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April 2019 Income Report
This income report is available in audio for $15+ Patreon backers.
April’s revenues were $5,924.06, down from March’s $10,063.23. Profits were $3,330.58, down from March’s $6,432.08.
Colombian visa approved!
The big highlight is that my Colombian visa was finally approved! I still wasn’t able to do it as an investor visa, but through entering a civil union with my girlfriend. I’m now free to leave and enter Colombia as I please over the next three years.
The past year of dealing with two rejections put a huge damper on my plans. I had to make multiple emergency trips out of the country. I spent a lot of unexpected money on travel and lawyers, and there’s no doubt that my business suffered a great deal from the disruption.
The visa trauma changed my brain
I can’t say that the experience was without value, however. It certainly changed the way I think in many ways. Some of those changes are bad. I can feel the fog of negativity that cloaked much of my thinking over the past year start to burn away. And my eyelid, which was twitching for the past three months, seems to have stopped (must have been stress).
But, some ways that this experience changed my thinking were good.
Digital security, privacy, and the economics of media
Immediately after the first rejection, I took a keen interest in digital security, which motivated me to do some much-needed buttoning up of security in my business, and prompted a digital security podcast episode.
I also think it prompted me to think even more about privacy, which tied into previous thoughts about the economics of the digital economy, and monetization of media through Steemit. That led me to explore Brave browser.
It also has me thinking more about decision-making under uncertainty. I now am making progress in thinking more precisely when I have incomplete information. I also got a ton of practice in scenario planning – basically thinking through all of the different scenarios that may result from a hairy situation, and how to be prepared for those various scenarios. I have some podcast conversations planned around these topics. Stay subscribed.
Decision-making under uncertainty
I think all of this stemmed from the reality of the situation of having my visas rejected. I didn’t have any foolproof way of knowing why it happened, or what my best strategy would be moving forward. All I had was conjecture from various players – often players with conflicting motives (my lawyer for example, would have different motives from the company I was invested in.) In reality neither knew a 100% certain answer of why it happened, and I never will.
That caused me to be paranoid about some of the potential reasons my visa had been rejected, such as if a visa officer had misinterpreted something about me they had seen online, if my identity had been stolen and nefarious things done with it, or if the ministry had information – accurate or otherwise – that led them to believe the company I had invested in was a bad actor.
Not giving a f*ck
Another surprising way this experience has changed me is that I find myself much less afraid of being myself. This is a constant challenge in creating – to be able to listen to “The Voice” in your head, and say what it says before somebody else does. What are the consequences of you being wrong, or somebody disagreeing with you or being offended? I worry about this much less than I have before. I think this is a good thing and will ultimately help me toward achieving a pure, no-bullshit version of myself and my thoughts.
What mechanism is causing that? Maybe it’s because the suffering caused by this ordeal has been so intense that it makes everything else seem like not much of a problem, by comparison. It’s probably helped along by another painful experience, and is resolving me to double down on what really gives me “The Pump.”
Dabbling in coaching, & loving it (“Writing” category now “Services”)
I’ve started doing a little coaching on writing and self publishing, primarily through Clarity, though I’ve also started coaching a client one on one. It’s been an eye-opening experience for me, because I personally rarely hire coaches. But as I’m giving these sessions I’m thinking to myself, “damn, it took me a year to learn that, and this person just learned it all in half an hour!”
One lesson, I suppose, is that I should be looking for opportunities to hire coaches. But, I’m not sure in what specific areas I would do so.
The other lesson is that coaching others really is valuable for them. I think in the past I’ve worried that it wasn’t worth it for someone if I was charging what I felt I needed to in order to make it worth my own value of my time. Now I can see the value, especially in the self-publishing world, where every situation is unique, the stakes are high, and the landscape to be navigated is incredibly complex and confusing.
I wasn’t sure where to categorize this coaching, so in the reports I changed what was previously the “Writing” category to “Services.”
My Clarity rate is currently steeply discounted for the rest of May. So book a call.
Trying out Teachable with Logo Mastery
I have advanced in my search for an online course platform. I’m going to try selling a course using Teachable.
The search has been difficult, and I’m still not 100% in love with Teachable, but it is a fantastic platform that provides a great user experience.
Tradeoffs amongst online course platforms
My reservations about using any outside platform is with getting tied up with that platform. I liked Teachery (not to be confused with Teachable), but I didn’t like that it was a $50 a month charge, whether I was selling courses or not. When you’re selling “lifetime access” for an up-front price, and you have monthly fees associated with that – that’s not a sustainable business model.
