March Traffic and Income Report: Celebrating 5 Years of Skillful Cook - Skillful Cook
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March Traffic and Income Report: Celebrating 5 Years of Skillful Cook

March Traffic and Income Report with four images.
Bjork Ostrom

Hey there!

Bjork here, checking in for Skillful Cook’s monthly traffic and income report. “Traffic and income report?” You say. “That sounds like something a government official would do, not a food blog.”

Here's the dealio with these monthly reports:

We started doing these reports three years ago as an experiment. Lindsay and I wanted to see if it was possible to create an income from a food blog. Some people said it was and some people said it wasn't.

Our first month's revenue was $21.97. That didn't included expenses, so when it was all said and done we probably lost money that month. Deterred we were not. (Actually, truth be told we we were a little deterred, but...) We continued to publish a report each month, outlining the things that worked and the things that didn't work when trying to build a blog and create an income from it. It's important to note that none of this happened over night. As I mentioned before, we've been doing these reports for over three years, and Lindsay’s been working on the blog (just about) every day for exactly five years now.

Wait...what? Exactly five years? Like five years AS OF TODAY?

Yep! Today, April 11th, is Skillful Cook's fifth birthday.

**confetti falls from the sky and this song starts playing**

Skillful Cook has come a long way in five years. A huge part of that is the fact that Lindsay consistently shows up, creates content, and improves along the way. It sounds simple, but showing up every single day is really hard to do and it's one of the most important factors that goes into building a successful blog.

Lindsay has learned a lot after five years of showing up and doing this blog thang. So, in light of the fact that today is Skillful Cook’s fifth birthday, I asked Lindsay if she’d write this month’s report and share five things she's learned over the last five years of blogging.

I'll share the traffic and income, as usual, then I'll pass it off to Lindsay.

Let's take a look at the numbers.


A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. All of the products listed below are products and services we've used before. If you have any questions about any of the income or expenses you can leave a comment and I'll do my best to reply.


Total Income: $32,306.94


Total Expenses: $6,942.43

Net Profit: $25,364.51

If you're interested in learning more about some of the ways that you can monetize a food blog, we encourage you to download this free ebook, “16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog,” from our sister site, Food Blogger Pro!

a picture of the 16 Ways to Monetize Your Food Blog ebook from Food Blogger Pro and a note that says, 'free download from our friends at Food Blogger Pro'


RPM is an advertising metric that shows you how much revenue your website earns for every 1,000 page views. It's a helpful metric because it allows you to see how effective you are at monetizing your blog.

Below is the RPM that we had for Skillful Cook in the month of March.

March RPM.

Traffic Totals

Below are some screenshots from Google Analytics. You can click on these images to view a larger size.

Traffic Overview

Google Analytics Blog Traffic Overview.

Top Ten Traffic Sources

Google Analytics Top Ten Traffic Sources.

Mobile Vs. Desktop Traffic

Google Analytics Mobile vs Desktop vs Tablet.

Update On The Survey

Lindsay Ostrom

Hello there! Me again. I know - I'm just all over the place on this blog.

Before we jump into the special five-year section of the post today, I promised to share some of the survey results, so let's deliver on that promise!

Here are the results from a handful of the questions - we are still reading through the thousands of individualized comments with readers' favorite and least favorite things about Skillful Cook, so thank you for your patience as we try to process through those in a methodical and intentional way.

Reader survey results.
Reader survey results.

(Note - that second most popular option said I cook for myself and my spouse, significant other, or roommate.)

Reader survey results.
Reader survey results.

(Note - that second option said I only use comments for recipe reviews and ratings, and the third option said I like reading and/or leaving personalized comments.)

Finally, here's a word cloud that shows some of the most popular words from the individual responses about what you like about Skillful Cook. 🙂 Hooray!

Word cloud with border.

To those who took the survey, THANK YOU! Major high five, and if I could, I'd give you mooooore cookies.

The survey, overall, has been so, so helpful for us, and I am excited to talk more about the process of creating and analyzing it in a future post.

Five Lessons I've Learned In Five Years Of Blogging

Five Lessons I've Leaned from Five Years of Blogging.

I can't believe we're here. From 2010-2015 -> what a ride.

