Microblogger Interviews: Online business, blogging, entrepreneurship and wealth building https://microblogger.com Jim Wang from Microblogger interviews entrepreneurs to discover the secrets and strategies they used to build successful online businesses. Learn how to start your own business in your spare time, build a successful blog that makes a full time income, and the social and business strategies you need to take it to the next level. Jim Wang has done it before, building personal finance blog Bargaineering into a full time business that generated over half a million dollars a year in income and was eventually acquired for even more. This is a no fluff, no bs show with only the best experts in ecommerce, affiliate marketing, public relations, writing, podcasting, outsourcing, search engine optimization, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, ebooks and everything else you’ll need to know to build a business you can be proud of. Tue, 20 Dec 2016 22:02:47 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 Jim Wang from Microblogger interviews fellow entrepreneurs to discover the secrets and strategies they used to build successful online businesses. Learn how to start your own business in your spare time, build a successful blog that makes a full time income, and the social and business strategies you need to take it to the next level. Jim Wang has done it before, building personal finance blog Bargaineering into a full time business that generated over half a million dollars a year in income and was eventually acquired for even more. This is a no fluff, no bs show with only the best experts in ecommerce, affiliate marketing, public relations, writing, podcasting, outsourcing, search engine optimization, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, ebooks and everything else you'll need to know to build a business you can be proud of. Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor jimwangcmu@gmail.com jimwangcmu@gmail.com (Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor) Copyright© Microblogger.com Learn how to build a business you can be proud of Microblogger Interviews: Online business, blogging, entrepreneurship and wealth building https://microblogger.com/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/microblogger-podcast-logo.jpg https://microblogger.com Weekly MBP #38 – How to Dominate Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing with Steve Scott https://microblogger.com/mbp-38-dominate-amazon-kindle-direct-publishing-steve-scott/ Mon, 03 Nov 2014 15:03:44 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1930 https://microblogger.com/mbp-38-dominate-amazon-kindle-direct-publishing-steve-scott/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp-38-dominate-amazon-kindle-direct-publishing-steve-scott/feed/ 4 <p>Do you know that there are folks out there making five figures a month publishing books directly via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? There are and today we talk to Steve Scott, who makes anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 a month from his publishing empire and all of it is through Amazon’s KDP program. Whether you’re […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-38-dominate-amazon-kindle-direct-publishing-steve-scott/">MBP #38 – How to Dominate Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing with Steve Scott</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> steve-scott-finalDo you know that there are folks out there making five figures a month publishing books directly via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? There are and today we talk to Steve Scott, who makes anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 a month from his publishing empire and all of it is through Amazon’s KDP program.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro in publishing and internet marketing, you’ll learn something from this conversation. Steve shares some of the beginner strategies he used, such as giving away copies of the book for early reviews, to how he structures each book to drive email signups on his blog so he could continue to reach those customers. He also explains his publishing strategy to increase overall sales including ideas he’s borrowed from fiction writers, some of which will surprise you.

There is a lot of “behind the scenes” information in this one and I suggest you get a notepad.

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #38 – How to Dominate Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing with Steve Scott appeared first on Microblogger.

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Do you know that there are folks out there making five figures a month publishing books directly via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? There are and today we talk to Steve Scott, who makes anywhere from $15,000 to $60, Do you know that there are folks out there making five figures a month publishing books directly via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing? There are and today we talk to Steve Scott, who makes anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 a month from his publishing empire and all of it is through Amazon’s KDP program. Whether you’re […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #37 – Reverse Interview – Jim Wang Answers Questions from Two Blogging Veterans https://microblogger.com/mbp-37-reverse-interview-greg-go-wise-bread-rob-berger-dough-roller-grill/ Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:31:04 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1928 https://microblogger.com/mbp-37-reverse-interview-greg-go-wise-bread-rob-berger-dough-roller-grill/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-37-reverse-interview-greg-go-wise-bread-rob-berger-dough-roller-grill/feed/ 0 <p>A few weeks ago, Rob Berger, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 35, and Greg Go, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 2, suggested a “reverse interview” where they ask me some questions. Why not? We jump around on topics but we talk about my background, how I got into blogging, how it’s changed over […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-37-reverse-interview-greg-go-wise-bread-rob-berger-dough-roller-grill/">MBP #37 – Reverse Interview – Jim Wang Answers Questions from Two Blogging Veterans</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> A few weeks ago, Rob Berger, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 35, and Greg Go, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 2, suggested a “reverse interview” where they ask me some questions.

Why not?

We jump around on topics but we talk about my background, how I got into blogging, how it’s changed over the years, and then into more general business ideas such as networking.

Personally, I had a great time doing it but I want these episodes to have value to you, the listener, so please let me know what you think of the episode.

Want more? Let me know, maybe we can do a series of “Ask Me Anything” type of episodes.

Don’t want more? Let me know too!

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #37 – Reverse Interview – Jim Wang Answers Questions from Two Blogging Veterans appeared first on Microblogger.

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A few weeks ago, Rob Berger, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 35, and Greg Go, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 2, suggested a “reverse interview” where they ask me some questions. Why not? We jump around on topics but we talk about my back... A few weeks ago, Rob Berger, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 35, and Greg Go, whom I interviewed for podcast episode 2, suggested a “reverse interview” where they ask me some questions. Why not? We jump around on topics but we talk about my background, how I got into blogging, how it’s changed over […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 49:11
MBP #36 – New Business Pitfalls You MUST Avoid, with CorpNet’s Founder Nellie Akalp https://microblogger.com/mbp36-corpnet-nellie-akalp/ Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:37:24 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1922 https://microblogger.com/mbp36-corpnet-nellie-akalp/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp36-corpnet-nellie-akalp/feed/ 0 <p>Nellie Akalp is the CEO and Founder of CorpNet, a document filing service company. CorpNet is Nellie’s second document filing service business, the first of which celebrated a liquidity event back in 2005. In this episode, we talk about why Nellie re-entered the same business area, which was now a more mature and competitive market, […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp36-corpnet-nellie-akalp/">MBP #36 – New Business Pitfalls You MUST Avoid, with CorpNet’s Founder Nellie Akalp</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Nellie Akalp, CorpNetNellie Akalp is the CEO and Founder of CorpNet, a document filing service company. CorpNet is Nellie’s second document filing service business, the first of which celebrated a liquidity event back in 2005. In this episode, we talk about why Nellie re-entered the same business area, which was now a more mature and competitive market, as well as what she did in the time between the sale and the founding of CorpNet (which led her to return to her passion, helping small businesses succeed).

We continue the conversation to discuss some common issues small business owners make in starting and operating their business, including some basic steps you can take to protect your business from liability (such as trademark disputes) and other pitfalls.

Connect with Nellie Akalp on Twitter and let her know what you think of the episode!

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #36 – New Business Pitfalls You MUST Avoid, with CorpNet’s Founder Nellie Akalp appeared first on Microblogger.

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Nellie Akalp is the CEO and Founder of CorpNet, a document filing service company. CorpNet is Nellie’s second document filing service business, the first of which celebrated a liquidity event back in 2005. In this episode, Nellie Akalp is the CEO and Founder of CorpNet, a document filing service company. CorpNet is Nellie’s second document filing service business, the first of which celebrated a liquidity event back in 2005. In this episode, we talk about why Nellie re-entered the same business area, which was now a more mature and competitive market, […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 41:33
MBP #35 – Lessons Learned from 100+ Podcast Episodes, with Rob Berger https://microblogger.com/mbp-35-dough-roller/ Mon, 22 Sep 2014 04:01:57 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1913 https://microblogger.com/mbp-35-dough-roller/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-35-dough-roller/feed/ 0 <p>Rob Berger founded Dough Roller many years ago but has only been podcasting since November 2013. Despite how relatively “new” it is, he’s been prolific… releasing over a hundred episodes (including one each and every day in January). I thought he’d been podcasting for years, based on his episode count, and in terms of lessons […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-35-dough-roller/">MBP #35 – Lessons Learned from 100+ Podcast Episodes, with Rob Berger</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Rob Berger founded Dough Roller many years ago but has only been podcasting since November 2013. Despite how relatively “new” it is, he’s been prolific… releasing over a hundred episodes (including one each and every day in January). I thought he’d been podcasting for years, based on his episode count, and in terms of lessons learned, he has been doing this for a long time.

We talk about what prompted him to start a podcast, the benefits of recording and publishing a podcast, as well as lessons learned from doing over a hundred episodes… a feat very few have accomplished, including myself!

If you’ve been on the fence about it, Rob’s experiences just might push you over.

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #35 – Lessons Learned from 100+ Podcast Episodes, with Rob Berger appeared first on Microblogger.

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Rob Berger founded Dough Roller many years ago but has only been podcasting since November 2013. Despite how relatively “new” it is, he’s been prolific… releasing over a hundred episodes (including one each and every day in January). Rob Berger founded Dough Roller many years ago but has only been podcasting since November 2013. Despite how relatively “new” it is, he’s been prolific… releasing over a hundred episodes (including one each and every day in January). I thought he’d been podcasting for years, based on his episode count, and in terms of lessons […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 47:09
MBP #34 – How a Professional Hobo Works and Travels the World since 2006 https://microblogger.com/mbp-34-nora-dunn/ Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:14:48 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1908 https://microblogger.com/mbp-34-nora-dunn/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp-34-nora-dunn/feed/ 2 <p>When I started Bargaineering in 2005, the words “location independent lifestyle” had not yet been put together to mean what it does today. Lifestyle design and Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek had not yet been published (April 2007). The term digital nomad had no meaning. In 2006, Nora Dunn sold all of her stuff, including […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-34-nora-dunn/">MBP #34 – How a Professional Hobo Works and Travels the World since 2006</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> nora-dunn-professional-hobo-finalWhen I started Bargaineering in 2005, the words “location independent lifestyle” had not yet been put together to mean what it does today. Lifestyle design and Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek had not yet been published (April 2007). The term digital nomad had no meaning.

In 2006, Nora Dunn sold all of her stuff, including her business, and decided that she was meant to do something else. She was meant to travel the world and would go about designing her life so that she could do so financially sustainably.

In this podcast, we talk about how she built up a freelance writing business while traveling the world (especially the struggles of working while traveling), plus a few incredible stories along the way like a 30 day train ride from Lisbon, Spain to Saigon, Vietnam (now known as Ho Chi Minh City).

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #34 – How a Professional Hobo Works and Travels the World since 2006 appeared first on Microblogger.

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When I started Bargaineering in 2005, the words “location independent lifestyle” had not yet been put together to mean what it does today. Lifestyle design and Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek had not yet been published (April 2007). When I started Bargaineering in 2005, the words “location independent lifestyle” had not yet been put together to mean what it does today. Lifestyle design and Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek had not yet been published (April 2007). The term digital nomad had no meaning. In 2006, Nora Dunn sold all of her stuff, including […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 46:56
MBP #33: How Tom Drake Built, Bought, and Partnered His Way to a 40+ Blog Network https://microblogger.com/mbp-33-tom-drake-built-bought-partnered-way-40-blog-network/ Mon, 11 Aug 2014 04:01:43 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1890 https://microblogger.com/mbp-33-tom-drake-built-bought-partnered-way-40-blog-network/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-33-tom-drake-built-bought-partnered-way-40-blog-network/feed/ 0 <p>Many years ago, internet marketers around the world shouted this “incredible” strategy from the rooftops: “If you could build a site that made $50 a month, all you had to do was make 100 of them and you’d create yourself a nice little income.” All true. But… … rarely does a business just generate cash, […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-33-tom-drake-built-bought-partnered-way-40-blog-network/">MBP #33: How Tom Drake Built, Bought, and Partnered His Way to a 40+ Blog Network</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Tom DrakeMany years ago, internet marketers around the world shouted this “incredible” strategy from the rooftops: “If you could build a site that made $50 a month, all you had to do was make 100 of them and you’d create yourself a nice little income.”

All true. But…

… rarely does a business just generate cash, unattended, forever. Eventually the internet was littered with all of these crappy little websites that made $50 a month, then $40, then eventually zero.

Tom Drake started Canadian Finance Blog in 2009 and in the last five years, he’s taken that same basic idea but improved it.

He made sites he cared about. Sites he would tend to. And with this strategy, he would eventually build, buy, and partner his way into a portfolio of over forty websites. Some are one pagers that sell products. Some are much larger properties that generate significant income.

Learn how he did it in this episode of the Microblogger podcast.

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #33: How Tom Drake Built, Bought, and Partnered His Way to a 40+ Blog Network appeared first on Microblogger.

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Many years ago, internet marketers around the world shouted this “incredible” strategy from the rooftops: “If you could build a site that made $50 a month, all you had to do was make 100 of them and you’d create yourself a nice little income. Many years ago, internet marketers around the world shouted this “incredible” strategy from the rooftops: “If you could build a site that made $50 a month, all you had to do was make 100 of them and you’d create yourself a nice little income.” All true. But… … rarely does a business just generate cash, […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #32: Jonathan Milligan on How to Launch, Promote & Grow Membership Sites from Scratch https://microblogger.com/mbp32-jonathan-milligan-bloggingyourpassion/ Mon, 04 Aug 2014 04:01:03 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1883 https://microblogger.com/mbp32-jonathan-milligan-bloggingyourpassion/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp32-jonathan-milligan-bloggingyourpassion/feed/ 1 <p>One of the most popular ideas in all of business is known as the Lean Startup mentality. It applies to nearly everything in life, let alone business. While we never actually say the words “lean startup” during our chat, it’s a mentality that pervades everything Jonathan Milligan has done in building multiple courses and several […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp32-jonathan-milligan-bloggingyourpassion/">MBP #32: Jonathan Milligan on How to Launch, Promote & Grow Membership Sites from Scratch</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Jonathan MilliganOne of the most popular ideas in all of business is known as the Lean Startup mentality. It applies to nearly everything in life, let alone business.

While we never actually say the words “lean startup” during our chat, it’s a mentality that pervades everything Jonathan Milligan has done in building multiple courses and several membership sites. His latest, Blogging Your Passion, was borne out of a group on 48days.net, a site I didn’t even know about before Jonathan shared it with me, and eventually grew into a membership site with over 300 members (and growing!).

The approach he took in marketing and building the “University” is brilliant and we go into what he did and why I think it’s a brilliant approach.

It’s worth noting that while we say “building,” we only briefly touch on the technology behind the site. We discuss what he uses for video and office hours, but we don’t go into the hardcore technical aspects of setting up the site.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • His background as an educator and how that manifested itself in his online business
  • His first business in career coaching, which came out of his work in executive searching
  • Behind the scenes of his first membership site in career coaching
  • How he built Blogging Your Passion – from content creation to getting his first beta/charter members
  • How he adds value to the membership site, such as office hours, additional modules
  • How he gets members today
  • How he builds a sense of community within the membership
  • How he prices his courses and membership sites (and why higher is better)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #32: Jonathan Milligan on How to Launch, Promote & Grow Membership Sites from Scratch appeared first on Microblogger.

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One of the most popular ideas in all of business is known as the Lean Startup mentality. It applies to nearly everything in life, let alone business. While we never actually say the words “lean startup” during our chat, One of the most popular ideas in all of business is known as the Lean Startup mentality. It applies to nearly everything in life, let alone business. While we never actually say the words “lean startup” during our chat, it’s a mentality that pervades everything Jonathan Milligan has done in building multiple courses and several […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 52:29
MBP #31: Learn the Secrets of Million Mile Secrets with Daraius Dubash https://microblogger.com/mbp31-million-mile-secrets-daraius-dubash/ Mon, 28 Jul 2014 04:01:08 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1876 https://microblogger.com/mbp31-million-mile-secrets-daraius-dubash/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp31-million-mile-secrets-daraius-dubash/feed/ 2 <p>Daraius Dubash was working for a big Fortune 500 manufacturing company, traveling the world and accruing airline miles and hotel points, when he left to go to business school. After business school, he began working for another company but he missed all those miles and points for free travel and stays and decided to figure […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp31-million-mile-secrets-daraius-dubash/">MBP #31: Learn the Secrets of Million Mile Secrets with Daraius Dubash</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Daraius-Dubash-million-mile-secrets-finalDaraius Dubash was working for a big Fortune 500 manufacturing company, traveling the world and accruing airline miles and hotel points, when he left to go to business school. After business school, he began working for another company but he missed all those miles and points for free travel and stays and decided to figure out how it all worked (he’s accumulated FOUR MILLION miles and points).

Million Mile Secrets is the embodiment of all that learning and it’s now a business he works on full time (and has been for several years).

The tagline? “Big travel with small money.” (love it!)

Million Mile Secrets is the second largest miles and points blog and has an Alexa ranking in the mid-5,000’s. In other words, of the largest sites in the United States, it’s among the largest. At it’s peak, I think Bargaineering was in the 6,000-7,000’s, to give you a frame of reference. The site is big, it’s popular, and it supports Daraius full time for the last two years. It’s an amazing story and one I’m happy to share with you today!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why he started Million Mile Secrets (and how he financed his first car with credit cards!)
  • How he differentiated MMS from other points and mile blogs
  • The two browser trick
  • What is a mileage run (why others do it and why he never does them)
  • Why he thinks MMS has been successful (very insightful)
  • How he utilizes his email list of 16,000 subscribers
  • We talk about the difficult times of the business
  • How he’s brought on staff (where he finds writers) and the process he uses to manage them
  • The double edged sword of being an entrepreneur
  • His best million mile secret
  • The most exotic place he’s been to

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #31: Learn the Secrets of Million Mile Secrets with Daraius Dubash appeared first on Microblogger.

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Daraius Dubash was working for a big Fortune 500 manufacturing company, traveling the world and accruing airline miles and hotel points, when he left to go to business school. After business school, he began working for another company but he missed al... Daraius Dubash was working for a big Fortune 500 manufacturing company, traveling the world and accruing airline miles and hotel points, when he left to go to business school. After business school, he began working for another company but he missed all those miles and points for free travel and stays and decided to figure […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 38:26
MBP #30: How Jaden Hair Built the Steamy Kitchen Empire (then scaled it back!) https://microblogger.com/mbp30-jaden-hair-steamy-kitchen/ Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:33:16 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1839 https://microblogger.com/mbp30-jaden-hair-steamy-kitchen/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp30-jaden-hair-steamy-kitchen/feed/ 4 <p>One of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to learn quickly and learn a lot. Tim Ferriss has often said that it doesn’t take a lifetime to master something, “based on my experience and research, it is possible to become world-class in almost any skill within one year.” (link) Jaden […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp30-jaden-hair-steamy-kitchen/">MBP #30: How Jaden Hair Built the Steamy Kitchen Empire (then scaled it back!)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Jaden Hair, Steamy KitchenOne of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to learn quickly and learn a lot. Tim Ferriss has often said that it doesn’t take a lifetime to master something, “based on my experience and research, it is possible to become world-class in almost any skill within one year.” (link)

Jaden Hair is the founder of Steamy Kitchen and one of the most well known “food bloggers” out there (I put quotes because at this point because that doesn’t come close to describing everything she does!) but she didn’t start off an expert at anything she’s successfully doing today. She enjoyed cooking, she enjoyed feeding people, and when combined with her ability to learn anything quickly, she’s been able to accomplish a tremendous amount.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • The fun story behind why she started Steamy Kitchen
  • How she went from “a place to put up recipes” to a business she loves
  • How she created a dream board that would become her business plan and source of inspiration
  • How she taught at a local small culinary school
  • How she emulated her favorite TV personalities
  • The most effective social media tool (it’s not what you think!)
  • How Jaden scaled back her business to be more in line with what made her truly happy
  • Her giveaway strategy (she does a LOT of giveaways!)
  • How she gets her kids involved in her business (and a little bit about her chickens, multiple gardens)
  • She talks about Food Blog Forum and the sweet deal they got from Disney (and how they don’t take a penny in profits, they go to scholarships and making the next event better)
  • How she gets all this done! (and why she won’t do another cookbook!)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #30: How Jaden Hair Built the Steamy Kitchen Empire (then scaled it back!) appeared first on Microblogger.

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One of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to learn quickly and learn a lot. Tim Ferriss has often said that it doesn’t take a lifetime to master something, “based on my experience and research, One of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to learn quickly and learn a lot. Tim Ferriss has often said that it doesn’t take a lifetime to master something, “based on my experience and research, it is possible to become world-class in almost any skill within one year.” (link) Jaden […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 47:57
MBP #29: Chip Chinery, Life as a Stand-up Comic, Television and Commercial Actor https://microblogger.com/mbp29-chip-chinery-standup-comic-tv-star/ Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:01:20 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1838 https://microblogger.com/mbp29-chip-chinery-standup-comic-tv-star/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp29-chip-chinery-standup-comic-tv-star/feed/ 2 <p>Does that guy look familiar? Unless you haven’t watched anything on television ever in your life, you’ve seen him. He’s been in a commercial or television show you’ve watched. He’s the dumb guy. The clumsy cop. The dumb white guy who can take a punch, physically or metaphorically (all his words). Don’t believe me? Check […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp29-chip-chinery-standup-comic-tv-star/">MBP #29: Chip Chinery, Life as a Stand-up Comic, Television and Commercial Actor</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Chip Chinery, Chips Money TipsDoes that guy look familiar?

Unless you haven’t watched anything on television ever in your life, you’ve seen him. He’s been in a commercial or television show you’ve watched. He’s the dumb guy. The clumsy cop. The dumb white guy who can take a punch, physically or metaphorically (all his words).

Don’t believe me? Check out this highlight reel from 2009 (more nonsense here). It includes nearly every hit show from Friends to Seinfeld to Becker to 3rd Rock from the Sun:

Here’s something a little more current, a Ciroc commercial from 2010:

This was a fun episode, I hope you enjoy it!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Chip got into stand-up after a few years working as a cameraman and in banking
  • His first entrepreneurship venture – baseball cards (he put on his own baseball card show at 16)
  • The parallels between stand-up comedy/entertainment and entrepreneurship
  • Chip sees stand-up as being paid a pittance while you learn
  • Chip worked 52 weeks a year and took two and a half years to find his voice
  • The importance of a support structure for his career
  • His lessons learned from 3,000+ stand-up shows (8 shows/week was common)
  • His transition from stand-up to a television actor
  • How he persevered through 160+ auditions (3.5 years) without booking a commercial (and then once he did he booked 42 commercials, 25 tv shows, and a few voiceovers over the next four years)
  • How he deals with the uncertainty of being an actor
  • The value of doing the work, taking bad gigs, and of learning and perfecting your craft
  • Why he started Chip’s Money Tips, his personal finance blog

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #29: Chip Chinery, Life as a Stand-up Comic, Television and Commercial Actor appeared first on Microblogger.

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Does that guy look familiar? Unless you haven’t watched anything on television ever in your life, you’ve seen him. He’s been in a commercial or television show you’ve watched. He’s the dumb guy. The clumsy cop. The dumb white guy who can take a punch, Does that guy look familiar? Unless you haven’t watched anything on television ever in your life, you’ve seen him. He’s been in a commercial or television show you’ve watched. He’s the dumb guy. The clumsy cop. The dumb white guy who can take a punch, physically or metaphorically (all his words). Don’t believe me? Check […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 42:35
MBP #28 – How Taylor Flanery Got 125,000 Facebook Fan Page Likes in 2 Months Without Paying a Cent https://microblogger.com/mbp-28-taylor-spalding-flanery/ Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:28:48 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1826 https://microblogger.com/mbp-28-taylor-spalding-flanery/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp-28-taylor-spalding-flanery/feed/ 3 <p>Say what you will about the value of a Like on Facebook, especially with Facebook controlling how many of your followers get to see your posts, but you can’t deny that more Likes is better. Today’s episode is with Taylor Flanery, the founder of three home management sites that have an incredible reach. So incredible […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-28-taylor-spalding-flanery/">MBP #28 – How Taylor Flanery Got 125,000 Facebook Fan Page Likes in 2 Months Without Paying a Cent</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Say what you will about the value of a Like on Facebook, especially with Facebook controlling how many of your followers get to see your posts, but you can’t deny that more Likes is better.

Today’s episode is with Taylor Flanery, the founder of three home management sites that have an incredible reach. So incredible that the numbers we cite in the podcast itself are already out of date by a wide margin.

We recorded this episode about three months ago, as part of the whirlwind of recording during the launch of the podcast (I had about 30 recorded by the time we launched!), and back then I was already amazed at her numbers.

Now it’s your turn to be amazed. You’ll hear in the episode we talk about how her Facebook Fan Page for Household Management 101 grew from 16,000 Likes on January 1st to 147,000 in mid-March. It’s late June now and I just looked, the Household Management 101 Fan Page has over 391,000 Likes.

We discuss Pinterest and Facebook strategies and you will leave with plenty of notes on both.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How she was able to get 25,000 newsletter subscribers in two months for Home Storage Solutions 101 (her third site) by creating a 52 week challenge
  • How to get people to Pin your content by using custom Pin buttons so you can influence the image and the description
  • Actionable strategies on how to get more Pinterest followers, Repins, and traffic from Pinterest – including what makes a good image and the importance of text on an image (as well as what to put in that text), why stock images are OK, how to structure Pin boards, how to identify your niche’s “hot” periods of activity, and much more
  • Facebook strategies – Going from 16,000 likes to 125,000 Fan Page likes and the four factors that Facebook looks at for engagement, how to use different types of posts, creating multiple images for use on different networks, the three ways she’s getting more Likes, and why ~20,000 fans seems to be the “Suggestion” tipping point

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #28 – How Taylor Flanery Got 125,000 Facebook Fan Page Likes in 2 Months Without Paying a Cent appeared first on Microblogger.

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Say what you will about the value of a Like on Facebook, especially with Facebook controlling how many of your followers get to see your posts, but you can’t deny that more Likes is better. Today’s episode is with Taylor Flanery, Say what you will about the value of a Like on Facebook, especially with Facebook controlling how many of your followers get to see your posts, but you can’t deny that more Likes is better. Today’s episode is with Taylor Flanery, the founder of three home management sites that have an incredible reach. So incredible […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 55:52
MBP #27: How Bob Lotich Married His Faith & His Finances to 55,000+ Subscribers https://microblogger.com/mbp27-bob-lotich-christianpf/ Mon, 30 Jun 2014 04:01:41 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1825 https://microblogger.com/mbp27-bob-lotich-christianpf/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp27-bob-lotich-christianpf/feed/ 1 <p>Everyone agrees that differentiation is crucial. If you want to avoid being another face in the crowd, you have to stand out. This means you have to figure out what makes you different and showcase it to the world. Sometimes that means you’ll have to do a little, or a lot, more work. When Bob […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp27-bob-lotich-christianpf/">MBP #27: How Bob Lotich Married His Faith & His Finances to 55,000+ Subscribers</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Bob Lotich, Christian PFEveryone agrees that differentiation is crucial.

If you want to avoid being another face in the crowd, you have to stand out. This means you have to figure out what makes you different and showcase it to the world.

Sometimes that means you’ll have to do a little, or a lot, more work.

When Bob Lotich started ChristianPF, he was one of the first bloggers, certainly within the personal finance community, to put his faith front and center. You could argue that being “Christian” is very general but by simply putting it in the name of his site, he stood out.

By being “different,” it helped his blog grow… but it also came with a cost.

This was an issue that was touched on briefly in my chat with Jason Leake in MBP#8. With 100DaysofRealFood, Jason had to be diligent about what companies were advertising on a site that celebrated a life with zero processed foods. Bob was faced with the same issue and had a very clever way of solving it.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why Bob started ChristianPF.com when he was dead broke and was at his lowest (to how it evolved to what it is today)
  • The importance and value of differentiation, even if Bob didn’t approach it with that in mind
  • How that differentiation may limit your business
  • How he monitored ad networks so he didn’t show ads that were against his message
  • The premium ad networks on ChristianPF
  • How he started a financial adviser/planner directory…
  • … and how a coaching service evolved out of that.
  • Discusses the pressure of being a steward of the 55,000+ members of ChristianPF
  • How he started writing books & ebooks/Kindle books
  • How he finds staff/freelance writers that can write with the same message
  • Learn the 1st and 2nd thing he’d tell himself on Day One (they’re both really really good but his #2 is not one a lot of people talk about)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #27: How Bob Lotich Married His Faith & His Finances to 55,000+ Subscribers appeared first on Microblogger.

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Everyone agrees that differentiation is crucial. If you want to avoid being another face in the crowd, you have to stand out. This means you have to figure out what makes you different and showcase it to the world. Everyone agrees that differentiation is crucial. If you want to avoid being another face in the crowd, you have to stand out. This means you have to figure out what makes you different and showcase it to the world. Sometimes that means you’ll have to do a little, or a lot, more work. When Bob […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 40:21
MBP #26: How to Raise $962,575+ on Kickstarter with Michael Mindes https://microblogger.com/mbp26-michael-mindes-kickstarter-strategy/ Mon, 23 Jun 2014 04:01:49 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1819 https://microblogger.com/mbp26-michael-mindes-kickstarter-strategy/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp26-michael-mindes-kickstarter-strategy/feed/ 0 <p>Michael Mindes owns board game publisher Tasty Minstrel Games, publisher of hit titles such as Eminent Domain, Scoville, and Dungeon Roll. You may not have heard of some of their titles, they’re not household names like Monopoly (who actually like Monopoly?), but he’s a known quantity in the board game community. Michael has figured out […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp26-michael-mindes-kickstarter-strategy/">MBP #26: How to Raise $962,575+ on Kickstarter with Michael Mindes</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Michael MindesMichael Mindes owns board game publisher Tasty Minstrel Games, publisher of hit titles such as Eminent Domain, Scoville, and Dungeon Roll. You may not have heard of some of their titles, they’re not household names like Monopoly (who actually like Monopoly?), but he’s a known quantity in the board game community.

Michael has figured out how to market his games on Kickstarter, having run eighteen campaigns and raised nearly a million dollars across nearly twenty titles. He knows the ins and outs of Kickstarter, how it’s changed over the years, and he’s been successful all the way through.

Check out this list of Kickstarter campaigns since 2013, I think these speak for themselves:

Date Title Funded $ Funded % Backers
2/2014 This Town Aint Big Enough
for the 2-4 of Us!
$30,061 601% 4687
2/2014 Scoville $106,002 265% 2,434
1/2014 Burgoo $20,505 410% 3,607
12/2013 Coin Age $65,195 1,303% 9,055
11/2013 Templar Intrigue $17,157 343% 3,301
11/2013 Dungeon Roll – Winter Promo Pack $32,283 1,076% 6,206
10/2013 Captains of Industry $49,953 166% 676
5/2013 Belfort: The Expansion Expansion $34,101 170% 977
4/2013 Eminent Domain: Escalation $103,479 413% 2,596
3/2013 Dungeon Roll $250,070 1,667% 10,877

The grand total across these and six more (including Ground Floor for over a hundred thousand dollars) is a staggering $962,575 – not including his latest campaign for Harbor.

He knows his stuff.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How Michael Mindes uses Kickstarter to fund his board game company Tasty Minstrel Games
  • How and where to promote your Kickstarter campaign
  • When Kickstarter exclusives make sense (and when they don’t)
  • How to set your campaign goal and price your pledge tiers (keep it simple stupid)
  • How to use stretch goals to motivate your backers
  • The key to a kick ass Kickstarter video
  • The importance of good customer service and open communication
  • How often to update your backers
  • Why TMG still uses Kickstarter

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #26: How to Raise $962,575+ on Kickstarter with Michael Mindes appeared first on Microblogger.

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Michael Mindes owns board game publisher Tasty Minstrel Games, publisher of hit titles such as Eminent Domain, Scoville, and Dungeon Roll. You may not have heard of some of their titles, they’re not household names like Monopoly (who actually like Mono... Michael Mindes owns board game publisher Tasty Minstrel Games, publisher of hit titles such as Eminent Domain, Scoville, and Dungeon Roll. You may not have heard of some of their titles, they’re not household names like Monopoly (who actually like Monopoly?), but he’s a known quantity in the board game community. Michael has figured out […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 1:01:41
MBP #25: How an Everyday Nomad Travels the World Armed Only With a Laptop https://microblogger.com/mbp25-forest-parks-location-independent/ Mon, 16 Jun 2014 04:01:55 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1675 https://microblogger.com/mbp25-forest-parks-location-independent/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp25-forest-parks-location-independent/feed/ 2 <p>Location independent living is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. The basic idea is that when you earn a living online, you can live anywhere. You are location independent. It’s a romantic notion and an obviously fun one, if you like to travel and see new places, because you get to […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp25-forest-parks-location-independent/">MBP #25: How an Everyday Nomad Travels the World Armed Only With a Laptop</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Forest Parks, Everyday NomadLocation independent living is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. The basic idea is that when you earn a living online, you can live anywhere. You are location independent.

It’s a romantic notion and an obviously fun one, if you like to travel and see new places, because you get to live in a new location as a resident, rather than see it as a tourist. It’s a totally different feeling regardless of where you’re going.

Today’s guest is our first international one, we catch Forest Parks when he was living in Budapest, Hungary with his partner Lara.

This episode is one of the reasons why I love doing a podcast. I knew he’d been in Egypt for a period of time and I was even talking to him during the start of the revolution (Arab Spring), but I never put two and two together that he experienced much of it first hand. We spend much of our conversation talking about his first hand experience (he was there at the first day of protests!) and it’s absolutely amazing.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why Forest went location independent and how he “test drove” the idea in Montreal
  • How he had the courage to quit his job, sell his flat, and make the leap
  • Why he took on a minimum wage job when he first moved to Montreal
  • How he found work as a web freelancer
  • What the Arab Spring revolution was like as a foreigner in Egypt – he has some incredible stories (more here on his personal travel blog)
  • The challenges of being away from home, your family, and friends
  • How he (and Lara) chooses where they go next (or if they “settle down”)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #25: How an Everyday Nomad Travels the World Armed Only With a Laptop appeared first on Microblogger.

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Location independent living is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. The basic idea is that when you earn a living online, you can live anywhere. You are location independent. It’s a romantic notion and an obviously fun one, Location independent living is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. The basic idea is that when you earn a living online, you can live anywhere. You are location independent. It’s a romantic notion and an obviously fun one, if you like to travel and see new places, because you get to […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #24 – How to Sell $1,190,560 in Ads: Ad Negotiation Strategies with Crystal Stemberger https://microblogger.com/mbp24-crystal-stemberger/ Mon, 09 Jun 2014 04:01:26 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1760 https://microblogger.com/mbp24-crystal-stemberger/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp24-crystal-stemberger/feed/ 1 <p>Crystal Stemberger loves to negotiate. And she’s good at it. So good that she negotiates with advertisers on behalf of other bloggers (to the tune of 400+ blogs) and she’s brokered $1,190,560 in sales (as of the end of May 2014). She’s also been doing this for years so you can a little taste of […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp24-crystal-stemberger/">MBP #24 – How to Sell $1,190,560 in Ads: Ad Negotiation Strategies with Crystal Stemberger</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Crystal StembergerCrystal Stemberger loves to negotiate. And she’s good at it.

So good that she negotiates with advertisers on behalf of other bloggers (to the tune of 400+ blogs) and she’s brokered $1,190,560 in sales (as of the end of May 2014).

She’s also been doing this for years so you can a little taste of how SEO link building strategies have changed over the last few years. This is a very frank discussion about sponsored posts, how to negotiate them, the risks as well as the rewards, and how the nature of the game has changed.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Crystal started her blog and then a full-service ad brokering business
  • How she grew the ad brokering business to representing 400 sites
  • How much she charges to be the broker
  • How she finds advertisers
  • How she negotiates with advertisers
  • How to price advertisements
  • We also discuss other services she offers, like paid commenting

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #24 – How to Sell $1,190,560 in Ads: Ad Negotiation Strategies with Crystal Stemberger appeared first on Microblogger.

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Crystal Stemberger loves to negotiate. And she’s good at it. So good that she negotiates with advertisers on behalf of other bloggers (to the tune of 400+ blogs) and she’s brokered $1,190,560 in sales (as of the end of May 2014). Crystal Stemberger loves to negotiate. And she’s good at it. So good that she negotiates with advertisers on behalf of other bloggers (to the tune of 400+ blogs) and she’s brokered $1,190,560 in sales (as of the end of May 2014). She’s also been doing this for years so you can a little taste of […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 35:41
MBP #23: Agatha Kulesza on Being All Powerful, Authentic, and Fearless https://microblogger.com/mbp-23-agatha-kulesza-authentic-hurts/ Mon, 02 Jun 2014 04:01:05 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1803 https://microblogger.com/mbp-23-agatha-kulesza-authentic-hurts/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp-23-agatha-kulesza-authentic-hurts/feed/ 3 <p>Be authentic. That’s a common piece of advice most bloggers hear and read over and over again. I know I say it all the time. But what does it really mean to “be authentic?” To be true to yourself even in the face of adversity? Even when life doesn’t go your way and it seems […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-23-agatha-kulesza-authentic-hurts/">MBP #23: Agatha Kulesza on Being All Powerful, Authentic, and Fearless</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Agatha Kulesza, Hey AgathaBe authentic.

That’s a common piece of advice most bloggers hear and read over and over again. I know I say it all the time.

But what does it really mean to “be authentic?” To be true to yourself even in the face of adversity? Even when life doesn’t go your way and it seems like the world is conspiring against you?

Today’s guest has lived much of life not being authentic. She was quite successful at it too, graduating college with a degree in Accounting, followed it up by working at a public accounting firm before starting up her own. On the outside, it appeared to be extremely successful but things were different on the inside.

It wasn’t until she truly lived the mantra “be authentic” that she found happiness and fulfillment in her work.

Today’s episode is extremely powerful and as authentic as you can possibly get, to the point where it even catches me off guard… I hope you get a lot out of it.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • The story of her sweaty armpits and what that has come to symbolize in her life
  • Why authenticity is so important and empowering
  • How she was able to get to the point where she was comfortable being herself
  • Why she felt the need to conform
  • How accepting she is “all powerful” has impacted her business
  • How to stay focused on a project versus testing and experimentation
  • How she deals with failure in a healthy and productive way
  • Tools she uses to recover and learn from those failures
  • What she would tell her younger self

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. – Marianne Williamson
Click To Tweet


Full Marianne Williamson quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some dof us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #23: Agatha Kulesza on Being All Powerful, Authentic, and Fearless appeared first on Microblogger.

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Be authentic. That’s a common piece of advice most bloggers hear and read over and over again. I know I say it all the time. But what does it really mean to “be authentic?” To be true to yourself even in the face of adversity? Be authentic. That’s a common piece of advice most bloggers hear and read over and over again. I know I say it all the time. But what does it really mean to “be authentic?” To be true to yourself even in the face of adversity? Even when life doesn’t go your way and it seems […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #22: Ashley Jacobs, How to Throw a Successful #Trending Twitter Party https://microblogger.com/mbp-22-ashley-jacobs-throw-successful-twitter-party/ Mon, 26 May 2014 04:01:40 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1776 https://microblogger.com/mbp-22-ashley-jacobs-throw-successful-twitter-party/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-22-ashley-jacobs-throw-successful-twitter-party/feed/ 0 <p>Wise Bread is extremely active in the personal finance blogging community and the cornerstone of that outreach strategy has been Ashley Jacobs. She joined the Wise Bread team in 2011 as a community coordinator and her role has expanded over the years, to include all of Wise Bread’s social media efforts. One of the most […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-22-ashley-jacobs-throw-successful-twitter-party/">MBP #22: Ashley Jacobs, How to Throw a Successful #Trending Twitter Party</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Ashley Jacobs, Wise BreadWise Bread is extremely active in the personal finance blogging community and the cornerstone of that outreach strategy has been Ashley Jacobs. She joined the Wise Bread team in 2011 as a community coordinator and her role has expanded over the years, to include all of Wise Bread’s social media efforts.

One of the most visible, and successful, social media efforts she leads are Wise Bread’s weekly Tweetchats. This episode dives deep into these Tweetchats (some people call them Twitter parties) and hits on everything from how to get one off the ground, how to measure your progress, how to get people to attend, how to find sponsors, and what you can do after the Tweetchat to create unique content from the chat itself.

For those who like stats, 92% of Wise Bread’s sponsored Tweetchats make the trending list. That’s impressive.

It’s a great discussion from someone who has done a lot of Twitter parties over the years.

(This post by my friend Mike Delgado is also very very good when it comes to successful twitter chats)

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How to start a Tweetchat (and what NOT to do)
  • What makes a successful Tweetchat
  • How to promote your Tweetchat
  • How to know when your Tweetchat is trending 🙂
  • How to manage a Tweetchat as a host (tchat.io)
  • How holidays impact Tweetchats (you will be surprised)
  • How to find sponsors for your Tweetchats and how to get them coming back for more
  • The five statistics sponsors care about
  • How to create unique content from your Tweetchats (Storify)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #22: Ashley Jacobs, How to Throw a Successful #Trending Twitter Party appeared first on Microblogger.

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Wise Bread is extremely active in the personal finance blogging community and the cornerstone of that outreach strategy has been Ashley Jacobs. She joined the Wise Bread team in 2011 as a community coordinator and her role has expanded over the years, Wise Bread is extremely active in the personal finance blogging community and the cornerstone of that outreach strategy has been Ashley Jacobs. She joined the Wise Bread team in 2011 as a community coordinator and her role has expanded over the years, to include all of Wise Bread’s social media efforts. One of the most […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #21: How Lauren Greutman Gets on TV All The Time https://microblogger.com/mbp21-lauren-greutman-gets-tv-time/ Mon, 19 May 2014 04:01:00 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1774 https://microblogger.com/mbp21-lauren-greutman-gets-tv-time/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp21-lauren-greutman-gets-tv-time/feed/ 0 <p>Four years ago, Lauren Greutman started iamthatlady.com and has grown it to be a massively popular site through media appearances. In this episode, she gives a great collection of actionable strategies you can use to get more exposure for your blog through media. She got her start after keynoting a seminar and then being invited […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp21-lauren-greutman-gets-tv-time/">MBP #21: How Lauren Greutman Gets on TV All The Time</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Lauren GreutmanFour years ago, Lauren Greutman started iamthatlady.com and has grown it to be a massively popular site through media appearances. In this episode, she gives a great collection of actionable strategies you can use to get more exposure for your blog through media.

She got her start after keynoting a seminar and then being invited to a local news station. She’s parlayed that into being a back up co-host on a local morning TV show and is a regular contributor to 9 WSYR and CNY Central. She appeared in print, online, and on the Marlo Thomas show.

Here’s one of those segments:

She knows what she’s talking about!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • The story behind iamthatlady.com
  • How she got her first “big break” and how you can too
  • How to prepare for being on air
  • How to be a good guest so you get invited back again and again
  • How to build a great Media page (steal ideas from her Media page, it’s awesome)
  • How to craft the perfect pitch and build a relationship with reporters and editors
  • How to get in touch with media in your area
  • How to follow up
  • How to sharpen your brand in the eyes of key decision makers
  • The importance of Youtube, her strategy, and how it’s helped her (a professionally edited video on garage sales vs her casual most-viewed video)
  • Her experiences with publicists, how they’re paid, how they work, and where to find one.

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #21: How Lauren Greutman Gets on TV All The Time appeared first on Microblogger.

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Four years ago, Lauren Greutman started iamthatlady.com and has grown it to be a massively popular site through media appearances. In this episode, she gives a great collection of actionable strategies you can use to get more exposure for your blog thr... Four years ago, Lauren Greutman started iamthatlady.com and has grown it to be a massively popular site through media appearances. In this episode, she gives a great collection of actionable strategies you can use to get more exposure for your blog through media. She got her start after keynoting a seminar and then being invited […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #20: How Todd Tresidder Used Great Content to Build a Successful Financial Coaching Business https://microblogger.com/mbp20-todd-tresidder-financialmentor/ Wed, 14 May 2014 04:01:59 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1770 https://microblogger.com/mbp20-todd-tresidder-financialmentor/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp20-todd-tresidder-financialmentor/feed/ 0 <p>At 35, Todd Tressider sold his share of a hedge fund and decided he’d become a financial coach. He registered a domain, FinancialMentor.com, in 1998 and has, over the last 16 years, built up a very successful practice that includes five published books. What I love about Todd is that he’s always trying something new […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp20-todd-tresidder-financialmentor/">MBP #20: How Todd Tresidder Used Great Content to Build a Successful Financial Coaching Business</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Todd TressiderAt 35, Todd Tressider sold his share of a hedge fund and decided he’d become a financial coach.

He registered a domain, FinancialMentor.com, in 1998 and has, over the last 16 years, built up a very successful practice that includes five published books.

What I love about Todd is that he’s always trying something new and innovative. Sometimes it works out (like registering FinancialMentor.com!) and sometimes they don’t (we discuss a few things that didn’t meet expectations), but that hasn’t stopped him from pushing forward.

The key is to keep learning and growing, a mantra that I fully believe in. If you’re a coach of any kind, you can learn a lot from Todd’s experiences.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Todd become a financial coach
  • Why a financial coach is different than a certified financial planner
  • His novel client conversion process – an application
  • How he focuses on the person, not the product
  • How he got his first few clients (and how he’d do it differently today)
  • He shares his blogging strategy – Blind men and an elephant
  • He discusses his future strategy of taking his coaching plan and turning it into a membership program – “7 Steps to 7 Figures”
  • How he uses guest blogging and calculators to gain traffic and client leads
  • He discusses the five books he’s written, including why he’s publishing on Kindle

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #20: How Todd Tresidder Used Great Content to Build a Successful Financial Coaching Business appeared first on Microblogger.

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At 35, Todd Tressider sold his share of a hedge fund and decided he’d become a financial coach. He registered a domain, FinancialMentor.com, in 1998 and has, over the last 16 years, built up a very successful practice that includes five published books... At 35, Todd Tressider sold his share of a hedge fund and decided he’d become a financial coach. He registered a domain, FinancialMentor.com, in 1998 and has, over the last 16 years, built up a very successful practice that includes five published books. What I love about Todd is that he’s always trying something new […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #19: The Brilliant Strategy Used to Lift Consumerism Commentary to 7-Figures https://microblogger.com/mbp19-luke-landes-built-7-figure-portfolio-personal-finance-sites/ Mon, 12 May 2014 04:01:34 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1768 https://microblogger.com/mbp19-luke-landes-built-7-figure-portfolio-personal-finance-sites/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp19-luke-landes-built-7-figure-portfolio-personal-finance-sites/feed/ 2 <p>Luke Landes is most well known for building Consumerism Commentary, one of the grandfathers of personal finance blogs, into a business that was acquired for seven figures by Quinstreet in 2011. What isn’t as obvious is that Luke raised the profile of Consumerism Commentary by being an active member of the community. In addition to […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp19-luke-landes-built-7-figure-portfolio-personal-finance-sites/">MBP #19: The Brilliant Strategy Used to Lift Consumerism Commentary to 7-Figures</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Luke Landes, Consumerism CommentaryLuke Landes is most well known for building Consumerism Commentary, one of the grandfathers of personal finance blogs, into a business that was acquired for seven figures by Quinstreet in 2011.

What isn’t as obvious is that Luke raised the profile of Consumerism Commentary by being an active member of the community. In addition to nurturing new bloggers, he built several other sites that would raise his profile – an RSS aggregation site of personal finance blogs in pfblogs.org and an annual awards show in the Plutus Awards.

A lot of people look to his site’s age, it was started in 2003, as the reason for his success. I think that he gained a lot by giving so much of his time and talents to the community as a whole, it’s a model to study.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Learn about how (and why) Luke started Consumerism Commentary — in 2003
  • How Luke tried to foster a nascent personal finance blogging community
  • Why Luke built community building tools, like pfblogs.org and Plutus Awards
  • Why he continues to innovate on a successful formula in the Plutus Awards
  • How he structured the Plutus Awards (and continues to innovate)
  • How he tried to monetize the two resources

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #19: The Brilliant Strategy Used to Lift Consumerism Commentary to 7-Figures appeared first on Microblogger.

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Luke Landes is most well known for building Consumerism Commentary, one of the grandfathers of personal finance blogs, into a business that was acquired for seven figures by Quinstreet in 2011. What isn’t as obvious is that Luke raised the profile of C... Luke Landes is most well known for building Consumerism Commentary, one of the grandfathers of personal finance blogs, into a business that was acquired for seven figures by Quinstreet in 2011. What isn’t as obvious is that Luke raised the profile of Consumerism Commentary by being an active member of the community. In addition to […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 42:44
MBP #18: How to Build a Prolific Freelance Writing Career, with Miranda Marquit https://microblogger.com/mbp18-miranda-marquit-freelance-writing/ Wed, 07 May 2014 04:01:15 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1658 https://microblogger.com/mbp18-miranda-marquit-freelance-writing/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp18-miranda-marquit-freelance-writing/feed/ 2 <p>There are many paths to building a business and today’s chat is with Miranda Marquit, a prolific freelance writer who is very well known in the personal finance blogosphere. She has, in several years, built up an impressive freelance writing career that many would be envious of. Would it surprise you to know that she […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp18-miranda-marquit-freelance-writing/">MBP #18: How to Build a Prolific Freelance Writing Career, with Miranda Marquit</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Miranda MarquitThere are many paths to building a business and today’s chat is with Miranda Marquit, a prolific freelance writer who is very well known in the personal finance blogosphere. She has, in several years, built up an impressive freelance writing career that many would be envious of.

Would it surprise you to know that she didn’t go to school for finance or economics or something money-related? She was a former physics and biology major!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Miranda designed her freelance career around the idea of a flexible schedule
  • What sites she used to look for writing gigs
  • What to look for and what to avoid in gigs
  • How she moved up the “value chain” to earn more while writing less
  • How to find a niche and dominate it by being the “go to” freelancer
  • How she set her rates (and when she increased them!)

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #18: How to Build a Prolific Freelance Writing Career, with Miranda Marquit appeared first on Microblogger.

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There are many paths to building a business and today’s chat is with Miranda Marquit, a prolific freelance writer who is very well known in the personal finance blogosphere. She has, in several years, built up an impressive freelance writing career tha... There are many paths to building a business and today’s chat is with Miranda Marquit, a prolific freelance writer who is very well known in the personal finance blogosphere. She has, in several years, built up an impressive freelance writing career that many would be envious of. Would it surprise you to know that she […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #17: Want to start a conference? Phil Taylor did it and had no idea what he was doing. https://microblogger.com/mbp17-phil-taylor-how-he-started-fincon/ Mon, 05 May 2014 04:01:46 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1721 https://microblogger.com/mbp17-phil-taylor-how-he-started-fincon/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp17-phil-taylor-how-he-started-fincon/feed/ 0 <p>What do you do if you think it would be fun if two hundred of your closest internet friends go together? If you’re Phil Taylor, you throw a conference… despite having never done it before. Then you do it again… and again. 🙂 FINCON went from 200-225 attendees the first year to about five hundred […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp17-phil-taylor-how-he-started-fincon/">MBP #17: Want to start a conference? Phil Taylor did it and had no idea what he was doing.</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Phil TaylorWhat do you do if you think it would be fun if two hundred of your closest internet friends go together?

If you’re Phil Taylor, you throw a conference… despite having never done it before.

Then you do it again… and again. 🙂

FINCON went from 200-225 attendees the first year to about five hundred last year, to hopefully many many more in 2014. Learn how an event planning notice started a financial conference that is loved by all attendees (I challenge you to find me someone who did not like it).

And I really liked his answer to a question near the end on what he’d tell a younger version of himself just starting the conference.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why he started a financial blogger conference
  • How he engaged the community for input to help form and shape the conference
  • How he worked with search firms and planners to plan the event
  • How he decided on logistical support during the event
  • What he does to keep the “small conference” feel (despite having 500 attendees last year!)
  • How he fosters the community around Fincon
  • How to find conference sponsors, pricing tickets, sponsorships (especially niche conferences)
  • How to find speakers and presenters

Resources, links, random stuff we mentioned:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #17: Want to start a conference? Phil Taylor did it and had no idea what he was doing. appeared first on Microblogger.

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What do you do if you think it would be fun if two hundred of your closest internet friends go together? If you’re Phil Taylor, you throw a conference… despite having never done it before. Then you do it again… and again. What do you do if you think it would be fun if two hundred of your closest internet friends go together? If you’re Phil Taylor, you throw a conference… despite having never done it before. Then you do it again… and again. 🙂 FINCON went from 200-225 attendees the first year to about five hundred […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 40:00
MBP #16: Chris Guthrie shares how he made $127,817.68 as an Amazon Associate (and that’s just the icing on the cake) https://microblogger.com/mbp16-chris-guthrie/ Wed, 30 Apr 2014 04:01:48 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1753 https://microblogger.com/mbp16-chris-guthrie/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp16-chris-guthrie/feed/ 1 <p>Remember back in the day when people would build websites and blogs just to earn a few dollars a month in Google Adsense? While make money blogs all over the internet talked about building vast blogging empires of 10 sites each earning $50 a month, Chris Guthrie was doing something different. He was building an […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp16-chris-guthrie/">MBP #16: Chris Guthrie shares how he made $127,817.68 as an Amazon Associate (and that’s just the icing on the cake)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> chris-guthrie-finalRemember back in the day when people would build websites and blogs just to earn a few dollars a month in Google Adsense?

While make money blogs all over the internet talked about building vast blogging empires of 10 sites each earning $50 a month, Chris Guthrie was doing something different.

He was building an website and blog empire too. Instead of sipping on a few cents a day in Adsense clicks, he was making serious money promoting products available on one of the oldest affiliate merchants on the Internet – Amazon.

Not only was he making money from Amazon, he was also building up valuable websites that he would then sell for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. His most public and most successful site is NetbookReviews.com, which he sold for a six figure sum, but he’s sold several in the five figure range as well.

Learn how he sold millions of dollars in goods while making a comfortable six figure income… and how he’s parlaying that experience and knowledge to an even bigger project.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Chris got his start building niche sites
  • The strategies Chris used to build up his niche sites, include NetbookReviews.com, which he sold for six-figures
  • The specific steps Chris took to get companies to send him products to review
  • Amazon Affiliate specific tactics for linking, promotion, and recurring deals/best sellers
  • How to take advantage of Amazon Associates’ commission structure
  • What led to him building EasyAzon and subsequently BoostWP

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #16: Chris Guthrie shares how he made $127,817.68 as an Amazon Associate (and that’s just the icing on the cake) appeared first on Microblogger.

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Remember back in the day when people would build websites and blogs just to earn a few dollars a month in Google Adsense? While make money blogs all over the internet talked about building vast blogging empires of 10 sites each earning $50 a month, Remember back in the day when people would build websites and blogs just to earn a few dollars a month in Google Adsense? While make money blogs all over the internet talked about building vast blogging empires of 10 sites each earning $50 a month, Chris Guthrie was doing something different. He was building an […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 41:33
MBP #15: When She Makes More w. Farnoosh Torabi https://microblogger.com/mbp15-farnoosh-torabi/ Mon, 28 Apr 2014 04:01:02 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1752 https://microblogger.com/mbp15-farnoosh-torabi/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp15-farnoosh-torabi/feed/ 0 <p>Farnoosh Torabi is the primary breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Tim, is a software engineer but earns less than Farnoosh, which is an increasingly common dynamic. When I first started talking to Farnoosh, I knew I wanted her on the show to talk about this scenario because it’s happening a lot with entrepreneurs. In […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp15-farnoosh-torabi/">MBP #15: When She Makes More w. Farnoosh Torabi</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Farnoosh TorabiFarnoosh Torabi is the primary breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Tim, is a software engineer but earns less than Farnoosh, which is an increasingly common dynamic.

When I first started talking to Farnoosh, I knew I wanted her on the show to talk about this scenario because it’s happening a lot with entrepreneurs. In some cases, the husband is starting a new venture and earns less because the business is new. In other cases, the wife may have a successful business and now outearns her husband (and sometimes hires him!).

These can be sensitive issues that must be deal with delicately and, having read much of her book, I feel Farnoosh was the perfect person to ask about it!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How to communicate with your spouse the right way
  • How to share responsibilities in the home, which includes outsourcing
  • How mompreneurs can “hire” their spouses without creating havoc in their personal lives
  • How to empower your spouse to take on more responsibility
  • Scripts for dealing with “nosy judgmental” people who make comments about your relationship

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

Here’s a short trailer for the book:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #15: When She Makes More w. Farnoosh Torabi appeared first on Microblogger.

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Farnoosh Torabi is the primary breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Tim, is a software engineer but earns less than Farnoosh, which is an increasingly common dynamic. When I first started talking to Farnoosh, Farnoosh Torabi is the primary breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Tim, is a software engineer but earns less than Farnoosh, which is an increasingly common dynamic. When I first started talking to Farnoosh, I knew I wanted her on the show to talk about this scenario because it’s happening a lot with entrepreneurs. In […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #14: Toni Anderson, The Happy Housewife, on How to Build a Rockstar Team to Run Your Blog https://microblogger.com/mbp14-toni-anderson-happyhousewife/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 04:01:23 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1719 https://microblogger.com/mbp14-toni-anderson-happyhousewife/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp14-toni-anderson-happyhousewife/feed/ 0 <p>What if I told you that you could put into place a system that made it possible for you to leave your blog for several months and it would still be here when you came back? Take a quick peek at The Happy Housewife. Started by Toni Anderson in 2008, the business is now run […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp14-toni-anderson-happyhousewife/">MBP #14: Toni Anderson, The Happy Housewife, on How to Build a Rockstar Team to Run Your Blog</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Toni Anderson, The Happy HousewifeWhat if I told you that you could put into place a system that made it possible for you to leave your blog for several months and it would still be here when you came back?

Take a quick peek at The Happy Housewife. Started by Toni Anderson in 2008, the business is now run on a daily basis by one very capable editor, one business manager, and an army of writers that keep it stocked full of valuable information for folks looking to better manage their homes.

It wasn’t always like that.

It started as a single-author blog, like so many do, written by a military wife homeschooling seven kids. If that wasn’t enough, in addition to The Happy Housewife, Toni does consulting for big brands in the areas of social media, outreach, and branding.

If you’re a blogger looking to grow your business and outsource some of the day to day, this is a must listen episode because we discuss how she built up and manages this infrastructure. If you’re on the flip side, looking to join a team, we discuss what and where she looks for talent.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How she started The Happy Housewife as a resource for military wives
  • How she built the infrastructure such that she could leave for months and the site wouldn’t miss a beat
  • How she finds, evaluates, and compensates staff writers, which were her first hires
  • How she found, evaluated, and compensates her editor and her business manager
  • How she’s the Queen of England
  • How this infrastructure started from a conversation with J.D. Roth (our guest for Episode 1)
  • How she has a graphic designer and two developers/tech support on retainer
  • What she does to emphasize the team and gets buy-in from all of her staff

I hope you enjoyed our chat with Toni, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she’s legitimately one of the busiest guests we’ve ever had on so it would mean a lot to me if you could show her how much you appreciated hearing her story. Please click to tweet @HappyHousewife and tell her how much you enjoyed hearing her story!

http://ctt.ec/ekFed

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Coming soon!

The post MBP #14: Toni Anderson, The Happy Housewife, on How to Build a Rockstar Team to Run Your Blog appeared first on Microblogger.

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What if I told you that you could put into place a system that made it possible for you to leave your blog for several months and it would still be here when you came back? Take a quick peek at The Happy Housewife. Started by Toni Anderson in 2008, What if I told you that you could put into place a system that made it possible for you to leave your blog for several months and it would still be here when you came back? Take a quick peek at The Happy Housewife. Started by Toni Anderson in 2008, the business is now run […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #13: John Corcoran on How Relationships Helped Him into the White House (and Beyond) https://microblogger.com/mbp-13-john-corcoran-building-relationships/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 04:01:59 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1735 https://microblogger.com/mbp-13-john-corcoran-building-relationships/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-13-john-corcoran-building-relationships/feed/ 0 <p>Jim Rohn once said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I believe it. Much of my success, both in business and in life, can be credited to the people around me. It’s a fact I try to remember every single day and one that pushes […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-13-john-corcoran-building-relationships/">MBP #13: John Corcoran on How Relationships Helped Him into the White House (and Beyond)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> John CorcoranJim Rohn once said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I believe it. Much of my success, both in business and in life, can be credited to the people around me. It’s a fact I try to remember every single day and one that pushes me to always be meeting new people and strengthening relationships with old friends.

So when I “met” John Corcoran within the forums of Fizzle.co and learned of all the things he was doing in relationship building, I knew I had to get him on the podcast. He owns his own boutique law firm (Corcoran Law Firm) and blogs at Smart Business Revolution where he shares his approach to networking, the subject we’ll cover in depth in today’s podcast.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • The importance of relationship building in getting John a job as a writer in the Clinton White House
  • John’s strategy of using guest posts on high profile sites to “introduce” himself to people he wants to meet
  • What makes a good cold email
  • How to get better at talking to complete strangers (such as at a conference, meetup, etc.)
  • How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne – and John’s interview
  • How to follow up
  • Strong ties and weak ties (from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point)
  • What to do if your first follow up is ignored (or lost)
  • What entrepreneurs can learn from politicians about networking (The Bill Clinton Guide to Networking)
  • A fun story about how he got Rob Lowe to play him on The West Wing

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

The post MBP #13: John Corcoran on How Relationships Helped Him into the White House (and Beyond) appeared first on Microblogger.

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Jim Rohn once said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I believe it. Much of my success, both in business and in life, can be credited to the people around me. It’s a fact I try to remember every single day an... Jim Rohn once said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I believe it. Much of my success, both in business and in life, can be credited to the people around me. It’s a fact I try to remember every single day and one that pushes […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #12: Erin Chase, $5 Dinner Mom, on selling 150,000+ copies of her books https://microblogger.com/mbp-12-erin-chase-5-dinner-mom/ Wed, 16 Apr 2014 04:01:07 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1705 https://microblogger.com/mbp-12-erin-chase-5-dinner-mom/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-12-erin-chase-5-dinner-mom/feed/ 0 <p>A few years ago, when I was interviewed for the New York Times, a few literary agents emailed me to ask if I’d ever considered writing a book. I passed, knowing that my audience wasn’t large enough to support it, plus I didn’t have the time to write a book on a subject I wasn’t […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-12-erin-chase-5-dinner-mom/">MBP #12: Erin Chase, $5 Dinner Mom, on selling 150,000+ copies of her books</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Erin Chase, $5 Dinner MomA few years ago, when I was interviewed for the New York Times, a few literary agents emailed me to ask if I’d ever considered writing a book.

I passed, knowing that my audience wasn’t large enough to support it, plus I didn’t have the time to write a book on a subject I wasn’t an expert on (this was 6 months into starting the blog) and work on the site itself at the same time.

The idea of writing a book as always fascinated me and so when I met Erin and learned she had so much success, I had to find out more. I knew she had a very loyal following, that she’d sold a few books, but my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I learned the exact number of copies she’s sold.

If you’ve ever considered a book or just want to know what would be involved, this is the episode for you.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why she started 5 Dollar Dinners and her epiphany moment
  • How she was approached by a publishing house 3 months into starting the site
  • How she found a literary agent, a publisher (St. Martins), and a signed book deal 6 months in
  • The importance of finding partners (agents, editors) who are advocates who “get it”
  • Why it’s important to work with professionals
  • How to evaluate an editor and a publishing house
  • The difference between publicity and marketing
  • The importance of having a “platform” today
  • Why she didn’t self-publish her cookbooks
  • What she did to promote the book
  • What promotional channels worked the best
  • The importance of “Super Fans” and how to nurture them
  • How advances and royalties work
  • How she got on Good Morning America, The View (twice!), and the Rachael Ray Show

Did you enjoy this podcast? If so, please let Erin know! She was very generous with her time and experience, please show her some love — click to tweet @5dollardinners and tell her you loved her on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Jim Wang: Everyone, today’s chat is phenomenal, it’s with Erin Chase,
she’s a $5 Dollar Dinner mom, at 5dollardinners.com, and it’s about how she
was able to sign a book deal within months of starting her blog. In the
time since, she’s written three cookbooks, sold 150,000 copies, she’s been
on Good Morning America, Rachael Ray – I mean, it’s amazing. This was not
her goal, this is sort of fell into her lap, and she studied and learned
and grew, and it’s an amazing story. But we go over actionable advice – how
to find a literary agent? What do you look for? What do you look for in a
publisher? How do you publicize the book? How do you sell copies?

It’s a ton of stuff – if you ever wondered what it takes to publish
and then sell 150,000 copies of a book, this is the one for you. You want
to get the show notes, has links, other information, go to
microblogger.com/12. All right, I’m super excited, let’s just get to it.
Hey, Erin, how’s it going?

Erin Chase: Hey, it’s going really great, thanks for having me on
today.

Jim: I’m really excited to have you on because you’re probably one of the
most accomplished, I guess, writers, booksellers? I don’t know what the
term is, [laughs] but . . .

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: . . . certainly with all the folks that I know. And so I just wanted
to talk to you to sort of pick your brain on that whole process. You know,
it sounds exciting and fun, and everyone who’s told me has said that it’s a
lot of work, but it can be very rewarding, from, like, a branding, and you
know, royalties and all that stuff, so I’m just excited to have you on.

Erin: Thanks, I’m really excited to share kind of my story and
experience with, you know, how all this got started and where we brought it
to today in the last, I guess, five and half years it’s been? So yeah.

Jim: Wow, five and half years. So let’s start all at the beginning – how
did 5 Dollar Dinner start?

Erin: So 5 Dollar Dinner started in August of 2008. We were a single income
family, living, you know, not quite paycheck to paycheck, but pretty close.
My husband is a teacher, you know, so it’s kind of that teacher salary. You
know, everybody knows teachers don’t make a ton of money, but we were, you
know, we were being smart. Our mortgage was, you know, financed at the
lowest rate at the time that we could get, and we didn’t have, we’ve never
had cable. We had, at that time, like, pay-as-you-go cell phone plans, and
we had dumbphones – actually, that was kind of when smartphones were first
coming out. But we had dumbphones for a long time; my husband, actually,
just upgraded [laughs] to a smartphone this past [laughs] year.

