Yes—it’s that time of the month again—my monthly report for February 2012 is up!
I love writing these reports because not only is it a great way for me to look back and see what I’ve accomplished over the past month, but it’s also a way for me to see exactly what I could have done better.
Beyond the actual numbers, this report is actually meant to give you an over-the-shoulder look into my online businesses and the lessons I’ve learned within each. Hopefully you can avoid my mistakes and use my success to inspire you to crush it online too.
I hope you enjoy this month’s report.
Important Goings-On in February
February was a tough month for me. I had my wisdom teeth taken out and instead of the normal 2 to 4 days it takes most people to recover, it took me about 3 weeks.
This, of course, greatly affected my ability to work—not only because I was in constant pain but probably more so because I couldn't eat and I didn't have any energy. At times, I even felt a little depressed.
The main set back I had in my business was the progress I wanted to make on a course I've been working on over the past 7 months. My goal was to have the course completed and ready to go by mid-March, but now it seems like it'll be pushed back until April or possibly even May—but that's okay.
I'm not going to rush through something just to meet a deadline and potentially comprise the quality of the product I'm hoping to create.
Despite the teeth, a lot of good things happened in February as well.
Public Speaking Opportunities Continue
I'm really excited to announce that I'll be speaking at Blog World Expo 2012 in New York this coming June!
Last year was my first time speaking at Blog World Expo and I had an incredible time presenting my “Be Everywhere” marketing strategy, so when I was invited by the CEO and Co-founder of Blog World Expo to come back again this year, I could not turn down the opportunity.
In June I'll be presenting specifically about affiliate marketing. I have a very strong opinion about how affiliate marketing should be done if someone really wants to maximize their affiliate earnings and I'll be using examples of unique strategies that I've been using in my businesses, primarily from Green Exam Academy and Smart Passive Income.
More details about this coming soon.
Plus, I might setup an SPI community meetup in New York as well, so even if you're not attending BWE if you're on the east coast you can come hang out and have a good time with me and a few other awesome people while I'm there.
Taxes and Stuff
Tax season is upon us, and as you can imagine with all of the different businesses I have and how they all work, not to mention the fact that I do work from home and I have a number of investments in place—my tax situation, for a normal person, would be a complete nightmare.
And guess what?
I'm a normal person—and it is a nightmare.
A lot of people have been asking me to go into detail about how to best deal with taxes for an online business, but this is a difficult topic for me to write about because everyone's tax situation is going to be a little different, and so I don't feel I'm qualified to say what's best for you.
For me, it absolutely makes sense to hire a professional to manage my money.
I've hired a local CPA that keeps track of my books and handles my taxes. He and his company also act as a consultant, providing an educated and professional opinion on what I can do to maximize my earnings. Although there's a fee involved, it's money well spent because I can focus more of my time and energy in growing my businesses, rather than stressing out too much about taxes and understanding the ever-evolving subject.
That said, I'm not completely hands off here—I like to understand what's going on and learn about why things are handled the way they are, plus I can serve as a second set of eyes on my reports just in case—which is always a good thing.
Green Exam Academy—Split Testing a New Sales Page
“Assume nothing, test everything.”
Three years ago, when GreenExamAcademy.com was hot and generating an easy 15-25k per month, I was always running split tests on my sales pages, as one should to maximize revenue.
If you're not sure what split testing is or how to implement it, I recommend you read How to Run Free Split Tests Using Google Optimizer for Better Results, a piece about split testing I published back in December of 2008 which still applies today.
Split test after split test after split test, it was surprising to me (and most online marketers that I spoke to) that the sales page that was generating the most revenue on Green Exam Academy was one that looked like a normal published entry on my site—with the sidebars and navigation menu in tact, and sales copy that wasn't more than 1500 words.
I had tested against several versions of the traditional long-copy sales pages that many people are used to seeing (no navigation menu or sidebars, 3000-6000 words in length), but for some reason the other style was converting better.
Fast forward to today, I wanted to give this test another shot, just in case.
I had a copywriter spend some time to create a new long-copy sales page, which I'm currently testing against the one that has been successful for me over the past 3 years. Right now it's too early to come to any conclusions, but both have made a number of sales so far so at least they both “work”, which is good to know.
I'll probably update you on the progress of this experiment in next month's report.
My First Website Purchase
Another one of my goals in 2012 is to purchase at least 2 existing websites and then optimize them for maximum return on investment.
After conducting an interview with Chris Guthrie for SPI Podcast session #32, I ended making my first purchase and learned a ton during the process.
I'm excited to see what I can do with the new site, which is in the golfing niche. I'm a golfer myself so I think it's a perfect fit and when I want to I can add more content on the site on my own.
I'll be talking a lot more about this project in the near future including the URL, how much I paid for it, how I made the switch from another owner to myself and what I'm doing to improve the site, but I'm waiting to collect more data first before compromising it with traffic from The Smart Passive Income Blog.
