20 Best Small Business Books to Help Expand Your Skill Sets

Starting a small business, no matter how small, is a huge undertaking and these best small business books can help you get started out on the right foot.

Even if you’re just setting up a web-based business, it is still something you’d invest your money, time and effort into.

If you’re looking for guidance and don’t know where to start, need some push from success stories, a road-map to guide you through your small business plan, there’s nowhere better to go than straight into the minds of those who have successfully done it before you.

Check out my list of the best small business books, before you begin plotting your small business, or even if you’re right smack in the middle of busy day-to-day operations:

Best Books for New Small Business Owners

If you’re just starting out, these books could definitely serve as your guide:

1. Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months by Melinda F. Emerson

Ideal for people with absolutely zero experience in business.

This guide will lead you through everything from a start-up checklist to creating a business and financial plan, from setting up marketing campaigns to hiring employees, and everything else in between.

2. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

There isn’t an entrepreneur out there who hasn’t read the 4-Hour Workweek early in their journey.

This is another blueprint for starting your own small business, but its focus is working smart.

Great for beginner entrepreneurs who are getting overwhelmed with the thought of working non-stop to build a new company.

Tim details how he went from $40,000/year with 80 weekly work hours to $40,000/month with only 4 weekly work hours spent.

3. The E-Myth Revisted by Michael Gerber

This book is an update to Gerber’s 1998 bestseller.

It helps new business owners in separating the myths and assumptions of entrepreneurship, so you can get the ball running with a proper business structure.

4. The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki

The title says it all.

Written by Silicon Valley venture capitalist and marketing specialist (known for campaigns of the original Mac computers in the 80s), Guy Kawasaki knows what he’s talking about.

What I like best about this book is Kawasaki’s advice to focus on the beginning phases, so these issues won’t pop up as your business grows.

5. Will It Fly? by Thomas K. McKnight

The author compared over 200 business launches to pinpoint 44 key elements of success, which you can use to determine if a small business idea has the potential “to fly” or not.

6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Talk about a classic book.

Released in 1998, this book remains a best-seller because it teaches you how to win people over and changing people without them knowing.

It’s a good resource, if you’re starting your small business with employees right off the bat.

7. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

The author is a co-founder of PayPal, a venture capitalist and early investor of Facebook, so expect a lot of insider knowledge shared within the book.

However, instead of just a roadmap to launch your small business, Thiel focuses on the idea that you have to create something that nobody else has created to succeed no matter the industry or niche you’re in.

Productivity and Tools of the Trade

Every skill can be learned.

If you’re just discovering that you lack expertise in areas like leadership or public speaking, you at least know what you need to fix. Here are the most common themes and solutions:

8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership for Leading

The author is an internationally-renowned leadership expert and speaker who has trained millions of leaders around the world.

In the book, he shares what he learned (along with mistakes made) throughout his 30 years of leadership experience in categories as varied as sports, military, religion, politics, and business.

9. Setting the Table for Customer Service

Shake Shack founder shares effective customer service techniques he has used at his restaurants.

You don’t have to be in the food business to appreciate his tips, as long as your small business involves customers, this book can help you maneuver your own customer support department.

10. The Ultimate Sales Machine for Time Management

This book will help you identify which tasks you want to prioritize since saying “yes” to one thing means it would take your time away from another thing.

As a small business owner, you will be your own boss and learning how to keep on track is one of your biggest challenges.

11. Deep Work for Time Management

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” is exactly what the title says.

This book gives you four rules to follow that will help you hit your stride when you sit down to work and it will help you stay focused with your goals.

12. Speak and Get Results for Public Speaking

Some people are born with impressive public speaking and communication skills.

Others aren’t.

If you’re part of the second group and you’re starting a small business, don’t fret.

You can still bag deals, get funding, or win your people’s trust by working on your presentations and following a formula for public speaking success.

13. Influence for Marketing

Fortune Magazine lists this book in their “75 Smartest Business Books” and for good reason.

It is an impressive book about persuasion, sales and influencing your would-be customers to buying your product or service.

Robert Cialdini is a renowned behavioral scientist and you can read his experience through his books. The case studies, which show why a product sells poorly or well, are golden.

14. Virtual Freedom for Scaling Your Business

This is specific to small business owners who built their businesses online.

Ideal for affiliate marketers and online entrepreneurs who brought their business up from scratch and now need to bring in people to help scale the business.

This book helps those who have been used to doing everything themselves (as the boss, customer representative, IT guy, and so on) and letting go by hiring someone else (like a virtual assistant) to perform tasks on your behalf and free your time for more important stuff.

15. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business for Scaling

If you have big dreams for your company, make sure you’re in control.

This book will help you re-focus your goals with its 3-method “Entrepreneurial Operating System” in avoiding business burnout and strengthening the six key components of your business.

Best Business Books to Get Inspired

If you need inspiration, or want to read success stories of people who had an idea just like you and turned those ideas into a successful business, check these books out:

16. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Who doesn’t love Elon Musk?

Written by veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance, this book has insider conversations from the man himself, as well as his family, friends and colleagues from his PayPal days to his ambitious SpaceX.

Doesn’t matter what niche you’re in.

You’ll definitely learn a thing or two from  Silicon Valley’s most daring entrepreneur.

17. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Originally published in 2002, this book has since been a New York Times #1 best seller with over 35 million copies sold.

Christian pastor Rick Warren can help you find your purpose in life and help you focus to reach that goal.

This is a spiritual road map, so be warned if you’re not a fan of Bible verses mixed into your non-fiction reading.

18. 32 Ways to Be a Champion in Business by Earvin Johnson

If you only knew Magic Johnson as the famous basketball player, you’ll be surprised that he’s also a successful entrepreneur who now owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate company with a net worth of $700 million.

This book isn’t just about Johnson’s successes, but he also shares where he failed and gives real-world tips in navigating your own business.

19. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Good to Great)

This book is a compilation of several successful companies, which Collins and Porras studied in a span of 6 years at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

This book has real-world examples of companies, comparing their developments as start-ups, to midsize companies, and up to large corporations status.

You’ll learn what some of these companies did right (and did wrong), so you can apply to your own small business.

20. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

The author is the founder of Nike himself.

Serving as CEO for the multibillion company from 1964 to 2004, and as board chairman until 2016, Phil Knight is definitely an interesting figure not only in the world of sports, but also in business.

If this is one of Bill Gates’ favorite books, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to love here as well.

The Bottom Line

These 20 best books for small business owners are enough to get you inspired and started.

They’re ideal for anyone launching a small business, regardless if it’s a brick-and-mortar, pop-up store or a completely online FBA Amazon store.

Just make sure you handpick and keep tips from all these best small business books that would be perfect for your small business, situation and personality.

While there are “step-by-step” guides listed here, know that you can customize them to fit your current business standing.

20 Ways to Get Free Kids Books By Mail in 2020

Reading books to kids soon after birth may translate into higher language and vocabulary skills and when you can get free kids books by mail, there’s no reason not to read to them.

Plenty of research has been done to prove this. You probably know it in your heart to be fact, too.

But sometimes, buying books for kids can be costly. Especially for book-loving children who eat up one book after another.

To support your child’s brain development, while still keeping loyal to your monthly budget, you can get free kids books by mail (yup, snail mail AND email).

Here’s how:

20 Ways to Get Free Kids Books by Mail

Nothing beats the smell of books, as you turn the book one page at a time.

If you’re a fan of old-school reading and want to read to your child with hardcopy books, here are several websites to join:

1. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

This is probably the most popular resource out of all in the list.

Of course, it is!

It was built by legendary country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton herself and has since mailed over 120 million books across the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Like the 1.5 million users on the site, you have to register your kids to participate in the book gifting program. Children (ages 0 to five years old) can receive books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

The cool thing about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is that once your child is registered, the organization will automatically deliver a book to your home, giving your kid a mail to look forward to.

The only downside to this site is that it’s only available in select areas. To find out if your area can be accommodated, check the website. Plus, kids given books are those only age 5 and below (particularly kids who aren’t in school yet).

2. Read Comingo

If you’re training bilingual kids to love reading, Read Comingo could be a great resource for you and your child. You can access English-Spanish books aimed at preschool through 5th grade kids.

The printed books are only available for delivery if you live in certain areas of California, Florida, and Texas. Kids books by mail are only sent every four months.

However, the Read Conmigo Bookshelf is accessible to anyone after sign-up. So far, there are 43 bilingual books for kids on the web-based “bookshelf.” You can download free book samples once you join, and read it straight from Conmigo’s mobile app.

3. Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program

This is a bit different.

Technically, you’ll need to buy several books first (8 to be exact) that your kid chose from a list pre-grouped titles for specific age groups.

The idea behind this is for kids to read books all throughout summer and maintain a “Summer Reading Journal” detailing what parts you loved about each book. Once your kid’s journal is completed, you and your kid should visit the nearest Barnes and Noble branch (sometime between May and September) to receive a free book.

Swap Books with other Book-lovers

If your kids have already graduated from nursery rhymes, and want to move on to fairy tales, one way to get free kids books is by swapping them to other booklovers.

In most cases, you need to register to the book-swapping website.

From there, you either list the books you’re ready to let go of, or wait for other people to look for those titles. Either way, once you find a match, you have to shoulder shipping cost. You’ll then receive points or credits as good karma, and you’ll get your chance to request a book.

Note that each site would have its own swapping system in place, so check first for rules before swapping books.

4. BookMooch

This site works on a points system.

You first list down book titles you want to give away.

Every time you receive a request from interested parties, you have to mail the books. You’ll receive points for each “swap,” which you can then use to request books from others.

5. Books Free Swap

Available only in the US.

Unlike other swap sites wherein you’d have to shoulder shipping fees to send it out, the recipient pays an average of $3.28 to ship out a book.

The wish list feature is searchable, which means you have a better chance of finding a match for your book titles.

6. PaperBackSwap.com

This is the largest book club around with over 1.5 million books ready for swapping at any given time.

PaperBackSwap works similarly to other book-swap sites, except you’d have more title options of free books for kids.

You do have to pay to ship the books you send to other people, but the ones you request will be sent free of charge.

Free Books in Exchange for Reviews

7. Fresh Fiction

If you have a knack for writing, Fresh Fiction can be an amazing pastime for booklovers.

This is because the website gives you free books, if you’re willing to write a review.

Not everyone can become a reviewer though (there’s a quick test run for those interested).

Once you’re accepted as a book reviewer, you’ll have access to a ton of online books. You can get physical copies of books delivered to your home by mail.

The site never runs out of titles and they’re home to hundreds of children’s books too! Most of the titles here come from authors directly and Fresh Fiction sells the best-of-the-best books as part of a book box subscription via its sister site freshfictionbox.com.

8. NetGalley

Book authors send their pre-release copies of their books to NetGalley.

From there, users like you and me can read books for free, but write a review in return.

The categories aren’t easy to find, but NetGalley has a Children’s Fiction and Children’s Non-Fiction sections.

9. OnlineBookClub.org

This web-based book club has been around for over 10 years.

Boasting 300k+ members, the club gives away a free book in exchange for a review.

If you eat up books quickly, you can even turn this into a money-making gig after your first review. The Online Book Club also pays experienced book reviewers anywhere between $5 and $60.

10. Enchanted Book Promotions

This company serves promotion services to authors and publishers.

One effective way Enchanted Book Promotions spread word about a particular book is through book reviews, which they pass on to regular folk like you and I.

Unlike other websites on this list, this company lets users post reviews on their own blogs, Amazon, or Goodreads. In exchange for the book review, users get books for free.

The company updates the list of books available for review. Check it out here, and simply fill out the form if you’re interested.

11. Lola’s Book Tours

Lola’s Book Tours is similar to Enchanted Book Promotions.

