Business FAQ Pink Loves Brown The Blog

How My Blog Went From a Hobby to a Job

As I mentioned yesterday, there are several topics to not discuss in polite company: money, politics, and your stance on wood finishes. Since I have already, at various points, touched on the other two, why not go three for three and talk about finances?

I’ve held a job, self-employed or otherwise, since I was sixteen. I have been an amusement park ride-operator, a handy(wo)man, a telephone surveyor, a face painter, a babysitter, a record store clerk, a muralist, a bookseller, a web designer, a stationer, and a blogger. Most of those overlapped. For instance, I worked at the bookstore while also face painting for the village events in Oak Park, the combination of which somehow led to my being awarded Employee of the Year for Downtown Oak Park! I didn’t even know that was a possibility, but I gave a brief, awkward acceptance speech at the end of a TIF meeting, and was presented with a plaque. (It used to hang in our apartment bathroom, because that’s a pretty funny thing to see when you visit the loo.)

I’m sure you can tell from my résumé of odd jobs (literally) that I have been raking it in!

Brandon and I were married in 2004. I started my stationery shop in 2005, and I began offering web design in 2006. Making it Lovely began in 2007, and I had intended for it to be a complement to the shop and design business, but mostly just a fun place to chronicle what we were doing as we moved into our first house together. Over time, the blog became successful, and I was able to earn some advertising revenue. Each year, the balance of our finances changed a little (2008 took a hit from doing the National Stationery Show — ouch), but Brandon’s job was always the anchor.


He and I had dreamed of the day he would be able to quit. Steadily, each year, we grew a little closer. Then, in January 2012, we were pushed over the cliff when he lost his job. We weren’t ready to make that leap, and we scrambled for a while. Slowly though, I began to find my footing with the blog and its potential to support us, and in September 2012, I wrote about our decision for Brandon to stay home and watch the kids while I worked full-time on the blog.

Though our income is now fully funded by Making it Lovely, I have tried to diversify the sources as much as possible. Keep reading for a breakdown of how this blog supported us in 2012.


Affiliate Sales

I do use affiliate links — there is a disclaimer in the sidebar — but I don’t use them as effectively as one could. To do well with them (there are plenty of blogs devoted to teaching you this art), you have to actively push them. I use them passively. Meaning that if I was already planning to link to an item, and they happen to participate in the affiliate program I’m a part of, I will use the affiliate link. I don’t go looking for products in order to drive sales, and as such, I don’t make that much with them.

I think that there is a perception out there that bloggers link to items for the sole purpose of making money. Though that isn’t the case with me, I have considered ceasing their use because I don’t want people to assume the worst. Right now though, I’m comfortable in knowing that I remain ethical, and the small amount of revenue that I do see from their use helps my family.


Many bloggers are doing e-courses and workshops now, and they are a good way to monetize one’s blog. I don’t have any plans for my own, but I did co-teach with Holly Becker, of Decor8, for two of her Blogging Your Way courses this year. I also taught several classes for Alt Summit on Growing Your Readership, Understanding Analytics, and even What to Wear to Alt (which was lighthearted and a lot of fun).

Event Planning

I had the opportunity to plan several baby showers this year for a brand’s Pinterest campaign. We assembled each theme in a Chicago studio, and I was responsible for planning, sourcing, executing, and styling them from start to finish. I haven’t yet shared the images here, but they turned out beautifully, and it was an interesting project to work on.

Ad Sales

I sell ads directly to independent shops that inquire, because I too was once an indie shop looking to advertise on blogs. I sell at a heavily discounted rate to them and therefore the ads are not a huge source of income, but it’s important to me. I think that there may be a shift happening in general, wherein shops large and small are moving away from display advertising (banner ads), but for now I still devote space to them.

My larger ad spots are sold through an ad network. I have been with Glam Media, and Martha’s Circle in the past, but have now been with Federated Media since 2010. I don’t solicit for ads (large or small), so I’m happy to let them do their thing for me so I don’t have to hustle for ad dollars.

Writing Elsewhere

I also earn money by writing for other sites — in my case, Babble, My Colortopia, and Better Homes and Gardens. The apartment makeover videos I shot in New York were a result of my pitching the idea to My Colortopia.

It can be tricky to find a balance, and to figure out what should be posted where. I have a regular beat on BHG (“Get the Look”), and My Colortopia provides us with a theme each month (e.g. “dining room transformations”). I post fashion and products for the home on Babble, and Making it Lovely remains my personal space to talk about what I’m doing. I had a Filing Cabinet section a few years back, in which I was posting a find of the day, but the section didn’t work out. I was happy to have my writing at Babble take its place several months after I dissolved the category here.


