2019 is over in a few hours and the jokes about seeing clearly and seeing 2020 vision are already getting old. A lot has changed in 2019, which is a good thing. Change is good. It almost always means progression. The key word there is “almost.” An article like this is a good way for me to take an honest look at what went well and identify areas that need improvement.
My daughter turned a year old in September 2019. This first full year with her has been great and much more eventful than the first couple months after birth. Newborn babies are completely reliant upon the parents for their survival. In 2019 I got to see my little girl develop a personality, develop motor skills, and continuously learn. It’s fascinating watching a young child figure stuff out. Especially when they tune out their surroundings and intently focus on an object. She’s my snuggle buddy on the couch and I love it.
We moved houses. In May we paid off our house mortgage early and became 100% debt free once again and said we would never be in debt again for the rest of our lives. Literally a couple days later we stumbled upon a house for sale that had a big shop in the back yard. The house was a decade newer, one bedroom and half bath larger, lower exterior maintenance, in a GREAT community, 3x the shop space for my work-from-home business, and in one of the best school districts in the state. So we sold our first home and got a mortgage for the difference in house value. Zero regrets but I have never been more motivated than I am right now to be debt free once again.
I turned 33 in October. I heard someone else say that your 30’s is when life really begins. In your single digit years your life is run by your parents. In your teens your life is run by a school system that literally teaches you nothing about living a successful life and everything about being a good sheep for society. In your 20’s you’re still kinda awkwardly sifting through life trying to figure out who you are and how life will be. In your 30’s you’ve had enough time to gain some life experiences and knowledge to (hopefully) learn from and make the rest of your life easier and more enjoyable. Learning isn’t just for the teens and 20’s though. Learn and grow every day. Life should be great in your 30’s. I feel like that’s where I’m at, and it feels pretty good.
Sandi, our oldest dog, died a week before Christmas. She was about 16 years old. We’re not sure exactly. While my wife, Jamie, was in high school, Sandi wandered up to her house and Jamie, against her mothers instruction, took her in. Sandi was pregnant and looked to be about 1-2 years old at that time. She became my wife’s best buddy for the next 14 years and a great teacher of mine for the 10 years we were together as a family. She was harmless, had a full-of-drama personality, and was incredibly stubborn. She was the perfect little companion to teach me patience before being a dad. I learned so much from Sandi but I’m glad she’s no longer suffering. Three years ago she developed a collapsing trachea and her arthritis got progressively worse. Our medicine cabinet became a dog pharmacy. She had a rough last week of her life and the last day was painful for us to witness. I can’t imagine how it was for her as she wasn’t getting oxygen and was starting to shut down. We made the tough decision to euthanize instead of watching her suffocate over the next day or so. That dog taught me so much about caring for others. Stuff you only never learn experience and not from a textbook or research.
In September-ish I drastically cut back on social media. My wife and I have been against phone use while at the dinner table and while out to eat for quite a long time and eventually realized we can limit it any other time as well. As I’m sure all of you know, phones rule our society. Look around while in public (even when driving!!) and the majority of people are on their phone. Life is more productive and more enjoyable when my phone is on silent and not within an arms reach. While trying to break my phone habit I noticed more free time so with that….
I started reading books in November. That sounds like such a silly sentence to write but it’s true. For as long as I can remember I’ve never enjoyed reading books. I’ve always skimmed through non-fiction books for bits of interesting stuff. For long as I’ve known my wife she’s always been a book reader. She says that there’s something about physically flipping the pages that will prohibit her from ever using a kindle or tablet or any other digital device for reading. I always thought that was silly, due to the amount of books she has, and when asked why I don’t read books my response was “I read the internet.” Which is true. I’m continuously reading while on the computer. Emails, comments, sifting through articles for the high points and keywords when researching, short articles about very specific topics, etc.. I stumbled upon a YouTube video from Brian Tracy about successful people and one of the common habits was reading. I bought Brian’s book No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline and quickly found myself sucked into a nightly routine of reading after my daughter went to bed. I couldn’t put it down. I then read Million Dollar Habits and just finished Rich Dad Poor Dad. Tonight I’m starting Presto! by Penn Jillette. The “why” for that book selection is as follows…
I’m still overweight. For the first 26 or 27 years of my life I maintained a healthy body weight for my height. I’m 5’6” tall and was always around 145 pounds from early high school to right before starting my business. In the two years immediately before this business my only hobby was exercising. I got sucked into strength training and put on 20 pounds of muscle in 2 years while maintaining a lean body fat percentage. I was in the best shape of my life and yo-yo’d that directly into the worst shape of my life when I started this business. I started this business while working a full time job and trying to maintain enough family time to be a good husband. The time for working out was gone and due to my busy lifestyle and the increase in revenue all of the convenient, high calorie, processed food options became my go-to option. From 2014-2016 I lost some of that muscle mass and my weight spiked at 210 pounds. I’ve been hovering just over 200 the past 3 years and my body is starting to feel the extra weight more and more. The good news is I really haven’t gained any weight since the end of 2016. The bad news is I haven’t lost any of it either. I know 100% that the reason for my maintained high body weight is due to food choices. I’ve tried a lot of things and have stuck with none of them. This is by far my greatest hurdle in life right now with nothing and nobody to blame but myself.
