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MBP #11: How Matt Jabs took 9 posts and created a DIYNatural empire

matt-betsy-jabs-diynatural-finalWhen you have a passion, sometimes it shines through. Matt Jabs’ first blog chronicled his journey in getting debt free. As he was writing that, some of his most popular posts involved him making natural home products, like homemade detergents and soaps, because that’s what he was interested in.

As luck would have it, he pulled those posts off DFA, put them on DIY Natural, and that became the genesis of an insanely popular blog about living naturally and building a sustainable lifestyle. Debt Free Adventure has now taken a back seat, since they are debt free, to the idea of sustainable living and it’s amazing what they’ve been able to accomplish.

It bears mentioning that Betsy Jabs, Matt’s wife, plays a huge role in DIYNatural’s success as well but since this chat was only with Matt, we seem to only give credit to him. I want to make sure it’s clear that it’s not a one person effort.

(by the way, he mentions his first website ever… ejabs.com, which is now owned by a domain squatter and available for a modest $8,500!)

If Matt sounds familiar, it’s because he shared with us a fantastic self-funding giveaway strategy that has yielded him tons of social media fans and followers but affiliate revenue as well.

Did I mention they have 62,000+ subscribers???

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Matt got into blogging with Debt Free Adventure, before DIY Natural
  • How Matt and Betsy started DIY Natural from nine posts from Debt Free Adventure
  • How going full-time changes your entire mindset (and is also really really scary)
  • Why everyone needs to take a 7th year “sabbatical”
  • Why they self-published a book (and how they chose the subject and what to focus on)
  • How DIY Natural bucked the trend of niching down and found success in spite of it
  • How they transcend division (religions, politics, etc.) in search of sustainability
  • How Debt Free Adventure taught him a lot towards making DIY Natural a success
  • How they make money via Adsense, Affiliates, and their own ebooks
  • Where they get the most sales of their books (and some marketing tips)
  • How listening to their readers, and printing their book, increased earnings
  • DIYNatural’s email strategy (including how they capture subscribers) and how it works for them – and learn about the one simple change they made that increase subscribers from 25 a day to 250 a day
  • How relationships are more important than a single transaction
  • Why the “why” of what they do is so important to them

Did you learn something you can use in your business? Inspired by Matt’s story? If so, please help me in letting Matt and the world know! click to tweet @diynatural how awesome they are!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

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Raw Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to the MicroBlogger podcast. If you’re looking to
build a business you can be proud of you’re in the right place. Here’s
your host Jim Wang.

Jim Wang: Hi, everybody. Today’s chat is with Matt Jabs, who currently
runs DIY Natural. I actually knew him back when he was writing Debt Free
Adventure when he was chronicling how he was getting out of debt. Along
the way what happened was he started writing post about things he was
interested in, things like how to make homemade laundry detergent. They
were very much the DIY natural sort of recipes and things like that and he
found that those were more popular than his finance writing. What happened
was, he decided that he’d take those nine posts and build an entire blog,
the thing that he now focuses on with Betsy his wife, because he’s actually
out of debt so he could no longer keep writing a Debt Free Adventure.

He’s had great success. At the time that we recorded it he had over
62,000 subscribers. It’s a little lower now because I after we talked he
started to cull his list of people that weren’t responding as well.
Anyway, he’s a force to be reckoned with. I’m so happy for his success.
You’re going to hear all about what he did to build and grow the site,
learning how to make money, and the strategies of publishing an e-book and
how they turned their guests into guinea pigs.

Now, for the show notes for this episode you can find them at
Microblogger.com/11, that’s the number eleven. You can subscribe, load up
iTune and Stitcher to leave a rating or revue. I would really thank you if
you could do that. You can also tweet a thank you to Matt for sharing the
experience.

All right, on to the show.

Jim Wang: Hi, Matt how’s it going?

Matt Jabs: Good. Hi, Jim.

Jim: You got your start in blogging with Debt Free Adventure, that’s how
we know each other, and it’s a blog where you share your experience getting
out of debt. While it did well, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that
it pales in comparison with DIYNatural.com, which when I looked this
morning you had over 62,000 subscribers. Before we get into how you were
able to make DIY Natural, you and your wife Betsy were able to make it so
successful, can you go into a little bit of your origin story, how you got
involved with blogging and then DIY Natural?

Jim: Yeah, and you’re right, Debt Free Adventure definitely was my start,
DIY Natural is what we kind of naturally moved into and it is much more
successful. I think it’s because with finances I’m not a financial expert
so basically I was trying to get a handle on my money and get out of debt.
Once I kind of did that and wrote about I basically felt like I had said
everything that I could say as far as my experience and my knowledge, so I
had naturally started to move on to these other projects and that natural
living and all the things we do with DIY Natural and it’s just more in line
with my passions. So the finance thing was more something that we did just
for a spell, for a season in our lives, whereas the information that we
create with DIY Natural is more in line with our passion, the term stuff
that we look to do for the rest of our lives.

But getting started in blogging that’s really interesting because it
was always a passion of mine just to create information to help people in
things where I saw I could be helpful and I saw a need. So, way back in
the day I started one in technology because I was working as an IT manager.
That was great, but I quickly discovered that technology wasn’t my passion
it was my job. That was probably in 2005 or 2006, it was a website called
Ejabs, my last name is Jabs, so I just put the E in front of it, like
email.

