October 2016 Income Report
A Quick Note on Brexit
I'm from the UK, which you may have heard recently lost its collective mind and voted to leave the EU (a collection of our closest allies and trading partners). I voted to remain in the EU, but by a couple of percentage points, the "Leavers" had the majority, and so the UK has entered a period of uncertainty. Eventually, that's likely to lead to significant economic damage, for some unknown time. In anticipation of this, the currency markets reacted, tanking the pound. Fun times in the UK.
For me, this is all rather bittersweet. It does mean that things are going to cost more over this side of the pond, and that's already starting to bite. But, more importantly for my income, it means that since June, the money I earn in dollars has been worth as much as 20% more when converted to pounds. It's ironic, and I do love irony.
I'm going to keep the income reports in dollars, because the dollar is rather more stable, and most of my earnings start in dollars. And I'm going to keep campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU - or to rejoin it if we leave, because I'm one of the many millions who believe the EU is a huge benefit to all of Europe socially, economically and even politically (though that last one's taking a battering at the moment).
What a roller-coaster ride it's been this year. For those of you who don't remember, I started off with a collection of about 11 sites making the stupendous sum of ... $400 a month in return for my time and sanity. Having just had twins, I wasn't in a position to be wasting time, so I decided to focus, and the result was that in September I made $6,256.84 profit. That's an increase of roughly 1500%, but it's not all been smooth sailing.
July and August in particular were very rough, with a steep drop in income from my main earner, Readability-Score.com. September was a huge improvement, and so I was really rather nervous to see if October was going to be like September, or like August. The difference to me, and my family, between the two, is hard to overstate.
Fortunately, things have stayed at September levels. They're very slightly down, but I suspect the difference is simple - a lot of people opted for monthly payment instead of annual this month on Readability-Score.com. The annual payments save the subscribers 33%, but whether people go for annual or monthly seems to be quite unpredictable. In a month where fewer people go for annual payments, it looks like a drop in earnings. But with a SAAS business, it's not that simple - most of those monthly payments will recur the next month, and so on, snowballing over time.
To get around this, people use a stat called MRR to compare performance month on month. MRR is "Monthly Recurring Revenue", and the simplest way to look at how it works is to think of it as calculating the earnings in a month, but splitting all annual payments up over 12 months. So if someone subscribes for a year for $24, my cash flow shows $24 in month 1, then nothing for 11 months. My MRR would show $2 in month 1, and then every month for the rest of the year.
Over the last couple of months I've been tweaking the pricing of the site, trying to find a sweet spot - a point where it's good value for money and not a big decision to sign up. I'm comfortable with the current pricing, but one consequence of it is that fewer people are opting for annual payments over monthly - over 50% went for annual payment in September, but in October it was under 40%. So, although October is a little down on September, that's more of a reflection of cash flow and pricing changes than the site itself doing something wrong. I'm hopeful November will start to see that snowball grow again.
Cheatography doesn't get much of a mention at the moment. It's a site I've had for a long time, and it's a labour of love, but it's also not been profitable for a long time, and there's a great opportunity there. It's got a few thousand unique, free, awesome resources for all sorts of topics, and if I manage to lose the ads and monetise it properly it could be a great success. That's something I hope to have time to work on in the new year, but for now I'm just working on building the audience. And that's been working well. It's not been as dramatic as Readability-Score.com, but this month it made nearly $900. Considering it made just $300 in January, that's great growth for the year so far, and it's largely a result of the great content being posted, and TJ's tireless work on Twitter, Facebook and Pinrerest to promote that content.
This month was also a little quieter for development. I made some small tweaks and fixed and lot of bugs across the sites, but I've been focusing on admin tools for much of the month, which has dropped my support time for all of the sites significantly. It's given me access to more important stats for Readability-Score.com and ApolloPad, and quicker user and comment management on Cheatography.
Finally, I've ramped up the spending on ApolloPad's marketing, with both social media marketing and blogging starting in October. Both will be, effectively, a loss-making exercise at the start, but as I'm able to spend more time on ApolloPad over the next few months and turn on billing for the site, that spending will pay off.
