Smart Passive Income

Last Month’s Earnings

$148,006.60

My July and August 2014 Monthly Income Report

By Pat Flynn on

Welcome to a special edition of my monthly income reports, one that includes two months worth of numbers and lessons! Let’s waste no time. My July and August 2014 Monthly Income Report, here we go:

July 2014

Riding off of the successful beta launch of The Smart Podcast Player in June, which sold out 250 licenses in less than 24 hours, my team and I met in Portland during World Domination Summit to plan out the rest of the launch timeline. A more detailed post about the entire development and launch process is in the works, but as we continue to add more features, we’re slowly opening up more beta spots.

Each month since the launch, we’ve opened up a few more licenses, and each time it has sold out.

It’s not quite ready to be open for good, however. One of the things I learned through several discussions with people already in the software business is that customer service is a huge component of any software business, especially one related to WordPress with its many themes and versions. Because every additional feature means more potential compatibility issues, we’re rolling it out slowly and I want to make sure that as more customers come on board, there are enough people in place to be able to support them.

This makes me think back to 2010 and my previous and failed attempt at building premium WordPress plugins.

Back then, Michael Dunlop from Income Diary came out with Pop-Up Domination, and Glen from Viperchill released Opt-In Skin, and both premium plugins did extremely well. I wanted to give it a shot, so I came up with a couple of ideas and outsourced them to a development company.

Both plugins were complete failures, mainly because I rushed into it and didn’t think things through.

I stopped the production on one because the back-and-forth between myself and the developer became too much to handle. The other plugin was finished, but after it was done it was not what I had expected it would be, and after sharing it with a few others I found that it was actually quite useless.

It was an idea, but not a great idea. It didn’t solve a big pain or problem.

Overall, I lost about $11,150 in development costs, and about month’s worth of time.

Here were the big mistakes I made back then:

  1. I didn’t validate the product ideas before paying to get them created.
  2. I didn’t create a detailed wireframe outlining everything the plugins did. I simply said “I’d like a plugin that does this, and another one that does this. Go.” A wireframe alone would have showed me that one was too complicated, and the other was just not really doing anything useful.
  3. I tried to get two done at the same time. My focus and time was divided, and because of that, my chances of any one of them succeeding was close to none.
  4. I didn’t think of “life after development”. Who would have been there to support the plugin? How would I be able to keep up with all of the WordPress updates? If I actually thought things through, I would have seen I didn’t have the resources available to support the plugin and it would have been really easy for me to move on or focus on something that actually mattered. #brightlightsyndrome

With The Smart Podcast Player, however, here’s what I did right:

  1. I had the right motivation for creating this software tool, and it actually started out as a solution to a pain I had for my own podcast at AskPat.com.
  2. I validated the idea with other people in the target audience before putting time, effort, energy and money into development. I could have taken an additional validation step and pre-sold the tool as well, although I already had enough validation through my research.
  3. I dropped a lot of other upcoming projects to give me time and energy to focus on this one new venture.
  4. I made sure I had the proper team in place for development, launch and support.

The total cost of the development of The Smart Podcast Player was more than double the amount of my other two plugins combined, but I made up that cost during the first beta launch, and everything after that point has been mostly profit, minus the time for feature add-ons and support.

The interesting thing is because we launched with an MVP (minimum viable product), and the roll out has been limited each time, it has created quite a buzz for the product.

Marketing can happen automatically as a byproduct of a smart development process.

As a result, we have a waiting list of 1500+ people (and growing) waiting for it to go live.

Many are waiting for version 1.0 (when it opens for good without closing each time), which is coming by the end of the year or early next year, but many are anxious to get into the beta program to get the discounted price, but also to be a part of the development process with us. New features that are being added are a direct result of suggestions and opinions from existing beta customers.

That’s the best way to create a product – not just with your target audience in mind, but literally WITH your target audience!

The best part of all of this is seeing the player live on our customers’ sites. That is the coolest part about this software stuff to me – immediate results for what the customer paid for, as opposed to information which can take time to consume and implement, and with varied results.

If you’re a podcaster and you’d like to get on the wait-list for the next launch, make sure you sign up here (although we are currently at the tail end of another beta opening, if you’re anxious to get it now and you get in on time).

All existing customers currently get automatically upgraded to future versions of the plugin.

FoodTruckr

The big news for FoodTruckr.com (a site I started as an experiment – you can read all about it from the start at the Niche Site Duel hub) was the preparation for the launch of FoodTruckr’s first product in August, which is an eBook called How to Start a Food Truck – The Definitive Guide.

