March 2015 Earnings Report

March saw the map sales really bail me out and I ended up earning a very impressive $7,159. That’s one of my best months ever, ladies and gentlemen! It reminds me of the good old days when I was a links whore. Ah… good times. But nobody seems to be buying anymore so I’m happy to report that diversification is working out for me. Read on for all of the juicy details…

Adsense, Link and Affiliate Sales, and Article Marketing

Earnings: $703

Adsense rose a bit to $165 which is an improvement on February but that’s probably only chalked up to March being a longer month. Meh. Article marketing and links sales brought in $538 which makes me very happy that I moved away from this as my primary income source. Times would have been tough! I might have needed to get a job… ew. But these two revenue streams are just a piece of a larger earnings puzzle so having a bad month doesn’t stress me out at all.

Volunteering eBook

Total Earnings: $99
Amazon Sales:
$57 (9 sales)
Direct PDF Sales: $84 (6 sales)
Affiliate Payouts: -$42 (6 payments)

Kind of a lame month for sales of my international volunteering ebook. All of my sales were due to affiliates which was a first! That should give me a kick in the pants to get out and find more affiliate partners. It’s suuuuuch a pan in the arse though. I hate it. So much. So. Much. But this isn’t my focus at the moment and won’t be again for a few months at least. So, I suppose things will just keep rolling along as usual. At least, for now.

Living in Kigali

Earnings: $1,020

THIS! This is where my focus lies at the moment. Living in Kigali has become a very well-known and useful resource here and it’s done so with a pretty serious amount of neglect on my part. Despite my only posting new articles about once a month for the last year (although I keep the events calendar updated and the forum is popular), the site continues to trundle along and still attracts advertisers. There’s so much potential and my aim is to have content going up daily with my ultimate goal being to attract the ‘big boys’ in advertising here in Africa – beer, airlines, banks, and phone companies. I know that 800 visitors a day isn’t going to cut it for them so I’m hard at work creating content and thinking up some new ideas. But despite the neglect, I still managed to collect $1,020 in payments this month which is great.

Living in Kampala

Earnings: $0

As with last month, Living in Kampala has been sadly neglected. But that’s about to change, folks! My partner and I have brought on a third person who will manage the content side of things. It’s good timing, too, because I’m hoping to do the same thing with my Kigali site – up the content drastically. So we can brainstorm new ideas together and figure out any new programming things all at once. I want to be consistent across the sites, too, so this new ‘content, content, and more content’ strategy is well-timed. Whether we can pull it off or not is another story. So far we’re off to a slow start but everyone’s pretty committed to the site and it’s time to turn all of the time and money we’ve put in into profit. I really believe that the Kampala site can be even bigger and better than the Kigali one and it’s time to prove that.

The Map – Kigali

Earnings: $5,337

Woohoo! The Map – Kigali is paying off in a big way! March saw me running around like crazy distributing and restocking maps and it was great! I also sold a bunch of unfolded wall maps and made some sales myself and double the wholesale price. In short, this project has been a life saver. After working out my costs, it looks like I’m already in the black with this project ater just

Total Earnings for March 2015

Building on a pretty good February with a pretty awesome March has been a relief more than anything. In total I earned $7,159 this month with a decent showing from my Kigali ads and article marketing. There’s still a lot of room to grow my ebook and affiliate sales and my Kampala website is well-positioned to start earning a bit, so I’m feeling good!

Last month my plan was to focus on creating a site and map for Addis Ababa but, as it turns out, there’s a popular Facebook group who will be rolling out a website soon and, even worse, it seems like it’s not legal for anyone to print maps in Ethiopia aside from the government.  Aaaarg! So that’s a couple of major blows. Especially since I’m going to Addis in a few days! But it’s ok… I have a meeting with someone who should be able to clarify the maps thing and I’m going to write content for the Addis site anyway as it’s 100% ready to go… except for the content.

In a way this bad news might be good… I’ve spread myself a bit thin and I haven’t been able to put the love and care into my Kigali and Kampala sites. I’d like to get some content onto my Addis site and then leave it there, adding things occasinally as the site wriggles its way into the rankings. Then I think I’ll refocus for now and maybe even start to think about a Kampala map. It’s the logical next step and, while I think something already exists, I think I can do better. So why not try? Plus it seems like this maps business can be pretty lucrative so


The Cost of Making a Printed City Map

The Map - Kigali

Anyone who’s been reading along for awhile will know that I’ve been working on a printed map of my adopted home city, Kigali, for a long, long time. You may also know that I’ve finally finished the God forsaken thing. Yay!

This has been a drawn out labour of love type project that was started over three years ago and, while I haven’t been slaving away on this thing all day, every day for three years straight, I have put a fairly insane number of hours into the project. It’s been a crazy journey, I’ve loved the whole process, and I’ve learned a lot about Kigali, design, maps, printing, and project management in general. Looking back on everything I’m pretty amazed that I pulled it off pretty much as a one-woman operation. Besides a bit of help early on with design and then at the end for packaging for printing, I’ve pulled this huge project off on my own and I’m pretty proud of myself for it, if I may say so myself!

So now the time has come to look back and figure out what costs were actually involved in this whole process so I can attempt to determine whether doing another one makes any financial sense at all. Actually, I’ve loved the process so much that it won’t matter if it makes financial sense… I’m going to make another one anyway! But it would still be very interesting to know the costs, not to mention that it’s just good business. Plus I know I love reading about these sorts of things so you might find it interesting as well.

