Welcome to the quarterly online business income report for Stacking Benjamins, LLC! I posted our first monthly income report in January, and realized a few things:
- It was pretty unimpressive
- If I was going to write a monthly income report, I was going to have to write a lot more blog posts on this site, because when I am only writing (at most) one post a week, then the entire blog becomes pretty heavily “what I did on my summer vacation” posts quickly, only not summer vacation, but spelling out exactly how I made money that month. That put pressure on me to create absolutely killer content the other three posts a month, which I felt I wasn’t able to do.
A Note About Our Online Income
Our income comes primarily from a sponsorship model on the podcast, and since that’s entirely podcast income, that’s a different company entirely, and I’m not at liberty to disclose all the income over there.
So I’m stuck writing about the income that I have direct control over, which is all online income. Writing about our online income is helpful for me, because I’m forced to look at how we’re making money and I’m motivated to change the categories where we make money.
Online Business Income Report (Q1 2017): $15,059
Take the first quarter of 2017. When you realize this is the income statement for our whole company (which includes two partners and an assorted amount of freelancers), earning $15,000 isn’t that impressive. On the other hand, holy smokes, it is really and truly possible to earn money from the internet. And that “other hand” is what makes me write these in the first place.
There are plenty of ways to earn money online, and you’ll see from the breakdown in Q1, there’s a bit of imbalance going on.
Holy smokes. That was my reaction to this number. Consulting is kind of a catch-all category, that includes glamorous things like Joe going to a football game with a financial institution and not-so-glamorous things like Pinterest management and design work. I knew we were spending a lot of our time on this category at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t realize how much time was going into this.
I’ll write about this more in the upcoming weeks, but if you have yet to make your first dollar online, focus on this category.
Because you can see results immediately. You do work, you submit an invoice, you get paid. It’s near-instant feedback. (Of course, that’s the ideal scenario. Sometimes, companies don’t pay right away. The longest we’ve had to wait for an invoice to get paid is five months. And we had to ask about its status several times. I have a theory that companies don’t always see the “little guys” as people who need to be paid, when that’s the opposite of true.)
Plus, you get to see what you like. Do you love writing posts? People will pay you for your excellent writing. Do you like creating images for Pinterest? What about playing around with website design? Do you have an eye for logos? Are you a video editor, a Facebook ads expert, a spreadsheet whiz? There’s a market for you.
The downside, other than waiting for big companies to pay you, is that consulting doesn’t scale. Or at least it doesn’t scale at the level we’d like it to. When you trade time for money, there’s a cap on how much you’re able to earn, and there’s a point in which you’ll burn out.
So feel free to start building your consultancy, but when you publish an income report and find that you’re uncomfortable with 75+% of your income coming from a trade-time-for-money scenario, feel empowered to change direction. Ahem.
Affiliate Income: $2,330
Affiliate income is the be-all, end-all solution to passive income, depending on who you ask. Pat Flynn comes to mind as someone making a very healthy living in the affiliate marketing space. I love affiliate marketing because I get to talk about companies I use and love, and when one of my readers clicks my link to buy something, I get a little kickback. Affiliate income will never be our bread and butter, though, because it’s unpredictable. Plus, it’s not nearly as passive as some might lead you to believe.
- SoFi: $1200. When a loan is successfully funded through our affiliate link, the person requesting the fund gets $100 for using our link, and we get $200.
- ConvertKit: $500. There are a lot of posts about ConvertKit on this site. Start with this one: Why Switch Email Providers to ConvertKit from Aweber?
- MyFinance: $350. This plugin goes at the bottom of each post on Stacking Benjamins, and it’s a cool concept: they give you display ads that convert to affiliate income, which you share with them.
- GraphicStock: $180. GraphicStock is an okay-not-great stock image library that is definitely worth $99/year, if only to get you out of the endless cycle of searching for “just the right” free image. Read: Graphic Stock Review
- Amazon: $100. We don’t have a strong Amazon linking program, but we sometimes mention our Amazon link.
Digital Products: $1300
Digital products are my favorite category of earnings because that’s where I spend most of my creative energy. I want to create products that help people get further in their paths. Our income came from the following places:
- For-Profit Blogging: On Your Mark, Get Set, Blog! Not available right now, but it’s getting a makeover and is going to be awesome. I’ll update this section once it’s done.
- For-Profit Blogging: 1000in30 Ebook. This is the ebook that accompanies the 30-day free “grow your email list” series. So, for people who either don’t want to wait 30 days or don’t want to have their inboxes all clogged up, there’s an option to pay $7 for the series in ebook form.
- Stacking Benjamins: Save 50 Course. This course was relaunched in January (although created in 2016). Next year, we’ll relaunch it better, knowing what we know about both online courses and Facebook ads.
- Stacking Benjamins: How to (Legally) Cheat on Your Taxes Course. I’m happy this one went as well as it did, since I had hoped we’d be finished with it earlier. But we had nearly 30 students register, so I’m counting it as a win.
Display Ads: $129
These are hardly worth mentioning, since they’re such a tiny sliver of our income, but since we focus on affiliates over display ads, we’d hope that our affiliate income is at least 10X our display ad income. So it is. Again, if you’re just now starting out, start with display ads, for the simple reason that if you start with ads, no one will accuse you of selling out. Also if one of your posts goes viral, display ads will come in handy.
What’s Happening in Q2
I knew intuitively, based on how my weeks were shaping up in Q1, that we were spending far too much time on consulting projects. Some consulting is fine, but so much of what we (and I’m the culprit here, not Joe) were doing was trading time for money. And really, that’s not much better to do on a freelance basis than it is to be an employee somewhere else.
So, at the beginning of the quarter, we made the following changes:
- No more Pinterest management
- No more one-off client work (unless it’s really fun, and I know the difference!)
Instead, we’ll spend the time we found on creating our own digital products. I would love to show you the next income statement at the end of the next quarter and have 75% of our income come from things we’re creating.
That is the big goal. We’re working toward a robust library of courses and books, both on the Stacking Benjamins side and in the for-profit blogging learning library. Creating courses takes a lot of focus, energy, and strain, but it’s so worthwhile. The last course was so much fun to create, and it turned out really well. We got a lot of great feedback, and now we have a course we can relaunch around tax time next year. I’m excited about that, especially since the tax code is a relatively evergreen topic, meaning we won’t have to re-record every video in order for the course to be relevant next year.
We’re working on another Stacking Benjamins course, which will launch this quarter, and on for-profit blogging, we’re working on turning our ebook into an ebook/workbook/online course combination. Both of these will launch in Q2.
Are these posts helpful? Or not at all relevant to you and your situation?