Welcome to my June 2015 monthly income report here on Smart Passive Income!
Each month I publish an income report outlining what's been happening in my online businesses, including a detailed income report revealing the exact revenues and expenses generated. Along with that are the lessons learned and plans for the future.
For a record of each of my previous income reports (which date back to October 2008), please click here.
There are several reasons why I choose to share my income reports with you.
First, they are here because they help me (and you) keep track of how things are progressing. Only when you keep track can you see what's working and what's not. The income fluctuates from month to month, and it's important to examine why. If one does not keep track, it's nearly impossible to discover what actions to take, whether it's fixing something that went broke, or deciding to put even more effort into something that is indeed going the right direction.
Secondly, I know these reports inspire many of you. Ever since I was laid off in 2008 from my job in the architecture world and starting becoming my own boss, my life has changed dramatically for the good in so many ways, and I'm here to show you what's possible.
And lastly, although these reports are about income generation on the surface, the real idea behind these reports are to show you what happens when you focus on serving an audience. I'm a big believer that in order to succeed in business (and in life), you have to help others. As I like to say:
Your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience.
Alrighty, let's dig into this month's report.
Important Goings-On in June
In June, I started off the month by traveling to Ghana, Africa to visit the schools we built together through Pencils of Promise last year, and it was an absolute life-changing experience.
Last year, for my birthday, the SPI community raised over $25,000 for a campaign to build a school through Pencils of Promise. My family happily matched that and together in total we raised over $50k to build two schools for two communities in the Accra region of Ghana.
Earlier in the year I was invited to visit Ghana with a few other donors to see the results of the campaign, and like I said: life-changing.
I invited Caleb Wojcik, my videographer who helps me produce SPI TV to come with me, and he captured a ton of amazing footage that we can't wait to share with you in the upcoming season of SPI TV. Because of that I won't get into too much detail here about the trip, but I'll answer the 2 most common question that I've been getting asked about this trip:
Question #1: Why Ghana, Africa? Why not help out others who are closer to home? In your own country?
The Pencils of Promise campaign isn't the first time I've donated to a charity or a cause. I do it all of the time, and often times it is closer to home and very often done anonymously, but I don't feel that I need to share each and every time I donate because that's not what's this is about. I don't want it to be like I have an ulterior motive for donating other than simply helping out because I've been so blessed to find success in my own business. It's not for gaining more exposure. I know that'll happen indirectly through the act of giving in general. The more I practice it, the more it always seems to come back to me in an indirect and positive way.
The recent Pencils of Promise campaign, however, I made extremely public because I wanted to get others involved and inspire others to give as well. Plus, it was the fact that I interviewed Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise in Session #102 of the SPI Podcast and the impact he's since had on me in thinking bigger and beyond my adjacent reach has been completely inspiring, and I wanted to pass that forward to you.
Ghana just happened to be where they were building next and the campaign they were running at the time I wanted to work with them. They work with various locations around the world and their governments to build schools where education and opportunities are not so readily available for the children in those communities.
Question #2: What was the most life-changing aspect of the trip for you?
Everyone comes away from these kinds of field trips with something different, but for me the biggest takeaway was just how good we have it here in the U.S., and how for granted we take the things that are amazing around us.
Yes, there are problems here and things could be better, and especially when it comes to our children and our schools, there are parts of the U.S. that desperately need help. Art programs are being cut and teachers are severely underpaid, but in countries like Ghana these children don't even have a roof over their head to learn under, or opportunities like we do, and to see exactly where the money we raised is being spent and the good that it does for these communities and children, and how appreciative they are and how much they come together to celebrate the new educational opportunities their children have now—it's amazing.
Books are special to them. Pencils and paper are special to them. Being able to have a desk and stay in the shade or away from the rain to continue to learn is special to them, and I and so many of us take these things for granted.
I came home feeling extremely lucky to live where I live, mostly in terms of my kids and how they have access to things other kids around the world do not have access to. One of the first things I did with my kids when I got home was give them a hug and a kiss, and then sit down to read them a story.
