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Well, it’s been a full year since we bought RVinspiration.com and our monthly(ish) updates on the process are getting all wrapped up today. I’m excited because it’s been more work than I bargained for writing these recaps each month, though every one I’ve written has helped me learn and understand more about the business.
But, ultimately, I’d rather write articles about pretty RVs than write articles about writing articles about pretty RVs.
Here’s the gist:
Last December, we bought our first business. The business included two websites, RVinspiration.com a blog about renovating RVs, and RenovatedRVsforSale.com a marketplace for selling renovated RVs. We bought it intending to grow it (of course) and produce cash flow for us.
- We bought a business!
- Acquisition Update: 60 Days into Owning New Business
- The First 100 Days Acquisition Update: This business is growing like crazy!
- We bought a blog and broke it a little bit. (Month 4 Acquisition Update!)
- Business Acquisition Update #5: The month we didn’t touch it
- We didn’t mean to take another month off (Month 6 Business Acquisition Update)
- Month 7 Acquisition Update: I’m a little out of my depth.
- Q3 Business Update: Things Are Good! (And Terrible)
Each month(ish) we’ve shared what has gone well and what has gone poorly and the real numbers that reflect it. There have been big mistakes, tech issues, product failures, crazy traffic, “helpful” Google updates, and more to contend with over the past year. Now that the year is over, here are some of the biggest takeaways from a year of this biz.
I know this much: 🤏🏻
Also known as “not a lot at all.”
I started my first blog in 2012. It was a diary for all intents and purposes and while I knew that people blogged professionally, I had no concept of what that looked like. Fast forward a decade and I’m still blogging and have successfully made money in a dozen different ways from this website (HeathandAlyssa.com). I hit that 10,000 hours to be a pro.
Then I jumped into running RV Inspiration.
And while much of what was required of me was in my wheelhouse—writing, editing—I was consistently pushed out of my comfort zone learning the ropes this year. It made me realize that I know only about this much 🤏🏻 about blogging compared to what I thought I knew. (I dive into this a little more in the month 7 update!)
I learned SO MUCH this year about how to grow a blog. Reflecting on how far we’ve come in the past twelve months has me newly excited to see where we can take the business in the next year! There’s a lot to learn (and many tabs open on this Google Chrome browser at the moment!) and I love that. I don’t want to run a business where I’ve lost the thrill of learning new things.
Updating Past Content
I’ve mentioned a few times this year that updating old content was a major part of our website strategy.
If you’re also a blogger and thinking about updating past content to perform better, this is your sign to take the time to do it. It is 100% worth the effort. Here’s a before and after on a blog post I updated last week.
A Team of Outstanding Women
One lesson Heath took from Campground Booking that we will instantly apply to every subsequent business is hiring out our weaknesses. Going into our new blog and marketplace, this was our primary focus.
When we bought the business, we inherited Alexis. She was the VA running our marketplace and a wealth of information. We thought we would let her go and find someone else for the simple reason that we were hiring a complete stranger. You usually vet a person a bit before agreeing to work with them every day. Plus we figured that we should learn the business ourselves and find where we thought we wanted/needed help before hiring someone.
But Ashley, who sold us the business, was so insistent on keeping Alexis with us that she paid Alexis through our transition/handoff process. This was a godsend for a thousand little reasons, but mostly it gave us a chance to see Alexis in action. She is everything you would look for in a VA—quick to learn, responsive, great with customers, and easy to work with.
All this to say, Alexis has been a crux in the business for us this past year and while she is our second biggest line item on our finances, she is totally worth it. We were iffy about buying an employee along with a business, but it has worked out great for us.
To grow the blog side of the business, I knew I needed help. One thing Heath and I learned many years ago is that if we ever need help with anything in business, the best thing to do is find someone in the RV Entrepreneur Facebook group.
From our RVE community, we hired Kelsey. She ran our RVE podcast and our Pinterest way back when. She doubled our RVI Pinterest account over the past year. 🏆
We also hired Brooke who we met at the first RVE Summit in 2017 to be our editor. She helped not only edit and write awesome blog content but also create processes so that the business could run smoothly while I was traveling.
Then in the fall, as I mentioned in the last update, Brooke moved on to bigger projects leaving me to hire again (which you may recall from the tone of the last update was making me a little frazzled).
