Let’s start this off with some BIG NEWS!
For the first time in almost two years, I’m back to working a full-time job (gasp!).
I know, I know… I’ve always been such an outspoken advocate of building up your side income, for the primary purpose of being able to leave full-time employment for someone else in the rear-view mirror forever.
Trust me, I never thought I’d end up working full-time for another company again either…
So why did I go back to full-time employment?
For two reasons actually. Let’s dig into them real quick and then we’ll get to the good stuff.
The #1 reason I decided to go back to full-time employment is because of who it’s with—the company and founder that turned into the best consulting client I’ve ever had… Close.io (the inside sales CRM for startups).
Over the course of the past year, Close.io grew into becoming about two thirds of my consulting work (and income). I was getting to know the CEO and founder, Steli Efti, much better and before I knew it, he’d turned into an incredible mentor for me.
Steli and the team at Close.io have built a SaaS (software as a service) business that’s become something much larger than themselves. After going through the famed startup accelerator, Y Combinator in 2013, they took a small round of funding from VC’s like SV Angel and Spark Capital. Since then, they’ve been completely self-funded and profitable.
This is something I aspire to accomplish one day soon, too.
Thus, the opportunity to keep doing work I love in the form of content marketing and launching fun side projects to grow the number of trial signups for our CRM, while learning more intensely from Steli… is a chance I really couldn’t pass up on.
Plus, we’re a fully remote company (of 30 incredibly awesome people), which means I get to keep everything pretty much as-is with my routine & style of work I’ve gotten used to over the past couple of years.
In December of 2017, we came up with a deal that made logistical and financial sense for me, and I started on January 1st.
Most importantly though, Steli’s a major proponent of employees working on side projects—something that’s naturally of immense importance to me. Not only is he supportive of it, but he’s actually been helping me further my own business goals through introductions, regular advice, sales coaching, and so much more.
So, I’m holding onto a few of my content marketing consulting clients, continuing my Side Hustle Project Podcast, keeping up with regular blog content to grow my affiliate income, making my way towards the book I want to write, and collaborating with a friend to build an MVP of what may become my first SaaS tool.
Still sounds like a lot… I know.
2. Time for change.
Another big reason I decided to take this job right now was because the second half of 2017 was a time of massive change for both my girlfriend and I.
We moved to Denver, Colorado. Mostly because neither of us had ever lived outside of California, and felt like a change of pace from the San Francisco lifestyle for a little while. Check us out—yeah we still hike 😉
If you’re in the Denver area, comment below and let’s meet up!
Things were also changing within my business last year.
I noticed that I was starting to do more work with fewer clients.
Close.io had stepped up to become the majority of my work, and (for various reasons) I’d started eliminating smaller clients that consumed more of my time than they were really worth at the end of the day.
My cushy contract consulting with LinkedIn’s ProFinder team ran out after literally everyone I was working with transferred teams or left the company as a result of being acquired by Microsoft.
Another big client of mine decided to hire someone in-house to run their content marketing, rather than outsourcing it to me.
It’s a little scary as a freelancer relying on just 2-3 main clients, especially when I’d been at 6 at the beginning of 2017.
When we started preparing for our move to Denver, I recognized that so much more of my time was now going toward outreach, pitching, and having sales calls to bring on more clients (so I wouldn’t be relying on so few clients, despite my income staying pretty steady).
This always seems to go in cycles, and I actually get a lot of great inbound leads for my consulting business that cuts down on the need for outreach, but I came to the realization that I was getting kind of tired of frequently pitching my services.
Close.io came as a welcome opportunity to take a break from that side of my business I’d grown a little tired of.
So, now I’m back to doing some limited freelancing on the side of my day job.
And aside from just the changes on the freelance side of things, my blog traffic was down about 35% last year (from my all-time high of 225,000 monthly sessions at the end of 2016), so my passive income from affiliate commissions was also down. Turning this ship back around and growing both traffic & affiliate income is a major focus of 2018.
I had a great year with selling my own online courses in 2017, generating $23,000 in sales. However, as a one-man shop, it was incredibly time-consuming working one-on-one with all the awesome people who joined, to make sure I did everything in my power to help them be successful & get real results.
After feeling first-hand how draining that experience of working with 250+ course students at a time was becoming for me (surprise, courses can be a lot of work), I decided to put new enrollments on hold for now. After I decide how I want to restructure my involvement in my courses, I’ll slowly start re-opening some and perhaps begin working on a new one I’ve been wanting to create for freelancers.
My biggest motivation for publicly sharing all of this is pretty simple really…
I want to start 2018 with radical transparency to you.
I hate 99% of the income reports I see because they come across as an off-handed attempt to brag about how much money people making—and that is not at all why I’m doing this.
In fact, I didn’t do income reports for years for this exact reason… but more and more of you have been asking me to share the real numbers behind my blog. So, that’s what I’ll be doing from now on (even when those numbers aren’t so pretty).