Over the previous 6 months, the site has been publishing a multi-post series with the same title with the idea that the content in the series would become the base content for this eBook. This is the same exact approach I took when selling my first eBook for GreenExamAcademy.com.

The series on FoodTruckr was a major hit, and during July I started to collect email addresses promoting the launch of the book.

A cool byproduct of publishing the blog series is that parts of it started to organically rank extremely high in Google. No “forced” backlinking strategies were implemented – it was just simply writing content that was more thorough than what was already out there, and eventually Google finally figured it out.

Stay tuned though, because in the next couple of weeks Brian Dean from Backlinko.com (a new favorite blog of mine!) is publishing a guest post here on SPI that’s all about what’s working today in the world of SEO and backlinking, and I’ll even be putting some of his strategies to the test.

In July alone, the site had 25,802 unique visitors, 77% of them coming directly from Google. There were a total of 1,172 different keywords that brought traffic into the site. Most of them are long-tail keywords covered in that blog series, but as little as each of those long-tail keywords get, together they definitely add up.

Here is a screenshot from SEMRush.com of FoodTruckr.com’s most searched for and highly ranked keywords.

ft-keywords

Note that How to Start a Food Truck is sitting in the #2 position, one behind an Entrepreneur.com article that was published in July of 2011! In a couple of months, I wouldn’t be surprised if FoodTruckr started to rank #1. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I’d like to think FoodTruckr.com has more relevant information. A lot has happened in the world of food trucks since 2011!

The rest of July was spent planning for my family/business trip to Australia in August. With two small kids and a keynote to present at the ProBlogger conference, it was a lot to prepare for, but it definitely turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

Let’s move onto August…

August 2014

In August, The Smart Passive Income Podcast hit a huge milestone:

10,000,000 downloads!

Ten million downloads after 125 episodes is simply mind-blowing to me. I record these episodes – alone – in my home office, and then people decide to take time (sometimes up to 1.5 hours) to listen to an episode, or many. I can’t even describe the feeling – just, thank you!

Thank you to everyone who has listened to the show, subscribed, and left a rating and review. Thank you!

Just for fun, I calculated how much listening time this actually is. Considering my average show is about 47 minutes in length, it’s about 894 years of listening time!

That’s obviously completely meaningless – but hey, it’s fun to think about. If you’re looking for a way to get your message out there or grow your current audience, if you’re not podcasting already, you’re totally missing out.

If you’ve always wanted to start one but haven’t yet, here’s my free step-by-step tutorial to help you get setup (no opt-ins required before you get it), and it’s complete with microphone reviews and tutorials on getting your show up on iTunes and Stitcher.

I’ll Be Keynoting Next Year at…

Speaking of podcasting, I was very happy to be asked to keynote Podcast Movement ’15 next year in Ft. Worth, TX! I wasn’t able to make it to this year’s inaugural event because I was going to be in Australia for the ProBlogger conference, however I was super happy when Jared Easley and Dan Franks asked me to keynote the event next year.

Here’s how we announced it to the audience that was there for PM14. Wasn’t my idea – it was their’s, and I loved it!

Thanks again Jared and Dan for inviting me! I couldn’t be more excited and I’ll be sure to bring my best for you and everyone there! I’ll even bring a sick bag for TC just in case. 

Our Epic Trip to Australia

The trip we had been planning since January was finally here! The first half was going to be spent doing stuff together as a family, and then the second half I was going to be on my own at the ProBlogger Event while my wife and kids would be with family we have in Brisbane.

Darren Rowse from Problogger.net was one of the first bloggers I followed when I got into this world of blogging back in 2007-08, and I’ve always had mad respect for him. When he invited me to do the opening keynote for his event, I almost passed out. It was seriously a dream come true.

I wrote an entire recap post about my trip to Australia, so if you’re interested in selfies with kangaroos, 12-seater planes, a go-pro view of my keynote and shenanigans with Chris Ducker, you can read all about it here:

problogger-conference-family-trip

A Mini-Launch While Sleeping

My team and I scheduled a mini-launch of 100 new beta licenses for The Smart Podcast Player on August 25th, which would be announced solely to the waitlist. Bugs were squashed and all new features were stabilized and tested to the best of our ability, so it was time to add a few more people to the beta group, but not too much because again, I wanted to be smart with the roll-out and make sure customer service could handle any potential bugs or compatibility issues.

