Well, February has come and gone. The worst of the winter is behind me, and as I sit and write this post, the sun is shining. It is a shame I live on a main road and have no garden, otherwise I would be outside right now!
The gradual emergence of spring is a stark reminder that time can pass us by very quickly if we’re not careful. Whilst the passage of time cannot be prevented, we can ensure that we utilize the time available to us effectively. I want to look back at 2012 and be proud of what I achieved, not be frustrated at how quickly it all passed me by.
Producing these monthly reports is an extremely effective way in which I can hold myself accountable and make sure that I don’t wander too far from my core aims.
There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!
In January’s income report, I touched upon the unpredictability of my current situation. At the time I was just 30 days or so into my new working life, and it was starting to hit home that it would take some time for for things to settle down.
However, I did predict increased earnings for both my freelance writing and niche sites, as well as a record month for Leaving Work Behind. Let’s see how it panned out!
After deciding that I did not want to take on any new clients in February, it has a been a good month for assessing how much time I want to spend doing freelance work (and of course how much time I can afford not to, what with it being my primary source of income).
Beyond my ongoing work this month, I built a website for my sister’s lawn care company, which brought in a bit of extra income. That was good experience for putting together a commercial website from scratch, as well as advising on blogging and content marketing. My sister is definitely sold on the content marketing side of things, and I am going to be helping her with her blog (for free) on an ongoing basis. Website development is certainly something I would consider doing more of, if the right opportunities presented themselves.
I also have some other leads – potential clients who have approached me. I now have a firm hourly rate figure set in my head, and will evaluate such opportunities accordingly.
In a nutshell, I am happy with the freelancing side of my business for the time being.
One of the biggest frustrations from my previous job was that we struggled to gain momentum. I worked in property, and although we were doing fantastically well given the state of the economy, it did feel at times as if we were treading water.
That is how I currently feel with regards to my mass niche site project. The main reason for my lack of progress has been the ongoing development of my planned strategy. My plans have evolved again since I last discussed them in January’s income report. At the time I was going to be outsourcing the content creation and backlinking, whilst doing the rest of the work myself. Now I have decided to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) to do the vast majority of the work for me.
The logic behind this is that I can earn more doing freelance work whilst my VA builds the niche sites. Also, if I can get a solid system in place, that part of the business can run itself to an extent. Only time will tell whether this idea comes to fruition in reality.
So February has been a non-event in terms of niche sites – my efforts in this area have gone towards finding a VA. I have used the Virtual Staff Finder service to produce a shortlist of three candidates, and I will be interviewing them tomorrow. I am expecting March to be the month where I get my niche site building system up and running smoothly. I hope that the project will really get off the ground in the second quarter of 2012.
One thing is for sure – I am not being efficient with my niche site business model at the moment. I have paid out for monthly subscriptions to various services in February that I have not utilized properly. I will need to make sure that this is not the case in March. I do not have money to throw away.
Income & Expenditure – February 2012
As you will know if you read last month’s income report, I am now breaking down my income into three sections, so that you can have a better idea of how each one is performing independently of the others. Let’s take a look:
- Freelance writing:
- Income: $3,358.80
- Expenditure: $159
- Profit: $3,199.80
- Niche sites:
- Income: $5.15
- Expenditure: $757.98
- Profit: -$752.83
- Leaving Work Behind:
- Income: $0
- Expenditure: $108.74
- Profit: -$108.74
Total Profit for February 2012: $2,338.23
I am really pleased with my freelance income this month, which was around the amount that I need to make in order to cover my personal outgoings. However, a fair proportion of that was the one-off payment from my sister for building her website – my “ongoing” income was around $2,400.
Income from my niche sites and Leaving Work Behind are well into the red. Although I am now using affiliate links, I did not generate any sales in February (nor have I yet in March). This comes as no surprise. As for the niche sites, I do not anticipate breaking even on my investment for some time yet. Let’s take a closer look at that as part of my cash flow projection.
In light of my niche site investments being a long term play, I have produced a long term cash flow projection:
Yeah I know – it’s huge. Sorry about that. But it is also very important. As you can see, the cash flow has developed somewhat since last month.
With regards to freelance income, I am assuming that I earn only what I currently take from my ongoing clients. This is conservative – I should earn more than that.
