In 2005, I had about 300 people reading my brand new blog.
That year, I made my first ever dollar from blogging. In fact, it was $20, an affiliate commission from selling an ebook.
Later that year I added advertising banners to my blog, and combined with affiliate income, by the end of the year I’d had my first ever $2,000 month from blogging.
The next year things continued much the same, although with my traffic increasing, more paying sponsors, new ad formats and more affiliate promos, I’d pushed beyond $5,000 a month.
In 2007, after releasing my first product, I made over $15,000 in one month. That was the first month of a streak that has lasted for over ten years of never dropping below $10,000 a month from my blog business.
Some Months Are Better Than Others
Since that month back in 2007, my income has fluctuated.
I’m happy to report there have been more $20,000 months than $10,000 months over the past decade. There’s also been a few solid streaks above $30,000 a month, and even a few great months that have pushed beyond $50,000.
Of course, all that money is not mine to keep.
My team has grown and shrunk and grown again over the years. Some expenses just keep coming, like web hosting and email management services, while others spike for one month — like ad expenses for a launch campaign – then drop back down again.
Profit margins have been as high as 75% and as low as 25%. A big chunk of my expenses during the last few years have gone to travel and accommodation (living in AirBNBs all year round can get costly!).
Despite all these fluctuations, the statistic I am most proud of, and probably the one I am most surprised about looking back, is the ten years earning over $10K a month.
Businesses Fail, Industries Change, Technology Evolves
You’ve probably heard people quoting stats like over half of all business fail within the first year, and only 10% survive beyond year three.
I’ve lost track of the number of times data like that has been brought up by a business coach to help them sell their training programs. I’ve probably done it myself at some point.
I’m not sure how accurate those numbers really are, but I do know that they influenced my expectations when I was first building businesses.
Given how rapidly industries change, especially in the online space where technology can ruin one company while at the same time help another rise, my expectations have always been tempered by the dynamic nature of the space I operate my business within.
Here are a few other concerns I’ve personally contemplated or had brought to my attention by a friend, colleague, interviewer or client over the years:
- Everything is moving towards being free online, can you expect to keep making money charging for things like courses and ebooks?
- Video gets all the attention these days, how can you survive with a business built around writing?
- Blogs are not relevant anymore, today all the focus is on social media and apps, so why keep a blog?
- The competition is incredibly talented, investing more and more money in better branding, presentation and delivery, and frequently funded by people with deep pockets — how can you expect to survive?
- Attention spans continue to drop, email open rates are a fraction of what they used to be, conversion rates are down, therefore getting customers online is harder than it ever was and these stats are only going to continue to get worse
- Product launch fatigue is real, people don’t respond to launches anymore, and basing your business on the launch model is not sustainable
- Everyone is a blogging expert or marketing coach or business mentor, the market is saturated, and it’s not fun to try and make a living in such crowded waters
- You can’t survive if your business is based entirely on traffic from one external source, be that Google search, Facebook ads, Instagram followers, or whatever platform is trending, because they can wipe out your audience in one day, and you can’t do anything about it
- E-commerce, software, apps or physical products are how people make money online today, that’s where you should focus your attention before the money completely dries up
These are just a few of the more common doubts and fears that have been raised in my own mind or by others, all reasons to expect my business will stop making money.
This is why the $10K over 10 years streak is surprising to me. I thought for sure I’d have had to change business models, or go into a different business completely.
Instead, blogging and selling training products has turned out to be a reliable cash-cow.
Even during a period of about two years, from 2010 to 2012, when I removed all my training products from the market and I went back to making money only from advertising and affiliate income, the $10,000 a month or more just kept coming.
Ok, That’s Nice, But How Can This Help You?
As I sat down to write this article I started thinking about what is responsible for such a reliable outcome.
What has worked so well that an entire decade of my life has been largely funded by the one business, without changing how it works, despite the constant evolution of the internet, and so many other people entering and leaving my industry?
I drilled it down to one reason: compounding.
