(Psst! This is our very first blogging income report ever!)
CONFESSION: My name is Caitlin Pyle, and my husband Ben and I have been making major bank on the Internet for two years and counting.
In fact, we went from earning a combined $70,000 per year to grossing that much or more every single month.
But we were afraid to tell anyone about it.
Why? Well, a few reasons… not the least of which is that I am a major introvert!
And money changes people (not always in a bad way, either), so we were worried about how our friends and family — and even people we don’t know! — would perceive us if our success were “found out.” And we knew some people would experience envy and misinterpret our intentions, thinking we just want to brag on ourselves or rub their noses in what they don’t have.
Success is an Iceberg
“They” say success is an iceberg and that most people only see the pretty peak of that iceberg on top of the water — not the jagged, monstrous edges down below that represent all the sweat equity, tears, and failure you’ve faced along the way.
Some people will assume you cheated in some way, that it’s “not fair” how much success you’ve seen, and may even start resenting or avoiding you… like you did something wrong.
It’s happened to us, and it sucks.
Some of the people we used to call friends resent us now. But you know what else I realized? “They” also say that finding financial success, while it can cause people to hate or resent you, can also inspire people in a big way.
Some of your friends will see you, an average person just like them, who built something from the ground up and, learning what you needed to along the way, you made it into something incredible, something that changed not only your own life but the lives of countless others around the world.
The Dark Side of Success
I was also afraid that the many students who have enrolled in one of my courses over the last two years would be angry that my primary income stemmed no longer from doing the skill I was teaching them, but from the online business I accidentally created in teaching them.
However, over the last year or so, a good number of the students from whom I’d feared rejection had emailed me asking for advice on starting their own blog or online business. I’ve since started sharing online business and passive-income related info more openly within my personal network, and the response has been nothing but positive.
I’m sure there are some folks who do feel resentment toward me for “profiting off of them,” but the majority of my students see firsthand every day the amount of pure work that goes into building and maintaining the course they’re taking and the free resources we publish in multiple places on the regular, so… I know the people who are meant to be my people get it.
It’s About Inspiring People
INSPIRING PEOPLE is the biggest reason we’re choosing to open up about the success we’ve seen in our business. We’ve gained a lot of skills over the last two years — skills we are constantly polishing — and our success was not luck and was not easy; instead, we made deliberate decisions and took major action every step of the way.
Did we always know exactly what we were doing? Nope.
In fact, when Ben and I first embarked on this journey together back in November 2014, we didn’t have any of the skills we have now. Not a single one.
A former version of me would have seen an income report like this and would have very likely felt discouraged and defeated by it. I would have said to myself, “Well, I don’t know how to do what she does, so I guess I’ll never have what she has.”
I didn’t have a growth mindset; I didn’t believe I could become something more than what I already was — even though I was only 27.
But… that was the old me.
You’re NOT Stuck.
I sooooo wish I could smack that “old me” in the face.
Because the most valuable thing I’ve learned — we’ve BOTH learned — over the last two years is that you’re not stuck with what you’ve got. We’re all blessed with this beautiful thing called the Internet that affords us infinite opportunities to learn how to do ANYTHING.
To say it another way: Learning new skills is not beyond your capabilities.
If you’re sitting there reading this and thinking you’ve learned all you’re going to learn, you need to admit to yourself right now that you’re lying to yourself. You’re probably not telling that lie on purpose, but you are telling it.
My life’s mantra has become “Learning Changes Everything.” Because it does. Learning new skills has changed our individual identities, marriage, and future. It has allowed us to do things and go places we never would have been able to if things had stayed the same; if we’d stayed in our safe little world; if we’d never changed.
RELATED: 3 Tough Lessons I’ve Learned About Success (from the PA blog!)
How We Earned $1.7 Million Online in Only 2 Years
So… enough background.
Transparency is really important to me, so I wanted to be open about every aspect of our success — including the darker sides like fear, doubt, and losing friends.
Ready to dig into the numbers? Okay. First, these are our 4 main income sources:
Income Stream #1: Creating and Selling Online Courses that Deliver
Far and away, ProofreadAnywhere.com’s online course has been the largest income generator for us. We launched this course in February of 2015, so it’s actually been less than two years at the time of this writing. We originally sold an eBook, but after only a very short time on the market, we discontinued the eBook to build the course.
