I’m going to start this report by addressing how annoying/confusing it is that these posts report on my business tax year (June 2021 – May 2022) rather than a nice simple calendar year. I pull data from my accounting software and that’s just how it’s set up folks. Plus, I did it the first year of these income reports and completionist in me can’t fathom switching to a calendar year now that we’re this far in to the tradition. 😅 So, let’s just roll with it. Okay?
I write an annual income report because I believe in the value of transparency around income streams. I learn so much from creators who are open with this information, and it’s helped me make decisions in my own business around where to focus my efforts as well as opened my mind to possibilities around what I could be charging and earning income from.
As you read it, I encourage you to focus on the percentages and the context surrounding increases and decreases rather than on the amounts alone. I hope it gives you some ideas of income streams to try, or that you simply enjoy reading about the efforts and choices I made in certain categories this year!
Despite my best efforts, my income over the past year has not kept up with inflation. Thankfully, it did increase and I earned 4.4% more than last year for a total of £175,319, but this is well below the rate of inflation.
The division of income between my ‘main hustle’ work as Creative Director at ConvertKit and my own business is the same as it was last year with 75% coming from my job and 25% from my side hustles. I’m pleased to have kept up this split, especially as my work leading ConvertKit’s Brand Studio team has gotten more demanding.
The £131,795 I earned from ConvertKit is an increase of 4.3% on last years earnings, and the £43,524 from my side hustles is an increase of 4.7%.
Here’s how the income breaks down into my four main categories of design, content creation, memberships and products/services.
Content creation remains my largest side hustle income category, taking its largest slice of the pie ever at 90.3%. When I noticed in early 2022 that I wasn’t on track to increase my annual income for the 12 month period, this was the category that presented the best opportunity to see some growth so I leaned into it and am not surprised to see it represent so much of my overall income.
Here’s how the earnings in these categories compare to previous years.
Product income surpassed membership income for the first time this year, which we’ll get into in the category breakdowns. I do really want to focus on growing this category even more in future years to have less pressure on my content creation, and I think it’s my next best opportunity for growth.
As with last year, I didn’t do any freelance design work this year. So my £131,795 of design income represents my work at ConvertKit.
I received a 7% salary increase in November which when combined with currency conversion rate changes meant a 12% increase in my standard compensation overall compared to last year. I received 36% less in profit sharing bonuses compared to last year, but with February’s cheque I’ve officially earned more than $100,000 in profit sharing since I joined ConvertKit in December 2016!
I earned £39,299 from content creation last year, which was a 12.7% increase on last year. Here’s the breakdown of my different content income streams.
As you can see in the chart above, brand sponsorships in my content really pulled all the weight in this category to give it that overall increase. I earned 262% more in content sponsorships this year compared to last, bringing in £15,790. This was purposeful growth as I knew it was an area I could earn more in to increase my overall income for the year. I said yes to sponsored content with Notion, the EUIPO, UXPin conference and Stack Overflow when they reached out to me, and Femke and I were thrilled to have Zeplin sponsor some episodes of our Design Life podcast this year.
In past years I’ve split out video sponsorships from podcast ones in these reports, but many of the partnerships I entered into this year were multifaceted; including newsletter placements and sponsored posts on Instagram & Twitter as well as sponsored videos. I believe it was communicating the value of this multi-touch reach that led to me being able to earn more from sponsorships this year, so I’ll keep combining it from now on.
The content sponsorship I was most excited about in the past year though was partnering with Webflow on season 2 of Inside Marketing Design. The show cost me a lot to produce with outsourcing the editing and admin, so I wanted to bring on a sponsor. And rather than look for a bunch of sponsors to pay for individual episodes, I asked Webflow if they’d be up for sponsoring the season as a whole. They were! I definitely undercharged, but the editing costs were covered and the Webflow team were great to work with as always. They’ve even put Inside Marketing Design on Webflow TV.
Speaking of partnerships, the wonderful folks at Figma continued as my YouTube channel sponsors. I am seriously so lucky to have them! The channel sponsorship means the Figma logo appears in the intro and outro of every video, and in my channel banner.
I create a lot of content about Figma (like my recent website redesign livestream series) so I’m thrilled the Figma team see value in this partnership still. I kept my fee the same, at $2,000 per month, but I earned 31% less than last year in this category (£12,991 overall) due to taking a break over the summer from publishing videos.
After 5 years of not displaying ads on my videos and only earning Adsense income from older videos, I started experimenting with Adsense again in March.
You may have read my post about why I turned ads off, and I have to admit a big part of me felt like by turning them back on again I was “selling out”. But the decision to experiment again came after several folks who I know and respect gave me a talking to about how I was shooting myself in the foot by not giving folks a free-to-them way to support my content by viewing ads.
The realisation in March that I wasn’t on track to surpass last years income was the final straw and I decided to see what pulling this lever would do.
My current approach to Adsense is to block any advertisers that don’t align with my values (if you ever see something advertised on one of my videos that you don’t think should be, tell me so I can block them!), place a lot of restrictions on the categories of things that can be advertised on my content and to leave ads off on new uploads for the first 24 hours or so (to reward the loyal viewers who watch my videos on the day they’re published with an ad-free experience).
This set of self-imposed restrictions certainly leaves a lot of money on the table still, but it means I’m able to earn well-deserved income from content that’s discovered in search without compromising on my morals and feeling like a sell-out!
All that said, the £4179 I earned from Adsebse was still down 23% on the previous year somehow! 2020 really was a banner year for Adsense earnings I guess.