Jim: Great name.

Matt: I wanted it to be a short kind of thing. But that’s kind of where I
got my start. That’s how I started to learn about blogging and websites,
and stuff like that, and started to learn that I can make some income with
this. I quickly discovered all the great personal finance websites out
there like Bargaineering, and Get Rich Slowly, and all of those and I
thought I need this because one other thing that happened was I realized
that I was very unhappy in my job and in my line of work, and I needed
something different. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I knew that I
wasn’t being responsible with my money. I realized that because I wasn’t
being responsible with my money I kept having to work this job that I
didn’t like and spend all my time making this money and then I was just
irresponsible with it, so it was just this bad cycle. So I thought, “Okay,
I can definitely stop this cycle if I can gain control of my finances and
pay off all my debt and if I don’t have any debt I don’t have to make that
much money, so I can maybe start a business and bootstrap it and start slow
kind of thing.”

Jim: How long did you do Debt Free Adventure before moving to DIY Natural?

Matt: They kind of blended together. Debt Free Adventure was started on
January 1st, 2009, so that was five years ago. It is still going, I don’t
publish any new information on it, because like I said, I kind of have said
everything that would like to say in that realm, but DIY Natural was
created actually from nine blog posts that I’d originally wrote on Debt
Free Adventure. With Debt Free Adventure I was writing a lot about saving,
paying off debt, those types of things. Then I started to write more about
cutting costs, like how can you cut costs, so I started making my own
cleaners, because I also had this passion for getting the chemicals out of
my house and the cleaners, and all this stuff.

You go to the health food store and you get a natural laundry
detergent and it’s $24 for a half gallon, it’s just ridiculous, so I knew
that wasn’t my path. So, I’m like, “How hard can this be?” I’m kind of a
DIY guy. I like to figure things out and do it myself, so I made this
laundry detergent, it was the project that I made. I quickly realized that
it worked very well. I was simple and it was much, much less expensive
than even the commercial chemical type laundry detergents in the store, so
I wrote about that. Then I wrote about making your own dishwasher
detergent and I wrote about shampoo, and all together it was nine posts. I
started to see after tracking in Google Analytics I started to see all of
the key words that I was hitting were “homemade detergents”, “homemade
laundry detergents”, “homemade this”, “homemade shampoo.” It started to
dominate everything and all my financial posts that I was trying to lift up
search engine optimization and things like that, because those key words in
finance paid a lot better than these homemade cleaner type things. I
thought, “Okay, I’ve got to separate these two.”

Then I created DIY Natural. I did a lot of thinking about what I
wanted the domain to be. I made the mistake with Debt Free Adventure of
making the domain too long, so I always like to keep them as short as
possible, so DIY Natural kind of embodied what I was looking to do.

Jim: I remember there was a stretch when you had the laundry detergent, I
guess you wrote an e-book.

Matt: Yeah.

Jim: Was that before DIY Natural or with that in conjunction with it?

Matt: No, that was after. Actually I started Debt Free Adventure January
1st, 2009. Then it was in late April 2009 that I create DIY Natural, so it
was only four months later. I just created it just to move those posts off
of Debt Free Adventure. Then I just let DIY Natural sit there for, like, a
year.

Then coming into 2010 around the same time, like April, I kept an eye
on my analytics. I had written 300 articles or so for Debt Free Adventure.
I was trying to publish one every day. I was doing tons of research about
investing. I started to do all this research into insurances and all the
things that you get into when you talk about personal finances. Well, I
wasn’t really an expert in any way shape or form in those and I didn’t
really have a passion for it and a lot of it started to be not related to
what I was doing in my own life. So I had to start doing all this research
into this dry information that I didn’t really care about. At the same
time I noticed in my analytics that these nine articles on DIY Natural were
taking off and because of these nine articles I had more traffic going to
DIY Natural than I did Debt Free Adventure and it was just sitting there.

Jim: You didn’t do any sort of promotion?

Matt: Nothing, zero. It’s just Google started sending traffic my way with
the keywords. So I said, “Okay, this is the direction I need to go. This
is where my passion lies anyway. It’s time, I’m done with finance. I’ve
got all my stuff in order, really. I don’t enjoy doing all the research
about stuff that’s not pertinent to my life just to send it to other
folks.” I didn’t feel great about that either, because it wasn’t a lot of
the stuff that I had been through.

Jim: Here you have DIY Natural, which you’re excited about and you’re
doing no promotion for, and it’s killing it.

Matt: Right, so I’m like, “Okay, let’s start writing some more articles.
Let’s start figuring this out.” Because with personal finance it was pretty
well established how you can earn money with a personal finance website.
With DIY Natural it really wasn’t, it was new back then. You see a lot
more websites like mommy blogger type websites. They hit of some of the
information that we hit on. Then also, the real food people hit on some of
the information that we hit on. They’re not exactly like us, but I think
that’s why we do well too, is we’re a little bit different.

But we started to focus on it and then I was able to quit my job
because Debt Free Adventure was earning me enough money at that point, that
was after two years of fulltime on this website. I was basically working
two fulltime jobs, my actual job and then getting these websites going.
Betsy and I always say for about 16 months I averaged about three hours of
sleep a night, maybe, on average. There were a lot nights where I didn’t
go to bed. She would go to bed, like, around 10:30 pm. We’d come home, we
spend time together, she’d go to bed at 10:30 and then I would just stay
up. I would write, and research, and do all that stuff. A lot time it
would get to be 7:00 and I’d be like, “Well, I’m going to take a shower and
get dressed and go to work.” I’d never bed. At other times I got one hour
of sleep, at other times I got four. Very seldom did I get over six.

