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Income Reports: Fact or Fiction? Flat Out Lies? This is Why I Am Not a Fan

Today I want to talk about income reports.

I have been meaning to document my thoughts and feelings about the practice of publicly disclosing one’s income or earnings but just have not had the time. I am glad that I am finally getting around to it today.

Many of those who generate income online like to publish what is commonly known as an income report, which is often broken down by the particular product or service that generated the income. These have become so popular that they have propelled many blogs on the success trajectory.

I was debating whether to use the word hate or dislike in the title of this post. I chose dislike because hate is too strong of an expression. After all, many bloggers who I personally know, respect and admire publish income reports. Just as every coin has two sides to it, income reports have their benefits as well.

For example, honest income reports inspire, motivate and compel readers to take action. It gives them the confidence that IT can be done. On the other hand, constantly being exposed to such reports can paralyze readers from taking action, leaving them with the feeling that they are too behind, there is too much to do and that it is too late.

Getting Carried Away With Income Reports

Then you have a totally different yet very realistic angle on income reports, one that exaggerates or flat out lies. This is the one that just kills. Sometimes it takes one bad apple to ruin the good ride for everyone else.

Not all that long ago, A List blogger Tyrone Shum released a public video confessing his misrepresentation of his income reports. He mentioned that the guilt was getting to him and that he couldn’t face his family and friends without coming out and confessing.

You can view his public apology here:

I guess the link to the original video has been removed, so I dug up the second closest I could find…

Needless to say the video went viral, and every other blogger, from A to Z list was talking about this public confession.

Why am I bringing this up? I am bringing this up because I was completely turned off by income reports after having viewed this video.

Now I don’t know Tyrone personally but he appears to be a good, like-able guy from what I can tell and what those who I know who know him tell me.

What this situation does reveal however is how easy it is or can be to get carried away in the moment. One dynamic of the industry we participate in is social proof. People want to listen to and follow those who have proven results. The space is too saturated and it takes an exceptional case to stand out. One way to do that is by boasting large income figures.

The pressure, or the desire to succeed sometimes overwhelms one’s sense of integrity. What happened in Tyrone’s situation can happen to anyone. It doesn’t change him from a nice guy to a bad one, but it certainly tarnishes his reputation. But like I said, his true character clearly showed later when he confessed publicly.

Do not take this action for granted. This is a very difficult thing to do, especially knowing that the public apology will be talked about everywhere, by everyone and will be accessible forever as long as the internet exists.

Tyrone could have very well kept going on and no one would ever have known. But no, he decided to come out clean. My respect for the guy today is more than ever before. But does this change my perception of income reports? No.

Anyone Can Write Whatever, But to See is to Believe

I have contemplated documenting income reports, but I’ve heard enough times now that “anyone can write about anything they want”, or that “anyone can claim to make a certain amount of money online”. Yes, that is true, and no one will ever know unless they decide to run for President someday – I cannot because I wasn’t born in the USA so you’d never know!

For that, and several other reasons, I chose not to publish income reports, although I know that doing so will certainly boost my blog’s traffic, readership, engagement and other things. My friend Pat Flynn does this remarkably well with his income reports, which are the most read content on his blog.

Pat’s one of the nicest guys I know on the blogosphere, and I’ve had people ask me in discussions whether his income reports are real. While I am 101% confident that they are simply because of the man Pat is, this point demonstrates the entire essence of this post – fact or fiction.

For me, I feel images demonstrating income proof are better. A picture does speak more than a thousand words. So in the few occasions where I have disclosed my income, I have done so by displaying images of checks, Paypal payments or direct deposits to my bank account. You can see an example of that here, here, and here.

That, in addition to a lot of open and revealing facts about my business can easily allow a reader of my blog to reasonably and accurately extrapolate how much income I generate online every month or year. So clearly, it is not that I don’t want people to know how much I am earning, rather, if I do disclose, I want to ensure that I am able to back it up and convey my results with full confidence.

Other Bloggers & Their Income Reports + My Income Report Plans

I am not oblivious to why others publish income reports and more importantly why they do it the way they do it.

It takes time to snap a picture or screenshot and then upload it and write about it. I know because I do it. It may not sound that onerous, but for a busy blogger / entrepreneur, it is more time than they have to invest in this endeavor.

Documenting or typing results is much more convenient and less time consuming. Look at it this way – something is better than nothing. But if you start to generate thoughts in your subconscious regarding whether or not what’s being reported is true and accurate, just know that those thoughts will always be there. Heck, one can even embellish check images if they wanted to, so who’s to say that images are accurate?

The point here is that income reports should really be viewed as a source for inspiration and motivation. Sure, people might get carried away here and there, and others might be out there blatantly and deliberately lying, but what can you do? Absolutely nothing. Don’t attach yourself emotionally to income reports or you will end up broken-hearted and hurt.

I currently don’t publish income reports for several reasons, including the fact that my entities (businesses) are set up in a very complex manner, and it wouldn’t be easy or quick for me to segregate income from each site and the cost structure of my business. I certainly don’t want to report income without representing the cost of doing business to reflect true profitability. It’s only fair.