TIP: We think most eBooks can easily become courses with just a bit of extra work, and courses have a much higher perceived value than eBooks, meaning you can command more for almost the same content.
Proofread Anywhere earns us anywhere from $50,000 to more than $100,000 per month –and $800,000 total from January through October 2016. Our best month to date was $106,000.
Here’s a screenshot of our Stripe dashboard for PA since the launch of our course through 11/17/16:
NOTE: We also integrate with PayPal on our site, but PayPal doesn’t have a pretty dashboard like Stripe — only boring reports that don’t show a complete history from the start. That said, this income report isn’t meant to detail every single cent of our income — so I hope you can see this Stripe screenshot for what it is — transparency — and trust us when we say we didn’t just make up the other $400,000 — it stems from PayPal and the other three income streams below! 🙂
Income Stream #2: Selling eBooks
We created and started selling these in early 2016. They do not represent a large portion of income by any means, but offering relevant, inexpensive eBooks does add an income source to our blog other than a high-priced online course.
The proofreading course isn’t a fit for everyone, either, and most people who subscribe to my list will never buy the course, so we introduced eBooks as a way to generate some kind of revenue from site visitors who would likely never buy the course or any piece of it.
We use SendOwl to sell four eBooks on PA. It was so stinkin’ easy to set up. I earn about $1500 per month using it — and I only have the $9/month membership!
Income Stream #3: Affiliate Marketing
I started dabbling in affiliate marketing in August 2015 and have made many friends along the way.
Investing in Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course gave me the swift kick in the rear I needed to get serious about monetizing the non-course part of my platform, and my affiliate income is on the rise as a result! I realized I could be doing a whole lot more to maximize my earnings — especially on Pinterest — so that is currently a large focus in my business.
Major Affiliate Programs
- Bookkeeper Business Academy — this one does very well for me and I earn a consistent $500+ per month or more without much work at all. Ben is also an awesome instructor!
- ClickBank — two products, including Easy Video Suite.
- ShareASale — this was the first affiliate network I ever joined. I joined when I received an invitation to join FreshBooks‘ affiliate program. I am such an active FreshBooks affiliate, they offered me a coupon code just for my proofreading students!
- Bluehost— mostly from PA’s how-to-create-a-website tutorial. I am pretty sure that every blogger is a Bluehost affiliate because they have such a great affiliate management team that makes it crazy easy to create tutorials for readers. BUT — I actually host all of my sites on Kinsta now because I needed something with more power (and the nightly backups don’t hurt!). Bluehost didn’t provide that when my main site started getting big and there were lots of registered users.
There are a bunch of little programs I’m a part of as well, but they are not yet generating enough income to be significant.
I look forward to featuring more programs in later income reports 🙂
Income Stream #4: Investing in My Colleagues’ Blogs and Courses
This is something you’ve likely never seen a blogger doing.
We crossed paths with other online instructors who had been struggling to effectively market their high-quality courses, and we approached them with a plan: We will invest in your site, make it over, then use our own resources and team to create a sales funnel, implement a lead generation system, build an affiliate program, and manage all of the marketing in exchange for a share of the revenue.
We do not own any part or parcel of the instructor’s business, but we do have strategic alliance agreements in place to formalize the arrangement.
Transcribe Anywhere — the second addition to our project list. Janet is an incredibly smart businesswoman, and I’ve enjoyed working with her to bring her world-class general transcription and legal transcription courses to more people who can benefit from learning to use those skills to make money.
ScopeSchool.com — our newest investment project that’s growing in leaps and bounds as savvy bloggers in the work-at-home and personal finance sphere catch on to what scoping is — a work-at-home job that almost no one’s ever heard of!
Fun Fact: Literally no one in our immediate circle of friends (except Monetize Your Genius™ grads) has any idea that our income sources actually extend far beyond our original course on ProofreadAnywhere.com. Our business has evolved into a complex animal, especially once we got into investing in other people’s courses.
Our family still occasionally expresses a concern that we shouldn’t depend on the income from PA alone because it could *POOF* be gone in an instant.
