Ep. 310: September Income Report

Welcome to my September 2020 Income Report!

Every month I publish an income report to take you behind the scenes of my online business and reveal exactly how much money I make, how I make it, how much I spend and lessons learned along the way.

To give you a really quick background if you’re new to the show:

I started my business doing freelance web design back in 2014 as a side hustle, burnt myself out on that, created a free training that teaches entrepreneurs how to DIY their websites and I make money from that through affiliate commissions. It’s called the Free 5 Day Website Challenge and you can get your hands on it at http://www.free5daywebsitechallenge.com.

In 2018 my side hustle replaced my 6-figure day job income and I quit my day job, and by then I’d also started teaching entrepreneurs how to market themselves online without relying ads or being on social media 24/7. If you want to learn more about how to do that, I have a free training for you called How to Market Yourself Online which you can get at http://howtomarketyourselfonline.com

I also started teaching web designers how to market themselves, get clients that don’t drive you crazy, and how to price + run projects in a way that actually makes them money. And I have a free training for you on that if you’re a web designer which you can find at http://startafreelancewebdesignbiz.com

You can find links to all of those courses in the show notes – if you’re in Apple Podcasts just scroll up on this episode and they’re all right there on your phone.

September 2020 Numbers

After 6 years in business, my minimum baseline revenue that I shoot for each month is $15,000. That covers the two paychecks of $3000 that I pay myself, my business expense, team + mentorship budget, and taxes.

If you’ve listened to past income reports, I bumped that baseline number from $10,000 to $15,000 because my husband learned back in June that office was closing and he’d be laid off once that closure was complete, and so I wanted to make sure I was bringing in enough to cover the loss of his paycheck.

But because the company he works for is AWESOME, they created a new role for him and he’ll be with them through hopefully the end of 2021 and they’re committed to mentoring him for new opportunities within the company as well.

So now that I don’t need to worry about covering that money while we’re in the middle of building a house… I decided to expand my team. And I say it like it was an easy decision and I wasn’t completely terrified to do it… I was, and more on that later, but with that frame of reference, here are my numbers for September 2020:

Total Revenue: $18,022.18

Affiliate Income: $5425.95

Site-in-a-Snap Templates: $3586.59 (that’s my portion of the total sales after paying out my partners and affiliates)

Courses $9009.64

Done For You & Consulting: $0

Total Investments: $5192.92

Tools I use to run my business: $1308.12

Training, Coaching + Mentorship: $1896.00 (includes Summit in a Box)

Team: $1353.00

Affiliate Payouts: $635.80

Get the full breakdown of income, expenses and net profit month by month here.

Net Profit: $12,829.26

Month in Review:

One Year Anniversary of Quitting 1:1 Client Work

September 2020 is a pretty big milestone in my business… it’s been one full year since I decided to stop 1:1 client work.

I talk about that decision back in Episode 252 and how I felt like I’d basically recreated the exact same situation I’d when I was side-hustling – but now it was a full-time roster of 1:1 web design clients and my side-hustle was creating courses and mentoring and training other entrepreneurs.

And the decision to stop 1:1 client work felt as scary as quitting my day job! I had all kinds of thoughts to contend with, but the biggest one was whether I would still be qualified to teach web designers how to get clients and run projects if I wasn’t doing it myself… Which is ridiculous because I can show up for those students like never before when I’m not so distracted with my own stuff, plus all the things I learned from working with clients just didn’t leave my brain when I stopped working with them.

It truly was the best decision for me and where I want to take this business – and I practically doubled my revenue year over year! 

If you look at my September Income Report in September of 2019 (Ep. 257), my revenue was $11,824 – and when you subtract the $2500 retainer from my former employer which I stopped counting in these income reports in 2020 (and if you’re the IRS and you’re listening YES I account for that on my books and pay taxes on it, it’s just completely unrelated to what I do in this business) – I made $9324 from courses, affiliates + client work in September of 2019, so I nearly doubled my revenue just one year (and a lot of coaching and mindset work) after making that decision.

Funnel Experimentation

My revenue comes exclusively from affiliate marketing and courses now, and it’s been about 6 months since I joined Mariah Coz’s Accelerator Program and got some really strong funnels set up. And in September I decided to play around with those funnels and test some things.

If you’re listening to this and you’ve signed up for my free DIY web design training – the Free 5 Day Website Challenge –  in the past 6 months, you might remember signing up and then being offered my Site-in-a-Snap Template Pack (which is a set of strategically designed and pre-written website page templates that come with a brand kit and graphics) for $100 off the regular price of $297 – and you had about an hour to take advantage of that savings.