It’s a lot of work just thinking about it :) but I know this initiative comes with tremendous benefits so I may slip over the tipping point in the future. I have however, and will continue to in the future, publish income updates haphazardly here and there. See the links above for example.

Concluding Thoughts

To conclude, income reports can be a double edged sword, both for publishers as well as the consumers of content. Like anything else is life, let’s continue to take inspiration and motivation from these. Let’s take the positive attributes of what we come across and try to implement those in our lives. This is really what my view boils down to.

On an interesting note (and you can now call me a hypocrite), I will be reporting on my authority site earnings, although I may not publish images unless a particular income stream becomes HUGE. If it does, I will be happy to snap up an image and attach it along. This way I would be able to document my income reports without feeling that I am being unfair – I reserve the right to renig if my workload becomes overwhelming :)

You can follow my authority site’s progress and income reports via the Authority Site Duel Portal here.

Are you in favor of income reports? Why or why not? Does skepticism linger in your subconscious as you digest them? Why or why not? Do you read income reports with full confidence, or do you take them in with a grain of salt?

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40 Responses to “Income Reports: Fact or Fiction? Flat Out Lies? This is Why I Am Not a Fan”

  1. I do like income reports because they are a source for inspiration that someone else has gotten there so I can too. That said I always take them with a grain of salt. I trust the bloggers I read but if I found out it was faked it wouldn’t change much for me. I’m still going for it.

    • Sunil says:

      I think many of us are in the same position where we give the benefit of the doubt, until proven otherwise. which top 2 blog’s you’d say do the best job at income reports? why do you enjoy those particular ones over all else? most importantly, how does one build that trust factor in you (the reader)?

  2. I’ve been doing income reports quarterly as part of my $3k challenge. But nobody could accuse me of exaggerating the pittance I’ve been making!
    A lot of the income reports I’ve seen posted seem unbelievable but they come groom people who otherwise seem completely trustworthy and with convincing proof, so I’m forced to conclude that I’m simply really bad at this stuff instead of it being difficult do earn those sums of money.

  3. Great post, Sunil, and I agree with much of what you said. For me, it’s just a case where the positives (of disclosing income) outweigh the negatives by a fair amount.

    On the positive side, there’s inspiration, motivation, and insight into “what works” (or doesn’t). On the negative side..the only real thorn is the possibility that the income report is inaccurate. We, as the readers, don’t stand to lose much if the reports are faked, but the blogger who is falsifying these reports has EVERYTHING to lose (credibility and respect).

    Now, when you start getting into bloggers who recommend products that don’t work or strategies that are not effective, that’s when the readers can be hurt. This can been loosely related to false income reports, but I think it’s an issue that still stands on its own, independent of the income reports.

    To preemptively answer your question, the top two blogs on my list are Smart Passive Income (I will be shocked if this isn’t on EVERYONE’s list) and AdSense Flippers. The reason is pretty simple – motivation for me, and proof of what can be done. You can trace these bloggers back to when they weren’t earning much, and see the growth over time (and more importantly, what led to that growth). It’s valuable information, even if it’s very difficult to reproduce.

    One way to build trust with readers is by using screenshots to show “real” proof (as you have suggested), but the other way is to simply be genuine in everything you do. Sure, Pat could be lying about his income, in theory, considering we haven’t physically seen his bank account change each month, but he carries himself in such a way that leads you to truly believe in him. He allows you to get to know HIM as a person (I bet you most people know that he just had a new baby), which goes a long way toward eliminating any doubt in what he reports.

    The bloggers who lie about their income ultimately only hurt themselves – that’s enough for me to be OK with income reports in general.

  4. Hey Sunil,

    Obviously, no matter what you do – unless you give all your readers your bank account login information, there is no way to 100% prove you’re telling the truth. However, despite that flaw I am a big fan of income reports. I get super inspired when I read about what Pat makes every month and what he’s doing to continuously improve his income. He’s the inspiration for publishing the income reports I do on my blog as well although mine are quite a bit smaller than his 😉 However, hopefully as time goes on people will be able to see how I progressed through these income reports and realize that yes, THEY can do it too.

    Definitely an interesting discussion however in the long run I think (honest) income reports are better than no income reports :)


  5. Surminga says:

    Income reports are a great source of inspiration to bloggers new and old. They offer an insight into what different bloggers do differently and how they generate their income and from what traffic sources they require. For me income reports can be a bit exaggerated or out of proportion but they are all great regardless.

  6. Hi Sunil
    I strongly agree with Eric, not withstanding that those reports might be fake, but i only see them as inspiration to keep trying my best knowing that after all, money can be made online.

    I trust Pat for his transparency, and other people i like their style apart from you are Matt Wolfe and Ana Hoffman. It motivate me whenever i read those reports.


  7. Eddie Gear says:

    Oh that is such a low thing to do. I guess that would destroy his reputation forever. Thanks for the sharing this information with your readers Sunil. This only goes to show that we cant really trust these online bloggers who talk about making money online. As their income reports are just as good as false if they don’t show proof of income.

    I wonder what Patt had to say about the video you posted.

