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What happens to your sites when you can’t work on them? [Here’s what happens to mine]
You may have noticed I only posted once this month, beyond June’s revenue report. There’s a good reason for that. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having back pains and aches. Unable to sit by my desk and work properly for several hours a day, I was limited to spending about an hour a day on my laptop in bed.
Here’s the thing, though. During this entire month, my websites kept generating revenue. In fact, we’ve crossed the $1,000 a day point several times this month. When taking into account all of my sites (not just the ones I track in this blog), I crossed the $1,500 a day point several times, getting to a record of $1,700 on one day. July has been an excellent month in terms of blog income.
That’s one of the things I love the most about this business. While I don’t consider this to be a passive source of income, revenue doesn’t necessarily depend on how many hours a day I put in on any given day, week, or even month.
I’ve been making a living off websites for the past 20 years. This month’s back pain episode wasn’t the first time for me to take time off.
During the past 20 years, I also –
- Gave birth to two babies (and raised them to be teenagers!).
- Homeschooled our boys.
- Traveled Extensively, for a total of over a year and a half road tripping in the US in the last decade (45 states and counting!)
- Had ankle surgery to fix a fracture I got while traveling in Italy last year.
And naturally, I had my bouts of colds, migraines, back pain, and even whooping cough once (nasty diseases – make sure you get shots for that once every ten years).
The remarkable thing is, I never had to worry about losing my job, or even about asking my boss for time off for any of these. I’ve been my own boss ever since I left the army twenty years ago. My web publishing business is flexible enough to allow me to take time off.
What happens when I’m away
While I am away from my desk, my business keeps on generating revenue for me. People keep on visiting my websites, and ads are continuously displayed, creating a steady stream of income.
Does that mean that web publishing is a passive source of income? Well, not really. If I were to do nothing, eventually, my business would decline. The Internet is continually changing, and you have to keep your sites up to date. This goes for platform and software, as well as the content.
However, it is possible to take breaks. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so that you can always take time off, with no harm done to your business.
Here are some key principles that I employ to achieve that.
Outsourcing routine tasks
One of the most important things I did over the years was to outsource routine tasks. For a large part of my online career, I focused on growing a large online forums site. The moderators handle many tasks regularly. When I’m away, they also take over responsibilities that I usually manage when I’m around. At least two moderators always have access to the admin panel as well, so they can sort out user accounts and such issues if I’m not around.
As for my niche sites, early on, I hired a fantastic virtual assistant (I found him here). Over time, I trained him in various routine tasks of this business. Here are some of the things that my VA does –
- Going over our email accounts, replying to potential sponsors, guest blogging requests, and just about everything else.
- Watching over writers, to make sure tasks are submitted on time.
- Managing our other VA’s.
- Checking blog comments on all of our sites, approving and deleting as necessary.
- Managing our Pinterest accounts to make sure we keep posting new pins (based on the principles in this course).
He reports back to me via our Clickup system, and when there are questions or comments on any of the above tasks, I provide input there. Generally speaking, my VA is self-sufficient at this point.
Hiring a trustworthy server admin
One of the scariest things that can happen while you’re away is for your sites to crash. Been there, done that. More than once. That’s where a super-efficient server admin is crucial.
My VA’s and moderators all know the server admin. They have emergency emails where they can sound the alarm if anything goes wrong. My server admin has scripts in place, so he gets an alert if the server is down, but they can contact him regarding any other issues.
We’ve run into severe issues more than once over the years. More often than not, they are sorted out before I even get to my computer in the morning.
Outsourcing content creation
Producing 150 blog posts a month on average, I no longer write content for our sites (Yeys.com being the exception to the rule). This frees up my time, allowing me to focus on other aspects of the business.
Even if I’m away from the computer for a while, unable to write entire posts, the content flow continues.
Creating a buffer
While I don’t write the content myself, I am the one in charge of the content plan. I do all of our keyword research, deciding on topics for all the blogs. I also create the outlines for each post. Fortunately, this isn’t as time-consuming as it sounds, given our system for creating topic outlines.
However, if I’m not around to create the writing tasks, things will come to a halt.
That’s why I always have a buffer in place.
We planned a trip to Florida in March 2020. In preparation for that trip, I spent extra time creating plenty of topics, including task descriptions. I created over 300 of those so that I can keep on adding them to the system while we’re away.