Jim: Nice.

Erin: So we’ve always just kind of been frugal in nature, and so any
who, he had a long commute to work, and when the gas prices started going
up in July of 2008, we saw, very quickly, that our budget was going to flip
from, you know, being able to stay in the black each month, to into the
red. And just because his long commute and the gas prices, you know, not
quite doubling . . .

Jim: Right, right.

Erin: . . . over $4 a gallon in our area. And so we, you know, looked, sat
down and looked at our budget, and it was pretty much at the bottom that it
. . . Everything was as low as it could be at that time. You know, we’ve
never been extravagant spenders, and so I said, “Well, you know, the only
line here on our budget that we could really control is the groceries.”
That’s you know, I think it’s . . . I read, typically, like, the third
largest discretionary expense and one that you have the biggest control
over. So I challenged myself; I’d seen and heard these whole, like, cut
your grocery bill in half things here and there on the Internet, and so I
challenged myself to do just that – to cut our billing have.

At that time we were a family of four, and spending about $500 a
month, and I was able to get it down to $250 through a combination of meal
planning and strategic couponing and things like that. For a couple of
weeks I was really watching prices really closely, and I would say to
Steve, I would say, “Hey, you know, this pork chops meal was only, like,
$3.85 because we made rice, which is really cheap, and some peaches that
were on sale.” And you know, just these really simple, balanced, you know,
helpful meals. We deal with a couple food allergies, so I can’t just really
buy box of Hamburger Helper and make that for dinner, right?

Jim: Right, right.

Erin: So one evening after one of these, like, kind of recaps of the cost
of the meal, I was doing the dishes and it was, like, kind of like a
ticker, like a news ticker, an ESPN ticker, something, like, flashing
across my brain, and this, like, $5 dollar dinners just sort of, like,
floated by. And I was . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . like, “Ha!” So I stopped doing the dishes right away and I ran
over to the Internet; I had a family blog at that the time, so I knew
enough about blogging and searching and you know, sort of branding.
Personal branding was very new at the time, but I knew enough about it just
from what I’d seen and read online to, you know, search – is anybody else
doing this? So I started 5 Dollar Dinners, really, out of necessity and
what was happening in our family. And it was just sharing my story, and
sharing what I was making each night, and how I was making it, and what I
was buying at the grocery store, and how I was mixing and matching
ingredients, and you know, the importance of meal planning.

And which coupons were I using? Which coupons was I printing? And all
of those different things – and the website took off right away. You know,
I didn’t know you could even, you know, have a website that would become a
business, at the time, I didn’t even know you could make [laughs] money
from a website.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: I thought you would make, like, pennies a day on, you know, Google
AdSense, which most people start out that way, but when your traffic gets
to a certain point, the pennies turn into dollars and the dollars turn into
hundreds of dollars very quickly.

Jim: Right . . .

Erin: So . . .

Jim: . . . right.

Erin: . . . I mean that’s how I got started, and then you know, I just saw
that it was just meeting a need, it was resonating with so many people
that, you know, we’ve just kept it going. And it’s met a need for us, and
it continues to meet that need and help other people. That’s really why 5
Dollar Dinners is here is to, you know, be a helpful resource for other
people who are struggling; maybe they’ve recently lost their job, or have
a, you know, a big medical bill coming up, or whatever it may be. Just to
really, you know, you really can do this, you know, and here’s some great
recipes and ideas and resources to help you, you know, cut your grocery
bill.

Jim: What I love about the site is, like you said, it’s helpful foods;
it’s foods that, you know, you get the ingredients at the grocery store,
and it’s not like you walk in and get a Hamburger Helper, or you buy, like,
a $1 microwavable meal. That’s less than a $5 dinner, but you eat and
you’re, like, hungry 15 minutes later, and it’s not good for you because
it’s full of sodium. But that’s what I think is genius about your site, was
the, here are the ingredients, here’s how much it cost. Like, one thing,
sort of going off on a tangent a little bit, is your whole thing about the
Costco, like going to Costco, and you can do with this whole plan,
essentially, to make a whole lot of meals for not a lot of money.

Erin: Right, the Costco post is kind of now become what I’m famous for.
[laughs]

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Even though people are, like, “That’s not $5 dinners.” I’m, like,
“Yes, I know, it’s $7.50, but it’s still [laughs] really close, and . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . this is going . . . to help you.” You know, and that’s
actually been an amazing thing, because I had an interview with the . . .
I’ve always wondered; I posted that in September last year, 2013, and
wondered, you know, did Costco ever take notice. I mean, it’s had millions
of views, and I was actually picking up contacts at Costco not long ago,
and I handed him my debit card to buy the, or to pick the contacts, as he
goes, “Erin Chase, that sounds really . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . familiar.” And I was, like, “Well, I’ve sort of made Costco
famous. I mean . . .

Jim: Kind of famous.

Erin: . . . I’ve sort of made y’all famous with this meal plan.” He goes,
“Wait, I saw that, I saw that on my Facebook the other day. I shared it.
When I saw one of my friends, who doesn’t even work here, and I thought it
was something from our corporate, dah, dah, dah, dah, and then I saw your
site.” It was just so funny, I’m, like, “Okay, well, I guess I’ve reached a
new level of fame with [laughs] Costco.”

Jim: You’re famous, you’re famouser.

Erin: So yeah, but you know what? I did – they actually asked a freelance
writer to reach out to me to do an interview for their Costco Connection
magazine, which is amazing. I’m not sure when it’s going to print yet, but
I’m just, like, “So they did take notice,” which is, you know, I’m just so
honored and humbled by that. But you know, you just never know; I mean, in
the age of today with things going viral and concepts that are going to
work. But that’s exactly what I said earlier, that the Costco post, I mean
everybody loves Costco and they feel like they’re walking out of there
spending an arm and a leg. Which sometimes I do too when I’m just not on my
game, right? Not on my . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . [thinking.] So that’s why I think this tool is really helpful
for people; they can get, you know, here’s a plan that’s going to get you
20 helpful, simple, family-friendly, pretty everybody’s going to pretty
much like them, you know, meals for $150 bucks. So you know, again, it just
resonates with people I think that that’s, you know, one of the keys just
in general, with, you know, online . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . entrepreneurship, or even, you know, content marketing. It’s
just finding that sweet spot and what’s going to resonate with people and
meet that need.

Jim: So speaking of meeting needs and sweet spots, you’ve written three
books, now. You want to talk about the first one, the one that has
seemingly done the best?

Erin: Yes, so I was approached by a small, small, small, tiny publishing
house really early one. I think about three months into 5 Dollar Dinners,
and he said, “I want to publish this book.” And I was, like, “Huh? Book?
What? Huh?” I had no idea. So I emailed a friend who I knew just had a book
deal, she just signed a book deal, and I said, “Hey, this is a huge
opportunity, I’m not sure how to navigate these waters.” So she literally
called me, like, two minutes later, and I was, like, “Huh?” [laughs]

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: So she was obviously really excited about it, which, you know, made
me more excited, you know? Because if she just signed a book deal, you
know, she’s, you know, a step ahead of the process of me, and she knows
what’s exciting, and you know, she thinks the concept is exciting as well.
So she connected me with her literary agent, and that’s who I still work
with today, and you know, she was really excited about . . . you know, she
emailed me back right away too. And I think, you know, I think it’s the
concept that really sells the . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . you know, sold the literary agent, then my publishing house.
And so I put together a 25 page proposal, [laughs] book proposal, that my
literary agent then sort of shopped around, and then it landed on the desk
of my, you know, current editor. And he already knew about me, he already
knew about the site, so when he saw it, across his desk, he was, like, you
know, “We need this book right now.”

Erin: And so I actually signed about, let me think about that, probably
seven months, seven or eight months into the site starting I signed. . .

Jim: Wow.

Erin: . . . a two book deal. I think that was . . . well actually that was
February, so it was about six months. August to February, yeah, six months
I signed on with St. Martin’s, which is part of Macmillan, and signed on
with them, a two book deal. And then so the first book published, like,
eight months later – it was crazy. [laughs]

Jim: Wow . . .

Erin: I had . . .

Jim: . . . that’s fast.

Erin: . . . [real] deadline to pull together 200 recipes, many of which
were on the website I had. You know, each book I’ve had so many percent
that have to be only in the book. And so that published in January of 2010,
so that was, you know, I signed in February of 2009 and published in
January 2010, so it was pretty tight turnaround as far as deadline and then
to print. So usually it’s a much longer process, and authors [laughs] get
very . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . [Inaudible 00:12:04] waiting, you know, don’t doing all of
the, you know, marketing prep work that needs to be done. So with the first
book, I was really fortunate; they featured it number one in a Good Morning
America segment in a holiday cookbook roundup, which was amazing.

Jim: Wow . . .

Erin: I think . . .

Jim: . . . yeah.

Erin: . . . that is the key to that first book’s success. You know, there
were a number of books featured and the number of books they didn’t even
get to, and they spent a good chunk of the segment on the book, which was,
you know, so fortunate they were willing to do that, which was great. And I
think one of the reasons that is sold so well. The first book, I think were
pretty close to 80,000 copies sold, and you know, a majority of that, you
know, at launch, you know, that first six months we were really pushing
hard on the website, and I didn’t even have that large of a platform, you
know, then that I do now.

Jim: Going back to that, actually, before we get too far away from sort of
the beginning, it sounds like you found your agent because it was through a
friend who was already working with someone, and signed the deal. How did
you evaluate that agent in terms of using them?

Erin: Partly, I was comfortable that, you know, she understood the blogging
landscape and she was able to connect me with the right editor. She was
able to say, “You know, I’ve had experience with food and with cookbooks in
the past.” And she said, you know, “You know, here are the people I think
would be great for this.” And she was able to snag, you know, my editor at
St. Martin’s who was a huge foodie and totally gets the food landscape. And
I think one of the other things, too, that you know . . . because it’s and
risk.

It’s a calculated risk, but it’s the risk; you’re not really sure
what they’re going to be able to land for you, and you know, how great of a
deal it’s going to be. I think part of it was, I was confident in her
because she was able to land the deal for my friend who was also a blogger.
So she, you know, understood the landscape and how, you know, how it is,
and it still is changing. And my editor, even, very early on, I think one
of my first meetings with him, even said, you know, “Bloggers are going to
be the new authors.” And he’s totally right; if you look, at least cookbook-
wise, if you look at the number of food bloggers who’ve published cookbooks
at this point, it’s very high.

I was probably one of the first ones to get a cookbook out there, you
know, Christy Jordan from Southern Plate, Ree Drummond from Pioneer Woman.
There were a couple of other people who had books coming out at the same
time that mine did, but very, very few. And now you’re seeing a lot more,
you know, food bloggers, you know, putting out cookbooks, which is amazing
– and my editor was right. And I think that that insight for him was one of
my sort of, like, you know, I really like, you know, this editor and I like
this connection, and you know, I’ve always been really comfortable . . .

Jim: He’s someone that’s going to be . . .

Erin: . . . . . . they understand the landscape. Right?

Jim: He’s going to be a champion for you, right?

Erin: [Yes.]

Jim: It’s not like you’re trying to convince him that, “Oh, look, it’s a
blogger. It’s so cute . . .

Erin: Right.

Jim: . . . they want to write a cookbook.” No, this guy gets it.

Erin: Yeah, he did get it, and he still does. I was in New York, well, I
was just there, but the last two times that I [laughs] [go there, I was
there]; I’m always in New York – I’ll be there again next week.[laughs]

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: But anyways, you know, I try to see him anytime that I’m up there,
and he still gets it. Like, we’ve just done a meeting and he’s just still,
like, “I just love watching the evolution of this landscape and it’s just
so amazing to me, you know, your success and your continued success and how
you’re continuing to drive it. And you know, having the books and
continuing to promote them, and you know, use them as a helpful tool for
other people.”

Jim: So it sounds like your relationship with your editor is as important
as is with the agent. But in the case of finding that editor, it was your
agent’s job, after they took your 25 page proposal, to sort of shop it
around and then find the editor?

Erin: Exactly, so you take your book proposal and the literary agent, you
know, they have all the connections, you know, and they well, yeah, send it
around to all the people who they think would be interested, and then, you
know, kind of cross your fingers, hold your breath . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . and wait to see who responds.

Jim: Do know how many publishers you brought it to?

Erin: I don’t know that, I don’t think she ever told me. I would imagine it
was in the dozens, but I’m not really sure . . . number.

Jim: You always hear those stories, like, Tim Ferriss will say that he
took his 4-Hour Workweek proposal to hundreds of editors himself to try to
sell it. It sounds like you were able to sort of avoid that by working with
an agent.

Erin: So this is what I always say, you know, an agent takes 15%, that’s
the industry standard, and you sign a contract with them and they take 15%
of, you know, your advance as well as royalties, and that’s just part of
the deal. And I always say, you can try to do by yourself, but if you’ve .
. . let’s liken it to buying a house for the first time. If you’ve never
bought a house for the first time, would you do by yourself or would you
use a real estate agent?

Jim: Right.

Erin: Same thing. So if you’ve never written a book before and you have no
idea what to expect, no idea how much to negotiate for yourself, as far as
an advance, royalty percentages, those kinds of things, would you do it by
yourself? Sure, you could spend a whole lot of time and energy, you know,
trying to understand how it works, trying to make the connections,
searching forums for an editor, email addresses that will get directly to
them instead of the generic one on the website, you know, instead of
dropping your . . . Or you can hire a literary agent, let them take 15%,
and they do all the work for you.

You know, she still works for me for certain things; I did a national
media segment a couple weeks ago and she was involved in the process there
– so you know, she’s still working for me here and there. And so yeah,
that’s my analogy; I would not buy house all by myself – I wouldn’t even
know what paperwork I would need to sign [laughs] . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . if I was trying to do that. So it’s a similar concept. If you
are going to do traditional publishing, I would highly recommend working
with a literary agent to help you navigate the waters and get you the best
deal and the most money.

Jim: I think you bring up an excellent point with the housing analogy,
less so about the paperwork to fill out, ’cause that, I mean, with a little
bit of time you can get all the paperwork and be pretty sure that you’re
doing it right. But when you negotiate, that aspect of it, if that’s not
what you do, especially not with editors who are trained, or not ed –, you
know, with the people and the publishers that are trained to do this. You
don’t know what to ask for, what’s customary, what’s, you know, irregular,
or outlandish, or whatever. That’s the part that I think would scare me the
most.

Erin: Yeah, and I think that’s where she was really helpful, like, she was
able to get me an advance way higher than I [laughs] thought would ever be
possible for all three books, which is amazing. Especially given the
economy and how it was at the time – and we’re kind of still is.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: But yeah, I think she was really helpful in getting all of that into
place. You know, even the higher advance that she was able to get me was
well worth the 15% [laughs] . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . cut that she took from it, so.

Jim: Okay, so she finds the publisher, and then now you work with an
editor there. What were you looking for outside of an editor that gets it?
What does a publisher do, like, how do you evaluate whether someone’s a
good editor or a good publishing house to work with?

Erin: I think the key for a publishing house and the key question to ask
when you’re getting to that negotiation point with your agent and the
publishing houses who are interested, is how much marketing and publicity
support is the publishing house going to provide you? Because they might,
you know, want to edit your book and print your book for you, but then they
might just leave it with you, and then what you do? You’re in charge of all
of the marketing of it, all of the publicity opportunities that you might
get – they might leave that in your hands. Which, you could again, try to
do for yourself or you could hire an outside publicist to help you. But
when, you know, working with a publishing house, you know, be very clear.

St. Martin’s has a phenomenal publicity department; obviously, they
got the book on Good Morning America for a shot, right? I’ve since been on
Rachael Ray, The View twice, you know, and they were very instrumental in
all of those connections. And so I think that, you know, finding out how
they’re going to support you, how much time they’re going to give you, you
know, what connections they have in the media world – and even if it’s, you
know, whether it’s magazine, radio, print, whatever it may be. And how much
marketing support they’re going to give you, because there’s a difference
between publicity and marketing.

Jim: What’s the difference?

Erin: So with marketing, you know, that’s you know, kind of how a PR agency
might work, and they might hire an outside PR agency to do that, but you
get pitches all the time. You know, “So-and-so’s written a new book. Here’s
a couple recipes from it. Would you please promote it? Or would you do a
giveaway? Would you participate in, you know, a Facebook chat with Erin?
Would you do it?” You know, all of those different types of things that you
see happening all of the time, somebody has to orchestrate those, and so a
marketing department would do that.

So the marketing department at St. Martin’s managed the entire
blogger, we did a huge blogger giveaway, sort of promotion for each of the
three books, and they managed all of that; the outreach, the shipping of
the books, the shipping to the winners, you know, all the communication
back and forth – it’s a lot of work. Could I have done that myself? Yes,
but I wouldn’t have slept. [laughs]

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: Because it was all bloggers who already knew, and I let them know,
“Hey, we’re going to be reaching out to you, look for an email from Sarah.”
Right?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: And then publicity is reaching out to all the media contacts; from
national media, to radio, to local media, to magazines; you know, whoever,
whatever contacts they think would make the most sense for the book to be
featured. And as I said, our publishing department is amazing and they were
able to, you know, land some of these really huge national hits in the
number of national magazines, you know, over the last couple of years as
well. So I think that that is key, and you know, as you already said, and
we’ve talked about having an editor who is going to be champion for you and
your brand, I think it’s key as well. Because when they’re excited about
it, they get their editorial team excited about it, they get the sales team
excited about it, so then the sales team can then go and sell it to, you
know, Sam’s Club, and Costco, and beyond the typical Amazon and Barnes &
Noble and Books-A-Million.

You know, beyond the typical, you know, retailers who are going to
pick up the book, they can get into other places as well.

Jim: Gotcha. Okay, and you said that initially you signed a two book deal?

Erin: I did, I signed a two book deal; they came out one year after the
other, so I was pretty much in front of my computer [laughs] . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . for two straight . . . No, not really. And a lot of that was
the content I was developing for the site and I would just tweak it for the
book or make adjustments to the recipe. You know, I would publish one
version of the recipe online and then I would tweak it, you know, enough to
fit it into the book, a different type of recipe. You know, I would tease
recipes online and say, “Hey, you know, this is in the book,” which I got a
little flak for, but hey, it’s how you [laughs] . . .

Jim: You got a little flak for it on the blog itself?

Erin: Yeah, yeah, but it’s, I mean it’s how you sell books and I had to
honor my contract with the publishing house. And people understand, they
were just, you know, “I wanted this recipe.” I’m, like, you know, my
overnight granola is one of the really popular ones that’s not online
anywhere, and everybody loves that recipe and it’s only in the books and I
can’t ever publish it online. [laughs]

Jim: Overnight granola?

Erin: Mm-hmm, yeah, it’s a genius concept, that’s all I can say. [laughs]

Jim: [laughs] Which book is it in?

Erin: The breakfast and lunch book, the second one.

Jim: That makes sense.

Erin: So the first book is all dinner recipes and then the second book is
different breakfast and lunch recipes that you can do for all under $5,
which is easier. I mean, breakfast, you can do for $1 for a couple people,
right?

Jim: Right.

Erin: Depending on what it is, and you know, if you get apples and mix it
in with oatmeal and a certain number of, you know, different spices, you
can have a really, really cheap, cheap breakfast.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: But was able to get some really creative lunch ideas in there for
under $5 as well. So that book, I think sold, I think it was about 25,000
maybe, I think that’s the last number that I saw. And then after the second
book was finished, we went back, my agent went back to the publishing house
and said, “Hey, we need to do a third one, I think this will be a great
series.” And so we signed a third deal after the second book came out. We
went back and forth on different concepts for that meal; I really wanted to
do a book about Italian food, but only because I wanted to go to Italy.
[laughs]

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: And learn from this sweet . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . Italian woman about all the tips and tricks for [laughs]
Italian cooking, but ended up . . . with that was my own selfish [inaudible
00:25:18]. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll watch . . .

Jim: That could . . .

Erin: . . . [inaudible 00:25:20].

Jim: . . . be the fourth book.

Erin: Yeah, well, I have an idea for a fourth book, I’ll tell you in a
minute. But we ended up settling on the one dish dinners concept because I
was finding myself gravitating towards those types of recipes, like,
whether it’s cooking your entire dinner on the grill and, like, less
cleanup in the kitchen. Or you know, the slow cooker meals where you can
literally dump everything for the meal in the slow cooker and that’s all
you need for your meal – you don’t even need a side of bread or anything.
So I found myself kind of gravitating towards those the busier that I got;
I was blogging more, I was working more with different brands and
companies, and I was sort of gravitating in that direction as well.

So we were able to pick up . . . they picked up the one dish dinners
concept. And that third book has also done really well, and just was
featured on Rachael Ray’s show two weeks ago, three weeks ago? So yeah,
it’s really just fortunate to have landed on some really great concepts,
you know, with all three of the books.

Jim: And they all revolve around the whole 5 Dollar Dinner concept . . .

Erin: Right . . .

Jim: . . . which is great.

Erin: . . . right. I put the prices in there, it’s all prices that I pay.
You know, I hear from people, “Oh, I can never find chicken that cheap.”
I’m, like, “You’re not looking hard enough, chicken is that cheap all over
the country.” [laughs]

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: And I price it out based on the prices that I paid at the time that I
made them, so the prices might be a little higher now than they were in
2009, but not much higher. You know, all the same strategies and concepts
for spending less on ingredients and on dinner still apply today that it
did then, so.

Jim: So knowing what you know now about how book deals are structured,
what advice would you give to yourself, you know, from 2008? Or I guess,
February 2009, whenever the first deal was signed? Like, I don’t know
anything about how . . . you know, when you say a two book deal, in my mind
I think, “Okay, you’re on the hook for two books.”

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How does that all work?

Erin: Well, you sign a contract to write two books, you have to write two
books. I would do everything over again in a heartbeat.

Jim: Exact same way?

Erin: Yes, I think for me, the process . . . you know, I’m very, very
fortunate that I know this does not happen for a lot of people, and I know
a lot of authors and writers are really struggling to find the right
person, get the right connection, you know, land . . . I still hear from
bloggers, “Hey, I have this book idea. Would you connect?” I connect them
with the agent and then nothing happens, you know. You know, I’ve had a
very, very fortunate, you know, I’m very humbled . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . [laughs] to have had . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . the experience that I had, and I really think that, you know,
it just goes back to the concept, is what sells. You know, 5 Dollar Dinners
is, I guess it’s a product; it’s a product in the sense that the website is
a product and the books are a product, but you know, it really kind of
sells itself. So I would totally go back in a heartbeat – I don’t think I
would change a thing.

Jim: Okay.

Erin: You know, I think, you know, if you’re not happy with your agent, you
know, look around for another agent. I know, you know, if your agent says,
you know, “You need to grow your platform before I’ll take you on,” I know
a friend who that happen to. And what did she do? She grew her platform and
then the agent was, like, “Oh.” [laughs] “Maybe I should’ve signed you
earlier, we could’ve gotten this whole thing off the ground faster,” you
know? So you know, trust what they say because they do know and understand
the landscape.

You know, if you’re not comfortable with them or you don’t think they
have the right connections for you, you know, ask around, look on the
writers forum, see who other people are talking about is a great agent. You
know, there are a handful that I know of; I’ve only worked with mine, but
that I know of from other people who have published, you know, from kind of
the blogger/author space.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: It’s all about, you know, being comfortable with who you’re working
with and making sure that they really have your back.

Jim: Gotcha.

Erin: And chances are that they will; I mean they’re just not in it for the
15%; like, they’re in it to see you succeed, and they’re in it to help you,
and your editor’s the same way. Like, they’re in it to help you refine your
writing skills, and if you’re not comfortable with the change . . . I saw
somebody else who’s publishing something right now. I don’t know how it
happened, I got into a Facebook group and she’s, you know, I think it’s
kind of a promoter group for her new book that’s coming out, but she said,
“My editor won’t let me say this.” And I wanted to say, “It’s your book,
you can say [laughs] [whatever] . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . you want.” You are the author, it’s your final decision, and
you can strike her edit, right?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: So anyways, and that’s just one tiny, tiny little example of a small
thing, but that goes to say, it’s still your book, it’s still your story to
tell, so don’t be afraid to tell it in your words. [laughs]

Jim: So it’s funny you brought up the idea of platform. I also had heard
from someone that you knows, she was trying to work with [somebody] . . .
this might be the same person, who knows? But she was going to work with a
literary agent and then they said, “You need to grow your platform.” It
seemed like you didn’t have that problem because you were three months in.
I guess you could of had a huge platform, but you’d earlier said you
didn’t.

Erin: I didn’t even have a Facebook page back then – they didn’t even
exist, like, fan pages didn’t exist.

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: [If I did] [inaudible 00:30:43] it was, like, 800 people, right?
We’re at 80,000 now, right? So I think, yeah, we probably are talking about
the same person.

Jim: How important is the platform?

Erin: Okay, well, a publishing house wants to know how you’re going to help
with the marketing. Because I said that you want them to help, but you also
need to, you know, help as well. Like, your platform . . .

Jim: Of course.

Erin: . . . is part of the reason that, you know, your book is, or your
concept is going to sell – it’s how many people do you have in your network
that you can sell to. So I think that that is important, and I think that
that . . . you know, she was, you know, our friend who was coming into the
landscape a couple of years after I did, platforms are more important now.
You know, there are always so much noise online, they want to see that you
are going to be able to sell, you know, X number of books.

Jim: Unless you have a killer idea, like 5 Dollar Dinners that, like,
resonates and connects . . .

Erin: Right.

Jim: . . . like, people see it they’re, like . . .

Erin: But I do think that if it had come in two years later with trying to
publish, it would have been much more difficult. When the first book was
published, I don’t even think K.D.P. existed. You know, I didn’t even have
a Kindle version of the first book – K.D.P. is Kindle . . .

Jim: Yep.

Erin: . . . Direct Publishing. There wasn’t even a Kindle version – I
think there is now, but at the time there wasn’t. It was right as it was
starting to transition, but it had not even come close to taking off. And
you know, self-publishing, there were, like, four people doing it. [laughs]
Now there’s, like, 4 bazillion people doing it . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . right?

Jim: Is that why you didn’t self-publish?

Erin: Yeah, it wasn’t, I mean . . .

Jim: Okay . . .

Erin: . . . [inaudible 00:32:20].

Jim: . . . it just wasn’t there.

Erin: I mean, I knew it was out there, because I was just starting to see
Kindle books for the really popular ones, the publishing the big, big, big
names, you know, like, Jim Cl –, you know, whoever. The big-name . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . authors, they were starting to convert them for, you know,
Kindle format. I mean, Kindles weren’t even selling then, right? [laughs]

Jim: Yeah, yeah . . .

Erin: [inaudible 00:32:41].

Jim: . . . that’s true.

Erin: So it really involved with the selling of the Kindles and then the
transition of all the, you know, printed to digital, really kind of in that
2009, 2010, 2011 timeframe, so I really kind of got in there right before
all of that happened. I do have one and a half, I’ll say one and half
[laughs] . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . self-published e-books that I have, but those are both later,
later, later in the game, so yeah.

Jim: Okay. So going back to what you were doing to promote the book,
outside of, you know, being on Rachael Ray, being on the radio, and TV and
all of that stuff. What were you doing maybe with the platform, or
otherwise, that the publisher wanted you to do to try to sell more copies?

Erin: Well obviously we promoted on the website. I . . .

Jim: Right.

Erin: . . . have it, you know, in the header, “Here’s my three [laughs]
books.” I’ve done giveaways at holiday time, I will do a big, like, give
away 200 books at once kind of thing to different people – you know,
wherever it makes sense in the year to be talking about it. You know, I
just leave it in, I’ll drop it in, organically, into different blog posts
here and there. If there’s a sale, if I see that it’s $6 on Amazon, I’ll
drop it on Facebook or whatever. Just to keep it front of people without
being, like . . .

Jim: Buy my book.

Erin: . . . spamming . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . and pimping out the [laughs] book . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . . . . [time], right? Because I think it is a useful tool, and
you know, it’s the only place, and I say this all the time, it’s the only
place where all of my tips and tricks are in one place. You can find it on
the website – it’s going to be buried deep. [laughs] . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . but you can find it and piece it together. But if you want to
know how 5 Dollar Dinners works, start to finish, it’s all in the book. The
first book, yeah.

Jim: There’s something good about having, like, a physical could book.
Like, I’ve tried looking up recipes on, like, my iPad when I’m cooking, you
know, it tastes like oil and it’s, like, greasy . . .

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: . . . it gets, like, dirty, I’m, like, this isn’t . . . With the
book, I mean if it gets dirty, actually, I kind of like it, ’cause it’s,
like, I’m using the book.

Erin: Well-worn, yeah.

Jim: Like, if it’s a clean cookbook, it’s probably not one that I’ve been
using all that [laughs] often.

Erin: That’s right, that’s right. That’s too funny.

Jim: Okay, so you did all that through your platform. If we were to think
of these all as sort of sales channels, which you think were the most
effective in terms of selling copies of the book? You’ve mentioned Rachael
Ray, so obviously, mainstream, like Good Morning America . . .

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: . . . those are gonna be enormous.

Erin: You know, I think it’s the same, you know, sort of mentality and idea
as far as, like, earning revenue online in general – is like having
multiple channels and having multiple promotion channels going on kind of
all at once. Like, obviously when you launch something, whether it’s a
product, or an e-book, or a regular book, it’s got to be everywhere. You
know, you’ve got to have a Twitter party happening, you’ve got to have a
live Facebook chat going on . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . having a Pinterest party. You know, just getting people
talking about your book. You know, even people posting, “Oh, I got the book
on Instagram,” you know, and tagging you. It’s all of that; you know, it’s
a combination of the word-of-mouth, the content marketing, you know,
talking about it on your website, having, you know, freebies to go along
with it if you can develop the, you know, kind of corresponding content to
go with it. And just, you know, kind of creating those, you know, super
fans who are going to help you then sell beyond your current, you know . .
.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . community of people. You know, and if you can get media, get
media. I mean just kind of having, like, a multifaceted approach to
getting, you know, all of the promotion you can get from as many different
channels as you can get, you know, out there. So that you get as many
eyeballs, you know, seeing your product and hearing about your book or
whatever your product may be. You know, I think I’ve heard this a number of
times and I think it’s true, you know, especially in new product or a new
brand, people need to see or hear about it two or three times before
they’re, like, “Oh, I should buy that,” or, “Oh, I should check that out.”
So you want people hearing about you from multiple places and multiple
sources so that they are intrigued by what you have to offer and how it can
help them.

Jim: You mentioned the idea of a super fan. What did you do to sort of
develop or find or nurture super fans?

Erin: You know, I think super fans are, first of all they’re key [laughs]
in getting, you know, with your promotion of whatever your products may be.
I think it’s just, you know, being out there, you know, talking to people,
providing them with useful content – in my case it’s free recipes, all the
time, every week. [laughs] Or ideas, you know, chatting with them on
Facebook, answering their emails as fast as you can so that they’re . . .
like, I respond to emails within four or five hours, usually, for a reader
email. And they’re always, like, “Woah. First of all, thanks for answering
my email, and second of all, thanks for answering it so quickly.” Right?

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: I mean it’s, I want to answer their email, I want to talk to them and
I do, but at the same time it’s, you know, kind of bigger business picture
– it’s good customer service, right?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: Like, you’re just really helpful [laughs] [to them.] You know, I
don’t do it to try and create super fans, but that’s what happens when you
are genuine and you are, you know, quick to respond to people and just
really want to help them out, you know, beyond just publishing a blog post
online.

Jim: That’s a good point. You shouldn’t try to develop a quote unquote
super fan.

Erin: Right.

Jim: But you should treat everybody is you would want to be treated, and
you want to reply to the emails, help them out, be nice, everything. And
then eventually, the ones that are more vocal, that will respond or
participate in Pinterest parties and . . .

Erin: Mm-hmm.

Jim: . . . you know, take a photo of the book, they’re just going to
naturally start doing it because they’ve connected with you, and they like
you, and they think the book’s great, and all that good stuff.

Erin: Right, right.

Jim: I think it’s funny. I guess it’s more so on the Internet, there’s
always, like, this sense, like, there are these strategies that you could
use to sort of blow up your business. Not blow up in a bad way, but, like,
you know . . .

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: . . . grow your business, growth hacking and all this. But in
reality, it’s just making connections with people, and then the ones that
are more vocal, they become your quote unquote super fans, but everyone’s
still a fan because they bought your book.

Erin: Right, and you know I think with growth hacking, growth hacking is
creating super fans. Like, that’s just a fancy word . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . fancy phrase for, you know, blowing up your business. You
know, and some people, growth hack a whole lot faster and I think it’s, you
know, you just hit the right concept. I could say, probably, that 5 Dollar
Dinners, [laughs] I growth hacked it. I didn’t, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: [laughs] But it growth hacked itself, right?

Jim: It’s just as good.

Erin: Yeah, yeah, which is great. And so I think that was even before
[laughs] [hacking] . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . [inaudible 00:39:43], but you know, and that’s happened for
certain people, which is amazing. And I don’t think that growth hacking is
something you could force; I’ve read enough about it to know what it is to
know that it works for some people and it doesn’t work for other people.
And even though strategies, I might be able to implement, you know, X, Y,
Z, that growth hacking expert, you know, A, says to do, and none of them
work. But I think it goes back to being yourself, being authentic, being
real, connecting with people. You know, I just put up a web [laughs] . . .
I was out of town this past weekend with my family at the ranch, at my
friend’s ranch, and I took a picture of my one-year-old – he’s the fourth
child, so you know, fourth child problems here.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: He is adorable when he cries, and so he just . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . . . . my friend’s son took the little Badminton racket out of
his hands and so he starts crying. Well I have my camera in my hand, so I
just literally pick it up and take a picture of him crying. Well my dog is,
like, hooping in the background.

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: I . . .

Jim: Nice.

Erin: . . . didn’t even see it. It’s, like, the best photo bomb ever. But
as I’m putting that kind of stuff out there, it’s just silly, and you know,
it just makes people giggle, it’s that kind of stuff that, like, you know,
I think helps people connect with you and, like . . .

Jim: ‘Cause . . .

Erin: . . . [inaudible 00:40:55].

Jim: . . . you’re real.

Erin: Yeah, I’m real. Everybody thinks that I have this, like, fabricated
life because I always post these lovely food pictures . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . which typically, there’s a child pulling on my leg because
they’re starving. And I’m, like, “Wait, mommy has to take a picture of this
food,” you know?

Jim: Yes.

Erin: [laughs] So I think it, you know, it just helps, you know, to be real
and to be honest, and you know, be sure what you’re passionate about and
just [laughs] share your dog’s photo bombing. [laughs]

Jim: That sounds like, you know, your readers become your friends in a . .
.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: . . . sense. Like . . .

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: . . . you email, I mean you email your friends back and forth all
the time. Like, I don’t know if I email back my friends within four hours,
as it is. [Right?]

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: I also have an email problem. How many do I have in my inbox right
now? Like, 10. I’m super psycho processing my email as fast as I [laughs]
can.

Jim: Well that’s good, I mean, ’cause it’s been able to build this
following.

Erin: [Yeah.]

Jim: I don’t like the word following.

Erin: Community.

Jim: Community, right – it sounds a lot better.

Erin: [FaceTiming]. [Yeah.]

Jim: When you say following, it’s, like, you’re this cult leader and these
people are like, “Oh, the cult of the 5 Dollar Dinner,” which . . .

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: . . . probably exists.

Erin: Well, it might. Yeah, you know, I have seen some interesting things .
. .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . which is amazing. Those are the people who love the concept
and are excited about it, and implementing it in their own lives, and
that’s really what this is about. It’s about, you know, I’m really here to
help people navigate these, you know – How do I spend less on groceries?
You see people talking about it all the time. Just helping, being a
resource and a tool for them to be successful in that process, so that they
can have more money to pay off debt, or stay out of debt, or go on
vacation, or pay for college, or whatever it may be.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Erin: Right? I mean there’s so many, so many things that you could do with
your money. Wasting it the grocery store is [laughs] not one. [laughs]

Jim: Yeah, no, it’s a good point. Speaking of money, how do royalties work
with books?

Erin: So in your contract that you sign with the publishing house, it would
have an advance amount that’s, obviously, pre-agreed upon in the
negotiation process, and it will also have royalty percentages. It’s
typically tiered based on some, you know, copies 1 to 50,000, it’s this
percentage, copies 50,000 to 100,000, it’s this percentage, dah, dah, dah,
dah, dah. So it’s typically tiered, and the percentages can vary, and
that’s where your literary agent . . . and you know, I think there is an
industry standard in general, but if you think . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . you have a really hot topic or, you know, you’re already a
best-selling author, you could probably negotiate for higher royalty
percentages. But I would say that trust your literary agent on that,
because obviously, they’re getting a cut of that, so they’re going to want
to get it as high as they . . .

Jim: Right . . .

Erin: . . . possibly . . .

Jim: . . . right.

Erin: . . . can and negotiate that with the publishing house. So what
happens then is they send you your agent, your advance check, and then they
take their 15% and then they pay you the difference or whatever. And then
you write your book, you publish your book, it sells, and then you have to
sell however many books – you know, it’s all calculated how many . . .

Jim: Right.

Erin: . . . dollars per book or whatever , to earn your advance back. And
then once you’ve, you know, sort of earned your advance back, then you
collect royalties on all of the sales beyond that threshold. Does that make
sense?

Jim: Yep, yep.

Erin: So if your advance is $10,000, you probably have to sell, you know, 8
to 10,000 books, depending on the price that you get, and then beyond that
sell you get, you know, your royalty percentage per sell or whatever.

Jim: Do they set the price of the book ahead of time? Because, like, if
you go on Amazon, book prices will vary based on, like you said, when
there’s a sale or whatever. How do they know, like, the base price from
which to calculate the percentage?

Erin: Yeah, but the base prices is . . . well mine was set after the book
deal was signed. You know, it’s all percentage based and based on sales.
Yeah, I’m not a hundred percent versed in . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . all of that sales, you know, the tactics as far as, they sell
the book to Amazon for X price, and Amazon turns around and sells it for X
price. And then you know, I think we get, the publishing house and I get
the royalties based on the price they sold it to Amazon for.

Jim: There’s a little bit of, like, a lot of movement going on, it seems.

Erin: Oh yeah, there’s a ton of movement going on, and then you’re, like,
“There’s only three left in stock. How is that possible?”

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: [Inaudible 00:45:19], it’s all in the warehouse, they just have to
send an email to somebody and say, “Hey, stock it back up to 800 or
whatever.”

Jim: Or they just say three so that you buy more.

Erin: Or you buy right away. It’s actually probably a combination of Amazon
wanting to sell more and the stocking issue, but there’s always more
[laughs] in the warehouse, right?

Jim: Yeah, there’s always. Cool, this was great. I want to thank you for
your time. Before you went, I wanted to ask about the Rachael Ray Show.
Like you said, I guess it sounds like St. Martin’s, or your editor, or the
publicity department at St. Martin’s set up that and Good Morning America?

Erin: The St. Martin’s publicity department set up Good Morning America and
The View, both times I was on . . .

Jim: Okay.

Erin: . . . back in 2011. I took a little media hiatus because I had a
baby. [laughs]

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: I was on the Marie Osmond show when I was five months pregnant and
that was the last time I [laughs] . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . that was about as big as I wanted to be on television. So with
the Rachael Ray Show, I was on her show 2009; I actually emailed the show
and was, like, “Hey, this is what I’m doing,” and they wanted me on, which
is amazing. That was the first national media experience that I had, so I
did that on my own. Obviously . . . well no, I think they knew that had a
book coming out, but we couldn’t promote it because it wasn’t out yet.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: And then this last time, we’ve been reaching out to them a number of
times over the last five years, and this last time we just hit the right
concept at the right time. And it was my outside publicist who was reaching
out to them, and then the publishing house, you know, sent books over and
you know, orchestrated from kind of the book promotion side once we landed
a segment. So it was all a combination effort on this last time on the
show, so.

Jim: Okay, and this was to promote the third book, the one dish recipe . .
.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: . . . [one.]

Erin: The last segment, they promoted the third book. I didn’t even know if
they were going to promote the book, and I walked out on set, she has a
book in her hand, and I’m, like, “Oh my goodness, thank goodness!” ‘Cause
you don’t know; like, we pitched a segment that doesn’t really have
anything to do with the book and both of the recipes that they chose of the
ginormous list that I sent them . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . were both from the one dish dinners book. And we’re, like,
“Hey, if you wouldn’t mind, we’d love to promote this.” I didn’t even know
until I got on set. [laughs]

Jim: That’s awesome.

Erin: So I was just very, very pleased.

Jim: The fun part about all this is . . .

Erin: No, [inaudible 00:47:39] [the book], yeah. But that was not something
I was expecting or even wanting, so. I mean, I wanted it, I wasn’t
expecting [it].

Jim: [laughs] Yeah, of course you would want it.

Erin: [laughs]

Jim: The fun part about all this is, like, being Facebook friends with
you, I get to see, like, the behind the scenes where you’re, like, picking
what to wear and, like, you’re nervous, and all this stuff and it’s been
fun. It feels like your readers probably also get to see that too, right?

Erin: Oh yeah, everybody loves . . . you know, I always take, like, behind
the scenes pictures, and you know, everybody just gets really excited. You
know, it’s kind of one of those, “Woah, she’s [wearing it] with what?” You
know . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . it’s just really exciting. And you know, Rachael Ray is, she’s
so generous and she’s, you know, her audience is perfect for, you know, for
5 Dollar Dinners and the concept that we have. And so we’re just really
fortunate to, you know, be invited back to the show, and you know,
hopefully, will lead to other opportunities as well that I think would be
really cool, so.

Jim: Yeah, definitely. I felt like I was on the Rachael Ray Show [laughs]
blogging a lot of the photos.

Erin: [laughs] I know, it’s kind of just one of those, you know, it’s an
amazing experience and you’re just so excited and honored, and you know,
humbled . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . to get to share it with everybody. And I wish that I could
take [laughs] everybody with me just for the fun of it. So we’ll have to
just share photos on [laughs] on Instagram and Facebook instead.

Jim: Yeah, yeah. So looking back, like, you said you wouldn’t do
everything different. Are you happy you published, now I guess, three
books? It seems like a silly question, but after all that work and looking
back, do you think it was a good idea?

Erin: Yes, I think having a book, especially, I think it gives you a lot of
authority in the space. You know, it can be a platform, to want to grow
your platform. It could be something that, you know, helps you become, you
know, quote, a television personality if that’s your goal. If your goal is
to speak amid events, having a, you know, you’re the author of X, Y, Z
book, it’s really helpful in, you know, sort of giving you that authority
that you kind of need to, you know, grow into the speaking world if that’s
. . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . you know, that’s what your goal is. And I think that, you
know, it’s just a . . .

Jim: Fun experience?

Erin: Yeah, it really was fun. And so my [laughs] next book, I told you I
was going to tell you about this one.

Jim: Oh yeah.

Erin: My fourth book, and I’m not planning on writing this anytime soon,
and I can’t write it anytime soon, and I tease it here and there, and every
time I do, people are, like, drooling about the concept. I have four boys,
and when I found out my third was a boy, I was in New York City having
lunch with my editor, and I said, “Michael, one day I’m going to write a
feeding teenage boys on a budget cookbook. You just wait.”

And he goes, “Oh yes, I would love to [laughs] publish that for you.” And so then I had a fourth boy, and I’m, like, “Okay, this is, like, I have to write this.” So I would love to write a book about feeding teenage boys on a budget. And I think it would be, you know, part recipe; probably not 150 or 200 recipes that my current books have, but probably more like 75 to 100.

But it would have quite a bit of, like, satirical drama, like feeding boys. You know, even though we have this no bodily functions rule at the dinner table, it still happens sometimes. And I actually have, like, [laughs] a [running] list of, like, silly things that they say, or foods that they had the wrong names for the
food, you know, that kind of . . .

Jim: Yeah.

Erin: . . . thing. I think I will probably try and leave this, you know,
make it kind of a conversational cookbook and sort of satirical, like, boys
are just gross [laughs] . . .

Jim: They are.

Erin: . . . sort of concept. And I think it could be really entertaining,
but also really helpful for people who . . . you know, I remember my aunt –
I have three boy cousins, she raised three boys. And she, at one point, I
must’ve been a teenager probably, but I still remember it very vividly, she
would say, “Oh yeah, we go through about three boxes of cereal a day.” And
I’m, like, “Huh?”

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: Like, we go through, like, three a week in my family, you know?
She’s, like, “Oh, they’ll eat half a box for breakfast and half a box when
[laughs] they get home from school.” And I’m, like, [laughs]”What?” So just
kind of having that in the back of my head knowing that that’s coming, and
you know, what can we do about that that’s coming? And you know, feeding
them snacks after school right now is basically like a third meal of the
day, or fourth meal of the . . .

Jim: [laughs] Or fourth . . .

Erin: . . . day . . .

Jim: . . . meal.

Erin: . . . [right?] I might as well just have a pot of chili going as
soon [laughs] as they get home from school ’cause they eat so much in that
– I call it our fourth meal now. So you know, what does that look like? How
can I keep . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . costs down for them as they grow and still, you know, give
them . . .? I think I made a recipe the other day that’s going to be my
headline recipe [laughs] for this teenage boys on a budget cookbook.
[laughs] But yeah, so you know, who knows? And that may publish it – if
they don’t want to pick it up, I might have to self-publish that one. But I
think that that’s a concept too, that could sell itself, so.

Jim: Yeah, definitely.

Erin: Obviously I have the platform and the background to being kind of
known as kind of this budget chef, right . . .

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Erin: . . . that I think would do really well, [laughs] so we’ll see.

Jim: Whenever you get that going let me know; my dad’s one of five
brothers, so I can ask him what my grandma did.

Erin: I know. You know what? That’s one of the things I want to
incorporate, is what do other families, you know, who have all boys, what
are their tips and tricks? I don’t want this to be all about us and our
family, but how other people survived, you know, the [laughs] . . .

Jim: It was a . . .

Erin: . . . teenage . . .

Jim: . . . lot of rice.

Erin: . . . years.

Jim: Like you said, rice is cheap, relatively cheap, and so it was just a
lot.

Erin: Yeah.

Jim: But yeah. Well, Erin, this is been a ton of fun, I’ve actually
learned a lot, and I think people listening are going to take a lot away.
Especially if they’re thinking about publishing a book and doing promotion
and all that, so thank you so much.

Erin: You’re welcome, thanks for having me, it’s been great to share with
everyone.

Jim: Definitely. If people want to find you, where would they go?

Erin: So 5dollardinners.com is the website and you can easily email me
through there as well as, it’s got links to Facebook and Twitter and
Instagram and Pinterest and everywhere. I am . . .

Jim: [laughs]

Erin: . . . online a lot, all the time everywhere, so I’m not hard to
find. [laughs]

Jim: Great, well thanks again.

Erin: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jim: Take care.

Erin: Bye-bye.

Jim: Wow. You know, I remember when I finished talking with Erin, we said
our goodbyes and I hung up, I was just blown away about how much I learned
about publishing a book. And it’s all because she’s able to not only
explain it and it’s simple and easy to understand, she just experienced it
– she’s had such huge successes that it’s amazing. So I hope you really
enjoyed it. If you want the show notes, you can go to microblogger.com/12,
that’s the number 12. If you look at the player, if you listen to it there,
if you look right underneath the player, there’s a way to click tweet.
You’re on Twitter, just tweet her a thank you; she shared a ton of stuff,
she’s very generous with her time. I can only thank her so much; I keep
thanking her all the time, but it would help if you did that as well. Also,
if you haven’t subscribed, reviewed, or given this podcast a rating on
iTunes, well I’m going to be in [new noteworthy] for a couple more weeks –
every last rating, vote, everything, matters so, so much.

Thank you if you can take a couple seconds to do that right now. You
need to reach or share a thought, anything you want, you can reach me at
jim@microblogger.com, or you could tweet me @wangarific. See you next time.

The post MBP #12: Erin Chase, $5 Dinner Mom, on selling 150,000+ copies of her books appeared first on Microblogger.

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A few years ago, when I was interviewed for the New York Times, a few literary agents emailed me to ask if I’d ever considered writing a book. I passed, knowing that my audience wasn’t large enough to support it, A few years ago, when I was interviewed for the New York Times, a few literary agents emailed me to ask if I’d ever considered writing a book. I passed, knowing that my audience wasn’t large enough to support it, plus I didn’t have the time to write a book on a subject I wasn’t […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 55:38
MBP #11: How Matt Jabs took 9 posts and created a DIYNatural empire https://microblogger.com/mbp11-matt-jabs-diy-natural/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 04:01:46 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1669 https://microblogger.com/mbp11-matt-jabs-diy-natural/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp11-matt-jabs-diy-natural/feed/ 2 <p>When 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 […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp11-matt-jabs-diy-natural/">MBP #11: How Matt Jabs took 9 posts and created a DIYNatural empire</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> 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:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

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.

The post MBP #11: How Matt Jabs took 9 posts and created a DIYNatural empire appeared first on Microblogger.

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When 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, When 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 […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 52:52
MBP #10: Billy Murphy on building a seven-figure poker training membership site https://microblogger.com/mbp10-billy-murphy-bluefirepoker/ Wed, 09 Apr 2014 04:01:05 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1725 https://microblogger.com/mbp10-billy-murphy-bluefirepoker/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp10-billy-murphy-bluefirepoker/feed/ 0 <p>I met Billy last year at FINCON, the personal finance bloggers conference, and we got to talking, as one does at a conference, and I had no idea he built up such a hugely successful business in such a short period of time. The photo in the above might seem over the top (no, he’s […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp10-billy-murphy-bluefirepoker/">MBP #10: Billy Murphy on building a seven-figure poker training membership site</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p>
He's the one in the green shirt :)

He’s the one in the green shirt 🙂

I met Billy last year at FINCON, the personal finance bloggers conference, and we got to talking, as one does at a conference, and I had no idea he built up such a hugely successful business in such a short period of time.

The photo in the above might seem over the top (no, he’s not comparing himself Christ, it’s just an awesome photo from what seemed like a fantastic trip), he’s not at all. Extremely humble and willing to share, as he does in this podcast.

Thrilled to have him on and one thing that surprised me was how much content he had on his site when he first launched (which by some accounts was a $30,000 first day).

What will you learn in this episode:

  • We talk a little about his background as a professional poker player, his young entrepreneur years, and the genesis of Blue Fire Poker
  • How he learned the importance of good coaching
  • How he focused on a specific game (No Limit Texas Hold ’em) to teach and emphasized quality over quantity
  • How he enticed professional partners to create videos and market the business
  • Billy explains the membership pricing strategy
  • How he gained exposure and word of mouth marketing without spending a penny on advertising
  • His challenges building the site using an offshore team through Elance

Big thanks to Billy for coming on the show! If you enjoyed the episode, please join me in thanking him by clicking to tweet @billymurph and tell him how much you enjoyed his story!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

Here’s the FoxNews clip where they discuss BlueFirePoker’s challenge to President Obama:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would mean a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Jim: Hey everyone, today’s guest is Billy Murphy. He’s the founder of Blue
Fire Poker, that’s a poker training site that at one point was bringing in
over a million dollars a year by teaching people how to play poker using
videos.

I first met Billy last year at FinCon which is a personal finance blogger
conference, and I was just struck by how down-to-earth and relaxed he was.
I wouldn’t have guessed that he started a company that made over a million
dollars a year teaching people how to play poker.

We talked a little bit about his background and how he started the site,
including his membership pricing strategy, which I really like, and a lot
more. I also want to say thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart,
to everyone who’s been subscribing, reviewing and rating the podcasts on
iTunes.

For a few short days it was actually on the new and noteworthy carousel for
all podcasts. I took a screenshot. I blew it up. I have you guys to thank
for it, so thank you, thank you very much.

If you hadn’t had a chance to review, subscribe or rate it yet, do me a
big, big favor and do that right now. Just leave an honest review; I’d love
to hear what you think. It would help me out a ton.

Hopefully, we can get back on the new and noteworthy carousel. Thank you so
much. And lastly, for the show notes, you can go to microblogger.com/10,
that’s the number 10. Let’s get to the chat. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey Billy, how’s it going?

Billy: Jim, what’s up man?

Jim: Not much. I’m excited to have you on. I want to talk to you a little
bit about sort of your background and how you got started with Blue Fire
Poker.

Billy: Definitely. Thanks for having me.

Jim: Yeah, of course, definitely. So tell us a little bit about yourself.
I know that you were, for a little while there, a professional poker player
which is sort of I guess the genesis of the Blue Fire Poker thing. But do
you want to go into that a bit?

Billy: Yeah, I did poker professionally for about four years. I
learned to play in college, played basically for side money for a couple
years, then got a job for a little after college then decided to try poker
full-time.

So I did that professionally for about four years, launched Blue Fire Poker
which is a poker training company in 2009, and then in 2011 started buying
e-commerce stores. I bought about 15 or 20 of them and just ran that kind
of as a side passive business. And yeah, started Forever Jobless, now
launching the podcast and doing some investing.

Jim: Wow, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurial blood and
spirit in you. Is that something your parents taught you? Or just something
you picked up?

Billy: I guess I just kind of picked it up. Neither of my parents were
entrepreneurs. As a kid, I always liked making money. I got a newspaper
route when I was nine, then I started buying and selling sports cards when
I was probably like 17. So I got the itch early.

Jim: Wow, sports cards? Were they still popular back then?

Billy: Well, not as popular. Yeah, I was doing baseball cards,
basketball cards, but they overproduced a lot of cards starting in like the
late ’80s and ’90s so the market was kind of going down when I was getting
in.

Jim: That’s all right, though. But I mean as a kid, you don’t really need
to make that much. You’re just sort of like feeding your hobby.

Billy: That’s the thing, it was . . . I initially got into it not
intending to make money at it. I bought a collection and tried to sell off
the cards I didn’t want. So I was a basketball guy, so I sold off the
baseball and football. And what happened was I made more money from the
half of the collection that I sold than the whole collection cost me.

Then I realized holy cow, I could probably keep doing this. It was more of
a fun thing. It was like the amount of hours I spent just enjoying it and
organizing the cards and stuff, I probably didn’t make a lot when you broke
it down per-hour.

But it didn’t really matter to me as a kid. If you make five grand or ten
grand here or there, it doesn’t matter if it took you a year, it’s a lot of
money.

Jim: So you do this, you go to college, you’re playing for beer money . .
. you’re playing for beer money. You’re playing poker, rather, for beer
money and all this stuff. And you decide to go play as a professional. What
was that transition like? How did your parents take you graduating college
then going to be a professional poker player?

Billy: Well, I always kind of put it out there that I might become
one. And I think . . . I can’t remember if it was before I told them I was
going to be a professional or after I decided to, but I remember at one
point they were super hesitant about the idea of me being a poker player.
And I tried to explain to them like listen, this isn’t gambling. I have a
skill; I have an edge on other people. I’ll make money long-term.

And so they didn’t really . . . people don’t understand poker. It seems
like a luck game. And there’s short-term luck, but long-term the math works
out. I remember one day I played this little tournament, and I ended up
winning the tournament. And so I went down and I printed out the tournament
results and I put it on the fridge.

And the next day, I won the same exact tournament. And so I put it on the
fridge again, almost as like a statement. I know what I’m doing. Even
though that’s like . . . obviously winning two tournaments in a row doesn’t
prove anything.

So I remember I did that, and they were starting to understand a little bit
about maybe I wasn’t just . . . maybe I wasn’t just gambling. But then the
thing that turned them was . . . so I had borrowed money from my dad to
play or, not to play, sorry, to buy a car in college.

So I wanted to get a car. I was in college. I didn’t have a lot of money,
and so I probably put a little bit of money down that I had and the deal
was hey, when I get out of college and get a job and stuff, I would pay it
back. And the only reason I went through my dad instead of just getting a
loan, because I was a college kid, I didn’t have a lot of credit or
anything yet.

And so when he hears I’m going to be a poker player he figures “Man, this
might take forever to get paid back now. When am I going to get paid back?”
And he doesn’t bring it up a lot or anything, but I knew he was thinking
about it. He brought it up once or twice.

I started playing poker. I made literally like zero dollars the first month
as a professional, so I guess technically you couldn’t call me a
professional because I didn’t make any money. But it’d been I’d got a job
for a couple months after college and hadn’t played a lot; I was kind of
rusty.

And basically the whole month, I made zero dollars. The next month I worked
out a deal with the coach. He got a percentage of my play and spent
literally day and night every day playing, studying, playing, studying,
asking questions.

That second month as a pro, I made like $17,000. Over the next couple
months I kept doing really well. And so I remember this was probably three
or four months after . . . after I’d become a professional, a full-time
player. I remember my dad, I was staying at my parent’s place at the time.

I had moved back from . . . I had a job in New Jersey. My lease ended
there; I moved back. I was staying at my parents’ for a little bit until I
decided where I wanted to live.

I can remember he was sitting in the living room one time on the recliner,
and I had cashed out a bunch of money. And so I owed him however much for
the car, you know, $20,000 or whatever it was in a loan. He probably
expected to be paid a little bit over the next five years or whatever. And
so I brought this stack of money and I put it into a rubber band. He was
just sitting in there by himself. I said “Oh, here dad, here’s the money
for the car.” And I just threw it on his lap. He was like “What?”

And I hadn’t told him how I was doing at poker, like they had no idea if I
was doing well or not. So then they never bothered me again after that.
They never . . . because in those couple months before that, mom would
leave like a job ad out, like “Hey, you should check this out; this looks
good.” You know, obviously they didn’t understand it.

And they would tell their friends on the phone, when their friends would
ask “What’s Billy doing now that he graduated?” They’d be like “Oh, he’s
trying to figure it out.” I’m like “What do you mean? I’m a professional .
. .”

So after that, they never bothered me about getting a job again. They
probably told their friends I was a poker player from that point on, and I
think once they learned that hey, look, I can make plenty of money doing
this, that they were okay with it after that.

Jim: That’s funny. So the story . . . the professional poker, they stopped
hassling you because you paid my, not dues, but like I paid back the car
which is sort of the agreement and you’re supporting yourself which is
awesome.

Would you credit your jump from . . . I mean making nothing in the first
month is actually not that bad considering it’s your first month of being a
“professional poker player,” right? At least you’re not down a big amount.
So you go from zero to $17,000 after you hired a coach? How much do you
credit that jump to the coach?

Billy: A decent amount. So part of it was my rust in the amount of the
jump. I had made money throughout college playing poker, so I knew I could
make money. It wasn’t like I tried it out for the first time and made zero;
it was like the games had slightly changed in the four to six months since
I had played much. I hadn’t played in a while, and I think there was
probably some mental barrier to, “Wow, now I need to make money because I’m
trying to do this for a living”, where in college it didn’t really matter
if I lost one day or one week or whatever, it didn’t really matter.

But the coach definitely helped. So I think getting a coach or a mentor for
whatever you’re in is huge. I actually approached this guy and I said “Look
. . .” And I didn’t have a lot of money at the time because, remember, I
had just graduated from college. So it wasn’t like I could pay this guy a
couple hundred bucks an hour and feel good about it. I mean that was a lot
of money to me.

So I said “Listen, I’m going to work harder than any other poker player
this month. I’m going to play more hands than anybody you know, and I want
to work out a percentage deal,” because obviously the more hands you play
the more money you could possibly make.

So I talked to this guy about how much I was going to play, and he’s like
“There’s nobody that plays this much.” “I’m telling you, I can play that
much.” I think for the month I played like 88,000 hands, which that’s like
playing eight tables at a time, so obviously you can play hands quicker,
and it’s online so you can play quicker. But at the time there was almost
nobody playing that amount of hands.

But what I would do is as soon as I would get done playing for the day, I
would send him all my questions. So I’d print out like here I had questions
on these 25 hands, and here’s the spots I had questions on. And the
coaching arrangement was very unique. I didn’t want him to do coaching
calls and things like that to me. I said “I just want you to tell me the
specific advice that you would give on the hands that I ask.”

And so it was actually quicker for him than coaching me every day, and it
was . . . for me it was I was like a robot. I was like “Tell me how to play
these hands, I’ll figure it out.” Maybe twice that month we hopped on a
call to talk more in-depth strategy.

So I would stop playing, he would send me back feedback, and I would
literally study that for a couple hours and I would literally study that
for a couple hours and figure out why. And if I had more questions, I would
ask him.

And so that continued like day-after-day. So it started where maybe the
first day I’d have like 75 questions and the second day maybe I’d have 60,
and slowly by the end of the month I didn’t have a lot of questions
anymore.

So, I think it really, really helped for the coach. That was definitely a
big part of the jump. And once you have the knowledge, you don’t lose it.
Like, I didn’t need the same coach for a year. So that was the only month
he actually coached me, and after that I felt comfortable without him. I
hired coaches after him, but that’s I think an important thing for people,
hiring coaches. You don’t lose the knowledge you get, so it compounds for
you.

Jim: So you were a professional poker player for four years. Is it around
the same time that you decided to put together a poker training site?

Billy: I honestly . . . so I always wanted to start a business. I
didn’t have a plan to do it in poker. Part of the reason that I decided to
do it was I was out in L.A. playing live poker. I pretty much played 90,
95, 99 percent online, but once in a while I’d be cool to go play live. So
I an apartment with a buddy for a month out in L.A., so we played at the
Commerce for a month.

There were a couple guys that came and visited us out there, and they were
involved in a poker training site. They started openly talking about how
much money there was in this education market. They didn’t own the company;
they just worked for it. But they knew how much the company was making.

And this company had made like . . . I forget how much they had made, but
it was six figures within the first couple months of launching. I was like
“What?” It didn’t make any sense to me, because there are already a bunch
of poker training sites. So that got me interested in the possibility of
doing it, was just talking to those guys.

I knew the market as good as anyone else. I’d been in poker for not only
the three or four years professionally I’d been playing up to that point,
but I was playing for another three or four years before that. And online
poker was a relatively new niche industry when I got into it, so I was as
knowledgeable as anybody in the poker market.

So I was like “Okay, I know . . . I think I can make that business model
better, plus it seems like there’s a lot of money to be made and I’m going
to start a business anyways.”

I didn’t play poker with the intention to go do it for 30 or 40 years; I
did it to, number one it was a fun job. I mean it’s probably the most fun
job you can have, but it’s still a job. And number two, I obviously did it
to build capital so that when I got . . . when I had a business or
investment that I wanted to do, I’d have the money to do it.

So that kind of started making me think about doing it. I had other ideas.
I mean I was going back-and-forth on probably four or five different ideas,
but that made a lot of sense to me because number one, people started
talking openly about the numbers. So they weren’t the only ones.

There was actually somebody who . . . one of the guys did an interview for
like “Forbes Online” or something, I can’t remember, but it was a pretty
public interview. He said “Yeah, we made a million dollars profit last
year.” And they were another poker education company.

At the time, this was earlier, but at the time nobody knew how much those
guys were making. So those guys opened the flood gates to a lot of
competitors. At the time I thought it’s probably filled up; it’s probably
saturated by now. But then when I heard these other guys talking about
another guy they knew that’d just watched one and they were doing some
videos for them and they had already made six figures and they just
launched.

I thought, “Well, it’s clearly not saturated yet. Maybe I should at least
look into it and check it out.” So I started checking it out and started
looking into it. I thought I could fill a need in the market.

Jim: So when you decided all right, I’m going to start this poker training
site even though there are all these other ones out there, did you think
“How am I going to make this different and better?”

Billy: Yeah, so that was a big thing. So a lot of the . . . you know,
I was a poker player, so I was their ideal customer right? And I wasn’t
signed up to any of these guys. I thought why am I not signed up? And part
of the reason was all these companies were focused on quantity.

So they put out a ton of videos, and maybe you were going to watch a couple
of them each month, but the majority of the videos weren’t anything you’d
want to see.

So I said okay, I’m going to put out way fewer videos. I’m going to do it
on a very specific niche. So for us, that was no limit, Texas Hold ’em,
cash games. That was it.

There’s a lot of different games in poker. There’s limit games; there’s
cash games; there’s tournaments; there’s sit-and-gos. There’s a lot of
different games we could offer. There’s pot limit Omaha; there’s stud. We
just picked one specific game, and I just got one different player at the
different levels of stakes.

So basically there was a very, very small stakes guy and then there was a
small stakes guy, there was a mid-stakes guy, there was a high stakes guy
and there was a very high stakes guy. I think I started with five or six.
So we were filling a really specific need. So my goal was if you were a no
limit hold ’em cash game player, this was clearly the site you signed up to
and signing up for anybody else would be incorrect.

That was the most popular game. By far the most people played that; that
was the one that got very popular on TV. Most of the guys were playing that
game and nobody had just crushed that market. It didn’t make sense to me.
Everybody was putting videos out on that stuff, but they were trying to
offer 30, 40, 50 videos a month and maybe like two of them you’d want to
see.

So I just changed it from why put out any of the other videos? Why don’t we
just put out what people want to see and forget about trying to be the jack
of all trades for now? And since then, we’ve obviously scaled up. I mean
this was over five years ago. We’ve scaled and went to other games. We’ll
use the same idea for each one that we did.

We didn’t bring on . . . some of our competitors literally had 80 pros at
times, and so that didn’t make any sense to me. So I thought we had an edge
from not only that, but the marketing edge.

Jim: It sounds like niching down was a very good strategy because I only
have so much time. Like if I’m watching a video on someone else playing a
hand or whatever, that’s time I’m not spending actually playing.

