Today’s interview features Jim Wang from Microblogger. I really enjoyed getting to know Jim, because he’s a true veteran when it comes to blogging.
Jim started a personal finance blog, Bargaineering, in 2005 – back when people barely knew what a “blog” was. He was in a position to be somewhat of an innovator and trailblazer, and that’s exactly what he became. Jim ultimately “proved” his blog’s value by selling it, and receiving a nice 7-figure sum.
More importantly (especially for us today), he’s learned a lot throughout this journey, and is happy to share his lessons with the world. In this interview, he shares some great tips, including how people should go about building an audience when they’re first starting out. Jim even explains why he doesn’t mind that he’s had approximately 4,450 failures with his blog.
Keep reading to learn more…
Jim, you have a really inspiring story of how you went about becoming an internet entrepreneur with Bargaineering.com, and today you document a lot of your tips and tricks at Microblogger. Tell us a little bit about your journey – where did it all begin, and what are you primarily focused on today?
Thank you, I’m glad it’s inspiring because I hope more people try their hand at entrepreneurship and try to find a business they can start on the side so they can pursue the life they want to live.
Bargaineering started as a journal to help me understand the intricacies of personal finance. I wasn’t an expert – far from it – and I wrote from the perspective of a neophyte looking to understand everything. Back in 2005, there were a few personal finance blogs and we quickly all became friends because there were so few. As I continued working, earning more money, learning more about personal finance, the site also grew with it.
In October of that year, I was featured in the New York Times because I shared my net worth on the blog. That was an exciting time because it was the freaking New York Times! My parents loved it too because it validated my fun little hobby that, until then, made only a few dollars a month.
After that shot in the arm, I started working harder, networking more, commenting, getting the word out, and eventually the site started gaining traction. With traction, comes traffic, which came revenue and the rest I suppose is history.
Lately, I’ve been looking to invest in companies where my experience and knowledge can have an impact on its growth. I dabbled a little in angel investing but it wasn’t really my thing, I felt like I was too disconnected. Between that and Microblogger, where I seek to teach people what I did, my days are pretty busy.
What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far?
My greatest business success has to be Bargaineering. I can’t speak to the end result (others have teased that out through various filings so I’ll leave that to you) but at it’s peak it was generating a very high six figure income. The site’s traffic numbers probably peaked at around 700,000 unique visitors in a month. It was a very well oiled machine.
(Note from The Daily Interview: According to the public filings of Bankrate, Inc., the company that acquired Jim’s site Bargaineering, the site was sold for close to $3 million. What an awesome accomplishment for Jim.)
If you don’t mind me asking, why was it that you decided to sell off Bargaineering?
I saw that other personal finance blogs were being acquired, such as Get Rich Slowly and Five Cent Nickel, and I felt like I needed to align myself with a larger company in order to compete with my peers. I also felt like I was reaching my limit, I’d been writing on the site for years. Mix in a little burn out, a look to a larger partner to help me compete, and being able to capture some of the equity I’ve built up – they all contributed to the decision.
Although you’ve encountered some great success, I’m sure there were rough patches along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
There are always failures although I honestly can’t think of anything that was a really big one. I wrote ~4,500 posts on the site itself even though revenue came from probably less than 50. So I have ~4,450 failed posts. 🙂
I learned that failing is perfectly fine. It’s actually good because I can learn from it. If I have to write 4,500 posts to get the to the 50 money making ones and those will change my life together, I better start writing.
What did I learn from thousands of failed posts? People like to comment when you ask them a question, especially if it’s about religion, politics, or taxes. People like to share things that make them happy or surprise them. They also love life hack type of posts, where you show them something dead simple that has a huge impact. They don’t really care for long winded reference types of posts where you talk about a dry subject, if you want to do that, you need to entertain them at the same time.
I also created a framework that helped me write all those posts so I never ran out of ideas, which itself will be an eBook sometime in the future on Microblogger.
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog, what advice would you offer with respect to building an audience? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
Connect with each and every person, especially in the beginning. There will come a time when you can’t, when the numbers get away from you and you’ll only be able to connect with a small subset. So when you’re starting out, reply to everyone, talk to everyone, get to know them. They will form the core of your audience and they will feel safe giving you feedback, which you can use to improve.
Also, go where you think your audience will be but also think outside of the box. In personal finance, I could try to get a guest post on the big personal finance blogs but I should also try to reach people not reading personal finance blogs. How about a travel blog or a cycling blog or a crossfit blog? Try everything.
Competing in the personal finance niche is never easy, given how incredibly intense the competition is. What did you do to stand out, and what should other people do (in general) to stand out with blogs in competitive niches?
You need to have a thing – a differentiator. I started in an era where being a blogger was a differentiator. I was a young professional and that resonated. Ramit Sethi was the California rich life start-up guy. Five Cent Nickel was the family man. JD Roth was in debt. Trent Hamm was the simple living frugal guy.
Look at the ones who stand out today – Pete at Mr. Money Moustache is the frugal living, “screw the consumerism of the world” guy. Ramit has focused on living a rich life, which was always at the core of his message but now became his whole message. Wise Bread is the Kiplinger/Money of personal finance blogs, multiple authors all passionate about their own thing.
Find a differentiator and then find the people who will gravitate towards it.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging or running a business online. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Just start something today, you’ll thank yourself tomorrow. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
Finally, where can people find you online?
I’m @wangarific on Twitter and you can find me at http://microblogger.com.
Thanks for your time today, Jim!
What did you think about this interview? If you were Jim, would you have sold your blog? Leave a comment below!
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