Both companies provide promotional services to up-and-coming authors to get a wider audience.

Book reviewers can get a copy of books free. You just have to post the review on your blog, or personal account from Goodreads or Amazon.

Check out the “Open Review Opportunities” section for a list of books available. Aside from adult fiction books, Lola’s regularly has free children’s books and young adult categories.

Free Online Books: How to get Free Books Sent to Your Kid’s Tablet

Unlike paperbacks and hard copies of books, digital versions are more easier to find.

With eBooks, you can:

  • Download free PDFs of books online and have them printed (with real pages)
  • Download free PDFs of books online and access the PDF via a phone or tablet reading app
  • Buy an electronic reading tablet or an “e-reader” (like Kindle or Kobo), then find free books for your kids directly from their respective libraries

12. Amazon’s Kindle

If you’re looking for free Kindle books for kids, there’s no better resource than directly at Amazon (creator of Kindle).

The children’s ebooks section is divided into two – top 100 Paid and top 100 Free, both of which are updated hourly.

You need to have an Amazon account, so you can simply “buy” the ebook with 1-click. From there, all you have to do is check your Kindle device if the book you chose was sent successfully.

It’s hard to run out of free books for kids on Amazon’s Kindle library, so take advantage of this amazing resource. Or better yet, check out this awesome list of 200+ free Kindle books for children, compiled by Goodreads users from around the world, to get you started…

13. FreeKidsBooks.org

This website may look outdated, but it holds millions of free books that you can download without paying a cent.

Titles are categorized only by age group, but you can find clickable tags on each listing (such as Public Domain, Non-fiction, Cars, Counting, author’s name, and so on).

You have the option of reading the book online, or downloading its free PDF version.

14. Project Gutenberg

If you’re trying to find classic children’s books like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “Peter Pan,” it is highly likely that Project Gutenberg has it.

In fact, Project Gutenberg boasts more sub-categories of kid’s books, including School Stories, Children’s Myths and Fairy Tales, and Children’s Fiction (among others).

The site features a whopping 56,000 free books in PDF version, which you can download for free and enjoy for as long as you want.

Just type in “children” or “kids” in the search field, and enjoy!

15. OpenLibrary.org

Like Project Gutenberg, the OpenLibrary is a site with a massive catalog.

You can borrow one copy at a time (from its 3 million eBooks at the Lending Library) and finish reading for up to two weeks.

OpenLibrary has book dating back to 1450 to this year, with favorite children’s books like “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and so on. Browse through the Juvenile Fiction and Juvenile Literature sections to explore hundreds of children’s book titles.

16. FreeChildrenStories.com

The free children’s books here will definitely be new to you.

It’s because this website features original kid’s stories perfect for children ages 3 to 5, 5 to 8, and 8 to 10, as well as “middle graders.”

You’ll love the illustrations, which seem to be crafted for this generation’s “eye.”

Some books here are not free, but they’re available super-cheap at 99cents via BarnesAndNoble.com.

17. KidsWorldFun.com

There is no shortage of free books for kids at Kids World Fun.

All ebooks listed here are free to read, download and enjoy anytime, anywhere.

There are also poems, short stories, and quotes for kids to give your child some introduction to other forms of literature.

18. Read.gov

Sponsored by the US Library of Congress, Read.gov helps in promoting literature to young kids.

There are plenty of classic children’s book titles available here from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” to “Cinderella.”

Free books can be read straight off the site, too! You don’t need to download it as PDF and read it on a separate ebook reader.

19. Bibliomania

It’s not the most user-friendly website out there, but it is definitely another must-bookmark website simply for having 800 classic literature.

If you can’t find the children’s book you need at Project Gutenberg and OpenLibrary.org, you can try your luck here.

“The Jungle Book,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Oliver Twist” and other fiction children’s books are available for reading any time you want.

20. BookBub

BookBub organizes ebooks for you.

The titles are available for any platform or device, including Kobo, Google, Apple, Kindle, Barnes&Noble, and more.

Many of the books here are not free, but they do feature free books every now and then. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to read adorable free books for children and middle-graders without costing you a penny.

Free Kids Books by Mail is a Win for All

You can also get free books for kids from your own neighborhood, or donate books you no longer need (and are willing to let go).

Make sure to visit Little Free Libraries and OverDrive to find the nearest free library in your area.

Want to receive more stuff by mail aside from books?

Check out this massive list of free samples you can get mailed directly to your door. Here’s a different list of free samples, but only exclusive to baby products.

20 Good Luck Plants to Brighten Up Your Home Office

Working from home without coworkers or your own little space at the office can sometimes make you feel quite isolated and that’s where good luck plants can help.

Feelings of isolation and even depression are natural, especially if you’re still adjusting from a traditional office to your freedom-embracing, home-based office.

If you’re feeling a bit down, stressed with deadlines, or just downright lonely, how about decorating your home office with some lucky plants to brighten up the office?

What is a Good Luck Plant?

A good luck plant is any kind of plant that is believed to bring good luck, happiness, love and prosperity to those around it.

Good luck plants come in different forms, depending on which mythology you’re following.

In feng shui, there are guidelines to follow when choosing and decorating with indoor plants (or else your luck won’t be too good). For instance:

  • If you want ornamental plants, pick flowering plants with smooth-edged leaves, rounded leaves, or clustered leaves in a favorable number.
  • Go with plants that “purify” the air.
  • Plants with thorns or spiky shapes are bad for feng shui became they “break the positive flow” of wealth and success.
  • Keep indoor plants in pairs when decorating your home. This balances the yin and yang of your home office.
  • Be sure to “bring in” only the number of plants you can commit to. Taking care of plants is just as hard as caring for pets. Make sure you keep it clean to promote the “positive flow of chi” around you.
  • Never keep dead plants indoors – they will cause energy to stagnate.

8 Best Lucky Indoor Plants

For those who don’t have time to plant outdoors, or have no view of the garden, you can bring lucky plants indoors too!

