Every quarter I take stock of my business and my life. What am I doing? What am I going to do? And why? I put it all down in a quarterly business report. If you want to know how much money I’ve earned this quarter, you can do here.
I’ve spent almost all the last three months in Chiang Mai (apart from three days in Pai, see above). This quiet provincial capital with just one bar that stays open after midnight (officially speaking) is the perfect place to get stuff done.
And a lot has been happening, business-wise, this quarter. Let’s get going:
Amazon FBA profits
Let’s start with some good news. I’m delighted to see my first product creeping up in the listings for its main keyword and secondary keyword. Amazon pay you twice a month. I take these payments and subtract the cost of manufacturing and transporting the number of units sold to Amazon to get a per unit profit figure.
I’ve turned a profit for 5 the last 6 payments from Amazon. Here’s an article on how much money I spent and the time it took before my Amazon FBA business got to profit.
I ran an Amazon promotion through ZonBlast to improve my rankings. I was disappointed with the outcome. Usually when you run price reductions and promotions it improves your rankings and sales but this particular “ZonBlast” was extremely expensive ($1500) and did less well than the cheaper alternatives out there – AMZtracker and Snagshout. I will write an article shortly to compare Amazon review and promotion products.
However, I’m making money on the first product and I’m desperate to get my 2nd, 3rd and 4th products onto the platform.
I was delighted to be approached by a group of successful Udemy instructors to produce an introductory WordPress course as part of a freelance developer bundle. Udemy didn’t allow us to publish the bundle so we sold it on StackSkills.
This gave me an opportunity to put the course on various platforms (Udemy, Skillshare, StackSkills, Amazon, my own, etc.) and test out how it sold on various platforms. Unfortunately, due to an issue at ActiveCampaign, I was unable to segment my lists successfully. But I managed to make at least $3000 from the launch.
I’m making a new course at the moment. I wanted to do something completely different so the working title is: How To Start A Successful Online Business. Because that’s what I’ve done. 🙂
Lack of motivation
Despite (or maybe because of) being incredibly happy living in Thailand, I’ve been noticing that I’m not springing out of bed to work on my business with the same urgency and delight that I once did.
I’m happy with the way things are going with my business. I can’t say that I’m bored because I love my business and it’s as exciting as its ever been in terms of new challenges.
Sure, things are going wrong (Udemy sales down, ActiveCampaign issues, wasting money with ZonBlast, etc.) but these things always happen and they rarely demotivate me.
Income report negativity
There is an increase in negativity about my income reports. I’ve always had criticism for publishing my income reports but it was always countered by the positivity I got from people. I liked the idea of helping people so this kept me going. The criticisms I usually get about the passive income reports are:
- You’re boasting – I don’t want to know how much money you make.
- You’re lying – You don’t make that much money. You’re exaggerating to sell a product.
- It’s not passive income – You have to work to create products and sell them (who’da thought?)
- You’re not making enough money – Profits are down and, anyway, $5,000+/month passive income isn’t good enough.
And so it goes on. So, I’ve been thinking. How do these reports benefit me? I like the accountability. I can see whether I’m relying on one platform too much and I can see if I’m making more than last year (or less as the case may be).
I can get that accountability “behind closed doors”. I have a Drive Sheets doc where my VA and I keep all the figures. We can still update this every quarter without having to bother about the income report blog post itself which takes a lot of time.
So the last income report may well be my last ever. Now I think that I should concentrate more on helping my business get tangible results and less on helping other people for free. From now on I don’t want to be the “courses guy” or, even worse, the “Udemy guy”, I want to be the “guy who makes money but doesn’t necessarily have to tell everyone how and how much”.
My antidote to lack of motivation
I’ve concentrated on three things in the last two weeks. And they work:
- Increase in physical exercise
- Spending at least one hour everyday doing something that gets me closer to where I want to be:
I’ve really been making an effort with meditation since coming back to Chiang Mai in May. Things have been going well. I get out of bed and do a couple of warm up stretches I learned in my Tai Chi classes (swinging arms and sink & pray) and then I’ve tried to do 20 minutes meditation.
For the last 2 or 3 weeks I’ve been making sure I do a good load of exercise at least 3 times a week. This consists of running outside for 4-6 kilometers followed by a bit of weight-lifting.