Jim: That’s crazy.

Matt: That was for like 16 months straight. I was really working hard to
leave the job that I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anymore and get into
this online information creation that I felt more passionate about and
running my own business. Plus, there’s no ceiling. When you run your own
business there’s no ceiling on how much money you can make. Nobody’s
telling me, “You’re going to make this much and get these benefits.” I can
make as much as I want based on the hard work that I put into it, so that
was really attractive to me. I was finally able to quit at the end of
2010.

Then a couple of months into 2011 I started talking to Betsy about
it, because now that I was focusing entirely on my websites and I was
really started to focus on DIY Natural the money started coming in even
quicker and even more. I mean, it’s not rocket science. If you’re doing
something on the side–

Jim: Oh yeah, you can think more strategically about it. As I’ve always
believed, your first hour of work is better than your, in your case, 12th
or 15th hour.

Matt: Right. A lot of people are scared by that step to quit that job,
because my income wasn’t completely replaced. I had probably replaced
about 75% of it, but it wasn’t sure income. It was a little bit different,
it varies every month, so it was scary. I had a college education that I’d
paid for and I’m still paying for. I got the degree and now I have 11 years
experience. I’d moved my way up from computer technician all the way up to
IT director and IT manager, and those things, and I’m going to quit that to
run websites. It was really scary, but I knew it was the right thing to do
and I had faith that it was what I was supposed to do. It went well, as
soon as I did it things started to go really well.

Then we started to more than replace my income and we started to talk
about replacing Betsy’s income. She wasn’t happy in the work that was
doing at the time. She had a graduate degree and at that point she was in
here ninth year of professional work. I think that’s why people do
sabbaticals every seventh year, because if you work more than seven full
years in a fulltime job I think people get burnt out. I think that people
should work six years and take a year off every single seventh year.
There’s something about that seventh year it just turns to burnout and
every year after that it just gets tough. But she was in her ninth year
and we started to replace her income with it, so I started talking to her
coming on and helping me with DIY Natural. Well, she ended up quitting at
the end of that ninth year.

Then we committed to writing the homemade cleaners E-book, so we
said, “We’re putting a deadline on it.” And it was two months out, about a
month and a half actually and we were just going to compile of the
information that we had been creating, put a little bit more into it,
formatted it into a book, learn how to self publish a book. Well actually
we started it just as a PDF, so we were just selling it as an E-book. It
did so well after we released it for sale and everybody wanted a hardcopy
so that they could have it in their hands and make notes, and everything.
So then, just in time for Christmas, we went through the process of just
learning how to get the self published print book out there. That was a
good marketing move.

Jim: Why did you think to write an E-book?

Matt: Because I saw the need for a book that was all about homemade
cleaners. At the time a lot of the recipes for homemade products and stuff
were really expensive and they were really involved like, “Get these 15
ingredients like shea butter, and cocoa butter, and these essential oils,
and get arrow root powder,” all of these things that most people don’t have
any of those in their home. So we always tried to make it simple, makes
sure it works, and make sure it’s less expensive than a commercial chemical
alternative at the store. I think that that was what helped us be so
successful. I saw the need in the market for it, so I wanted to create it
because I didn’t see anything else out there that was as solid. All the
books at the time had not cost savings breakdown. I’d look at the recipe
and I’m like, “That homemade deodorant that you just showed me how to make
is probably going to cost me about $14 per stick.” You go to the store and
you buy a thing of deodorant for $3.

Jim: I do remember that your recipes they would always include a price
savings. It’s good to avoid the chemicals, but for a lot of people it’s a
financial decision too, so if you’re able to say you save a ton of money
doing it this way and you avoid the chemicals it’s a win-win.

Matt: Especially at the time when we were creating the information, because
it was just after the housing market crashed and so many people were losing
so much and so many people were looking to save money. At the same time it
was converging with all of these neurological disorders like autism and
ADHD, and all of that stuff. People started to wake up to maybe all these
chemicals that we’re using constantly all day long in all of our cleaners,
in all of our soaps, in all of our shampoos, and lotions, and air
fresheners. Think about air freshener, it’s continually pushing out
chemical scents into your home.

Jim: You’re right. Most people don’t realize that and my wife is actually
allergic to whatever chemical they use for lemon scent. It gives her
migraines.

You’re going to love this story. We were once on a flight back–the
only time we’ve been on a flight back from China and we have our infant son
who’s already difficult on a 15 hour flight. They had lemon scented air
fresheners in the bathrooms and she couldn’t help me because she had
migraines because of the lemon scent. Until I realized what it was,
because I couldn’t really smell them, but she could smell the chemicals.
She couldn’t actively smell lemon, but the chemicals were affecting her.
That’s scary stuff.

