I’ve always been intrigued by niche sites – they seem to be easy to create, and when you are able to build a successful one, it can become a nice source of passive income. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds (and those of you who know me know that I’ve failed with niche sites many times), but it’s interesting to hear from people who have succeeded with them.
This interview features Jeff Fruhwirth, a blogger who runs Sustainable Life Blog and also owns a handful of niche sites and an eCommerce store. In the interview, we discuss some of the sites he owns (including links to some of the sites), how successful they have been for him, and we even touch on his love for do-it-yourself projects and how it fits (or doesn’t fit) with his online business.
I like Jeff because he’s a very down to Earth guy who has shown that you don’t need to be some kind of expert or “guru” to find success online. It’s a lot simpler than other people make it out to be.
Jeff, I really enjoyed reading through your site, Sustainable Life Blog, especially getting some insight into your own personal finances through your monthly reviews. There’s a lot I personally have in common, such as experimenting with Lending Club and cutting cable. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What’s your background like, and what led to you starting your blog? Are there any other aspects of your online business besides the blog?
Well, I did fine with my finances in high school, though looking back I can see that a spending problem was starting to bubble to the surface – I didn’t save any of my paychecks (I worked all throughout high school – some at jobs making around $14/hour for 30 hours a week) and still didn’t have much to show for it. I earned on average $6k per year from 2001-2007 and ended up with a total of ~$35k in debt because of that (student loans and credit cards).
I started my blog in 2009 because I needed a way to keep myself accountable and really fix my finances. Thankfully, it has worked, and I’ve been able to help a few people pay down debt and save more money along the way. I also thought that I was moving into an arena that was very under served (combining sustainability with finances). In addition to my blog, I have an eCommerce store (Touchdown skills), another blog and a few niche sites.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your online business?
I think that the greatest success with my online business is that I actually have one. I never dreamed of being a business owner as a kid, and I wasn’t that kid always on the corner with a lemonade stand or trying to arb candy and baseball cards at school. As I mentioned, I started blogging to keep myself accountable and for no other reason.
Now, I’ve got a very small business that is still growing and generating revenue every month and a profit every year. Most of this income is passive, and I earn about $500 per month on average (and I’m hoping for that to go up with the addition of my niche sites to my portfolio).
Lately, I’ve been focusing my efforts on one niche site, and have been able to rank it in Google for my key phrase and should be moving into the top 3 within the next week or two. Once I’m there, I should see a period of high revenue growth – I’m hoping it will amount to around $500 per month most months, with potentially $750-800 per month during a busier time in the fall off of one site. There are 2 others that are in the planning and build-out phase.
What has been your greatest challenge that you’ve had to overcome so far with your blog/online business? What have you learned from it?
I think the greatest challenge is figuring out what people want, and bringing it to them. For a long time, I wrote just for me. I wrote about stuff that was going on in my life, and about my finances and some decisions that I’d made and why I made them. That was interesting, but not a lot of people got any value from it.
So I stopped having a “I need to write x articles per week” mindset, and looked at how I could help people. My first big post was about how to cut cable and still watch your favorite TV shows online and I know quite a few people took some action on that and will hopefully save themselves a couple thousand dollars over the next 5 years. (Comment from Eric: I’ve cut cable too, and couldn’t be happier. You’d be surprised how you can still get all the content you want/need, and only pay a fraction of the cost.)
What have you done to build your audience and bring traffic to your blog? Are there one or two strategies that you’ve found particularly successful?
Honestly, I’ve found that if the post is of high quality and will help people take some sort of action and result in them saving money, those posts do really well. I don’t get a lot of social shares for my content, so I’ve basically abandoned Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been experimenting with other social networks and bookmarking sites, and that has turned out really well so far.
Which sites were these, and why do you think they’re working out better than Twitter/Facebook?
The site was Reddit, and I don’t think it was working better than Twitter or Facebook, I know it was. My social traffic from there increased 1,000%+ over what I was getting from Twitter and Facebook.
I know you’re a big fan of DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, and this seems to be a big trend today considering how information and tutorials are so freely available. What’s been your favorite DIY project that you’ve done? Do you foresee turning your love for DIY into some kind of business online (be in a new website or informational product)?
I do like DIY projects, mainly because they give me something interesting to do and I learn new things. There is a ton of stuff out there online if you get stuck with something (like I did when I rewired my house 2 summers ago) and you really don’t need a professional for basic stuff anymore.
I don’t know about turning my love for DIY into a business with a website, but I have thought about buying houses that need love and flipping them or rehabbing them to turn into rentals, in which case my DIY knowledge would come in handy.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote (either your own or taken from someone else)?
Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. –Teddy Roosevelt [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources – ones that you don’t think you could live without?
I think that YouTube is hugely underrated as a resource – you can find ANYTHING there, no matter what you’re working on. I used it a lot when doing DIY projects, and when I was building my websites and niche site businesses.
I love Asana for task management, it has really helped me focus on just a few things. Also, I couldn’t live without Google Drive/Dropbox.
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Jeff.
What did you think about this interview with Jeff? What’s your success been like with niche sites? Leave a comment below!
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