It’s all about making the right offers at the right time.

And the reason I offered that right away on sign up is that those templates solve a big pain point for people. They sign up for my free training because they want to DIY their site, but they also aren’t a designer or a copywriter and so Site-in-a-Snap is the best of both worlds – they get to learn how to build their site from scratch for free, but they also have the option to buy my templates and save themselves tons of time doing all the design work + branding work + copywriting work themselves.

So whether people take advantage of the savings and get the templates right then or not, they at least know they exist and can make the decision when they get to that point in the training whether they want to go it alone or use my templates.

But since the Tech Masterclass Bundle I put together in July was such a hit with people, I decided to test out swapping that out with Site-in-a-Snap because it also solves a big pain point with people who sign up for my DIY Web Design Training – they need to learn about a lot more than WordPress to run their business online and that’s what 20 Tech Masterclasses for the price of one teaches – and it’s a steal at $49. And then I also set it up as an upsell that I offer to people right after they buy Site-in-a-Snap.

I’m liking the results of that so far. I still have Site-in-a-Snap available for $197 for new people who join the Challenge, and I’ve been playing with how many days that promotional price is available. Because what I’ve learned is that if you don’t put a timeline on people’s decisions, they’ll just not make one. And I’d rather push people to decide solidly one way or the other, even if their answer is no – and price increases are a great way to incentivize and reward a decision!

So far I’m pretty happy with the results, and I’m gonna leave things as they are for now and continue to focus on getting my Free 5 Day Website Challenge in front of the people who need it.

Exciting Speaking Opportunities

This podcast and the relationships I’ve built with my guests and my audience has led to some incredible speaking opportunities. 

If you would have told me 20 years ago when I was a sophomore at The Ohio State University (after I had just basically mentally blacked-out during my very first talk in front of 25 other kids in a Public Speaking class I had to take for my communications major) that I’d be invited to do presentations for big groups of people in-person and online… 

…that I’d not only enthusiastically say yes, but that I’d totally love to do it and I wouldn’t obsess over it and I’d show up, be myself and have a great time – I’d tell you to get back in your spaceship and go back to whatever planet you came here from.

But in September I spoke to audiences at Thrive Virtual Retreat for Bloggers, in Sarah Noked’s Certified Online Business Managers group (I can’t wait for you to hear her episode next week on the podcast, she’s amazing) and presented to a group of students at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario School of Communications all about how to market yourself as a freelancer – shoutout to Jenna Spinelle who invited me. And I recorded a new presentation for my friend Eden’s Rebel Boss Summit which is a really well-done event that I love to be apart of!

And I’ve got tons more speaking engagements booked through the end of the year.

Listen, I’m not the best presenter in the world. Far from it. I’ve decided to take the pressure I used to put on myself to be perfect and polished off, and just show up as I am. It’s so much easier for me to be me, and I’m good with the opportunities that come my way as a result.

But if speaking at conferences and live or virtual events is something you want to do to get in front of your ideal client and make a big impact, but you’re not sure how to talk about it in an interesting and engaging way – and you want help with that – then I invite you to check my Website Marketing Lab student Suzy Dickstein’s website at https://suzydickstein.com/ and sign up for he Shareworthy Freebie – The 5 Hidden Hooks the Most Engaging Speakers Use. She’s very charismatic, she’s freaking amazing at what she does, and she can help you craft a talk that you can pitch to virtual summits and podcasts and all kinds of things.

Teacher Blog Blastoff

Another AMAZING thing that happened in September is a collaboration I did with Kayse Morris of the CEO Teacher Podcast. Kayse helps teacherpreneurs sell their teaching resources online, and she’s built a 7-figure business doing it. Kayse’s my newest BFF, not to mention her community is amazing and if you heard of this podcast via Kayse and the Teacher Blog Blastoff – welcome, and I’m so excited you’re here!

You guys, this collaboration with Kayse grew my email list by over 500 people and nearly $5000 in revenue in a single week (and around $3000 in profit after I pay Kayse her affiliate commissions).

All without ads, algorithms or spending 24/7 on social media.

This collaboration didn’t happen by accident. Kayse just didn’t show up on my doorstep and invite me into her community. 

I laid a LOT of groundwork to get the opportunity to hang out for five whole days and with an audience that she worked really hard to build – and have her endorse me and invite me to promote my Free 5 Day Website Challenge and Site-in-a-Snap to her audience.

And we hit it off so much so that we’re collaborating on a deeper level in the upcoming months.

