We’ve decided to publicly share our journey to making “enough” money with Wandering Aimfully. The idea behind this is not to show off how much money we’re making, the idea is to show exactly HOW we’re doing it.
One of our core values here at Wandering Aimfully (or WAIM, as we like to abbreviate it and will do throughout this post) is transparency.
We believe the world is a better place when we’re sharing the FULL picture, authentically and truthfully.
Transparency becomes especially important to us when it comes to money because there are so many emotions and thoughts that often get tied to money (greed, shame, self-worth, happiness, embarrassment, etc), some of which can present challenges to the way we pursue our goals.
Before we get too deep into things, you might not know who the heck “we” are, in which case you may want to mosey on over to our About Page to learn more about us—Jason and Caroline Zook. If you just want the TL;DR version: We’re a husband and wife creative duo, with no employees, running our own businesses for over a decade, currently living and working together in Southern California. For good measure, here’s a super cute photo of us…
Now that we’ve met, let’s talk about this goal of getting 330 people to join our Wandering Aimfully Membership.
Our Goal: Reach 330 Paying Members Within 12 Months (aka Journey to 330)
From years of experience, we know how it easy it is to get fixated on making more money. Yes, we know how good it can feel to see a couple extra thousand dollars in your bank account after a big launch, but we also know the mental toll it takes to constantly be in promotion, marketing, and sales mode. That’s partly why we’ve decided to give ourselves an “enough number.” When we finally reach this number, we can stop feeling the constant pull of promotion. We can focus fully on the amazing community we’ve built, rather than constantly be searching outside of the community for more members.
We also believe that defining your enough is the only way to ever feel satisfied. So often we focus on the vague word “happiness” without defining what it really is. We believe a big part of happiness is this notion of satisfaction. So, let’s explore for a second this idea of satisfaction.
One definition we found for the word satisfaction was:
Think of your wants and needs as an empty bucket. The pursuit of fulfillment is the quest to fill that bucket, and satisfaction is the pleasure you get from recognizing it’s indeed full.
But here is the root of why satisfaction seems to be so elusive:
So many times in our lives, we don’t actually define our individual/actual needs. We never stop to decide how big the bucket needs to be. We never stop to decide how much is ENOUGH.
How can we be fulfilled when we have no idea how big the bucket is we’re trying to fill?
Without defining what your needs are—without setting that benchmark—you will just keep trying to fill a bucket that’s endlessly expanding. That’s a recipe for a lifetime of discontent.
Instead, if you want to experience satisfaction (ie. happiness), you need to define how big your bucket needs to be…and then you need to recognize it when it’s full.
Or, in other words, you need to figure out how much is ENOUGH.
For us, our enough is 330 Wandering Aimfully members
Getting to 330 paying Wandering Aimfully members within 12 months time will net us $33,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR). After we hit that number, we’ll close the proverbial sales-doors and stop accepting new members. We aren’t interested in continuing to grow our membership community (and make more money) just because we can.
In a highly digital world, we want to plan for and offer a personalized touch.
Why 12 months? Each month we’ll limit new memberships to 30 per month, so technically we should be able to get to our goal before 12 months (yay, math!), but we want to leave a bit of buffer in our membership signup planning especially because we know we’ll have some customer cancellations (aka churn). Limiting our memberships to 30 new people per month allows us to deliver as much of a personalized experience as we can, including some non-digital stuff.
Additionally, limiting the amount of new monthly members ensures that the community doesn’t feel crowed or overwhelming to our existing awesome members. It’s important to us to preserve the culture of the community, which we know to be one of our major selling points and differentiators.
For context, it might also help you to know how our membership pricing works. It’s very simple:
- $100 per month or,
- $1,000 per year
Both membership options include the exact same thing, the annual option simply saves someone a couple hundred dollars by paying in advance. If you want to learn more about what we include in our WAIM Membership, click here.
How did we get to $33,000 MRR as our GOAL “enough” number?
We told you we value transparency, didn’t we? Well, it’s about to get really real up in here.
A fundamental part of our approach to work and life is a philosophy we call Working To Live. Part of this ethos is the belief that living a fulfilling life begins with establishing our ideal lifestyle and then reverse engineering our business decisions to support and align with this lifestyle.
