works for you. Just be sure you track everything that comes in and everything that comes out.
photo credit: khrawlings
It has been a busy month and I have enjoyed a lot of the outreach work I have been doing in my niche.
The focus for month 2 of my authority site was to continue to produce a lot of content along with my main promotion strategy of guest posting.
I also started monetization of my site and have made some ok money for just starting out under 2 months ago. (more…)
One of the most critical blogging tasks is performing routine backups of your blog. Maintaining frequent backups will keep you from losing all of those articles and custom theme changes that you’ve worked so hard to make. From personal experience, losing a week or more worth of articles and losing 3-4 months worth of theme changes hurts. Unfortunately, I’ve been there.
Generally, most hosting companies provide backups of your WordPress blog, but they generally combine all of your files and the underlying database into one very large file that is tedious to work with. In order to do a full-restore, you will often need to engage your hosts support staff, which can take time. Most hosting companies also only provide backups as a courtesy, meaning it’s probably not best to depend on them.
With all of these factors in mind, I’ve found it best to do blog backups myself. There are a number of different options you can use. I’ll cover my initial method and the option I currently use which is a fully automatic solution with Backup Buddy – I don’t even think about it.
WP Database Backup Plugin
I first started doing blog backups using the plugin WP Database Backup. This is actually a really great plugin that gets the basic job of backing up your WordPress blog done for free. I configured WP Database Backup to do daily backups and then email them to a special Gmail account I set-up. The big drawback with WP Database Backup is that it only backups up your WordPress database and not the rest of your blogs files.
To get a full WordPress backup, you not only have to backup your WordPress database, but also your blog’s files as well. Backing up your files isn’t automated with WP Database Backup. In order to get your files backed up, you’ll need to use FTP to download them. In a nutshell, this is manual, tedious and timely, especially if you have a big site. Blogging with Amy has a good write-up on this process.
I actually used this process for a few years. The big problem I ran into was that I had constant and automated backups of my WordPress database, but would always forget to backup my theme files. Unfortunately this bit me a few times. Also, being a manual process for the most part, doing blog backups is time taken that could be better spent doing other things on your blog. I prefer to spend my time doing activities on my blog that help it grow, like writing content. This is even more true for me currently, as I have about 10 different sites I maintain and have to manage backups for.
An often overlooked and critical aspect of backing up your blog is offsite storage. Many new bloggers make the mistake of running backups and storing them on the same server as the blog. As a result, if your hosting company has an issue, or if you accidentally delete your backup directory, you’re toast. After your backups are complete, you should always copy your backups to offsite storage. As I mentioned above, my blog database backups were going to GMail as the offsite backup, and I stored my theme backups locally on a USB drive. Again, tedious and time consuming.
Backup Buddy – fully automated backups
Last year, I ran across a plugin called Backup Buddy. Backup Buddy is a commercial plugin that completely automates backing up your blog. The plugin not only backs up your WordPress database, but your WordPress files as well. I read over the feature list and concluded this was the solution I had been looking for. Then I saw the cost and hesitated.
Backup Buddy isn’t all that expensive really, I’m just pretty frugal when it comes to my side business. I generally don’t spend money on plugins or software. In the case of Backup Buddy, I made an exception and ended up purchasing their Developer license so I could run the plugin on all of my sites. Here’s why:
Backup Buddy is fully automated
Again, Backup Buddy is fully automated. You spend about 10 minutes setting it up, and that’s it. I configured Backup Buddy to send me an email each time it performs a backup. The email just gives me peace of mind and confirms my backups ran (or failed if there was a problem). That’s it. I don’t spend any time at all and know for sure that all of my sites are backed up. No manual downloading, no zipping, no copying files around. While estimating time saved is a bit difficult, I would expect the automation has saved me 1-2 hours a week at least.
Backup Buddy uses offsite storage
Backup Buddy will send your backups, immediately after they occur, to an offsite storage location of your choice. I personally use Amazon S3. The size of my backups for about 10 different sites is small enough to where my S3 storage costs are literally less than $1 a month.
Backup Buddy supports storage to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud, email and will even FTP your backups to another server for you. They even recently announced Backup Buddy Stash, which gives you 256MBs of free offsite backup storage. I’ll continue to use Amazon S3 for now, as I prefer to keep my services separate and Amazon S3 is a highly reputable storage provider.
Easy restores with Backup Buddy
In the event you ever need to restore a backup, doing so is incredibly easy. You download the Backup Buddy import file and save it to your blog’s root directory along with the backup file you want to restore. Access the import file via a web browser, and follow the restore wizard. You can literally have your site restored in minutes.
Not only does the restore process work for restoring backups, but it also works just as well for site moves. If you need to move to a different host, you literally take a backup of your current site, copy the import file and backup file to your new host, run the import file and your site is now up and running on your new host. No need to install WordPress, Backup Buddy does this for you. I’ve also used this same feature to make test sites that are copies of my production site. This allows me to play around with various theme changes or plugins prior to installing them on my main sites.
To see a full walkthrough of a Backup Buddy backup restore, read my article: Backup Buddy – How to restore your backups.
You won’t find me promoting many products or services here on Side Income Blogging because I only promote products and services I actually use. Given I’m a bit frugal, I don’t use that many. Backup Buddy is actually the only commercial plugin I currently use. I’ve found the cost to be very well justified in time savings and peace of mind alone.