Welcome to my December 2013 and January 2014 Monthly Income Reports; the last income report for 2013, which is also my first income report for 2014! This is a combined report because due to being ill and also moving into a new home, I was unable to publish my December 2013 monthly report. This report includes earnings and lessons learned from the previous 2 months.
Each month (when I'm not crazy sick!) I write a detailed income and progress report sharing everything that's going on with my online businesses. I share what's working and what's not, and I also include my earnings down to the penny and exactly where it all comes from.
I do this to inspire, to hold myself accountable, and most importantly to be completely honest and upfront with you. There are too many people in this space who talk the talk (and they talk the talk very well), and I'd rather let my results speak for me instead. I don't always do things right and my income doesn't always go up, but it's always an educational experience for those who follow along.
Most importantly, I hope you don't just read these reports, but also take action too. What I'm up to and how much I earn is completely useless information if all you do is read it and wait for the next report. Learn from my mistakes, take what I do and do it better, and make strides in YOUR online business. That's what this is all about.
Here's to you and your success – and here we go with the combined report.
Important Goings-On in December and January
December is always a wacky month in the Flynn household. With several family birthdays plus the holiday season, it always seems to be the most stressful time of the year for us. A constant challenge I have throughout the year is balancing work and family life, but it's on a totally different level at the end of the year.
My top business priorities for December included:
- Testing and implementing updated iterations of the new design for The Smart Passive Income Blog.
- Moving forward with content production for my most recent niche site project, FoodTruckr.com.
- Preparing my presentation for New Media Expo.
- Prepare for the launch of my new podcast, AskPat.
The Design (and Reiterations) of The Smart Passive Income Blog
In November of 2013, the 7th redesign in the history of SPI blog went live, and it was the most radical update yet! Here are a couple of posts from December that you can read all about the design update, the decisions behind it and how it all happened:
- The History of Themes for The Smart Passive Income Blog (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)
- The Mega-Details Behind the New Design of The Smart Passive Income Blog
Since the new design, several mini-reiterations of the design have been implemented based on user feedback, data coming in from analytics, and third-party visualization tools like Crazy Egg.
The most drastic reiteration of the new design was switching BACK to the row of navigational items that you can see at the top of the page. Initially, this was discarded because I wanted to get rid of clutter and overwhelm when people arrived to the site for the first time. The navigation was simply 4 links at the top of the page: Home, About, Start Here, and Resources.
Unfortunately, this worked a little too well and the initial data proved that people were having trouble navigating through the site and finding some of the most important pages. There are far less page views and time spent on the site per visitor, and I also noticed that my podcast download numbers were cut by half as well!
After about a week's worth of data, it was obvious that the navigation needed to be thought through again, and we were quick to put back the top row of navigational items. Now, with that and the combination of all other changes on the site, the numbers are looking much much better. After the changes were made, there were record numbers all around.
With that said, I wanted to keep close track of the data for a couple of months longer because sometimes when you come out with a big change, the numbers will spike just because of the attention and interest of that change, so I was very curious to see what the numbers were going to be in January, in particular the earnings, which you'll see in just a moment.
The big lesson learned here is this: always keep track of your data. Your site could be the most beautiful looking site in the world, but the numbers never lie. If you didn't keep track and pay attention to what's happening to your traffic, how would you ever know what's working, and what's not?
A FoodTruckr Update—2 Months Later
I won't get into very much detail here, but the site is still going strong, and although things are moving slowly, the site is growing, traffic is increasing and more and more subscribers are signing up to the email list.
The site is ranking high in Google for several target keywords, including a number 2 position for food truck business plan, and a mid-first-page ranking for how to start a food truck, which is awesome—and I am seeing traffic coming in from those keywords every day. No forced backlinking was executed for FoodTruckr.com, all of the rankings are the result of well-written content that people have enjoyed and shared.
Most importantly, I've been connecting and reaching out to those who are on my email list and others who I know read the site, and they are indeed enjoying the content and want more. This is a great sign and validation for the direction I'm headed, it's just a matter of plugging away and thinking out of the box to get more exposure for the site.
Just yesterday, for example, an email was sent to the subscribers announcing the 2014 Food Truck Industry Survey, where we'll be collecting data from food truck business owners to not only provide helpful and insightful information for those in and related to the industry, but also to help put FoodTruckr.com in an authoritative position as the brand that is conducting this research.