Sure I could rattle off a whole host of elements that make it work:
- Consistent traffic from Google, the effectiveness of email marketing, while diminishing, is still better than any other channel, and I focused on email since 2006.
- The power of compelling content, driven by storytelling and lessons on how to do things people want to know how to do.
- Being transparent early on — even being there early on — I was one of the first people to teach how to make money blogging, so that certainly helps.
However, I think compounding is the most effective word to describe why my business has been so consistent.
You might think ‘consistency’ is a better word. It’s often floated as the explanation for why entrepreneurs succeed.
The truth is though, I haven’t actually been consistent at any one thing for the whole ten years.
I used to publish new content daily on my blog. Then it became three times a week, once a week, then once a month. My podcast has been erratic, sometimes publishing two a month, then none for a few months.
Some years I was the driving force of my business, writing emails, creating products, conducting launches, then other years I’ve stepped away and barely done any of these things.
I’ll be honest, my lack of consistency has hurt my results. I know this for sure because I’ve seen people rise after me with daily podcasts or videos, incredible in-depth articles published every week without fail, speaking at events, writing books — doing so much more than me, and doing it a whole lot more consistently.
They’ve been rewarded for the work, some making as much money as I made in a decade in just their third year online. That’s impressive. I’ve been jealous, I’ve been upset with myself for not chasing these bigger goals, especially because I knew I was capable, I have the skills and the knowledge, but I didn’t want to put my energy in the way these people did.
That’s okay of course, because I’ve always made choices to focus on what I thought was most important at the time.
At one point I decided to scale back my business growth to focus on dating and building a social life. For two years I spent almost every day in hospital with my mother after she had a stroke that she did not recover from. Other businesses have also briefly taken my attention away, even though my blog was always there, working hard for me. Just last year I looked at my cryptocurrency reports more frequently than my business reports.
The diversions have been many and frequent.
Travel has also been a big part of my life, and as anyone who has ever moved around a lot knows, working on the road is possible, but you don’t get nearly as much done as when you stay put in one place and have a stable routine.
So, why is compounding the best word?
Compounding is the result of action and time coming together.
The beautiful thing about compounding, just like with compound interest on your savings, is at some point you get enough compounding that you don’t have to work nearly as hard… if at all.
Take for example one of the most important ingredients I have for making sales of my products — successful graduates.
The case studies I’ve built up over the years of other people succeeding, in-part thanks to my training and advice, is by far the number one selling tool I have.
Needless to say, you don’t start out with successful case studies. You earn them over time.
The same goes for attracting traffic. I worked on content and SEO for years, the traffic came in, then I stopped working nearly as hard, but the traffic didn’t stop.
You might do the same learning a skill like Facebook ads. At first it’s hard work, you put in hours and hours to learn your craft, but eventually, it becomes a ten-minute job for you to maintain because of all your previous effort. That’s compounding.
Compounding is especially prevalent in skill development.
It’s hard at first to acquire a new skill, hard to put it into practice and get results, hard to turn it into something consistent…but, once you get good enough to be dangerous, all the previous work is locked away in your knowledge bank and you can execute innately, without nearly as much effort.
Rewards come easily today to the people who used all their yesterdays to master a craft or build an asset.
There are so many elements in my life that compounded together to build the business that delivered $10K a month for 10 years.
My tech skills compounded for seven years before I even started blogging. My entrepreneurial skills did the same. Then there was my knowledge about marketing, traffic, sales and customer service, not to mention systems and mindset. I didn’t start out with these abilities or knowledge assets, but they all came together when I started a blog.
Then there were the skills I learned as I blogged. Writing, networking, launches, affiliate management, podcasting, teaching, and the assets I built up by creating content, products and turning people into case studies.
Let’s not forget perhaps the most important asset, the one new entrepreneurs covet the most and start out with the least — cash.
Money pays for people who do things you previously did, or who do new things to help your business grow. In days past you used your time to build a business that generates cash today. Then you spend that cash to buy other people’s time, freeing up your tomorrow.