Billy: Right.

Jim: And so I know one of the big things with you and also with me is you
need a lot of value out of the time that you’re spending on these things,
so why would I go to a site that has 60 videos when I could find one that’s
specifically about no limit hold ’em and they only put out a couple videos
and each one is worth watching?

Billy: Yeah.

Jim: I think a lot of times we get into the habit of producing too much
quantity because that’s what we feel like we should do.

Billy: Yep.

Jim: We end up, let’s say it’s a blog and you’re writing five articles a
week. Well really maybe you should only write one and sort of focus that
down so that it’s something really worth reading.

So every single time someone comes back to a Blue Fire Poker, the video
that comes up, there’s a 90 percent chance it’s something I’m going to
watch every single time. I don’t need the 50 videos.

Billy: Yeah, no, exactly. And that’s the same strategy I’ve used for
blogging, for Forever Jobless. I just put out one . . . very regularly, but
whenever I put one out everybody shares it and talks about it and comments
on it. That strategy works in just about every industry I feel like.

Jim: Yeah. And so right now you have . . . when I last looked at the site,
you had like 20 or 25 pros. How does the partnership . . . how do you pay
them? What’s the contract? What does that look like to get those
contributors to produce videos?

Billy: Most of the guys . . . so all of the guys basically right now
who are making videos for us get paid per-video. So if you produce a video
maybe you get $300, $400, whatever it is for the guys.

So if a guy puts out two videos a month and they get $300 a video they get
paid $600 a month. And then it depends on some guys put out more videos;
some guys put out less. But a lot of it, for the pros, a lot of them, it’s
beneficial for them because they get in front of potential . . .

Jim: Coaching clients?

Billy: Coaching clients, and yet a lot of the guys just like doing
that as kind of a side income. The majority of our guys are making pretty
good money from poker so they don’t need that extra $600 a month or $800 a
month or whatever. It’s not a lot of money for them. But it gets them a lot
of credibility, like number one being associated with one of the large
training sites.

Number two, like you mentioned, coaching clients. And it’s just . . . you
know, you can only play so many hours of poker in a game. Most of the guys
are not playing eight hours of poker in a day; it’s a big grind. So this is
kind of an easier way of making money than playing poker, less of a grind,
and kind of an extra way to make money and get a lot of exposure.

So a lot of guys write books. They’ll do books or e-books or whatever it
may be, and so it’s being associated with a large site gets them in front
of a big audience.

Jim: It’s funny to hear that poker players, to help them wind down, will
write books and do videos or commentary on videos that they’ve taken while
they were playing. But it makes sense.

While you’re playing, you have to be hyper vigilant and be paying attention
and doing a ton of math which is the real reason why it’s not . . . I mean
it’s more skill than it is luck, and short-term of course everything is
luck a little bit, but there’s a ton of thinking involved. So yeah.

So I wanted to, before we get too far along, I wanted to ask how well is
the site doing? I know that I’d heard you made this bet with President
Obama or any member of Congress for a million bucks. That’s sort of like a
marketing thing. Before we get into that, how well is the site doing at
sort of its peak?

Billy: So it was doing . . . we had some months where we did six
figures a month in revenue, so that was we were charging people $100
signup, $30 a month. So we had thousands of subscribers at the height.

Jim: So I guess you felt pretty comfortable challenging the president to a
game of poker. I guess it wasn’t you; it was you or one of the pros on the
site.

Billy: Yeah, it was basically any one of our pros. We had just
launched at that point.

Jim: Oh, okay.

Billy: It was we probably got on . . . we got on Fox News probably a
month or two after launch, and so we had just started. Basically I wanted
to do that challenge as a way to get . . . obviously for publicity, but
there was a kind of legislation that was potentially going to be passed at
the time that they were trying to say poker was a game of luck instead of
skill.

And so it was supposedly going to go to a vote and they were going to
decide is this a skill game or is it a luck game? That’s why it was a
strategic challenge both from a viewpoint of getting in the news because
they’re already talking about it to trying to prove out as good as possible
that this was a game of skill and we were willing to back it up. If anybody
could beat one of our pros, they should be willing to take that. We’re
offering a free million dollars.

So if it was a game of luck then it’s like flipping a coin, right? So they
would take that bet. But they wouldn’t have had a chance against any of our
pros.

So it was basically . . . and it was a strategic move to basically also get
the poker community behind us and say look, we’re going to help battle with
the poker rights too.

And we had just launched, so it was big to get the poker community to both
know who we were, know that . . . then it got us a lot of fans because of
the fact that we did that. We were brand new; a lot of people didn’t know
who we were at that point.

So for us to get on national news defending poker and basically trying to
battle the people trying to outlaw poker, it was really big for us.

Jim: I know that I’d heard that a lot of your marketing strategy involved
your pros being sort of ambassadors of the site and going on forums and
things like that whenever they were talking about forum to sort of be not a
public face, but just an ambassador of Blue Fire. Was that part of your
marketing strategy? How did that all work?

Billy: Yeah, the initial launch of the site, we literally . . . I had
a buddy post just to say the site was live. We didn’t do any pre-marketing,
pre-launch or anything like that. I had a friend post in one of the popular
poker forums and just say “Hey, this site just launched. Here’s what’s
going on.”

He might’ve wrote a brief blurb on it and just linked to the site. Then
that blew up because we hadn’t said anything about it; we kept it private,
so a bunch of people started talking about it. And then we would have our
pros go in and start talking about it.

I think we did such a good job at that type of marketing, the people
running the forum then wrote us and asked us to start paying them if we
were going to keep having our pros post. But it worked really well. I mean
it got us a ton of publicity right away. And yeah, we were getting such
good publicity, I think our competitors were buying advertising spots and
were complaining that everybody was talking about us and they were paying
$5,000 or $10,000 a month for great advertising on the site but everybody
was talking about us, their competitor.

Jim: That’s funny. And it was all based on your pros just talking about
the site?

Billy: Yeah, or the people talking about the site. You know, to launch
in that space at the time, there was like 30 competitors at the time. It
was a crowded space, because poker training in general is a pretty small
niche.

So to launch at that time was big news, because everybody thought we would
fail; a lot of people thought we would fail at the time. Just because
there’s already so many people in the space, you know, why do you need
another poker training site? But yeah, so there was a lot of buzz around
that. Will they make it? Will they not make it?

And each of our pros, so there was like sub forums, right? So in the poker
community there’s small stakes, medium stakes, big stakes. And so, again,
if you remember each of our pros was at a different stake level that they
played at, and so I had each of those guys try and start talking about
things in their forums or just participating more. I remember we put, I had
the guys put the logo of the company as their forum avatar, and so our
avatars were everywhere.

So the people who owned the forum didn’t want that anymore, even though our
competitors had those. But because we did it so much better, now they
didn’t like it because we were getting so much publicity. And again, we
weren’t spamming at all, we were literally just answering questions.

But we did it in such a way that we were everywhere. So if you were
anywhere around poker that week, you knew who we were, at least in certain
forums. That really helped get us right out of the gate really fast, and
then obviously the Obama challenge helped us a lot, not so much because of
Fox News because obviously people are going to see Fox News.

And yeah, we got a little traffic spike or whatever on the news. But the
real wave and the benefit was the second wave of publicity to the poker
forums. Like holy crap, this poker company just got on national news. How
did they do that?

And again, people were happy that we were kind of fighting for poker rights
and things like that, so we got the second wave through all the blogs, the
forums, the poker news site. So that’s all free. And so that was like
continued publicity.

And again, that’s the kind of stuff . . . with poker forums, they won’t
talk. They want us to pay to talk about us. So instead of I could’ve just
took out some ads for five to ten grand a month like our competitors were
doing, but instead I just kept creating stories that would cause people to
talk about us. There’s not a lot you can do if we’re creating the best
stories in poker; you’re going to keep talking about us. So we got a lot of
subscribers, a lot of traffic, from that stuff.

Jim: That’s funny. I remember the day when that used to be called guerilla
marketing. You remember that?

Billy: Right, I haven’t heard that term in a while.

Jim: Yeah, I just thought of it just now. Now it’s word-of-mouth and
viral, but that’s guerilla marketing. Did you ever buy advertising on the
forums after they asked you guys to take down your avatars and I guess stop
talking?

Billy: Never. We’ve never bought advertising.

Jim: So no AdWords? You’ve never done like Facebook ads or anything like
that?

Billy: We actually can’t. So for poker terms, you actually can’t buy
AdWords.

Jim: That’s a good point.

Billy: I looked into doing that. But never done Facebook. I’ve
actually considered it, especially most recently with how Facebook
advertising has gotten a little better and I think there’s some good things
to follow to do that, so I’ve thought about doing that. But we’ve literally
. . . I’m trying to think if I’ve ever . . . I think I’ve literally never
spent money on advertising. I’ve done it all viral, all word-of-mouth, all
referral.

Jim: How about affiliates? You ever use affiliate marketing?

Billy: We did use affiliates, but it’s so tiny. I actually thought
when I launched that affiliates were going to be a huge part of our
business. The problem was most poker blogs or news sites or whatever, most
of the places they’re trying to push people to are poker sites because they
get such a high CPA from people signing up for poker rooms.

So they were getting . . . our CPA was like . . . I think it’s still the
same, I think it’s like $50. So if you’re an affiliate and you send
somebody to learn poker from us, we pay you $50, where the poker rooms are
paying like $200.

Jim: Yeah, they get hundreds.

Billy: Yeah, they make so much more, it’s like why would we move you
into a space that’s going to get promotion? So we have affiliates but it’s
really tiny. We might get, you know, at the peak even we were probably only
getting dozens of signups a month through affiliates and now we’re probably
getting sporadic . . . I’d have to check, five, ten signups a month, 15
maybe.

Jim: Okay. You mentioned earlier about the membership pricing. I think you
started at a $100 signup fee and $30 a month, then there’s like a six-month
and 12-month plan. Has that not changed?

Billy: Hasn’t changed. So it’s the same. So basically, it’s somebody
signs up for a month, it’s basically the math would work into where it’s
just $120, whatever it is, $129, $130ish. Then the six month is $250 I
think then $400 for the yearly. So yeah, it hasn’t changed at all.

Honestly, we would’ve charged a lot more but there was already like, again,
30 people in the space and that made us the most . . . the highest-priced,
where a lot of our competitors were either not charging a signup fee and/or
charging like $15 or $20 a month.

So we knew we had a better product than other people, better service, but
we couldn’t come out and say “Hey, everybody else is $20 a month, $30 a
month. We’re like $150 a month.” So we didn’t want to . . . it was a gamble
we could’ve taken, but we didn’t take it.

Jim: How did you convince people that you were worth the extra money if
you were that much more expensive?

Billy: Well one of the things we did was we implemented a seven-day
free trial, so you could try for seven days and if you don’t like it, you
don’t have to pay anything. So what happens is you just put your . . . it
works probably the same as a lot of things this age. You put your card in.
If you don’t like . . . it holds it with like a dollar.

If you don’t like it, you get your dollar back and you never get charged.
So if you stay on after a week, you get charged. So basically it’s the
first five weeks are that price; you get the first week free.

Jim: So they get to look inside and see what it’s all about?

Billy: Yep, they can literally view every video on the site if they
wanted to. I think there’s a cap on downloads, we cap the downloads at five
or ten, so people couldn’t just download all our stuff and leave. But they
can stream 100 percent of the videos. They could go watch anything and see
the quality.

Jim: So for the trial they get a download limit. Is there a download limit
whenever the trial ends and they’re paying the full price?

Billy: Nope, no limit after that. So yeah, sometimes people will
probably sign up for a month or so and try and download everything want and
leave. You know, that’s going to happen but we don’t . . .

Jim: Is there anything you can do to prevent it?

Billy: There’s really not. The only thing we could do is obviously cap
the downloads each month, but the only reason we don’t is we don’t want to
make hoops for our real customers to jump through just to try and keep out
a couple of those guys who are doing stuff like that.

So we try to make it more convenient, because a lot of poker guys, they’re
traveling and things like that so they might download a ton of videos
before a trip just so they have all the videos on planes or wherever
they’re at. So we don’t . . . yeah, we don’t cap the downloads after the
trial.

Jim: Why do you have the signup fee?

Billy: So, a couple reasons. From a strategic perspective, it was a
way to make the six-month and yearly higher without actually making the six-
month and yearly higher, like they’re actually a discount to where if you
drop the signup fee it becomes $30 a month.

And then six month is actually now like . . . would have to be like $199,
and the yearly would have to be like whatever, $299. It would be a lot
lower. You’d lose a minimum of like whatever it is, 25 or 30 percent across
the board for every member.

And so that was one reason. The other reason was . . . and obviously again,
we wanted people to sign up for the longer ones. So we didn’t want one-
month customers, we wanted six month or yearly, so they saved money signing
up for six month or a year.

The other reason was I think one or two of our competitors had that, and so
it wasn’t that out there. Like somebody else was doing it, but the main
reason from a why would anyone have it is to kind of make the guys who are
downloading a ton of stuff . . . they had to pay a little bit.

So for example, we have over a thousand videos on our site. If you just
paid $30, if we didn’t have a signup fee, you could technically download
everything and leave for $30, where they’re at least paying for . . .
compared to the people who don’t have a signup fee, they’d be paying for
four months upfront.

And again, we’ve never tested against it without having it. So we could
obviously get more customers if we didn’t have it, but would we be able to
get “X” . . .

Jim: Enough to pay off? Yeah.

Billy: And I don’t know that we would.

Jim: If you have a thousand videos on now, how many did you have when you
launched?

Billy: We had . . . I want to say we launched with like eight or
something like that, so not very many, but we’ve consistently put out . . .
like now we do, I think we do four a week right now.

At our high point we were probably doing ten a week which that was just . .
. that was a lot, that was a lot of content, probably too much. People
couldn’t even keep up with it. So we’ve put out anything from four to ten a
week for the last five plus years.

Jim: How did you know how many to put out? When you put out ten a week,
how did you know that was too many?

Billy: It was tough. Because there’s so many games, again, we were
trying to service a lot of games. And so the ones that . . . we would look
at what got what amount of downloads, what got what amount of views, and if
we’re paying for every video we want to make sure we’re not paying for
something nobody’s watching.

So we’d look and say “Okay, our sit-and-go videos aren’t getting viewed
very much. We don’t need four different sit-and-go videos every week. So I
think when we were doing it, we were splitting the games. It was still like
four cash game videos and then three sit-and-gos and three tournament
videos each week, something like that.

So we would find what was popular to people, what wasn’t, and kind of scale
it down. Now I think we’re doing more along the lines of yeah, 15 or 20
videos a month.

Jim: Okay. And some people, they would just leave comments to you. Just
read the comments and figure out what was working, what wasn’t. Did you
have any sort of training for the poker players or for the pros on how to
make better videos or anything like that?

Billy: Unless we were getting . . . we tell people what they wanted to
hear. So when people left, if anybody cancels their subscription, we email
them when they leave and say “Hey, is there any feedback you can give us?
Is there anything that you weren’t getting that you would hope to get?” So
they give us feedback and we try to implement that and tell the pros.

But for the most part, we like to have our pros make whatever videos they
want to make. Part of that because they’ll make a better video if they
enjoy the subject they’re talking about, but also it’s just they know the
games.

Especially at this point, like, I haven’t played poker in years, so they
know the games better than I do. So other than giving them feedback that
our customers might’ve given, it doesn’t’ make a lot of sense for me to try
to tell them what video to make.

Jim: Okay. You just mentioned as people left they would give you feedback.
Were there things that you did to sort of up the retention rate, either
proactively or reactively?

Billy: Yeah, I mean, that was obviously reactive on the . . . when
people left we’d say “What could’ve kept you here?” But we would actually
keep . . . so the guy who ran the support and videos and stuff, I would
have him keep folders of the different things people were asking for.

Then if we filled that need that they were asking for, like if enough
people were asking for something, we would do it. So then we would email
those people back and say “Hey, we actually . . . hey, whatever type of
tournament videos you were asking for, we actually do those now and we
wanted to let you go. You should come back and check them out.”

So sometimes people would come back based on number one, that we got their
feedback in the first place, but number two, that we followed up, did what
they asked for, and emailed them to let them know. So we did that
sometimes, but honestly, a lot of times once . . . and this is another
reason for the signup fee.

A lot of times, if you pay the signup fee, you can’t leave and come back;
you have to pay it again. So a lot of people, they don’t want to leave and
have to pay again to get in. The $100 is a fee to be part of our community
and part of our membership.

So it’s so cheap, right? It’s $30 a month. So after you’re in, it’s like if
you can’t afford a dollar a day, if you’re not getting enough value for a
dollar a day from the advice of really good professional poker players,
it’s probably not for you. It’s not very expensive. So basically, we didn’t
have to do a lot to be proactive to keep people other than just keep
putting out good content.

Jim: And that was based on feedback and then what people . . . so people
would tell you as they’re part of the membership, I guess these are like
forums, that they’d love to see more videos about sit-and-go tournaments or
multi-table tournaments?

Billy: Even sometimes through the forums, or all of our videos you can
comment on. People comment on every video and we get emails sometimes.

Jim: Okay, gotcha. So now looking at the whole Blue Fire Poker
infrastructure and system, how did you get that built?

Billy: Man, that was a hassle. We got the first version built in India
which was . . . this was my first website ever, so we hired through eLance.
It was supposed to take three months; it took nine. At the middle of the
process they held our code hostage; they wanted more money. And so it was
just a hassle.

It was taking a lot more time than they thought it would, because it was
100 percent custom. At the time we didn’t know . . . I don’t even know if
out-of-the-box membership solutions existed then, but if they did I didn’t
know about them. So this was 100 percent custom.

So everything from the videos to the blogs to the forums to any page on the
site was custom. So it was . . . and using a team that English isn’t their
first language. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that, but it’s not fun.

Jim: No, it’s not fun.

Billy: So that was a learning experience. I learned a lot from that
experience, but . . .

Jim: What did you learn? What are some things you would do differently
there?

Billy: Well one, I would much rather pay somebody three or four times
as much to be able to talk to someone in English as their first language. I
probably won’t outsource . . . unless it’s a small project, like a really
small project, I’ll never outsource a big project overseas again unless
someone English is running it that I know can get it done.

There was nobody I could even talk to. Our calls were all broken English,
and I think most of the times we did chat because chat was easier to
understand each other. So I probably won’t ever hire again over there.

I learned that e-Lance and companies like that, man, they’re not very
helpful if you get in a situation like that. At least we weren’t; they
weren’t in our case. So I probably wouldn’t . . . you know, I wouldn’t bank
on e-Lance or oDesk and companies like that to come to help if you need
help. They were probably the most unhelpful business I came across.

That was a dire situation, especially for they already had 50 percent of
the money and they were sitting on the project and more importantly it was
just taking . . . they were not doing anything.

So even after I sent the emails over and told them what was going on,
there really wasn’t much they did to help. So I probably wouldn’t . . . for
me personally, I probably wouldn’t use eLance just because of that if I had
to do it again. But . . .

Jim: Yeah, that is scary. And what’s funny, maybe not that funny, is
English is one of the national languages of India. Can you imagine if you
were working in another country where it wasn’t even an official language?

Billy: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: So how much did the whole site cost you initially?

Billy: So the first version of the site was $16,000.

Jim: $16,000 and it took nine months?

Billy: Nine months, yeah. Really they weren’t working on it the whole
nine months, but yeah, the whole process took nine months. I really kick
myself now. I’ll give you an idea, the second version of our site took 60
grand and now I look at it and I’m like “Man, if I had spent 60 grand and
got the site done six months sooner, we could’ve potentially made another
400 to 500 grand and saved a huge headache.”

So now I look back and it’s like . . . but you don’t think about it like
that at the time. At the time it was my first online business, so the idea
of spending 60 grand on a website sounded absurd to me. Even 16 grand was a
lot to me.

So especially now, now I think about it, I’m friends with Stu McLaren [from
[Wishlist Member] and he’s like . . . I started talking to him about when I
spent 60 on my second version of my site. He’s like “Yeah, you totally
should’ve talked to me,” because there were some things I think that
[Wishlist Member] wouldn’t do.

He’s like “Yeah, you should’ve talked to me, I could’ve probably figured
out a way to make it happen for you.” That alone would’ve saved me like
$59,000. So now it’s just having a better network, better friends, you can
probably save a lot of money on that stuff.

Jim: Wow. Yeah, $16,000 is a lot, especially as your first venture out.
But as you grew obviously, it makes perfect economic sense to spend $60,000
to provide so much more functionality because now you have users, you have
paying members, and the economics, you could see it right in front of you.

Billy: Yeah.

Jim: So, I know there was a little bit . . . from its peak in terms of
revenue and membership, there’s been a bit of a I guess pull-back, a little
bit, from the height in terms of successfulness of the site. Do you want to
talk a little bit about sort of the economy of the poker world and how
that’s sort of affected your business?

Billy: Yeah, so the biggest hit by far was the legislation in
basically the US revolving around the ability for banks to fund online
gambling, whether it be poker or sports books or any of that stuff. So
basically overnight like 30 to 35 percent, let’s say 35 percent of our
audience which was the U.S., was wiped out from playing poker.

So obviously the majority of those guys either didn’t play poker anymore,
or a small percentage of them made a decent amount of money from poker and
couldn’t just give it up; they moved out of the country.

Basically 35 percent of that audience, I don’t know what percentage of them
decided to move out of the country, but it wasn’t a lot of them. So
basically we lost all those customers, because if they’re not playing poker
they don’t need poker education. So that cost us a lot of money.

It’s just been one thing after the other. Then one of the payment
processors for us didn’t want to service anymore, so again that was a much
smaller hit but it was just another thing, that was a convenient thing for
people outside of the country to pay and they just didn’t want to deal with
any companies in the U.S., even though we weren’t doing anything gambling-
related, we were just doing educational videos. But they just played it
overly safe to avoid any sort of sanctions or whatever.

And then a lot of the pros . . . a lot of the popular pros for us that used
to make videos left. One of them formed a competitor, and so it’s kind of
one thing after the other. There’s constantly been more people trying to
get a piece of the pie in the poker video market. Both of those things
happened at the same time, like more people getting into the market, less
customers in the market; much less customers in the market.

And as it continues, basically the poker economy is like eating itself.
What I mean by that is there’s not really any new money coming into poker,
but all the old money is still eating up any of the money that there is.

So slowly people that are professional poker players, guys that maybe were
making $200k a couple years ago, maybe now they’re making like $60k so is
it worth it to be a poker pro anymore? Maybe not.

So it’s kind of eating . . . the economy’s eating itself. Yeah, it’s just
continued over the last couple of years to go down and down and down.

Jim: Is there anything you would’ve done differently to sort of protect
yourself against this? I’m not even sure that’s even possible given that
the entire poker economy is still shrinking.

Billy: Yeah, not really. I mean there’s really nothing we could’ve.
The one thing that if I was going to gamble on it, one thing that I could
do right now is go buy everything up. I could go buy poker forums, poker
blogs, poker media sites. I could be buying everything now because
everything’s at very low prices and I could gamble on the fact that once it
gets regulated in the U.S., we’re going to have a little bit of a boom.

I don’t know how much that boom is, but it might be a decent opportunity
now if you wanted to gamble and say “I’m going to go spend several hundred
thousand dollars and just buy up all this stuff cheap in the hopes that
it’s going to turn around . . .” So that’s something I could theoretically
do now.

I probably won’t do that just because I haven’t paid attention much to the
poker market lately. It’s just you really can’t do anything right now for
the most part in poker. I mean you could, but you’re going to spend a lot
of time and money just trying to force yourself to grow rather than it’s, I
don’t want to say, dying, but for lack of a better term, it’s like a dying
market because of the fact the economy’s eating itself. So until something
happens to get new money into the game, it’s just going to keep going down.

Jim: That makes sense. In thinking back to all of Blue Fire and all your
sort of entrepreneur career, was there anything surprising that you did,
maybe it was something that was small, but it had this outsized incredible
result for you?

Billy: Did you say outside of Blue Fire or in Blue Fire?

Jim: In Blue Fire.

Billy: I mean the marketing stuff we were doing worked really, really
well. Yeah, I would say that was the main thing outside of getting people
to make videos.

Jim: How’d you think to challenge President Obama or a member of Congress?

Billy: So the idea around that was that was actually my second or
third attempt to get on, to get big publicity. The first . . . I can’t
remember what the other one was, but the first or second one was I had
actually challenged, or not challenged, but at the time the economy was
tanking and everybody was losing their jobs.

I sent out a I guess press release or whatever basically saying anybody who
sent me a pink slip that they got fired, I’d give them free training. I’d
train them to be a professional poker player. I thought that was going to
get publicity. I put it in the right people’s hands, I thought, and nobody
picked it up. I mean a couple of small blogs picked it up.

Jim: That does sound like a good idea.

Billy: Yeah, I figured we were going to get some publicity off of
that, but it didn’t work. And at the time, keep in mind, this was five
years ago, over five years ago, and at the time poker was so easy, again,
because the economy and poker were so much better; there was all this new
money coming in.

So I could legitimately, like Jim, if you’d want to play poker, I could
literally hand you a sheet of paper telling you how to play and you could
never talk to me again and probably be profitable. It was that kind of . .
. so it was a confident, I wasn’t just throwing out this publicity thing. I
could legitimately turn people into money makers playing poker. Now it’s
harder.

So yeah, that was one of the things I tried. I want to say I just kept
trying these little thing over and over and over, and some of them hit.
Obviously the Obama thing hit. How I thought of that was it was in the news
already, like, “Hey, they’re going to try to outlaw poker based on it’s a
game of luck and it’s clearly not a game of luck.”

I said, “You know what? Why don’t I try some publicity for this? Why don’t
I basically, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and back it up and say
poker’s not a game of luck and if you disagree come get our million
dollars. Beat one of our guys. It’s impossible for you to beat one of our
guys because it’s a skill game. If it was a luck game, you could beat
them.”

We actually got some interest. We had somebody, some representative of
somebody called us and said they were interested. What was going to happen?
Was it a real offer? I was like it’s a very real offer.

We actually had some poker organizations who were trying to get poker
legalized call us too and want to get behind us and say “Look, if you could
actually make a game happen with anybody, like any member of Congress, we
can get this on TV.”

So it had the possibility to turn into a ridiculous publicity storm, but
the representative said whoever it was they were representing didn’t want
to put their name that much on poker. They were worried for their political
stuff that that was too aggressive for them.

But yeah, it was just stuff like that. I tried to pick things that were in
the news to get a little press off of. When Michael Vick got out of prison
I offered him a contract to play poker.

Jim: Oh, nice.

Billy: Because nobody was offering . . . I don’t know if you remember
at the time, for a little while nobody offered him a job because everybody
was scared to touch him. I put out a press release and said “I’ll give you
a job and I’ll train you how to be a poker player.”

And I think we got picked up by like ESPN Radio, a couple other places.
That one didn’t get a lot of traffic, but it was just another little thing
where we kept getting stories in the news. And again, those news stories
aren’t where we get the traffic and signups, but it’s the second wave when
everybody in poker is like “They did it again.”

Now they’re on ESPN Radio. It’s like that second wave of where, again back
to paying for advertising, we didn’t pay for any advertising; I just
created situations where people would have to talk about us and it was
better than the advertising we would’ve paid for.

Jim: That’s awesome. I love those stories. So your new project now is
Forever Jobless. What’s that all about?

Billy: So Forever Jobless is my blog, and basically I just talk about
my own I guess business case studies, the good, the bad, how I’ve made
money, how I’ve lost money. I talk about ideas I’m investing in. I started
investing and advising in businesses over the last like four to six months.

So I talk about some of those deals. Now I’m launching a Forever Jobless
podcast. Basically I just want to talk about all the things that
entrepreneurs want to hear but is not really talked about.

I try to talk pretty in-depth. A lot of my posts are 3,000 to 5,000 words
on a certain subject. I try to just break down everything around the
subject and try and give people a better idea of how to make money as an
entrepreneur.

Jim: Great, I’ll be sure to try to send as many people as I can over
there. I know there was one post about expected value that I really liked,
and it was surprising to me that a lot more people don’t think in these
terms. E.V.s, it’s kind of . . . I used to play poker. Not professionally.
I stopped in college.

I was like, “Oh, this is fun, I play online,” and then after that… But
expected value is basically everything. Anything dealing with probability,
you have to think of that in those terms. That’s entrepreneurship, it’s a
bunch of probabilities, even if you don’t know what those numbers are.

Billy: It’s crazy that more people don’t know that. And if they just
knew the basics of expected value, like every decision becomes so busy like
whether you should start this business or whether you should market this
way or sell this. Everything becomes really simple.

Jim: Yeah, definitely. Billy, I just want to thank you for coming on the
show. This is a lot of fun.

Billy: Definitely, man. Thanks for having me.

Jim: All right, buddy. Take care.

Billy: All right, cool. See you, Jim.

Jim: I really hope you enjoyed that chat with Billy. He’s a really smart
guy who studies a lot and is able to take that knowledge and apply it to
almost everything he does.

You can tell he played quite a bit of poker in his day, and it’s no more
evident than on his posts at Forever Jobless on expected value. It’s worth
checking out, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.

I’ll link to it in the show notes which you can find at
microblogger.com/10, that’s the number 10.

And lastly, if you haven’t subscribed or viewed or given me a rating on
iTunes, could you help me out and do that right now? It’ll help others find
the podcast and it would give me a nice shot in the arm. I really like
seeing it.

And if you need to reach me, tell me a joke, you want to give me a
suggestion or whatever you want, me email is jim@microblogger.com or you
can tweet me at @wangarific. Thanks and see you next time.

The post MBP #10: Billy Murphy on building a seven-figure poker training membership site appeared first on Microblogger.

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I met Billy last year at FINCON, the personal finance bloggers conference, and we got to talking, as one does at a conference, and I had no idea he built up such a hugely successful business in such a short period of time. I met Billy last year at FINCON, the personal finance bloggers conference, and we got to talking, as one does at a conference, and I had no idea he built up such a hugely successful business in such a short period of time. The photo in the above might seem over the top (no, he’s […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 56:15
MBP #9: How Josh Dorkin Attracted 160,000+ to the Bigger Pockets Real Estate Community https://microblogger.com/mbp-9-josh-dorkin-enticed-160000-members-bigger-pockets-nurturing-real-estate-empire/ Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:01:51 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1674 https://microblogger.com/mbp-9-josh-dorkin-enticed-160000-members-bigger-pockets-nurturing-real-estate-empire/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp-9-josh-dorkin-enticed-160000-members-bigger-pockets-nurturing-real-estate-empire/feed/ 12 <p>I remember the first time I met Josh. It was at a conference in 2012, FINCON, being held in his hometown of Denver. I forgot how we got to talking but he mentioned he started a site called Bigger Pockets. I’m not a big real estate investor but one of my friends is and my […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-9-josh-dorkin-enticed-160000-members-bigger-pockets-nurturing-real-estate-empire/">MBP #9: How Josh Dorkin Attracted 160,000+ to the Bigger Pockets Real Estate Community</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Joshua Dorkin, Bigger PocketsI remember the first time I met Josh. It was at a conference in 2012, FINCON, being held in his hometown of Denver. I forgot how we got to talking but he mentioned he started a site called Bigger Pockets. I’m not a big real estate investor but one of my friends is and my friend, over the years, has often sung the praises of Bigger Pockets and what an awesome resource it is.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the site had over a hundred thousand members. Nowadays, that number tops over 160,000 – a number I can’t even wrap my head around.

What do you have to do to build a site that has so many registered users? What do you have to do to entice them to stay? We go over all that and much much more in the most entertaining and combative episode of the Microblogger Podcast so far!

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why Josh started Bigger Pockets and how differentiated away from all the other “real estate get rich quick” businesses
  • How he got the first hundred users to register and use Bigger Pockets
  • How establishing a distinct culture in the forums helped Bigger Pockets grow
  • Why they started Pro accounts, and how the enticed people to sign up for it
  • How building tools also built their audience (and how they pick what tools to build)
  • How to build tools people will use, rather than what they say they want
  • How the blog propelled growth and how he was able to convince real estate professionals to contribute (now up to 30-35 contributors)
  • How Josh held a successful Bigger Pockets conference two years ago but decided against doing it last year
  • Why he started the Bigger Pocket podcast (and Youtube, Slideshare, etc.)
  • How press isn’t always as awesome as everyone makes it out to be (but it still helps)
  • We discuss Carrie Rocha’s successes on media, who was our guest on Episode 8 of the Microblogger Podcast.
  • Why Bigger Pockets started a publishing division and sold over 10,000 books in less than a year
  • How Josh manages a 160,000+ member forum so that it’s a nurturing environment

Josh is a good friend of mine and his experiences (and success) with Bigger Pockets always inspires me. If you felt the same, please join me in thanking him by clicking to tweet @jdorkin to let him know!

Show notes:

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Raw Transcript

Jim: Hey everybody, today’s going to be a lot of fun. Josh and I have only
known each other for a little over two years, but it feels like it’s been a
lot longer, probably a little too long.

He was afraid that he came off as a joke in the podcast as he talked about
how awesome Bigger Pockets was, how they had 160,000 members, and how
awesome he was as a businessman, a leader, a visionary. But now that I’m
recording this intro by myself, I have to admit something: he kind of is a
jerk. That’s okay, I’m only kidding.

He’s actually a really nice guy who’s extremely smart, and we’ll talk about
what he did to grow Bigger Pockets into the enormous success it is today.
Everything from getting the first hundred users to releasing products, and
always studying other industries for inspiration. I’ll be back at the end
to fill in any gaps. Enjoy.

Hey Josh, how’s it going?

Josh: Is this how we start the show?

Jim: This is how we always start the show.

Josh: Is this the energy?

Jim: This is the high energy that I have.

Josh: Well Jim, things are going really well. I’m super excited to be here.

Jim: You don’t sound like that at all.

Josh: What’s up, man? Thanks for having me on. I’m really psyched.

Jim: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on. It doesn’t sound like I’m that
excited, but I’m excited.

Josh: No, it really doesn’t.

Jim: You got me all laughing before we started recording.

Josh: For everybody, Jim’s a little sick, so I might have to take over and
ask him questions.

Jim: That’s all right. It can be your show then. All right, I’m done. That
was it. This is the end.

Josh: This is the Dorkin Show, it is the . . .

Jim: I wanted to talk to you about Bigger Pockets; I don’t want to talk
about you.

Josh: Let’s do it. Nobody cares about me.

Jim: I want to know, so Bigger Pockets, real estate . . . you told me that
it was a real estate social network. Tell me what that exactly means.

Josh: That’s not exactly what I told you, but if you want to misquote me,
you can misquote me.

Jim: Okay, what is Bigger Pockets then? Why do 150,000 people decide to
put in their information and register?

Josh: Yes, 160 actually.

Jim: Well you should update your website.

Josh: Is this how the show’s going to go?

Jim: This is the most combative episode I’ve ever recorded and will ever
record.

Josh: Awesome.

Jim: You have yourself to thank for that.

Josh: That’s great. That’s great. All right, so Bigger Pockets, think of it
like a LinkedIn for real estate investors. I don’t know if you really want
or care about the history, or if you just kind of want the general premise
of what it is.

Jim: General premise. We don’t have to go into the fact that it started as
the Entertainment Prose Network.

Josh: All right, so Bigger Pockets, think of it . . . when I started real
estate investing, I was looking for help. I needed folks to kind of guide
me. I was making mistakes as most people do when they get into that
business, and the only help that I was able to find at the time was kind of
the get rich quick guys, you know, the people on late-night TV with the
Ferraris and the bikini ladies and all those.

Jim: The $10,000 seminars where it’s really just a pitch for a $20,000
seminar?

Josh: Yep, yep. So that whole world basically dominated real estate
investing. There was no platform; there was no alternative in any which way
that was not tied into that. And I needed some place that I could go and
trust and not feel like I was kind of going to need to take a shower after
being on the website. So . . .

Jim: You built it?

Josh: I built it, and the idea was let me just get some help for myself.
Fast-forward almost ten years now and Bigger Pockets is 160,000 plus
members strong, 550,000 monthly unique visitors.

We’re kind of the . . . are the trusted destination for real estate
investors to network, to get information about investing, to help them
learn to do deals, do business. It’s crazy. I mean what started as a place
for me to look for help for myself is now this platform where business gets
done on mass levels. It’s amazing.

Jim: That’s awesome. The growth rate was the one thing that really
surprised me. Granted everything takes a little time to get going, but it
took two years for you to get to 1,000 users and then another two gets you
to 12,000 and from there it just flies up. How did you get the first
hundred users onto the site?

Josh: Sure. So I didn’t know what I was doing. This was before there were
bloggers talking. I mean this was before everything, right? And so the only
thing that really was around back then were forums, and Bigger Pockets
started as a forum.

Jim: This was in 2004?

Josh: This was ’04, and I’m trying to figure out how do I build some kind
of community? How do I get people to answer these questions that I have? I
didn’t want to go to my competitors and go on their websites and be like
“Yo, check out this cool site that I’m building. It’s the best, yeah!” I
thought that would make me as shady as . . .

Jim: It would. It would.

Josh: Yeah, so I never did that. What I did was I went to ancillary
communities and I just provided value in the way that I was able to do so.
So for example, I would go to some kind of . . . I went to webmaster sites.
I went to finance sites. I went to different related and non-related sites
where people may or may not be talking about real estate.

I would go and I’d answer whatever questions I could answer and I had a
nice little forum signature and little by little people would drip in. So I
think that’s probably where the first hundred people came in was really
from that. I mean I did nothing other than that.

That was the only way that I built the community early on. It was just from
connecting in other communities, people seeing that I kind of knew what I
was talking about and they would kind of follow me back to my world.

Jim: So rather than going to real estate forums, you went to these other
random places and then went to their off-topic section or real estate
within personal finance? Because then you were no longer competing with all
these other folks, some of which were the shady types.

Josh: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: People you didn’t want to necessarily associate with. And then by
becoming an expert there, you could entice them to come to Bigger Pockets
to learn more and interact with them some more.

Josh: Exactly. And then again, I’m now not . . . I’m not that guy who’s
walking in somebody else’s playground trying to send them over to mine. As
I always like to say, Burger King doesn’t let McDonald’s advertise in their
world. It’s one of those things that I still to this day find weird.

I get an email every week or two from somebody who’s pretty much a direct
competitor saying “We want to advertise on your platform.” I think to
myself, “I don’t know, again, would McDonald’s let Burger King advertise in
their space?”

I’m not going to let you grow your community off my community so you can
compete with me. I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit of a strange thing
but that’s just me.

Jim: It makes a lot of sense because it’s just a numbers, sort of
competition-type game. You’re not going to be able to go somewhere else
where that person is doing what you’re doing and expect to entice their
readers or whatever to always come over. You might get a little bit, but
you’re more effective doing the approach that you did.

Josh: Really quick, I’ll tell you what though, over the years a lot of the
platforms, I mean when we first started, that I looked up, I’m like “Wow,
I’m not even gunning for these guys. I just see them.” Now they’re smaller
sites than we are.

But a lot of those sites have all sent people to our community, shilling
for their community, using our private messaging system to try to come
over. There’s been a lot of shady doings and a lot of shady dealings from
competitors. It’s interesting.

Jim: That stuff might work on a one-by-one single case or whatever, but I
don’t think you can grow to like you did, 150,000, by going into other
networks and saying “I want to send a private message to each . . .” It’s
just not possible.

Josh: No, no. The scale comes I think from . . . I don’t know. I think
there’s a bunch of tipping points that we experience. I can probably go
through them all, but the listeners probably don’t really care.

I think the important ones were we established a culture. We created a
culture that was very distinct and unique. It was something that didn’t
exist at the time, which was let’s create this place where the upselling is
gone; it doesn’t exist.

The community is kind of . . . we try to keep it “pure.” It’s about people
helping people and people not pitching and selling people constantly. Is
there a way we can do that?

I think once we started to get to some small critical mass, the word
started to spread, “Hey, these guys, it’s kind of a cool environment. It’s
totally different than what else is out there.” People saw that they could
compare apples and oranges and say “You know what? I want Bigger Pockets; I
don’t want this other stuff.”

Jim: You talked about tipping points. The big ones were culture. What was
the . . . I saw you started introducing tools, and the first one was this
property analysis tool.

Josh: So way back in the day, we partnered with somebody to offer this, a
property analysis tool. That wasn’t something that we had built. I’m
guessing you’re talking about the ones we’ve started to build recently.

Jim: Yep.

Josh: So back in the day, really quick, we actually partnered with somebody
to build . . . because we realized people are coming to our site and
there’s certain things that they want.

They’re there, they’re networking. They’re communicating. They’re doing
business, they’re learning, but there’s other tools in the space that are
of interest to them, so maybe we should start providing those to them
whether it be through partnerships or by building them on our own.

You know, that’s one of the big things we always deal with. Does it make
more sense to build? Does it make more sense to partner? But in terms of
the property tools we’ve got a flipping calculator and a rental property
calculator, and these two tools are designed to help people basically
analyze the deal.

Does this deal make sense? Do the numbers work? You know, we kind of took
it a step further and created these nice reports that they can print out.
If they’re one of our pro members they can personalize it, put their
branding on it, and what’s nice is as a real estate investor you’re always
asking for money. Investors are constantly begging, asking for money.

Jim: Right, right.

Josh: Whether it’s traditional banks, private money, partners, you name it.
The cool thing about these reports is you can now take it to these
partners. It’s professional-looking, and here’s everything. You look like
you know what you’re doing, even if you may not necessarily.

Jim: Yeah, yeah. How much impact do you think those tools as you create
them has had on people registering and signing up for pro and things like
that?

Josh: So we’ve had our pro accounts for years now. What we’ve learned is
you’ve got to build a feature set that people want. It took a very long
time to get the first few pros. The idea was we’re not partnering with
these get rich quick guys, getting these huge splits.

We need a way to monetize this community. Advertising alone isn’t
necessarily sustainable. So can we transform from a place that’s just ad-
based to a destination that we’ve got multiple streams of income coming in?
We’ve got the partnerships, and let’s add in these paid accounts where
people are going to get a value-add.

The thing that I wanted to make sure of was, again, the reason Bigger
Pockets was created was to create this community where people didn’t have
to pay a fortune to get real estate education.

So there had to be a really fine line between what are we offering for
paid? And a lot of people have said “Josh, what are you doing? Close your
community off. You give everything away for free.” You can learn soup to
nuts what people pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for for free
on Bigger Pockets, and people think I’m an idiot for doing that.

I’m just democratizing the information, that’s it. The paid accounts are
giving people value-adds. They’re giving them tools. They’re giving them
the ability to do deal-making at a higher level, to find . . . we’ve added
some features that are kind of like what LinkedIn is.

What LinkedIn does is lets you better find people according to different
criteria. But those paid accounts, it took a long time to get them to the
point where people cared.

Jim: Right, right. Were you building the tools because you wanted to
release pro, or did you have pro already and you were building these tools
in order to be able to have these features that separated pro from regular
beyond what you already had?

Josh: So we had pro already and the idea was can we go and take Bigger
Pockets from this social network and SAS-imatize it, so to speak? Create
more of a SaaS platform out of it. And so, you know, these were . . . in
was an additional feature that would incentivize more people to upgrade to
paid accounts.

Jim: Okay. So going all the way back to when you still only had a couple
thousand users, did you build anything to entice them? Or did you just sort
of . . . what did you use to keep growing at such a fast pace?

Josh: It was me. I used myself, my energy, my enthusiasm. So when I started
I was working a full-time job. I was teaching high school. Nights and
weekends, I was on there. I was connecting, communicating with people,
asking people to spread the word and talking to everybody and anyone I
could about what we were doing.

Even though you say fast growth, I look at it and I say “Wow, this has
taken a long time to get as far as we’re going.” I mean we’re growing at a
much nicer clip, but what’s funny is over the years your idea of what’s
successful . . .

Jim: Yeah, your expectations of success are the benchmarks.

Josh: It’s fascinating.

Jim: Yeah, because when I looked it up and it said . . . because it was
only until what, 2006, that you started publishing. I think when you broke
through a thousand you started publishing on the homepage, the numbers. Two
years to a thousand, it’s pretty good I think. I don’t know, I’ve never
looked at the growth of forums. But then another two years to 12,000.

Josh: Yeah.

Jim: Granted, I’m sure back then you were excited when you broke 10,000.

Josh: I was excited when I got user number five.

Jim: How long did it take to get user number five?

Josh: It probably took a good couple weeks.

Jim: Couple weeks?

Josh: We get five users an hour. We get more than that now.

Jim: That’s awesome. So when you said you did a ton of work, all this
outreach and whatnot, one of the things that I saw that you had relatively
early on, you had a bunch of things that no longer exist now, at least I
don’t think they exist anymore. You had a chat and things like that. But
one thing that has sustained is the blog. What’s been the impact of that?

Josh: So, getting to the blog in a sec, the things that we killed off,
that’s just been experimentation. Anybody who says they know what their
users want I think is crazy. We poll our users. We ask them all the time.
We have a huge network now of people that we’re asking, and they’re always
going to tell you what they want. And when you . . .

Jim: Yeah, how often do you build something that they say they want it but
they actually don’t even use?

Josh: All the time. All the time. Not last year, but the year before last,
we killed off five major products. Major products. Every few months we kill
off another product that we’ve built. It’s funny because you’ll get emails
from people like “Hey, it would be great if you guys could do this and da,
da, da.” We’re like we’ve had that for a long time. Nobody used it.

Now I can’t necessarily blame our users on that. Part of the blame is on us
and part is on them. Did we build the product the way it needed to be
built? Did we teach them about it? Was it integrated into the platform well
enough? I can’t blame them completely for the failures, we have to take
some blame on the failures because maybe we screwed up.

We try to re-evaluate that and see where that is. To the blog, which I
think most of your listeners probably care the most about, the blog started
. . . I think it was, and you probably looked it up, I think it was ’05 or
’06.

Jim: Something like that.

Josh: Yeah, I think it’s eight or nine years old now. Back then nobody was
really blogging. I remember Wil Wheaton; that was like the blog I knew. I
had seen a couple people were experimenting with real estate blogs, and
none of us knew what we were doing.

Blogging back then was literally going to the New York Times, grabbing
three paragraphs, writing an introductory sentence saying “Oh, I found this
awesome article on the New York Times,” and sharing it. That was a blog.

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: It took a long time for us, for everybody, to figure out what can you
do with this platform? How do you really reach people? But yeah, things
have come a long way since then. It was me, then I figured I was getting
somewhat burnt out so I added on a contributor and today we’ve got, I don’t
know, 30?

I think we’ve got 30 to 35 regulator contributors who contribute every week
or bi-weekly. If you add everybody who contributes kind of en masse, we’re
probably at 40 or 50 people right now.

Jim: Wow. How do you find these people?

Josh: So early on it was very difficult. It’s much different today. Today I
get an email every two days saying “Hey, I want to contribute to your
blog.”

Jim: “I love your work. You’re the best.”

Josh: “You’re fantastic.”

Jim: “I want to link to this guy I know. He’s not paying me.”

Josh: Exactly. Exactly. But in the early days it was “Listen, I’ve got this
blog, it’s starting to build an audience, and I know you’re really savvy;
you’re smart. You don’t really have a blog; you’re not writing anywhere.
Would you be willing to come on board and write with me?” My first
contributor was all for it. He’s like “Yeah, it’s another place to get
visibility for myself. Why not?”

And when I realized that people found value in that, I saw that there was a
way to scale this thing and grow out our team, bring on other contributors.
And you know, that’s what we do. And you know, beyond the visibility
through the blog itself, we give them visibility in other ways as well.

We’ve got our newsletter which goes out twice a week and we make sure to
link to their posts and highlight their pictures so people start to know
who these people are. When the press calls, as they typically do, instead
of taking all the love so to speak, we’ll pass people on to our writers
first and foremost.

Our team is good, but we’re not experts in every single field. So if
somebody wants to know about flipping, I’m not the guy. I’m going to send
my flipping writer. If someone wants to know about mortgages and tax liens
and all these different strategies, I’m going to point them to the other
guys.

So we want to promote them. We want them to get the visibility. We want
them to feel like they’re getting some value beyond just the traffic which
they get to their site, which all of them say typically we’re their top
traffic source.

Jim: Wow, so some of them are bloggers, because, initially, none of them
were. So you’re finding an investing guy or flipping guy and trying to pick
the different areas within real estate investing that you were either tired
of writing about or you didn’t have enough expertise, and seeking those
folks out to fill that hole?

Josh: Yeah, so our goal is to cover every niche within . . . our niche.
Real estate investing is a very nichey area, so to speak. You know, we’re
kind of the ugly stepchild of the real estate world.

But within that niche, there’s a ton of different niches as well, so I want
coverage of all those, because I want to become the go-to place, I want to
become the hub for that information.

Jim: Okay, so the blog is an example of a feature or a “product” that has
worked well. What’s a big one that you killed that you were kind of
disappointed didn’t work out well?

Josh: So here’s a great one. We built, five or six years ago, a meet-up
style events hub. It was fully functional. You could go on, you could list
your events and people could join the event. You know, just like a
meetup.com.

Really, that thing was useless. Nothing was happening. Some people would
use it, but there wasn’t a lot of value in it. What we realized was having
this place that was dead looks really bad for the business.

If people end up there as the first place that they go, they’re like “Well
this site sucks, there’s nothing happening.” The cool thing about that
particular product is we may actually end up reintroducing it.

Jim: Because you introduced that local thing, right?

Josh: So we’ve got these keyword alerts that people can kind of find out
about any keyword that’s being discussed on the site, which is great, but
that keyword alert led to people planning local events on Bigger Pockets
and now we’ve got dozens and dozens of local real estate get-togethers,
meetups, gatherings, whatever you want to call them, happening across the
United States as a result of, A) people’s interest in going to events where
they’re not getting pitched and sold stuff, because again these don’t exist
right now, and B) because they want to get together in the real world.

And to me, that’s the coolest thing about what we’ve created. Not only have
we created this place where people kind of nerd out online, but they’re
getting together in-person, sitting down, drinking, networking, and above
that they’re also doing business which is really the ultimate goal of what
we’re doing here.

Another quick product was we had groups, and you know, you go to Facebook
and there’s groups and LinkedIn and everywhere else. And 99.9 percent of
groups, I’m sure everybody agrees, are just spam hellholes. Ours were too.

We had hundreds and hundreds of groups on the site, and what they just
became were places where people could go promote, advertise, spam, spam,
spam. We looked at it again and were like “Is there value here?” It’s hard
to kill a product. It really is.

Knowing that a big percentage of your people may be using it . . . but I
think in killing a product, if it betters the overall experience on the
platform, I think it’s something worth doing. So I’m not afraid of killing
off products that I think have a negative effect on the business.

Jim: So you said the meetup type of thing you created five or six years
ago, roughly around when you had 12,000 members. Do you think you just
created it too early?

Josh: Very possibly. Very, very possibly. Yeah, we didn’t have critical
mass at that point to have it make sense.

Jim: And it sounds like now there are all these events happening
organically. You don’t create a . . . well, you might create a Denver
event, but you’re not going to create a Seattle, Washington event but a
bunch of people in Seattle are going to do it.

Josh: Yep. I mean literally our people are so enthusiastic about Bigger
Pockets because it brings them so much value, they want to get together
with other BP members. They like to call themselves members of the BP
nation. So these guys want to get together. I mean we had a New York
meetup, there was one just last month, there was 75 or 100 people at it.
These are not like five-people events. Some of them are, but there’s
substantial groupings of people getting together.

Jim: Well 100 person events start off as five person events, right? And
they grow and they grow. The one thing that you started and not necessarily
killed, but the Bigger Pockets conference I just thought of, that you did
not last year but the year before?

Josh: It was . . .

Jim: Two years ago.

Josh: It was ’12, yeah. March, 2012.

Jim: So would that be an example of something that you did? Maybe it took
up too much time? But wow, how come it didn’t occur last year?

Josh: So the Bigger Pockets conference was planned when Bigger Pockets was
a company of myself and a developer.

Jim: Gotcha.

Josh: While running the site, doing advertising, working with partners,
moderating, adminning, spending 80 hours a week on my business at that
point, I also planned a conference for 275 people, 30 speakers, 15 sponsors
at a convention center 100 percent by myself.

Jim: Which is insane.

Josh: Which is insane. It was a thousand hours or so of work. I planned the
conference in three months and executed the conference. So I had a serious
burnout. Our attendees, we polled them and surveyed them afterwards. All
but one person said they found incredible value, they would want to come
again, they thought it was fantastic, and ironically the one person who
said they didn’t find incredible value and they said it was overpriced was
the guy who actually ended up getting a free pass to the conference.

Jim: What?

Josh: Yeah.

Jim: That’s funny. So that’s an issue of . . . I mean it was great, it was
effective, everybody loved it, but you just only have so many hours in a
day and you were just burned out? Do you think you took on too much?

Josh: Well, I think at the end of the day, the event is a very, very
positive thing for our brand and for the business. You know, if you look at
how much time I spent and I walked away with nothing. I mean I made
probably a dollar an hour off the conference. But to put that much time to
serve 275 of what at that time was maybe 75,000 members or 60,000, I don’t
know, did that make sense? I don’t know. That’s one of those things we
still toil about.

So to your follow-up question, why didn’t we have one last year and why
haven’t we had one since? I was planning one last year. We were very
excited to do it in Austin. My wife was pregnant with our third baby and I
realized that planning a conference with a kid on the way was not going to
happen.

So you know, and then this year, we’ve just been experiencing a lot of
growth at the company. So we’re really focusing on our core, which is the
web platform. At some point . . . we’re in the process of calling different
convention centers and different venues to potentially put the event on at,
but again there’s that time energy and the resource drain.

Where are our resources best applied? Does it make sense to put a bunch of
team members on the conference where this year we’d probably plan for 500,
this or next year? Do we put all this attention to serve 500 people, or do
we put our attention towards the 550,000 people?

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: If we’re going to do it, it’s got to be worth your time, it’s got to
make money, and it’s got to be an amazing event that’s going to really help
to grow your brand and your name. Not that I’m not convinced that that’s
the case, it’s just I think it’s kind of a coin flip at this point.

Jim: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. But the other thing that you did
start 59 weeks ago or whatever is the podcast.

Josh: This is the Bigger Pockets Podcast featuring Jim Wang.

Jim: I think you were trying to tap into that energy. We just have
different approaches.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, you know? I’m not combative.

Jim: I’m not combative either. I’m defensive. That’s all I am, a little
defensive.

Josh: A little defensive. Just a little bit.

Jim: You just called me combative.

Josh: I don’t know. I don’t know. Go get a tissue, man. Wipe the tear off
your eyes.

Jim: Oh, jeez. We’re going to have to edit this out.

Josh: So yeah, 59 weeks. 59 weeks ago we started the Bigger Pockets
Podcast.

Jim: By the time this comes out it’ll probably be 120 weeks ago.

Josh: You know, you never know how far behind you are Jim. I had wanted to
do a podcast for years. I know that everybody knows Pat Flynn and one Pat’s
big things is be everywhere. And I’ve also had a similar approach. I think
I learned, I don’t know how many years ago, what happened was Google has
all these algorithm changes and one day one of these algo changes just kind
of whacked us really hard. I was like wow, that hurts. That hurts really
bad.

Jim: Yep, yep.

Josh: I sat down and I was like “Listen, I’m so reliant upon this one
company to bring us traffic, to bring us users. What happens if Google says
‘Piss off, Bigger Pockets. We’re not going to list you and you guys are
going to disappear.’?” I’d be in deep, deep trouble.

Jim: Deep trouble.

Josh: So I wanted to find a way to reach people in other paths. So we’re
doing YouTube. We’re on different networks and we’re putting our message
out via different platforms, SlideShare, you name it. But the podcast, man,
I had no idea what we were in for.

We started this thing in January of 2013. We’re 59 shows in. We do a show a
week. The growth has been absolutely incredible. We are, after 59 shows,
we’re at over 20 . . . we may be close to 21,000 listens per show.

Jim: Wow.

Josh: We passed a million total listens a month or two ago. It’s nuts. Not
only is it fun, I mean I love doing this, it’s awesome . . . you know, for
us, the cool thing about our show is we get to talk to experts in our field
and we get to pick their brains.

Jim: Right, right.

Josh: And we get to ask them questions that we think our users want to hear
about and want to know about, and they do. And so the show’s just been
amazing. And the great thing about it is it has become a new driver of
users to Bigger Pockets.

So you know, people are finding it, whether they’re finding it through
search or they find it through iTunes, as we’ve grown we’ve gotten on all
these Apple top lists and top business podcasts and top investing podcasts.
We just keep attracting new listeners, and as a result, new users to Bigger
Pockets.

The enthusiasm level from those people who come from the podcast to the
site is dramatically higher than somebody who just finds the site and is
like “Oh, cool, this is a great place to be,” because they’ve gotten to
know us.

They know who we are. My co-host is a guy named Brandon Turner. He’s
amazing. We kind of bust each other’s chops for somewhere between an hour
and two hours on our longest shows.

Jim: Two hours? That’s a long time.

Josh: We just did a two hour show, but people love it. And the reason we do
these long shows, what we found is that our listeners are listening on
their drive to work, on their drive back, while they’re working out. And
early on, they were always saying, when we were having only 52-minute
shows, “Well this thing’s not long enough. I want more. I want you guys to
ask more questions. I want to get more out of this interview.”

Yeah, we thought about doing a two-part series. I’ve never been a fan of
two-part series on blogs; I’ve never been a fan of it on podcasts. So we
just crank it out and make you listen whether . . .

Jim: How do you track whether someone comes from listening to the podcast
or from Google or from somewhere else?

Josh: So I mean Google Analytics is great for finding out where people are
coming from generally, but in terms of finding out whether they’re coming
from the podcast, that’s way, way harder. That’s really just talking to
your users.

Jim: Okay.

Josh: Our new members, we’ve got a new member introduction section. A good
percentage of those people now all say “Hey, I found you guys through the
podcast.”

Jim: Okay.

Josh: So it’s that, it’s polling users, that kind of stuff.

Jim: So it’s not so much you’re looking at just random numbers and
analytics, but you’re going, because you have that new intro for them, so
everyone says “Oh, I listen to the podcast. Love you guys.”

Josh: Yeah. Or they critique us and say “Josh, you’re annoying,” or
“Brandon, you’re annoying. Stop being so combative.”

Jim: Do they really say that?

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Is that why you projected the combativeness on me?

Josh: No, they don’t say I’m combative. It’s amazing when you start getting
20,000 listens a show the things people will say. It’s . . . everybody, we
love the feedback. We like negative; we like positive. The negative people
are more vocal than the positive.

Jim: That’s always the case.

Josh: It’s always the case. And you know, what you find is people want the
format to be the way they want the format to be. A lot of the comments are
“You guys talk too much; stop talking and let your guests talk.” And for
us, we don’t see the show as Larry King.

This isn’t us interviewing somebody. It’s a conversation. It’s a three-way
conversation where we’re all interacting and you’re going to learn
something from me; you’re going to learn something from Brandon; you’re
going to learn something from our guest.

Now they’re the primary focus, but we’re talking. So if you don’t like it,
you don’t have to listen. There are plenty of other podcasts in the space.
Most are pitching you and selling you and upselling you, but again we
wanted to be different.

Jim: Also part of it, as you were saying, by listening to the podcast they
get to know you more and the only way they get to know you more is if you
talk. So if you’re just asking questions like a Larry King, how much of
your personality is shining through? And that connection just isn’t there.

Josh: Right. I’m a New Yorker. I need to be difficult; I need to be gruff.

Jim: I don’t know if that’s true.

Josh: Oh, it’s definitely true.

Jim: I don’t know, I’m from New York. I’m from Long Island. Maybe that’s
the difference.

Josh: I’m from Long Island too.

Jim: Oh, okay, now the deep, dark questions come up.

Josh: But you know, I went to high school in Queens, so I’ve got that
Queens thing. It’s a chip on my shoulder.

Jim: Queens, it’s one of the boroughs. It’s one of the boroughs. I say
this as I live in Suffolk County.

Josh: Yeah, there you go. There you go. Out in the rural boonies.

Jim: Rural, where we make wine. I don’t live that far out east.

Josh: Nice, nice.

Jim: So the podcast is good because it gets you a closer connection with
the listeners and the readers. It gets more people. Has there been anything
else that’s sort of driven the growth? The meteoric growth?

You have your hard work, the blog, some of the tools, podcasts. Maybe some
other tools that you’ve introduced then retired because they didn’t really
work out. Was there anything that maybe you released and surprised you with
how well it did?

Josh: So I would say there’s a couple things that come to mind. I think one
of our biggest assets, we added this keyword tool that really helped people
kind of . . . instead of pull, it became a push relationship.

Jim: So like alerts? Like when an alert came up or something like that?

Josh: Yeah, yeah. So “Hey, I’m a Virginia landlord, so I want to hear about
any time somebody’s talking about Arlington or landlord in Arlington.” And
so that’s just bringing people back in. They’re like “Oh, this is catering
directly to me.” People love that.

One of the things that I think a lot of listeners might think is something
. . . well, let me backtrack. One of the things everybody talks about is
press, and I kind of want to address press.

At least as my experience, because I think everybody gets excited about
press. We think “Hey, let’s go spend all this money and get a PR agent and
strive to get all these write-ups.” One of the things that has been
somewhat disappointing is we’ve gotten a lot of press over the years, and
that’s not disappointing, that’s great.

But early on, I was always . . . I mean when we got press, I would tell the
world. I’d email everybody I knew. I’d blast it out 10,000 times and I was
so proud of myself. And what I came to realize is it’s great, but does it
drive revenue? Does it drive users? Does it drive any of the metrics that
we care about? And what we found is nominally, it’s really mostly nominal.

So I’ve had TV spots. I’ve done radio, I’ve been interviewed on the big
platforms. Mostly, it’s been nominal. You know, granted we haven’t had a
preview on CNBC if anyone’s listening.

Jim: Oh, they’re listening. Producers are listening.

Josh: There you go. But I think the one thing I want to kind of push out to
your listeners is press is great and it helps you build your kit and your
credibility, but if you expect press to kind of blow up your site
overnight, which I expected early on, I had no idea.

I was like I remember the first time we had some kind of write-up that was
going to come out. I called my server guys and I was like “Guys, we’re
probably going to crash the sucker. We’re going down, prepare for it.” And
there was like a blip. I was like really? Wow. Like ten people from this
really good interview? That sucks.

But again, it builds up your package. It builds up your kit and extends
your credibility, so even if you’re not necessarily deriving traffic from
it, you do build branding and you do build credibility through the press.

Jim: You mentioned that because real estate investing is kind of niche, do
you think that was a contributing factor to not how little, but how little
impact some press . . . like you said, you weren’t on CNBC where it was a
bunch of investors.

Josh: We’ve been on CNBC’s website. I think there’s a distinction between
being interviewed about a topic, so in my case getting hit up by the press
to talk about real estate . . .

Jim: Gotcha.

Josh: And having the press write about your company, your platform and why
it kicks ass. Can I say ass?

Jim: You just did.

Josh: I did.

Jim: It’s cool.

Josh: So why your business is so cool. And we’ve had those, and those have
been the ones that have given us the little blips. But again, I had a two-
and-a-half minute feature piece here in Denver on CBS News and it was
great.

It was all about how our company’s helping real estate investors. Yeah, it
was fun. But in the end I think we had like a hundred new users on the site
from it.

Again, we’re niche. We’re real estate investing. But if you look at the
marketplace, 28.1 million people are real estate investors. So we’re not
that niche. We’re not that niche.

Jim: Because I know a lot of personal finance blogs that rely heavily on
PR and getting on TV and in the news. It’s almost like a cornerstone of
their marketing.

Josh: But does it work?

Jim: I’ve never asked if they’ve tracked the numbers, but a lot of them,
they swear by it. Part of it’s also, I guess, the whole novelty of it, it’s
kind of cool.

Josh: It’s cool and sexy, right? Yeah.

Jim: But I always found, at least with [inaudible 0:41:37], I would get in
like the New York Times or whatever. They’d be personal stories. I remember
the first time, like in 2004, they interviewed me because I published my
net worth and published my budget.

Josh: I still think you’re crazy for that, by the way.

Jim: Yeah, I don’t do it anymore. Very few people do it now. It’s still
part of it, but back then it was even more taboo.

Josh: Yeah.

Jim: But that resulted, I don’t know, it was a couple thousand people. But
what did it amount to really? A couple more dollars in AdSense? And it was
awesome; it was great. I’d do it all over again. I’d get in the New York
Times anytime.

Josh: Oh, sure.

Jim: It’s just cool. But in terms of spending the time, it’s almost not
worth it. One other thing is I did a couple interviews on Marketplace
Money, and I love Marketplace Money. It’s a great show. But it would be
like four or five hours. I’d drive down to D.C. I’d sit in an office. We’d
record and I’d drive back. It would result . . . I wouldn’t even notice,
like when the show came out, I wouldn’t even notice a blip. It was still
cool.

Josh: Yeah, again, so I think it’s cool. I bet you if you go back and look
at your analytics, your Google Analytics, and look at did this create a
step-up on your traffic or does your traffic start exploding at that point,
most sites would probably say no.

And if your listeners have proof that the press has worked for them, I hope
that they’ll jump on your show notes and leave comments and share pictures
and share analytics with dates. I mean that would be awesome, a case study
to kind of see the effectiveness.

Just because it didn’t work for me or for you necessarily, doesn’t mean
it’s not going to work for somebody, but I just put it out there because I
think it’s one of those things that especially early on, until you get your
first couple write-ups, you’re so excited.

