Wow, it's been 7 months since my last blog post, the longest this blog has gone without an update since I started. I have a good reason for my absence which I will cover in this update.
Hopefully, you will take a few things away from this post that will give you pause to think and reflect on your the direction you own business is heading.
What Have I Been Doing?
Towards Q3-Q4 of 2016 I took some time to reflect on my business, to spend some time away from the computer to think about what I really want to my life to look like. I asked myself a lot of “What If” questions, really crazy stuff, they kind of things Tim Ferriss talks about.
I ended up with a huge brain dump of thoughts, ideas, goals and above all, things I DID NOT want to do.
I believe what you don't want is just as important as what you do want. All too often I see people running online businesses that they get into for the money, only to realise they hate what they do.
Whilst I didn't hate what I was doing, it didn't align to where I wanted my business and life to be heading.
So I made some drastic decisions.
The first step I took was to look at my existing businesses, services and projects and ask myself:
Do I enjoy this, is this what I want to be doing?
The answer to that simple question was the driver for the following 4 big decisions.
I made the difficult decision to close down my link building network Rank Source.
Rank Source had been live since June 2013 and provided 1st page rankings for hundreds of business owners, from niche site developers to local and national service provides, to SEO agencies.
The network was/is large and I had a commitment to continue my services as long as possible for my existing customers.
However, in November-16 I sent the email to notify them that as of January, there would be no additional links built on the network and that all existing links would remain live as long as it made sense to do so and the domains were providing value to their websites.
Whilst this service provided me with a nice stable monthly income and I had created various systems and built a team to handle most of the day-to-day, this business model still took up a lot of headspace (a term you will see used a few times in the article).
The next step was to evaluate all of my projects and split them into various categories, here are the categories I was involved in:
Amazon Associates Affiliate Sites
Lead Gen/Pay Per Call
SEO Service Provider
Done For You Niche Site Provider
Blogging, Teaching & Courses
White Hat ‘Media' Projects
Whilst there are only 5 categories above, there were multiple projects within each category…so you can start to imaging just how much headspace was being used keeping on top of them all and assigning time and money to each was getting out of hand.
The next decision I made was to either stop or place any ‘Joint Partnerships' on hold. This included 3 sites:
The first was a ‘start from scratch' media type site where we were going with a content heavy approach and lots of outreach.
The second was a lead generation site focused on a large US state in a niche I have never been involved with before.
Lastly, I had a live course with a partner which we mutually decided to cease activity on.
So that was 3 major projects I had removed from my business/headspace, combined with closing my SEO Service business…I was on a roll.
Next up in the firing line was another service business I was operating – Done For You Niche Sites.
When I got into this business, I had seen some of the crap being offered elsewhere and decided I could do a better job with the team I had in place and I set about offering great value and providing those without the time or skills with a great starting point.
I even made a point of sourcing high quality expired domains with existing links to give them a boost at the start. It was a combination of these elements that made this side hustle a success.
However, I had one BIG issue and it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it or it didn't align with my principles or direction in life…it was that over 80% of those that bought a Done For You site from me, never did anything with it.
When I say ‘didn't do anything' I mean nothing, 3, 6 12 months later these sites are sat there gathering dust. Some even had page 2-3 rankings because of the quality of the domain and content.
You might be thinking “but Lewis, this is their problem, not yours” and you'd be right…
But I just couldn't get my head around why people would pay so much and do nothing with the sites. In turn, it made me question “why bother”. I didn't like taking their money if they had no chance of earning it back and then some.
So decision 3 was made and the service closed.
The last decision was the hardest of all, and that was to take a hiatus from blogging.
In all seriousness, I was disillusioned with the SEO/Niche Site space and was tired of seeing so much BS spouted from ‘Gurus' who set up a blog, made some crazy claims and duped people new to this game.
If you look back over my blog, there have never been any crazy claims, and any claims I did make were always backed up with a screenshot.
Some of these guys were throwing together an ebook and having their ‘buddies' push their stuff via their email lists…with zero proof, all they cared about was the affiliate commissions.
It all seemed somewhat incestious to me.
This is what led to decision 4 and taking a break from blogging.
Which Projects Have I Been Working On?
With those decisions made, I decided to get back to my roots, back to what got me into this game in the beginning…niche sites.
My portfolio of sites had taken a backseat for over 12-months whilst I was running all of the other businesses and projects I talked above above. It was time for some action.
I have over 20 active niches sites, all in various stages of development. Some are my main earners, some have just made their first commission and some I'd just not had time for.
I decided that Oct, Nov and Dec of 2016 were going to be a period of FOCUS.
And guess what? It worked.
What you see above are the screenshots of my Amazon account from October-January.
That's gross revenue of $60,262.94 in 4 months (or around £48k for my UK readers!)
(I also have some other networks I promote on some sites which bring in another $1-2k per month.)
It's been a whilst since I last provided a screenshot of my income, and I do so only to highlight the impact of taking some time out to think, plan, remove the noise and FOCUS.
That's enough on that subject, I hope this section has inspired you to go out there are grab a slice of the pie.
What Have I Read?
I find the more I read, the more success I have. I have an insatiable appetite for learning and books are my drug.
Here's what I've read over the past couple of months (some of them I am reading for the 2nd, 3rd or even 5th time!):
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't – Jim Collins
What I have found is that you really need to be in the right place, mentally, to read some books. If a book is a drag and you have to force yourself to read it, perhaps you're just not ready for it yet.
I found that with “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway”, since I had already had my mindset shift, I found it to be pretty dull and not very inspiring. However, if I had read this book BEFORE I managed to have a complete change of mindset, it would have been invaluable.
So don't just slog through it, put it away for a later date. Life is too short and there are too many books to read 😉
So What's Next?
I'm raising my game.
I have custom themes and plugins being built, designers and developers working with me to create some awesome stuff.
I will be cutting back even more, reducing my portfolio and working on the big winners.
SOP's are going to be huge. I want my team to be able to work without me, the goal is a true “Lifestyle Business“.
Despite the potential impending Amazon commission structure changes (Will) & (WarriorForum), I will continue to grow out my affiliate sites using the Amazon Associates platform, with a few slight twists to diversify:
Where possible I will find and implement other affiliate programs.
I will be reducing my portfolio and focus on my winners.
I am also looking to sell a few of my properties to reinvest offline.
My thoughts in the whole Amazon commission structure changes are this:
The program is not going away anytime soon since they have invested a considerable amount of development time/money into the dashboard recently.
A good number of people will move away entirely from Amazon – which is good for us who are staying the course.
Amazon converts far better than most other retailers out there, so even at 4% commission rates you can make more with Amazon then going with a small family run store.
Wrapping it up
This has been a short update, I wanted to get straight to the point. For those of you who have asked when my next piece of content is coming, who hoped to find some actionable stuff, this maybe not what you expected.
However, if you are working online and feel somewhat lost and you're not sure which way to turn, take a step back and do what I did.
Take 2-4 hours of your day today or tomorrow and hold a What If Session with yourself.
At first it will seem strange talking to yourself, but here's all you need to do.
Open up Notepad or a Google Doc, write out your first question and start answering.
Here's an example:
Q – What would happen if I stopped working on X and focused on Y.
Below you will write your answers. I prefer to write short bullet points to capture my thoughts.
This is really powerful and I am 100% certain it will help you make some tough decisions and set yourself on the right track.
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I'm the guy behind the CloudIncome blog. I escaped the Rat Race in 2015 by building a side hustle business via Affiliate Marketing. I share my lessons learnt here to help you achieve the same.