Since I was going to be in Australia at this time, to coordinate with a 9:00am PST launch, I’d have to be up around 2:00am Australia time, which wasn’t going to work out. So, I decided to completely hand-off this mini-launch to my team. Matt, my project manager, was there to make sure all of the pieces were in working order, and Mindy, my assistant and happiness hero, was there to make sure the emails got out on time and to take the lead with customer service.

This was going to be the first time I will have launched something without me being there to make sure it all rolled out correctly. I trust my team, but I was definitely a bit nervous. Remember, it took me over 4 years to get comfortable with hiring anyone in the first place, and 5 years to finally hand-off some of my email.

I went to bed hours before the launch and when I woke up in the morning, there was definitely something waiting for me in my inbox:

Notification after notification from Gumroad.com for each sale that was made! It was an amazing thing to wake up to.

Each morning, I typically do wake up with a bit more money in my accounts – primarily from the books and practice exams I sell on GreenExamAcademy.com, ad clicks and affiliate purchases (among other income streams) that happen overnight across most of my sites, but never have I woken up to this much.

For this one mini-launch, the Smart Podcast Player generated $8,239.00. After diving more into the analytics, I saw that the 100 licenses sold out in less than 4 hours. I thought it would sell out, but definitely not that fast. Since it sold out in such a short time period, I did get a few emails from people who were upset that they missed it, which is understandable.

I definitely miscalculated, but again just wanted to play it safe. I knew there was going to be another roll-out, so I was comfortable telling people who missed out that the product would be even better the next time around, that they would still get the beta pricing.

There were a couple big lessons learned here:

  1. I don’t have to do everything myself. Yes, this was a mini-launch, and if it completely failed it wouldn’t have been the end of the world (is anything really that?), but it was so cool to wake up knowing everything that was supposed to be done was done. To Team Flynn, you’re amazing! I’m still learning what it’s like to manage a team and to work with others, but working with people who share the same values and goals makes things a lot easier.
  2. The scarcity model works. Like I mentioned in the July section, the purpose for the slow roll-out is to make sure customer service can handle the inquiries coming in, but as a byproduct of that, scarcity does factor into the marketing of this product. Because there were only 100 licenses available, people definitely wanted in – and plus the fact that the price will go up in the future helps too. It helps that the product is a software product with a legitimate reason to open for a few at a time – however scarcity can (and should) definitely play a role in the marketing of your information product too. You can’t really go the “there’s only X number available” route for a digital information product, but price increases and limited bonuses can work for sure.

The Smart Podcast Player became much bigger than I thought it would be. A lot of plans I made for 2014 back at the beginning of the year had to get pushed aside because of it, but as an entrepreneur you have to know what’s working and you can’t always stick to the plan.

A plan is, as we all know, just an educated guess, and you have to take opportunities that are presented to you that are not in the plan sometimes.

It’ll be exciting to see just how far this goes!

FoodTruckr Book Launch

And the final big thing to happen in August was the launch of FoodTruckr’s first product – an eBook product called How to Start a Food Truck, The Definitive Guide.

I really had no idea what to expect when this went on sale.

I also wanted follow the Nathan Barry style of launching a book. I interviewed Nathan in Session 75 of the SPI Podcast, and also re-interviewed him with Q&A from the audience on a live webinar here as well about selling eBooks.

Following in his footsteps, I decided to launch and sell it directly from FoodTruckr.com – not on Amazon.com or through a publisher. This gives me more control on how to package and price the product, and ultimately will be more profitable. That’s not always the case in terms of selling on your own site versus selling on a platform like Amazon.com, however if you have enough traffic, build enough buzz and get your pricing structure correct, it can definitely work out in your favor.

The final manuscript ended up being 79,190 words, which is a legit sized book! I definitely did not write it all myself, and in fact most of the content was created, like I said, from the blog content on FoodTruckr.com thanks to Nicole, who was the writer I hired to take primary control of the written content on the site. I still produce the podcast myself.

