I used to work 70 – 80 hours per week. Managing a shoe store. And the money was excellent. But it was a bit hectic. I was 23 and in school and had a full-time job, yet I was trying to build a business at the same time. I took breaks to go to class. I didn’t even have enough time to do my homework or study (which was a problem for a person who nerdily enjoyed school as much as I did), and I certainly didn’t have enough time to spend the money I made on anything other than rent. My friends thought I had the best life ever. I thought I had it great. How any of us drew these conclusions, I will never know . . . oh wait, that’s right, I was naive and didn’t understand the whole money-life tradeoff thing.
If the hours worked, and the personal satisfaction felt in your work leave much to be desired, then no amount of money makes it okay. I didn’t really want my life to consist of 15 minute naps in the stockroom of my shoe store. No. I wanted to be one of those really cool + mystical people who had figured out how to make an income doing what they loved.
I believed it was possible, but at the same time, I kinda didn’t believe it. My head said, “Yeah, someone like you can do it. It’s a logically possible thing,” but my heart and my fear said, “But, can someone like you, the actual you you, really do that?” That one ridiculous thought held me down for a long time. Just in case you’ve only ever heard this from scammy marketers and not “real people,” I want to tell you: Someone like you, the actual you, can make a living doing things you love. And rejoice, because if you have to put in the ridiculous hours to make it happen, they will be for you and your family and your legacy.
So, welcome to one of my blog income reports where I talk about money in real terms in the hopes that it will help. If you are trying to build an income, I hope that it will seem more possible. If you already make money online, I hope the tips help, and if you’ve far surpassed these tips, I hope that by you merely reading (or commenting), some of your mojo will rub off on us.
Last month I made a little over $7,000. Income varies when you work for yourself and test out new ideas. The two months before last month, I made $4,500 and $5,800. It’s not the million dollars you see some online entrepreneurs make, but I know for those of you like me, we just want to figure out ways we can turn what we love into a liveable income and then grow from there. And that’s what I want to talk about today. If you read my last post, you know the story of how I got here. Today, I want to talk specifics.
Income for September 2014
Online sales of my small business manual: $274.20
Sales of my Build Your Website Binder (for a class): $100
In-person classes/workshops (advertised on blog): $645
Affiliate commission from Bluehost: $390
Amazon Associates commission: $13.63
Online workbooks: $656
Online classes: $1512
Grow Your Blog Traffic with Social Media: $1143.69
Other work and consulting: $2,396
I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m not a natural extrovert. I’m also not sales-y, and I forget to promote myself and my stuff quite often. This is nothing to brag about when you own your own business. This is typically something to lament about, but there were three things that worked really well for me this month that you can perhaps incorporate into your own brand:
1. A well-designed product pin: It can actually drive sales. I didn’t even know how sales of my eKit were still happening until I looked into it on Google Analytics. People were coming from Pinterest. Spend time with your pin designs. They work. (I also got a lot of traffic to my eKit from my sidebar image when it was up higher in the sidebar than it is now. Placement makes a difference.)
2. An email list: It is your best friend. An email in which I’d given away a free portion of my eKit was generating sales for the full thing.
3. Diversity: It can pay your bills. Here are my favorite 10 ways to make money blogging.
New Stuff That Helped
Redoing my services page to something a bit more structured and complete (it previously didn’t advertise all my classes or workbooks) definitely drove more product purchases and consulting inquiries. I removed a lot of unnecessary words from the page (the intro that served no purpose) and got to the point people probably go to that page for.
“Pay what you want pricing” is amazing. I use Gumroad to sell my digital workbooks. I previously had a set price for most of them, but when I was releasing The 3-Day Create workbook, I didn’t want price to be a deterrent. I wanted people to be able to get it and run with it, creating amazing information products with its help. But, instead of just pricing it really low ($9 for 57 pages), I decided to offer it for “pay what you want pricing.” You’re able to set a minimum amount, but people are able to pay more. One wonderful woman gave me $49 for that workbook! That’s amazing. So, if people want it, they can hopefully afford it, but if they want to give you a little something extra because they (seriously) love you, they can do that too. On average, that workbook probably makes $11 or so per sale, instead of the $9 I’d get if I stuck with that price, or the sales I’d miss if I went much higher.