We had to cancel the trip due to the pandemic, but the principle holds.
Regardless of such plans, I always make sure to have a buffer of at least 2-3 weeks worth of topics. Clickup has this neat dashboard panel where I can create all kinds of bars, charts, and other widgets to get a quick snapshot of what we have in the system. I created widgets with bars that show me –
- How many topics we have in store that still need outlines
- How many tasks we have that are ready for writers to take on
I just took this screenshot of one of the widgets –
It’s showing me how many tasks we currently have that are ready for writers to take on. They’re not accessible to the writers yet, but I can move them to the right list whenever I want. If that sounds too confusing, you can check out my Clickup workflow here to understand why I move tasks around between lists.
Having a good buffer of tasks helped me push through the last few weeks, while I was dealing with my back issues.
Understanding that you can’t really stop working
I already mentioned that this isn’t a passive source of income. Even with all of the above systems in place, I still need to be available to my VA’s and moderators, preferably daily.
When traveling, I make sure to get online at least once a day. I check my emails and go over my notifications. I also log into Skype to say hi to my VA’s and check my moderators’ forum. If there are no issues to take care of, I can be done within 15 minutes. Usually, I do have to take care of a few things, so 30 minutes is more like it. It could take me longer if there is some minor catastrophe to handle.
Completely getting off the grid is rare. A few years ago, we went on a major road trip, from LA to Alaska and back. There were sections of the Alaskan Highway with no internet or cell reception. Being disconnected from my sites for two days in a row was a bit nervewracking, but everything was fine.
However, 3-4 hours a week can be enough to remote-manage my entire business, as long as I created suitable buffers. At some point, I hope to outsource content strategy as well. That’s when I can truly have a 4-hours a week business.
Can all bloggers achieve this?
In principle, sure. Though I suspect a lot depends on the kind of blog and business structure. The more you outsource, the easier it becomes to take time off.
Jon Dykstra used coined the term “purist blog” in a recent newsletter (if you’re not subscribed to his awesome newsletters, go visit FatStacksBlog.com now and join his mailing list). A purist blog, a la Dykstra, is one where the blogger is in the front. An authentic blogger is writing all of the content for the blog, based on his or her experiences.
Yeys.com is such a blog. The rest of my sites are not.
When writing timely blog posts, based on recent experiences, the content needs to be fresh. You could prepare a buffer of content before going on vacation. Or you could tell your readers that you’re taking a break. Either way, it’s a bit more complicated.
Writing blog posts and newsletters can be fairly time-consuming. And letting your readers hang in there, waiting for you to return from vacation (or recover from an ailment) interrupts the natural rhythm of the blog. It also means you could be missing out on monetization options, especially if you rely heavily on newsletter marketing.
But yeah, it is doable.
Do I want to have a completely hands-off business?
Or even one that requires only four hours a week to manage?
Not really. I love what I do. If I didn’t, I would have quit a long time ago. If you’re not addicted to web publishing, you can’t make it in this business, IMHO. As soon as I make time available, I sink it into a new project.
That may change in the future, but not just yet. I’m not ready to slow down yet.
So, there you have it.
And I’m back at my desk! I can’t wait to publish the report for this month’s traffic and revenue. It’s going to be an exciting one.
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. What would happen to your site if you had to take time off for a day, a week, or longer? I’d love to hear how other publishers deal with the challenges.
Thank God I discovered your purist blog 🙂
I run 3 niche sites making about $500 monthly from Ezoic, I have about 100 posts each but it takes time for Google to start driving lots of traffic to these blogs, it’s tough having to wait.
Here’s my question:
What do I do while waiting for my niche sites to mature and earn enough income? Do I start a new site or keep adding new content to existing sites, or just start another side business? Kindly answer me.
Btw: Jon’s newsletter is packed with ideas, inspiration, and complete guidance on how to succeed with niche sites.
That’s an excellent question. I would say the answer depends on how confident you are in your ability to choose the right topics/queries. If you have some experience and know that you’re choosing the right queries (longtail, but not too longtail) for that niche, you could keep on investing in the same site, and possibly start one additional site. Otherwise, you may want to hold on and wait until you get some “feedback” from Google.
That’s why I started slowly, with fewer posts. I only started investing in 150 posts a month about a year ago, once I had enough feedback on several hundreds of posts, to know what works for me and what doesn’t.