I’m a bit scared to see how much this actually cost me! But here goes…


I spent the first year of this project attempting to do the design work myself without really knowing how to use any of the Adobe Suite programmes very well. I can struggle by in Photoshop but that’s about it. My problem is that I can draw and design things on paper and am pretty creative, in general, but transitioning from paper to digital isn’t easy -  as I soon realised. But that didn’t stop me from trying… for a really long time.

The Map

I eventually gave up trying to do things myself (having wasted a lot of time and becoming discouraged more than once and abandoning the project altogether) and headed on over to Elance in search of a map-specialist designer. As it turns out, while he was able to put me on the right path, he never did ‘get’ my artistic vision and he wasn’t able to complete the full project for me, as I’d hoped. However I was able to reverse engineer the work he did do and teach myself in the process so I was able to complete the project myself. That was invaluable! Plus we’re still in touch and he’s been very helpful in this entire process and continues to be on hand with answers to my questions.

But before I decided to take the reigns myself, there was a lot of back-and-forth and attempts to get things ‘just right’ which resulted in some hefty fees. The original work price is what we agreed from the start. The second round was to compensate him for going way above and beyond what we agreed. And the printing prep was for helping me shrink down and package up the files for printing as well as tweaking a bunch of small things that I wasn’t quite sure how to do myself. All up it cost a lot to get to a point in the process that was only about 40% done, but getting me to that point was critical in allowing me to learn it and move on myself. So… money well spent, even if there was still a long way to go after enlisting the help of the designer.

Original Design Work - $1,622
Extra Bonus Design Work - $376 (£240)
Follow Up Printing Prep - $544 (£361)

Local Transportation

This section details the costs for transportation around town which ended up being a huge expense since I pretty much visited every little nook and cranny of this entire city and I don’t have my own car. So I was always zipping around here and there, sometimes several times a day, often to the far reaches of Kigali.

Fortunately, transport here comes in the form of motorbikes that are pretty affordable. Unfortunately, when you start using them constantly, the costs add up. But it could be worse… I could have been getting around by taxi which is about 10 times the price. So I guess I should count myself very lucky that this affordable, fun form of transport exists in Kigali. These moto taxi drivers aren’t in a habit of giving out receipts (and I’m not in the habit of remembering to ask for them), so this is a total guess at the cost. To give an idea of the method to my madness, the average cost for a trip in the city is about $1 and I took motos everything for over three years.

Estimated Local Transport Costs: $700


The project’s printing costs include the obvious one of actually getting the final product printed and the less obvious cost of printing proofs and data collection maps. Printing in Kigali is both expensive and super shitty, so having the final product printed here wasn’t an option. I certainly could have done more research into finding a printer that was closer and cheaper, but I ended up just going with the first recommended company who were responsive with my questions called Victoria Litho. They specialise in large format printing and me designer suggested I give them a try. The fact that they’re located in the UK complicated my ‘shipping’ a bit (more details below) but, overall, I was reasonably happy with them. I decided to print 5,500 maps with the hope that they’d last around 10 months to a year.

The other side of the printing expenses were the A3 printouts of maps I used to walk around the city. I’d create maps using Google Maps and Open Street Maps just for the streets and then walk around tow physically marking places of interest as I encountered them. This meant a lot of A3-sized printed maps. Once the product started taking shape, I found that I needed to print actual sized proofs so that I could test to see whether fonts were large enough and get a better idea of the useability of the map as a whole. In Kigali, these large colour prints weren’t cheap and, while I didn’t keep an exact record of the costs, I suspect they added up to quite a bit over time.

Printing Costs - $5,680 (£3,629)
Estimated A3 Map Printing Costs - $100
Estimated Sample Proof Costs - $200


I’ve put shipping in quotations because I didn’t really ship anything anywhere… I muled the maps in myself in 10 giant duffel bags. All 5,500 of them. By myself. It was a hilarious (but stressful) time getting those bags checked in, but once they were with the airline a huge relief came over me. Well… until I hit customs on the other end, but more on that later.

As it turns out, Rwanda is one of the most expensive places to ship to in the world. I did make a half-hearted attempt at finding affordable shipping but I soon gave up mostly because it was an annoying process and also because I really needed to go to the UK anyway to send out my Indiegogo perks. Shipping into the country is difficult and expensive and so is sending out even a simple letter. So posting hundreds of Indiegogo pre-ordered maps and other perks would have been a nightmare. When I repeat this process or do a re-print, I’ll probably look more into cargo shipping but we’ll see what happens when that time comes.

5,500 Maps in Bags at Heathrow

I opted to fly to the UK, collect the maps, stash them into bags, pay for 10 extra bags (the maximum) on KLM, and carry the things in myself. Ridiculous… yes. But it worked!

Flight to London - $1,226
Extra Baggage Fees - $1,585 (£1,013)


I was hoping to sneak quietly by customs on my arrival into Rwanda but I think it was wishful thinking. I had 10 giant, heavy bags. I was on my own. Highly suspicious! Fortunately the customs procedure for me went pretty smoothly, even though it had me worried for a little while. I had to pay for a customs agent, pay a few more small fees that I forget, and then pay duty to havemy maps released to me once their value was assessed. I was worried they may be trapped in customs for an eternity but, as it turned out, I had them back within four days.

Customs Agent - $100
Duty - $350
Other Costs - $70

Total Project Costs

The grand total, after figuring in design, printing, transport, and shipping comes to a whopping $12,553 for 5,500 maps which works out to a very reasonable $2.26 per map. Well… maybe reasonable, who knows. I studied business in university but I’ll be damned it I remember anything!

