Passive Income Fail

This is an update on my passive income project. Back in April, I decided to follow blogger Steve Pavlina’s passive income creation series. Later, per Steve’s encouragement, I set a public goal of creating, by September 30th 2012, a new passive income stream generating at least $300 per month. Well September 30th just passed, so … how’d I do?

I spent the first couple months mostly trying to develop the right mindset. This was in keeping with Steve’s series. During this time I came to the realization that creating passive income was primarily about creating passive value first. The question then became: where and how do I create passive value?

I had a couple ideas at the time. One was to provide support for people using WordPress blogging software. Over the years, through doing my own personal Web projects, I’ve built up a decent skill set around WordPress publishing and coding in HTML / CSS. I considered creating and marketing a service where I’d help 10 people build and maintain a WordPress Website for $30 a month.

The good thing about the WordPress idea is it was clear how I’d provide value, and how I’d reach $300 per month in income. It wasn’t clear, though, whether this could really be considered “passive”. Would there be any scale to this kind of venture? I didn’t know, so I tested it out.

I managed to land two paying customers to give it a shot with. I discovered pretty quickly that I enjoy the work, but it’s tough to juggle the time demands. I can’t just put in the Website work whenever I want — I have to, or WANT to, be highly responsive to my customers’ timelines. When both clients needed something done at around the same time, I became pretty stressed out at night trying to get things finished. (I have a day job and am pursuing this project in my spare time.) Scaling to 10 clients seemed daunting. So, I stopped trying to find new clients, though I’ve continued to help my 2 existing clients.

My other idea was a blog / informational site about my favorite sport, squash. I already had the beginnings of a site, but I needed to grow it. Here, it was clearer how the model would work, because I had already created an informational site about BrickBreaker, the classic BlackBerry game. As I mentioned in Creating Passive Value, I’d been able to build the BrickBreaker site into making $30 per month, though it took two years. I figured if I could build a site 10 times bigger for squash, I’d meet my $300 per month goal. Around July 4th, I decided to focus on growing the squash site.

I stuck to publishing useful squash content on a regular basis. At first I posted a combination of news and articles about squash equipment. Over time I moved away from news, which, like the WordPress business, was very timing-intensive. In other words the timing of my publishing was driven by external demands; it wasn’t something I could just work on whenever I had the time. But mainly, I just stuck to publishing.

Over time, my site experienced pretty steady growth. The traffic has come from a combination of other sites linking to mine, and search engine traffic.

You’ll notice traffic starts to drop off after September 9th. This is because in the middle of the month, I accidentally blocked search engines from accessing my site. Oops. After a week or so in purgatory, it looks like traffic is climbing back up to near its former heights. This is a bummer, but I’m in this for the long term, so it’s not a big concern.

Well enough with all the background, how did I do numbers-wise in September?

Here’s the breakdown:

BrickBreaker site

AdSense Ads – $17.06

WordPress Business

WooThemes Affiliate Sales – $17.50

WordPress Support $60.00

Squash Site

AdSense Ads – $17.71 Affiliate Sales – $3.00 Affiliate Sales – GBP 20.59 ($33.24) Affiliate Sales – GBP 6.44 ($10.40)

TOTAL: $158.91


So, I failed to reach my $300 per month goal. Boo hoo. Of course, I still came away with a hundred and fifty bucks, so I can drown my sorrows in a LOT of beer. And I created two new businesses, tiny though they may be.

One lesson I take away from all this is it was really helpful to set a goal. I think if I hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be dithering over what business to start with.

I know almost everyone says it’s super-duper-wonderful to set goals and everyone should do it, but I’ve had my doubts. I’ve previously written about the benefits of paring back the number of goals I’ve set. I’m still intrigued and fascinated by Leo Babauta’s writing on having no goals. But the results, for me are in: having a goal is helpful.

While having a goal was helpful, it was also important for me not to get too concerned about it. When I accidentally shut my site off from the search engines during the home stretch, I could have freaked out. Instead I just kept posting every day, knowing everything will work out over the long term, even if I don’t hit my short-term goals.

I guess now it’s time for a new goal. I’ll keep the same monetary amount, just extend my deadline a bit. Here we go, with authority:

I am now successfully creating a new stream of passive income by March 29th, 2013, that generates at least $300 per month on average and endures for a minimum of 10 years, and I’m doing this in a way that delivers strong value for many others around the world.

I picked March 29th because it’s a good distance away, but not too far. Also, it’s my birthday :-).

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