Then I’ve set myself a task each day (two things everyday that gets me closer to where I want to be):
- To record or edit at least 5 minutes of video for my new course How To Start A Successful Online Business
- To make at least 4 email enquiries to suppliers for potential Amazon FBA products to sell
I found the feeling of achievement of getting the above tasks done each day (which probably only took 90 minutes) as well as meditation and physical exercise got me out of a funk.
Above you can see the moment I made this realisation. Simple: goals plus meditation plus exercise equals happiness. Rock on!
I’m now concentrating on earning at least $10,000 passive income profits per month and my Amazon FBA business is going to be the main driver toward this goal.
My business report: Quarterly business targets
Specific business targets
Here are specific targets that I set three months ago and more targets for three months’ time.
|Target||Q2 2016 Target||Q2 2016 Actual||Q3 2016 target|
|Monthly sessions (traffic to my site)||22,000||17,695||secret|
Traffic is stagnant; profit is stagnant. However, I hope to dramatically increase my passive income towards the end of the year as I add more products to my Amazon brand. We’ll see.
General business targets
Last quarter I had five targets. Here’s how I got on (not very well!):
- Amazon FBA product number one: on the first page for it’s primary keyword ? Target Hit!
- Amazon FBA product number one: has over 300 reviews ? Target Missed!
- Amazon FBA product number one: making at least $2000/month passive income ? Target Missed! (only just missed!)
- Amazon FBA product number two: launched ? Target Missed!
- Publish one Kindle ? Target Missed!
Here are my business targets from now until the end of the third quarter 2016:
- Launch a second Amazon FBA product
- Launch a third Amazon FBA product
I always add these indicators to my business report. I’m not sure I’ll be sharing this going forward.
|Indicator||30th Sep 2015||31st Dec 2015||31st March 2016||30th June 2016|
|My Twitter followers||3309||3418||3574||4835|
|My YouTube Channel, subscribers||3471||3825||4193||4553|
|My YouTube Channel, video views||765,373||827,482||899,725||965,615|
|Facebook page Likes/Fans||3388||12,323||28,149||37,119|
|Subscribers to RobCubbon.com||9059||9380||9435||9108|
|Subscribers to my free courses||2006||2393|
There are a few thing to note on the above figures:
- My Twitter and Instagram follower numbers swelled due to automatic following and unfollowing with the help of MassPlanner. However, MassPlanner proved too difficult to keep working so I cancelled my subscription.
- It’s great to see my Facebook Page benefitting from the tactics I learned in Steven Aitchison’s Your Digital Formula course (affiliate link) that include how to create image quotes to increase Likes on your Facebook Page.
- I’m closing in on one million YouTube video views! Woohoo!
- Unfortunately, due to a bot issue at ActiveCampaign I have lost subscribers on my main email list
I’m not sure I’ll be sharing this going forward. What do you think?
Philanthropy, gifting and donations
I donate a total of $460 a month to charities from my business. I was inspired by a Smart Passive Income podcast by Pat Flynn with Dale Partridge of People Over Profit although I’ve always been interested in gifting. I hope to donate more as the business grows.
Again, I don’t want to be accused of showing off so I might not publish the donations going forward. Again, how is this benefitting me or anyone else? What do you think?
Life is great in Chiang Mai. I have my favorite restaurants, cafes, massage places, running track, gym and friends all within a 10 minute bike journey. And added to this, I’m in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
The challenge will come when I leave this place and get back on the road again. I need to continue with weekly physical exercise and daily meditation.
And then I’ll need to return to the UK soon. The challenge will be to keep a positive mental attitude when away from Thailand.
I hope these business reports help other entrepreneurs, business people and those starting out. I certainly want to continue them every quarter.
However, I’m not going to share as much going forward. So there will be far less information about my business’s income. But, most importantly, what do you think? What would you like me to share going forward? What would help you?
Mark N says
Great to hear you are doing well Rob. Personally I think the haters are just jelious. Excercise and good diet are defiantly key to staying positive. Of course a nice environment helps. All the best.
Rob Cubbon says
thank you, Mark 🙂
I do enjoy income reports but understand why you wouldn’t want to do them.
Maybe instead you could do project progress/income reports. So you do a follow along on how you launched a new X (ebook, product, course) then do monthly/quarterly updates sharing what you’ve done and how well the project is doing in terms of download/sales/profit/etc.
