Welcome to my April 2021 Income Report!
Every month since I quit my day job back in 2018, I have published an income report to take you behind the scenes of my online business and reveal exactly how much money we make every month, how we make it, how much we spend and all of the lessons learned along the way.
I feel so compelled to share this journey with you with the benefit of hindsight, of course, so that no matter where you're at in your journey, you can see what's possible for your business. Because I started back in 2014 from scratch, $0, zero website traffic, zero email list subscribers. And since then have grown this business all the way through April 2021 to a business that's on track for almost, it's crazy to think about, almost half a million dollars in 2021.
Wherever you are on your journey, there is a Pep Talks for Side Hustlers income report episode that that is for you wherever you're at on your journey. Now I'm at this point in 2021, where I'm making this transition from solopreneur to CEO. I'm sharing what that transition has been like so far for me in 2021.
If you listened to the last income report, episode 336, you know that I ran Facebook ads for my Web Designer Academy and they did not do well. I thought that something was going on with the Facebook algorithm, or maybe it was my ads. All I knew was that the ads were not bringing in new applicants.
My Web Designer Academy is an application-only program. I set up some Facebook ads to get in front of more web designers and share with them some of our philosophies and strategies, and how passionate we are about not undercharging and not over-delivering.
If you're accepted, we'll invite you to watch our three-part full-time income framework training. Back in January and February, those ads worked great. And then in March, they just stopped working. It could have been for a few reasons. One, there have been changes to the algorithm.
I don't know enough about Facebook ads to know if I'm making rookie mistakes, but also we got some negative comments on our Facebook ads. We had comments saying, “how could you possibly tell someone that they couldn't market a web design business without a portfolio?” They wholeheartedly disagreed with me.
I turned them off at the end of March and I turned them back on for a little bit in April, as you'll see. And then just turned it back off. I didn't find value in giving Facebook money for no return on my investment.
Near the end of March, I had my mastermind meeting with the Columbus Change Agents, which is a group of local entrepreneurs here in Columbus, Ohio where I live. When it was my turn to share, I was sharing my frustration with Facebook ads.
And one of the women in my mastermind is Crissy Connor, The Visibility Queen, which you may recall from episode 330, Get Visible Even If You're an Introvert with Visibility Queen, Crissy Connor. She was asking me some questions and then it came to her turn to share. She was talking about her visible CEO program — how it helped with FB ads, how it's open for enrollment, etc. She talked about how having an active presence on Facebook, doing videos, and having an established page help with your Facebook ads.
I realized that's one thing I have been avoiding doing. I do nothing on Facebook, but then I go to run ads. All I want to do is not actually be active there, or engage there, or build an audience there, but I want to run ads and just have Facebook do it all for me. That's kind of part of the problem from what I have come to understand, part of why my ads are so expensive and part of why maybe they're not working so well, part of why Facebook doesn't quite know who my audience is. Who knows? All these different things play a part.
Building Visibility in my Brand
For the first six, seven years of my business, I did not do social media to get traffic. I did not do search engine optimization to get traffic. And I certainly didn't run ads. So I teach the same methods that I used for the first six years to grow my business to where it was like bringing in $20,000 a month in revenue with just me and no team or my one awesome right-hand woman, Laura.
I was able to grow my business to that point without ads, without social media, without SEO. I am here to tell you that you do not have to run ads or do SEO or build a huge following on social media to be able to make a full-time income or even hit the six-figure mark, or even the $200,000 mark. I did it. I am proof that it's possible without those things.
And those are the strategies I teach inside of my Website Marketing Lab, because I believe that no matter what happens with Facebook's algorithm, Google's algorithm, all the ads, all these changes that are so completely out of our control, the strategies that I teach inside the website marketing lab are platform agnostic.
I was talking to my coach, Alicia St. Germain at The Conscious Edge (she was also a Pep Talks for Side Hustlers guest). I was telling her, I'm okay to show up and be very visible and very myself and very upstanding in my opinions. However, before they become my customer or my student or before money has changed hands, I feel like I have to be a different person. Which is why when someone leaves a negative comment on my Facebook ad, I shrink away from that. Whereas I probably wouldn't if we were in a closer relationship and I felt trust and I felt like I could communicate my point and advocate for myself.
I joined the Visible CEO and one of our challenges was to go live every single day for a week. I had massive resistance to going live on my personal Facebook page. And I was like, you know what? I have to. I have to, because I don't want to. Because I feel such resistance to going live on my personal Facebook page, I have to do it. I have to. This is pressing on another insecurity.
I went live on my personal Facebook page as well. It was so good to figure out what's holding me back. Once I joined Chrissy's The Visible CEO program, it was all about content explosions. She taught us that all you have to do is go live, and you can get 20 pieces of content out of that one live video.
