Welcome to my August 2013 income report!
Every month I write a detailed report sharing exactly how much I’ve earned online and exactly where it comes from. This isn’t all about the numbers though, it’s also about the journey, so I always make sure to include the latest happenings within my businesses and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way too.
I see myself as the crash test dummy of online business. I'm in a unique position to have the time and flexibility to attempt several different methods of generating an income online, and my mission is to share the creation and maintenance of those businesses with you. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail—but no matter what I know that sharing everything can only help you as you build your online businesses too.
These reports started in October of 2008 (see the history here), and since then these reports have become the most popular and highly anticipated posts on the site.
But don't let the numbers fool you.
None of this happened overnight and none of it was easy. Before I made a dime online (besides the occasional hobby-related eBay auction), I had a site up and running for nearly two years in the architectural industry. I published content on it every day. I made connections with people in the industry and I slowly became a trusted authority. It wasn't until I published an ebook (on greenexamacademy.com) that things finally started to come together – but it took a lot of work (and time) to get there.
This online business stuff is real, but it's also real hard. No matter what anyone tells you, it takes a lot of hard work, patience, trial and error. It takes a belief in yourself that you can do it because the truth is that if you don't think you can—then you're probably right.
I can't promise that you will succeed, and please realize that my numbers are an anomaly, but I'm here to show you what I'm doing, what works and what doesn't so that you can go from where you're at now, to somewhere bigger with some direction and confidence.
I hope you enjoy this month’s report.
Let’s get into it…
What Happened in August?
My biggest accomplishment in August was not directly related to business, but it was something personal that had been on my bucket list for a while now: I completed my very first half marathon!
As I crossed the finish line of the America's Finest City Half Marathon here in San Diego, I screamed at the top of my lungs because I was so proud and pumped about what I had just done.
Four months earlier I couldn't run more than a single mile without tiring out and that voice inside of me that kept saying, “okay, that's enough for now”. I finished the 13.1 mile race running the entire way, never wanting to give up. I finished in 2 hours and 11 minutes—11 minutes over my initial goal of under 2 hours—but I was so happy, especially since I just came off of a few weeks of being ill during my training.
A big shout out goes to my virtual running coach, Jeff from RunnersConnect.net, who helped me get in shape for the race. Thanks Jeff!
Training was a huge mental challenge for me, and so often while on my runs I wanted to give up or just “walk the next half mile”, but what helped me through it all was realizing that I would only be cheating myself if I did that. I kept thinking about what it would be like to cross the finish line and how good that would feel, but I also thought about how I would feel if I thought back later and knew I didn't push as hard as I could, or I succumbed to the voices within.
It's very much like running my businesses, although instead of cheating myself, I'd also be cheating those who may benefit from what I have to offer if I give into the resistance. Think about that in regards to your own business and what you have to offer too.
Besides Jeff, I have many of you to thank as well. Hearing your words of encouragement on Twitter and Facebook as I shared my progress during training was incredibly motivating. And even during my race, I tweeted at the 10th mile marker and read a lot of nice encouraging replies on my way to the finish line. Thank you for that. 🙂
3 miles to go!!!!!
— Pat Flynn (@PatFlynn) August 18, 2013
There are many more half marathons to come that I continue to train for, and possibly even a full marathon or triathlon as well, but let me take it one race at a time. 🙂
My goal: in my next race, finish under 2 hours.
Food Trucks Galore!
Most of my time these days is spent getting my food truck site for Niche Site Duel 2.0 ready for launch, which is scheduled for October 1st.
Content is being written, emails are being sent, and I'm actually starting to build a small email list—all with just a pre-launch / coming soon page that went live in mid-August.
The plan is to make some kind of noise on October 1, following what I wrote in How to Launch a Brand New Website Ultimate Guide, so that when the website goes live, I'm not publishing content for an audience of zero, I'm publishing for some kind of audience that already exists and may potentially share the site as well.
I'll be going into more detail about this process soon in an official Niche Site Duel 2.0 update, but here's an outline of what has been created and done so far:
1. A VIP Contact List Spreadsheet (a la The 200-Outreach Program), that has a few different sheets:
- Sheet 1: Name of Food Truck Company, Owner, Email Address and “Status”.
- Status (drop down menu, see image): Not Contacted, Contacted, Declined, Responded w/Input, No Response, Followed Up, & Responded to Follow Up
- Sheet 2: Food Truck Associations
- some cities have food truck associations that are pretty much the only nodes or central locations for groups of food truck owners. I thought it was important for me to reach out to these influencers as well.
- Sheet 3: Potential websites or blogs to share food truck related articles with.
The list is currently 375 contacts. All of the information was found using Google Search.
