"Master Dayton" might be humorous, (I mean if Ph.Ds are called "Doctors," shouldn't MFAs be called "Masters?") but in all seriousness I have made a living freelance writing and after several years I have tons of information I want to share to help out my fellow writers, regardless of age, experience, goals, situation, or background. This blog isn't pretty-but it will help if real freelance writing information is what you want.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Writing Goals: Looking Ahead

Full Time Passive Income x 2 , No Freelancing, and a $15,000 December?

Hello everybody! I have to say, I think the Europeans have it right as far as the minimum of six weeks paid vacation per year. I'm back from 4 weeks and change of traveling, and another week of just being lazy and enjoying re-acclimating myself to winter weather once again :) While it is definitely very cliched and maybe even passe (that's an annoying fashionista word, isn't it?), this time of year it simply makes sense to not only look back on the past year, but also look forward to making your goals and New Year's resolutions for 2011.

I'm no different, as I've been spending the last week in the exhausting task of recording every top 10 page keyword ranking for every passive income article, website, URL, Hubpage, Squidoo lens, blog posts, or what have you that I have online. When combined, this is over 1,200 pieces at some level. While some are much more valuable and thus much more time-worthy of working on then others (Associated Content articles are pretty much ignored and Squidoo lenses are way down vs. HubPages, all of which are lower than my 100% own blogs), I like having numbers and I want a clear list of everything there is to work on.

This is part one of my 2011 goals: Taking away all excuses to delay or procrastinate because I don't know what to do next. The beauty of this long master list is that if I don't know what to do, I take a look at the next keyword on the list and just keep going. There's no chance now for me to waste time or get frustrated because I'm drawing a blank. Basically I'm preempting one of the major issues I've run across throughout my writing career, and one that because of that I'm sure to run into again.

I'm a firm believer that the reason most people don't achieve their goals isn't because it's not possible - not even the most overconfident of us knows what we're truly capable of - but because making the goal is only part one. The even more important part is planning out in specific and very detailed, easy to follow steps how you are going to do it.

One great example of this I've already seen online is Kidgas's hub on tripling his online income in just one year. What does he do right?
  • He sets a goal that is ambitious but realistic, one that is going to force him to work but isn't going to become an anchor because it's unrealistic.
  • He clearly identifies the best way to get from point A to point B (tripling traffic)
  • He clearly lays out his plan of how to get there, not with a general "write x number of hubs," but an even better weekly plan of one Saturday, one Sunday, and one during the week - as well as some specific steps on building backlinks, since this is a crucial part of ranking in the search engines and getting more traffic
If I was a betting man, and I am, I'd put my money on Kidgas not only making his goals, but even surpassing them by the end of 2011. That is a good plan. And yes, a few simple tweaks or additions will make his backlinking efforts much more powerful (more on that in a bit), but the point is that all the bases are covered. This is someone who is putting the clear planning and effort behind his goals to succeed.

So for this post I'm going to do two things:
  1. I'm going to announce my own goals (public pressure and all to keep me on track) for the next year and how I intend to get to them, including some major potential pitfalls I can see.
  2. I'm going to give some simple steps/advice to Kidgas (not picking on him or singling him out - but I know he reads this blog and I'm eager to help him hit his goals; I'm a firm believer in paying it forward) that can help improve his backlinking strategy to help him reach his goals.
In all fairness, it might be that Kidgas didn't mention everything he did with backlinking, so maybe I'll just be talking to myself and running a refresher course, but some well intentioned good advice certainly can't hurt.

But first, my writing and passive income goals for 2011. The subtitle of this post, while appearing somewhat sensational, is actually pretty accurate. My three main goals for 2010 when it comes to writing and passive income are:
  1. To no longer have to freelance write for clients at all - and I mean NADA
  2. To have two full-time incomes (in my mind app. $36K a year) from passive income by the end of the year: one from just my own efforts and one from my brother's and my business
  3. To have a $15,000 month (minimum) in December solely from Amazon's Affiliate Program
So starting off with #1: it's not that I don't enjoy freelance writing, I love the lifestyle and there is little else I'd rather do, but the prospects of having full time passive income and being able to work on my passions and my own creative projects is FAR more appealing, not to mention that an end of the year Pareto Principle look at my life indicates that the majority of my work stress (all of it, actually) comes from freelancing for clients. Don't get me wrong - many of these clients are great and many of these jobs I enjoy, but at this point I have to do a pretty decent chunk of freelance work to make ends meet, pay student loans, and try to save up to improve my current lot in life. And with this comes stress. While I can weather the storm of any major recession, the sooner I don't have to freelance at all, the sooner I have total control over my financial life.