But wait! There’s more! I also ran and Indiegogo campaign which went a long way towards subsidising these initial costs. Here’s the rest of the story…


I figured that these maps would be in demand and, because I already have a loyal website following, I thought that a crowd funding campaign would be a good way to subsidise some of my silly costs (mainly, the flying to the UK part). The campaign was a lot of work but it was very successful and gave me a good idea of how well received the maps might be. Plus it was a fun experience and I learned a lot in the process so it was an all around good ol’ time.

Indiegogo Contributions (Donations) - $6,754 (£4,515)

Indiegogo Campaign

But, alas, Indiegogo and Kickstarter don’t offer up 100% free money. Aside from taking into consideration all of the time spent making sure the campaign will be a success (which is a lot… and not something I would even be able to guess at a cost of, so I’ll ignore this part), there are also the costs associate with making good on your perk promises.

This isn’t an exact science due to fluctuations in exchanges rates, but it’s close enough, I think.

Indiegogo Fees - $270 (£180)
Paypal Fees - $40 (£27)
Shipping Costs - $662 (£442)
Shipping Materials - $73 (£49)
Perk Purchases - $100
Cartoon Printing - $20

Net Indiegogo Earnings - $5,589

Cost Summary

Up above you have all of the gory details. Down below is a summary of all of my costs… you know, just in case you want to make a printed map of a city one day.

Design - $2,542
Transportation - $700
Printing - $5,980
Shipping’ -
Customs - $520

Total Project Cost - $12,553

Indiegogo Revenue - $5,589

Actual Amount Spent - $6,964 ($1.27 per map)

Going Forward – Sales & Future Maps

I have completely, totally, 100% loved this entire process. Sure, it’s been frustrating at times, especially early on when I really didn’t know where to start and how to process. I got completely stuck several times, discouraged, intimidated by the process, and frustrated but I learned a huge amount and made a product that I’m proud of and I can’t wait to do it all again! Plus, if I’m able to sell all of these maps within about 10 months to a year as planned (and I’m on track), then it looks like this experiment of mine will be quite lucrative! Doing it all again with another city is a no-brainer… I just need to decide where (any ideas for me? Partnerships?).

Map On Sale

I’ll be able to do things so much more quickly and more cost effectively than the first time around. I’ll be able to do 95% of the design myself (I’ll likely bring the designer on again to give the whole file a once-over before I send any future maps to be printed), I have a benchmark to compare everything against for shipping and printing so I’ll be able to hunt for better deals, and there’s no possible way that any future maps will take nearly as long as the Kigali one. I’ll probably have additional costs for content from city experts, but I can do the mapping work myself and it gives me a fun excuse to check out new cities.

I’ve love to get several of these maps out there and become the person who maps the word’s obscure, map-neglected cities. There are plenty of them n Africa alone and I want to change that! Sure, many of these cities might not get droves of tourists but they do still get some. Plus a lot of these places have large communities of foreigners and that’s really my target audience, anyway. Making a product like this doesn’t have to mean having a huge print run. It looks like 5,500 for a year of Kigali maps will work fine… maybe Addis Ababa would need 7,000 and perhaps Bujumbura only about 2,000. It’s all a big experiment and as long as I’m smart about how I do the work, small print runs can work.

Plus there’s the great feeling of giving people a super useful product that helps them get around and also directs them to some of the city’s lesser known businesses, to boot. People have been kind of gushing at me over the map – they love it and tell me how helpful it’s been to them and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I put a crazy amount of work (and love) into this thing so it’s super exciting to see it so well-received.

Sales have been going very well without much effort from me (just how I like it) and with a wholesale price of $7 to $9 and a retail price of around $15, it’s going to be a nice payoff at the end. More on my sales strategy and updates in another post but things so far are going amazingly!

If you want to get your hands on a copy of this little beauty, send an email to kirsty@livinginkigali.com. I’ve got a stockpile with my mum in Canada ready to send out. They’re $18 if you’re in North America and $20 for anywhere else.


February 2015 Earnings Report

Hello all! It’s time for another round of Kirsty’s 2015 monthly earnings updates. February was a great month, coming in at $4,192 and with a nice amount of diversification, to boot! Here’s the breakdown…

Adsense, Link and Affiliate Sales, and Article Marketing

Earnings: $1,263

I had three pretty well-paid article marketing deals and then the usual dribs and drabs coming in on top of those. These days I’m surprised when I can clear more than a couple of hundred in these sorts of deals, so this month, coming in at $1,126 in article marketing deals was a big surprise. It somewhat makes up for this month’s super pitiful Adsense showing of only $137. I wonder if the days of Adsense are over for me! I don’t even check my affiliate programs anymore… I should probably get on that. If I weren’t in a rush to write this post and actually remembered my passwords, I’d look into them. But, chances are, they all earned zero due to being neglected for years.

Volunteering eBook

Total Earnings: $208
Amazon Sales:
$75 (12 sales)
Direct PDF Sales: $112 (8 sales)
Affiliate Payouts: -$21 (3 payments)

My ebook, The Underground Guide to International Volunteering did pretty well with 20 overall sales. Only three of those came from affiliates, though. I’ve known for a long time that this is an obvious area for improvement but, as usual, I’m busy with other things that I enjoy a lot more so harassing other website owners to see whether they want to sell my ebook is low on my list. I know this is a mistake. Because, while affiliate setup is annoying as hell (no matter what’s its for), once it’s done, it’s done and takes very little maintenance. I really need to set aside a half a day each week for the next little while to work on this in order to get things going. I know it’ll pay off. We’ll see if March is the month I do that… I’m guessing not.