Here is the breakdown of the 3 different packages people could choose from:

The Main Course:

  • The Mega-Book (PDF and ePub)
  • The Business Bonus Pack (Extra articles about budgeting and financing)
  • The Truck Bonus Pack (Extra articles about buying a food truck)
  • FoodTruckr School Podcast Transcripts (15 Episodes)
  • Price: $37.00

The Combo Meal:

  • The Mega-Book (PDF and ePub)
  • The Audiobook (Which I recorded myself!)
  • The Business Bonus Pack (Extra articles about budgeting and financing)
  • The Truck Bonus Pack (Extra articles about buying a food truck)
  • The Marketing Bonus Pack (Extra tips for getting into festivals, social media tips and fundraising)
  • The Partial Worksheet Pack (Actionable worksheets for taste-testing, calculating profit, swipe files, etc)
  • FoodTruckr School Podcast Transcripts (15 Episodes)
  • Price: $77.00

The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet:

  • The Mega-Book (PDF and ePub)
  • The Audiobook (Which I recorded myself!)
  • The Business Bonus Pack (Extra articles about budgeting and financing)
  • The Truck Bonus Pack (Extra articles about buying a food truck)
  • The Marketing Bonus Pack (Extra tips for getting into festivals, social media tips and fundraising)
  • The Complete Worksheet Pack (All 8 Bonuses)
  • FoodTruckr School Podcast Transcripts (15 Episodes)
  • Restaurant Engine Special Discount (A deal we made with another company for customers)
  • Lifetime Access to Private FoodTruckr Mastermind Group
  • Price: $147.00

If you’re interested in seeing the sales page live so you can get a feel for what it looks like, you can view it here. 

This closely follows Nathan’s pricing model, which is a 3-tier model at 1x, 2x, and 4x to 5x the base price.

I’ll get into more detail about the launch process, including all emails and templates used very soon in an upcoming Niche Site Duel update post, but here’s a quick rundown of the launch results.

Here’s the breakdown in August, starting on launch day, August 18th:

  • The Main Course ($37): 11 units sold ($407.00)
  • The Combo Meal ($67): 10 units sold ($670.00)
  • The All-You-Can-Eat ($147): 12 units sold ($1,764.00)
  • Total units sold: 33
  • Total income: $2,841.00

Since September rolled around, sales are still trickling in daily, which is pretty cool to see despite no launch efforts or never having paid for any advertising (that’s the next experiment). Generally, I’m happy, but I have mixed feelings about the launch.

$2,841.00 is not pocket change. I’m quite proud of that number, especially for a first launch for a site that started almost exactly a year ago. It’s definitely more than the $100 per month I was getting with the Adsense ads on the site.

But on the other hand, it’s only 33 units.

Most of the units came from the email list of 250 that was built a month before the launch specifically for the launch of the book, and I do have to remember that many of my existing audience and subscriber base already have a food truck.

That’s not to say this was a poor decision for a first book – most of the content was already there and there are a number of people who have yet to start their own trucks (especially traffic coming from Google for relevant terms), so this product does fill in that gap between no truck at all, and how to improve the success of your existing food truck.

Plus, I have to remember that this is a very limited niche. Yes, the food truck industry is growing, but when you think about it, there aren’t really THAT many food trucks that exist yet – and it’s not as easy to start a food truck as it is to say, start a website. Tens of thousands of dollars go into the start of a food truck venture, not to mention a complete lifestyle change.

I’m happy with the initial results and I look forward to exploring what happens when I introduce some ads into the mix. I’m taking careful notes as I move along because now that I have a base of sales, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

September will be the first full month of sales on a totally passive basis – no launch or promotions whatsoever beyond what’s already clickable on the site.

A slow start, but it’s a start and we all have to start somewhere. I love that this isn’t completely easy, because that’s the reality of it. Yes, the site has made money and that’s great, but how we can kick it up a notch? Can it be kicked up a notch?

It’s all about experimentation, and I’m happy to take you along for the ride. Much more to come on this later.

Note: With my new site redesign, I need to separate the income/expenses breakdowns into separate posts. For August’s numbers, jump to this post.

Let’s get to the numbers for July.

Income Breakdown

Difference from last month
Gross Income
$74,103.15
-$9,800.38
-11.68
Affiliate Earnings
53,959.90
2,010.33
3.59
104.00
12.75
10.92
Amazon.com (Book/Equipment Referrals)
825.15
14.63
1.81
1,934.88
71.46
3.83
37,500.00
1,050.00
2.72
99Designs
0.00
0.00
100.00
45.00
81.82
1,060.54
33.78
3.29
4,123.35
1,443.43
53.86
2,703.36
247.20
8.38
942.99
46.16
4.67
239.50
11.75
4.68
623.00
536.00
46.25
Book Sales
223.10
391.02
63.67
Let Go eBook: Amazon Kindle
223.10
391.02
63.67
Niche Sites
8,805.14
1,460.55
19.89
Green Exam Academy Product Sales
4,803.68
361.25
8.13
Green Exam Academy
3,050.04
1,014.33
49.83
SecurityGuardTrainingHQ Job Board
140.75
91.10
183.48
SecurityGuardTrainingHQ Affiliate Earnings
68.95
54.98
44.36
FoodTruckr.com Google Adsense
72.39
11.09
13.28
CreateaClickableMap.com Product Sales
669.33
59.94
9.84
Podcast Sponsorships
10,194.80
5,530.80
118.58
AskPat Podcast
4,994.80
2,330.80
87.49
Smart Passive Income Podcast
5,200.00
3,200.00
160.00
Software and Apps
920.21
0.00
93.99
iPhone Paid Apps
770.12
189.96
19.79
iPhone Free Apps
150.09
174.42
53.75

