I've decided to start blogging my various online earnings monthly in the hope that it will help those of you who are wondering about whether or not you can develop your own income online, and additionally as a way of reviewing my goals, progress, and learning from my experiences as I go.
Every month from Jan 2014 I'll share not only my reported earnings (based on various affiliate programs and my own products), but will go into details of what I learned, what I failed to learn, what I failed in general, and everything else that comes up along the way.
Note: I won't focus on Human Proof Designs earnings, but some of my other projects. I want to give you insight into what you could also achieve.
If you're familiar with SmartPassiveIncome, you'll see that Pat has been doing this for some time, and while I'm not directly ripping him off, I have taken some inspiration from him. I had the idea churning in my mind before I discovered his site, but seeing the pure quality and education in his content pushed me forwards to make my own little version.
Definitely go there and check out Pat's work, but do me a favor..try not to compare my earnings to his!
2013 Earnings In Review
As it's now January 2014, a great place to start would be with a review of the whole of 2013 (or as much of it as I can remember). Another reason for this though, is that 2013 was my first full year as an online marketer/entrepreneur/wistful blogger/insert-fancy-title-here.
This is going to give you guys who are just getting started an insight into where you could be this time next year.
You'll probably do even better than me though, because you get to learn from my mistakes.
Before we start on 2013, here's a little back story from the final few months of 2012.
I started learning about all this online business stuff at a training community called Wealthy Affiliate. There I learned pretty much everything that powered me through the first 6 months of 2013.
Additionally, the website I was focusing on at the start of 2013 was created late 2012 on one of WA's free subdomains. It was kettlebellexerciseswomen.siterubix.com (Don't look for it, it's not there anymore).
I created this site in late December 2012 after a fellow community member was talking about a Kettlebell DVD he was affiliate manager for, and he was looking for people to promote it. I knew very little about Kettlebells back then, but I liked the idea of working with another community member, was looking for a new niche to start, and liked the sound of the $27 commissions.
It was a very simple site, and was built on the very-basic-but-clean theme 2012. Here's an example of what it looked like:
An Unknown Niche – Is It A Bad Idea?
I wouldn't advise anyone to start out in a niche that they don't know much about, but hey, that's what I did. I probably wasted 2-3 months building the site and learning about Kettlebells, but I was determined to get some success.
At the end of the day, commitment trumps all.
January 2013 – Starting To Get Rolling
I won't go into a massive breakdown of each month as this thing will go on forever if I do. So, let's get on with the fun stuff!
January was actually a bit of a transitional month for me. I was earning about $50 a month by getting paid to publish articles on Squidoo, and making the occasional Amazon sale here and there. Remember I had only just started my Kettlebell site, so it was far from ready to start earning anything.
So how did it all go down?
Back then both of the sites I was working on were on free siterubix subdomains. I wanted to try building out a site before I actually invested in a domain. I don't do that any more, because I want Google to take me seriously from the get go, and it only costs $10 for a domain name.
Way back in January I was still learning about writing content, getting rankings in the search engines, and building a site. I had yet to even try my hand at real “marketing” or sales copy.
This was a fun month for me though, because I always love started a new site and watching it grow. I also had a good feeling about Kettlebell Exercises Women, as I had previously read some excellent training at Wealthy Affiliate which really opened my eyes to how a website should work in terms of articles and structures.
What Did I Learn?
How to structure a website. I created one or two main “pillar” articles which were reviews of products, and then used blog posts to get more visitors and traffic, and pointed those visitors to the pillar articles to hopefully make a sale. This strategy was completely new to me until January. It felt good to have a clear structure.
What Were My Failures?
I gave up on AskAwesomeQuestions in January because it was so ugly, wasn't getting me very good rankings, and I couldn't think how to monetize it. Basically, it was a website about asking questions. Things like “20 questions to ask a girl”.
I was too impatient and always abandoning websites, this was the third one. The irony is, this site would go on to become arguably my biggest success of the year.
To learn more about my trials and successes with this site, read my article series: How I fluked a $1,000 sale.
All in all, despite the very low earnings, I felt good in January and was looking forward to the year ahead.
Jan Total Earnings: $54 USD (I'm gonna be rich!)
February was pretty much a continuation of what I was doing in January, minus the askawesomequestions blog. I didn't delete it though, just let it sit there. Little did I know that it would slowly be racking up rankings and traffic.
As for Kettlebell Exercises Women, I decided that I would focus solely on getting traffic and building my brand first, then worry about changing my sales pages and product reviews. I figured I had to have some traffic to test it on first!
My earnings took a dip because I was focusing less on Squidoo, but in the long run that extra work I spent on my own sites would paid off in future months.
