Another month has come and gone, and with it, the first quarter of the 2012. Can you believe that we are already 25% of the way through the year? Have you achieved all that you hoped for in that time?
That question has in fact been on my mind during the past few weeks. I am not particular interested in focusing on the specific goals I set at the start of the year (as I barely met any of them) – I am actually more interested in how my attitude towards and expectations of my business has evolved.
I thought that reaching my goals would be the most important achievements of this quarter, but I now believe that the development of my mental outlook has been in fact far more valuable.
At the start of March, I predicted that the month would be not “particularly spectacular”. I was away on business for most of one week, and away on holiday for another 10 days. I am still in Houston, Texas as I type this – spending time with my sister and her family. A working holiday of sorts (the benefits of lifestyle design!).
I did however hope that the blog would attract 10,000+ visitors as it did in February (thanks to the success of my LWB 100 post), and expected my freelance income to be “healthy”, albeit lower than last month. Finally, I expected a small increase in my niche site income. Let’s see how it panned out!
I am really comfortable with the writing side of my business now. Whilst my “base income” (from regular clients) is not enough to cover my outgoings, I am picking up work from other clients on an ad hoc basis. I am actually happy to run at a loss for the time being, as I like to have the extra time to dedicate to the rest of my business. If I want to earn more money from my writing in the future, I can always expand that side of the business.
But for the time being, I have got into a nice groove of doing all of my writing work before lunch, which then leaves the afternoon open to more speculative endeavors.
In February I made clear my frustrations with regards to my niche site plans. It has certainly been a winding journey to date.
In January I decided to build the sites myself, and starting doing so. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to spend so much time doing what is repetitive work, so I decided to hire a VA. February was spent looking for that VA (who I found through Virtual Staff Finder and is doing great so far!), and March was spent getting systems in place and training her. That will continue through April as I finalize my backlinking strategy.
Progress on existing sites has been slow. AdSense income is starting to pick up a bit, but who knows how that will develop in April. I have 6 finished sites, and 18 under development. I used Fiverr to build links to the first 6 sites, and am concerned that a poor job may have been done – some of them aren’t even indexed for their primary keywords yet. I’ll sit tight for the time being (as I have other sites to concentrate on), but I made need to go back and build more backlinks to those sites.
What has been interesting to see is how my keyword research process has evolved. I think I now have a pretty good system down (which I plan to share with you soon). When it comes to scalable business models, it is a case of first building the system, then developing it further over time. That is certainly what has happened with my keyword research process.
Income & Expenditure – March 2012
As predicted, my earnings weren’t as high as they were in February. But that is to be expected, given that I essentially did no work for about half of the month!
- Freelance writing:
- Income: $2,433.10
- Expenditure: $0
- Profit: $2,433.10
- Income: $9.35
- Expenditure: $1,049.67
- Profit: -$1,040.32
- Income: $0
- Expenditure: $67.71
- Profit: -$67.71
Total Profit for March 2012: $1,325.08
Leaving Work Behind actually generated some affiliate sales in March (a grand total of $71.35), but to keep life simple, I am only going to record affiliate income when it is paid to me.
The dip in freelance income comes as no surprise, given the amount of days I had off. The niche site expenditure is disproportionately high as it includes quite a lot of expenses for websites to be built in April. However, I will be working towards minimizing the cost per niche site built over the coming weeks.
I’m going to stick with the long term cash flow model that I started last month for the time being at least:
In my opinion, it is always important to be conservative with cash flow projections, for two reasons:
- No one likes nasty surprises
- It is always encouraging to have more money than you thought you would
Point 2 came into play this month, as a have a few hundred pounds more in the bank than I thought I would at the start of March. That, coupled with a few amendments I have made to the cash flow in general, has created a knock on effect which means I now theoretically run out of money at the end of November (as opposed to the end of September, which is what last month’s cash flow showed).
In fact, if the cash flow is correct, I could stop investing in niche sites in November and would be more than break even month by month with existing writing and niche site income. What I plan to do however is start selling niche sites as soon as they reach maturity (which I’m hoping will possible starting in July or August).
I expected March to be a period of consolidation for the blog, after the huge growth in February. I’m really happy with how the month turned out:
- Visitors: down 7%
- Average actions: down 19%
- Average time per visit: up 3%
- Bounce rate: up 0%
As you can see, I did manage to attract over 10,000 visitors again, which I wasn’t expecting. It certainly hasn’t been a stellar month for content, as I have been distracted by business trips and holidays. Having said that, there have been some posts this month that I am proud of.
I started the month with Why You Should Be A Selfish Blogger, and have really taken my own advice to heart. I produced a little WordPress plugin that can help you to boost the number of tweets your blog posts get. I spent a whole load of time on producing Why BuildMyRank Is Not The Best Private Blog Network, only for confidence in all private blog networks to fall through the floor on the same day. We call that sod’s law in England (which I believe is known as Murphy’s law in the USA). I also did my first ever video post.
