3 Year Blog Anniversary: Highs, Lows, and Surprises
It has been exactly 3 years since I began this wild adventure of starting an impactful blog.
On the 3rd December 2017, I had drafted a long post on Facebook to commit publicly to my desire of creating something for the good of others.
I had spent a couple of years before that over-analysing and getting frustrated at life.
My life seemed like it lacked something purposeful in it.
In my own mind, I wanted something that I would be proud of and something that I knew that I started 100% out of a desire to help others.
After drafting that message, I was too scared to post it. I feared being judged by my friends and wondered –
What if I fail?
Or what if my desire is not strong enough for this thing and I don’t commit?
What if I am not consistent enough and it flops? I would be laughed at publicly.
I called my sister, Pam, and confided in her about my fear of going public with this blog thing that I had been crafting in the background.
You know I can still hear her voice right now as she said:
“Jump! Jump! Do it, juuump!!!” 😅
And there, that evening on the 3rd December 2017, I posted this message:
That was it. Everything went silent and there were no fireworks.
No one said anything for a while and then I had a ‘like’ from my mum.
I called my sisters and brother to all ‘like’ the post 😆
Phew! I had some likes!
But then gradually, a couple more distant friends liked and commented.
Not a single one of my close friends commented or anything.
I think they were embarrassed for me.
The audacity lol.
I dreamt of reaching millions with my message. I truly believed every word that I wrote above and I could see the vision.
It helped that I had a dream (a real one) once and in that dream I was on a stage.
I was about to speak but the words could not come out of me. I just stared at everyone 🤭.
But the one thing I remember about that dream was that there were so many people waiting for me to speak that I could not see the end of the room.
It was endless.
I woke up scared. My thinking was – Why would a mere Accountant be speaking on a stage?
And why would I even remember this dream especially given I almost always forget what I dream about.
Anyway, looking back now, it would seem to me that the dream I had maybe had something to do with me speaking to a limitless number of people online.
Starting The Humble Penny as a blog was the beginning of a whole new life adventure.
I gave myself 3 years to either fail or succeed and thrive in this new environment where I had zero skills.
Crossing the line after 3 years feels extremely special 😊
My new found passion project was further encouraged by my brother who texted me something that I have hung onto.
He said: “this is gonna be your legacy, dude”.
I needed those words to hang onto as I was definitely going into uncharted territory.
With two children and a family, a demanding job as a CFO and much else in life going on, this was gonna be a big ask!
But I took an experimental approach to this and had a core belief:
With 2 hours per day sown into something that I’m passionate about, I can change the world (even in a small way)
The final and most important support that I needed was that of my dear wife and life partner, Mary.
She has been there right from the very beginning and even helped me brainstorm the name for this blog.
Mary was 100% in support because she could see that I needed something like this in my life.
I had been searching for something so uniquely mine, that connected with my core desire to give in some way.
But I didn’t just want it to be purposeful, I also wanted it to be profitable.
I had no idea how that might happen, although I had been reading other (mostly) American blogs and I knew it was possible.
All the ingredients were there and all I need to do was just start, and so I did.
I write these anniversary blog posts every year for 2 reasons:
- To document my learnings and yearly growth. I want to look back over time and see how I have grown. It’s also a record for our children to see.
- If you want to start a blog, then I’d like this to inspire you and be the words that you hang onto like I hung onto my brother’s 😀
Ok let’s dive into my learnings for year 3 and look at the highs, lows and surprises.
BLOG HIGHS OF THE YEAR
Here are the highs for 2020. Various interesting things that I thought helped us to move forward.
If you want to start an impactful blog (that makes money), then I’m creating this for you:
I did more in this year to not only think like a CEO but also to become the CEO of The Humble Penny.
You see, it’s one thing to start a blog and it’s another thing to start a blog that is not only sustainable financially but it makes profits.
CEO thinking means that I had to move beyond seeing what we do here as “running a blog” but as running a business.
It also meant that I had to look beyond my role as a content creator but see it more as a value creator.
If I’m to create value, I had to solve problems, and with that came the need for me to spend more of my time in the future.
I.e. I need a vision of where all this “blogging” stuff was going and how I could bring that vision into reality.
