Leaving Work Behind

Let’s Make 2012 A Game Changer (My Plans For The Coming Year)

Written by Tom Ewer on December 31, 2011. 27 Comments

2012 Is A Game Changer

Hello all! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and more importantly, a great 2011.

Now is typically the time at which you look back on your year and give some thought as to how things went. Did you exceed your expectations, or fail? Did you even have expectations, or were you just floating along aimlessly?

If 2011 didn’t live up to your expectations (or if you didn’t have any), now is the perfect time to make sure you don’t follow a similar path in 2012.

This Year Can Be A Game Changer

From a personal perspective, 2012 is going to be a big year. For the first time in my life, everything is subject to change. I can honestly say that I have no idea where I will be in a year from now, which is pretty exciting.

But getting excited about the possibilities alone won’t get me very far. I recognize that I need to set some hard targets if I want to progress. After all, my 2012 begins with just some savings in the bank, and a modest income from a couple of freelancing clients. I have got a long way to go.

Flexibility Is Key

FlexibilityFor those of you who have been reading the blog since the very beginning, you may recall an article I wrote about setting goals, way back in June 2011. It is interesting to look back and reflect on it now. In June, my Endgame was to quit my job by 23rd May 2012. I have obviously beaten that by a huge margin, but it is interesting to note that the way in which I planned to do it was completely different to the actual way in which I did it.

And this highlights a key understanding that I will bear in mind moving forwards, despite my in-depth planning: best-laid plans can change – for better and for worse. With regards to my original Endgame of quitting my job, my plans certainly changed for the better, as I was able to achieve my goal in nearly half the time that I originally anticipated.

So whilst my plans will be detailed, I will always keep in mind the fact that they should be flexible to change.

Before we start, it best you understand the process that I go through in order to set my goals. So if you haven’t already, read this article: How To Succeed.

My New Endgame

At this point in time, I am not actually sure what I want from life. I certainly know what I don’t want, which is why I quit my job. But in terms of my work, where I should live, and how I should live, I am a little stuck.

So my Endgame is to discover what it is that I want from life. That may seem rather intangible, and it is, but there is no way getting around it. I hope to achieve my Endgame by the end of 2012, but I am not putting a great deal of pressure on myself with regards to this, as it is not something you can really force.

My (Not So New) Target

TargetsAlthough my Endgame may seem rather ethereal, there is a very tangible target that I know I need to hit in order to figure out what I want from life. That target is to grow an online income that is sufficient enough to support my existing quality of life.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will recognize this target, because it is the same one that I set back in June 2011. Whilst my Endgame has changed, the target remains the same.

Defining Actionable Goals

The next step is to figure out exactly how I will hit my target. I am going to be concentrating on a few different areas – some practical, and some more speculative. I will be setting S.M.A.R.T goals (which were first introduced to me by Pat Flynn). For those of you who don’t know, S.M.A.R.T goals should be:

All of the goals I set today will be for the first quarter of 2012 (i.e. I expect to have achieved them by March 31st). My aim is to take 2012 quarter by quarter. If I had a more solid idea of where I am going, I might expand upon this, but for the time being, I think that quarterly reviews will work best for me.

So let’s take a look at my goals for the first quarter of 2012.

Freelance Writing

Freelance WritingThis one is simple. In March 2012, I want to earn enough money from freelancing to match my outgoings, which are approximately £2,000 ($3,100).

I foresee this being a pretty tall order, but it is by far the most important short term goal, because having a negative net income is no good at all!

I intend to reach this goal in the old fashioned way – by looking high and low for new clients. I will trawl job boards and research alternative methods by which I can source high-quality clients. I will also seek advice from some of my new freelancing friends.

Authority Sites

I currently have two authority sites – my child modeling site, and Deal With Anxiety. My goal for these sites (combined) is to earn a minimum gross income of £200 ($310) this quarter. This may not seem like a lot, but with good reason – once I am back from my holiday, I will only have 1 1/2 months to work on making this goal a reality. In terms of ranking in Google, that is not a great deal of time!

In more specific terms, I predict that my goal will require me to attract approximately 10,000 unique visitors (or 5,000 per site). This is assuming that by using an AdSense monetization model, each unique visitor will be worth approximately 1p. That estimate is drawn from the data I collected from my first authority site.

Knowing the amount of unique visitors I need to attract enables me to research and target the appropriate keywords. I will be targeting keywords that deliver a minimum of 10,000 visitors per month.

