If you read my Q4 2020 income report and annual review, you know that 2020 was a great year (for business, that is…).
2021 is shaping up to be just as strong. With three months already behind us, it’s time to look at the Q1 numbers!
We’ll go into detail about everything, but first, you might be wondering…
Why publish income reports?
I put together these income reports for a few reasons:
- People seem to appreciate them.
- I like being transparent, especially about the taboo topic of money.
- They force me to take a good hard look at the numbers and figure out what’s actually going on in my business.
If you like these reports and want to learn more about starting your own content business, be sure to subscribe for free tips.
The first quarter of this year – Q1 2021 – was the best quarter to date for my little digital media business, by a long shot.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into the numbers…
Blogging Income for Q1 2021
The words “blog” and “blogging” have all but lost any meaning, especially in the age of online influencers.
When I say blogging I really mean digital media business, which includes content websites, YouTube, social media, email lists, etc.
TMM started as a blog, and it’s evolved into an authority site around men’s fashion and lifestyle. TSW is also a content site, but it’s dedicated to wrist watches. I bought this site in February 2021.
I also have a YouTube channel that’s currently housed under the TMM brand, as well as all of the social media accounts you’d expect (FB, IG, Twitter, Pinterest).
From the outside, the YouTube channel and Instagram account look more like an “influencer” type of operation, but I view myself as a the owner/operator of a digital media business.
Here’s how much the business made in Q1 2021:
You know those side bar and sticky footer display ads all over websites – the ones you probably ignore or thwart with an ad blocker extension?
Yeah, this sort of programmatic advertising represents an increasingly large portion of my business’s revenue.
I also see some revenue from YouTube ads, but it’s not much compared to traditional website display ads:
This is about a 50% increase from the previous quarter (Q4 2020). Both YouTube and AdThrive revenue increased, but AdThrive brings in more than 5x more than YouTube, despite YouTube getting more total views than both of my AdThrive sites combined.
This goes to show, website views are WAY more valuable than YouTube views (at least in this case).
AdThrive revenue is up because traffic is up. I love this monetization strategy because it’s so simple:
More pageviews = more ad revenue
You could build a huge business just on organic traffic and display advertising alone.
Affiliate programs let publishers earn a commission from traffic and sales they generate for e-commerce brands.
For example, say you read my guide about the best WordPress themes for fashion blogs. If you click a link in that article and make a purchase, Full Time Blog might earn a commission from that sale.
I’ve been focusing on increasing affiliate revenue because it’s truly passive income – the best kind!
Here’s a high level look at affiliate revenue for Q1 2021:
In total, this is almost a 2x increase over Q4 2020, due to increases across the board (not just one specific affiliate program.
Keep in mind, there’s a lagging effect to affiliate payments. If someone buys a product through your affiliate link in December, you might not get paid for that conversion until February or March (after the return window has closed, and orders/refunds are completely processed).
So Q1 affiliate revenue is usually padded by the previous year’s holiday shopping season.
Still, if I compare Q1 2021 to Q1 2020, I see a year over year increase of almost 475%. About half of this affiliate revenue comes from the Amazon Associates program, which is a lot, but compared to “Amazon sites” (i.e., crappy product review sites that only link to Amazon), I have a healthy mix of different affiliate programs.
If 100% of my affiliate revenue was coming from one source – especially one like Amazon that’s been known to make sudden, sweeping changes to their program – I’d be nervous.
Sponsored content may not be passive or scalable, but it’s still very lucrative.
I take a quality over quantity approach to sponsored content by only working with brands that are a great fit and have the right budget.
I didn’t do very many sponsored campaigns in Q1 2021, but one big collaboration from last year finally paid out, which is always nice!
This is a slight decrease from the previous quarter and another quarter that only saw YouTube/IG sponsorships (no sponsored website content).
I’m okay with this. Sponsored content is great, and the extra revenue is much appreciate. But this type of income doesn’t support my long-term goal of building valuable, sellable assets (i.e., websites that generate passive income from ads and affiliate programs).
I do appreciate that the opportunity to do more sponsored content, especially on YouTube, is always there.
In Q1 2021, for example, YouTube brought in about $9k per month, which is enough to live off of. That means that if something happened to my websites (a sale, or a massive traffic drop), I’d still have plenty of income to live off of.