It also helped that I took some coaching from a lady in America who was doing very well running an online business.
Her diagnosis after speaking with me is that I need to be more of a CEO. This confirmed my thinking.
This CEO thinking led to new results.
Mary and I start this 3rd year and new decade making it clear what our vision was for the next 10 years.
We decided that our mission and core commitment is to help 10,000 families achieve financial independence this decade.
It’s a scary thought to make such a commitment (as no one we know has ever made such a commitment)…
But we also know that you don’t get anywhere in life doing what others do.
We also made it clear who we are here to serve: families.
This is our primary demographic, and others are our secondary demographic.
Making this decision was important because:
“He who speaks to everyone, speaks to no one”
This is where most bloggers or content creators fall down.
There is so much more to our future vision that makes the future ahead very exciting indeed. Read more here.
Our thinking here is that there is only one life. This is it and it’s not the dress rehearsal.
So we either go for it BIG or we don’t. We are choosing the former.
One of the dreams that Mary and I have always had was to create our own products to directly help our communities.
We’d spent a lot of year 1 and 2 promoting other people’s products as affiliates to help our Fearless Dreamers (community #1).
However, what we chose to do was to reinvest a lot of that money into creating our own products. This way, we’d retain 100% of the margins.
So in 2020, we created our most life changing offering yet – Financial Joy Academy (FJA).
It’s a first in the UK – An affordable membership program created to help families achieve financial independence.
We created it as a platform to help us help the 10,000 families in our mission.
This platform also helped us create community #2, The Dream Makers.
At this point in this post, it’s helpful for me to tell you about our 3 communities:
Community #1: Fearless Dreamers
Community #2: Dream Makers
Community #3: Dream Architects
Fearless Dreamers are those who read our blogs, watch our YouTube channel content and embrace the idea of financial independence.
They love the idea and a switch has been turned on in their minds. They’re embracing this new way of doing life but need to take action.
Dream Makers are those who take radical action with us to achieve financial independence 🚀. They are members of our private community at Financial Joy Academy.
This community and platform was launched in 2020.
Dream Architects will be our near future community 🙏🏽. Mary and I are living the lives of the Dream Architects today.
These guys are pretty much financially independent but go beyond that to act as catalysts to help others build their own dream lives.
The dream architects will create platforms, personal brands, products and services with the core mission of helping others.
They are service minded.
In our minds, Fearless Dreamers will become Dream Makers, and Dream Makers will become Dream Architects.
Each is in effect a new identity and requires a different mindset to fully understand and embody the new identity 😊.
Check out this photo of some Dream Makers at our meetup at St James Park:
Going back to new products, we created 20 new high quality video online courses and Action Plans for Financial Joy Academy (for Dream Makers) this year.
Bringing the total to about 25 video courses (with specific Action Plans) on the platform with 1 or 2 added each month.
Such Courses and Action Plans include (a selection of a dozen below):
- Dividend Income Investing
- Ethical Investing
- Investing In Index Funds & ETFs
- Wealth Foundations for Financial Independence
- Decide What Business To Start
- Start An Impactful Blog (That Makes Money)
- Research & Analyse a Buy-To-Let Property
- HMO Strategy for Property Investing
- Facebook Ads For Beginners
- Rapidly Grow Your Email List
- Personal & Professional Branding
- Start a Profitable E-Commerce Business
All created to help you accelerate your journey to financial independence through 5 paths that we teach.
Each Action Plan is created to help you take action and achieve each of these outcomes within 4 weeks.
Learn more and read the FAQs here.
In addition to the courses, we offer a mastermind community (this is so important), accountability, fortnightly group coaching (with me and Mary), expert masterclasses, etc.
Below is an example of accountability in action at FJA with our 5 a.m. Club every weekday to help Dream Makers take action.
I took this photo today:
Outside of launching Financial Joy Academy, we also launched One Grand Plu$.
It’s an 80-pager E-book to help our communities learn and more importantly, implement 5 breakthrough passive income ideas that make us income.
Basically, we created it as there is nothing comprehensive out there (showing real numbers) for how to actually take action and make passive income.
So we created it to solve that problem!
Hopefully, you’re spotting a trend…
Solving problems leads to creating value, which leads to making money online or offline.