So how to get there? Obviously I need much more passive income to make up for the freelancing income. The first step for me is counter-intuitive. I want to take on more work the first three months of the year to save up an extra 3 to 4 months of expenses - something I've never had before. With that much saved up I can take the next 4 months off from freelancing, only take on the easy, high-paying, and fun jobs that come along (if I so choose) and use all that extra time to focus hard core on the passive income side of the equation.

I'm very confident that if I had 4 months where I didn't have to worry about making any income at all, and ALL of my attention was focused on the residual build up, then the progress on that front would be exponential compared to right now.

To do this I plan to spend 4 hours a day writing for Demand Studios, 3 hours a day writing for jobs I win from Guru.com, and 1 hour a day finding new work. I know intermittent work will come in from some former employers, but I choose not to count on it and anything I get is just bonus.

Now for #2: Getting not only one, but two full time passive incomes by the end of 2011. This definitely might be considered over-ambitious considering I haven't fully earned one yet, but I'm feeling good about this. Part of it is from the fact that the business my brother and I are partners in did very well in December - about $1,700 well and counting from only online sources. Yes, the Christmas season throws the numbers way off since a lot of that is Amazon, but it still shows what is possible, and we got started late and were not anywhere close to putting in 40 hour weeks...if only we had.

One of my first steps is making the SEO master list of all my sites and pages, and the company's sites and pages. There are more than enough good topics, keywords, and online real estate that I think I would already be making at least one, if not both, incomes if all these pages, sites, or articles ranked in the top 5 (preferably top 3) in the search engines. So getting there is step one, and with the voice software, I can do 10-12 articles a day for backlinks pretty easily now, in fact in three hours or less - so 300-400 backlink articles a month on the really low side won't hurt at all. If I spend 10 hours every Saturday doing nothing but backlink articles, I can do upwards of 40 to 50.

Next is to create a minimum of 200 new hubs for both my personal account as well as the business account based on continued keyword research, and using the optimal layout we found for selling Amazon products, in addition to still converting for AdSense. These will all get backlinks, including from revenue sharing sites like Xomba, InfoBarrel, and Squidoo. I also need to get my butt in gear and get some of those e-books and online reports done like I've had on the "To Do" list for over a year now and make sure all of my domain names have active and hosted websites - which means a lot more work to get up from the 25% or so where I'm sitting at right now.

This means going back to old pages to "properly" monetize them based on what I've learned the past two years and also being very selective about what I spend my time on. I'm very much naturally a "scatter-shot" sort of person as opposed to the "sniper focus" and my efforts the past few years have reflected that: very broad but rarely very deep. To complete this goal, I don't have any other option. I need to focus heavily on the pages that are showing the most return, the most potential I can actually turn into earnings in a reasonable time, and the projects with the highest upside.

I'm also going to "cheat" and count 2011's Amazon earnings as part of the "average" for the year.

Finally, I've had some really cool ideas for e-books and online courses that I've been working on just a little bit throughout the past year, and it's time to get those out. While not completely passive, they will definitely help with no longer having to freelance and over time some of them might become very profitable passive income streams. One of the appeal of e-books is if you can get an audience and provide information that really is worth $40 a pop versus 50 cents a click or $1 a commission.

Which brings us to #3: $15,000 December. This I actually think is very achievable. Basically I didn't heavily figure out Amazon until this year, and it's been mind-blowing for me. Using only HubPages (so think 60% of what we could have earned) and starting on the 15th of August, we made 67 HubPages, each with an average of 3-5 articles backlinking to each one. Considering there's 116 days between then and Christmas, this isn't that much work, especially for two people. In fact, we pretty much stopped doing anything the first week of November.

The end results? By changing which keywords we shot for slightly and testing to find the best layout for hubs to sell Amazon products, our company (which right now is the two of us just working together) earned $2,783 in commissions, well over half of which came in December. My personal account jumped from $10 a month to $70, and tallied nearly $200 for December, and mostly just from me revising and changing 5-10 hubs I already had to make them more Amazon friendly.

