Clever Blog Income Report #1 – March 2016 Income From My First Month Blogging

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This is the very first blog income report here on Clever Leverage, but unfortunately it’s about 2 months later than I wanted it to be! I took this blog out of maintenance mode on January 1st, 2016, with eight (yes only 8) posts to it’s name. Most of the posts were unfinished, and the blog design is still not complete to this day. My plan was to do a 30 day blogging challenge, publishing one post a day picked from the 400 draft post ideas I already had behind the scenes, and publish the earnings on February 1st, 2016 from those content marketing efforts (I estimated it would be around $100 or so). But I dropped the ball on my content calendar/posting schedule during the month of January, and screwed up the blog design quite a bit ultimately removing a bunch of elements that were unfinished. This was HUGE time sink, and I wasted tons of time on things that didn’t matter (like building a custom theme, buying premium themes, overall design, etc…) and ultimately wasted another month and a half.

clever-blog-income-report-1-pinterestCoupled with my pre-planned snowmobiling trip at the end of Feb/beginning of March, I didn’t stick with my blog publishing schedule at all! Surprised? 😉 So for March, I decided to buckle down and stick with the premade wordpress theme I bought, and force myself to leave it UN-customized to focus on content production. (I was wasting way too much time on design, when I wasn’t even making a splash in the pond yet! Everything has to be PERFECT right? Ughhhh!)

While we’re at it, my biggest struggle so far has been over-analyzing (everything from my blog design to content, to topics and what people will think) every little thing, and not sticking to the schedule I set out to adhere to.  I have a system I’ve been using for years that works very well to come up with blog post ideas, keyword research, content marketing, and making videos. But for some reason, now that it’s time to build something for myself, I’m not sticking with the program here and am all over the place. (despite it working well for clients and others in the past!)

Left out of check, my habits up until this point will ensure this blog will NOT be a success. “I have all of the knowledge, tools, and ideas at my disposal, it’s just me standing in the way.” – forgot who

It’s clear that it’s time to buckle down and stick with the original plan that will make all of this work, and it starts with my daily planned actions/habits and executing my blogging calendar for the day. I still struggle with wanting everything to be perfect to match my grand vision, so I hung this in my office right above my workstation:

Done Is Better Than Perfect

The rest of this income report is going to be all over the place, and very nontraditional. I don’t have much traffic, so there’s really no point in reporting analytics or any fancy metrics. I’ve been avoiding them anyway, since it’s just a distraction for the first 3 months anyhow. I’m also going to include some personal notes, the current reasoning for wanting to even profit from a blog of my own instead of just doing it for fun, and share some tips from my knowledge base in an effort to keep things useful, even though I’m adding in some personal rants and tidbits I can look back on later.

I hesitated to even publish these income reports right off the bat, since there really isn’t much income at all. Although you could say I have started to make money right away from products I’ve reviewed, and tutorials I’ve created to help people, it isn’t a significant amount of income and wouldn’t even pay my gas bill currently.

For me personally, it’s a moot point altogether to publish income reports if you aren’t making at least four figures a month from your blogging endeavors. However, one thing stuck with me from when I first got started online… I needed to unconsciously make sense of how to go from A to Z. For instance when I watched an interview of someone who created an empire, I needed and wanted to understand what they did in the beginning to get going in that direction BEFORE they were successful. I want to keep myself accountable with this endeavor, be able to track my progress and look back at each month and see the beginning growth, and hopefully one day be able to offer the same thing those who read this blog… You never know what it might turn into!

Additionally, when I used to keep a closer pulse on the blogging industry (mostly lifestyle bloggers, I thought what they were doing was super cool) reading blogger’s income and success reports both motivated and inspired me to ponder my own ideas on what I’d like to create for myself and how I’d like to help others. I would like to create the same type of environment here, and would also like to be able to look back on these all the way to the very beginning, as that is usually when the greatest struggle/triumph takes place anyhow. (the good stuff!)

I don’t count investment income as blogging income, but there is a small amount of dividend income coming in from various investments I’ve made, and I have some posts in the works about those. While these are not part of business income whatsoever, I include them because any annual distributions typically get invested in one of the methods I blog about. So far, decent returns on Lending Club.


Clever Blog Income Report #1 – My First Month Blogging

Affiliate Income:

Only from two sources this month, unless I missed some of the reports somewhere. (I signed up for a massive amount of programs when setting up the links, so many that it’s hard to keep track of so far without being familiar with the platforms… need to clean that up and use pretty links to keep track of them!)

