My Monthly Income Report — May 2013

Photo Credit: Jon Tucker

Photo Credit: Jon Tucker

May was a special month for me as I celebrated two years since I started my journey in Leaving Work Behind. It has certainly been a roller coaster twenty-four months!

But in many ways I feel like my journey is only just starting. While my freelance writing is going beautifully, I feel like there is a lot for me to do in terms of developing passive income streams. I can’t envisage my freelance writing income continuing to increase at it has, which highlights its (relative) lack of potential — the earnings are directly related to the number of hours I work.

Having said that, freelancing has been the cornerstone of my business since I quit my job and it will probably remain that way for many months to come. But what else can I do to grow my income? Read on to find out!

What Happened in May?

For the most part, May was about adjusting. I started the P90X Program at the end of April (check out my progress here!) and quickly found out that it was going to take a lot of my time up. That meant cutting back a bit on work, which took a bit of adjusting.

I also started work on the book that I mentioned in last month’s income report. I intend for it to be an invaluable guide for people who want to quit their jobs and build a successful online business. In short, it’s a big project and one that could potentially be a huge boost for this blog! Stay tuned because I’m going to be writing more about this soon.

Finally, I decided to resurrect my authority site and recruit one of you to help me build it into a profitable asset for my business! I’ve received a bunch of applications for the role so far and can’t wait to get started.

If I’m honest I didn’t expect anything too spectacular from May in terms of earnings. My hope was to sustain my income rather than build upon it. So how did I get on?

Monthly Income Report — May 2013

  1. Freelance writing:
    • Income: $6,225.88
    • Expenditure: $19.44
    • Profit: $6,206.44 ($152 per hour equivalent)
  2. Websites:
    • Income: $6.70
    • Expenditure: $14.99
    • Profit: -$8.29
  3. Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
  4. Information Products:
    • Income: $897.01
    • Expenditure: $44.44
    • Profit: $852.57
  5. eBooks:
    • Income: $90.28
    • Expenditure: $0
    • Profit: $90.28

Total profit for May 2013: $8,318.71

Quite surprisingly, I have set yet another earnings record — my third in a row! It’s also the first time I’ve made in excess of $8,000, which is great to see.

However, I’m not particularly happy with these results. Don’t get me wrong — I’m delighted at how much money I’ve made, but with an eye on future goals and expectations I think the bottom line hides some potential weaknesses.

Let’s mention the clear positive first: my freelance earnings. I earned over $1,000 more than I did last month and my equivalent hourly rate was a fantastic $150. I couldn’t be happier with how the freelancing side of my business has developed, over the past few months especially; it seems to be going from strength to strength.

However, I cannot possibly expect to sustain these kind of earnings. The fact is that last month I let one client go and drastically downsized my involvement with another. Although that should result in a very healthy hourly rate (as they were my two lowest-paying clients), my total earnings are likely to be considerably less next month and beyond. I’ve made the deliberate decision to scale down my freelancing to just a couple of hours a day so I can work on developing those passive income streams that will take me beyond my current earnings “ceiling” imposed by an hours-for-pay freelancing model.

And what about those passive income streams? Well, my affiliate earnings are down ~$500 from last month and my information product earnings are down ~$250. That’s a total of $750 less earned when compared to last month. This poor result is masked by my freelance earnings, but I would be a fool to ignore them.

So what do I do? Well, I could try plenty of things, but my available time is limited. I think in reality I have to play the waiting game for the most part — I hope that the release of my book in 2-3 months time will have a huge effect on the traffic to LWB (and ultimately the money I make from it). Until then I must keep my head down and work on the tasks at hand.

I have a feeling that May could represent my peak earnings for a few months, but I am hoping that the work I do in the coming weeks will set a platform from which I can step up into new realms towards the end of the year. Only time will tell!

What’s in Store for June?

As I have already suggested, I plan to do less freelance work in June. That will give me more time to work on my authority site and my book — the two main projects I have on the go at the moment.