Total time to put together: 8-10 hours. I had an assistant to help me with this task, so it actually took zero hours of my own time, but if you can't find or afford one, it's still something worth doing. This list will become one of your brand's most valuable assets—and it's already proving to be the case for my food truck site (and everyone else who I've spoken to who is creating a list of their own has said the exact same thing).
For tasks like this, it's optimal to have someone else do the research if possible (use Elance or Odesk), and with the low-cost of VAs these days, especially for tasks like this (at $5-$10/hour), it can be well worth the price.
I share how I use this contact list in one of the steps below.
2. A “Coming Soon” / Pre-Launch Page:
Using LeadPages, I quickly setup a landing page to collect email addresses for potential traffic coming to the site before the official launch. A major focus of the copy was to introduce something new to the target audience, and something they could get excited about. I also included a free giveaway as incentive for signing up to the email list as well (see #3).
It took a bit of extra time to create the landing page because the logo, the look and feel of the brand was taken into consideration, but the actual pre-launch page that was setup (minus the branding) is now a selectable template in LeadPages, so you could hypothetically use the same style and layout as the one I have setup right now for your own site!
And in case you were wondering, I have yet to share the brand name and URL of the new site, as I do not want to skew the pre-launch campaign numbers. I will share it soon though, I promise!
3. A “Lead Magnet”
A “lead magnet” or “opt-in giveaway” is always good to help incentivize traffic to subscribe to an email list.
Initially, I was thinking of giving away a helpful, incredibly valuable ebook, something similar to the size and feel of Ebooks the Smart Way here on SPI, however after listening to Clay Collins in SPI Podcast #78, and then again in a list-building webinar that we hosted together (click here for the free webinar replay), I decided to take his advice and instead create a short list of resources that would be beneficial to food truck owners.
Specifically, it's a 6-page resource guide revealing just a handful of social media tools that will help my target audience get more people talking about their food truck.
Clay's argument is that long ebooks and other time-consuming giveaways might actually hurt you more than they help. People have so many things to do these days, when they download a free ebook that's dozens and dozens of pages long – most will not want to read all of that. Something short and sweet is more likely to be read—and he's not just saying this, he has the data to prove it through his company.
Additionally, tools and resources, specifically, are great to share because people assume that if they get the same tools that the pros use, they'll automatically become a pro too. This is why many of the top articles on blogs and in magazines are about the tools or resources or software that people in the niche use to become successful.
Use the same tools, get the same results.
We all know that's hardly ever true, but that's how we think and it doesn't stop us from wanting to know what those tools are and how they can help.
Although I'm not split testing a longer ebook vs. a shorter resource guide, I am getting some opt-ins, and I've already received 2 comments from subscribers who shared how much they enjoyed the resource guide and couldn't wait for the launch.
Yes, that's only 2 comments, but that's the kind of feedback I'm looking for!
4. The Reach-Out
Reaching out and sending emails to those on the contact list actually started in September, so I won't get into too much detail here (it'll be in the next NSD2.0 update), but I can say that sending individual emails to these food truck owners and associations has been an amazing, eye-opening experience.
And it's not taking quite as long as you might think.
Most of the emails are the same with just a tad bit of personalization, and I calculated that I could send out an average of 3 emails per minute (using TextExpander, primarily). I have the spreadsheet on the right hand side of my screen, and Gmail open on the left, and I can easily go down the list, copy/paste/textexpander and send these emails out very quickly.
Below I've shared a copy of the email that I sent out (with my brand name taken out, and a placeholder for the names of the owner and the truck). You can get an idea of what I'm looking for when you read the email below.
Note that “nameofperson” and “nameoffoodtruck” are purposefully included with no spaces so that I can easily double click to highlight and press CTRL+V to paste in and replace a name, which saves seconds of time. With hundreds of emails to send, those seconds do add up.
I also kept pushing forward (because this can get kind of boring) by turning it into a game. I try to get as many as I can done in 15 minutes, then write that number down. Then, I try to beat that score during the next 15 minutes.
I was an only child so I invented a lot of games to play with myself. This one just happend to be sort of useful. 😛
Anyway, enough of the productivity hacks – here's the email:
I hope all is amazingly well with nameoffoodtruck! My name is Pat Flynn and I'm a HUGE food truck fanatic here in San Diego – I frequent the Urban Eats and Calbi BBQ food trucks every week—and I'm also an entrepreneur like you.
My business nature and love for food trucks (and the possibility of starting my own!) got me curious about the resources that are available to help food truck owners get more business or get started on the right foot, and to my surprise I learned that there is nothing really out there to help!
As a result, my latest project aims to build THE online community for food truck owners rich with practical business advice and inspired food truck owner stories, mixed with a flavor from my own online business experience. It's called ————–.com, and it's launching on October 1st.