Amazon Affiliate Income: $87.46
Bluehost Affiliate Income: $130 (net 60)

Total Income For March 2016: $217.46

Most of the amazon affiliate income came from a bunch of videos I did reviewing the GoPro Session 4 on my snowmobiling trip last month, and a merax finiss mens mountain bike I bought. Even though I had a bad experience with the GoPro, I figured out some tricks to make it work in the freezing cold, and which camera I should’ve bought instead… And recommended that one in my videos to help people wanting a good cold weather action cam. The Bluehost income came from a starting a blog tutorial for beginners I’ve been working on, and from a couple Q&A videos I put up on YouTube. The trouble with this is there’s no momentum yet. It’s going to take a while to reach a point where earnings aren’t directly correlated to daily production… the total production pool is just too small right now, so there’s no sustainability or cross platform leverage yet.

This is pretty discouraging really. I was motivated just to get a single sale in the beginning of the month, but now that March is closed out, the reality of how minuscule this income really is has definitely set in. Makes me want to quit, since in the past I’ve been able to generate a sizeable income rather quickly, though mostly churn and burn style. The reality is, it’s going to take longer than I want it to to gain any substantial momentum, which directly correlates to monthly income.

But this time is different. I want to build something sustainable, that actually helps people, and will be around for years to come. The harsh reality is that’s going to take some time, so I must press on.

It’s also depressing to check stats since we’re already through the first 15 days in April, and it doesn’t look like I’m on track to keep up with March’s pace in any way shape or form. I can directly attribute that to the lack on consistent content production too, so it really is my fault. Time to man up and accept responsibility for not maintaining my publishing schedule, and figure out a way to do something about it consistently. Production = Earnings

But don’t mind my negativity if that’s what you’re looking to do! I’m sure a lot of people would perfectly happy/content with making an extra couple hundred bucks a month from their blog, so I’ll share some tips below in the next section on how you can duplicate this for yourself.


Why I Want To Make Money At All From This Blog (since I already have a job)

My main motivation to pull any income from this project at all, is a location independent income source. Sure I have a job and make decent money, but I’ve sat on this Clever Leverage concept for a year and have done nothing with it. It very well could be a blessing in disguise to have a new source of motivation to make it come to fruition, but I definitely feel “under the gun” so to speak.

Last year, my Grandmother’s cousin whom I’ve spent my summers in Maine with for the last 20 years, passed on at 94 years old. Her husband, Ray, has been like a grandfather to me ever since my first trip to Maine back in 1989. Ray is 91, and lives in the middle of nowhere in the small town of Eustis, ME. I know in my gut that the clock is ticking, and the window of opportunity to go spend some time with him is now. The timing work wise is bad, and I’m really not prepared to pick up and go for a few months on a whim. Financially, it’s also hard for me to acquire new clients without being face to face the way my business is set up. (that’s why I call it a job)

But the difference between regret and satisfaction of the past, lies in a split second decision right?

So for now, I decided I’d rather make less money for a while, but have more immediate freedom. There’s an opportunity to go and spend time with my 91 year old grandfather, that I may not have again. So, I need to lay the foundation for a framework that will financially allow us to go on fishing trips and eat well, without depleting my savings to nothing. Oh and did I mention this is in the middle of nowhere? lol

Sure I have current clients at a decent recurring income, but do I want to be tied to a landline in a place where there’s no cell coverage instead of enjoying the time with him like I intended? Not really.

So while my original intention for this blog when I thought of the idea over a year ago, was to talk about investments and leverage my time by creating a knowledge base of tutorials. In my local services business, I get asked the same questions over and over, and have never made a repository that I could direct people to where I can house videos and content that can leveraged over and over again. That was the original plan for this blog, but it is somewhat changing now, which could turn out to be a good thing if it lights a fire under my ass!

A Little About Me And Why The Purpose Behind This Blog Means Something To Me

Meet Ray:

Like I mentioned above, I’ve been going to a little town called Eustis Maine since I was 7 years old with my grandmother. At one time when she was still alive, I used to be a full time organic CPS affiliate for ebay and amazon, and it was no big deal to go stay with her for a month at a time during the summers. I simply packed up my laptop, took an extra monitor, and ordered internet to be installed in the family cabin before I got there. I setup a little makeshift work desk from the fly tying desk Ray built for me when I was younger, and would work at night. It was perfect… we’d go on adventures during the day, and I could still make a living in the evenings, and fly back and forth to Florida whenever I needed. Now I want to be able to do that again, but I’m in a much different position.

makeshift-desk-in-maine-cabinYou see, the affiliate stuff I was doing in a past life was mainly churn and burn, and while it was cool to make money in my underwear, it wasn’t fulfilling for me after the initial challenge. I’m a guy that grew up working with my hands, so to do anything with a computer back in the day and have it spit out money was a miracle in itself. 😉

But after I was able to make a full time income at it, I lost interest somewhat, and became a bit disconnected since I lacked that everyday interaction with people. After all, it was just me and the screen most of the time.

