Weeks 48-52: My Final Update


Welcome to Weeks 48-52 of my $20k to $500k in 1 Year Challenge. You can read past emails here.

This is the final update.

For the last 3 months, I’ve contemplated what I should do when this challenge ends.

Sell an all encompassing how-to guide.

Start an agency that focuses on email growth.

Launch a paid newsletter with detailed breakdowns.


The list goes on and on. Ultimately, I decided to just continue selling what I’ve been selling you for 51 weeks: absolutely nothing.

That said, there are three ways you can stay in touch with me beyond this challenge if you feel so inclined:

  1. Stay subscribed to this newsletter.
  2. Follow my YouTube channel. You can ignore what’s already there – new videos will be far better.
  3. Visit my website.

Otherwise, let’s get into the final update and wrap this entire thing up.

In Today’s Email

  • 51 weeks later, here’s where everything ended up.
  • What I did recently.
  • What I’ll do next.
  • Sooo… what’s the site?
  • My final words of advice.
  • Goodbye.

The TLDR of this challenge.

With $20k (and reinvesting earnings), I have a site with 130,000 Facebook followers, 85,000 email subscribers, 110,000 page views per month, $7,500* in monthly revenue, early signs of Google growth, and a digital offering with much more potential.

Is that worth $500,000? No.

I failed.

But in, give or take, one additional year, I have little doubt it’ll be worth that.

It needs a longer track record and revenue north of $10k/month to potentially get that number.

Nonetheless, given how little I actually worked on it over the past year, I’m fairly happy with the result.

What I did recently.

*If you follow the numbers closely, you’ll notice I said $7,500 in revenue whereas the last two months were just a little over $5k.

Surprisingly, the growth has not come from the digital subscription offer I outlined previously.

It has come from display ads. I decided to turn up the aggressiveness of the ad layout by allowing Raptive to fully optimize it.

Previously, the layout was incredibly modest. But I decided it was worth a try and now it’s pretty much what you expect to see on any random website.

To my surprise, the RPM (earnings per thousand sessions) went from $20-25 to around $50!

You can see when I made the change.

Needless to say, I was leaving quite a bit on the table.

To put this into real numbers, I went from around $70/day in display ad earnings to $150/day. That’s basically $2k to $4.5k per month.

As Q4 ad budgets increase, so will revenue, so I anticipate a really strong finish to the year.

What about the other two revenue streams?

Sparkloop’s Partner Program: this continues to do pretty well. There’s quite a difference between referrals and CONFIRMED referrals (the ones you get paid for). It’s about half of them.

So, if I refer 50 people to a newsletter, around 25 do what the publisher requires for them to actually count.

If said newsletter pays $2.50 each, that’s $62.50 in earnings, then Sparkloop takes their 20% cut, leaving me with around $50.

Roughly speaking, this is hovering a little under $2,000/mo. The newsletters I recommend are good fits and high quality, so I consider this a big win.

A problem with this revenue stream is that all of your existing subscribers have already been hit with the call out, so it slowly dwindles.

If Sparkloop continues bringing new advertisers (newsletters to recommend) into the mix, that will be huge for consistent income.

Digital subscriptions: As a reminder, I am providing a library of downloadable, printable resources to my audience for $5/mo or $50/year. So far since launching, this has made about $2,500.

I actually stopped promoting it around August 11th for two weeks to re-evaluate because new subscribers fell off of a cliff.

Some of that is to be expected because the really high quality subscribers already joined and I’m not adding many new subs.

When I brought it back with some slight wording adjustments, it did okay:

One pretty neat thing to see is the monthly recurring beginning to show up. Those two sales at the end were customers on their second month of subscribing.

There’s so much more I can do with this – I just haven’t yet.

So here’s what I’m doing next.

While I won’t be documenting it in email – or at least not as detailed as I did in the past year – I still see a very clear path.

First, I’ll probably spend more money.

Removing the shackles of using “only” $20k opens up a lot of opportunities.

For example, if I put another $20k into the lead generation campaign, I already have the creatives that are proving to get subscribers for 30 cents each.

I already have monetization (mostly) figured out.

It’s just a numbers game now.

Another $20k, along with reinvesting earnings, can easily take this from 85k subscribers to 150k and beyond.

At that point, earnings will be well into the 5 figures per month, which would value this at $500k.

Second, I’ll probably hire someone.

While this isn’t taking that much of my time, I want it to take even less. I’ve begun working toward a system to just offload this to another person, then I can focus on the part I really enjoy – growing the newsletter.

I have the perfect person locked and loaded. Figuratively speaking.

Third, I need to fine-tune the digital subscription offering.

Last month, I said I was going to be making consistent 1% improvements. Instead, I worked on it very little and focused mostly on enjoying a new town and home with my family.

That said, since the offer is subscription based, the primary way to increase paying customers is to create FOMO.