And having discussed the matter with my accountant, I can safely assume that my tax will not exceed 15% of my gross income. Not only that, but due to the way things work over here in the UK, I will not actually have to pay tax until October 2013. This means that I can use the money I put aside for tax as a “buffer”. I am not advocating that you spend your tax money, as it will have to be paid eventually. But it does allow me to be a little more flexible with my cash flow.
As you can see from the above screen shot, I run out of money (after tax) in September 2012. By that point I am hoping for two things:
- That my freelance income will be higher than I am currently projecting
- That I will be in a position whereby I can sell one or more of my developed niche sites
Either of these outcomes will prevent me from running out of money. If things are looking truly dire, I can stop investment in my niche sites altogether and refocus on a new strategy. I am confident however that it will not come to that.
Although I only run a modest little blog here, month-by-month growth is really encouraging. Here is what February looked like:
The total number of visitors from January to February more than doubled, which is fantastic. What is really encouraging though is that the bounce rate, average actions and time per visits didn’t suffer too greatly. Hopefully this means that I am writing good content – I love the idea that people are spending an average of 6 minutes on the site.
The primary cause of this huge jump in traffic is of course the LWB 100. It performed beyond my expectations, and I documented the process I went through to create the post here. But there was lots more this month that I was happy with. The One Who Got Away attracted a fair bit of attention right at the start of the month, and my guest post over at ProBlogger as well as my guest posting guide also combined to create a stir.
I am really happy with every single post I produced in February as a matter of fact, but I can’t list them all here!
February Micro-Goals Roundup
February was another month where aims weren’t always matched with accomplishments, but I am not too disappointed overall.
- Set out medium/long term plan for acceptable hourly rate and adjust goals accordingly. Done!
- Build 2 new niche sites per week. Not done – poor progress on this front. Must do much better in March.
Leaving Work Behind
- Capitalize on my ProBlogger guest post to be published on 10th February. Done!
- Create a Facebook signup incentive and promote. Not done – simply not enough time. This has been postponed for the time being.
- Continue with current Twitter strategy. Done – my number of followers doubled in February.
My To Do List For March
I have just two goals for March – but they are bloody important.
Getting my niche site building system in place is extremely important, and I don’t want to waste any more time. I will continue to do my freelance work and write for Leaving Work Behind as normal, but the rest of my available time will be spent on getting my VA up and running.
This is as much about morale as it is about momentum. I need to feel that I am heading in the right direction and not treading water. A day is best enjoyed when you feel like you are progressing, and that is not the case at this time. I intend for that to change this month.
- Hire VA and put niche site building system in place.
- Build a minimum of 10 sites.
What’s In Store For March?
Unfortunately, March may not be a particularly spectacular month for me. I am abroad visiting a client mid-month, and then I am on holiday for the last 10 days. So time will be at a premium, and I doubt I will be able to get much beyond my “base level” of work done.
Having said that, I would like Leaving Work Behind to breach 10,000 visitors again (although I would be surprised if it did). And whilst I doubt that my freelance income will beat what I earned in February, I expect it to still be quite healthy. Finally, I expect gross income from my niche sites to increase, but not by a great deal.
What Do YOU Want From These Reports?
My monthly income reports are amongst the most popular posts on my blog. They are a great planning and accountability tool for me, and I would like to think that they help you too.
With that in mind, I would love to know what you would like to see from them. I am mindful of the fact that they are rather long and perhaps a bit dry, so if you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see from these monthly income reports, please let me know in the comments section!
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver
I’m always amazed at how frank you are in these types of posts, they are really useful for people in a similar situation as yourself to see how you’re getting on.
I also used Virtual Staff Finder the end of Jan to hire a VA, overall I found the service pretty good, all 3 potential VA’s seemed good, it was just a shame I could only afford to hire one of them! I’m about a month down the line with my VA now and things are working well. I have had to make some adjustments to what I originally planned for them to do however I have had some good work produced and will definitely carry on with it.
Good luck, it will be interesting to hear how you get on with your VA in the future.
Tom Ewer says
Glad to hear you had a good experience with Virtual Staff Finder. I will be sure to keep you updated on how things go!
You seem to be going in the right direction, your freelance writing is impressive, an income in itself.
How many hours do you spend per month writing?
I would of thought your not doing iwriter etc at $3 an article though.lol
I have built one adsense site this month so far, few fivver backlinks done, starting to see a little traffic.
Down side on affiliate marketing, nothing is instant, what I am doing today or this week, may not pay dividends in the future.
Still love it.
Tom Ewer says
I spend perhaps on average 4-5 hours per day writing. It’s not for iWriter 😉
I like it.
