What is More Blog Income? – An Open Letter to Myself
These are not actually the first words I've written on More Blog Income, nor, for that matter, are they the first ones I've published. That honor belongs to an article about defining your target audience. Yet, this feels like the first article.
I set up MoreBlogIncome.com (MBI) at the end of April 2017. I wrote almost two posts, published one of them in June - after designing a home page - and then... I left the building.
Right now it's Tuesday 12th December 2017. Early afternoon actually, the children are at school (the boys are in fact at a pantomime with school), my wife is at work and I am in the study looking out over a frosty scene following a little snow at the weekend and the coldest night of the year so far.
I came back to the plan for MBI last week and I'm using this post to muse, for myself - I don't expect this post to stay published for long - on where I've come from over the course of this closing year, the path I'd like to travel next year, and the role I see MBI playing in that.
If by some quirk of Google you find yourself reading this even though you are not related to me, I'll recommend you either click 'next post' or indulge me as I take a short meander through my brains wonderingments.
A Quick Back Story
Please, never let me be bored.
Whilst that is a sentiment I hold dear - life is too short to spend it bored - there are times when things can get too interesting.
As a quick catch-up: I left my employer of 23 years, Wilko Retail Ltd, at the end of June 2016. I had a very good severance package - that I am still (just) eeking out to this day - which, along with the astounding generosity of my wife, gave me the opportunity to pursue the dream I had held for years before then: working for myself running websites.
My initial target was to achieve sales of $100 per day, i.e. $3000 per month, which seems to be the minimum viable income for me to continue to plod on at this.
Eighteen eventful months after starting on that dream, I will just about achieve that target for the first time this month.
Hurrah... and about time!
I twisted and turned too many times in 2017. Almost always brought on by panic and fear about not achieving my target. What I know now is that commitment to what was already starting to work and a greater belief in my ability to succeed would have moved me further than I am today.
That said, I also believe that life is too short for regrets. We are all where we are, and it is from here that we need to make a plan, not from yesterday, last month or our long-vanished childhoods.
At the start of this piece I did warn you that it would be an open letter to me. In the next section I am going to indulge myself with a trip through my monthly diary of 2017 to see what actually happened versus what I thought would.
After that we'll get to the main course: 2018 and where MBI fits into it.
2017, A Most Interesting Year...
At the start of every month I publish an income report on one of my websites. It is well hidden and Google is asked not to expose it, but I find it useful to capture what I did in the previous month and what I expect to happen / achieve in the one just beginning.
In the next few paragraphs I'm going to summarise what I said throughout 2017. Anything in italics is an addition made today for context.
January 2017: First report against my $100 per day target set the previous Sept. Achieved $13.15. Expected Jan to be worse than it was, so a positive tone in the review. Set a BHAG of 10x increase in sales in Dec 2017 compared Dec 2016. In reality, I will achieve c.3x... not impressive.
February: Poor work rate of only 25 hours in Feb, an obvious reason for slow growth. I now regularly clock 50+ per month and try to beat 60. I was following the '12 week year' but didn't enjoy it and moved to my 50 hour month instead. I also sold my first successful website HomemadeCheese.org. This month was when I first realised that I needed at least 1000 visitors per day, and more like 1200-1500 for viability. I was then on 230 and will see around 700 per day this month... getting closer, and is another clear sign that I need to keep on publishing useful content to bring people in.
March: Eek - flu hit the family Kirk and there was vomiting for a fortnight. I worked only a paltry 33 hours. This month saw the first signs of panic about my September performance deadline (yes, it is December now... keep reading) and decided that I'd have a go at BetFair Trading - I was rubbish - and hiring myself out for writing jobs. Dumbly I began outsourcing writing this month for my main website. Outsourcing is a great idea but, seriously, who tries to sell their writing skills when outsourcing writing? Dumb!
April: New logo, home page and layout. All the signs of someone procrastinating about the work which really needs to happen to grow a website. I did work over 50 hours for the first time this year, which is good. I also 'manned up' and removed everything from my world which was not my main website, a sound business decision. I saw my first month of more than 10,000 page views, which is a big achievement. It was over 17,000 last month - 70% increase is great! April seems to be the first time I realise that my main site will not perform well over the summer, given the nature of the niche. It is also the first time I mention MBI (see note just 3 sentences ago about not doing anything except the main site, what a mixed-up mess, lol.)
May: I talk about running my business as a business. I'm still not there yet, but I am one heck of a lot closer than I was in May! I talk again about outsourcing article for my main site, which I am now doing in a systematised way that seems to be working. I speculate I could have a 500-visitor day by December (tick, see above. In fact, I came within a hair's breadth of a 1000 visitor day at the start of December, recording 960 altogether). I also speculate a $5000 month in December, curiously overlooking my 10x target mentioned every month so far which would give $15,000. I did complete my awesome MBI ebook to, click the cover in the sidebar to get your copy.
June: My first 400 visitor day and first non-Christmas four-figure revenue month. Hurrah. In June's report I looked back a year and talked about how confused I was back then. Ha. Look in the mirror my friend, little has changed for you in that time. There were a number of milestones in June, one being some income was generated every day of the month. Since then I think there have been only two days of no income, so still positive. I mention a 10x target for next June, compared to the 30x growth on June 2016. That's 100,000 visitors and an amazing milestone to achieve! I also created my proper limited business, got an accountant and re-re-focussed back on my main website. I can see so much value in having a mentor instead of trying to figure all of this out through trial and error(s).