Kettlebellexerciseswomen was starting to get good traffic (less than a thousand uniques, but not far off) so I moved it to its own domain, where it remains today.
Still didn't earn much money!
What I learned:
It's always going to be better to focus on your own content, so despite my earlier enthusiasm for Squidoo, I started to tone it down and focus more on my own sites.
February earned me less than January, but enough for me to feel that if I could earn a little bit, I could earn a lot more. I guess sooner or later I would have got bored of earning such little amounts, but fortunately it was from March onward that I started to earn more.
Feb total earnings: $45 USD
March – First Real Successes
March was my first $100 month. I was stoked. I don't even use the word stoked much, but it seems appropriate. Alright, I was absolutely delighted. $100 is still a very small amount in the grand scheme of things, but considering that A LOT of people give up before they even reach that level, I think it was an amazing figure. It was actually about $150 as well. Result.
By the time March rolled around, I suddenly realized that my Kettlebell site was getting about 1,000 unique visitors a month. Here's my reaction:
Woohoo! My site has visitors, my site has visitors! But wait…nobody is buying anything.
At this point, I decided to ask my WA friend Beverley to take a look at my review page. I knew people were viewing it and some of them were even clicking through to the vendor page, but with no sales, I figured now was a good time.
Beverley was very good at identifying some of the flaws in my review, mainly, it sucked! She helped me improve it and gave me some examples for me to implement. I made those changes and waited.
A week later, I had made $4 sales, and was on $108 for the month. Amazing!
Read above !
None really, I was ecstatic all month.
What I learned
Success really can be magnified significantly simply by changing one or two pages on a website. (I hadn't yet learned that testing and tweaking was going to be a main thing for the rest of the year!)
March Earnings – $154 USD – WOOO
April – Getting Consistent
April was actually a bit of a downer. I learned some things the hard way about consistency and “Internet Marketing Math”.
Never assume that if you earn X amount over 2 weeks, you will double it over the next 4.
I might have made 4 sales on my Kettlebell site in the final 2 weeks of March, but I just about scraped 3 sales for the whole of April. I think I finished the month on $100.01 USD or something. I was still relieved to hit $100 again, but I had pictured 8-10 sales at the start of the month, so was someway off that mark.
I did spend 10 days of April in China visiting my brother though, so this was the start of me realizing I could still earn money while I was travelling. That's the concept behind this page.
Consistency, making sales and getting more traffic.
Taking my business with me while travelling.
Totally failed at predicting my earnings and didn't increase my earnings for the first time since I started.
What I learned
Sales trends are annoying.
April Earnings – Let's say about $100 USD
May – The Ultimate Bounce-Back From April
I earned $1,230 USD this month. Yep. You read that correctly. A little bit of a jump up from $100 eh?
A large part of this was down to the fact that I sold AskAwesomeQuestions for $1,000 USD, but if you take away that huge chunk, I still got over $200 from Kettlebellexercisewomen and a few other small jobs.
I was absolutely bouncing off the walls when this happened. Imagine, you're in your 5th month of earning online, you're starting to get some consistency, but are doubting if you can really get something good going and make a go of this, then BOOM, $1,000 dropped into your paypal account.
Thanks very much, I think I'll stick to this online stuff.
I wouldn't really say I had any failures, it was a good month all round.
What I learned
I actually learned something quite important here. The earnings of a site are not the only asset. AAQ was earning zero, but was absolutely raking in traffic (over 10,000 a month), which made it valuable to the person who bought it.
I'd say a website can have 4 major assets:
– Active Subscribers
Obviously some will count more towards the valuation of a website than others, but the lesson learned here is, always try to grow your site's assets, even if it's not putting cash directly into your pocket immediately.
May Earnings: $1,250 ish
June – Could it be repeated?
So in June I was pretty determined to try and reach $1,000 a month again. I realized that this was probably unlikely, because I didn't have another $1,000 site lying around that I could sell.
Still, reaching that mark had kind of taken the brakes off with my other ventures, and I the summer was coming on fast, meaning my Kettlebell site was reaching its highest ever traffic and sales.
I also dabbled with some freelance writing work for a friend who had learned I was engaged in this kind of business, and he paid me to do some writing for him.
Earned the most I'd ever earned outside of a website sale, in fact I doubled my non-site-sale earnings from the previous month.
Didn't reach $1,000, but it wasn't a bad effort.
I tried to build a few sites specifically for selling them, but they were kinda rush jobs, ugly, and not really appealing. They didn't sell. Back to the drawing board on that one.
June Earnings – $450
I was sooo close to hitting $500. I really like round numbers. Still, $450 is no small number and given that the previous month had put me well into profit for the year, I was now seeing some good extra income coming my way.