You want to get press so bad. In the end, I think over the long haul, it’s
probably just very incremental in terms of what it helps you with.

Jim: Yeah, I think nowadays with a lot of people relying on email, it’s
easier to see the impact if people are subscribing.

Josh: Yeah.

Jim: And for that, whereas for Bigger Pockets, when they register they
might have to put a little bit more information. When it’s just a popup, I
guess the bar is a lot lower to contribute. You just have to write in your
email. Plus, you don’t know when people subscribe, and they’re probably not
tracking. They may subscribe just to get your freebie and leave. That
part’s hard to track. Nowadays, I think it’s easier to see if there is an
impact. I know Carrie Rocha from Pocket Your Dollars, last year she told me
she went on 350 at least TV, radio, being in the paper.

Josh: Wow.

Jim: Yeah, I’m going to have her on to talk about it because I’ve talked
to her about it before and it’s crazy the insight she has about that. And
she sees gains from it through email signups. So if you see it, then do it.
If you don’t, it’s kind of like eh . . .

Josh: Well, I think if you’re on 350 programs in a year, you’re getting
enough. And that’s . . . it’s one of those things, do you put your energy
towards that? Her plan, I’m guessing, was I’m going to focus exclusively on
this as a means to grow traffic. If you can do that and you want to commit
the resources and the time . . .

Jim: And you’re good at it. She’s good at it.

Josh: Yeah. I bet you it’s a very effective way. I look at one of the
players in our space, Zillow. They’re not direct competitors, but everybody
knows Zillow, the $85 billion dollar or now hundreds or whatever they’re
worth. You know, Zillow, I distinctly remember seeing Zillow and saying
“Wow, these guys are putting out press releases like once or twice a week.”

And it wasn’t like fluff press releases; it was press releases with data
and information. The journalists could take that information, that data,
and create an actual piece around it. The typical press release from a blog
is “Hey, we’re this cool blog.” Well nobody cares, right?

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: So if you’re providing some kind of insight, some data that helps
somebody write a story? You’re now giving them value and they’re going to
be more inclined to write that. Now the question is how many of these press
releases and how many times do you get cited before it starts to have an
impact? I’m sure there’s bigger, brighter, smart people than me that know
the answer to that.

Jim: There are a lot of brighter people than you.

Josh: Probably.

Jim: It seems like you study a lot of what other similar sites, maybe even
not similar sites, what they do. Is there something that you’ve seen
someone else do that you’ve then implemented that worked well? Like press
releases.

Josh: You know, I think if I’m not studying the market, and the market not
being the stock market but the market being the Internet world, then I’m
not doing my job. So it’s funny, I rarely, rarely end up on the website of
a competing website. Most people say “Hey, make sure you know what your
competitors are doing and watch them and keep an eye on them.” I actually
don’t care. I literally don’t care what my competitors are doing because I
don’t see them as competitors.

Jim: Right.

Josh: So I don’t go to their sites. I don’t look at what they’re doing. I
don’t care. I look at ancillary products. What is box.com doing? What is
Asana doing? What is Kickstarter doing? What are they doing that’s
effective? Why are people excited these products? Why do people love these
brands?

And what can we do not to emulate or copy them, but what can we take away
from what they’re doing? That’s more of my focus. How can I learn by
watching what successful companies in the Internet world are doing and I
study those guys?

I read and study, you know, smart, successful people whether it’s on
conversions studying Peep at Conversion XL or occasionally getting over to
Pat’s site on Smart Passive or maybe ending up on Jim Wang’s site.

Jim: If I’m lost.

Josh: Yeah, if I’m drinking that night.

Jim: Yeah.

Josh: But you know, studying the people who know what they’re doing, who
are successful, and the brands that are doing a good job and trying to
figure out how we can put policies in place that potentially help us grow
in a similar pattern.

Jim: Did you do that in order to decide to write the books, the flipping
book? And what was the other one, I forgot. The rental property?

Josh: We wrote the book on flipping houses, the book on estimating rehab
costs, then we’ve put out a bunch of e-books as well. But no, you know what
it was? For the listeners, we actually started a publishing division last
year. Bigger Pockets has all the information you could ever want about
flipping and everything else. I mean it’s all there. We have over 750,000
forum posts.

Jim: Wow.

Josh: On our Bigger Pockets blog, we’re over 5,000 articles. Our articles
are not like 200-word articles. Our average article that comes out today
are 700 to 1,000 words. These are in-depth, really detailed pieces. The
genesis behind the publishing was can we kind of package it as an all-in-
one? And do people care?

So one of our success stories, a guy named Jay Scott, he’s been on the site
for a long time. He’s built a very, very successful house flipping
business. He’s one of the people in the industry that I wholly trust. We
just kind of talked and it’s like “Yeah, I’ve got this book. What do you
think? Would it be something you would want to work with me on?” We agreed
to it.

I said “Listen, I’m not Wiley. I’m not a big publishing company. Do you
really want to go this route?” And in the end it was we’re independent. We
can kind of come up with a split between us. And instead of getting a penny
a book, we’re going to get dollars, lots of dollars.

We actually just last week passed 10,000 books sold and it’s been less than
a year. The average non-fiction book, according to some data I found
online, and it’s online so I don’t know if I trust it, but supposedly the
average non-fiction book, and this includes books from big, major
publishers, sells 3,000 copies. That’s 3,000 copies in their lifetime.

Jim: Wow.

Josh: So I look at 10,000 books sold and I say we’re doing a pretty damned
good job. So we’ve got those books that we sell direct. You can buy the e-
books or you can buy them on Amazon. And we’ve got . . . I think we have
three books that are at some point in production right now, three
additional books that are being written or outlined or worked on to add to
the library.

These are actual full-fledged books. And on top of that we’ve got, I don’t
know, we’ve got I’m not even sure how many Kindle books that we’ve got and
free e-books and things like that.

We just put out an e-book from Jay as well, “Diary of a New Construction
Project”. In this e-book, Jay literally walks from “Hey, I’m going to take
a house and build it from scratch,” to the day he sells the house, and
walks you through every single step, every single thing he’s gone through,
showing receipts, photos, the ups, the downs, the progress. It’s amazing.
It’s almost 200 pages. We give it away for free.

Jim: Oh wow, you give it away for free?

Josh: Yep.

Jim: That’s crazy. How much time do you think goes into producing each of
these books?

Josh: Man, that depends.

Jim: Sounds like it’s hundreds of hours.

Josh: Oh, if not . . .

Jim: Thousands.

Josh: If not thousands. A full-fledged book is . . .

Jim: When you say full-fledged, printed out on paper? Or you just mean the
whole . . .

Josh: I’m talking like a 400, 500 or 600-page book. It’s a serious
undertaking, not only the drafting, the outlining, the writing but also the
proofreading and building the pages, getting the cover, then the
production, the distribution. I mean we used Create Space for the self-
publishing side and it’s great. It’s great. It’s convenient. But yeah,
there’s a whole heck of a lot of time that goes into it.

Jim: Wow. So before you go, two questions. One, how do you manage a
membership site with 150,000 people?

Josh: Drink a lot.

Jim: Of water?

Josh: No, that’s not true. No, I actually . . .

Jim: Pounding vodka?

Josh: I don’t drink but rarely. It’s a lot. We have . . . I think we’ve got
a dozen moderators right now. We have a full-time staff of what are we, six
people now? Five people plus a bunch of part-time plus we’ve got . . .

Jim: Do you have like community moderators and things like that?

Josh: So yeah, we’ve got community moderators. We’ve got, you know, we
built a self-reporting system into the platform. That was one of the cool
moments, as well was when we implemented that where users could kind of
report other users for bad doings.

It was a definite tipping point because I wanted to put the trust in our
users that they believed in the community and they felt so passionately
about it, we wanted to get rid of the “Reddit folks,” right? I love Reddit,
it’s awesome, but Reddit’s a battle zone. I mean you go on Reddit, be
prepared to wear your armor because somebody’s going to try to slay you.

We don’t want that vibe on Bigger Pockets. I want people to come onto our
platform and feel comfortable and not be afraid that somebody’s going to
criticize them, because I think that’s the biggest fear, whether it’s
personal finance or real estate investing. People feel stupid. “I don’t
know this. Am I stupid? Other people know this.”

Jim: “I have a stupid question.” Then when they ask, it’s like a
vulnerable moment. So they just joined. They just introduced themselves.
Now they have this question about this project they’re working on and they
ask, then they get pummeled by someone who just wants to be a jerk. And
there are trolls everywhere.

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Someone just wants to be mean because they had a bad day or a bad
morning. And now you take someone who could maybe in six months be a very
big contributor to the forums because they didn’t know anything, learned a
ton, and now they’re gone.

Josh: Well not only that, they’re probably gone and they probably never got
started. They probably never did the project. And I don’t take credit . . .
I’m not trying to take credit for everybody who’s on our site’s success
because that would be crazy. But you know, it just takes a little
negativity, especially when it’s something as scary as real estate
investing because real estate investing is a very scary thing. I know
you’ve been in that world and you understand it. It’s frightening. It’s
frightening.

So we want to have this environment that’s a nurturing environment where
people aren’t afraid to post stupid questions. We say ‘there’s no such
thing as a stupid question’. And if somebody comes in and beats somebody up
for a question, they’re gone. We have like zero tolerance for that crap.
They’re gone. We’re not going to put up with it.

Jim: That’s good. I like that.

Josh: Yeah.

Jim: Josh, thank you for your time. This has been a lot of fun.

Josh: Was there any value in this whatsoever?

Jim: I think people will get a little bit of value out of this.

Josh: For the five people who made it all the way through?

Jim: For the five people that listen to this podcast, yeah. No, I’m just
kidding. I’m sure there’s going to be at least ten. I know ten people that
can stand to hear my voice.

Josh: Well, your family is all listening to the show.

Jim: They are. They are. This is my big day. My big day! Josh, if people
want to find you, where do they go other than BiggerPockets.com?

Josh: That’s . . . so Bigger Pockets is where you would come to find me if
you have anything to do with real estate. LinkedIn, honestly I only connect
with people on LinkedIn that I know.

So if I’ve met you or had a conversation with you, that’s the only chance
I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn. Facebook, they can follow me on
Facebook, follow me on Twitter, G+, but I do keep some of those networks
sacred to . . .

Jim: It’s unsafe?

Josh: Yeah, that’s it. I’m happy to answer any questions if anyone’s
listening and cares about real estate, have them jump on, and I’ll follow
the show notes so if people want to . . .

Jim: Sounds good. I’ll tell all my friends that have any interest in real
estate to go to BiggerPockets.com.

Josh: I tell all my friends who want to hear someone drone and bloviate to
check out . . .

Jim: Well okay, time to go. Time to go. Thanks a lot, Josh.

Josh: Thanks, Jim.

Jim: I hope you enjoyed that chat. So here’s a funny story. So the first
time I meet him, we’re joking around and I tell him that he looks like Adam
Levine, the front man for Maroon 5, except he’s uglier.

I think, technically, I said he’s not as good looking, which I thought was
a compliment, and I’m not sure he took it that way but we’re still friends
so it probably wasn’t so bad.

In all seriousness, I think Josh is on top of his game and he’s constantly
innovating. I always look to Bigger Pockets to see what he’s doing to grow
his readership, his membership, and all the new things he’s doing. It’s a
source of inspiration for me.

I hope you also took a lot away from this chat about his experiences and
his approach.

For show notes, links to interesting stuff and a place to leave your
thoughts, you can go to microblogger.com/9, that’s the number 9.

And finally, before you go, if you enjoyed the show and you haven’t yet
left a review or anything on iTunes it would help me out a ton if you could
do that right now.

If you didn’t love it, please, please, please just send me some feedback at
jim@microblogger.com so I can make it better next time. And if you’re into
tweeting, I can be reached at @wangarific. Thanks, see you next time.

The post MBP #9: How Josh Dorkin Attracted 160,000+ to the Bigger Pockets Real Estate Community appeared first on Microblogger.

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I remember the first time I met Josh. It was at a conference in 2012, FINCON, being held in his hometown of Denver. I forgot how we got to talking but he mentioned he started a site called Bigger Pockets. I’m not a big real estate investor but one of m... I remember the first time I met Josh. It was at a conference in 2012, FINCON, being held in his hometown of Denver. I forgot how we got to talking but he mentioned he started a site called Bigger Pockets. I’m not a big real estate investor but one of my friends is and my […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #8: Jason Leake on how to grow a real food blog to 5 million pageviews (and monetize it!) https://microblogger.com/mbp8-jason-leake-100-days-real-food/ Wed, 02 Apr 2014 04:01:03 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1704 https://microblogger.com/mbp8-jason-leake-100-days-real-food/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp8-jason-leake-100-days-real-food/feed/ 8 <p>Jason is one-half of the team behind 100 Days of Real Food, along with his wife and site founder Lisa Leake. Together, they’ve grown 100 Days of Real Food into a real food blog that had over five million page views in January of 2014 and supports both of them full-time (and 7 part time […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp8-jason-leake-100-days-real-food/">MBP #8: Jason Leake on how to grow a real food blog to 5 million pageviews (and monetize it!)</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Jason Leake, 100 Days of Real FoodJason is one-half of the team behind 100 Days of Real Food, along with his wife and site founder Lisa Leake. Together, they’ve grown 100 Days of Real Food into a real food blog that had over five million page views in January of 2014 and supports both of them full-time (and 7 part time staff).

Lisa is the “face” of 100 Days – writing the content, interacting on social media, being the passionate guide, and growing the site.

Jason is the behind the scenes guy who makes sure all the trains run on time, advertisers pay their bills, and manages most/all the technical aspects of keeping everything up and running.

That’s a gross oversimplification but I think you get the general roles. It’s a common division of labor and it’s one that works really well.

They’ve been able to grow the site, which started as a challenge to promote another site, to five million pageviews and we go into what it takes to do that and more.

In this episode, Jason talks about how he manages their affiliate links using Pretty Link plugin. Just recently, Jason learned from Amazon (despite having heard that it was OK from them several times before) that it’s NOT okay to use it… he talks about it on this post. He’s still using it to manage other links, just not Amazon.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Lisa started 100 Days of Real Food (100 days pledge) as a way to promote another site!
  • How assigning a number jump started the site
  • Learn about their “upward spiral” technique of getting more exposure
  • How being between President Barack Obama and Justin Bieber crashed their servers
  • A brief discussion about writing a cookbook, working with an agent (and what they look for, the answer might surprise you) and a publisher (Harper Collins)
  • A simple technique they used to increase Facebook fans (they have over 1.2 million likes)
  • How 100 Days of Real Food makes money – there are three main ways and we discuss them all in detail
  • How they use dynamic allocation & frequency capping to maximize ad revenue from premium networks
  • How they willingly gave up $60,000+ in ad revenue to remain true to themselves (and their audience)
  • How they integrate Amazon Affiliates on 100 Days (using Pretty Link plugin, but he’s moving away from that for Amazon per Amazon’s orders)
  • How they’ve expanded to include Pinterest in their social media promotional efforts
  • How they manage direct advertising sales (including the system they use to make sure they don’t inundate their readers)
  • How important it was for Lisa to attend conferences, network, and follow up with other attendees

As you probably guess from all that Jason does, he’s exceptionally busy and I’m so thankful he could make it on the show. If you enjoyed the episode, please join me in thanking Jason by clicking to tweet @100daysrealfood and tell him how much you enjoyed on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

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Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

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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: Hi, everyone, Jim here. Welcome to another episode. Today I’m
talking to Jason Leake of 100 Days of Real Food. It’s a real
food blog started by his wife Lisa to help document their
family’s move away from heavily processed food or it’s real-
food. The chat is just with Jason. He works behind the scenes
and we get into a lot of what goes into running a blog that got
5 million page views in January.

If you haven’t listened to Episode 6, that’s with Lindsay and Bjork
of Pinch of Yum, another food blog I invite you to check that
out after listening to this one, because you can see the
differences in strategy between the two, especially when it
comes to monetization. They’re both within the same broad
general niche of food.

Now, for show notes, links, other goodies you can go to
Microblogger.com/8, that’s number eight. Lastly, if you haven’t
given us a review or a rating on iTunes and you have a few
moments, it would help me out a lot if you could. It helps
others find the show, it gives me a boost of energy to keep me
going.

All right, on the chat. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey, Jason, how’s it going?

Jason: I’m doing great, Jim. How are you?

Jim: I’m doing awesome. I’m really excited to have you on, because I’m a
big fan of 100 Days of Real Food. I’m not even sure how I
discovered it, probably at looking around at various food blogs.
It amazed me, but it is in and of itself–not, I guess,
amazing, it’s a great accomplishment that you guys have been
able to grow that site to the huge numbers that it sees. Now, I
think I saw a chart that it’s almost 4 million page views a
month?

Jason: Yes, we actually had about 5 million page views in January, but
we’re around 4 million on average.

Jim: That’s amazing, congratulations.

Jason: Well thank you. I run the operations fulltime behind the
scenes, but of course the credit really goes to Lisa Leake, my
wife, who started and put in all those years of effort on the
front end. She’s been blogging for four years now.

Jim: Yeah, I saw you started on May, 2010.

Jason: Yeah, she actually started another blog just a few months
before that called The Food Illusion and then she had the idea
of 100 Days of Real Food to draw attention to that blog, but 100
Days just took off so we just ported everything over there.

Jim: Wow, that’s funny. So she built 100 Days just to promote the other
site?

Jason: Yeah, I can give you kind of the basic story for listeners that
may not have heard of 100 Days.

So we’re just a typical suburban family and Lisa watched an interview
with Michael Pollan the author of “In Defense of Food.” It was
actually on Oprah, not daytime Oprah, but at night. She was
like, “Jason, you’ve got to see this.” He was talking about
where our food comes from and Lisa realized she had no clue, so
it was like this switch flipped in her head and she got curious
and started educating herself. Once she realized all the junk
that’s in our food she just had to make the change.

I remember, my parents were hippies so a lot of this like, “Yeah,
duh. I’m cool with all these changes. I’d rather eat more
natural food and less chemicals and so forth.” But for her it
was like she was losing sleep. She was like, “We have to clear
out or cabinets and make these changes right away.”

So anyway, her friends were asking her about it and she got tired of
emailing just chains of people, so a friend suggested she should
start a blog, so that was the Food Illusion. She got so
passionate about it and really wanted to spread that message she
had the idea, almost like a marketing tactic to draw attention.

So like you’d hear about, I think there was young female sailor that
tried to go around the world in a little boat in a certain
amount of time, or whatever, but when you assign a number to
something and it’s some challenge that people can kind of root
for you and check in it’s intriguing. So that’s what the 100
Days of Real Food pledge was about our family pledge to not eat
any processed foods.

We have very strict rules. We have two daughters. I was a traveling
salesman at the time so it was very challenging. Anyway, like
it said, it just got to be so popular that it just made sense to
just go with that as the main blog.

Jim: So the whole idea was to only have it for 100 days?

Jason: Yeah, there was not thought in our mind about this becoming a
business. It was purely to get the message out and to educate
other people about what we had discovered.

Jim: I absolutely love both of those stories. The little happy accidents,
right?

Jason: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: I guess this was still Lisa’s show, how did she get people to find
the 100 Days of Real Food back then.

Jason: Well, she was actually pretty intentional about it. When you
have no traffic any traffic is good, so I call it the upward
spiral of if you can get in the local paper or another blog and
then you get a link back, then you add that to your repertoire
[inaudible 05:19] “I’ve been in the Charlotte Observer, yeah.”
Then someone else is more likely to see you as a credible
source. So it was really a lot of intentional work, so guest
posting, obviously being active on social media, but then
really, like I said, leveraging.

Now she was in a Charlotte Observer article, she starting writing for
their blog online with some guest posts. Then she had a
syndicated news column that went out nationally. It don’t
remember how many newspapers it was, half a dozen or something,
so things like that.

Then when you’re out there in different spaces then influential
people can see you. I remember we had this crazy month in
August, 2011 which was 16 months into her blogging career where
a 100 Days of Real Food was on the Yahoo front page, right
between President Obama and Justin Bieber.

Jim: Awesome.

Jason: It was crazy. So was at that point getting around 200,000 page
views a month and that August we had 1.1 million, obviously the
server crashed. We had no idea this was going to happen, but
luckily a lot of the traffic that came liked what they saw so
the next month we had 570,000 page views. So it went from
200,000 to have that spike, to 500,000 so we kept a lot of those
people.

Jim: Wow, so that was all built on leveraging up, so to speak. You start
with the local paper, you get some guest posts on a column and
then you just move your way up, as you said, “Up the spiral.”
That’s a great way of thinking about it.

Jason: Yeah, and it doesn’t hurt that this is obviously a topic that
she is passionate about and Lisa’s extremely authentic, and it’s
a topic that’s very timely right now. It’s gaining traction.

Jim: In 2010, I don’t know the exact chronology of the whole–is it a real
food movement, like everybody being more conscious of where
their food is coming from, sources and things like that–would
you say that she was ahead of the curve of that, our about the
middle, or how does that fit?

Jason: That’s a good question. I’d say she was probably slightly
ahead, but some of the real pioneers are like Michael Pollan
who’s been writing about this for decades.

Jim: Sometimes too early is not as good, unless you’re like the first. If
you’re Michael Pollan and everyone knows your name, but the
couple of people right after doesn’t catch as much speed.

Jason: Well all these people are important. I mean, Joel Salatin, The
Organic Farmer, and Jamie Oliver with The Food Revolution, the
television show, bringing some education to the masses and
trying to change policies in schools. These are all really
important people, so it don’t know that it’s necessarily a
specific chronology, it’s bringing different facets to the
movement.

So Lisa’s specialty is, I think in hindsight, that’s she’s just a
normal mom. She had never looked at ingredient labels and she
ate macaroni and cheese out of the box. She’s just a normal
person, yet was able to make the changes.

I mean, I’m looking out the window right now, we live on a cul-de-sac
in a neighborhood, we have school age children, we’re just
normal people. So rather than her blogging from this position
of being on a high horse and it’s my way or the highway, she’s
very much talking to her old self and remembering. I mean, I
think that’s one of the keys to her success is that she’s
speaking to that person that doesn’t know what we know now.
She’s very approachable in that manner, if that makes sense.

Jim: You know it’s funny, I don’t know if I was reading 100 Days or
something else, but I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m going to
look at some of the ingredients in the food that I’m eating.”
The thing that I pulled out of my fridge is something that I get
every day, which is coffee creamer. I buy like the nonfat
coffee creamer, I pull it out and I look at it. I’m expecting
to find like cream, milk. What do I find? Cream, milk,
titanium oxide. “Titanium oxide? What the heck is titanium
oxide?”

And then I remember to myself, “Titanium oxide, that’s the stuff that
they put in sunscreen to help block the sun.” The frugal Chinese
person came out and was like, “I could finish this or I can
throw it out.” I was like, “You know what? This is in sunscreen
specifically to block the sun and I’m eating it because they
like it’ll make the cream whiter.”–I mean, it does make the
cream whiter–“and I’ve been drinking this stuff in my coffee
every day for a long time. This is not good for me.” Like I
went against all of my training as a frugal Chinese person and I
threw it out. That was a big moment for me.

Jason: Yeah, well I’m glad you had that moment of realization.

We cleared out our pantry and the same thing it’s like, “We don’t
want to waste the food.” So we gave it to a neighbor and we felt
bad, “Here’s all this stuff the we won’t ingest, but you can
have it.” It was kind of funny.

Jim: Yeah it’s tough. I mean, it’s a lot of food and when you don’t think
about it you’re just buying it, and when you buy it you just put
it in your pantry. Then it’s when you start looking at it
you’re like, “Whoa, hold on.” It’s funny, years ago Breyers had
a whole ad campaign that said, “Our stuff only has four
ingredients, milk, cream, sugar, whatever, chocolate chips.”

So you’re right, it’s not something that’s really, really new, but
it’s good that she was able to get sort of ahead of the curve,
but also she sort of had the persona of herself to write to,
which makes what she does resonate a lot better.

So getting back to the meteoric rise, one on the other things that
you work on in Pro Blog School, which in know you were saying
that you wanted to do a lot more of. It sort of chronicles the
behind scenes after you joined the 100 Days, which I think was
December, 2011, somewhere around that time period.

Jason: Let’s see, actually I’m working on a timeline for a
presentation, so I’ve got these dates in front of me.

Jim: Oh, perfect.

Jason: Yeah, I started about then January of 2012 I started helping
her part time. Then it was July of 2012 where I quite my
corporate job. It’s the same month that Lisa got her book deal.
It was a pretty incredible summer.

Jim: That’s awesome.

Jason: I remember, I was in my cube and I’m getting calls on my cell
phone. We were living on blog income so I had been putting my
corporate earnings into the bank, just in savings. I knew I was
going to quit, so it was such a weird environment to be in this
cube farm getting calls like, “Oh, we’ve got another publisher
interested and there’s this bidding war.” And I’m going outside
and I don’t care at all about the work around, but I’m living
this second life. All my friends at work are like, “What is
going on?” I’m getting calls nonstop from agents and Lisa
updating us. It was wild.

But anyway, I started Pro Blog School in November of last year. It’s
really about how to monetize your blog, how to grow traffic, and
build a small business. I don’t want people to have to reinvent
the wheel. Yes, it’s a blog about making money online, but it’s
based on a real life success story that was not started for
those reasons at all, so I can pull from things that we’re
currently doing and experimenting with and talking about. I
really enjoy it and I want to work on it more and more, but I’ve
got to automate and delegate a little bit more of my operation
responsibilities with 100 Days of Real Food, so I can focus more
on it.

Jim: Now that you mentioned it, I actually wanted to dig a little into the
negotiations. How did that all start?

Jason: Well, we got an agent and I’m really happy we did, because this
is such a foreign environment for us having never done anything
like that. Lisa really wanted to write a cookbook. We’d put
aside some other monetization opportunities so she could focus
on that, in that not just looking at the dollars and cents, but
just her personal sense of accomplishment and her interest. She
just really wanted to focus on that.

Jim: How did you find an agent?

Jason: We asked around, as I recall. We actually had some agents
approach her, but I think we talked to about half a dozen,
really. We were fortunate because some people have trouble even
finding an agent to talk to, but we got to pick who we wanted.

Jim: At this point 100 Days had a million page views a month, at least.

Jason: Let’s see, I’m trying to remember.

Jim: But it was really popular at that point, to the point that saw it and
saw your traffic numbers was like, “Wow, I want this person to
work on a book, because their readership would be able to
support the whole process.” Right?

Jason: Well, it’s interesting you mention that, because she had
thought of the book a year prior and actually spoke to the agent
that we ended up using. She was at that point, I think, we
still might have had 5,000 or 10,000 Facebook fans and she gave
her some tough love. She’s like, “I think you’ve got a good
story, but really these days the publishers are looking for a
strong platform, so talk to me when you have tens of thousands
of Facebook fans.”

So Lisa made that her mission and that’s when we put up a like-date
on Facebook with a free incentive, so it was a free meal plan if
you like the Facebook page. She started doing some guest posts.
I have an article on that for Pro Blog School about this.

That was what started ramping up the social media numbers. So then
she came back to that agent and said, “Hey, I not only met your
goal, but I flew by it like it was standing still.” Eventually
we ended up working with that agent, who’s been great. Granted
they take a fee, but her negotiations she just wiped her fee out
in one phone call. Plus, she’s holding our hand through the
whole process, so that’s really good.

Jim: Awesome, so they wanted to know that you had a platform by which to
promote the book, and that was Facebook? They didn’t care about
Pinterest or anything else?

Jason: Well it’s just Facebook is what Lisa was excelling at, just
because her audience, that was her demographic, what people were
using, and she was comfortable with using. It wasn’t like we
actively sought out, “Hey, we’re going to use Facebook.” It was
just naturally what she was already using, so she just improved
upon it.

But, no, they’ll look at different platforms if you’ve got great
Instagram numbers, or Pinterest, or whatever. They just want to
see that there’s some audience buy-in and that the general
population has seen value in this person.

Jim: Had you guys ever considered self-publishing?

Jason: That would be a question for Lisa. I don’t think she did. I
mean, I was pushing her to do some eBooks, even just simple
stuff Likeipedia 100 Days of Real Food for two bucks or
something, because I know you can make a ton of money with your
own products, but she really didn’t want to have anything out
there until she got the book deal, because she didn’t want any
publishers to look and that and be like, “Okay, well she’s got
the little eBooks.” In her mind, she wanted to be the whole
house.

Jim: A published author.

Jason: Right.

Jim: The logic of that makes sense.

Jason: And that was just a personal choice for her. I don’t think
there’s anything wrong with self-publishing. Some people like
Tim Ferriss, he got turned down so many times and look at what a
success he is now with “The 4-Hour Workweek.”

Jim: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, that thing has blown up.

How has the book done? I guess it came out a couple of years ago, the
cookbook that Lisa wrote.

Jason: Oh no, actually it’s not out yet.

Jim: Oh, it’s not out yet?

Jason: Yeah, it comes out August 26th of this year. Originally it was
supposed to be released in January, but there were some delays
on the publisher end, I won’t go into details, but an August
release so we’re pretty excited about that.

Jim: Wow, so the lead time on these they seem really long, because you
guys started talking about it, you said August of 2012 or July
of 2012?

Jason: I’m trying to think of when she landed the deal. I think it
was right around the time I quit my job, so it was July of 2012.
So she had actually started talking about it, gosh, around May
2011.

Jim: Okay, so these things just take a while.

Jason: Yeah, and different publishers some crank them through it just
depends. Your editors have other authors they’re working with
and blah, blah, blah. So January is a strategic time for us to
release, but they couldn’t make that, so they’re were suggesting
May, but that would be a horrible time for us to release. So we
suggested August, because we get big bumps in January from
people becoming health conscious and then also in August for
back to school.

Jim: Oh, okay. Are those typically the two big traffic periods for 100
Days?

Jason: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim: Okay. So going back to 100 Days, I know that on Pro Blog School you
mention the main monetization methods that you guys rely on
there, it’s premium ads, affiliates, and then direct sales. Do
you want to talk a little bit about how you guys figured out the
premium ad business?

Jason: Sure. Basically we started monetizing too late, honesty. Lisa
went to a blogging conference and then realized, “Oh, you can
actually monetize your blog.” She, I guess, met some ad network
reps there. At this point she had about half a million page
views a month, but she had no as to what she was doing. She was
just overwhelmed and she needed help and that’s when I started
helping her.

So yeah, you can make pretty good money just with AdSense, but then
there are premium networks which with pay a higher CPM. When
you start to layer those in a daisy chain then you can maximize
the income from all the different impressions.

So what I’m working on right now, we were with Federated Media as our
premium ad network, but we just got accepted to Martha’s Circle,
so that’s another one. I’m talking to 350 Media. So this is
kind of advanced stuff, but it’s challenging to figure out how
to optimize and work all those together to extract the most
revenue from every page view, because when you have a long daisy
chain you start to have issues with latency where the time it
takes when there’s all these server calls. So you may not even
get an ad that shows up by the time someone clicks off the page
and you made nothing.

Jim: How are you guys trying to solve that problem?

Jason: I’m using Google DFP, DoubleClick for Publishers it’s a free ad
server. I’m experimenting with what they call a dynamic
allocation, so it’s like the first call goes to DFP and then
I’ve got my different ad networks set up as line items, then
I’ve got AdSense set to compete and I can adjust that floor
rate. I’m also experimenting with frequency capping.

You can put a pretty high floor rate, like let’s say Federated Media
we expect to get $3 CPM or I could set AdSense at $3.50 or $4 or
whatever. It’s only going to serve that if it can beat
Federated. Then if AdSense doesn’t go then Federated will get
the call. If Federated has an ad, it serves it, great we’re
done. If it doesn’t then you can have a backfill, which could
be another premium network or AdSense. So that’s on my to-do
list this week.

Jim: How do you find the premium ad networks?

Jason: The best thing to do is ask around, because who’s the quality
network today may not be so tomorrow, they really vary. So that
and like blogger forums if you could get attached to some of
these Facebook groups or you can just ask other people, “Hey,
what’s working for you? What kind of CPM rates are you seeing?”
I mean, I wouldn’t share those types of numbers in public, but
in a private group you could compare. But like I said, some
good ones are Federated Media, and some of the bigger ones like
Glam, BlogHer, Say Media. There’s different types there’s
Legit, which actually just changed to Sovereign.

But with any of these networks it’s really important that you look at
the constraints around them, so for us with don’t want to run
processed food ads or pharmaceutical ads and a lot of networks
are not able to filter appropriately. AdSense you can, you have
a lot of control and that’s great. I mean, sometimes bad ads
slip through, which you can then block, but a lot of these
bigger networks they’ll have no way of filtering, so we can’t
work with them. In fact, I estimated last year we probably left
about $60,000 on the table since we don’t run processed food
ads.

Jim: Wow, that’s a lot to leave on the table, but it’s also hard to run a
processed food ad or a pharmaceutical ad if your mission is to
be against that, right?

Jason: Yeah, it just doesn’t seem authentic, so we don’t do that.

Jim: It creates a disconnect and then your readers as they’re reading an
article about how you don’t like processed foods or how to avoid
processed food and right next to it is a processed food ad. So
it doesn’t seem like a very difficult decision to make, but then
you look at the money and you’re kind of like, “$60,000, that’s
quite a bit of change.”

Jason: Exactly. But it’s a really easy decision to make.

Jim: The other thing that has been succeeding for you is Amazon
affiliates. You’ve mentioned to me, in another conversation,
that it’s passive. Could you talk a little bit about you guys
integrate Amazon affiliates?

Jason: Sure. You don’t have to do this, but we use Pretty Link, it’s
a little plug-in for WordPress to manage our affiliate links.
The reason being because we have over 500 post/pages and let’s
say we have an Amazon link for a blender and we have it just
peppered all over the place. Whenever we mention a blender or
feel it’s appropriate to drop that link and then that blender
gets discontinued, or they’re out of stock, or something like
that then there’s no way we can go back and change all those.
It would just be a nightmare.

So Pretty Link is a little reader [inaudible 24:59] plug-in, so we
can have 100DaysofRealFood.com/blender and then it goes to our
Amazon affiliate link. Then if we need to update that we just
update it in one place and it updates everywhere. Also, it
gives you tracking, so we can see how many people click on that.
So we also use that if we have, say, a sponsored post from an
advertiser then we can give them some feedback on the
performance.

But anyway, how we promote is just wherever it’s natural. If we’re
mentioning a product, we typically only talk about products that
we use or know are high quality and they’re really good fits for
the audience. We’re not just dropping links whenever, only when
it makes sense.

But really you can make money two ways. One is if you follow trends,
and this can be through Facebook or whatever, what people are
talking about. Often these are tied to holidays or current
events or whatever and if there’s something that relates to that
then you can talk about it, or hopefully we’d just be talking
about it anyway, you can drop that link there.

A perfect example is there’s this little $7 salad dressing bottle
with the recipes on the side, so it’s for real food, it’s great
to make your own salad dressings as opposed to buying something
off the shelf with a bunch of chemicals in it. So it was right
before Christmas and Lisa had mentioned, “Hey, a last minute
stocking stuffer idea, $7, get it with Amazon Prime and it’ll be
there in a couple of days.” It just flew off the shelves.

So that’s one strategy, but another is just the long tail effect of
just having a lot of links out there and then even if they’re
only getting say five clicks a day, or whatever, when you have a
whole lot of pages at five clicks a day it all adds up.

So the other thing is having a dedicated store, so we’re about to go
through a total site redesign, but if you go to
100DaysofRealFood.com right now there’s a Shop page. Then we
have the kitchen essentials, recommended reading, and instead of
using the Amazon store, I highly recommend having your own
custom page and having some of your own words about the product.
You know, personalized like, “This is my favorite tortilla
press. My six-year old can make tortillas with it. It’s
awesome.” Then people will relate to and are more likely to
click through and purchase it. I’ve got a recommended reading
carousel on the page, which does well. Since the images rotate
through; I think it draws attention to it.

So those are some ideas.

Jim: These pages that you have that are custom like the store and stuff
like that. Do you generate traffic to that through search,
through social, or from links within 100 Days?

Jason: We link to it whenever we can, whenever it make sense, so in
the Start Here page it redirects you to there or there’s a link
on it to there. We get a lot of comments and questions. In
fact we hired a comment moderator, because we couldn’t handle
them all and then we have a Facebook moderator, because we
couldn’t handle all of those. But we think it’s important for
people to get answers to their questions and oftentimes they
just need someone to point them to an existing article, so
that’s an opportunity, if someone’s asking about that then you
can just direct them there.

A lot of people ask, like we did a couple of videos and they were
like, “Oh, where did you get that whatever kitchen gadget that’s
in the video?” Then you can tell them, so just listen to people.
It’s really easy instead of like, “Oh, no. I have to go find
an affiliate link.” You’re like, boom, “Here it is.”

Jim: Have you done a lot of video?

Jason: No, we haven’t. I got pretty excited about it as a potential
revenue stream, because we really need to diversify since we’re
pretty dependent on Facebook. We produced, I guess, four or
five videos, but I haven’t figured out how to effectively
monetize on it yet. We’re just using the standard AdSense
through YouTube, but it’s no money to speak of.

I have talked to some consultants and some other people that are
successful in it–I think what it takes is dedication to have a
regular schedule where you’re releasing a video a week, people
expect it, it’s high quality, and then you have a really large
library on YouTube. When you have that large library then
you’re treated more kindly in search results and so forth, then
you can build it. But we’re really kind of anti-commitment, so
we just didn’t want that, so that’s kind of on the backburner
for now.

But we do like video from the standpoint of it’s another way to
connect with the audience. They get to see you, your
personality, etc.

Jim: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I started a podcast. I know
there are a ton of podcasts, bit I figure I like casual
conversations. I get to talk to awesome people like you and
it’s fun. It is a commitment though to always be putting
something out every single week. So 100 Days, it’s a ton of
work already, it’s hard to take on even more work without
knowing that there’s that return there. Especially in YouTube,
if you need to have a large library, it’ll take a lot of time
before you build it up.

Jason: Yeah, I appreciate the kind words. But yeah, we’re just not
going to commit to that right now. But with Pro Blog School I’m
considering doing a kind of an Ask Jason thing, sort of like Pat
Flynn has with Ask Pat, where I could take the voice mail
messages and answer those and that’s such a low commitment that
I could probably answer a ton of questions in a day or two and
have a backlog. So I may look into doing that, because I love
talking about this stuff.

Jim: I can tell. It’s great. It is, it’s like a kindred spirit.

Jason: It’s just the way I am. I work so hard to figure something and
it’s like, “Why should somebody else have to do that? Just let
me give you what I’ve figured out.” I like to see other
peoples’ successes and figure out what’s working for them. I
certainly don’t know it all by any means. I mean, you know how
many questions I ask of you and other people in our group.

Jim: I love it. I mean, Bargaineering as well it did, it was because I’ve
networked and I talked with other personal finance bloggers and
other bloggers outside the niche, and shared as much–well less
than what I’ve learned from other people–and these are things
that I never would have thought of myself. So I’ve always felt
in sharing you get way more back. Even though the other
personal finance bloggers are “my competition” they aren’t,
right?

Jason: Exactly.

Jim: The pool is so huge. If you took all the personal finance bloggers,
it wouldn’t even be a drop in an Olympic size pool compared to
like a Capitol One or a Citi, so why shouldn’t we ban together
and learn, and grow, and do even better amongst ourselves, so I
totally get what you’re saying there.

Jason: Yeah, it’s an abundance mindset, so same thing, people who you
would think would be my “competitor”, so I’m an open book.

Jim: Yeah, that’s awesome. You were saying before that you guys were
reliant on Facebook in terms of a traffic source. How much of
your traffic comes from Facebook?

Jason: About 35%.

Jim: Thirty-five percent, okay.

Jason: It’s just because Lisa likes Facebook and it’s just worked, so
it’s not like we’re going to ignore an opportunity, but for a
long time we’ve been aware that, “Hey, we need to diversify
because Facebook could change their algorithms like they did in
December and January.

Jim: Do you want to hear something scary? Bargaineering through Google
Search, just Google not Yahoo, Bing, or whatever, 75% of the
traffic was from Google.

Jason: Wow.

Jim: Yeah. But Pinterest isn’t really a place for personal finance blogs,
at the least the way back a few years the way I thought of it.
I think it’s perfect for 100 Days of Real Food, photography,
beautiful photography. There isn’t beautiful photography in
personal finance, so it’s a little harder to sort of connect on
that level.

What have you guys tried other than YouTube to diversify your
traffic?

Jason: Well we allocated some resource towards growing Pinterest.
Lisa can’t just be super active on all these different social
media platforms, so also have to write content, and be a mom.
She should enjoy her life; it’s not all about, “Hey, can we eke
out every last cent.” It’s about finding balance in your life.
So she was already somewhat active on Pinterest, but our
Facebook moderator, Shawn actually loves Pinterest, so we put
her in charge of the Pinterest page, so that’s grown since then
from about 25,000 followers to about 60,000. So not huge
numbers compared the almost 1.3 million on Facebook, but it’s a
step in the right direction.

The other thing we are looking to do it be effective with our email
lists, so we’ve got about 143,000 on our email list, but really
just treated it as a service to our readers of, “Hey, there’s a
new blog post up.” Even though it’s really expensive, it costs
us about $650 a month. So now I’m analyzing that and we’re
making the messaging more simple and we’re interspersing like
maybe one monetized post a month to try to get that money back,
but also just to experiment with it, to play with it.

I finally hired a virtual assistant for myself–well one that’s going
to stick around–this past month. She’s Number Three, the first
two didn’t work out. So I’ve been in this cycle of hiring and
training, and not being happy, and then doing that again. So
now that I have someone I can trust and I know who is competent,
and all that, I can put her in charge of some basic things that
we should all be doing like going and looking at the lists of
our top-ten posts and, “Hey, are all of those monetized? Could
we tweak some SEO on those high traffic pages?” Getting better
with Google Analytics a setting some goals and just being real
mindful of things.

I mean, going back to the email, we don’t have any drip campaigns set
up. When someone’s new to the blog, which we get about 50% new
readers, it would be really nice if we kind of held their hand
with an email a week, like you do with your blog, and show
people, “Hey, here’s some resources for you.” And just really
help them and kind of get them over the hump to where they’re a
regular fan now.

Jim: Wow, 143,000 and no drip campaign, you just have too much to do, it
sounds like.

Jason: Yeah, I do. I have a lot to do.

Jim: It’s like you’re running down hill and there’s like all these bundles
of money, like, “I’m too busy to go pick that up.” I mean, I
don’t say that to mean. I’m just saying this is a great
opportunity and it’s so exciting that you guys have such a great
resource and that people resonate so well that they sign up in
droves like this. I think it has to be super exciting for you.

Jason: It is, but we’re intentional with that. I’m looking with some
graphs, so like in July of 2012 we put an email opt-in form
after the post and before the comments and that’s by far our
highest converting subscription form for the email list. We
have a freebee associated with it, some free meal plans, which
are really helpful for people and they’re very difficult to
generate.

But, yeah, the subscription jumped quite a bit. I think we went from
20,000 to 40,000 in three something at that point in time.

Jim: That’s amazing. You had mentioned also that one of third ways that
you guys do sponsored posts. What do those look like?

Jason: Well, a lot of people will sell ads on their site, like maybe a
little 125 by 125 button for $50 a month or $100, or whatever,
depending on their traffic, but just those little display ads we
don’t think are very effective. We started out with a whole
bunch of ads and then we realized people were getting ad blind,
so we dropped that down and spread it out with useful things
like the archives and other things on the sidebar.

So we sell packages, so you have a display ad, but then you’ll either
get a Facebook shout out or a mention in a blog post. We always
double [inaudible 37:42] if something’s sponsored just to keep
the trust factor. We try to find sponsors that are totally
aligned with our message and things that we think will be
helpful to people, which makes it difficult.

So Lisa sold our own ads for too short amount of time, because it’s a
lot of work, so we hired a sales manager, Kiran, and she’s
great. So she handles prospecting and trafficking the ads. We
actually use Adzerk for that because it’s way easier to use than
DFP.

But in that segment, even though it’s roughly a third of our revenue,
it by far takes the most time and oversight. I’m reviewing
deals, and legal contracts, and there’s all the accounting
around it, and management, and the promotion.

Actually I have a sophisticated spreadsheet I created to track our
inventory, so that we don’t inundate our readers with too much
messaging. We just had to guess where to start like, “What’s
too much? We don’t know. We want to find a right balance.”

Jim: What had been the right balance?

Jason: Gosh, it’s just so off my radar right now, because Kiran
manages it all, but I think we work with about five sponsors a
month. There’s a point value associated with each thing, like a
Facebook mention versus a sponsored post versus a dedicated
post. The spreadsheet will literally give you colored feedback,
like green, yellow, red, “You can’t do that.” That way Kiran has
the flexibility to work with different advertisers in a given
month and allocate inventory as she sees fit, but we still don’t
hit that limit.

Does that make sense?

Jim: Oh, it makes perfect sense to me. Do you just rely on feedback to
know how to adjust up and down, how frequently?

Jason: Yeah, exactly. You’re not going to please everyone and we work
really, really hard so, yes, we’re going to make money from the
blog and we have two people working fulltime, seven part time
people right now helping us out, we all have big bills to pay.
We really don’t have to have comment moderators, we could just
let comments hang, but that’s not right.

Jim: It’s not a good experience.

Jason: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, the point being, you’re always going to
get some people that don’t understand or they just think you’re
all in it for the money. But yeah, if the comments come back
and you’re getting more and more of them we listen to that, so
we scale back. I think we’re at a good balance now.

Jim: Yeah, it’s always interesting to know where that balance is, because
it’s tough to say. You always have your vocal–not opponents–
but people that want what they want the way they want it. In
talking to a lot of bloggers and entrepreneurs they don’t get
that it’s a business, they don’t get that you have to support
seven part-time people, and you and Lisa at the same time. This
stuff isn’t free and you need to eat, and all that good stuff,
but that balance is crucial.

Jason: Yeah, and it’s important, again, you can’t please everybody and
you don’t need to get hung up on that. I mean, really it’s a
big world out there. That’s not to say to ignore your readers,
by any means, but just if you get too caught up in trying to
convert each individual person over to the bright side, you’re
going to be miserable.

Jim: Yeah, true. Now thinking back through the almost four years now of
100 Days, were there any big breakthroughs of things that you
did that surprised you with how well it did?

Jason: Yeah, I’ve got a half dozen or so, so I’ll just kind of blast
through them.

Jim: Yeah, sure.

Jason: The first one was, as I mentioned the 100 Days of Real Food
pledge as a marketing vehicle for the Food Illusion blog that
really got attention and took a lot of work, so that was a
really good idea. I already mentioned the Facebook growth and
that was intentional initially with the light gate and the guest
posts, and the incentive, and all of that. That really fueled
exponential growth.

But other things that I haven’t talked about are: Month 13 into her
blogging career Lisa went to a BlogHer food conference in
Atlanta and I’ll highly recommend that to people that are just
starting out, because that networking is so crucial. It’s like
drinking from the fire hose, but I have to remember, like with
Pro Blog School, I’m also trying to talk to my old self and to
think how clueless I was. All this stuff I take for granted now
and I think is easy and I almost don’t even want to talk about
it; it’s like, “No, I need to be talking about that stuff,
because other people don’t know.”

So going to a conference and just understanding what’s out there
what’s available, and meeting people, and then really
intentionally networking, and following up with them after the
fact. That’s were Lisa met our current web developer and a lot
of friends that we’ve stayed in touch with. So a blogging
conference, definitely a breakthrough.

Month 21 is when we began monetization after almost two years and we
should have started way earlier. I mean, we were at about half
a million page views at that point, but then it’s all of a
sudden we were making two grand a month and we could have been
making 200 a month, and then 400 a month all that time.

For me, personally, it was Month 23, a couple of months after I had
started working with Lisa part time, I say Pat Flynn’s Smart
Passive Income and I saw he’s making $50,000 plus a month and I
was just like, “Holy cow! This is amazing.” Not I thought,
“Hey, we’ll be making $50,000 a month, but that switch got
flipped that, “Hey, this is a real possibility for us. I could
really quite the corporate job that’s making me miserable and
work fulltime.”

Really, the breakthrough was not so much me realizing that, because
I’d wanted to do that for a long time and be an entrepreneur,
but for Lisa and I both getting on the same page where saw,
“Hey, this isn’t just some harebrained scheme. All right, let’s
do this as a team.” So that was really important.

I mentioned the book deal with Harper Collins on Month 27. That was
a huge breakthrough, because that’s going to feed the brand. As
I mentioned the website, there’s a new logo up, but we’re going
to redo the website so it will correspond to the book more.

But the last thing is selling our own product Month 45 was actually
in January. We negotiated the ability to sell an e-guide for
full [inaudible 44:40] meal plan for two weeks and just had
phenomenal results.

So for anybody out there with lower numbers, and this I me included
with Pro Blog School, reselling you own thing you can make a
good bit of money from a small group of dedicated followers,
especially working your email list and selling your own product
without having to have these huge number that Lisa has in terms
of traffic.

Jim: Yeah, I think that last bit is always a little tricky, because you
never think that the numbers are always big enough. Then you
hear stories about like 100 Days that has 143,000 emails
subscribers and sometimes you can get a little demoralizing, so
you just have to change your mindset and think, “These people
have loyal followers. Send them something and it’s good and
they’ll buy it and support you, and then you’ll just grow.

Like you said, when you turned on monetization it was $2000 a month,
but if you’d started earlier maybe it would start at $200,000.
At $200,000 that’s real money in your pocket and it will just
inspire you to work even harder.

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. It’s these small victories that really make
you feel a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to keep
going, so absolutely.

You know, too, the point about the email list, so we’ve got 143,000
people on our list, but I need to go back and cull some of those
people. It’s not 143,000 just like super rabid fans.

Jim: Yeah, that’s always the case.

Jason: Yeah, and it’s getting expensive.

Jim: Yeah, it is.

Jason: So that’s one of the many things on my to-do list. I’d rather
have 40,000 just super engaged email subscribers. I mean, I’m
not dissing our email subscribers, maybe 90% of them are totally
engaged. I’ve just got to do the research.

Jim: Yeah. If you were to go back in time and give yourself advice when
you were sitting in that cubicle fielding those agent phone
calls, what would that advice be to yourself?

Jason: Well, at that point I wasn’t that engaged with the blog, so
that early on I would say just understand what’s possible and
just kind of be involved, follow people like yourself, or me
with Pro Blog School, and Pat Flynn, all these different
leaders, or listen to Entrepreneur on Fire, just get inspired.

I guess what’s possible is the first thing, but speaking specifically
to the business, I would say, “Monetize earlier.” I mean, you
don’t want to be out of the gate. You need to understand who
your audience is and have your voice, and have your blog looking
nice, and to have some traffic, but then monetize, because that
will inspire you and help you afford additional people to work
with you.

Also, sell your own products, especially with lower traffic. That’s
profitable. But sell things that people want. If you don’t have
the time to create your own product then find some other
people’s products and sell them on an affiliate basis, products
that you really believe in have tried out and think are a
natural for your audience.

Then lastly, I would say learn how to make your email list work for
you. That’s something that I’m still working on myself.

Jim: Cool. Jason, thanks for all your time. This has been awesome.

Jason: Hey, thanks for having me on.

Jim: If people want to find you where should they go?

Jason: You can find my wife at 100Daysofrealfood.com and you can find
me, which again is behind the scenes on the business side of
things, over at problogschool.com. And I really encourage people
to subscribe to my email list. I’m about to release an income
calculator that I think is going to be really helpful to people
where they can literally just enter their blog traffic, whether
it’s real or hypothetical, and then different options will be
displayed depending on how much traffic you have and different
ways to monetize. Then it’s going to calculate your income off
of that, so I think it will be really educational for people.

Jim: Jason, that was awesome. Thanks again.

Jason: No, problem. Take care.

Jim: I hope you enjoyed the chat. I know I learned a lot from Jason about
how to monetize a site with huge traffic numbers and their three-
pronged approach works quite well for them.

As I mentioned in the intro, for comparison I would check out Episode
6 about Pinch of Yum for their approach. It’s different than
what Jason’s doing, but it’s also pretty good, too. You can
find that at Microblogger.com/6, that’s the number six.

For this show’s show notes you can go to Microblogger.com/8, that’s
the number eight. You can leave any questions or comments you
have and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Finally, if you haven’t left a review or viewer rating and are
feeling charitable, I would love if you’d go on iTunes and do
that for us. It would help me out a lot and help others find
the show.

If you want to give me feedback, suggest a guest, tell me a joke, say
hello you can email me at jim@Microblogger.com or tweet me
@Wangarific.

All right, see you next time, thanks.

The post MBP #8: Jason Leake on how to grow a real food blog to 5 million pageviews (and monetize it!) appeared first on Microblogger.

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Jason is one-half of the team behind 100 Days of Real Food, along with his wife and site founder Lisa Leake. Together, they’ve grown 100 Days of Real Food into a real food blog that had over five million page views in January of 2014 and supports both ... Jason is one-half of the team behind 100 Days of Real Food, along with his wife and site founder Lisa Leake. Together, they’ve grown 100 Days of Real Food into a real food blog that had over five million page views in January of 2014 and supports both of them full-time (and 7 part time […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #7: Paula Pant, How one ex-journo uses humor to write compelling and engaging content https://microblogger.com/mbp7-paula-pant-afford-anything/ Mon, 31 Mar 2014 04:01:27 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1649 https://microblogger.com/mbp7-paula-pant-afford-anything/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp7-paula-pant-afford-anything/feed/ 3 <p>Paula Pant is a former journalist turned personal finance blogger who runs a freelance writing business and a personal finance blog Afford Anything. Funny story, I met her at FINCON in 2012 but forgot. When I saw her again in 2013, for what I thought was the first time, we hit it off, and I […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp7-paula-pant-afford-anything/">MBP #7: Paula Pant, How one ex-journo uses humor to write compelling and engaging content</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Paula Pant, Afford AnythingPaula Pant is a former journalist turned personal finance blogger who runs a freelance writing business and a personal finance blog Afford Anything.

Funny story, I met her at FINCON in 2012 but forgot. When I saw her again in 2013, for what I thought was the first time, we hit it off, and I felt comfortable talking to her. I offhandedly mention that I feel like I’ve known her for a while and she told me that’s because we met the year before. 🙂

I asked Paula to come on the show because she’s very intentional in her quest to become a better writer. I credit it to her background as a journalist. She credits it to being the class nerd in the back of the classroom getting A’s and not making waves. Lately, she’s been looking towards humor as a way to make her writing more engaging (a brilliant idea) and her approach is to study the greats of comedy.

We discuss that, and more, in the podcast.

(and keep an ear out for a Zoolander quote!)

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why a journalist who was on a great career track dropped it all to travel for two and a half years
  • How her training as a journalist was an asset and a liability
  • How she undid years of training to remove personality from her writing
  • The Afford Anything manifesto and how she weaved her personality into the core of her site
  • How she studies humor to make her content more engaging, including some tips of what makes “funny”
  • Why Coke is funnier than Sprite and why two is funnier than five (is it?)
  • Why telling a story at the start of a blog post works so well (the “anecdotal lead“)
  • The “close up, wide angle, close up” format for writing compelling blog posts (her example: Why My 77% Savings Rate… Means Nothing)
  • Why first person narrative helps you avoid passive tense, a writing no-no
  • What bloggers can learn from journalists about writing
  • Why top-notch writers still need an editor (or why Tiger Woods has a swing coach)
  • How she built an active freelance writing business supplemented with “passive” rental properties
  • She recommends that you kill your darlings

Paula is always a lot of fun and I learned a lot about writing, and improving, in this episode. If you did the same, please show your appreciation to Paula by clicking to tweet @affordanything and tell her how much you learned on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

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Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

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Raw Transcript

Jim: Today we had the chance to talk to Paula Pant of AffordAnything.com. She’s probably one of the few trained journalists who is now a “blogger”. And I wanted her on because she has a very intentional approach to improving her writing and connecting with readers.

One thing to look out for is near the end. It’s some magic I was hoping to capture in these conversations, where we get to talking about her favorite book, and then that’s usually a closing question, but that spawns a whole discussion about a topic she calls, or that writers often call, ‘killing your darlings’, something I’ve never heard of before. But once I started digging into it, I absolutely loved it. I’ll be back at the end to fill in anything we missed.

Jim: Hi, Paula. How’s it going?

Paula: Great. How are you?

Jim: I’m doing great. I want to thank you for coming on the show.

Paula: Oh, no problem. Thanks for having me.

Jim: So I’ve been talking to a lot of bloggers and one of the most interesting things is that very few of them start off as journalists, as you did.

Paula: Yeah. I found that interesting too. When I started blogging I assumed that there would be a lot of ex-journalists in the scene. And as far as I know, in the personal finance community, I might be the only one. There might be one, maybe, maybe there’s one other. But yeah, it’s not really a common thing.

Jim: We had talked in the past before about it briefly, but I went back and did a little research. And it turns out you moved up from being a news reporter in Colorado up to deputy news editor before you decided, ‘this isn’t really for me.’ And you went traveling, you went to some exotic, fun places, photos. What led to that decision? Because it’s not really typical. And it looks like your career was moving in a great direction.

Paula: It was. A couple of things: When I graduated from college, my dream, if I had had the money at the time, my dream was to just go travel for a while. I’d spent all of my life reading about the rest of the world and learning about the rest of the world, and I wanted to see it in person. But I’d just graduated from college. I didn’t have any money.

Jim: Yeah. It’s tough to travel when you don’t have money. We’re going to do it later, but it sort of ties into the Afford Anything manifesto, that you don’t have to have a ton of money to travel.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. You need a, like, a few thousand, but you don’t need a whole heck of a lot. When I graduated from college, I had almost zero, so I needed to get a job. So I did. And I started working at the local paper, and started as an intern and eventually went full-time as a news reporter. And then stayed there for a number of years and worked my way up to deputy news editor. But the entire time I was doing that, I was saving like crazy. I was obsessed with saving money because I knew the entire time that I wanted to go travel.

Jim: So you had intended, had you always planned on leaving? And I guess this was around 2008.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. I started working in 2005, and from ’05 to ’08 I’d always planned on quitting my job and then just traveling the world.

Jim: Wow.

Paula: It was the plan from the very beginning.

Jim: Okay. So nothing happened, say, in 2008, that pushed you in this direction. This was what you wanted to do.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think that what I encountered between the years of ’05 through ’08 led me to the conclusion that after traveling I wouldn’t go back to writing for a newspaper. I think the plan to take some time off and travel had always been there, but I had always assumed that once that was through I’d go back to being a W-2 employee at a print newspaper. And between ’05 to ’08, being in the industry, I realized that was not where the future was headed, so I had to rethink what I would do after returning.

Jim: That’s Interesting. I guess your “training” was as a writer, as a journalist?

Paula: It was, yes.

Jim: So that’s, again, another thing that a lot of bloggers aren’t. Like personally, I’m a terrible writer. Or at least — Now I’m an okay writer after years and years. As Malcolm Gladwell says, 10,000 hours, if you spend that much time at anything, you should be okay.

Paula: You know, it’s funny. When I started blogging, I mean no offense to anyone, but when I started blogging and began reading other blogs, I would go to these bogs and I’m like, these people are terrible! I mean, not everyone; there are some good writers. But there are so many terrible, terrible writers out there. It kind of surprised me. I was like, how can people blog if they’re not good writers?

And that was when I began to realize that so much of blogging is running a business. It’s not just the writing. And as an ex-journalist, I tend to think first, about the writing, and second, about the business aspect. But in fact, there are a lot of bloggers out there who, first and foremost, are businesspeople and they’re very successful bloggers. Because they think that way.

Jim: Yeah. It’s true. One other thing is that writing is a skill, and like anything, you get better with practice.

Paula: Exactly.

Jim: But with a blog, it’s more often about personality and your mission, a manifesto. And people are willing to look past your inability to write as long as they connect with the message.

Paula: That’s true. That’s very true. And in fact, my training as a journalist was both an asset and a liability. It was an asset in that I’ve spent years training in how to be a good writer, how to be concise and clear, and deliver a message. But when you’re learning how to write for a print newspaper, you’re intentionally learning how to take all your personality away from your writing.

For example, I would write an article that would say, hypothetically, two gunmen shot and killed a bystander at the 7-11 during a botched robbery on Tuesday morning. Police are still on the scene. You know? I mean, that delivers the facts.

Jim: That’s reporting, right?

Paula: Yeah, exactly. It’s straight reporting. It delivers the facts. It has no personality. And I’ve spent years learning how to not have a personality. And so I had to unlearn all of that.

Jim: That sounds so weird to say, right?

Paula: It does. It does. But that’s the whole idea. In journalism, it’s not about you. It’s about the story. So you really keep the focus on the story. Keep the focus on the gunman and the pedestrians and the bystanders and the men are now being treated at Boulder Community Hospital. They’re listed in stable condition.

That’s what you report and that’s what you write, and you remove yourself from the piece. You don’t talk about this is how I felt when I saw it. And this is what it made me reflect on. And now I realize that I’m going to make these changes in my priorities because of what I saw. Because it’s not about you. And in blogging, it’s the opposite.

Jim: Blogging’s basically one editorial.

Paula: Exactly. Exactly. It’s a huge op-ed.

Jim: So how did you work towards instilling more of your personality into your writing?

Paula: Well, when I started my blog, which was almost exactly three years ago, when I first began I wanted to promote the blog by guest posting. And I reached out to another personal finance blogger and said, “Hey, can I write a guest post on your site?” And he wrote me back, and in the nicest way possible, he basically said, “Your blog looks like spam.”

Jim: Oh. That wasn’t me, was it?

Paula: No. No, it wasn’t you. Yeah, you know, he said it looks really spammy. It kind of looks like a robot created it. At that time I didn’t have my picture on my About page because I was really coming from the idea of oh, this isn’t about me. This is about personal finance and this is what a 401k is. You know?

Jim: Yeah. Yeah.

Paula: Yeah.

Jim: So this is before anything. You go, you try to get a guest post. What did you take away from that experience?

Paula: Well, I wrote him back and I was like, well, do you have any suggestions on how to not make it sounds so spammy? And he said, show me who you are. Put your name and your face on your About page. And that sounds so obvious, but do it. Tell me who you are. Tell me your story. Write with the first person narrative. And so I started doing that. But it took months of really being intentional about bringing my own story in. Because I was so reluctant to do it.

Jim: Right. Right. And it’s funny. If you do look at your About page now, it has a lot of personality. It has the manifesto. Do you want to go briefly into the Forward Anything message?

Paula: Sure. Sure. Well, so I started Afford Anything because as I was traveling, my friends would often ask me how can you afford to travel for so long? Or worse, they would say, hey, I would love to travel. I’d love to go to all these countries, but I can’t afford it. And these were friends who I know for a fact were making a lot more than I was. Because newspaper journalism is not a high-paying profession. At all.

And so when they would say, hey I’d would love to it, I can’t afford it, it was just such a frustrating thing for me to hear because I knew they could afford it if they were really intentional about how they spent their money. And so I started Afford Anything to show people, hey, you can afford anything. You can’t afford everything, but you can afford anything. And that was how it began. And over the years, it sort of iterated into a blog that’s not just about setting priorities in terms of how you spend your money but also about cultivating freedom and independence, and creating multiple streams of passive income so that you’re not beholden to an employer.

Jim: One thing that came up, and I’m kind of cheating a little bit because we talked about this before, but in trying to put more personality and more of yourself into it, you told me that you were studying humor and how to sort of use the comedy elements to give your posts more energy. Can you talk a little bit about how that’s like?

Paula: Sure. So I am not naturally a funny person. You know in school how there were those kids who were the class clowns?

Jim: Yeah.

Paula: I was the opposite of that. I was that quiet, studious class nerd who sat at the back of the room and got A’s on everything, and didn’t make any waves.

Jim: That sounds horrible. No, I’m just kidding. I was probably the same person, the nerdy kid. But I know where you’re coming from.

Paula: Yeah, exactly. And so I’m basically taking that skill set of reading and studying, and this sounds so nerdy, but I’m applying that towards cultivating more personality in my writing. And so part of that has been studying humor, studying comedy. Because like you said, Jim, in the way that you said writing is a skill, humor and comedy is also a skill, and it’s one that I’m very actively and very intentionally working on.

So if you take a joke, something that’s funny, you reverse engineer it, sort of ask yourself why is that funny, and you begin to decipher thes patterns about what are the elements that comprise humor? Elements such as surprise, absurdity, hard sounds.

Jim: Hard sounds?

Paula: Yeah, hard sounds. Sounds like the “S” sound, “sssss” is a very soft sound.

Jim: Yeah.

Paula: And that doesn’t create as much humor as a punch line that has a hard sound like a “kuh” or a “tuh”.

Jim: Because there’s not as much surprise.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. So if you can deliver a punch line that has a very hard sound to it, glottal stops, things like that, it creates that element of surprise to the ear.

Jim: Oh. That’s interesting. How does that apply when you’re talking about writing? Because when you read something, your brain is actually vocalizing it in your head. So I guess that still applies in that case. It’s interesting that a hard sound would have such an impact.

Paula: So for example, Coke is funnier than Sprite.

Jim: I guess that’s funnier. I don’t know.

Paula: Or the number two is funnier than five.

Jim: Huh. I guess I have to think about that some more. What’s really interesting is that when you break anything down, it’s sort of like the engineer’s look or the tactical person’s look at things. Everything can get broken down into these little ideas, that you’re talking about hard sounds and surprise and absurdity. I always find it fascinating to learn about those type of things. Especially when you talk about humor, because humor — most people consider humor to be some innate skill that can’t be taught or trained.

