I always get excited at the end of each year, not only because Christmas is my favorite time of year (and my birthday happens to land in December), but because I get to reflect on the lessons learned and examine the numbers to see what’s been working, and what I can improve.
We shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the year to reflect on these kinds of things, but we can’t help it because the calendar year neatly wraps up the past, and helps us imagine the future. So for today, I’m excited to dive into last month’s earnings and progress report, and how I’m setting myself up for success in 2017.
Let’s get to it!
Goings-On in December
As you may remember from my November Income Report, I went into December sick as a dog. It was a rough start to the month after getting food poisoning, and remnants of being sick stuck with me through my thirty-fourth birthday (on the 6th), and all the way through the to the 18th. Thankfully, I got better just in time for our family trip. And this wasn’t some small trip to the other side of town either, it was to the other side of the world.
The highlight of December was definitely our family trip to Australia to spend Christmas with family who we love and don’t often get to see. Before we left, we celebrated Christmas and my son’s birthday (Christmas Eve) early with our immediate family here in San Diego, but then we were off on a fourteen-hour plane ride to Brisbane, where the seasons are opposite of ours. Their winter is our summer, and our summer is their winter.
I won’t get into too much detail about the trip itself, but it was super chill and exactly what my family and I needed to close off our busy year. Although I did work a little bit, 99 percent of my time was completely off-line. The majority of the “work” that I did do was live-streaming my morning coffee walks in Southbank and keeping in touch with the SPI community.
We rented an Airbnb for this stay, the first time doing this outside of the US, and our little two bedroom apartment on the fourteenth floor overlooking the Brisbane River was perfect. Plus, it was cheaper than booking a hotel, and now I can’t imagine using anything but an Airbnb when we travel like this.
We spent most of our time hanging out with our cousins, aunts and uncles, exploring the myriad of museums and parks along the riverbank, and we even had a chance to watch a couple of movies there too: Rogue One, and Sing.
The best part, however, was that my wife and I had A LOT of time to chat, which isn’t always easy when we’re busy each day with the normal rhythm of school and extracurricular activities. We had a lot of time to reflect on what we were thankful for, the great things that happened in 2016 and what we’re looking forward to in 2017. Finally, it also helped me realize just how lucky I am to have partnered with a person like her in life.
Earlier this year, I launched a brand new look to the SPI blog. So far, the numbers are very respectable, but I know they can be improved.
Starting in December, I told my team that I wanted to switch from creating brand new features, to optimizing what we’ve already put into place. With six to seven months of hard data to examine, it was clear what still needed some work.
For one, the navigation through the site was, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others in the SPI community, extremely poor. Again, I was caught in the “let’s weed things out and try to reduce overwhelm” state of mind, but in doing so I removed easy access to many parts of the website people were looking for.
The team quickly turned around and brainstormed solutions for better wayfinding and here’s what we came up with: a two-tier system coming from the main navigation menu. With the multitude of specialty pages on SPI, this made complete sense. If you’re on the site now, you can examine the top menu and its sub-menus. The image below will give you a quick idea of how its laid out.
When clicking on one of the menu items, the rest of the page darkens and a bright sub-menu appears. What I love about this design is it completely works with the rest of the language on the site. For instance, the images related to those pages come up and draw even more attention and clicks into that page. It’s really slick, and it’s built to easily change on the backend, which is great because with the courses and other products and books coming out this year, it’s sure to be updated with more material.
Finally, I feel like we are helping you rather than making it harder for you to find things, but I still feel like we could do even more. Thank you, as always, for your honest feedback here!
Additionally, we noticed that SEO was falling for the first time in years. Typically, organic growth has increased year over year, but the numbers in 2016 were about 20 percent below normal. We agreed to have an SEO audit done by a professional to start the new year, and we’re excited to see what Sam McRoberts from VuduMarketing has to say, as he’s come highly recommended.
Lastly, we made some technical changes to the site recently to prepare for the future, converting the http:// site to https://, which may or may not have an impact SEO-wise, however is something that, if done correctly, Google tends to favor. Here’s a helpful article shared with me by Sam McRoberts about why this may be important for your own site as well, but also risky.
There’s a lot more optimization to come in 2017, and many of you may already see a new version of the homepage here on SPI, especially if you’ve recently become an email subscriber.
More info on these kinds of things to come later, but for now, let’s keep going.
Will It Fly? is Still Flying!
One of my big successes of 2016 was the publication of Will It Fly? Not only did this self-published book go on to become a Wall Street Journal bestseller after its first week, which was quite a surprise, it’s still gaining steam and flying even higher.
I’m happy to announce that it will be published in a few other countries around the world. Contracts have been signed or will be signed very soon, and within a year or two we’ll see versions of Will It Fly? in actual book stores in other countries. The first to sign on was Korea, which I’m incredibly excited about!
Here’s an Instagram post where I shared the great news:
It's official! I signed the contract and got my advance for the Korean publication of #willitfly! ?????? It'll be fully translated, probably have a complete different looking cover, and it'll be in bookstores in Korea sometime next year! Thank you all for your support with this book – it's going to places I never could have imagined, and most importantly it'll be able to serve even more people! Special thanks to my agent @sterlinglordlit for making this deal happen!