Living in Kigali

Earnings: $1,230

Event with the payment for three deals being delayed until March, Living in Kigali had a great month. Most of this was due to finally receiving $800 owed to me from a hotel here in Kigali (many of you will know it as ‘Hotel Rwanda’) who were dragging their feet a bit with the payment. All of my other deals were renewals which is great to see. I’m always curious each month how much value my advertisers get from our partnership. I don’t seem to get too much feedback but thy renew month on month and seem happy so I’ll just keep on doing what I do!

Living in Kampala

Earnings: Possibly $0 but not sure.

My Kampala site has been put on the back burner for another month but there are rumblings that we’ll get things going again in March, so lets see how that works out with our earnings. My hunch is that it’ll take at least another month to start seeing some payouts.

The Map – Kigali

Earnings: $1,491

Yes! I’m finally starting to see the payoff for all of my hard work on The Map – Kigali. The amount of time I put into this thing was kind of insane, but I’m reaping the rewards, finally. The maps have been selling out and, as I’ve been away in Malawi, I haven’t been around to stay on top of things. I would have sold a lot more in February had I been around to deliver them. One thing I didn’t consider was how easy it would be to sell these maps to individuals (rather than through wholesalers). I’ve been taking a few maps out with me each time I head out to dinner or to events or parties and people ask about them, and I sell them! It’s easy and they’re happy and I get some instant cash without losing 50% to wholesale fees which isn’t something I expected at all.

This map thing is turning out to be kind of lucrative (so far… assuming I can sell a few thousand more with is a big if) and I’m already starting work on some other cities. There’s a chance I’ll be doing some travelling in March as well (either Senegal or Addis Ababa or maybe both) but, if I do, I’ll make sure to set things up a bit better before I go. I left for Malawi kind of suddenly and didn’t do a good job of preparing. I’ll need to come up with some systems for when I’m not n Kigali (which could end up happening a lot this year) so March will be a nice test.

I’m hopeful that I’ll sell out of my 4,000+ more maps within 12 months (so by January 2016) which will need a lot of work from me. But, if I can do this and keep a consistent pace of sales, I’d expect to be earning around $3,000 per month in map sales. I still haven’t worked out my costs for this crazy adventure but that’ll come in a post soon. I’m super interested to see how profitable this might be. Or not. We’ll see!

Total Earnings for February 2015

Earning $4,192 this month has been a real confidence boost! I’m always a bit nervous about whether everything will crash and burn one day, so being able to rake in a decent amount for the first time in a long time is a big thing for me. I’m confident that my Kigali site will continue to grow and provide value to my advertisers and I’m hopeful that my map will continue to sell. Having both of these things working for the next year will give me a bit of extra funds to invest in doing the same thing in another city.

My plan is to focus a bit on Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and make that market my next ‘Living in’ site target. I’ve already started work on the Living in Addis Ababa website and I’m working on the map as we speak. This is a much more ambitious project due to the size of the city but I’m excited to check it out. Ethiopia is an amazing place and being able to explore it with my ‘website and map maker’ hat on is kind of cool. In a nerdy way.

I’m expecting March to be a good one for map sales… stay tuned!


January 2015 Earnings Report

My earnings reports are back! But this time I’ve changed them up a bit to reflect the diversification of my income and my serious lack of interest in reporting separately on the boring stuff (Adsense, affiliate sales, link sales, and article marketing). I’m really excited about my Kigali map and having an actual, tangible product to sell and I’m also excited with the recent flurry of new advertisers to my Kigali site… although I’ve been crap about collecting payments this month.

My total January’s earnings came to $2,394 and here’s the break down…

Adsense, Link and Affiliate Sales, and Article Marketing

Earnings: $513

Not much to report here except doom and gloom. But, as I’m moving in a different earnings direction, it’s not the end of the world! It would just be nice to have a bit more padding in these areas to bulk up my savings again, but the less I count on link sales and article marketing, the better. So maybe not earning much is the push I need to start working harder on other things. Adsense was $216 and the rest were  few smallish article deals and one link renewal.

Volunteering eBook

International Volunteering Guide

Amazon Sales: $93 (15 sales)
Direct PDF Sales: $42 (3 sales)
Affiliate Payouts: $21 (3 payments)

My ebook, The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, pulled its weight a little more this month than usual which is nice to see. Taking the affiliate payments into consideration, it earned a total of $114 without much effort from me. Not a huge amount, but it covers my hosting costs so every little bit helps.

I’m not sure I’m getting the full amount per sale that I should be with Amazon which, I think, is some US tax thing that I have to figure out but haven’t gotten around to. My sales were mostly from people in the US with a couple from the UK, Europe, and Australia’s Amazon sites. January saw quite a jump in sales, and I’m not really sure why! I went from around 4 or 5 sales per month up to 15 and the only change I made was adding an ad banner in the header of my Kigali website. The site is very popular, the ad is visible, and the types of people who visit that site are likely to be interested in volunteering, so that might explain it.

My PDF sales almost always come from affiliate partners which tells me that I need to get my crap together and start bringing more affiliates on board. This is something I put a small amount of effort into back when the ebook was relaunched but, as it’s work that I really dislike, I’ve kind of let things slide. As usual, I’m too busy with other projects at the moment to be able to concentrate too much on this. It’s a pity because once those affiliate connections are made, they generally continue to produce for awhile with little continued effort from me.