  8. Michal says:

    I’m relatively new to the game and for me it makes absolutely no sense revealing how much I make online at this stage (or ever, most probably) or even tracking with bookkeeping precision every single dollar pouring in. It simply devalues my effort and puts something great that is happening online for me and for you (an explosion of entrepreneurship) in cold monetary terms. I’m here not to wring out a dollar or two – I’m here to transform my life (possibly other people’s too) and be part of a fantastic community.

    While inspirational at first, I now practically skip or merely glance over new income reports. In fact, I never look at Pat Flynn’s or even yours Sunil, because I know you have running, stable businesses and a thousand up or down is hardly any news now. I do feel a bit more curious about the newbies (like the Mobile App Tycoon) who are only just starting. I might be able to see them take off one month or another (fingers crossed, guys!).

    So I’d say I’m so much more interested in methodologies, models and systems people use at different stages of their online business that I pretty much ignore income reports. I keep my eye out for something I can take and think laterally to apply in my environment, not necessarily duplicating the model or competing for the same eyeballs and credit cards.

  9. Eddie, don’t take this video in bad faith. Tyrone already apologized that is all we need moreover if he does not, who can know if he’s really speaking the truth or not?

    Sunil, nice video, i know you earn a lot in your internet business so it is kinda not good for you to post all the report.


  10. Vedran says:

    Hey Sunil, very interesting post and more open energy I felt in your writing here.

    On subject of income reports I believe in Pat’s IR’s because of energy. In all others I sense falseness. I do not judge by this but I feel as someone told all the people in making money online niche that publicly showing income reports will propel them somewhere where someone like Pat is. This is an illusion and income reports I see are an illusions. Copying someone is energy depleting and people can feel it, if not consciously then unconsciously.

    I’m not in “making money online” sphere of writing but I read income reports here and there to find something for me. And I find that something only in Pat’s reports. Why, because Pat sincerely says what he learned. That’s the point.

    If I wanted to give advice to anyone I would say two things:
    1. be original no matter how stupid it may seem
    2. live in now, don’t bother yourself with past or over-think the future


    • Sunil says:

      good feedback Vedran. I am surprised you haven’t written a book on Philosophy yet!

      • Vedran says:

        hehe, you are the 3rd person that told me that this week. I’m in the process of writing :)

        I did write the first draft of the book but I wasn’t satisfied with it or closer to say I wasn’t satisfied with energy it transmitted so I rewrote some chapters and added more details. That’s why I mentioned the energy of your writing 😉

  11. I like reading income report but I you need to trust the person you read. I agree that some of them may be fishy but I’m more interested in knowing how they make their money than simply looking at their money.

    If someone says he made $10,000 last month, I don’t find it much interesting. But if he adds that he made $10K with three main affiliate where he used his newsletter or reviews.

    I would definitely follow your income report thought :-)

  12. Refreshing article Sunil. I actually don’t take much notice of the figures people make (supposedly make). For me personally, as an online marketer, I have a very clear understanding that what others make online is completely irrelevant to my circumstances and I don’t derive any inspiration or otherwise from reading everyone’s income reports. I mean, if one person makes a bucket load in niche websites whilst the next makes nothing, it’s only proved what i already know and that is “if it’s mean to be it’s up to me”. What I definitely do read them for though is to get a feel for HOW people are making money. There are so many ways to make money online and it’s good to get a feel for that.

  13. Sunil, the only thing that can add more life to it is if they can actually show us the screen shots of the check they got just as you normally do.

    But i believe that anyone lying with such a thing just to get traffic is killing himself and business.


  14. I love income reports and always look forward to the beginning of the month when so many bloggers publish their income reports for the previous month.

    Take them with a grain of salt? Yes. I fully understand that they very well could be lying. Depending on the context of the blog, I wonder what they have to gain by lying. Unless they are selling some kind of get-rich-quick e-book or something and trying to use their income as proof. We are all skeptical of people/sites like that anyway. On a blog like yours Sunil, or Pat Flynn’s, or Adsense Flippers – it makes total sense to publish income reports because you are showing others what works and what doesn’t for earning income online. Beginners like me need to see the potential. It is very motivating to look at others income reports.

  15. Ruth P says:

    This is an excellent post and I definitely agree with your reasoning. Also, although I think income reports are inspiring, I tend to get more motivated when I hear about the quality of life that someone’s business is bringing for them, rather than money. On their own, figures don’t mean anything. Someone could be very happy on very little because they’re outsourcing everything and living their dreams. On the other hand, someone could be earning thousands and thousands a month but so busy on their business that they have no time to enjoy themselves.

    I also agree that there is a pressure on people posting the reports to keep up a certain level of income. Even if they’re happy and have everything they need, their reports may not seem AMAZING. This was definitely the case when I reported my income – I was just a small time affiliate marketer so it’s not quite the same, but I definitely see how it can do harm.

    • Sunil says:

      unique perspective Ruth – thank you. for me it’s about working on things I enjoy working on and increasing the “comfortability” factor – along the lines of your comments. why did you stop if you don’t mind sharing?

  16. Jim Juris says:

    Sunil, I think that I would prefer to see an income report rather than a photograph of an expensive house with a new sports car and a boat in the driveway.

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