Niche Sites

This is going to be a completely new endeavor for 2012. I will be launching multiple niche sites (i.e. sites of limited content that target low-competition keywords) over the coming weeks. My goals are to launch 20 sites, and earn a gross income of £100 ($155) this quarter.

The financial goal may seem very low, but anyone who has developed niche sites know that it takes time to develop an income, and I will only have 1 1/2 months in which to do so. So I am setting what I hope is a realistic goal, in a realistic timeframe. If things go well in this first quarter, I would like to think that my income in the second quarter of 2012 would be considerably higher.

I will drawing on the expertise of Spencer Haws and Trent Dyrsmid to help me in reaching these goals – they are two guys who have really owned the niche site business model.

Leaving Work Behind

Quitting Your JobFinally, my goal-setting wouldn’t be complete without a mention of this very blog, would it?

As regular readers will know, I am not currently monetizing the blog in any way, nor am I in any rush to do so. But I do eventually hope to earn an income from my efforts, and am steadily working towards that.

At this time, I am not sure as to what my monetization method will be. At the moment, my focus is on providing as much value as possible, without charging a penny for it. So I have no financial goals for the first quarter of 2012 – my goal is entirely traffic-oriented.

Over the last 28 days, traffic to this site has been just over 100 unique visitors per day, which as far as I am concerned, is nowhere near enough. My goal for the first quarter of 2012 is to be averaging at least 300 unique visitors per day in the last 14 days of March 2012.

I plan to reach this goal by writing epic shit, being published on other blogs via guest posts, and generally getting myself known and out there.

Edit: following on from Greg Ciotti’s advice in the comments section, I have decided to set an additional three goals for the blog, as follows:

So There Are My Plans For The Quarter – But What About The Month?

In terms of setting S.M.A.R.T goals, I am not stopping there. Although I have now successfully set myself some specific goals for the quarter, I will also be setting “micro-goals” for each month. These goals will be outlined (and subsequently reviewed) in each monthly income and expenditure report.

With my income and expenditure report for December just around the corner, I will be setting my micro-goals for January very shortly. I’d also like to get you involved in an experiment of sorts, so stay tuned!

Creative Commons images courtesy of aaronisnotcool, Haris Awang, ViZZZual.com, Savage Chickens and Jessica Lucia

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27 Responses to “Let’s Make 2012 A Game Changer (My Plans For The Coming Year)”

  1. Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog
    December 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Wow – I’m impressed Tom. I feel like we have similar pursuits and interests (professionally) but with different progress altogether. I also quit my job (about 9 months ago). My monthly freelance writing income has averaged about $7000 – $9000 since I quit. I have done NOTHING to monetize or diversify any online presence for purposes of income generation. Something I definitely want/need to do in the coming year. And I’m not very good with goal setting in any specific or focused kind of way. We can probably help each other! I look forward to finding ways to collaborate in the coming year.

    • Tom Ewer
      December 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      Hey Ruth!

      You’ll be the first person I’ll be bothering about freelancing when I get back (if you don’t mind) 🙂 and I hope I can help you too.

      Diversification for me is key. I’m not pointing myself in any direction long term at the moment, so with that in mind, I like to have my fingers in a few pies.

      Thanks for dropping by!


  2. Gregory Ciotti
    December 31, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Only “goals” post I’ll be commenting on this year Tom, I know you’ll be crushing it in 2012.

    As for this blog, you mentioned traffic goals, are you particularly concerned with subscribers at this point?

    I think I check my AWeber stats about twice as often as Clicky, just curious if you have any subscriber goals for 2012.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      That’s a really good point Greg – I have probably been remiss in omitting goals regarding subscribers/Twitter followers/Facebook “likes”. Having said that, I find it tough to set goals for those, as increasing those numbers seems more like an art than a science…I’ll have to think about that! I agree that I should include goals for those, but in terms of setting goals that I know are achievable, that’s tough for me…

    • Tom Ewer
      January 3, 2012 at 1:18 am

      Hey Greg,

      You were totally right – I have added three more goals for subscribers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Thanks for the suggestion!


  3. Ann Day
    December 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Tom, I’m really inspired by your goals post. I’m at the very start of my IM business and posted 3 niche sites this week (yet to be templated properly and filled with content). I wish you every success with your progress. I currently make about $80k in a public service job but want to replace my income by 2014 and so will have to come up with “Pat Flynn type strategies” in order to replace that high level of income so I’ll need not just niche sites but authority sites and probably consulting or some other off-line income stream…funny, I was an architect once, just like Pat formerly was, (and later, a lawyer, but thats a whole other story). Good luck for 2012, I know you will crush it !!!