In a world where we get mad when our wi-fi goes down for 5-minutes, on the other side of the world there are people who have no access to learn anything new beyond what everyone else already knows. And through Pencils of Promise, their innovative educational programs that involve e-readers and other technology, these children's eyes are now open to the world and have the same opportunities to learn that we do, and that's awesome.
Thank you to those of you who donated to the campaign. Your effort has made a difference—I saw it with my own eyes—and I definitely plan to do more work with Pencils of Promise in the future.
In fact, I recently decided to join their Advisory Board, and so beyond just building schools, I'll be able to have an even bigger impact on the lives of these children around the world through helping the organization grow and expand.
I'm honored and privileged to be a part of the PoP team now, and I hope to serve you well as a representative of the SPI community on the board.
FoodTruckr's Second Product
FoodTruckr.com, an experimental website started over 2 years ago (see niche site duel for more info) finally launched product #2, which is called The Food Truck Growth Kit.
Unlike product #1, which is an ebook called How to Start a Food Truck: The Definitive Guide (which also includes a number of worksheets and bonuses, depending on which tier a customer buys), product #2 is geared toward those who already have a food truck. We describe it as a survival kit, with a ton of resources to help one's truck survive and thrive during the first years of business, since that's when many truck owners give up and businesses die out in this industry.
Product #1 has done well, grossing over $30,000 since its launch in August last year, but I knew that product #2 was going to be a tougher sell. Not so much because it's not a fantastic product, but more so because the target audience is always on the go (they aren't online very much beyond what they do for social media and sharing locations to their food truck's audience, and it's a higher priced item, at $299, instead of the $37-197 range of product #1.
We essentially have two types of people who come across the site: people who are interested in starting a food truck and people who already have a food truck and are looking for more tips for growth and marketing. Through our research, we've found that there are far more people who come across the site who are interested in starting a truck than those who already have one. That being the case, I decided to move forward with product #2 to serve this part of the audience, and plus people who buy product #1 would naturally be ready, at some point, for product #2.
Much of May was spent getting things ready for launch, putting the final touches on the product and the sales page (which looks great, you can check it out here), and after launch—we didn't see the numbers we were hoping for.
Although we had built an interest list before launch of over 500 people, we only sold 6 units for a total of $1,188.00 dollars. Even while speaking with a number of Food Truck owners personally about the product, they said it looked great and was something they wish they had their hands on earlier as they were first starting out, but many owners on the road now are in a certain rhythm and said they don't have the time and didn't see it as solving a huge pain-point.
You must serve a pain-point in order to succeed with a product launch, and many of the potential customers we had on our list didn't feel this solved a big enough pain. To us it might sound like an obvious buy, and it did to the team as well and those we spoke to about it before we went all in with it, but we made the mistake of not validating further, perhaps with a pre-sell of the product to have them speak with their actual purchase of a potential product, instead of their words. It's very common to have a group of potential customers say they would be willing to buy, but when it comes time to they don't. Most food truck owners who are already on the road are too busy, and feel like they have a grasp on what they need to succeed already.
One email came in, however, that looked to be very promising and a good approach to how to potentially sell this product much better, and it starts even before people are on the road in their trucks, but after they've gone all-in with the idea. Basically, the email was from a company who served brand new food truck owners through building custom trucks for them. Instead of going directly to new food truck owners, we are discussing how to potentially work with this company to offer the kit as a compliment to what their audience is already buying.
It's a long path to getting a truck on the road after one decides to start a food truck, and within that journey there are several opportunities to offer this kit as a potential upgrade or upsell for something else they already need to buy, such as a truck, branding and websites, consultation or other goods. There are several companies serving the food truck niche that we could strike a deal with, and as a bonus to their campaigns they can throw in a kit to sweeten the deal. We could sell a large number of kits at a discounted rate to these companies to give away and add value to the packages they already have.
Additionally, there are a lot of mobile food truck associations that I feel would love to hand out this material to new truck owners in their area because they want the trucks in their region to succeed, not fail.