I have set myself deadlines for both projects (in August and September respectively) and I hope that doing so will help galvanize me into taking action and getting results.

I won’t lie to you — I’ve felt a little “stagnant” in May. Although my earnings are great and there’s no reason why they should decline in any drastic manner, I am hungry to keep stepping up. While I feel extremely blessed to be earning what most people would consider a very healthy income, I feel like there is potential for me to achieve so much more. The fast cars and mansions of my dreams won’t buy themselves ;-)

To not shoot for the stars at this stage would be making a mockery of all the hard work I have done in establishing a platform over the past two years. Therefore, I only have one option but to roll my sleeves up and charge ahead. That is exactly what I intend to do in June!

I’d love to know what you think about my progress in May and really look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section.

Comments

  1. says

    Loved your income report Tom, great to see you made some big choices.

    I see a parralel with my own situation. I’m not earning as much as you do, but had a pretty good month due to freelancing. But that’s like you say not a passive income, so I must make the step to my own websites.

    Not chasing the money in the short term but buidling something for the long haul is something I admire in you and hope I can realise to. So I must roll my sleeves up to ;).

    • says

      That’s right Christian. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I can see that freelancing could make for a very fine career all things being well; it’s just not where I see myself going. Therefore I have to make the short term sacrifices in terms of potential income in order to achieve my long term goals.

      • says

        That’s something that crossed my mind. It is one of those activities where if you don’t do it you don’t make money.

        While it is good when you do write, what happens you are taken ill.

        I could easily say the same thing mind you, but does make one a bit uneasy to think like that.

        Great insights here.

  2. says

    Tom why you think complicated?
    Why to invent the wheel?

    You good at writing, and you knows how to get those very high paid contracts

    Simply hire writers and become the editor..

    If you have problem doing this, then solve it!!!

    Dont rush to solve totally new problems in new fields..

    • says

      Hi Dan,

      I’m afraid what you’re suggesting is the opposite of simple.

      Hiring good writers who are also reliable, will work for a reasonable rate and stick around for the long term is extremely difficult. That’s why people who do have those assets can make good money as writers (and don’t need to work for others). If you’re lucky enough to catch someone on the journey upwards, they’re only likely to be with you until they figure out that they can make more on their own.

      Not only that, but taking on contractors to handle client work is an extra layer of complication I do not want in my life. It’s one thing using people to help with your own income streams, but relying on them to complete client work is going to result in complications.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • says

        Yes finiding the write employess is hard task.

        But after you find that employee, every time he work, you earn money,

        Its not passive income but I belive you can get very high proft margin with your current earning level.

        if you get 100$ per hour, you can find for 10$ or less very good writers that will stick with you.

        its 90% profit margin.

        I have extensive expirence in finiding employees. I know what I am talking about..

    • says

      Hey Alexis,

      You’re right, of course! If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that motivation, drive and the like ebb and flow. So the best thing to do is take advantage of it when it’s there, and try to find it when it’s not (but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t!).

      Cheers,

      Tom

  3. says

    Man, I love this income, but there’s oom for improvement.

    I can feel your passion to achieve your dreams. Most people would just stay at this level, but you’re pushing forward….

    You’ll achieve great things because your inner eyes think BIG….

    If you can’t achieve what you don’t imagine.

    Don’t worry, your imagination will become a reality

  4. says

    I just started P90X last Monday – it’s whooping my butt, and taking up a lot of time. But I feel so good!

    Question about freelance writing – does that require a degree of some sort? Writing is something I’d like to turn into a career one day, much like yourself, but I have a baby as a teenager and am unable to go back to school. Any advice?

    • Jackson Davies says

      You don’t need a degree to be a great writer!!! As Tom mentions, he almost failed English at High School.

      Everyone gets better with practice. So my advice is get more practice. :)

    • says

      Based on Tom’s advice, I just started aggressively applying for freelance writing gigs. I can’t wait to get my rates up to where Tom’s are, but the work is definitely very available if you can write.