Currently, with Teachable, you can downgrade to a free plan during times when you aren’t actively selling courses. But, there’s no promise that will last forever. Which brings me to another reservation I still have with Teachable: According to Crunchbase, they’ve raised $12.5 million in funding. Will they be able to make those investors happy? If and when a liquidation event comes, how will that affect the service, offerings, and pricing?
One the flipside, Teachery is bootstrapped, but it doesn’t seem to be a main priority for the founder, Jason Zook. Not like a service such as ConvertKit, which is also bootstrapped, but is a huge priority for Nathan Barry.
The other options included WordPress plugins such as LearnDash. But none of these solutions are well-designed, and I’m not currently keen on going through the trouble, expense, and management complexity of setting it up and maintaining it.
Piloting “Logo Mastery” with Teachable
To test run Teachery, I’m putting together a course called Logo Mastery. I ran a small-group coaching session of the course a few years ago. The course consists of some recordings of office hours from students of that session, some one-on-one logo coaching I did even longer ago than that, and some over-the-shoulder videos of my own design process in designing the Logo Mastery logo.
As I’m reviewing this material and uploading it to Teachable, I’m chiding myself for not doing this sooner. I still have some impostor syndrome around selling courses – like I think that if it’s not scripted lectures with beautiful graphics and shot in a studio, it’s somehow not going to help people learn what they want to learn.
I realize I still have resistance around selling. It’s like the “shipping resistance,” that I have: I have to keep on shipping through some kind of a habit, or that resistance comes back. But over time, the resistance sure enough does wear down.
So I need to make it a point to sell more often, and to wear down that selling resistance.
I’m putting the finishing touches on the course, and will launch it to my Design for Hackers list in June. I’m currently debating how much time and effort to put into the act of selling it. I can bring in some revenue with a small time investment, or I can bring in a lot more revenue with a bigger time investment – at the expense of making progress on other projects.
Working on a “Creative Systems” course
Speaking of other projects, part of the reason I’m trying out Teachable with a course that I already have ready to go is that I’m planning on building a “Creative Systems” course. The idea behind this course is to teach some of the concepts that I’ve put together for the creative productivity book I’m working on.
I’m still mulling over exactly who the course is for and what it’s offering is. I’m thinking it might be aimed at writers who have the constant sense that they aren’t getting as much creative work out into the world as they would like to be – sort of creative FOMO. The systems and methods I’ve put together for doing creative work since writing Design for Hackers have really reduced my own experience of that feeling.
How best to start the course?
The feedback on the manifesto I’ve been sharing has been lukewarm so far. It has a lot of theory, and doesn’t get into actionable stuff until much later in the piece. I’m realizing that what I’m offering is something very specific, and there is probably a small number of people who can benefit from it, and who have the flexibility to implement what I’m teaching.
Thus, some kind of a course with a small cohort seems like a good play. I can get feedback and a feel for what is valuable and what is confusing. I’m still thinking through how best to execute the first iteration of the course. I could try to get a small group coaching cohort together where I’m working closely with students and improvising much of the content based upon the knowledge I already have. Or I could put together polished lectures and offer something at a lower price to a larger number of students.
I tend to go for the more iterative and intuitive approach, so the idea of putting together a bunch of really polished lectures on relatively untested concepts seems like a risky proposition that I would struggle to find the discipline to carry out.
And there is the key here: Motivation. I need to make my next move on this idea something which I can stay motivated while carrying out. The main motivation will be what I can learn that will make any future book better. A secondary motivation will be how much money I can make. Those two factors will determine the amount of effort and distance between starting and shipping that I can withstand.
I turned forty in early May. I celebrated by visiting a country house (“finca”) with friends.
I’m not sure what it means yet to be forty. Obviously it’s an arbitrary, constructed idea. But it certainly has psychological significance. I remember being surprised how “adult” I felt when I turned thirty. I’m feeling that now, but in a different way.
I feel like I have a lot of experiences and knowledge under my belt, and that I’m poised to make something of all of that. In many ways, I feel like failure – not being more financially successful by such an “old” age, especially when I’ve seen so many of my friends go on to make millions. But, I suppose that’s normal. I really like the life I built.
Many things that I have in place took years to build. Now that one of those things – the Colombian visa – is squared away, and my health continues to improve, I really feel like I can build some traction.
Audio income reports?
I experimented with making an audio version of last month’s income report for Patreon supporters at levels above $15, which was delivered right to their private RSS feeds. I’ll probably try the same thing with this report, so be on the lookout.
One good reason to do this is I’m still trying to stay motivated to do these income reports. They are certainly valuable for me to do, but I feel as if the benefits are less-pronounced than they used to be. These reports have sharpened my thought process, and gotten me thinking more about revenue, just as I had hoped when I started them.