There's part of me that just LOVES thinking about this day five years ago, April 11th, 2010, when I did my first post for Saturday Morning Chocolate Chip Muffins. I have this vision of myself in our outdated, poorly lit condo kitchen blindly “blogging” away, adding pictures in separate posts from the recipes just because I was just that clueless.

Also, to my eyes in 2010, this was the best muffin picture in all the lands.

first post of Skillful Cook.

Then there's this - a Pesto Cream Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta recipe that was maybe my third post ever, and I remember noticing one day that this post had something like 15 views in one day whereas the other five posts had, like, 7 views, so obviously, I was really excited because this was one of my more “popular” posts.

100% serious - I remember the specific conversation I had with Bjork about how fun it was that people liked this post so much and how I should try to do more recipes with shrimp and pasta.

shrimp post Skillful Cook.

Good thing I was making it with a jar of Alfredo sauce, too, because Skillful Cook is all about the classy recipes.

You guys! I am laughing out loud right now because, I mean, wow. How is this even real life, that Shrimp Alfredo with sauce from a jar is how Skillful Cook started, and now we are still here five years later where this is my full-time job and we are in a place where we can TEACH and SHARE ideas for building an effective food blog?

Life, you crazy.

This afternoon I did some reflecting on five years and what that has meant to me when it comes to raising up my blog baby (had to) and developing my skills as a creative and as an entrepreneur. Still sort of weird to say that.

In celebration of today's blog birthday slash anniversary, I'm sharing five big, core, straight-to-the-heart lessons that I've learned over the last five years since Skillful Cook has started.

The five lessons in my list today are things I wish I could have sat down and shared with myself on that Saturday, April 11th, 2010, before I naively hopped on this blogging roller coaster and started down the path that would lead me to eventually call this my “real job.”

Lesson #1: You can't do everything, but you can do more than you think.

You can do more than you think.

I'm always encouraging bloggers not to try to do everything, and that's a part of the message I would have given myself when I first started. Whenever you try to do every.single.thing, you will likely end up right back at good ol' burnout. It's not possible for one person to do it all.

But. But but but. That being said, one really valuable lesson I wish I would have internalized right from the beginning is the CAN DO lesson. This type of thinking would have given me permission to learn and excel at things that I didn't think I could learn and excel at rather than boxing myself in as someone who was only good at the food stuff. Unfortunately, I feel like for too long I limited myself to thinking I was only able to do - or interested in doing - certain things (food! Facebook! comments!), and I always deferred to someone more knowledgeable or experienced (helloooo, Bjork) to do “the hard stuff.”

What I've learned, and I wish I would have learned sooner, is that I CAN learn business, and I can enjoy it. I CAN excel at Photoshop. I CAN learn HTML and I can manage employees. I am not just a food person. I am a multi-dimensional human being more than I ever realized. I am capable, creative, and smart and I can learn how to do hard things - even when my more comfortable place in the world be in the kitchen making some spicy noodles. ♡

So this is what I would tell my younger, less confident self:

You can do more than you think you can. Yes, YOU, you small-town Minnesota cookie baking elementary school teacher. You can learn how to build a business. On the internet. Did you know that? YOU CAN BUILD A BUSINESS ON THE INTERNET. It's not only possible, but you can be GOOD at it. Go out there and do it right now! Be awesome. Because you can do that!

You can also become a legit cook who does more than open a jar of Alfredo sauce. You can figure out that camera. You can even teach people how to use their cameras. And you can make a living doing this.

Learn, learn, learn, practice, practice, practice, do, do do. You can, you can, you can!

Lesson #2: Not everyone will like you, and that's okay.

Not Everyone Will Like You. That's Okay.

Ouch. I don't like this one so much.

Here in Minnesota (proudly born and raised, yo!), outwardly pleasant communication is an expected way of life. People are just generally nice to each other, just, kind of always. And even if a person didn't actually like something you did or said, heaven forbid that they might actually SAY SOMETHING to your face about it. Froofta. How abooouuut thooose Twins thoouugh?

And then - there's my second world, The Internet. A total free-for-all of people who want to tell you in detail what they think about your work, your life, your beliefs, and YOU in general all from behind a screen without ever having met you.

I've had to work really hard to bring my overly sensitive, harmony-loving heart to accept that there are going to be people who just don't like what I'm doing. Or maybe it's actually that they just don't like me as a person.