I need to begin consistently dropping new members-only pieces in the daily email, so that the 99% of non-paying customers continuously see additional value being delivered.

Over time, this should significantly grow recurring revenue.

In future emails or perhaps on YouTube, I will be sure to let you know how this goes.

But what a lot of you really want to know…

What’s the site?

Well, I have disappointing news. I’ve decided not to reveal it for two reasons:

  1. I genuinely don’t want the audience to know that they’ve been part of a 1 year challenge. I’ve grown to really appreciate and respect this niche, and I don’t want them feeling like they’re guinea pigs. They really aren’t, but it can be misconstrued.
  2. Out of respect for a future buyer (and myself), it really doesn’t make sense to jeopardize earnings by literally handing over the exact site with 51 weeks of exactly what I did. The latter should be enough value for anyone to run with their own idea.

I received a lot of emails after the last update asking to please reveal it. Hopefully you understand why I’m not.

That being said, I’m comfortable revealing more information about the niche.

Family relationships.

I’ll leave it at that.

A super brief note about Google traffic.

I’ve said for months that I don’t care about Google traffic. Building for a search engine with an unclear future is both boring and makes very little sense to me.

My niche is also pretty terrible for it. But, it’s been interesting to see the recent increases:

Google Search Console

This has translated pretty well to actual traffic, coming in at around 4,000 page views in August.

If this continues, it’s quite a bit of “gravy” and, one year from now, the diversification will look good to a buyer. Of course, like I said, who knows what Google looks like by then?

My final words of so-called wisdom.

There are so many things in life that I haven’t figured out. For example, the simple concept of feeling at peace and fulfilled on any given day. Or why my PC’s screen saver stopped working even though the checkbox is marked.

But a lot of you are reading this because there are a few things I have “figured out” that you either want as well, or at least to learn something from.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, here are some simplified bits of life and business wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years – at least as they have pertained to me.

Perhaps one or two will speak to you.

  1. Never let a single hater deter you. For so many years, I would let a single bad comment ruin my day, even in a sea of good comments. In one of Austin Kleon’s books, he wrote that his wife asked him if he’d let someone walk into his living room and take a huge dump on the floor (I’m paraphrasing). If you wouldn’t allow that, then don’t allow negative comments.
  2. Be confident in your skills. Everyone – EVERYONE – has value. Your perspective on something is unique and we live in a global economy where you just have to find the audience that needs it.
  3. Learn to manage your time. It’s obvious, but I’ve seen so many intelligent, savvy people with utterly horrible time management. It is literally the only reason they haven’t found financial success – and sometimes sanity.
  4. Complacency is death. When you’re building, you must always be improving and iterating. That’s what will separate you.
  5. You don’t need a perfect plan in order to start. Don’t overthink things and just start, even if it feels like garbage.
  6. When things get tough, that’s when people quit. When you choose not to quit, you pull away from the pack and instantly become better than average.
  7. When the industry zigs, it’s time to zag. I’ve made a vast majority of my money by ignoring groupthink.
  8. Create content like you’re doing it for one real person. Because at first you probably are. Pick someone you personally know that’s in your target audience and pretend they’re your only reader. This ensures you never look at your audience purely as statistics.
  9. Don’t waste a single pixel or word. Audiences can see through fluff. Pack so much value into what you create that it becomes undeniable.
  10. Know your value. If you’re like me, you perpetually underestimate your own value. Don’t. (And let me know how once you figure it out.)
  11. There is no end game. There is no moment when you’ve achieved your goals and just sit there, blissfully enjoying every moment. Humans, particularly those who achieve their goals, are not wired this way. It’s vital that you learn to embrace the journey.
  12. Give generously and genuinely. In literally all of my experiences, when you do this, it comes back even greater.
  13. A good deal is when both sides win a little and lose a little. A fair deal pays dividends in the long run compared to a greed-fueled, short term battle for every possible penny.
  14. Put people first. In all things.

Well, it’s been fun (kinda).

This is it for the challenge.

To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about it. In one respect, I’m disappointed because I truly did think I could pull it off.

On the other, at some point in the future, I’ll probably recognize this committment as something special I did in my life.

At the beginning, I said my inspiration for writing a massive library of free, helpful content was my becoming a new father.

It tends to make you question what you’re leaving behind. Whether you’re making the world a better place for future generations.

It’s hard to believe that at the start of Week 1 of this challenge, my daughter was 2 months old.

Now, as I finish this up, I can hear her running through the house and laughing.

I know that I’ll blink and she’ll be starting school. Blink again and she’ll be a teenager.

Everything is just a blink. All we can do is keep our eyes open as long as possible, soaking in each moment.

Whether that’s family, business, a hobby, or anything in between, make it all count.

Thanks again for being part of this ride.

Until next time,


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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.