As you will know if you read my last income report, July was a month of major change for me. I made the transition from a “traditional” freelancing model to a sub-contracting business model in which I hire writers for much of my client work.
The thinking behind this was simple: I could earn say 60% of the income in just 10% of the time. Given that I had so many other projects that I wanted to work on (that could in the long term make me even more money), the idea was too tempting to pass up.
So I dove in at the deep end and made the switch. I launched Clear Blogging Solutions and set about attracting new clients. My aim was to surpass my record earnings of $6,206 within the following 2-3 months.
But as is often my wont, plans have changed rather drastically since then. My outlook on what I want my business to look like is clearer than ever. That strength of clarity is only matched by my optimism for the future, which is at an all-time high. Read on to find out why!
What Happened in August?
August was a month for getting down to business. I had a lot to do.
The One Hour Authority Site Project Failure
I finally decided to call time on my One Hour Authority Site project in August.
I was more relieved than anything else — I had known for months that this project would never pan out as I had hoped, but I was determined to give it a good run. I did just that and it didn’t work out.
Fortunately I learned a huge amount from the experience, which I immediately poured into my next blogging project: Healthy Enough. More about that later on!
Changing My Successful Freelance Writing Online Sales Page
I’ve never liked the sales page for my freelance writing guide. Someone had written it for me free of charge, and while I was extremely grateful for that, it did not “sound” like me at all. Quite simply, I would never say something like “I was a total wet in the ear newbie,” and reading it back makes me cringe. For my voice, the copy was overly “salesly” and sounded false.
I’d been intending to change it for months but had never got around to it. I had hired someone to work on the copy for me, but he changed his mind after agreeing to do it. He was going to help me find someone else but then I didn’t hear back from him.
I took all of this as a sign and decided to have a go myself. Here’s the outcome. While I’m not 100% happy with it yet (I want to add a few more details and a sample chapter as well as some design tweaks to make it a little less plain), I think it’s a massive improvement. Most importantly, I believe that it is far less salesy than it was before and sounds much more like me, which is what I wanted to achieve above and beyond simply making more sales.
I went to Twitter and Facebook to get some feedback, which was largely positive, with exception to Captain Killjoy here:
The greatest irony was that my re-doing of the sales page was off the back of a realization that everything I do now is primarily about (1) being happy and (2) helping others as much as I can, rather than actually making money.
I didn’t think much of the comment because it seemed less constructive criticism and more trolling. I would love to get your feedback on the new sales page though — what do you think?
The Birth (And Death?) of Clear Blogging Solutions
I officially launched Clear Blogging Solutions on August 1st via a post here on LWB. In that post I revealed the thinking behind my radical change of direction from freelancing to subcontracting:
[Freelancing] isn’t scalable. I only have so many hours available, and quality writing is mentally taxing work that you can only do so much of before you burn out.
Not only that, but I was compromising my other projects in an effort to squeeze every last penny out of my freelancing business and keep breaking income records. Not a good recipe for long term growth. I was obsessed with numbers (I broke my income record four months running) and had lost sight of the bigger picture.
I felt that the new business had a solid structure:
- My writers communicate with the clients directly.
- Their work goes through me and I act in an editorial role to ensure that everything is up to scratch.
- Clients pay me directly and I pay my writers at their desired rate.
- The writers can talk to me if they have any questions or need any further assistance. Similarly, the client can talk to me at any point if they so desire.
However, I soon discovered that the above approach wouldn’t work for me.
The first rude awakening came via one of my writers. He was due to submit a couple of pieces on the Monday, so when I hadn’t received anything by that evening I emailed him to ask what the story was. I woke up on Tuesday morning to a response that the cynic in me was expecting:
Just like that, I had a big hole in my editorial calendar. I scrambled to reassign the work and managed to have things straightened out by the end of the day, but I had just been exposed to the inevitable reality of relying on other people to help keep your business running.
That experience made me realize that having my writers communicate directly with clients simply wasn’t practical. For starters it was plain embarrassing to have to tell one of my clients that this writer had disappeared overnight and wouldn’t be working with him any more, but more importantly it represented a level of professionalism that was way below the standards I had worked hard to set throughout my freelancing career.
So I decided to revert back to a model in which I would act as a middleman between my writers and clients, ensuring that my clients experienced a seamless service even if chaos was reigning behind the front lines.
The second issue I faced was less of a “problem” as such and more of a realization.
It had been about three weeks since the launch of Clear Blogging Solutions. I had a spreadsheet packed with prospective client details — there had been no shortage of enquiries.
However, I hadn’t taken on any more clients through Clear Blogging Solutions in the month. I had started working for Flippa and WooThemes, but those jobs had come through existing connections.
