The end of May signals the end of the tax year for me, which means that this month I’ve been collating data and making some graphs so I can write up my annual income report.
This is my third year of publishing these reports, where my aim is to show you a breakdown of where my income came from and how it compared to previous years. I always want that to be the focus rather than any exact £ figures, but since my video about my salary history went down so well earlier this year I’ve felt a little more comfortable incorporating some amounts on these graphs. I’ve included these purely to provide context and, as when I talked about my salary, any numbers mentioned are before taxes and expenses. This isn’t a detailed profit and loss report, because you’re not my accountant (unless you’re reading this, Andrew).
Let’s dive in!
The income breakdown
Last year, my overall income grew by about 16% to reach around £134,000. That was less overall growth than the year before (where my income grew by 27%) but an increase is still an increase! My ConvertKit income made up 85% of this (a larger chunk than previous years) and side projects accounted for only 15% this year.
Last year my partner and I packed up our life in London and moved to Valencia, Spain. It was a huge process and definitely took my attention away from my side hustles for many months, which is why my income from these streams ended up being down about 30%. Income was up overall though thanks to a promotion and salary increase at ConvertKit, which meant my “main hustle” income was up 31%.
Here’s a look at that income split into my main categories of design, content creation, community membership fees and products.
Design has always been the largest overall income category for me, but this year it takes the largest chunk of the pie than ever before, making up 86.7%. On the side-hustle side, community income is the category that shrunk the most (it’s down 52%) and while product income makes up the smallest portion of my side-hustle pie, it’s an increase of a whopping 743% over last year! We’ll get into more on that later.
Here’s a look at how these different categories have risen (or dropped) over the last few years. This shows us just how big that increase in design income is overall, and we can seequite the drop in both content and community income. Since the overall amount of income from my products is still minimal (less than £1,000) the rise doesn’t look so steep when you see it on this chart but watch this space, because in the coming years I fully expect this category to overtake the community stream.
The vast majority of my design income stems from my work at ConvertKit and the shares of our profits I get from being part of the team. Both of these had an increase over last years earnings which is a sign of both my career as a designer progressing, and the company doing well too! I love that ConvertKit shares profits with the team. It’s incredibly motivating for me, and that 15.6% represents about £18,000. By far the biggest “bonus” I’ve ever received from a job.
The freelance income you see represented here is the second payment on a project I started last year. I expect that in next years report there won’t be any freelance design income reported as it’s just not an area I care to focus on growing.
Content creation income
This category was down overall, but still in good shape earning me around £13,500. The bulk of this, as with last year, came from video sponsorships, despite this sub-category actually being down 41% from last year. Sadly, speaking income is missing from this chart as I didn’t have any paid speaking gigs in this timeframe. That’s something I’d love to change next year but with travel severely restricted for the next wee while I’m not sure if that will happen. My dreams of being a sought-after keynote speaker might need to wait a little bit!
My main video sponsor, Webflow (that's an affiliate link FYI), made up the bulk of this income. Near the end of 2019 we shifted from a monthly integrated-ad sponsorship to more of a patron model where every video appeared as “Powered by Webflow” whether it included a specific mention of them or not. It was so great to have this regular, pressure-free support on my channel and I know they benefitted a lot from it too. Sadly, their marketing budgets changed at the start of 2020 and the sponsorship came to an end but I’ve since landed a new sponsor in this same model: Figma! Income from this new sponsorship isn’t represented here though as the first payment came through after the tax year had ended.
Aside from Webflow, that sponsorships bar also represents a payment from Adobe for participating in their UX Designers to Watch list. I was thrilled that they offered to compensate me for my time for this. Other big companies should take note!
This stream of income grew by 17% which means that I must have had more views on my older videos from when I still used YouTube monetisation. This isn’t an income stream I focus on (It’s been many years since I last uploaded a video with an ad, I wrote a post here about why I stopped), so is truly passive income.