So got out of the affiliate game a number of years ago, except for one annual push normally during the holidays each year, where I’d usually make an extra $20 – 30K between November and February. I took what I learned in the aff world and started doing local marketing for companies in Orlando FL about 6 years ago. I’ve enjoyed that for over 5 years now, but must admit it’s very location dependent, and while I make good money doing it and can service existing clients from anywhere in the world, acquiring new ones really requires my presence the way I have things set up. (classic E-myth case here, people are buying me instead of a product)ebay-christmas-earnings

I want to be able to head to Maine, with no return date in mind, and be financially comfortable enough to go on whatever adventures we want while I’m up there. Sure I could live off of savings for a little while since the cost of living up there is relatively low, but why do that when there’s a better way, and opportunities that can be leveraged from anywhere in the world?

Writing all this in an income report depresses me, and is a little discouraging. Given my past experience, I really thought this would be a quicker process than it truly is. But the fact of the matter is, I haven’t put in enough time to warrant being in the position I desire. I want the short cuts, the tricks, and blah blah like everyone else right now, even though I know better. I’ve already started turning down client work, since tying myself down with new obligations in exchange for quick cash will just further the process, and prevent me from moving forward with what I really want to do.

I don’t know how I’ll make this work, but I know it can work out. I believe everyone has something to offer, and if you can tap into that and put in enough effort with the intention of helping others, you can make it work.

So I still have the feelings and fears in the back of my mind, but I’m going to do it anyway.

But I want to keep it ethical. Rather than create a bunch of products and drive traffic to them for some quick cash, I want to build something that truly helps people and will stand the test of time. Ideally, I’d like to go against the grain and have a lifestyle blog that covers all the topics I enjoy, such as building websites, hosting, software, health, investing, and wordpress. Sure the “experts” will say you can’t do this and focus on one niche/subject, but hey we’re still in the infancy stage… You gotta dream big with your own vision right? (I think most “experts” are wrong anyway, yet I get where they’re coming from… it’s hard to have a mutli-topic site and cross promote opt-ins and such… it pisses people off and it’s hard to produce relevant stuff that appeals to the same audience)

The best thing I can do right now to hone my writing and put out helpful content that will help others, is to essentially do a brain dump of my experience. Sure I’ll make some money from products and services in my tutorials, but it won’t be overnight and will probably continue to trickle in for a bit. If I can get some momentum, I can likely create some guides with a good UI that’ll generate a decent CTR, and then be able to buy some traffic to those pages to expedite this process.

My long term goal is $20k net profit per month, and my short term goal is $2k net profit per month. (what it will cost for me to live in Maine with Ray)

Going forward:

I have so many ideas and a grand vision to turn Clever Leverage into it’s own little ecosystem, but have executed nearly zero of them. Instead of chipping away at it every single day, I’ve allowed myself to be overwhelmed and not focus. To avoid that, I need to come up with a production calendar and stick to it. (I keep saying I’ll do this, but fail to follow through. I MUST figure out a system that works for me)

I will create tutorials for everything I have experience with in regards to local marketing, but I don’t know how I would monetize that unless I did a video course or something of that nature. (I’d almost have to build a live lead gen case study… it would be the only way to demonstrate the complete process, and deliver really good value that I’d feel comfortable charging for) But this is one of the most valuable things I can offer than can help thousands of small business owners, so I’m going to do it anyway and figure out the rest later. (this will require building about 50-100 tutorials minimum, which is a little intimidating)

I’m still going to blog about unrelated topics, I don’t care what the gurus say. I review products I buy, talk about maintaining good health, and am always interested in improving my financial intelligence in regards to investing, real estate, etc… Though the last two topics will probably take a backseat for a while, since it’s likely in the near future that my disposable income is going to drop significantly for a period of time. I still think it’s a good idea to interject some personality into a lifestyle blog, so I’m also going to do some real life health stuff, including juicing, supplements, and more.

In the future, if one area bulks up a bit and detracts from the core message of Clever Leverage, I’ll build a satellite site for it, and I have an idea on how to turn those sites into a case study that will help people looking to do something similar.

How can I help you? LMK in the comments

My Biggest Struggles In My First Month Blogging

Pretty simple really: my biggest struggle has been sticking with the plan in my head of the grand vision I have, while seeing zero results. It would be much easier if there was a way to expedite the feedback loop… Meaning, if I could put in a little effort, see a result, and make adjustments, it would be much easier to keep working when nothing is happening.