Paula: Exactly. Yeah. A lot of people think that.

Jim: You know, either people are funny or they’re not. Just as people are — one prime example, introverts and extroverts. There’s a belief that that’s an inherent thing, that someone is one or the other. And what’s interesting, and that might all be true, but you can always sort of pretend until it is true.

Paula: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Exactly.

Jim: I don’t consider myself an extrovert because after we talk about this interview, I’m going to need to sit in a quiet place. Because this will, like, drain me. I mean, I enjoy it tremendously. It’s not a matter of enjoyment. It’s not within my nature, I guess, to expend this much energy and need some down time.

Paula: Mm-hmm. Right.

Jim: It’s kind of funny when something like humor is just a teachable thing. Just like extroversion in limited doses is also, I think, teachable.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. And, you know, if you read the autobiographies of comedians, like if you read, Steve Martin wrote this autobiography called “Born Standing Up”. If you read those, you’ll actually notice how much time famous comedians have spent learning how to be funny. They’re serious about humor.

Jim: Yeah. Huh. Ha ha. I get it. Ah. I gotcha. I see what you did there.

Paula: So it goes back to that Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour thing. The people in this world who are the best at being funny are the ones who have really trained at it.

Jim: So now here’s the flip side of the coin.

Paula: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You are now trying to instill more of your personality and you were trained to be a writer. You had the years as a journalist, as a reporter. How were you able to sort of break through that training in order to overcome these natural tendencies that you developed through training?

Paula: You know, it’s been challenging. When I look back on my earliest blog posts, from three years ago, they’re embarrassing.

Jim: Yeah.

Paula: In hindsight. They’re really embarrassing.

Jim: My first few 200 are awful. They’re awful. Because I wasn’t all that great at writing. I was an engineer, so everything was very analytical and very dry. It was sort of like what you were saying; it was reporting in a sense. It was analyzing. These are the numbers. And that just wasn’t connecting as well.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Jim: I don’t know if it worked like this for you, but for me, I just decided, all right, I’m going to have to start telling more stories. Like, I was watching what other people were doing and what was successful. And J. D., who we had on the first episode, and we actually talked about you a little bit, he tells a lot of stories. And so I thought, I need to start telling a lot more stories. And through that, that was the way my brain was able to click. Because I couldn’t take something definitive to do — tell story –and then that sort of opened everything else up.

Paula: Yeah. I’ve done that a lot as well. In journalism we call that the anecdotal lead.

Jim: Hmm.

Paula: So in a feature story that you’re writing, so not breaking news reporting or spot news, but for a feature story you start with an anecdotal lead. So you’ll start by looking at one single microcosm: When Jennifer Cancio graduated from college, she did what any normal person would have expected her to do: She took a job within her field. But Jennifer was unhappy. So six months ago she quit her job and flew to Thailand where now she’s a surfing instructor.

So there you’ve got that narrow little microcosm and then boom, you expend into: Jennifer is one of 800,000 people who have flown to Thailand become surfing instructors in the past decade.

And then you expand into the facts and the statistics. And then you report that whole story, and then at the very end you tie it back into: Jennifer says it was the best decision of her life.

The formula for it is — if you were to use a photography analogy, it’s like close-up, wide angle and then close-up. And that’s actually a formula that, again, you’re taught as a reporter. And so for me, I started doing that because I was more comfortable telling other people’s stories than my own. Again, because that was how I’d been trained.

So that was how I started doing it. As I started adding that emotional element, adding that thing that can connect with readers by telling stories. But in the beginning I would tell other people’s stories and leave myself out. And it was just sort of — slowly I would tell one of my own stories. And then one more. And then one more. And began, eventually, just getting more comfortable weaving that in over time.

Jim: Do you remember the first story you told about yourself? The first one that sticks out in your mind?

Paula: I guess I had mentioned in my About page that I had traveled. So a few of my earliest readers would send me specific questions, asking about my travels. And so the first few articles that I wrote were in Q&A format where a reader would say, hey, I have these questions about the trip you took and I would just straight answer them. Yeah, that was how I first began talking about myself.

Jim: And then just over time you became more comfortable. You know, like dipping your toe in the water and then slowly walking all the way in.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And I still sort of play that close-up, wide angle, close-up. I still integrate that formula in a lot of the blog articles, even when I talk about myself. So all I’ve done is swapped talking about another person with talking about myself, but I keep that same formula.

So I wrote a post recently about the difference between savings versus investments, and having a savings rate versus having your investing rate. But the way that I introduced it was, hey, I took a look at my personal finances from the previous year and this is my savings rate, but really, that’s a meaningless statistic, and here’s why. And then the middle part of the story was the idea of savings versus investing. And then I closed out again with myself.

Jim: Mm. Okay. So you were able to introduce your story, but the article wasn’t about you, per se. It was about the savings versus investing rate.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. So it’s using myself as the microcosm to illustrate a broader point.

Jim: Cool. So having no journalistic background, I use stories, one, because it connects and whatnot, but it’s also good from a copywriting perspective. Because the goal of the headline is to get you to read the first sentence, to get to read the second, et cetera. And stories, people just naturally start following a story. It’s like, what happens next? I want to know what happens next. Tell me, tell me. I’m going to keep reading. Next thing you know, now I’m learning about savings versus investing rate. Paula tricked me.

Paula: Exactly. Exactly. And also, from a writing perspective, people — it’s easy to go into passive tense or passive voice. I had that problem, and I’ve had years of training. So one thing that’s really cool about writing a first person narrative is that you’re sort of forced to write with proper sentence structure: I did this, I thought that, I looked at this. You know, subject-verb-object.

Jim: Yeah.

Paula: So my advice to anyone who’s listening, especially if you’re not that great of a writer, is that telling stories, and especially beginning each sentence with “I” or “We” is a great way to keep your sentence structures on track.

Jim: That’s a very good point. Very good point. So if I’m a blogger and you, sort of straddling both worlds, if you want to think of it in those terms, what are some things that bloggers can learn from journalists on how to become better writers, or just better storytellers, or anything?

Paula: The number one take-away is be concise. Because, unfortunately a lot of people believe that longer equals better, and that a 5000 word blog post is necessarily, inherently better than an 800 word post. That’s not necessarily the case. As a reporter, you’re trained to convey the most amount of information in the least amount of words. And I think that’s a very valuable skill to have because brevity is just so key to creating good content.

And there’s a difference between brief and short. Like it’s fine to have a 5000 word blog post that is 20,000 words distilled down to its 5000 word essence. You know? It’s not okay to have a 5000 word blog post that is 3000 words that you’ve just inflated for the sake of putting in a bunch of filler, you know?

Jim: So how do you be brief?

Paula: The analogy I always give, because I come from finance blogging, is be frugal with your words. Pretend that you’re paying $2 for every word and ask yourself if you’d pay that money for that word. Because this is what happens: In the world of print journalism, if you’re freelancing for a magazine, that magazine might be paying you two bucks a word, and so they’re not going to let you put in filler, you know?

Jim: They only have so much space in the newspaper. You have to fit it in.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. Your requirement, usually it’s not word count, it’s column inches.

Jim: Yeah.

Paula: And so you have to fit the story within a certain number of column inches. And so yeah, that’s what the advice is. Be frugal with your words and be really ruthless in the way that you slash your expenses if you’re trying to get out of debt. Slash your words. If every word costs you $2, you’re going to be really hell-bent on cutting out the words that don’t justify that expense.

Jim: That’s a good way of thinking about it. I’ve never actually thought about it that way, but it makes a lot of sense. I was talking with J. D. and he said you should take a lot of time editing. I’m sure you have rules of thumb about this too. He said for every half-hour of writing, you do two hours of editing. And then you can definitely be brief and start cutting it down.

Paula: Yeah. I totally agree. I totally agree. And in fact, write your initial draft, and then put it away, go to bed, and open it up the next day. And you’ll read it with fresh eyes and you’ll be able to slash a bunch of words right then and there. And then do that a few times. Do a few iterations of that. Just look at it once a day, and every time that you look at it, look at it with a machete and just be ready to start cutting.

Jim: It’s funny. You told me in the past that it takes you five hours, or somewhere around that level, to write each blog post.

Paula: Yeah. It does.

Jim: How much of that would you consider editing versus actual creation?

Paula: Editing is the bulk of that.

Jim: So I think that’s a trend. You don’t know this when you’re an individual blogger on your own, even when you’re talking with other people. I remember back in the day I would talk with J. D. and say, Oh, it takes me forever to “write a post”. What he meant was it took him forever to edit a post. But I always heard, “write, write”.

I don’t know if it’s safe for me to admit this, but on Bar Canary I edited maybe five minutes for every five hours of writing I did. And yes, the writing was bulky and heavy. It was conversational, which is fine, but like, tons more words than I needed. If I had to pay $2 per word, I’d be way broker, if that’s proper to say.

But you don’t know this unless you talk to someone about the writing process. And since bloggers mostly are not writers by training, they don’t think in those terms. They’re just thinking, well, how do I get my words onto the piece of paper? And once that happens, it’s almost as if, all right, I’m done.

Paula: Mm.

Jim: And I’ve heard in the past, someone has told me, editors have told me, you need to get an editor. You’re just wasting words. Those are bits and bites that the Internet’s not getting back because you’ve sent this to me. I was like, aww, come on. It looks all right. I read it out loud. I know some of the tricks where you read it out loud to make sure you don’t skip words and that sentences aren’t too long. But I’ve done that but it’s still just way too much. So it’s always good to hear, especially from people that I consider to be good writers, who train at it, who practice at it.

Paula: Yeah. Absolutely. And I believe that everyone needs an editor. I would love to, at some point, I haven’t done it yet, but I would love to hire a freelance editor who I can just send them every blog post before it goes on Afford Anything. Because there’s something about having another set of eyes, and particularly a very skilled, very trained set of eyes.

An Olympic tennis player still has a tennis coach. An Olympic swimmer still has a swim coach. So no matter how good you are, you always benefit from having another person who’s equally skilled and equally trained, or more so. Preferably, hire people who are better than you. You always benefit from that. So yeah, I’m very much a believer that no matter how good you are, you can always benefit from having an editor.

Jim: The other interesting thing that J. D. mentioned was that he actually goes to his local community college and takes writing classes. He takes creative nonfiction writing classes. Is that something that you’ve — are there things that you do to sort of practice that writing, that don’t necessarily appear on Afford Anything?

Paula: I read books about writing, and most recently I’ve been reading about humor. But I read books about the craft of writing. The last writing course that I took — it was back when I was still working at the newspaper. It was after I had graduated from college. It was just an evening course on magazine writing. I’d go to conferences, like the Society of Professional Journalists. I’ll go to their conference and go to the various writing sessions. And then I help teach people how to write as well, and I think that helps a lot in that sometimes the best learning comes through the act of teaching.

Jim: Yeah. That’s true. Because it forces you to fully understand it and then think about it as you’re doing it.

Paula: Exactly.

Jim: That’s cool. I wanted to kind of switch gears and go back to Afford Anything and the site. I love the line that I think accomplishes the site, which is, “You can’t afford everything, but you can afford anything.” One of the things that you talk about is the idea of passive income. In addition to running that site, you have rental properties and you actually have another business that does freelance writing for major publications and websites and all that. How did that all get started?

Paula: Well, as I’d mentioned earlier, when I returned from two years of traveling, I’d come to the conclusion at that point that I wasn’t going to be a W-2 employee anymore. I had just begun to see that the future of journalism is not print news, and that I very much believed that the future is going to be far more entrepreneurial and far more digital. And I was actually very hesitant about that because I have no computer-related skills. Like I’m the type of person who’s like, how do you open Microsoft Word again? My machine is broken.

Jim: Somebody fix it. Files are in the computer.

Paula: Exactly. Exactly. And so I was like, oh, man, I don’t want to learn about computers. But you know, I just had to, what’s the expression? Swallow the frog?

Jim: That doesn’t sound fun either.

Paula: You know, I was like, I guess I have to do this. I’m going to have to learn WordPress. I’m going to have to learn basic HTML. And it’s not so bad. You know?

Jim: Yeah. So you come back from the trip.

Paula: Yeah.

Jim: You start Afford Anything. Is that the first thing you do or do you start getting into the rental property business?

Paula: The first thing that I did was I started looking for freelance writing jobs, thinking that I would be a full-time freelance writer. And I started Afford Anything sort of on the side. To help me practice writing, to teach people how to be better with their money.

Jim: To force yourself to swallow the frog.

Paula: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And over time the two sort of grew hand in hand. The bigger Afford Anything became, the more freelance writing opportunities I was receiving. Until I got to the point where I no longer had to go out and pitch stories. People would come to me. Other websites, other publications would come to me and say, hey, we looked at your blog. We love your writing style. We were wondering if you could write for us. And so those two grew hand in hand.

And then eventually that freelance writing angle, it sort of took on a life of its own, and people started asking me, hey, our company has a blog and we were wondering if you could help us with some of the blog marketing and the blog management aspects of it. Can you help us with building an audience for our blog? Can you help us with search engine questions that we have and social media questions? And so it sort of grew organically. I kind of transitioned from freelance writing into this broader scope of blog management and content marketing and digital marketing. And it wasn’t anything that happened by design. One step just led to the next.

And so eventually I just formed a company called Catalyst Digital Marketing, which basically was just my attempt to give a different title and a different brand name to these two different things that I do. Afford Anything is my blog that I write, and Catalyst Digital is all of the services that I offer to other websites that need it or that want it.

Jim: How much of your background as a journalist do you think contributes to the fact that you are so appealing as a blog writer or manager?

Paula: Well, I think that it gave me a leg up insofar as my ability to write well from the beginning. But again, it also was an obstacle in that I really struggled to put personality into my writing. So I think it worked both ways. It was both an asset and a liability.

Jim: So of the two, which do you — I was going to ask which one do you like more, but it’s kind of like picking children, I guess. It’s not really a fair question to ask.

Paula: Oh, you mean between Afford Anything versus the client work that I do?

Jim: The Catalyst Digital Marketing.

Paula: I mean, they work together so hand in hand. The more that I help clients manage their blogs, the more I — I take the lessons that I learn with Afford Anything and I use those lessons to help clients. And then as that sort of evolves and iterates, new lessons are gleaned from that, that I bring back to Afford Anything. So the two sort of function in the symbiotic relationship where the better one gets, the better the other gets.

Jim: So you know it’s funny you say that, and that now you’re studying humor. That’s what standup comics do, right? They go do these shows, these smaller standup gigs, and they test material, and the things that work survive to whenever they go on national television or have a much, much bigger production. It’s kind of funny that it sort of has that, not analogy — I can’t think of the word. That parallel to what you’re doing. Maybe you should have been a comic. Sounds like the approach is very similar.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, I guess that’s what a lot of — I guess fundamentally as a standup comic you’re a content creator. So maybe that’s the universal link.

Jim: Yeah. That’s cool. So neither of these sound passive.

Paula: No, no. Blogging is certainly not passive.

Jim: I mean, as much as we’d like to think that you write a blog post and then you don’t have to do anything. You still have to create new stuff all the time.

Paula: Yeah, exactly. And manage it and deal with it. Yeah, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes. And to anyone who’s listening who hasn’t yet started blogging, that’s one thing that I’ll say, is that a lot of people are surprised when they discover how much goes on behind the scenes. Because a lot of people, like myself, when I started was like, oh, you just write an article. Isn’t that all there is to it? And then all of a sudden, I’m learning what a plugin is, and I’m like, what?

So no, it’s not passive. But I do, as you’ve mentioned, I do invest in rental properties, and that’s super passive. Initially, it takes quite a bit of time and effort for the setup, to search for a property, to buy it, to get the financing, to renovate it if you’re buying a fixer-upper. But once all of that happens and you get a tenant in there, then it just becomes this completely passive enterprise.

JIm: And some people enjoy it. I don’t know if it’d be for me. I don’t know. Do you use a property management company?

Paula: Depends on the property. I’ve got one property that’s 30 minutes away, so there’s no way I’m driving 30 minutes. I barely drive five minutes.

Jim: Fair enough. I mean, that’s how you can keep that part of it passive, right?

Paula: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it just depends on the property. For some I use property management and for some I don’t.

Jim: Cool. Well, our time is coming to an end. I wanted to thank you for coming on the show. People are going to get a lot out of this, especially bloggers that are trying to get better at writing.

Paula: Well, I hope so. Thank you.

Jim: But definitely, before we go, I wanted to ask what is your favorite book right now?

Paula: Ooh. On what topic?

Jim: On any topic. I was going to say if your library burned down and you were going to go buy books again, what’s the first book that you want to make sure you have? But it sounds so morbid.

Paula: Plus I would just get a Kindle.

Jim: Ugh. That’s true. Nobody reads books anymore.

Paula: Huh. In terms of learning about personal finance, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki is a classic. “The Millionaire Next Door,” another classic. In terms of learning about how to write — don’t take this as, like, a political statement at all —

Jim: Sure.

Paula: –but there’s a book by Al Franken that he wrote back in the ’90s called “Rush Limbaugh’s a Big, Fat Idiot”.

Jim: Yeah. I remember that book.

Paula: I’ve actually found that to be, regardless of your political views, it’s a very good book to read if your intent is to write in a more humorous tone. In fact, sometimes, if my goal is to create humor in my writing, then immediately before I write I read or reread a passage of a book that I’ve found to be particularly funny. And then immediately start writing. And so I’ve got that funny in my head that sort of translates onto paper.

Jim: That’s good.

Paula: And I do that with the “Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot.” Regardless of your political views, it’s a very funny book. He’s a very skilled comedian. I reference it again and again when I’m trying to reverse engineer humor.

Jim: That’s really clever. This is sort of like, do you ever do anything where you start writing and trying to be funny, and then you just throw it away to try to get into — like warming up?

Paula: Yeah. I actually — oh, another great book on writing that your comment reminded me of, Stephen King wrote a book called “On Writing”, and he has this motto in it, “Kill your darlings”. Which basically means you write something and sometimes you just need to throw it away. But emotionally you don’t want to throw it away because you’ve just spent hours writing it, and you’re proud of it and you’ve got this sunk cost and you’ve got that emotional connection. And so kill your darlings or murder your darlings.

Jim: Geez.

Paula: Such a Stephen King thing to say. But yeah, that’s exactly the process that you have to go through. So I actually have a file folder on my desktop called Kill Your Darlings.

Jim: And all your darlings are in a file folder?

Paula: Exactly.

Jim: That’s very Stephen King-esque.

Paula: Exactly. And then emotionally I don’t have to throw it in the trash can because I know that it still exists in a file folder on my desktop, that realistically I will never open and a year from now just end up throwing away. But psychologically it helps that I just spent five hours writing this, but it needs to go.

Jim: Oh, so these are like things that you spent a very long time writing.

Paula: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jim: Wow. It’s funny. So going back to the comics. There’s this one special that’s got Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C. K., Chris Rock, and who’s the British comedian? Did “The Office”? So anyway, they’re talking about writing jokes and all this. And Louis C. K. says — and normally comics, they end with their killer joke. Like, the close. But he says every year he takes his very best and puts it at the front so that he’s forced to make the rest of his show that much better. So every year, he’s innovating, because he’s taken the best from last year, killing off everything else, and then making it “the worst, the opener,” the following year.

Paula: Nice. That’s a great strategy.

Jim: And all the other guys are like, that is scary.

Paula: Yeah.

Jim: But that’s his process, and it’s kind of very similar to the kill your darlings. Which still sounds weird to say out loud. Oh, that’s good. I like that. Cool. Well, I mean, thank you so much again. I have to thank you again. Because after I said thank you we went to this whole other section of awesomeness. But thank you, and I appreciate it.

Paula: No problem. No problem. Thanks for having me on.

Jim: Now if people want to find you, where do they go?

Paula: AffordAnything.com.

Jim: All right. We’ll look for you there.

Paula: Cool.

Jim: And if people are in need of freelance writing, they can go to CatalystWriter.com too, right?

Paula: Yes, absolutely. Or if you’re on Afford Anything, there’s a button, Work With Me, click on that; it’ll take you right there.

Jim: Got it. All right. Thanks a lot, Paula.

Paula: Cool. Thanks.

Jim: Take care.

I was so glad I was able to get Paula on the show because she’s so much fun to talk to and she has an approach that’s very similar to my own: lots of study and practice. Her blog, AffordAnything.com, is a fun read as well, and it’s getting funnier by the day.

To see the show notes, links, and all that good stuff, go to Microblogger.com/7, number 7. And if you have a minute, if you could give us a review on iTunes and tell all of your friends about this awesome new podcast that you discovered, it would help me out a lot. It’s how other people can find the podcast, and thank you so, so much.

If you want to reach me, hit me up at Jim@microblogger.com or @wangarific on Twitter. See you next time!

The post MBP #7: Paula Pant, How one ex-journo uses humor to write compelling and engaging content appeared first on Microblogger.

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Paula Pant is a former journalist turned personal finance blogger who runs a freelance writing business and a personal finance blog Afford Anything. Funny story, I met her at FINCON in 2012 but forgot. When I saw her again in 2013, Paula Pant is a former journalist turned personal finance blogger who runs a freelance writing business and a personal finance blog Afford Anything. Funny story, I met her at FINCON in 2012 but forgot. When I saw her again in 2013, for what I thought was the first time, we hit it off, and I […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 44:25
MBP #6: How Lindsay & Bjork Built a 6-Figure Food Blogging Empire https://microblogger.com/mbp6-lindsay-bjork-ostrom-pinch-yum/ Wed, 26 Mar 2014 04:01:29 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1648 https://microblogger.com/mbp6-lindsay-bjork-ostrom-pinch-yum/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp6-lindsay-bjork-ostrom-pinch-yum/feed/ 6 <p>You know how sometimes you just look at a site and just instantly fall in love? That was my reaction to Pinch of Yum the first time I saw it. Everything about it is beautiful. I swapped a few emails with Lindsay and Bjork in the past, Lindsay was kind enough to submit a tip […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp6-lindsay-bjork-ostrom-pinch-yum/">MBP #6: How Lindsay & Bjork Built a 6-Figure Food Blogging Empire</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p>
Lindsay & Bjork Ostrom, Pinch of Yum

Lindsay is on the left 🙂

You know how sometimes you just look at a site and just instantly fall in love? That was my reaction to Pinch of Yum the first time I saw it.

Everything about it is beautiful.

I swapped a few emails with Lindsay and Bjork in the past, Lindsay was kind enough to submit a tip for my Day One Advice, but this was the first time I talked to them and it was a blast.

They’re so nice!

While a the fanboy in my came out a little bit in the interview, we cover a lot of what has helped make Pinch of Yum such a success. In January of this year, they had over 2.2 million pageviews and over a million unique visitors to Pinch of Yum.

ONE MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS. (technically, 1,064,497)

Their unique visitors count in January is more than the estimated populations of Alaska, Delaware, Washington D.C., Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How culinary novices started a popular food blog (with 1mm visitors a month!!!)
  • How date nights keep them together, even though they’ve been doing it for four years.
  • How they used food sharing sites to jumpstart their blog (they started before Pinterest)
  • How she took a photography class, realized she knew a ton, and gave her confidence to write a 60-page ebook
  • The two things you should do with photography – side or back of food, learn aperture
  • Lessons they’ve learned selling their stuff through affiliates, many of which were buyers of the book
  • How Pinterest drives a ton of traffic to Pinch of Yum without them doing anything (they only started using it six months ago!!!)
  • How they use different social media networks for different purposes (Twitter being great for networking with other bloggers, for example)
  • When taking photos for Pinterest, make it professional so it reflects well on the person sharing it
  • How they came to create products that support the food blogger (Tasty Photography, Food Blogger Pro)
  • How their approach of “just do it now” has paid huge dividends over the years (also listen to the shock in my voice when I discover they still have full time jobs)
  • What 1% infinity means – “Increment attempts to always improve”

Many thanks to Lindsay and Bjork for taking time out of their super busy schedule to chat with me and share their experiences with you all. Please click to tweet @pinchofyum and tell him how much you loved hearing their story!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

Here’s a short trailer video they made about what their Tasty Food Photography Guide is all about, it’s well done. Worth studying to see what they did for this:

Tasty Food Photography from Pinch of Yum on Vimeo.

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Raw Transcript

Jim: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the “Microblogger” podcast. Today, I get a chance to talk to Lindsay and Bjork of Pinch of Yum. Pinch of Yum is a food blog that, in January of this past year, had over a million unique visitors. It’s absolutely amazing. I think the secret to their success is that it’s a two-person effort. And they play to one of those strengths, as you’ll probably be able to tell in the interview itself.

Lindsay is the cook and the photographer. Bjork is the guy that’s doing the affiliate, the ads, all of the sort of behind the scenes back-end stuff that puts money in their pocket. And, the most amazing part of all is they’ve been able to build this enormous business on the side. They both still have jobs. Anyway, I’ll be back at the end of “Filling in the Gaps.” I hope you enjoy the chat.

Hey, Bjork and Lindsay, how are you doing?

Bjork: Hey, we’re doing great. We are sharing a mic here, so we will pass on and off. So, this is Bjork, we’re happy to be here.

Lindsay: Yeah, and this is Lindsay. Sorry, it’s a little awkward first introduction, but thanks for having us.

Jim: Nah, it’s no problem. I like to think of these as like a casual chat, as much as a casual chat may include a microphone that gets passed back and forth. That’s fine, too.

Bjork: Yeah, right. We’re happy to be here.

Jim: Great. I’m excited to talk to you because I know a lot of bloggers that are in — they’re niches that don’t, as I was saying before, didn’t necessarily have a very good affiliate tie-in. So, it’s not easy as in the case of, say, personal finance to have, like, a bank, a credit card or whatever that you could promote and make money.

And you guys are, with “Pinch of Yum,” are in the food business, so to speak, recipes and all that. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into food blogging?

Lindsay: Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s not like a super-fancy start-up story. When we got married, I had always, like, all through college and even just growing up, I had been really interested in food. I don’t have any culinary training, necessarily. But just family recipes and cooking stuff that’s healthy and that tastes good.

So, anyways, when we got married, I was using the Internet a lot more for my recipes, using blogs and websites. And, then I would do a lot of sharing of recipes on Facebook or just kind of sharing around with friends and stuff.

One day, I said to Bjork “I’m doing this so much, maybe I should start a blog.” And, it was kind of a joke at the time and we kind of laughed about. But, then eventually Bjork said “Maybe you should and I think you should try it.”

And, so he set me up with a Tumblr account. So, I started my food blog on Tumblr. I mean, it was like so ridiculous in the beginning. I don’t think either of us knew what we were doing. But, it started out just pictures and really simple recipes.

And then, over the years, it’s been almost four years now. We’ve switched over to WordPress and kind of made it into a more “real” blog that has more of a format. And, like you said, been able to monetize it within the last couple of years. So, that’s kind of the general story. Nothing too out of the norm, I guess.

Jim: We’ve had a lot of blogging success stories. I consider you guys a success story. One, because you guys are able to earn income from it. But, also that you’re a couple that, after four years, are still a couple working together on a blog.

Bjork: Yeah, we talk about that a lot. I think, in a lot of ways, it’s a blessing and not a curse, but it’s a blessing and a challenge at times. I think that I’ve read a lot of stuff about successful marriages or relationships. And a lot of times, one of the things that they come back to is that there’s shared interest for those people.

And, for Lindsay and I, it’s been this really interesting way to kind of meet in the middle for some things that we’re really interested in. And, for Lindsay, that’s primarily food and cooking and recipes and everything that goes into that. And, then for me, it’s primarily kind of this nerdy stuff.

So, like, the monetization, the Internet marketing, anything to do with a computer —

Jim: Numbers —

Bjork: — all of that stuff is stuff that I’m really interested in. And, so it’s kind of allowed us to meet in the middle. And then, as you note, the situations that we have to be careful to navigate is like, “How do we shut that off?” How do we get to a point where we’re not always talking about it and just hanging out as a married couple, as opposed to people that are working on a blog together?

So, we’re consistently trying to figure out what that is and we’re not necessarily awesome at it. But, it’s something that we enjoy and are thankful that we have to share together. But, good observation.

Jim: That’s great. I didn’t plan on asking you this, but is there something that you guys do to make sure that you shut it off?

Bjork: Linds —

Lindsay: Yeah, one of the things that really is helpful for us is just to leave home. When we’re at home, it’s just too easy. Our computers are there and my camera and then the phones and whatever. So, sometimes, even if it’s just a week-night and even if we don’t necessarily need to go out to dinner, it’s just helpful to get out of the house so that we’re not around our work stuff. That helps a lot.

Bjork: Yeah. And it’s especially hard because we’re in Minnesota and we have these frigid Minnesota winters. So, last night, as an example, it was 8:30 and we had kind of worked through the day. And, we were planning to go out and we’re like, “It’s kind of a lot of work. Maybe we shouldn’t.”

But, we just decided to pull the trigger and go out and get sushi. And, it’s like, “Oh, my gosh. We are so thankful that we did.” Because, otherwise we just work through the night.

So, for us, we do that by just leaving, disconnecting and going somewhere.

Jim: That’s great. One of the things that happens with people that work at home — I work from also — is that there is not divide. You can’t — it’s hard to leave home.

Bjork: Yeah, the office is the home.

Jim: Yeah, but no, that’s great. We always have date night, so that helps.

Bjork: That’s great. We need to get a date night planned [inaudible 00:06:16].

Jim: You need to find warmer food than sushi when it’s frigid outside. So, if we had to go all the way back to the beginning when you first were on Tumblr, how did you get visitors to come to your site?

Lindsay: I think one of the biggest things — you know, Pinterest, I guess I don’t know officially when Pinterest started. Do you know?

Bjork: I don’t know.

Lindsay: But, I can remember when I was starting my blog, hearing murmurings of this site called Pinterest and whatever. But, that really wasn’t a big player, as far as traffic goes, with the early version of the site.

But there were sites, like — we would call them food-sharing sites, like foodgawker or TasteSpotting would be some examples. And, it’s a similar — it’s sort of a similar idea to Pinterest where it’s just really image-based. And, so people, bloggers submit their photos and then a link to their recipe. And, then these websites kind of take all that information and publish, kind of, the latest. So, people can come to foodgawker and say, “This is the latest.”

And, because I was able to start to improve my food photography in those early years, I think I was able to get better exposure on those sites which led to more people coming, more people knowing about my blog. So, I would say that was a huge part of building blocks, in terms of traffic for the early “Pinch of Yum” days.

Jim: So, you would take all the learning that you did with photography and you actually produced the product. How soon after starting the site did you build the “Tasty Food Photography” e-Book, course?

Lindsay: Yeah, it’s an eBook. I think it was two years, maybe. So, about the halfway of where we are now. We’ve been doing it for four years. So, it was about two years after I started.

And, I can remember thinking about, Bjork and I talking about, “Let’s create a product for Pinch of Yum.” And I felt like, “No way. I can’t do food photography. I’m just self-taught. I don’t think that I can really teach people about it.”

Actually, I had planned to start with a cookbook or an e-Cookbook. But I ended up going to a photography class, like an in-person class, probably sometime during that process. And, I just remember thinking, “Wow, I really know a lot of this stuff.” But, I just didn’t know that this was the stuff that was taught at photography classes.

And, so I felt — I think that gave me a big confidence boost to feel like, “I can do this.” So, I created this e-Book. It’s now in its updated version. I think it’s like 60 pages or more of lots of picture examples and just a really easy entry point for people who maybe have a DSLR camera and want to take better food photos, but kind of don’t even know where to start.

So, I think that level of experience, like me not being a professional, was actually maybe a benefit in writing the e-Book, and that I was able to speak the language of people who were just beginners as well.

Jim: One of the nice things about photography is that you see the end-product. One thing that I’ve told a lot of people when they say, “Oh, I love food. What’s your favorite food blog?” I’m like, “Pinch of Yum, without a doubt.”

I was looking at the site at 2:00 in the afternoon today. No joke, I had just eaten. And, today I see a picture of the ramen. And, I love making ramen. I love adding all the stuff to it. I look and I’m like, “I’m hungry again.” Thanks a lot, I just ate.

Bjork: More food —

Jim: This has happened to be multiple times. This happened to me the last time when I was doing that post on Microblogger about photos and resizing. And again, I saw something about eggplants. I’m like, “Oh, I just ate.”

I’m getting away. This is off on a tangent. But, people can see that the photography is beautiful and that you know what you’re talking about.

Lindsay: Thank you.

Jim: So, I wanted to ask one tip. If I’m completely a novice, I know nothing about food photography, but I have a DSLR, what’s the one thing I should do to make sure my photos are better?

Lindsay: Okay, well I’m going to say two things, but it’s just really quick. The first thing would be, just really focus on the angle of the light. And, I think a lot of people think, “Put the light right in the front.” But, positioning the light to the side of the food or the back of the food is a huge thing in creating like texture and depth and natural highlights and shadows.

And, the second thing I would say would be to learn how to use the aperture. Even if you can’t learn any other manual settings, just focus on learning how to use the aperture and it just gives you a lot of manual control to make the photos look just how you want them. So, those are my two, kind of, quick tips.

Jim: That’s great. I can’t believe the book is only — what is it, like $19 to get it?

Lindsay: Yeah, it is. $19.

Jim: That’s amazing, that’s great. And so, I’m jumping a little ahead. I noticed that, and this is probably a Bjork question — you do a lot of the promotion with that product through affiliates? You sell it on the site, on “Pinch of Yum.” But, then also, you started partnering or have partnered with affiliates to help you promote it. You mind going to that whole process and the pluses, minuses, things you’ve learned?

Bjork: Yeah. So, affiliate marketing, in general, is just really interesting to me. And, I feel like it’s a space that — it’s kind of the Wild Wild West, in terms of rules that are established and where it is in regards to where other types of advertising and marketing are.

And, I think that’s really exciting to me because there’s so much room for people to really do it well. And, I’m by no means an expert at it. I’m just really interested in it. So, when we launched “Tasty Food Photography,” we knew that that was a component that we wanted to have, was this affiliate branch for it.

And the system that we have for it is really simple. And, it’s basically all self-promoted from people that buy the book. So, somebody will buy the book and they’ll read through “Tasty Food Photography” and hopefully, by the time they get to the end, they’ll have learned a lot about food photography and hopefully applied it and seen benefits in traffic or just improved food photography if they are just food photographers without a blog or a website.

So, once they get to the bottom, there’s literally just like a two-sentence snippet, and it’s the last thing in the book. And it says, “Hey, if you found this beneficial, you can go to this link here and you can talk about it. And, you get a 50 percent cut of that sale.”

And, as you know, it’s a digital product. It’s not like we have any type of real issue with a margin getting cut into. There’s obviously PayPal percentage fees and stuff like that. But, we found the affiliate program to be a really cool thing. Not necessarily because it’s making us thousands upon thousands of dollars. But, I think it adds a little bit.

And, I think that, and you probably know this as you’ve grown your different sites. But, it’s less about the home run and more about the continual singles that win you the virtual ballgame. And for us, that was just another single that we could add to our category of monetization.

And, every once in a while from that, there will be a home run. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I’m a Minnesota Twins fan. And, Joe Mauer is a Minnesota boy. And, what I love about him is that he hits singles and doubles all the time. But then, occasionally, he’ll hit a home run.

So, I feel like Joe Mauer is kind of like how affiliate marketing has been for us for this book where there will be consistent affiliates that get maybe one or two sales. But, every once in a while, there will be somebody that picks up the book and they really like it. And then, they have a huge blog and they dedicate an entire post to it.

And, because it’s photography, it’s a really easy thing for people to say, “Here’s the before and here’s the after.” An example would be January, 2014. We had an affiliate pick it up and she had a really huge cake blog. And, you would only think that a cake blog could get so big, but she had this giant following and then she did this post dedicated to “Tasty Food Photography” and sold, maybe, I’d have to check, but it was in the hundreds, I would guess, in terms of e-Books.

So, that would be an example of a situation where it was a home run for us. So, it’s been a good thing.

Jim: That’s awesome. I was looking through the income reports and they’re insanely detailed, which made my research a lot easier, so thank you for that.

So, I was going back to the first one you had was in August, 2011. And, I know it was after you guys had migrated to WordPress off of Tumblr. And back then, you made $22 off display ads, right?

Bjork: Yep.

Jim: As you’re talking about the whole analogy of singles and doubles and the occasional home run with “Tasty Food Photography” being — I don’t know how well we can keep stretching this analogy, but it’s a bunch of singles.

Bjork: The entire podcast, we will come back to baseball analogies.

Jim: That’s as close to a strikeout as you can get. And so, you start there with display ads. And now, you go to January, 2014 and the display ads — I don’t know what the CPMs are, I didn’t do the math. But we’re now looking at thousands of dollars.

How are you able to take something that was relatively small back then and make it so big and such a big part of what you’re doing?

Bjork: Sure. Let’s keep going with this baseball analogy, how about that? So, I think that, for us, this first income report, it definitely wasn’t a single. It wasn’t a home run and probably wasn’t even like a groundout. But it was the first time we ever swung.

Jim: It’s like an injury.

Bjork: Yeah, right. We were actually placed on the injured reserve. It was the first time I feel like we ever stepped up to the plate. And, I feel like that’s really important for people that are building something is continually stepping up. And even if it’s a situation that you’re not familiar with or that’s completely new, I think it’s really important to approach that and give it a shot.

Whether that’s starting a podcast or for the first time ever, trying display ads. Or eventually, what we did, as we continued to step up, is start to play around with the idea of “Okay, so we’ve done display advertising and we’ve gotten this result. Now, that we’re kind of in this world, we can look around and say, “What are other people doing and where are places that people are doing it more successfully”?

So, actually, in one of those income reports, I had posted about “Here’s how much we made from this.” And, somebody in the comments section said, “I think you could be making more using a different advertising network, like more of a premium advertising network.”

And for us, that’s BlogHer. But, there are lots of other premium networks out there. So, we looked into it and we made this switch. And, that wouldn’t have happened unless we stepped up and gave it a shot. And then, also, I think a testament to that is like the importance of shared knowledge in the group.

And, I feel like I can go back and say countless different points where because we’ve interacted with and communicated with people, we’ve been better because of it. Not just because it’s awesome to connect with people and it’s good to make relationships, but also, people share stuff and they say, “Hey, you could be making more if you switched to BlogHer.”

Or another example, I had a friend — not even a friend, but somebody I knew from” Food Blogger Pro” which is this community of bloggers that we started, and he e-mailed me and he said, “I see that you’re making a set commission with Bluehost,” which we can talk a little bit about later if you want and how we do that with a food blog.

And he said “I think you could be making more because of the number of sign-ups that you’re getting.” So, based on that knowledge, I followed up with Bluehost and they said, “Oh, yeah. We’d be willing to increase your commission percentage.” And, it wasn’t double, but it was near double.

And so now, that’s a $1,000, $2,000 decision just from somebody coming to us and helping us out. So, that kind of ties in into the display advertising network.

Jim: You’re right. A lot of people are — they’d be scared to put on display ads — Make $22, think about what their readers are going to think. “They’re selling out” or whatever. And oftentimes, you just have to try it.

Bjork: Yep. And I think it’s important to try and I think that it’s a great way to monetize, especially if you have a good amount of traffic, if you have a decent amount of traffic.

The one thing that’s really difficult with display advertising is just how it affects your site performance. And, that’s the biggest issue for us. Not just with branding, but they take a long time to load sometimes.

And I think, I haven’t watched the video, but I think Matt Cutts, he’s the Google SEO web-stamp guy for those people that don’t know. And, he’s kind of like the go-to person for people that are interested in hearing from the source, which is Google about SEO stuff.

But, he’s recently talked about how site performance, or ads on a site will negatively affect your search rankings in Google. So, that’s the other negative side with it. But if you get a good amount of traffic, it can really be a decent income generator. And, it has been for us, especially in Quarter 4.

Jim: That’s great. I mean knowing that display ads — Google’s Matt Cutts has always said in those videos and whatnot, that site speed is a factor in ranking. They obviously don’t want something super slow, but a certain threshold is acceptable.

And, I think what you’re thinking of with respect to too many ads, is an algorithm adjustment or name called Top Heavy. That’s already happened. And, they’re always iterating on it and whatnot.

But, having a couple ads won’t hurt you. The people that I know that I’ve talked to that have been penalized by that, they had a lot of ads, where there was maybe the title and little content.

So, a little display doesn’t really hurt. It doesn’t seem like it’s hurt you guys too much. And again, your income reports have your traffic. You guys had a million unique visitors in January, that’s amazing. Congratulations.

Bjork: Thanks a lot. It was a really fun number to hit. And, I think what’s exciting about it is seeing the continued growth. So, as anybody that’s ever built a blog knows, it’s like you get 100 people and it’s like, “Yes.” You want to go and celebrate and it’s like, “Drinks on me, tonight.”

And then the next day, you get 90 and you’re like, “No, the world is coming to an end.” And there’s interesting psychological element to it. As you grow, those numbers just move along with your expectations. Which, is a beautiful thing, because then, you continually want to improve and get better.

And, it’s also difficult because at one point, we were really excited when we had 10,000 people in a month. And then, just as you continue to grow, that kind of shifts and adjusts. I guess it’s a good thing and a bad thing and maybe something to keep in perspective, I guess.

Jim: Yeah. It’s all relative. Even to yourself. But, 1 million is amazing. When you see it, you see it on a screen, so it doesn’t feel as real. But can you imagine a million coming to your house within the next month? It’d be insane.

Bjork: I can’t imagine ten people, because we have a really small house.

Jim: And, it’s freezing.

Bjork: Yeah, right. Every once in a while, we’ll be at some kind of event, a sporting event or something. And it will be like, “There were this many people that visited the blog today.” And, it’s kind of a cool representation of what that number looks like. So, it’s like, “There’s 20,000 people here” and that’s how many people–

Jim: That’s six hours on “Pinch of Yum.”

Bjork: Exactly, right.

Jim: I did want to ask. So, obviously, with photos and as Lindsay said earlier, with the food-sharing site, Pinterest is clearly a big traffic driver for you guys. How did you know to use that source so much?

Bjork: Do you want to talk about it, Linds?

Lindsay: I think one thing that is really interesting to know for listeners about our development with Pinterest over the years is that actually, I just personally and for “Pinch of Yum”, just created an account less than six months ago. And, our traffic has always been pretty heavily influenced by Pinterest.

So, the takeaway, I think, is that if you create good content and if you create powerful, attention-grabbing visuals for people that clearly communicate what you’re trying to say and trying to teach or whatever, I think that Pinterest is set up to help you out in that way.

It’s just so funny to me that all that traffic came from Pinterest. And, I wasn’t even active on the site. And whether or not that was a good idea on my part, I don’t know, it’s another topic of conversation.

But, I think it’s just interesting, maybe, for people to know that I wasn’t doing anything special to make that happen. I think it was just that people were coming, they were liking the content. And, I think, also liking the visuals with the content. And so, it was easy for them to Pin.

And Pinterest, I think the number one use of Pinterest is for recipes. So, we’re fortunate in that way that it’s such a beast of a website. And, to have recipes be such a big part of that is definitely to our benefit.

Jim: Have you guys played around with Facebook or Twitter or any other networks?

Lindsay: Yeah. I’ve been on Facebook the longest as “Pinch of Yum.” And, then Twitter, I was kind of late to the game, I don’t know. I kind of have this weird thing about social media where I’m like, “No, I’m not going to join.” And then, I just come way late and try to figure it out way later than everybody else. I always end up coming in the end.

But Twitter has grown on me, for sure. I feel like it’s been a really good way for me to connect with other bloggers. And, I don’t know, just see what people are up to. And also, Instagram, I really enjoy. Just personally, I enjoy photography. So, I like being there as well.

Jim: It’s interesting. So, you say you use Twitter to reach out to other photographers, food bloggers? And, I guess mostly Pinterest. So, you guys got a half a million people last month through Pinterest when I was looking at it, with what sounded like not a ton of work involved.

Lindsay: And even my “Pinch of Yum” Pinterest account, I only have maybe 17,000 followers.

Jim: Only?” That’s half a stadium of almost any–

Lindsay: I guess. I just feel like, compared to so many other bloggers who have been on it since the very beginning. I feel like I’m kind of still a baby with Pinterest.

But, yeah. Definitely, I don’t feel like there’s anything I’ve done other than just trying to…I’m constantly thinking about, “How can we make the site Pin-friendly and make it easier for people to pin stuff?” We’ve played around a lot with text in the photos and whether or not that helps engage people on Pinterest.

And, I guess my finding with that has just been that I like the way the photos look better without. But every once in a while, put some text on. Just trying to make it work for people so that they feel compelled to Pin the content.

Jim: Have you discovered anything that surprised you, with respect to Pinterest?

Lindsay: I think, no. I think maybe I’ve been surprised at just how big of a player it is without much work on our end. I don’t know. It’s a powerful social hub. It’s really powerful.

So, it’s something not to take lightly, I guess.

Jim: Definitely. So, when you decided not to put text in when you were Pinning stuff, you just didn’t notice any sort of difference? Because, everyone says, if you put text in it, you can usually get a little more engagement. I guess with 17,000 followers and beautiful photos, it doesn’t really matter if there are words.

Lindsay: Yeah. Bjork did a couple — did you do that? Didn’t we do some analysis kind of thing where we looked at the difference? I don’t —

Bjork: Part of it was it’s so hard, it’s not like a split test or an AB test and be like “This gets more and this doesn’t.” So, it’s really hard to come back and really have hard numbers on that.

I did just kind of general observation. So, with Pinterest, you can go and you can see, specific to your URL, what’s being pinned and what’s not. So, there was a point when Lindsay was kind of going back and forth with using text or not.

And so, I was just kind of observing that and seeing how much of those were text-based and how much of those weren’t. But, I think a lot of it comes back to just trying to produce an image that people really like.

And also, that people would feel like it positively affects their brand. Because, I think, in a subtle way, we’re all trying to project what we want ourselves to be. And, I think sometimes with text, it can be difficult because if it’s not done right, it can seem cheap.

And, I think that if something seems cheap, people don’t want to be associated with it. So, not that text-based stuff can’t be done well. But I think it’s harder to do well than just a really clean image.

Jim: That’s a good insight that people want to share stuff that reflects well on them. And, imagine if you open up paint, it looks terrible. So, people are less likely to share that.

Bjork: Yep. And, if I had a workout board and it was sharing pictures of guys with their shirts off that look like me. I feel like if you have a food board, if you have a recipe board or you have a workout board, you’re going to be Pinning stuff that looks good and is things that you want to move towards, you know.

Jim: The little aspirational aspect of it.

Bjork: Yep. So, in the finance world, that might be some type of slogan or phrase about getting out of debt. Or with a recipe, it’s just an image of a food that looks really good and is really well done.

Jim: Okay. The thing that surprised me when I looked at the traffic report was BuzzFeed. And being such a big part. Where did that come from?

Lindsay: Did you see that just on January, or did you see that consistently?

Jim: I only saw it in January.

Lindsay: Okay. I don’t ever remember having seen BuzzFeed as a major player for traffic in the past. But I think when we looked a little bit into that, it was just a feature of one of my recipes. It was like a “Quick Weeknight Dinner” kind of post.

So, I guess it’s kind of fun. I feel like it’s kind of exposure to the BuzzFeed circles. Which I love BuzzFeed, it’s kind of fun to be there. But I don’t really know that much about it other than just it was a feature and we got a little boost in traffic from it. And it’s always nice when that happens.

Jim: Yeah. Especially when you don’t have to do any extra work, which is always nice.

Bjork: One thing that’s interesting about that, that I feel like is worth talking about, is the idea of distributed content. And, I think it’s really important for people that are producing content to decide where they stand on it.

So, I think some people would see a BuzzFeed article or a BuzzFeed post. And, it wouldn’t, in this instance, it has a picture that Lindsay took and a recipe that she probably spent five hours fine-tuning and making.

And, then BuzzFeed just like literally takes it from our site and then uploads it to theirs and then publishes this post that’s “Seven Quick and Easy Dinners.” And, it probably takes them, I don’t know, probably longer than you think, two hours.

And it feels a little bit like, “Oh, come on. Are you seriously coming and taking all of my hard work and then just using it for your own benefit?” But I think, realistically, it’s a win-win, though it feels like you’re being taken advantage of.

And, I think that’s a great example. Is that they published this and they have a huge following and a huge voice. And it’s a benefit for “Pinch of Yum” and it’s also a benefit for them because I’m sure they’re getting people that are Pinning that and then coming back to that page.

But, that’s kind of a stance that Lindsay and I have taken with content. Is that, “Hey, we’re going to be okay with people using the stuff that Lindsay is creating or that we’re creating. As long as they include a link back to the blog.” But sometimes, that’s kind of hard.

An example is with this BuzzFeed article, it’s kind of like, “Oh, shoot, they have our stuff.” But I think, realistically, it’s a win-win.

Jim: And, they only did the one article? Did they ask for permission first?

Bjork: I don’t know.

Lindsay: Honestly, I can’t remember. I know Huffington Post often does roundups like that and I get e-mails from them always when they feature my photos. But, I don’t remember on BuzzFeed if there was an e-mail or not. I can’t remember.

Jim: It’s really interesting. On the whole, it sounds like it’s a positive thing. As long as they give you attribution, don’t take too much.

Lindsay: Yeah, I think so. And one thing with the content, too, it’s a lot different. To me, it’s a lot different when people just use a photo. Because if people like the way it looks, they’re going to click and come to “Pinch of Yum”, which is a good thing for us.

But, it’s more of a big deal to me if people take the photo and the recipe. There are places that do that. Just copy and paste photos and recipes, just basically duplicate the blog in another place. And, I don’t really like that and that’s a problem.

But yeah, the photos. It’s fun. And I feel like it’s one of the fun things about being interested in photography and constantly improving your photography. It’s just a quick way to snatch people in. “Snatch” is a bad word, but just grab people–

Jim: You know, like kidnap them.

Lindsay: Just get their attention and stand out a little bit in that way.

Jim: That’s awesome. Great. So, we’re now going to bring it back to the sports analogy of the singles. And, I wanted to ask about “Food Blogger Pro.” How did you guys think to start that?

Bjork: Sure. I think with everything that we’ve done in terms of products, which is really, only three things. Tasty Food Photography, an e-Cookbook that Lindsay did and then “Food Blogger Pro.” It comes back to responding to what we see people asking or positively responding to.

So, “Food Blogger Pro” came out of e-mail after e-mail from people that said, basically, “How do you start and grow a food blog?” And, Lindsay and I have this interesting situation where we’re coming to the table with the two different ends that you need. Which is, the understanding of developing, photographing and publishing recipe posts. And then, the back-end side of setting up WordPress and installing plugins and doing food blog-specific SEO work and things like that.

So, we had a ton of people that were e-mailing us about it and asking, “How do you do it?” And, especially as we started to grow the blog, we got more of those. And, we really try hard to respond to e-mails when you get to them. But there’s a certain point where it’s like you can’t explain over e-mail over how to start and grow a food blog.

And so, we decided to start this site and there’s a couple different ways that you can go about doing something like that. You can have a site like that be free and then monetize off of things like affiliate marketing and things like that. Or, you can do a paid course take on it.

And that’s what we decided to do. So, “Food Blogger Pro.” It’s a membership site. So, people sign up and they pay $25 a month. And they have access to over 300 videos from everything from food photography to installing an SEO plugin for WordPress and how to tweak and customize that.

And then, we also cover stuff like monetization and what it looks like to do affiliate marketing and advertising and all of that stuff that you learn that you have to learn once you start.

So, I think from the outside, it’s like, “Oh, you just start a blog on WordPress.com and then you post the recipe that you had tonight and then you make money.” Some people maybe start like that. I know that we probably did or just didn’t even have the money aspect.

Or we’re like, “Let’s start a blog.” But as you get into it, you learn there’s so much more. It’s not necessarily like revolutionary content that’s in “Food Blogger Pro.” But, it’s all in one place. And our hope is that it’s high-quality content that’s really easy to get a hold of and to work through.

And, then it’s also a community. So, there’s over 400 people that are part of this community and there’s a forum where people can ask questions. So, for us, it was a sustainable way to help people do some of the similar stuff that we were doing as a membership site.

Jim: It reduces the amount of e-mail that you would get about people wanting to know, “How do I install this plugin?” [Inaudible at 00:36:53].

Bjork: Right now, we’re not experimenting. But what we settled on is this first month for $1. It’s a really easy suggestion for us to make to people. Where the other day, somebody came to me and they’re like, “I’m getting completely inundated with spam. I have these requests for Michael Jordan shoes. And, that’s the only thing on my blog, is all of these Michael Jordan shoe ads. How do I get rid of it?” And I was like, “Well, there’s this plugin called [inaudible at 00:37:26] that you can install. We have a course on it with ten different videos that talk about what spam is and why it happens. And, if you want to, you can just signup and its $1 and then you can cancel.”

It’s a really natural sales process for us in that it’s helping people. It’s reducing a little bit of the explanation that we have to go through in that process. But then, if people like it–

Jim: They stay on.

Bjork: Yeah, they just stick around and they go through the other courses and engage in the community. So, it’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a really good thing for us to work on together and a great sister site to “Pinch of Yum.”

Jim: Before this or at least all throughout all this, you’ve been doing a lot of Bluehosting affiliate work. Did this sort of come out of that also? Because, people were coming in and said, “Oh, I want to start a food blog.”

Bjork: Yeah. You know, that was a really interesting case study in the mindset of, like, “Just do it now.” So, I think for Lindsay and I both, a lot of the growth of the things that we’ve done online come from this idea of like, “Okay, just do it now.” And a lot of times, that means, “I don’t really feel like a publishing a post.”

And, for Lindsay, she’s a teacher right now. So, it’s like she has to get up and go to school and doesn’t really feel like staying up late and finishing it. But, then, it’s like, “Just do it now.”

And so, for that Bluehost example, that was an example of like I was traveling for work and I had to be somewhere. And I had this task that I wanted to do, which was create a page on “Pinch of Yum” that showed people the really basic process for starting a food blog.

And, it was like you’ve got to pick a domain name, you’ve got to sign up for Bluehost and then you’ve got to install WordPress and add a theme. So, really high-level basic stuff. And, I wanted to do that and I didn’t really feel like it. But I was like, “Just do it now.”

So, I got up early and I went to a coffee shop. And for two and a half hours before work started, I put together this page. And, that’s been the primary driver of what is now like $2,000 to $3,000 of income a month.

So, there’s nothing really super magical that we did or any type of like really intentional process that we had for deciding to recommend a hosting company. But, it was just of an example of, like, it worked really well to say, “You want to start a food blog? Here’s how you do it. When we first started, we used Bluehost and then, here’s how to do it.”

That page just proved to be really successful and lucrative. And it continually drives me mad because there are things that I spend a lot more time doing that yield $2,000 a month. And, I always come back to this idea of that page taking me three hours and making $30,000 a year. And it feels like, “I will never have something where I earn so much money with so little time.”

Jim: You never can tell. You don’t know if it’s going to end up being the $22 because it’s a display ad or it’s going to be something even bigger, but that’s an awesome story. I love it.

Bjork: Thanks.

Jim: So, you have Food Blogger Pro, you have Tasty Food Photography. Now, is “Creamy Cauliflower Sauce” eCookbook like a newer product?

Lindsay: Yes it is. This was late summer, so August or September, I think. I self-published my first eCookbook and it’s all about the creamy cauliflower sauce. Which is kind of funny, it just makes me laugh.

But people really responded well to that post that I did. And so, that’s kind of why I chose to go that route. I just felt like it was a natural inroad to something that people were interested in.

It’s actually kind of nice because I done a few recipes with that sauce on my blog. And then, on all of those posts, including the sauce itself, which has a ton of Pins and comments and stuff. Then, we can just put a little link right in there so people know, “Hey, if you like this, check out ‘The Creamy Cauliflower Sauce’ eCookbook.”

So, yeah. It was a fun process and also definitely a learning process. I don’t feel like it’s I’m going to, in five years, be like, “Yeah, I’m so proud of that eCookbook.” I’m proud of it in that I did it and it’s done. But I feel like it was really just a learning process. How do you self-publish an eCookbook? How do you just self-publish in general and in a short amount of time? So, yeah, it was a good process to go through.

Jim: Was there anything about that process that surprised you?

Lindsay: I think just how difficult it is. I mean, that’s not really a specific thing. But, man. There’s a lot that goes into creating a product. And I don’t know why I didn’t feel that as much with Tasty Food Photography. Maybe it’s because I decided to get a semi-custom template made.

So, I didn’t pay for somebody to do the whole template for me, the whole PDF document. But I just had one, kind of, templated where I could, in theory, copy and paste my recipes and photos in.

But, I spent so much time trying to learn InDesign. And that’s a completely different skill set than the cooking and the photography. So, it just takes a lot of different skills to put together a product.

And now, I’m actually working on my second eCookbook will which hopefully be coming out in a couple of weeks here. But I’m definitely learning from that first process that it’s better for me to build a team that has more of those skills so that I can stick to the cooking and kind of leave the design and some of that other stuff to the experts.

Jim: A lot goes into it. It’s admirable to try it out. That way, you know what’s involved and you feel confident saying, “All right, I’m going to stick to the stuff that no one else can do. And, I’m going to find someone who’s really good at the other thing and have them do that.”

Lindsay: Absolutely.

Jim: And, you don’t know that until you try it, so that’s great. You guys have been doing Pinch of Yum for four years?

Lindsay: Yep. Just coming up on four years in April, I think.

Jim: How do you think your approach to the blog has changed in the last four years?

Lindsay: I felt like it was so different when it started. For me, anyways. Maybe Bjork has always been kind of smart about it.

Jim: You guys don’t give yourselves enough credit. You’re like, “I didn’t do anything special with Pinterest.” I’m like, “You take amazing photos.” Bjork is talking about, “You don’t want to see me without my shirt.” I’m like, “I’m sure you’re awesome. You guys are both awesome.”

Lindsay: I don’t know. When we first started, it was just completely like a love hobby. I just loved it and I just kind of did it when I wanted. And I kind of really didn’t care about it that much. It was really fun, but I didn’t care about quality. I just kind of did it for fun.

And now, it’s in such a different place. Where we’re thinking about transitioning out of our regular jobs to do this full time. And there’s more self-accountability for quality and I think a little more pressure.

But, it’s interesting because I still feel like it’s fun. And even though it’s work, it’s like fun work and it doesn’t really feel like work. But, the pressure has changed and I don’t know if that makes sense. But just, kind of, the accountability that the standards that we hold ourselves to is totally different and a lot higher.

Jim: Bjork said you’re still a teacher. Do you guys do this on the side?

Lindsay: For me, I’m like…

Jim: You guys are amazing.

Lindsay: I’m 0.75. So, I work regular daytime hours, I’m done at 2:30. And then I do nights and weekends. And that’s how it’s always been for me with Pinch of Yum. Bjork’s schedule is kind of, a little flexible, too.

Bjork: I am still plugged in. Out of college, I started working at a non-profit. And, that’s kind of where I cut my teeth on a lot of the Web design stuff. So, I’m still there two days out of the week. So, I just do two long days there and then I do essentially three days for this stuff and then weekends, obviously.

We’re not full-time by any means, but we’re still plugged in with that other stuff. I think for us, a lot of what it comes back to is that this is definitely financial income. And, Pinch of Yum, Food Blogger Pro — these things are financial income. I think there’s also relational income and then emotional income.

And, I think that our primary source of those two things are the work that we’re doing outside of the blog. So, there’s definitely an incentive for us. It’s not necessarily a financial incentive. Although we do get paid, it’s not similar to what you’d get paid growing a blog.

Jim: You get the fulfillment aspect of it.

Bjork: Yep, for sure.

Jim: I just think it’s crazy that you guys are basically working other full-time jobs. And you’ve built Pinch of Yum, this site that gets 2.2 million page views a month. And you’re like, “It’s a fun little hobby that we have on the side.”

Bjork: And we don’t want to trick anybody into thinking that we don’t spend a ton of time on it, because we do. We don’t have kids, which is a huge part where we can work late into the evening. So, we spent a ton of time on it, but we also have other work that we’re doing as well.

Jim: That’s great. Very happy. Now, one thing that you talked about and you sort of alluded to this throughout this entire conversation. And I saw it in the January 2014 income report at the bottom. So, you have the whole ten blogging tips, all of which are great.

The bottom one, the 1 percent infinity. That idea, I absolutely loved because I believe it wholeheartedly. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that means?

Bjork: Sure. So, I think one thing that’s hard when you’re first getting started with anything, really, is the idea that you have to get to some place immediately. For somebody that’s maybe listening to this podcast for the first time and they hear that we have a blog and it’s any given month, it can earn $15,000.

It seems like, “Oh, my gosh. How do you get to that point? How do I jump to that point in a year?” It might seem like this huge jump to make from zero to that. But really, if you look back on the steps that we took to get here, it was just like these really small incremental attempts to always improve and do a little bit better.

And I think that’s true in all of the different areas. So, it’s true in the areas of like, “How do we do a better job of connecting with people and establishing genuine relationships with other bloggers?” Or Lindsay, “How do I get a little bit better every day at learning how to use my camera?” Or, “How do we get a little bit better about perfecting the ads that we have or the different types of affiliate marketing we do?”

So, this idea of 1 percent infinity is this idea that you are constantly improving forever. And, if you were to crunch those numbers math-wise, if it was 1 percent every month, over time, that really adds up and it becomes significant.

And, I think that so many people, myself included sometimes, don’t improve. We just churn out what we’re used to doing. And it doesn’t have to be a huge improvement. But I think that if you can break out of that monotony of doing the same thing over and over and think about, “What are the things that I can do to do this a little bit better,” That can have a huge, long-term impact. So, that’s the idea behind 1 percent infinity.

Jim: I love it. And you’re living proof, right? Because August, 2011, you made $22. And you kept at it and kept at it. And, it’s not even three years later. So, it shows you won’t get there in six months, but you’ll get there in three.

Bjork: Yep. And you’ve got to stick with it and you’ve got to continually improve and learn. And, you’ll get there. And, work hard.

Jim: If I was an aspiring food blogger and you wanted to impart one more last bit of wisdom and advice, other than the sign up for Food Blogger Pro, what would that be?

Bjork: What if that was my signoff? Like “Sign up for foodbloggerpro.com.”

Jim: Besides that —

Bjork: Maybe we’ll each do one. Do you have one, Linds?

Lindsay: Well, obviously, my passion in what I do is the photography. So, I would just say pay attention to photography and don’t underestimate the power of really good photos that really communicate your food to your readers.

Jim: They only have to look at your traffic stats and Pinterest to see that that’s very true.

Bjork: I think for me, maybe this a little bit more — it’s not very concrete. But I think one thing that’s really important with starting anything. We could say for a food blog, but I think it applies to anybody. Is just the long-term mentality. And the need to lean into the stuff that you really love about it.

Because, I think if you get started with something in order just to have, whether it’s financial payoff or fame payoff, it’s just going to fizzle. Because, it’s so much work to get to a point where you have a financial payoff or you are well-known.

So, for anybody that’s looking to start something, I would really lean into this stuff that you enjoy about it and make sure that you’re okay doing it, even if there’s no real tangible reward, other than the pure gut feeling of like, “I’m doing good work and I’m consistently doing it and I’m consistently delivering.”

Because, if you don’t have that, it’s just going to fizzle in a year or six months or three months or three days.

Jim: I’ve always told people that if you’re going to do something, start a blog about anything, pick something you really enjoy, something you love. Because if in a year, it doesn’t work out financially, at least you had fun doing it. And that, in of itself, is kind of a reward.

Bjork: For sure. Yep, exactly.

Jim: If you pick something you hate, then you will have just spent a year of misery and it would’ve not panned out. And it’s like, “Why bother?”

Bjork: A real quick story. I have an example of one of those where I thought I had this great idea of a site that I was going to start. And, I was going to call it PhotoshopMom.com. And, my idea was to teach aspiring Photoshop moms aspiring to learn Photoshop how to use it.

And I got about two weeks in. I was like, “What am I doing?” So, I’ve definitely been there and I think I’ve learned my lesson with that.

Jim: I was going to say, you don’t look like a mom.

Bjork: Right, exactly. I would not understand my target market.

Jim: You gave it a shot. You tried and it didn’t work out. Guys, thank you, this was great.

Bjork: Really appreciate it. Thanks for having us on. It was fun to talk to you.

Jim: Of course. If people want to find you, where do they go?

Lindsay: Well, it’s like one of the pass off stories. “Who’s going to answer this?”

Jim: Don’t give us your actual home address.

Lindsay: Obviously, the blog. So, Pinchofyum.com. And then, just for social media, Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest — we talked a lot about Pinterest and Twitter.

Bjork: And, those are all /Pinchofyum addresses. And I’m on Twitter and I’ll occasionally tweet @BjorkOstrom. And, then I also do all the Food Blogger Pro tweets at Food Blogger Pro. And then, obviously, Foodbloggerpro.com if anybody is interested and starting and growing a food blog.

Jim: Great. Thanks again.

Bjork: Thanks a lot.

Jim: Take care. Wasn’t that fun? I had a blast talking to them. Lindsay and Bjork are such humble people. And, it’s always good to see good people doing great work and being compensated for it, so they can keep doing it.

If you want to find the show notes, they’re available at microblogger.com/6. You’ll find links, some takeaways. All that good stuff, some graphics that I put together. You can let me know what you think of it.

Finally, before you go, if you love the show and you haven’t yet left a review or rating on iTunes, it would help me out a lot if you did right now. If you didn’t like it, or there are things you thought I could improve, please let me know. I’m new at it, I’m always trying to learn. Hit me up at Jim@Microblogger.com so I can try to make it better next time, thanks a lot.

