This interview with J. Money from Budgets are Sexy is one I’ve been waiting to publish for awhile now, because it’s so jam-packed with good information.
J. Money (I know, it’s mysterious that we don’t know his real name!) has had a really interesting journey, having worked 37 different jobs, ultimately ending up with a personal finance blog that anchors his online earnings of more than $100,000 per year.
When you read his blog and his interview below, you’ll understand why – he has a unique voice that really makes his content stand out. Even better, he actually has a lot of valuable knowledge to share.
Let’s cut right to the interview – enjoy!
(As always, questions from The Daily Interview are in bold.)
J. Money, I love how you bring a unique flavor and personality to the personal finance realm with your blog, Budgets are Sexy. Awesome content there, and it’s great to read about some of your more personal stuff, such as your net worth progress and the 37 different jobs you’ve held in your life.
I won’t ask you to go through your ENTIRE journey, because I know that’s easily a 5,000 word post. However, tell us about how you got into blogging, and what are your primary focuses today with respect to your online business?
Thanks for the kind words, my man. I really fell into blogging out of pure boredom and not wanting to waste any more time on MySpace at work (remember that site?). I had a lot of down time at my company, and recently bought a house on a whim (went looking to rent a 2 bedroom apartment and came out with a house 48 hours later!), so I started spending my time on blogs and trying to figure out how all this money stuff works.
And the more I read, the more I got hooked! I thought it was fascinating how people would display their entire net worth online and then explain how they got to that point each month, so I thought “$hit – I could do that! And maybe I can make it more fun too.” So the next week I started one up, and now here we are almost 6 years later 🙂
As for my main focuses online, it goes something like this: Do something I *enjoy* –> build a community around it –> hope it’s awesome enough to make money.
I’ve started (and shut down) a handful of other ventures online since creating the blog all those years ago, and the one thing I’ve learned about myself is that if my heart isn’t in it – even if there’s tons of money to be made – I just can’t bring myself to do it. Which is a major flaw as a businessman. On the other hand, the only things I work on these days are things I’m excited about.
Among all your successes, I have to know: What has been your greatest success so far with Budgets Are Sexy (or any other aspect of your online business)?
I’ll give you a cheesy answer first, and then a juicy one. 😉 The cheesy one is that I’m totally in love with our community we’ve got brewing over on Budgets Are Sexy. We get a lot of people furthering discussions in the comments and social media areas, and to me that’s the most important.
My main goal for the blog is to MOTIVATE people to pay attention to their money, so the more involved and engaged they are on the site, the better it helps everyone.
And of course it’s no fun to write (AKA blog) when no one’s reading anything you’re saying either, haha… Not that comments are always the main indicator of that (fewer than 1% ever comment), but it certainly helps to let you know you’re on track.
And since I don’t write directly for the money (i.e. for SEO and robots), a back and forth discussion on stuff I’m putting out there is important to me.
Now, business-wise, I’d say my greatest success has been being able to turn a random side hobby into a full-fledged career. It took me 6 months to make my first $100 (which I didn’t even know you could do – make money from a blog??), and then 6 months after that it was $10,000.
Skip to a couple years later, and we’re now bringing in over $100,000+ a year. Which includes other projects and sites I created/bought as well.
For example, I used to run a small ad network that came out from blogging, and in a single weekend I landed a $22,000 job that maybe took 12 hours of work. It’s pretty incredible. And believe me when I say I’m pretty much just like anyone else out there. I’m not incredibly smart, I just pay attention to the opportunities that I’ve helped come my way faster. The whole “working hard to get lucky” type of thing.
And all of my best friendships have now come from the online world too – hah! I’m such a nerd…
Given how competitive the personal finance niche is, I’m always very interested in the answer to this question: What do you believe is the reason Budgets are Sexy stands out, and what was the primary driving force behind its success?
Probably because I write like a *HUMAN* and just put my entire personality out there. Which, fortunately, is a bit cuckoo and can keep peoples’ attention. 😉
Finance itself is pretty boring already, so the last thing you want to do is fuel the fire. Now admittedly I write for a pretty niche audience (i.e. those who want to have FUN while learning about money) but I think the key to success there is pretty much just *connecting* to others in a relateable way.
I literally treat the blog as if I’m having a one-on-one convo. with a reader at a coffee shop, and I think that level of low key’ness helps out. I’m not using any fancy words, and I drop an F’bomb every now and then just like a regular person would. Now it also turns people away too, but I’ve long since been okay with that.
You can’t write for everyone so you have to find your own place on the ‘net and then just kill it from there. And the beauty with blogging is that anyone can do it!
Even the most successful people stumble along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure with respect to blogging, and what did you learn from it?
My biggest failure is one that still attaches itself to me today: I’m too emotionally involved in my projects. Which means I don’t always do the things I flat out KNOW will grow my projects and/or make money – either because it’ll change the general feel of my projects, or because it just plain bores me to death. Which of course is a good thing in the long run, but not so much in the immediate future.
So I’m constantly needing to come up with new strategies or businesses in order to help make up the slack (though I have figured out I’m better at being more businesses-like when I buy other projects already out there.) It’ll all work out in the long run I’m sure, but I do sometimes wish I was more financially-motivated. 😉
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Find your voice and just rock it. [Click here to tweet this]
There are a million and one other bloggers out there, but no one has YOUR exact story – whatever that is. So think about the angle you want to embrace, and how you’d like to be perceived out in the “market” (aka all your branding) and then just push the go button and work on being the best YOU as possible! It’s not always easy, but it is pretty simple.
What are your favorite online resources?