I have written about this before, back in 2010. Since then, I have continued to explore new ways to work with sponsors, while still maintaining my standards. Sometimes I will speak directly about the product or service that I’m working with. Other times the sponsorship is more like a commercial at the beginning of a post. I think of those much like a television sponsor — a show may be “brought to you by Car Brand X”, but the characters aren’t necessarily driving around in one of their models.

I try to schedule sponsored posts so that there are no more than one per week, but sometimes it isn’t possible. Advertisers tend to want to push campaigns out on certain dates (that is why you may see the same brand on several sites on the same day), and you can either agree to participate or pass. I don’t typically know how many other sites will be a part of the campaign alongside me until I see the posts published on their respective blogs. The other reason you will occasionally see many sponsored posts in a short time is simply due to the nature of advertising. They work in quarters and certain times of the year are busier than others, so there are more opportunities to work with brands at different points throughout the year.

Thank You

Again, I’ve been thanking you a lot this week as I reflect on the past six years, but I mean it. 2012 was a scary year of leaping before we looked, but we’re in a good place now. Thank you for being there as Brandon and I navigated our way.

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  • Allison
    January 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I am not a blogger but I love reading them (especially yours!). It’s very interesting to see the breakdown, and I am so happy it’s working for you. I love seeing your projects and fashion posts!

  • Krista
    January 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Nicole – thank you so much for being open and honest about this topic. I’m in a transformative period for my blog/business and this perspective is tremendously helpful. A heartfelt congratulations to you on your ability to be nimble enough to grow and follow the opportunity while remaining true to yourself and your blog’s aesthetic!! PS – Can’t wait to meet you at ALT Summit!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Thank you. Please come find me and say hello at Alt!

  • Anna Newell Jones
    January 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Nicole, Thanks for sharing how you make your living off your blog. Hoping to get to that point someday myself. I’ve loved your Alt Summit classes and the What to Wear to Alt was a lot of fun (can’t believe it’s already next week!)!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      I know, it seems like it crept up on us all this year. Next week!

  • Amy purple
    January 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I wish you much continued success. I am glad things are both working out for you and Brandon. Miss you guys!

  • Michele C
    January 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is proof that one’s income does not have to be entirely dependent on being an employee and tied to a job. I always encourage everyone to have one or two salable skills and freelance, whether it be yardwork, housework, web design, sewing. That way a person feels like he/she has some control over their income and destiny, too. Plus, how gratifying to hone a personal skill that others want to pay for! — Michele

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Keeping up with web design has been a great safety net. I know I can always start accepting more clients again if I need (or want) to.

  • Maria Costa
    January 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Thrilled to read this post! I’ve been following your blog for years and love seeing the progression and changes. I hope that there is never a time when you are made to feel bad about the income that you earn from this site, as you and your husband obviously work very hard and work *should* be paid.

    May you be part of the 1%!

  • The Informal Matriarch
    January 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for this post. Its nice to know exactly where it all comes from and how. Now to monetize MY blog.

  • Linsey @ pretty preened
    January 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing all this fab info on blogging. I am new to the scene, but have been reading blogs for years. Cheers to you!!

  • Anna
    January 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Congratulations, I think your blog might be one of the few fully monetized blogs that still actually feels like a personal blog. While I still read other monetized blogs the experience ends up being one more akin to flipping through a home magazine and there’s nothing wrong with that but I do prefer the more personal (and sincere) feeling that you’ve kept. I think you do a great job :)

    • Jayne
      January 16, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Well said, Anna. That’s exactly how I feel too.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you. I’ve felt pressure to follow that path… Bring on contributors, step back from the personal posts, up the frequency, and bam! Page views! Success! Money!

      It didn’t feel right for me though.

  • Elizabeth
    January 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm


    Thank YOU for staying strong through such an unexpected life change. I’m sure the urge to abandon the blog and maybe get a more stable 9 to 5 may have hit you but you stuck to what makes you happy and you in turn make so many others happy. I’m sure it was meant to be that Brandon can stay at home with the kids *which is a full-time job itself* I love learning about the economics of a blog and your ethics too. I have been blogging for 5 years and I hope to monetize my site. So far I have one paid ad and I am so grateful. My family’s goal is to move to Paris for a year and I could blog about our adventures in France. You are such a role model and your classes are super fun!