Kind of like how Pat Flynn used to do the niche site challenge thing. That way you aren’t sharing everything, just one project, with step by step guides that your audience can follow to get to their passive income goals. Or Spencer’s Niche Site Challenge where they work with readers to get a new site started
I know you’ve kind of done the project progress reports with the FBA, but personally, I feel that is quite an advanced project, what with all the moving parts and upfront investment.
When I read the blogs of people who are earning 5 figures a month and only working a few hours a day, I don’t get that inspired/motivated, as it’s so far from where I am now.
Whereas watching someone start something new, is something I could get on board with and try to follow along with. But I understand that’s a lot of work for you to undertake when you’ve already got plenty of projects on the go!
It’s a tricky one for sure and you’ve just got to do what works for you.
Rob Cubbon says
Yeah, Joe, I always think that someone like me who’s making a decent amount of money is more helpful to most people than someone who’s making a crazy amount of money. And, particularly as I did it all from scratch, I never had any money to invest to start out and I always turned a profit and managed to support myself.
I will be doing new projects and reporting on them as time goes on, hopefully.
Have been wanting to write a comment but with all the travelling, it’s been hard to manage. Anyway, I wanted to react to this post and cheer you up a little, cause I noticed some negativity.
First of all, let me say you are a tremendous inspiration for me and lots of people. When we first me a year and a half ago, you agreed to meet for an interview and spent that extra time helping me with my website and telling me what to improve. That’s invaluable.
I like these posts, I think they set directions for people who are interested in the different passive income channels you mention. I’ve always wondered if I wanted to sell ebooks or do udemy courses, and because of my skills I decided to write and sell ebooks rather than prepare udemy courses. The result was a failure but I’ve learnt from it 😉 Seeing what you could do has drawn me forward. I’ve now started an FBA business 🙂 and it’s working better.
I’m not that interested in the numbers, but I like to read your thoughts and what’s working/not working. However I can imagine numbers (financials) can help people starting out.
I love these posts and think you should keep on writing them, but I also understand the time invested is important and it may be spent better elsewhere.
Big idea of this post was to let you know that I love the blog and what you do Rob, please keep it up!
Rob Cubbon says
Hey Dewi, thank you for your comment. Yes, I’m having difficulty finding time to do stuff with all my travelling at the moment. I’m really glad I’m an inspiration to you. God, was it really a year ago we met? Would be nice to see you again. Yes, I will continue writing about my business in terms of what’s working and what’s not working and what I’m thinking about. I’m sure it helps people but I think the specific income figures will become a thing of past as I take the business to, hopefully, the next level! 🙂
Joe Junfola says
Hi Rob, my team let me know about your post earlier. I’m a little confused by your suggestion that you “wasted” money with us or the suggestion you didn’t see results. I don’t see you mention that we had moved you quite significantly in search results for what is a very competitive niche. Our records show you had jumped from #17 to #6 for the targeted term approximately 72 hours post-blast. It looks like you’ve failed to stick that landing as a result of conversion rate issues. As I’ve repeatedly said on podcasts, blog posts, and our client help documents, there are three outcomes on a promotion – be it a blast, your own promotion, or otherwise:
1) You stick the landing. This indicates a properly optimized listing and competitive conversion rate
2) You move significantly higher but fall back most or all the way to the original starting position. This indicates a conversion rate that does not compete with competitors around you in search results where you had moved to briefly.
3) You move very little or not at all. This indicates a very poorly optimized listing and poor conversion rate.
I would encourage you to focus on optimizing your listing. Your category needs a good 25-30% minimum to be competitive there. If you’re converting under 25%, then you will not be able to stick landings as you try to move higher on page 1. You’ll continue to fall back. We can blast listings all day and move them significantly in search results, just as we did with your move from 17 to 6, however sticking that landing depends on your conversion rate.
Best of luck!
Joe Junfola @ ZonBlast
Rob Cubbon says
I would say that the money I spent on your product was wasted because $2000 got me zero results. I may as well have flushed $2000 down the toilet – I think that would be a ‘waste of money’ by most people’s definition so I don’t understand your confusion.