At the end of the day we could have done so much more - even doubled the work without feeling all that stressed out or rushed. So knowing that, and having figured out how to take advantage of Christmas sales and how to design HubPages and sites that actually convert for Amazon, with an entire year to go making $15,000 in December 2011 does not seem that far fetched at all...especially since it's not like this year's hubs disappear. They'll rank even higher by next year.

The goal here is 2 campaigns per month, and at least 2 backlink articles per hub or per website page per month aiming at Amazon, with a huge push in July through October 2011 when we'll have a much better idea of what's hot and what's not during the Christmas season, and what words will be achievable versus which won't be. This goal is actually the one I consider the easiest of the three based on experience and my confidence in what I know and how to do it.

So those are my goals and how I intend to achieve them. For anyone looking at making goals for the next year, I'm personally a fan of aiming for challenging goals that force you to "step up" to achieve them. Getting to new places and reaching new goals means pushing yourself to accomplish things you haven't done before.

Next, hopefully this helps pay it forward and helps Kidgas (who seems to be a cheerful and thoroughly outstanding individual - you can check out his "My Online Income" blog here) reach his goals with some advice, which is always my two cents and nothing more, that hopefully will help his backlinking efforts and in achieving his goals over the next year. And actually, these can be used by anyone, so anyone else go ahead and take notes and enjoy!

Well I guess we could just go back to my old blog post on backlinking for beginners, but since none of us are going to do that, let's move on to just a few basic steps that Kidgas could take to make his back linking more effective.

By all means, I agree with bookmarking at Xomba, Snipsly, and SheToldMe. This is a good start. I would also say, if you don't have an Ezinearticles account, get one! Regardless of what people have been saying for 5+ years, the demise of Ezinearticles is greatly exaggerated. Even 2-3 Ezinearticles (don't use the exact keyword you're shooting for in the title - use a related one) per hub can add 4-6 good solid backlinks. Learning the "a href" language to get backlinks in your author box is not difficult, and I get solid traffic directly from my Ezinearticles...and if they're willing to click once, they're willing to click again once they get to my page.

So I obviously encourage adding Ezinearticles to the mix. You can use the bookmarking sites on these to add extra "juice" to your links.

The next step would be to look at InfoBarrel if you haven't already done so. This is a very good AdSense and Amazon revenue sharing site that also allows you to have backlinks in your "signatures" of the article. InfoBarrel articles tend to rank fairly well, and you can make money off of them, as well.

Finally, in each new hub make sure to link to other recent hubs that you produce. This is a very smart move, as those "internal links" can actually be an enormous help in outranking other pages.

This is an extremely basic "how to get started," for Kidgas or whoever else needs it, but even by adding just a few Ezinearticle, InfoBarrel article, or other links you might be surprised how quickly your rankings in the search engines improve. HubPages is an incredibly strong site, and it often doesn't take very many backlinks to push the hubs up in the rankings for targeted keywords. Once you get the hang of this and start seeing the results, take a look at the backlinking for beginners post I made as it will give you a list of other places to get backlinks from (including sites who have an AdSense share program) and the default order in how I do things if that type of structure helps you out.

If you haven't tried it already, down the line consider looking at a Keyword Academy Membership (this is an affiliate link), which last I check offered a free trial month. The tools and teaching they offer is incredible and has shaved months off of my journey, if not more. The regular price is $33 a month, so it is a commitment, but it's not a bad idea to sign up when you have some time to watch the teaching videos, get a feel for their tools, do some research and get some backlinks, then if you can't afford $33 a month you can decide whether it's worth it for you to come back at a later time. Definitely hold on this until you know you have time to look at the videos and take notes: it's incredible information and even if now you can only do the free trial run, do it. What you learn will speed up the passive income process immensely.

So hopefully that will help you out to really get the most out of your backlinking efforts. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and ask. You were brave enough to mention your goals, so I want to be able to help you reach them and then some.

As to everyone reading, hope your holidays are great, feel free to share your goals or thoughts in the comments section, and I really encourage you to challenge yourself to really go after those big time goals in 2011. Cheers!


  1. Online freelance writers are a unique breed. We’re the only folks who seem to be willing to truly help other writers become successful. Great post Master Dayton.

    As far as Kidgas goes, I’m with you. I believe he will triple his income and more next year. It will be great watching (and learning) as the both of you as you reach your goals.