Actions Determine the Outcome… and the Income!
A second major thing we’ve learned in the last two years about online business is that WE ARE IN CONTROL.
Our actions — what we do or don’t do — determine the outcome and, consequently, our income.
It’s just like I tell my proofreading students: if you learn the skills and apply them with excellence, the only way you can fail is if you give up.
And we’re having way too much fun to just give up.
Blogging — and I didn’t even realize what we are doing was actually called blogging until about a year ago!! — is SO much fun.
It wasn’t always that way, though — I wanted to punch a puppy when I first started my site. I had NO IDEA what I was doing. There were many times I’d spend all day trying to tweak one stupid little thing on my brand new WordPress site.
Long story short, it was HARD. I cried a lot out of pure frustration and RAGE. Ben didn’t cry, but may or may not have screamed loudly at the computer screen — more than once! But now we’re in the groove and LOVE working on our blogs.
It’s easier to be passionate about something when you get it, when you know exactly what you need to do, and you throw your fear to the wayside and just take action.
RELATED: If you’re brand new to online business, see our free tutorial, The EASY Way to Get Your First Website or Blog Up n’ Running FAST to take your very first step to making your first $1, $100, or even $1000 online — right now.
How’d We Do It So FAST?
We saw success really, really fast. I mean, how many other bloggers do you know of that earned almost a million dollars a year in their first two years?!
Many people on a similar journey blog and blog for years before “hitting it big.”
Well, for us, we saw a need pretty early on. I was working as a freelance proofreader who constantly got asked by her peers how to start a similar gig. So I taught ‘em what I knew.
After seeing people have tremendous success as a result of that training — and after quite a bit of convincing by Ben — we bought our first domain on November 1, 2014. I had NO INTENTION of starting a course at that time; I just wanted to write an eBook, sell it, and be done with it. I had absolutely no foresight — or any hope — that it would become what it is now.
We stopped selling the book about a month after we launched it, and I started building the course from scratch. No Teachable for me! I took lots of care to spend as little money as possible, too, and I did so not because I didn’t have the money to invest in it, but because I didn’t believe it would amount to much… so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it!
Looking back, I’m glad I “bootstrapped” the way I did because it has allowed me a lot more freedom to customize my course and create exactly the kind of learning environment my students need to succeed. It’s just funny to look back and know I did it that way originally because I thought it’d be a failure.
It wasn’t a failure, though! We hit $100,000 in revenue within 3 months of launching the course, and we hit $1 million in the next 12 months following.
(If you want to know what tools we used to build our courses, sign up at the end of this post to get access to our course creation beginner’s toolkit.)
We Worked Backwards
We did things backwards, and I truly believe that is why we saw success faster.
A ton of experts promote starting your blog first, then building an audience who, as you get to know them, will ask questions that will help you figure out what kind of products they would be interested in.
This is a GREAT plan and a perfect starting point for most, but my circumstances afforded me an opportunity to create my first course right from the beginning. I did not start earning income online blogging about blogging or ways to make money; I started earning income online by creating an effective online course… then effectively marketing that course.
We also worked with affiliates early on to help us grow our reach. Affiliates are incredibly valuable to us and are my favorite “expenses” each month.
You can sign up for our affiliate programs through the links within this post.
The way you communicate with potential affiliates is really important, too — you can’t just blast out emails asking people to sell for you. You have to give them a good reason and prove with your words you know what you’re doing. Our Monetize Your Genius™ students learn about networking with affiliates in Module 4.
We actually have a lot of expenses — about 20% of our total revenue — for being an online business. The bigger you get, the more expenses you have.
We have a team of 9 virtual assistants now that helps us do EVERYTHING in our business. We use a service called Design Pickle that gets us unlimited graphic design work every month, so that helps a lot especially when it comes to creating great images on Pinterest. (Yes, the images in this post were created by Design Pickle!!)
What about taxes?
You better believe we are paying a TON of taxes. We are in the highest possible tax bracket. We are registered and file taxes as an S-Corporation which does help us lower our taxes a little bit because our salaries can be used as an expense to the business.
