When I published my year two income report in February of last year, I had no idea how crazy 2020 was about to get.
It was a world-changing year.
I mean look at all the people working from home now. At the start of 2020, I thought working from home made me cool and hip. Now everybody's doing it.
And masks? Probably the most popping fashion accessory of 2020. Who would've predicted that?
Small jokes aside, 2020 as a whole was — how do I put this — a polished turd of a year.
I'm sure going forward we'll see that it taught us some good things, but in the moment, most of it stunk.
Even though I can make little jokes to try to lighten the mood, there's no denying that many people dealt with a lot of trauma this year. People lost loved ones. People lost their jobs. People lost their businesses. The world was pretty much flipped upside down.
That's why it feels a bit weird writing this yearly report this time around…
Besides being stuck at home and unable to do much outside the house, I was extremely fortunate. My family and friends are healthy, and 2020 was Swift Salary's best year ever in terms of traffic and revenue.
I feel beyond lucky for that.
In 2021, I plan on using the growth and revenue I've received to create even more helpful guides and resources around money-management and income generation.
To learn more, keep on reading for the full report…
If you haven't already, check out my quarterly reports from 2020:
- How I Made $5,280.71 Blogging in Q1 of 2020
- How I Made $6,685.59 Blogging in Q2 of 2020
- How I Made $12,427.31 Blogging in Q3 of 2020
- How I Made $15,988.05 Blogging in Q4 of 2020
- Find my other income reports here
New Things I Did in My 3rd Year
I'm not going to recount every single little thing I did this year as that would take wayyy too long and I really don't think it would be that helpful anyway.
Of course, if you're wondering about something in particular, leave a comment and I'll get back to you.
For now, I'm going to share just 3 things that happened this year that helped me grow as a person due to me having to step outside of my comfort zone or try something new.
This year I dabbled for the first time in hiring writers and researchers to help me with my content. I outsourced small reviews and had someone research some of the sites in my guide to proofreading jobs for beginners.
I also brought on my girlfriend to do part-time VA work, which didn't really bring me out of my comfort zone, but the process of trying to hand-off certain tasks which I'm used to doing myself and trying to train her on some of the systems I have around here has been pretty eye-opening for me.
Well, for one, it's shown me how inefficient and unorganized some parts of my business are.
Second, it's made me realize my outsourcing skills need work. I'm so used to doing everything by myself that trying to manage other people is something I need a lot of improvement at.
I'm pretty introverted, so networking is something I've always struggled with. I'm more of a “head down, work on my business” kind of guy.
Don't get me wrong, I love talking, learning, and enjoying time with others, it's just something that I don't proactively seek out enough.
But, I have been trying to improve. I've been getting a tiny bit more active on Twitter recently to chat with other bloggers in the personal finance space (I will admit though, this can be a big distraction), and I even connected with a handful of other entrepreneurs in 2021 to exchange thoughts and ideas over Zoom.
During a year of social distancing, I'm glad I got to have the interactions I did in 2020.
Hopefully going forward my network will continue to grow stronger.
Back in June of 2020 I emailed my audience and asked them if they'd be interested in a new series called Freelancers in Focus that would help uncover the tactics behind successful freelancers.
The email got a great response. SO many people seemed interested in the series.
After getting distracted and then trying to think of ways to execute, I thought the idea of only interviewing freelancers was a bit limiting. Why not learn the stories behind other successful businesses too?
That's when the idea of the Founders in Focus series was created.
At the end of 2020 I interviewed my first feature for the series (a person selling tattoo designs on Fiverr) and I'm super excited to get that out soon.
Learning not only how to find people to interview, but how to convince them to want to be interviewed and figure out how to interview them and what questions to ask has been an interesting — but awesome — experience for me. I LOVE learning how other people make money and bring there own value into the world, and this gives me a way to do that AND help others by spreading the knowledge.
Blog Income and Expenses for Year 3
I only record income that has hit my bank account and all numbers are in Canadian dollars.
Income Breakdown: $40,600.27 Gross Income
With $40,600.27 gross income, I averaged about $3,383/month. That's more than triple my avg. monthly gross revenue from 2019 — insane!