    Keep up the lovely work and Happy 6 years Making It Lovely.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Oh yes. I had an interview and offer to work with a company — one that I love and would have enjoyed working for — but I passed on it. That was hard to do, not knowing if I had made the right decision.

      I hope you make it to Paris.

  • Jackie
    January 16, 2013 at 6:13 pm


    Thank you for sharing. As a much newer blogger posts like this are equal parts optimism and realism. I am love what you have built and have been reading for years. I also took one of your Alt. courses. I hope you’ll be doing more :)

  • Stephanie T
    January 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Such a wonderful look into your world. I am always appreciative when bloggers breakdown their successes for others to admire and learn from. You deserve every success and I can’t wait to see the things to come from you and your lovely blog! :)

  • Nicole RJ
    January 16, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I mostly read your blog via an RSS feed, so don’t see most ads, but I think you do an excellent job of not pushing affiliate links and sponsors (even to being on the lite side of using them)… but you totally deserve to get paid for what you do here, it’s a fabulous blog!

  • Jimmy
    January 16, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing all this. Lots of good information here.

    Two quick questions if you don’t mind:
    1) Do you think the “writing elsewhere” section accounts for a significant enough readership boost here at Making it Lovely that it might really account for a larger share of your revenue, even if its literal dollar amount is roughly 25% as shown?
    2) Did this whole thing turn out at all close to what you pictured when you got started six years ago?

    Thanks again.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      I don’t see all that much measurable boost in readership from my other writing jobs. I think there is caché in writing for certain sites, but before I wrote for them I assumed there would be some traffic coming back my way. There is some, but not much. I’m sending people there, not the other way around.

      Six years ago, I thought that maybe the blog could help me grow the stationery line. I wanted to be carried by Anthropologie. (Blushing at how silly that might sound, but it’s true.)

  • Jennifer M
    January 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you for this post! I write a small blog, and I’m happy not making money off of it, but I’m always curious about how the bigger blogs get into making it a career of something that’s so fun! I’m also a sucker for some charts and graphs. ;)

  • Cathy Wolfram from Adore Your Place
    January 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Nicole this post is exactly what I needed today. After designing interiors for twenty years I was looking for a way to generate income allowing me to stay home with my third child and still maintain some design clients. I decided to turn my blog, that began as a place for my clients to get advice when I wasn’t working on a project with them, into a professional business. My husband lost his job as well so now the importance of creating more revenue on the blog and being true to its mission is greater than ever. Now that my unique visitors is close to 15,000 advertisers are reaching out for sponsored links and posts. Not ad soace yet, I use Ligit advertising they are owned by Federated Media. FM needs me to be at 50,000 uniques and then they will transfer us over. I am following the same path only using vendors I actually would recommend (as you do) to my clients (sparingly) but have no idea what to charge or how to do it.If there is any chance you could give me some advice I would greatly appreciate it. Email is fine to, sorry this is so long. Best,

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Cathy, focus on getting your numbers up. (I know you already know this.) From there, more opportunities will open up, and you’ll be able to choose the path that works for you. Pay attention to what other bloggers you admire are doing (I do this too), emulate what you like, and pass on what you don’t.

      • Kari
        January 17, 2013 at 5:41 am

        I’d love to know what blogs you enjoy reading yourself. Where do you find inspiration online?

  • Emma
    January 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for this post Nicole – insightful and succinct as usual. Love it.
    This year I am jumping deeper into the blogosphere myself with the hopes to make the majority of income from my blog, as well as my photography business. It’s scary, but I like that it’s scary. I’ve been reading MIL since I started blogging in early 2008 and love to see you grow. I’m hoping to take Holly’s BYW 2.0 class (I did BYW in 2010) to help refine my 2013 goals and where my blog is heading. It is definitely a different ball game here in Australia compared to the US though, but the winds of change are certainly in the air!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      “It’s scary, but I like that it’s scary.” Yes. Best of luck! And Holly’s class is a great one.

  • Audrey - This Little Street
    January 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Absolutely LOVED this post, Nicole. Thanks for being so open and honest with us – it’s refreshing to find a blog that’s ok with dealing with the taboo. You’re an inspiration to me, and I hope I get to meet you at Alt next week :)

  • Jen
    January 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing this information! I’ve been blogging for a little over a year and I am always curious about how the full-time, professional bloggers make it work. I really appreciate your authenticity and willingness to share your experience!

  • Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms
    January 16, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I find that many blogs don’t like to talk about the financial side of blogging, but I not only find it interesting but also helpful. As a novice blogger the idea of monetizing a blog is kind of scary but interesting too. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Brittany LeSueur
    January 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I have only been serious with blogging a little under a year. It is such a fun hobby! I like that you have kept your blog so honest and true to yourself. It is genuinely you, and that is something that has drawn me into loving it! Not just some blogger fitting drawn into random spinsters and blogging fads. Thanks for keeping it real. Excited to see it continue to grow as I am sure it will

  • melissa q.
    January 16, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you for such an honest post. It’s really important to discuss these things out in the open. I have been thinking a lot about how to make more money blogging and while I’ve heard each of these pieces of information separately, it’s so helpful and amazing to see them all gathered together! You are great. Cheers!

  • Nicole
    January 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Nicole, I know this is all uncharted territory, but never apologize for your success! You are allowed to “rake it in”! You’ve earned your success by being talented, smart, quick on your feet, creative, and savvy in new media. Not to mention, working REALLY HARD! Congrats!

  • Call of the Small
    January 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    WOW. This post was not only honest and forthright, but incredibly eye-opening and informative for anyone who has a blog. Kudos to you for explaining it all so clearly and compellingly!! You truly deserve all the successes that will undoubtedly come your way!

  • Julia [life on churchill]
    January 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    This is really helpful, thanks so much for sharing! A couple of things come to mind when I look at this–1, it takes time and 2, you work really hard! congrats on all the success!

  • Jenn - Dirty Girl Gardening
    January 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Really wonderful post! Thanks for being so honest, brave and forthcoming!

  • jenny
    January 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    I love love love when bloggers talk about the financial aspect of blogging. It’s refreshing to get an honest peek into how it all works. This speaks volumes of your character and the confidence that you carry. Bravo!

    I have a huge can of worms that I’d like to open: tax deductions for design bloggers. I see a lot folks selling and buying new homes and performing modest to expansive remodel projects on them. Can one take deductions, partial or full, on the purchase of a home and the other costs associated with their improvement? I’ve always wondered about this as I was always fascinated at what I was able to write off as a former Broadway dancer.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Tax deductions are tricky. A new camera? Yes! Materials for a renovation you’ll be blogging? Not so fast… Claiming parts of your home could cause trouble down the line. You’ll have to pay a lot of the deductions back when you sell the house. (But please talk to an accountant, not me, about this to be sure.)

      • jenny
        January 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

        Thanks for the info. It merely stemmed from my piqued curiosity. Have a great day!

  • Aferdita K
    January 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post. I love following your blog along with a few others and it has inspired me to want to create my very own blog. This post gave me a huge insight on the side of blogging that I normally would have to learn by experience. Keep up the great work. Wish you and your husband much success!! I look forward to seeing what else you have for us in 2013.

  • Anon
    January 16, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    This is fascinating, but not very helpful. Great, so you make a living off your blog now. But how much are you living on? I mean you were paintng faces and selling stationary before, it’s not like you gave up a high powered corporate job. And you make more than your husband did, but what was he doing? For all we know, he was painting faces too and you can now be living off of a whopping$10,000 and feel like your raking it in comparatively, even if there was no way other people who read your blog could live on that around. It just seems disingenuous to me. Nice concept for a post but without real information, what’s the point other than to brag once again that youre the one supporting your family?

    • Making it Lovely
      January 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      I’m sorry that you don’t find it useful without hard figures attached. For one, I’m not comfortable telling the world exactly how much money my family makes (who would be?). And two, I think that adding figures would actually distract. Once I say I make $X amount doing this, this, and that, all people focus on is the dollar amount.

      We have a house, are debt-free other than the mortgage, and I can buy myself a ridiculous pair of sequin shoes every now and then. We’re doing all right.

      • Nicol I
        January 17, 2013 at 12:52 am

        Could you at least put it in ‘inflation’ like terms? 2007 was $100K, 2008 was 1.2xs that or 120K, etc?

    • Ashley
      January 17, 2013 at 1:08 am

      In all honesty, this comment comes across as unnecessarily negative and a bit mean. It’s not our right to ask for more information than Nicole is comfortable giving. We are readers of a FREE weblog she produces. Again, FREE.

      Nicole already shares so much of her life and home and family with us. If she wanted to share figures, I’m sure she would have put it in the original post.