Using this approach, we first identify what we WANT, and then we back out how much money we need to get there.
That equation is how we arrived at our specific number of $33,000.
“We first identify what we WANT, and then we back out how much money we need to get there.”
Our average monthly living expenses: $12,000
That number may or may not seem outrageous to you. It’s taken a lot of restraint not to write paragraphs of text defending how much we spend in living expenses every month. But therein lies the problem when it comes to money: we constantly feel like we’re being judged or we feel we have to be on the defensive about our spending.
So, how about this as justification…We spend this much money every month to live lives we absolutely love. It’s awesome to be able to do that, right? We agree! But, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was just back in 2013 we spent $4,000 per month and could barely make ends meet (you can read our getting out of debt guide here).
Here are how our monthly living expenses break down in broad strokes:
- Rent: $4,000
- Groceries: $1,500
- Entertainment/Coffee/Eating Out: $1,000
- Travel*: $2,000
- Health & Insurance: $1,000
- Tesla Payment: $1,000
- Plaxico (our dog): $400
- Misc (utilities, cleaners, etc): $500
- Other (donation to causes**, Acorns, etc): $600
- Total: $12,000 spent per month
*We don’t actually spend $2,000 on travel per month, but the past two years we’ve averaged spending about $20,000 on travel per year. We put this as a monthly “expense” to keep a watchful eye on it.
**Donating to causes we care about is a big part of our Journey to 330 goal as you’ll read in a moment.
Our average monthly business expenses: $5,000
Our business expenses have fluctuated quite a bit over the years due to how many different businesses and projects we have. That being said, one of our huge goals with starting WAIM was to streamline all of our projects into ONE membership and create a much more predictable set of business expenses. We believe this number is actually going to decrease over time, but for now we’re using a comfortable monthly average (which we’ll share more about in detail as the monthly updates continue to get added to this post).
The average monthly amount we’ll set aside for taxes: $3,000
Oh taxes, you necessary evil, you. First, we aren’t going to be those people that gripe about paying taxes. We understand and believe in taxes. This monthly average number will absolutely change over time, but we’ve decided to base it on our previous two years of business (taking what we paid in total taxes annually and dividing that by 12 to get a monthly average number). We do a /decent/ job of setting aside money for our taxes each year, but with a more predictable MRR going forward, this will get much easier!
The average monthly amount we *want* to save: $10,000
Have you heard of this mystical thing in business called “profit??” It’s a pretty crazy phenomenon we’re just hearing about! It means that you don’t just spend every dollar your business brings in, but that you can keep some of it! It escaped us for a few years, but we’ve decided to utilize its wonderful powers going forward and put a much heavier focus on it 😂. Alright, jokes aside, our goal is to have $10,000 every month we can put into our savings, investments, and not touch at all. We’ve NEVER been able to predictably save a sizable amount of money each month and we want that to change.
The average monthly amount we want to give to causes: $3,000
It can be really hard to give money to charities and great causes when you can barely eek a profit out of your business. We’ve managed to donate every month this year because we’re finally prioritizing it, but we want to do much more. Part of this Journey to 330 is to bake charitable giving into our financial plan. We want to allocate 10% of our total monthly revenue to non-profit organizations, causes, and other acts of good that come onto our radar each month. The idea of having $3,000 every month that we can give away and help make a difference is something we’re really excited about!
Those five categories of money add up to $33,000. As a reminder, our goal is to hit $33,000 in monthly recurring revenue in 12 months (that would be by September 1, 2019). Will it happen? What are we doing to make it happen? Find out each month going forward by referring back to this post. We’ll add an updated section each month with how our launches are going, what we’re doing to reach this goal of 330 members, and how our feelings continue to evolve about this enough goal.
UPDATE #1: SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
The Starting Line and Getting 14.5% Past It (Everything Before September 1, 2018)
Ideally, we would’ve started this public journey at $0 MRR. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time to put something like this Journey to 330 post together and we simply didn’t have the time while we were building our actual website and business. Every hour we had from March 1 – August 19 (2018) was spent bringing Wandering Aimfully to life. During that time we did a pre-order of our WAIM Membership and a first public launch.
