As I mentioned publicly in my June 2014 Income Report, my goal is to cover 100% of my average expenses here in Medellin by the end of October 2014.
These monthly income reports are meant to hold me accountable to both myself and my readers, while also offering a glimpse into the nature of money making online and blogging as well as my efforts to cover my expenses while living overseas, ultimately striving to become location independent.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of location independence or digital nomads, it is essentially where one can work, via laptop and the Internet, from anywhere in the world. Typically earning their income in dollars and spending it places with a lower cost of living–most popularly in SE Asia, although the visa crackdowns in Thailand seem to be changing things.
This, of course, would be the ultimate goal. To be able to continue traveling where I please while being able to finance those travels in a sustainable manner.
To be clear, there is a significant portion of this current income that is entirely location dependent (pretty much all the Medellin stuff), which while not ideal is still preferable to working the 9-5 at a desk in the states. I mean, come on, I’m living in Medellin, Colombia!
Furthermore, the idea of using Airbnb to supplement my income is a potential model I could follow (and you could follow) for future destinations–not for trips of constant movement, but a style of travel that I have always preferred, which is to immerse myself in a place.
On to this month’s report…
July 2014 Income Report
Each month I plan to report on my successes as well as what I could stand to improve on.
Excuse alert: there were certainly some small successes for me in the month of July, but a good chunk of time was ‘lost’ in terms of accomplishing work type things, as I took over my new apartment officially and spent time preparing it, cleaning it, and dealing with a few problems that cropped up in preparation for my Mom’s 10-day visit in July.
There went the first half of the month.
Despite that lost time–don’t get me wrong, it was great seeing my Mom after six months–I was able to achieve a number of things in terms of income.
- I officially took over the 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment here in Medellin and was able to start renting out the other two bedrooms to travelers on Airbnb. In the last half of the month, after my Mom left, I was able to host six different travelers/couples.
- I obtained some more part time work writing about Medellin with a local real estate and investment firm.
- My Amazon Affiliate sales, while down from last month, remained over $100 which I consider a success. It is difficult to predict with any certainty how much you will get via affiliate sales, but you just have to keep plugging along. Referral sales for the Aeropress coffee maker continue to be high.
- $45 – Two articles with Medellin Living – Down $25 from last month since I only did two articles.
- $168.50 – Amazon Affiliate sales – Down $7 from last month. Still managed to crack into the 7% bracket.
- $22 – Youtube – Down $5 from last month.
- $1.50 – Google Adsense – Down $14 from last month–since I totally removed Adsense from this website. That negligible amount is from my other seldom trafficked sites.
- $278 – Airbnb
TOTAL = $515
GOAL = $1,200 per month
42% of the way to my goal.
Not counting Airbnb, I was able to bring in $237, compared to $374 in June. Each of my income sources was down slightly, especially not being able to fill the $87 hole I brought in last month for the one time affiliate bundle sale.
$137 (37%) less overall.
But counting Airbnb I made $141 (37%) more overall.
Things To Improve
With Airbnb factored in, I obviously made significantly more. I feel pretty confident that I will be able to grow the Airbnb source and should be able to get to around 50% with just Airbnb–the hard part will most definitely be growing my other income sources, particularly the income sources that are not tied to a physical location (IE what I earn directly from this blog).
I need to develop an actual strategy around increasing my earnings from affiliate sales, not just letting chance/luck take its course.
Once again nothing good to report for my links to various gear merchants or affiliate links for courses or products relating to travel hacking, location independence, travel blogging, etc. The goal is still to feature these more prominently with in depth reviews or something of that nature. Passive product images don’t seem to generate that many click thrus nor (any) purchases.
I want to create a more compelling opt-in offer to increase my newsletter subscription rates. I’ve been on and off working on an ebook along the lines of A Dirtbag’s Guide to Leaving the 9-5 and Living the Dream–which would detail some of my thoughts on re-aligning priorities, finances, and lifestyle to ALLOW for long-term travel.
I would also like to put together a photo book of my travels across North America last year during my Epic Dirtbag Adventure. Something that could either be given away as a freebie for signing up for my newsletter or as a possible product to sell (physically and/or digitally).
Breaking Down My First Few Weeks with Airbnb
So far I am really impressed with Airbnb–new users can claim a $25 credit free–in terms of being able rent out the extra rooms and help cover expenses. My listings were only bookable for the last 16 nights of July due to my Mom’s visit earlier in the month and getting ready for that.
The very day that my Mom left Medellin, I had my first guest come through to use the other room. And I managed to maintain an approximately 60% occupancy rate for both rooms in my first few weeks listing.
19 nights in July between both rooms
Big room occupied 10/16 nights – 62% at $18.70 per night
Little room occupied 9/16 nights – 56% $9.66 per night
Those are my average returns after Airbnb service fees.
Sometimes I would have a full house with a couple in the large bedroom, another guest in the small bedroom, and myself. Other times I would be here all by myself for a few days in this big house.
The $278 that I made with Airbnb covers 61% of my $455 rent. If I include my (previous month’s) bills–WiFi and phone $37.20 and various utilities $77.81–then I was able to cover 48% of my $569 total.
** I am not currently counting the cost of additional house things that need to be purchased or done due to guests (IE extra toilet paper, soap, etc) nor the cost of my weekly cleaning service into the above figures–just the cost of rent and utilities.
I do want to (and plan to) raise my rates slightly–about $15 for the small room and $25 for the big room. They are priced low to bring in my first costumers and more importantly, REVIEWS.
As of the end of of July and six separate bookings, I only got one other review. Reviews are really important to getting a higher page rank in Airbnb. From what I can tell I am currently listed on Page 9 (without using price/amenity filters or any specific dates).
I chalk that up to the nature of the review relationship. There is no real incentive for guests to review a property, especially if they are busy continuing on with their travels through Colombia or South America. I don’t believe that it is due to them having a bad experience or that they would otherwise leave a bad review…
Some good movement and solid progress being made toward my financial goal… I think. But yeah, it certainly isn’t an easy process trying to do it. But hey, doing hard things matters, right?
Any questions about what I’m doing or how I’m doing it? Any specific feedback or recommendations for ways that I could reach these goals?
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Personally, I have yet to be able to stay in an Airbnb place. However, I have a positive experience with them without every physically using Airbnb to stay.
Here’s the quick story,
July 7 I was to leave for Germany and Italy. I had an Airbnb place for my stay in Italy. July 1 I was checked into the hospital and July 5 I had emergency surgery.
July 6 in recovery I spent a few clicks here and there canceling my reservations via my iPhone. The airline was a nightmare (in fact, I finally wrapped up with them after filing a dispute with Chase and winning. So I won’t ever be flying British Airways or using Priceline.) However, Airbnb replied with heartfelt concern, a 100% refund and a future trip credit with a total of 2 emails.
PS: I have recovered from the surgery fine and dandy but more issues have arisen. Airbnb is totally on my list of awesome companies because of their simple customer service.
That’s really great to hear about their customer service and that they were willing to work with you under unusual circumstances (glad to hear you recovered from the surgery!).
I have only interacted with their customer service once, which is just over a technical detail that I couldn’t get to work with my map and guidebook listings here in Medellin. Not only did they get back promptly, personally investigate (and resolve) the problem, but they actually just happened to be a follower of my blog and recognized me from my name and profile picture. That’s pretty nuts.