Ep. 275: January Income Report

Welcome to my January 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!

View all of my income reports here!

Important things that happened in January:

  • I hosted another live 5 Day Freebie Challenge to promote my Website Marketing Lab.
  • I became the CEO of my own S Corporation.
  • I partnered with Eden Fried of Rebel Boss to do a marketing workshop for her audience (they are amazing).
  • I hosted a live “Subscriber to Sale” bonus workshop for my Website Marketing Lab students.
  • I interviewed 6 amazing guests for Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, which is now booked out with guests through October.
  • I renewed my contract with my former employer for 6 more months (which I’ll mention a bit more later).
  • And I hit a big goal I set for myself last year.

January 2020 Numbers

If you’re new around here, for the past nine months I’ve been telling you guys that my minimum baseline is $10,000 month, I pay myself two paychecks of $3000 each, pay around $2,000 a month in expenses and set the remaining $2,000 aside for taxes.

And I’ve been hitting that goal pretty consistently for the past year.

But in March of last year, I set a pretty big goal – in my opinion – to increase my revenue to $15,000 and have it come exclusively from my online courses and affiliate marketing. And in service of that goal, in September I stopped accepting 1:1 client work.

And in December of 2019, I layered on a new constraint – to hit that goal without growing my team, and without spending money on ads (which by the way, have never resulted in revenue for me anyway).

When I added up all of the numbers for January, the first thing out of my mouth?

“Holy $%*@!”

I added it all up again to make sure I didn’t make a mistake or count something twice (because there’s a family rule that I’m not even allowed to total my own Yahtzee score, people. I rush, I’m overconfident and I make mistakes).

But there it was, right there in black and white:

Total Revenue: $15276.65

  • Affiliate Income: $2551.98
  • Courses: $12,724.67
  • Done For You & Consulting: $0 (more on this later)

Total Expenses: $2475.45

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

Net Profit: $12,801.20

I had a couple out-of-the-ordinary expenses in January:

  • I spent $399 and bought myself a proper office chair. I’ve been having hip and shoulder pain from the way I’ve been sitting, and back in my law-firm marketing days we had Herman Miller Aeron chairs which were ah-mazing, but cost like $1000 each! I found an outlet that sells their new Mirra office chair at a discount, and I snagged one. Five years in I think I can splurge on a decent chair!
  • I renewed my AccessAlly Advocate certification for $500. AccessAlly is the membership plugin I use to run my site, and I’m trained by them to implement the plugin for clients. Even though I don’t do one on one client work anymore, I renewed it because it’s cheaper for me to do that than to pay for the plugin itself, plus I get to learn about all the new features. And if I ever do decide to take on clients, I’m in their directory.

Holy $%*@! I hit my goal two months early!

It felt surreal.

You might be wondering why I was so surprised. It’s not like I don’t keep tabs on my bank account throughout the month, I absolutely do.

But I was so surprised because my 5 Day Freebie Challenge promotion for my Website Marketing Lab didn’t meet my projections. By a lot.

To give you a little background on what I’m talking about if you’re new to the show:

I have a DIY web design course called the Free 5 Day Website Challenge that’s totally free for anyone to take, and the way I make money from it is affiliate commissions from companies I use to run my own business. I teach how to build your website with these tools, and if you buy them from that company, I earn a commission, which lets me keep the training free for my students and helps me pay the bills. It’s a win-win.

But then I discovered that after people built their website, they had no idea how to get traffic or customers.

They’d think they could write a bunch of blog posts and Google would just start sending people their way. Or they’d post on social media to no one and be super frustrated that they weren’t getting traffic. Or they’d get really discouraged because they thought they’d need to buy Facebook Ads to get traffic, and they couldn’t afford it.

And then they’d be super bummed that this online business thing wasn’t working for them when it seemed like it was working for everyone else.

If that sounds familiar, you’re totally not alone, by the way.

Anyway, I started teaching my DIY web design students how to market themselves without relying on algorithms, non-existent social media followings or ads inside my Website Marketing Lab course.

And even though it’s always open for enrollment, a few times a year I do a live promotion for it called the 5 Day Freebie Challenge where I pull 5 lessons out of the Website Marketing Lab and teach them for free in a Facebook Group, give people homework and feedback and at the end, invite them to continue on with me inside the Website Marketing Lab.

The last time I did this promotion in October, I had 600 people sign up for the Freebie Challenge, and 19 freaking awesome people sign up for the Website Marketing Lab, and many of them right as soon as I opened the doors on Friday after the last day of the Challenge. The numbers were right in line with what I’d expect with that many signups, plus, I’d spent all kinds of time validating my offer and pricing.