July – Making enough to brag about
Ok, so I didn't go around bragging about my earnings, but when friends who knew what I was upto asked me how it was going, I felt proud enough of my earnings to share. Most of them were pretty impressed, as was I!
What I remember most about this period of the year was that I finally felt like I was getting some success and was getting some income to prove it.
I no longer felt “I really hope this works” and was now thinking “Oh wow this really works”!
I did more of the same, but with better results. More Kettlebell sales, more freelance work, and more side-projects. I haven't really spoken about my side-projects yet, but throughout the year I was always coming up with ideas for more sites and some I followed through, while others fell-through.
I'd say that constantly building new projects blighted my year and took a huge chunk out of my focus, BUT, I strongly believe that they contributed to me learning so much so fast. So yeah, keep on learning.
I cleared the $500 mark with room to spare, and felt like a real online marketer.
I also took a flight from Bangkok to Phuket (yeah, I was on holiday again), and managed to earn back the price of the flight while I was in the air through some sales that came in during the flight. That's a nice feeling.
I still failed to hit the $1,000 mark that I craved, but hey, I was earning.
July Earnings – $780
I thought I might get a late push to $800 and beyond, but in the end I still did well.
By this point, I'd conjured up the idea of Human Proof Designs and was spending most of my time working on that. Building up the site, creating content, and all the countless hours that went alongside that.
What's cool is, because I'd spent six months building up Kettlebell Exercises Women, it was now pretty much self-sustaining.
I spent just two hours working that site in August, and still earned a good few hundred dollars.
I created a new “business” (as opposed to an affiliate marketing website). I managed to earn from KBEW without doing much work on it. Passive income – the ultimate dream.
Of course, I didn't repeat my $780 from the month before, but I was now driving myself towards a new goal and I knew the hard work wold pay off later.
August Earnings – I earned just over $600 again.
I think the final figure was about $610. How's that for passive income.
Note: What changed my thinking? As you'll see, over the previous months, I was slowly growing my Kettlebell site, and now I had jumped ship to Human Proof Designs.
Well, simply put, somebody said this to me:
Once you've built a few successful websites, it's much better to focus next on building a business.
Also, the fact I could earn $610 from virtually passive income (just 2 hours' work remember), was an incredible thing for me.
Pretty much the same as August, I was pushing to try and get Human Proof Designs launched by the end of the month, and enlisted some help from a couple of friends with reading my training and critiquing my site. This is another advantage of networking at a place like Wealthy Affiliate, you get to make friends who will help you get a business off the ground, or steer you in the right direction.
I haven't spoken much about the community in this earnings report, but without a doubt every penny I earned was a result of my joining Wealthy Affiliate in 2012.
September Earnings – $480
This was about the time where Kettlebell DVD sales were trailing off as winter approached. However, I did launch HumanProofDesigns that month and earned some money via sales of sites there. As I said earlier, I won't include those figures into this report, but I wanted to explain why momentum was shifting away from the Kettlebell site.
Managed to launch my own product and business!
With such a big learning curve that I was on, I wouldn't want to put anything down as a failure as such. There were definitely some things I could have done better.
What I learned
It's probably better to get one website optimized before launching a new business. I feel even today that Kettlebellexerciseswomen.com hasn't reached it's full potential, and probably never will unless I can devote a few months to it, or hire somebody to do the same.
I also learned that it really does take a lot of work to bring anything good into existence, and even now, 4 months after my initial launch, I'm still constantly improving HumanProofDesigns, taking feedback, reinvesting my earnings (most of the income I receive goes back into the business), and brainstorming.
October Earnings – $350-400 from Kettlebells site.
I got a little distracted and didn't keep great track of my earnings in this month. This is partly because I was starting to see things in the bigger picture, and wasn't focused on immediate cashflow anymore.
Remember also that this was mostly passive income.
November was a strange month. Human Proof Designs was in transition and didn't earn much, and my Kettlebell site was in danger of falling by the wayside. I was still making $50-100 a week there, but I was rapidly losing interest and traffic was starting to fall.
To counter this, I hired a copywriter to do some reviews for me, and she had so many good ideas and suggestions, that I ended up getting a lot more involved with the Kettlebell site again. It's funny how much I bounce between projects, I swear my life would be easier if I could just focus on one thing, but I can't.
I'd rather push 5 boulders up a hill slowly than get bored pushing 1 up.
Speaking of boulders, I also co-created DeftDev.com with Dean Robinson. I had hired him to create the training plugin for me that I use in HumanProofDesigns sites to give unique training to my clients, and we clicked and decided to go into business together launching plugins. First was Easy Admin Training (the above mentioned plugin) and more plugins are in the works.
We plan to build plugins that we'd use ourselves, and improve upon the ones that we find clunky. There are too many plugins that are clunky and a pain to use.