Finally, I wrote a post at the end of March which is rather pivotal to the future of this blog. If you are a regular reader, you really should take a look: And Now For Something Completely Different.
March Micro-Goals Roundup
I set only two goals in March, so you would think they were easily hit, right?
- Hire VA and put niche site building system in place. I have hired a VA, the system is still being worked on.
- Build a minimum of 10 sites. We started building 7 sites in March.
It is almost laughable how bad I have been in recent months at settings realistic goals, but as I gain experience and get a better handle on my business, my goal-setting will no doubt improve.
My To Do List For April
Since I am comfortable with how my freelance writing work is going and I am taking a much more relaxed view about this blog, my goal setting now revolves around guess what…
- Finalize niche site building system
- Finish building March’s sites
- Start building 8 sites in April
- Research methods for reducing cost per niche site
There is in fact another item on the agenda – a brand new project. I will be revealing more in the near future, so stay tuned…
What’s In Store For April?
I was doubtful of reaching 10,000 visits to the blog in March, and I am extremely doubtful of hitting that in April. I am not going to be putting a great deal of work into promoting the blog, and I’ll probably be posting less – but I am completely fine with that. I’d rather serve you guys as best I can, than continue to strive endlessly for more readers. I’m sure they will come in time.
My freelance writing income should pick up again in April, and ad hoc work with additional clients may provide a nice little boost to my earnings. However, I am not expecting a record month.
Finally, I have no solid expectation of how my niche site income will develop. It might rise quite a lot, or it might only rise a small amount. May will be a better time to reflect on progress with the sites that I have built.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of c_ambler
Its very interesting to see your income report, i think it parallels the reality of what it means to breakout on your own. You are making some money writing which is a dollars for hours kind of deal, but your passive pursuits are very much so in their infancy.
I guess i have two real questions:
1) You strike me as a very intelligent, competent, and motivated person, but your results with the niche sites have yet to bear fruit. Do you think this is typical of what to expect? or do you think you still don’t have a good system in place?
2) What kind of VA did you hire through Virtual Staff Finder? Do you mind sharing what was is the cost.
Regardless, i am routing for you keep up the good work when your income hits 2,000 not form freelance work i will have a drink to celebrate since you are the first blog i follow since its inception.
Tom Ewer says
Appreciate your thoughts and your questions. In response:
Looking forward to that drink 😉
Glad to see you are taking advantage of the internet marketing lifestyle and having a working holiday!
I think you should start working on a big site. As you are a good writer it would make sense. I recently watched Nate’s ’60 minutes to $100 days’ training thing and I’m going to start a new site this week.
Tom Ewer says
I have been thinking about doing so for a few weeks now actually, but I’m not rushing into it. It’s something you need to set a lot of time aside for, and I don’t want to over-extend myself.
Great to read this post and to see that you are earning money through freelance writing (I wish i can also).
As for the niche sites, i’d rather advice you to start working on affiliate sites and look for other means to monetise those niche sites as google is going crazy with the way they disable adsense accounts.
Thanks for the interview as well, I’m so grateful to have you on the show.
Keep rocking it online and very soon, your $50,000 per month is coming!
Tom Ewer says
I have mixed feelings about the panic surrounding AdSense at the moment. On one hand it does seem rather concerning, but on the other hand Google wants to make money – banning accounts for no good reason is not in their best interests.
Having said that, I am looking to diversify my interests as much as possible, and am actually looking into affiliate models.
Good to hear that Tom. All i want to read from you always is how you are growing your internet empire.
As per adsense, taking Pat Flynn as an example, he has an open site and everyone knows he is earning from adsense, yet, google does not see any good reason to ban his site. Its surely a mixed-feelings thingy.
Hey Tom, interesting blog. Mine is similar to yours with the quitting your job theme and all. Just wondering what system you are following as far as building your websites go? Since you are a freelance writer, I can’t help but ask why you aren’t building your sites yourself.
Tom Ewer says
Because it is a whole load of repetitive work and I’d be better off outsourcing the job at say $3 an hour whilst I can earn many multiples of that doing freelance work 🙂
As for the system, once I have it nailed down, I will be revealing all.
Great to see you are making good money with freelance writing. I think making money in Freelancing isn’t hard, it just takes a lot of hard work and time.
I’ve also stepped into Freelance writing and am already making good money.
Regarding your niche sites, I couldn’t able understand where you’re spending so much money. A month ago, I created an niche site on a very popular topic and wrote few articles. I’ve already made more than $20 with that site.
All I did was building purchasing a premium theme (from themeforest) and building few links here and there.
Anyways, thanks for sharing your income report, Tom. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to knowing more about your new project.