Am I missing something here? I got neither higher rankings, nor greater sales, nor any more reviews. The brief ranking boost was negligible because I lost as much as 50% of the Buy Box on the following days as an estimated 20 units were resold on Amazon – wasting even more of my money. You, yourself admit that a few hours of higher rankings didn’t stick. So I didn’t achieve anything. I got so much more from AMZtracker as I got reviews there which help my conversion and click-thru rates.
The product is in exactly the same place for that keyword post ZonBlast as it was pre ZonBlast. Why? Because it’s not converting at 30% plus. I was in extensive email communication with your team before the blast and I’ve just spent 10 minutes on your site and no one is telling me that your product(s) don’t work with conversion rates of less than 30%. If I understand you correctly you are saying that this tool will not work on products that convert at less than 30%. Then I should never have used it in the first place.
I purchased your product based on a recommendation and the sales pages on the site. I made a mistake. I accept that. We live and learn.
This is a personal low traffic blog where I have consistently given my honest opinions about running online businesses over 10 years. I will be writing a comparison blog post about ZonBlast compared with AMZtracker and a few other similar Amazon promo tools soon. This will be based on my experience with these tools, on the experience of other people who I know and trust and on opinions of other sellers in Facebook Groups. I would appreciate it if you or other members of your team respect my honest opinions and don’t attempt to harass me whilst doing this. I posted a question in a Facebook Group detailing my experiences with ZonBlast and it was hijacked by a member of your team who gave away confidential customer information so that I had to delete the comment thread (that would have helped other sellers). I have acted in a respectful manner towards you and your team and I would respectfully ask you to leave me alone now. Thank you.
Joe Junfola says
If you’re suggesting that the substantial moves that we provided for you on time, on schedule post-promo was “zero results”, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Because folks come to us specifically to make the moves that you did there. #17 to #6 is not insignificant, so the suggestion that you did not achieve higher rankings isn’t factual. In regards to your comment on reviews, I’m not sure why you’re disappointed with a “service” we explicitly do not provide. We are not a review service, and will never be one as it is quite clear Amazon has spent the last 11 months cracking down on the reviewers and sellers using those services.
In regards to the 30% comment, as I said earlier, you are in a space that requires minimum 25%, preferably 30% conversion rate in order to stick landings. I agree, you shouldn’t have used us because before you even got started you were never going to stick the landing. You should have spent the time and energy, and money if necessary optimizing your listing. If you were open about the broad level category that you are in (which is not confidential information), you would find that many readers and many folks in the groups you frequent are in similar positions, have experience in getting their conversion rates up, and have an understanding of how important optimization in that space is. A 20% conversion rate will cut it in kitchen, or other lower level categories; it will not cut it in your space.
In regards to your review, I trust that in the interest of honest disclosure you’ll also include a screenshot denoting your Blast date, as well as the 72 hour movement experienced post-blast, as well as your conversion rate at that time as well as our team’s as well as my own advisement here on the importance of improving that poor conversion rate to stick the landing.
Ha, ha, some folks just don’t understand that “no means no” 😀
Rob Cubbon says
I think you are agreeing with me that my experience with your company provided me with neither greater rankings (other than a short spike) nor better sales and that I should never have used your product in the first place. Then I that’s what I mean by ‘zero results’.
The readers of this website aren’t interested in a momentary spike in rankings if it doesn’t stick. They’re not going to take a screenshot of their product in 6th position, hang it on their wall, and say that was worth $2000! They’re looking for tangible results not ego boosts.
I didn’t expect your tool to provide me with any reviews but I’ve seen much better ranking improvements with tools such as AMZ Tracker and Snagshout for a fraction of the cost and I got reviews. I mentioned reviews just in case I was missing something that the tool had provided to me because I was trying to understand your point. I wasn’t missing anything. I repeat, the tool rendered ‘zero results’. Many of the people I asked in the Facebook groups I frequent also expressed disappointment with their ZonBlasts. As I said in my last comment, a brief spike in rankings is not a result if it is not accompanied by an increase in sales. It wasn’t because at least 20% of your reviewers re-sold my product and the ranking didn’t stick.
These are the facts.
I have been reporting unbiassed facts on this website as well as I can for 10 years so I repeat, as I have a following, it is very important that the broad level category remains confidential information. I repeat, the actions of your staff divulging this information that I asked to keep private is, in my opinion, unprofessional, petty and disrespectful. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that as well.