I’m a dummy. I didn’t realize that the onboarding sequence for The Modest Man’s email newsletter wasn’t actually sending.
Sales for my only digital product, The Modest Man Style Guide, continue to trickle in. Products were never a big part of the business, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
|TMM Style Guide (ebook)||$387|
I do offer a premium version of the guide that comes with a 1-on-1 style consultation. Every now and then, someone buys this, and I enjoy meeting with over Skype and talking about their style.
Recently, a customer asked if I had a more premium coaching option for high net worth individuals who want someone to basically revamp their wardrobe for them.
I know a couple of people who make a living from this model, and it is tempting to offer this kind of service. But for now, I’m staying focused on more passive income streams.
An income report without expenses doesn’t really show anything, especially if you’re self-employed (because your profit = your salary).
Here’s a breakdown of expenses:
|Geniuslink||$0 (had credit)|
|Canva (how to use Canva)||$39|
In Q1 2021, I spent about $1,000 more each month than in the previous quarter. This is partially due to buying some extra developer time (this falls under the “Assistants” expense line item) to make some improvements to themodestman.com.
Specifically, he did a bunch of work to make the site more accessible (and therefore ADA compliant). He also did a lot of site speed stuff to prep for Google’s increased focus on Core Web Vitals.
I also continued to outsource all video editing, which is on the pricier side at about $225 per video, and that’s worth every penny to me.
Otherwise, expenses just include the usual stuff – software, hosting, etc.
Adding everything up, here’s what Q1 2021 looked like:
|Per Month Profit||$31,211|
Keep in mind, the monthly profit is pre-tax. At the end of each month, I transfer 30% of that profit to a high yield tax savings account. That money is set aside for Uncle Sam.
(I actually just paid my 2020 taxes, and 30% was pretty much dead on. It’s a tough check to write, but I’m happy to pay it for all of the incredible infrastructure and support the American government provides.)
I then transfer 50% of the profit into my personal checking account, and the rest stays in the business checking account for current and future expenses.
Also, as a self-employed person, I have other expenses like travel (heh, remember travel?), utilities, entertainment, etc. Since these aren’t associated directly with the business I’m reporting on, I don’t list them here.
My Mission Right Now
Top line revenue and total profit is great, but my real focus right now is increasing the value of my most valuable asset: themodestman.com.
There’s a demand for high quality content sites right now. Investors and other wealthy people are looking for new ways to put their cash to work. The stock market is unpredictable, and real estate might be overpriced.
Digital property is an attractive new asset class, and website multiples seem to be going up.
One of my life goals is to become financially independent, and selling a valuable website would be a huge step in that direction.
Granted, I’m still taking money out of the business and saving as much as possible each month, but an exit would allow for a sort of one-time life-changing lump sum.
So I’m keeping my eye on one specific number each month:
TMM Blog-Only Revenue = revenue from just the website (not including YouTube)
From what I understand, it’s much easier to sell a website that generates passive income from ads and affiliate programs than it is to sell a YouTube channel or influencer business (i.e., one that relies on paid partnerships).
A website, on the other hand, can sell for anywhere from 25-50x monthly profit.
This means that, based only on Q1 2021, my main site is worth roughly $600k – $1.2m.
Of course, buyers need more than three months worth of profit and loss data. They typically look at the past 12 months to come up0 with their valuation.
TMM has more than doubled in traffic and revenue over the past year, which is great, but I need a few more months of solid P&L on the books before anyone could justify a seven figure sale price.
Granted, all of this is hypothetical. I’m not committed to selling the site. It’s a great business that’s more hands-off than it’s every been, and it has so much more potential. I’d be happy to continue running it myself for at least a few more years.
But if an opportunity to sell presents itself, and the price is right, I’d consider letting it go and moving on to other projects.
Phew, that’s a lot of math!
Not gonna lie…creating these reports is kinda tedious. But I love making them. It helps me get a better handle on my business’s finances and the overall value of the assets I’m building.
The cool thing about this sort of digital media business is the fact that there are so many different ways to earn revenue.
Building an audience is hard, but monetizing traffic is relatively easy. So if you haven’t built the audience yet, start there.
And if you need help with that, sign up for my email list, and I’ll send you some tips 😉