And if you’re the tweeting type, you can find me on Twitter @wangarific. And I’ll see you next time. Thanks for listening.

The post MBP #6: How Lindsay & Bjork Built a 6-Figure Food Blogging Empire appeared first on Microblogger.

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You know how sometimes you just look at a site and just instantly fall in love? That was my reaction to Pinch of Yum the first time I saw it. Everything about it is beautiful. I swapped a few emails with Lindsay and Bjork in the past, You know how sometimes you just look at a site and just instantly fall in love? That was my reaction to Pinch of Yum the first time I saw it. Everything about it is beautiful. I swapped a few emails with Lindsay and Bjork in the past, Lindsay was kind enough to submit a tip […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 54:51
MBP #5: How Jason Glaspey Built a Paleo Meal Plan Powerhouse https://microblogger.com/mbp-5-jason-glaspey-paleo-plan/ Mon, 24 Mar 2014 04:01:13 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1647 https://microblogger.com/mbp-5-jason-glaspey-paleo-plan/#respond https://microblogger.com/mbp-5-jason-glaspey-paleo-plan/feed/ 0 <p>Jason Glaspey founded Paleo Plan in 2009, after he discovered it after joining his local Crossfit gym. It was based on a simple idea – produce a weekly meal plan and shopping list so members could eat Paleo, waste less, and buy the right foods easily and quickly. Save time, save money, all for a […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp-5-jason-glaspey-paleo-plan/">MBP #5: How Jason Glaspey Built a Paleo Meal Plan Powerhouse</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Jason Glaspey, Paleo PlanJason Glaspey founded Paleo Plan in 2009, after he discovered it after joining his local Crossfit gym. It was based on a simple idea – produce a weekly meal plan and shopping list so members could eat Paleo, waste less, and buy the right foods easily and quickly. Save time, save money, all for a low monthly price.

Within a year, he would have 500+ members.

In less than a year and a half, he would quit his full time job to work on Paleo Plan.

And in less than two years, he was able to replace his full-time income and bring on a trained nutritionist.

Now, five years later, he sends out thousands of meal plans a week to loyal fans who have also purchased other products he’s produced like ebooks and fitness plan add-ons.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Why he started Paleo Plan in three weeks
  • How he was able to get customers on day one with no existing readership
  • How Jason approaches “research & development” for Paleo Plan and avoids “over research and over development.”
  • How he uses the membership as a focus group to build new products, like a weekly workout plan upsell to the meal plan
  • How the electronic Paleo Plan Quickstart Guide outsold the paperback The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo
  • How he leveraged partnerships with Crossfit gyms to purchase licenses to the Quickstart Guide (to give away) and send him new members.
  • How he found and hired his first contributor to Paleo Plan
  • The one little change that resulted in a 60% increase in signups

Big thank you to Jason for chatting with me and sharing his experiences with you, he has a very busy schedule and I appreciate him taking a small bit of it for us! To show your appreciation, click to tweet @jasonglaspey and tell him how inspired you were by his story!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

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Raw Transcript

Jim: Hi there, thanks for joining us. Today’s chat is with Jason Glasbee, he created Paleoplan.com, it’s a business that sends it’s members a weekly meal plan, and shopping list, that has thousands, and thousands of members.

Jim: Today’s conventional wisdom says that you should build an audience, then build a product. He thinks that’s dumb. He thinks that you should build a product you want, then attract an audience you can sell it to, and that’s the only way that makes sense to him. We learn why he takes this approach, and how he’s been so successful with it. Then we’ll also find out one little change he made three months in to his business that increased sign-ups by 60%.

Jim: We look back at the end to fill in anything we missed, hope you enjoy it.

Jim: Hey Jason, how’s it going?

Jason: Really good Jim, how’re you doing?

Jim: I’m doing well, thanks for coming on the show, I really want to thank you, and we’re going to have some fun talking your great business, Paleo Plan. How did it get started? How did you get in to Paleo in the first place?

Jason: Yea, I actually learned about it for the first time about five years ago, I was going to a Cross Fit gym in Portland, Oregon, and Cross Fit was pretty new and, especially to me, and so I was learning a bunch, and one of the things they did was, they had a boot camp that they forced everyone to go to. And part of that, they covered nutrition pretty heavily. So that was the first time I was exposed to Paleo and the more research I did online, I just started learning more, kind of being intrigued by the idea of this whole philosophy of, you know, going back from a modern, standard American diet with a ton of junk food to, you know, real food that was available, it’s been available for a long time that our bodies are used to eating.

So that was pretty interesting, however at the time, again, you know this was maybe five years ago, there were very, very few resources available online, and those that were, were not very well presented. It was maybe a long list of text links to different resources, just a huge page of recipes that were impossible to navigate. And my wife and I were just spending, you know, two to two and a half hours a week trying to find recipes, write up a shopping list, going to the store, coming back, realizing we forgot a couple of ingredients, going back to the store, buying a whole bunch more stuff, coming back and then not planning well enough and throwing a ton of food away. And I just realized, you know, some smart planning would make this so much more efficient, so much cheaper and we’d be wasting a lot less food.

Jim: From what I understand, Paleo, it’s not like Atkins or those South Beach fad diets where it was centralized and one person came up with it and they came with like, books, and these different plans. Paleo is a little more grass-roots. Am I correct?

Jason: Yeah, there is a doctor who kind of coined the term Paleo diet. His name is Dr. Loren Cordain, and he wrote a book quite a few years ago, of the same name, The Paleo Diet. And so, he has that term actually trademarked, but, he has chosen that, you know, this is a way of living for people, this isn’t a brand and so, you know, he’s been very generous with the use of that term. A lot of people, to find the information they need and to get healthy, so it isn’t a centralized brand with a lot of money behind it, and a marketing team coming up with products, it was “Hey, eat real food.”. It’s a really simple philosophy.

As a result, it really took off and one of the interesting things that I’ve always found that really differentiated Paleo from Atkins or South Beach or many of the other marketable fad diets was, it’s the first diet I ever saw healthy, fit people eating. When they were already healthy and fit. You know, I think we’ve all seen people who lost a lot of weight on Atkins, and that’s fantastic, but I never saw someone who had no weight to lose start eating Atkins. With Paleo, again, you’ve got to introduce through Cross Fit because, I think that Cross Fit is really recognized that, when their athletes eat that way, they perform much, much better. A lot of professional athletes now are actually starting to turn to Paleo or a similar to Paleo diet. Where fueling yourself with natural foods just tends to create better performance.

Cross fit kind of saw that early, and as a result I got exposed to it early, and I saw a business opportunity. Because, my wife and I were struggling and I thought, if I can make a product for us, I think it would be a product for other people as well.

Jim: I think that’s how a lot of entrepreneurship success stories start off. Is, you see a need that you have, that is growing and burgeoning and you build it, and then people come. What’s your background?

Jason: Yeah, I actually was an English major in college, and advertising major. So my focus was on copy writing, which is the guy who writes the commercials, comes up with the tag lines, slogans, defines how the commercial is going to work, etc.. And I really loved that and being with an English major, I think it made me a really good story-teller. But when I graduated it was a really tough time to get a job in Portland. There were a lot of writers out of work, and the only people I knew who were making money were building websites. So I had some friends and I thought, “Hey, show me what you know!” and I started building websites for really small ones, for small companies. I ended up getting a job at a car magazine, helping them with their website, and then slowly just worked my way through the food-chain, and interactive. I worked at several interactive agencies, and advertising agencies as an interactive specialist. I’ve never been a designer or a programmer, so to speak, but always just kind of, could figure out that strategy, the product, and how to tell the story of a brand to an audience. And that’s just been my strength and it’s worked out pretty well for me, and in creating PaleoPlan, I definitely try to use that as much as I could to my advantage.

Jim: And it, I mean it’s a great site. You hit it on the head in the beginning. Because I know PaleoPlan, when you started it, it immediately, you offer the ability to sign up for weekly meal plans, right?

Jason: Yeah, yeah. We had no site until we had a product. A lot of people, you know, start creating a blog, and what not. I just chose to start with a product first, and the blog actually came second, obviously, I had to build an audience, so I used AdWords. I was a product first, branding first and story first.

Jim: So let’s go back to the first customer. You just mentioned AdWords. I know a lot of time people suggest that, you know, you build a blog and you build a readership, and then you think about the product that your readership would want to buy from you. And in your case, since you were solving your own problem, you knew that meal plans and saving you the time and the waste, I mean waste is a huge issue, is key. And so, you already knew that this product had a need, based on just you alone, and maybe the people that you talked to that, you know, took Cross Fit with you and what not. How did you find that first customer?

Jason: Yeah, I knew very little about blogging to build an audience first, and I’ve worked with larger brands who, you know, when they wanted to get a message out, they bought AdWords. It was a very consistent and predictable way to get people to your site. So, early on, I actually launched the site in three weeks. I just went down and I took everything off the shelves that I could find to cobble together a working product. And I just used AdWords to test it. And when people starting coming and I kind of gauged, alright, well I spent $200 yesterday and x amount of people came, this many people bought, I actually have a profit margin of three dollars, I can afford to spend $40, or more the next day. And just slowly ramped that up, testing different messages and AdWords, and just thinking, you know, If I can get the word out people will start talking about it. If nothing else, I was at a position where I could, no body was buying ads against Paleo at the time. It was a very obscure diet, and so I could afford advertising very, very inexpensively. It would be very difficult to launch this site now without a pre-existing audience and just, you know, relying on the advertising that I did five years ago.

Jim: How did you know what to advertise with? I mean I know you know how use AdWords, but how would you know what your customers or the language that they’re speaking if paleo was so new?

Jason: Yeah, so, at the time my focus was not on convincing people about the paleo diet, I knew that that was a long-tail approach, and it would be very expensive to gain customers that way. So instead I chose just to really focus hard on the small, at the time, small market of people who had heard about Paleo, and were trying to make it easier. And I knew that that was going to be a lot of Cross Fitters at the time, because of all the people who had heard about it, it was only the Cross Fitters that were really active, and knew about it, and trying it. So I just used a lot of language around that market and really just make Paleo eating, eating easier, you know. How to eat Paleo easier, we provide meal plans, shopping lists and recipes to save you time and money. And our value proposition was, you know, we’ll save you money because you’ll throw away less food, and we’ll save you hours because, you won’t be figuring all this out every week. And I just, you know, we’re saving you two and a half hours a week and you know, ten dollars a month is a no-brainer.

Jim: So your targeting was very, very specific. You weren’t trying to convince dieters that they should try Paleo, you specifically went after the Paleo, people that were searching for Paleo information, and knew, you know, the time savings were pretty obvious.

Jason: Yeah, that was absolutely it, and as well you know, I’m not a dietitian, a nutritionist, I’ve studied that a lot actually in college, it was something I had found interesting, but it’s not my life’s work. So I knew that I couldn’t be the person to convince people. I wouldn’t hold the key to why this was, you know, the right way to eat and answer all of their questions.

So I really just focused on, hey, everyone who is trying to eat Paleo is asking the same questions; What meals do I eat tomorrow, and what do I need to buy at the store to make that easy, and simple and fast. So, that’s a question you don’t have to be a nutrition therapist to answer. You can pick out recipes, you can combine them in an intelligent way, making sure you have a good macro-nutrient profile, enough fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and you can make sure that you’re, you know, getting a nice diversity of food. And that’s just, you know, a reasonable planning experience, not necessarily a dietitian. Obviously, knowing a little bit about it helped, but, it wasn’t until about a year later that I brought on a nutrition therapist named Neely Quinn and she really brought a lot of expertise and validity to the site. And she started blogging right away, writing these fantastic blog posts with a lot of scientific support about the Paleo diet, and was able to answer questions very authoritatively to our readers who were having, you know, specific issues. And that was a massive, massive upgrade for the site, probably one of the water shed moments for us moving forward. Because, as Paleo diet grew, we starting having people who didn’t know about it and were asking some pretty specific questions that needed someone with some specific answers. And so it was a pretty great opportunity to bring someone on and to really add validity and add that face to the company that was like, yeah, I trust her, she went to school for this for four years. She knows this, she lives this, she does this because her herself has to because of her food allergies and sensitivities.

So, at that point, you know, we really came to, graduated to a much more sophisticated and expertise-driven website, which obviously allowed us to grow much faster.

Jim: That’s interesting, I was going to ask you, like a lot of times, businesses have a chicken and an egg issue where you build a product, or you get an audience, you know, one’s the chicken and one’s the egg, you seem to have solved the getting the customer part. At least that first year. Because, you know, AdWords, very targeted, you can get people to your site, and in creating the product it sounds like you just took, sort of, existing resources, added your own brain with planning and just understanding, you know, like she said, macro-nutritional concepts, and were able for the first year, that was good enough for you to entice members to join.

Jason: Yeah, it was. Another thing is, you know, early on there were so few resources, people came to my site and were like “Wow! This is perfect.” They didn’t even care who I was, or what I was doing, because they just recognized how much value this brought compared to everything else that was out there. As the community started growing, and more people started coming to the site and more people were looking for bigger answers, then it, Neely came really at the perfect time. She would have been a wasted resource in the first year, because we weren’t big enough to support two people and people didn’t have that much sophistication in their questions yet. But as more and more people started coming, the diversity of information online started to shift, her presence was pretty powerful.

Jim: So it sounds like, in the first year, I mean, one thing that I think was important was that you were eating this diet, you were eating Paleo, you were participating in Cross Fit, like you were a member of that tribe, or that group. If some other outsider came in and said, “Hey, these are plans, I don’t really use them, but this is, I saw this on some other website and I put it together.” It sort of loses the credibility. Right? You don’t necessarily have to be the expert, but you have to be on the journey with them.

Jason: Yeah, definitely. And I was also one of the people who, you know, I don’t, it’s not my identity. I definitely know people who made Paleo their identity, for all sorts of reasons. And I think that also allowed people to kind of feel comfortable, with like, you know, people weren’t ready to be like, “I am this diet! This is who I am!” and they saw like, you can eat this way and feel better and still be you, and not have to change a lot of things about you and if you need to cheat because your mom made you that thing and you’re at her house and you can’t, like, “Hey!”. You don’t have to be dogmatic about it. And at the time, in the early days, there was a lot of people who were very dogmatic about it. Right? And so I think that was work, if you had anything that was anywhere remotely close to off the list, you were, you know, you were in trouble. And I think I also provided a little value there where, I was just like, hey, this is valuable but, it’s a tool moving forward. It’s not the only thing that defines my life. And I think that that actually provided a nice ambiance as well.

But definitely that first year, I mean, we did everything so, just, how can we be the most efficient, you know? Our product instead of building a really advanced meal planning tool where you could type in any type of recipe and build your own meal plan and hit print and export a shopping list for your custom meal plan, I just realized, one, that’s really expensive and two, a lot of the people we’re serving didn’t need that kind of complexity. They didn’t want to spend that time. But if they were paying for it, they felt like they had to, like they were being second class citizens if they just took the stock meal plan.

One of the things that I had an opportunity to learn working for really big brands is, just because you can imagine a really awesome way to do something, doesn’t mean it’s actually better. And I saw a lot of brands to really, really complex things to create a really complex product, and it just, nobody cared, nobody came, and they never got the return on their investment. So, I was always like, I will build that tool when I am confident that there is demand that overwhelms the demand for a simple, one size fits all. And we had some really nice ways to make adjustments to the meal plan if you weren’t, if you did want to change something. But for the most part, people were really happy with a very simple version and that allowed us to just e-mail them a PDF and I could list out the recipes, I could build out the shopping list with a calculator and create a PDF in InDesign and mail it to someone and I didn’t need to hire a programmer for $20,000 to build me a tool it allowed me to launch in three weeks.

And four and a half years later I still haven’t found a compelling reason to build out a very complicated tool, and I’m pretty sure that we’d lose money if we did because people would find that, you know, unless that tool is incredibly easy to use, vrey, very rewarding in the experience, people get frustrated. And then they carry that frustration over to you. And at this point, after four and a half years, our customers have switched to be a lot more non-tech-savvy women. Women that are late 40’s and 50’s and they’re not necessarily interested in spending a lot of time building out a shopping list.

Those services exist in other places, if they really wanted. We’ve had really good success with staying simple, staying lean and keeping a really good overhead, a really low overhead.

Jim: I think it’s interesting that you say, you know, don’t build it unless there’s an overwhelming demand, and now four years later there still is no demand for that sort of customization. Part of it, I think, is Paleo plan is like, it’s very straight forward. You get these meal plans, you know exactly what you’re getting, it’s designed to keep things simpler for you. Right? Otherwise, if you wanted ultimate creativity you could get all sorts of you know, menus or cookbooks and things like that and create your own, if you really wanted that level of creativity. But if you want something every week, then that’s why you sign up for the service. That’s your, that’s your differentiater, I would say.

Jason: Yeah, and we spend a lot of time on our meal plans. Our current, we have a woman who’s a chef and recipe creator and she really works in the seasonality of foods. You know, these are the foods that are going to be affordable at the grocery store right now and you know, fish should probably, if you’re going to do your grocery shopping on the weekends, let’s eat fish early in the week so that it’s not all gamey by the end of, you know, by Friday night. Let’s plan smart left overs, certain foods don’t make good left overs, so don’t make two batches of that and think that you’re going to eat it for lunch tomorrow. There’s a lot of planning that goes in to that, and figuring out when the prep days are and hey, you’re going to cook extra fish or extra chicken today because you’re going to use it for lunch in two days.

So I think people get a lot of really smart, intelligent meal planning, that if they were doing it themselves, they would have to spend that time on.

Jim: That’s a good point.

Jason: I’ve also seen people use, or I’ve seen a lot of other companies try and come out with this really clever meal planning tool, and I’m very internet savvy, I spend all of my time using different tools and I love to use them. I’ve yet to find one that’s actually enjoyable to use, instead of being a huge pain in the ass that leaves me more frustrated then when I started.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Jason: What we did, is we made it really simple to leave things off. If you see a meal, like on Tuesday morning, that you’re not interested in, it’s got a number by it, and all the ingredients that are part of that meal are numbered in the shopping list, so you can just check those ingredients off. And then you’re not buying food that you don’t plan on eating, but it’s really easy to modify. Just, oh well, I know that the recipe I do want is just these four things, you can just write that down. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t have to, you don’t have to make it a digital version of that.

Jim: What’s really interesting is that you, as you say, you don’t want to build complexity, like the process that you guys use, sounds very complex. But the end product, and that’s sort of the, you know, the grace and beauty of a well run process, is that the end product looks simple, even though there’s a lot of intelligence built it. Like the planning, what doesn’t make a good left over, how you replace, you know like, the menu item on Tuesday, what can you replace it with. I mean, I think that’s really smart, I mean, that’s where you should be spending “research dollars”, instead of building a tool that is just complex for show.

Jason: Yea, and I’ll be really honest, I’m lazy. I’m a really good entrepreneur because I can’t imagine a boss telling me I have to show up at Tuesday every week, week after week, after week. That just scares me, and I also figured out, like, I want every minute I spend on PaleoPlan to be very, very effective. Nothing saddens me more than doing a huge project and seeing it just flop and not getting return on that investment. So, again, I’m make sure that something is pretty proven to be successful before I take on any big undertaking. I don’t mind spending some money and some time on a marketing effort that, you know, may or may not work. But I certainly don’t want to add complexity to our product and then hope that we don’t lose people as a result.

Jim: How do you do the research to find out if something is worth doing?

Jason: You know, it comes in a lot of ways, one of them, again, is just I’ve used tools that I’m not happy with, and I don’t want to have a tool that I’m unhappy with. As someone who loves internet tools, it would make me really sad to be disappointed with what I have. Because I’m not a programmer, I can’t fix it if something is broken, and I’m really reliant on someone else, whether that’s an employee or a contractor. And that means every time I come up with a better way to do it, I’m going to have to spend more and more money and my natural tendency is to refine. So, it has to be a pretty significant, obvious value before I’m going to take on that level of risk.

As well as I talk to people and, one of the things that we did is, we heard people saying “I would like a way to modify the meal plan.”. We just spent some time like, what are they really asking? What’s the problem they’re really faced with? I had a hunch that it was really just that they didn’t want to be buying food they weren’t using. And when we created the number system, which actually came out 6 months or a year after we launched, the number of requests to modify the meal plan just absolutely plummeted. And we realized, ok, we solved the problem. We got people to quit asking for a solution, because it was no longer a problem. And we did that by recognizing that they didn’t want full customization, they didn’t want a complicated tool. What they wanted was to make sure that when they went to the grocery store they weren’t buying food they didn’t plan on eating. And we gave them a really simple way to remove that.

People are intelligent, they’ve grocery shopped before, they know how to add in a few ingredients for a specific meal they have in mind. And so, once we saw just that, we tested a very simple idea, and when it worked, we knew that we had solved the larger problem as well. We still get requests for it, but the percentage of people asking for it compared to the overwhelming number of people who are happily using our system is just, tiny.

Jim: Gotcha. And then so, well I wanted to go back to that first year, do you remember how many members you had signed up that first year?

Jason: You know, I think, I feel like it took me a year to hit 500. Because, yea, it took me a little over a year to hit 500 members. And I remember, that was a pretty big milestone for us. It was later that year that we had grown quickly enough that I was able to leave my job and go full time on it. And by the end of that year, I had grown fast enough to be able to replace the income I had left.

Jim: So this was all within a year and a half?

Jason: It was right around two years after launch that I had finally replaced the income that I had left, but once Neely came on and we really started focusing on growth, and I quit my job and was able to really focus on not just answering questions and keeping the company active, but actually what can we be doing to grow and improve? And I brought on someone to help with support so my mind was freed up from just answering, you know, silly questions, to focusing on the business. So yeah, the first year I think we got three to four hundred people.

Early in the second year we hit 500, and I’m going to say by the end of the second year we were 1500-ish people.

Jim: Wow, that’s amazing.

Jason: Yeah, we’ve had very, very good growth and obviously, you know, the growth of the Paleo diet, and just people’s awareness of it has certainly benefited our business. You know, we were getting better at our job, and at the same time more people were looking for it. So it was a nice, nice timing, and just fortuitous timing, I’d say.

Jim: So that first year, you have 3, 4, 500 numbers, getting weekly emails for your meal plans, you were doing that, you were doing the customer service essentially until you brought on the assistant, and then you hired Neely, as your first hire. How did you find her? Because I looked online on PaleoPlan, and it said she lives in Denver? And you’re in Portland.

Jason: Yeah, she actually came to me. She had seen the site and was really impressed with it, and just sent me an email like, hi, and she introduced herself, let me know she was a nutrition therapist, was really in to what I was doing because she ate Paleo. She’s got an entrepreneur in her as well, and she was trying to figure out how to break in to this web stuff, and was kind of wondering if I would either mentor her, or if I was willing to work on a project with her, to help her build an internet business. Over a couple of months we were just chatting, and obviously I couldn’t help her build a competing business to what I was doing. She just really couldn’t feel like she could behind any other diet and promote in the same way I was doing PaleoPlan and then at one point, she just said, you know, have you ever thought about me helping you? And I was like, yea, kind of, I don’t know. I was nervous to hire someone though because, you know, I wasn’t even completely supporting myself at the time. It was nice side revenue, but I still had to have a regular job. The idea of bringing on a partner was really scary because you know, how would that affect our growth? How would that affect my ability to pay my, you know, support my family? But we just talked and I really liked her, I really liked her ambition and she’s a smart, smart lady.

She also just made a lot of sense, she had a lot of skills that really filled in the massive gaps that I had. My skills were very different from hers, she would have a very difficult time building a successful web company without internet experience, and a background. The more we talked, the better we felt, and so, she started off just writing some blog posts for me, and answering a few tricky customer questions and then taking on a little bit more, and a little bit more, and pretty soon she was working full time and we were growing much faster and we started using her skills in a lot of different ways.

Jim: It sounds like it was just, like you said, it was good timing and a good fit in terms of skills, and not necessarily you had this growth strategy and she was perfect for it until after she showed up.

Jason: Yeah, I’ll be honest, it was **** luck. Pardon my french. And I’m so thankful. She’s become a good friend, we talk regularly and, you know our calls will always extend way beyond just work. Having her really helped me see how I could use her, versus me having a bunch of ideas and then finding that person. I’ve actually tried to keep that strategy with other people. When you find someone who is really great, see how they can improve your company versus having a very specific job position in mind and then just trying to fill that job position.

Jim: Is this how Max fit in? He’s the Cross Fit guy in California.

Jason: Yeah, so Neely actually met Max at a big Paleo conference and he was just a really funny, really clever guy and we were just talking about, you know, it would be nice to have some fitness blog posts occasionally. So we reached out to him and he’s got just a great sense of humor and really approachable, while still being, you know, obviously incredibly fit and really knowledgeable. He just started writing occasional blog posts for us, just to kind of, you know, build his brand and at the same time increase the type of information we could provide to our readers. Then after maybe 6 months, to a year of him doing that we just started looking at, you know, how else can we work together? Would a fitness product make sense? What would he need to get out of it to make it worthwhile for him? What would we need to get out of it to make it worthwhile for us? And how could we leverage that to make a better product for our customers?

So we did some research, we sent out an email to our existing subscribers and asked them, would you be interested in a product like this? We polled them, got their response. Then we followed up with, you know, what kind of product would you like to see? What would it look like? What elements would it be? And then just kind of worked with Max to design that, and it’s been a lot a fun, it’s been a nice addition to our product line.

Jim: Would that be the 21-day cleanse? Or the ebook.

Jason: So Max is, he just writes our work outs. We have a fitness product that’s a tag-a-long with the meal plan.

Jim: Gotcha.

Jason: If you want to also get at-home workouts sent to you, you can add that on for five dollars and every week you get 4 workouts sent to you that are easy to do at home, require minimal equipment, and can be scaled from someone who is just starting fitness to in pretty good shape. Just to allow those people who, you know, either can’t afford, don’t have time, or just prefer a work out at home.

Jim: But there’s something nice, and easy about working out from home. As long as you’re motivated enough to do it, because you don’t have to get in a car, or run to gym or whatever. You just get up and go. So it seems like a natural pairing.

Jason: Yea, I still go to Cross Fit and I still do workouts at home. There’s some days it’s just like, I don’t really want to deal with that. Or, I don’t have the fifteen extra minutes it takes to commute because I’m trying to be efficient with my time today. And, you know, home work outs can be pretty effective, if you have that. And I think part of what we give is, you get an e-mail every week with a list of the workouts and suggestions on how to get through them. So that, you’re not on your own, you’re not completely in a vacuum just trying to build up the energy to work out and trying to figure out what you want to do that day. That there’s this thing that’s coming that you can leave comments on each day’s workout, see what other people felt about it. And still be part of the community in some ways that you wouldn’t be if you were just doing jumping jacks and verpees in your living room.

Jim: Right. And it’s great that with the membership you have a built in focus-group that you can ask, what would you want to buy?

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a huge asset.

Jim: Is that, was that the genesis of, because I know you have that ebook, and then the 21-day cleanse. Where did those fit in? How did they get their start?

Jason: You know, we actually had an opportunity to write a print book. The complete idiots guide to eating Paleo, and we just recognized that there was a lot of really good information in it, but not everybody wants a print book anymore, or wants to wait for it to be delivered. There’s people who are doing research right now. And we also just kind of assumed that, you know, there’s some people who don’t want to be part of a membership, you know? We pay for our cell phones, our internet, our Netflix, our Hulu Plus, we get pretty burnt out on just ten more dollars a month, you know those can add up. So I like the idea of providing something with a ton of value that could be purchased one time, you have it, it’s in your pocket, you can download it, put it on your iPad.

And it also was a really nice product to partner with other people with. So like, Cross Fit gyms could buy it and distribute it to their members, it was a really easy package versus, how do you repackage weekly emails to a bunch of different people. So the genesis just kind of came from, you know, I saw ebooks as a growing trend, I myself prefer reading them. And I just thought, you know, it’s worth a shot and I think Neely was definitely a big push as well. She really believed in the concept. And since, you know, I have an author and she’s a fantastic writer, she’s very intelligent, she does her research. She could put together all the content pretty quickly, and it has absolutely been one of our best successes. I can’t believe how much more successful and profitable it is than our print book. Just, lights out. It’s, we charge way more for it, we get every dollar instead of a dollar per print book sold. And people are very, very, very happy with it. We’ve had extraordinary success with it.

Jim: Have you had a lot of success with selling it through like, Cross Fit partners and things like that?

Jason: Yeah, we allow Cross Fit partners to buy a professional license for it. It’s $300, or if they want to add their own branding, they can add their own logo for an extra hundred, just to kind of cover our time. And then, they get a license that allows them to distribute it to people inside their gym. They can’t just post it on their website for anyone to download, but they can e-mail it to their customers or provide a private access to it. We price that really, really low. The price of what, less than nine people in their gym would, and our focus there was just you know, it’s good information and it’s really helpful for a lot of people. And it creates a nice value add for the gym. And we just wanted gyms to be like, yea that’s a no-brainer, of course I’ll buy that. Because most of those customers at the gym probably wouldn’t, you know there’s a small likelihood that we would be marketing to them already and have an opportunity to capture them as a customer. So we just recognized the pie is really big, and we’d love to get our name out there as the absolute experts in this product. And, if they liked what they see, they can come get a meal plan from us.

You know, it’s really hard to market to Cross Fit owners. They’re very, very busy. Most of the ones I know spend very little time on a computer. So we haven’t done very aggressive marketing with the product, but we get requests for it. And it’s really nice to have a really amazing product and price to answer with. And we’ve sold, I don’t know, a couple hundred of them probably to gyms?

Jim: Well, are you able to track whether those customers, rather the Cross Fit members join PaleoPlan?

Jason: You know, that, if there is a way, I don’t know how to do it. So we haven’t been able to see the final conversion from that aspect. But, you know, it’s never a bad thing when the person who is telling you about Paleo, you know, that’s your Cross Fit coach is also the one saying , and here’s the resource to use. These guys are the experts.

Jim: Yeah.

Jason: And even if it’s some person who doesn’t want to eat Paleo, they love their pizza, they’re still exposed to us. We’ve found that Cross Fitters become really great evangelists for us because so many people go to people, like people who Cross Fit regularly tend to be pretty ripped and in great shape. And people turned, their friends tend to turn to them like, hey how do I do what you do? And they say, most of them say, eat Paleo, go to Cross fit. And how do I eat Paleo? Here’s the resource. So, just having our exposure in those environments helps us reach a larger scale audience that may not be Cross Fitters themselves.

Jim: One thing that we had talked about, you know, before the show or anything like that. You know, you mentioned that Paleo people, people that eat Paleo are generally, like, they’re healthy and it’s not because they’re looking to lose weight, they’re just looking to feel better and what not. Unlike other diets where, you know, if you lose weight maybe you change and you stop using the diet. That’s just why fad diets kind of die off. Paleo doesn’t seem to suffer from that sort of, same process or life cycle. But where do you see the future of Paleo going?

Jason: Yeah, I do think that it is slightly immune to the fad diet, again you know there’s healthy people who are choosing it. There’s another advantage that, you know, a lot of people are realizing that they have a gluten intolerance or a dairy intolerance, and once you’ve recognized one food sensitivity, you become really aware of other sensitives that may be pretty small, but can still affect people. A lot of people don’t realize that they do have small sensitivities that just make them more apathetic. Maybe their mood is a little down, maybe their energy level is not quite what it could be. When you start changing those things your awareness becomes. And so I think that, you know, I don’t think gluten intolerance is going to go away. So I see things like Paleo diet sticking around for quite a while. And I kind of envision it being more of a lifestyle, like veganism or vegetarian. That doesn’t seem like a fad diet. People come in and out of those diets, but, their presence is pretty persistent. And I think that whether you call it Paleo or Primal or Caveman, whether you know, what sect of Paleo you have. Do you allow high fat dairy, you know, grass fed high fat dairy or do you occasionally eat, you know, something that is slightly off. There’s going to be some current of that diet running through society for quite a while.

One of the things I think really helps is that, since there’s no brand and marketing budget behind it, it hasn’t been, kind of, tainted? like, when Atkins came around, there was a brand called Atkins, and they produced some pretty crappy food under the, you know, the banner of this is healthy. And some of it was just really sh***. And it was low carb and it could be a facilitator in losing weight, but it certainly wasn’t making people healthy. But you can’t really brand carrots. You know, vegetables are pretty, you know-

Jim: Yeah.

Jason: – you can’t really brand that. There are a lot of people who are making Paleo-friendly food. You know like, this is considered Paleo, and they’ll put that on the packaging. But again, that becomes a label, not a brand. You know, this is gluten-free, this is Paleo, which just kind of insinuates what things aren’t in it. That the meat is grass-fed, that you know, there’s no artificial crap. And I think that that’s going to be seen as kind of more of a label and, again, a current way of thinking about food versus a diet that you choose to be on or off.

Jim: It makes sense to me. But, –

Jason: However, with that said, right now Paleo is very popular, and it is experiencing like, the joys of being the mainstream diet of the moment. So like, Men’s Health put’s Paleo on their cover, that won’t continue forever. Some other diet will come along, some other claim will be the hot new trend. And Paleo will absolutely come down in it’s fame, so to speak. But again, I think that it won’t disappear, I think it’ll just become much more, just something going on in the background that people are aware of and are experimenting with.

Jim: I mean, it’s like Vegetarian, or Vegan, like you said. It’s not like an Atkins or South Beach or any of the other, those are the only two fad diet names I can ever think of anyway. But, yeah.

Jason: There’s, there was a lot more that are less popular, they come and go. And then there’s fads like the cleanse diet, you know, eat, drink, citrus and-

Jim: Yeah.

Jason: -cayenne for a week.

Jim: Sounds horrible.

Jason: and, acid. I actually tried it once just to say, because all my friends were doing it and I’m like, that sounds horrible and they’re like, it’s hard. I’m like, well, I’ll try it, just to see if I can do it. And I hated it, I hated every minute of it.

Jim: Yeah, and it doesn’t, yeah no part of that sounds good. But I guess that’s part of the thing of, you know if it’s supposed to be good for you, people think medicine is supposed to be bad. Like, it’s supposed to taste horrible. And orange juice and cayenne pepper sounds exactly like it would taste. Horrible.

Jason: Lemon juice, which is even harsher.

Jim: Geez.

Jason: Yeah.

Jim: That’s just cruel. But, I mean, it sounds like PaleoPlan has done well and you’ve had big breakthroughs and everything, was there anything that you tried that turned out badly? Or not as well as you thought?

Jason: Gosh, I tried to forget about those things.

Jim: Which is fair.

Jason: You know, there’s a few little things we did here and there, like, we tried re-marketing. Which is, you know, you, if people come to your site and then they go to another and they see your banners and, you know, we spent a few thousand dollars on that and definitely didn’t see any real traction. And you know, it’s possible we did it wrong. There’s people who use it very effectively, but it did not work for us. Facebook advertising did not work for us, you know, people are on Facebook not to buy a recipe book. Now that doesn’t mean people can’t use it effectively, but, with my skills and talents, our efforts were spent elsewhere.

Jim: Do you still buy advertising anywhere?

Jason: You know, we cover a couple of keywords on AdWords still, just because, you know, we’re leaving inventory unsold by not. We just see, you know, what’s our traffic, what is the most we’re getting from these keywords, and what’s our revenue from those keywords? And if there is an opportunity to make money, we do. We certainly don’t rely on it like we used it. It used to be a huge percentage of our traffic, and now it’s less than 4% of our traffic I think.

Jim: Wow.

Jason: It’s very, very small, but we do use it very carefully, selectively for specific keywords that we still find to be profitable.

Jim: Which is generally what best practices say you should do with AdWords anyway, unless you’re one of the big brands looking to get “branding” by buying certain keywords.

Jason: Yeah.

Jim: What do you find is the most effective way of driving traffic now?

Jason: You know, having really good blog posts continues to just be awesome for us. Neely will write, you know, a lot of different, you know, blogs about a lot of topics. But those evergreen pieces of content that she’s written here like, is quinoa Paleo? Just continues day, after day to bring in lots of people who are obviously at a point where they’re unsure of exactly what this Paleo diet is, and when they land and there’s this really nice explanation and then it says, hey, and if you need some help you’re at the right place. It creates a nice, you know, little inbound funnel.

And then there’s things, you know, we we’ve made some really good partnerships with other people who have products that we really believe in and that they have products, or and they believe in our products and then there’s been some nice cross-marketing approaches that we’ve done, had with them that’s been very positive.

Jim: That’s great. Was there anything you tried that was just a runaway success that you didn’t even expect going in to it?

Jason: One of the small experiments I was encouraged to try that I had no idea would work as well as it did was offer a free trial.

When we first launched the site, we did not offer a free trial, it was get started and get started. And we had a free week download so you could like, kind of see what we were all about. But one of the things I realized is, you know, if you give someone a week, a free download, you know, they’ll download it, and try it, but then they have to really remember and really be motivated to come back and sign up and start getting it again.

And even the best intentions, it’s just difficult to find that time and it can slip away. And so we found that one, just signing up for the free trial increased our conversion rate by 60% from, or our sign up rate by 60%. And we provide enough value that our conversions to paid was very high. So, if you look at our sign up graph over the years, the moment we put on the free trial, the angle just got much, much steeper immediately and has been pretty consistent since. So that was a massive lesson in the importance of a free trial.

Jim: That’s awesome, did you see a similar change whenever you offered the 6 month, and I think you have a 12 month pre-pay?

Jason: Yeah, you know those have been very, very good for us. I remember the first day someone bought a 12 month, I was like, I had launched it the day before and hadn’t really done a lot of marketing around it and then I saw it come through and I’m like someone bought it! Someone just paid for that! And then I thought, oh sh**, now I really have to keep the site up for another year.

Jim: So, when did you add that? Like, early on?

Jason: It was pretty early on, I think, within 6 months of us launching.

Jim: Oh, okay. How many, when someone signs up they’re getting, every week they’re getting a new menu that no one else has ever gotten before. It might have like bits and pieces and whatever, do they get a brand new week, every week? Or does it, is there like a cycle?

Jason: Yeah, so, we’ve talking about cycling, obviously because we’ve been doing this for four and a half years we have over a thousand weeks that we’ve built. It seems ridiculous that we’re not recycling, but, if you recycle you kind of quit being able to introduce some of the new recipes, we add new recipes all the time, and so when you’re recycling you’re not really being able to add those new recipes. It just hasn’t felt like the right thing to do, you know, the cost to making a new meal plan every week is not so significant that the value it adds, I think, is worth removing. Also, you know, we get feedback from our members, you know, like, if there’s a recipe and something is kind of, wrong with it. You know, we make changes to our recipes. We update them when we get like, hey, like this is really great, but I added this and it made it off the charts even better. So then, we’ll add that. And, again, going back two years ago and trying to remember, well, what was the status of all these recipes? Have we changed them all so that if we send out that meal plan and they go to the website and get the recipe it’s not like, well wait, I’m missing two ingredients that weren’t there two years ago when we made the shopping list.

At that point, you know, again like, there’s a value to just knowing that it’s right.

Jim: Yeah.

Jason: We have a very good system for making them, we’re, in terms of, we’re efficient and, you know my, Molly Owen, who makes the meal plans like, she definitely looks back over previous ones is like, oh, yeah this was a nice week, I’m going to switch these things up but this, these were good recipes and a good flow and that was a good time for this time of year, you know these ingredients. So, you know, she’ll definitely drop on inspiration from previous weeks, but we don’t just hit, you know change the dates and move on.

Jim: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s smart. Part of me, as I asked that question, I felt a little nervous like putting you on the spot in case you did. Then I would have felt really bad. Because I didn’t know the answer.

Jason: Yeah, and the reality is though, is most people, you know, if you’ve been a member for over a year, like, you’re just using us for the convenience and the community at that point. I don’t think that we’re actually really going out of our way to make sure that ten dollars is worth it. Like, ten dollars is pretty hard to be not worth it when it, if you’re actually using the meal plan.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Jason: And like I said, we’ve really talking about it, we’ve thought about it seriously we just haven’t found a way that to make sure that going forward we can still provide something interesting and new. Make sure that there are no mistakes if we change recipes and the level of working through those problems isn’t less than just reusing.

Jim: Right, right, and that’s, I mean that’s where you add that tremendous value.

Jason: I think part of it is that we really care. You know, this could easily be a site where it’s complete auto-pilot, you set it and forget it, everything is repeat you just pay someone to blog and you don’t answer questions. But that doesn’t actually help people get healthier and everyone in our company is really focused on like, we love our job because we can say it proudly, we help people get healthier. And it’s not expensive, and they can cancel any time so if it doesn’t work for them, it’s not like we’re extracting money from people who are getting no value. The people that cancel, that’s great, find something that works for you. But people who are active, are finding value, and we get to take a lot of pride in that.

Jim: Hey, Jason, it’s great what you’re doing with PaleoPlan, I want to thank you again for coming on.

Jason: No problem, my pleasure. Thanks for asking all the questions.

Jim: Yeah, this was a lot of fun, I wish you the best of luck.

Jason: Thank you very much Jim, thanks for letting me be on the show.

Jim: Yeah, no problem, take care buddy.

Jason: You too, bye.

Jim: I hope you enjoyed that chat, what I love about Jason is he’s absolutely no B.S. and Paleo Plan is no B.S., you know exactly what you get, it saves you time, it cuts down on food waste and you pay a reasonable price for what amounts to a ton of work. You can take advantage of the fact that there are thousands and thousands of other members there. It’s really a win-win and that’s awesome whenever you see that with a business. It’s no surprise it’s a success, I think any business can take away a ton of lessons from his experience.

Finally, before you go, if you haven’t left a review or rating on iTunes, it would help me out a lot if you were able to do so. Thank you so much!

As always, I love feedback, so if you want to reach out to me and tell me jokes, suggest a future guest, my e-mail is Jim@microblogger.com or you can find me on twitter @wangarfic.

See you next time, thanks for listening!

The post MBP #5: How Jason Glaspey Built a Paleo Meal Plan Powerhouse appeared first on Microblogger.

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Jason Glaspey founded Paleo Plan in 2009, after he discovered it after joining his local Crossfit gym. It was based on a simple idea – produce a weekly meal plan and shopping list so members could eat Paleo, waste less, Jason Glaspey founded Paleo Plan in 2009, after he discovered it after joining his local Crossfit gym. It was based on a simple idea – produce a weekly meal plan and shopping list so members could eat Paleo, waste less, and buy the right foods easily and quickly. Save time, save money, all for a […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor
MBP #4: How J Money, an Anonymous Mohawk, Became a Recognizable Money Blogger https://microblogger.com/mbp4-j-money-budgetsaresexy-anonymous-mohawk/ Wed, 19 Mar 2014 04:01:22 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1633 https://microblogger.com/mbp4-j-money-budgetsaresexy-anonymous-mohawk/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp4-j-money-budgetsaresexy-anonymous-mohawk/feed/ 2 <p>Picture in your mind your average financial planner or money expert, what do you see? Whether it’s a man or a woman, chances are they all look the same – corporate. Professional. That’s what we’ve come to expect from our experts. Even the ones with personality, Jim Cramer comes to mind and that’s mostly an […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp4-j-money-budgetsaresexy-anonymous-mohawk/">MBP #4: How J Money, an Anonymous Mohawk, Became a Recognizable Money Blogger</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> j-money-finalPicture in your mind your average financial planner or money expert, what do you see?

Whether it’s a man or a woman, chances are they all look the same – corporate. Professional.

That’s what we’ve come to expect from our experts. Even the ones with personality, Jim Cramer comes to mind and that’s mostly an act, wears the uniform of a button down shirt and a tie. Of a suit.

Then you have Jay Monee, founder of Budgets are Sexy, and he doesn’t fit the mold. He’s a regular guy writing about personal finance with a lot of personality and even more entertainment. He’s fun, his blog posts get dozens of comments, and he works on fun projects all the time. If you were having a party and were forced to invite a personal finance expert, you’d probably invite him.

Jay Monee… the anonymous mohawk behind Budgets are Sexy, Love Drop, Rockstar Finnace, and too many other projects to name.

If you ever wondered if you could make a name for yourself even if it was a made up one, you’ll want to listen to this episode because we go into why Jay went with the name shared by a million different rappers.

In this episode, you’ll learn about how he got started (how he wanted to quit but actually found himself without a job after an ill-advised email!), why he’s anonymous, and how he thought to try to make budgets sexy.

We even discuss how being the Miley Cyrus of Finance might hold him back sometimes and how it doesn’t even matter to him!

I did have one flub in this podcast, near the end, I said that Edgar Allen Poe was born in Baltimore. He just lived a good bit of his life in Baltimore and died in Baltimore.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How J Money used to be J Savings and how he got his site off the ground
  • How he tried to differentiate by bringing a little sexy back into personal finance
  • How he transitioned from having fun with a hobby blog and turning it into a business
  • How he expanded his blogging empire by acquiring another site for $4,000, and was up to 10 sites
  • How he “went pro” and the planning he did ahead of time (i.e. how he got himself fired)
  • The surprising reason why he chose Budgets Are Sexy as a name (because, honestly, budgets are not that sexy!)
  • What J does to get more comments (and what you should be doing too)
  • Whether anonymity has held back his business
  • Has his differentiation, being “sexy,” had a negative impact on his business when most every other personal finance blog is more “serious”
  • Why he started Rockstar Finance, a site that curates the best personal finance articles
  • How J has built up his network through simple techniques anyone can do

I’m pumped that J. was able to come on and do this recording given all the project he has going on, if you enjoyed our chat, could you click to tweet @budgetaresexy and tell him he kicked ass on the podcast!

Resources, links, random stuff we mentioned:

How to subscribe

There are two main ways – Stitcher and iTunes.

iTunes
Download on iTunesSimply click on this link and you’ll be taken to the page where you can subscribe.

Stitcher
Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe to the Microblogger podcast via Stitcher.

Finally, if you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Please tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Provided without much review:

Jim: This is the Microblogger Podcast, episode four.

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: Hey everybody, welcome to the Microblogger Podcast. Today I have the
pleasure of talking with J. Money who’s most well know for “Budgets are
Sexy” but he does a variety of other things that I’m hoping we’ll be able
to get into. Hey J., how are you doing?

J: Hello, sir, thanks for having me in the microblogging tour.

Jim: Yeah man, of course. You are probably one of the most interesting,
interesting is not specific enough of a term. You’re one of the most
entertaining and personality forward type of personal finance bloggers and
that’s what I wanted to talk to you about that because it’s not very often
that you have so much personality within personal finance.

But before we jump into that, could you tell us your story, how you got
started, the whole origin story of J. Money.

J: Yeah, well I’ll start with something funny. My original name online
as you might recall was J. Savings. I thought I as pretty clever with that
name the first three months of blogging until my wife and other people
started making fun of me for it. And I wanted it to be cooler and I jazzed
it up and I switched out Savings with Money. Then yes, that was man almost
six years ago when I started blogging.

Anyway, but I bought a house at the peak of the market when I shouldn’t
have. I didn’t even have a budget. I mean, I was good with money but not
super good. And I started looking online when I was bored with work and
like, I’m going to see what help I can get. I kept coming across all these
websites that were like, “Here’s my net worth…” My Money Blog was one of
them. Here’s what I do… and I was like, what the heck is going on here?
These aren’t… here’s how to budget, they’re all personal stories.

And then I realized that they were called blogs. And I got addicted, I
started reading them ore and more, having fun. Never commented or anything.
And then I remember one day at work, I worked at a startup company and had
some busy days and then some days where I didn’t do anything. And on the
days I didn’t do anything I’d just sit on myspace all day long which kind
of dates me there.

Jim: Yeah, it kind of does.

J: So I said, what can I do with my time that is better than Myspace.
Then I thought, I like this money stuff. I’m just going to start a blog, I
don’t care, I’m just going to come up with a name, start typing my thoughts
out, I’m not going to edit it or anything. I’m just going to put it out
there and see what happens.

I was trying to be with the sexy and the budgets and everything, I was
trying to be a little spicy. And it was also to, the name also came from
Justin Timberlake’s “Bringing Sexy Back” which also dates how long ago this
started. And so I thought, all right, so I launched it.

I decided I’m going to do a post every day because that’s what I saw other
people doing. And so I’ve pretty much gone six years in a row and I still
haven’t missed a day of blogging. And here we are talking now. So it’s been
a fun ride, man.

Jim: Yeah. It’s, I mean, I went back and looked in the archives just to
see when exactly you started. And I think you might have done a little
revision as history going back and changing all the J. Savings into J.
Money.

J: I did, yes.

Jim: Because that first post you have an interview with yourself and you
said, “J. Money.” But it goes to show as you’re doing blogging, any sort
of business, as you find that niche, that little soft spot or where you
like to play in, you can always go back and change things.

J: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of things I’ve change. I’m sure some of
your questions will touch on it but, one of the biggest for me, like I
said, I would just write whatever I wanted to. I didn’t spell check, I
didn’t capitalize. Sometimes I’d be writing the first couple of paragraphs
on a topic and then I would just totally switch and start talking about
something else. And I remember, “Oh, I’m not going to go back and piece it
together.” I just put it out there.

It was just a hobby, I didn’t really know what I was doing. And as time
went on, I had cursed and stuff in there, and as time went on I kind of
realized, people would complain a little bit which was fine. But some of
the bigger sites would look at my site and be like, “Hey.” Like MSN Money
was like the number one that comes to mind. And they were like, dude, we
like your stuff, we want to pull it and run articles on our site but I
mean, it would take is 45 minutes to edit it and clean it up and it’s not
family friendly.

Jim: Yeah.

J: And they just kind of, as a courtesy. I think they were kind of
complimenting me but also like, keep this in mind if you’re trying to do
this long term. My initial reaction was, no screw them, I’m going to do
this my way. I don’t care, this is fun. But as I kept writing, I kept
catching myself thinking, “MSN doesn’t like this.” And so over time, going
back to your point of adapting and changing, I started paying attention to
some of these little details and that kind of helped skyrocket me faster
because I started doing those little things.

Jim: When you first started, did you treat it as a business or it sounded
more like it was a hobby.

J: It was 100% hobby. I didn’t even know you could make money on
blogging. And I have ADD and I’m so used to starting jobs and quitting
jobs, I get bored. So A, the fact that I lasted more than three months is a
big one. And then, probably around four or five month mark, people would
email me and say, “Hey I’d pay you if you put this link up,” or whatever.
And I was like, “What? You can get money?”

And then I started looking around at all these sites I used to read and I
was like, “Oh I guess there are ads there, that makes sense.” Or, “You
people keep talking about this credit card. This is so boring of an article
I don’t want to read that. But there’s got to be something else behind
it.” And so over time I started realizing that you could make money and so
I slowly went from 100% blogging, or as a hobby I mean, to now, six years
later I consider it 50/50. Fifty percent hobby and pleasure, 50% business.

Jim: Do you feel like there was a point in time that you can distinctly
point to where the switch kind of flipped for you?

J: Yeah, I would say when I started, when I hit $10,000 dollars that I
made from the blog. And this is back when text links were popular and all
that crap that a lot of people don’t…

Jim: Right, right.

J: But for me, I didn’t know, it was money and I could just blog and get
paid. When I got $10,000 I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is insane.” When I
would tell my mom she’s like, “I don’t even understand.” And I’m like, I
don’t either. And so that was number one.

And then one of my friends that was a blogger, this was a big turning point
for me. He said, “Look, I’ve been blogging for years, I can’t do it any
more. I’ve got a new job, I’m moving overseas. What do I do with this
thing?” And I thought, “I don’t know, it makes money, maybe try selling
it.” And so I kind of told him what I thought it was worth even though I
didn’t know what I was doing. And he’s like, “Well I don’t really want to
do all that, why don’t you just buy it from me.” I was like, “No way I’ve
got my own site.” I had a full time job, I got a site. I have a house, I’m
married, I have all this other stuff to do.

So eventually, we’d been going back and forth, back and forth. He gave it
to me for pennies on the dollar. He said, just take it off my hands, I’m
just going to shut it down, I don’t want to deal with. And so I said, all
right, and I bought it. I paid $4,000 dollars for it, which is a lot of
money but I thought it was 10 or 20, 15,000 dollars worth.

And so anyways, that one decision, as scary as it was, changed, because I
realized that if you had, just like real estate, the more property you
have, the more chances to make money and other opportunities. So an ad that
would go on Budgets are Sexy back in the day now had the potential to go on
another site and double my money. Right.

Jim: Right.

J: And then advertisers opportunities that hit the other site I bought
could then be displayed on Budgets are Sexy, too. So I started kind of
finding out that if you had more properties that people went to and
companies paid, maybe you could just keep buying sites and have a little
empire.

And eventually over the years I started acquiring some, I think at one
point I had ten sites running at the same time with Budgets are Sexy being
the only one I wrote for and my favorite and the only one I started. And
now I’m kind of going in another direction, but that was a turning point
when I realized, if I had one ad on one site but I had more sites I can
triple or quadruple the ads as far as business and money wise. But that was
the biggest mindset change for me.

Jim: About what year was that?

J: I started in February 2008 so this must have been, I want to say
early 2010? So maybe a year and a half?

Jim: A year and a half later. And you were still working a full time job?

J: Full time job, Budgets are Sexy was starting to take more time. I
spent half an hour a day, after two years I was probably up to five hours a
day on top of the job and then I took on another website. And eventually,
at the end of 2010, my wife was like, “You are miserable.” I was having fun
with the blog. She was like, you are working 40 hours at your job, well
granted, some of that was playing on the blog.

Jim: Right, right.

J: And then another five hours at night. I’d go to bed at two or three
in the morning, wake up at six and do it all over again. And she kind of
hinted, you’ve got to give one up, which is it going to be. And I thought,
no way in he** can I give this online stuff, it’s just exploding. And I’m
still interested. I just can’t imagine that. And my company at this point
has started paying paychecks late, it seemed like some shady stuff was
going on. It was all real funky. It was a startup so it’s always funny,
but something weird was going on.

So I told my wife, all right, I’m going to do this full time at some point.
And we came up with a plan that if I, I think it was $50,000 dollars. If I
could save up $50,000 as an emergency fund she’d allow me to go full time.
But after six months if it wasn’t working I had to start looking for a job.
So that was kind of the overall plan. And this was about October of 2010.

Come December, on the 15th I think it was. I thought, it was a Friday and I
thought, “This might be a good day to turn in…” I think I was at $40,000
saved up. And I thought, “This might be a good day to put in my two weeks.
It’ll be around Christmas, I can get some free paid vacation in there,
start the New Year right. I was mulling this over and really close to
pulling the trigger but it’s always nerve wracking quitting a job,
especially with the economy being crazy back then. Still is.

And so I get to work and I’m half an hour late and everyone at my job is
staring at me and it was a real eerie feeling. And I’d just got an email on
my iPhone, I was on the Metro in D.C. and it said, “Paychecks are going out
late.” I thought I was being funny, I was kind of pi**ed off about it.
And I wrote something like, “What’s wrong is the company collapsing?
Haha.” And I sent it out company wide.

Jim: Oh boy.

J: But I’d gotten away with it and I was friends with the CEO. I was
testing the borders. It was Friday and I was thinking of putting my two
weeks in. So I walk in and I get called into the office. And I see people
packing up stuff and I’m like, what the he** is going on. And the guy told
me, “Sorry we have to let you go.” And I was like, what? The tables were
turned. And he said, times were bad as you saw the email this morning and
kind of made a pi**ed off look at me, probably because of my comment.

So I got laid off and the first thing I thought was, awesome, I don’t have
to make the decision and wonder if it was stupid or not. And from that
point forward, it’s been three years now. Self employed blogging for the
most part and it’s been awesome, man.

Jim: Yeah, you’ve done very well. And one of the reasons why I wanted to
have you on is I think your strength is in branding. I don’t know if you
did it intentionally with Budgets are Sexy. Part of me feels like it
wasn’t you had this great, grand plan to have the edgy, funny entertaining.
I mean, that’s just your personality. And there’s no, you are J. Money and
it’s not like a front that you planned. But I never asked you, is this
something that you planned?

J: No. Like I said, I had no idea there was money involved or anything.
The thing I did plan was the name. I wanted something catchy and
different. And as we all know, reading finance blogs, 90% of them are
pretty conservative. And probably on purpose. You’re there to learn about
money. It’s not supposed to be funny.

So I was from day one trying to be a different person to stand out for
sure. But I had no idea, again, that it would last past a couple of months
or there was money involved or it would turn in… I mean, it literally
changed my whole life. All my friends are different, all my opportunities
are different… Hey. Someone’s calling me, let me turn off this stupid
phone.

Jim: That’s all right, we can edit that.

J: No, that’s fine, it’s a telemarketer of course.

Jim: Is this one of your side hustles?

J: Yeah. So none of it was really planned except for trying to be
clever. And honestly the reason I even had budgets in there which is funny
because now that’s how a lot of people think of me, was because it started
with a B, and back then this was when blog roles were everywhere. Everyone
had a blog roll and I loved it because you could learn all about what they
liked, you have trusted sites right there. I’m a big fan of blog roles on
the side. But anyways, I thought, “Well, B is higher, I’m going to get
higher on people’s blog roles.” That’s the only reason there’s budgets in
there.

Jim: You should have called it “A-A-A-A-Amazing Budgets are Sexy.”

J: I know, right? And obviously the game has changed and a lot of this
stuff doesn’t happen anymore but it’s funny looking back and what you
thought things were back in the day.

Jim: Yeah, but I think personality always shines through and a lot of
people connect and ten years ago, a lot of it was the SEO play was writing
key words and nowadays you see a lot of strength and people, who have a lot
of personality and are able to build a connection with readers.

I read your posts and you have a lot of comments. And it’s not just you
replying to your own comments, even though you do, people just want to
share their thoughts and they feel like they can do it with you.

J: Yeah, thanks man. And going back to business and pleasure and all
that stuff, that’s important to me. I do blog consulting, as you do,
actually, on the side. The first thing I usually ask people because, “oh I
want to make a lot of money and I want my blog to explode. Help me.”
Right?

And I’m like, that’s great but let’s go back and what is the purpose? Why
do you have this site? What are your goals? And it sounds lame and cheesy
but when you’re making money it’s a business but you have to figure out why
you’re there.

For me, I love connecting and networking and talking to people. At the end
of the day, that’s what got me going and why I’m still here. If I wrote
articles, even if I was paid a lot of money but no one ever commented, I
wouldn’t know what the point was. I don’t know, it’s good? Is it bad? Who
knows.

So for me that’s important. I’ve built a lot of stuff around that. I try to
be connected as a person rather than just informational and the whole SEO
thing. I ask questions. I respond to comments.

It’s funny, there’s a lot of sites I read that have some comments but no
one ever responds. And over time I notice that people stop leaving
comments. And it’s not because it’s not great content. It’s just you can
leave a question but no one ever responds, it’s like why even do it. Why
take the time to ask a question or to praise you or whatever the case is if
you’re not even going to acknowledge that I’m here.

And so that’s my personal thing. I’m big into community and connecting with
people. And so the comments and that kind of stuff is important to me.

But does it make money? He** no. If anything it takes more time. My
business partner Nate St. Pierre, makes fun of me because there was a time,
before nesting comments were around that I would literally sit there for
two hours every day and manually type out people’s names and try and
comment. And he was like, “You are just spending so much time and no one
has any idea what it takes.”

Jim: Yeah.

J: But that was important to me and that’s probably why people don’t
respond, because it does take time. And those two hours, could it go to
marketing, could it go to spending time with your family, could it go to
building something else, of course. So anyway, that’s why I’m 50/50 on
business and pleasure. Everything I do doesn’t necessarily relate to money.

Jim: Right. It’s interesting you say that it’s important for you to
connect with people. How do you feel the fact that you are essentially
anonymous plays into that.

J: Yeah so it’s funny, I’m anonymous by name. And there’s pictures of me
out there, too, of course. I don’t make them prominent usually. But I’m
that way so I can be more transparent, as odd as it sounds. I have my
financials up there. You can go and I have a thing that has my net worth,
its $440,000. And if you click on it every month, I say, hey here’s where
my money is.

And when you’re not anonymous, you can still do that but there’s still a
privacy and a security and a weird factor there. You know what I’m saying?
Not all my family and friends even read my blog or even know about it, on
purpose. I want to be able to say and be real on it. I don’t want any weird
funkiness happening.

And then a privacy thing now, especially as I have a family and I have
kids, it worries me to put this stuff out there if it was tied 100% to my
real identity. It’s still all me, it’s just my name is different. It’s J.
Money. And I think you and I have had some talks about this before, you
kind of poked fun about calling me J..

Jim: Yeah.

J: But to me, whether it was James or J. Money, it doesn’t really
matter. It’s just a name, it’s just what you call a person. So as long as
everything else is real, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter what you’re going
as. But still there is a point there, right?

And again back then, I had a job and I was talking about stuff going down
at the job. So I wanted to talk about company stuff, too, which I couldn’t
do under my real name. Because I could get caught and obviously fired or
sued or whatever the case is.

Jim: Right. What’s interesting is yeah, as you say that, J. Money is just
a name and there are plenty of bloggers that use pseudonyms or pen names.

J: Sure.

Jim: They just choose less obvious of a pen name. Like J. Money is, I mean
it’s a rapper’s name, as you’ve told me before.

J: Correct.

Jim: You are competing against rappers.

J: [inaudible 00:20:30] of rap, right.

Jim: And so if you were to say, James… I don’t know, I’m terrible at
coming up with names. You’d probably have the same effect. And then you
could even go around, not tell anybody it’s a pen name and they would still
call you J..

J: Correct. In our game, too, you have to sign contracts and do a lot of
stuff. And some of the ones that aren’t super important, I’ll just sign J-A-
Y M-O-N-E-E. And no one knows. No one’s going to ID you or anything like
that. You can’t be stupid about it.

But I have a friend who runs this huge site online. I don’t remember, his
real name is pretty common but he would always get interviewed and people
would always harp on him to give up his real name. So he just made
something, I don’t know what it was exactly. James Wilson, for example. So
no one every questioned him. But it was a totally made up name.

And he told me and it’s always stuck by me, “Look, if you get interviewed
and all this stuff, if they know you’re anonymous maybe they’re not going
to put you on camera or they can’t quote you in an article, whatever the
case is. So I just gave them what they wanted. I gave them a name that’s
believable. No one ever is going to check my ID.”

And that kind of stuck with me. And he doesn’t do it intentionally to be
shady, but now his LLC is whatever, James Wilson or whatever I said. So
everything is above board but it goes to your point. It’s just a name. It
doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

Now you’ll get people, and you see this at Fincon, too,
there’s even some presentations here and there where they’ll say it’s
always good to be your real self, you can’t tell stories or you can’t grow
your site if you’re anonymous. And I think to some degree that’s true but
overwhelmingly for me it’s not. For me, it’s helped me.

Jim: Right.

J: People go to Budgets are Sexy or J. Money because at least they’re
intrigued at first, even if they go and they’re like, “Oh this guy’s crap.”
At least it got them there. And that’s going back into marking and what we
were talking about early on. That’s why I did that kind of stuff. I wanted
you to at least give me a chance. But my site and my personality isn’t for
everyone. It’s very, there’s only a certain amount of people that can have
fun with that.

Jim: Speaking of your personality isn’t for everyone, do you feel that the
anonymity or just the topics that you pick aren’t your usual dry personal
finance stuff where you talk about a lot of side hustles that are
interesting and phone sex operators and what not… do you feel that’s held
you back? Or I’ll just ask you open-ended, how has it impacted budgets?

J: I used to say that it does not hold me back and that if anything it
propels me farther. Lately, the last few months I’ve been thinking about
stuff and now I kind of… it’s funny, I get people “Oh your site’s so big,
you’re so awesome.” And I’m thinking, I’ve been doing this for six years.
That’s a long time. If my site wasn’t where it was and I’ve been spending
50 or 60 hours a week, there’s something wrong.

Jim: Yeah.

J: So now I’m kind of the opposite. I feel like it should actually be a
lot bigger. And then I ask myself why, why hasn’t it grown. I mean it’s
been pretty level the last couple of years. It hasn’t grown too much. And I
start asking myself these questions and that’s where I’m, I bet you it is
if ten people come to my site that don’t know who I am, maybe only two or
three people stick around. Because again if you’re looking for money or
tips, I don’t really go in depth of tips all the time.

Today I happened to have a tip on my blog, a specific one. But usually
it’s like diary and what goes on in my life and how it applies to money. I
kind of just want to get you to think about money in general. I just want
you to pay attention to me. That’s my goal. And so because of that, I
don’t go in depth of why one IRA is better than another or whatever.

I think my personality does turn off a lot of people. It’s not mainstream.
And because of that I think it does hinder to a degree partnerships and
syndication. All that kind of stuff. And you go back to the site buying and
selling stuff I was talking about earlier.

For me to sell Budgets are Sexy, the end game… at some point I have to
stop blogging. Do I transition? Do I sell it? In a perfect world, you want
to sell it for a million dollars, or three million dollars for example.
Wink wink.

Jim: Random number you have thrown out there for no reason whatsoever.

J: Well the challenge is, it’s all me. I’m so intertwined in it if you
take me out, I’m sure it’ll be fine. You can get someone like Ninja from
Punched in the Face, right? He’s close to a personality like mine.

So there’s people who are obviously like mine in that style. But it
changes things. It’s not based on solid financial information. There’s a
community, there’s all this stuff that’s embedded in it. So that part does
impede me too as far as the end goal.

And there’s a lot of sites, even nowadays going back to MSN Money and all
these big sites that now aggregate content. It’s all evergreen solid
content. Here are three ways to save. Here’s how to budget. All
perfectly useful information.

Jim: If you want to fall asleep.

J: Right if you want to fall asleep. Or people for the New Years. That’s
why that’s all you see at the end of December and January. Because that’s
all people are searching for. You get millions of hits for that stuff.