I won’t be publishing a screenshot in my article on comparable promo tools for Amazon FBA but I’ll say that the tool did temporarily move me up from #17-#12 to #6 in the rankings for a few hours but the brief ranking boost was worthless because I fell back down to where I came from very quickly and I lost as much as 50% of the Buy Box on the following days as an estimated 20 units were resold on Amazon by your shoppers.
I feel like we’re both repeating ourselves here, Joe. So I’m not sure what you’re wanting to achieve by continuing this conversation.
Hi Rob –
It was saddening to see a negative tone creep into this post due to the criticisms you’ve been receiving.
You’ve been an inspiration to me and I’ve been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to start a blog and put together an eBook and video course. I’m afraid family demands are limiting my ability to succeed there.
It’s your open honesty about what works and what hasn’t worked as well as being transparent about the roller-coaster nature of the markets you’re operating in (e.g. Udemy) that have both inspired and deterred me. I must admit my efforts have faltered due to personal doubts – what if I spend all that time creating a video course and Udemy fails me, for example.
I’m not saying you put me off – quite the contrary – I’ve found that your altruistic sharing of your experiences has encouraged me to consider different niches other than the main one in which I operate and I think it would be a shame if the negativity of the failed money-grabbers makes you believe that you should stop encouraging other and just focus on being a money grabber yourself. I don’t believe, based upon your previous posts, that’s who you are.
Ultimately, if people don’t want to see you ‘brag about your income’ they don’t have to read your posts. They read them and then complain because you’re succeeding where they have failed. I read them and see potential to achieve. They read them and see something they want but can’t have, probably because they’re not willing to put the work in. I read them, including the warnings about work and realise just how much I need to put in if I’m going to make it work.
It’s not my place to tell you to keep publishing your reports for my benefit – ultimately, if they’re making you miserable, you should stop. But make sure you stop publishing them for your own peace of mind, not to benefit the dross elements of the Internet community that expect success to land on their plate with minimal effort on their part.
Rob Cubbon says
Hello Phil.I’m so glad I’ve been an inspiration to you. Well done for what you’ve achieved so far. I know it’s not always easy with family demands. Please keep coming back as I will be sharing with everyone what I do.
I want you to know I appreciate the comment. 🙂
Steve wyman says
Firstly and most importantly, it’s great to see your personnel progress and the business growth you have achieved since I last saw you.
Secondly, you have to learn to IGNORE the idiots. There is no two ways about that. Read learn what’s relevant to growing the business, and don’t respond to them. Anybody saying 5k a month is not enough is probably making zero on line as they clearly don’t know what it takes.
Thirdly to many of us, income report allow us to more fully understand your business. That’s important because with out the data how can one judge how well your doing? And the success’ s and failure help us all learn.
If you have to start a income report only list? And allow no comments, after all the income report should be a statement?
Either way best of luck and travel well.
Rob Cubbon says
Thank you, Steve. I’m the most thin-skinned, sensitive, soft chap in the world. Well, we live and learn. Yes, you’re right. Toying with selling the income report for $1 to my list or something like that. I’ve got one month to make up my mind. 🙂 I know people found it useful.
Adam Rafferty says
Excellent, love it. Love the honesty here as well!
Rob Cubbon says
Thanks, Adam 🙂
I found you via Skillshare (I took your Genesis WP course – the Nura Nash one).
I do want to thank you for your courses (I am taking more as you have some very valuable skills and insights to share).
This website also has some very useful information and training – obrigada!
More than that, I want to thank you for your integrity – for not being someone who sells courses about selling courses. I see this as a form of pyramid selling and am really fed up with it.
No-one would describe me as a “slacker” but after academic success, all the jobs I had eventually left me bored / unchallenged with the actual work and tired of the “office” mentality.
I think I am trying to say that I can identify with some of what you went through. I am also older than a lot of people on this path (I am in my late 30’s) so it is good to learn from someone with some genuine experience.
I started out on the Dig Nomad route by accident and I feel much happier with this style of working. I have lots to learn and many things I want to improve on (as well as wanting to increase my revenue).
Keep being you and don’t listen to the haters.
Wishing you continued health, happiness and success
Rob Cubbon says
Great. Thanks for following me here from Skillshare.
This is such a nice message I really don’t know what to say. I appreciate you and I wish you continued health, happiness and success.