That’s not something most people start off with. You need time to build up the cash flow and also the cash reserve to feel confident you can spend some of it on help and growth.
You Can’t Stop Compounding But You Don’t Always Get What You Want From It
By simply living a life you are activating compounding. What you do everyday compounds. Even if you watch TV all day, you’re compounding your knowledge about whatever you are watching.
What matters is you are aware that certain actions, if you put in the effort to repeat them over enough time, create assets and knowledge that can be much more valuable to you long term.
It’s even more important to be aware that most actions you take do not lead to a long-term benefit.
Just like with the 80/20 Rule, you must identify what delivers value to you, and what does not. This is especially true for what you focus on for years at a time, for these activities are what you compound the most.
It can be tricky to figure this out, because just like with compound interest on your money, the truly big gains don’t hit for years — even decades. You can spend a long time working hard for minimal return, then suddenly all your hard work pays off and what you created begins to take on a life of its own.
I know this from experience. I started developing my entrepreneurial skills and building assets at 17 years old, in 1997. My first website came out in 1998. I didn’t make even close to a full-time income until 2003, and it wasn’t until 2007 that my ‘streak’ of $10,000 months kicked in. That’s ten years of compounding to get the result I enjoyed during the next ten years.
Oh, and during that decade from 1997 to 2007, for most of the time I felt pretty lost and confused about it all. I was compounding my skills and building assets, but I certainly did not see where the path I was walking would take me.
Things solidified and clarified as time went on, and thankfully I invested energy on skills that turned out to be highly valuable for the present world we live in, but none of that was clear to me at the time.
Although you don’t always know where what you are doing today is going to take you, it’s pretty easy to spot the activities that are compounding skills and knowledge that won’t really help you in any meaningful way.
I got a lot of enjoyment from watching every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation during my early twenties. I knew full well that time was not contributing to any long-term goals. I was not compounding knowledge that would prove useful for much more than entertainment.
I Didn’t Aim For This Outcome
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect I would one day write this article talking about a ten-year streak of making $10,000 a month from the same business. That wasn’t my plan.
On some level, I’m disappointed by the result.
Many times over the years I thought by a certain time I’d be making $20,000 or $50,000 or even $100,000 a month as my new standard. I did hit those numbers, but they did not settle in for the long term.
I saw a handful of my peers pull away and bring in those kinds of numbers on a month by month basis. Some even more.
I’d get jealous, then I’d get motivated to work hard on my business, then I’d fall back and realize I was doing it just for the money and no other driving factor. That rarely works once you get your financial needs met, there must be other intrinsic benefits beyond money at that stage.
However, I am incredibly grateful to be writing an article like this, talking about the consistent run I have had, because I’ve seen many people — in fact almost all people — struggle to even have a single month hit $10,000 from their online business.
That is why I am so proud when one of my coaching program members hits that goal. It’s a real milestone, one that is rare, and worth celebrating.
I know most people are not like me. Even the successful people earning as much or more than me, do not get to, or choose to, live the way I do.
Entrepreneurs who succeed get addicted to the feeling of growth. It’s a powerful allure, one that can end up creating just as much stress, if not more, than before success hit. This is why burnout happens.
In fact, I’m probably proudest that I’ve never felt anything like burnout. I’ve always felt comfortable working less, contemplating more, and because I’ve made at least $10,000 a month for a decade, feeling stressed about money has been mostly a non-issue too.
I’ve seen people around me in much worse shape, even those with much more money. I’ve also seen people who have unfortunately spent much of their life compounding assets that don’t bring in the financial stability they want, or they no longer want to use their compounded knowledge or skills. The greatest advantage they have is something they no longer enjoy tapping into.
I don’t want that to be you.
Make sure whatever you spend two, five or ten years working on, is something you can leverage for long-term stability. You owe it to your future self.
P.S. Despite my ten year streak, I know nothing lasts forever. This is why it’s smart to use one source of income to produce other sources of income, something I’ve been doing in various ways for a number of years.
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