The advance on this deal was $10,000, which I’ve since learned is very generous as far as international offers go. What I’m more excited about, however, are the possibilities with publishing in Korea, which is apparently an extremely book-loving country. I believe Hal Elrod, a dear friend of mine and the SPI community who published Miracle Morning, saw his U.S. self-published book make it to bestseller status in other countries, Korea included.
It’s an amazing opportunity to spread the message of Will It Fly? to places even beyond what I was shooting for and thought was possible, and it makes me realize just how much higher I should be aiming.
The cherry on top in the year for Will It Fly? was its feature on Audible as a top business audio book for 2016. This, along with a promotion that Will It Fly? was a part of between December 26 and December 31, helped Will It Fly? earn five times its normal monthly download average.
That’s 2,527 audiobook downloads in December alone, which is more than March and April combined—the first two months that the audiobook became available.
I put a lot of hard work, sweat and heart into Will It Fly?, and I’m super thankful for all of the support and to see it still continuing to fly high and change more and more lives every day.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see messages like this one from Pam on Twitter:
My Next Book
Speaking of books, I've already started the next one. December was a month of meditation on the book in preparation for the start of it, and I mostly visualized and thought about what I would want this new book to accomplish, and how I want to transform my readers with it. I’m not quite ready to publicly share the book topic yet, although I may have gotten excited on a live stream or two and shared bits and pieces of it, however I am happy to announce that this will be my first attempt to explore traditional publishing.
I have an agent who is on standby for the outline, and we’re ready to rock the proposal and then ship it out to publishers. In fact, I already have publishers waiting to hear from us, which is a great sign, but a lot of December was spent trying to hold back those limiting beliefs and self-doubt, such as “Am I making the right decision here?” “Am I in over my head?” “Am I doing this for the right reasons?”
These kinds of thoughts always pop into my head when attempting something new. Why not self-publish again? It was super successful the first time around and very profitable as well, so why go traditional?
The reason for going traditional is, I want to see what it’s like. I also feel I’ll be able to better reach those beyond my network, and it’ll also test me, which is something I love to do, despite these feelings of doubt which always creep their way into the scene. By realizing that I’ve had the same feelings before; before starting my online business, my podcast, my YouTube channel, and speaking on stage, I know that this is a sign that this is the right thing to do.
Is it the right decision? The only way to know is to do it, experience it, and then assess the results after it’s all over. By then, I’ll have experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. I can weigh the pros and cons, and I can be there as an advisor to you and anyone else who may have questions about both sides of the coin.
No matter what happens though, I’m excited to get this material from my brain into a book format that I can use to deliver this information. I hope to complete the detailed outline within two months, and have a first draft ready to go by September of this year, if not sooner.
Here we go!
Well, actually, for now, let’s get into the income breakdown.
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Lessons Learned in December
Beyond the family vacation, the proudest moment of December came on my thirty-fourth birthday, because on that day, I launched a t-shirt.
I’ve been asked by many SPI fans in the past to offer “SPI swag” for purchase, however I never wanted to get into the t-shirt business just because I could. I wanted there to be deeper meaning if I were going to be selling something like a shirt, and that’s when operation “Serve First” came into action.
In November I reached out to Eric Friedensohn to help me come up with a unique design for a shirt that I was going to sell to benefit Pencils of Promise, an organization I’ve worked with in the past and am now an advisor for. PoP helps children around the world gain access to education when normally it would be nearly impossible. I actually took a trip to Ghana, Africa in 2015 (which you can see here) to visit some of the schools that you and I built together in my 2014 record-breaking birthday campaign (for most number of backers) to check out the schools, meet the teachers and students and be a part of the process.
It was absolutely life-changing.
To me, the words “serve first” are perfect. Serving first is what I feel is the means to living a happy and fulfilled live. It feels GREAT to give, and this is something I’m trying to instill into my two children every single day. Beyond that, serving first is the most sure way to build a successful business. When you do what you do in your business to help others first, rewards will always, in some way, come back to you.
It goes along with a phrase I say all the time, which is: “Your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience.” Unfortunately, that was way too long for a shirt design, so “Serve First” became what I feel sums it up quite nicely.
Here’s the t-shirt design below:
One hundred percent of the revenue (not profit) of the first 500 shirts went directly to Pencils of Promise, so as a result, they’re getting a check from us for $12,500 to help train more teachers and get more books into the hands of the students who we are serving. What a great way to end the year!
Shirts are still available at ServeFirst.io—check them out now while they are still in stock!
Thanks again for an amazing year. Yeah, the numbers look great, but what’s really got me fired up is the continued growth, and the undying support for SPI, our mission, and the new projects coming your way soon!
Oh, and before I go, if you’d like more details about some of my goals for this year, check out this post here which reveals my financial goal for 2017, and why it’s important.
2017 is ours! Here we go!