Jim: Yeah.

J: So for the business behind it, I get it. I know it. Man, if I was
more broad and I wasn’t as crazy I probably could have a ton more views but
at the end of the day I would have just quit anyway.

So I feel like every person has a max they can do being the best them. And
then if they want to cross that into something bigger you have to start
changing stuff. And I’m at the point where I spend so much time online that
I’m trying to focus on what makes me happy and gives me more time with my
family, especially my babies than it is about the money like it used to be.

Jim: Do you feel like there’s anything you are actively trying to do right
now to make Budgets bigger or you don’t want to because it’s not you.

J: Right, so I know how to make more money on it. I know all the theory
of what to do but it’s not me or it just bores me too much. So what I’ve
kind of done is the last few months I’ve thought, what is the perfect job
for me.

Let’s say Budgets wasn’t here anymore. But I want to still do something
online because online, the internet is still so young and it’s fun. I’m
meeting people, my best friends are online, all my opportunities are
online. So I kind of made a list of what I like to do. I like to network,
I like to help people, I like to still talk and think about money. It’s a
passion of mine as many of you listeners are. And then also what am I good
at and what connections do I have.

And so I thought, well I’m in the community, I love the personal finance so
it has to be in there. But you know, I write every single day. Some of my
posts, while it looks like I just spit it out in ten minutes can take me
three hours to write. And so that’s where I came up with Rockstar Finance
which has been around for three and a half months right now. And pretty
much all I do is I just read the content that I do and every blogger, I
have 150 blogs I read every day.

I check them out and I pluck off the ones that I think are the best pieces
of article whether it’s entertaining, whether it’s informational, hopefully
a good combination of them. And I do three and every day I post up my
three favorites on Rockstar Finance and then I promote the crap out of it.
And that’s my goal. I’m helping my community, I’m still in the community.

And then what I kind of didn’t realize, when you’re promoting someone else,
it’s their stuff. Well then they go ahead and promote it for you because
it’s their own article. And it never clicked. I’m so used to promoting
myself to death and I suck at it, but you know, you can only promote
yourself so much until it’s like, all right, I get it, you have a new post
today.

Jim: Yeah.

J: It stops being effective. Whereas this, it’s new people that I’m
promoting, and they’re like, “Oh thanks for promoting me” and they retweet
or whatever. And then I email every single person I put up there and say,
“Hey, I have this site, I’m promoting you today, I hope it helps you.” And
that’s it.

And every day I’m meeting new people and the site’s growing. And as the
site grows, all the articles I’m featuring are getting more and more play.
The site’s tripled in traffic in three months. Which granted, can start
with nothing. But now the person I feature versus three months ago is
getting three times the amounts of eyeballs to the content that they wrote
that should be promoted. It’s quality stuff.

So yeah, so to answer your question, I know it’s kind of long, my end goal
is to do something, maybe Rockstar Finance full time. Something that I want
to spend a few hours a day, have the rest of the day to work on other
projects or spend more quality time with family and quit being a
workaholic. So Budgets are Sexy, I’m still writing for and doing my thing
but I’m not actively trying to make it bigger or better because those
stuff, it’s not fun for me.

Jim: And part of it’s also you want to get closer with your community and
doing what’s you as opposed to trying to get more people into the door who
aren’t necessarily on board with your whole style, your feeling and just
the whole community at large.

J: Yeah. There’s people, like companies that are like, “Post us up here,
I’ll give you $500 bucks.” And it’s like, $500? You can get $500 just to
put up an article? And then I’m like crap, is this worth $500? Is this
going to piss people off? It pisses me off just thinking about accepting.

It’s hard to balance how much money do you want to get versus what does it
do. And these days sponsored posts are getting real popular. And I’m not
going to lie, I’ve had them on my site before. I know people do it. A lot
of bloggers that you go to now, maybe you listening accept them. It’s all
great, but at a certain point it does affect your overall game plan.

You accept a lot of sponsored posts, it turns people off, they might stop
coming or maybe they think something weird is happening. You can tell,
obviously, it’s not written by you. So these kind of things down the road
start changing your ecosystem. So it’s just things to think about.

For me, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m more jaded or whatever
the case is. I have my set what I like. And so when I go outside of it it
gets a little weird for me.

Jim: Yeah, it’s always finding that balance between, I mean, everyone’s
got to make money. You’re J. Money. Budgets are Sexy. You need income for a
budget to make sense.

J: Right. You know a lot of people don’t realize how much time, even if
your blog makes a dollar or a million dollars, it takes bloggers a lot of
time, hours, to write, to respond to email, to market, to do add deals then
tax season and you’ve got to account for everything and pay your taxes.
It’s a business. And it’s usually a one man show.

Every now and then you get, oh I don’t believe in advertising and people
that have ads on their site are stupid. And it’s like, come on. But for
them it’s just about writing or getting their point across and it’s a
different…

Jim: Right. So in looking back, one of the things I like to ask is, and I
know I’ve asked you this in the past. But if you were to go all the way
back to day one and give yourself some advice on what you’d change, what
would you tell yourself? What would you tell J. Savings?

J: Two things. Technically lies. I got on Blogger, or BlogSpot back in
the day. So I would have gone to WordPress first and foremost from the
beginning. I don’t know if that’s much of a concern because I don’t many
people that are still on there. So that would be the one thing I would have
done differently technologically wise.

But theory and everything else, I’m pretty happy with the way I did stuff.
The one thing I wish I would have done better and more of is marketing. I
would put stuff on social media and stuff but when you write every day it’s
like, you write, you put out there, you call it a day and then you start
all over the next morning.

And so for me, one of my daily habits that I’ve done, I think I’m on week
four right now? Is I email one person a day. Whether I know them, whether
I don’t know them. I just kind of get in the habit of emailing one person
to just network. And I never ask for anything. Usually I’ll just say, “Hey
I love your stuff” or whatever.

But then, what happens is you end up becoming friends, they end up
promoting you and you end up promoting them. And so I’m doing this with
Rockstar Finance right now and I’m seeing huge results. To give you an
example, one of the bloggers I reached out to, I featured her on my site, I
thought it was an awesome article, I told her. And she was like, “great,
how can I help you?”

And I thought about it and I told her, well I suck at marketing, and I’d
say don’t worry about it, I love your stuff. That’s what I’d always do for
five or six years I never asked for help for anything really.

So now my thing is, if someone says, “How can I help you?” I tell them,
well I’m trying to grow this site. If you do link roundups, if you have a
blog roll, if you think it’s helpful, if you like this site, maybe mention
it there. And then I do. And this one girl in question, she’s like, “I have
four sites, I’ll put your Rockstar Finance on all four of my sites.” And I
thought, holy crap. It all started from one email that took me two
minutes.

I’m not going to get millions of traffic from the sites but they’re links
back and I do see a couple every day. But it’s stuff that took me two
minutes of time that’s going to have a better output. If I go back I would
email more people. And I specifically do email because it’s the best way as
you know, to reach people. I usually compliment them, and it’s always
sincere. But I network. But if I do that, I’ve done it every day for four
weeks and I’m really seeing good results. So that’s the one thing I would
change.

Jim: Fantastic. So I wanted to do the rapid fire three questions or four
questions part right now. And I hope you’re ready for it.

J: Do I have time to think or am I supposed to just answer?

Jim: You can think. Don’t take too long. If you take too long we’ll have
to edit it down.

J: You need a gong or something.

Jim: I don’t have a gong. I think a gong might be a little too loud.

J: Okay.

Jim: But I wanted to ask, what’s your favorite book. I mean, it could be a
business book, it could be something that you…

J: I’m looking at my bookshelf. I just cleared all these books that I
had.

Jim: So those you probably are not going to want to say since you just
cleared them out.

J: Yeah, right. One of mine, it’s a long one, let me get it. It’s “The
Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time.” It’s like a guy, I can’t
remember, it’s been a while, he had, it’s not ADD, it’s some… oh, it was
obsessive compulsion stuff. And I actually have a little bit myself but it
was a cool story about this guy that just lives his life and trying to
overcome it. And so that’s one of my favorite books. And then “Finance
Lies” I like. “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” is probably my favorite one by
Ramit.

Jim: Yep.

J: So yeah, his personality, he’s a great, he’s like an amped up version
of me but he has way more balls and way more smarts.

Jim: How about your favorite website that you’re absolutely obsessed with.

J: Absolutely obsessed with…

Jim: Please keep this PG-ish.

J: Well, raptitude.com is the new one from this week… and I’m really
bad at not staying in one spot as I mentioned earlier. So that’s my new
favorite, I probably obsessed with that for a good month. The one before
that, and actually I still do is richhabits.net. It’s kind of like
millionaire next door kind of thing. He wrote this book about rich habits
but he does like a tip of the day every day. And it’s a fun little thing
and then you have some videos and stuff.

I like it because it reminds me that you’re on a mission, here’s all this
stuff. And even one of them you hear a lot is successful or rich people
wake up an hour or two early and work on something important to them. Now
I’ve started doing that for about a month now. I wake up an hour earlier
and it’s definitely helped. I just like hearing this over and over again.
Once I hear something a lot I start to actually pay attention to it.

Jim: I found waking up early helps me a lot. I like to wake up before the
kids get up. That way I get an hour and a half of solid work time.

J: Yeah and not a lot of people message you early in the morning either.

Jim: No one messages me in the morning. And it’s fantastic.

J: I’m going to start messaging you every morning now.

Jim: I will ignore you. I’m just kidding, I won’t ignore you. We’re
networking so it’s cool.

J: That’s right. You’ll be my email every single day. I’ll just go to
you. I’ll automate it.

Jim: That’s not very nice. Do you have a fun hobby that you like to do?
Maybe that relaxes you…

J: Yes, this might be real fast. Ready? Coins.

Jim: Coins.

J: It’s funny, personal finance, that and my personality doesn’t match
but somehow I like it. And the same thing with coins. I actually went to my
first coin club in our area and you talk about people standing out,
obviously I was the youngest by far. Everyone’s like 70, 80. One of the
dockets on the menu was someone that just recently passed away that was a
member.

So it’s kind of different but I love, I didn’t think I was a history buff
but seeing these coins and holding these coins from the 1800s, it’s like
man who has touched this? What presidents might have used this. It’s just
cool that something so small could be persevered for hundreds of years.

And I don’t look at it as an investment per say, but my basketball card
collection for example, coins is a huge, it’s probably the number one hobby
in the world, or number two. It’s way up there. So it has a big market for
selling and even if it has gold and silver, you can always transfer it into
cash. So I think the whole coin collecting hobby has kind of intrigued me
over the last couple of years.

Jim: How’d you get into it?

J: At a yard sale. I saw a guy, he had a little stand and he had some
coins and I thought, “Oh I like coins in general.” And he’s like, “This one
came from a shipwreck and this one was 100 years old.” And I thought, “Oh
my gosh this is awesome.”

So I’d pick up one or two coins and then the next week I’d come back and
see him at a different place. And he’d set up and I started asking him a
bunch of questions. And then finally he was like, “Can you watch my table
for me I’ve got to use the restroom” or something. So I became friends with
him. He’s in his 50s. He’s a hustler, he just buys stuff and resells stuff
all day long. And so that kind of got me started.

So it’s funny, then when talking to your friends about it, it’s like, “Oh
yeah my grandfather has this collection, you want to check it out?” And I
recently got tasked with helping sell my wife’s family’s coin collection
because no one likes it. They don’t want to do it. They said, “Hey, take a
look at it. Take the stuff you want. And then help me sell the rest.”

So it’s really cool once you start telling people what you do all of a
sudden there’s people that want to help you or ask for your advice or
whatever the case is. It’s been really fun.?

Jim: That’s crazy. I found a coin once in a field. It was a quarter and
it looked funny because it was one of those pre-1964…

J: Oh yeah, so it was made of silver.

Jim: Yeah, so it’s worth five bucks. And it’s sitting on my desk.

J: Well if it’s a certain year it could be worth $5,000 dollars even.

Jim: Oh, I looked it up, it wasn’t one of those.

J: Oh, okay.

Jim: But every time I see it I think of you.

J: Oh, awesome.

Jim: Every day.

J: [inaudible 00:41:54] coin, they do these magazines, they do themes.
And one was on Edgar Allan Poe. And I’m like, “What the he** does he have
to do with coins.” He’s not on one. But it was about the gold rush and I
guess he was against gold. But I was reading this and they were like,
“Obviously Edgar Allan Poe inspired the Baltimore Ravens.” And I was like,
“What?”

Jim: Yes.

J: “Come on, No way.”

Jim: He was born here. He was born in Baltimore.

J: Yeah, but I had no idea so I learned all about even football. Who
knew, and history, based on a coin.

Jim: That’s funny.

J: I went around and told everyone and they’re like, “Yeah everyone
knows that.”

Jim: Yeah, everybody knows that.

J: Right.

Jim: You’ll learn everything one day, J. and then…

J: One day.

Jim: Then you can tell everybody else, “Everyone knows that.”

J: Back in my day…?

Jim: Back in your, in our day, when we still had paper money.

J: Oh yeah, with Bitcoins now, right? Oh my gosh, crazy.

Jim: Yeah, it’s wild.

J: But that’s what I’m saying, even going back to the internet, even
when you started blogging, what was that ten years ago? Nine years ago?

Jim: Yeah, we had stone tablets, we would etch our blog posts.

J: Think how far and different the, web is now, I mean now is when
bloggers were like, A if they knew what it was they looked down on you like
journalists, right?

Jim: Yeah.

J: Like, oh those stupid bloggers they’re making everything bad and you
can’t, they don’t know what they’re talking about, right? And granted a
lot don’t. But you know, it’s just a different world.

And then now how it is and then now five, ten years from now it’s going to
be completely, well not completely, but it’ll be way different than it is
now.

Jim: It’s going to look different and it’ll be hard to predict what it’ll
look like.

J: Right. Yeah. And I figure, if we keep doing our online thing,
hopefully we’re smart enough to adapt as time goes on.

Jim: It’s true. At least that’s the hope, right.

J: That is the hope, right.

Jim: So J., I just want to, we’re getting close to the end of our time. I
just want to wrap things up and ask, if people want to find J. Money, where
do we go?

J: I created this site that has all of my stuff in one spot, so
J.money.biz. B-I-Z. Go there. That has all my projects, it has a way to
contact me. If you like Twitter you can find me at Budgetsaresexy. If you
like email you can email me at J.@Budgetsaresexy.com. But the J.money.biz
is good because I like having everything in one spot to see it and know and
then when you’re building stuff you can add to it.

Because you know, the thing with, let’s say I created a coin blog, for
example. Am I going to promote it across Budgets are Sexy? Maybe. But it’s
nice to have one spot or one portfolio. It’s like your online resume. It’s
like my online resume. I have everything there so that’s a good spot to go
if you’re interested in learning more.

If anyone has questions too about blogging about whatever, feel free to
email me or whatever. Obviously you know now that I like talking to people
so I’m happy to help whenever I’m needed.

Jim: Yeah, help him reach his one new person a day quota. If you email him
do you get the not have to email out?

J: No, actually my rule is checking email doesn’t count. I have to go
out of my way to email you. But actually I did because I had blogged about
one of my habits, that was one of them. And that day I emailed someone. And
she wrote back and she’s real friendly and she was like, was I your one a
day today? I was like, “Oh crap.” It’s funny, she called me out on it.

Jim: That’s awesome.

J: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.

Jim: J., thanks again, this was fun.

J: Yeah mean, thanks so much and I’ll see you on the interwebs.

Jim: All right, take care, buddy.

J: All right, man, bye-bye.

Jim: Hope you guys enjoyed hearing from J. Money. He’s one of the last few
anonymous personal finance bloggers left and really the only thing
anonymous about him is his name. He comes to all the events, he’s a really
big figure in all of personal finance and if you go check out his site,
Budgets are Sexy, you can see he gets a ton of engagement. So he’s doing
something right.

We’ll include all the links to his various projects including Rockstar
Finance which I absolutely love in the show notes. To get the awesome show
notes for this episode you can go to microblogger.com/4, that’s the number
four.

Finally I hope you guys enjoyed this podcast. If you did, please leave us a
review on iTunes, it would really help me out. Thank you so much. All your
friends, and if you need to reach out to me you can find me at
microblogger.com, email me at Jim@microblogger.com or find me on Twitter as
Wangarific. All right, thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.



Thanks for listening!

The post MBP #4: How J Money, an Anonymous Mohawk, Became a Recognizable Money Blogger appeared first on Microblogger.

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Picture in your mind your average financial planner or money expert, what do you see? Whether it’s a man or a woman, chances are they all look the same – corporate. Professional. That’s what we’ve come to expect from our experts. Picture in your mind your average financial planner or money expert, what do you see? Whether it’s a man or a woman, chances are they all look the same – corporate. Professional. That’s what we’ve come to expect from our experts. Even the ones with personality, Jim Cramer comes to mind and that’s mostly an […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 46:34
MBP #3: Steve Chou explains how a total ecommerce novice launched a six-figure online store https://microblogger.com/mbp3-steve-chou-ecommerce-pro/ Tue, 18 Mar 2014 04:01:38 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1635 https://microblogger.com/mbp3-steve-chou-ecommerce-pro/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp3-steve-chou-ecommerce-pro/feed/ 4 <p>What if your future wife to be wanted a beautiful hankerchief on her wedding day and none of the ones you two found would do? If your name is Steve Chou, then you and your future wife would order twenty dozen from a manufacturer in China. And then sell the ones you didn’t use on […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp3-steve-chou-ecommerce-pro/">MBP #3: Steve Chou explains how a total ecommerce novice launched a six-figure online store</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Steve Chou, My Wife Quit Her JobWhat if your future wife to be wanted a beautiful hankerchief on her wedding day and none of the ones you two found would do? If your name is Steve Chou, then you and your future wife would order twenty dozen from a manufacturer in China.

And then sell the ones you didn’t use on eBay. That’s how Bumblebee Linens got its start. (more detail in the podcast of course)

And if you thought that Steve was a software whiz who was able to build up the ecommerce business on his own, you’d be wrong. He’s an electrical engineer, he had to teach himself all the code necessary to integrate the parts of his store. Then he had to learn advertising. And marketing. And shopping carts.

Then he codified all of that into a comprehensive online course that teaches you how to start a profitable online store!

Oh, and he works full-time (by choice, he enjoys his job) and they have two lovely kids.

Wondering what’s involved in opening an ecommerce store? Why you may or may not want to drop ship? We cover it.

Debating opening an online store, or currently have one, and want to know how Steve did it? We discuss a multitude of topics from advertising to email to conversions to finding supplies. This was the first time we’ve talked about ecommerce stores and I was amazed at how much he knew.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • Learn how Steve and his wife started a business selling linens (it’ll surprise you why they chose linens… and it has to do with their wedding)
  • How they used eBay (and the Google Keyword Tool) to conduct market research
  • The importance of “niching down” – focusing on handkerchiefs
  • How he kludged together several open source solutions to build the prototype for the site, all self-taught
  • How he tried everything to get customers, including pretending to be a woman on forums… until he got banned.
  • How content marketing became a big part of their marketing strategy
  • How comparison shopping sites and cold calling service providers have boosted sales to Bumblebee Linens
  • How he got on the Today Show (and how he prepared his site for the deluge)
  • How they are able to limit customer service costs
  • How they diversity their traffic sources so that no one source is dominant

This particular podcast was tricky to coordinate given Steve’s busy schedule, which is why I thanked him so much, but if you want to show him some love please click to tweet @mywifequit and tell him how much you liked the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

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Raw Transcript

Jim Wang: This is the Microblogger podcast, episode three.

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: Hello. Thanks for joining us. Today I get a chance to sit down with
Steve Chou of MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. Hear a story about how he and
his wife started Bumblebee Linens, an online store that sells,
you guessed it, linens. Hear about how they got their start,
some strategies to get customers-some are very surprising-as
well as their successes getting on Today for 12 seconds and what
that meant for their business. I’ll be back at the end to fill
in anything we missed. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey, Steve. How’s it going?

Steve Chou: Pretty good, Jim. How are you?

Jim: I’m doing great. Just want to thank you for coming on the
Microblogger podcast and sharing your awesome story with us.

Steve: Just wanted to say glad to be here.

Jim: Yeah, glad to have you. I mean, if you just want to get right into it
and tell people all about yourself, what you do, and we can go
from there.

Steve: Yeah. I run an online store. It’s called BumblebeeLinens.com,
where I sell wedding handkerchiefs. I also run a blog called
MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, and also a course that teaches other
people how to start an e-commerce store.

Were you asking about the background of the online store, or
where did you want me to start?

Jim: I remember back in the day how we first sort of-we didn’t really know
each other, but interacted with one another was on StumbleUpon,
because I would see you constantly sharing stories from “My Wife
Quit Her Job.”

Steve: Yeah. You used to call that spamming if I recall.

Jim: Because it was spamming. You were spamming me all the time. But, no,
here was this guy. I mean, and I saw back in the day, even then,
you still had pictures, I’m pretty sure, of your kids up in the
header and all that. I thought it was great. I just didn’t
really understand the e-commerce business and anything like
that. Here you were.

At that point, I didn’t even know that you had the whole e-
commerce thing going on at the same time, which is awesome. But
I wanted you to just share the story of how you created
Bumblebee Linens, the origin story of how that went down.

Steve: Yeah, sure. When my wife became pregnant with our first child;
she really wanted to stay at home to take care of the kids. At
the time, she had a full-time job where she was making six
figures. We live in an area where if you want to buy a house in
a good school district and live a pretty comfortable lifestyle,
you kind of need two incomes.

So when my wife told me that she wanted to quit her job to stay
at home with the kids, that meant that we were losing,
effectively, a six-figure salary. I, at least, didn’t really
want to reduce our lifestyle, and I wanted to get a nice house
in a good school district and that sort of thing. We decided
that we were going to look for ways to basically replace her
lost income.

We stumbled upon selling handkerchiefs online. The story behind
that was when my wife and I first got engaged to be married, she
actually wanted to take a handkerchief to the altar. She didn’t
want to use some tissue, because she knew she was going to cry.
She gets kind of emotional at large events, and she didn’t want
to be seen up there dabbing up her makeup with ratty tissues.

We desperately wanted to find a handkerchief, and we found that
we could not find those anywhere. So what ended up happening was
that we just scoured the Internet. We found this manufacturer in
China that actually made handkerchiefs, but they wouldn’t sell
them one by one. Instead, you had to buy a whole bunch and then
get them shipped over. So what we did is we ended up buying a
pretty large shipment of handkerchiefs. We used a couple of them
and then we sold off the rest on eBay.

Jim: How many were in the order?

Steve: Yeah, I think it was like 20 dozen or something like that.

Jim: Oh my God!

Steve: And we only needed six.

Jim: You needed six, so you bought…!

Steve: But get that it was really inexpensive for those 20 dozen.

Jim: Okay. I mean, there are still 240.

Steve: Yeah. It’s still a lot of handkerchiefs. We sold those on eBay,
and they actually went like hotcakes. That was all fine and
good.

Then three years later when she became pregnant, we were like,
“Hey, why don’t we go back and see if selling handkerchiefs is
going to be a viable business model?” We got in touch with that
first vendor where we bought handkerchiefs. We did some back of
the envelope calculations to see…at the time our goal was
actually just to make $60,000. We did some calculations to see
whether the demand was good enough based on searches, based on
eBay completed auctions. We basically just decided to launch the
store. It ended up doing pretty well. It ended up supplanting
her entire salary within the first year.

Jim: You started with the handkerchiefs, just because you had a history
with it. You had a supplier that you knew could deliver at least
some of the product. How did you do research on eBay to figure
out if there was a broader market for you to even open a store
to sell all these?

Steve: Yeah, so we basically went on eBay and we looked at the
completed listings just to get an idea of which styles were
selling, which styles were popular, and basically what
percentage of the auctions were actually closing.

Then we got an idea of how much people were willing to pay for
these handkerchiefs. Just keep in mind that people who shop on
eBay tend to be a little cheaper than the people who shop online
in general, so we knew that we could actually charge more for
the handkerchiefs than the prices we were actually seeing on
eBay.

Jim: That’s interesting. When you were doing the research, did you have
tools that you were using or were you just eyeballing it? How
did it go?

Steve: For eBay, that was pretty much eyeballing. For the keyword
research, we were just using the Adwords tools and the Google
keyword tool back then. It wasn’t nearly as mature as it is
today, so a lot of it was more hand waving in nature and just
making a guess on what the conversion rate would be and the
average amount per sale. Just kind of taking all those numbers
and making a rough calculation of how much we thought we could
make.

Just keep in mind, also, at the time, we were pretty much the
only people selling ladies handkerchiefs online, so when we
first started out, we bought a lot of Adwords ads. Since we were
pretty much the only ones who were selling a large variety of
handkerchiefs, those ads converted really well for us.

Jim: What year was this? Was it 2007?

Steve: This was 2007, yeah.

Jim: Interesting. How have you seen the marketplace change? Has there
been a lot more competition now for ladies handkerchiefs?

Steve: Yeah. I mean, there have been a lot of competitors that have
popped up. A lot of guys, actually, from overseas. I see
websites pop up, in the wedding space, I’m starting to see some
of the bigger names starting to carry them now.

But we still carry the largest variety of handkerchiefs. I don’t
think that the demand is so large that the really big guys want
to focus a whole lot of effort on it. We kind of sit in that
little in-between space, where it makes enough money for us and
a small number of smaller players, but it’s probably not
lucrative enough for the big guys to really go whole hog into
it.

Jim: When you think about the entire product line of Bumblebee Linens,
does it extend beyond women’s handkerchiefs, or is that the
core? And then you have a bunch of different products around it?

Steve: The handkerchiefs niche in itself has a lot of different parts
of it. There’s the printed collection. We also personalize and
monogram these handkerchiefs, which is actually a big product
for us. The way that works is someone comes onto our website and
they can write down the bride and the groom and the wedding
date. They can have anything they want stitched on the
handkerchief, essentially. We can charge a premium for those, so
we make a lot of money there.

Our turnaround times are actually really fast, so we can usually
beat almost any other store in terms of turnaround time, because
we do all that stuff in-house.

Jim: You want to hear something funny? Do you remember back in the day
when Apple used to give out free engraving?

Steve: No, I didn’t…

Jim: On iPads.

Steve: Oh, on iPads. Yeah, yeah. I remember that.

Jim: They did that so that people couldn’t return. Once you engraved it,
it was personalized. It was yours. You couldn’t return it back
to the store.

Steve: Yeah. We have that same policy.

Jim: Yeah. I mean, once it’s personalized, there’s no way to return it.
They would be giving it away, because they knew based on the
numbers that this would save them on returns, so it was worth it
to give out free engraving. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked
into that or what that might mean.

Steve: That’s interesting. Do you think that was their only purpose in
doing it? I think that would be kind of a value add, right?

Jim: It’s a value add. I’m sure they have a bunch of other different
factors involved, but just the fact that you can’t return it
probably saves a tremendous amount, way beyond how much it costs
for them to engrave at the size and scope that they do it at,
I’m sure.

Steve: Oh, yeah. I’m sure. I’m sure.

Jim: You were saying the different types of handkerchiefs?

Steve: Yeah. We have a low-end, a medium-end and a high-end. All of
the higher-end stuff tends to be made in Germany and Italy.
They’re very intricate, very fancy and intricate. On the low
end, we have some of the stuff that comes from Asia and that
sort of thing. We basically cover the entire gamut of price
points.

Jim: It’s interesting. Like right now-I guess, now, it’s almost seven
years later. You seem to be very savvy about both linens and the
e-commerce thing to the point where you have a course, or you’ve
had a course for several years now, teaching other people how to
do it. But I imagine initially you guys probably went into this
just sort of spitballing it. Can you tell us about that whole
process?

Steve: Yeah. When we first started, we actually knew nothing about e-
commerce. We had never run a business. I actually didn’t know
anything about web programming or websites and that sort of
thing. In that respect, at least, the learning curve was very
steep.

When we were looking at websites, I remember I just happened to
stumble upon and talk to my buddy who just launched an online
photography site where he’s selling his photos. I asked him. I
was surprised, because I didn’t think that he could code that
well either, so I asked him. “How did you put up this great
looking site in such a short amount of time?” Basically he told
me that he used an open source shopping cart. I asked him, “How
much is that?” He’s like, “Oh, it’s open source, so it’s free.”

At that point I immediately looked around at all the offerings
that were free. I ended choosing the most popular shopping cart
at the time, which was called osCommerce. I found that you could
actually just launch a site with very little code modifications.
The only thing that you really needed to worry about was the
aesthetics of your website. In that respect, going the open
source route saved me a tremendous amount of time during the
launch phase.

Jim: What’s your background?

Steve: My background, I’m an electrical engineer. I actually design
processor hardware for a living. But I’m not really a software
guy.

Jim: Got you. But through the open source and I guess, maybe, the support
of the community and documentation, you were able to figure it
out and launch.

Steve: Yeah. I ended up picking a whole bunch of books on PHP, MySQL,
HTML and CSS. So I just self-taught my way through it. It took
me a long time, but it was good to have that knowledge, because
now I’m pretty much self-sufficient. When there’s something
that’s wrong with the website, I can go and fix it myself. If I
need to adjust any of the aesthetics, I can go in and do it
myself. In that respect, it saved a lot of time and money,
because I can manage the site by myself.

Jim: Got you. How soon after you guys started was your wife able to
realize her goal of doing Bumblebee Linens full time?

Steve: Yeah, that’s a good question. I remember when we first
launched. It was very slow. We weren’t exactly sure how we were
going to get customers in the door, so we basically tried
everything. A couple things I tried in the beginning. I
pretended to be a girl and I went on the wedding forums and
tried to get people to our site.

Jim: Did that work?

Steve: It did, actually, in the beginning, until I got banned. I kept
getting banned, and then finally I found a nice subtle way of
doing it where I would kind of ingratiate myself within the
wedding community, help others and then just very occasionally
slip in the referral to come to our site for handkerchiefs.
That’s one thing we did early on.

We also tried to steer a bunch of our eBay-we were selling on
eBay at the same time, because we weren’t sure what was going to
stick-we would steer a bunch of our eBay people over to our
store. Whenever we made a sale, we’d include our URL and that
sort of thing. On our auctions, within our photos, we would put
the URL for our site. Basically just try to guide people over.

We also contacted wedding planners, event planners, basically
anyone who had purchasing power that could potentially buy our
stuff in bulk. It was a lot of legwork early on.

Jim: You said you were also doing Adwords?

Steve: Yeah. We ended up doing Adwords early on, too, because I had a
friend who was working at Google who just happened to tell me
about it. I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll give it a try.”

What ended up happening is I tried a couple ads. Actually, I got
our first sale through Adwords. It was really exciting. It was
just my first introduction into the world of pay-per-click. Back
then, Adwords was a lot less competitive than it is today. You
could get a lot more bang for your buck. That just converted
really well for us. We ended up just maxing out our Adwords
accounts that first year.

Jim: That’s awesome. What was the first thing that someone bought?

Steve: I think it was just a set of three handkerchiefs. It was a very
small sale. We probably blew hundreds of dollars to get that
first sale, just because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was
bidding on Adwords like crazy and just wasting lots of money.
But it was exciting.

Jim: I’m sure it was. I mean, it’s the first time. You know, you take that
dollar and tape it on your wall like a restaurant, right?

Steve: Yeah. What’s funny about Adwords is it’s really addictive,
because you go from zero traffic and then you start buying it.
Then people are coming to your site and inserting stuff in their
shopping cart. And it’s addictive. Unless you track exactly how
much you’re making from these ads, you can easily overspend and
get overzealous with it.

Jim: Yeah, there are plenty of horror stories of people that didn’t put a
limit on their budget. Back then, it was just so much easier to
spend, spend, spend and just not realize it, because there
weren’t as many horror stories as there are now. People now are
a lot more aware that you have to keep an eye on it or you’re
going to get eaten alive.

If you were to go back and think about any of the big things
that you did that were breakthroughs for the store, are there
any that stick out in your mind?

Steve: Yeah, I can think of a couple things. First thing was pay-per-
click, which we already talked about. The second thing was
actually contacting the event planners and the wedding planners.
Early on, before search engine optimization for our site even
kicked in, we were actually getting a decent amount of bulk
orders from just cold calling a lot of these planners, people
with purchasing power, people willing to buy in bulk.

Without those guys, it would have been a lot slower, because
even though we were getting good traction with pay-per-click,
there’s only so much traffic that you can pay for in pay-per-
click. It still wasn’t a huge percentage of our overall sales.

The next breakthrough that we found was that we started writing
content featuring our product. My wife, who’s pretty crafty, she
ended up writing all of these craft tutorials, fun things that
you can make with the products that we sold. We basically posted
those on our site.

We did this actually before WordPress was around, so I kind of
threw together this really poor man’s CMS and we started posting
these craft ideas. Those actually started ranking. People would
find us through these crafts and then they’d want to buy the
materials for these crafts. There were links on those pages.
They’d just come and buy our products that way.

That ended up generating a lot of traffic. For our first year at
least, for the first six months, it was event planners, pay-per-
click and then these content pages that my wife threw up that
guided people to our products.

Then after the six month mark, we started actually ranking in
the search engines. After that, a lot more orders started coming
in. So it was a combination of all those factors.

Jim: The beginning it sounds like you did a lot of legwork to not make up
for it, but to supplement the fact that you weren’t getting the
organic search traffic that you would find come six months
later.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, also in the beginning, we didn’t
really know what we were doing. We didn’t know the best use of
our time because we were just so new to it.

But I do believe that a lot of people who start their businesses
today, especially online, they don’t expect to have to do the
legwork. I’m actually a big believer in legwork, because I think
it’s a necessary step to generate that early traffic for your
site. You can’t really just launch your website and hope that
these customers are just going to find your store naturally.

Jim: Yeah, that’s so true. Back in 2007, you didn’t really have the mature
social media networks they have now, especially Pinterest. I can
only imagine Pinterest and all the linen tutorials that you’re
doing, how well those can and probably are doing on there now.
If you were starting it right now, knowing what you do, how
would your strategy change? Or how would you supplement it?

Steve: Yeah. Certainly within the last year or so, Pinterest has been
a huge source of traffic. The fact that people can actually see
the products being posted before they actually click on them,
the conversion rate in terms of social media is actually quite
good for Pinterest.

The other thing that has actually proved to be a very big
converter for us has been the comparison shopping engines. These
are sites like Google Shopping, Nextag, Shopzilla, Amazon
Product Ads. Basically places where you can list your products
online, and people go to these sites to do comparison shopping
essentially.

The reason why it converts so well is because on these
comparison shopping sites, there’s a nice picture of your
product and then the price underneath. So by the time someone
actually clicks on the product, they already know that they want
to buy it. As a result, the conversion rate is very high for
these services.

Jim: I’m sure. So how do you get in to the comparison engines?

Steve: It’s pay-per-click, just like Google Adwords. What you need to
do is you need to create a product feed of all the products in
your store. Basically, the item name, the URL and image, a
description and a whole bunch of other parameters that help
categorize your products within these comparison shopping
engines. Then you just end up uploading this gigantic text file
with all the products in your shop to these comparison shopping
engines, and then they get listed.

One of the biggest pains about all this is every single
comparison shopping engine has a different file format, so it
can get kind of tedious. You really need someone there to either
code it up or you can find someone or a service that will do
this for you.

Jim: Do you find that a significant percentage of your sales come from
that? Or is it large enough that you do it because you should,
not necessarily because you have to?

Steve: We actually don’t have a dominant revenue source any more. Back
in the day, a large portion of that was search. These days, it’s
actually quite evenly split between direct traffic, search, pay-
per-click and the comparison shopping engines. But I think that
every store should at least give the comparison shopping engines
a try, because it actually doesn’t cost that much and the
conversion rate is actually very high.

Jim: If you were to group together the revenue sources…we’ve talked
about pay-per-click and paid ads and this comparison shopping.
You have search, you have direct, people that know about you
type, and social media. Are there any other traffic sources that
are significant that we’ve missed?

Steve: Was word of mouth in one of your…?

Jim: Word of mouth. I didn’t list it.

Steve: Word of mouth is actually a very big one, surprisingly. Over
the years, our direct traffic has really grown to the point
where I think the last time I checked-someone asked me about
this earlier-and I think it was something like 30% of our sales
are from direct traffic. Direct type-in of our URL.

Jim: That’s awesome.

Steve: Let’s see. What else do we say? We said pay-per-click,
comparison shopping engines, social media. In terms of social
media, Pinterest is probably the best, followed by Facebook,
although lately Facebook has changed their exposure so to speak.
Kind of influencing you to pay more in order to get more
exposure to you followers. Our Facebook presence has actually
dropped a little bit since they’ve made those changes. Let’s
see. What else is there? Then, of course, the cold calling of
event planners, which I think is very important.

Then within our niche, actually, which is within the wedding
industry, we actually advertise on services that aggregate all
the wedding vendors together. Places like Wedding Wire, which in
turn will post your ads on popular magazines like “Brides,”
“Martha Stewart Weddings” and that sort of thing.

We actually also have been in the media. As part of writing
articles and craft ideas for weddings and that sort of thing,
we’ve actually been picked up by a lot of larger publications
that have wanted to feature our products. Since they’re in
magazines, it’s kind of hard to correlate the exact conversions
that have resulted from that exposure, but I have this feeling-
whenever we get featured in a major magazine, we actually
broadcast it all over our store, so it kind of lends to the
credibility of our store, compared to our competitors.

Jim: Actually, the one thing I did want to ask you about was you were
recently on the Today show.

Steve: Yeah, that was actually very exciting. Most people ask me how
that happened, and my response was, “It was complete luck.” I
think the lady who is doing the show on the Today show, she
actually does a lot of these. She specializes in gift-giving.
She kind of stumbled upon our site. I asked her, and she said
she just found us on the web somehow. She fell in love with our
product. She noticed that we were featured in some of the
magazines and she asked for us to send her some product,
basically, for the Today show.

We ended up sending her a whole bunch of different products from
our store, more than she asked for. She ended up picking us up.
We made the Today show. We were only on for actually 12 seconds
on TV, but just in those 12 seconds, the traffic to our online
store totally exploded that day. I remember that day distinctly,
because my wife told me that the orders were coming in faster
than she could actually print out the invoices, so it was really
exciting. TV is just an amazing medium to advertise.

Jim: Can I ask how the sales were that day? Like the sales numbers?

Steve: Yeah. We ended up seven times the average daily order
volume.

Jim: Wow! Off 12 seconds.

Steve: Off of 12 seconds of being on TV. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Jim: That must have been…that’s the other thing. You still work a full
time job, right?

Steve: Yeah. I work a full time job, but my wife obviously has quit
and she runs the store full time. We have two employees in an
office. She just goes in to supervise. The employees do most of
the heavy lifting, like the packing of the orders, the shipping
and that sort of thing.

My wife takes care more of the content, the buying of the
products, deciding what to carry in the store and that sort of
thing.

Jim: That’s great. You guys aren’t a drop shipping business. You have the
handkerchiefs and all the other linens in a warehouse somewhere?

Steve: That’s correct, yes. Our office is actually a warehouse as
well. We carry all of our own things. At first, when we first
started the store, we were debating whether to do drop shipping.
Drop shipping at the time was actually very new. Very few people
were doing it, but we found that the profit margins weren’t that
great at all. We would have had to sell a lot more to make an
equivalent level of profit. We decided to carry inventory
because the margins are much higher. And you have a much tighter
control over your customer service.

One of our value adds is our very fast turnaround times and our
customer service. If someone doesn’t like a product, chances are
we just let them keep it and then we refund them their money.
These are things that we probably wouldn’t be able to do as
easily if we were drop shipping or if we didn’t have full
control over the entire delivery process.

Jim: With customer service, do you find that it takes a tremendous amount
of time? How have you taken steps to limit that, because you
only have three people?

Steve: Yeah. We actually get that many calls or complaints, so it
hasn’t really been a problem for us. We actually do a lot of
quality control before the product actually goes out, which has
probably helped in that department. But I really think it just
depends on what you sell.

Jim: Linens, I mean, they can see it on the site. They’re good photos.
They have an expectation, and you pretty much meet it. So there
really hasn’t been too much of an issue there. That’s always
fortunate, because you always hear about those stories about
stores or any sort of business, and customer service is a huge
expense, because maybe they don’t communicate their product as
well.

Steve: I think it really depends on what you sell. For example,
electronics, anything to do with computers is a major pain in
the butt, because you have to support them.

Anything that involves sizing, like clothes and that sort of
thing, will tend to have a higher return rate. Our stuff is
essentially a piece of fabric and we put the measurements out
there. We take detailed photos, so what you see, chances are,
will be what you get, so there’s less ambiguity in that
department.

Jim: That’s great. I know that you have the profitable online store course
that you’ve been doing for a while now, where you teach all the
lessons learned and coach and guide students through. You sort
of talked about with you don’t really want to do technology and
sizing’s a problem. Are there certain areas that are
particularly good to get into?

Steve: In terms of selling product online?

Jim: Selling product online. If you were to open up an e-commerce store,
what areas would you generally say are better balanced compared
to others?

Steve: Yeah. I can tell you what not to sell and some guidelines that
I give my students. I tend to tell them to avoid electronics or
anything that can go obsolete.

Jim: Because they might be holding inventory and then some new product
come out.

Steve: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Jim: Okay. That makes sense.

Steve: Along the same vein, I tend to tell them to avoid products that
get upgraded very often. Electronics kind of falls in that
category.

Jim: Yeah, same idea.

Steve: Because then you constantly have to update your listings and
that sort of thing. I like things that are not fragile and very
easy to ship.

Jim: Yeah.

Steve: That’s if you decide to carry inventory. In the course, I have
a set of guidelines in terms of demand, what the demand numbers
should be. Then I actually walk them through analyzing the
competitors on the front page of search, and basically making
sure that they have some sort of value add before they begin.

Jim: Got you. Okay.

Steve: Yeah, those are some of the guidelines just off the top of
my head.

Jim: You know, it’s funny. Back in college I used to sell stuff on eBay
just for a little bit of extra money. Your story about selling
the handkerchiefs and searching through the completed listings
reminded me of my days back then. I actually wrote a scraper
that would scrape the completed listings and give me averages
and deviations and percentage sales. It was fun, but a lot of
the things that you’re talking about now about what to avoid,
sizing and things like that, I picked up. It’s funny that they
still apply years later.

Steve: Yeah, I actually did the eBay thing as well. I used to sell
electronics on eBay. I used to buy computers and then break them
apart and sell off the parts for more.

Jim: Whoa! That’s a little more hardcore than me. What did I sell? My
favorite story is when I used to buy John Deere hats. I went to
school in Pennsylvania. There were these John Deere
distributors. They were doing the tractors and maintenance of
all that stuff. And you know how all those have stores where
they sell clothing and things at super high margins. Remember
Punk’d with Ashton Kutcher?

Steve: Yeah.

Jim: He used to wear those trucker hats, those mesh trucker hats, the Von
Dutch and things like that. Well, one episode he wore a John
Deere hat. So I started looking around, and on eBay people were
paying $20, $30, $40 because they were paying Von Dutch prices
for what was essentially a $7 John Deere mesh hat.

So I bought a ton of those. I just called up all the John Deere
distributors around me and said, “I want all your John Deere
hats.” Like, “Why? Why do you want them?” “Don’t worry about it.
I just want them.” I would sell them on eBay and it was great.
They stored well. They didn’t go obsolete and I made a little
bit of extra beer money for me.

Steve: Wow! I think your operation was much more intricate than
mine.

Jim: You called China. You said, “Hello, China. I want some of your
linens.” Then you had the guts to buy 240 of them. You said two
dozen or 20 dozen?

Steve: Twenty dozen, yeah.

Jim: Yeah, yeah. So 240. Granted, they might have been cheap, but they
still weren’t…how cheap were they?

Steve: They were pretty cheap. I think at the time they were between
$2 and $4 a dozen, so it wasn’t a huge outlay.

Jim: Oh, oh. Okay. I thought they might be like $2 or $4 apiece.

Steve: No, no, no. We ended up selling it for $2 to $4 apiece on
eBay.

Jim: Those are great margins.

Steve: They are, yeah. Unfortunately, these days the prices have gone
up as Asia has become more industrialized, their prices have
gone up. We’ve actually had to look in other places for vendors.

Jim: Wow. I mean, have you found other places that are where China was
seven years ago?

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. Places like Indonesia or Pakistan. Different
parts of South America.

Jim: When you say that I was more sophisticated or whatever, certainly I
wasn’t calling other countries. I was calling other counties at
best.

It sounds like-you were telling me earlier or before we started
recording-that you’ve had double-digit growth every single year.
It just sounds like the store started, other than in the
beginning not having a ton of traffic, which is expected, it’s
been growing pretty well. Are there any challenges that you
faced that go against the narrative that everything’s been
perfect and great?

Steve: It’s been challenging every year. Because I’ve documented our
experiences on my blog, I feel pressured now to show growth with
the store. If you look at some of the income reports on my blog,
every year it was something different.

It’s been quite a few years now, but one year, it was the
comparison shopping engines. One year it was about having a
mobile site, because the mobile traffic to our store was
increasing so dramatically. One year it was maxing out on
Adwords. Another year, it was doing retargeting and Facebook
advertising and that sort of thing. Pretty much every year we’ve
had to find something to maintain that double-digit growth. It’s
been just kind of a struggle and just finding new ways to grow
our store.

Another struggle that we’ve had also has been just within the
last couple years, Google has been reshuffling all of their
search results and that sort of thing. We’ve been affected a
little bit by that as well. As a result of that happening, we’ve
started trying to diversify all of our traffic sources to make
us less dependent on Google.

Jim: It sounds like it’s working, because earlier you were saying that you
don’t have a dominant referral source necessarily for revenue.
It’s a mix of everything.

Steve: Yeah, that’s today. Last year, our project was to
diversify everything.

Jim: Got you. Cool. Great! Steve, I just want to say thank you for coming
on the show. Our time is nearing its end. If people wanted to
find you, where would they go?

Steve: You can find me on my blog, which is MyWifeQuitHerJob.com. If
you’re engaged to be married or if you want to just check out
our products, our store is at BumblebeeLinens.com. If you’re
interested in learning how to start your own e-commerce store,
you can go on ProfitableOnlineStore.com and just check out some
of the free material I have on there and see if it’s something
that floats your boat.

Jim: Great, Steve. Well, I hope everyone goes and checks out Bumblebee
Linens and MyWifeQuitHerJob.com and, of course, Profitable
Online Store. Thanks for sharing your story, man.

Steve: Yeah, thanks for having me, Jim.

Jim: All right. Take care.

Steve: All right. Take care.

Jim: I always love chatting with Steve. He has a ton of knowledge about e-
commerce sites, and all of it’s self-taught, so you know he’s
done it from the ground up. He actually covers it all in a
course called “Profitable Online Store,” which I’ve seen and it
just blows my mind how much stuff is in there.

For the show notes, go to microblogger.com/3 and you’ll see
links, things that we talk about, all that good stuff will be
there.

Also, if you have a minute, it would really help us out a lot if
you could leave a review or rating on iTunes and then tell all
your friends about this awesome new podcast you discovered. It
would help us out a ton. I would thank you so, so much.

As always, if you want to reach me you can hit me up at
Jim@microblogger.com or if you’re on Twitter, look for me at
@wangarific. And we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening!

The post MBP #3: Steve Chou explains how a total ecommerce novice launched a six-figure online store appeared first on Microblogger.

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What if your future wife to be wanted a beautiful hankerchief on her wedding day and none of the ones you two found would do? If your name is Steve Chou, then you and your future wife would order twenty dozen from a manufacturer in China. What if your future wife to be wanted a beautiful hankerchief on her wedding day and none of the ones you two found would do? If your name is Steve Chou, then you and your future wife would order twenty dozen from a manufacturer in China. And then sell the ones you didn’t use on […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 36:07
MBP #2: How Greg Go at Wisebread Used Collaboration to Reach 2,000,000 Visitors a Month https://microblogger.com/mbp2-greg-go-wise-bread/ Mon, 17 Mar 2014 10:00:37 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1632 https://microblogger.com/mbp2-greg-go-wise-bread/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp2-greg-go-wise-bread/feed/ 8 <p>Think about two of your friends from high school. Any two will do. Now think about starting a business with them and how that might turn out. Oh, did I mention you all work virtually? That’s exactly what Greg Go, Will Chen, and Lynn Truong did and the results speak for themselves. They are the […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp2-greg-go-wise-bread/">MBP #2: How Greg Go at Wisebread Used Collaboration to Reach 2,000,000 Visitors a Month</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> Greg Go, Wise BreadThink about two of your friends from high school. Any two will do.

Now think about starting a business with them and how that might turn out. Oh, did I mention you all work virtually?

That’s exactly what Greg Go, Will Chen, and Lynn Truong did and the results speak for themselves. They are the three co-founders of Wise Bread, a personal finance blog that reaches over two million visitors a month and is easily one of the largest independently owned personal finance blogs. They are leaders in their space, they work with the biggest of brands (financial and otherwise), and they do it all without ripping each other’s heads off!

How did they get that big? What is their secret to getting three friends to work together without getting into partnership-killing fights? How have they been able to stay friends for over six years and work with big brands like American Express, Intel, and other Fortune 500 companies?

Making sure the spirit of collaboration is at the core of everything they do.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How Greg, Will and Lynn teamed up to form Wise Bread
  • The benefits (and drawbacks) of a partnership
  • How they split up roles and responsibilities (the answer may surprise you)
  • How they use daily “Founder Chats” to make sure they’re all on the same page
  • How they use a “Final Decider” for tough decisions
  • What they look for in freelance and staff writers
  • How they structured their freelance writer relationships…
  • … and then made a painful change from a revenue sharing to a flat rate plus bonus compensation plan.
  • How they hired their first few full-time employees, what they look for, what roles they play
  • What Greg thinks has changed in the last seven years
  • How Wise Bread focuses on relationship building and why it’s important to their business
  • Greg turns the tables on me and asks me about scotch 🙂

If you enjoyed this podcast, I just ask that you show your appreciate to Greg for his generosity — Click to tweet @gregorygo and tell him he was awesome on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

Are you on Stitcher? Great! So am I! Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe and leave a rating and review (please?).

We’re in iTunes now too! You can subscribe there.

If you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Then tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Announcer: This is a Microblogger podcast, Episode 2

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: Hello. Welcome Microbloggers. Today’s show is with Greg Go.
He’s one of the three co-founders of Wise Bread. It’s a popular
personal finance blog that reaches over two million people a
month. Greg does it with his two partners, Lynn and Will, and
it’s a great example of what you achieve if you put aside your
ego. We discuss how they make it work, how they make the tough
decisions and what they do to make sure what they do stays about
the business and never gets personal. You’ll be surprised at how
they make those tough decisions. I know I was. I’ll see you at
the end to fill in anything that they missed and I hope you
enjoy it. Hey, Greg, how’s it going?

Greg Go: Great. Thanks for having me on.

Jim: Yeah, thanks for joining us. I wanted to bring you on because, as a
lot of people know, you are one of the trio that runs Wise
Bread, a pretty popular personal finance blog. Can you tell us a
little bit about how you guys got started, how big you are, all
the good numbers and stuff like that that you’re comfortable
sharing?

Greg: Sure. Me and two friends, Lynn and Will, seven years ago we
wanted to change our careers, do something on the web. Will told
me at that point that he just wanted to build websites and not
be a lawyer anymore. We got together and at that point we
thought people in their 20-somethings needed help with their
finances, like we did. So we wanted to start a site that helped
people in their 20-somethings really get a handle on their first
paychecks. Wise Bread, at this point, seven years later does two
million unique views a month. We have four staffers in addition
to the three founders, and we have two dozen-plus freelance
writers helping to write content on the site.

Jim: Wow, that’s amazing. So the three founders are you, Will Chen, and
Lynn Truong?

Greg: Correct.

Jim: You know, I think you guys are one of the rare success stories where
it’s a site that you started from scratch, grew it to the size
that it is right now-which I think you told me, two million page
views a month-which is amazing. And you did it all with a
partnership. I mean, I think that’s rare, but what do you think
you can credit to the success of that type of collaboration?

Greg: Actually I’m a little surprised to hear that partnerships,
successful partnerships, are so rare because I credit all of our
success to our partnership. And I guess the difference is our
partnership has been really complementary. Lynn keeps his trains
running on time, Will is a great strategic thinker and doing biz
tabs and building relationships, and I’m kind of the tech mad
scientist in the background. So right from the get-go we’ve had
really complementary partnerships. And we’ve built on each
other’s skills, which has helped keep the partnership strong and
interesting, I guess.

Jim: What’s been interesting about it?

Greg: We’ve had some interesting fights. I won’t say that the
partnership has been smooth sailing the whole way, but our
fights come from our different points of views. Lynn is really
good at getting checks paid on time, getting posts published on
time. I’m really good at seeing opportunities and investigating
those opportunities, and Will has been kind of the bridge in the
middle to see the opportunities and also how we can build on it
and maintain it to actually build a business from those
opportunities.

Let me give you an example. If I was going at it alone, I would
probably try a whole bunch of different things and after a
couple of months I would get bored and be really terrible at
maintaining stuff, and things would fail. So our complementary
partnership has really helped each other to build a successful
business.

Jim: It’s funny you say that. Thinking back to when you guys were
building this, or coming together to build it for the first time,
did you sit down at, like a table and say, “All right, you do
this, you do this, you do this,” or did it sort of like fall out
naturally based on what you’re all good at?

Greg: I think we’re really lucky. And maybe a lot of
partnerships weren’t so lucky in the beginning. What brought us
together was all three of us all wanted to change our careers. I
was in IT, doing systems administration for a visual tech studio.
Will was a lawyer. Lynn was doing ad sales for a TV show,
actually for the Oprah and Dr. Phil show.

Jim: That’s pretty awesome.

Greg: Yeah. And all three of us wanted to build websites, wanted to
work from home, wanted to build a business that was our own, and
honestly when we started, we canvassed a bunch of our friends to
see who else was interested in this. But the three of us were
the only ones who really wanted to change our careers and do
something and that’s how we got together. And the complementary
part of our skills and passions, I guess, was the lucky part of
our partnership.

Jim: When you were asking around for other people to see if they wanted to
contribute, how did you know that-at least in your case-Lynn and
Will were as committed as you were?

Greg: Yeah, that’s a good question. And I’d love to say that we were
really intentional when we started this business. But, like I
said, all three of us were doing different things before we
started Wise Bread. So we had no idea what it took but I think
one of our best decisions was to not go at it alone. And I’ve
seen some friends try to build sites on their own and maybe get
a little too hung up on the hassles of a partnership, but those
people who’ve gone at it alone have failed, too.

Jim: I know one of the things that, when I was doing Bargaineering on my
own, there were times when it becomes a challenge and it’s nice
to have someone else to sort of lean on and share ideas and talk
to and just have a sounding board to keep you sane.

Greg: Yeah, the sounding board thing is really good. All three of us
have had ideas-good or bad-and it’s great to have the other two
kind of provide their perspectives and just after talking it
out, we’ll end up with a better plan than if we had gone at it
alone.

And the other thing I want to point out is actually burnout, I
think, is a big problem when people start their own blogs and
stuff. So it’s been nice to really lean on others, and sometimes
one of us needs to take a break and it’s nice to have the other
two keep the site going and make sure the readers don’t have to
wait weeks before they see another post.

Jim: Yeah, that’s sort of the upside of having a partnership. It’s hugs
and rainbows and unicorns.

Greg: Right.

Jim: You mentioned earlier that you guys have had your share of fights.
Have you done anything special to make sure that those fights,
at least initially, don’t become partnership-breaking issues?

Greg: Yeah, I think there are probably a couple of keys. One is we
talk daily, so we always start the day with kind of a founder’s
meeting. Most days, 90% of the time, it’s really boring, day-to-
day stuff but that daily touch has helped to make sure, you
know…

Jim: You do this every day?

Greg: …we’re all still friends. Yeah, every day.

Jim: You do a five-minute conference call chat, or video chat or how do
you guys do it?

Greg: Yeah, it’s just a cell phone conference call. We try to aim for
15 to 30 minutes. Sometimes it’s five minutes. Sometimes its two
hours. But the key is that daily touch among the founders. The
other thing is-

Jim: How did the others decide to do that?

Greg: Actually when we first started, we all wanted to work from home
and we had different times. We started with three times a week
doing calls, and it was in the afternoon. But over time it
evolved and we figured that the morning daily chat was the best
way to go about it. And now that we have staff, it’s helped to
have a founder’s call in the morning before we do our email and
talk to the teams that we’re responsible for.

The other thing I want to point is when we do talk, and when we
have fights, we remind each other that we’re all working towards
the same goal. It’s like, “This is not a personal attack.”

Jim: Right.

Greg: I disagree with your idea, but it’s all for the good of the
company. And sometimes we do go away a little angry with each
other, but by the next day a lot of times-the funny story is-
we’ll switch positions and we’ll see the other person’s point of
view and suddenly advocate for what that person was arguing for
the day before. And the key is all three of us are working
towards making the company better, making the site better, and
so whenever we yell at each other or feel a little angry at the
other people, we have to keep in mind and remind each other that
it’s all for the good of all three of us.

Jim: And that can be hard sometimes, but one of the benefits that I see,
at least with you three, is that it’s an odd number. Do you ever
get into these big company decisions where you don’t have full
consensus, and you have to sort of vote and maybe make a
decision based on two versus one or anything like that?

Greg: Absolutely. And that’s been part of the evolution of the
partnership. In the beginning it was all about voting. Each
founder had an equal vote, but over time we’ve discovered that
we needed to come up with a decider. And Will Chen is now our
decider, because he can see both sides of it. The expense and
the work it would take to get a project going, that’s one side.
And my side: all these awesome opportunities that I’m seeing,
but may never really translate to revenue. And he has to take
both those sides and kind of come up with the plan that will
actually be good for the readers and good for our company
revenue. So between the three of us, we still vote, but we’ve
decided between the three of us that Will gets to be the
decider.

Jim: How did you decide that?

Greg: He just came up with the best arguments and the best decisions
over the years.

Jim: I think that’s a good way to do it.

Greg: Right, and based on our conversations and our fights, it’s
always been about the good of the company, and we found that
Will had both the strategic vision and tactical vision to make
the good final decisions. And to tell you the truth, a lot of
times because we have an odd number, the three founder’s votes
often coincide with what Will would decide. But at the end of
the day, it’s helpful to have one final decider and have the
other partners agree to abide by that decision.

Jim: Yeah. I mean it can get tough if you have extremely large egos, but
it sounds like you guys have always sort of checked your ego at
the door and said, “This is all for the common good.” For these
major decisions, everyone will have their voice, but Will can
sort of put it all together and it’s good that you guys have
that trust in one another. Do you think that’s because you were
friends at the start?

Greg: I think that helps, but I think also that we’ve all seen that
all of our opinions and thoughts have been towards making the
site and the company better and so we trust each other to know
that what we’re fighting for, what we’re yelling about, is about
the good of the site. So that’s built up over a couple of years.
We were friends before Wise Bread but we weren’t business
partners. So it’s taken a couple of years to adjust our
friendship to set a business partnership.

Jim: Have you guys actually yelled at one another in one of these sort of
decision moments?

Greg: Yes, actually.

Jim: Really? On the phone or in person?

Greg: On the phone. Wise Bread is a totally virtual company so a lot
of our contact is through Skype, Skype Chat or phone calls, and
so we don’t meet face-to-face with each other that often. But
yeah, on the phone we have had some pretty contentious
arguments, but-

Jim: So, not talking about the actual argument itself, because that can
change week to week or whatever, but how do you make sure that
after all is said and done that there aren’t any hard feelings,
that everyone’s sort of okay with the decision that was made
even if didn’t come in agreement with them?

Greg: So this is where Will is a genius. So at the end of the call
we’re all mad at each other but he’s going to bring it back to
the good of the company. He’ll say things like, “Okay, you guys
said this, and you guys said this, and this is our goal for the
company and based the industry, blah blah blah, I think these
are the important points.” And then when he sums it up, it’s
like, “Oh, yeah, we actually all agree.” But when we’re yelling
at each other, maybe we’re a little too focused on what we are
personally passionate about, but at the end of the call it was
always about, “We’re all on the same page and want the website
to succeed.”

Jim: Will should have been like a divorce lawyer. It sounds like he’s a
good mediator. It makes sense that you guys chose him
collectively as the decider or the arbiter in some of these.

Greg: It might be his attorney training that really helped. So he’s
been really good on focusing on the important points and what
we’re really trying to say because a lot of times arguments will
devolve into very minute things. And at the end of the call
he’ll bring it back to like, “Okay, we talked about all this
other crap, but what you guys really care about is this and
this, and that’s not far different at all actually.”

Jim: That’s great. Here’s the other interesting thing that I remember
about Wise Bread. So you have the sort of three-person
partnership of the founders and now you guys have full-time
staff.

Greg: Right.

Jim: But originally, you guys had a lot of, I guess, staff writers,
freelance writers and a sort of collaborative mentality extended
towards them as well because I know you guys were doing a rev
share. Can you talk a little bit about that and then why you
moved away from it?

Greg: Yeah, okay. So when we started, we did rev share with the
writers and we called it “100% rev share,” and it meant that all
the ad revenue that was on their articles went to the writers
and the company and the founders only took what was on the
category pages or at the home page. The reason we had to do that
was because we didn’t have any cash in the beginning. It was all
boot-strapped, but we found that that wasn’t really a great
model and the reason was the site was only taking about 20% to
25% of the income but it was really up to the founders and the
company to market the site and the writers.

And writers just want to write, so over time we’ve had to evolve
that rev share model and not give 80% of the income to writers.
A lot of what makes a website successful is the marketing and
the brand authority of the site. This was discussed at ThinkCon
actually. The model has changed, where 80% of what a blogger
does has to be marketing and not writing.

Jim: Yeah. When you write, you just put it out there. You’ve got to get
people do it and so you’re building this entire infrastructure
in place but you’re giving almost all of the revenue to the
writers. It makes sense that moving forward it’s just not
sustainable really, and not really fair for you guys.

Greg: Yeah, and it was bad for the writers too, because without the
marketing and without the SEO and the brand authority of Wise
Bread, nobody would be reading those articles. So we had to
shift it a little bit, but it’s in our DNA to be collaborative
with the writers. Even now, we’re not a single voice. We want to
bring in passionate experts to write about what they’re
passionate about. So the person writing about travel versus the
person writing about emergency funds, they’re different writers
and we don’t just have a staff of freelance writers who can draw
up any topic. We think bringing in experts and being
collaborative with our writers provides the best value for our
readers.

Jim: It’s interesting; I mean, it’s not that interesting you say that, but
the fact that you realized it so early on. I remember when
Bargaineers was like, “Oh, I’m going to bring in all these other
writers because I want these different perspectives.” And the
thing that you guys have keyed on is the passion portion, which
a lot of people, at least four or five years ago, weren’t as
keen on, because back then with SEO and you get so much traffic
just by churning out a lot of content. And then you have your
demand media and all those content farms that sort of ruin that
game. Now you need the passion, which is what I think is one of
the big reasons why you guys have done so well is you get all of
these different passionate people.

Greg: It might be lucky that we didn’t have any cash in the
beginning, so we had to bring in passionate people to write
about what they’re passionate about for no money up front.

Jim: Right, right.

Greg: That may be one thing. And the other thing is I do see a lot of
fellow bloggers starting their own sites now, and I don’t know
how they do it. They do the writing, they do the SEO, the
checking of stats, making deals with people and marketing. I
wouldn’t be able to do it alone if I were starting out.

Jim: It sounds like you could have. You could have done it for about three
or four weeks until you wanted to start another blog or start
another business project.

Greg: Right. So I would have 100 dead blogs at this point if I
went at it alone.

Jim: Right. This is where you make fun of me and my 100 dead blogs. I
should have found my Will and Lynn, but so it goes. One of the
things that I remember was that your rev share agreement, not
only was it 100% but it was essentially forever. So do you want
to talk about how you guys have moved away from that sort of
that unlimited liability?

Greg: Right. So I don’t want to make it sound like we were geniuses
from the beginning. That 100% rev share was because we didn’t
have cash in the beginning. But over the years we’ve found that
it prevented us from growing the site a little bit, and we’ve
had to make tough decisions. We’ve had to change those
agreements with those first half-dozen writers that helped Wise
Bread get going, and it was really tough. It was tough for them
and it was tough for us to make the decision. I liken it to big
companies having pension problems and those pension problems or
pension obligations prevent their operations and continuing to
grow. But we’re just really honest with these writers.

Jim: How did you do it? It sounds like an uncomfortable…well, first of
all, who did it? Was it you, Will or Lynn that went and spoke
with all of these writers?

Greg: Right, so after a lot of fights between the three founders,
Lynn was the one who had to go to the writers and she’s in
charge of the writers and she’s our editor-in-chief and has to
have a relationship with the writers. But she had to send out
the tough emails and do the tough phone calls with these people.

Jim: So what did you guys transition to?

Greg: So what we’ve done now is we still want to reward good writers
with amazing content that suddenly gets really big on social
media or gets a lot of traffic. So we switched from that 100%
revenue share model to a kind of bonus for having big traffic.
Every month we pay a bonus to the top ten articles, and it’s on
a sliding scale. The top is $250 for the top article of the
month.

Jim: This is all based on traffic numbers?

Greg: All based on traffic numbers; correct.

Jim: How do you make sure that the promotion you’re doing for each of them
is equitable?

Greg: Hmm. Good question.

Jim: I guess it’s hard.