Freaking out. Panicking. What to do, what to do?


I can specifically remember this comment I got while we were living in the Philippines - there was a person (hi, person, wherever you are! are you still reading this blog? I sure hope not.) who had misunderstood what I was trying to communicate with a story, and they left the most brutal, personally attacking comment I've ever gotten, of all time, ever. I tried to communicate privately with this person to remedy the situation only to have them come back again to the comments section with a renewed vengeance.

I was emotionally defeated - not just bothered, but really broken down - by words from a complete stranger on the internet.

The reality is that I think that comment would probably still make me upset today, but as a more experienced blogger, I have much tougher skin when it comes to comments, feedback, and letting people's opinions affect me. I get emails all the time (okay, not all the time, but every once in a while) from people who express their opinions with words that they would never use if they were talking to me, face to face.

Or maybe they would? I don't know. That's not the point.

The point is that you need to make conscious decisions about which voices you're going to let impact you. Now, in 2015, I understand that this People Don't Like Me thing is just part of the deal - naturally, as you grow, you're going to reach people who like you, and some who don't, and some who feel the need to say something about it, and that's that. Like water off a duck's back. (annnnnd repeat mantra forever.)

What I would say to my younger self is this:

Strangers online who read two and a half of your posts do not get to have a say in your value as a person. So some people don't like you? Okay, great. Thanks and goodbye. When you come across those voices that are only bringing negativity for the sake of negativity, you close the door, lock it, and keep moving forward, doing what you do with as much love and integrity as possible.

Lesson #3: Winning the mind game is everything.

Winning the mind game is everything.

The mind game, to me, is riding the teeter-totter between the big, excited part of your brain that says THIS ROCKS! THE BLOG IS AWESOME! and the small, crippling part of your brain that says TOO SCARY. I'M NOT GOOD ENOUGH. WAHHH.

Winning that mind game is taking control of your own thoughts (as Bjork says, looking at your emotions from the outside) and not giving authority to the crippling self-doubt part of your brain. If I'm being honest, I think this has been the hardest thing about sustaining a successful blog for me. It's not the workload, it's not learning the skills - it's winning the mind game.

Strategies for winning the mind game will work differently for everyone, but for me, I need to have some level of protection built into my routines in order to conquer the small self-crippling-doubt portion of my brain. I have a handful of rules that I've developed over the years when it comes to winning the mind game and I talk about those in this post, but one more thing that has been really helpful for me is learning how to deal with The Inner Critic, which is just another name for the thoughts that come from that small, crippling, self-destructive part of my mind.

I went to the Storyline conference last fall and one of the workshop facilitators said something about letting your Inner Critic say what they need to say (who do you think you are? you don't know what you're doing!) and then speak to it like you would speak to a child - with logic and reassurance (well, okay, you can do some research on Wiki or watch a YouTube video to find out how to do the thing you need to do.) So yes - I'm encouraging us all to have little voices. In our heads. What time is therapy again?

If I could say something to myself about this five years ago, I'd say:

Your mind is a gift and a tool. Also: it's also not always trustworthy in giving you an accurate picture of yourself and your work.

Keep talking to (non-blog) people in order to keep a rational perspective on things. Take a break when you need it. Stay away from websites that make you internalize weird things (Get Off My Internets - why? just why?). And when you feel yourself spiraling down into self-doubt, don't panic, but don't stay there, either. Reach out for help and get back up. This struggle will always exist, so learn how to master the mind game.

Lesson #4: Enjoy the now, because you'll never be fully satisfied.

Enjoy the now.

Annnnnd that sounds like the saddest thing ever. Let me explain.

As I've gotten to be a better photographer, I feel worse about my photography. I know what looks good more than I've ever known before, and therefore I have a more critical eye towards my own work.

Or as we've started earning more, I often feel less satisfied with our ebook sales or ad income. What would have otherwise been so incredible for an income stream can start to feel like “not as good as before.”

The myth is that you'll get to a point with your blog or your business where you'll have arrived. You'll be set, nothing to worry about, you've made it and you're completely satisfied. But that's just that - a myth.

