Welcome to my 2020 Business and Life Review!
Usually, I separate my travel and business annual review content into two separate blog posts, but this year I’ve decided to combine it into one.
2020 was a different kind of year, and I’m sure nearly everyone would agree with that statement.
It was a tough year for a lot of people, and I completely understand.
I feel very grateful for the life that I get to live, but it was a hard year for me as well. I lost two important family members in my life, my grandma as well as my dog who was my best friend for almost 14 years.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this section in this life update, as I’m also talking about travel and business, and honestly, it just seems odd to have it all in one.
I went back and forth so many times, and I’m still unsure of it.
But, it just doesn’t seem right to me to not include it, as this is all a part of my life.
Good and bad things happen, and will happen throughout a person’s lifetime.
I do feel guilty writing about the passings of two of my favorites, and at the same time also writing about business and travel. Anyways…
My grandma passed away in the summer of 2020. She passed away at the age of 97.
I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, as she watched us everyday after school when we were kids and lived in Chicago.
She lived in the building just behind us, so I saw her all the time.
She didn’t speak much English (and I don’t speak Korean), although she took daily/weekly English classes even in her old age so that she could at least make hand gestures and talk to us as best as she could.
I remember as a kid, she would make me plain ramen (with no seasoning!) and I was always so confused as to why she would throw the seasoning packet away and make it taste bland. But I couldn’t tell her easily because I didn’t know how to tell her in Korean. After months of eating noodles in plain water, I figured out how to tell her. She thought it was weird that I liked watery noodles but she made it because she thought I liked it, haha. That is a story that always makes me laugh.
She was also a world traveler, and went to so many amazing places.
Also the kindest woman ever, and she was so great to us. I will forever miss her.
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My favorite girl passed away – Sailor. My best friend, the sweetest sweetie pie, the best adventure buddy, passed away in December of 2020.
We adopted Sailor when she was just two months old. I had just turned 18 about a week earlier, and just graduated from high school. Wes and I were moving in together (we were crazy kids), and decided to adopt a puppy that a friend was trying to find a home for.
Shortly after, I found out that my dad had brain and lung cancer, and that he did not have much time left. Sailor was there through all of the tears and sadness (I leaned heavily on her), and always brought me joy.
She has climbed some of the tallest mountains in the U.S., sailed to many islands, and been to some of the most scenic spots around.
It was very sudden, and before she could get to a vet (the vet was actually on her way to the boat). The vet thinks it may have been a fast moving cancer, as she didn’t show signs of it when she was just at the vet shortly before.
I’m still processing what this means as she was such a huge and beautiful part of my life for the past almost 14 years.
I am heartbroken and miss her so much. I was dreading this time for awhile, as I knew she was getting older, and it’s been much harder than I could have ever imagined.
Now, I’m not really sure how to transition to the next section, but below I will be switching to my travel and business review for 2020.
Like it was for nearly everyone – 2020 was a weird year, full of highs and lows.
Travel in 2020
2020 started with us in the Exumas in the Bahamas. We have spent a decent amount of time in the Bahamas the past couple of years on our boat, and it’s an amazing place to be, especially on a boat!
We then sailed to the Dominican Republic in February and spent around a month. We saw whales, went up the only cable car in the Caribbean (and it goes up around 2,500 feet!), rented a car and drove around the country, and more.
Then, we sailed to Puerto Rico in March. Shortly after we arrived, the lockdown started, and it was very strict. It has loosened since, but the first several months they had some of the strictest rules in the world. You could only grocery shop on certain days according to your license plate, you weren’t allowed to go outside (not even to let your dog use the bathroom), and more.
We had planned on hopping down the island chain and spending hurricane season in Grenada, but everything changed.
We stayed in Puerto Rico for around 3 months, pondering our next move.
Since we live on a boat, we had to figure something out, as hurricane season was approaching and we are not allowed to stay in the “Hurricane Box” during hurricane season because of our boat insurance policy.