Living in Kigali

Living in Kigali

Earnings: $455

January’s earnings for advertising on Living in Kigali were pretty low. I’m owed around $700 for January but, because I’m too laid back about collecting payments and because some people are out of town, I still have to collect. February should look pretty good if all of my payments come through. I’ve lost one advertiser and gained a new one plus I had a meeting yesterday which should lead to another ad sale. I kind of like this process… it’s nice to connect with business owners around town and I really think my site is a huge help for them reaching out to potential customers.

Living in Kampala

living in kampala

Earnings: Possibly $0 but not sure.

My partner who’s in charge of the ad sales and finances for out Kampala site has been super busy with his other business and has dropped the ball a bit with his commitments. I’ve been busy as well so it’s not the end of the world but it means that possible ad deals haven’t been followed up on and that no overdo payments have been collected. I’m hoping we’ll be able to put some systems in place in February so that we can start seeing some return on investment for this site.

The Map – Kigali

2014 Wrap - Map

Earnings: $1,321

It looks like my efforts of printing Kigali’s first tourist-oriented map (site under construction) is paying off! I’ve only had the maps for about a week with me back in Kigali (they were trapped in customs for a few days, too) but already people are buying them. I have to give out about 100 maps as part of my Indiegogo campaign and while I’ve been doing that, others have been coming up to me looking to buy some. I wasn’t anticipating that and it’s resulted in about $400 in sales. Plus I’ve collected from four businesses who’ve bought maps wholesale.

Remember, though, that my maps have cost me a lot of money to produce so this income comes with a lot of expenses that I have yet to recoup. I haven’t wrapped my head around the expenses yet but I’m going to start working on an article about that, so hold tight. My Indiegogo campaign went a long way towards reducing my overall costs, but I still had to lay down a lot of cash to get this project off the ground.

My sales strategy is to go the wholesale route, but it seems like individual sales might lead to some surprise revenue, as well. In total I earned $1,419 in map sales and things are looking pretty good for February, as well. I’m really going to have to put in a big sales effort next week but, now that I have the sexy map in my hand, I think it will be a pretty easy sell. We’ll see but I’m excited to see where this goes!

Total Earnings for January 2015

The $2,394 I earned is at the lower end of where I’d like to be for monthly income but I’m still excited to see a good level of diversification. I don’t want to be earning much less than this over the course of the year so I’ve got some work to do to keep things moving in a positive direction. I’m hopeful that the Kampala website will start kicking in some earnings and I’ve got a lot of payments to collect in February for my Kigali site, so that should help me raise things a bit for February. The challenge will be to see if I can keep things steady throughout the year. We’ll see! I’m excited about my maps and if I work hard these coming weeks, I should be able to see a bunch. Too bad I hate sales…


2014 Earnings Report

That’s right, folks! An entire year of earnings all rolled up into one glorious post! I wouldn’t have a clue what I’ve spent in 2014 so lets just forget that side of things doesn’t exist.

I ditched my popular monthly earnings and spending reports back in March 2013 when I’d earned an impressive $6,500. That was one of my best months ever and income around then was still pretty consistent but I wasn’t enjoying writing the updates as much as I used to. I didn’t feel like, month on month, I was really doing anything different that was worth reporting. I was just sitting back and watching the magic internet money roll in without me having much of a constructive role in earning it. I also saw the writing on the wall with Google crackdowns and the end of link sales and article marketing as a viable (albeit shady) income source. Truth be told, I wanted to jump ship before I found myself reporting embarrassingly low earnings. So I decided to stop the reports and haven’t thought much about it sense then.

Actually, I haven’t thought much about this blog at all since then. I’ve had a smattering of posts but my attention has been on other time-consuming projects and Nerdy Nomad has been treated badly. The poor little guy. But, between life in Rwanda, travel, volunteering, and earning online, I think I have an interesting thing or two to say and I think it would be super sad to let this blog die a slow and neglected death.

So I’m back! Starting with a complete 12 month look at 2014′s earnings. I’ll be a little less specific about certain things (lumping Adsense, link sales, and affiliate sales into one category) because I don’t put any effort each month into improving these things so there’s nothing to report. I’ll keep ebook sales separate because, though I haven’t put much effort into it so far, I intend on focusing more on increasing sales in the coming months. I’ll also offer a more concise breakdown of the Africa website and map side of things because that’s where most of my efforts go these days.

Ok so, here we go… 2014 giant earnings report coming at you!

Adsense, Link and Affiliate Sales, and Article Marketing

Earned in 2014: $10,647

When you compare this total for 2014 with my total for March 2013 alone (at almost $6,500), it’s pretty easy to see that things have taken a turn for the worse. Adsense still chugs along as it always has and affiliate sales are still as neglected as ever, but paid articles and links have dropped off drastically since Google started to seriously crack down last year. But it doesn’t seem like this method for earning is going away completely and I can still count on a few deals each month.

Volunteering eBook

International Volunteering Guide

Earned in 2014: $1,062

Adding my ebook, The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, to Amazon hasn’t had the miraculous results I was hoping for. I’d expected that joining what is essentially a massive search engine for book buying with a good product and ranking well (I had been on the first page when people search for ‘volunteering’ in the books section but it seems I’ve falled to the thid page now) would lead to a nice boost in sales. But it seems like there’s more to it than that and I’ve got some work cut out for me. I haven’t put any focus on this just yet but I’m hopeful that with a bit of work I’ll be able to boost sales.