You can get all the details on that launch in my October Income Report in Episode 261.

But this time… it didn’t quite happen that way…and I let my mind go into the toilet.

We’d wrapped up a truly amazing week of training, people were showing up live in spite of my tech troubles, they were learning and engaging and taking to heart my ask of actually doing the work so that they could get a return on investment of the time they were spending with me.

People were watching the replays, asking questions, posting their homework. I loved every second of it – it’s like, my favorite thing to do!

So on Friday, I wrap up our training, introduce the Website Marketing Lab, people are asking questions, and I’m feeling like:

Yesssss. I finally feel so confident in offering this program to people, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that especially with the addition of the Subscriber to Sale Blueprint Bonus Training that it literally has everything they need to move them from starting at 0 to making their first sale and beyond. I know that I show up for my students 100%. I finally get what my podcast guests are talking about when they say that you have to believe in the value of what you offer beyond just what the thing is. I finally FEEL that!”

It was so easy to talk about it. It didn’t feel like selling at all.

And it finally clicked for me why I felt so natural, unlike any other offer I’ve made before:

Because it’s the 4th time I’ve done it!!!

I never stuck with anything long enough to get good at it! I do it once or twice, if it didn’t turn out how I expected I’d decide that everything about it was wrong, and I’d start over. I’d go back into Create Mode.

But I’ve stuck with this promotion long enough to get good at it. A whole year of practice. Evidence-based practice.

So anyway, we wrap up on Friday, I’m feeling amazing, I send out the replays for the whole week with all the details about the Website Marketing Lab, and I head out to meet my husband for his company’s annual birthday party.

We get home pretty late, we go to bed, I wake up in the morning, make my coffee, do some journaling and then I open up my laptop to check my email, and…. Nothing.

Hmm… Back in October I had a bunch of new people enroll on Friday… Did my emails send?” Checked ConvertKit, yep, they sent. Yep, people are opening. Yep, people are clicking. Nope, no takers yet.

I felt a little twinge of nervousness, but I stuffed it down.

It’s fine,” I told myself. “No one’s checking email on a Friday night or Saturday morning waiting with bated breath to hear from me and join my program. Just chill out.

Later that morning, I check my email again….

One person joined – woohoo!!!! Okay, that means everything’s working. I don’t have to worry about my tech anymore…

I go about my Saturday, pop into the Freebie Challenge Facebook Group later that afternoon and there are a ton of new posts from people who were watching the replays, doing their homework, having marketing breakthroughs – it was awesome!

I answered all those questions, got showered and ready, straightened up the house because we were having some friends over, and then right before they’re supposed to get there, I check my email.


Shoot. What did I do wrong? Was I too pushy? Too salesy? Did I turn people off? I totally screwed this up.

I know better than to go there… Well, NOW I know better than to go there, but my brain is well-trained in self-doubt. It went there.

I noticed, and again, I stopped myself.

Just calm down. It’s fine. It will be fine. It’s January, you’ve never done this promotion in January before, people spent a lot of money over the holidays, you don’t have kids so you don’t have as many obligations over the holidays as other people do, just CHILL OUT. You showed up, you gave it your all, that’s all you can do. You don’t get to control the outcome. It’s only Saturday. There’s still time.

We have a great night with our friends, I wake up Sunday morning, make coffee, check my email, and we have another student! Yes!!

The Freebie Challenge promotional pricing expires on Sunday night, so in my mind, if it’s anything like October, nearly everyone that’s going to enroll during the Freebie Challenge is going to do it during the promo period.

As Sunday goes by, I’m obsessively checking my email, and there’s nothing new in there. I can feel my mood getting darker. My body feels heavy and exhausted. My mind is going wild.

What if this is it? What if it’s over? What my business fails? What if I have to shut it down and go get a day job? I’ll do what I have to do I guess… What did I do wrong? Was it stupid to do this in January? Did I give away too much for free? Did I overwhelm everyone?

And then I start feeling guilty.

Why do you think you’re entitled to people joining your program? Why do you want to make so much money anyway? What are you going to use it for? You’re not building wells in remote villages with it. Really, Shannon?

I check my period-tracker app on my phone… “Nope. This isn’t that window of the month where I’m normally feeling depressed and exhausted. That’s in two weeks. What the heck?

By Sunday evening, I’m just feeling defeated.

I get a text from my Mom. She tells me that one of her friends took my Freebie Challenge and was just blown away by it, and that she thinks of me as a mentor on the level of Brooke Castillo and Corrinne Crabtree – two women who I consider MY mentors.