In trying to keep this first update as succinct as possible (the irony is thick there), just know we spent five months planning, designing, building, working with developers, going through 400 of our past articles, riding a bunch of emotional roller coasters, creating our purchasing flow, and completing well over 2,000 tasks to bring this website and our membership offering to life. We also had a website dedicated to the behind the scenes of building WAIM, which was live from March 1 to August 19.
Our first 15 paying customers: May 2018 Pre-Order
Before WAIM was finished being built, we knew we wanted to offer a pre-order for our memberships. We made this decision based on two things:
- We teased to our email lists that we’d be offering a membership community and people said they were interested (so we wanted people to put money where their mouths were).
- We wanted to fully test our somewhat complex purchasing flow using a new system we’d never had experience with (Restrict Content Pro [aff link]).
We opened up our pre-order for just one week, limited it to 30 buyers only, and sent three emails to a list of 400ish subscribers (this was a segment of our bigger list that had opted into daily-ish blog posts about how the build was going). Our three emails were fairly simple and explained the gist of the membership, the existing courses/workshops they’d get access to, and then a tease of what was coming in future months with WAIM.
There was only one hitch: We told our pre-order members they wouldn’t get full access to everything for at least a month (sell before you’re ready!)
While they’d receive access to our courses, this custom member dashboard we kept telling them about wouldn’t be fully coded for at least another month. Would people still pre-order if they couldn’t get the full experience right away? Well…
The WAIM Pre-Order brought in 15 buyers, netting us $1,483 in MRR
- 488 people visited the pre-order sales page
- 15 people pre-ordered (3% sales conversion – pretty epic!)
- 14 people purchased the $100 per month option
- 1 person purchased the $1,000 per year option (Hi Martha! 👋)
- 11 people paid using Stripe
- 4 people paid using PayPal
(You’ll notice the Airtable view of customers only shows 13 people and this is because two of our pre-order members canceled a few months in – sad panda. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.)
Our next 35 paying customers: August 20-27, 2018 Launch
With our website finally up and running it was time to do our first official launch! August 20 was the start date and we would leave the “cart” open for one week, again limiting the number of buyers to just 30 people. This launch was quite a bit different from our pre-order because it also coincided with the website going live and we sent sales emails to our entire email list.
Leading up to August 5, we created lots-o-content!
We decided early on that we’d write a behind the scenes journal sharing all of our processes, decisions, roadblocks, problems, and even share full unedited video meetings. From March 21 to August 5 we created and shared:
- 49 blog posts (21,200 total website visitors)
- 29 videos (just over 11,000 total views)
- 61 Instagram posts (30ish stories)
From August 5 to August 20 we warmed our audiences up to our first launch
Here’s what that looked like…
Caroline’s previous email list (Self-Made Society): On August 5 Caroline mentioned that WAIM was coming on August 20. This was sent to 5,502 subscribers and 1,514 of those subscribers opened the email (27.5% open rate).
My previous email list (JasonDoesStuff): On August 7 I mentioned to my email list that WAIM was launching on August 20. This was sent to 11,538 subscribers and 2,477 of those subscribers opened the email (21.5% open rate).
Our first combined newsletter (Wandering Weekly): On August 13 we sent our first combined email newsletter prepping the subscribers of our new website and membership on August 20. This was sent to 16,684 subscribers and 2,411 of those subscribers opened the email (14.5%* open rate).
*Something definitely went wrong with this email broadcast. We actually reached out to our email provider and they admitted something looked weird. Unfortunately, we had too many to-dos on our list to diagnose things and didn’t want to try to resend the email with fear of something else going wrong or happening with our email reputation.