I market my business and get in front of my ideal client and grow my email list through building relationships like this one with Kayse. 

And like all the other relationships that led to me all the speaking opportunities I talked about – getting to talk to bloggers and OBMs and future freelancers and people who want to start online businesses. 

If you want to learn more about how I do it, you can check out my free marketing training at http://www.howtomarketyourselfonline.com.

Team Shannon Mattern

The reason I was able to spend a whole week hanging out with Kayse and her community and answering questions in her Facebook group was because in September I finally took the leap to add to my team.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been doing all of this by myself all this time. I have had a remarkable right-hand woman, Laura Kamark, who takes care of lots of stuff behind the scenes for me including making sure this podcast actually makes it to your ears every week…

…but I’m to the point where I’m maxed out in key areas and I’ve still been working 7 days a week and doing the bare minimum required at the last minute just to get by in lots of places in my business.

And the way this came to be was totally unexpected for me, but I’m sure not at all by accident…

So I was at my local Columbus Change Agents Mastermind back in August (the same one I mentioned to you in Episode 306, my August Income Report where Sales Queen Nellie Corriveau lovingly called me out about outgrowing my dream) and the theme of the month was that we were to bring a decision to the group that we’d been putting off making, and make the decision by the end of the session.

And the decision I was putting off making was where to go from here: 

Do I just keep doing what I’m doing? I’m making great money and I’m maxed out which is one of the reasons why you never see me on social media, and I’m selling a house and building one and moving. Maybe I just need to slow down and enjoy that…

Or, do I go all in and scale? And what does that look like? Is it running ads? I’m not convinced I want to run ads, and what if I get more customers and I can’t support them? I’d need a team if I want to grow past what I’m doing now. I’m scared to bring on more people. What if I can’t afford to pay them and I have to let them go? I had to do that once back in May of 2018 right after I started my business and it was heartbreaking even though it was the right decision for my business. I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s livelihood. What if I’m not a good leader? What if I hire the wrong person?

And then Nellie told me I’d outgrown my dream and that I didn’t have a big enough dream guiding me to make these decisions, and I promised to take some time to think about it and that was that and our meeting was over.

Then on September 1st I get a text from my friend Bree that says “My amazing VA is looking to become a full-time VA so if you need someone let me know. She was going to wait a little bit to do this, but she just got laid off today so she’s going for it.

Her name’s Natalie, and I’ve actually met her before at a conference in Austin, Texas and really like her, but she just so happens to live here in Columbus, Ohio and obviously, it was a nudge from the universe that building a team is my next level.

I was chatting with Bree about what types of work Natalie does for her and I was like “OMG, that’s everything that I need to take off of my own plate so I can do these other things that only I can do, plus more that I should be doing but I’m not because I’m maxed out.

And that day, I opened up a Google Doc, called it Team Shannon Mattern and started to outline my dream team and our roles.

I started with me and Laura and what we currently do, and then added a column for Natalie and a 4th column for a Community Manager which I’ll talk about in a sec.

And then I started to shift a bunch of things that Laura’s doing over to Natalie, and then a bunch of things that I’m doing over to Laura, Natalie and this Community Manager role.

At this point… I’m still dreaming. For a moment I stopped worrying about how the money would work and all of my fears around being responsible for someone else’s finances and allowed myself to imagine what my business could be like if it wasn’t just me and Laura doing the bare minimum.

And then I thought…”Floyd’s keeping his job, the extra money I was holding onto for that is now available for me to invest in a team, and this isn’t an expense, it’s an investment in my business and my mental health to do this.

So Natalie and I had a conversation, and I invited her to do a 30 day trial period…

And I was hoping in the back of my mind that I really could make what I put down on the dream team document happen… I’d have to let go of things I do in my business that are my safety net… the things I do when I’m stressed out to pass time and distract myself, or the things I do so that I don’t have to show up in a bigger way, or feeling bad asked for help or giving people work.

Because I historically haven’t given Laura NEARLY the amount of things she’s capable of doing for me for all of the above reasons.

“It’s 30 days,” I told myself. “You don’t have to have it all figured out on Day 1, you have time…”

I have to coach myself A LOT…

Anyway, there was also that Community Manager position on my dream team document… 

So if you’re new to me or the show – that Free 5 Day Website Challenge that I mention all the time is not only free, but there’s also a free community that students get access to that I go into once a day and answer everyone’s questions. 