But if I can make these reports contribute to revenue, that would also serve to motivate me to continue doing them. Yes, they probably do contribute to revenue in some difficult-to-quantify way, but if an audio version adds extra incentive to support my work on Patreon, then that’s a more direct benefit. It’s possible that at some point these reports will be exclusive to members of some kind – or maybe just the numbers will be that way.
Continuing to think about premium content options
I continue to think about how I can work toward some kind of a monthly membership system that is valuable to people, and that is somehow cohesive – in the style of, say, Mark Manson. In a perfect world, I would magically have a membership site such as Mark’s or Sam Harris’s, complete with a unique RSS feed for each member.
In practice, I need to bootstrap my way to something like that. It’s still entirely possible that’s not my final destination – that something where I work with a smaller number of people more closely makes up much of my revenue.
Here are some of the options I’m thinking of.
A complete membership experience through a WordPress plugin
This would be a more cohesive experience that could provide access to courses and premium podcast and blog content, all under one umbrella. But it would require lots of up-front investment, and lots of maintenance. It would be a rabbit hole I could fall down for a long time. I suppose I could run a crowdfunding campaign for something like this to kickstart it.
It would make sense in such a case to try to get Patreon supporters to transition over. I would lose the Patreon brand recognition, which I suspect makes it easier for some people to process the idea of joining.
I’ve also never seen a WordPress plugin solution for something like this that I really liked. I’m not thrilled at the idea of wrestling with a plugin. I’ve done that before, and it didn’t go well.
A dedicated app through My Libsyn
I could provide premium content, through My Libsyn, and make archived Love Your Work episodes a part of that. The drawback is people have to download a dedicated app to access the content (I think – a web version may be available, too).
I’m not so sure about the experience when it comes to other premium content, such as if I were writing blog posts. Then again, maybe audio makes more sense for premium content. It’s easier to make the argument that it’s worth paying for than, say, a blog post.
It also wouldn’t integrate with a course platform such as Teachable, and Patreon would also be dangling out there, all alone. The design of Libsyn’s apps is also ugly.
I talked to the folks at Breaker recently about a beta feature they have called downstream. You can integrate it with Patreon so that certain content is only available to Patreon members. It would be possible to upload all of the archived episodes (not possible on Patreon, since they don’t allow back-dating).
The main drawback is that Breaker is only available on iOS, though Android is supposedly on its way. Also, Breaker has raised money (the amount is not public on Crunchbase), so again that brings up questions about the future of the company. Also, downstream is only beta and so it’s not central to Breaker’s business model – the stability of which is unclear.
In an experience such as this, any premium blog content would be restricted to Patreon. I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad, and I could always manually migrate such content in the future. Teachable would also be its own separate thing, but I could provide discounts on courses (or discounts monthly-payment access to all courses), exclusively to Patreon supporters.
Patreon backing back below goal level
I was just looking at Patreon, and noticed that the monthly backing has dropped to $323. There were a couple of backers who were backing at extraordinarily generous levels who withdrew their backing (not for any bad reasons, people start and stop backing all of the time). According to Graphtreon the highest backing level ever was $542 a month.
Recently, we passed the $490 mark at which we would start having detailed show notes for each episode. We did have detailed show notes for a few episodes, but this drop brings us back below that goal level.
I’m considering running a promotion to try to get more Patreon backers. I know many people think about backing, but without some kind of impetus, they don’t get around to it. Patreon now has a feature called “special offers,” which makes certain bonuses available for a limited time. I would definitely utilize that feature.
|The Heart to Start Kindle||$1,297.71|
|The Heart to Start Paperback (Amazon)||$382.77|
|The Heart to Start “Wide” (non-Amazon)||$75.14|
|The Heart to Start Audiobook||$167.50|
|How to Write a Book Kindle||$223.42|
|How to Write a Book Paperback||$229.48|
|How to Write a Book Audible||$25.83|
|How to Write a Book Spanish Kindle||$5.13|
|How to Write a Book Spanish Paperback||$2.29|
|Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain Kindle||$19.18|
|Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain Paperback||$0.00|
|Make Money Writing on the STEEM Blockchain Audible||$0.28|
|Total Book Sales||$2,428.72|
|Summer of Design||$19.00|
|Blog 2 BLING! (Beta)||$742.00|
|Total Digital Products||$819.00|
Affiliates / Advertising
Love Your Work Podcast
|Total LYW Podcast||$896.33|
|Podcast Editing / Publishing||$262.00|
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