      Also, I don’t see why she SHOULDN’T be proud of supporting her family. That’s a giant accomplishment, plus a goal on her life list to boot. Be happy for her!

    • SRK
      January 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

      This is such a harsh, and nosey comment. Nicole doesn’t need to give you any figures.. Sheesh folks! Let’s be nice to each other!

  • genevive
    January 16, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    so inspired. i didnt know it is possible. more power and continue to inspire the world!

  • brighton
    January 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I have read and analyzed this post like 4 times. you just amaze me. that’s all i can say. I look up to you so much…

  • Brittany
    January 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Nicole, thank you so much for being so honest about such personal things. I think it’s tremendously helpful to see how such a mystical profession works out. Hope to meet you at Alt!

  • Rosemary
    January 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Love this. I don’t mind sponsored posts, but when bloggers aren’t open about their stance and I get to the very end of the post and suddenly read that it was sponsored by such-and-such, I feel a little tricked. I appreciate your open, honest approach, and because you’ve always seemed to blog about what you like and believe in, I’m more likely to take your endorsement of a product seriously. I think it’s great that you’re able to support your family by doing what you love, and it’s so inspiring to those of us who hope to be able to do the same one day!

  • Elizabeth Bergesen
    January 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you for the break down! If you were a new blogger looking for ways to start monetizing your blog – which method would you start out first with?

  • Ashley
    January 17, 2013 at 1:03 am

    I think it’s absolutely fabulous you’re supporting your family fully with your income from online sources. Go you! You should be very proud!

    January 17, 2013 at 3:43 am

    I’m always curious where the income from blogs come from, so thanks for sharing. I’m glad you’re able to make a living out of this! Love Vredenburg

  • Anja
    January 17, 2013 at 6:38 am

    I love how open you are about these topics! I think it is important that bloggers reveal how they support their blog because otherwise it would be really hard to know who you can trust when they recommend tool X for one of their projects or who is just trying to sell something. I don’t mind reading a big disclaimer on top of a post that this one was sponsored if the post itself is good and not essentially different from the other posts of the respective blogger.

  • Heidi S.
    January 17, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Thanks for being so open about this! I find it fascinating. As someone who currently blogs for fun and to try and bring in business, it is interesting to see how someone can actually make money from a blog. Good luck to you and you family!

  • Elisheva
    January 17, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Thanks for sharing! The personal none-commercial-y aspect of your blog definitely comes through, which I’m sure is difficult seeing as it’s not just your personal blog anymore. It still feels like listening to a friend, and I think that it’s great that you have not compromised using just your voice even though it’s tempting. That’s what helps your blog stand out, and why we all started reading it in the first place:)

  • JC
    January 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Congratulations, Nicole on a job well done. I took your survey and hope that it was somehow helpful to you. What I failed to mention that I’d really like you to know, is that I ENJOY that your blog is a work in progress – a learning experience. It’s endearing. It’s authentic. It’s real life. There are quite enough blogs out there (which I shall not name) that are fabulous and seemingly perfect in every way. There is a time and a place for them. I do prefer to give my time to someone who, like the rest of us, is searching for the right balance – in more ways than one. In other words, I appreciate you. Best of luck, always.

  • Ashlea Walter
    January 17, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating journey. I’m sure it’s too personal to share–and that’s ok–but I’m left wondering about the pie chart itself because it makes it seem like the income is the same amount before and after. It’s probably not and you’ve been able to figure out ways to cut expenses and reassess priorities, etc. I’m only writing this because it might be a good thing to share with readers – not necessarily the numbers themselves, but the journey to achieving goals by doing less, or buying less, or whatever. Or maybe I’m totally wrong and you’re making more money. Regardless, good for you!!!

  • Jessica @ The Budget Savvy Bride
    January 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Thank you for sharing! Your candor is inspiring and encouraging. I’m considering taking the leap to blogging full time and this really helps to see how someone else has made it work!

  • corey
    January 17, 2013 at 8:14 am

    thank you so much for sharing this with us! my blog is still in its baby stages and i know that hard work lies ahead of me, but i love doing it and hearing real success stories like yours are so inspiring! i will be at alt this year and look forward to meeting you! cheers! corey

  • Caroline
    January 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Thanks for this Nicole. Your honesty is much appreciated. I can’t think of another blogger who writes which such matter of fact candour as you about these things. Good for you for sticking to what you believe in, quite inspiring.

  • Thalita
    January 17, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I have no doubts that you already know this – you are an inspiration to both bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Thank you for what you do, and congratulations on the success all of your hard work has led you to!