This is really what business is all about .
It gets even better when it is based on a principle of giving ultimately. This is good business 😊
We made a 6-figure income this year thanks to some of the decisions we made to create our own products driven by the need to serve our communities differently 🙏🏽.
Given a tough year for small businesses in the country and in other major economies, it really was a pleasant surprise to see more demand for our products.
This has a lot to do with us being online and it’s another reason why we recommend that more and more people learn how to start an online business.
It still astounds me that a 6-figure income is even possible with a blog!
Especially given that the stats are that 60% of businesses fail in the first 3 years!
If you start your blog and apply what I have taught in my year 1, 2 and 3 anniversary posts, I honestly believe that you’ll get a similar result to us (if done well).
We teach you the 5 key areas that helped us make a 6-figure income in this free e-book.
The one thing that helped with this level of income generation from a mindset perspective, is a shift from “blog” to “platform”.
In my mind, The Humble Penny is a platform and not a blog although I might call it a blog so that most people can understand.
Platform thinking is what will help us achieve our mission and long term vision.
Our goal is to continue to reinvest the income that we generate in people, tech, and other ideas that we have as part of our vision.
Outsourcing To Team & Tech
Last year, we were a team of 3. Now we are a team of 5.
This is again tied to another important part of what it takes to build an impactful blog that becomes a business.
You need to invest in people and create your Dream Team.
These don’t need to be full timers on payroll or anything. That’s the beauty!
Ours are freelancers with specific responsibility over a specific area of what we do.
My wife Mary and I lead the business and our other team members support us in various ways.
Note though that you don’t necessarily need a team to make a six-figure income (although it's easier with a team).
A good friend of ours here in London makes that level of income and works on her blog alone (doing around 20 hours a week)
So what I’m saying basically is that different strategies result in different team structures.
The other thing we did was invest in new tech to do various things.
For example, one of our new bits of tech helps us create real life deadlines.
So when we run an offer, the deadlines are real.
I’ve had people write to me begging to re-run an offer because they
thought the deadline was fake missed the deadline…
In those cases, I couldn’t ofcourse, because that process had become automated, hence the tech.
Anyway, my point is, such bits of tech (and there are many) cost money.
So the income we generate is partly re-invested into our team and into technology to help us grow.
Reach and Impact
With platform thinking came the need for us to think of The Humble Penny beyond just a blog.
We grew our YouTube channel from around 4,000 subscribers to around 34,000 subscribers in one year after 142 videos.
In addition to the above, we also achieved more than 1 million views on our channel this year.
Let me repeat that again, 1 MILLION VIEWS! 😮
Such is the power of the internet!
This really blows my mind. I know this is insignificant to many people, but it really is a big deal for us.
The above growth was helped by us being chosen for an important YouTube award: “Creator on The Rise”
YouTube helped us to acquire: know, like and trust faster.
This helped to rocket our subscription base and ofcourse became a new source of blog traffic for us.
In fact, for our 3rd year, we researched, planned, created, edited and published 104 super high quality videos on YouTube.
This was a huge investment of many hours of life’s energy!
Too scared to count the number of hours! 😅
We also had more fun than ever building a community on Instagram.
If you don’t follow us there, click to follow us on Instagram where we share ideas around the mindset of Life Design.
I want to mention some of the charitable works that we’ve done this year.
I’ll only mention a couple as we keep these private tbh.
We awarded our first ever full scholarship to Financial Joy Academy to a young lady by the name of Isha Par 😍.
Her story in our free facebook group really touched us.
Mary and I could not ignore it. She needed help.
So we arranged a zoom video call with her and on that call, decided that we’d launch a scholarship to FJA and immediately awarded her our first ever scholarship.
We thank God for the opportunity to help our fellow human being in this way.
Mary and I were so touched by her reaction to this gesture that I literally struggle to hold back from shedding a tear.
We wish you well, Isha. We’ll continue to work with you as part of FJA.
The second charitable thing we wanted to mention is our partnership with 2020 Change.
Here is how they describe what they do:
“2020 Change is a youth empowerment organisation renowned for helping young people realise their true potential and cultivate the right mind-set to engage with today’s changing society.”
