Weeks 44-47: The end is near


Welcome to Weeks 44-47 of my $20k to $500k in 1 Year Challenge. You can read past weeks here.

As this challenge comes to an end, it feels good to be at a point where I’m about as immune as possible to looming threats of large language models, the unpredictability of algorithms, and the continuous squeezing of small businesses by tech giants.

Through continuous iterations, I’m now almost entirely focused on owning my audience (email) and owning my revenue (digital products).

I’ve spent too many years letting the whims of large platform overlords dictate how I feel on any given day. It’s no way to live.

It’s never been more important to build real, authentic relationships with audiences in order to own a business you can actually count on. One you can plan your financial life around and even sell one day if that’s your goal.

So, while there’s somewhat of an eerie feeling in the technological air that the older ways of making money on the Internet are on borrowed time, it’s a breath of fresh air to remember:

Selling real people real things that they really want will always work.

In Today’s Email

  • July was boring.
  • Wait, no, July was not boring.
  • First week of digital sales.
  • My strategy shifted again.
  • Small optimizations = big improvements.
  • And that’s about it.

First, July traffic numbers were boring.

Boring isn’t really bad in this case, but it’s nearly a carbon copy of May and June.

Fortunately, my decision to leave pageview prison (strive for more pageviews to make more money) has been liberating, so I see this consistency as a positive.

Especially since I’m not pumping the email list with a big ad budget anymore.

July revenue numbers, however, were not boring.

As you might recall, June hit $5,000 which was a huge milestone.

But it was largely due to Sparkloop’s newsletter recommendation product, something I’m enjoying but not counting on. The pool of non-business, non-finance newsletters to promote is pretty small and they’re always one click away from leaving.

That’s why my hopes were set on launching a digital product store in early July with dozens of helpful resources and items.

Well, my daughter’s first birthday was in the middle of the month along with a whole bunch of other priorities, so I didn’t launch until July 25th.


But in a little less than one week, it has brought in $890 on 25 sales.

July 25 – July 31

I’ll get into the strategy in a minute, but to round out July, Sparkloop has earned a projected $2,100 and Raptive (display ads) will finish at about $2,200.

Grand total: $5,190.

To have a little bit of fun, if I do the math on digital product sales had they been running for an entire month, it comes in at $3,941 and a grand total of $8,241.

That’s starting to become pretty legit, but we’ll see how hard digital products plateau and where that goes.

The strategy I am using.

‚ÄčLast month, I said this was my strategy:

  • Offering a LOT of simple one-page, printable products for $1-3 each. These products only exist for a bigger reason and nobody should ever buy them because…
  • I will bundle several of them and offer them for between $10-20. I want people to realize it makes no sense to spend $1-3 per product on a whole bunch of products when you can just buy the bundle.
  • But the real sale here is an All Access Pass. This is what I really want to sell. For roughly $99/year, a user gets access to the entire library of content that exists today but also everything that’s added in the future.

After weeks of frustrations, both technical and marketing, I decided to massively simplify the entire thing.

Rather than selling individual products and upselling them, I now only offer one option:

Access to the entire library for $5/month or $50/year. That’s it – no other option.

This allows me to just simply focus on building paying subscribers who will be automatically charged a year (or month) from now.

That accomplishes two things:

  1. Predictability for myself and my income.
  2. Increased value for a potential sale of the site.

Particularly with everyone living in fear of what Google will change combined with Facebook’s reach being awful, the value of sites that own their audience – and revenue – should increase drastically.

These will be the sought after businesses in the future because they’re much more protected.

It’s also just enjoyable when things are in your control.

Optimizing a website and then hoping a middleman blesses it by giving it more traffic is a frustrating process. It’s particularly frustrating when you think you’ve done everything right, and then your traffic drops anyway.

But when you own the audience and revenue, you get to have a lot more fun with immediate feedback – feedback in the form of money.

You probably don’t need another person to tell you about the power of 1% improvements, but here I am anyway.

Ever since 2005, I’ve always been fascinated with small optimizations.

It’s got to be the greatest energy-to-outcome ratio in the world.

Each morning, find one simple thing you can improve in your business:

  • Can the wording in your welcome email be improved?
  • Is there an image that’s been slightly off center for months that you’ve been ignoring?
  • Can you remove some white space to tighten up the site?
  • Do you have a sign up button that’s gray but should be blue?
  • Will you save time by setting up a spreadsheet to track something easier?

The list goes on literally forever.

How can you make at least something better every single day?

Before you know it, these little changes have all added up to be an enormous overall improvement.

It’s easy to get lazy when it comes to the small things because we’re conditioned to think we need to hit a homerun. Homeruns are exciting.

But they’re rare, so just put your bat on the ball over and over.

As far as how this pertains to my challenge site, I’ve made a huge list of every single possible touchpoint that will drive a user to the paid subscription.

That’s entirely where I’m putting my focus so that I don’t spread my energy out so thin that nothing works well.

Through August, I’m going to be making these small 1% changes every day.

And that’s about it.

After hundreds of thousands of words and more than 10 months, I’m running low on what I can talk about when it comes to the challenge. I’m ready to move on.

Also, a week from today, I’m physically moving on… to a new house. For some reason, big things often come in waves.

February 2019, on the exact same day, I sold my house in Ohio, sold my company, and moved into the current house I’m in. Literally on the same day, all three things were signed.

Now I’m moving to an area that’s much better for my family, closing the chapter on this challenge, and seeing what’s next.

Above all, I want to live with intention, awareness, and purpose. That might sound cliche, but life is passing all of us by so fast.

We basically blink and another 5 years is gone. Knowing that I spent each day doing – or at least pursuing – exactly what I want will hopefully give me a peace about the inevitable reality that we’re only here for a short while.

So, while this challenge has been quite an experience and I’ve learned so much, it’s time for it to end.

On September 1st, I’ll report on Weeks 48-51 which will primarily be the the impact of all the various 1% improvements.

Then I’ll write one final email that wraps everything up along with all of my thoughts that hopefully help you in some way on your own journey.

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Scott DeLong

I'm an introvert who has built and sold multiple companies for millions of dollars - without funding or employees. I've been featured in BusinessWeek, Business Insider, Fortune, Inc, and more. I hope you find my site helpful to your own entrepreneurial journey.