  • Jane
    January 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Long-time reader, first-time caller… Thank you so much for mapping out and detailing your transition, Nicole. It’s a personal goal of mine to officially launch my own business and cut ties with my secure 9-5 job (I’m not quite there yet) This post is SO inspirational, to me, and just reinforces my desire to fulfill my dreams just as you have! Thank you thank you!

  • Catherine
    January 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Nicole, just wanted to say thank you, again, for always being so honest and open. Your transparency is so refreshing, and I think it’s great for you to show your readers that blogging IS a business and you have become so successful by working hard. (It made me smile to see that piece of pie getting bigger each year!) I think your story is incredibly inspiring, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from you because of your willingness to share! Thank you, and I hope to say hi at Alt next week. :)

  • Susan
    January 17, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Congratulations Nicole on getting your blog to a place where you can support your family. I love reading Making it Lovely and I’m not surprised you’ve got to this place! Looking forward to saying hi at Alt next week. :)

  • Alison
    January 17, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Thank you so much for the inspiration! It helps to read stories of others who have achieved or are working towards their goals. It give me hope!

  • Crystal
    January 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

    This is so amazing and very inspiring! I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing this this information. Congrats on your blogging success!

  • Holly
    January 17, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Fascinating as always – I read every word of this post. And I’ll say it a thousand times, you’re writing is superb. You need to write a book – is that in works yet? Because if not, it should be. You go girl!

    • Sarah
      January 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Yes! Write a book.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you. This is the year I’m going to really push to try and make that happen. I had an opportunity slip by years ago because I wasn’t ready to take on the commitment, but I want it now.

    • Lisa @ Wicked and Weird
      January 30, 2013 at 9:20 am

      I think it is definitely time for a book about the business of blogging and you are the girl to write it for sure!! Where do I sign up for an advance copy? :)

  • jbhat
    January 17, 2013 at 10:50 am

    So informative and interesting. I particularly loved the colors you chose for your pie charts. : ) Really!


  • Jessica
    January 17, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Nicole – I’m not sure if you remember me but our paths crossed in Land of Nod at Oakbrook around Christmas time. It was one of those awkward moments (for me) where you walked past me and I exclaimed “Hey, I know you from your blog!”. LOL…I bet that happens to you all the time? You graciously didn’t run away and told me that your daughter had done your makeup that day… so sweet and funny.

    Anyhow, thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into the financial aspects of blogging as a career. I know it’s very personal, but it’s so inspiring and helpful. I’m a photographer and recently branched out to start a new blog and am just so inspired by all that you have done.

    Hope our paths cross again so I have an opportunity to put a cohesive sentence or two together :)

    p.s. have you been to the Land of Nod outlet in Naperville?!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      I have been to the outlet, but not recently. And I do remember that day! My sister put blue eyeshadow and red lipstick on Eleanor at Sephora not long before that, and since then, E always wants to go play with the makeup when we’re at Oakbrook. So I indulged her and let her put some blue eyeshadow on me, and that was the day you ran into me!

  • Vidya Sudarsan
    January 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Thank you for sharing – good info and loved your visuals! You inspire other bloggers :-)

  • Abbi
    January 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I really appreciate you doing this. The transparency is great and I think it’s really interesting! Good for you for growing your business and constantly reinventing yourselves!

  • Ellie
    January 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I am a constant lurker :) of your blog, and it’s awesome to see a local Chi-town girl making her money on her own!!!

  • Laurie from House to your Home
    January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    This is an excellent post one that I’ve never read before from the many blogs I’ve read so thank you so much!! Can you tell me what’s a blogger to do if she is considering adding ads to her blog but aren’t as big as someone like you especially if you say that small and large companies are shying away from this? Thanks for your blog I’ve enjoyed it for many years!!

  • Heather P.
    January 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have been slowly taking the plunge into blogging, after years of teaching college English has left me worn out and broke. While I know the possibility of me making it a career is not really the goal right now, I appreciate the honesty about what you have to do to make money. It’s not all about “Oh, I’ll just put some ads up and it’ll be fine.” You have made quite a journey, and your blogging career reflects that. I hope to one day be able to make a career out of writing, and it’s nice to hear that others are willing to share the reality of how this career path really works!

  • Jessie J
    January 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you for posting this information. It is great to read a raw, honest and informative post about being a blogger.

  • Jennifer
    January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Great post! I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and enjoy reading posts such as this. Congratulations on your success!