By the end of this, one video gave you enough social media probably for a month. She taught that if you're going live once a week, look what you can do with this. And I thought, now I have another strategic business reason to actually do it. To build an audience on Facebook, or to just go live, never was compelling to me. I've got other ways to get traffic. I build relationships with other people. I collaborate. I show up and do training for other people's audiences. I do summits. We do freebie swaps. I didn't think I needed to show up live on Facebook.
However, when Crissy explained it to me I realized that I'm going to save a ton of time. And all I have to do is go live and talk about something related to whatever our strategic marketing plan for the month is, and now that I have this team, they can take that and turn it into all the different things.
What I Did in April
I spent a good portion of the month of April just showing up and really talking about it. I was talking about Web Designer Academy, topics for web designers, all the mindset stuff that web designers have that keep them undercharging, overdelivering, hiding from marketing, all of those things.
I showed up on my Facebook page, Facebook Live, and recorded all those videos and invited people to a pricing webinar that I was holding at the end of the month. The Totally Free Pricing Mindset Workshop for web designers. If you're a web designer and you're listening to this and you want to charge more and make a full-time income, click here to sign up to watch the replay of that workshop that we did. It was incredible. You'll get instant access to watch it. No application is necessary.
So I did all of those lives in preparation for just talking about those and inviting people to that webinar, and I actually had somebody join my program. She told me that the live training that I did every day was part of the reason why she decided to go forward and make the move to join. And I realized that it was working.
Another thing that I did in April was I started writing my own newsletters again. Back when I brought my team on, I handed them off. And what I noticed was that my open rates started to go down and the clicks started to go down and the engagement started to go way down.
The difference was that I was not showing up in people's inboxes every single week with the stories that I tell. The main way that I communicate with my audience is through my email list because I wasn't going live on Facebook.
My email list is five times bigger than my Facebook following. So I realized that I need to start writing the email newsletter again every week. I need to set aside an hour or two to write that and to really connect with these people. As soon as that first email came out, the open rates skyrocketed. I got tons of replies, which is my favorite thing when people reply to me and I was like, okay, yep. This is where I need to be.
I need to be sending these emails out. I feel so much better being back doing that. It's all about strategically figuring out where my time is best spent. And as I've been adding a team and growing, like we're trying things, we're experimenting things, we're testing things. And we're kind of in this state of flux where we're figuring out like, what works, what doesn't, what should we be doing? What shouldn't we be doing? What should Shannon be doing? What should she not be doing?
Transitioning to CEO
It's going to take even a few more months before we're a well-oiled machine. And I'm okay with that. This transition from solopreneur to CEO, not only is it about growing my team and supporting them and paying them out, but it's also about transforming the purpose of the business.
The purpose of the business, when I started it, was so that I could quit my day job and replace my income. And it was very self-focused — Making sure I was okay and that I felt that freedom, flexibility, and financial independence and that I felt fulfilled. Since then, it's transitioned.
Now I have to pay a team and also serve a greater mission. It's about me kind of stepping out of making sure I'm okay financially and even stepping out of making sure my team's okay financially, that I'm fulfilling those obligations that I committed to, but also serving this greater mission of what we're all about, for how we support the DIYer, and how we support the web designer.
It's these mindset shifts that I'm constantly having to make. And so it will be no surprise to you if you've been listening to this podcast for any amount of time that I freaked out about money again in April because in March, we didn't have that many people join the Web Designer Academy.
I have this team that I have committed to paying every single month. And, what if I can't pay them? I was talking to my coach, Alicia St. Germain. And I told her that this fear keeps coming up about being afraid that I'm going to lose everything. I get a negative comment on a Facebook ad and I'm immediately like, I'm going to lose my whole business and I'm not going to be able to fulfill these obligations to these other people.
She was like, you have got to stop thinking of this in terms of good months and bad months. She said, you'll have good months and growth months. If you look back at your March revenue, there were reasons for you having higher expenses, lower profit margin, lower revenue. You cannot have your foot on the gas 24/7/365.
I'm learning how to trust myself. I'm really moving into that next level of leadership. I am being more visible. That comes with people disagreeing with my philosophies and strategies and publicly stating that. How am I going to show up and handle that? I'm really stepping into this leadership role.
I'm getting coaching on that because that's something that I know that I need a different perspective and different support and a different way of thinking in order to grow into that next level of myself. Being a solopreneur was like nobody was counting on me except for my clients. I didn't have to show up in the way that I'm showing up. I could play small and it was fine. And now I'm really having to play a bigger game and show up in a completely different way. And it's uncomfortable. I'm not going to lie. It's uncomfortable, but I'm so proud of myself when I do it.
I was so proud of myself after I showed up live on my personal Facebook page, which would result in zero new clients or new customers or new students. Maybe, who knows? But that wasn't the point. And I was so proud of myself for doing that. Proud for going live that many days in a row. Just proud of how I'm handling the negative comments and the criticism. Because at the end of the day, I know I'm always acting with integrity. I'm just proud to know that people can say whatever they want. I am acting with integrity. It's so funny to recognize these triggers that we have that you don't really know you have until you do the work. I opened up my website to do something else.