The next two months, specially related to this survey, will be very interesting. I'll definitely keep you posted on its progress.
New Media Expo 2014
Beyond the family functions, much of December was spent preparing for my Super Session at New Media Expo (NMX).
At NMX, there are different tracks, such as the blogging track, the podcasting track, the business track, etc. Typically, at any moment during the conference, there are multiple presentations within each track happening simultaneously. A Super Session, however, is the only session within that track to be going on at that time.
Since I had a Super Session, I knew the room was going to be packed, and I had to bring my A-game. I always try to bring my A-game, but I knew this was going to potentially be the biggest and most attended presentation of my life, so I prepared as much as I could.
If you'd like more information about exactly how I prepare for presentations, or how I prepare any piece of content that I produce, from blog posts to podcast episodes, I talk about my process and tips for content creation in SPI Podcast Session #94. If I was teaching this stuff in a classroom, that session would be considered required reading, or in this case, required listening.
There is a transcript available though if you only like to read, so check it out either way.
Every time I present, I try to work on something new. At one conference in 2013, for example, I focused on what I did with my hands. In another, I focused on injecting smart but relevant humor into my presentation. At NMX 2014, I wanted to focus on my timing and delivery.
A single sentence can be said 100 different ways, and some ways are more effective than others. I wanted my tempo and my timing throughout the entire presentation to be silky smooth, so I watched as many presentations on YouTube as I could with timing and tempo in mind, and I practiced as much as I could too.
I remember accidentally waking my son up a few times while rehearsing late at night. His bedroom shared a wall with my office, unfortunately.
Sorry bud 😛
All of the hard work paid off though. The presentation on January 4th went extremely well, and although the room was a bit too small for the audience that showed up (the people at the door had to stop letting people in it was so full), I was excited and humbled to hear how much people loved it.
A full version will be available soon, however here's a sneak peek teaser video from the session:
Beyond the great turnout and the wonderful feedback, something else amazing came out of the presentation: I was told the next day by the Director of New Media Expo that I would be presenting the opening keynote for NMX next year!
How sweet is that?!
I still can't believe this opportunity, and I'm so thankful to everyone who has supported me along the way! I'm already starting to brainstorm what I'll be presenting about.
After New Media Expo, I got back home, stoked about the successful presentation and opening keynote for 2015. I was ready to take the new year by storm…but then I got sick.
For the next 3 weeks.
After a trip to Urgent Care, I was diagnosed with viral bronchitis.
I had feverish headaches, a constant cough and absolutely no energy, which meant I had to take time off to get well again. I'm sure staying up late to rehearse my presentation, not eating well and putting exercise aside for a month didn't help, but interestingly, it seemed like a third of the people who attended NMX all contracted the same virus, which is a little scary.
I tried to work and record podcasts, but that was a no-go. Plus, my family just closed on a new home and we were ready to start the moving process, but that was delayed as well. I was stressed, I felt behind, but everyone I spoke to told me to rest—and so I did.
And I'm glad I did, because I finally started to feel better. Sometimes you just need time away from your normal routine to reset, get healthy, and come back even more energized and motivated.
AskPat Goes Live!
Just last week, I finally felt back to my normal self and with that, I was able to launch my brand new podcast, AskPat!
AskPat is a short-format show where I answer one audience member's voicemail question every day, 5 days a week.
In the past, I used to answer voicemail questions from the audience at the end of the SPI podcast, but that would often stretch an already lengthy show and change the topic of discussion, so I decided to stop.
After chatting with John Lee Dumas from EntrepreneurOnFire and getting inspired by his work ethic for his daily show, I landed on the idea of doing a daily show but answering just one question from the audience every single day – and that's how AskPat was born.
So far, the reaction has been through the roof! The show has been live for just a week and already there are over 50,000 downloads of the show. Many people who have listened to it have shared with me that they love the short format and the fact that each episode covers just one very specific topic.
The first episode, for example, is about how to craft your perfect about page—a question from Addie who reads the blog. You can listen to that episode thanks to the SoundCloud player below:
Many people have noticed that I am using SoundCloud to host this podcast.
SoundCloud is a platform that was built initially for musicians, but they are now expending into the realm of podcasting. Currently, I'm using AskPat to test this new platform for podcasters, and so far, I'm loving it—especially for this shorter format show. The reason I mention that is because when you share an audio file from SoundCloud on Facebook or Twitter, one can actually play that episode right there in their social media stream, which is super cool.