The one thing I will say about this site now is that when I bought it, there was no form of monetization on the site. In other words, it wasn't making any money at the time of purchase.
This made the buy a little interesting because pricing for a new website is typically determined by how much the site is already making. The site is already ranking high for several golf related keywords with a decent cost-per-click, and so I feel there's a lot of opportunity here.
I did place some Adsense ads on the site and it began to make some money from Day 1—so we're off to a decent start.
More on this coming soon. For now, let's get to the numbers…
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.
Also, please note that a lot of these are figures from reports from each individual company for the previous month. It does not necessarily reflect the actual payment which, for some of the companies listed below, come 30 to 60 days later and may change because of potential refunds.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report. (Click here to read a typical monthly expense report which breaks down how my time and money is spent.)
Major expenses this month include virtual assistants (one full-time, one part-time), hosting account for SPI (dedicated server), recurring payments for various tools, attorney and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) fees and new website purchase.
Although I did earn about $12,500 less than last month, the numbers are relatively the same because in January I included a $12,500.00 check from a client.
Also, considering the fact that February was a shorter month by two days, it was an incredibly successful month. Knowing that I was unable to focus or do any sort of work for about 3 weeks because of my surgery and still generate this kind of income—it's just amazing and I count my blessings every single day.
The affiliate earnings (most of which come from SPI, but some come from specialized niche sites as well) continue to blow me away. I'm happy that my non-SPI earnings continue to hang around the $10-12k mark, which I plan on growing even more this year.
As I always make sure to mention in each of my income reports, I’ll be the first to admit that a significant portion of my income comes as a result of blogging here on The Smart Passive Income Blog—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 one way, shape or form.
I’m so fortunate to have the support of an amazing community here who sometimes makes purchases through my affiliate links (some people going way out of their way to make sure they do that). With this comes a responsibility to the community that I know I have and will never take for granted – and as such I never promote just for the potential income that can come from an 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.
Things I Learned in February
I don't want to get too much into health and fitness here in my income report (I've covered it plenty in my P90x and Insanity results posts) but after going through that surgery and not being able to eat well for a long period of time, I can definitely say that what one puts into their body for fuel has a direct correlation on their mood, energy and how well they can focus.
This may sound obvious, but to those who are not ill or aren't recovering from a surgery, the same rule applies—we just don't think about it as much and as a result we don't give ourselves the best opportunity to get the most (and best) work done.
Whether you're working for yourself or in an office, if you want to crush it with your online business and really focus and get stuff done you've got to give your body the fuel it needs to perform.
Just a thought that kicked in for me this past month.
Hiring Out vs. Getting Experience First
One of the most common questions I get is whether or not it's better to hire a virtual assistant right from the start (even though you may not know exactly what they're doing because all you care about is the end result), or is it better to first learn about those tasks (and possibly even do them) yourself before you hire somebody so that you can understand what's going on?
My answer is that it sort of depends on what task you're trying to accomplish, but to be honest even though I know I could have done many things in the past a lot faster if I hired a virtual assistant right away, I do appreciate the experience that I had learning those tasks first.
I believe that in the long run my experience has helped me when I do hire people from Odesk or Elance for one-off jobs, and Virtual Staff Finder for longer-term and repetitive jobs.
I bring this up because when I purchased my new website, after transferring ownership the first thing that I wanted to do was to switch from the existing html coded website to a WordPress driven site.
I originally planned on having my programmer do this for me, but I decided to do it all on my own so I could understand exactly what the process was like. Also, there's a ton of different ways to actually go about transferring an html site to a WordPress site, so after a lot of research and asking around I finally found the solution I liked best and did it on my own.
It took about 9 hours to complete the entire transfer, but now I know exactly how it's done and can easily share that with my programmer so he can do it the way I would like it to be done for the next set of websites that I might purchase.
Plus if there's something that isn't the way it should be, I can catch it, and if something small needs to be changed I can do it myself with confidence.
I remember back when I first started doing business online with my LEED exam website, it took me several hours just to figure out how to move an image in the header of my website just a few pixels over.
It was a struggle, but you can be sure after I learned how to do that I would never forget the process.
Of course, if you simply don't have the time to perform certain tasks on your own the first time, then it might make complete sense to hire right from the start—although I'd make sure to hire someone who has shown that they have the capability to do whatever it is you want to accomplish.
The Best News Ever
And lastly, I'm incredibly excited and proud to announce that the Flynn family is expecting another baby!
Being a dad has been the most rewarding experience of my life so far, and to know that another child is coming into our lives just puts me on cloud nine! I couldn't be any happier! 🙂
No word on the gender yet, but the baby is due in September so this changes a few plans.
Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to the Financial Bloggers Conference this year. I'm sad I won't be able to speak again and hang out with many of the wonder people from the personal finance niche, but I'm sure you can all understand why!
Next year, hopefully!
Thank you all for your support, your kind words and well wishes over the past month.
And also, thanks for helping SPI surpass 40,000 subscribers today! You all rock!
Cheers, here's to your success in March!