I'm putting together a featured article of various food truck owners to help with the launch. Would you and your truck like to be featured? I hope so! If yes, please take just one minute to answer this single question:
** What's the one thing you wish you'd known before you began your food truck business? **
Just reply to this email with yours, and I'll be more than happy to feature your quote on ————–.com when it goes live and make sure to link to your truck as well.
I know you're super busy, so I really appreciate you considering this! Thank you so much, and I hope to hear your reply soon, I can't wait to read it!
So far, I've sent about 350 emails (about 2 hours of work), and have gotten over 45 total responses back, and more keep trickling in.
That's nearly 13%, which is actually extremely good considering these are cold emails out of the blue!
And the responses? Pure awesomeness!
Not only as content for the round-up post I'm creating, but for the endless amounts of business opportunities that I can see are available related to this target market. Certain things are coming up over and over again and it's making it incredibly easy to discover what the real pain points are and what would help them out the most.
For this reason alone, you should do an out-reach program like this, no matter where you're at in your business.
Beyond that, by reaching out I'm making real connections with people and many have offered to help me down the road, which is so cool! Also, it's helping to drive some traffic and email subscribers to the pre-launch page, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a little bit of word-of-mouth marketing starting to happen as well.
So far, so good, and with the upcoming launch I'm both nervous and excited—and I'm even more excited to finally share all of the details, including the URL with you very soon. Thank you for your patience and I hope you're learning from this process!
Before moving on…
Some people have told me that this Niche Site Duel seems “out of reach,” or something that only someone like me can do.
I think we can all do research in Google, create a spreadsheet of contacts and send emails to those people—right? 😉
As far as the landing page, it doesn't make sense for all new websites to build a pre-launch page (although I would encourage it), but creating these types of pages is easier now more than ever. There are resources like LeadPages, of course, but there are even free resources and downloads available (e.g. see 2nd download link here, under the video) so you don't even need to pay anything to setup a landing page like this.
So far, including the time that has been spent doing all of the above, I don't think any of this is out of reach at all. It's definitely a different kind of approach and requires a different kind of work versus traditional niche sites, but it's obviously focused around what the target audience wants instead of what Google wants, which I like.
I think a lot of people want the solution that can be done without actually having to make contact with other people – which makes sense because it's uncomfortable to put yourself out there, but when you're trying to build an ultimate resource for a niche, doesn't it make sense to get to know the people who are eventually going to use that material?
With the resource I built for NSD1.0 in the security guard training industry, the site is helpful and thousands of people are using it every month to help, but I can't even mention the name of one person who has used the material on my site to help them. Already, with NSD2.0, I've made real connections with people and have discovered opportunities to provide and serve this audience (that I'm getting to know by name) that go way beyond what the search data tells me.
There's no guessing. My target audience is already telling me exactly what they want—and the site hasn't even been launched yet. 🙂
CreateaClickableMap.com Turns 1 Year Old!
In early 2012 during the tail end of Niche Site Duel 1.0, I hired a web developer on Odesk to create a clickable map of the US so that visitors to SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com could easily click on the state they are from to go to an article I wrote about exactly what their state requires them to do in order to become a security guard.
The tool cost about $400 to create.
When I shared this map on SPI everyone started asking me where I got it from, and at first I pointed people toward Odesk.
Eventually, I realized that every time I sent someone to Odesk, even though I may have earned up to $50 per referral through my affiliate link, that was $400 that someone in my audience was potentially going to spend that they maybe didn't have to.
That's when I decided to hire another developer on Odesk to create a tool that anyone could use to create a clickable map of their own, one that people could easily customize on the web and copy the script from, and one that was HTML5 compatible – and so for another $600(ish), that tool was built, and that's when CreateaClickableMap.com was born.
Currently, the tool gives away the script for a custom US map for free, but it makes money by having people pay a one-time $9.99 fee to save the map so they can come back and edit it later, and the payment also gets rid of any attribution link.
A year later, and a few more maps added to the tool (including Australia, Canada, Europe, France, Japan, Mexico, U.K., Italy and the Continents—all added within the last 2 months), the tool has generated a total of $4,205.79.
It now averages between $300-400 a month, and sales continue to increase, especially with the new maps being added to the menu each month – and we're planning to add more.
In fact, we're trying to take over the world! <insert evil laugh here>
Okay, I'm just ‘half' kidding there, but it's pretty amazing what has been created, all from scratching my own itch. And now, with my developer on as customer support, it's mostly passive income for me at this point.