Matt: It is very scary. When I got started in this I used to see people
who were really crunchy type people they’d be like, “Oh, your perfume is so
offensive to me.” I’d be like, “Give me a break! It’s not that bad.” But
then we started to cut all of these, because a lot of the worst chemicals
are the fragrances, so we started to make more and more, and then
eventually all of our own cleaners. Then we got into air fresheners, and
beauty products, and all that kind of stuff and we basically make
everything now and it’s all scented naturally with either herbs or
essential oils. All essential oils are is basically like a really
condensed version the properties of that plant, whether they’re medicinal
or whether they’re fragrance, or whatever. So we started to replace all
that stuff with that. Then I’m telling you, I can’t walk through a
department store through the bath and body works, the Yankee Candle
company, I can’t breathe. I literally have to hold my breath when I walk
by them, because like your wife, now I’ve cleared my understanding and the
scent of what all this stuff is and when I walk by and smell it, all I
smell it this horrible offensive smell. I have to plug my nose and hurry
up and get by it.

Then I’ll go into bathrooms and now they have those air fresheners
that sit up on a shelf and it’s this teardrop shaped thing. In every 30
seconds you’ll see it mist out something, it’s on a timer. I’ll be in
there and I’ll be holding my breath, because what a lot of those chemical
fragrances do it they actually deaden your sense of smell. They coat your
nasal passage and they mess with your sense of smell. When you start to
get away from all that stuff you will not believe how offensive all those
chemical orders are. Betsy and I don’t wear perfume anymore. We’re
starting to look into making our own brands of cologne and perfume with
essential oils and stuff, but it’s pretty amazing. It was something that I
learned through this, when I first saw people doing it I was like, “It
isn’t that bad.” But, like your wife, it really can be that bad.

So yeah, saving money , getting the chemicals out, all of those
things were converging with what was happening in the world, too, and I
think that helped with the trajectory of our success with DIY Natural.
Also, it’s something that we’re so passionate about.

Jim: One of the things that I always like to do whenever I’m thinking
about a business is I like to look for parallels, other businesses that are
doing similar things. In your particular case you seem to be at an
intersection of a lot of other niches. Like you said before, like mom
blogs, real food. I was thinking of homesteading, making your own stuff,
whatever it is.

Matt: For sure, you’re right.

Jim: Then you have the, like you mentioned, like the crunchy, the tree
hugger. I think some people think tree hugging as a term is disparaging,
but the very green, I want to have a low impact live off the grid type.
You seem to be at the intersection of all of that. It doesn’t sound that
was by design, but it seems to be like the perfect place to be, because you
can cover all these different areas.

Matt: Yeah, and when you’re trying to start a blog there’s this big
discussion about, “Should you be really specific? Should you be really
broad?” The general consensus in the beginning it was more to broad, but in
the last couple of years it’s been really be specific. But you’re right,
we weren’t as specific and we kind of hit on three or four big topics, but
the beauty of it is, and the way I see it, is that most of these people are
completely separate from each other. Like, they have a real food website
and they’re really passionate about that real food, but they don’t
necessarily go into the other parts.

Jim: Like cleaning products.

Matt: Yeah. Some of them start to dabble in it, but they really focus on
that. Then the homesteaders are really, “We’re going to be off the grid.
We’re going to do all this stuff.” Then the mommy bloggers are trying to
start a business at home. They’re trying to get some extra income.
They’re trying to raise their kids in a natural way, and all that stuff.
But what I see more is how all of these people–One of my favorite ways to
explain it is, born again Christians versus the stereotype for a tree
hugger. So you’d think just by saying those two things that those two
people are diametrically opposed because the one is usually seen as very
liberal, “Oh, we’re going to save the earth.” And the born again Christian
is more the stuffy guy in a suit. But what I see is they have so much in
common because the Bible talks about being a responsible steward of
everything, not just your finances. Usually if you ask a born again
Christian, “What is stewardship?” They’ll say, “Being responsible with your
money.” And it’s so much more than that.

The tree huggers and the hippie types and stuff, they had it down on
so many fronts. The Christians a lot of times will have the finance part
more down, but I see it being so similar and I love our community. I love
our readership, because we’ll get people who are like vegan, Obama, they
have dreadlocks, and tattoos.

Jim: Socially liberal.

Matt: Yeah, all that stuff. They’re like, “Oh, I just love your
information.” Then I’ll have another person who comes on, they’re born
again Baptists, all the women wear skirts down to their ankles and they’re
homeschooling all their kids. With the same exact article they’re like,
“Oh, I love this information.” So I’m trying to like grab both of their
hands and pull them in and try to make them hold each other’s hand and say,
“I don’t want you guys to all sing Kumbeya and act like you’re exactly the
same or anything, but I want you to understand that–

Jim: “You shouldn’t be buying Yankee Candles.”

[laughter]

Matt: All of this is, we can learn from each other, basically. I don’t
want everybody to agree on every single thing, but instead of being so
standoffish towards each other because they’re like this or they’re like
that, why don’t you just look at that person and learn from what they’re
doing and what they’re good at, because it’s a great source of knowledge.
It helps you to love that person too despite that maybe you don’t agree
with their political views or whatever, but you can come together on these
issues.

I love that. I love bring people together and helping all of us learn
from each other. That’s why in our comment policy it’s says, “Be nice.” Be
nice and foster a good spirit of education, because you might have been
doing all these projects for 15 years and this person comes in here and
they don’t seem to know anything. You can go in and say, “No, that’s
wrong.” But you have to kind of bring them together. It’s like a baby, you
have to nurture that person as they’re beginning into this, so that’s one
of the things I love about it is that we can kind of bridge these gaps with
different types of people and stuff. I think that’s one of the other
reasons that we’ve been successful with this particular niche.