    • says

      Hey there,

      Like Jackson says, you don’t need a degree (or any sort of qualification for that matter) to succeed as a freelance blogger. If you’re a good writer, willing to learn and improve, and can be organized and reliable, you’ll be well on your way.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. says

    Awesome Tom! Congrats! While I would not remotely attempt to disagree with you, my observation is very clear based on your past 24 months – your strength is in freelancing. IMO authority sites, platform building, etc., are much less secure than having good clients pay you to freelance.

    At even just 30 hours/week, your income would be robust enough to essentially take a week a month off – very easily. Additionally – at that very strong hourly rate, you could VA out some of your research at a respectable income to the VA, and leave yourself with a still very strong income, and more free time to boot.

    Most have found passive income to be very elusive – the gurus certainly never mention that. Just a couple of thoughts to consider. Thanks again!

    • says

      Hey Kent,

      You raise good points; thank you for making me think! That’s exactly what I love about reading the comments here. Now I’m going to tell you why I’m not going to do what you suggest :-)

      If I built up the freelancing side of things to 30 hours per week I would be making plenty of money. I’d also either have to work 10 hour days in total to keep this blog and my other projects afloat, or abandon them (and the income that goes with them).

      I’ve considered outsourcing my freelance work, but there are two intrinsic issues with that option:

      1. For the most part, there isn’t really any research to do — I write from personal experience.
      2. Clients want to hire me — my experience and personality. If they found I was outsourcing writing work they would not be happy (and it would probably show in the work itself).

      I don’t consider “passive income” (by which I define income that is not directly linked to the hours you work) to be that elusive. It just takes time and a lot of trial and error to get right, like most things. This month I earned over $2,000 in passive income and I think I’m only just scratching the surface. I think I’d be crazy not to delve into that further.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • Crystal says

        Tom – just found your blog this morning, and have been so enjoying reading it. I find myself thinking and feeling a lot of the same things you relate so well in your posts – it’s such a pleasure to find someone brave enough to talk about these things… money, freelancing, hiring good people vs doing it yourself and most importantly passive income.

        I completely agree with your statement about being crazy to not look into passive income further because the main thing is this — freelance is money TODAY, passive income in money TOMORROW. If you don’t pursue it, and you decide you want to spend a month in Paris – that’s a month you make $0. And then the time to get back and recoup and get back on track can result in a lot of monetary loss. Passive income gives you the freedom to do what you want (whether you want to travel, take time off, or work), where as project-based work means that you must always be doing *something*, which can leave you feeling trapped on some occasions.

        And well, if we wanted to feel trapped, we’d have typical office jobs, wouldn’t we? :)

        Good luck to you!

  6. Mari Honaa says

    I love your enthusiasm and drive – it’s very inspiring!

    Of course it’s possible to ‘level up’ and make more of your income passive + free yourself from the ‘per hour’ model. I like the above suggestion of hiring people to write and then edit for an immidiate step up, though I don’t have any experience in freelancing so not sure about the practicalities involved.

    I also support the suggestion of some downtime. Don’t underestimate the power of relaxing + doing menial tasks for those million dollar ideas.

    Thanks again for sharing your journey – have a good week Tom :)

    • says

      Thanks Mari! I’m a huge fan of downtime too — I’ve written about it specifically on a few occasions in the past. I’ve got a holiday coming up in 4 weeks time so I’ll be sure to get myself plenty of R&R at that time, but until then I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone :-)

  7. says

    Hi Tom,

    I think you are doing the right thing. Priorities change and it is better to focus on less things and get further with them than spread yourself too thin. I kind of wrote about this myself in an article called How To Handle Heavy Workloads in Bite-sized Steps on my new productivity blog: Bite-Sized Blitz http://www.BitesizedBlitz.com

    Hope it helps :)

  8. says

    Hi Tom,

    Congratulations on yet another record breaking month!

    Whilst everything about your success and your blog suggests that you should continue in the freelance writing industry, I totally get your decision to change focus and think you are making the right decision.