So, October has been quiet but successful. I'm pleased to have maintained September's success, and if November and December keep going at the same sort of level, then the new year is going to be very interesting indeed.
Why Release Income Reports?
It's simple, really - it's a method of keeping me accountable. If I try something, and it works, it's going to show in the income reports. If I try something and it fails, the cost of that effort will be there too. Every month, I'll be able to see which sites or other income sources are performing well, and in a year (or more) I'll have a great record of the things I tried on each project.
It's also a good way for me to justify spending time on my passive income projects. I can use my passive income to free up some time every month to work on advancing my own projects. Having a firm figure for income means I can work out exactly how many days and hours my income allows me to work on passive income projects next month.
Revenue - Readability-Score.com
Readability-Score.com had a large overhaul in April 2016 and quickly became my highest earning website. Income comes from a premium subscription model giving access to tools and alerts, but the core functionality - measuring the readability of text - is free.
Revenue - Cheatography
Cheatography is my busiest site, and is a cheat sheet builder and repository which earns a modest income from advertising. It needs more attention than it gets, and I believe has tremendous potential. It currently has over 2400 cheat sheets, the largest collection anywhere, most of which are unique to the site.
Revenue - ApolloPad
ApolloPad is a novel-writing web app, with a monthly subscription model (when it comes out of beta). It's not earning anything yet, as it's still in relatively early development.
Revenue - CrosswordCheats
CrosswordCheats is a crossword solver and cryptic crossword clue trainer. The clue trainer bit is the bit I'm most proud of, and the piece least used. At the moment, it generates a small income through AdSense advertising, but the long-term goal is to offer a subscription for access to the best features.
|Item||Last Month||This Month|
|Month||Total Customers||New Customers|
|Item||Last Month||This Month|
|Hosting - Linode||-$62.00||-$85.00||-37%|
|Hosting - CloudFlare||-$20.00||-$20.00||0%|
|Hosting - AWS||-$4.01||-$4.02||-0%|
|Domain Names - 123-Reg||$0.00||$0.00||0%|
|Domain Names - Zonomi||-$1.27||-$1.27||0%|
|Transaction Fees - Gumroad||-$20.15||-$22.10||-10%|
|Transaction Fees - Stripe||-$237.06||-$262.83||-11%|
|Marketing - Cheatography - Social Media||-$456.00||-$260.00||+43%|
|Marketing - Readability-Score.com - Copywriter||-$997.09||-$813.70||+18%|
|Marketing - ApolloPad - Copywriter||-$220.00||-$234.72||-7%|
|Marketing - ApolloPad - Social Media||$0.00||-$260.00||-100%|
|Share of Company Expenses||-$263.24||-$263.24||0%|
|Item||Last Month||This Month|
|$6,000/mo profit||Short (2016)||95%|
|$8,000/mo profit||Medium (2017)||72%|
|$10,000/mo profit||Long (2018)||57%|
What Happened With October's Plan
Readability-Score.com. I started work on a new large feature for the site, which is on course to be launched by the end of the year. I also put some time into administration tools, which has been a blessing, dropping the time I have to spend managing the whole thing. I'm still trying to work out how a VA can fit in to my work and find the right person to take on that role, but it's not something I want to rush.
ApolloPad. Unfortunately, ApolloPad continues to take the back seat behind Readability-Score.com, and I've not had much of a chance to build it up further this month. I'm making progress, but it's slow, and I need to find a way to carve out more time, regularly, for the site.
Cheatography. No big developments this month - I've got a plan for moving away from ad-supported revenue, but it's going to be a little while before I get to a position where I can implement it.
What's Happening in November?
Readability-Score.com. I'm going to keep working on the new feature for the site, and start looking into some more interesting features (like Google Docs integration). And my VA hunt will continue!
ApolloPad. This month, my plan is simple - enjoy NaNoWriMo, push up some blog posts, and carve out some time to spend with the site.
Cheatography. Cheatography gets a quiet month this month, although I'm hoping to improve the automated social posting systems, and spend some time tracking down more third-party cheat sheets to add to the site.
More Income Reports?
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