- January – $2,011.17
- February – $1,715.25
- March – $1,558.56
- April – $1,918.62
- May – $1,574.69
- June – $3,406.62
- July – $3,891.10
- August – $4,075.22
- September – $4,460.99
- October – $5,534.27
- November – $4,627.02
- December – $5,826.76
- Affiliate Income (Total: $25,919.35):
- $5 Meal Plan – $75.83
- AdBloom – $3,232.16
- Cleanlots – $109.41
- FlexOffers – $92.63
- Impact Radius – $536.19
- MaxBounty – $11,828.07
- Panthera – $4,414.12
- PinterestVA – $234.92
- ProofreadAnywhere – $944.84
- Rakuten – $432.35
- Respondent.io – $74.54
- Bookscouter – $9.28
- ShareASale – $82.48
- SiteGround – $65.18
- Surveytime – $1.29
- TranscribeAnywhere – $3,611.02
- TreasureTrooper – $25.89
- VIPKid – $66.11
- ZipRecruiter – $78.04
- Credit Card Genius – $5.00
- Ad Income (Total: $14,680.92):
- Mediavine – $14,680.92
Although at first glance my income may look pretty diversified here, once you take a closer look you find that most of the income is actually pretty concentrated throughout a handful of affiliates and then ads.
For example, MaxBounty outperformed my next top affiliate, Panthera, by over 2x. That's a bit worrying as, if the offers I'm currently promoting from MaxBounty disappear, I'll lose a massive chunk of revenue.
In 2021, I'll be putting more focus on promoting some of the affiliates above that are performing decently but could be better. I'll still work on optimizing the affiliates that are performing really well, but growing some new income streams seems like a good idea too, just in case.
Expense Breakdown: $7,291.84
Compared to last year, I spent $5,439.02 more in 2020. That's mostly due to more outsourcing happening this year as I tested out hiring writers/researchers, and brought on my girlfriend to do part-time VA work.
I also made some investments in a new office chair, desk, and shelving unit which I've included in the breakdown below.
- Zoho Books – $120
- Quickbooks – $6.72
- MailerLite – $109.50
- Tailwind – $146.94
- Freepik – $121.86
- DepositPhotos – $182.40
- Bank fees and charges – $541.21
- Virtual assistant – $1,044
- Writers – $1,341.61
- Gsuite – $85.76
- Copyscape – $13.76
- Ubersuggest – $290
- Evernote – $53.99
- SurferSEO trial – $1.35
- Facebook Ads for Bloggers course XXX link – $428.91
- Self Authoring Suite – $40.52
- LinkedIn training book – $7.91
- Starter Story premium – $133.64
- Office equipment – $1,620.58
2021: Planning to spend even more money on outsourcing in order to bring more quality content to the site, more consistently.
* Total Net Profit: $34,929.01 *
Traffic Breakdown: 905,332 Pageviews
Last year I had a total of 406,445 pageviews which was just on the brim of half a million. 2020 I was just on the brim of a million!
That's an increase of 498,887 pageviews, or 122%.
Most of the increase was due to a lot of people who took income hits this year looking for ways to supplement that loss.
As you can see though, just like last year, I lost a decent amount of traffic in November and December. Read my Q4 2020 income report for more insights into that.
Still, I'm happy with my overall growth this year. All of my metrics increased except for my sessions/user, which decreased by 5.3%.
The fact I'm hitting this amount of traffic with just 80 published posts is pretty crazy to me as well. If I can scale my content creation in 2021, I should be able to hit at least 2 million pageviews.
Email List: 4,413 Subscribers
I started out 2020 with 873 active subscribers and ended off with 4,413. That's 3,540 new subscribers for the year or about 295/month.
Most of these new subscribers are due to the opt-ins I created in 2019 just passively doing their job. The increase in traffic this year helped get those opt-ins in front of more eyes.
There are some issues though. Although I'm gaining more subscribers, I'm getting a worse open rate, click rate, and more unsubscribes each month.
Here's a look at my current stats from MailerLite:
And here's where they were last year:
Not a huge difference, but I'd much rather see my stats improving rather than decreasing.
I'm going to need to inspect and modify my opt-ins and emails over the next year to try to improve the engagement my emails get.
Reflecting On My 2020 Goals
- Make $2,000/month average – My average monthly revenue for 2020 was over $3,000 so I did even better than I hoped for. So pumped about this.
- Release a product – I still haven't released my own product. I have ideas, but none of them have felt like “I need to make this right now” type of ideas yet. For now, selling other people's products as an affiliate seems to be the best choice. If a product idea that feels right comes up, I'll go for it.
- Publish an average of 4 posts a month – I only published 23 new posts in 2020 (less than 2 per month average). Definitely not happy with that. I am constantly impressed by content creators who are able to consistently pump out high-quality content.
- Upload 12 Youtube videos – Another epic fail here…I didn't upload a single video in 2020. I think I just got too much in my own head about it. Planning to do more testing on Youtube in 2021, even if that means uploading videos that might flop.
- Get a paid sponsored post – There were times when I got close to this, but I still haven't really had any sponsored post offers that have felt like a good fit. I'd rather publish helpful content that's monetized with ads and affiliates than sponsored content that I'm not 100% happy with.
And there you have it.
I'm really glad that I hit my revenue goal, but that was the only goal that wasn't in my control.