I'm considering dropping the free US map option, since 1000s of free US maps have already been generated. They weren't all for nothing though, because if you look up “by create a clickable map” in Google (with quotations), there are over 2,100 results thanks to that free map and the attribution link. 🙂
The actual store part of the site could use a facelift though. It's not too obvious how to access to the other maps, and I believe those new map pages could use some help SEO-wise as well.
There's still some clean-up to do here, but I'm incredibly happy with the results so far!
Ok, let's get to the numbers for August 2013.
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.
Although the net total is about $15k less than what it was in July (remember, in July I launched BreakthroughBlogging.com), I'm extremely happy with the results from last month! A major source of income this past month, as you can see, came from affiliate commissions for LeadPages, which were primarily generated via two live webinars that Clay and I hosted together at the end of the month.
The details of these webinars—how it was setup, what worked, what didn't and what I could have done better—will be shared in a follow-up post because it was an incredible learning experience, and the results definitely blew me away. I was not expecting to earn this much from sharing LeadPages as a resource during these webinars, but when you can deliver high-quality, actionable content and then share a product that pretty much speaks for itself, the results are definitely going to be great.
The most interesting part about all of this is that for webinar 1, held on a Thursday evening, over 2100 people registered and 800 people attended the live event. For webinar 2, held the next morning, only 1500 people were registered but 800 people still attended the live event.
That's a increase in “show-up rate” from 33% to over 50%, which is crazy! I'm still trying to figure out exactly why.
Since virtually the same amount of people showed up each day, you might expect that the earnings from each day would be about the same too.
Well . . . day 1 generated about $8,000 in sales, and day 2 (with the same number of people) generated nearly 3x the amount from day 1! Yes, nearly 3 times as much!
We did have the first day under our belt and felt more comfortable during the 2nd webinar, but I think a lot of other factors were involved too, which I'll share in that follow-up post which will be published in the near future. I've already started working on it for you.
I have a feeling a lot of you are going to explore webinars for your business in the future if you aren't doing so already.
Again, a fantastic month, and always, most of this income will be saved, invested and donated, but a lot of it will be invested back into the businesses I own as well, to better help you on your journey in online business too.
A Quick Note from Pat:
I’ll be the first to admit that 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 one way, shape or form.
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 possible, I started earning 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.
My goal with the new businesses that I'm creating, including the food truck site that's being built for NSD2.0, is to increase the non-SPI income side of my income report. Yes, $10k is a significant amount to be earning outside of the site already, but the SPI portion has grown so big, I feel like that income has overshadowed what I've been able to do accomplish outside of SPI – but I still feel it's important to be transparent and share how much I'm earning here with you.
The fact that every week I receive hundreds of thank you emails, and even a handful of hand-written letters from people who I've helped shows me that I'm doing things the right way. Thank you again for all of your support and encouragement!
Lessons Learned in August
Something interesting happened after finishing the webinars I did at the end of last month:
I fell back in love with doing webinars.
Before these webinars, my last experience with conducting a webinar was over two years ago, and I forgot just how much fun they are and how powerful they can be for delivering a message, helping an audience and creating a deeper connection with them.
That's why I've decided, starting in October, to consistently host a webinar each and every month for the SPI community.
These webinars will be 100% free to attend, 2-hours long and no-pitch.
The webinars I did with Clay did included a pitch at the end (which I mentioned to the attendees the very beginning of each webinar), but these monthly webinars will be no pitch at all. Primarily, I'll be taking questions from the attendees and answering them on the spot, although there may be a lesson or two included as well and maybe even some live site reviews.
Why would I go through all the trouble?
I'm approaching this as a way to potentially “level-up” my Be Everywhere strategy and add something new and fresh to the brand. I have my blog, my YouTube Channel and the podcast, which are doing well for increasing brand awareness and exposure, but I want to see what effect a free, regular LIVE webinar can have on the overall growth of the brand.
No one is doing this right now, so I figured: why not?
I'll test this out for 6 months and decide whether or not it's worth continuing.
If done right, I can see this becoming a “thing” you can look forward to each month, and one that you'd be comfortable sharing.
I've already validated this idea by sharing it on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and the reaction has been extremely positive! The only concern people have, which is a legit concern, is that they don't want these webinars to take away from the blog and podcast content.
I can assure you, they won't. With only 2-3 hours of work each month to setup and host, I definitely know it can only add value to the brand.
You'll see an announcement for the first one in October coming soon – so look out for that, and I hope you'll be able to make it!
Thank you all for the incredible support for SPI and everything I do. I do it all for you and I'm blessed that it always comes back to me in one way or another. I will continue to push forward if you can promise to do the same. 🙂
Wish me luck on the launch of the food truck site, and if you're going to be in the St. Louis area in mid-October, I'd love to meetup with you!
Cheers, and all the best! I appreciate you!