    You made a huge call when you quit your job and it has paid off for you – this could be a similar moment and I am sure it will only lead to good things for you…

    I am in full time employment and my job is the main thing holding my online business back – I earn almost £80k per year and have 2 kids so cannot quit work until online earnings start to match salary.

    Something I always think about is the latest Batman film – The Dark Knight Rises and how it has parallels with my online business…bear with me :) There is a bit where he needs to jump out of a pit to get to freedom. He starts out by making the jump with a safety rope and fails. When he tries it without the rope he makes it…The reason he fails at first is because he knows he can, without the rope he knows he needs to make it and finds that little bit extra. In short, my job is my safety net and I know that I do not have to succeed online. Cut your freelance writing away and you will see how much further you can jump!!!

    Sorry for the long winded analogy…:) Keep up the good work and keep pushing the boundaries!

    Paul H

    • says

      Hey Paul,

      While I’m certainly not planning on stopping on freelancing any time soon, I totally know where you’re coming from. And anyone who works Batman into musings on entrepreneurship has my respect ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  9. says

    Hi Tom:

    Thanks for the insight! I recently came across your site and quickly bought your book and finished it. Your book is very thoughtful. I have been following Steve Pavlina for a while and combined my experiences I think it’s possible that you can earn between $5k to $10k from AdSense alone with your current traffic level. I wonder if you consider that?

    Also, I just started blogging more rigorously on guotime.com, and just completed a new article on “making money with blog”, have not really published it yet. I hope you can have a look and give some feedback. I used some of the ideas learnt from your book. I do intend to keep improving each article I write so they become more uesful down the road.

    I’m based in San Francisco, love to meetup if you ever visit SF.

    • says

      Ugh, AdSense. Sorry Grant, that’s not something I could ever imagine putting on this site.

      I think your projected income of $5k to $10k is generous too — that would require a payout rate of ~$0.25 – $0.50 per click. I can appreciate why you’re suggesting it though and appreciate it! :-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • says

        I think I might have overestimated your site traffic just a little:) I used $0.15 CPC which is what Im getting from top right image ads on my site.

        • says

          And I’ve just realized that my assumption was based upon every single visitor clicking an ad. All in all AdSense wouldn’t be quite as lucrative as we think ;-)

              • says

                Hi Tom,

                Oh, I found this old article for you:) to prove adsense could be value add to readers of quality blogs like yours and bring significant revenue at the same time. Article is his story and perspective.

                Grant

              • says

                there is not a reply button in our previous comment thread so I’m just replying here: I think adsense ads can be as useful as selected affiliates ads banners on your site, usefulness is value, but to find out how much of this value you will have to test and find out from data. Otherwise its just personal opinion. It works out really well for my friend. You will thank me if one day you find adsense is sustainable and actually amplify the value you provide. I think this going to be my last comment on this thread.

  10. says

    Hey there Tom! I just found your blog a few days ago and it’s got me thinking lots about looking for freelance writing work. Thanks for being so open about what you’re achieving and how you’re getting there – it’s encouraging and inspiring for others.
    Good luck continuing with your P90X programme. I completed the 90 day Insanity workout last year and have just started the Asylum – so I know how hard it is, and how much it does take over – but sooo worth it for the results!!
    I look forward to reading more of your blog and watching and learning from your progress!

  11. says

    As I’ve gained more experience with my writing and blog work, it always kind of struck me as the natural thing to do to eventually expand to entrepreneurial and passive based incomes.

    I think it’s great that you’re evolving with your work, I hope you continue to grow your passive income and really make something of it.

  12. says

    I like your thinking Tom, why stop now when you could reach so much more? You don’t wanna be the guy that stopped Three Feet From Gold.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how (not if) your passive income grows in the coming months. You’re a real inspiration my man.

    Thanks again for this blog Tom (I’m the Essex lad that sent you War and Peace), I feel pumped with every visit.