Jim: Yeah, I was going to ask you about your success and how so quickly
you were able to grow. Part of it seems to be a bit of luck in timing,
right? Writing those nine articles that did well and the deciding to go
DIYNatural.com and not doing anything for a year and it’s still growing.
Where things that you learned with Debt Free Adventure that you were then
able to directly apply to DIY Natural later on?

Matt: Absolutely, especially with the writing the style.

Jim: How so?

Matt: Well, anybody who writes for a number of years always goes back to
their articles from years ago and go, “Oh my word, I wrote this? This is
horrible.” But the writing style–Nickel the original author and creator of
FiveCentNickel.com, which is a personal finance blog, I started doing some
staff writing for him back in the day when I was trying to gain exposure
for Debt Free Adventure. He was really good at writing succinct articles
that were just no fluff. They were 400 or 500 words, but they said exactly
what he was trying to say in a very succinct way that was just beautiful.
When he would edit my articles that I’d sent to him, he’d be like, “Okay,
look here.” So he bought me Elements of Style, which is a writing book on
punctuation. Basically the whole gist of it is, use as few words as
possible to say what you’re trying to say, otherwise you’re going to
confuse people. So that was one of the big things. It was just the
experience of writing and kind of trimming down and being more clear about
what I’m trying to say. That helped a ton, because the writing I think on
DIY Natural it helped it to be much more solid from the get go.

Also, just the monetization, understanding search engine
optimization, and key words, and having done all those long nights of
research for those things. You can’t necessarily expect your venture into
a new thing to be successful, but you can be is hopeful that you will learn
and you’ll gain the building blocks for what you need for maybe something
in the future that you don’t even see or don’t even realize is going to
happen, just like what happened with us with DIY Natural.

Jim: You brought up monetization, what are the main ways that you monetize
DIY Natural?

Matt: That was actually the main reason that I stood away from DIY Natural
for so long and just let it sit there and sit there, because it thought,
“You can’t monetize the key words of “homemade laundry detergent.” There’s
just no way to monetize that.” Well, it was just because it really hadn’t
been done that well yet. Also, I just hadn’t done it before. I didn’t give
it enough thought, I wasn’t working on it hard enough.

Jim: You also had Debt Free Adventure, which was doing well and that was
clear that how you monetize that is through AdSense and then affiliate
stuff for credit cards, banks, things like that.

Matt: Right. I always kept AdSense off of the DIY Natural even well into
2010. The reason I did that was because I felt like because I was using
the same AdSense account it was bringing down the average of my click
earnings for the finance stuff. I don’t know if any of that’s true.
Nobody is really clear on how Google is with their stuff, so I’m like, “I’m
just going to keep that off. I want all my keywords to be associated with
this account to be higher dollar, higher paying clicks.”

Well, eventually as DIY Natural started to more than double the
traffic of Debt Free Adventure I said, “Okay, I’ll put AdSense back on
here.” Now, AdSense is our biggest source of income.

Jim: Interesting.

Matt: AdSense on DIY Natural is our biggest source of income, so our income
sources are primarily ad revenue and then affiliate revenue for companies
that we affiliate with. Like we’ll say, “Here’s how to make this and then
you can buy this here, Amazon or whatever.” You know, affiliates.

Jim: So basically stores that will give you a commission if they buy some
ingredient that’s part of the recipe.

Matt: Exactly. Some of this stuff, yeah, you can down to your hardware of
your grocery store and get it, like baking soda, or white vinegar, or
something, but some of the other stuff like essential oils, or herbs, or
stuff like that some of it you can go out and pick in your yard. But you
know what? Some people don’t want to do that, some people just want to buy
it, “Well okay, you can buy it here.” Then we’ll make, say, 7% to 10%.
Some affiliate companies pay 15%. So we have ad revenue, we have affiliate
revenue.

Jim: Do you do much direct display advertising?

Matt: No, but the third source, just to finish this thought, is book sales,
so we now sell that homemade cleaners book in PDF format. We sell it in
print format, and we sell it across all the popular e-reader formats, so
we’re continually making money on that book through all those book sale
channels.

Jim: Which one’s been the best return of the three?

Matt: When you sell a PDF file you make 100% of the money, because the only
thing you’re paying for is the system. We use E-Junky as the online
shopping cart and that’s like $5 a month. So when we sell a PDF file for
$10 we get $10, minus $5 a month, so you make the biggest profit on a PDF.
But I would say that the highest percentage of our sales is definitely
Kindle and the print book on Amazon.

Jim: Really.

Matt: Yes.

Jim: So they do better than the PDF?

Matt: Yeah, at this point they do. Originally the PDF was definitely
number one, but after the book gained traction on Amazon, because we might
have broke 100 reviews, but in know the last time I looked a few weeks back
it was like we had 97 reviews of the book and it was four and half stars
out of five. It took a little bit of time to build up that review base and
the ratings and stuff, but once that got to be 30 to 40 reviews it just
started to sell more and more.

Jim: Was that like the tipping point, 30 to 40 reviews?