This year is all about building stronger connections with each of you (my readers). Showing you behind the scenes of what’s working and what’s not in my business.
I want to show you exactly what I’m doing to grow my business—and when I fuck up, which will happen, I’m going to tell you about that too.
I’ll be answering more specific questions you have through useful content, rather than only chasing SEO traffic gains.
I’m also publishing this to hold myself accountable to growing these numbers. So that I can look back at this month’s report in January of 2019 and hopefully see meaningful growth in all categories.
But most of all, I’m sharing everything here because I want to challenge you to join me.
If you’ve been wanting to start freelancing, build a blog, sell online courses, or start a podcast, then LET’S DO IT TOGETHER.
This is your call to take action.
Observe what’s working for me, gather insights to apply in your unique situation, and start executing today.
Now, enough about my why. Let’s talk about the fun stuff…
Side Income Report for January 2018: $9,322.89
In these monthly reports, I’ll be tracking my total side income every month, each individual source of that income, and associated expenses with running my side business.
Next, I’ll break down the traffic to my blog which heavily impacts my side income, including what’s performing best and how I’m working to drive in more readers. This’ll also cover an update on how many email subscribers I have & what that growth trajectory looks like.
Then we’ll talk about my podcast download numbers for the month, and which episodes performed well (and why).
Finally, I’ll cover updates on other side projects I’m working on.
Want my side income reports delivered straight to your inbox?
Join me today and I'll send you my weekly tips, strategies, and detailed insights on growing a profitable side business.
Now, let's do this!
1. Side Income Breakdown for January 2018
3 x Content Marketing Clients
Carbon Ads (on the Blog)
Podcast Sponsorships (Side Hustle Project)
Online Tools & Subscriptions
ConvertKit Email Marketing
Adobe Creative Cloud
Edgar Social Media Mgmt (Pre-Paid Annual)
Narrow.io (Twitter Engagement Tool)
Zoom.us (Video Conferencing)
Apple App Store (Mac App Renewals)
Freelance Writers (for Client Work)
Office Rent (Backyard on Blake in Denver, CO)
Podcast Producer (Xavi at Branded Pod)
Quuu Promote (Pre-Paid Annual)
Travel, Office Supplies & Misc
iPhone X Payment Plan
AT&T Service Plan (iPhone)
Transaction Fees (from Int’l Payments)
Home Office Internet (Comcast 👎)
Net Profit Breakdown
An expensive ass month.
As you can see, January was a pretty expense-heavy month for my side businesses.
Almost half of the month's expenses came from talented freelance writers I've been partnering with (like the incredible Jory MacKay) alone—but without them, my side income would've actually been down a lot.
Since starting my full-time gig with Close.io this month, I decided I'd have to get much more serious about outsourcing the majority of the first drafts for the actual writing work I'd booked for the month (with the handful of freelance clients I kept on).
I'm transitioning over to being more of an editor (and promoter) with the content for my freelance clients, so... if you know any talented freelance writers who love writing about business, productivity, and startups... please send them my way!
My "free hours" have gotten much more limited since starting this job, and I found myself wanting to divert as much time as possible to creating content here, booking more exciting podcast guests, and working to monetize the more passive sources of income that my blog generates (largely from affiliates).
So, this was one of those cases where I'd have to spend money to keep making money and take the hit to my margins—because at the end of the day, the income now flowing in from my full-time job more than makes up the difference when everything is added up.
The good thing is that all of my side income is a nice-to-have.
It goes towards investments, travel, a few big upcoming purchases, and the rest gets re-invested into my businesses.
What to expect in February...
Freelance income... My freelance income should be about the same, and it looks like I may book another freelance content marketing client that came by word-of-mouth referral from a past client at $5,000/mo.
As much as I'd like to get back to retaining 100% of the side income I generate from my freelance clients, it's not going to be doable anytime soon, so I'm coming to terms with my lower margins.
Since I'm scaling my freelance business into a mini-agency, this is just the way it has to be for now. I'm setting the goal of landing one more big client for that side business in February.
Blog income... My blog income should increase marginally, as traffic has been trending upward since the first of the new year, and I've been investing a lot of time into keeping that momentum going with SEO tweaks, pitching more guest posts, and signing on with new publications (Fast Company and GoBankingRates to name a couple).
Podcast sponsorship... Nada for January. This was mostly a function of having literally zero time to pitch new sponsors in the last couple months of 2017, and none of the inbound requests I got ended up being a good fit.
In February, I'm signing a contract to work with a friend who goes out and books sponsorships for podcasters—while she takes a cut of every deal, the consistency and reduction of personal work on my end make it a no-brainer right now. I'm really only looking to breakeven with the podcast, as it's been an incredible tool for meeting amazing people & eventually turning a few of those conversations into paid client relationships.
