Welcome! If you're new here, every month I write a detailed report about my online earnings. I talk about exactly how much I've earned, where it came from, and most importantly, the lessons I've been learning in and around my businesses.
I've been reporting my income since October of 2008 because I believe in transparency and authenticity online, and if my numbers go down, I should tell you why. If they go up, you should know why too.
It's all here to help you learn from my wins and my failures (and there are a lot of failures too), and since I like to try new things and experiment, there will always be things to learn that can help make your online business even better.
I'm stoked you're here! Now let's get on to this month's report!
Important Goings-On in April
At the start of the month, I flew my team down to San Diego for a couple of days for a planning session that involved looking at the future of SPI and what our focus would be for the rest of the year.
I shared this photo on Instagram during one of the planning sessions:
This photo includes my main team members, plus others who I invited to help advise.
The photo was followed by a lot of comments saying things like, “Pat, I didn't know you had a team!” and “Pat, tell us about your team and what everyone does!”
I'm excited to share that I will have my entire team come together on a podcast episode in the near future. I'll use that as a way to formally introduce each of them, and you'll hear in their own voice what their role on the team is.
I won't get into too much detail here, but the team was put together as a result of the growth that I've been experiencing with SPI and wanting to make sure that I have the systems in place to keep up, create and execute what I envision for this brand. Although I'm still the face and the personality of the brand, and always will be, they are there for support to help me execute on projects that are much bigger than I could do on my own.
They don't work for me full-time, and many have other projects and clients they work with, but I do consider them a part of Team Flynn, for sure.
For example, AskPat, my new 5-day per week podcast could not happen without Mindy, who edits and published the show for me.
It just wouldn't exist without her.
But as a result of working with her and getting the systems in place, I'm able to produce an entirely new show, provide value to you in a new way (for free), and earn a little bit from it too from sponsorships.
I love my team and am so thankful for them, and I'm learning quite a bit about team leadership and management—something that's completely brand new to me.
I've struggled with the idea of growing and building a team because I know that when I started the blog, it was just me. I know a lot of you connected with that. As the brand grew, I had to make a decision to stay just me and limit what I could accomplish just on my own, or get help to be able to execute on bigger and more ambitious things.
So far, so good, and again I'm excited to share more information in that upcoming podcast, especially points about hiring VAs versus building a team, because I have also successfully worked with VAs in the past too—but this time I wanted something more.
Further down this page, you'll notice another uptick in earnings from GreenExamAcademy.com. The reason for the increase over the past couple of months is because there's a sudden urge to pass the current version of the exam before the newer, harder, unknown version comes out in July.
The deadline to pass the current version of the exam (known as LEED v3) is June 15th, and there will be a period of time afterwards when sales for anything related to the exam will come to a screeching halt.
There is an opportunity to pre-sell LEED v4 material, however without knowing what the exam is like, that's going to be hard to do. Plus, I'll have to undergo a major update on the site next month to reflect all of this.
The guides I've published will all be out of date, as will all of the affiliate links on the site for practice exams and courses, so I expect this part of my income report to take a huge hit next month (and will be reflected in June's report).
The last time this happened (2009), immediately after the new exam came out I scrambled to create new guides and get things up and running as soon as possible. This time around, I'm highly considering going 100% affiliate marketing because the company who provides the practice exams who I've promoted in the past (the best in the business!), they're going to have their own study guides as well.
In fact, over the past 6 months I've been earning more from selling their practice exams, than selling my own published study guides.
They have a team in place to both create and market the guides, and as long as I can continue to get my own traffic to click over, it should continue the earnings later in the year without stopping all other work to update my own guides.
In the meantime, until June 15th, I've updated a lot of the copy on the site to reflect the upcoming deadline, and I suspect that May's income report will be even bigger than April's, before it drops off significantly in June.
One of the biggest pains in my business is email.
I love to reply to those who message me, but over the past year and a half the volume of emails I get is suffocating, and it makes me feel like crap that it's not humanly possible for me to answer them all—at least not without neglecting other work in my businesses, and my family.
On the worst days, I get over 400 emails coming through my inbox. It's a great problem to have—I mean, I'm honored that I get so many emails and people are willing to contact me, but it's just crazy what it has grown to. A byproduct, again, of the growth I've experienced over the past few years.
That's why I'm happy to announce that on April 15th, I hired an assistant to help me manage my inbox. Since working with Jessica to go through the backlog, and also work on systems to help filter new emails that come through, the inbox went from over 10,000 unread emails (yes, you read that right), to now under 100 left that I personally have to respond to.
I call Jessica my pain killer, because I totally feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's still a challenge to get through my email and I have to be diligent with how often I check each day (that's the hardest part), but I feel much more comfortable knowing that it's not just something I'm letting pile up anymore.
That it's being taken care of.
And as much as I was initially uncomfortable with the idea of having someone I hardly know go through my inbox and answer certain types of emails for me on my behalf, it's definitely one of the best decisions I've made.
There is far too much information to share on this topic to include in this section of the income report, but I know a lot of you are curious about how Jessica and I work together, what systems we have in place and even how much I pay her and how much time she's spending in my inbox. All of that will be shared in an incredibly valuable blog post and interview featuring Jessica herself, and it is my hope that this resource will become a prescription that you and your own VA (current or future) can use to help you alleviate this pain.
FoodTruckr.com's First Earnings!
FoodTruckr.com, the niche site case study that is currently underway (see this page for more information about how this site was started, built and launched) just saw its first earnings in April!
While monetization options like partnerships, products and courses continue to be explored, I decided to test out what it would be like to add Adsense ads on just a couple strategic locations on the site.
