It's lightly edited but otherwise untouched. I've kept them on the site to show how the journey has evolved.
Welcome to June’s business breakdown.
Each month we take a peak under the hood of my business, discussing:
- Freedom (leverage)
- Revenue (income and expenses)
- Growth (social media and newsletter)
You'll also hear about 2 mistakes that cost me $5,000.
This one’s a 5-minute read.
Let’s dive in.
The Freedom Metre
As an early creator I made most of my money selling time. But writing’s a great opportunity to make an impact at scale, which is tough if you’re stuck working 1-1.
So 2023’s goal is to become more ‘leveraged’.
In January, 43% of my total revenue was 'low leverage'.
Here's the updated figure now:
I’d love to get below 10% by 2023.
But this month was worst than last because I sold more 1-1 calls.
I realised there’s a cost to cancelling contact with customers that goes deeper than money.
I’ve seen creators get ‘too big’ and lose touch with their fans. It reflects in their work. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of empathy or understanding, but their content just doesn't hit home.
Writing isn't just about sharing ideas. It's about creating a feeling.
To do that you need to understand your audience at a deep level.
So when customers buy my new product they can also pick up a call.
This means instead of hitting 10% by removing a revenue source, I now have to make more elsewhere.
…Not the worst forcing function 😅
June net income: $7,863.92
I expected June (and the following months) to be terrible because I don’t have a proper ‘back end’ established yet and the product isn’t for sale whilst I refine it.
So it was a nice surprise to see $14,000. It was welcome because expenses were almost $7,000 (not including the girlfriend’s wage. Gotta keep some details private eh).
Here’re the revenue sources:
The group coaching is a continuity offer from a package I sold in September. My clients write on Notion, I critique their work.
This is also my highest month for affiliate income after promoting George Ten’s CopyThinking community.
I used to avoid affiliating.
But if you have a course or software you believe in, it’s a win-win-win to invite your readers to invest.
(I'd also recommend George's emails if you're interested in improving your copy).
For newsletter sponsors, I stopped running them because it felt more like a distraction than an opportunity. But I made several hundred dollars in paid referrals for Sparkloop now that they’ve integrated with the ConvertKit network.
When people sign up to my list, I can refer them to another.
95% of my referrals are currently free.
But I’m considering adding more paid because it requires no extra work (and I can reinvest the earnings into newsletter growth - a nice flywheel).
So let’s talk about the expensive mistakes my friend.
1. Buy cheap and you buy twice
3 months ago I bought a new website. I decided not to launch until after High Impact Writing because the product was the 90-day goal.
But by the time the heat had died down my girlfriend and I realised something:
The site just wasn’t good enough.
You don’t need a fancy website as an early creator. But there comes a point where quality IS important for continued growth. Perception is powerful.
Now, I bought the site for $2,000 on Fiverr.
I’ve now had to start from scratch with a new developer, working with the guy who built Ali Adbaal’s site.
2. Refunds are expected (but it’s how you respond that counts)
When you sell 500 products in 4 days you can expect a certain blowback.
There was a lot of hype around the launch - which means a degree of FOMO.
We had 14 refunds in total...
I’ve been told that's pretty good by internet marketing standards.
But it still hurts.
My initial response was thinking maybe I should remove the refund guarantee (Like George Ten does). After all, a system will always be abused by some.
But I’ve decided against that path for now. It felt reactive.
Instead I'm framing it as a challenge for the next launch.
Two things I'll change:
First, buyer’s remorse is real.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but there’ll always be people on the fence.
I should’ve followed up much more after the purchase with unexpected value. I did a bit. But I burned out post launch.
My focus shifted from revenue and business to rum and beaches.
Next time I’ll have this nailed down BEFORE I disappear.
(Shout out to Craig Shoemaker for excellent feedback on my course process. He’s well worth following if you’re interested in course-building).
Second, clarity is king.
A few refunds were because customers expected a community, or blogging advice, or for me to walk their dog (ok I made up the last one but anyone who’s sold anything online can relate).
And whilst I never promised these things (although if your dog is cute and you’re in Leeds, sure), I could be clearer on the sales page.
I speak a lot about what you’ll get.
But next time I’ll add a section ‘who is this NOT for’.
I was meant to relaunch this week but it felt too soon. I'm a writer first and marketer second. So I’m pushing it back at least another month.
I’ve got a new project instead (more on that below).
Newsletter growth is picking up for two reasons.
First, ConvertKit’s creator network is absolute gold. It’s opened up a new source of subscribers with no extra work.
Second, I stopped ‘cleaning my list’.
I was removing inactive people every 30 days - stricter than a bloody army camp.
But after listening to a podcast from the guy behind brands like Morning Brew, I'll do it much less. This gives people a chance to get back to opening my emails (plus it makes me a lot less sad).
Social is slowing down.
Whilst a part of that is algorithms (although I don’t believe in blaming platforms), a bigger part is energy. I just don’t have as much for content.
I still 100% believe in the power of an audience.
But as I look at other ‘6 figure’ creators, I feel most are missing the real opportunity.
Social media is a tool, not the goal itself. It’s tough because digital dopamine feels just as good as the real stuff. If you’re not careful you lose sight of the plan.
Once you have enough attention, you need to do something with it.
… Else you’re just a commodity hiding behind big numbers.
I’ll still turn my newsletter into threads and write the occasional extra. Plus I’m enjoying sharing stories through long-form tweets.
But its the new project that's got my attention.
ZIG INSTEAD OF ZAG
The writers I respect are thought leaders.
You don't establish authority by pumping out social content.
It'll get you going but you need to layer on new forms of leverage.
So I’m writing my first long-form essay following the blockbuster principle.
The idea is you invest a crazy amount of time into one piece because few people do. You rise above the crowd by saying something different.
It’s a ‘risk’.
But I’ll be honest, even if it flops, it’s already worth it.
Growth as a writer happens outside your comfort zone.
I'm so used to Twitter + Newsletter. An essay is a real challenge.
What’s more, when you have leverage, the impact of asymmetrical bets can be staggering.
Worse case, I wasted 50 hours. Best case, hundreds of thousands of people read this post over time and I build some great relationships.
I won’t give much else away except it’s called The Infinite Creator Game: How to Build Your Business By Writing Online.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.
If you’re not having fun, change the rules.
The best path to success comes when you follow your energy.
Ex dentist, current writer, future Onlyfans star · Sharing what I learn about writing well, thinking clearly, and building an online business