  • Megan
    January 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing all this information. I’m not sure if making an income from my blog will ever be a reality, but it’s interesting to hear how other do. Thanks again!

  • heather in WA State
    January 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for candidly answering questions so many of us have, but are too polite to ask!

    OK, here’s one: How do you manage the occasional trolls and haters?

    I’ve followed some blogs for years that just fold up after an attack, and it breaks my heart to see a creative soul drop out of blogging because of it.

    You are an inspiration to many, and I am excited to watch your growth through the years (I’ve been following you since before Eleanor came along!).

    Have a successful and rewarding 2013!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      “If they hate then let ’em hate, and watch the money pile up.” Nah, kidding. I just happened to be listening to that right as I read your comment.

      I have exceedingly nice readers. I get occasional comments that make me bristle, and I’ve seen some chatter elsewhere online, but I have a pretty thick skin. Most of the time comments are based on conjecture and are off-base, but sometimes I can learn from them and I try to take them as constructive criticism.

  • Jenn
    January 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Great post. Love the visuals. Don’t feel bad or even note that you were making more than your husband. You BOTH earn money and work to create a home. You are living the dream girl!

  • Miss B.
    January 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    This is again very inspiring and I am sure will have even more readers clamoring down your blog door! It is not easy but you some how make it seem so effortless!

  • Noelle
    January 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    It’s so inspiring to see ladies out there doing what they love and also making a living at it! Keep up the good work Nicole!

  • Emily @ Peck Life
    January 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I agree that it’s one of those topics that lots of other bloggers shy away from talking about. :) I’m so happy for your family that you’ve been able to find a way to support everyone though your blog – gives the rest of us hope!! See you at Alt!

  • Jennifer Eastman
    January 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Such an inspiring and honest post. I appreciate you sharing the growth and evolution of your blog and the other outlets that have allowed you to support your family. Kudos and thank you!

  • Martine
    January 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks so much for your candor! And of course, your hard work :)

  • Brittany Lauren
    January 17, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I’m so so glad your posted this. THANK YOU. It really gives others an insight of how you made things happen. I love seeing your growth and appreciate your journey. You are a prime example for others, especially women, that anything is possible! I hope your career/schedule allows your to teach others in the future :)

  • Dottie
    January 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Nicole, girl!

    Thank you so much lady for posting this incredibly thoughtful and honest post about something most bloggers cringe at discussing. It is inspiring and also shows just how hard you’ve worked to get this balance and to be able to make a true living off of your blog. Youf success was due to diligence and a consistent smart and thoughtful content as well as beautiful design. Well done, lady!

    Also, I wish I was going to Alt this time so I could buy you a glass of champagne and toast you for rocking this past year so effing hard! You go, lady!


  • AnnW
    January 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    If you want to have several sponsored posts a week, that’s fine with me. I’m sure you will write them really well. Ann

  • ALIX
    January 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    This is so refreshingly honest….thanks nicole for opening up to your readers. It’s terrific to see how you have steadily built your business and I’m so happy you are able to support your family with your lovely blog. xo

  • Jessica from Brown Paper Belle
    January 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you for being so honest and open. It is inspiring to read how your blog and work have evolved over the past 6 years. Congratulations! xx

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  • Ines
    January 18, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Thank you, this is very very inspiring.

  • Geneva
    January 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Thank you for your honesty! I know sometimes it looks so easy for us – out here, but of course, you have put alot of time, money and work into all that you do, and I appreciate it so much. You are truly an inspiration and so very talented!

    Keep up the good work – you and Brandon make a wonderful team!


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  • Josephine
    January 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Nicole, I’ve been visiting your blog almost as long as it’s been in existence, and that’s testament to your humour, good taste and honesty that has remained a constant here, no matter what else was changing.

    Hearty congratulations on all you have achieved! I’ll be visiting as long as you fancy sharing!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      I love that I have so many readers who, like you, have been reading since the beginning. Thank you.

  • Tan
    January 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for this honest post on the success of your blog. It’s truly inspiring to see where one can go. I’m so happy you and your family are able to have something you love support you.

  • Emma
    January 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Always appreciate your authentic voice, as I’m sure many women do as its so refreshing. It may be too personal (you need some privacy!) but I was wondering about whether you’ll post about how you being the breadwinner has changed the dynamics of your family – time with kids, time with your husband, letting go of certain things. The hard bits, the easy bits. Its stuff we’re all grappling with and you have such a wonderful perspective.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      I think I need more distance before I’m comfortable sharing. It’s hard to talk about family dynamics while they’re still shifting.

