I promised it. And here it is. The monthly update for my quest to earn $5,000 in gross revenue this year from things other than my day job.
And the number is…
Here it is in spreadsheet cells to make it seem more official and somehow more significant:
Hmmm. I’ll be honest with you, Crispy, the effort doesn’t seem to be there. It might be tough to make 5 grand at this clip… Do you by any chance have two healthy kidneys?
I know exactly what you’re thinking. This is the lamest earnings post in the history of blog earnings posts. It’s not inspiring at all!
I’m not happy about it. I didn’t exactly shoot out the gate like I had planned. And that 53 cents just kind of oozed out of ad revenue from a lot of past effort with this blog.
But there’s more than meets the eye with that 53 cents. There are actually two things at play in my abysmal showing this first month. And they give a much more encouraging outlook for the future:
Trial and Error
I knew the first few months would be a lot of trial and error. After all, I’ve never actually put a goal like this out there. Never officially tracked any of my side income. Never really forced myself to make sales.
Much of what I tried didn’t really work. Or, at least, didn’t really have much of an immediate impact. But, a small bit of it did work. And I learned from the fails.
This month, I chose to focus hard on t-shirt designs as a revenue stream. It’s a fun thing to create. I’ve got some fun ideas. But there’s a lot of competition. I’m really slow at it. And I’m distracted by other things.
By “focus hard” I meant, I managed to squeeze out two t-shirt designs. Neither design sold any shirts. But I still thought they were pretty good:
10-Second Rule was a timely piece based on the “miracle” touchdown at the end of the NFC divisional playoff game. I really thought I’d sell at least a couple of these (especially if the Vikings won the NFC Championship game. They didn’t). I even spent some Facebook ad dollars to boost this, too.
The other shirt is, well… See how the worm is eating the bird, here? It’s available in many different colors!
Even though I didn’t get any sales, I learned some things about the novelty online t-shirt business:
- Volume matters. You have to be willing to churn out a large number of shirt designs on a regular basis.
- Price matters. The shirts I advertised were probably too expensive. I need to show the lower cost shirts first to spur a sale. I got plenty of views on my site from the Facebook ad for 10-Second Rule but no bites. The shirts I advertised were over $20 apiece. So, it’s not shocking they didn’t sell.
- Timing matters. I think I had the timing right for the 10-Second Rule shirt. But, again, my prices were probably too high. And the world was flooded with shirts on this topic all at the same time.
- Find a long-life niche and corner it. That’s the best way to stand out in a really crowded space. The Sleep In Day shirt falls into the humorous category… get it? The worm ate the… Forget it. That’s a pretty broad category, though. Not niche enough. The 10-Second Rule shirt was niche enough, but too many vultures were going after that particular niche at the same time. And it had a really short shelf-life. If only the Vikes had gone on to win the Super Bowl, then the legend of that play would have lived on.
I’ve pocketed those lessons for the t-shirt business and other business endeavors. I even managed to build out my t-shirt site a bit more (I’ve got a logo and a Twitter account, at least). So, the month wasn’t a complete waste. Who knows where the t-shirt thing leads. I know one thing. I’m set up to try again with less mistakes.
My blog is better off too. Because of the $5,000 challenge, I am more focused on producing content on a regular basis. And I’m more engaged with the FI community overall. I’m expecting that to turn into good things in the months to come.
Setting Up Bigger and Better Projects
One of the things I learned quickly this first month, is that I don’t want to split my focus on a bunch of random small projects that each get me a few bucks here and a few bucks there to nickel and dime my way all the way to $5,000.
Yes, I could work harder on the “quick-hit” projects that get me cash now. Flip armoires on Craigslist. Sell doilies on Etsy. Shovel driveways. Stuff that would pad the total, so I don’t show 53 cents on the scoreboard ever again.
I still may do some of this stuff. But that’s not sustainable for me. I mean, if my life depended on it, I’d do what I gotta do. But, at the end of the year, I’m just facing extreme ridicule from my three regular readers if I don’t deliver. So, I’m going to try to be much more strategic.
I’ve decided to focus on stuff that’s at least loosely tied to this blog. That way, everything can kind of work together. Each arm of the “business” can support the other. Believe it or not, I’ve even got something bigger than Crispy Cabbage inspired t-shirts in the works! Not full-on start-up business stuff just yet, but much more significant than t-shirts. Hint: It’s got three letters and rhymes with “crap”.
That’s why the 53 cents I posted this month doesn’t really scare me. I know all the real revenue is back-loaded at the end of the year…
Or this big project I have in the works will be a colossal failure. And you guys will get to hear all about it in an end-of-year post as I sift through the wreckage in search of some profound point.