This is Part II of a two part series. You can find Part I here.
Welcome to Part II of my story so far. If you haven’t read Part I yet, I would recommend that you do so before digging into this post.
We’re picking up the story at the start of January 2012, when I had just quit my job and was setting out to establish a viable online business. However, I don’t want you to think that my current achievements were easy to come by — I went through a lot of failures in 2011 (and 2012 so far) to get to where I am now! So be sure to familiarize yourself with the full story before reading on.
But that’s enough chit chat — let’s carry on with the story!
I brought the New Year in riding on Test Track at Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. My business activity didn’t quite match that level of exhilaration though, as I didn’t get back from my holiday until the 11th.
But once I did get back, I knew I had no time to waste. I had big plans in store across two fronts — freelance writing and passive income. My aim was to establish a healthy freelancing income, whilst keeping enough time available to invest in niche site development (which I hoped would produce a sizable passive income in time). I detailed my mass niche site strategy in a post entitled My Mass Niche Site Project, and got to work.
In the meantime, I wasn’t yet quite ready to admit defeat on my two original niche/authority sites — Modeling For Kids and Deal With Anxiety. In two posts, I detailed what would in reality be last gasp attempts to rescue some form of success from the sites. Although I had learnt a lot from building those sites, my education had not been accompanied by financial reward.
In terms of writing, I threw $275 at Carol Tice’s Blast Off Course, in the hope of learning how I could secure some high-paying clients. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the course was not for me.
Whilst there is little doubt in my mind that you could take Carol’s teachings and make good money from freelance writing, I had no interest in cold calling for clients, nor did I want to get too deeply involved in the “serious” side of freelancing.
Although freelance writing is certainly not a passive business model, I didn’t want to work to find clients — I wanted passive referrals. Whilst I wasn’t sure how that was going to pan out for me, I was interested to note that the Hire Me page I had put up back in November 2011 was bringing in some enquiries. Furthermore, my role with ManageWP had been heavily expanded, which meant a big uptick in future earnings.
The savings I had meant that I didn’t need to take any rash action in terms of finding new clients, so at the start of the year I was content to sit back for a while and see how things unfolded.
I began February by writing a post on LWB entitled 5 Reasons Why Quitting Your Job Is Awesome (Or, Why You Should Be In Business). This was my call to arms for all people trapped in the dream of making their passive income millions.
Whilst we all have dreams of passive income, I felt that I had found a better path to that dream through freelance writing. Since I had quit my job, not only had my entire perspective on my business changed, but I had so much more time to work on things. I wanted other people to recognize this, and perhaps change their own perspective on how they could leave work behind. Working your ass off until your passive income streams match your outgoings is not the only way to succeed — and it is certainly not the best way, in my humble opinion.
Speaking of which, my freelance income was pretty healthy in February. I could now expect a relatively secure cash flow from my two ongoing clients, and I had also developed a site for my sister’s lawn care company. I had not however secured any additional ongoing clients. This didn’t particularly concern me, as I was happy to wait for the right opportunities to arise, and was confident that they would in time.
February was a complete write off in terms of the mass niche site project that I had launched in January, which was already starting to look like a slow car crash. My lack of progress was due to indecisiveness about my system — I had originally planned to build the sites myself, but then decided to outsource the majority of the work instead. So February was spent sourcing a Virtual Assistant (VA) through the Virtual Staff Finder service. I wasted a great deal of money in that month on subscription services that I didn’t even use, and as March approached, I was determined to make up for lost time and money.
In other news from that month, Leaving Work Behind experienced an enormous surge of traffic. The surge was down to the publishing of the LWB 100 (first edition), which was an enormous success (incidentally, that post is still by a huge margin the second most visited page on my site behind the homepage). I also released a detailed guest posting guide that readers had to “Pay with a Tweet” for, which still gets downloaded now.
I also made the big decision in February to monetize this blog. I was extremely nervous about doing so, because I didn’t want to do anything that would compromise the value (or perception of value) that the blog had. On the other hand, given the huge amount of time I was spending on the blog, it would have to start making money at some point (regardless of how much I enjoyed running it).
It may have taken three months, but in March I secured another ongoing client. They came as a welcome addition, and took me one step closer to being able to cover my outgoings through freelancing income alone. Since I still had plenty of savings left, I felt very comfortable in my progress. And the blog was starting to serve as a passive referral machine for my freelance writing business, which was great news.
However, my steady freelancing progress was not matched by success with my efforts to monetize Leaving Work Behind. I worked for hours and hours on a post entitled Why BuildMyRank Is Not The Best Private Blog Network, which was a study of private blog networks, and my first real effort in using a post to generate affiliate sales. I hit publish shortly before leaving for a skiing holiday with my family in the USA, and received a notification of my first affiliate sale whilst I was still waiting at the gate in the airport. This was of course pretty exciting, and as I flew over the Atlantic, I couldn’t wait to get to America so I could see if I had made any more sales.
Well, I hadn’t, and there was a pretty good reason why. Literally hours after publishing my post, BuildMyRank published a post entitled It’s Been a Great Run!, in which they revealed that Google had de-indexed the “overwhelming majority” of their network. The internet marketing world was in a state of shock, and there were few people left willing to invest in private blog network subscriptions. Shortly thereafter, the winner in my study (RankJumpers) shut down. My post was redundant, and I never made a cent in affiliate sales from it (the one referral I had made was never paid out).