In 2018 I put a lot of focus onto my affiliate income stream (it grew 121% that year!) but I hadn’t yet put into action my plan for Amazon affiliate links. This year I finally created a page on my site that linked out to screen printing materials on Amazon. I get a lot of signups to my email list from a very old DIY screen printing tutorial video, and I set up a system (using ConvertKit of course) to send a link to the resource page to everyone who joins my email list via that video so that they have easy access to the materials they’ll need to follow along.
This led to me earning around £1200 from Amazon affiliate commissions–a huge increase from last year and the main reason why my affiliate income is up.
My Webflow affiliate commissions continue to make up the largest portion of this income stream though, so a huge thank you to anyone who has signed up using my link. Affiliate links are a fantastic way to support a creator whose content you enjoy because it costs you absolutely nothing extra! I had a few people make purchases using my Treehouse (coding lessons) and The Contract Shop (contract templates) links too.
There’s a funny story behind the £230 this portion of my income represents. After my salary history video went semi-viral in New Zealand and Australia, several news outlets wrote a piece on it. The Daily Mail Australia republished one of these articles but they took images from my Instagram to use throughout it without my permission. The Daily Mail (in the UK especially) is an absolutely abhorrent news outlet with zero morals and a few friends online encouraged me to send a cease and desist letter to them along with an invoice for using my images without permission.
They’d used 3 images illegally, so I sent the cease and desist (I spent about $50 to purchase a template online) along with an invoice for AUD$1200 ($400 per image, which was in line with what I’ve been paid by companies previously to use a clip of a video). I honestly thought they’d just quietly remove the images and not respond, but they did and I agreed to their counter-offer of a payment of AUD$450 (in line with what they usually pay for non-professional images). Fighting to be paid the full amount I’d invoiced for wouldn’t have been worth my time and I was pleased that they took the images down (my main goal).
Certainly a new experience for me!
Community membership income
When I was moving to Spain, I didn’t have the mental energy to spare to give my patrons the value they deserved so I ended up pausing everyone's memberships for several months. Later on I also made a change to my offering: removing the higher tiers and making the membership a flat rate of just $5 per month. I was unable to continue devoting the time and energy to monthly calls to justify the highest tier of $20 per month and felt it was only fair to sunset that level of membership. Overall this meant my income from my Patreon dropped sharply by 63%. I’m incredibly grateful to the 43 patrons who have either stuck around or joined this year on the new $5 flat-rate system though! Patreon is no longer a thing that causes me stress, so I’m happy to take the hit on that drop in income.
My podcast co-host, Femke, and I also made some changes to our Design Life community this year transitioning it from being strictly a monthly membership fee, to a “support us on Patreon” model where access to the community chat is one of the perks of being a patron. We took a small hit on the income because of this (it was down about 27% overall from the previous year), but again this was for the best as this income stream is no longer a source of stress.
Finally, we’re into the income growth I’m most proud of. It may only be about £830, but it represents me finally finishing something I’ve intended to do for years: create a digital product.
For years I’ve talked about creating a font to sell. I started the project back in 2017 but other side-hustles always ended up taking priority and I never finished it. When the lockdown in Spain came into effect and all my travel plans were cancelled I devoted all that extra time to finally getting stuck into the project and I launched my font, Grayscale, juuust before the end of the tax year in May. I was thrilled to sell 50 copies in the first week!
The font made up 75.5% of my product income, and the rest came from a physical product: a pin Femke and I created to sell in our Design Life store. It’s super cute, and there are still some available if you want to pick one up for yourself.
What changes will next year’s report bring?
It’s so fun for me to create these reports and dig in to the data. I love seeing what areas of my business are growing (or shrinking) and setting goals for which bars on these charts I want to see increase next year. I’m feeling incredibly motivated in my design career at the moment and am working towards another promotion so I hope that will be reflected next year, but I also want my side-hustle income to grow alongside it, particularly in the product and affiliate income categories.
I’d love to hear what your main takeaways are from this report. Was there anything that surprised you? Anything that sparked an idea for a new revenue stream you’d like to add to your own income? Please share it with me on Twitter or tag me on Instagram to tell me about it, I’m @charliprangley on both.
Thanks for reading!