This gave me cause for both concern and puzzlement, given the number of enquiries that I had received. So I decided to take a look at those enquiries in aggregate to see if I could spot anything.
Two clear patterns practically screamed out at me. I discovered that most of the prospects:
- Were after relatively generic content
- Ran small blogs or would be re-selling the content to their clients for a profit
It then dawned on me. By launching Clear Blogging Solutions I had wiped out my key selling proposition as a writer: me.
Two of the reasons I have been so successful as a freelance writer are that I have been backed by (1) the Leaving Work Behind brand and (2) a seemingly ubiquitous presence all over the web: from FreelanceSwitch, to ManageWP, to Mashable, to Lifehacker and beyond. In Clear Blogging Solutions I was inadvertently diluting my value and distracting potential clients from the greatest benefits of working with me.
It certainly wasn’t the direction I wanted to head in. I wanted to work with only the highest-quality clients — those who were on the same wavelength as me; those who operated in niches that I found interesting. I had no need to make any more money from my writing business, which meant that the direction I went in was all about enjoyment and fulfilment. I had realized that CBS wouldn’t offer me that.
I’ll leave you with that cliffhanger for a moment, as it is high time that I revealed my earnings for this month. July was my lowest income month since 2012 (due largely to the drastic reduction in freelance income). How did I fare in August?
Monthly Income Report — August 2013
- Freelance writing:
- Income: $6,961.45
- Expenditure: $1,242.49
- Profit: $5,718.96
- Income: $8.43
- Expenditure: $298.83
- Profit: -$290.40
- Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
- Income: $1,453.12
- Start a Blog That Matters: $199.52
- Amazon: $12.71
- TweetAdder: $93.50
- Westhost: $1,000
- Freelance Writer’s Den: $62.50
- Freshbooks: $14.96
- AWeber: $69.83
- Expenditure: $804.42
- Profit: $648.70
- Income: $1,453.12
- Information Products:
- Income: $1,270.74
- Expenditure: $103.04
- Profit: $1,167.70
- Income: $39.38
- Expenditure: $0
- Profit: $39.38
Total profit for August 2013: $7,248.34
This is a marked improvement on July’s income on the surface, but the story is even better when the figures are examined more closely. I had a fairly substantial amount of one-off expenditure this month (including hosting) — the gross profit was my highest ever (and only a few hundred bucks shy of $10,000), as was my gross freelancing profit.
All in all, it’s great to see the income moving in the right direction again, but I was never worried about the “blip” in July — after all, I have transitioned to a completely different business model that now takes only a fraction of my time!
So what next? Well, I’m not one to rest on my laurels — I’ve got a lot to be getting on with.
Clear Blogging Solutions
Further to my experiences with Clear Blogging Solutions in July (covered above), I came to the decision that it isn’t right for me. I believe that my trusty old “Hire Me page” model is as good an advertisement for the type of client I want to attract as it ever has been. As such, the link to CBS in the navigation bar has been changed back to a link to my Hire Me page.
While I have seriously pimped out the page in an effort to make my services more attractive to prospective clients and to account for the fact that I now work with a team of writers rather than solo, the key selling points of old are still there:
- I’m the named writer and the person you deal with
- We write only on topics that I have experience in and am known for
- Clients can tap into my social media networks to promote their content (when relevant)
However, Clear Blogging Solutions isn’t dead — the site is still up and running. My decision is entirely reversible — in effect, all I need to do is change the link in my navigation bar and in my bylines on client sites. But I do feel like my return-to-the-old approach is the right one for me. I want to continue working with the Flippas and WooThemes of this world — not clients who are looking for a bargain.
The death (or to be more accurate, the coma) of Free Online Dating Advice left a gap in my “blogging projects” slot that needed filling. Just a couple of weeks ago I was rather suddenly inspired by a re-read of Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Body to launch a health and fitness blog with a difference.
I decided to target people like me: people who are relatively fit and healthy and really love their food. People who hate exercise for the sake of exercise (rather than for fun). People who would like to have six pack abs but just aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary hard work.
And so my new blog was born: Healthy Enough.
Over the coming months I’ll be publishing personal case studies, well-researched and comprehensive pieces on health and fitness topics and informative and actionable articles.
I’m really excited about this project. I think I have nailed down an approach that people like me will find really appealing, and I think I’m in a position to create compelling content. I will of course be writing plenty more about this blog here on LWB in the future, so stay tuned!
What’s in Store for September?
I’m now well settled with my writing business and have a lot more time on my hands than I did previously. That means that I’ve got a lot in store for September.