Matt: I don’t know. What do you think? When you look on Amazon for a
product you don’t want to buy something that has three reviews, it’s five
stars, but it’s only three reviews. You want it to be a good cross section
of people. I think if it has over 20 that starts to be really good. If it
has over 20 and it’s still four plus stars then I think that’s a pretty
good product. I think it’s somewhere around there.

But now it’s Amazon print book sales and Amazon Kindle. I think
that’s because of the popularity of that e-reader. A lot of people have
iPads, too, and we sell a lot of electronic books through the iBookStore,
the Apple Bookstore, but I think people who have iPads don’t necessarily
have that to read on. They have it to be an all-purpose device, whereas
people with Kindles, more of them specifically have that to read on, so I
think that’s why Amazon Kindles sales are higher than the e-book sales.

So we have those three things. We have ad revenue, we have affiliate
revenue and we have book sales.

We’re in the process of writing two more books now. Betsy’s trying
to finish up DIY Natural Body, which will be all personal care items.
Basically like the cleaners book, it’ll be how to make your own personal
products and how to make them naturally, deodorants, toothpaste, lotion.
She’s even trying mascara and shampoos, and basically everything.

It’s really funny, because when we have people over and they stay in
our spare bedroom we always tell them that shower and the refrigerator look
a lot different than most places that you’ll stay in. There’s all these
little vials and bottles of homemade concoctions that we’re testing and
trying. It’s kind of cool.

Jim: It is cool, that’s fun. You’re experimenting and then your guests
can be guinea pigs.

Matt: Yeah, and were really the guinea pigs for the most part.

Then also, I’ve been threatening to write a book about making all of
your own condiments and making them naturally, because there’s a lot of
cookbooks out there, but just like the homemade cleaners book I want it to
be something specific, and I want it to be natural, I want it to save
money, and I want it to be simple. So I’m going to write How to Make Your
Own Condiments, how to make your own hot sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup,
mustard, vinegar, all that kind of stuff. I don’t know how deep I’ll go
into it. I usually like to keep things simple so I probably won’t make my
own fish sauce or something, even though I love fish sauce. I’ll probably
just keep buying that from a good source, but maybe I will.

Jim: Have you looked at doing an affiliate program and working with other
publishers to promote these books?

Matt: Yeah, we do. We have an affiliate program for our PDF version of our
book.

Jim: How does that do?

Matt: Not real well.

Jim: Because I talked to Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom of Pinch of Yum and they
had a tasty food photography e-book and they’ve been promoting it. They’ve
had the book itself for at least a couple of years now and they’ve been
having success using affiliates. It’ hit or miss, sometimes you find
someone, you partner with them, and they sell one a month. But more
recently they partnered with someone and they were telling me that they did
really with that particular affiliate. Sometimes it’s just luck, you can’t
really predict it.

Jim: Yes, I think so. We created the affiliate program because we thought
this is another great way to market it. We can use all these other
websites that are promoting similar information that we are and it’ll be a
great way to market and it just never panned out, it never took off, so we
just focusing on getting it across more platforms. That was probably our
biggest win, was putting it as a PDF and then listening to our audience
that was saying, “I want it on my Kindle. I want this in print. I want to
hold it in my hand. Can’t you guys print this? I don’t want to print it
out and put it in a binder.” I understand all that and I said, “Okay, if
you want it, we’ll do it.” So we did the print book and then put across
all the e-reader platforms, so it available pretty much anywhere to
anybody.

So that was much more effective, at least in our experience for this
book, than doing an affiliate. Maybe I just didn’t do the affiliates
right, though. I know that you can be successful doing that too. We tried
it.

Jim: Sometimes things just don’t work, but you gave it a shot, so that’s
always a positive.

Matt: Yeah.

Jim: Can I ask you how many visitors you guys get in a month now?

Matt: Yeah. I’m in front of my computer so I can tell you. I know visits
is up above 500,000 and page views is almost at a million.

Jim: That’s great, and you have 62,000 and change email subscribers. How
are you guys approaching the email list?

Matt: That was something that in the beginning I didn’t see any value in.

Jim: How has that changed?

Matt: I’ve completely reversed my opinion on that. Having your own email
list is invaluable, because what you’re doing is you’re building a database
of a targeted consumer that’s interested in the information that you’re
publishing. So if you have a blog and you’re doing a lot of free
information and you’re just relying on ad revenue, keep doing that, keep
building your article database, but also start to build your email
subscriber list, because in six months you could have thousands of email
subscribers and they’re all very targeted to the information that you’re
publishing or else they wouldn’t have subscribed to your list. So now
you’ve got these 2000 people that you can directly market to and in any way
that you think is appropriate for that audience.

We don’t like to bombard our list with a ton of marketing material.
We like to give them a lot of free information, the stuff that they signed
up for, so we blast out all of our articles which is three a week. We
publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Jim: Do you send three emails a week?

Matt: Yes, we do. There’s two schools of thought; you should send out an
email for each article in a full article format, then there’s the other
which says you should publish a weekly digest which says, “Every Friday you
get an email from us that says here are the three articles that we
published and here’s some other stuff that’s going on.” If I had it to do
over again I would probably create two lists and I would give people the
option, but at this point we’ve built up the list full of people who wanted
the full article in the email and they wanted it every time that we
published it. So we actually switched it to a digest probably right around
when we had 40,000 or 50,000 email subscribers. We changed it because we
were doing all three articles that were published that week would be in
there, but they’d be snippets and they would have to click the link to go
over to the website, which as an online marketer you want them to click and
that and visit your article through the website, because that’s where your
ads are. In an email it’s not quite as easy to do through the email as it
is on your website, so you want them to visit your website. But the thing
is a lot of people said, “If I wanted to click through your website I
wouldn’t have subscribed I would just go to your website and read it there,
but I like these to get these full articles in my email.” So we switched it
back.