So, we had two options, sail to Grenada or sail to the U.S. The sail to Grenada would have been about 3 days.
We decided to sail to the U.S. as we weren’t sure what the state of the world would be like, especially after being in such a strict lockdown for 3 months in Puerto Rico. Plus, we wanted to be outside of the Hurricane Box, and if you’re going north then that means heading all the way back to the U.S. Also, we had a lot of boat work that we needed to get done, so going to Annapolis seemed like an easy choice.
It was a 1,300 nautical mile sail and took us 9 days. It was our longest passage, and it was just me, Wes, and our two dogs. Our highest speed was 14.5 knots, and we hit 12 and 13 quite often. We caught fish, saw a submarine, dealt with Tropical Storm Bertha, and more. Our dogs did amazingly well on the passage, and it was a wonderful time.
We spent several months in Annapolis, Maryland for hurricane season and got a ton of work done on SV Paradise, including a major electrical refit. We can now run everything off of our lithium batteries and our solar, including running the watermaker, our washer/dryer, water heater, and more. Since I know I’ll be asked, the company we used for our electrical refit was Marine Electric Systems in Annapolis, and I highly recommend them.
Hurricane season ended in November, and then we’re required by insurance to head south to avoid winter weather on our boat. We did some offshore hops and we’re now in sunny Florida!
We’re not sure what we’ll be doing in 2021, but decisions have to be made eventually because hurricane season comes every year. We have a few ideas but I won’t be sharing anything just yet – you’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂
Fortunately, we’re fairly off-grid and self-sufficient on SV Paradise, so we can safely live on our boat, even in a time like this.
Note: If you want to follow my travels and life more, please follow me on Instagram.
2020 Business Year In Review
2020 was definitely a weird year for businesses.
Many businesses failed, while many others thrived. Working from home and/or starting your own small business is now at an all-time high as well.
I am very grateful for the business that I get to run, and I am excited to grow it well into the future.
While I no longer disclose exact income numbers due to privacy reasons (and so that I, as well as others, don’t feel the need to “keep up” with others), income was at a good level in 2020.
Here’s what my income has looked like in the past:
- In 2013, my business income totaled $116,519. This was the year that I quit my job to blog full-time.
- In 2014, it totaled $163,929. This was my first full year of being self-employed with no day job.
- In 2015, I made $320,888. I think this was the year where I fired all of my freelance clients and started just working on my blog. This helped me to grow my income significantly because I was FOCUSED!
- In 2016, I made $979,321. This is the year where I created my first product (Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing).
- In 2017, I earned $1,536,732.
- In 2018, I earned over $1,500,000 (I stopped disclosing exact numbers in 2018).
It’s crazy to think that I have now been blogging for over nine years. What started as a fun little blog with no goals (I was even anonymous!), has turned into a great business for me.
If you want to start a blog of your own, I have a free How To Start a Blog Course.
2020 was a weird year, as we all know.
Even though I had a ton more free time due to lockdowns, I didn’t get as much work done as I had hoped. My mind was all over the place a lot of the time, which led to me wasting a lot of time.
But, I have heard that was normal for a lot of people for 2020. So, if you experienced the same – do not feel bad about yourself!
I didn’t take part in many interviews, didn’t release any new projects, and I was barely on social media. I really don’t know what I spent so much of my time on, to be honest.
Luckily, around 2019, I slowed down significantly when it came to working, and it helped tremendously. I wasn’t feeling burned out or anything with Making Sense of Cents. But, I knew that I needed to be more mindful of how I use my time online. I no longer want to be hooked to my laptop and phone for both personal and business social media browsing/blogging.
And, after several years of blogging full-time and spending 100+ hour weeks on my blog, it’s been nice to relax and focus on other areas of my life.
I will be completely honest – income did not grow in 2020 over 2019 – but it was still a great amount.
Thankfully, all of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past several years has paid off.
In case you are new to this blog, the main areas I earn a living from include:
- Affiliate Marketing – This is the largest chunk of my income.