And I’m just like. “Nope. Nuh-uh. This woman is crazy. Yes, my free content is amazing, but apparently not good enough to actually work with me. If only she knew what was going on in my head today…

Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, because this is the exact kind of stuff I coach my students through!! “Don’t jump to conclusions,” I tell them. “Go into the process with an open mind, no expectations of the outcome… you are a researcher it’s your job to gather data and form conclusions based on data, not the voice in your head.

Did I follow my own advice that weekend? Um, nope. So instead of sitting in my own self-created spiral of misery for the rest of the night, I go to bed.

I wake up Monday morning, make my coffee, journal, walk into my office, open up my email.

7 people joined overnight!!!!! What?!?

See, I told you there was nothing to worry about.” I’m not sure whose voice that was – if it was the kind, supportive, future version of myself voice I have in my head, or if it’s the jerk voice I have that wants me to feel ashamed for indulging in self-doubt and going down the toilet over the weekend.

So why am I even telling you this story? 

I mean, I debated even telling you. Especially if this is the first podcast episode you’re ever listening to of mine…

I’m not proud of myself, and I think it makes me look like a crazy, greedy person who doesn’t have her crap together.

But in all seriousness, I’m telling you because I want you to know that you don’t have to be perfect and have it all together all the time. That my self-doubt STILL creeps in. I let it take over sometimes.

That I’m not perfect and I don’t have it together all the time.

But the biggest reason I tell you this story is because it brought into sharp focus the fact that I was putting my attention on the wrong thing – the number of people who joined during this promotion.

I was basing my own self-worth, my own value, on the number of people who decided to join my program – instead of on how I was showing up and my own integrity.

I went from totally believing in the value of what I had to offer and feeling great about accepting money in exchange for that value to feeling like I was worthless in the span of a weekend.

Even when I know, I KNOW that their decision to join my program has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them, their situation, their time, their life and their goals. It truly has nothing to do with me and whether or not I’m good enough.

And I’m so glad I let my mind go into the toilet and sat in my dirty diaper – to remind myself of this fact: 

I know I’m good enough. I know what I do has value. And I know that when the time is right for the right people, I’ll be here to help them get to where they want to go, truly. But their timeline isn’t always my timeline.

The other day, my husband looks at me and goes, “Do you know what your purpose is?”

And I’m like, “Who are you and what have you done with Floyd?

And then I said, “Yeah, I do. Do you?”

He proceeds to tell me what makes him happy and life and then asks me again, “So, what’s yours?”

“To help people accomplish things they didn’t think were possible for them.”

THAT is why I do what I do. THAT is why I teach DIY web design, that’s why I teach marketing, that’s why I teach how to start a freelance web design business.

Because I didn’t think any of this was possible for myself, and I did it. And I want everyone else who wants it too to have it.

And I don’t want you to think you have to have it all figured out to have it.

You just have to be willing to figure out as you go, make mistakes, be disappointed in yourself and keep going.

So you might be wondering, if my Website Marketing Lab sold only half the amount of spots I’d projected, how in the world did I make more money in January than ever before?

First, the Website Marketing Lab did amazing. Let’s not poo-poo it. Not as many people joined in January as they did in October, but who cares?

I talk about this in the 5 Day Freebie Challenge, but every single person who joins my email list is valuable to me whether they ever become my customer or not.

Now, I know I wasn’t reminding myself of this fact over the weekend when I let my mind go down the drain – but like I said, I’m not always managing my mind well.

I had the opportunity in January to teach 550 who desperately want to be their own boss how to market themselves online – and whether they ever become my student or not, they took away valuable information, they got to know me, and they are going to think of me when they meet someone else who needs my help. I learned SO MUCH about how my ideal client thinks, where they’re at and what they really need – it’s invaluable market research. And, if they got value out of the training they’ll tell other people about me. That’s even more invaluable.

So even though 50% less people joined the Website Marketing Lab in January than October, its monthly revenues are growing from people taking the payment plan option. I know all the online business gurus tell you that you gotta get all the money up front… but I love it when people take the payment plan option – it’s recurring, predictable revenue for me without me having to create and feed a membership program – and you know by now that I love security and predictability.

So the Website Marketing Lab did well, just not as well as I’d projected. And now I know what to expect for January 2021.

But the Web Designer Academy was a sleeper this month!

When I launched my website redesign, I quietly set up a masterclass series I’d done on how to start a freelance web design business as a freebie on my website. I’ve done nothing to promote it other than put the graphics on my homepage because I have all that scheduled for March… but people started signing up for that free masterclass series, and three new people joined the Web Designer Academy in January!

That program is my heart and soul. It’s the one I wish I would have had when I was just starting out so I’m really excited to see what happens when I do intentionally promote it.