Right now I’m really into the RSS reader, Feedly.com. I’ve started a new project that I’m super excited about (RockstarFinance.com) and it requires me to scan hundreds and hundreds of blogs, so it’s nice to finally have a feed reader that not only does the basics, but looks pretty too. If you’re into minimalism, at least.
Other resources I use a lot is Twitter (where I’ve literally met all my best friends and business partners from), and then also Outright.com to stay on track of my business income/expenses. It’s like Mint.com but for businesses. And saves me a good 15 hours of stress at tax time 🙂
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog (or even more challenging, a blog in the personal finance niche), what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
Honestly, the best thing you can ever do is just START it. I could tell you a thousand and one tips and tricks to consider, but it’ll only slow you down and make you over think everything. I’m so glad I didn’t know jack about blogging because I set things up MY way and what I thought was smart before getting bogged down with all the “right ways” of doing things.
This is one of those cases where naivete helps, in my opinion. It’s much better to build these things out of fun and passion first, than it is to build a business or try to make money off it all – you can worry about that once you’re out the door and realize it’s something you actually want to stick with.
So step one is to literally just go to WordPress.com as soon as you finish reading this and create the blog in 5 minutes (it takes no time these days!). Then after that, start writing! And then write some more, and some more, and then when you’re done with that write a little bit more again.
After a few weeks, then start going to other blogs in your niche and reading and commenting on their stuff to help start marketing your blog. Once you get to that point, and have a good rhythm down, you can THEN ask me about all the tips on improving your site 🙂
Once you’ve gone a month or so the odds you’ll stick to it become much higher, and the beauty of it all is that you’ve done everything the way YOU think it should be done. And you’ve already gotten the hardest part out of the way – starting it! The tweaking part is cake after that.
Okay then – I’ve started my blog on WordPress and have been writing all month long. Tell me your tips!
Touche! Here you go. 😉
1) Start guest posting on similar blogs in your niche. One of the best ways to get the word out that your blog exists, other than dropping comments around, is to “steal” the eyeballs of someone else’s blog for the day. Which is a win for both you and the other blogger involved.
You get a ton of people reading your stuff and then hopefully clicking over to read more of it and/or subscribing (you’re usually allowed a bio where you can promote your site at the end of these types of posts), and the hosting blogger not only gets a day off from writing, but also gives his audience a change of pace too. As long as a) your article is AWESOME! and b) your article is awesome 😉
So reach out to some of your favorite bloggers out there, and pitch them the idea of accepting a guest post of yours. What works for me is that they put my name in the email so I know at least they’ve done *some* research, and then includes 3-4 topic ideas that I can review and hopefully pick to be written out for my site.
It’ll take a bit of tweaking and getting used to the process (as well being okay with getting rejected and/or silence back) but if you can get into a nice rhythm here – say, a guest post a week or month – your blog will grow much faster than most others.
And the beauty of it is that it’s free! (save, for, your time)
2) Find a social media channel you like the most, and make that your priority. People will tell you that Facebook is the best or that Twitter or Pinterest or LinkedIn is, but honestly they can all be the *best* depending on how you use them, and what you want to get out of it all. So rather than trying to make ALL of them the best, just choose the one you enjoy or “get” the most, and stick with that one for your main social media channel.
I like to use Twitter because it’s fun and easy for me, but others get more out of Facebook or Pinterest. You can have a presence on all of them and do the bare minimum so the accounts look active, but just focus on one over all of them starting out at least until you get into a good habit. You don’t want to burn out before you’ve hit success.
3) Network your ass off. Doing #1 above will help with this since it requires you to reach out to others, but really you want to be connecting with as many bloggers – and readers – as possible on your blog. The more people that know about your site, the more chances of it taking off or at least snatching a few extra eyeballs. And just as importantly is making sure these connections are *sincere*.
Yes, your end goal is to grow your blog, but you want to do it in a smart and organic way. Don’t kiss the ass of a blogger you hate just because he’s got a bigger audience of yours; focus on the ones you admire or share similar interests in, and then just ‘hang out’ as you do normally in life.
The online world is just an extension of our physical world, so treat everyone as you would in your normal life and you’ll make a few good friends in the process. 🙂 As I’ve mentioned before, most of my opportunities have come from other people online I’ve met, and eventually you’ll be the one helping them out too!
4) *EXTRA CREDIT* Hire me to help you 🙂 Haha…. j/k (unless you really want to). One of my favorite things that have come out of blogging is the ability to now work with people one-on-one who want help growing their sites faster, so I now do consulting sessions for those who don’t get anything out of the “general” advice like stated above.
We literally walk through their blogs together and go over things to improve, as well as setting short and long-term goals all dependent on what the bloggers want to get out of the whole thing. Some just want to use their sites as launching pads to other awesome goals out there (say, like writing a book or getting more speaking gigs), while others want to make some extra side cash and feel blogging is the step forward for them.
For anyone who wants to learn more, you can check out my mentoring page here: jmoney.biz/mentoring
// End self promotion
Finally, where can people find you online?
This was fun, Eric – thanks! For anyone who wants to stay in touch, or ask me any questions, I can be found on my personal page here: JMoney.biz, or on my own personal favorite social media channel – Twitter (@BudgetsAreSexy).
As I alluded to earlier, I also recently launched a new financial site called Rockstar Finance which aggregates all of my favorite articles on money I find online, and throws them on my homepage similar to that of Pinterest (but for money). It’s my way of pimping out other awesome finance bloggers out there, and better helping people stay motivated and focused on their finances. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Thanks J. Money – what an awesome interview. I love all the tips here, and your success in the personal finance niche is so inspiring!
What did you think of this interview? Have you had success in a difficult niche, where you’ve been able to break through by using a unique voice? Leave a comment below!
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