- Sponsored Partnerships
- Courses – Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course and Making Sense of Sponsored Posts
- Display Advertising – I use Adthrive. Another great option is Mediavine.
Three articles that I recommend reading:
- How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
- How I’ve Made Over $1,000,000 From My First Course Without a Big Launch
- 10+ Of The Best Free Blogging Resources
Thank you to all of my readers for being here with me on this journey! I’m so glad that I can share everything with you.
Affiliate marketing results in 2020.
Affiliate income was at a great level this past year.
Not much changed from the previous year, and everything is fairly passive when it comes to affiliate marketing income on Making Sense of Cents.
I am hoping to start ranking for more blog posts through SEO, which will hopefully increase my affiliate income further and grow my audience on Making Sense of Cents.
The areas that I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:
- Planning out 2021 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a big planner, so this is something I’m always working on. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
- Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has made me super interested in taking SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
- Continuing to improve and build a high-quality funnel. I want to have a high-quality funnel where I continue to give valuable information to my readers, and keep them happy for the times when I may not have the greatest wifi.
- Continuing to grow the reach of Making Sense of Cents. Traffic has been a little stuck lately, and I want to change that! I want to see what I can do to grow the traffic, as that will help me to reach new readers.
- Analyzing popular blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
- Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what else my audience is interested in.
If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend getting the free guide 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
Sponsored partnership results in 2020.
Sponsored partnerships were great in the first few months of 2020. But, when the world’s events hit in March, things slowed down drastically. This is because companies were waiting to see how everything would play out.
But, in the summer of 2020, it all picked up like crazy.
I had so many offers in my email inbox that I actually had to turn good offers down.
I believe that 2021 will be a great year for sponsored partnerships, and I already have many lined up for the year.
Plus, the first few months of each year are usually the best for me, as that’s when advertisers tend to be looking for a lot of bloggers.
You can learn more about sponsored partnerships in my free guide 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.
Goals for 2021.
I’m hoping that 2021 will be the year of growth for both myself and Making Sense of Cents.
After taking much of 2019 off, and a lot of 2020, I’m ready to get back to it for 2021.
My goals for 2021:
- Grow Making Sense of Cents. I’d like to grow in terms of readers and income, and there are two main things that I plan on doing in order to help with that (see #2 and #3 below)
- Get featured in the media more. I’m currently taking a course on this subject and I’ll be sharing more information on it soon! In the meantime, you can sign up for the freebie – 2021 Publicity Calendar – This contains 179 story ideas, dates, and hooks to help you create endless media attention and buzz! If you want to get featured in magazines and popular websites, this is something that you will definitely want to sign up for.
- See growth from SEO. I took an SEO course that I really enjoyed, and ever since then I have been soaking up all of the SEO knowledge that I can. I am hoping that 2021 is the year of explosive growth from SEO for Making Sense of Cents. The free course I recommend taking is The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training).
- Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I’m currently around 3 months ahead in content, and I’d like to continue the streak that I am on.
- Be more present. My main goal in 2021 (just like with previous years) is to be more present.
- Read 5 books. I have only read one book lately that wasn’t work or sailing/boat-educational related. I would like to get back to reading books that have nothing to do with trying to learn something, haha.
- Start learning a new language. I know I won’t be fluent, but I’d love to learn a new language. I took 3-4 years of French in high school, and that’s the one I’m trying to learn right now through Duolingo. It’s a good language to learn when sailing about the world, so wish me luck!
- Learn how to dive. We would possibly like to add scuba equipment to our sailboat so that we can explore the water further as we sail about the world. So, that means I actually have to learn how to do it. This is definitely a huge goal of mine for this year!
I hope you enjoyed this 2020 year in review blog post. It’s always interesting putting these types of blog posts together so that I can reflect on the previous year.
And, it’s nice to take a look at it once this next coming year is over as well.
How was 2020 for you? What questions do you have for me? Share in the comments below!
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