This will take some business dealing and relationship building, but I'm optimistic about this approach for this kind of product in the near future.
If a product you create is great and you know it's helpful, sometimes the first approach may not be the best. You can pivot and feel your way around the niche to see what else might work and when the best opportunities to sell to your target audience are.
I'll definitely keep you posted on the progress of this product and FoodTruckr itself. This niche has proven to be much more difficult to navigate than expected, but I'm happy with how the experiment has played out, and it's definitely not over yet—at least in terms of the life of the site and business.
One major decision that I recently made with FoodTruckr internally is that I decided to slow down the content production and take most of the team away from any work on the site to be able to enjoy the summer months before ramping up and re-focusing on SPI-related projects in the coming months. Already things have been set in motion with the recent SPI audience survey that just went out, and in the next few months you'll see some major changes to help me better serve you in the future here on SPI.
I can't wait, and for some of you who have been here for a while I'm sure some of you will end up saying, “it's about time!”.
In mid-June, my family and I took our first vacation of the summer to Disney's relatively new resort on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Aulani! My entire family, including myself, are Disney freaks, and since we also love Hawaii, we knew this was going to be an epic vacation—and it totally was.
We had a blast in the warm tropical climate, mostly in flip flops and bathing suits the entire time, and we had fun exploring the Disney aspects of the resort. As always, with anything Disney related, they did an amazing job and we are 100% sure we'll be back in the future.
Some of you may have even seen a couple Periscopes from the island while I was there, or you can find some pictures from the vacation a month behind in my Instagram account here.
Overall, besides the periscopes and occasional tweets, I was completely off-the-grid, which was nice. I know people like Michael Hyatt and Amy Porterfield go on month long sabbaticals totally 100% offline the entire time. I'm not quite there yet, but was happy to step away from the online world a bit, and it was definitely nice to just be where I was at—with my family in body and in mind.
I hope you are all enjoying your own holidays and vacations this summer (or winter if you're on the other side of the world)!
June was a relatively quiet month in terms of changes and upgrades on SPI. Much of my team took a break, and the podcasts (SPI Podcast and AskPat) kept going, but despite all that, let's see how the income report looks for June.
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.
This was a record month in terms of net total here on SPI. Notable changes include an increase in affiliate earnings from Bluehost due to a special promotion that went on for most of the month, as well as a 66% cut in team expenses due to much of the team taking time off for the summer. The Smart Podcast Player also saw a big increase due to a launch week with affiliates, and of course the small boost in earnings on FoodTruckr because of the recent launch of product #2 on the site.
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.
Lessons Learned in June
I'm quite proud that the month of record net earnings in my business is the same month I spent time in Africa for charity and in Hawaii with my family for a vacation. To see the businesses continue to not only run, but also thrive and grow while away is a true testament to the power of passive income, automation and also building a great team. When you put in the hard work up front you can step away for a bit and continue to reap the benefits later, but I also know that there is no such thing as true 100% passive income and you must continue to find ways to expand and grow when you come back.
As for the mis-fire with product #2 on FoodTruckr.com, I'm not going to lie to you—it is disappointing—but true failure is actually quitting, especially when you know something is great and can provide value to people. Learning from my mistakes is exactly how I got to where I'm at today, and I'm excited to work with this product in a different way to see if it can get off the ground in the way that I hoped it would. I don't always do things right, but I always try to learn from my mistakes and when things don't go according to plan, I know it's just a small hiccup in the overall process of building a successful business.
Finally, in the few discussions I had with a few members of my team in June, much of the conversation was about where SPI was headed here in the second half of the year. I'm extremely excited because with the book that I've been working on, the survey that has recently been conducted, and all-eyes on SPI internally, it's going to be an awesome shift and leveling-up of what happens here and how I serve you. You'll hear more about that in the upcoming months, and eventually see things start to happen on the site that should have happened a long time ago.
Cheers, thanks so much for checking out this month's report, and I look forward to seeing some of you at Podcast Movement in a couple of weeks!