I probably should still create a digest, because it’s never really
too late, but the earlier you get started the better. My recommendation
would be create two lists and when people sign up give them the option.
Another reason I didn’t want to do that though is because I wanted to make
the sign up process as simple as possible, put your name and your email. I
don’t want you to have to answer anything else or you’re probably going to
be like, “I don’t know.”

Jim: That’s true, the more questions you ask the less likely they are to
answer.

You have 62,000, you’re doing it right.

Matt: I’m doing something right, I guess.

Jim: As with anything else it’s always the decision of where you’re going
to spend your time. Chances are you’re better off sending your working on
a DIY condiments e-book than adding in the mechanism to have people switch
between a weekly digest and a three a week.

Matt: Right.

Jim: It’s interesting though in thinking it, when you did make that change
people complained. Your right, the chances are they’re in their email and
if they were to click it just wouldn’t create as good of an experience.

Matt: They’re familiar with their email program. They’re there not on
their browser, unless they’re going through Gmail or hotmail or something
in their browser tab, but none the less it opens into a new tab, so it’s
something that takes them somewhere else and they think maybe they’re not
as safe. I don’t know, there’s a lot of different Internet users and
different levels and stuff like that.

Jim: I remember back in the day and thinking about it, whether to do
digest of full email back with Bargaineering it’s the same issue with RSS
when RSS was far more popular do to full feeds or partial feeds.
Ultimately it’s the matter of getting your good information into the hands
of your readers, whatever that may be. If they prefer to get the whole
thing then give them the whole thing. Sure it might be better to get a
couple more hits on your website, but in the end it doesn’t really matter,
I think. Because the way you’ve been doing it you have a million page
views a month, you’re doing it right. People like it and your reach is far
bigger than a million, because then you have 62,000 people that get the
emails and they don’t have to go to the site. While that’s hard to quantify
in the end, I guess you know that you have that reach.

Matt: Right. Plus, if you think about in the end as a business owner
who’s like everybody is always like, “Well, I want to work for myself.”
Well, you don’t really work for yourself ever. Yeah, I have my own
business and I run my own business, but my community they’re my boss. I
create information that I think that they want to see, because I’m
interested in it and what I’ve found is if I’m interested in it there’s
other people out there that are interested in it, so let’s get this
dialogue started. But at the same time I like to listen to them and get
their feedback and that way, rather than forcing something upon them, I’m
letting them more direct what happens. I think that they’ll just be a more
loyal subscriber base, because of that and maybe more likely to purchase
our products down the line. So maybe they won’t visit the website and
click the send or something, but maybe they’ll buy every single book that
we publish, not just for themselves but also for all their family members
and friends. You never know.

Jim: And that’s more important.

Matt: It is. I mean, what would you want?

Jim: Right.

Matt: One thing that I hate and one thing that we definitely should talk
about that I stood apart from for so long was the subscriber popup. You
and I have talked about this before, but a lot of times when you go to a
website you open it in a new tab, maybe in the background, and you don’t
even go there for a few seconds or something, or maybe you do, but either
way right away as soon as you get on that website it blackens out and
there’s this popup right in your face and maybe’s it’s the first time
you’ve been here. I know that when happens to me–I mean, it’s so
prevalent now–I click the X and just kind of go through, but it still
bothers me. I don’t like that to be my first impression on a website, but
there in saying that, there is no denying the effectiveness of that method
to gain more subscribers.

I’ll give you some numbers here I a second, but what we did to make
it less offensive in my mind–like I said, I always try to do something
that feel comfortable with, because I feel like if I want to do unto these
other folks in my community as would want done to me–so we back it down to
30 seconds. So we wait 30 seconds to pop that up, because I figure if
somebody it on my website and they’re not even going to spend 30 seconds on
it I don’t want them to subscribe. That’s not the kind of person I want.
I want somebody who’s interested in the information, so I you spend at
least 30 seconds reading through one of our articles then I’m going to
present you with that and you’ll probably be more likely to sign up,
because you are still there after 30 seconds.

Now the numbers, the reason that I finally made the decision to that
is because I tried it out and I saw that we would get about 25 a day and
then we put in the popup for the subscription we started to get like 250 a
day.

Jim: Are you kidding me?

Matt: No. It went from 25 to 250 pretty much average a day. So we get now
always over 100 subscribers every day. It’s usually between 150 and 300,
somewhere in there, usually right around 200. But it was always at 20, 25
and it went up to 200 to 250 every day.

Jim: That’s amazing.

Matt: I know, so you definitely want to do that. Anybody who’s trying to
build an email list, I definitely think that that is very important, but do
it a way that’s not offensive. My advice is just you try to do it an way
that’s less offensive to you.

Jim: Do you have a giveaway bribe?

Matt: No.

Jim: You should give that one shot.

Matt: Yeah, I should. Another thing that we’ve been threatening to do for
three years is to write a simple short free e-book as a, “Hey, signup for
our newsletter and get this free e-book on how to make five of your own
homemade products.”

