2020 December Writing Report

By Kimberly


While most of 2020 had its downs, there were a few highlights – mostly related to writing and family time. So even though I think most of the world would rather forget 2020, let’s at least take a moment to look back at December and see how things went.

An image of a tiny pine tree in snow

December’s Quick Statistics

Here’s the quick list of stats – of what I wrote, filmed, and/or published in the month of December.

  • Articles: 9
  • Videos filmed, edited, and published: 0
  • Stories written this month: 0
  • Stories submitted to publications: 0
  • Stories edited: 0
  • New stories outlined and plotted: 1
  • Total word count written this month: 24,625
  • Total Page Views: 24,489 (up from 22,059)
  • Total on-hand cash paid this month (earned in previous months but paid-out this month): $355.54 (up from $303.07)
  • Overall EPMP: $15.35 (up from $13.74)

For word count, I consider a video as a standard 2000 words, no matter how long it actually is. Because there’s going to be at least 2 pictures in it, and a picture is always worth at least 1000 words, right?

This list doesn’t include the word count for current outlining or world building, as it’s in my handwritten notebook – and there’s not a handy way to count that quickly.

How Did My 17th Month with Project 24 Go?

Income School’s Project 24 continues to be one of the best courses I’ve taken to date, even if it’s a demanding pace. Well, it’s demanding for me because I’ve got 4 sites.

With 4 websites, it can get tricky to keep up with the recommended publication schedule. However, I should point out that one site I do write with a partner. She handles all of the subject matter research and then reviews what I write to make sure it’s technically correct. So it’s not 100% alone.

However, I’m the wordsmith – and so keeping up with wordsmithing across four websites can get to be a lot. Generally, I love it, but I often get behind the recommended schedule. This month was no exception to the “Kimberly got a little behind…” generality.

However, you aren’t here for excuses (and I shouldn’t be making them). You’re here for the facts. So let’s look at the overall return on my investment (ROI) I’ve gotten from Income School so far.

  • Investment fees to date (membership dues are paid up until August 2021): $648
  • Cash on-hand earned that’s solely attributable to Project 24: $3,854.96
  • ROI: $3854/$648 = 5.949

So the ROI this month is statistically able to be rounded to 6. That’s up from last month’s 5.4, which continues the trend of each month’s ROI getting bigger and better with each continuing month.

Why do I look at a course’s ROI? Because a good friend of mine taught me something she’d learned – that any course should have a 10X ROI within a year of finishing it. So given that I’m not even done with Income School’s Project 24 yet (I’m in month 17 of 24, remember?) and it’s already gotten me a X6 ROI?

Color me impressed. Especially when I do the math and figure out that the previous-best course I’d taken only ever had an ROI of 2.88X. Yeah, I recommend Project 24 for sure.

Why I Report Cash On Hand (and Not Cash Earned)

You may have noticed that I keep mentioning cash-on-hand, rather than what I earned. Because I earned more than $355.54 in December of 2020 – I actually earned $473.28. However, I don’t have that money yet, so I don’t count it until I get it. Hatched chickens being counted and all that. 🙂

Thankfully, though, I’ll get that $473.28 next month. That’s one of my favorite things about working with Ezoic – they don’t have crazy-high or seemingly-unreachable traffic requirements before you can apply. And they pay you what you earned really quickly – especially for an ad company.

In any case, I report my cash-on-hand because that’s the kind of accounting I do – cash-based. So rather than try to distort my numbers or give myself a headache, I stick to that. If I used the numbers I’d actually earned this month in my analysis, my EPMP and ROI would be even higher.

However, it’s not like I’m not using those numbers – I’ll use them next month. But this way, I can report what I’ve got, not worry about figuring if I did the math right, and get back to writing.

December’s In-Depth Analysis

After a couple of big publishing months with the Income School Content Challenge and NaNoWriMo, I needed a slower month. I allowed myself to take off several days around Christmas and the New Year. That way, I could spend time with family and replenish my creative stores.

Even so, I did manage to get some quality writing done. Here’s what got done by site and project.

  • BackyardHomesteadHQ.com – This site got 4 new articles published this month, for a total word count across those articles of 15,129.
  • GenealogyPals.com – I only managed to write 1 new article for this site, though it was an admirable 2822 words long.
  • KimberlyCStarr.com – I wrote one new article on this site last month. It’s last month’s writing report. However, I did go through and update most of the older articles on this site. They needed it!
  • SleepTrainingKids.com – I wrote 3 new articles for this site. Given that I’d been lucky to write one new article per month for this site for quite some time, it’s a huge step forward. The total word count for the 3 articles is 6345 words. They were quick, short, articles. But sometimes you need a quick win.
  • YouTube Channels – This month was a planned break from filming.
    • Backyard Homestead HQ – This channel continues to grow, in huge part thanks to YouTube shorts. It’s amazing to see subscribers continue to sign up even while I’m on a break. Filming will resume, but videos will be scaled back in quantity going forward.
    • Genealogy Pals – This channel got put on a temporary pause, due to another project.
    • Kimberly C. Starr – I’ve hit some really cool breakthroughs on ideas for this channel. If you aren’t subscribed already, go do it now!

Beyond the publishing of content (which is the most important part of my business), I did use a good chunk of time in December to clean things up on the back end of all of my sites. Here’s what got done.