  13. says

    Dismal…extremely dismal compared to what others are making. I’m a freelance writer also, and I’m making $9,000 per month by working for just 1hr per day. I’m looking into and seriously contemplating building niche sites like Spencer does to augment my income and I decided to purchase a hosting plan from WestHost, but a slighting verdict from a friend discouraged me. Besides, aren’t you just promoting WestHost solely for the affiliate commissions (which btw are handsome commissions since web hosting is a bit costly and which further supports my presumption)?

      • says

        Hey Christian,

        I think I know who this is — his name isn’t John and he certainly doesn’t make $9,000 per month. So I wouldn’t waste too much time dreaming about $400 per hour from freelance writing ;-)

        Cheers,

        Tom

    • says

      Just when I thought the trolls were hibernating for the summer…

      Dismal — I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. I’m delighted with $150 per hour. Your rate appears to be over $400 which is awesome (assuming you work weekdays only); congratulations!

      I have to wonder though; why would you look into building niche sites (which are notoriously difficult to get off the ground) when you have a such a good thing going with your freelance writing? Just work three hours per day and you could be making $300,000+ per year! How awesome…in fact, why are you even wasting time commenting here? Your time is far too valuable!

      No, I’m not just promoting Westhost for the commission. I am a happy Westhost customer and I appreciate how much of a minefield hosting is, which is why I endorse it.

      Try harder next time John ;-)

      • says

        Tom, you are too shortsighted to understand and yes, you may be delighted with $150/hr but certainly not contented. Everyone wants more money. If I showed you a way to double your hourly income, you would definitely leverage it.

        I want to begin affiliate marketing with niche sites because it’s a viable way to increase my income, and since I have so much free time per day, I thought, why not use it to set up more income streams? I’m a huge proponent of exploring diverse income sources as opposed to relying on one. Don’t use your perception of the relative difficulty of building and succeeding with niche sites to estimate how difficult it will be for others. If others could build 5 – 6 figure businesses with niche sites, I can.

        Why am I wasting my time commenting here? Well, I like comparing my income with that of other freelancer writers and setting new income goals where appropriate. I read many income reports but hardly voice my sentiments unless in situations where I feel compelled to.

        The reason behind your verbal attack eludes me. Learn to be tactful. This is my last comment.

    • HeadBoy at Blogprefect says

      Hey John, $9,000 per month working one hour a day is quite a few clams. In your case I can’t see that building niche sites is going to be a priority for you. Tom is working a different angle as he is trying to make passive income work (which may prove hard going). I was intrigued by WestHost initially and if you look at what kind of referral rate Tom gets, its a lot lower than other hosts, if he had wanted to really reap a lot of money he could have gone for some better paying hosts but clearly he has chosen WestHost based on its service. I chose my host based on cost and got one at a rate I was happy with, the purpose being that WordPress is hosted local to that and that it is 100% customisable, it also allows better control of analytics and monetization. Its a matter of market differentiation.

  14. says

    Thanks so much for publishing your numbers! This, more than anything works to convince people to start making online income. Happy to post these stats to my readers and continued success to you!

  15. says

    Great work, Tom!

    Your freelance work has inspired me to jump from $100 / month to $1500 / month. I didn’t really believe it was possible, but now I’m actually doing it!

    Very excited to see how you progress with the authority site project as well as the book! I’ll be first in line to purchase it!

  16. says

    Hi Tom,
    Frankly speaking, I think you have made some very crucial points in this post. Although this is more about your May income report, one cannot but admit that there are many lessons to learn.

    One of them is that : the more effort put into blogging or Internet marketing, the better the prospect of earning more.

    Moreover, there are still many things we cannot control and this is authenticated by the poor results from affiliate and other passive income earning.

    Nevertheless, thanks for sharing these details with the readers of Leave Work Behind!

    In the IM social site – kingged.com, the above comment was shared and the content of this post “kingged”.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://www.kingged.com/my-monthly-income-report-may-2013/

  17. says

    If I made $8,000 in one month doing something I loved and not working for a corporation I would be jumping for joy. Heck I’d be happy with just a $2,000 month but procrastination holds me back. That’s my big struggle but I’m working on it and keeping my eyes on the prize. I already have a book out that has sold well and I just have to work on repacking the book, grow my mailing list and drive more traffic to my site. Congrats on your accomplishments and don’t beat yourself up. BTW my friend Connie Brentford shared your post on Facebook and I look forward to checking out more of your website.