More and more people have embraced the chicness of urban indoor jungles, and there’s no need of getting your hands too dirty – most of the lucky plants for home office can be bought by the pot, ready to bring you some positive vibes as they are.

1. Lucky bamboo

In Feng Shui, the bamboo plant is generally lucky, but how much luck it brings you would depend on your plant’s number of stalks. Interestingly, each number has a specific meaning:

  • 3 stalks – happiness, wealth and longevity
  • 5 stalks – wealth
  • 6 stalks – good luck
  • 7 stalks – health
  • 8 stalks – growth
  • 10 stalks – completions

4 is unlucky in Feng Shui, so don’t keep bamboo plants with 4 stalks.

The jackpot number is 21, wherein it is believed that you’ll be blessed with immense wealth and enduring health.

2. Moth Orchid

Orchids used for good luck

In Asia, business centers are decorated with moth orchid for good luck, mainly because the flowers look like moths (which are actually the ones that symbolizes good luck).

You’d have to place your pot in a shady area with just a bit of sunlight.

3. Palms

Ideal as room dividers or just to remove formaldehyde from carpeting, the Chinese believed that adding this plant to a room can become a Feng Shui element you didn’t know you needed.

4. Philodendron Plant

The leaves of the Philodendron plant mimics the movement of fire.

As such, people who follow Feng Shui believe that the plan could brighten up areas in your office with low energy.

5. Hawaiian Ti plant

Hawaiian Ti good luck plant

Early Polynesians believe that the indoor Ti plant had mystical powers, bringing good fortune to everyone at home.

Like bamboo, it’s believe that if the Ti plant has two stalks in one pot, you’ll be blessed with double the luck and love.

6. Money tree

In Feng Shui, the money tree is believed to bring the grower good luck.

Like bamboo plants wherein the number of stalks dictate your amount of luck, money trees braided into 3 or 5 plants are said to bring more luck.

Never bring in a group of 4 money trees braided together to avoid bad luck.

7. Peace Lily

Peace lilies are known as natural air purifiers perfect for indoors.

In Feng Shui, these lilies are considered a symbol of harmony and good luck.

8. Jade plant

Good luck jade plant

Jade’s rounded leaves are good luck in Feng Shui.

Many Chinese business owners receive Jade while launching a new store.

Placed near the entrance of a shop, Jade plants are believed to bring good fortune, prosperity and success.

If you consider your home office, your place of business, there’s no reason why Jade plants wouldn’t bring you the same fortune.

12 Best Outdoors Good Luck Plants

Does your home office have a view?

If you look out the window, what do you see?

For those who have their backyard within their view, it’s about time you make your sightseeing bring in some luck.

After all, you’re spending most of your day working at that spot. For outdoor plants known to attract positive vibes, check out this list:

1. Peony

It is believed to attract good fortune and prosperity, this flowering plant is named after Paeon (the Green physician of the gods) and used as medicine in the olden days.

2. Citrus and lime trees

Got space for trees? Not only are lime and citrus trees useful in the kitchen, they’re also considered bringers of good health, wealth and longevity.

If you’re bringing in a dwarf citrus indoors, the best time would be Chinese New Year for good fortune directed at your business.

3. Oak

Here’s another tree, but this one can withstand generations, so if you’re interested in passing down America’s national tree to your kids some day, it’s time to get planting.

In the Greek mythology, Zeus believed the oak trees are sacred.

So does Thor, the god of thunder, in Norse mythology.

4. Rubber plants

Rubber plants symbolizes wealth, good fortune and abundance.

Make sure to choose rubber plants with round leaves, since this is where the magic comes from.

5. Lotus

Add lotus to your garden – it brings positive energy, luck and purity.

But make sure to trim wilted flowers or any dead parts regularly to maintain the good vibes.

6. Spider Plant

Not only do spider plants absorb electromagnetic radiation (which come from your PC and gadgets), they’re also known to purify air.

7. Clover

In Ireland, the three- and four-leaf clover is known as a symbol of good luck (It’s why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with white clover everywhere).

8. Sage

It is believed that if you burn sage, it could shoo away evil spirits and bad energy.

So why buy every time you feel disrupted by bad juju?

You can have sage in your own backyard 24/7.

9. Morning glory

Need peace and happiness in your workplace?

The morning glory is worth the wait when it blooms early morning in the summer, brightening up your work day.

10. English Ivy

These aren’t trees or flowery plants, but English Ivy are vines that soften “poison arrows” and keep your place of work or sleep peaceful.

11. Jasmine

Jasmine is said to attract money and love when grown as part of your home’s garden.

Do note that Jasmine has its unique fragrance that could bring your allergies out.

12. Rowan Tree

According to Welsh, Norse and Greek mythologies, the Rowan tree was used in warding off evil. It’s the reason many churches are surrounded by this tree for protection.

The Bottom Line

There’s no harm in surrounding your home office with lucky plants indoors and outdoors.

If you don’t believe mythologies, you should at least believe in science.

According to numerous studies, going green in the office reduces depress, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Not only does bringing plants into your home office make air to breathe cleaner, it also increases your productivity and creativity.

Plus, if noise has been a constant problem with your home office setup, you’d be please to know that plants absorb sounds, which help reduce noise levels significantly.

Decoration-wise, lucky plants for home are quick and easy ways to spice up your workspace.

How I Made an Extra $1,554.67 in October 2018

Time for a round 2 update with my Mediavine earnings.

This is an earnings report on how much money this website has made for me based off of display advertising alone.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know just from title alone, that I surpassed my $1,357.56 made in September 2018.

In total, I saw a 13.5% increase in revenue for October.

Mediavine Earnings for October 2018

Not bad seeing as I didn’t publish nearly as many new articles as I had wanted to.

This is one of the beautiful things about running your own website. You can easily see a 13% raise in income without having to do much.

With that said, it’s just as easy to see a 13% decrease by doing nothing as well.

