April Blog Income Report (And Traffic, Too)
I receive the same response from nearly everyone I tell that I quit my full-time job to become a writer-entrepreneur. First, they pause and give me a quizzical stare. “You do what?” That moment of awkwardness, which I purposely let linger longer than I should, is then followed by the same question every time, “How do you make money?”
Sometimes the intent behind the question is sheer curiosity. Sometimes it’s judgement, “Have you lost your freaking mind?” Sometimes it’s nosiness. More often than not, the asker has similar ideas of entrepreneurship. They finally have someone to ask the deep questions that are burning in their hearts.
I’m writing these monthly income reports for that last lot. My desire is for this column to inspire others to dream big and plan their own exit strategy from the cubicle hamster race. I also want to set the proper expectations that this is tough work. Overnight successes are few and far between. The truth is, you’ll work harder than when you were working for the man with (a lot) less income at first and more fear than ever. But you know what? You’ll love it because you’re following your passion.
I’m also writing this column for me. Posting these numbers publicly forces me to hold myself accountable. Each month I will have to sit down and evaluate both my successes and failures, and strategize on what needs to change. This is something I should be doing monthly anyway, but the truth is that don’t hold myself accountable for monthly strategy sessions. I treat them as calendar appointments that can be missed (like the dentist). They become swallowed by to do lists and editorial calendars.
Where I’ve Been
And here’s the brutal honesty. My income in 2014 after I quit my job mid-way through the year was abysmal. Like loved ones are going to question my sanity bad. I made a whopping $305.26. (I feel that the $.26 is important to mention). Want to know what’s even worse? My expenses for that same time period were $3,192.
In my defense (Not that I feel I need one. It’s my life after all.), I did spend most of 2014 in rebuild mode which took a lot more time and investment than I anticipated. I completely remarketed and rebranded the blog, redesigned the site, moved servers, invested in a new laptop and camera, and attended a writer’s conference. Since I’m a one man show, I did all of this on my own. I also finished the final draft of one novel (which I’m now querying to agents) and drafted a second novel.
I didn’t expect 2014 to be much of anything. What I’m doing takes times. As Zig Ziggler teaches in Born to Win, “You have to plan to win and prepare to win before you can expect to win.” 2014 was the planning stage for me. If an income generating opportunity arose, I would accept it, but I wasn’t actively seeing opportunities. I wasn’t ready yet. Before I could even pursue income opportunities, I had to increase both the traffic and followers to my blog.
Also, in my grand vision, I plan (and expect) that at least half of my income will come from my novel writing, and novel writing takes a tremendous amount of time before any income is realized.
Of the money I did make in 2014, roughly a third was from affiliate links, another third from paid posts, and the final third from freelance work. I expected income in 2015 to follow the same distribution but it didn’t. With the exception of April, 100% of my income in the first quarter of the year was from freelance writing.
Here’s a breakdown:
As you can see, I blew it out of the water in January! The rest of the months I came up a wee bit short. Still, I’m less than $100 from where I wanted to be.
How my April income fell:
What I Need to Work On
Unfortunately, I need to dial down my May goal to $500. This decision isn’t because I missed previous monthly income goals, but because I will be traveling for most of the month. Right now, my income is top heavy on freelance writing which requires direct efforts. When I’m on the road extensively, especially overseas like I’ll be, I can’t promise deliverables due to unexpected transportation delays or lack of adequate Internet.
I need some S.W.I.S. money (Sales While I’m Sleeping).
I need my income distribution to closer resemble 2014 and start generating a few revenue streams that do not require my direct involvement. I also believe in diversification. I’ve been laid off twice in my professional career. Both of those experiences have tainted me. I never want all of my golden eggs in one basket like they are right now.
But as Zig Ziggler states, I need to prepare and plan before I can expect. I’ve been preparing, but not enough. I’ve narrowed my niche and have increased both my traffic and email list. I’m drawing readers to the water, but there’s nothing there to drink. I need to retool the site for affiliate income which I plan to do in the two weeks I have free in May between trips.
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Driving traffic to a travel blog is not easy. Sure, there’s some bloggers who draw numbers in a day which I draw in a year, but most of those bloggers were early movers. I was not. Thus, I’ve been lost in the growing ocean of thousands of travel bloggers. Some are just enthusiasts and others, like me, are trying to eek out a living. All want people to read their stuff and are flooding the Internet and social media with their content.
Admittedly, I’ve been lost in that sea. Up until the beginning of this year, my blog swung from food blog to craft beer blog to travel blog all in one week. Readers couldn’t tell what the blog stood for. They’d stop by, read a few articles, and leave. Nobody was signing up for my newsletter. Nobody was following my Facebook or Twitter page.
A large part of my rebranding effort was further defining my niche. I weeded out recipe posts and stopped my popular Beer Versus Wine column. Why? Because those posts were just confusing my voice. The Wandering Gourmand is a travel blog focused on the food and drink of travel. Every post needs to relay this message.
So Far It’s Working – Sort Of
I hunkered down on my niche at the end of 2014. However, I didn’t focus closely enough on my email list. Instead, I divided my efforts between building my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog followers. All of those numbers are good to have in the eyes of clients; however, I can only control my email list. The other followers are all at the mercy of outside companies who are (understandably) out for their own profit. One change in algorithms can change who sees and interacts with my posts.
I came to this realization at the end of March. My email list grew at the same level month-over-month in 2015 which told me it was growing at happenstance. I tweaked my opt in pop-up timing and wording, played with where to add opt-ins within posts, and even added a freemium. The list still grew at the same slow growth.
Then, in a moment of panic when a post went viral and nobody was signing up for my email list, I dumbed down the opt-in drastically to its current state. I didn’t state what the freemium was other than a free gift, and I moved it back to a 3 second time delay from exit intent. This has helped my list grow by 20% over last month.
I also moved my concentration away from social media. I was spending countless hours trying to interact with others. None of that was working. My followers remained the same. I then dialed back my efforts of communication and focused on pushing out my own content. This strategy appears to be working.
May’s Traffic Numbers
- Email Subscribers – 117
- Page Views – 4,868
- Unique Visitors – 3,301
- Social Media Followers
- Facebook – 220
- Twitter – 444
- Instagram – 224
Most of May is out for generating new forms of income or even making tweaks for affiliate income. Yet, I still need goals:
- Attend TBEX Europe
- Use the road time to develop content for the blog in my voice since I feel that I’ve lost a little bit of it lately with the Hipmunk project
- Retool the site for more affiliate income
- Send out proposals for a few press trips over the summer
- Prepare for a press trip at the end of May
- Finish sending out phase one of agent query letters