January is turning out to be spreadsheet month. It’s time to tally up the numbers for 2019.
As you’ll see, the numbers were either really good or really bad. It’s all relative. If you earn millions per year, you probably wonder how I survive. If you’re just getting started, you’re probably keen to generate this kind of revenue as soon as possible
Speaking of wealth being relative. I’m currently watching Succession on HBO. In one episode, long lost cousin Greg, is forced to decide whether to quit working for the family business and inherit $250 million or stay at the company and only get $5 million. Greg wants to stay with the company and justifies it by saying something to the effect “well at least I’ll still inherit $5 million.”
Greg’s cousin, an heir to the family’s $10 billion mega fortune replies:
“You can’t do anything with $5 million, Greg. $5 million is a nightmare. Can’t retire, not worth it to work. Five will drive you un poco loco, my fine-feathered friend.”
If you live in an expensive part of the world, there’s a lot of truth to that quote. Life expectancy is longer. If you inherit $5 million at age thirty, will it last 60 years? I know it sounds crazy, but very likely not.
If conservatively invested earning 5%, that’s $250,000 per year. However, you need to add to the principle each year so that it grows at least at the pace of inflation.
Okay, $250K per year is great income, but unforeseen issues could arise that chips away at the nest egg quickly. Keep in mind some places are outrageously expensive to live such as NYC, San Francisco, Vancouver (my neck of the woods), Hong Kong, Sydney, London, etc. Paying $4K to $6K per month in rent is typical. Spending $1 to $2 million for a house or apartment is standard. Yeah, the $5 mil can go quickly.
However, if you move to lower cost regions where you can buy a good house for $200K, you could very well be set for life.
The big problem is if you’re 30 and you stop working, you pretty much kill your ability to make decent money. If the money is gone when you hit 55, what are you going to do? You have no career. No prospects. It’s ugly.
Meanwhile, getting $5 mil in your pocket makes it pretty hard to drag yourself out of bed every day and report to work.
It is indeed a conundrum.
Fortunately (actually unfortunately), it’s not one I’m faced with.
The smart play with such a windfall at age 30 is to invest it in a reasonably aggressive, but diversified portfolio and resolve to not touch it. Don’t forget to keep working. Don’t touch that money and it’ll be worth 3 times that upon retirement. $15 million will definitely see you through 30 years unless you have a penchant for private jets and cocaine.
Time to return to earth.
Here are the tallies for 2019 for my niche sites.
A. 2019 Results
Below are the total revenue, expense and content investment figures for all of 2019 for 7 niche sites.
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PLEASE NOTE: These 2019 results do NOT include revenue/expenses pertaining to fatstacksblog.com. Fat Stacks is not relevant and so I do not include in my income reports.
- Total Revenue: $568,624
- Total Expenses: $104,166
- NET INCOME BEFORE CONTENT: 4,458
- Total Content Investment: 7,485
- NET INCOME AFTER CONTENT: 6,973
B. Initial Goals
In early 2019, I set out revenue goals for my niche sites. They were lofty. I didn’t come close, but my monthly revenue grew considerably so it’s been good progress.
Here are the revenue goals I set out in early 2019 to achieve by the end of 2019 (USD):
- Site 1: $60,000/mo.
- Site 2: $7,000/mo.
- Site 3: $5,000/mo.
- Site 4: $2,500/mo.
- Site 5: $1000/mo.
- Site 6: $500/mo.
- Site 7: $300/mo.
TOTAL GOAL MONTHLY REVENUE: $76,300/mo,.
C. Actual 2019 results (using Dec. 2019 revenue):
- Site 1: $45,598/mo.
- Site 2: $5,690/mo.
- Site 3: $2,596/mo.
- Site 4: $1,432/mo.
- Site 5: $44/mo.
- Site 6: $58/mo.
- Site 7: $75/mo.
TOTAL ACTUAL MONTHLY REVENUE: $55,493/mo.
MISSED GOAL BY $20,357 per month
D. Failures and Mistakes
While 2019 was pretty good, it wasn’t all lolipops and sunshine. Here are some failures and mistakes.
1. Didn’t meet lofty goals
While I missed my monthly revenue goals by $20K, I’m still reasonably happy with the results. I set lofty goals that I’m unlikely to achieve but are within the realm of possibility.
2. 15% traffic drop from November 2019 update
I have to chalk this 15% traffic reduction to plain old bad luck. It was a core algo update by Google. There’s seemingly now way to defend against it or deal with it post-update. The silver lining is it’s only 15% instead of 50%.
3. Affiliate revenue plateau
Over the years I’ve made several attempts to grow affiliate revenue on niche sites with little luck. While I earn a few thou per month in affiliate commissions, affiliate revenue never took off despite some valiant effort on my part. I guess I just didn’t try hard enough.
Maybe 2020 will be different. I have two affiliate-friendly niche sites growing pretty fast.
1. Huge revenue increases with Ezoic
In September I switched ad monetization to Ezoic. This proved a good decision because ad revenue increased considerably.
2020 will hopefully be even better. I have niche site 1 with AdThrive as of January 8, 2020. I’m still waiting for the dashboard to go live to see results. I’m tempted to just wait 3 to 4 weeks before looking at results because it takes time for the ad revenue to fully optimize.
2. Decent overall traffic growth
Overall, traffic is up. Yes, even niche site 1, which lost 15% traffic in November, is pumping quite a bit more traffic than it was in late 2018. Growth was fantastic. Hence, I’m staying the course in 2020.
3. Set up “rainy day” sites
I have 7 niche sites. I invest big in 4 leaving the remaining 3 as “rainy day” sites that I hope to grow down the road. I could view this as a failure in that I’m not able to fully invest in all my sites OR I can view the three laggard sites as “rainy day” sites ready to grow down the road. I actually think it’s not a bad idea to have a few sites sitting with content in case you need an aged site at some point to grow.
In fact, sometimes I think I should launch another 3 to 5 sites in different broad niches for a rainy day. It doesn’t take much – perhaps 10 to 15 articles per site and let them sit. I just may do this as I have a few other niches I’d love to tackle at some point.
4. Growing a great VA team
In 2019 I hired 3 more full time VAs bringing the total to 6 VAs. Everyone fully trained so it’s smooth running machine. Hiring and training a team takes time. Fortunately my head VA does most of the hiring and training. This is a big advantage of having VAs stick with you for years… they get to know everything in the operation very well.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.