There have been a couple of moments where I’ve wanted to return to my roots, and fire up a couple servers and go to town on some churn and burn to make enough money to fund my Maine trip to hang out with Ray. But do I really want to go down that road again? Why walk around with a target on your back when you can do something meaningful? After all, buying prepaid credit cards at 711 and keeping track of a gazillion registrar/proxy/server accounts gets old after a while, not to mention keeping 100 million + urls indexed on a rolling buildout schedule at all times. (and there’s really no fulfillment in it either after the initial challenge is gone)

But something is different this time. This is the first year (even at christmas) I didn’t do my holiday push, and my desire to create something that matters instead of poluting the internet with useless shit in exchange for dollars is now stronger than ever. I’ve never done content marketing for myself in this way before. Sure, I’ve done it in some capacity for clients in the past, and for affiliate sites, but nothing of this magnitude. I still have thoughts about crafting posts intentionally to pedal affiliate software, and juicing up those pages to rank quickly, but I won’t do it. I want to give this a really good go, the right way.

Thoughts and fears about becoming a professional blogger, building a brand, etc…

  • Struggling with delayed gratification
  • Feel like it might not work out
  • Discouraged with my results
  • I need to be further along in order to move to Maine for a couple months to spend time with Ray (disappointed with myself I’m not in a better position to leave and not think twice about it. I know the time is now though, so I’m not sure what to do)
  • I’m kicking myself I didn’t start sooner, I’d be further along and probably know exactly what to do to scale right now
  • I haven’t been consistent… I go hard for a short while, then nothing
  • Haven’t met my goal of publishing daily no matter what
  • Failed at 30 day challenge, wondering if I should create my own or redo 30 days of discipline again… Just don’t feel confident I will follow through. Sucks, shitty feeling
  • Alternative is to burn the boats! Sell my truck, ditch my place in Orlando, buy a beater to drive to Maine, get a job or live off of savings, and don’t come back until I figure out how to make it work or I’m killing it. Either way, I’d get to spend some time with Ray while I still can.

So Where Did These Earnings Come From & How To Do This For Yourself

Enough with the personal antics, I just want to look back on this first income report a year from now, and see where I was at mentally while struggling to figure out how to build this blog out. Now let’s make this useful!

I wish I could log in to my analytics or search console account and show you some fancy dancy stats that matched up to my blog posts, but unfortunately most of my March traffic (read: hardly any! lol 716 pageviews from March 1st – March 31st 2016) that lead to my earnings is not substantial enough to even break out of not provided keywords!  Much less, have any stabilized rankings for any money terms, whatsoever. I expect it to bounce around like this for at least 3 months or so, so I’m pretty much going to ignore my analytics for a while.

So where did my traffic come from? And how did I generate those commissions for the month of March?

Well, with a new domain, that has no authority, you certainly aren’t going to garner any meaningful search traffic your first month unless you’re exceptionally good at a few tricks of the trade. Personally I’m not building links or doing any off site SEO for this blog, so most of my traffic has come from leveraging other platforms where domain trust and authority isn’t mandatory for decent exposure.

Enter: Youtube

I put out at least two videos, sometimes more, for each blog post I published. Now not every video delivered traffic back to the post, but by including helpful tips and affiliate links in my youtube descriptions, visitors didn’t necessarily NEED to hit the blog to attain results. Of course I want them to, but that’s going to take a bit more time. Frankly, my topics are scattered right now, and I haven’t published enough content to get a running start, so low subscribership is to be expected. Not to mention I don’t even have the blog homepage laid out correctly, because I don’t have enough content published to fill it out properly. (magazine layout is disabled currently) SO presentation and clear topical/navigational selection is limited, and first impressions may not be the best. (I.E. – poor UI at the moment!)

Related Reading:

  1. If you need help setting up your first blog, watch this step by step tutorial on how to start a blog for beginners where I walk you through everything from setting up a domain and hosting, to installing a custom theme and creating your first piece content. Doesn’t matter if you want to make a personal blog, or setup a business website on WordPress, the process is the same. (I show you how to make static pages in that tutorial for business websites too)
  2. If you’re worried about making videos, or the quality, here’s a helpful blog post that shows how I make videos with my iPhone 6 that look like I use a DSLR.

Comment below and let me know what you’d like to see next, and how I can make these reports more useful for you. Should I separate out my personal details from the reports, or do you like reading everything mixed in? I want to do a better job at including helpful tips and tricks that I might forget about unless you asked me about them! I’m also starting a weekly Q&A, so if there’s something you’d like me to cover, ass your question on the QOTW page.

 

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Join the conversation on Matt's case studies at CleverLeverage.com as he discovers and tests new ways to earn more income, learn alternative investment strategies to net >10%, maintain good health, and turn passions into online businesses.

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