  2. I read your posts religiously.
    Wondering if you could comment on Article Length. Many writers seem to write short, very focused articles, ie 200 words on How To find School Closings in XYZ Town, I assume to get local exposure and to write 2-3x the number of articles in a given timeframe. conversely, many do 1200 word articles which can get many more keywords into them.
    What is your take and would you respond differently for different sites ie Suite 101 vs. Associated Content?

  3. Hi Felicia,

    Always great to hear from you and I've really enjoyed the end of the year blog posts. I agree. From Grizz's famous blog to yours, Allyn Hane at Blogger Illustrated, and about 50 more, it's the nicest "pay it forward" niche I've ever seen. I wonder if part of that is because anyone who has tried it for 6 months or more has already "paid some dues" and we all sympathize having been there before. Thanks for the kind words and have a happy New Year!

    @ Peter Owen: thanks for the kind words! These types of comments really fire me up and keep me going. Article length is a great question, and I need to preamble my response with: these are my observations based on my experiences as of now - all this can change down the line.

    If I'm writing articles for the purpose of backlinks (like Ezinearticles) I aim for 250 to 400 words. 400 words is a very solid number and leads to more articles getting indexed, but if you're actually writing for ezinearticles, then 250 words is normally enough.

    For money making articles I tend to go with the more words is better. If you're targeting a micro-niche like "Belle Plaine Iowa new restaurants" then smaller articles might be enough, but once I again I like aiming for 400 words and using a variety of related keywords in the article itself.

    For a good keyword, longer articles can be very powerful (and if you're writing HubPages definitely take advantage of their strength by writing much longer hubs) and what length I aim for depends on topic, the website, and other factors. 400 is always the base when possible, and 800 or more can be very powerful, especially with a few backlinks. There's little denying that a good long article gives more opportunities than a shorter one because of more keyword phrases, and the extra text earns trust from Google.

    As for individual sites, nothing beats testing it out on your own. I'm not trying to cop out here, but suppose I write all outdoors stuff and you write electronics or business. What's true for my keywords might not always be true for yours. I know "testing" is a scary word (it still worries me from time to time) but put simply, try out different styles and formats and see which pay off the most, then copy those. Nice and easy.

    And if you're putting a lot of effort into AC and Suite 101, I'd tell you to also look at adding HubPages to the mix and giving them a fair shake. Just a little bit of reading around will tell you how to get the best AdSense layout (opening text paragraph of 150+ words), and then having your second module as text and an Amazon module floating to the right has done wonders for me in moving Amazon products. I have a feeling if you did 1/3 of your time to each of these three sites, within a year your HubPages earnings would be more than AC and Suite 101 combined.

    Hope that helps. If I missed anything or you still have questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Thanks again for the kind words!

  4. Great info and reminders for all of us Dayton. One thing that i like to dow with informational videos in to extract the audio ( I use iRecordMusic), put them on a playlist in iTunes and listen to them while I write or am working. Sometimes it is distracting, but it usually helps me stay on track.

  5. Hey Dave,

    Great to hear from ya' and hope everyone is looking towards a great new year. I have the new revised version of "The 4 Hour Work Week" on Audio CD, and I listen to that frequently as I'm working, as well. I agree with you that it definitely helps to focus and keep on track. Take care, bro.

  6. Master Dayton,
    Thanks so much for the mention and your comments on my Hub. I do appreciate you and Felicia as well as many others who have offered assistance and wisdom as you "pay it forward". I cannot stress how comforting it is knowing that others are pulling for me.

    You had mentioned a site like InfoBarrel for backlinks. I do think that is a good idea and something that I might do especially if I run short of new material ideas. Spinning an existing article with decent traffic already can only help as far as I can tell.

  7. Thx for the Article Length comments. I have been asking everywhere - Which articles do you put on Which Sites? If I paraphrase Felicia correctly( sorry Felicia if I don't), Focused, technical, low keyword search,but which therefore have high Ad per click value, should go on Ad Sites ie Suite. General articles with high PV but low Ad value should go on PV Sites such as AC.
    PS - should I try Hub even if I have my own Blog? I seem to recall in one of your posts that this was not necessary.