Jim: Can’t you just take five articles?

Matt: We can or we can just take five recipes from our book, because our
book has 63 recipes in it. We could do that simple enough, but we’ve done
so well without doing that. I don’t know, maybe I don’t want to bribe them
with something like that, but see I know that’s effective, too.

Jim: Here’s something that I’ve tried. When I did Bargaineering I took a
post The 100 Money Saving Tips that was something that I had written and it
was long and it was pretty good, I packaged it up as an e-book. I did very
little more to it other than to add some branding, maybe like three pages,
added it on. So that obviously increased the subscription rate, but then I
made one little change which was, instead of forcing them to sign up in
order to get it I actually put a link to that PDF in the popup and said,
“You don’t have to sign up to get it, but I’d love it if you would sign
up.” That actually converted better that the other way around.

Matt: Yeah, because you’re giving people a choice. Everybody wants a
choice, they don’t want to be forced to do anything and that’s really
smart.

Jim: Yeah. Plus, it get past the whole, “I sign up, get the e-book, and
then I unsubscribe.” Which is a pain anyway.

Matt: It is, because like you said, you don’t want to build your list with
people who aren’t going to be kind of loyal. If they’re just going to
download it and then unsubscribe you don’t want those people anyway. Sure,
let them have the book if they want it. It still has your branding it.

Jim: It costs me nothing, they can pass it around and maybe catch someone
else who might be interested and will sign up.

Matt: Or who knows, maybe they’ll read through it and then afterward
they’ll be like, “You know what? He gave me this for free and he didn’t
even make me sign up. I’m going to go sign up now two weeks later, because
I like this book.”

Jim: Yeah. Well, that part’s tough to track, but we can hope and image
that that happened.

Matt: I bet it does, sometimes.

Jim: Yeah, maybe, who knows?

Matt: If I told that I did that would you believe me?

Jim: Did you?

Matt: No.

Jim: I’d believe you if you told me. If someone told that they had done
that I would believe them, but absent that I would not assume that anyone
had done that.

Matt: Yeah. But like you said, maybe they passed it on to somebody else
and then those people signed up, so it’s never bad to get your information
out there. For example, our e-book is something I can give away for free,
so is our print book, but our print book’s a little bit more difficult. I
have to purchase it and send it, and ship it to somebody. What Betsy and I
will do is we’ll order like 50 of them at a time and then we keep them out
our house so when people came we just give them away. I kind of like a
business card.

Our e-book platform that we use to sell is E-Junkie, I mentioned that
before, but they give you the opportunity to send somebody a free one just
by putting their email in. I was going to say, “Maybe I shouldn’t say this
or a ton of people will start doing it,” but I don’t care. If they have a
lot of trouble and they’re doing this and their card didn’t this, because
the download link expires after so many downloads or they couldn’t even get
it because something happened, I’m just like, “Here’s a free one, just
enjoy it. Just promise me that you’ll at least three of the recipes out of
it.” So getting your information out there even if it’s free it’s still a
good thing.

Jim: Because it’s good. They’ll see it and maybe they’ll buy the next one.
They’ll probably buy the next one if it’s good.

Matt: Right. I mean, at the end of the day we’re not all about making
money, are we? We actually believe in the information we’re publishing,
don’t we? So we want to get into as many hands as we can, right?

Jim: The relationship is more important than this one transaction.

Matt: Exactly. I don’t need your $10 right now. I’d rather you just have
it, if you don’t have the $10 I’ll just give it to you. Maybe down the
road, but I don’t even care if it comes back to me. So there’s that.

Jim: Great. Well, Matt, our time is coming to an end. If people want to
find you where would they go?

Matt: We try to hit all of the social media channels, so if they like
Facebook or Pinterest, or any of those things our tag is always DIYNatural.
You can find all that information on our website, which is DIYNatural.com.
It stands for Do It Yourself naturally, basically DIYNatural.com. They
can go there and subscribe. You’ll even see that popup window after 30
seconds, so if you’re still there you can subscribe and all that stuff.

It was good talking to you, Jim, I appreciate it.

Jim: Yeah, definitely. Thanks again. Take care.

Matt: All right.

Jim: I hope you enjoyed that chat. Matt knows what he’s doing and you’ll
learn a lot by watching what he does on DIY Natural. If you’re looking to
get rid of chemicals in your life all the recipes are great. They’re
simple, easy to follow, they have almost every product in your house. You
should check them out.

For show notes you can go to Microblogger.com/11, that’s the number
11. That’s where you can subscribe or give us a review and rating through
iTunes on a link there, as well as Stitcher. If you could take a minute to
do that I would really, really appreciate it. Thank you so, so much.

Also, underneath the player when you’re on the site there’s a link
that if you’re on Twitter you can tweet a thank you to Matt for taking the
time to speak with us and share his experiences and thoughts.

Thank you so much. If you want to reach me, tell me a joke, make fun
of me, send me a joke, whatever you want that’s all right
jim@microblogger.com. You can tweet me @wangarific.

See you next time.

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

2 responses to “MBP #11: How Matt Jabs took 9 posts and created a DIYNatural empire”

  1. I really like how they make every step sound so evolutionary. Obviously, there were big risks along the way (And when I think about the whole process it sounds pretty scary!), but each increment just sounds like the next part of a very natural progression.

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