To say that this left me frustrated would be something of an understatement, and my reaction was to publish And Now For Something Completely Different — a post in which I made clear my intent to stop trying so damned hard with Leaving Work Behind, and instead let it develop naturally.
March was also not a good month for my niche sites, although I felt quite upbeat about my “progress” at the time. I spent the month writing up content creation and link building systems for my VA. I was so focused on teaching the system, that I was completely overlooking the most important factor — would it actually work?
The answer was a resounding no.
On April 5th, my VA quit without notice. She had gone out of town on holiday, and had decided that she didn’t want to do any more work for me (unfortunately, she neglected to tell me this until I got in contact with her and asked what was going on). Although this was infuriating at the time, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it encouraged me to step back and consider my mass niche site project on a macro level.
What I saw wasn’t pretty. Not only was my link building strategy unproven, but it wasn’t acceptable even to mass article marketing services (you know you’re doing something wrong when that happens). I suddenly realized what should have crossed my mind a long time ago — I had been throwing money away on what amounted to a harebrained scheme. Huge lesson learned — always understand a process and know that it works before you attempt to scale it.
In short, I had failed. I sprang into damage control mode, and wrapped up my mass niche site project for the foreseeable future with some experiments in link building.
This marked change in direction, along with the continued steady progress of my freelancing business, left me with spare time to commit to a new project. Although I had plenty of ideas that I had been stockpiling in Evernote, it struck me that the most viable project would be the one that was already well under way — Leaving Work Behind. After all, I already had an established audience — any new project I started would take time to reach the same level.
So although I had only broadcast my new laissez faire attitude in March, I now had a renewed enthusiasm to take this blog to the next level.
My renewed approach to Leaving Work Behind was due in no small part to a holiday I took in Bulgaria at the very end of April. It’s amazing how much time to reflect can benefit you, as I later mentioned in The 2 Simple Secrets to a Bottomless Well of Business Inspiration.
I spent a lot of time on that holiday studying Corbett Barr’s Start a Blog that Matters course, and was really excited about the prospect of re-launching Leaving Work Behind.
A lot of May was spent working on the blog’s redesign and re-branding. I published Why I’m Getting Naked For You (And No One Else) as a pre-re-launch post, and followed it up with 22 Success Stories Reveal The Moment When They Knew They Were Capable Of More, which coincided with the new design and branding you see today.
My immediate plans were to simply boost traffic and subscribers, but I knew that I would have to start thinking more deliberately about monetization if my efforts were going to be worthwhile.
On the writing front, in May I started working with Steve Chou over at My Wife Quit Her Job, publishing weekly articles on entrepreneurship and online business. Steve first found out about me through my LWB 100 list, and wanted to bring me on board to help him further his blog’s reach. I was all too happy to do so, as the kind of subject matter he wanted was exactly what I like to write about.
I started off June with by my most personal post on Leaving Work Behind — 38 Things I’ve Never Told You (or, the First Step to Making the Most of Yourself). I was down to writing just one post a week for the blog, but that allowed me to concentrate on delivering as much value as possible.
That was reflected by the publishing of the second edition of the LWB 100, which took me an astonishing amount of time to put together. I then followed that up with Freelancing: a Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Rates.
That last post was intended as an experiment of sorts. I had an idea in my head for a new project that tied in with my renewed efforts with LWB, but if I was going to proceed with it, I wanted to make sure that the interest was there. The positive reaction to this post gave me confidence that my idea could be a winner.
And so I started to make plans.
Those plans were to bring together the two fronts that I had been seeking to develop since the very start of the year — freelance writing and passive income. My idea was to publish a guide to freelance writing — an eBook that would generate a passive income for months, or even years.
I had been considering the project for some time, but procrastination had prevented any progress. I simply wasn’t sure that it would be something worth pursuing. Although I had gotten good reactions from posts about freelance writing on LWB, I did not know if that interest would translate into sales (or if I could effectively market the book).
Whilst I had confidence in my ability to write a great guide, I recognized that if the market wasn’t there for it, its quality would be irrelevant.
Since my freelance writing business was going strong, money was no longer an issue in terms of being able to stay afloat — I now needed to look to see how I could take the next step and establish multiple streams of strong income. So in the end, I decided that doing something would be better than doing nothing (even if that something ended up being a failure), and so I started working on the book in mid-July.
August began with my favorite post to be published on LWB so far — How to Set Goals and Motivate Yourself to Actually Achieve Them. I was really proud of this post — not only because I felt it was pretty good and could help people, but because it actually made me step back and assess my own goal setting. It turned out that I needed to start taking some more of my own medicine.
And so with a renewed goal setting strategy in play, I got my head down and continued working on the first draft of my freelance writing guide. I published two case study posts relating to the guide (here and here), and I really felt like I was gaining momentum. However, I was still struggling with the concept of setting a launch date, not to mention the whole process of effectively marketing the guide.
My improved goal setting also happened to coincide with some experimentation in productivity that happened to work extremely well. And so I found myself with a bit of spare time, and a keenness to start up yet another project. Although I had no interest whatsoever in getting back into niche sites, I did miss the old thrill of attempting to rank in Google, and the dream of pure passive income.
I wanted back into the game, and I had an entirely new approach in mind.
What’s Next in Store?
That just about brings us up to present day! I’m really excited about what is in store for the future, with my freelance writing business, this blog, my upcoming freelance writing guide, and my new project (which I will be revealing later this week).
As you can always expect from me, I will be totally upfront in revealing all of my successes and failures in all of my ventures, so if you enjoyed my story so far, stay tuned for plenty more!