First of all, I plan to publish three or four posts on Healthy Enough. Each on will be heavily promoted and I am hoping that I can start with a bang. We shall see.
Secondly, I am currently working on a major re-launch of my guide, Successful Freelance Writing Online. In my humble opinion, it is going to be the best guide to freelance blogging available by an absolute mile.
This is no minor update — we’re talking about a completely new course that takes the original guide and creates something far greater. I’m really excited about it and the launch is in just a few weeks!
If you’d like to know more about the upcoming re-launch then enter your email address below and hit “Sign Me Up!”
I’ll also be working on something even bigger that I plan to reveal in October. That’s all I have to say on that right now, but you’ll find out more soon enough!
I don’t know how I will fare in terms of income in September. I doubt that my freelance earnings will be as high as they were in August, as the month was a “perfect storm” of some high-paying jobs coming together at the same time. However, I hope to at least sustain my earnings.
Looking at what I’ve got planned, it’ll be the last three months of the year that’ll really determine (a) how financially successful 2013 was for me and (b) how successful I will be in 2014. I’ve got a big few months ahead and you’ve got a front row seat!
Photo Credits: Jason Starcraft and Bossi
Sounds like you’ve been busy! I see you’ve had some wins and losses in the last month. Don’t worry about it, man…happens to all of us! 🙂
I was thinking that if you really wanted to scale up CBS, you should (at first) do it all through yourself. (Which is what you seem to be doing) If you bring in enough clients and have a host of writers on the back-end you can slowly back yourself out of the process, bringing your writers out of the shadows. I think the approach you took with CBS might have been too big of a step? Baby steps could/would probably get you there, though.
Oh…and don’t worry about Captain Killjoy, btw. Charge money, man…the rest of us know you’re worth it! 🙂
Tom Ewer says
I’m always keeping myself busy, one way or another 🙂
I think the next step would be for me to bring in an editor underneath me, so still one point through which all client/writer correspondence flows. I think that’s the best approach — several writers dealing with several clients is a recipe for disaster!
Appreciate your support, as always.
As a business, the only metric you really care about is whether your sales page converts (assuming your page doesn’t contain any lies and that few or zero people take you up on the money back guarantee). Only you can know this. What Captain Killjoy thinks is an irrelevance. He wasn’t going to buy it anyway.
Personally I like it – which is also irrelevant, unless I purchase the book 🙂
Just a point of (financial) order. It’s more accurate to say that your Sales were close to $10k, rather than your Gross Profit (since gross profit takes into account the direct overheads associated with the sales and I assume there are some of those within your ‘Expenses’ numbers)….
Tom Ewer says
The fact that you like it is actually very relevant to me, whether or not you purchase the book. I do of course want to make money, but most importantly I want people to feel like my brand is genuine, honest and transparent. I want to set myself apart from the majority of shady/semi-shady “make money online” exponents out there, and now that I am making enough money to support myself, my number one priority is to help others. It is of course great to make more money in doing that, but it’s not my priority.
I’m no accountant but I’m pretty sure that the UK financial definition of gross income is simply sales before expenditure and tax. I could be wrong, but then, only pedants would take note anyway 😉
As I freelancer I used to work for agencies that ‘rented’ me out. The reality was that the people who did the co-ordinating were working flat out and never took a holiday whilst I worked 2 days a week. Yes I earnt less money than them but I would never have traded places. For one – they did boring admin and co-ordinating whilst I did the interesting creative stuff.
So i’m not surprised you’re re-thinking that move. I did kind of wonder about it at the time – didn’t seem very ‘you’ somehow.
Tom Ewer says
I’m not re-thinking working with writers — I’ll still be doing that and I much prefer it this way. It’s just a case of repositioning my services so that the focus is back on my unique selling proposition.
Interesting change up Tom.
I kinda of get the feeling (rightly or wrongly) that you were never really that in love with your FODA, or the field in general, and that may have been one of the reasons why you found it so frustrating when you didn’t get the traction that you were expecting.
However, I really do get a sense of passion from your health blogs (including the PX90 program) so looking to see that take off!
In a related note, you mentioned that you only wanted to take high quality clients who were on the same wavelength as you and who operated in niches that you found enjoyable – I guess one of the downsides of “scaling up” is the fact that you eventually have to cede a bit of control on what’s happening to others. But kudos for realising the importance of enjoying what you do, and I’m sure you’ve made the right decision.
Tom Ewer says
I think you’re right and I think I always knew that too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?
Appreciate your support as always!