This industry is volatile and without proper attention and focus, you can easily lose what you’ve gained.

I’m going to dive more into my earnings and see how I progressed on my goals in a second here, but first, an update.

(Okay, an excuse to show off Vincent in his Halloween costume.)

Fall 2018 Update

We were invited to a wedding in Vermont this past month.

Neither Amanda nor I have ever been to Vermont so we weren’t about to turn this down.

Especially seeing as it was peak fall foliage season.

Vincent was less impressed by the colors of the trees than we were.

From Vermont, we made our way to Portland, Maine.

And no trip to Maine is complete without a lobster roll.

We were only there for 3 days, but we had to eat at the Highroller Lobster Co. twice.

From Maine, we did a brief stop over in State College, PA to visit our alma mater.

And made it home in time to take Vin trick or treating.

He was an owl.

I’m not sure he understood why people were just handing him candy, but he was totally on board.

More treats ahead!

Earnings Report: $1,554.67 in October 2018

We will just jump right to it here:

Mediavine earnings chart

All in all, a pretty good month.

My traffic stayed fairly consistent with just a hint of growth.

The large spikes in sessions are from days that I had sent out an email to my newsletter.

Each email typically nets me an extra $50 on average.

I had a daily average RPM of $19.93. Meaning every thousand visits to my site is worth almost $20.

This was an improvement over last month, which topped off at $19.73.

While a plus, I wouldn’t exactly call it significant.

My earnings hit a high of $79.94.

Not bad! I didn’t break the $100 in a day mark yet, but this was a nice improvement over last month’s high of $64.24.

My RPM peaked at $25.11 which also beat last month’s high of $24.60.

All in all, I saw improvements across the board.

My Goals

I set the following goals for myself in the last post.

Here are some updated totals:

  • Average Monthly RPM: $25.00 (Best so far: $19.93 on 11/18)
  • Daily RPM High: $30.00 (Best so far: $25.11 on 11/18)
  • Average Daily Earnings: $50.00 (Best so far: $50.15 on 11/18)
  • Daily Earnings High: $100.00 (Best so far: $79.94 on 11/18)

I did top my goal of average daily earnings this month, but just barely. I will leave that one in there for now.

The rest still have a little ways to go. I need to see about a 20% increase on all of them to hit those numbers.

Nothing a little hard work can’t fix.

And these are big milestones I’d like to hit:

  • Single Daily Visitors: 4,000, 5,000, 7,500, & 10,000.
  • Monthly Earnings: $1,500, $2,500, $5,000, & $7,500.
  • Monthly RPM: $20, $25, & $30

I surpassed my first milestone of topping $1,500 in a single month!

I wasn’t expecting to hit these milestones quickly, but seeing progress already has been a huge motivator.

I fell about 7 cents short of being able to cross off the first RPM goal.

I think Q4 will help me get there.

Plans to Hit My Goals

There’s no point in setting goals if you aren’t going to actively work to achieve them.

One of the easiest ways to improve your earnings with Mediavine is to simply follow their advice.

They tell you exactly what you need to work on with their Site Health box.

Here’s mine:

Mediavine Site Health

Most of my site is ‘Green’ which is good, but it’s not great.

They do offer a ‘Teal’ badge for when your site is stellar.

My site is pretty close to going Teal, but I still have some work to do.

Resources I Recommend

1. Mediavine

Obviously.

They’re the entire reason I’ve been able to add over $1,000 to my earnings each month.

I first started making money online back in 2005 through Google Adsense.

Display advertising was the reason why I got into this business.

I like that all I have to do is write content and get people to visit my site.

I don’t have to sell anything, link to anything, buy anything, convince anyone of anything.

I write. People visit. I get paid.

If you run a blog and have over 25k visitors per month, you need to sign up for Mediavine ASAP.

2. SEMrush

(If you sign-up for SEMRush using this link, you’ll get 14 days to try out the Pro account absolutely free!)

I credit SEMrush for helping me get my site back on track.

My traffic was in a free fall at the beginning of this year.

The tools at SEMrush helped me identify and correct a number of glaring issues with my site via the Site Audit tool.

They sent their crawlers and found thousands of errors that I had overlooked, including some of the worst possible SEO mistakes you could make.

If it wasn’t for their Site Audit, I firmly believe my site would have very few Google rankings today.

On top of that, their keyword research tools are incredible. The keywords they’ve been able to find, combined with my own personal SEO strategies, have helped propel my site back up the rankings.

Traffic continues to grow and that’s all thanks to SEMrush.

3. Wealthy Affiliate

Wealthy Affiliate is where I really got my start online.

Their completely free membership can’t be beat.

If you have an interest in making money running a website, they’ll provide you with all the tools and training you could possibly need.

You can have your own website up and running at the click of a button in 30 seconds or less.

Best of all, you can become a member there at absolutely no cost to you.

Highly recommended!

Here’s to next month!

November really kicks off the high season when it comes to digital advertising.

I am expecting (hoping) for some nice boosts in RPM this month.

I’ll be back in a few weeks time with an update for you.

How I Made an Extra $1,357.56 in September 2018

I’m trying something new here today.

I have my first ever income report to share with all of you.

This income report will cover my earnings through display advertising only (the ads you see in the content and sidebar of my site).

I do not include any income earned through any other sources, like affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing makes up the bulk of my income!

This income report is just what I’ve been able to add on top of what I’ve already been making!

All of this money is extra bonus money.

I’ll get to that in a second. But first…

A Summer 2018 Update

Our summer was rather quiet.

Vincent turned one back in June.

Vin eating cake

We did take a trip down to Top Sail, NC.

Vin at the beach

A Cancer Scare

Amanda was diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma earlier this year.

Luckily, we caught it early enough that it hadn’t spread beyond the surface of her skin.

She had to undergo surgery and had complications arise that slowed the healing process.

Today, she is fully healed and back to her old self again.

To celebrate the healing, we did a spontaneous overnight trip to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake.