I put “business” in quotations for a reason. The fact that I am able to do multiple things that I love to do and call it a “business” is still strange to me. <— Those two sentences were pulled right from the 2014 article and still remain true.
I started this website and this business with the goal of doing whatever it is I want to do while presenting it in such a way that generates revenue. More directly, in such a way that builds a passive income snowball. That way everything that I publish would contribute to passive income and allow me 100% flexibility with my time and energy and I wouldn’t be reliant upon any one metric, specifically sponsored income. Nothing I know about starting or running a business is difficult to figure out. All the information is out there, free for anyone to learn. I learned this strategy from Pat Flynn of smartpassiveincome.com. If you’re wanting to learn more about making money online I suggest you check out that website and soak up as much as you can.
“Sponsored” is a sprinting event while successful businesses are built on marathon training. We’ve definitely reached a point where sponsored opportunities for the individual will never go away so my “sponsored” concern may not actually be as great as I think it is. But I see so many people get heavily reliant upon doing stuff just because it’s sponsored. At that point you’re not really working for yourself. I’ve done a few sponsored videos and I think a couple sponsored articles (all of which I have been transparent about) so I’m not 100% against it. But I strongly think they should not be the core of revenue, should not be relied upon, and should be leveraged sparingly. This mindset is powerful as it forces focus on MY business, MY brand, and MY products. The more something is attached to “me” or “my” the less chance that it can be taken away.
Ad revenue is a passive income opportunity. Ads on YouTube and websites will continue to contribute so long as the content is evergreen and remains watchable or readable. Both YouTube and website ads are continuously changing though. They are both held hostage to the Terms Of Service of companies that neither one of us run. They can change at any time which can result in potentially major changes to your revenue.
I’ve seen a continuous YouTube growth in both subscribers and views since I uploaded my first video on December 8, 2012. So that should mean a similar growth in revenue, right? No. YouTube revenue on non-publish days has literally been the exact same for me since 2016. Due to the decrease in upload frequency I’ve been experiencing nearly the same monthly YouTube ad revenue for the past 3 years even though the potential for views (total number of published videos) is continuously going up.
There’s two major explanations for stagnant YouTube revenue: the system and me. First, it’s proven that YouTube, and most other social media platforms, promote content that is uploaded more frequently than content that is uploaded occasionally. This is because the more frequent you upload, the more watch time your videos naturally generate, which in turn means the more time your content is responsible for people staying on the YouTube platform so the more likely YouTube is to promote it. There are exceptions to the upload frequency rule though. Mark Rober uploads about once per month and is wildly successful. That’s because his content is some of the best in all metrics. The substance of his content is what is responsible for the high watch time, not his upload frequency.
The second reason for stagnant YouTube revenue is that my videos have gotten stale to the general audience. They aren’t as engaging as they used to be. There’s more competition out there and for videos to perform well, relative to similar size channels in the same niche, so you need to have something special for the average viewer. I still receive positive engagement from the core woodworking audience but there’s not much in my videos for the casual YouTube viewer.
So what’s the strategy for my use of YouTube? In 2019 my strategy has evolved into not having a strategy at all. Keep the default settings active to generate passive income but that’s about it. I’ve never really got interested in trends (fidget spinner, epoxy tables) which always do well for views. I don’t want to put on the all too common fake smile and bubbly personality for every clip to be someone I’m not, which is good for views. And I don’t want to tailor my content to an always changing YouTube algorithm. YouTube is a vehicle for video distribution and keeping the default monetization settings checked makes it worth using for hosting free content.
My website is responsible for the majority of my revenue. I made no changes to the ad placement on my website in 2019 but, unlike YouTube, I did see an overall increase in ad revenue directly proportionate to the increase in website traffic. This is obviously a much greater incentive to focus on website publishing vs YouTube publishing. Of course, I like to make videos for my projects so I don’t see myself not making videos any time soon.
Another noticeable income increase was from website sales via plans, courses, and templates. Once again, website sales was my largest individual income source in 2019. This continues to prove that people will pay for quality products and for convenience. This is definitely the future of online content creation for all of us.
As A Small Business…
In 2019 I experimented with hiring out digital work and in shop work such as recording and editing. None of it worked out in the end. Part of it is me not picking the right person for the job and the other is I’m just too picky and don’t like not having complete control over creative tasks. I see this as both a positive and a negative. On one hand the control allows me to be 100% responsible for the vision and outcome of my business, which I obviously like. On the other hand, finding good team members and delegating more work to the team is something I know I need to embrace and get better at in order to grow my business at a larger rate.
I keep a small journal of short term and long term goals. None of which I want to share here. Not because they are anything secret or ground-breaking. I just know from past experiences that the more I share the “I’m going to do this” the less likely “this” actually gets accomplished. As always, I have a path and a vision for what I want to happen and it’s up to me to see how well it plays out.
I wish all of you reading this great prosperity in 2020. If you drink, don’t drive. Be kind to one another. And have a great day/week/year.