  • Anna
    January 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for being so honest! I would like to know how did you go from starting a blog to 250K views in only ONE year. Could you please write specifically why/how/when your blog became a success!

    • Making it Lovely
      January 28, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      My growth was fast, but not that fast! It took over a year to reach more than 100K page views/month, and I didn’t reach that 250K/month milestone until nearly two and a half years in. I do teach a whole class on Growing Your Readership for Alt. There’s another one coming up on February 11.

  • hanalei
    January 18, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    This is so so so so helpful! After blogging since 2007, I’ve decidedly started a fresh, new blog that i really want to put my heart & time into. I’m glad you are so thoughtful and ethical about your advertising. Your story is inspirational, thank you for sharing!

  • Nicola
    January 19, 2013 at 1:16 am

    Nicole, you are the most hard working person I know!!! It must take so much time and mental energy to write for so many places and keep things fresh on here, all the while being a mom to 2 little ones and keeping a clean and organised home. I admire your work ethic and focus.

  • Amy @ Living Locurto
    January 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Great info for you to share and help others! I like seeing how organized you are with charts! Makes me want to do this for myself. This is such an exciting time for bloggers. Congrats on growing your business. Very inspiring. Happy I got to know you at the Michael’s event:-) Keep up the great work!

  • Lindsay Redd
    January 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I laughed so hard at politics, finances and wood finishes! That is so true! That breakdown is fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gena@BakeAllTheThings!
    January 20, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    This was fascinating to read and I think you deserve a martini [or at least one of my brownies!] for being so transparent with your readers!

  • Patty
    January 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Hi Nicole–I have been reading your blog since about 2008ish. I have never posted before but I wanted to say how much I love checking in and seeing what you are up to. Mostly I wanted to tell you how sweet and “lovely” I think you are! Gracious and kind with an a great style. Thank you for what you do…

  • Maddy
    January 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for this great post. So often this stuff is glossed over and I have no clue how it all works. Thanks again!

  • Raluca | WhatWouldGwynethDo
    January 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    What an informative, interesting read. Thank you for being so open to sharing.

  • Davina
    January 23, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I recently did a two day blogging course, which was great and very inspiring but this makes it more real for me and its brilliant to have so many useful links!

  • Linda
    January 23, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I appreciate your honesty and integrity. I think its wonderful that you are able to do something that you love and that other people love , and your able to support your family. I hope you have continued to success.

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  • Natalie (@fashionatalie)
    January 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I really appreciate bloggers being transparent and finding a good balance between what works for them and being sensitive to their readers. Thank you!

  • LadyLauren
    January 25, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Thank you so much for this post, it’s so helpful to see how such inspirational blogs function. Very inspiring!

    L xox

  • Dana H.
    January 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

    It appears that many of your readers appreciate your openness on this issue! Thank you! I am just in the planning stages of creating a blog and would appreciate your “go-to” mentor/book/website for initial questions. Once my blog is initiated, what is the best means and time to notify other, more established and successful bloggers, such as yourself to be part of blog rolls? Also, would it be best to write several posts PRIOR to inviting my own personal contacts? I aspire to be as refreshing and interesting as you have been.

    • Making it Lovely
      January 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      I don’t have one go-to source, but I think you may find Joy Cho’s book, Blog, Inc., helpful.

    January 27, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Thank you for being so open in discussing what is seen as a “taboo” subject. I enjoyed it not because I am a nosy parker, but because it was genuinely educational – I honestly had no idea how a blog generates income, but I do now.

  • Leesa
    January 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Nicole – Just read this post while playing hookie, I mean staying home from work due to illness.Thanks for posting this. Your steps are logical and your success is not without its struggle. I used to think, “Gee, this gal is an overnight success. How’d she do that??!!” But, after analyzing just how long I’ve followed your blog, I had to chuckle to myself. “Overnight success” translates into many, many overnights and many, many trials and errors! A lot of people are afraid to fail so we forget how to try. Your simple post points out that there are very few “overnight” successes. Congrats and I can’t wait to buy the Making It Lovely book!

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  • H
    February 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Just wanted to say that aside from the fashion/ home decor/ and etc advice you provide, I love to come to your blog because it feels so intimate. Thank you for writing this, not because I was nosey and curious, but because I love to read your words when they are so genuine. You’re great!

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