I also haven’t spent much time at all reaching out to potential affiliates. I know there are a lot of things I could be doing to get the book ‘out there’ and I have a lot of work cut out for me. The affiliate sale commission is appealing and the book is good but I need to reconnect with people who might be interested in promoting my ebook and also search out new site owners. There’s a lot of work still to do and I was silly to think that just putting a new edit out there into the world would lead to magical sales.

Living in Kigali

Living in Kigali

Earned in 2014: $6,276

My Kigali website is what gives me the most satisfaction to work on and being approached by businesses wanting to advertise seems to fit in well with my ‘wait to be contacted’ style of doing business. Maybe I’d have a lot more in ad sales were I more ‘salesy’ and wiling to approach the big money clients (like airlines and telecom companies, for example) and ask for more money per ad. But I like working with small business owners in Kigali, having a personal relationship, and I’m happy with my policy of only partnering with people I would actually recommend. It means I can feel like I’m adding value each tme I write about my advertising partners, rather than just bombarding my loyal readers with spam.

So far things are going really well and I’m nearly at capacity for my ad space. I’m charging $80 for each square ad (although some are currently barters and some are a bit less), $150 for the banner ad at the top (which will likely go up to $250 when I get a better offer), and $140 for the half banners (I only have one but would like two). That gives me the possibility of earning $1,330 (800+250+140+140) before taxes which is a decent amount to live on in Kigali.

I want to be able to sustain myself on my Kigali website, spending only what I earn and stashing any other income away in my savings account. I don’t want to jinx it but my advertisers have been loyal so far and they seem to see a lot of value in advertising on my website. I’m going into 2015 with 12 advertisers and $860 per month in earnings and I hope that this will continue to increase as the site gets more and more popular.

Living in Kampala

living in kampala

Earned in 2014: Around $300

Earnings for my Kampala site are a bit tricky to keep track of since I’m not the one in charge of the books. I do the nerd stuff and my partner in Kampala takes care of the finances and the deals. This one is a bit deceptive because, while we’ve earned a bit, we’ve also dumped a whole bunch of money into this site over the years and are very much in the red. Unlike my Kigali site, we have to pay content writers (since my partner is too busy and I don’t know Kampala very well) and there have been some costs with initial setup and Facebook promotion, too. But we’re on our way and hoping to go from red to black this year.

The Map – Kigali

2014 Wrap - Map

Earned in 2014: $1,321

This is my big risk! I’ve shelled out well over $10,000 (post with details coming soon) and a lot of time hard work in an effort to finally take my map of Kigali idea from my head and put it onto paper and into people’s hands. It’s been a three year labour of love and there was no way I wasn’t going to print something, no matter what the cost. But I might have bitten off more than I can chew and will be collecting 5,500 maps in London in January.

I’m giving myself a year before a reprint (the city is changing so quickly so even that might be too long) and I think unloading that many maps in 12 months is totally doable. I’ve already pre-sold about 200 to individuals and another 580 (with some payments coming in 2015 that haven’t been reported) to businesses around town who will act as wholesalers. So I’m off to a good start! I’ve got 12 businesses on board to sell the maps without me even trying that hard. It helps that I’ve created a lot of goodwill over the years through my website. Promoting businesses for free seems to be paying off for me now! Plus people have been hearing about this map for years and the final product is pretty sexy and useful, so it’s an easy sell.

If everything goes as planned (a big ‘if’) then this map thing could turn into a nice little money-maker. I’ve covered about half of my expenses with an Indiegogo campaign and should earn between $5 and $6 profit per map sold. With 5,500 maps, that adds up to a nice chunk of money. But the key will be actually selling them!

I haven’t included the pre-sales to individuals as part of my 2014 earnings since they’ve come as part of my Indiegogo campaign but once that’s done, all sales will be reported here. I’m reporting the amount paid to me and not factoring in my costs, so take that into consideration. This could either earn me a nice chunk of money in 2015 or go horribly wrong and see me living with boxes of maps in my house until the end of time. I hope it’s the former…

Total Earnings for 2014

Totaling up all of my little projects gets me to a grand total of $19,606 in earnings for 2014. Again, it’s a huge drop from the glory days of old but it’s a step in the right direction as far as diversifying goes. I’m moving towards projects that I can be proud of and it’s still early days and I’m excited what 2015 holds.

Happy New Year everyone!


2014 Yearly Wrap Up

2014 Wrap - Lebanon

I’m excited! My three major projects of the past year (an update to The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, Eating in Kigali, and The Map – Kigali) have finally been finished and I’ve got a whole lot more spare time on my hands these days. I’m not really even sure what to do with myself since finishing the map. I seem to spend a disturbing amount of time staring blankly at my computer screen. Oh, and I’m reading more books. I guess that’s a good thing.

But one thing I think I’ve decided is that it’s time to get this sad, neglected blog up and running again. The best way I can think to kick things off is with a 2014 year in review style post. Since I didn’t do one last year and since it’s a great way to summarize what I’ve done as well as what I intend on getting up to in the coming year. They’re fun for me to write and hopefully fun for you to read!

Oh and my earnings reports are coming back in 2015. Yippee! I’m not going to be quite as specific and have more of a focus on my Africa-related businesses, but I think you’ll still find it quite interesting. I really love that I’ve been able to move away from the shady link sales side of things and towards a revenue model on websites that I’m proud of and, though I’m not earning nearly as much these days, I think the potential is there to grow. Holding myself accountable by publishing earnings reports is a great way to motivate myself to keep working hard and increasing sales. So… keep a lookout for the first report in awhile during the first week of January.