We have partnered with them for 2 – 3 years now and teach a quarterly investing workshop for free to a cohort of about 25 young people each time.
It is one of the most life changing things that I do every quarter.
I know that for each one of those young people, their lives will never ever be the same again because over a 3 hour marathon session, I teach them to think of money differently 🙂
There is so much joy that I derive from these sessions that it’s hard to put into words.
From these sessions alone, young people have gone on to invest confidently, get promotions and even start their own ventures.
There are many other charitable things to mention but we’ll leave it at those for now. These include various workshops at Churches, etc.
NOTE: If you run a charity and believe that we might be a good partner, then please get in touch. We’d like to work with more charities.
One day, our vision is to create The Humble Penny: Foundation. Watch this space 😊.
I Quit My CFO Job!
In April 2020 (height of the pandemic), I quit my job as a CFO to pursue dreams of running this blog and platform full time.
Mary had already taken the leap the Summer before this period.
This decision was helped because we were already financially independent. We’d also paid off our mortgage and were 100% debt free.
Quitting my job was instrumental for helping us achieve so many things that I cannot even name here as the post would be too long.
In summary, quitting my job freed up my mind to fully run The Humble Penny as a financial education business based on giving.
It was the leap that I needed to take things to the next level.
If you haven’t read my 6-months review since I quit my job, read it here. It was scary but exciting! 😊
I spent a lot of time this year reaching out to others and building good relationships.
One of such friendships was getting to know Jillian Johnsrud.
She invited me to what I can only describe as a life-changing mastermind.
If you don’t know what a mastermind is, it’s basically a group of people who come together to learn from each other by sharing ideas, challenge each other and win together.
I joined a mastermind with some well known Personal Finance creators in America.
What this did for me this year was to expose me to really interesting ideas for how to improve our business and ideas about the exact resources to help us do this.
Every 2 weeks, two people (on rotation) share useful resources and we all spend an hour helping them move their businesses forward.
This is such a priceless asset and has been invaluable to have such an opportunity to learn from peers and from those way ahead of us on the journey.
Something about the mindset of Americans when it comes to money and business is quite attractive. They think bigger than we do here in the UK. Agree?
I thrive around such people and then try to apply those learnings here in the UK.
The mastermind environment is something that I highly recommend if you are trying to really move your business forward.
In fact, it’s something that we recreate as one of the benefits of Financial Joy Academy.
The other major benefit of the mastermind is to build solid relationships.
For example, one of my mastermind group members is a mum of 6 who started a really successful e-commerce business this year.
That business now generates over $50,000 per month in income.
We were very fortunate to have Cassie do a 90-minute Masterclass for FJA on how to launch a profitable e-commerce business.
If I had to summarise my learnings from a mastermind environment, it’s this:
- Ongoing learning is necessary for ongoing success
- Who you learn from matters in order for you to take action and grow.
Processes and Systems
More than ever before, this year was really all about doing the boring behind the scenes work!
Given we all pretty much spent a lot of this year working from home, one major thing that we did was to not only document processes but also put in place automations.
We cover what systems we use on day 7 of our free blog course (if you’ve not been on it already).
This year, we used existing tech to create the automations that deliver various bits of content without us ever needing to do them manually.
These also help us build know, like and trust with our individual subscribers.
I worked an average 30 hours per week (6 hours per day) on the business.
This is 30 hours of solid work (actively tracked to see what I spend my time on).
The 30 hours is an increase on my typical blogging hours, but a huge drop from my days working as a CFO where I’d typically work 50 – 60 hour weeks.
The removal of the need for travelling into the city of London and back also meant that I had even more time to sow into the business.
So from a work hours to income perspective, this has been my best year ever!
If you didn’t notice from reading the above, one thing that running an online business can help you do is to:
Earn more while working less.
That’s because of the power of compounding online combined with the power of automations and having a team.
So my next experiment is to prove that you can earn more online by working less.
I’ve proved it this year by working 30-hour weeks for more income than my 50-60 hour City job offered.
However, I’d like to prove this again year after year as I’ve seen others do it and know it’s possible.
BLOG LOWS OF THE YEAR
Here are my blogging lows and areas of struggle for the year:
Even though I had more time on my hands, I didn’t write as much as I would do typically.
