Learning to fly

49

“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings” – Tom Petty 

Six months ago I was fired… let go… downsized… whatever.  I had worked for the same company for sixteen years and, in return, I was given 32 weeks of severance pay.  While it came as a shock, it was a good thing.  The mother bird had kicked me out of the nest.

I decided to see if I could make it on my own.  Could I earn a living blogging full time?  Could I fly on my own?  As I reported in the post “Up in the air” I made a simple business plan for myself:

To see whether I could make a career at blogging, I drew up a little business plan.  I started with a target monthly salary for 8 months out.  It would be less than what I was making at my prior company, but enough to comfortably live off of.  My goal was to earn 20% of that target in month 1 (April), 30% in month 2, 40% in month 3, etc.  So far, I met my goals in April (woo hoo!), but time will tell how I do going forward.  I’ll check my targets each month.  If I miss a target, I’ll have time to try to do better.  If I’m way off target 6 or 7 months from now, I’ll brush off my resume and start looking at alternatives.

Strategy

The mother bird’s timing was spot-on.  Blog readership at the time had been increasing steadily as I reported ways to maximize credit card category bonuses and shopping portal promotions.  Still, my niche was with advanced point collectors.  I felt like I needed a way to connect with newbies as well, but without dumbing down my blog.  My strategy was to connect with readers on two fronts: 1) I would continue the daily blog, do more in-depth analyses, and continue to target advanced point collectors; and 2) I would create a step by step beginners guide as a separate venture.

Execution

Continuing the daily blog has been easy and fun.  Each day, I basically research and write-up whatever interests me most at any given time.  Luckily many readers seem to share my interests!

The beginners guide has taken more effort, but it too has been fun.  I’ve written one lesson a week for 24 weeks now.  I use a service called MailChimp to automatically send the lessons via email, in-order, one week at a time.  For example, anyone who signs up now will receive the first lesson immediately, the second lesson a week later, and so on.

With both my daily blog and newsletter, my primary source of income is from credit card referrals.  As a rule, I do not put credit card offers directly in my posts, but I do provide a few permanent pages that contain my links.  For example, on my “Best credit card offers” page I list the best sign-up offers I know of, regardless of whether I get paid for them.  For some I do get paid, for others I don’t.  I want everyone to get the best offers even if it means that I lose out on some revenue.

So far, so good

I love working for myself: no bureaucracy, no timesheets or status reports, and no pointy haired boss!  Since April, blog readership is up 135% and I now have over 700 people subscribed to the beginner’s newsletter!  As to income, incredibly, I’ve done well so far!  Month over month, my income has exceeded my original targets.

Despite my success so far, continued income is no sure thing.  August revenue was amazing.  There was a near perfect storm in which Chase made public their new Ink Plus card, American Express temporarily increased their SPG signup bonus, and Citibank revealed their new Hilton card.  September revenue was much more modest, but still exceeded the goal I had set for myself in April.  Will revenue continue to decline, or bounce up and down?  Only time will tell which way things will go from here.

What’s next

As long as I’m meeting my goals, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.  For now, at least, my point collecting hobby has become my job — my awesome job.  If revenue dips significantly I’ll look for new sources of income — I have plenty of ideas.  Until then, I’ll keep flying.

So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

Tom Petty

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