Welcome to my October 2013 income report!
Each month I like to write a report that goes into deep detail about my online businesses and how they are performing. I reveal how much I have earned and where it comes from, but more importantly I talk about the lessons learned from the past month too.
I do this for several reasons:
- To show you what's possible. I'm just a regular dude who takes action. Amazing things can happen when you take the right action.
- To show you that you don't always have to be perfect. I'm far from it and am more than happy to share the mistakes I've made along the way, so you don't make the same ones yourself.
- To hold myself accountable to continue to grow my businesses month after month.
- Because if I'm going to talk about making money online, I feel like it's only right that I show you exactly how I do it too.
Too many people in the space I'm in talk the talk, and they talk a really good talk too. They hire people and spend lots of money to talk the right talk, usually to sell you something on the other end. For me, I like to let my results speak for me, because I'm not a great copywriter, and it's much cheaper to do something great and share that.
Succeeding online takes time, patience, stamina and perseverance. It takes a lot of failures, restarts, adaptation and stress—but that's why I love it so much. Every day is different. Every day is a challenge, and I know you can relate to that. I don’t know everything and I still have a lot to learn—this is just a snapshot of where I’m at now in my journey. I hope that my insights both here in this post and on the rest of my blog will help you succeed in yours.
Let's get to this month's report…
Important Goings-On in October
A lot of things happened in October.
On October 1, my food truck niche website went live, although I waited until recently to reveal the brand name and URL here publicly on SPI. I did that so I could get a month's worth of real traffic and subscriber data, and so far, I'm incredibly happy with the results.
As I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of my recent Niche Site Duel 2.0 reveal posts, the site has yet to earn any money, but you can't really expect to earn an income from a brand new site within the first month anyway—let alone the first few months. There's still a long way to go, but to see over 7,000 unique visitors visit the site was awesome.
Now that FoodTruckr.com has been revealed, I'll be sharing very specific strategies and real time micro case studies for getting more exposure, more traffic and eventually earning an income from the site, and these are things that anyone on any site with any budget can do. Not all of the techniques may work—but hey, that's what makes this fun (and why I love doing business online). Trial and error is all a part of the process.
The Smart Passive Income Redesign
If you couldn't tell already (if you've been reading this blog for a while), SPI looks a little different than it did a month ago.
I've been talking about redesigning this blog for over 8 months now, and it feels real good to finally have it live on the Interwebs.
I will be writing an incredibly detailed post about why things are the way they are on the new design, but to keep it short and sweet – the old design was a Frankenstein concoction of features and boxes and images and text that, quite frankly, was very overwhelming to a lot of new visitors.
The bounce rate on the site (according to Clicky), was 24%. This means that 1 out of every 4 visitors on the site would visit the homepage, not click on anything and leave the site within 30 seconds. Again, this is Clicky's definition of a bounce, which I agree with. Google Analytics has their own definition.
Also, during my research a few months ago, I reached out to 100 random email subscribers and personally emailed them and asked, “Please be honest: what was the first impression you had when you first visited SmartPassiveIncome.com?”
Some of the answers I received were very eye-opening, but fully support the 24% bounce rate.
Many concluded that they were overwhelmed when they first arrived, or that there were too many options to choose from.
Another common comment was that they seemed a little put-off because they didn't know exactly what the site could do for them in the beginning. It was only after hearing so much about SPI elsewhere that they decided to give it a chance and read the content.
The new design definitely addresses the crowdedness and overwhelm that was there before, and I wanted to make sure people understood what the site was about and what it could do for them.
Again, more details to come in my upcoming post about the redesign, but after 4 days the average bounce rate has decreased from 24%, to 17% already, which is awesome.
Thank you to all of you who have previously seen the new design and have left comments, tweets, messages and emails about it. Overall, most people dig the new direction, but of course there were a few important things missing that are being worked on as we speak and will be implemented soon, if not already.
My First Keynote Presentation
In October, I also had the pleasure of attending FINCON13, otherwise known as The Financial Blogger Conference, in St. Louis. Not only was I attending this conference, but I got to deliver the opening keynote—my first keynote presentation ever!
In the Facebook post I'm embedding below, I talk about what I did to prep for this special occasion:
It was the best presentation I ever gave, and the hours I did prepping for it definitely paid off.
Unfortunately, I got a call a week later from the conference organizer telling me that the video for my presentation was gone.
The company that filmed the presentations had some data that was corrupt, and my presentation was included in that data. There was an off-chance that after sending the SD cards to a data recovery company that my presentation could have been recovered, but unfortunately nothing was recovered and my presentation was gone forever.
I'm not angry or blaming anyone but myself here. Yes, it wasn't my fault that the data was corrupted, but because it was such an important moment to me, I should have hired my own professional crew to record the presentation.