Jeffrey Trull says
I’m impressed with the freelance income, Tom! You’ve built that up quite a bit in just a short amount of time.
I’m not sure if you’re experiencing the same, but I’ve struggled with niche site development because I find it extremely boring. That’s mostly what’s prevented me from pursuing that path for income.
Best of luck with March!
Tom Ewer says
I also find it extremely boring – that is one of the reasons I am outsourcing the majority of the work. I don’t think anyone can really enjoy it, but once you start making decent money, it can become worthwhile 🙂
Chris | Sminso says
WOW!!! That is an impressive freelance income. With your writing skills there is no way your niche sites don’t take off! Great content always wins, period.
Tom Ewer says
Thanks Chris, I appreciate that 🙂
Your freelance writing work has great income …Thanks for sharing
Nice monthly update! I’d like to see more explicit information on the freelance writing income.
For instance, how much / percentage was the lump sum for the website? How are you generating the writing income, personal clients? Leads website? Contracts with magazines?
I vaguely remember you saying you have previous clients, but it would be nice (easy for me) if you three areas broke down a little more. I’m very interested in the writing, but not yet into the niche sites, so I’d like to be able to focus or drill down more into where that’s coming from.
Good read, as always.
Tom Ewer says
As I said in the post, “ongoing” work accounted for about $2,400 of the gross freelance income. The website made up the rest. I have two ongoing clients I work for – both are blogging jobs that I picked up from the ProBlogger Job Board.
I’ll make a note to be more specific in future reports. Just let me know if you have any further questions 🙂
Joseph Archibald says
Hey Tom, super going on the freelancing income and of course on the popularity of your blog and Twittering work!
As Jeffrey and Stewart have alluded to in their comments above, it would be good if you discussed where you gained your freelancing clients from (other than your sister, of course). I remember when I was having to freelance write for clients, my income was very low, whilst my slave labouring was far too high. Hence I dumped it after a few short weeks and got on with my niche site creation and also did the Warrior forum episode, which was a spring-board to my failure at freelancing work.
Great stuff Tom!
PS. would be useful if you had a “tick the box to receive notification of replies to comments” on your posts.
Tom Ewer says
Although I didn’t mention it in this post, I have said on quite a few occasions before that I found my clients via the ProBlogger Job Board. I think I also explicitly mention it in my newsletter.
To be honest, it was just so easy to find a couple of clients that there is very little to say about it! Interest seems to be high though, so I think I may produce a “How I Found My Clients” post in the near future.
P.S. You should get an email that informs you when your comment is replied to.
Joseph Archibald says
Hey Tom, right on about the follow up email to say there’s a reply on your blog. My mistake!
And apologies for not being aware of the ProBlogger job board. I agree with you on this – would be well worthy of a post in itself, since so many folks who come to IM want to learn how to produce an online income whilst they build up their niche sites or head down the passive income route, which as we all know, generally takes quite a lot of time and money investment.
I see so many folks saying they are working for TextBroker (is that the name?) and other similarly very low paying outlets.
Now that’s fine if you are an out and out writing machine who is happy to be chained to your PC/Mac 7 days a week with little time for sleeping. And surely it works for a short while – in the early days, the motivation is high etc.
But after a while, it takes its toll, more so for folks who live in westernised countries than for those who come from the Philippines or India and Pakistan. No disrespect intended, of course.
Thus gaining higher paying clients is key to on-going motivation and success.
Tom Ewer says
Agree with everything you say Joseph! For a lot of people, sites like Text Broker should really only be the first step on the ladder. There are plenty of rungs above it, to to speak 😉
Andre Garde says
If you’re going to outsource your niche site operation, just about the only thing that you can’t do is the decision-making on the keywords. You can have your VA parse a list of seed keywords and develop a shortlist for you though.
Backlinking, site construction, content creation… that’s the easy stuff that can all go to your VA.
Tom Ewer says
Couldn’t agree with you more Andre. I am probably going to have my VA do the “stage 1” research, and then pick the best of the bunch myself.
Great post, as always! It’s great to see you picked up a VA through VSF…we OWN an outsourcing company and still tried out their services to see if it was worthwhile. It seems to be the perfect mix for independent IMers between oDesk and an outsourcing company, IMO. I would say to be careful to have your VA just “due it for you”…make sure they have a very clean, laid-out process for them to follow (that you’ve tested) so you can avoid some of the hang-ups and pains that can come with outsourcing to an offshore VA.
