This post may contain affiliate links.

2015 was the year of the hustle

Well, we’re on the heels of February, so my monthly income report is a little overdue here. Better late than never, right? This month has actually been a really fantastically busy month for me, and I am so excited for 2016 I can’t stand it, but I won’t get ahead of myself just yet. Let’s focus on 2015 right now. 2015 is what I call the year of the hustle. I hustled my ass off.

Now let me get personal for a minute.

Some of you may know that last year started off in the worst possible way when my Dad passed away unexpectedly on New Years Day. To say that it shattered my world is an understatement. I’ve never in my life been hit with such complete devastation, and it was, and still is, almost impossible for me to talk about, and I miss him so much I can’t stand it.

But I’ve always been strong, even when life gets shitty, and somehow I managed to move forward, even on days that I wanted to crawl up in a ball and do nothing. I’d like to say that his passing motivated me to be a better and stronger person, and to go after what I want in life… and in many ways, that’s true. He was always 110% supportive of my decisions – whether it was to move onto a sailboat, or to start my own business. He always believed in me and told me I could do anything I wanted.

But if I’m being perfectly honest, I have to admit that part of my hustle mentality this year was also born out of the need for denial. Whether it was healthy or not, I needed something to occupy all of my spare time because frankly, I couldn’t take the quiet. It hurt too much. So I threw myself into work and education.

I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, and I love all things web/marketing related – from web design, to SEO, to blogging… I find it fascinating. As such, I immersed myself in learning as much as possible – I became a sponge. I learned however I could – from reading various blogs and books to watching videos to taking online courses. Once I learned about some of these things, I turned them into income streams.

For instance, I’ve been using WordPress for a few years now, but it wasn’t until I really learned the ins and outs of how to customize themes that I was able to raise my web design/website management prices and earn a decent side income from it.

I studied SEO and took an SEO course, and I’ve more than doubled my blog traffic over the past year. I learned more about email marketing, and now I have a regular client who pays me to do her email marketing campaigns. I studied how to negotiate a salary and landed a 14% raise at my old company, before ultimately leaving that job to pursue (and land) my dream job working on the editorial team for a NY Times bestselling author.

Basically, in 2015, I invested in myself, I hustled, and I came out ahead in so many ways.

Another BIG lifechanger was that in August, I got married to Chris, the love of my life. We’ve been together for over 9 years, and we made it official on August 8th. I didn’t think things would be much different since we felt married already, but it really has been awesome. I love calling him my husband, and life is so sweet with him.

And last but not least… in December, I. Turned. Forty. If you want to talk denial, that’s one thing I’m really still in denial about. I’ve tried to embrace it, and I know they say life gets better at 40, and in some ways it’s true, but I sure as shit don’t feel forty, and I know I don’t act it, so I’ll just continue with my denial on that for awhile longer.

December Online Income Report

Alright, alright. Get to the money already, you’re probably saying! Ok, ok. First I’ll give you December’s numbers, then I’ll give you the numbers for the entire year of 2015.

Just like I mention every month, my side income report numbers are an accurate depiction of what I’ve made online, bad or good. These numbers don’t include my income from my full-time job as a QA Specialist, or my handsome hubby’s income (from his music, book, and freelance work).

Webmaster/Web Design: $450
Online Sales: $320.91
Affiliate Income: $86.06
Adsense: $23.44
Writing Gigs: $150
Misc: $39.03
TOTAL: $1069.44 in extra income (Up $272.14 from November)

Not too shabby.

I’ve also saved a total of $627.65 so far with Digit, the free automated savings app that I am absolutely in LOVE with. You’ve heard me talk about it before on here, and it’s really an awesome way to save money.

It just pulls a couple dollars here, a couple dollars there – amounts so small that they are inconsequential to your banking balance, but  they add up relatively quickly in your Digit account. I highly recommend the service. And it’s free!

You can sign up easily at: Savingtosail.com/Digit

2015 Annual Online Income Report

Ok – so I sat down and tallied all of my online income from 2015, and here are the numbers:

Webmaster/Web Design: $4012.77
Online Sales: $4742.64
Affiliate Income: $1025.85
Adsense: $204.09
Writing Gigs: $1656.66
Misc: $511.37
TOTAL: $12,153.38 in extra income

Last year, I averaged over $1000 per month in online income. It’s about the equivalent of working 20 hrs a week at a part time job making $12/hr. So not amazing, but it’s also not half bad, especially considering that I got to do it all from the comfort of my boat.

While it’s not groundbreaking or freedom-making income, it’s all relative. I mean, if we were in the Bahamas, living on an anchor instead of at a dock, and if we were very frugal and didn’t have any major boating expenses, that income could almost sustain us. (I have friends who have lived comfortably in the Bahamas for less than $1500/mo.)

Do those numbers surprise you at all? It surprised me a little bit for a couple of reasons.

First, I was a little surprised that my biggest money maker was my online jewelry business. I would have thought it would have been the web design stuff, but nope. My online jewelry shop, Maggie and Milly, was responsible for over 30% of my side income. And that is from zero advertising and very little promotion!

My second most profitable side income stream was web design. I had a few clients who needed various edits (I did very little design work) and it generated another 30+% of my income.

The writing income actually surprised me, too – mainly because I really didn’t go out looking for writing work – it actually came to me! I was approached by Sailboat Interiors about writing the blog for them (which I now currently do), and I also was hired to write some SEO articles for a company who liked my writing.

I know that I could make a lot more money writing if I actually put some effort into it, as I’ve had a few editors who wanted me to send them pieces, but it just hasn’t been one of my bigger priorities. But now that I think about it, I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll try to do that more this year.

And the only other one that’s worth mentioning is my affiliate income. It gets a mention since it’s over $1k, and frankly, it’s another thing that I put very little effort into. So many people do affiliate marketing wrong that I’ve shied away from a lot of it. I never wanted to be the one who had crazy looking ads all over my site, or in the sidebar of my blog, just to make a couple of bucks.

You’ll notice that most of my affiliate promoting comes in a natural way in my posts, where I’ll link to something I’m talking about… but for the most part, I don’t try super hard, so I guess it’s pretty cool that I still brought in a hundred bucks or so on average a month in affiliate income.

Adsense is almost laughable, and quite frankly, I don’t even know why I bother. Ads are ugly, people are blind to them (so they don’t click), and I made just $200 all year in them. Considering that Google has a threshhold and they don’t pay you until you hit $100, then it’s really not worth the annoyance if you ask me.

That’s why I took the ads off this site. I’d rather give you a better user experience than to try to make a few cents off a shitty looking ad.  I do still have a couple of affiliate ad banners sprinkled in 2 or 3 spots on the site, but Adsense? No thanks.

What’s New in 2016 – A Different Kind of Hustle

I’ll be posting another post about some new stuff going on. Be on the lookout for that in a day or two. Also, I’m not going to be sharing my monthly income for the time being. I’m scaling back on my freelance work for others in order to put all my efforts into these new projects.

In addition, I want to shift the focus of the blog to not just be about me and how much I make in side income, but more about how YOU can make money on the side. So that’s the direction I’m headed. It will give you more to sink your teeth into, and spark some ideas on things you can do from your own boat, or wherever you happen to be reading from.

I know a lot of people say that the monthly income posts inspire them, but I think stories about how others are doing it will be better. If I have really good things to report, I will, and I’ll share numbers, but for at least the time being, there won’t be much to share, and again, I want to take the focus away from me and put it more on you.

How was last year for you? Do you have plans to hustle this year? What would you like to see more of in this blog? Let’s start the conversation below in the comments!