And I feel really strongly about making sure that people have a safe place where they can ask any question without fear of being called names or made to feel stupid or less than – because when I was learning WordPress back in the day, I’d pore through these forums looking for answers and people were AWFUL to each other in there, calling each other stupid and just being ugly. And the couple of times I did post a question I got destroyed. So I vowed that I’d create a safe, supportive and encouraging community for my people learning WordPress. 

And I did, and it’s awesome, but I needed help with that too. I spend a big chunk of my day answering those questions and it weighs on my mind when I can’t get in there every day and they stack up.

I’ve been at this point in my business where my paid programs are growing, and I kept thinking I wish there was someone out there like me who loves to answer people’s questions while teaching and empowering them at the same time, and who knows a ton about WordPress and tech.

And because there are no accidents… I discovered her in my Web Designer Academy.

So I’ve been in the middle of the rewrite of my course that teaches web designers how to market themselves, price for profits and run smooth projects and I’ve been rolling the new stuff out module by module to current students.

And one of my FAVORITE lessons in there is helping people identify their superpower, that unique thing that they bring to the table that makes them different from all the other web designers out there.

And not only was my student Wendy’s superpower was something about teaching + empower people with tech, she’d also been already jumping in and answering people’s tech questions. So I put her name under Community Manager in my dream team document… and then I deleted it because I was like, “No, it’s not time yet.

And a few days later I get an email from Wendy about something else, and I’m like “You know what? If not now, when?” So I pitched the idea to her, we had a chat and she agreed to a 30-day trial.

And I was still in the back of my mind worried that I’d bring these people on and then not actually hand over the work, but still be paying them, and then think “Why bother paying people when I can do it all myself and keep all the money?” which is where my brain goes when I’m in scarcity mode.

And again… because there are no accidents…

My friend Alecia St. Germain, who is an amazing business and mindset coach, invited me to attend a fascinating workshop called Immunity to Change where we identify a goal that we have, that we really do want to achieve but we’re not taking action on. And she walks you through a process to figure out what’s really holding you back from the goal.

So the goal that was used as the example was

“Let go of tasks that are NOT my strength so I can have a bigger impact and grow my business.” 

And I was like, That’s not my problem. My problem is that I need to let go of tasks that ARE my strength so that I can have a bigger impact and grow my business.”

The process we went through was fascinating, and Alecia’s gonna come on the podcast and talk more about what she does, but the end result was that I avoid delegating because I worry about what people will think of me, and I don’t want to be a bossy boss.

Just knowing that was freedom. It let me start to think about what kind of boss I wanted to be, and how the first boss I ever had in corporate and the boss I had when I quit my day job were both amazing, supportive strong women and I could be that for my team too.

So I created another document called Master SOPs – inspired by my conversation with Sarah Noked –  and starting dumping my brain out on paper for all the projects and processes we do in the business and immediately started bullet pointing steps and making Loom videos for how to answer emails on certain topics and stuff like that so that I could educate and empower my team.

And I’m super excited about the dream team I’ve created, and I’m taking it slow onboarding them to their new roles, and not trying to have it all done yesterday. There’s no desperation for relief this time, and I’ve already got the money in the bank to pay them so I’m not worried about making ends meet this time either. Plus I’m working on my leadership skills + mindset so I can show up for them.

So between Laura, Natalie and Wendy, I’ve finally cloned myself (well, let’s be honest they are all better at what they do than I was trying to do it all, so my clone is definitely the better version of me).

We’re just getting started, and I hope they are all with me for a long time and grow with the business – whatever that next level looks like for us.

Personal Stuff

On a personal level… I finally started exercising. I’ve been avoiding it this whole time and my best friend was giving me crap about it, so I finally agreed to just START. And guess what? Exercising is way different at 145 than 181. She keeps asking me if I like it and I keep saying… “No, but I’m proud of myself that I did it.” So there’s that.

We also put our house on the market and lived in our camper for a week while showings were happening – which was just way more convenient in my mind when you have a dog and there’s a global pandemic happening and like 50 people are going to be in and out of your house. 

And I always dream of living in my camper and traveling… but honestly one week of sleeping in that crappy bed was rough. I can do it for a long weekend no problem, but I’m not getting any younger! And we ran out of internet on our data plans so I worked from my friend’s backyard one day on her wifi… 

But it went well, we got a bunch of offers and we’re currently in contract at the time of this recording and hoping we make it to the closing table. I’ve had to manage my mind A LOT about making plans and scheduling stuff and having to change the plans and schedule, so I’m REALLY looking forward to getting settled into the new house. All the flux is worth it and I hope I’m recording my November income report from my new office 🙂

That’s all I got for you! 

Thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next week!