Your right Captain Killjoy offered no construtive critism just negativity, poor guy. Very nice sales page and my only suggestion is maybe putting the 3 offers at the bottom of the page also. If you could line them up across the bottom that would look good. The reason why is because once I get to the bottom of the page I don’t alway want to scroll back up looking for the offer, altough I may scroll back up to re-read some information before making a decision, like value stuff, ‘bang for the buck’. Awesome work and as always thanks for sharing. I also turned your stuff on to a friend that loves to write, I know she will find great value in what you have to offer.
Tom Ewer says
That’s a good suggestion and one I already intend to do with the sales page for the new product.
Thank you so much for spreading the word — I really appreciate that!
Jackson Davies at Blogprefect says
I think you shouldn’t feel too bad about adjusting the CBS element slightly and you were brave to let it run so I’m glad you’ve arrested the situation before you felt it got out of hand. It’s also a great idea to leave it as a reversible situation because it might not have been the right time as you suggest. You may need to just ease it in a bit more gently. (that sound’s a bit wrong doesn’t it?)
I think you do suit being at the personal level better but at some point if you want to exceed the mark you are currently at you’ll have to follow Pareto law (the 80/20 rule) and outsource to your team of well oiled writers. I wish you good fortune with that when the time comes.
I didn’t think you were ever what I’d class as a snake oil seller, I have come across a few of those out here so the opinion expressed by Mr Killjoy was unfortunate. My appetite has become more diverse as I’m moving along so your blog is not the only one I read on this particular area of expertise but I think your unique selling point is that you are more honest than many and give away a lot more than most so keep on giving that gold (and I’ll keep on taking it).
Tom Ewer says
I swear you always think I’m beating myself up when I’m not! 😉
I don’t feel bad about repositioning my writing business at all — I think that taking bold action and adjusting as necessary is a great way to move forwards quickly. Certainly far better than fear and procrastination.
I’ll keep on giving Jackson, don’t you worry. In fact, I’ve got a lot more to give away in the near future, so stay tuned!
Great report! That is a lot of money from freelance writing. Your website is called leaving work behind referring to the 9 to 5 but most of your income comes from working using your time.
Tom Ewer says
Actually, Leaving Work Behind refers to finding a vocation that you find so rewarding and enjoyable that it can’t have the negative connotations that “work” typically implies. I appreciate that this isn’t clear on the blog right now and I am working hard to rectify that. Stay tuned!
Great month, Tom! Even though the authority websites are not doing as good as you would’ve liked them to, things can happen with new projects. I think that nobody actually manages to turn all their projects into real hits, so this stuff happens. You’re doing great on your freelancing gig, though!
Lesson of the day for me and the true eye opener: “relying on other people”. When there are no contracts in place, anything can happen and it’s your reputation that can get hurt. Glad to see that you managed to dodge that bullet, though!
Tom Ewer says
Contracts aren’t generally worth the paper they’re written on — especially when you’re working with contractors in another country. The only thing they’re practically good for is clearly laying out what you expect of someone, which can be just as easily achieved with a conversation/email.
In my opinion, the most important thing to do when building out a team is to get to know each of your team members and treat them with respect. Make them more than just a contractor — bring them into a team environment and make being part of that team truly rewarding.
I will say that your August income report is a move to a higher level, but what I think would be more interesting to your readers is the fact there are lots of changes going in the your approach to different strategies. This is particular with the freelancing!
I have left the above comment in kingged.com after going through this August 2013 report.
Sunday – kingged.com contributor
Tom Ewer says
I’m all about the change Sunday 😉
” I have transitioned to a completely different business model that now takes only a fraction of my time!” Does this mean you are having people ghost write your articles now or have I got the wrong end of the stick?
If you’ve got any of that low quality work you had lined up for CBS going spare, feel free to throw some scraps my way!
Looking forward to the new version of The Guide.
Tom Ewer says
Most of my work is now ghostwritten. However, I maintain strict editorial control over everything and make sure that any piece going out to clients meets my own standards.
I’ll keep you in mind for anything that pops up, but to be honest, a lot of people never followed through.
That is great! You basically have a business now instead of a job. One that you could, in theory, sell one day. I know you are still the main selling point to your clients but its something to think about.
Tom Ewer says
Selling’s not exactly on my list of priorities (or even a twinkle in my eye), but creating some separation between my unique personal assets and my business can only be a good thing.
Sagar Rai says
I see you earn most of the monthly income from the Freelancing writing. But you also outsource so do your outsourcing writers produce the same quality as you do??
And do you let your clients know about this, that you outsource it to your team and you donot write for them. Still they pay to get an article from you..???
Tom Ewer says
The majority of my writing work is now outsourced. However, I work in an editorial capacity to ensure that any content that my writers produce is to my standard. Furthermore, all of the clients to whom this arrangement applies know about it. That’s an absolute must in my opinion.