For a 30-45 minute show, that's pretty long and I don't imagine many people clicking play and listening for that long from a tweet or a Facebook message, but a 8-12 minute episode—definitely.
Like I said, I'm experimenting with this platform for podcasting so I'm not 100% recommending it yet, however you can be sure I'll be writing a detailed report on why I chose SoundCloud, pros and cons and how to get setup on it if it is something that's worth getting into.
So far so good, and already I can tell that SoundCloud is very forward thinking when it comes to audio and the web.
More info coming soon.
Since I was sick most of January, and have been moving into a new place, the launch of AskPat was really the biggest focus in January. I do have something else to share at the end of this report that has to do with my affiliate earnings, but I'll share some of the numbers and earnings from December and January first.
Note: With my new site redesign, I need to separate the income/expenses breakdowns into separate posts. For January's numbers, jump to this post.
Let's get to the numbers for December.
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 or corrections.
Note: Items with an empty difference percentage were not present on the previous month's income report. No expenses were reported for December.
A Note about My Affiliate Earnings
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 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.
My goal with the new businesses that I'm creating, including FoodTruckr.com, 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 from here 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 December and January
A couple of key lessons and takeaways from the previous two months.
First, being sick sucks. We all know that, but sometimes when we're trying to be the most productive, creative people possible for our business, all of that doesn't matter if we're not healthy. That's why January was a huge reality check for me. Even though my income increased while I sat and did nothing for 3 weeks (the power of passive income!), I could have gotten a lot more done, and I wanted to, but I couldn't. My health will be at the top of my priority list this year, and I know it starts with what I eat more than anything.
I've already committed to running a half marathon at the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon this June. The last time I signed up for a race and gave myself time to prepare, I would always have the race in the back of my mind when making exercise and eating decisions. I also want to compete in a sprint triathlon and/or Spartan Race this year as well, although in regards to the Spartan Race, jumping over fire, swimming in ice cold water and getting electrocuted isn't something I'm looking forward to, but I am looking forward to conquering my fears and completing that race.
Secondly, in my income report you'll notice a HUGE increase in BlueHost affiliate earnings from December to January. That's $28,950 to $35,250. My traffic and clicks through my affiliate link were virtually the same – but my conversions jumped by nearly 2%!
So what happened?
I didn't even realize this until just last week, but Bluehost had been split testing various landing pages and optimizing conversions on their end. It's obviously working, because I did nothing different and my earnings jumped by $6,300.00.
I always get a lot of questions about my Bluehost earnings and why they're so high. Part of the reason is because I do get a higher than advertised commission as a result of the volume that I produce, but at the same time, I'm always working on improving conversions on my end, and Bluehost is always working on conversions on their end too. It's the perfect affiliate relationship.
One of the drawbacks with affiliate marketing is that you can't exactly control the customer experience after you send people through your affiliate link. Yes, you want to understand what that process is like so you know exactly what your traffic has to do after they land on that page (and you should document and share that process just like I do on my How to Create a Blog in Less than 4 Minutes Video), but you could also work with that company to make the experience for your traffic, and their customers, even better.
Bluehost has been proactive with this, but I have been talking to their affiliate team too. Even beyond the changes they've already made, I am in discussion with someone to potentially make it even better. This has me thinking that I could approach many of the other companies I work with as an affiliate, with SPI and even with sites like GreenExamAcademy.com, to make that process even better.
They should want to listen, if it means more customers for them in the long run. If they are a good company, they'll at least be open to the recommendations.
Beyond all of that, you can see that most of my earnings, except for the iPhone apps, increased in January. SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com got some nice love from Google in January, and in that particular industry, more people are inclined to look for new jobs and information about security guard training in January, rather than in December during the holidays. The income from SGTHQ increased almost 100%, which is awesome, so it's important to potentially keep track of any seasonal ups and downs you and your brand might have.
With AskPat under way, FoodTruckr.com chugging along, and more interesting experiments coming up later this year, I'm excited to see what happens down the road. I hope you'll be here with me all along the way, and I promise to always share what's working and what's not so that you can learn from my wins and my mistakes as you grow your business in 2014.
Cheers, and all the best!