    • says

      Hey Dennis,

      Beating yourself up a little bit is healthy; keeps you on your toes :-)

      In seriousness though, I do make sure to take the time to reflect on how fortunate I am, it’s not something I ignore.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  18. says

    Congrats Tom – this is awesome!! And I LOVE that you’re taking a step back to work on some other income streams. That’s one of my big problems at the moment. I have 1000 ideas (estimated!) written down about workshops, courses, products, training, events, retreats etc etc but I get so caught up ‘in’ my business that I can’t work ‘on’ it so its sustainable. Thanks for the push to reevaluate and I can’t wait to see where this goes!

  19. says

    Hey Tom, These figures are very impressive! I’m currently earning a few hundred buck from my sports blog but not enough to make me quit my job. :) Do you have any tips for me to take my earning to the next level?

  20. says

    Great to see that you’re absolutely CRUSHING it Tom. While I understand the magic lure of “passive income” I do sometimes believe that many people underestimate the difficulty in getting a steady and livable passive stream of income going. That being said, if I were you I wouldn’t worry about my affiliate earnings, because if my memory serves me correctly, this month was your second biggest affiliate earning month! I’m sure that you will continue to see your affiliate earnings rise consistently.

    Cheers,

    Daryl

    • says

      You’re right Daryl — the affiliate earnings are still relatively high. Having said that, I’m not one to rest on my laurels and I’d rather be over-wary than the opposite. Thanks for your support!

  21. says

    Wow Tom! 8k is awesome! Seems like you have a good thing going with the freelancing, so don’t take that for granted. The passive income is quite amazing as well. The only potential issue I can see for trying to get away from the more guaranteed freelance income, is if your passive sites are relying mainly on search engine traffic, then Google can crush them at will with an algorithm change, so it might not end up being as stable as the freelance side.

    • says

      The income models I am pursuing will arguably never be as secure as freelancing, but the earning potential is much higher. These are the risks you have to weigh up!

      As for Google, I am wary never to rely on it 100%.

  22. says

    Again very inspiring. Always helps me to keep on working hard on my business. Thank you and i need to say: you are read in germany as well :-)

  23. says

    Tom, I think you are in right track and shall focus more time and resources in building up passive income. I truly admire your writing skills and making great income in Freelance writing.

    Your skill could help build up Niche site empire, and produce more high quality informative products.

  24. says

    That is an excellent hourly rate! How are you able to write posts so quickly, especially when you need to research the topic, for example when reviewing themes and plugins for WPMU?

    I’m writing for WordPress sites now and the research time can really eat into the equivalent hourly rate. Some tips would be most appreciated.

    Good luck with the book!

    • says

      Hey Joe,

      To be honest most of my posts don’t require in-depth research as I will already know what I’m writing about. Plugin reviews etc are often for things that I already use. A lot of it is picking the right topics for which you can write efficiently.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  25. says

    I love how you achieved that amount of income. I saw your guide on how to become a freelance writer.

    I can see and feel that you wrote with your passion inside the contents. That’s very interesting thing for me.

    Really, I was happy here and find you from google when I was seeking for some wp plugins. Nice to see you Tom, I hope I could follow what you have done.

  26. says

    Cool Tom. Been a bit of a lurker on your website. I have to ask though, why would you slow down on whats working for you? That does not seem to make much sense to me. I can understand the lure of affiliate income. It’s always nice to get those emails saying you made made money. But like you, most of my income comes from client side stuff. Unless your rich, you have to put in the time everyday regardless of where your income is coming from so why not try to grow and expand what’s already been proven to be working?

    • says

      That’s a good question David. The short answer is that freelancing isn’t scalable — the next step is to convert it into a business, which is easier said than done. The long answer is that I am considering all angles — stay tuned and all will be revealed ;-)

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