Niagara Falls

Maid of the mist

Travelling with a baby definitely has its challenges, but it’s nothing we haven’t been able to overcome.

Other than that, I’ve mostly spent my summer working on the site, improving functionality, and trying to increase earnings.

Getting Into Display Advertising

After 11 years of running I’ve Tried That, this will be my first ever income report here.

I’ve shied away from them for two reasons:

1. It’s a bit intrusive blogging about how much money you make
2. I don’t like showing off

So why start now?

I recently started getting into display advertising. After being nudged along by Dom at HumanProofDesigns, Nate at OneMoreCupofCoffee, and Eddy at WorkatHomeNoScams, I took the plunge in July and added ads to the site.

I was hesitant as ads can be intrusive and ruin the user experience just for the sake of getting a little extra revenue each month.

I decided I wanted to test it out over a 3 month time span and see what kind of money I’d make and if it would have any effect on how people use my site.

I applied at Mediavine, was promptly accepted, and started running ads all within a few days.

Effects on User Experience

This is the biggest area of concern for me.

I wanted to use ads, but not in a way that impacted how people browsed my site.

In the end, I found that display ads had little to no effect on my sites metrics.

For comparison, here are some metrics from the first 5 months of this year compared to the entirety of last month.

On the left, before ads. On the right, after ads.

Effects of ads on site usage

As you can see, there was very little change in how people used my site.

Yes, there was a drop in return visits and multiple pages viewed and an increase in bounce rate, but the difference is so negligible that I do not consider it significant.

I also have received zero user complaints since turning ads on.

Effects on Page Speed

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to page load times.

Page speed has been a part of Google’s algorithm for a while now and I’ve made it a priority to make sure my site loads as fast as possible.

Ads have definitely had a negative impact on how quickly my site loads.

Page Load Times with Ads – GTmetrix

Page load times with ads - GTmetrix

Page Load Times without Ads – GTmetrix

Page Load Times without Ads - GTmetrix

Page Load Times with Ads – Pingdom

Page Load Times with Ads - Pingdom

Page Load Times without Ads – Pingdom

Page Load Times without Ads - Pingdom

As you can see, there’s been a drastic decline in page load times.

From a personal stand point, I haven’t noticed that much of a slow down.

Yes, it takes my site longer to FULLY load, but the initial load is as fast as it’s ever been. The site loads quick and you can begin to browse without issue before everything is fully loaded.

One reassuring factor is that Mediavine is obsessed with page speed times as well.

Mediavine wants my site to load fast.

They share a percentage of my income. The more money I make, the more money they make.

Effects on My Rankings

Google Search Console only lets me go back 90 days.

Ads would have been turned on near the start of this chart.

Google Search Console Growth

Adding ads to my site has had no impact on my rankings.

Since Google limits how far back we can see, I pulled up my charts in SEMrush as well.

Here is SEMrush’s approximations in terms of traffic…

SEMrush traffic chart

And the keywords that I am currently ranked for.

SEMrush keywords chart

Again, nothing but growth.

In fact, traffic has been the highest it’s been in the past year!

My efforts to grow the site and a renewed focus on proper keyword research and SEO are the cause of my growth.

In conclusion, ads have had no negative impact on my rankings.

Earnings Report: $1,358.30 in September 2018

Since this is my first ever income report that shows only income earned from display advertising, I will include the first 3 months of my earnings in this report.

Mediavine payments

I joined Mediavine on July 12th.

This explains why my July was entirely unremarkable.

By July 31st, I had made $513.06.

Mediavine July Earnings

I also joined during the third quarter of the year, which is when advertisers historically spend the least amount of money.

Everything was working against me in July. I had an average $14 RPM (RPM stands for Rate Per Thousand, meaning how much money you make per 1,000 page loads on your site) with a daily high of $16.91.

Like I said, unremarkable.

I was initially discouraged, but after speaking with Mediavine (their customer support is FANTASTIC by the way) they assured me it was common to see low numbers in the first 3 months. They will be testing different things to find the optimal ads to pull in the most amount of money.

I powered through and then we hit August.

Mediavine August earnings

I finished August with $1,102.21 and a daily average of $15.71 RPM.

I had a daily high of $19.42 RPM.

A nice improvement over July, but still a little bit short of where I want to be.

My site did see a nice boost in traffic as well. I have recently started to pay more attention to the content I’m publishing and going back and updating & optimizing old articles as well.

My new strategies, combined with Google’s August update, has boosted both my traffic and earnings.

Finally, this brings us to September.

Mediavine September Earnings

September has brought in my best month yet with $1,357.56 in total earnings and a daily average of $19.73 RPM.

I also hit a RPM high of $24.60 and a total daily earnings high of $64.24.

While this is closer to where I want to be, I’m still a few dollars short of my goals.

The Mythical Q4

The start of October brings around Q4, the time of year where advertisers vastly increase their budgets.

Everyone is gearing up for Black Friday and Christmas and I’ve been told to expect my earnings to absolutely explode over the next few months.

We shall see and I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.

My Goals

Here are a few goals I have set for myself:

  • Average Monthly RPM: $25.00 (Best so far: $19.73)
  • Daily RPM High: $30.00 (Best so far: $25.60)
  • Average Daily Earnings: $50.00 (Best so far: $45.25)
  • Daily Earning High: $100.00 (Best so far: $65.24)

And these are big milestones I’d like to hit:

  • Single Daily Visitors: 4,000, 5,000, 7,500, & 10,000.
  • Monthly Earnings: $1,500, $2,500, $5,000, & $7,500.
  • Monthly RPM: $20, $25, & $30

I will revisit these goals and milestones with every new income report.

My Plan to Hit These Goals

First and foremost, I plan to increase visitors to my site by continually adding new content in the form of articles to my site.

I am also going back through old articles that have dipped in the rankings to better optimize them and get them higher up.

That will work on increasing visitors and earnings, but will have very little effect on RPM.