    • Tom Ewer
      January 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Hey Ann,

      Sounds like you have a fascinating story to tell! Goals are important, but S.M.A.R.T goals especially can be extremely powerful in pushing you forwards.

      I’m intrigued by your target because I was earning about as much as you before I quit. I have no doubt that you can do it, and would definitely back you up on the idea of diversifying your income streams.

      Please keep me updated on how you get on!

      All the best,


  4. Jason Fonceca
    January 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Fantastic stuff Tom! I really love your journey and honesty. There are tons of people interested in leaving work behind, and you are a shining example for ’em!

    I’d like to especially commend you for this:

    “At this point in time, I am not actually sure what I want from life. I certainly know what I don’t want, which is why I quit my job. But in terms of my work, where I should live, and how I should live, I am a little stuck.

    So my Endgame is to discover what it is that I want from life. ”

    I talk a lot about having Clear, Definite Purpose, and although people may label discovering what you want from life, as being “too general”…

    …the thing about clear, definite purposes, is that they start from the general, and grow to the specific.

    You’ve got it man, it’s as good as done.

    Write epic shit, and keep doin’ you. Happy New Year!

  5. Justice Wordlaw IV
    January 2, 2012 at 12:12 am


    Sounds like your in the right direction and I’m looking forward to seeing how your year progresses. How you have setup your goals in quarters is going to be really good for yourself because your going to be able to test and measure to see what has worked and what didn’t. Best of luck to you starting out.

    Maybe soon we can bounce some traffic methods off of each other. I’m in the process of creating about 30 niche sites this year in a wide range of areas and about 12 of them are about 90% completed right now.

    Looking forward to the growth of your blog as well.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks Justice. That sounds great – I love speaking to others about their methods, it can often give you fresh perspective.

      If you’re planning on creating 30 niche sites this year and you have already done 12 (in 2 days?!), you’re well on your way! 🙂

      • Justice Wordlaw IV
        January 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm

        Yeah, my outsroucing team have been working on them for about 2 months now so their moving along quite well at a faster speed. The design and content is the easiest part. The traffic is where the most work has to be done but it should be pretty easy with a consistent content upload.

  6. Kent @ Make Extra Money Online
    January 2, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Tom, hope you find “discover what it is that I want from life” and it’s a great journey to define your purpose in life.

    Sometimes busy life, school or family keeps us going. I love to slow down to think about this too.

    Regarding to online business, keep it going, setting and REACHING goals persistently is the key.

    I build niche sites part-time and hope I have better time management and be productive this year.

    Right on, I look forward to your update this year.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 3, 2012 at 12:41 am

      Hey Kent, thanks for dropping by 🙂

      Sounds like you know exactly what you’re doing. Would love to hear more about how you get on with your niche sites!

  7. Jeffrey Trull
    January 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I think you’ve set up well thought out and realistic goals, Tom. I’m especially glad to see that you’ve made some goals for early 2012 and not just the year as a whole.

    I give you credit for being honest that you’re not entirely sure how things are going to work and what you’re going to do. That’s something that I don’t often admit, but it helps to know that others are in the same boat, too.

    Happy New Year!

    • Tom Ewer
      January 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

      Hey Jeff,

      Pretending that I know what I’m doing would violate two rules that are integral to this blog:

      1. Complete honesty
      2. Demonstrating how success is achieved from a seed of complete cluelessness 😉

      Thanks for your continuing support – it does not go unnoticed 🙂


  8. Paul Wolfe
    January 3, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Hey Tom

    I’ve seen you ‘around’ the blogosphere…but don’t think I’ve ever dropped by before, so howdy.

    I hopped over here from Steve (Scott’s) website and his goals post.

    Setting goals is a process I;m undergoing at the moment – and setting precise and measurable goals and tracking them is a big way forward for anybody in trying to achieve something. I’ll be blogging a bit about this over the next few months.

    Had a thought….you talk about your niche websites and monetizing via Adsense at approx a penny a click. If your goal for these sites is revenue driven – which it appears to be – would it not make more sense to monetize these sites with more lucrative methods than Adsense?

    Obviously affiliate products spring to mind….but if you’re a Freelance Writer surely it wouldn’t be that difficult to create some short reports in those markets that you sell for a few dollars (or pounds) and get a far greater return from than Adsense clicks. (Plus Adsense clicks by their nature take people AWAY from your website – you’ve spent time getting people there just to drive them away with a monetization model).