  • Cleaned up older, existing articles and pages. Sometimes an article needs an update. Sometimes an article is so bad (and nobody even looks at it) that it just needs to be deleted. Or sometimes a page needs to be created. I did a lot of tidying up sites during December.
  • I deleted 120+ articles of not-helpful content. On this site alone, I deleted 120 articles that weren’t doing anything. They weren’t helpful content and they weren’t getting views. This wasn’t willy-nilly deletion. I did evaluate each piece (I used the Income School Battleship method as a starting point) before doing anything with it.
  • I optimized and streamlined images. Unless you’re in the business of building websites, images aren’t something you think about. However, too-large images can bog down a website and make it unwieldy and slow. So I resized all of my images to help make sure that my sites stay fast and usable.
  • I deleted anything that wasn’t necessary. This has more to do with website security, but I did delete any extra plugins. If it wasn’t 100% necessary, I deleted the plugin. That way, this site stays more secure and fast for users.
  • I worked with Ezoic to speed things up and improve the ad experience. I don’t ever want ads to be too annoying. Sure, they need to be there. But they don’t ever need to pop-up and block content. So I worked with Ezoic to fix a few issues before they became problems. I’m still working with them to improve site speed.

Working on site speed especially was an issue – things had been getting slower. However, we’ve found most of the problems via conflicting code in plugins and wrong settings. There are still a few tweaks, but things are already loads better than they were at the start of December.

Now, while backend work is important, it isn’t nearly as fun as looking at the in-depth income report. So let’s get back to that.

SitePercentage of IncomeIncome Sources
BackyardHomesteadHQ34.7% (up from 28.6%)Ad revenue
GenealogyPals2.4% (up from 1.1%)Ad revenue
KimberlyCStarr13.4% (down from 17.7%)1. Ad revenue
2. Affiliate revenue
SleepTrainingKids48.9% (down from 52.3%)1. Ad revenue
2. Affiliate revenue

Percentages are a nice way to see how the writing diversification is working for my income. While a cursory look says, “oh, but two sites are down in percentages,” it’s not that they’re down in income. In fact, all four sites have seen an increase in overall income.

The percentages just let me see how much each aspect contributes to the overall goal. It’s nice to know that not all of my eggs are in one metaphorical basket.

And while I’m not giving you the exact amount each site has earned, I did just give you the percent of my income each earned – and earlier in this site I did tell you I earned $355.54 this month. So you can figure out exactly how much each site earned.

Last month I reported $0 via affiliate sales, as I didn’t receive any affiliate revenue payouts. This month, however, two of my sites did get payouts from affiliate partners. This is because of minimum payout thresholds finally being met for specific affiliate partners.

Updates on Plans, Building a Team, and Niche Sites

Last month, I mentioned that I planned to expand my teams by hiring a few writers for my niche sites. I also mentioned that my family had expressed an interest in helping out where appropriate. Here’s a quick update on all of that.

  • Getting a team on board: I’m working on getting a writing team on board. It’s a slower process than I’d thought it would be. I’ve done test articles with almost a dozen writers so far – and should start onboarding writers as soon as this or next month.
  • Develop systems and processes to make hiring and writing more efficient. I’ve been adapting the processes used by Bloggers on the Rise (read them here) and have found them to be lifesavers on the time end of things.
  • Hire a graphic designer – this wasn’t part of my original plan last month, but it’s one I added. I know a lot of people find my writing via Pinterest, and it’s not one of my core hobbies. So hiring a graphic designer seemed like a good choice. And it’s taken a ton of worry and guilt off my plate about how social media just isn’t my favorite thing in the world. This has slowed down hiring writers, but I think the trade-off will be worth it in the long run.
  • Getting the family team on board – my kids and husband still want to help out. However, we’re trying to find the right balance between what that means and how it looks. It’s a process because there aren’t any templates to follow. We just have to find what works for us.

Expanding my team has been a great way to keep going, even when I’ve needed time off. Several of the articles I published this month were based on test articles from writers. I do edit every article I get, but editing can be much faster than writing from scratch.

In any case, this will be part of my focus for 2021 – switching to a more editorial role and working with freelance writers. It’s been hard to let go of all of the control, but most writers are willing to make good content. They just need a good outline and some guidance to unlock that potential. I’ll get there. 🙂

What Are the Fiction and Story Updates?

Whenever you’re struggling to write good fiction, there’s almost always an underlying root cause that needs to be diagnosed. Sometimes, the diagnosis is writer’s block – for which the cure is usually “just sit down and write something bad so that then you can unlock the good writing.”

However, if you can sit down and write bad fiction without too much problem, then the problem may go deeper. You may not have enough reading time under your belt. Or you may not have enough base knowledge to tap into yet.

In my case, it’s some of both. So I’ve been writing outlines, doing worldbuilding, and doing a lot of reading.

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

  • Pretty much anything by Brandon Sanderson – my husband and kids got me the few books I didn’t have yet to complete my collection for Christmas.
  • The Queen’s Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series) by Jeff Wheeler. It’s an amazing book that pulls on seemingly boring history facts and weaves it into an amazing story of intrigue, mystery, and magic.
  • The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg. It tapped into some Eastern European mythos I wasn’t familiar with, which led me to my next reading.
  • A book about old fables and women’s stories. Sometimes you need to study psychology in order to understand the meaning of symbols and myths. So I’m doing that, too.
  • Slush reading for Deep Magic. We’re still wading through submissions, but it’s an amazing writing education in what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve also learned that my creativity works best when I’m learning something new. So I’m always working on learning new things – because it unlocks amazing creativity that adds new layers to the writing process. And it does make the writing at least ten times better.

Final Thoughts on December 2020 (and 2020 in general)

While 2020 hasn’t been a great year on many fronts, it did have a few bright spots. Without detracting from any of the many areas that need improvement in our worldwide society, I’ve experienced much personal growth and development. My writing has grown as a result. So I’ll continue to do my best to improve my corner of the world and improve myself, my family, and my writing.

And if you’re wondering about starting your own writing project (whether it’s a story, a niche website, or anything else), I recommend you do it.

Here are the resources I recommend you check out in your journey. They’ve helped me immensely in mine.

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