See, I told you I'm not very good at focusing.
I become an “employer” on my Kettlebell site, having my own writer (Ok..she's a freelancer, not exactly ‘my own').
I created another of my own products.
I don't know, not being a millionaire with HumanProofDesings or DeftDev yet probably.
November Earnings – $400
Definitely invested more than I earned this month, but I still took in a reasonable amount thanks to some Amazon sales in the pre-Christmas period.
The final month of the year. As always my attention was on the future and looking forwards, but if you were to compare my income and projects of 2013 with my income and projects of 2012, the difference would be insurmountable.
In December 2012 I had very little online earnings (Probably about $25), no real assets (a few amateurish beginner websites), and no real direction or clue.
Thanks to guidance from Wealthy Affiliate, hard work, and A LOT of learning, here's what I had in December 2013:
Stable online earnings (Averaging $400-500 a month), a successful website (kettlebell one), two businesses in the works with their own products (HPD and DeftDev), and a whole lot of great ideas and direction for 2014.
Can you imagine where I might be in December 2014?!
Please re-read above.
None by comparison.
December Earnings – $530
I actually did well over the Christmas period. Amazon alone did more in December than the entire rest of 2013, clocking up nearly $200 in commissions. I also earned $200 over a 48 hour period after Christmas due to some New Year's Resolution kettlebell DVD sales.
Not bad for my passive income on the side.
OK, that was quite the essay – but I really felt that it would give some insight onto the journey I went on through 2013, and what sort of things you might be able to achieve if you start a site of your own. If you were to just stick to one site, you could easily double my earnings as well. I chose to launch a few businesses and re-invest my time and earnings. You don't need to.
Here's a summary of Kettlebellexerciseswomen.com and it's success.
From 0 – 1,000 = 3 months
From 0 – 4,000 = 5 months
From 0 – 6,000 = 6 months
From 0 – 7,500 = 10 months
I could probably have doubled this if it was my sole focus and I was posting 2-3 weekly like in the first few months. I know others who were getting 10,000 a month or even 10,000 a DAY after 6 months. My stats are definitely mediocre compared to them.
From 0 – $100/month = 3 months
From 0- $500/month = 6 months
Again, I could have doubled this if it was my sole focus, and sometimes I wonder why it wasn't, but I have to follow my passions and desires, and in the end $500 a month requires very little work (once it's been built up) to maintain, which I'm more than satisfied with.
Of course, you will have seen so many other successes and failures over the year that I can't just summarize my year based on some traffic and earnings stats. One thing I'd like to do though, is compare my total income across various sites, compared with my expenses, and give you an insight.
Income for 2013:
– Kettlebellexerciseswomen.com – $2,250 (Amazon, Clickbank and Google Adsense reported earnings)
– AskAwesomeQuestions.com – $1,000 (Sold via Flippa)
– LuxuryShaves.com – $300 (This was a side project site I built and then sold after it earned me minimum work. I didn't include it in this monthly breakdown, because it was too long already)
– Various freelancing work – $750
Expenses for 2013:
I'm not including my expenses for HPD or Easy Admin Training, as their income is not included either.
– Kettlebell Exercises Women – $150 on themes, plugins and images. $375 for outsourcing writers.
– Ask Awesome Questions – $10 on the domain name.
– Luxury Shaves – $10 on the domain name.
– Wealthy Affiliate Premium Membership $255 for the year.
– Flippa Listing Fees and Success Fees: $150~
Total Expenses: $950
Net Profit: $3,350
Being in profit for the first year is incredible, and although I invested a lot of that money back into my other businesses, that just means their profit for 2014 is going to be even higher.
– Freedom, I now do this full-time, and love every second of it. I'll create another blog post dedicated to “going pro” another time.
– Control. I don't have to rely on others for my income now.
– I didn't quit. Seriously, I'm still here doing this, how amazing is that?
What I learned – A Summary
Here are my biggest tips for the year:
– Don't worry about earnings and where you are. Instead look back at how far you've come. This doesn't necessarily have to be in monetary terms. Just looking back at what I was doing in January last year is enough to spur me on. How far I've come!
– Don't let traffic fluctuations or income ups and downs affect your mood. You need to be able to work during the bad times and focus during the good times.
– Never assume that earning X amount in one week will mean X amount the next. Stuff doesn't work like that.
– Only bounce around between projects if you are making progress, don't be too quick to abandon something. You never know when you might have got success with it.
Whenever I think “All that work just for $3,000 USD”, I just remind myself: “If you worked all year for a company or employer, how much would your pay rise have been at the end of the year? A few hundred dollars?”
Maybe you should ask yourself that one too.
Thanks for reading, I really hope this has been of some use to you. The next earnings report will be much shorter, as it only deals with January 2014.