Greg: We don’t really have a control for that. So a lot of our
traffic-

Jim: This is where…I ask the tough questions here.

Greg: Right. Yeah, man, you’re putting me on the spot.

Jim: Oh, sorry.

Greg: It’s all good.

Jim: So the top one gets $250 and then its’ just a sliding scale from
then, so it’s the top ten based on traffic.

Greg: Right. And this is only based on the first 30 days that the
article gets, so that controls it a little bit.

Jim: Right.

Greg: And most of the traffic an article gets is from its home page
placement. A lot of the traffic is based on it being on the home
page and so a lot of, I guess, the popularity is based on how
interesting the topic is and how good the headline is and how
good the article itself is because then it gets more shares and
it starts 30 days being live.

Jim: And it’s also incentivized as the writer-him or herself-to promote it
on social media as they see fit and everything else that they
can to try to get more views?

Greg: Sure. Yes. When an article goes live we definitely tell the
writer that it’s gone live and, based on the guest host usage
you submitted to us, you know that as you submit it, it could
take one week or three months before it goes live. But we make
sure that the writer knows that the article has been published
so they can promote it on their own social service.

Jim: Yeah, there was an automated email today that I think I got that said
it’s going up today or something like that.

Greg: Yeah, that’s one of the better tracking things that we do.

Jim: Aren’t you the tech guy?

Greg: I am, but…

Jim: It’s a good job.

Greg: …tech is a tiny part of Wise Bread’s success.

Jim: Right, right. Well, so actually I wanted to move into…you said
that, I think you said that Wise Bread has four full-time
employees now?

Greg: Right.

Jim: Can you talk about how you decided to make the first full-time hire,
and then the second, third and fourth, how you went through that
decision and what sort of roles they play in the company?

Greg: Yeah. I think the very first hire that we had is what people
would probably call an admin assistant or a virtual assistant.
And that was really important because what the founders are good
at is trying to create big wins for the company, instead of
formatting posts or publishing posts or picking pictures for
posts. And so Amy, our first hire, has allowed all three
founders to free up a lot of their time doing more of this.
She’s our copywriter, she’s our picture-picker, she’s-

Jim: How did you find her?

Greg: She was actually a friend of Lynn’s, and what was important to
us was that she was reliable and she was smart. So, again, we
were lucky in finding her and we are holding on to her.

Jim: Yeah, those are two of probably the most important qualities in an
employee, or in a person.

Greg: Yeah, when we first hired her, she had just graduated from
college and was looking for a job. And we’re really glad that
she has stuck with us since then. It’s been four years now since
we hired her.

Jim: Yeah, and I think it’s smart that you guys realize that the founder’s
job is to look forward, and big wins is a biggie. It’s a big
idea that I don’t think a lot of-especially bloggers, but a lot
of business people-don’t realize. It’s smart to outsource the
day-to-day stuff that isn’t going to move your company forward.

Greg: Right.

Jim: How about the other full-timers? What are they into?

Greg: So we have three other full-timers. One is Ashley Jacob. She
helps with social media and marketing and doing direct sales. So
she’s really good at relationship building and she helps Will,
she talks brands and she talks with other bloggers about how we
can work together with Wise Bread.

Meg is our lead editor, and she helps set the tone for the
website and the site’s content. So she deals with writers and
comes up with topic ideas and she’s the face of Wise Bread if we
need to send somebody on media opportunities. She’s been really
good.

And the other one is Alex, who is my hand, who helps me with the
backend text of the other, more technical things that we have to
do in the background, like affiliate program firms, dealing with
HTML…

Jim: It sounds like a fun job.

Greg: And I think they like it because they get to work from
home, so-

Jim: There’s always a benefit to working from home. So when was Wise Bread
founded?

Greg: We started in December 2006. So that’s a little over seven
years.

Jim: Wow, that’s great. What do you think has changed in the last seven,
eight years that you guys have been around?

Greg: So I think two big things actually: one, what hasn’t changed is
that there are only ten spots in the Google home page or first
page of results. But the second thing is there’s been an
explosion of finance blogs since then. We were pretty lucky to
get started at the time. We were inspired by Bargaineering, Get
Rich Slowly, Consumerism Commentary, the granddaddy of personal
finance blogs, so we feel like we’re in that second wave of PF
blogs.

But since then, there have been thousands more finance blogs
coming online. But there are still only just ten slots in the
first page of search results for Google. So, in the beginning we
would write about emergency funds and we might show up in Google
search results, but now personal finance blogs have to be more
creative and more niche and better at marketing to compete with
other finance blogs.

Jim: How do you feel you guys have adjusted your strategy in terms of
marketing, given more noise, more activity?

Greg: Right. I think we’re pretty good at being in between the
mainstream media sites and the solo blogs who are starting out
now. That means it’s not all about the technical SEO stuff but
it’s a lot about brand. So Wise Bread has certain brand
authority that allows us to, for example, get media
opportunities. Also, Wise Bread isn’t all about personal
finance.

Jim: True, true.

Greg: So we like to say we’re more of a lifestyle blog, and we talk
about recipes and travel and we kind of fit into everything that
our readers spend money on. And that kind of brand positioning
has helped us survive. Google outgrew us in changes over the
years.

Jim: I think that’s true. I mean, I know you guys do a ton of weekly tweet
chats; I’ve actually done a ton of those. It’s just a lot of
outreach with other bloggers, sort of the top list puts you-and
I know the maintenance of that sort of has been on the back
burner a little bit, but it sort of puts you there as a leader.

You are a leader by virtue of being enormous and just by being
present and doing everything. But having that list sort of makes
you the authority. So I’m sure this has happened, and you
probably have told me this, but media sources will come to you
and say, “Hey, we want to talk to someone. Do you know anyone
from your Wise Bread 1,000 that fits this description?”

Greg: Right, and that’s an interesting point because we built that
list to build relationships. So we didn’t just get big because
of the list; we got big and then decided to make that list, but
that list was not just one strategy but a part of a lot of
strategies to always stay connected. I want to point out that
relationships are really important in this industry now.

I think when we were starting, we were just very internal-
looking to see how we could improve and what kind of posts we
could put up, but in our middle stage I’d say, years two to
four, we realized that relationships were super important:
relationships with other blogs; relationships with media; every
time we got a media contact we made sure that we added them on
LinkedIn, made sure that we kept in contact with them, we tried
to understand what they wanted out of Wise Bread. They wanted to
have good stories and whatever it is. And if we saw an
opportunity to help them, we would email them and contact them.
And that kind of relationship-building ethos has helped us grow.

Jim: Yeah, and one of the most popular posts on Microblogger-actually, you
know this-is when Will let me share his presentation from a
couple ThinkCons ago, which is how to get big brands to notice
your blog and advertise and come back.

And it’s very obvious you guys have a very specific outreach and
connection sort of process, where you try to maintain those
types of relationships. And it’s not necessarily to get more
advertising or mentions or anything like that, it’s just sort of
building that relationship because you just want to be seen as-I
mean because you are-good people, but you also want to be seen
as good people maintaining relationships so that down the road
the business can grow much larger.

Greg: And one of Will’s first questions when he talks to an
advertiser or he gets an email from a potential advertiser is,
“What are your goals? What do you want to get out of Wise
Bread?” So it’s not just presenting our menu of sponsored post
opportunities, but to really try to craft a custom campaign that
would help the advertiser or the agencies goals. And I think
that makes agencies and advertisers think that, “Okay, Wise
Bread isn’t just trying to extract X amount of money from us.
They really want to help us get our brand messaging across.” And
it will pay off in the first sale and it might pay off in
additional sales in the future.

Jim: I think it shows a level of professionalism that most people don’t
expect whenever they hear the word “blog.” Maybe that was the
case eight, ten years ago but nowadays people are savvier and
it’s clear you can’t build a Wise Bread without being smart and
professional and all the things that people don’t associate with
the term “blog.”

Greg: Right. Professionalism is definitely a key point part of it.
Also thinking about what the other person needs is another big
part, and I’ve got to point out that Will was an attorney before
Wise Bread. It’s not like he had years and years of sales
experience, but part of this ability to be flexible and kind of
learn from our mistakes is what has helped Wise Bread continue
to grow over the years.

Jim: That’s fantastic. I wanted to ask, were there any big breakthroughs
that propelled Wise Bread sort of from one level to the next?

Greg: I don’t think there’s any one particular breakthrough that
helped us, but I would say that the key to our success has been
the complementary nature of our partnerships, whether it’s with
the founders, or with writers, or with advertisers, we try to
see how you and I can work together to make both of what we want
better. So that’s one.

Two is being willing to be flexible over the years. The
strategies that we had in the first year are totally different
from our third year, when we’re focusing on big, and it’s
totally different from what we do now.

And every year this online publishing industry changes so much
and Google changes so much that you have to be nimble, and you
have to pay attention to what’s happening and be willing to
adapt to it. So, not any one or big thing, but I’d say our
flexibility has been the key.

Jim: Well, what’s great is that you have three people with their eyes and
their brains sort of always working. Well, actually, you have
more than three people, but three founders that are always
thinking about what’s on the horizon and how to push Wise Bread
to the next level.

Greg: And we’re always willing to listen. That’s why I love talking
to you, Jim, and getting your perspective. That’s why I love
going to ThinkCon and getting other people’s perspectives. We’re
always willing to listen and see what other people have seen and
what they’re thinking and then we’ll take it internally talk
about it and see how that will work with Wise Bread.

Jim: That’s great. Greg, I want to thank you for coming. I mean, this has
been a great, great chat, and I think now, I never knew you
guys…I mean I knew you guys were in collaboration, but I never
knew how you guys started, about that whole story. So this has
been a lot of fun for me, personally.

Greg: Very cool. Yeah, this was fun. Now, can I ask you a
question?

Jim: Sure!

Greg: Okay. I know you’re a Scotch fanatic, right?
Scotchfanatic.com, right?

Jim: Yes.

Greg: And personally, I really like Macallan, single-year, their
Scotch. What should I get, in addition to Macallan?

Jim: What should you get? So, when it comes to Scotch, it generally comes
in-this is a very broad generalization-when people think of
Scotch, they either think of smoky or medicinal. Medicinal as in
smells and tastes like Band-Aids, and fire and smoke.

Greg: Okay.

Jim: And on the other side is like the more floral, fruity…you’ll see a
lot more of those in stores. But if you like Macallan, one
bottle, one distillery that I really like is Balvenie. And I
really like port finishes, because they’re sweet. They do their
magic and then they specify a couple of months, in some cases a
year, 18 months, whatever they put in port, they call them port
pipes but they’re just barrels or whatever.

So I would look for Balvenie, and any of the stuff they do is
great. I like their double-wide, which is they put it in
something like regular oak and then sherry; I’m forgetting this
because I’m sort of riffing off the top of my head.

Greg: Yeah, you’re using fancy words.

Jim: I’m using fancy words so it sounds like I’m smart. And then look for
anything in a port finish. They’ll be like sweet and warm. And
if you like port, because it’s fortified…it’s like-what is it?
Red wine fortified with Brandy or dessert wine? I think you’ll
like either of those. Next time we hang out, I’ll either bring a
bottle or I’ll buy you a drink where we’re at, probably,
ThinkCon in the fall.

Greg: Yeah. All right, so Balvenie? Something about port, and you’ll
buy me a drink at ThinkCon.

Jim: Part of why you like the last part, especially. Definitely.

Greg: It is key.

Jim: It is key. Well, Greg, thanks again, and I hope you all enjoyed this
interview. And, Greg, if we want to find you, where do we go?

Greg: WiseBread.com.

Jim: Short and simple and to the point. All right, buddy, take care.
Thanks again.

Greg: All right. Thanks again. Talk to you later.

[Music]

Jim: Hey, I hope you enjoyed our chat with Greg Go of Wise Bread. What
they’ve been able to accomplish at Wise Bread is extremely rare.
I challenge you to point to any blog, privately owned or
otherwise, which reaches two million visitors a month. And
they’re wonderful people, so I’m glad to see that they’re doing
very, very well.

To get the show notes, go to MicroBlogger.com/2, that’s the
number two. Actually, if you enjoy this blog cast, I hope you
did, can you please give us a review on iTunes and tell your
friends? I’d appreciate it if you did. Thanks, and if you ever
need to reach me, I’m @Wangarific on Twitter, or you can email
me at Jim@MicroBlogger.com. Thanks.

Thanks for listening!

The post MBP #2: How Greg Go at Wisebread Used Collaboration to Reach 2,000,000 Visitors a Month appeared first on Microblogger.

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Think about two of your friends from high school. Any two will do. Now think about starting a business with them and how that might turn out. Oh, did I mention you all work virtually? That’s exactly what Greg Go, Will Chen, Think about two of your friends from high school. Any two will do. Now think about starting a business with them and how that might turn out. Oh, did I mention you all work virtually? That’s exactly what Greg Go, Will Chen, and Lynn Truong did and the results speak for themselves. They are the […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 40:28
MBP #1: JD Roth on Getting Rich Slowly, How a writer built a blog that transformed his life https://microblogger.com/mbp1-jd-roth-get-rich-slowly/ Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:00:39 +0000 http://microblogger.com/?p=1636 https://microblogger.com/mbp1-jd-roth-get-rich-slowly/#comments https://microblogger.com/mbp1-jd-roth-get-rich-slowly/feed/ 18 <p>I’ve known JD for many years and he’s a modern rags to riches story. I first met him in person at an event thrown by moneyStrands in San Francisco, a meeting that JD mentions in the chat, and we’ve been friends every since. I could think of no better person to talk to for the […]</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com/mbp1-jd-roth-get-rich-slowly/">MBP #1: JD Roth on Getting Rich Slowly, How a writer built a blog that transformed his life</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="https://microblogger.com">Microblogger</a>.</p> JD Roth, Get Rich Slowly

I’ve known JD for many years and he’s a modern rags to riches story.

I first met him in person at an event thrown by moneyStrands in San Francisco, a meeting that JD mentions in the chat, and we’ve been friends every since. I could think of no better person to talk to for the inaugural Microblogger podcast and am very thankful he was able to carve out some time out of his extremely busy schedule to record this chat!

How did someone who had over $35,000 in credit card, working in his family’s box factory, turn his journey to financial salvation into a blog that was read by millions and then acquired for millions of dollars?

Listen and you’ll find out.

(If you’re watching Downton Abbey and haven’t finished season 3, there’s a spoiler in here!)

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How JD started a blog web journal about personal finance and how it wasn’t his first blog
  • What triggered him to “take control” of his financial future
  • A brilliant visual about the actual start of Get Rich Slowly
  • How JD gained 20,000+ subscribers and a $4,000/mo business, within a year, through personality, honesty, and storytelling
  • How JD grappled with and overcame Impostor Syndrome
  • How to blog about a subject you aren’t an expert in
  • How his honesty and openness led to opportunities to appear in Women’s Day and write for Entrepreneur
  • How his honesty and openness also makes life a little frustrating
  • How JD discovered he was a writer and how he hones his craft
  • His ratio for time spent writing vs. editing/revising, his one secret tip for becoming a better writer, and avoiding five dollar words
  • How forums did create a community, with one notable downside
  • How to avoid the echo chamber that is your blog’s niche
  • How I provided JD a key piece of advice and also committed the biggest mistake of my life 🙂

I hope you got a ton of value out of this — a big thank you to JD for taking the time to talk to us. We discussed a ton of great stuff and if you enjoyed it, please click to tweet @jdroth and tell him he kicked butt on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

How to subscribe

Are you on Stitcher? Great! So am I! Here’s the link to the Microblogger Podcast where you can subscribe and leave a rating and review (please?).

We’re in iTunes now too! You can subscribe there.

If you aren’t using either service and prefer RSS, here’s our RSS feed.

Quick favor…

Tell everyone you know that this is a great podcast… unless you think it sucks. Then tell me and I’ll try to make it better!

The plan is to submit to iTunes in about a month, after we get around six episodes up, then we’ll go to 2 a week for a month, and then to a once a week schedule.

Eh, I got excited, submitted, and we’re on iTunes! It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Jim: This is the Microblogger podcast, episode one.
Female 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: Well, hello, welcome to the first episode of the Microblogger
podcast. Today I get a chance to sit down with J.D. Roth of Get Rich
Slowly. It’s a personal finance blogs that experience meteoric success when
he launched it many, many years ago. Learn how, in just a few short months,
he was able to gain 20,000 email subscribers, and take a blog that was
earning $0.57 a day to one that would be acquired for millions.
Discuss how he became such a great storyteller, which I believe is one of
the big reasons why it was so successful because he was able to connect
with his audience. And learn about his other successes, his missteps, throw
in a few fun stories, and we basically have a good time. We hope you enjoy
it, I’ll see you at the end to fill in anything I missed.
Jim: Hey, J.D., how you doing?
J.D.: I’m good, Jim, thanks.
Jim: Thanks. I really appreciate you coming on the Microblogger
podcast.
J.D.: My pleasure.
Jim: Yeah, I just want to get right into it. Everyone knows you
because, mostly of, Get Rich Slowly. You know, you want to go into how you
got started, why you did it, and the whole origin story?
J.D.: Sure, the origin story, just like superhero comics.
Jim: I chose that for a reason.
J.D.: I know. So, looking back, I could never predicted when I was
younger that I would end up writing about personal finance on the World
Wide Web, but looking back, it’s very clear how I ended up there. So there
are a few elements that go into it. First of all, I was always interested
in computers and technology. Second, I always wanted to be a writer,
although, I thought I would end up writing science fiction or poetry
because I was a sensitive guy who also liked science fiction. Maybe I
could’ve written science fiction poetry.
Jim: Well, I mean, Get Rich Slowly wasn’t your first blog . . .
J.D.: No.
Jim: . . . right?
J.D.: No, no, no, no. And then, also, I had lots of debt, so all of
these things combined to lead me to toward Get Rich Slowly. So the way it
started was in college, I came from a poor family and I didn’t really know
how to handle money. And I got to college and there were people who were
much wealthier – it was a private college and a lot of my roommates had
more money than I did and I wanted to fit in. And the only way I could fund
that lifestyle was with credit cards. And whoa, wouldn’t you know it, even
back in 1988, ’89, companies were happy to give students at a private
institution credit cards so they could build up debt. And that’s just what
I did.
So I graduated with the beginning of a credit card habit, and that habit
grew with time so that by 1995, which is four years after I graduated, I
had accumulated over $20,000 in credit card debt. Meanwhile, at the same
time, the World Wide Web had come into existence and I’d started setting
up, I guess, an outpost there – I had a personal website.
And in 1998 I started what was called a web journal back then; there was no
such thing as a blog, we didn’t have a word for it – we called them web
journals. And I wasn’t writing about money, I was just writing about my
personal life. I say that I wrote about cats, and comic books, and
computers – the things I was most interested in.
And this website was just for my family and friends. So time passed and I
continued to write this website. It eventually did move to a blog, it
became very much a blog, and I would write every day. So, during the early
2000s, I was posting every day about all these different things that
interested me, and meanwhile, I was going deeper and deeper into debt.
Eventually, I managed to cut up my credit cards, but I found other ways to
go into debt, like, using a home equity loan, or taking out personal loans,
or borrowing money from family and friends. So, by 2004, I had accumulated
over $35,000 in consumer debt. And around that time, my wife, who is now my
ex-wife, she and I bought a house, a new house. And on paper it looked like
I could afford this house and I was really excited about it, but once I
moved in, it became clear that I was just drowning in debt because there
was all sorts of remodeling that needed to be done and we wanted to buy
furniture. And I just felt overwhelmed, Jim.
So, for once in my life, I listened to my friends, who have been, for
years, trying to advise me to do something different with money, and a
couple of them loaned me books. One of the loaned me Dave Ramsey’s “Total
Money Makeover”, and another loaned me “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe
Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I read the books, and I wish I could say I
changed overnight, but I didn’t.
But I did start making gradual changes, and I made a plan to get out of
debt, and I also started reading more and more about personal finance
during the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005. And then, in April 2005, to
just kind of get everything out of my head and down on paper, I wrote a
blog post at my personal blog, and I called that blog post Get Rich Slowly.
And it summarized all of the personal finance that I’d been reading about.
And I said, “You know, I’d always wanted to find quick ways to get out of
debt and to build wealth. And what the books were telling me was, ‘Well,
you can’t do it quickly, but you can do it slowly. You can’t get rich
quickly, but you can get rich slowly’.”
So that’s why called it that. And for whatever reason, this post went
viral, or as viral as things could go at the time because remember, this
was back in 2005, and it’s not like today where you can get millions of
visitors in a short order if you got something that’s hugely viral. And I
put that in the back of my mind, I was, like, “Oh, people want to read
about personal finance.” And about a year later, I was looking for ways to
make more money so I could get out of debt more quickly, and I thought,
“Well, why don’t I start a personal finance blog?”
And I always say that I thought I would be the first personal finance blog
on the web. And obviously, I wasn’t – you had yours already, I think, and
Harlan had, or Luke had his, and there were plenty others around. But I
started getrichslowly.org, and I just used it as a way to share the things
I was learning about personal finance and to share my personal victories
and my failures. And for whatever reason it became very successful, and
before long, it was making enough money that I could quit my day job, which
was selling boxes, and write full time. That’s where I am today, the full-
time writer.
Jim: There were two things that you touched on that I wanted to ask
you about. You said that you bought a house and that was, in essence, a
trigger for you to start thinking about the future and debt and all this
stuff more clearly. Most people, if they see $20,000 in debt, which would
be before you bought the house that would sometimes be the trigger. Why do
you think that the house was such a big deal for you?
J.D.: Well . . . I don’t know. Because the way I was handling the
debt is, I never missed a payment, and I always met my financial
obligations. But whenever I would earn a raise, or get a bonus, or somehow
come into additional money, I would just find ways to spend that on comic
books and computers and stuff. I guess what I’m saying is, I was always
living right at the edge, literally, paycheck to paycheck.
I didn’t have any savings, I always kept about a zero dollar balance in my
account. When I got paid, I would spend down to about $10, and then that’s
all it would have left until payday – sometimes I would get overdrawn. But
with the house, when we bought the house, all of a sudden, okay, when we
bought the house, I was still living right at the edge, right?
But all of a sudden there were all these other expenses on the horizon that
I knew we would have to make, like, remodeling the bathroom, and buying
furniture and things like that. And plus, things started going wrong, it
was a 100 year old house – the basement flooded, things like that. How am I
going to fix that? And so, it became clear to me, all of a sudden that,
“Oh, I need some sort of buffer, and because I’m carrying so much debt and
don’t have any kind of savings, I’m screwed. I’m not going to be walking
the edge much longer – I’m going to end up drowning.”
Jim: Yeah. And then when you chose personal finance, did you think
you were going to turn it into a business, or you just wanted to write
about it because you thought people were interested?
J.D.: Well, that’s a great question. So, I’ll tell [inaudible
00:08:39], have to keep it brief here – it was a little bit of both. So,
I’d been writing on the web for a long time when I started Get Rich Slowly,
but I had never really tried to make money with it. In fact, I’d been
adamantly opposed to monetizing websites. People might not be aware of
this, but back in the early 2000s, a lot of people, like me, considered it
very bad form to put advertising on a blog or to otherwise monetize a
website. It was selling out, it just seemed wrong, and so I was a vocal
opponent of it. And for me to change my mind seemed like hypocrisy.
But this story is, as I was trying to dig out of debt, this was soon after
I had published the first Get Rich Slowly post on my personal blog, I was
actually sitting in the bathtub reading a book, and the book was by Loral
Langemeier, and I think it’s called ‘The Millionaire Maker’, or something
like that. And in it she describes how she coaches her clients to become
millionaires. And in it, she talks about creating passive incomes, what it
amounts to, or finding sources, additional sources of income to your job.
And for whatever reason, something clicked, and I stood up, got out of the
bathtub, didn’t even towel off, I went and sat naked at the dining room
table and just started jotting down all of these notes because I realized,
“Oh my gosh. Maybe I can make money online through the web through the
stuff I’m writing.” And at first, I thought I would do it with my personal
site, and then I realized that’s not very practical, so what I really
decided to do was start a comic book blog.
And I launched a comic book blog and realized, “Oh, there’s already tons of
comic book blogs out there and I don’t have anything new and unique to say.
Even though I read a lot of comic books, I’m not, like, a comic book
scholar, I just do it for fun.” And so, as this, kind of an afterthought, I
decided, “Oh well, I’ll start this personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly,
and I’ll try to monetize it.”
But, at the same time, the money wasn’t my primary motivation. I did want
to make some money, but I thought it would be just enough to kind of
accelerate my debt repayments. I didn’t think, “Oh, this will become a
business.”
Jim: And then at what point did you think it would become a
business? When you kept going and going and going and it was growing and
growing?
J.D.: Well, so I started the blog on April 15th, 2006. At first, my
income was a few dollars a day, just like most people, it was a few cents a
day. I think my first day’s income was $0.57 or something like that. But by
the middle of 2007, my traffic had grown significantly, and, I’m trying to
remember what I had. I know that in early 2007 I had 12,000 subscribers,
and that grew, probably, to about 20,000 by mid 2007. And I don’t actually
remember what the traffic was, but I do know I had begun to make as much on
the blog as I had been making selling boxes for the family factory, and
that means that was about $4,000 a month. So within a year I was making
about $4,000 a month from the blog. And this just blew my mind.
And it give me the impetus, once I paid off my debt at the end of 2007,
December 7th or something like that was the day I paid off the last of my
debt, I began to explore the idea of quitting my job and working on the
blog full-time.
Jim: Your story about, I mean, this is such a meteoric success.
Maybe not, like, you know, start-up style where, you know, you build a
business that you sell billions, but making $4,000 a month from $0.57 a day
within the first year and then getting 20,000 people subscribed is a pretty
big accomplishment.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Why do you think you grew so quickly?
J.D.: You know, I did ask this a lot, and I don’t have any great
answers. I think there are a couple of things that go into it. First of
all, I told my story. At the time, most personal finance blogs, I think,
that the writers were anonymous. They didn’t want to be out there, they
didn’t want to be public because they were telling what was going on in
their financial lives, right? And I had always been public on the Internet
and had no problem with it, and so, I told my story, I told who I was, and
I shared, not just my successes, but my failures.
And so I think a lot of people could relate to me and where I was coming
from. Even if their experiences weren’t exactly the same, they could relate
to me because I seemed like a real person.
And plus, the whole storytelling thing, I think is very important. So much
personal finance advice, and so much writing on the web in general, is very
impersonal, I guess, and also very . . .
Jim: Antiseptic?
J.D.: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, it’s uninteresting to read because it’s
just, like you said, antiseptic – it’s boring. And it’s also very bossy, in
a way, as if people have all the answers, and I wasn’t like that. I was
very, clearly, exploring things and the testing things, and saying, “Hey,
what about this? I think this might work. Oh, no it doesn’t.” And I was
also very real.
And another thing I did, Jim, is I interacted with the readers from a very
early stage. I made it clear that I didn’t have all the answers, so when
readers would write in with something particularly, I don’t know, valuable
to me, I would publish it and I would credit the readers. And within short
order, I had created this Friday column that I called Ask The Readers,
where readers would write to me with questions and I don’t really know the
answers, I would share what I thought my answer was, and then I’d put it
out there for other readers.
And so, it became this community where readers could help each other with
their financial questions. And after a couple of years, Get Rich Slowly had
begun to have influence in people’s lives, and people would write in with
their success stories, or they would write in to tell me how things didn’t
work out. And so, on Sundays, I created this readers stories column where
we would share what readers were doing, and what worked, and what didn’t.
Jim: It’s interesting. One of the problems that a lot of people have
whenever they’re starting a blog is they feel like they need to be an
expert. It’s, like, “Why would someone listen or read to what I’m writing
if I’m not necessarily an expert?”
J.D.: Right.
Jim: And it sounds like for you, that was an asset. It was a, you
know, “Come with me on this journey as I try to get rich slowly. And we’ll
learn together, we might stumble or whatever, but this is a community that
where we all try to help each other and grow.”
J.D.: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the real trouble came when I
realized that some people did perceive me as an expert because I didn’t
feel like I was an expert, I began to feel like an imposter. These people
are coming to me for advice? What the hell?
And this is a very real thing, it’s called the Imposter Syndrome; where you
actually do possess some knowledge, more knowledge than the people around
you, but you don’t feel like you do, you don’t feel you have any special
dispensation – and so you feel like an imposter. And it’s not just me who
struggles with it, there’s a lot of different people.
I talk a lot with my friend Tess Vigeland, who used to host the show
Marketplace Money, and she’s experienced the same thing. She spent several
years as the hostess of Marketplace Money, and people expect her to be some
financial whiz, and she tells me she’s just not, she’s just an average
person. And it’s an uncomfortable feeling for the both of us.
So, I think you’re right that, when you start a site, don’t pretend to be
an expert – just be yourself, admit that you don’t know certain things. But
when you do know things or when you think you do, say, “This is what I
believe.” I think it’s very important not to come off and say, “This is the
one right way.” The motto I had at Get Rich Slowly is, “Do what works for
you.” And by that I meant, there are multiple paths to success.
One of the things that really frustrates me most is when you have somebody
who thinks that they have the one right answer, and if you don’t follow
what they’re doing, they’re wrong. This is very apparent. When I announced
my divorce at Get Rich Slowly, I got a lot of crap, and maybe deservedly
so. But I was really frustrated by these 20, and 22, and 23 year olds
writing in and giving me marriage advice and relationship advice.
And these young people who have relationship blogs at the age of 22 and
they’ve got blogs about how to have a successful marriage – that’s great,
share your experience, but don’t pretend that you can provide prescriptive
advice when you’ve only been married for a year. Once you’ve been married
for 20 or 30 years, well maybe I’ll listen to you, but I’m going to sound
like an old curmudgeon now.
Jim: You do sound a little curmudgeony.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Man, that’s the thing when you’re young is that you don’t know
what you don’t know, plus you walk around with this swagger . . .
J.D.: Right.
Jim: . . . when you think you do. Whereas like, once you hit about
the 30s, you start to realize that, yeah, you might know a lot. But, you
know what? Slow down a little because in about ten years you’re going to
regret a lot of the things you proclaimed and what your . . .
J.D.: Yes, exactly right. And so, I think it’s perfectly fine to give
advice based on your experience and say, “This is what I think I know, this
is what I believe.” But admit the possibility that there are other ways to
do things and that you could be wrong.
Jim: And everyone’s situation is so different.
J.D.: Absolutely.
Jim: I mean, we’re both in blogging and personal finance blogging
for a long time, and I’m sure we’ve seen a lot of the same things, but, I
mean, situations differ. Like, advice isn’t one-size-fits-all.
J.D.: Yeah, and this isn’t just about marriage and money – this is
about anything. It’s about fitness, it’s about playing guitar – it’s about
whatever.
Jim: Scotch.
J.D.: Well, no, with Scotch, it’s Ardbeg or bust.
Jim: We all have our preferences.
J.D.: Yeah, that’s right.
Jim: No, but I mean, one of the things that’s always, I guess, sort
of amazed me about Get Rich Slowly and you, is that your story connected
with people. Like, as much as we may say that personal finance is personal,
everyone’s story is different, yours seems to connect at a much deeper
level. Sometimes I think it’s because, like you said, you share
vulnerability, you share everything. This is J.D. Roth, warts and all, so
to speak. And, you know, when the good things happen you share it, when the
bad things happen, you share it, and it’s sort of, you know, we’re all in
this together. Was that intentional, or is that just the way you are?
J.D.: It’s just the way I am. It wasn’t calculated in any way, it’s
just how I am in real life, and it’s how I was on the blog.
Jim: It’s funny, I asked that question, I immediately already knew
the answer. But for the sake of appearances, I felt like I needed to ask.
J.D.: And in fact, Jim, the two things that have been toughest for me
professionally, with regards to the blog, are when I was not able to share
information. After Get Rich Slowly was sold, after I sold Get Rich Slowly,
I was contractually prohibited from discussing it for a long, long time.
And that killed me. Because it was a huge part of my life and because I
share who I am and what I’m doing, I just felt, I don’t know, disingenuous.
And the other one was when I did get a divorce, my ex-wife asked me not to
share it for about three months, and so, I couldn’t write about it. And, of
course, once I did write about it, it created a huge backlash, which is
fine, I get it.
Divorce is a very emotional subject in this culture. . . . And plus,
people had grown attached to Kris. Kris is a great person and people felt
like they really knew her and they were part of our lives, and so, it was
almost like this television show. It’s like Downton Abbey when Matthew
dies, you know, people are really attached to Matthew. And, oh my gosh,
he’s dead all of a sudden? What the hell happened?
Jim: Now I’m going to have to put a spoiler alert for people who
didn’t watch the last season. No, was the last, yeah, it was, yeah. Thanks
a lot for more work. No, I’m just kidding. No, I agree. I mean, I was
surprised, obviously. I mean, when you’re on the West Coast we don’t hang
out all the time.
J.D.: Right.
Jim: But when I heard about it I felt a little sad because I’d met
Kris before and she was nice and all that. My question was going to be, has
it ever hurt you, from a business perspective, to be that open? And, in
this particular case, it didn’t sound like it hurt your business. You may
have had to take a few, you know, complaints and upset people.
J.D.: If anything, it has only helped my business because, because
I’m so open and because I tell my stories, I get opportunities to share
them in other outlet. For example, one of the things that used to cost so
much frustration among my readers is, Kris and I kept completely separate
finances. We just did – it’s how we had always done it. And I wrote about
this and people would get so frustrated. And yet, because we wrote about
that, or I wrote about that, I’m trying to remember, I think it was Women’s
Day, one of the women’s magazines contacted us and I was able to share my
story with them.
Because I was so open, I also got an opportunity to write for Entrepreneur
Magazine. They gave me an entire column about money and where I could tell
stories, I don’t know, impart wisdom.
Jim: That’s funny because the first time I got into the New York
Times was because I shared my net worth on the blog. I look back on it and
it looks like such a mundane stuff. It’s, like, how much I spent this month
on clothes. You know, because I used to keep a very tight budget, and now I
don’t, but back then, you know, sharing all that – that level of detail was
not unheard of for personal finance bloggers, but it was unheard of in the
general public.
J.D.: Right.
Jim: And so, you know, it’s helped me, and I just wanted to find out
since you’re far more open, if there are any, very clear business related
downsides with that?
J.D.: No. To me there are no business related downsides at all. I’d
say that the only two downsides, oh, wait there’s one business related
downside. Tiny, tiny one, we’ll get to her in a sec because it’s related.
The only downsides of any note are, number one, when I meet people, they
know far more about me than I know about them. And so, it makes it so if I
want to tell a story . . .
Jim: You’ve got to get a new story.
J.D.: . . . they might have already heard it, and so, that can be a
little frustrating for me. But it’s also kind of fun because people tell me
again and again, “Oh, my gosh, J.D., you’re just like you are on the blog.”
And that’s pleasing to hear. The other downside is that, you know, you do
open yourself up to trolls and to people who want to harass you. And I’ve
only really had one prolonged experience with this, and it’s an anonymous
troll, and they leave shi**y comments on my sites, and I never publish
them.
My policy, in general, is that I will publish anything as long as you’re
not attacking other people. You can attack me and it’s fine, but this
person, nope. And they change their name every time, their IP address every
time, but it’s always very clearly the same person. And, fortunately, they
seem to have given up, although, maybe they’ll find this podcast and decide
to take it upon themselves to go write about my bad teeth again.
Jim: Great. Now I have to watch out for trolls, I’ve got to put a
spoiler alert.
J.D.: So, I said there was a mild business impact. I made somebody
angry once. I published an article at Get Rich Slowly, it was a reader’s
story about a woman who got a divorce. And before she got a divorce, she
ran the numbers to make sure that she wasn’t going to be putting herself
into a bad financial situation, which I think is smart. It’s smart to do
that. And, boy, that was my first clue that people get really emotional you
start talking about divorce.
And this one guy got so angry, and it was just after I had published my
book, and so he went to Amazon and he left a one star review. He hadn’t
read the book, but he went there and talked about how I was such a hack.
And so, that’s a problem.
Jim: Yeah, well, during the scope of things that could possibly happen on
a downside with business, I guess a one star review from someone who wasn’t
a verified buyer is not the worst thing.
J.D.: Exactly.
Jim: But it’s still tough though. I mean, it’s like a black mark,
not really a black mark, but, you know, it’s a mark against you even though
it’s not your fault, there’s nothing you can do about it. The guy didn’t
even buy the book.
J.D.: Right. Oh, the Amazon thing, it kills me to go there. My book,
which is, Your Money: The Missing Manual, it’s gotten four and a half stars
on Amazon despite this one star review and despite the fact that the top
rated review, the most helpful review, is a two star review with all these
helpful votes. And you just know because it shows up first, there are tons
of people who aren’t buying the book. And some of the points he makes in
this two star review are valid, and in fact, they are concerns that I
shared with the publisher before publication. Some are just, like, “Really
dude?” Ah, but what can you do?
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: I did the best I could with the book, and everyone else seems to
like it.
Jim: Yeah, you’ve got to focus on the people that love it, not
necessarily the people that hate it. One of the things you mentioned
earlier was this feeling of being an imposter. Have you, or did you, get
over that feeling? And how did you do it?
J.D.: For the most part, I’ve gotten over the feeling. Part of the
problem was, I tried to project what other people expected of me.
Jim: By guessing or by what they said?
J.D.: Yeah, and I felt like I couldn’t live up to that. And what I
realized is, “No, I actually do know quite a bit about money. I don’t
necessarily know the ins and outs of retirement accounts or anything like
that, but as far as the psychology of money and just basic day-to-day
handling of money, I know quite a bit. And more than most people.” And so
once I realized that,
I’m like, “Okay, I can give advice based on what I know.” And I learned to
answer questions with, “I don’t know.”
A great example is if a reporter comes to me and wants me to comment on a
story, if it’s about a subject that I’m not qualified to talk about, I tell
that, I just say it. It’s not a bad thing to admit you don’t know
something, you just don’t know something – you know lots of other things.
So, to get over this feeling of being an imposter, there were a couple of
steps there. First was realizing, “Oh, I do know more than lot of people
around me.” And second is, “It’s not bad to say that I don’t know
something.”
Jim: It’s hard to admit that you don’t know something. Especially
if, you know, for you, maybe you’ve talked to a lot of reporters, but for
your average blogger, their opportunities are limited, so there may be a
feeling that they should fake it or pretend or do something like that.
J.D.: Oh, faking is, like, the worst thing you can do because it
becomes very clear that you’re out of your element, and you feel bad, the
reporter feels cheated. If you feel like you’re not qualified for
something, the best thing you could do is provide as much help as
possible.
Route the reporter to somebody that you feel will actually be better able
to help them, and then say, “Hey, if you’re ever doing similar stories in
the future, I’d be glad to help especially if it’s about X, Y, or Z.” Where
X, Y and Z are the things you’re familiar with.
Jim: That’s fantastic advice. I mean, I agree, you should not try to
deceive because people could tell if you’re not knowledgeable about a
particular subject.
The other thing with Get Rich Slowly, like I said before, there are a lot
of things that amaze me about it. But, you know, you talk about
storytelling and writing, and I know that at the core, you are a writer.
How did that happen? How did you become a writer, or, you know, discover
that you always were a writer?
J.D.: Well, that’s another great question. I think it came because I
got a lot of positive feedback when I was very young. In third grade I
remember, you know, you draw pictures on the paper, the pulpy paper, the
big lines, and you’d write little stories. And I wrote a couple of just,
you know, two sentence stories that my teachers and my parents loved, and
so, that was, like, positive reinforcement. And plus I read a ton of books.
Oh, my gosh, I read a ton when I was a kid. I was always just a shy, nerdy
boy and just kept myself, reading and writing. And in fourth grade, we had
this great exercise that my teacher would do once a week – we had story
writing time for an hour, and you’d pull out of a hat, you would pull a
plot.
I’m trying to remember if we each got to do it differently or not. Doesn’t
matter. You pull out a plot, you pull out a setting, and you’d pull out a
main character out of the hat, and you combine all these together and then
you’d write a story, and it was a two-page story. And I loved that. And my
teacher loved my stories, again, and so did my parents. And so, from there
I moved on, in eighth grade I discovered I loved to write poetry, and then
in ninth grade, I learned that I loved to write essays. And so, it was a
gradual thing, so that eventually in college, I helped edit the literary
magazine and I got an English minor with a writing emphasis. And I thought
I wanted to be a science fiction writer or to write poetry – it’s just
always been part of you I am.
Jim: And it’s something that, knowing you, that you’re constantly
working on. And what are the things that you do to make yourself a better
writer?
J.D.: Well, first of all, practice.
Jim: You write a ton.
J.D.: Yeah. I’m looking around my room right now because I’m reading
a book. It is right here. I write a ton, I read a ton, and I read a ton
about writing. And I also, I like to, when I have the time, take classes
at the community college or community centers, I take classes in writing.
Because even though I can call myself a professional writer now, there’s
always more to learn. And the book I’m reading now I think is brilliant.
I’m terrible at time management as Jim will tell you. I suck at replying to
emails, and anyone who’s ever tried to get me to reply to a long email
conversation just shakes their head in frustration. And that’s because I’m
poor at time management.
So, someone recommended a book recently called “A Writer’s Time”, a guy
named Kenneth Atchity, A-T-C- H-I-T-Y. I’d begun to read it in my very
limited spare time, and I love it. It’s about time management, it’s about
becoming a better writer. And the very first sentence is, “Writers write.”
and I think it’s valuable. A lot of people call themselves writers, but
they don’t write anything. It’s more like an aspiration rather than an
avocation.
And, for me, if I can’t write during the day, I feel frustrated. It’s the
same as if I’m unable to get exercise. I want to write. I don’t necessarily
want to write about personal finance, but I want to write something
Jim: Gotcha. Gotcha. I was talking with Paula Pant at a [inaudible
00:33:15] and one of the things she’s always told me is that it takes her,
she’s also a writer. And one of the things she’s does is, she’s been trying
to inject more humor and entertainment. So she’s been taking, like, comedy,
I don’t know, classes, but reading books about it.
And I also thought that was fascinating. And you are saying that you took
community college classes and still take them. When you pick a class to
take is it, like, creative writing? Is it, like, I don’t even know.
J.D.: Yes. Well, most community colleges, or most large, most places
that have a lot of writing courses will have a nonfiction writing class,
and that is your best bet. I think anybody who wants to blog should take a
class about nonfiction writing, especially if you can find one about
creative nonfiction. And creative nonfiction is very much, it’s a very
specific genre, and it’s what we do with blogs, is we do creative
nonfiction.
But for me, I tend to take fiction writing classes because, ultimately,
what I really want to do is to write fiction, now. And, in fact, my goal
for this year was to write a novel, but here we are, I don’t know when this
will air. But, I’m at the end of February and I still have not begun work
on my novel because I’m dubiously writing about personal finance.
Let me point out something real quick that Paula Pant, her blog is
affordanything.com, and it’s brilliant, she’s a great writer. If you want
to improve your writing, you should read other writers who produce quality
material, and Paula produces quality material.
Jim: That’s right. I totally agree. It’s interesting, so I went to a
Happy Hour the other day, and I sat down, and I sat next to a guy who just
written a novel, and he published it. And he had joined a group of writers
that would keep each other accountable and basically, I guess it’s just
like a Mastermind, so to speak, but it was interesting to hear him talk
about it. And one of his goals was always to write a novel and he’s a
writer. I looked up the book – it’s selling on Amazon. It’s actually pretty
impressive to have a book. Yeah, it’s just interesting to know that having
that support structure, for him, was extremely helpful in keeping him,
essentially accountable.
J.D.: Yeah, and it’s like anything. I’ve been members of writing
groups in the past. You have to have the right group of people, for you, to
make it work. Some writing groups that I’ve been in have worked less well
than others.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, it’s like Mastermind groups. Sometimes . . .
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: . . . you know, things work out, sometimes they don’t, and you
just have to keep trying it. Because, ultimately, on balance they work,
it’s just you have to figure out the ones that work well for you.
J.D.: I’m going to add something real quick, Jim, about writing, and
improving the quality of writing. I think Paula would agree that quality
writing is more about editing than it is about writing. And what I mean by
that is, when you write, you do a little bit of research, generally, and
then you write a draft.
A lot of people stop with just the draft and they publish it. And I’ll
admit that sometimes I do that too, especially if it’s just a personal
story. But, by far, the best way to improve your writing is to just
continually revise.
Go through the piece you’ve just written, and if it took you a half an hour
to write, take two hours to revise it. Do little experiments, like, cut in
half. “Can I cut in half?” ask yourself. And does it make it better? Does
it make it worse? And why or why not?
Another thing I recommend, and almost nobody that I recommend this to
follows through with it, is, especially for your very important personal
pieces, read them out loud. Read your articles out loud to yourself because
you’ll discover crutches that you use, words that you use all the time, and
you’ll also pick up on things that aren’t clear.
When you just read something to yourself quickly and silently, you’re able
to make these logical leaps, or to ignore logical leaps. Whereas, if you
read it aloud, it becomes clear that, “Oh, this isn’t what I meant to say,
or the reader won’t be able to follow.” So, by reading things aloud you get
a better feel for the rhythm of the peace and you’re able to make it
better.
Jim: That’s something that I’ve told my wife to do, is read. And I
do it sometimes too. But the one thing that it catches for me, is when I
use sentences that are way too long. It’s, like, they keep going and it’s,
like, “Oh, well, I should probably stop it here because I need to breathe.”
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: And sometimes I skip words.
J.D.: Short sentences are good, by the way, because they’re easier to
follow and they prevent people from going through these grammatical
gyrations that create bad grammar.
Jim: Yeah. And copywriting always recommends that you use shorter
sentences.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Just because it’s easier to follow when you don’t have to track
such a long sentence.
J.D.: And use every day words instead of $5 words.
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: I read some blogs and I’m, like, “Dude, just . . .” Yeah. Just
use simple words.
Jim: Like we were talking about right before we started recording,
as we talked about mics and podcasts and stuff like that, those words are
like fancy equipment.
J.D.: Yeah
Jim: You don’t need fancy equipment, you can get by with a simple
mic – it’s the content that really matters. And if you spend the time to
edit it down and get it clear and concise, you’re way better off than
trying to be fancy.
J.D.: Yeah, I think the fancy words should be pulled out once in a
while for effect. They’ll have more effect, it’s just like swearing. If you
swear all the time, the power of those words loses their meaning, but if
you pull it out once in a while… I know my father, he didn’t swear very
often at all, but when he did, oh my gosh, we paid attention. So, yeah, use
your fancy words once in a while, and use everyday words most of the time.
Jim: Wanted to go back to one of the things that you mentioned
before. You did all these different things to sort of foster up this
community, this,
“Hi, I’m J.D. Roth, we’re going to go on a journey. Let’s go together.” One
of things I remember is that you had a forum. Right? And then you had one
of your, like, big-time readers moderate it. How did you think to start a
forum and create that structure? And how much did it help to build that
community?
J.D.: I actually think the forum hurt the community. It became two
different communities, is what it did. So, first of all, I tried to start a
forum early on in the life of Get Rich Slowly, and the forum fizzled an
untimely death, it just doesn’t work. And then about a year later, I
brought the forum back. And I realize quickly that I was not able to manage
both the forum and the blog at the same time, so I sought help. One of the
people who became a moderator, or an admin, was my brother. And then I
ended up with, I think it was actually two or three readers who acted as
admins, and they were the ones who paid attention to the forum.
And, to be honest, I really regret it, because it drew off some Get Rich
Slowly’s most active readers, the people who really contributed to
community. They began contributing only to the forum, or primarily, to the
forum, and not so much to the blog itself. And I think that hurt the
community in the long run.
Jim: Gotcha. Did you shut the forums down, over eventually?
J.D.: I didn’t, and to my knowledge, they’re still going because the
company that bought Get Rich Slowly has not changed information, so I’m
still in there as an admin. And so I get people writing in with complaints
to the admin that they can’t login or whatever and I’m, like, “I can’t help
you.”
Jim: Okay. Because I remember back in the day when we talked about you
said the comments has started to drop because people would then interact on
the forums rather than leave comments.
J.D.: You know, I’m curious, as we talk here, I’m actually going to
see if I can remember even where the forums live. The forum? Yeah right
there.
Jim: Yeah, I remember, they were fairly active. I wasn’t really
paying that close attention to notice a comment drop. But, obviously, you
remember the names of the people who leave comments, and when you start not
seeing them, it can get a little disconcerting. At least in the beginning.
J.D.: Yeah, it looks like some of the same people who used to be
active on the forums are still active on the forums. That’s crazy. Wow.
Some of the moderators are still . . .
Jim: Little back to the, not back to the future, blast from the
past?
J.D.: Yeah. I’m really impressed, actually. Look at this everybody,
the forums are still active. And I’m looking at some of these people, they
are people that used to be active on the Get Rich Slowly as commenter’s,
and they no longer are, so, they live in the forums. That’s interesting.
And the forums are active.
Jim: So listeners should take your complaint about forums with a
little grain of salt considering having almost no management, it still
continues to live and there is a community there.
J.D.: Exactly right. Oh, and the Fiscal Fitness Journals are still
going. Okay, this is kind of fun for me.
Jim: What are the fiscal fitness journals?
J.D.: I don’t even remember what my premise was, but I decided that I
wanted people to have journals in the forums where they chronicle their
personal-finance journey, and I called them Fiscal Fitness Journals.
Jim: The literation is King.
J.D.: Yeah, and people are using them. I’ll be darned. That’s
fantastic. The forums aren’t, like, tremendously active, but there are
active users.
Jim: That’s awesome. So, in thinking back to Get Rich Slowly, was
there a turning point? That it went from, I guess, from hobby, to real
business full-time? Like, I guess it was when you quit your job or had . .
.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: . . . it was already enough?
J.D.: I began to really, really take it seriously in the beginning of
2007, which was only about nine months into the thing. Once I had over
10,000 subscribers, I began to really take it seriously.
And going back to earlier, you asked what some of the keys to success were.
One of them was the quality of writing – I intentionally tried to keep the
quality high. I’m not saying I’m a better writer than everybody else, but I
feel like I am a good writer. Also, because I had been on the Internet for
a long time, I had existing relationships in communities, and I didn’t seek
out to spam those communities or to intentionally leverage those
relationships.
Instead what happened is, people in those communities became aware that I
had this other project that I was working on and they began to share it
within the communities, and it just grew. And because of that, I ended up
with some influential readers.
Some of the editors at Lifehacker, for example, were early readers of Get
Rich Slowly, and so they would link to my articles frequently. And it’s not
because I was pushing them in any way, it’s just they happened to read them
and they would promote them. And that made a huge difference, just being
active in other areas of the Internet.
Okay, here I’m going to give a piece of advice for listeners that I feel
like people ignore too often. I think it’s very common among bloggers to
interact with only bloggers in your own niche. So if you’re a personal
finance blogger, you interact with other personal finance bloggers, if
you’re a fitness blogger, only with fitness bloggers. And this is great and
you should do that because you build camaraderie and you get to know each
other.
However, that’s not really the way you’re going to build your audience.
Because people who are reading another fitness site, they’ve got their
favorite fitness site, why do they want to go to yours? They might add it,
but it’s much less likely. Instead, I think it’s important to branch out
into other verticals, as we call them.
So if you’re writing about personal finance, well then, connect with
somebody who’s a fitness blogger. Write an article about how to save money
on physical fitness, how to do, like, bodyweight exercises at home instead
of paying to join the gym. Contribute it to a fitness blog – this is the
way to expand your audience.
And then, in fact, that’s what I did is, I intentionally sat down, when I
became more calculating with Get Rich Slowly, I intentionally sat down, I
thought, “Okay, what niches can I write for?” And I tried to submit
articles to the biggest blogs in those niches. Some of them would take the
articles, and some of them wouldn’t, but I think that’s the way to get a
bigger audience.
Jim: Yeah, and one of the things about personal finance is, it is,
I’m going to get the reference wrong, but it’s, like, O blood type. Never
mind, forget it. This analogy is going to go off the rails.
J.D.: What, it’s too complicated?
Jim: No, I mean, like, any other subject can guest post credibly . .
.
J.D.: Oh, right, right.
Jim: . . . in personal-finance. And personal-finance can credibly
guest post in almost anything goes. I remember back in the day I had a
friend who had a fitness it, and he was, like, “Oh, I want to write a guest
post on Bargaineering.” I was, like, “Yeah, that’s perfect. Can you come up
with a way to get fit on bodyweight exercises or jugs of water or
something, like, extremely frugally? You know, the anti-$30, $60, $100 gym
membership type thing?” He’s, like, “Oh, yeah. That’s easy.”
So he had his fitness guy write this incredibly detailed, really, really
good article about fitness, about what you can do. And it worked well, and
it gained him a bigger audience, access to a bigger audience, and everybody
came out ahead.
J.D.: Yeah. And, you know, I once wrote an article, I think it was
for, it might have actually been for my other site, Get Fit Slowly, that I
had at the other time, about frugal ways to exercise and stuff. And about
how my ex-wife and I had stopped our gym memberships and were doing more
exercise at home and stuff. And that led to, again, an article, I think it
was a newspaper this time, I don’t know. All I know is they sent out a
photographer who took a photograph that was really fun, of us doing yoga.
Jim: That’s great. Wow. So is there anything, as you think back to
Get Rich Slowly, that you wish you had done differently?
J.D.: I wish I had taken it more seriously as a business from the
start. I really didn’t know what I was doing, I was just kind of making it
up as I went along. And actually, maybe that’s why I succeeded.
Jim: I mean, you were only making it up as you went along, so to
speak, for, like, seven months, right? Because you said at the beginning of
2007, you started taking it more seriously?
J.D.: Yeah, I began to take it more seriously, but I still, I was
chicken. I was afraid to go out and find advertisers; I didn’t do anything
besides try to maximize my Google ad placement and stuff like that.
There were other people, including Jim, who were taking it much more
seriously. And Jim knows very well that he provided a key piece of advice
when we first met in San Francisco. There was a gathering of personal
finance bloggers, and Jim asked me a very specific question about, “Why are
you monetizing this particular page?” And I was, like, “Well, I don’t
know.”
Jim: That was the biggest mistake of my business career.
J.D.: I didn’t take anything from you.
Jim: Oh, no, no, I know, but I should have bought Get Rich Slowly.
J.D.: Oh, yes, yes. Exactly. You could have got it cheap.]
Jim: I told that story to Neil Patel. At some event I’m talking to
him, he’s, like, “Oh, do you know Get Rich Slowly?” I’m, like, “Yeah,
yeah.” He’s, like, “You should have bought it.” And I’m, like, “Yes, I
know.” “Thank you for reminding me.” But I wasn’t that obvious of a
business person back then.
J.D.: Right. I mean, we’re all learning as we go along. So, Jim gave
me this, he asked me this question and it made me go, “Huh.” And I
remember, I went back to the hotel and I looked at the stats on the page,
and I’m, like, “Oh, wow. This page receives a lot of traffic.” And the page
was very heavily monetizable or very easily monetizable, and so I did, that
boosted my income, well, from four figures to five figures, let’s put it
that way. Per month.
Jim: Oh, I wish you didn’t tell me that.
J.D.: It made a huge difference. And, yeah, all of a sudden someone
would’ve had to pay much more to buy it. And that’s the thing, you know,
people were offering to buy Get Rich Slowly early on and I just thought it
was a joke. Who would buy a blog? At some point, for very specific reasons,
I decided, “Okay, I’ll listen to the offers.”
And the first offer was ludicrous, somebody offered me $5,000 for it, and
at the time I was coming close to making $5,000 a day, so I why would I
take that. And then the very next offer was, let’s just say, significantly
more, and . . .
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: . . . I had to sit down and think about things.
Jim: For what it’s worth, I value our friendship at around five
figures a month. So I feel like, in the end, it all worked out. It’s been
great chatting with you, JD, thanks a lot for the time.
J.D.: Yeah, it’s been a great conversation.
Jim: Yeah, I wanted to ask before we went, what’s your favorite book right
now?
J.D.: Well, that’s an interesting question, there, that right now . .
.
Jim: Or ever.
J.D.: Okay. To me, the most influential book, the book that’s had the
greatest impact on my life, is a book called “How I Found Freedom in an
Unfree World”, and it’s written by a fellow named Harry Browne.
Most people know Harry Browne because he was a libertarian candidate for
president of the United States in 1996 and 2000, and he was a very strong
libertarian. And to me, that’s neither here nor there. Even though “How it
Found Freedom in An Unfree World” does eventually devolve into libertarian
politics, I think that it’s an important book because what it’s really
about is personal freedom. How to achieve personal freedom.
And to me the ideas he presented in the book were so revolutionary when I
read it, and this book was written in, like, 1971. When I read the book in
2008, 2009, whenever it was, it was just mind blowing to me. Here’s a guy
saying it’s okay to do what I want when I want as long as I’m not hurting
other people. And that had kind of been my philosophy, but I never followed
through on it.
And this guy was saying, Harry Browne is saying, that, “If you want to be
happy, it’s the only way to live.” So, for me, “How I Found Freedom in an
Unfree World” is just kind of this radical game changer, so I push it on
people all the time.
Jim: It’s interesting you say that because as you’re talking about
your college experience and trying to sort of keep up with your friends and
keep up with appearances, and it sort of led you down a not great path of
$20,000, $30,000 of debt. This book, years later after your college
experience, seems to almost tap into that and say, “Listen, you don’t have
to do that.”
J.D.: Right. So, a large part of my personality, all my life, has
been based on trying to please other people. And this book basically says,
“Don’t try to please other people, try to please yourself. And in doing so,
you will find sets of people, whereby, pleasing yourself, you’re also
pleasing them, and so everything will fit up.
You might have to leave off some of your existing relationships because
doing things your way might not sit well with some your existing friends.
But that’s okay because you will make other friends. You have to be a jerk
to your existing friends; it’s just a matter of finding friends that are
more compatible.” And that can seem radical and it can seem like its bad
advice, somebody trying to recommend you be a dick or something, but that’s
not what he’s saying at all.
The funny thing is, despite having read this, and despite subscribing to it
wholeheartedly, I still have some of my old habits ingrained so deeply that
it’s very difficult for me sometimes to not care what other people think.
My girlfriend right now, we were just talking about this the other night,
she’s, like, “Yeah, J.D., it seems like sometimes all you want to do is
please people, and it’s not necessarily the best thing.” It was, like,
“Huh, she’s right.”
Jim: It’s tough to change your behavior after so many years right?
And some of those things, when you’re learning them in your formative years
as a kid, as a baby, as a whatever, I mean, to try to change it later on is
extremely difficult, but it’s admirable. And if it’s for the better, it’s
better that you change later or adjust later, than not at all. Right?
J.D.: Yeah, oh, absolutely. It’s the same thing with personal
finance. I mean, people make mistakes and they might wake up and they’re 40
years old and realize, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to retire soon. What am I
going to do?” It’s better to get started at 40 than to wait until you’re
45.
Jim: Yep. Yeah, it’s very, very true. Is there a website that you’re
particularly fond of?
J.D.: You mean other than microblogger.com?
Jim: Come on. A real one.
J.D.: Yeah, you know, I’ve been reading. Hold on, let me find it
here. I do a lot of thinking about personal development and how to be a
better person, and so I’m really drawn to websites that are about that. And
one that I’ve been reading more and more lately is called raptitude.com,
and it’s R-A-P-T- I-T-U-D-E. It’s kind of the combination of rapt, rapt
attention, and attitude.
And it’s written by a guy named David and it’s all about getting better at
being human, he says. And I find that a lot of the things he writes about
are the same things I’ve been thinking about and he’s come to the same
conclusions that I’ve come to. And so . . . I don’t know.
Jim: It’s resonating with you right now.
J.D.: What’s that?
Jim: It’s resonating.
J.D.: Resonating.
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: Yeah, exactly right. And I just found out recently that David
and I will, David Cain is his name, he and I will actually be presenting
together this summer and this little retreat that I do in Ecuador. So I’ll
get a chance to meet him and talk to him in person – that’ll be very fun.
Jim: That’s cool, that’s cool. How about, last question, well,
second to last question. Any new hobbies or favorite hobbies right now?
J.D.: Yeah, so, I took up, on January 1st, I decided that I wanted to
learn guitar. And so, I’ve been spending my Thursdays doing hour-long
guitar lessons, and I try to practice for half an hour every day, because
I’m in the middle of a big project right now, that hasn’t been exactly
what’s happening. But that’s okay because once the project is done I know
that I will have the dedication to do half an hour a day.
So, I want to learn to play guitar, so that when I’m sitting around with my
friends, I can play and they can sing because I can’t sing for crap. And
meanwhile, I’m still trying to improve my Spanish, that was my big thing a
couple years ago, is I spent a year learning Spanish and got to a nice
intermediate level, and so I want to maintain that. And I have a workbook
that I try to spend about 20 minutes in every day just practicing my verb
conjugations and so on.
Jim: Have you ever played any other instruments, or was guitar your
first?
J.D.: Yeah, in fifth and sixth grade I was first first-chair of
violin. Very small school, but.
Jim: Still, first-chair.
J.D.: I know. I could play Rhinestone Cowboy and the theme to Star
Wars.
Jim: Does that translate well to the guitar?
J.D.: What’s that?
Jim: Does that translate well to the guitar? No, it’s a different
number of strings, right?
J.D.: Well, the ideas do. I was going to say that in college I was in
choir for a couple of years, not in college, in high school. I don’t know
what I said. In college I took a semester of piano, so I have some music
background. So while those skills are not directly applicable to the
guitar, the basic concepts in the music theory does apply.
So, I can read notes, for example, which, apparently, not a guitar players
can because they use this tablature format, and I’m learning the tablature
format, which is pretty easy. For me, the most difficult thing with a
guitar is learning to play chords. I can play the sheet music, albeit
slowly, but the chords are much more difficult.
Jim: Yeah, I think I need to pick up a new hobby.
J.D.: Do you play an instrument?
Jim: I played the piano for, jeez, like, ten years when I was a kid.
And we just bought a house last summer and it came with a grand piano, or a
baby, I don’t know, it’s a big piano.
J.D.: So [inaudible 00:58:04] been sitting down and playing with it?
Jim: Yeah, here’s the funny thing, when I was a kid I would always
play classical stuff. Be, like, [inaudible 00:58:21] and all the composers.
And I never played pop music until, maybe, like, the very last year, I
started playing a little pop music, and now that’s all I want to play
because it’s songs I recognize, and, like, there are very few classical
songs that I like.
And that are at the intersection that where I like it enough where I want
to practice and play it. Whereas, there are plenty of current, just pop
music, there are current, I don’t even know what the categorization is,
but, like, people making classical type music today that’s a beautiful. And
so I’ve been trying to play some of that stuff.
J.D.: See I hadn’t even thought to look at that. It was interesting,
in my guitar lessons, we started with chords because that’s what most
people want to start with, but it became quickly apparent that I was much
more interested in picking out tunes on the sheet music.
Jim: I only had one last question.
J.D.: Okay, go ahead.
Jim: If people want to find you right now, where should they go?
Where will they find you?
J.D.: The best place to find me is at jdroth.com. I keep a blog there
that I call More Than Money, and during the year of 2014 I’m doing a series
of articles on personal freedom. So I’m trying to, every Monday, post
another article that furthers the ideas that I’ve been developing about
finding happiness, overcoming fear, and pursuing freedom. And I’m going to
talk very much about the book I had mentioned earlier, “How I Found Freedom
in an Unfree World.” And I also share funny videos from time to time, and
today I posted an article about personal finance, believe it or not.
The big project I’ve been working on lately, is this guide, almost a
course, to how to become the chief financial officer of your own life. And
we’re nearing the final stages of that and it should be out in a few weeks,
and I’ll certainly publicize there.
Jim: Yeah, we’ll definitely throw links to, basically, every book of the
half-dozen books, and all these links in the show notes so people won’t
have to search for it too hard. J.D., I appreciate the time.
J.D.: Thanks so much Jim.
Jim: This has been a great chat, it’s been a lot of fun. And, take
care.
J.D.: Take care.
Jim: Thanks for listening to the first episode. [Inaudible 01:00:32]
in large part because J.D. and his incredible story. But, I hope to do
many, many more with folks with equally incredible stories. If you enjoyed
this podcast it would really help me out if you’re able to leave us a
rating on iTunes and tell all of your friends. I mean, every last one of
them. It would really help me out, so, thank you, thank you.
If you want to reach me, suggest a guest, or just say hi, you can email me
at jim@microblogger.com, or find me on twitter as wangarific. Thanks a lot,
I’ll see you next time.


Special Thanks

I want to extend a special thank you to Josh Dorkin of Bigger Pockets and Joe Saul-Sehy of Stacking Benjamins for their podcasting insights.

Both are awesome, both have their own podcasts, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking them out:

  • BiggerPockets Podcast – If you’re at all involved with real estate investing, or simply want to be, this is a knowledgeable and entertaining podcast and they aim to give actionable insights with each episode.
  • Stacking Benjamins – Hands down one of the most entertaining podcasts I listen to and I love the casual nature of it. Learn personal finance and be entertained… plus Joe is engaging.

Check them out!

The post MBP #1: JD Roth on Getting Rich Slowly, How a writer built a blog that transformed his life appeared first on Microblogger.

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I’ve known JD for many years and he’s a modern rags to riches story. I first met him in person at an event thrown by moneyStrands in San Francisco, a meeting that JD mentions in the chat, and we’ve been friends every since. I’ve known JD for many years and he’s a modern rags to riches story. I first met him in person at an event thrown by moneyStrands in San Francisco, a meeting that JD mentions in the chat, and we’ve been friends every since. I could think of no better person to talk to for the […] Jim Wang: blogger, online entrepreneur, investor 1:01:24