  8. Hey Kidgas,

    Not a problem. It's an awesome community and always glad to help out. For InfoBarrel, the article needs to be original, but if you mean "spin it" as re-writing one, that's fine but I wouldn't use a spinner for InfoBarrel articles. Those links have gotten pretty strong, and a few Ezinearticle links still do wonders for the hubs, as well. Always glad to support someone willing to put in the work to chase the dream and make it reality.

    @ Peter Owen, not a problem. For me, I base which articles should go well based on keywords. If they have traffic but virtually no advertising, I go to PPV sites like AC. The best example I have of this is my 10 best post apocalyptic movies article. On other pages I might earn $20-$30 worth of commissions in a full year (most in December) but at 6K to 10K visitors a month, that article is worth $12 to $20 a month on AC on a view basis.

    But anything that could make good sales from AdSense or Amazon, I go with HubPages or my own sites, or often both. I do highly recommend having HubPages. The website is so strong that your hubs can rank very quickly with minimal backlink work and thus earn you money fast, plus they gain PR easily, so you can use HubPages to backlink all your websites with high quality links. It's a win-win situation.

    I also find that many keywords that would take me weeks or even months to rank for with a brand new site take only take days (or on a couple cases, even hours) to rank for with a few good HubPages, so yes, I do recommend them strongly.

    As an example, my brother and I have turned 67 hubs with only 3-5 backlinks each since August into over $2,500 in Amazon sales and $550 in AdSense earnings. Not bad at all for 5 months of leisurely "work."

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

  9. I really like the approach to break it down into steps -- that's something not a lot of people do, and I hadn't even thought about. If I'm gonna get in shape for Spring Break (as my resolution guides)... I better start cutting up my weeks and figuring out how I'm going to accomplish this!

  10. I started on Hubpages but stories of other passive income websites (Associated Content and EHow) suddenly shutting out international authors scared me. I'd hate to add a lot of content only for them to shut down my business when things go well.

    I'm trying the passive income through my own blogs instead. It'll take longer and be harder, but at least it'll be mine to keep no matter what.

    It's hard to decide what goals to choose. I have figures in my head, but they're not realistic for the next 12 months. Then again, you aim high so if you don't meet your target then you've still done well.

  11. Hi Zahra,

    Can definitely understand that hesitation. I think you're likely to be fine with HubPages, as your income actually comes from having an AdSense or Amazon account as opposed to a site controlled income model. They can also be used as backlinks to your individual blogs. Good luck with your goals and try to at least make just that steady progress towards your goals is being made.

  12. Master Dayton, wonderful advice yet again. I have started following some of your advice but it is slow going to see if I am doing it properly. We shall see. If nothing else I will have a fun hobby that does not cost anything. Thanks for helping all of us newbies out.

  13. Hi- I am trying to remember if you did an article on outbound Links within a Post - I looked but don't see it but could be within an article.
    I have been following your backlink suggestions. Wondering about outbound links and anchor text. Qustion is when do you do an outbound link. I ususally pick a work or phrase to link to my other articles either on Hub or AC, but beyond that what links do you do? If I have phrase such as Dogs on Long Island, and I have no other articles to link to, do you do a link to some organization such as American Kennel Club just to provide a link or is there a more formal process you go thru to determine?

  14. Hi Dusty,

    Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it! Just keep on moving forward and the more you work, the more you'll figure out what works.

    Peter - when I send an outbound link obviously I link a lot of my sites or articles, otherwise there's not much worry for me. I don't link out every post or every time - if only my competition is out there then I link to them then normally I don't or I find a site that isn't "direct" competition like IMDB, Wikipedia, or something else like that. I don't ever link to a site I'm attempting to surpass in the rankings.

    When I'm starting a new niche, I just go back and put in the links later after I've built up a few more pages. Hope that answers your question.

  15. That is what I am doing, but do you gain anything in doing a links such as:
    Dog Breed link to American Kennel association, or Popular Sneakers link to Nike?
    I can fill a lot of links but they seem to be worthless to me.

  16. Hi Peter,

    I don't see how that helps, and am not really sure why you'd like out to major sites like that. I know there's some talk about how sites are helped out by linking to authority sites, but I think this is a pretty advanced technique and is referring to a really small number of situations. Until you have a full handle on the Internet marketing, I'd tell you just to ignore them. You want links to your sites, and want to link out to your own sites: you shouldn't spend any time sending links to those other sites. It's a poor use of time, in my opinion.

    Hope that helps.