August was a massive month - revenue increased to over $1,500 for the first time ever!
This month's result comes on the heels of July 2021's traffic and revenue recovery, largely due to Google's July 2021 Core Update.
While I'm definitely excited (and relieved), I know there's still more work to do, both to maintain this level of income and to grow it further to meet my goal of $2-3K by year end.
August was an amazing month for personal reasons, too.
My family and I took a few trips around Ontario, including to Hamilton, Elora Gorge (for tubing, which was super fun!), Sandbanks Provincial Park (the best beach in Ontario!), and Kingston.
Overall, August 2021 was an improvement in every way over July 2021.
Revenue climbed higher, driven by both traffic and profitability growth, while Amazon risk decreased to an acceptable level of 30-40%.
One merchant, in particular, drove most of the revenue gains so I'm definitely conscious of diversifying my revenue profile.
Finally, I'm optimistic about future performance as there's still lots of opportunities to optimize landing pages (blog posts) to increase conversion rates, promote higher average order sizes (by recommending relevant add-on items), and increase traffic from Google via SEO.
Last month, I mentioned that I started my search for a content writer.
This month, I completed the interviews and paid writing tests.
I advertised the position on copywriting Facebook groups and received well over 100 responses. However, most of them were low-quality candidates or agencies rather than individuals.
Out of 100+ job applications, I contacted about 20 for a video interview and ended up booking about 10 interviews. In particular, the 15-min video interview was extremely effective for filtering out low-quality candidates as it's much harder to "fake it" in person than on paper.
After the interviews, I invited 3 final candidates to a paid writing test where I gave them a sample writing assignment that's essentially the same as what they'll be doing full-time.
Out of the paid writing tests, one candidate stood out (head and shoulders above the rest!).
I'll definitely be hiring her and provide onboarding & training in September.
At this point, I'm still thinking about whether to hire one of the other candidates as I'd prefer to have 2 or even 3 content writers at the same time, in case any of them drop out for some reason.
Overall, this entire process was an excellent learning opportunity for me to understand where to find talented writers, how to attract and filter candidates, evaluate their skills and interest, and finally, recruit the highest quality candidate.
In addition to adding content writers, I'll be adding virtual assistants (VA) to help me with a number of business tasks, including web research, SEO research, and managing Wordpress.
Right now, I'm working with one VA who I previously worked with from TaskBullet. I've been training him to run a research process and I've created the relevant SOP documents and videos.
However, I want to run a full process to find additional VAs as I've been having some small problems with my current VA in terms of communication and attention to detail.
I've posted a job ad on onlinejobs.ph and have received about 100+ applications so far. Onlinejobs.ph is the largest Philippino job board for virtual assistants and digital workers.
Now, when it comes to VAs, there's a lot of unique considerations - while they're certainly cheaper than a US-based assistant (as low as $2.50 per hour according to Onlinejobs.ph), there are many hurdles such as English proficiency (do they understand your instructions the first time?), quality of work and attention to detail (arguably, this is an individual trait but in some cases your VA is working for multiple clients at the same time, making them more prone to errors), and time zone factors (not a big deal for me, but could be for others).
In any case, I know I need to outsource more and more of my business tasks to free up my time for higher-value items, work on new business ventures, and "live" outside my business, not "in" it.
As you can tell, I spent most of August transitioning to management tasks like hiring and training.
For the rest of this year, I expect to do more of the same as I set up & train my writers and outsource more tasks to my VAs.
Aside from that, I worked on tweaking my website design, improving archive pages, adding back Geniuslink (to monitor out-of-stock items at Amazon), and optimizing my monetization channels by moving low performing brands or products back to Amazon.
I bought a screen recording tool called Screencastify - it's a browser plugin that lets me record videos (with or without audio) that can be easily uploaded to YouTube. I use it to create training videos for my writers and VAs, but it'll be useful for my future YouTube channels as well.
I spent about a week redesigning Flexibility Is Freedom as well. The new design is more modern and it runs lightning fast on Oxygen Builder now.
Finally, I bought my first guest post from no BS marketplace which turned out really well. I like that this company is very transparent about their pricing and they even show you the domain before you buy, which I never had with agencies like SEOButler or Authority Builders.
For Phase 2 of my passive income journey, I'll be moving into real estate assets.
This has always made a ton of sense to me as a natural compliment to digital assets.
Real estate is itself a source of passive income (rental income) but the downside is that it's very capital-intensive - in most cases, requiring a substantial mortgage to finance a property.
Pre-pandemic, I had planned to build my digital media empire first, then use the cash flows (and historical tax returns) to obtain and pay for a mortgage. This would diversify the asset base into more stable cash flows - sacrificing growth potential for income stability.
However, given how long this pandemic has been (and will probably take to "end"), I've decided to pull forward my future plans of homeownership and get into real estate earlier.
Given the rising price of real estate in the GTA, it's a good idea to get in now as well, since I won't be travelling internationally for the foreseeable future (sorry, Thailand ☹️).
Unfortunately, my current level of income is not enough to qualify for a mortgage and even if it were, there's a long list of hoops to jump through as a self-employed individual.
Instead, I plan to find full-time employment to quality for a mortgage - ideally as an SEO analyst - as the process is extremely easy for normal "job" income vs. self-employed income.
In any case, assuming I find a suitable job, it'd be a good opportunity to apply what I've learned in SEO to other niches as well, and explore adjacent industries like eCommerce.
Essentially, I am executing a reverse-side-hustle - turning my main business into a "side hustle" while I temporarily work for someone else to get approved for a mortgage.
Although I was in a better position to obtain a mortgage when I worked at CPP Investments, due to my high annual income, I definitely don't think it was appropriate at the time as it would have consumed all my savings and added a fixed monthly obligation to my financial profile.
While it's more difficult for me at this particular stage of my life, I feel much better about the process because I've already built a small level of passive income (and I know there's more to come if I do the right things) so working a job won't be a problem as it's an end to a means, not the end itself, and it'd only be temporary, not to mention remote due to COVID-19.
Overall, August 2021 was a phenomenal month - for both my business and personal life.
No matter how the world changes, we should all keep in mind that we can only control ourselves and our behavior.
Keep working on the things that you value and you will see results in the long run.
At this point, I feel relatively confident that I can grow revenue to $2-3K per month by year end; however, I don't want to count my chickens before they roost, as the saying goes.
Adding content writers and outsourcing tasks to VAs will remain my top priorities going into Q4 and depending on how things go, I may start working on a new affiliate website and create a YouTube series to document my progress to show beginners how to create passive income.
To Flexibility and Freedom,