I worked with Figma on some Coffee with Charli episodes, and Webflow had me host their annual design trends overview once again.
Earnings here were close to being the same as last year at £2,745, down just 2%, and this is still a category I’d love to do more in!
The £1,797 of affiliate income was _very_ passive income for me as I did’t place much focus on the channel beyond remembering to use my affiliate link when I’m posting about something.
Earnings were down overall, but I had income from two new affiliate partners: the Designer Boss Summit bundle (more on that in the speaking section) and Adobe! Sure, the Adobe income was only a meagre £22, but hey, there’s potential for the future right?
I spoke (virtually) at two events this year: the Designer Boss Summit and the UX Hustle conference. £931 for two events is well below what I’d usually charge to give a talk, but the Designer Boss Summit fee of £580 was supplemented with affiliate commissions from a Bundle they promoted to all attendees (each speaker contributed an item to the bundle, and earned affiliate commissions from buyers who had signed up to the conference with their link) and the UX Hustle appearance was on a panel, which I’m happy to do for a much lower fee as it requires less up-front preparation.
Last but not least, a new category of content income! Superhi asked me to be their design advice columnist to answer a few questions from their community. It’s the first time I’ve been paid specifically to write so, while a small amount overall, this £863 meant a lot to me!
This category has been on a steady decline in recent years and last year was no different showing a 43% decrease and earning me just £1,622.
In March, I finally decided to close my Patreon after being guilt-ridden about my sporadic engagement on there for years. I’m grateful for the £1,023 it netted me this year before I closed it down, but more so to the wonderful people whose monthly pledges made up that income. I know you were all supporting on Patreon because you got value from the content I publish for free, but I couldn’t get past the intrinsic pressure to create new things for this platform.
Instead, I opened up the Membership option on my YouTube channel and was thrilled to see a few people join what I’m calling the Coworking Club, because when you become a member you get a special star icon next to your name and custom emoji you can use in the live chat on my coworking streams.
As I continue to love streaming, I hope this is an area of membership income that we might see continued growth in.
I don’t expect to see any more income from Twitch in future years, as I’ve switched to doing my design and Webflow-building streams on YouTube and will only use Twitch every now and then to stream gameplay on my Switch.
This was the category with the most growth in the past year, because I started offering a new service: mentoring sessions! Overall the category grew 41%, and we’re just getting started.
After getting many requests for this type of service over the years and seeing how well it’s going for my friend Femke, I opened up my first block of mentoring sessions in February.
Because I regularly mentor and coach the wonderful folks on the Brand team at ConvertKit, my capacity for mentoring sessions is quite low in order to manage my energy levels and make sure I don’t burn out. Right now I only open up 6 per month, split across two dedicated days. I’ve been thrilled to have been about 85% sold out overall on all session spaces I’ve offered, and feedback from the folks who have booked sessions has been wonderful.
I'm a designer with over 20 years of experience across different disciplines of design including marketing, UI, UX, and front-end development. Charli's mentoring helped me to focus my portfolio and how I represent myself online. I'm truly grateful being able to talk with someone who is subjective of me and my work. Charli's candid and positive feedback is valuable, uplifting, and helpful. I highly recommend her to any designer looking for someone to provide them with honest insight about design.
– Kris Black
I’m proud of this new offering and the career situations I’ve helped people through, and I hope I’ll get to continue doing more of them.
Now entering its third year on sale, purchases of Grayscale licenses brought in £731 over the past year. It’s lowest year yet, but all totally passive income and I’m hoping my new site design will boost sales a bit when it launches.
Another new offering from me this year is the Inside Marketing Design job board. Once again, I was inspired by Femke’s product design job board and I now curate one for marketing and brand design jobs. I only had a few paid postings, and with there being work to curate the roles it’s not exactly passive income, but it was easy value to offer with my email list and podcast all tying in to a marketing design audience.
I spent £19,463 running my side business this year, which was just 1.7% less than last year.
With outsourcing help on season 2 of Inside Marketing Design I spent more on video editing and VA help, as well as slightly more on software too.
These expenses are 45% of my total side hustle income, and I like sharing this part of the breakdown because the investments I make into outsourcing are key to being able to run my business on the side of my full-time job.
Compared to last years 112% increase in side hustle earnings, and considering I expended what felt like way more effort this year to reach these results; it’d be easy to feel disappointed in this years income report. But I don’t. I’m happy with the choices that I made, and continue to make, with a focus on long-term success.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year on writing my marketing design book, which isn’t something that can earn me any income until its finished. And I feel like I’m probably at least a year away from that point! Even then, there’s no guarantees that it’ll earn a lot of income. But that’s not the main reason I’m writing it. I’m writing it cos I want it to exist, and because it’s the kind of career cornerstone I want to have that gathers all of my expertise on effective marketing design in one place. I’m hopeful it’ll lead to more speaking opportunities, a larger audience, and perhaps a course as well. All great potential income generators; but I have to write the darn thing first!
I’ll continue to be picky about sponsorships and Adsense settings to protect my reputation, and I’ll continue to protect my energy by not doubling down on things that exchange my time for money. These choices are helping me build a sustainable business that aligns with my passions and goals.
I hope you found it valuable to see where my biggest successes and losses came this year, and that you see that even small income streams (8 out of my 16 were under £1,000) can come together to form an impressive whole when you’re creating on the side.
If you have thoughts, comments or questions about this report feel free to reach out on Twitter (I’m @charliprangley) and I’d love for you to share this report with your friends too! You never know what you could inspire for them.