We shared teasers and whatnot on social media: While our social media follower numbers are nothing to scoff at, it’s important to note we also don’t see social media as a huge driver of new traffic or sales. Even though I have 31,000+ followers on Twitter, the engagement of even the most exciting of tweets is VERY low. Caroline has 2,900+ followers on Twitter, but I think she’d echo my statements about engagement (and she mostly just pushes her Instagram posts through to Twitter). Speaking of, Caroline wins our household Instagram award with 16,000+ followers; I have just a touch over 3,000 followers; and Caroline runs our @wanderingaimfully account which has 900+ followers. Those numbers are just to give you an idea of the impressions we’re working with. Numbers aside, we posted a handful of tweets with teaser images, shared a few stories on Instagram, and just generally kept people tuned-in to the launch date of August 20. Caroline did work some pretty awesome grid-magic on IG (as you may have noticed in the “Lead Up Stuff” image above).
While keeping our audiences ready, we wrote our sales email sequence
This isn’t our first rodeo selling something over the course of a week. We knew we didn’t want to be writing and sending sales emails the night before (we’ve done that too many times and it’s stressssssful), so instead we whipped up a Google Doc and wrote all our sales emails in one spot.
Then Caroline worked her wizardry in our email provider ( Drip [aff link]) to set up a “campaign,” which is just a string of emails with a simple sending schedule (shown above). Here is the timing of the sales emails along with the general topic discussed:
- Monday, August 20: New site is live! Memberships are OPEN! 😱
- Tuesday, August 21: Case studies and testimonials 👫👫
- Thursday, August 23: New resources to be added in September for members 🤩
- Saturday, August 25: How can WAIM help you? Reply! 🤔
- Monday, August 27: Memberships are closing tonight 😬
- (We didn’t end up needing to send this email, as you’ll read!) Monday, August 27 (evening): Last call!!! 😳
These emails were sent to our newly combined (as of August 13) Wandering Weekly email list minus the last email in the campaign because we hit our goal and didn’t need to send a “Last call” email. Who turns off one extra sales email during a launch knowing it would probably bring in more sales? We do. That’s who.
In the image below you can see the open rates improved greatly using this email campaign in Drip, as opposed to a normal broadcast email (very odd). And a couple email stats for you:
- Starting # of subscribers: 16,329
- Total unsubscribes during launch: 520*
- Average open rate: 20.8% (3,396)
- Sales conversation rate (email opens to WAIM buyers): 1.4%
*Truthfully, we’re happy to see people unsubscribe as we know our content and membership isn’t the right fit for them.
Wait, 35 new customers, I thought you said 30 was the limit?? Let’s dive into the data of our first launch…
35 new customers, what happened to 30? Ahhh, you are astute! So, a couple things happened which led us to end up at 5 buyers over the 30 number we set:
- We had two pre-order buyers cancel during the launch, so we figured we’d just fill their spots and let two new people come in
- We had one new customer cancel the day after they purchased
- The counter that tracks our amount of member spots left is completely manual and we may have forgotten to update it when a buyer came in overnight (whoops!)
With that out of the way, let’s look at when people bought during the launch:
- Monday (Aug 20): 8 new members
- Tuesday (Aug 21): 2 new members (but 1 canceled)
- Wednesday (Aug 22): 3 new members
- Thursday (Aug 23): 5 new members
- Friday (Aug 24): 3 new members
- Saturday (Aug 25): 5 new members
- Sunday (Aug 26): 0 new members (crazy, huh?)
- Monday (Aug 27): 10 new members
We offer credit card or PayPal as a buying option, so here’s the split on that:
- 60% bought using credit card (21 people)
- 40% bought using PayPal* (14 people)
*PayPal actually wasn’t working for the first four days due to two technical issues we missed. We finally got them fixed but have no idea if we missed out on folks who wanted to purchase via PayPal. Oh well.
And finally, the traffic to WanderingAimfully.com during the launch:
- Total new website visitors: 9,782
- Traffic from search: 64%
- Traffic from direct (email): 21%
- Traffic from social: 10%
- Membership page visitors: 992
- Membership page sales conversion: 3%
To recap: As of September 1, 2018, we’re at $4,783 MRR (or 14.5% of our goal)
There’s no doubt in our minds that the initial launch is the most exciting time for people. It’ll be very interesting to see if we can keep up our pace of 30 new members each month going forward.
And now, the best and worst parts of our first official launch:
The BEST part of our first launch?
We can’t stress enough how excited we were to get Wandering Aimfully launched, but more importantly, to have a new group of amazingly talented and creative people in our community.