Ok so on with my 2014 yearly wrap up. (Let’s just forget about 2013… I didn’t do much, anyway!)

2014 Travels

  • Rwanda - I spent this year living in Kigali and taking occasional trips abroad and to the lake.
  • Nairobi - My parents visited Rwanda and we went to Nairobi for four days. They went on a safari and I hung out with a friend who was living in South Sudan.
  • Norway - I spent a week hanging out with a couple of friends in Oslo and on an island about three hours away.
  • Scotland - I hung out with my family and attempted to do a cycle trip which didn’t quite go as planned but I did get to do a bit of exploring by bike.
  • Beirut - I visited my Norwegian friend who moved here in July and we ate a lot of hummus.

Things I Learned in 2014

My closest friend in Kigali left after four and a half years and I learned that people leaving doesn’t start to suck any less the more it happens. It’s not something I think I’ll ever get used to and I really do think it makes me a bit apprehensive about meeting new people, for better or for worse.

But I also know that making close friends who leave means that it gives me places to visit! I was able to take advantage of that with Norway and Beirut and hopefully I’ll get a few more visits in in 2015. I’m always eager to host friends in Rwanda and, while parting ways isn’t enjoyable, it’s just the beginning of something a bit different.

I’ve also figured out that buying a bicycle is easier said than done. Holy crap… buying a touring bike was a three week ordeal in Scotland. First I got one I didn’t end up liking (you have to order them into the store in order to give them a test ride) which wasted a week. Then I waited another week only to be told the bike arrived damaged. Then, finally, three weeks later I had my hands on the bike I wanted but by this point I’d wasted so much time that I didn’t get to do the trip I wanted. Instead I headed up to Oban (a few hours north of Glasgow) and spent a few days riding around the area using my aunt’s cabin as a base. It was nice, but it wasn’t the touring trip I was hoping to do. Related… I learned that I really love biking and I’m hoping to take a longish trip soon.

2014 Wrap - Bike

I learned that I don’t like fly fishing. At all.

And that the lemonade in Lebanon is the best in the world.

It was also really great getting a chance to hang out with my parents and family in Scotland for so long this year. My parents visited Rwanda for six weeks in February and I spent another five weeks in July and August with them in Scotland. It was nice to have some hanging out time and to be able to show them my life in Rwanda, finally.

2014 Wrap - Family

As far as work goes, 2014 saw a definitive shift away from paid links and other scammy website behaviour and towards earning a more honest living (at least one I’m more proud of) with my Kigali and Kampala websites. Both sites are earning an income from advertisers and, I think, there’s still a lot of room for growth. It’s nice to create a community of real people that eventually attracts businesses that are trying to reach them. It’s not about climbing Google’s rankings, it’s about making an actual connection with potential customers, and I really like that.

So I guess I’ve learned that this model works! I’ve also learned that it’s a lot of work. My advertisers need to continue to see value from their investment so I can’t just forget about the sites for a year (a la this blog) and expect that they won’t be pissed off. But I’ve really enjoyed all of the connections I’ve made with my advertisers. They’re all businesses I can highly recommend and I think, so far, everyone is happy.

Following on from that, 2014 has shown me how influential my Kigali website actually is! It’s kind of crazy… these days it seems like anyone I meet who finds out that I run the website takes a few moments to shower me in praise and to tell me how much the site has helped them. Plus I sometimes get feedback about how customers come to find certain businesses or events, with my site being the key reason. It’s really nice to feel like my site has been helpful to so many people and it makes me want to continue to grow it.

2014 Wrap - Map

I’ve also learned the ins and outs of map making. Plus, in the process, I taught myself the basics of InDesign and Illustrator in which makes me happy. I’ve been mystified by both programs for years and now I can actually do a few things with them and look forward to learning even more. Plus I’ve run my first ever Indiegogo campaign and it’s been a success. Although my goal really is to raise closer to GBP5,000… I just got nervous so set a lower target. But I’m slowly making my way there and it’s been a nice experience overall.

2015 Travel Plans

Though I still love living in Kigali, I can feel myself getting a bit restless. I’m not sure if I’m just the type of person who will alternate between waves of contentedness at home on the back porch and wanting to sell all of my stuff and take off. I still haven’t rediscovered the travel bug (at least not backpacking for the sake of it) but I am a big fan of travelling for work, for events, and to visit friends and I think that’s what this year has in store for me.