Not much to say about paying taxes other than I hate doing it and wish I could see more of that tax money being put to good use… or back in my pocket! After taxes and expenses (including affiliate commissions), we’re lucky if we end up with 40% of each sale.
And that sucks. I actually calculated that we pay more per year to the IRS than we do to ourselves. Can you believe that?!
So our goal for 2017 is to crank the expenses up. Why? Because doing that will lower our taxes. We’re in the highest tax bracket, so if you earn $1 million with hardly any expenses, you’re looking at at least $200k+ in taxes. But if we put more of our profit back into growing and expanding, we pay less in taxes. We’re gonna spend the money anyway, so why not spend more of it on investing in our business growth — instead of paying huge amounts of money to the IRS?
Where we’ll be investing in 2017
- Facebook ads and content funnels — hiring some professionals to do it big!
- More content across all four sites — I’ll be hiring a content team to help me do that
- Better targeted email marketing
- Optimizing our email automation
- Optimizing our sales copy and site designs
- Better metrics tracking
- Hiring a bookkeeper
Is all that outsourcing worth it? You bet it is.
Deciding to “outsource” (not a scary word!) the administrative work earlier in 2016 — before Ben and I went on a two-week cruise in South America in March — has been the #1 factor in our business growing as much and as quickly as it has this year, and it’s why we’re going to be doing even more of it in 2017.
Doing it all ourselves was exhausting us and not leaving us with “gas” left over to do the hard stuff our team couldn’t do themselves: things like big-picture strategy and experimentation… the stuff that will actually help us grow. We can’t be the Idea Machines and the Idea Implementers.
Ultimately, I’ve realized being happy and free is way more important than rolling in a ridiculous amount of money. I’ve heard your happiness level stagnates once you pass the $70,000-per-year mark, anyway.
So while the money is nice, it’s not the best part. The best part is the community, doing something I love that’s a LOT of fun, and the freedom. It would cost me a LOT less if I worked myself to the bone in order to save money on virtual assistance, but I know I’d be miserable if I did that!
What’s Next for Us?
We’re currently building our dream home in Winter Park, Florida. It is meant to be an all-in-one office space, workout space, living space, and entertainment space. We even plan to host business retreats and events there for our MYG graduates!
You may be wondering why we’re putting down roots. The world is our oyster, right, so why not go see the world? Well, keep in mind we’ve already spent a whole year traveling and living out of a suitcase in South America, so we are ready to settle down a bit. We’re even getting a dog in the spring!
Ben is the head hauncho here at The Work Anywhere Life, and he is the lead instructor for our Monetize Your Genius™ course, which teaches how we built and marketed our flagship online course. We finished beta testing that program earlier this year, and we’re now working hard to grow this blog and program the very same way we have grown our other programs.
In fact, we’re currently seeking trustworthy affiliates for the Monetize Your Genius™ course, so if you’re interested in earning some affiliate income by promoting our beta-tested course to help your audience gain traction in the online business world, feel free to sign up here.
Growing Your Online Course Revenue
We’re also working on a second course on this site geared toward growing your online course revenue.
Monetize Your Genius™ is geared toward beginners, but the new revenue growth course will be geared toward already-established course creators who want to grow their course and blog revenue beyond the basics. Many of our contacts already have online courses but are stuck on how to maximize revenue from their course — beyond just selling the course itself.
If you’re interested learning more of our strategies for growing your online course revenue, be sure to subscribe to our list by opting in below and feel free to leave a comment that you’re interested so we know to keep our heads down to get it done sooner rather than later!
What Can You Do — RIGHT NOW?
Sign up below to get our FREE action-packed toolkit, 9 Tools You Can Use to Build an Online Course RIGHT NOW.
Opting in to receive that freebie will add you to our mailing list, but don’t worry; we don’t spam or sell your information! You’ll be among the first to know when we add new free resources and posts to the blog (yes, we’re working on a free course too!).
AND… I invite you to take inventory of what your life looks like right now.
Are you happy with what you see? What does your life look like in 10 years? Do you want to be doing the same things you’re doing right now? Could learning some new skills possibly give you an edge to create financial success in your life?
Could learning change everything for you, too? If so, stay in touch with us. We want to be part of your journey.