RPM is improved by getting people to stay on my site longer. I have been going through my top ranked posts and writing better headlines, more compelling text in the introduction to capture attention better, and have been lengthening the content.

As you may have noticed on this post, my paragraphs are at most 3 lines long.

This helps keep people on the site longer. This article is nearly 2,000 words long, but the short sentences makes it easy to read.

Longer time spent on site + more ads via longer content = higher RPM.

Resources I Recommend

1. Mediavine

Obviously.

They’re the entire reason I’ve been able to add over $1,000 to my earnings each month.

I first started making money online back in 2005 through Google Adsense.

Display advertising was the reason why I got into this business.

I like that all I have to do is write content and get people to visit my site.

I don’t have to sell anything, link to anything, buy anything, convince anyone of anything.

I write. People visit. I get paid.

If you run a blog and have over 25k visitors per month, you need to sign up for Mediavine ASAP.

2. SEMrush

(If you sign-up for SEMRush using this link, you’ll get 14 days to try out the Pro account absolutely free!)

I credit SEMrush for helping me get my site back on track.

My traffic was in a free fall at the beginning of this year.

The tools at SEMrush helped me identify and correct a number of glaring issues with my site via the Site Audit tool.

They sent their crawlers and found thousands of errors that I had overlooked, including some of the worst possible SEO mistakes you could make.

If it wasn’t for their Site Audit, I firmly believe my site would have very few Google rankings today.

On top of that, their keyword research tools are incredible. The keywords they’ve been able to find, combined with my own personal SEO strategies, have helped propel my site back up the rankings.

Traffic continues to grow and that’s all thanks to SEMrush.

3. Wealthy Affiliate

Wealthy Affiliate is where I really got my start online.

Their completely free membership can’t be beat.

If you have an interest in making money running a website, they’ll provide you with all the tools and training you could possibly need.

You can have your own website up and running at the click of a button in 30 seconds or less.

Best of all, you can become a member there at absolutely no cost to you.

Highly recommended!

Can I help you out?

I’ve been tossing around the idea of teaching the strategies that I have personally developed to launch and grow a successful website.

It doesn’t take much to make an income online these days.

It really comes down to identifying what people are searching for online and writing content to match their expectations.

That’s it.

With tools like SEMrush and Wealthy Affiliate, the only thing you really need to do is know how to write compelling content.

That’s what I do best and want to be able to teach others.

Would you have any interest in learning from me?

Sound off in the comment below.

How to Wake Up Better Each Morning

This post is a little off the beaten track, but this is I’ve Tried That and I am trying something new. But first, I have a confession.

I hate winter.

I don’t do winter. The cold. The snow. The constant gray skies. Gah, I want no parts of it. So much so, that I spent an entire day last month planning to move to Australia for the next few months. I looked into plane tickets, dual citizenship and even picked out some nice looking real estate near a beach.

Pipe dreams of course, but man do I hate winter. It doesn’t help that I live in Pittsburgh either. It snows often and the overcast is relentless. I wish I could hibernate to be quite honest.

The mornings are the worst. My bed is fitted with a heated mattress cover and an incredibly heavy down comforter. It’s my own little cocoon that I try to spend as much time in as possible. As you can imagine, getting out of bed each morning is quite the struggle and I wanted a solution.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article on light therapy and how you can use certain lights to simulate sunlight and improve your mood. These lights are widely used to help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder and help regulate sleeping patterns. The article had briefly mentioned “wake up lights” and how they can be effective in helping people wake up in the morning.

Basically, there are alarm clocks which feature bright lights to help ease the wake-up process. The alarm clocks gradually get brighter as they near your set alarm time effectively simulating a sunrise. Your alarm goes off and you wake up to a fully lit bedroom and an energized body.

This piqued my interest since I refuse to do winter and I set out to try one of these wake-up lights. If there’s a light out there that could help me deal with winter mornings, I am going to use it.

Enter the Philips HF3470 Wake-up Light

I started shopping around, comparing different models, and reading customer reviews. The model I ultimately settled on is a Philips HF3470 Wake-up Light.

Philips HF3470 Philips HF3470

It is an alarm clock. You set a time for an alarm to go off; however, about 30 minutes before the alarm sounds, the light kicks on and gradually gets brighter. It reaches its full brightness just as your alarm sounds. You have three options to wake up to: music, chirping birds, or a more traditional, albeit less annoying, alarm tone. Your body is subconsciously adjusting to “rising sun” providing you with a much better wake up experience.

I chose this model largely due to the reviews and the price. One feature that really stood out was the user replaceable light bulb. A lot of other models required you to send the alarm clock in to replace the bulb if it ever burnt out. That sounded completely unacceptable. It’s changing a light bulb for crying out loud. I shouldn’t have to send the alarm clock away to change a bulb. The fact that I could service this model myself sealed the deal for me.

I placed my order and said goodbye to my old alarm clock. That night, I went to bed skeptical, but woke up energized. It was quite amazing. I didn’t have to struggle to get out of bed or bargain with the clock for more time. The birds chirped, I woke up to a completely lit room, and I sat up ready to go.

It’s just such a better and more pleasant way to wake up each morning. My typical morning used to consist of a god awful high-pitched beeping to scare the hell out of me in hopes of waking up. This usually followed by at least 45 minutes of pressing the snooze button and hearing the siren go off every five minutes. After I finally convinced myself to get out of bed, I’d plod my way over to the coffee pot and contemplate going back to sleep for a few more hours. It was a struggle each and every morning.

Now my wake up process is awesome. I wake up to a fully light room and birds chirping. My eyes pop right open and I’m able to get out of bed without having to feign sleep for nearly an hour. I still make my way to the coffee pot, but with a spring in my step and a song in my heart.

Okay, that’s a bit much.

But in all honesty, I feel much more awake when I use the wake-up light and have a much more positive mood throughout the day. You know that super heavy eyelid feeling you get each morning? Well, I haven’t felt that at all since using the wake-up light.

Winter mornings have finally become bearable.