For instance, I was working with one client as a freelancer and told him about the new model. He was a little apprehensive about it but agreed to a trial series of posts to see how it goes. I’m sure he’ll be delighted and then we’ll move forwards from there. It’s certainly not my intent to deceive anyone 🙂
It’s really cool to follow your journey while you share all the stuff you’ve learned. I read the last post about the ‘failed’ authority site and you know what, good for you for putting a lid on something that isn’t working. A little ‘fail’ like that is just a lesson that is another step towards success. It’s great to read how you address it so positively and change it up!
I just love how trolling is always thinly veiled as honest feedback. The only honest thing about Mr Killjoy’s comment is how much of a troll he is. Loll!
Tom Ewer says
Haha, I know. Welcome to the internet, right?
That’s awesome that realised that CBS isn’t right for you yet.
I’d rather know that something wasn’t for me very quickly rather than dragging something along for a while.
However, finding those types of things out is always difficult.
It happened to me once when I worked at a gym. I found out within three weeks that the job wasn’t for me.
Luckily, the manager was cool with it although sad to see me leave.
Tom Ewer says
The realization did come pretty quickly, and I’m not known to procrastinate when it comes to taking action, so it was an easy decision 🙂
Glad to hear that you quickly came to the realization.
Nothings sucks more than something that you don’t realise isn’t for you for a long time.
Taking action where it’s at.
Hey Tom. I still feel quite ‘new’ to this site and your journey is inspiring to say the least!
Are you going to make the new version of your guide available for existing customers?
Tom Ewer says
The new version of the guide will definitely be available to existing customers, I’m just not quite sure how I’m going to handle it logistically yet.
Mallie Rydzik says
I haven’t quite made it through this whole post yet, but I wanted to stop at this quote and let you know how much it resonated with me:
“…everything I do now is primarily about (1) being happy and (2) helping others as much as I can, rather than actually making money.”
When I initially left my traditional career path for the follow-your-passion approach, I had these two goals at the forefront of my mind. Now that I’ve spent a few months in the day-to-day of maintaining blogs and other mini-jobs, I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the (lack of) income that I forgot why I decided to do this in the first place.
Thanks for the reminder that it gets better.
Tom Ewer says
No problem Mallie — it really does 🙂
Joanne Munro says
It’s very interesting that you just wrote this post as I’m having a similar dilemma but in a different industry. I get more CV/LinkedIn profile writing enquiries than I can handle and need to outsource them soon as I’m turning work away – I already have another busy business plus a new 5 month international event coordination role starting in Oct (I have a portfolio career and they’re all busy!). But the problem is that people just want to hire me.
I was thinking of how to manage a couple of other writers but you’ve left me hanging as to the best way of doing that. I’m great at writing CVs and LinkedIn profiles but I’m sure I’m not the only one! I’d like to check the work over before it goes to the client but am stuck as to hire and outsource this work. I refer a few to another writer but she says they just want me…
So I’ll be watching closely to see if you work out how to get more work fitted in to a working day (I’ve already raised my prices twice and they’re still coming!) Another very enjoyable post Tom. Thank you.
PS – ignore the troll, he sounds like a dick.
Tom Ewer says
Keep raising your prices Joanne — that’s definitely the easiest way! I suppose CV writers are quite thin on the ground (relative to say freelance bloggers) which must make it a little challenging finding them, but I’m sure they’re out there!
Great stuff Tom. I recently have ventured off into the fitness niche myself and it certainly is exciting. It gives you plenty of topics to cover.
Tom Ewer says
It certainly does! I’ve got ideas coming out of my ears 🙂
When you don’t know how to go about optimizing your site, let others do it for you for a fee. That’s the reason why SEO companies exist. Google ranks sites according to their popularity, so you have to fake it (read: manipulate) to gain the initial traction that will ultimately lead to natural links, shares, etc. Want some advice? Don’t abandon the FODA site just yet.
You did a great job in August. Impressive earnings! I would have added to your WestHost income last month but when I was about to sign up, I found out that they don’t have a monthly payment option. I prefer monthly payments as a way of testing the waters before paying for a full year, so I went with Hostgator.
PS: Still reading your blog regularly even after unfollowing you on Twitter. So much value I just couldn’t miss.
Steven Fabian (@eBizGuidance) says
Great results! You’re clearly on the right way. On a side note, God how much I hate those types of haters. 😉 I hope you sent him to this page and video http://socialtriggers.com/how-to-deal-with-haters/
Keep on the great work and good luck,
Tom Ewer says