I fell short on the goals I actually had full control over, so I'm a bit disappointed in myself.
I don't think the goals were set too ambitiously either. I think my systems for creating, organizing, and updating content just need work. That's something that will be a big focus for me in 2021.
Swift Salary Goals for 2021
- $100,000 gross revenue – Go big or go home! I'll need to more than double my revenue from 2020 to hit this goal.
- 12,000 email subscribers – I gained 3,645 in 2020. I'll need to gain a bit over double that (7,561) to hit this goal.
- 1,000 Youtube subscribers – I'm currently at 25, so I've got a ways to go for this.
- Increase the average number of pages/session to 2 – My pages/session for 2020 was 1.29.
- Increase returning users to 20% – Only 11.1% of my site visits in 2020 were from returning users.
- Bring my average page load time to under 5 seconds – My avg. load time for Dec 2020 (according to GA) was 13.44 seconds. That's bad. Faster site = better user experience and SEO.
- Get my CWV scores to a pass – I need a lot of improvement here. Increasing my page speed should help, but other tweaks will likely be needed as well. This is becoming an SEO ranking factor in May so it's pretty urgent.
- Action plan:
- Publish 100 reviews – I have a massive list of different online money-making opportunities that I want to get reviews out for this year. 100 won't be easy to hit, but with the right team and systems, I should be able to do it. I know people will find these super useful too.
- Publish 12 videos on Youtube – I failed this last year, so I'm trying again. I still don't exactly know what type of videos I'm going to post yet though. I'm debating trying #shorts as I've heard people having great results with those. Either that or I'll upload in-depth review videos, or evergreen long form videos on certain topics like budgeting, sinking funds, money-making opportunities, etc. I still think my main focus is going to be on written content as that's what's really working for me now, but I know Youtube can be a good supplementary traffic source, so I don't want to completely ignore it.
- Publish 24 Founders in Focus stories – I already have 2 of these planned for Q1 of 2021. Stories from business owners will add a lot of value to Swift Salary and the “make money” section of the site.
- Publish (or upgrade) 12 ultimate guides – An ultimate guide is something that brings a bunch of information together on one page (like this recent guide to GPT sites). These types of articles are typically pretty long so they take a long time to put together. One per month seems doable.
- Test Facebook ads – I don't even know which pages I'd run these too yet, but I know I want to experiment with FB ads in 2021. The idea is to advertise to fresh eyes as well as retarget people who have already visited my site to increase my returning users.
- Update and improve all pieces of content that haven't been updated in over 6 months – A lot of my content has remained relatively the same since it was created. Updating them should help increase SEO traffic, and help me find opportunities to link to other existing content to increase SEO and pages/session.
- Update my email sequences – I have a few opt-ins/sequences that are in need of updates now. After updating I may test out different copy and placements on my site to see if I can boost conversions.
- Implement better caching and a CDN – These should help my speed. I don't want to have to change hosts (I love Siteground) but we'll see if that becomes necessary after these changes
Are these goals set in stone? No way.
There's a good chance I'll modify, update, and evolve them over time. I'll probably also come up with new goals and get rid of old ones.
However, for a starter list, I'm pretty happy with the goals above. I now have a good idea of some things I want to accomplish by the end of the year, and that will help me plan out the weeks, months, and quarters coming up.
Where I Think I Could Have Done Better in 2020
I'm probably repeating myself here but where I could of improved in 2020 was with updating old content and finishing in-progress content.
Anyone who's read my income reports knows that this is something I have struggled with since the beginning. Old content gets neglected, new content sometimes gets started and never finished.
I'll be honest…
I still don't really have an exact solution for this. Maybe I need to dedicate particular days of the week to particular tasks. For example, Monday could be post outlining day. Tuesday could be post updating day. Wednesday could be email day.
I don't really know, but I'll continue to test things out and measure my results in 2021. I'm going to try outsourcing more so hopefully, that will help me release content on a more regular basis.
I'm still planning to release quarterly income reports in 2021, so stick around for those to see my updates.
Want to Start a Blog?
I've basically poured everything I know about blogging into the course.
I'm three years into my blogging/business journey with Swift Salary, and I definitely still don't have everything figured out. There are times when it feels like I'm making zero progress or progress at a snail's pace.
I think (hope?) that's normal.
I'm getting things done and learning as I go. I may not be the best or the most efficient person in the world, but I'm constantly striving to be a little bit better each day.
I think that's really all anyone can do.
So, whether you're a few months into your journey or several years, just know that no one becomes a success overnight and success doesn't require perfection. I'm doing pretty well and my execution is far from perfect.
Just make sure to enjoy the process.
What did you learn about yourself or your business this year? Drop your insights below!