Expenses Breakdown

Difference from last month
Total Expenses
$31,115.85
$7,068.22
29.39
Affiliate Payments
455.00
455.00
Green Exam Academy Payments to Affiliates
455.00
455.00
Professional Services
29,226.00
6,437.50
28.25
Certified Public Accountant/Bookkeeping
260.00
0.00
0.00
Developers, Assistants, and Writers (Team Flynn)
26,267.00
6,000.00
29.60
Lawyer and Legal Fees
1,750.00
300.00
14.63
Transcriptions
949.00
737.50
348.70
Web Services - Storage and Hosting
431.87
175.72
68.60
Other Hosting Payments and Domain Renewals
431.87
175.72
68.60
Web Services - Subscriptions
1,002.98
0.00
0.00
AWeber
893.00
0.00
0.00
Dropbox
9.99
0.00
0.00
E-Junkie Shopping Cart Feed
5.00
0.00
0.00
Libsyn
30.00
0.00
0.00
PayPal Website Payments Pro
30.00
0.00
0.00
Skype
2.99
0.00
0.00
Slack (Team Communication Software)
32.00
0.00
0.00

Net Profit Breakdown

Difference from last month
Total Net Profit
$42,987.30
-$16,868.60
-28.18

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.

Income was much higher this month primarily because of the sale of The Smart Podcast Player, but it was good to have FoodTruckr actually make a dent this time too. Unfortunately, because the LEED exam is still between exam versions, sales for study guides and practice exams took a huge drop this month, but this was expected.

As far as the team expenses, there was significantly less work to do this month since it was all done during the previous month, as reflected in the expense breakdown, however the final payment for the Android version of the SPI mobile application was due in August.

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.

Final Thoughts…

A lot has happened in the last few months. New products, new developments, new goals – but the biggest change of all has happened at home.

My son, age 4, entered pre-school. Five days a week, five hours a day.

The weekends actually feel like weekends again.

Now, this might not sound like a big deal to you, but to my family, it’s huge. Since he was born, my wife and I have been able to stay at home with our son virtually all day, every day. I work from home so I’m used to the little bugger running around and playing with him the moment he wakes up, and over time I eventually scheduled work around the time when he was awake.

I miss him. It seems like yesterday that I announced on the blog I was going to be a dad, and here he is already growing up and learning cool stuff, coming home telling us about everything he’s done and who climbed the wrong way up the slide again.

It’s crazy and makes me sad, but extremely happy at the same time. It inspires me to keep pushing to be a good example for him. He’s beginning to understand what I do here at home and he’s asking more and more questions about it each day.

I still have my daughter at home with me, but she’s a lot easier to take care of and a little “miss independent” too. With an extra 25 hours a week, there’s a lot I could do with that time. It’s not completely free until our daughter is in school too, but it does mean one thing:

Change will always happen. 

My wife and I had gotten into this great rhythm around taking care of the kids and giving ourselves time to do what we needed to do. Monday was her day to do whatever she wanted while I watched the kids, and Tuesday was mine – and then Thursday was date night – but all of that is mixed up now, and as soon as we get into a rhythm again – more things will change.

Part of life (and business) if learning how to adapt, and to know that at first when things change it’s going to be difficult and hard, because it’ll be different. You have to experiment, test and work together with those around you to eventually make things work and find that groove again.

The schedule will work itself out over time, and I have to remember that I can’t stop my kids from growing up, but I can stop every once and a while to watch them grow up, so I don’t miss anything.

Just some random thoughts from my brain before I close up today. Thanks for your time, and I’m happy to be back in sync with my monthly reports again.

Cheers, and to those headed to Portland, ME for Agents of Change, I look forward to seeing you there!

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