If I were to go back in time, I'd tell the 2010 Lindsay:

Settle down and enjoy the now. More viral posts won't make you happier - it will make you hungry for more. Teaching a class on photography won't necessarily make you confident - it will make you realize there are still a lot of things you don't know. Having more time to work on your blog won't mean you're always caught up on everything - it will actually show you all the things you COULD be doing above and beyond your current workload.

So enjoy this moment! This one, right now. Don't wait for an arrival point when everything will fall into place and life will be awesome - you are already living it. Your capacity for happiness right now, today, in this moment, with however many page views and Pinterest followers and comments you have, is just as great as it will be when you've supposedly “made it.” Choose to be happy today.

Lesson #5: Right now, just as you are, you are enough.

You are enough.

Bjork often tells me to cut myself some slack - that I have such high expectations for myself. A few thoughts on that.

A) He doesn't see me in my sweats trying to take dog selfie SnapChats with Sage on a random Tuesday at 11 am. Pretty sure that's the definition of slack.

B) In the moments when he's right, it's hard for me to see how self-critical I'm being because I'm in the middle of my own creative mind going oh my gosh, that picture is terrible, or I can't believe I accidentally forgot the lemon juice in that recipe, or what are we going to do? that stranger hates my post.

I think this is really, really common for people who love to create stuff. We want to create, and we want it to be extremely good, and we want people to like it, and we hold ourselves to super high expectations and therefore we are overly self-critical.

If I could go back and drill something deep into my own consciousness back when the blog first started, I would teach myself that regardless of what's going on with the blog, regardless of how good my posts and my photography and recipes are, even if I was the worst blogger in the universe, I am enough, just by being me.

Yep, we're going there.

I so often struggle with this feeling that my value is based on my performance in life. But it is not.

I was enough yesterday. I am enough today. And I am enough tomorrow and then some.

I am going to leave you (aka myself) with this quote that really hits home from Shauna Neiquist's book Bittersweet:

“This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER. Each of the three words has a particular flavor of poison all its own. The three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives.”

Shauna Niequist

My final words to my former, inexperienced Skillful Cook self:

Stop being so hard on yourself and detach yourself from the idea that your value as a person is dependent on the performance of the blog.

Even if you had never learned a thing about photography, or never made anything worth sharing, or if the blog never went anywhere, you, as a person, would have unsurpassable worth and you would be loved your friends, by your family, by God, and by your new dog (!) just exactly as much as you are today. End of story.


Every month we use a portion of the income from the blog to support a special project at The Children’s Shelter of Cebu. This month we’re supporting CSC by donating to their musical instruments. Adorable? Yes.

Children's Shelter of Cebu Music Class.

Right now it's actually summer in Cebu and so the kids are done with school. One of the things that CSC does for the kids during the summer is provide different enrichment programs - some kids do sports, some do cooking classes, and some do music lessons. When we lived in the Philippines, Bjork actually taught the summer guitar class (pictured with his students above!), so buying musical instruments for these kids to continue their summer music lessons holds extra special significance for us.

To wrap up, I want to say thank you for being a big part of making our last five years so incredible.

I love you guys. Like, it's the weirdest thing, but I really do feel like I love you.

In a friend way.

So... yeah. ♡

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, you kind of blew me away on this. I really loved your 5 lessons. The points you make are so important, not just from a blogging standpoint, but as some really, really important things to remember as life lessons. I wish I had know these things about myself when I was younger. It has taken a lot of years and a lot of maturing to come to these same conclusions and to believe in myself as a person, waaay before I ever heard the word “blog.”

    Once again, I commend the both of you. Your mission and your message goes far beyond sharing recipes and photos, and I hope you realize how much you truly do for people.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I took the survey, but completely forgot to mention how much I love these monthly reports! They are super interesting and I read them in full every month.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I am a new reader and thoroughly enjoy your blog. Happy birthday to you both. I enjoyed your 5 lessons.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Happy Bloggingversary! I love reading these monthly income reports, it’s inspiring to watch you grow. Thanks for being so open to sharing!!