Accepting Failures as Growth
I had set up my Seven-Step Web Design consultation and script as a freebie that I was giving away to the Simply Profitable Designer summit people. I packaged it up and I give it away for the Simply Profitable Designer summit as a freebie.
I decided to test out my Facebook ads for this as a $37 product. So I did. The first two people purchased it. And then I was looking at the Facebook ad later, and I saw that someone had left a comment that was like, “I'm super disappointed in this for $37. I expected so much more. I've gotten better stuff from Shannon for free.” I immediately felt defensive.
I need to not get defensive. I need to look into this to see what's going on here. So I messaged her and asked what they expected when they purchased versus what they received? And she explained that there was no template. There was a gap in what I said was in the product and what she got.
I apologized & refunded her. I wanted to make this right. I did not even ask her to take her comment down, but she was like, “Hey, I just received your refund. I took that comment down.” I told her she didn't have to do that, but that I appreciated it.
I thanked her for the opportunity for feedback. I looked at what she was sent and it was an old freebie that didn't include the things that I thought that it did. I don't know what happened, but I linked up the wrong thing. And I thought, I would be disappointed if I paid for this too. So I let her know.
I sent her what I originally intended to give her, and she said that that was what she was intending on getting in the first place.
So I updated that whole thing. And then I sent it out to everybody who had gotten it for free, and the one other person that paid for the crappy version who didn't complain, but was probably disappointed. Now I know I have a legit product that I could sell once I get around to doing that again. If I would've been super defensive about that, I would have never realized that we actually made a mistake.
We actually didn't have things how they should have been. If you're publicly marketing your business, they're allowed to put their public opinions where they want to. And that's just part of doing business the way that you're doing business.
Let's dive into our numbers for April of 2021. So remember back in the early days of the podcast, I told you that like my minimum baseline revenue that I needed to make every single month to pay myself, pay my expenses and pay taxes was $10,000? That's what I needed to quit my day job.
I hit that and I was able to quit my day job and not take a pay cut. Then I wanted to grow that to $15,000 a month because I wanted to be able to cover my husband's paycheck in case something happened to his job, which oddly enough, it did during the pandemic. They told him that they were closing his office and that his position was going away. One year later, they're still closing his office and his position is still going away, but we just don't know when.
Then when I started investing in mentorship and growing my team and trying to really grow the business, that increased to about $20,000 a month to cover paying my team more and paying for mentorship so that I could grow the business. So I needed to make $20,000 a month to cover everything. Well, now in the second quarter of 2021, since I've made this transition from solopreneur to CEO, and I'm leading a team of five independent contractors.
It's about $30,000 to be able to pay all our business expenses, the team, me and our taxes. We need to be bringing in around $30,000 in revenue a month. Which had you told me in 2014 when I started this business that like, Oh, you'll need to be bringing in 30 grand a month by April 2021, I would've been like, you're crazy!
But I never quit. I never gave up. And I've constantly pursued the growth of this business and different trial and error. And this is where we landed. And I'm super, super proud of it.
Total Revenue: $34,451.56
Affiliate Income: $8007.01
Site-in-a-Snap Templates + Trainings: $2557.55 (that’s my portion of the total sales after paying out my partners and affiliates)
Web Designer Academy: $20,985.00
Website Marketing Lab: $2753.00
Side Hustle to Self Employed Summit: $149.00
Total Investments: $27,987.78
Tools I use to run my business: $1944.63
Training, Coaching + Mentorship: $1079.00
CEO Salary (that’s me!) $8231.04
(includes payroll taxes – $6,000 is my monthly take-home pay, and then I pay quarterly income taxes on the quarterly business profit)
Affiliate Payouts: $1007.86
Facebook Ads for WDA: $542.66
Net Profit: $10,819.22
April was one of those really, busting out of my comfort zone months. Really getting visible, really growing into that person who can handle whatever happens. Whatever's said, whatever's posted, I'm going to have some feelings about it, I'm sure. But really learning to manage my mind and take the feedback for what it is. It ultimately comes down to trying to protect myself. But if there's legit feedback that I could use to improve something, I need to be open and not so defensive.
I'm so grateful for Alicia St. Germain for that perspective and for helping me really sift realize there are going to be good months and growth months. March was a good month, even though the revenue or the profit wasn't where it needed to be, it was still a good month. April is a good month. I'm getting used to trusting that I will make the right decisions, and handle whatever is going to come my way.
I hope you heard something in here that was helpful to you. And if you did, I would love to hear about it. You can head over to my Instagram @shannonlmattern and leave your biggest takeaway on this episode.
If you have been listening to Pep Talks for Side Hustlers for a while, and you have not yet left us a rating and review on iTunes, I would be so grateful if you could take a moment to do that. It helps us get in front of more people who need to hear this and need to see that full journey from side hustle to self-employed to solopreneur, to CEO.