A brand new side project... I'm hoping to launch the MVP of a new tool for content marketers that my friend Mubs is building with me.
It's doubtful that this'll generate any revenue during the month of February—since that's not the goal yet.
I'll be sending the tool around to other content marketers I know, gathering feedback, testing, and making tweaks to get it to a point where it'd warrant the possibility of being a paid tool for my target market for this.
We'll see how this new side project starts to evolve... and yes, I'll of course be documenting it's progress in a new blog series, don't worry 😊
2. Blog Stats for January 2018: 160,031 Sessions and 39,394 Total Email Subscribers
I'm back to over 200,000 monthly pageviews!
It's been a long road to recovery, but traffic has been trending upward the past few months.
Still, I'm way off my highs of a getting the consistent 225,000 sessions/mo that I was seeing toward the end of 2016.
During 2017, I got hit pretty hard from competitors that are MUCH larger than me (sites like Entrepreneur, Inc, and TheBalance) on my highest trafficked posts.
I still live and die by organic traffic...
This makes me prone to pretty big swings in monthly traffic, depending upon where major search engines rank my content for the extremely competitive search terms I'm going after.
I'm talking about terms like these (that bring me the most traffic):
- business ideas
- business books
- motivational quotes
- business advice
- how to freelance
- online business courses
- online business tools
- freelance proposals
- cold email templates
- start a side business
- content marketing strategy
- validate business idea
- freelance contract
- and remote job
Part of the reason traffic declined a good deal last year, was because I diverted a lot of my time and attention to (attempting to) diversify my traffic sources.
Relying so heavily on organic traffic (or any single source for that matter) isn't smart.
While organic still represented 61% of my traffic for January, at this time last year, it was more like 85-90% (yikes).
My social and direct traffic have grown significantly, which I'd like to keep going.
At the end of 2017, I did my annual purge and removed A LOT of email subscribers from my community (in ConvertKit) who hadn't opened an email from me in over 2 months.
January saw the addition of 3,129 subscribers to my community.
Which brings me up to 39,394 total subscribers.
Why I deleted a ton of subscribers... I've noticed that over time, people get busy, shift their focus, change goals, or just plain lose interest in following along with my blog—that's been a consistent theme since I've started blogging.
Part of that is just natural churn, but I have no illusions that my content is going to be perfect for everybody.
And it's never been my goal to be just another email sitting in your inbox.
Which is why this year I'm doubling down on writing more content that explores deeper, more meaningful topics to me (as opposed to mostly just top-of-the-funnel keyword-optimized shit).
My goal is having higher quality relationships with fewer subscribers.
And to that end, I'll be regularly deleting inactive subscribers from my community this year.
(If you've made it this far, don't worry—you're one of my favorites 😉)
3. Podcast Downloads for January 2018: 16,425 Downloads
The end of January marks the 7th month (and 45th episode!) of my podcast, The Side Hustle Project.
With a total of 16,425 downloads, this was my best month yet and it's grown consistently just about every month.
I'm consistently publishing one episode per week now, and here are the ones that went live this month:
- #41: How to Start a Business in College (Making $1,000 a Day) with Andrew Kozlovski
- #42: Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne: From Side Project to $1 Million Per Month in Revenue
- #43: Lewis Howes on Going From Broke to Earning 7-Figures in 2 Years (and Writing a Bestselling Book)
- #44: Building Multiple Revenue Streams and Landing Six-Figure Consulting Clients with Dorie Clark
- #45: CreativeLive CEO Chase Jarvis on Becoming a Photographer, Side Projects, and Building a Multi-Million Dollar Startup
This month brings my total download numbers for the show up to 77,877 downloads already, which I'm pretty damn excited about—since this was only meant to be a little side project that I never had any real business goals for.
Still, I'll definitely be throwing a little party when I cross the 100,000 download mark here soon.
Oh! And check this out... the tool I use for publishing & tracking stats for my podcast, Simplecast, just launched an awesome new feature that lets podcasters see where their listeners are tuning in from...
Special shoutout to all of you in New York City where I had the most listeners (276 downloads) in January!
But seriously, I am fucking amazed that people from every continent in the world are listening to my podcast.
This completely blows my mind and is incredibly humbling.
If you're a listener... THANK YOU SO MUCH 🙏
And if you're not a listener yet, give it a try right here 🙂
That's it for my first since income report.
What do you think? Is this helpful to you or is it a waste of my time?
If I continued doing these, would you tune in every month?
If so, what would you like to see more of?
Here are some ideas:
1. I could go into more detail about how I'm generating traffic
2. I could dive deeper into how I'm monetizing that traffic
3. The ways I'm landing freelance clients
4. How I'm getting podcast listeners
or something else entirely...
Can you do me a favor and comment below telling me what you think?
I'd seriously love your feedback!
And if you'd like to share, here's an image optimized for all that Pinterest traffic I'm chasing 😊