Last year, I think I created about 104 blog posts. This year, I probably did half of that.
The reasons were because we created a lot more on YouTube, and so there was a natural trade-off.
Saying that though, the bigger reason was because of the pandemic.
I lost a lot of motivation this year and at times could not be bothered. I spent more time reflecting about life as this was a tough year on so many other personal levels.
I experienced anxiety after quitting my job for a couple of months.
Something about the transition from a full time well paying role to running my own business is something that many don’t talk about.
I struggled with not getting a regular salary in the first month of quitting but soon as I realised that I really had nothing to worry about, I was fine.
This area of transitions from a corporate job to running your own business is something that I hope to teach more about in the future.
Another area of mental health was just dealing with the worry around the pandemic not just for me but for those around me (family and our community members).
Trying to stay cool and positive was not easy but was necessary for those around me to also stay positive and continue working towards making their dreams a reality.
Transition to “CEO“
This was not an easy thing for me and required a radical shift in thinking and learning.
The main challenge here was shifting from working in the business to working on the business.
This is nowhere near perfect and is still a work-in-progress!
It’s another reason why I have found being part of masterminds very useful and having business friends who I can call and chat to.
All of these have gradually improved my own confidence in my abilities as a CEO but also in my conviction about our vision for the future.
BLOG SURPRISES OF THE YEAR
Below are some of the things that surprised us this year:
We were very fortunate to have worked with some amazing brands this year.
A lot of our time was spent creating with them for our audience in different ways.
Some of the brands we worked with this year include PensionBee, Experian, IG, Fresh Books, Qualcomm, Indeed, Ionos, YouTube.
One important key to working with brands is to gradually build and have your own brand distinctiveness.
This is something that I don’t see other bloggers and creators really talking about.
We were featured across various bits of media e.g. The Sunday Times, Times Money Mentor, ITV, I News, BBC Radio 4, Cambridge University, and a number of really cool podcasts.
See our media features here on our Media page.
I even got invited to teach an elective at The University of Cambridge (Judge Business School) on “Side Hustles and Financial Freedom”.
This is stuff of dreams for me! 🙂
I never would have seen this coming 3 years ago when I started this blog.
The other really interesting surprise was creating recurring income for the business outside of ads.
Offering value worth thousands of pounds for around £1 per day meant that we could truly serve our community in a continual way whilst earning an income.
This is possibly the best model as we give our audience what they need rather than what they might not want through ads.
As a result of the above, we dialled down on ads on our blog and you’ll notice many of them (including this one) don’t have any ads at all.
All part of improving the user experience whilst also truly solving the problems that our subscribers need solved in their lives.
I strongly believe that if you show love, you’ll receive love back.
We love the YouTube platform and also received a lot of love from YouTube UK this year.
Some of our highlight include:
- Chosen for “Creator On The Rise”
- We did a workshop for “YouTube EduCon 2020” on “How to Build Connection & Community”
- Then we did a #YouTubeBlack workshop
- We also have an incredible YouTube Partner Manager
There are also other things that we can’t reveal publicly yet.
It has been so good for our confidence to have support from a platform that we create on.
For fun, check out this the official comment from YouTube for the workshop that we did for them:
In all, we feel very supported by the platform and this continues to encourage us as we create on YouTube.
Creating on YouTube also helps us for the blog from a content perspective as we are able to repurpose the video content to blogs.
This has been a wonderful year for The Humble Penny for many reasons.
But it has also required A LOT of hard work from our small team to deliver on so many deadlines and continually support our various communities.
I’m more happy than I have ever been since starting this blog and doing it full time as a passion project now backed by a vision for the future is something that brings Mary and I a lot of joy.
Each day I wake up, I’m excited to work because I know that our work has some purpose.
I want to thank you as a reader of this blog.
We wholeheartedly appreciate you for reading and supporting us in ways that we have no visibility on.
We continue to work hard behind the scenes with the goal of serving you better each day. Thank you.
Finally, as a man of faith, I want to thank God for continually opening new doors and giving us expansive lives. We do not take any of these opportunities for granted 😊
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What surprised you about our 3rd year of blogging? What do you like the most about this blog? Where can we improve? Please comment below.
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.