Tom Ewer says
It’s a scale thing. I am setting up a system whereby I build 8-9 sites every month. A lot of the cost is up front (content creation, link building subscriptions, etc). Heavy investment up front should lead to long term positive gains.
I could create one niche site for very little cash, but I am looking at the big picture.
Kent @ Make Extra Money Online says
Tom, it’s nice that you could get help from VA building out your niche sites.
I think once you have the process in place, it could be very profitable. Just watch out your expense and ROI. You do have great writing skills that I truly admire. I outsource most of my writing out these days.
Testing, testing, and testing. SEO is pretty dynamic and I’m still trying to figure it out after Panda 3.4.
I have some success with Amazon and I’d suggest you to try it out besides Adsense.
Tom Ewer says
Hey thanks Kent, although my VA has just quit (for reasons unknown), so I’m back to square one! C’est la vie…
Aleshia Green says
Just out of curiosity, where are you finding your freelance writing jobs? I am aware of several sites, but I have never made more than a couple hundred a month from these sites…
Tom Ewer says
Check out my most recent post 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience and insights again!
Please don’t get me wrong, I really admire your braveness and enthousiasm and really respect what you are doing. But I am curious why you take such a big risk on your niche websites creation. When I started I first made sure that my approach really worked before I scaled up. If you are not sure what exactly you are doing and what works and what does not work (although the game rules change all the time by Google algo updates) it is quite risky to scale up immediately and start working with an VA. Why don’t you take some more time to learn and sharpen your approach before you scale up?
Tom Ewer says
Your comment could not be more timely. Stay tuned for a post I am publishing today, and another one either this week or next week. I’d really like your feedback on them (but in a nutshell – I totally agree with you).
Your a brilliant writer but I don’t see enough affilate links on this site. I honestly believe you are under monetizing this site. Your posts are excellent. You now have 10,000 visitors(last month) and your readership is going to continue to grow through word of mouth. I am wondering why you don’t have a recommended products section.
Still your online income is growing and I have no doubt it will grow as you continue to add valuable content in the future.
I look forward to more posts,
All the best
Tom Ewer says
Better to under-monetize than over-monetize, in my opinion 🙂
The last thing I’d want to do is taint my reputation by being overly promotional (or promotional at all really, for that matter).
Having said that, I will be doing a bit more in the future, some webinars, more affiliate links…but it has to all be for products that I have tested and loved. A recommended products section is probably something I will produce in the near future.
Thank you for your kind words 🙂
William Kennedy says
I have been following your blog for a while and I like what I see. Your honesty shines through in your writing and I think it is only fair that you receive an income for the brilliant posts on this site.
I can tell you I am learning a lot from your posts(and I am a trial and error kind of guy).
Keep up the good work.
Look forward to your next post
Tom Ewer says
Thanks William; you are very kind! 🙂
Cashjay@ make money online free says
Wow, you are doing great, and since am still new to freelance writing. What exactly is it? You write for others and get paid? What sites? Thanks.
Tom Ewer says
I write for other blogs, yes. My “steady” clients are WPMU.org and ManageWP, but I have others.
Interesting and informative post (as is your site).
I have been looking into outsourcing my link building. Having tried Freelance.com, PPH, Odesk etc… not sure what to do! I am considering hiring someone myself and training them up. The trouble is no one works on your company as hard as you do! I had a look at fivrr and VA. Fivrr looks full of low quality people (I might be wrong). As for VA I am not convinced – i.e. are they really that good? Is the initial fee justified based no your experience with your VA quitting do you not feel a little annoyed/ripped off? – I found my current coder through Odesk and have been training him to improve the quality of his work since December. He is currently learning about Magento for my new retail website 🙂 Now I am at the stage where I have someone who is working to my standard and I am considering whether to have him help with a link building strategy or to look for someone else. The problem is I could probably earn more money getting him to maintain my sites and selling his services…. Decisions, Decisions!!
Tom Ewer says
Check out the two most recent posts here – they might help!
jamb results 2013 says
this numbers are staggering, am still builbing up my sites and hope to write my income report someday.
congratulation and thanks for sharing.
Ana Hoffman says
I suck at setting goals – too much disappointment when they are not met. lol
Overall, great work, Tom!
By the way, you were featured in Make Money Blogging – Who, How, and How Much http://t.co/iTF0BenM on my blog.
Tom Ewer says
Wow – thank you Ana! Two mentions in a few days…you’re too kind 🙂
It seems that we’re both being told we’re not making enough money from our blogs (well, I’m not actually making any…). I’d much rather it be an organic thing than “forced” though.
Margaret Adams says
I think it is so helpful to see how you’re moving your business towards profitability. I read your reports each month.
Leaving Work Behind says
Thanks Margaret 🙂