July: Holiday. Hot, sunny, Mallorca. Sea, pool, food, no work for a week. Loved it. I'm still fretting about my September 'back to work' deadline, and with good reason. Revenue was $1093, which was welcomed, but still 66% off target. This month was a key one for the year because it was when I hatched the idea for my course, which was to cost me three months of doing anything else. The best decision I made was to not look into physical products. There is definitely an opportunity for me there, but I need to stick to what is working right now before starting an expensive and time-consuming venture like e commerce.
August: Not a productive month because of Lowestoft and summer holidays, but it was a great time. All work and no play may Adam a dull boy. I started work in the Nottingham office one day per week, which I still do, and noticed the uptick in productivity this brings. I was anxious about being a stay at home Dad, with the boys finishing school at 3:15 and needing to be collected. Actually, that has caused me to work more effectively in the day, and I get an extra hour once they come home whilst they chill out after their school day. I worked on my course all month and had the idea for a subscription based model on my main website that I am still wondering about for 2018. I agreed with Rachel to pay myself for the first time in September, which helps push the deadline back for a J.O.B and I note that income was 17x the year prior.
September: I spent another 40 hours writing my course. This is why I am putting so much effort into marketing it right now - it is too good and valuable to just leave festering without selling. But, my lesson learned for the future, is make sure the market is there and that it won't take too long to produce. Paying myself even a little, coupled with the boys leaving nursery, meant I could agree with Rachel to keep at it to Christmas. Which is why I am here doing this today. Revenue was still over $1100, which is great when you consider that September 2016 was the first time I turned over more than $100. This is also the first real point I consider whether I want my main site to be a brand or not. Honestly, still undecided, it definitely could be, but I feel fatigued with it at the moment.
October: I finished the course and had spent over 106 hours on it. That is two full months or one sixth of my working year. It's a huge, commendable effort, but nothing else made any progress whilst that was happening. Don't drop the ball when playing with the shiny object. I sold plenty of copies before it went full price, so the potential is definitely there, I've just got to find out the best way of marketing it. This month I also made perhaps my best decision of the year and purchased AHPro. It has properly set me back on the path to what I should be doing to make a successful business that can sustain me, Rachel and our family. I am so close right now that my frustration with not being close enough is palpable... literally sell one course per day or double visitors and I'm safe from J.O.B-world.
November: I'm still diluting my time and launched a small local SEO consultancy. Rubbish time of year for it, so going to pick it up again in January. However, it did make me think about what I want to do with my time, which is why I am here, once more, writing on MBI. My frustration at the time and effort going in versus the reward coming out is easy to see and made worse by November revenue hugely under-performing against my expectations. In perhaps my most reasoned report of the year, I commit to no more than 3 projects and making sure that I publish and market useful content to grow the visibility of what I am doing.
December: This is here and now. Eleven days in and I'm pleased to report it is already my best month ever, whoop whoop, even if it is someway shy of my 10x BHAG. I've published two posts so far on my main site and this one you're reading on MBI. I feel positive about the direction I am taking, if a little frustrated about the time taken to pick it.
What 2017 Taught Me
I don't want to overplay this, because I think the lessons are fairly obvious, especially when you review the year as a whole like I have just done:
- Keep doing what works. By all means try other stuff, but don't stop doing the thing that works.
- Systematise your working life. It takes a lot of time to reinvent stuff all the time, so get systems in place that help make it easy.
- Have clear goals and stick to them. Pretty much every month I said I wanted to 10x December year on year, but made zero targeted effort to achieve it. And, how many different goals did I set over the course of 12 months... sheesh. It's easy to panic, but consistent, meaningful action is all that makes a difference.
- Measure effectively. I do measure every month, but I am poor at course-correcting, which probably means I am measuring the wrong things. In Jan I am overhauling my monthly review to make sure it serves the business
- Market better. Writing is great, producing courses is awesome... but only if the work you do is seen. I need to learn more about effective marketing.
I think that will do for now.
More Blog Income and 2018
I could have added another lesson above: do what makes you happy.
Which is where MBI comes in.
Fleetingly in November I talked about a small local consultancy. Again, this is a panic move because I don't want to go and work for someone else. Their times, meetings, targets, HR conversations, asking permission to have time off... blurgh.
In 2018 I intend to keep fighting with the dedication of an annoyed terrier to not go back to work for someone else.
My main niche, which I do have a passion for, is growing and can definitely become a big provider in its own right. But, it is seasonal - summer will always be quieter than winter - and it is not my main passion.
What I really love to do is internet marketing. I love owning and growing an online business. And, on a people level, my passion is helping others achieve success in their ventures. To find their way to leave a J.O.B and spend life doing what they enjoy... including seeing your children grow up!
It became obvious to me that MBI is the bridge between those things.
I can write about my passion - building web businesses - and help others build theirs whilst producing an income in the process.
So, in 2018, I am going to get busy helping others who have experienced the same problems as me to work through them. I am going to help you, if you want, turn your hobby website into a thriving business.
I want to use this site to help you get more income from your blog - hence the name - so that you can be in charge of your own life and not beholden to the powers at your J.O.B.
I can't wait to get started!