Today, we're talking to one of my favorite people on the internet, J. Money. He runs a little site called “Budgets are Sexy” and he writes often about bringing budgets back. He's one of the nicest guys on the internet, and the first time I reached out to him, I was really nervous. I asked if I could write a guest post on his blog, and he thanked me for reaching out! He ran my post, it helped my website, and now we're buddies. He's been such an inspiration to me that I'm thrilled to introduce him to you (that is, if you don't know him yet). Take it away, J!
What's your elevator pitch?
I run a blog that tries to make money fun. Also, I like beer.
When did you start blogging? What made you start?
February of 2008 – right after I bought a house on a whim with no money down and no budget (*blasphemy!*). I went online searching for some advice, and stumbled across these “blogs” where people were telling their stories and divulging their net worths. I thought it was cool as hell to just put it all out there for people to learn and discuss around, so figured $hit – I could do that too, right? And talk about what a boob I've been? So I just started typing away and here we are now, 6 and a 1/2 years later – a self-employed blogger 🙂 It's been a helluva journey.
How long before you made your first dollar? Do you remember what it felt like when that first payment went through?
Hmm… I'd say probably 3 months until I got my first official ad, but then another 3 until I made my first $100. I remember exactly what I thought when I saw that offer come through – “You're going to PAY ME to put your company on my site? REALLY??? Okay!” I literally had no idea people made money online – it was all by accident.
How many blogs do you have? Did your first idea “stick” or is your current site some different version of your original idea?
At the peak I probably had 9 or 10, and now I'm down to just two – Budgets Are Sexy and Rockstar Finance (though that's more of a curation site than a blog-blog). The only one I ever wrote for and cared about most was B.A.S. though – the one that started it all and the one that's still pretty much run the same way. Most of the others were ran simply as businesses purely for the money, all of which I've sold to re-focus on what I enjoy the most: blogging.
What are you working on now?
Rockstar Finance is my 2nd baby where I promote my favorite articles on money to everyone (including yours ;)). It's been a blast to do so far, and I'm meeting a ton of great bloggers in the process. Outside of that, I've been doing some blog coaching, and now some money coaching, and I also help bloggers sell and buy sites as well. So pretty much I'm addicted to anything relating to money and blogging, haha…
Do you make a part-time living online? A full-time living?
Everything started out as a hobby, then moved to part-time money, and now completely full-time. It's weird in a way too. Back when I had a 9-5 all this stuff was “extra” and purely for fun, and while it still is now for the most part, it's also *required*. Like, I have to make money from my projects or else my family of 4 doesn't eat now 😉 So it's been an interesting mind shift from hobby to business, even though I still treat them way more as hobbies than I should.
Can you break down your income into categories?
I would say 75% come from some sort of advertising (adsense, ad networks, affiliates, partnerships), and the other 25% from random hustling. Like the coaching, helping people flip sites, and even helping bloggers place ads here and there for a commission. If I were smart I'd focus just on the sites and heavily monetizing them, but alas it bores me to death and makes it less fun. So I do a ton of stuff to keep the bills paid 😉
What other ways have you made money? Writing for others, organizing for others, etc?
See above 🙂 Though I did just try some freelance writing too the other month. I don't enjoy it nearly as much, but it pays a helluva lot more than a post on your own blog, haha… So that's def. an option for people who's considering it. I'd guest a majority of bloggers who make money get a lot of it from freelancing vs advertising on their sites.
How long before you started taking “this whole blogging thing” seriously?
I'd say after 6-7 months I realized it was gonna be something bigger than what I set out for it to be. Both in terms of money, but also life. Once things started to snowball I quickly realized I was on to something and had to keep chasing it to find out what it was. And what it was was a completely new career and life changer 🙂 Not only have I learned an amazing amount about the online world and business itself, but all of my best friends have now come from the web and my brain just keeps on expanding by the week. It's literally changed my life in multiple areas and I never saw it coming.
If you had it all to do over again, what would you change? Anything?
Nothing at all. I WISH I could go back in time and not buy our stupid house when we did – the biggest purchase of our lives – but even that I have to appreciate because without it I wouldn't be here typing to you. It was the best mistake to ever happen to me 🙂
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
Yes – pour your heart into the content and focus on the stuff you like the most. Don't worry about the design or making money or any of that stuff too much – just go out there and start writing. Hopefully you're starting a blog because you're passionate about a topic and you think you'll enjoy it – not because you want to make money. The latter is of course possible, but there are MANY more ways to make better money – and quicker – than blogging. You gotta do it cuz it's fun for you or else you'll burn out before you even get going.
There are a variety of ways bloggers can monetize. Which do you recommend? Which would you advise beginners to stay away from?
This is always a tough one to answer because the answer I want to go with is “try out everything and see what works *except for* paid links/posts” but then I feel like a hypocrite because that's all I did for years myself. I eventually learned that it was super harmful to the growth of my site though (and usually your readers too – they're mostly crap!) and quit doing them cold turkey losing thousands a month on the spot. It sucked hard, but I wanted to be around for the long haul and the quick money wasn't worth it anymore.
So whenever you're thinking about ways to monetize, just ask yourself what your long term plans are for the site. If you're looking to make money and then bounce, then go and do whatever it takes to bring home that cash. But if you're looking to stick around and grow your blog into something much bigger and better in the end, then try and focus on the myriad of ways to bring it home without doing any harm to the site. Like affiliates from products you love, ad networks or freelancing, or better yet – making your own products that your readers will love because it's coming from YOU! Its good to remember that the only reason we succeed on line is because of our readers (unless you're gaming stuff with SEO, but that's a whole other topic), so be sure to keep them in mind whenever you're out scheming for ways to bring home the bacon. And believe me, we're all still trying to figure it out. The online game changes all the time.
Name one thing bloggers do when they're beginners that you feel they shouldn't
Talking about blogging all the time. We all do it cuz it feels so natural and fun (most of the people we communicate with online are bloggers! Just look at all the comments being dropped by them on your site! haha…) but your core audience really doesn't care as much as you do. They're not bloggers and they're not coming to your site to learn about blogging (unless you're blogging about blogging? ;)) – they want to learn about money or whatever topic you're writing about. And in particular how YOU manage your money/etc. That's not to say you should never do it – hell, I did it just the other week – but just to keep it in mind when you're coming up with blog topics.
** Btw, I should note that a lot of this advice/opinions in this interview is more catered to bloggers who want to turn their site into more of a business than a fun hobby. In a perfect world you can have a mixture of both, but please don't let any of this sway you from writing or doing whatever the hell you want with your site if you have no intention/care of turning it into a business. Some of my best times on the blog came before even knowing blogs could make money, so by all means do your thing and scrap all this “strategy” talk if all you want to do is blog and be happy about it 🙂 **