I’d like to see what you’re using as your Twitter strategy. For the most part, I’ve taken the approach of just using it naturally, without any particular marketing strategy…but would be interested to see/read yours…I’d like to pick up some tips!
Tom Ewer says
I appreciate your comments about using a VA – I will be focusing on providing precise instructions. I have managed people before so know a bit about how to get the best out of employees. The key is to realize that people aren’t mind readers 😉
My Twitter growth strategy is something that I will be writing about in the near future.
steve wyman says
Great transparancy and very usefull process.
I like your doing a full cashflow forecast thats admirable. I like that your showing the date you run out of cahs base don current performance, thats very helpfull to people new to business and work for your self.
You know this already BUT dont investthe tax money. As a FD and company owner its to easy to figure you’ll catch up later, during the good times, only to find that in the good time you need even more cashflow to finance the growth ofthe the busines then.
Be Extra tough on yourself now and you’ll reap the benefits later. If you really want to be tough stick it in its own bank account. I did this with VAT for many years (but then i had £50K vat bills in those days :-()
Tom Ewer says
Thanks for the kind words. I do know not to invest the tax money but it doesn’t hurt for you to say it 🙂 I’m actually putting it in an ISA, so it is well-separated from “my” money. There’s no way I am getting caught out by the tax man.
Elizabeth Barone says
I love that you do these posts! I never thought to analyze all of my monthly income like this. I don’t really have any suggestions for improvement; I just think it’s a great idea!
Tom Ewer says
Well thank you, I appreciate that! 🙂
Chris Wynter says
I’m drowning in emails. Finally reached a good one – yours!
I really like these reports, Tom. Don’t stop them any time soon.
I had a look – about 20 mins ago – at the site you built for your sister; and the image slide show still has the spinning loading symbol. Not sure if that’s because the images haven’t been added yet. I’m viewing in Firefox 10.
Tom Ewer says
Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comment! The reports will keep coming 🙂
Yeah, there is something wrong with the site, I just haven’t had the chance to look yet. Thanks for the heads up!
Glad to hear the weather back home is picking up!
I liked this bit: “The logic behind this is that I can earn more doing freelance work whilst my VA builds the niche sites.” It is always a good idea to work out how much your time is worth. If it takes you an hour to do the ironing but in an hour you can earn more than it would cost to pay someone to iron then outsource it!
It must be nice to have somewhat of a fixed income coming in from the writing. I never managed to find any writing work so gave up on that idea in the end.
I did start a fiverr gig for using Unique Article Wizard which I hope to make a few quid from:
Is that 15% tax rate the standard rate for people doing this kind of work? I’m dreading coming back to the UK and having to pay tax again!
Good luck for March!
Tom Ewer says
The tax rate on gross income is higher than 15%, but my accountant is confident that it will be 15% or less for me after expenses. That’s obviously tailored advice so results will vary!
Good luck with the Fiverr gig 🙂 I know there is a lot of competition out there for that kind of task.
Looking forward to seeing March’s report! I literally just started offering freelance writing for income, and I was surprised at the response I’ve gotten. I first started on Fiverr part time and in a week, I’ve received about $68. Since Fiverr is not the greatest place in terms of income, I started signing up for place like oDesk and TextBroker. I’m still waiting to hear from Text Broker, but so far I will be making $173 in my freelance writing. My goal to start out with is $300 a week.
Tom Ewer says
Great stuff Lisa! I’ll have more posts in the near future that will definitely be of interest to you 🙂
I can’t wait! I gotta tell you that since I started writing full time yesterday, I have to admit that I knew there was a demand but didn’t know how busy I’d be! I’m still waiting to hear back from Text Broker.
What’s your thought on using Paypal for payments? I know a lot of people use them, but I’m curious if it’s safe to do so? And, have you had any clients request payment AFTER you provide articles? I had one like that today. I thought it was odd, and it’s a bit out of my comfort zone.
Tom Ewer says
As far as I am aware, PayPal is VERY safe – to a fault almost, as their security measures are often draconian!
Outside of Text Broker, being paid once you have performed a service is standard. You don’t eat the apple then pay the grocer, do you? 😉 Just be sure to work with people who you think you can trust.
Jeff Bullins says
How did you grow your traffic from 4,000 visitors in January to 10,000 visitors in February?
Tom Ewer says
Mainly the LWB 100 and all the work I did in promoting it Jeff. One of my monthly updates discusses it.