But this time, with my focus on my PURPOSE and not my conversion percentages, and prepared to manage my mind around it!

So the Website Marketing Lab, combined with the Web Designer Academy, the 5 Day Website Challenge Workbook and affiliate commissions from the Free 5 Day Website Challenge were responsible for 100% of the over $15,000 in revenue.

100% scalable revenue sources.

As a side note, my former employer wanted to renew our monthly retainer for 6 months. That amount is not included in this monthly income report, and I’m not going to include it in the future.

So at the end of the day, I’m really proud of myself.

I reached the goal I set for myself back in March of 2019, when I cleaned out my business bank account and skipped a paying myself a paycheck to sign up for a coaching program that I knew would give me the guidance and focus I needed to get here.

So what’s my next goal? 

Do it again!! Keep at it!

I’m 1000% sure I have a lot more lessons to learn as I move forward. I don’t think I’ll have it all figured out.

I’m enrolling new students in my programs, they are starting to transform their businesses and achieve things that they didn’t think were possible for them, and it’s time to make sure I’m spending my time getting in front of as many people as possible, building relationships, building trust, making offers, and making the offers again, doing my research, analyzing my results, and working with my coaches to make adjustments as needed.

And… managing my mind. Not beating myself up for the spiral of self-doubt, but leaning into it to see what I need to learn from it. To be aware that it could be on the horizon.

I interview a guest on the podcast the week after my 5 Day Freebie Challenge, and she asked me if I’d read The Big Leap. And I was like, “No, but you’re the 4th person who has mentioned it to me this month so I think that’s a sign.”

So I downloaded it from Audible, and it’s all about how we have an upper limit tolerance for good things happening in our lives… and when we hit it, we do something to bring us back to how we’re used to feeling.

Well, looks like on the high of feeling massively confident about my Freebie Challenge, how I showed up, and feeling in total alignment with backing up the value of my Website Marketing Lab, I hit my Upper Limit – and I brought myself right back to where I’ve been used to operating – in fear and self-doubt.

It’s truly fascinating. And I’m so glad I know this concept, so I can be on the lookout for it. I’m sure it will come up again.

One more thing – I mentioned in my December 2019 Income Report that I was exploring becoming an S Corp, and in January I decided to move forward. You can go back and listen to Episode 271 for all the rationale behind why I made that change five years into business.

But I worked with CPA Melissa Whaley who I interviewed in Episode 229 to make that happen and thank goodness because it’s a complex maze of paperwork that I wouldn’t have been able to figure out on my own. I DIY a LOT of stuff, but yeah, not that. So shoutout to Melissa for making that process painless.

Hours Worked:

Okay, before we wrap up, the final thing I’m going to share with you is how many hours I worked in January, and I only share this to keep myself accountable to my goal of a 40 hour work week and taking weekends off, because I have a tendency to overwork myself into fatigue and depression (or to ignore depression, I don’t know).

Honestly, I didn’t track in January again. So, that tells me that I need to start tracking my time in February, because I went a whole month paying zero attention to how much I was working.

But after reviewing my planner and calendar, and giving it my best guess, I worked an average of 49 hours a week in January, and I worked every single weekend.

Look, I’m not justifying it, but I had the Freebie Challenge which always adds extra time to my schedule, and it honestly didn’t feel like I was working that much… BUT what’s going to happen if I don’t pay attention and intentionally schedule time off and yoga and weekends off is that I’ll burn out physically.

And when that happens – my mind goes crazy! I get depressed. I don’t sleep well. I worry that my business is going to disappear overnight.

Biggest Lessons Learned:

So I know, that’s a lot of information. And I share this with you because I would have LOVED to have this level of detail coming from someone just a few steps ahead of me, to jump inside their brain, see how they think, how they make decisions, what they are doing to make money, how they spend it.

But I also do these monthly income reports for myself. When stuff like this happens – my best month ever combined with my worst mental spiral in a long time, combined with noticing that I’m overworking, I can check myself.

Because when you own your own business, and you have the freedom to do things however you want to do them, you’re also the only one responsible for keeping it all on track, and I have to, HAVE TO, reflect on each month, what went right, what needs improved, to make sure I can set myself up for future success.

So that’s it – that’s my January 2020 income report.

If you have any questions for me, leave a comment below!

And if you need a website but have no idea how to get started, go to http://www.free5daywebsitechallenge.com and sign up for the 5 Day Website Challenge and learn how to create a website for your side hustle.

And if already have a website and you want to learn how to get traffic to it, go to www.jumpstartyourwebsitetraffic.com and sign up for my free 6-part mini-course that’ll walk you through how to get started getting targeted traffic to your website.