The 3 Things I Will Try Next Month
1. More behind-the-scenes stuff. Because I was so excited about the release of my eKit–I desperately wanted everyone to get their hands on all 268 pages of the PDF portion–I was releasing preview shots on Instagram and Facebook, etc. Something unexpected happened; other people showed their excitement and started sharing the eKit with others. Sales went up on those days. People want to support you and they want to see the secrets and sneak peeks and in-process creativity you come up with. Can you think of some special reveals you can do of upcoming products? If you have a business or product launch coming soon:
- What are three screenshots or previews you can show this month without giving too much away?
- What is one way you can incorporate a preview of your product into an email without being sales-y?
- What are two blog posts you can go back to and add information about your product in a related way? Is it a natural fit for one of your popular posts that still gets a lot of traffic?
2. A new class. I will work on developing my Create Labs into classes that are available online. Those services generated more demand than I expected, but the majority of my blog friends live places other than Austin, Texas. I don’t know why . . . it’s fabulous here, but y’all choose to be in other cool cities for some reason. It will take a while to make these into the type of classes I’d want to share, so I have to get working now. I’ll likely roll the first one out next year. Also, classes are some of my most consistent income, and I definitely see a $$ decline in months I’m not offering them (like this month). Have you been considering offering a class? If so:
- Perhaps you can release it in beta for a reduced rate just so you’ll be able to get it out there sooner and work out the kinks. What would the minimum workable (viable) version of your class look like?
- Can you design a cover/flyer image for your sidebar and see how much attention it gets to gauge interest? I did that on Facebook the other day (granted, it was with free content), and you lovely friends chimed in and helped a lot. I knew exactly which piece to write next based on your votes.
3. Sponsored posts. I told myself that I only wanted to do sponsored posts with brands I’d actually recommend to my mom, or my best friend, and that I only wanted to do posts that would allow me to be creative. Be assured, my sponsored posts won’t be a simple list of three relevant features, or something like that. In fact, I’m doing a slightly weird photo shoot and creating a free download for the first one I’m doing next week. And yes, I already took a selfie with my new tech. I think that’s mandatory. Right?
- If you’re thinking about working with brands, have you reached out and proposed a collaboration with any of them?
- If you’d like a third party that can help you find the right opportunities, have you thought about a company like Linqia? I’m really enjoying them so far.
1. Gumroad and it’s “suggestion” feature. I saw a trend in Gumroad this month where someone would buy one of my workbooks, and then a few moments later would buy another one. Gumroad makes it simple to check out all the products one particular seller offers, but it also suggests related products (if you let it) when a person is done with their purchase. It was such an honor to see you all buy multiple workbooks from me in one sitting. Thank you.
2. Calendly. This software is the appointment/consultation/meeting scheduler I’ve been waiting for my whole online entrepreneur life. I’ve been looking for something that works the way people think, and this does. You can set types of meetings, recurring time slots, and multiple start times throughout your day. People are able to go to your Calendly page and pick what works for them (and the design is quite simple and pleasing). Calendly saves me time and eliminates a lot of confusion.
3. PayPal and it’s easy refund feature. I gave my first class refund this month. It was kinda weird but SO easy with PayPal. I literally got to click one button and send all the money and fees back to the person in an instant. And side note time: (1) It’s always better to treat people as you’d want to be treated by giving a refund rather than trying to hang on to their money. The damage they might do to your reputation is not worth it. (2) If a person’s expectations of your services stress you out, they may not be the best client for you. Luckily, the wonderful person I refunded seemed very cordial.
Here Are My 3 Rules for Making Money Online
1. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t like done to me. This is why I don’t uses pop-ups or sales-y emails that are just about me making money. This is also why I don’t share things on social media that basically say, “Hey look at this product I have. Buy it now.” If I share a product on social media, it generally has a point or benefit to the reader.
2. Don’t accept an opportunity just for the money it makes. Otherwise, it’s kinda like I’m working for the man again.
3. Don’t create a product I wouldn’t want a fellow entrepreneur to spend their last available buck on. If you work for yourself, you typically budget in a different way than people with regular/dependable income. This makes me realize that sometimes, entrepreneurs may be budgeting their last available $$ that month to a product to help grow their business. I would hate for that product to be mine and to have it disappoint.
What are your rules? It helps to set them beforehand and maybe add them to your blog business plan so you won’t forget them. It can make for quick decisions later on.
So, what are your specific questions about making money through your blog? Do you already make money blogging and have some extra tips to share?
Photo: © Darren Muir via Stocksy