Although this is another interview with a personal finance blogger, this one is pretty unique. This blogger (Jackie Beck) has created a smartphone app that is literally helping lots of people change their lives for the better.
The app, called Pay Off Debt, has helped tens of thousands of people systematically pay down debt in a way that gives them quick wins and long-term success. The Daily Interview has yet to feature an app creator (before today), so I’m excited to talk about this one a bit.
In this interview, we not only talk about Jackie’s personal finance blogs (yes, more than one), but we go into some detail on how she created her “Pay Off Debt” app without any prior experience in the app creation area. We also talk about her successes, her failures, and how you could be holding yourself back by blogging anonymously.
Let’s get to the interview.
Jackie, I’m a big fan of your blogs Money Crush and The Debt Myth. I think debt is such a big problem in today’s society, and it’s great that people like you create resources to educate and help these people (such as your Pay Off Debt app, which we’ll get to in a moment). Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What’s your background like, how did you get into blogging, and is this a full-time endeavor for you?
Thanks Eric. I started blogging about personal finance back in 2006. My goal at the time was to improve my knowledge of money and to get in the habit of writing daily. As time went on I began to focus on increasing wealth (via MoneyCrush.com) and helping others eliminate debt (via TheDebtMyth.com.)
In many cases, those are two sides of the same coin. Increasing income can help you to reduce debt, and eliminating debt sure makes it a whole lot easier to increase wealth.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far with your blog/online business?
Personally, I consider my greatest success with my online business to be the emails I get from people thanking me for inspiring them to get out of debt. I love being able to be a positive influence on people’s lives, and those emails mean a lot. Monetarily, my greatest success has come from the Pay Off Debt app, which numbers in the tens of thousands of downloads for the Apple version alone.
As far as my blogs themselves go, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of page views or a giant email list, and I’m not internet-famous or even PF-blogger famous. But what many people overlook is that you don’t have to do or be those things in order to be a successful blogger. You just need to be reaching your target audience, and to be taking consistent steps each week in your desired direction.
For example, once I realized I could make money from blogging, I began using that income to help pay off our mortgage. At one point, I was bringing in more advertising money each month blogging part time than I brought home from my full time job. (I’ve since moved away from that revenue model.)
Every successful entrepreneur encounters some kind of failure along the way. What was your biggest failure with your blog/business, and what did you learn from it?
I don’t think it’s true that every entrepreneur encounters some kind of failure along the way. I think every entrepreneur encounters a lot of failure along the way. If you’re not willing to fail, you’re not willing to really succeed. So I try to view failure like Thomas Edison did when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Probably my biggest failure so far with my blog/business is a failure to promote and market it on a regular and frequent basis. It’s not enough to create something — you’ve got to let people know about it too, and then of course be willing to adjust/persist/expand as necessary once you’ve given things a solid try.
Other failures include giving up too soon, not giving up soon enough, launching forums that never took off, hosting giveaways that barely anyone entered, starting too many projects at once, creating blogs on topics that I didn’t really have enough interest in, blaming outside forces for things that were within my control, etc.
You’re actually the first guest we’ve had who has created a smart phone app, so I’d like to dig into that a bit. What’s the Pay Off Debt app all about, and how did you go about creating it? Has it been a worthwhile project for your business so far?
Pay Off Debt helps people set up and use a debt snowball, which is a way to systematically pay down debt that provides quick wins and long-term success. The original version of it was just for iPhone, but versions are now available for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle.
I got the idea for it back when I got my first iPhone. Being a personal finance blogger, naturally I started poking around the available Financial apps and immediately noticed that there weren’t any debt snowball apps. I also saw that people were trying to use a regular credit card app to track their debt, and that they were complaining it wasn’t working. Fresh off paying off my student loan, it seemed to me that there was a need for an app like this. My first thought was “I’ll learn to code!”, but I quickly came to my senses.
If I wanted to get the app out there quickly, I couldn’t get sidetracked by learning to code. So I hired a programmer from Russia to do the coding bit for me. (A friend of mine had used them to code his real estate app, and they’d done a good job.) I decided I would handle the graphics, writing the software spec, the math that makes the snowball run, and detailed testing myself.
My goal was to submit the app without any bugs, but I didn’t worry about it being completely perfect in other respects. My goal was just to get it out there as quickly as possible with what I thought were good features, and then adjust or add additional features based on user feedback. That’s exactly what I did.
The current iPhone/iPad version looks a whole lot different than the original version did, because it’s been updated many times since then as sales increased. It’s definitely been a worthwhile project for my business, and in fact is what led me to begin blogging specifically about debt.
Building an audience for a blog (or multiple blogs) is no small task, and to do it in the personal finance niche is even more impressive. What has been your best strategy (or strategies) for building your audience and getting your traffic to where it’s at today?
I think my best strategy has just been longevity in the space. So many bloggers come and go that if you stick around, you can’t help but grow over time. It’s also helped that I switched from blogging anonymously under a different URL to plastering my name and photo all on my two main blogs. People connect more when you’re willing to put yourself out there as a person.
Traffic-wise, things have changed over time. Originally Google was a huge source of traffic, and my blogs were highly ranked. While I still do get traffic from Google, my main source is now Pinterest. That site has been awesome for bringing new folks to my blog, and spreading the word about specific posts. I have a Kindle book called Pinterest for Bloggers coming out about that soon.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at becoming a successful blogger: If you had to take your best advice or inspirational thought and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
I like this quote by Vincent Van Gogh:
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. [Click here to tweet this]
In a sense, that’s what blogging is — a series of small things that you stick with over time, while striving for continuous improvement.
What are your favorite online resources?
My most-used online resource is socialoomph, which I use to schedule tweets for my twitter accounts. It also handles Facebook and LinkedIn, although I don’t use that part personally.
You didn’t ask this, but my favorite offline resource is FinCon. I think it’s important to connect with other bloggers, both online and in person, and attending Fincon has been awesome for both doing that and for improving my blogs. (Note from The Daily Interview: We recently interviewed the creator of FinCon, Philip Taylor, here!)
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks for your time today, Jackie!
What did you think about this interview with Jackie? Do you have any experience with creating and marketing a smart phone app? Leave a comment below!
(Also, if you enjoyed this interview, like us on Facebook, and stay in touch with every new interview we publish. Thanks! 🙂 )