Google Adsense has worked really well for SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com (earning between $2k and $3k per month over the past few years from it), so I was curious to see how FoodTruckr would respond.
After a couple of days, I was excited to see FoodTruckr's first earnings:
And truly, I was excited about it! Really!
Yes, that's pennies compared to a lot of other income streams I have at the moment, but I was just as excited to see that $3.12 come in as I was when I earned $1.18 on GreenExamAcademy.com back in 2008.
It's hard to forget your first dollar online, and many of those same feelings came back when FoodTruckr saw its first earnings.
Over the course of the month, FoodTruckr grossed over $100, so we're off to a great start. Adsense is definitely not the long-term approach for the site, but it's cool to see money coming in at this stage in the case study already. 🙂
Speaking of earnings, let's get to April's detailed income breakdown.
Full Disclosure: Some of the items in the list below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through that link, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report.
Expenses do not include pro-rated yearly fees. Most are related to the Smart Passive Income Blog and new projects that are currently under development.
My Bluehost earnings, once again, are on a huge upward trend. This past month, it's partly due to Bluehost working on their own conversions on their landing page, and also because I saw a lot more traffic in March as well, due to popular podcast episodes and blog posts getting spread through social media. I also saw significantly more traffic coming from Google as well this month.
In regards to Bluehost, please know that I do earn a higher than advertised commission with them, since I've been with them for a while and produce good volume for them. The earnings are NOT recurring—they are all for new customers, and if you're interested to see where these links for Bluehost are located throughout the site, and how well each of them convert, you can read this article here.
A Note from Pat
A significant portion of my total online income comes as a result of this very blog that you're reading right now – mostly from the products that I recommend as an affiliate, which are products I’ve used or am extremely familiar with and have helped me in my own businesses.
When I first started this blog back in 2008, I never intended to make any money from it. If you go back to my earlier income reports you'll see that all of my income was coming from outside of this blog through other businesses. Over time, however, the SPI community has grown and as a byproduct of being helpful and giving away as much as I can, I started earning an income from this site too. Because I believe in total honesty and transparency, I decided to include the income from SPI on these reports as well. It wouldn't feel right hiding this from you.
My non-SPI related income has hovered around the $10,000/month mark for a while now, which is much more than I ever made working my 9 to 5 job in architecture, but I'm truly blessed that I have the support from an amazing community here at SPI who is willing to pay me back for all of the information I publish and the help that I try to provide for free. Some people go out of their way to make sure I get credit for an affiliate link, often emailing me to make sure I got it, which means the world to me. Thank you so much!
With this type of community comes great responsibility and I will never take it for granted. I will never promote something just for the potential income that can come from an affiliate offer, even though those opportunities are definitely there.
I’m incredibly grateful for everything and I will continue to give back with valuable content and my experience in return.
The Big Lesson Learned in April
I remember back in 2008 after the study guide I published for GreenExamAcademy.com started to sell and do really well. At that time, people in my mastermind group suggested that I convert the text version of the guide to an audio version to sell along with it.
For a few days I sat down in my old room at my parents house (which is where I was living after I learned I was going to be let go from my job a few months later) and I recorded the book using the mic that I had on hand—a Logitech headset that was primarily used for gaming. I was a Counterstrike fan and dabbled in Starcraft a bit.
After I had recorded everything, I loaded the files onto my iPod and had a listen—and it was terrible.
The audio quality was bad, I was more mumbly than clear & pronounced, and it was definitely something I couldn't imagine selling. I had wasted 3 to 4 days and over 30 hours on something.
I went back to my mastermind group and asked for help, and they all sort of laughed (in a respectful way) about the fact that I tried to do it all myself. That's when I was introduced to the idea of hiring help, and specifically at that time, a site called Elance.com.
I decided to post a job there seeking a voice professional to read and record my book for me.
Within a few hours, I started getting bids to work on my project, and the prices ranged from $1000 to $6000—which freaked me out.
I had never spent more than $3.95/month on my own business (that was for hosting—the theme was free and I didn't have an email list at the time), and here I was looking to hire someone for over $1000 for something that I could do on my own. For someone to simply record themselves reading!
Heck, I had never spent over $1000 on anything in my life up to this point. The most, I think, was $800 for rent, but at least that's part of a building that I could live and be comfortable in.
I decided to pull the trigger and I hired a woman for $1,400. After 2 weeks, she delivered top-quality audio files back to me—better than I could ever do on my own, that's for sure—and after setting up a new sales page on the site and adding the audio guide to my product line, I was able to make up the $1,400 I paid in just 3 days. Everything after that was pure profit.
That was my first experience with investing a significant amount of money back into my business. Looking back, of course, it was definitely worth it, as hard as it was to get over the idea of parting with that money upfront.
But that's what investing in your business is all about. It's not just about putting in the hard work now to reap the benefits later, it's putting in the right resources—the right systems in place to get things done now for things to come later. For me in my business at this moment in time, those resources and systems include personnel, which costs money.
That's why I'm not phased by the amount I'm currently spending and investing in my team members, because to do what I'm looking to achieve later this year (and you'll see some of what we've been working on later this month actually!), it does take that initial investment.
But that's the beauty of doing business online. Like that audio guide, which became a product that I sold for over 4 years that brought in over $120,000 in earnings, what is being created now will continue to deliver value to you far into the future and I'm sure that it will pay dividends down the road.
These are just some thoughts from my brain as I close up this month's report. Thanks so much for listening in and taking an over-the-shoulder look at what I've been up to. I look forward to next month's report, and talking about all the fun things that you'll see soon here on the blog. Cheers, and all the best!
I appreciate you!