The 39 Weeks – Final Update


A little while ago (quite a long while now) I set myself a challenge. My goal was to build a side income from £0 to £1000 per month in just 39 weeks.

Well, this final update is overdue and time was up a while ago. I’m now way past my self imposed deadline.

So, let’s take a look at how I got on. In the graph below, the red line shows my target for each month and the green bars show my actual earnings.

June 2013 Progress

As you can see, this project has been an absolute, catastrophic failure. I’m not even close to reaching the target. In fact, I only just earned £1000 in total over the whole 39 weeks and I wasn’t even close to earning that in a single month.


What Went Wrong?

Looking at the results, it’s clear that this project failed in a pretty big way. That wasn’t down to one or two small things that didn’t go quite right, this mess was caused by some big mistakes. Here are some of the biggest things that I think went wrong, and what I’ve learned in the process.


I Didn’t Have A Plan

The 39 Weeks

Whilst I did have a high level objective, I didn’t ever spend the time coming up with a proper route to get there. I had loads of different ideas, and made a feeble attempt at lots of them, without doing any single one of them justice. My income over the period came from 8 sources including freelance writing, affiliate marketing, adsense, amazon associates, buying and selling books. I’m convinced I could built each of those revenue streams and there’s a lot of potential in them. However, it would take some focus on one at a time to get there.

During the 39 weeks I got carried away with ideas, and I underperformed on delivery. Moving forward, I need to focus on a single revenue stream and invest a significant proportion of my time (I’m thinking around 80%) in developing it. Once I have something established, there will be more opportunity to branch out into other things, but at this early stage, spreading myself so thin is just crazy.


I Set An Unhelpful Goal

I was intentionally ambitious with setting this goal. I knew that I’d find it really tough building up a side income from scratch in a relatively short space of time, whilst doing everything else I had going on. I enjoy being stretched, and I like a good challenge. This one though, wasn’t focussed on the right thing.

For this challenge, my goal was all about money. To hit the goal, I needed to earn a certain amount in a certain time. Sometimes that will be an entirely appropriate goal, but it wasn’t for me this time. In my last update, I picked out this issue as something I was struggling with. Back then I wrote:

There’s a lot in my life that I’m not willing to give up. I will not give up time with my family. I will not give up my friends. The whole point of this project is that I want to build up an income whilst also enjoying a normal life (by which I mean, the life I would have without it). The 39 weeks was intended to be freeing, not enslaving.

That’s all fine, but it’s not in line with the original goal I set. I chose to focus my goal on the money, and I left out everything else. Actually, it’s the “everything else” that I’m really bothered about. That’s why this site exists after all. So, if I do something like this again I want to make sure I set a helpful goal, not just one that’s SMART (which is a terrible model for setting goals anyway).


I Took On Too Much

As I said above, I took on an intentionally ambitious goal. Here are some of the big things that have been going on in my life during The 39 Weeks

  • My daughter was born just before the start of the 39 weeks (which began on her due date) and over the last year I’ve been learning how to do life all over again in my new role as a dad.
  • My wife and I sold our house (which took months longer than we hoped and turns out, was just as stressful as people said it would be).
  • We packed up everything and moved to a new town, in which we hardly knew anybody.
  • I’m helping to lead a brand new, unconventional, little church.
  • I stopped working in an office of around 1000 people and began working from home, on my own.
  • Our household income halved.

There has been so much more, but those are some of the biggies. In the midst of that I’ve really struggled to find the time and the head-space to invest in starting something (else) new. Things really tailed off with The 39 Weeks from January which is when we actually made the move to Exeter. I haven’t invested enough for things to make a recovery. In the grand scheme off things, I’m totally happy with that (despite being disappointed for the outcome of this project). There are more important things in life than making money, blogging or hitting your goals.

Learning point for next time – be realistic about how much energy I have, and where I really want to invest it.


Wrapping Up

The 39 Weeks hasn’t gone well, and in fact, this blog as a whole is suffering from neglect. I don’t intent to start another project in the same way as The 39 Weeks just yet (as of this post, I’m laying the project to rest), but I do intend to focus some energy on building a side income. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun taking some steps in that direction (more on that another time) and intend to build on what I’ve learned. As Henry Ford said “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more wisely.”

This post is part of a series. You can read the others here:
Introducing The 39 Weeks
The 39 Weeks – Update 1
The 39 Weeks – Update 2
The 39 Weeks – Update 3
The 39 Weeks – Final Update

Image Credit: hans.gerwitz

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