The biggest downside is the price. I spent $90 on my Philips Wake up Light. That’s a tad expensive for an alarm clock. However, this is going to be something that I use on a daily basis for years to come. It helps me wake up better each morning, helps me focus on work easier, and has generally improved my mood. For me, it is well worth the price. I would gladly buy it again and am completely satisfied with my purchase.

If you’re like me and struggle with the mornings, I highly recommend trying out the Philips HF3470 Wake-Up Light. You can check it out at Amazon.com by clicking here. It comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. If you try it and don’t see any results, return it! I started seeing results after my first night with it. This baby isn’t going anywhere. It might not be Australia for the winter, but it sure does help.

I’m Getting Married!

Right now, I’m sipping my coffee, writing this post, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of 14 family members. These past few month have been a whirlwind of meetings, flowers, cake tastings, and appointments, but it’s all coming to an end in a few days because…

I’m Getting Married on Saturday!

I have a wonderful best friend who I’ll be proud to call my wife (that word is going to take some getting used to) in just a few days. We met six years ago in college and have been together ever since. I’m very blessed to have found someone so supportive. She is truly awesome.

We are going on a honeymoon to Hawaii for two weeks on Monday. We’ll be visiting the islands of Maui and Kauai. I absolutely cannot wait to sink my feet in the sand, kick back, and have absolutely nothing to do but relax and enjoy those soothing ocean sounds.

As you may have guessed, my email response time is going to be awfully slow these next few weeks. I hope you understand that I will be limiting my laptop use as much as possible while honeymooning in Hawaii. I will get to the email, but it may take a few extra days to do so.

The lovely Halina has written a couple of extra posts for the next two weeks. I’ll be away, but I’ve Tried That will still update as usual.

Okay, I think that’s it! Wish me luck!

-Steve

I Was Scammed at the Mall

Are mall kiosk salespeople like Internet sharketers? I think so.

I had just left Dillard’s and was headed back to Victoria’s Secret to pick up my wife. No, really. That’s where she was. But before you get any big ideas about what she was shopping for, think of this: my daughter was with her. So yeah. I guarantee they weren’t shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts for me. (At least I hope not, because…the horror!)

All I wanted to do was get from point A to point B. Shopping for shoes in the mall was bad enough. I kind of prefer Target where all the shoes are right smack in the middle of the store, and there are only six varieties so I don’t get confused. So I’m walking with my new shoes minding my own business when this slick (read: young, cute) sales girl smiled at me and said, “May I?”

I had to stop. I mean, she smiled at me. Cute young girls haven’t smiled at me since pre-marriage days. Excluding my four-year-old. She’s cute and young, but it’s not the same, you know?

So I stopped (that was my first mistake) and let this girl tut-tut over my dry hands. There was no question about it: they were dry. And such a shame, too, good looking guy like me, she says. Next thing I know, she’s buffing my thumbnail with some kind of buffer thingy. I don’t know what it was. It was blue. And it left my thumbnail shiny.

Meanwhile, she learned that I am a writer, that I am married and have children, that I had just bought shoes, that I was at the mall for dinner with my wife and daughter, and that I had not yet bought her a Valentine’s day present.

I mean I’m so not a chatty person. That’s more than my coworkers know about me! I swear, if she had asked me for my social security number and my deepest hopes and dreams, I would have given them to her.

See, the thing is, I’m not even sure how it really happened. One minute we were just friends and the next I was a customer and had spent $40 I didn’t plan to spend on stuff my wife already has sitting on the dresser. Cuticle oil (WTF?) and some kind of lotion. She might have called it “butter” or something. Oh yeah, and salt from the Dead Sea. For scrubbing into your skin. To make it soft.

It was just so fast. And she seemed so sincere and I thought she really liked me and I believed her when she said that the softness on my hands would last for a week and the shine on my nail would last for three. I mean, why would she lie? We bonded, I tell you!

So what do you think? Are there any parallels? Discuss.

Got Independence? 3 things you should do this July 4th

Ahh, summertime! Watermelon, cherries, peaches, apricots, diarrhea. Long days at the lake, backyard grilling. And of course, the 4th of July-the only holiday to break up summer monotony between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here are three things I’ve tried and recommend to you to enrich your July 4th experience.

1. Read the Declaration of Independence. In it, Thomas Jefferson lays out for all the world to see the colonists’ gripes with King George III that made them want to pick up their toys and go home. The guy was always drinking the beer in the fridge, but never bought beer, apparently. He laughed at his own jokes, and was always leaving the damn toilet seat up (according to Betsy Ross). But more importantly, Jefferson crystallized the vision for a new age and a new way of looking at ourselves as humans:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Read it. Get inspired.


Luke and Maya, prior to today’s cotton candy dose.

2. Eat some cotton candy. The stuff is vile. I mean, can you believe we liked that junk as kids? I need to take an insulin shot just thinking about it! I used to smash it into little balls and chew it. The thought of it hurts my teeth. It seemed to last longer that way, but then I had sticky hands and no way to clean them. Licking them didn’t work so well cause my tongue was sticky and my hands tasted like a subway hand rail. I was a sickly child. But eat some anyway because it will prepare you for number 3.

3. Go see fireworks with a child. If you’re like me, you figure, “I’ve seen one fireworks show, I’ve seen them all.” And that’s probably true…unless you watch it through the eyes of a child. Preferably one between 1.5 and 8 years old. You’ll have more fun watching them than you’ve had at a fireworks show for a long time (not counting that one year you took a joint along). I remember taking our first daughter, Dani, to the fireworks one 4th of July when she was 2. It was 10:00, past her bedtime, and she lay quietly in the stroller not quite asleep. The show started and we tipped her back so she wouldn’t have to hold her head up, and I watched the fireworks reflected in her eyes. No “oohs” or “ahhs” from her, just quiet absorption. I have it, the secret to immortality: it’s the capacity for wonder that keeps us young. Lose it, and we’re toast.

Happy 4th, y’all. Happy Birthday, Idealism.