    Once you’ve created some short reports they can be made to work harder for you by loading on Kindle…or turning into Audio/Video and selling for higher prices. You probably know the score on product development.

    You already have the writing chops – I read a couple of your posts, and you write more than well enough to create some reports – so to me it would make more sense to ‘invest in yourself’ by trying out a few of these. (Personal experience – don’t expect your first report to set the world on fire…but as your site grows, and as your inventory of products grow, it’s incredible to watch your revenues slowly grow).

    Happy New Year btw.


    • Tom Ewer
      January 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for dropping by, and thank you for posting such a well thought out comment!

      I am really glad you brought this subject up, because I couldn’t agree with you more. I fully intend to adjust my monetization strategy away from AdSense – when the time is right. AdSense is not the long term solution for my authority sites, as far as I am concerned.

      Having said that, my priority right now is to build up a consistent and heavy flow of traffic. It isn’t worth creating products until there is a sizeable audience with which to sell them to. I found this out with my first niche site – I got it up to about 200-300 visitors a day, and jumped to create a free report for newsletter conversion. I then planned to upsell a paid product to that email list.

      I took down my AdSense in order to funnel as many visitors into my email signup as possible – and the conversion rate was awful. I was in too much of a hurry to “upgrade” my monetization.

      I learnt something from this – if you have an idea to improve something about a website, it is better to do it slowly, than in too much of a hurry.



  9. Victoria @ My Daily Cuppa
    January 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Hello Tom,

    What a pleasure it is to discover a fellow Brit! 🙂 I popped over from Scott’s site and wanted to wish you lots of luck with your goals.

    I have created my own list but need to go through the SMART process so that I can keep on track.

    Good luck to us both. LoL

    • Tom Ewer
      January 3, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Hey Victoria,

      Seems like Steve is sending me quite a few people today! Thank you for wishing me luck, I really appreciate it 🙂 and good luck to you too! Just let me know if I can be of any help at all.



  10. Aaron
    January 29, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Hi Tom
    I like this post except the part on the 2 ‘niche masters’.

    Being new in the game, it might seem that they are the most successfully guys doing this model but there are already many people doing this for a long time.

    Have you heard of griz? Before he deleted his blog, he ranked number 2 for the super competitive make money online term. His blog was full of really useful tutorials, not like the current we have right now.

    More importantly, he was clearing 37k in monthly income from his niche sites.

    He was quite influential on that generation of make money folks, including myself.

    His old posts have been resurrected at this new URL grizzlybears.com. Check it out if you can. It is great info without all the filler stuff.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I hadn’t heard of griz, but it would appear that he would be the first to suggest that his old posts aren’t of much use to us now. This is from the about page of his resurrected blog (www.grizzlybrears.com):

      “However the internet is ever changing and much of what was written is no longer accurate in terms of how the search engines work today…In the end the site had to go as it was leading too many beginners down a path that was no longer valid.”

      I appreciate the suggestion but it looks like his previously useful posts may be a bit outdated now.



  11. aaron
    January 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Hey Tom

    Glad you have a chance to look at the site.

    His seo and make money tips still work. Advice such as ‘writing long rambling posts to fish out hidden keywords, optimise your content according to what Google is telling you and not what you targeting etc’ still brings in very good search traffic when applied. (See this post: http://web.archive.org/web/20091230214149/http://makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com/2007/11/payday-loans-adsense-and-money-making.html). That is not what griz meant when he says ‘no longer valid’.

    What he says about ‘not working’ anymore is the business model of building niche sites. Building niche sites can make money but they might get into trouble sooner or later either through algorithm changes such as Panda or through manual inspection.
    Griz fully recommends building real sites that serve a purpose besides making money (in his current site: http://makemoneyonlinegrizzly.com/make-money-online/a-huge-tip-for-new-sites/).

    However, the main point of my earlier comment was not whether Griz’s method still works. It is the fact that niche site building were taught long time ago even before the so call niche masters know what they are doing.

    I think what we seeing is just a cycle of things. The older guys have grown wiser after seeing the ups and downs of niche site building. In their absence, we are seeing newer folks who might have only see the upside without seeing how ugly the downside might become.

  12. Ramūnas Bruzgys
    November 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Sounds like a big plan!

    So, how it goes? Better than you think at the beginning?

    Ramūnas Bruzgys

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