Welcome to my monthly entrepreneurial income report for August, 2016! When I founded this site in 2008, I had no idea it would lead to a growing income and ultimately a full-time job. But that didn’t happen overnight. It took eight years of hustling, improving, growing, and learning to get where I am today.
If it’s your first time stopping in, you can see a history of my online income reports here, going back to February, 2012, when I brought in $739 online. I did a quite a bit better this month, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out exactly how much better and how I did it.
Why in the world do you share your income publicly?
When I started this website nearly nine years ago (next month is the big anniversary!), I had just left a job working as a bank manager. I learned so much about personal finance working at that bank as the guy in charge of the teller line, new accounts, and customer service departments, in addition to approving new credit cards, lines of credit, and some mortgages generated by my branch. I also had four years of personal finance education under my belt.
I started reading other personal finance blogs as I worked to pay off my car loan (which I did in about half of the five year term), pay off my student loans (two years and six days after graduation), and conquer other financial challenges as a Millennial with a newly minted finance degree. I realized reading those other sites that I had a unique perspective thanks to my background, and to build trust with you, I would be completely transparent on how I deal with my own finances.
I used to share a monthly net worth update, but since stopped doing so regularly for the privacy of my family. However, I always shared what I earned online and through side hustles, and continue to do so every month. Side hustle income has changed my life, and I like to show you how in these monthly updates.
Preparing for FinCon16
Podcast listeners and longtime readers are familiar with FinCon, the biggest conference for personal finance bloggers and media professionals. I have attended every FinCon ever, starting in 2011 in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.
At the first FinCon, I learned how to treat my blog as a business. At the time, I was seeing rapid growth thanks to the search engines, which died off shortly later thanks to Google’s big Panda and Penguin updates.
But through the search engine turmoil, my online income continued to grow, and thanks to what I learned at FinCon and the community there, I became a recognized expert in personal finance, and recognized by the FinCon community for my website building chops.
That led to a pivot in my online income, where I stopped focusing on making money from this blog, though I still love it and earn through affiliate income when you sign up for some of the products I suggest with links on this site, and started treating my online income as a service business.
Thanks to my reputation in the FinCon community and this blog, I was able to leave my full-time job in April to focus on my online income full-time. In less than two weeks I’ll return to FinCon for the sixth time, and I have big and important plans.
- Ignite FinCon – Now one of the flagship events of FinCon, I brought this unique speaking event to the conference in 2012 in Denver. It has grown to attract a high profile sponsor (thanks CentSai!) and this year will be at a kick ass nightclub venue in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. I run the entire event, and I don’t take my responsibility for its success lightly.
- My Own Session! – This year I am on the schedule as an official FinCon speaker! I’ve spoken in a panel in the past, but this is my first time as a solo session leader. I am speaking on “Turning Your Hobby into a $40,000 Per Year Side Income,” sometime I did last year and the big milestone that let me go full-time online.
- Freelancer Marketplace – Organized by my fellow freelancer, pilot, and buddy Jason Steele, I am banking on this as the #1 opportunity for me to land new clients over the next year. It has been a great success for me in the past, and I’m looking forward to another fruitful event.
Outside of that, FinCon is a great opportunity to see friends, make new ones, volunteer at the Plutus Awards (like the Academy Awards of Finance Blogging – I also built the website), and learn a ton at sessions and make valuable connections in the expo hall.
If you can’t tell, I’m excited and a little nervous!
Work-life balance and Dad time
Something I’ve struggled with since leaving the day job is work-life balance. I knew that I would have trouble drawing the lines going into it, and it has proven to be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am actually writing this on a Sunday morning – I try to avoid working a lot on weekends and evenings. But alas, business has to go on.
Working for Fortune 500 companies like I did in the past, I earned a well above average salary and was paid to take off a few weeks each year and earned the same salary whether I was deep in the trenches of a big project or had a lighter week in the office.
Now, knowing that I am only paid when I produce, I am always buckled down trying to land that next awesome client, pounding away at the keyboard writing for one of my amazing clients, or hacking at some PHP and CSS code to polish off a beautiful client website.
But I’m also a dad of a wonderful little girl and a husband of a supportive, beautiful wife. I’m always struggling to pull myself away from the computer, but each minute with my family is wonderful, and I need to get better at it.