The WORST part of our first launch?
It’s hard to categorize anything as the “worst” part when things go pretty much to plan. If we had to mention something here, it would probably be how much stuff we have to do manually behind the scenes for a new customer that buys via PayPal. We won’t bore you with all the details, just know that each PayPal customer requires a bunch of manual processes that we’d love to automate in the future, but had to launch without (even though we tried to automate them months prior).
One last thing: We’ll be using Baremetrics to publicly track and share our progress
We’ll be using Baremetrics to track our member growth progress and revenue and you can actually view our public MRR dashboard here. Baremetrics is super neat because it helps you keep track of customers, revenue, churn, and lots of other powerful recurring revenue stuff.
A big shout out to Josh and his team for getting us hooked up on Baremetrics and making it really easy to update our Airtable with actual monthly revenue.
That’ll do it for this first update! Now, it’s time to get to work on creating new stuff for our WAIM Members and executing our plans for the lead-up to our October launch.
WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON NEXT
Here’s What We Plan To Accomplish Before October 1, 2018
Our next launch (read: opening the doors to new WAIM members) is October 1, 2018. This is the list of the main things we’re trying to accomplish before that time:
- Doing our first WAIM Member Challenge (Back To Biz Basics)
- Launching the Wandering Aimfully Show (YouTube + Podcast)
- Recording additional WAIM Show episodes to get ahead
- Recording two additional helpful/fun videos (here’s our first)
- Finishing the Intentional Living Guide
- Finishing the How To Get Sponsorships Guide
- Staying active with @wanderingaimfully on IG
- Potentially putting together a helpful live workshop on getting out of debt
As a reminder, we’ll be sending updates about our Journey to 330 to our Wandering Weekly email list. If you want to get notified first when we have an update, hop aboard and subscribe now.
THE TOOLS WE USE
The Tools And Services We Use To Make Wandering Aimfully Tick
Note: Some of the services below have our affiliate links in which we make a tiny commission if you sign up.
Flywheel – We’re huge fans of Flywheel’s WordPress hosting! I joined them really early on with my previous JasonDoesStuff site and have loved every minute of paying them money. For just $15/month you get an intuitive dashboard, free SSL, fantastic customer service, and included hands-on migration from your existing WP host.
Restrict Content Pro (RCP) – We were completely new to RCP when we started building WAIM but we heard great things about it. RCP has lived up to the hype and is incredibly powerful if you’re trying to run a membership community using a WordPress website. The features are great, the help documentation is solid, and customer service has also been top notch.
Drip – Our current email provider of choice is Drip. We love all the fancy stuff you can do with automations, workflows, customer tagging, and more. Drip may be more than you need for email marketing so be sure to read our comparison article on MailChimp vs ConvertKit vs Drip.
Wistia – While we use YouTube for most of our video content, we also pay for Wistia every month. Wistia is perfect for videos that don’t need to be searchable or videos we want to share with our WAIM Members only. If you’re looking for a really slick video host that has a bunch of nice customizations, you’ll be super happy with Wistia.
Crowdcast – Alongside Wistia, we also do a decent amount of live workshops. Crowdcast has the most user-friendly interface of any live video provider and they’re constantly making improvements to the platform.
Airtable – Boy oh boy do we looooooove Airtable! Caroline has mastered the art of spreadsheets and Airtable lets her take things to the proverbial next level. We manage all of our WAIM Members, our personal finances, our content calendar, and our ongoing tasks/to-dos within Airtable. I’m not sure we’d be able to run WAIM (or our lives) without Airtable at this point!
Slack – With over 400 WAIM Members, we wanted our own private place to hang out and chat, free from distractions (we’re looking at you FB Groups). We use the free Slack plan and cherish all the amazing features we get. If you run a community or just want a way to chat with friends/co-workers, Slack is a must-use.
Baremetrics – The most beautiful way to keep track of our monthly recurring revenue and overall financial growth of WAIM. Baremetrics takes minutes to set up and is completely automated if you use Stripe (we do have to input our PayPal members manually).
Have any amazing tool recommendations we should check out that you think we’d enjoy? Send us an email.