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Your 5 lessons are amazing…for every aspect of life not just a blog or business. I am a new mom and need to remember these daily. Congratulations on 5 years. And that muffin picture gave me a chuckle.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Congraluations & Inspiring!
    I recently read your blog and decided to start my own blog.
    Although it’s a totally different subject that I’ll be talking about, your generosity and transparency in sharing all these detailed info is definitely inspirational and motivational to anyone interested in blogging!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    So crazy how far y’all have come in the last 5 years!
    I love reading the income reports and learning new things, but the 5 tips kinda made this post. All of them are so true but what you said about your value as a person not being dependent on the performance of the blog or work in general for that matter, is such a hard thing to come to terms with. So thanks for the reminder 😀

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Such a beautiful post Lindsay! Reading abouy your apprehensions as an ametuer blogger makes me realise it’s O.K to be scared. That everyone goes through it Congratulations on completing 5 yrs! May your success always be with you. And, thank you for the inspiration that you are! 🙂

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Lindsay!
    I stumbled on your blog when I was looking for food styling tips and programs to use, and I’ve been glued to your blog for the past 30 minutes! You and your husband are such fun loving and inspirational people, ordinary but extraordinary in a way. I just started my food blog 1 month ago (yes it’s an infant blog), and it’s been swimming in deep waters for me ever since. Reading about your blog’s history makes me so much more confident, and hopeful that someday I can do something useful with my blog too, like philanthropy. Thx for being inspiring!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I loved this post so much, Lindsay, and I really needed to hear the last piece of advice today. Whether it’s in blogging or in life, sometimes it feels like nothing is ever enough. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to do anything to be worthy of love.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Happy happy happy blog birthday!! You’ve come a long way in only five years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you three 🙂
    I can definitely relate to the I-have-to-do-everything mentality. I recently read a quote that’s kinda along the same lines: “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” -Malcom Bane
    Thanks for sharing these lessons!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing! One of the things I love about Skillful Cook is one of the words from the infographic: personality. I love that you and Bjork are willing to share with us–you don’t have to, of course, but it really does make me feel connected. And now that my husband and I have decided to launch our own food blog (!), the monthly reports are even more interesting to me.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We should have had a dual birthday party! He could have had a plate of creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce with birthday candles.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Happy 5th Birthday for your wonderful blog. You are truly an inspiration, such warm, caring and giving people you and Bjork are. I’ve learned so much from all that you both share. My photography has certainly improved because of Tasty Food Photography, thanks, thanks and thanks. I’m not always where I want to be with my photography, and when I start to let those ugly voices in my head take over and tell me I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I remind myself that you started with no special training, and your photos are amazingly awesome, I kinda think of you as my photography mentor and I read, view and re-read and re-view when I need inspiration.
    Thanks for sharing and caring, may you have many more years of blog success.

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Happy blogiversary you guys! Awesome post here Lindsay and I thank you so much for helping me get my “pour” shots right! You guys are inspirational. Keep it up! Thank you! 🙂

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, I want you to know that I am not normally a “food blog” person, but I continue to return month after month for these reports because they are so valuable. You are incredibly gifted with your words (and I’m sure the recipes are great too, but I’m kinda like your 2010 self with the store-bought alfredo sauce). Keep doing what you’re doing!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you Stephanie! I really appreciate that. And I have many a good memory with a box of pasta and a jar of Alfredo sauce, so no judgement there! 😉

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    It has been so cool to see the growth and progression of your blog over the years. The message in your 5 lessons went well beyond food blogging. They were more like wise and inspirational life lessons… Things that I REALLY needed to hear. It felt as if you wrote this just for me. I’ve been struggling trying to do everything all by myself, fighting with the worst inner critic, and struggling with the fear of not being liked or good enough… to the point where it has totally crippled me from putting anything out there. Your 5 lessons, have really given me the guidance and inspiration I needed to really do this blogging thing… Because regardless of how imperfect my blog may be, I’m still enough. Your authenticity and transparency mean so much to me. I am SO inspired and impressed by your message and your mission in this world. I hope that I’ll be able to do the same with my blog in the years to come.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you Ann! It’s so encouraging to hear that these are resonating with people even outside of the food/blog niches. Thank you thank you! XO

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    You should be so proud of this wonderful space you have created! You are doing beautiful work and are so wise. I love your perspective on food and life! Happy anniversary and keep up the great work!

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Another reason why I love your blog! I didn’t know you started it on April 11th (my birth month and day) five years ago. I enjoy watching and reading about your journey. Congratulations on your success and your anniversary. Nice to see good peeps doing well.

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    I hope you have another 5 glorious years.
    Because you and the children of Cebu deserve it.