Just last weekend I spent the long-weekend with my parents in Denver (thanks travel hacking for the $11.20 flights!), but more importantly, they got time in with their granddaughter and she got to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
Entrepreneurial income breakdown
After two down months this summer, which were expected but nonetheless discouraging, I had a much better August. Here’s how it all came together.
- Affiliate Marketing – $66
- Direct Ad Placements – $200
- Total Advertising – $266
- Website Support – $1,219
- Writing Service – $5,682
- Total Freelance – $6,901
Gross Profit – $7,169
As a freelancer, income is lumpy. Some months are big, others are not so big. Budgeting is key to filling in the gaps – particularly as a freelancer navigating things like retirement accounts it tough. I like to look at my income each month on an annual rate. Because expenses are typically low and variable, I look at gross income (before expenses and taxes) as my “income.” This month, my run rate was $86,028 per year, more than I made in my last job as a Senior Financial Analyst and my second biggest month yet!
Of course, expenses are still important to manage and understand. I don’t include my salary or healthcare benefits below, as we would be paying for those even if the business didn’t.
- Bank Charges and Payment Fees – $33
- Computer and Internet Expense – $188
- Meals and Entertainment – $15
- Co-working Office – $69
- Outsourced Labor – $192
- Referral & Affiliate Fees Paid – $25
- Telecom Expense – $87
- Travel Expense – $97
- Total Expenses – $706
Total Revenue $7,169, Total Expenses $706, Profit Before Tax $6,463
Check out my full history of income reports here.
Financial Planning & Analysis
I spent most of my career as a financial analyst of some sort, so let’s take a look at my progress through an FP&A lens. On the surface, my second biggest month is something big to celebrate! But there’s always room for improvement, and that’s where my FP&A hat comes in.
Last month I looked at my online income with the 80/20 rule. For my primary income, my freelancing business, my income year-to-date was heavily weighted to freelance writing, but my time was going primarily into website design. Clearly something needed to change.
I responded by simplifying and raising my website design rates. I contemplated dropping it completely, but I enjoy it and like the diverse income steams. I also picked up three new clients for my website management and support service, which is awesome! My website business only grew with my new rates! It’s true what they say, perception means a lot. Pricing my service as a high value service increases the perception of quality. Since I was doing quality all along, it only makes sense to price accordingly.
Writing is still the bread and butter, however, so I also started working to add and work with new clients there, further building on my #1 income source.
My biggest expenses are outsourced virtual assistants and online services I pay for like domain names, Edgar, Gusto, Quickbooks Online, Amazon AWS, BluBrry podcast hosting, web hosting, and other subscriptions. Keeping expenses low is key to business success, so I’m always looking here as an opportunity to save.
I also took a deeper look at two other online entrepreneurs who publish income reports. They also both happen to be people I know personally through FinCon and other online interaction. Those two are Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn and Making Sense of Cents with Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.
I’ve known both Pat and Michelle since long before they were hitting the seven figures per month range, and seeing their success is a serious inspiration for me.
Both Pat and Michelle earn most of their income through affiliate marketing, which I do use here on this website. Seeing what they are doing right to keep their income in the $1 million+ per year range is influencing my decisions here.
The number one thing holding me back from growing my affiliate income is traffic. I attribute this to the Pandas and Penguins and my domain name change last year from Narrow Bridge Finance to Personal Profitability. Changing domains is always a gamble, and this one turned out to kill my traffic in the nearly two years since. To respond, I’m following tips from sites like Backlinko to grow my traffic, fix my SEO, and follow in the footsteps of other kick ass online entrepreneurs like Pat and Michelle. I’m also trying to figure out this whole Pinterest thing to really boost my traffic from social networks.
My conversion rate isn’t bad, but more traffic with the same conversion rate = more income. More income = better trips and more time flying planes and more savings in the bank and retirement accounts. So time to get to work!
Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks
The second blog I ever started was called “Lessons I Learned the Hard Way.” Don’t bother Googling, that sucker is long gone.
But this month I did learn some new things I’m going to work on over the coming months.
- Don’t neglect this blog and it’s traffic. While it is far from my biggest income source, it has huge potential.
- Find people who inspire you and emulate them to find your own path to success.
- Take a little time off for family. Then a little more.
- Focus first on what is working (freelance writing), then try to fix or eliminate everything else that isn’t working.
That’s all for today! If you have any questions, always feel free to drop a line in the comments or connect with my via the Personal Profitability group on Facebook. See you there!