  • London, UK - I’ll be in London from January 19th to 23rd for a super short trip to collect 5,500 maps, mail out about 300 as part of my Indiegogo campaign perks, and then bring the rest back with me in 10 boxes. I’m a bit anxious about how all of this will go down but physically going to London is cheaper and easier than having these maps shipped. Yep… shipping to Rwanda is expensive.
  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - I’ve already set up Living in Addis Ababa as my third website in my growing little empire. I’ve been once before and really love the city. It’s a wonderful combination of safe, crazy, and it has great food and coffee. So I’m giving myself an excuse to get to know this great city and intend on spending a couple of weeks there at some point in February. I’d hope to have the forum ready and the beginnings of the website by the time I return from this trip. I’ll also do a bit of research to see if a map is a feasible idea here, as well.
  • Kampala, Uganda - My second site is Living in Kampala and, while it’s been on the go for over two years, it’s never really caught on quite the same way as my Kigali site has. Which is weird since there are far more expats in Kampala. So my plan is to spend about three weeks there maybe in March or April to stockpile about 15 restaurant review articles, research the possibility of a map, and to get to know the city a bit better so I can be more hands on and hopefully make the site more interesting and successful.
  • Cyprus - I’ve been interested in bicycle touring for awhile now but haven’t had a good opportunity to really give it a try. Rwanda is depressing in April so I might try to sneak away with my bike. It looks like Cyprus is good that time of year (ie. not horribly rainy or cold) so I might head there for a couple of weeks of exploring by bike. Lebanon is a cheap and quick flight away so if my friend is still living there I might pop over for a few days.
  • Quebec & Ontario, Canada - My brother is getting married! In August. In the Niagara Falls area of Canada. I’ll nee to be home for most of August but I’m thinking about tacking on another month or two for some biking. A friend of mine lives in Montreal and Quebec has a pretty extensive network of bike trails (and my French could use a lot of work…) so that might make a good travel spot.
  • Brisbane, Australia - A friend of mine is getting married in Australia! So this is when I seriously look at my bank account and decide what I can actually afford to do. I don’t really need to be in Kigali to run the website so I might consider taking some time away from Rwanda as part of a larger trip that continues on after Australia. Or maybe I’ll just head to Oz for a bit and then head back to Africa afterwards. We’ll see… I guess it depends on how many maps I can sell!

Goals for 2015

Ah… it’s funny to see my Africa travel site mentioned several years in a row as one of my goals. I might just leave that off of the list… I totally forgot it even existed! Here are a few more realistic goal for the coming year.

  • Living in Kigali – I’m really happy with how far this site as come over the years. I’m earning around $1,000 from advertising without too much effort on my part in sales. I really need to start producing more consistent content, though. I’d like to be writing at least two articles a month along with a newsletter. This isn’t a crazy difficult target. I’d also like to reach out to advertisers to find some creative ways to work together. Whether it be offering coupons or events promotion or something else. I think there are some other unexplored opportunities for earning.
  • Create a Living in Kigali & Map App - I don’t know the first thing about creating an app but I have a lot of good contacts who can point me in the right direction. I’ve already downloaded other useful city guide-style apps to see what I like and what I don’t like. I’d love to package all of the information on my website and also the map to create an app that I’ll sell for a few bucks. This would involve a lot of guidance from me in creating the app’s flow and look and the content, and I think that might take a lot more time than I expect. But it’s on my to-do list for sure! The beauty of this is that once I get the structure set up for one city, it will be easy to duplicate for others.
  • Sell The Map – Kigali - After over three years of work, my map of Kigali is finally finished! It’s at the printer’s now and I won’t be truly relaxed until I have it in my hands, but the work is done and now it’s about selling it. I’ve got about 4,700 of these things left to sell but I’ve got a whole city full of potential buyers and I’ve given myself between 10 months and a year to sell this many. At that point the plan is to reprint. This whole process has been kind of fun so I’m looking forward to moving into sales mode and recouping some cash.
  • Living in Kampala - My partner and I have started to make a bit of an income from this site but we still don’t have consistent writers and I think the overall quality of the site could be improved. I really want to work hard at getting the forum, Facebook page, and events calendar going so that we can climb up off of this 200 visits a day mark that we seem to have been stuck on for over a year.
  • Create Other Maps - I’ve loved the whole process of making the Kigali map and so now I’m thinking of other cities to branch out into. The logical one would be Kampala because we already have the website but I hear there might already be a good map for that city. I was also encouraged to think about a map of Musanze which is a small city in Rwanda. It’s the tourism centre and the place people stay when they go see the gorillas. It would be a much smaller project and I’ll do a bit of research into whether it would work or not. I want to do another map and I plan to decide which one at some point in early 2015.
  • Living in Addis - I’ve been sitting on a few ‘Living in …’ domain names and I think it’s finally time to roll out another site with Addis Ababa as my target. No other decent site exists to help new arrivals and I think it’ll be fairly easy to get a foothold in Addis. Plus it gives me a great excuse to visit! Making this site successful will mean finding writers and/or a partner within the next six months or so (anyone know anyone in Addis?) but there’s still a lot I can do before that point so I’ll spend a few weeks there doing just that.
  • Learn GIS Mapping – Anyone who’s seriously into maps will be able to tell you what GIS software is. At this stage, I still don’t really have a clue. It’s the industry standard for creating maps. Or so I’m told. There are lots of different software packages and I’d really love to dedicate some time to learning a bit more about this. The advantage would be (or so I’m told) that I could hook all of my mapping projects together and have a more accurate end result. So, from what I understand, I could use the software to expand on my physical map and create an app and also then use the same data for my website. So that all of the map info is in one central location and then I can use that to update them all, in whichever style I want. This all seems magical and I don’t know if I know what I’m talking about, but I’d like to learn more, at the very least.

I think all of these are pretty manageable goals, especially given my sudden free time as the map project comes to a close. I’m excited to continually be moving in a creative direction with most of my projects and I really hope that my Africa websites continue to grow. Most of my efforts in the first half of this year will go into map sales and increasing traffic to my Kampala website. Hopefully everything goes as planned!

I’ll chime in again in early January with a 2014 earnings wrap and then from there on I’ll have something for you each month. My earnings have changed quite a lot since last I wrote about them and I hope you’ll find things interesting.

Happy holidays all and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing o things over here on Nerdy Nomad!