I recently hired Cindy, who we met at an RVE meetup. Until I mentioned to Heath that she was one of people I planned to interview, I had forgotten that Heath had also worked with Cindy on a few Campground Booking projects too. She has been managing our small team of writers and is helping me be more strategic about our content plan.
This little team has been slowly growing with the blog and I’m extremely grateful for these ladies and their hard work!
I cannot mentally handle tech stuff.
It’s like someone is speaking a foreign language, but using all words that I know I should know.
By far, this is the stuff that has weighed most heavily on me this year. Now we have the team at Thin Air handling everything for us and I can just email and say “No images are loading on our most profitable blog post PLEASE HELP ME.”
We hired the team at Thin Air, Marc and Alowetta (who we also know from the RVE world), in September. My life was instantly easier.
My goal is to never have to figure this stuff out. If I’ve been blogging for over a decade and still don’t get it, I probably never will.
For a long time (too long) I tried to figure these things out on my own and probably wasted a lot of time. I think a lot of bloggers do this when starting out, but it’s something I’ve stupidly continued to do for a few years too many. Now I will gladly pay someone smarter than me.
This week I crunched a lot of numbers to figure out how much we really grew the business in the past year. Here are some quick numbers!
- We grew our top-line revenue by 65%
- Specifically, we grew our ad revenue by 62% and doubled our listings revenue.
- We DOUBLED profits!
- I actively worked on the business for 8/12 months, outsourcing with my aforementioned team and letting the biz run itself for 4 months.
I go into a lot of detail on the strategy I used to do this back in the three and four month updates, but it’s a little surreal typing out those words. Doubling profits in a year feels like a monumental win.
I’m proud, but also have a little voice in my head that oddly sounds a lot like Heath going, “Let’s double it again next year!”
Okay here are some numbers, since I know you’re curious. No math needed on my part since the 1099s have started coming in this week 😉
Ad Revenue: $62,671.58
Amazon Affiliate: $17,435.00
Other affiliates: $5,663.52
Those numbers look pretty great to me, but this one keeps me humble.
Digital product sales: $92.15
I’m going to maybe scrub the website of product mentions and brainstorm new/better digital products in 2024. There’s untapped potential there, I think!
Speaking of doubling our income, over the summer Heath and I started paying ourselves back on our investment. We bought the business for $100,000 and paid ourselves back $50,000 last year. Our goal was to recoup our investment in two years, so we are well on our way!
Redoing the Website
was worth it. Lots of money. Lots of time. Lots of catching errors months later (like the link error I fixed literally yesterday, 10 months later).
But I give this step a lot of credit for making the website look more credible and more beautiful.
Ups and Downs
For the most part, I have loved running this business. As Adrienne always says in her classes (don’t let me be the only Yoga with Adrienne fan here pls), I am “meeting my comfortable edge.”
This is a phrase that has stuck with me a lot lately. I’m teetering on the edge of my capabilities, but I’m comfortable there, growing a little more each time. Or, in the case of yoga, stretching a little deeper each time.
Most months, I’ve met my comfortable edge and loved running this business. Most recently, in November and December, as we traveled and there were holidays and birthday parties and turkeys to cook, the business started feeling a little more meh. A little more ugh. A little more ahhhhh. A little more oh no.
Looking back on the past year to write this post, I realized something though.
Here, from our listings revenue:
And here, a little more subtly, from our ad revenue:
THERE IS ALWAYS A DIP IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER.
It’s not just me. It’s the industry. No one is thinking about RVing over the holidays and everything kind of comes to a halt.
It’s kind of perfect too. Many businesses ramp up during the holidays. For us, it’s the slow season with less pressing work (and less income). But I’d definitely rather be quiet in December and have time to enjoy the holidays than have it be a wild busy time like the summer months.
Looking at these charts reminded me that business is often cyclical. You don’t have to grow every day, every week, every month. Sometimes things slow down and that’s fine and normal.
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, I have a few big ideas for RV Inspiration. Mostly ones that aren’t even half baked yet, more like I have a partial grocery list and a dream. But we will see where it takes us.
Thanks to everyone who followed along with this journey! We’ve received so much feedback and encouragement this past year during this experiment and it has made working on this project feel like it was done in community with so many of you ❤️