I really appreciated the fact that the conference organizer owned up and called me on the phone to tell me the bad news in person—incredibly apologetic—but I can't help but be disappointed about the situation.
I wanted to share the video with you, of course, but I was also planning on extracting the best parts for a speaker reel I was going to create to potentially land more keynotes and paid speaking opportunities.
Big lessons learned here, and the biggest one of all was that there's nothing I can do about this except learn from my mistake, and move on.
I did get a copy of the audio file, however, so I will be creating a slideshow of the presentation for you using the slides I have and Screenflow. I will be sharing that with you in an upcoming post, and it'll be the next best thing to the actual video that was lost.
Thank you again to the entire FINCON team for putting on an amazing conference! It still is my favorite conference to attend each year. 🙂
A Snapshot of My Other Businesses
Nothing huge happened in my other online businesses, but things are still going strong.
With GreenExamAcademy.com, I've seen a recent uptick in sales for my LEED exam study material over the last few months because the new version of the exam is coming out later next year, and when this happens (usually every 2-4 years), people are better off passing the older version because it's typically easier, and there's more material out there to help them along the way. Their credential stays in tact even when the new version of the exam comes out.
With SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, I've been seeing a lot of interesting movement in Google. For a little while it looked as if the site was going to slip from it's top position in Google, moving out of the first position for a couple of days, only to come back to the #1 position, along with a number of other important keywords in the industry following suit. Google—you are a strange beast.
Over the last couple of weeks, the site has been earning over $100/day in Adsense earnings, so I suspect my income for the site in November will be higher than usual. Zero work has been put into the site for the past 3 months.
With CreateaClickableMap.com, I was happy to see another record month of earnings. A few more maps have been added to the system, but most of the additional income comes from people purchasing the ability to save their US maps. (Remember, anyone can get a US map for free, they only pay if they want to save it onto the server to be able to edit it later).
I have been seeing more frequent customer service requests saying that the automated email they receive is not coming through. A few people actually filed disputes with Paypal for their “undelivered” goods (a link within that email to go back and edit their maps), so I've been trying to figure out a solution to better help with that situation. Interestingly enough, all of the complaints have been from people with @hotmail.com email addresses. The emails don't even reach their spam filter, so I am not sure exactly what's going on.
More work is being done to improve conversion rates and the buying experience. It works, but I know it can be done much better. At $800.00 in earnings last month (as you'll see in the Income Breakdown below), it's nothing huge, but over the course of a year that totally adds up. I used to pay $800.00 for rent when I was in college, so this business isn't something to be dismissed. I could see the site earning twice or three times that amount on auto-pilot, minus the customer service requests.
Ok, let's get to the numbers for October.
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.
A little more expenses this month (mostly for development work for the various projects I mentioned in the beginning of this report), and no active promotions means a slightly smaller income here in October, but of course, I'm still extremely happy with the results!
A 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 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 October
Besides the very hard lesson I learned from the keynote presentation that I gave, on a more positive note, I held my first monthly live Q&A session for the SPI community. These are free (and pitch-free) 2-hour sessions with me live over Google Hangouts on Air, and it's an opportunity for those in the SPI community to get some of their questions answered, and interact with each other as well.
Overall, the event, was a major success! Over 800 people signed up (registering through an event page I created on Google Plus), and over 300 people ended up coming by to hang out. This was amazing, especially considering that the event was held on a Friday evening!
It was the only day and time for a few weeks I had open to do such an event, which is why it was held at probably the worst time possible for one of these things, but it was a blessing to spend my Friday night with a few hundred people in the SPI community.
Each month, I will be holding these events, and they will be held on different days of the week, at different times of the day to accommodate more people from different locations around the world. Another one will be held at the end of November, so look out for information about that very soon.
The big lesson here is this:
Even though this only took 2 hours of my time, it made a large impact on those who were there, and even to those who didn't show up but knew this event took place. I received several dozen emails from people who attended the hangout who said it was awesome and that they appreciated me giving a little bit of my time to the audience.
If you want to stand out of your niche, why not give a couple hours of your time each month to your audience? They are who matters most, right?
People connect with other people, and a webinar or a hangout is the next best thing to meeting in person. You can get direct feedback from your audience, answer questions that your audience might have (so you don't have to do it via email later), all while strengthening the relationship you have with those who are there.
I'll be writing a detailed post soon about how to run a Google Hangout on Air like this, because I did a lot of research on various platforms, paid and free, and this is by far the cheapest and most effective option out there. The next best thing was a subscription to GoToWebinar for $499.99/month for up to 1000 attendees. Google Hangouts on Air is free, with up to a million. I'll do a side-by-side comparison with pros and cons and all that good stuff for you soon.
Again, thank you so much for all of your support, and look out for constant updates and tweaks to the SPI blog during the next month. I appreciate you, and wish you all the best!