In most interviews that we’ve featured so far, there has usually been some sort of “grand success” achieved by the guest. Of course, nothing is more inspiring than a great success story.
But sometimes, we need to take a step back and look at those journeys that are still in progress. We often read about struggles in past tense, leading up to the success story, but never get an inside look at a struggle while it’s happening.
Today’s interview is with John Wedding, who has been blogging at the Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005. It’s a great personal finance blog with tons of informative content, so I don’t want to sound like I’m shortchanging the success that he’s had.
But John will be the first to tell you (as he does in this interview), that he hasn’t gotten to where he’d like to be yet – hasn’t had that “a ha!” moment quite yet. With this struggle (and having to balance it with his day job), there are a lot of great lessons that John shares in this interview.
Let’s get to it…
John, I’m a big fan of your blog at the Mighty Bargain Hunter along with all the valuable advice and stories you share about how the world of personal finance affects you. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey – how did you originally get into blogging? Is this something you do full-time now (and if so, what did you used to do)?
I got into blogging after a colleague at work pointed me to money-saving sites like Priceline.com and eBates.com. These kinds of sites opened a world to me that I didn’t know was out there. After doing a bit more searching I ran across TheFrugalShopper.com, and saw some ways that they were actually making some money talking about this stuff. I thought: “Hmmm, I can do something like this.”
Mighty Bargain Hunter actually was hand-coded HTML before it was a blog. This was in 2004. Following a year or so of that, I found out about the wonders of WordPress. It made putting up articles SO much easier, and I got a lot more writing up for the time I spent on the site.
I still have a day job, and the blogging thing keeps me off the streets at night. Though it certainly would be nice to get to the point where I can spend more time at home with my wonderful wife and daughter.
What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far with respect to your blog?
Looking back a bit, I had the great opportunity to rub elbows with A-list bloggers in a (now-disbanded) network. This included the original bloggers on Five Cent Nickel, Bargaineering, Free Money Finance, No Credit Needed, Get Rich Slowly, Wise Bread, The Simple Dollar, Consumerism Commentary, and All Financial Matters.
It was the shepherding of this group that did huge things for my blog and my writing, and I’m very thankful for that chance.
Success never comes easy, usually because you need to overcome some amount of failure along the way. What’s the biggest failure you encountered, and how did you overcome it?
Well, you might say that I’m still in the middle of it. It’s painful to see that you’ve lost ground. Bloggers that I used to blog alongside of have cashed out for seven figures, and are on to their next level.
And looking back, there’s no one to point a finger at except myself. Lack of focus, lack of effort, lack of whatever … calling part of what you’ve done “the good times” isn’t fun when you know exactly how you got there: you.
The content is still there, and it’s still worth something, but now there are a lot more people in the niche.
What I learned is that it doesn’t take long at all to fall behind, so take nothing for granted, and keep looking for better ways to do what you do. Keep the momentum going. Someone is trying to lap you, and believe me, it’s no treat to be lapped.
I can identify a lot with what you’re saying, as I’ve experienced something similar within my internet entrepreneurial career so far. Do you have any specific plans to take your online career to the next level, or is it just a matter of continuing to “grind it out”?
It’s a bit of both.
“Grinding it out,” as you put it, is part of the plan. But just like a sculptor will get an unrecognizable blob if they chip away marble without a plan, my online efforts, if they’re to be recognizable, have to be executed with a plan in mind.
The main issue I’ve struggled with — maybe a lot of people have struggled with — is that I have a lot of ideas, but just lack enough physical hours in the day to follow all of them through. So part of my plan certainly will be taking a hard look at what I have, in whatever state it’s in, and deciding whether to keep it or not.
This way I can make things a bit leaner and meaner. Going back to the sculpting analogy: If it’s clear that a big chunk of marble won’t be part of the finished sculpture, then why not just cut the whole thing off rather than just having it sit there, commanding my attention? That way I can spend the time on the parts that will be.
I’m always intrigued by blogs that succeed in the personal finance niche, because of how competitive it is. What do you attribute your success to? What are some ways that you think people can best stand out in highly competitive niches?
Identify your audience, and write what they want to read.
There’s a reason that most personal “dear diary” blogs don’t have more than a handful of people reading them. These people are writing about themselves, and that’s interesting really only to their friends and relatives.
If people are going to stick around, they have to feel that you’re giving them benefit. Very few of the posts that I put up on Mighty Bargain Hunter stray too much from personal finance, bargains, etc. When I share some personal experiences, they’re usually related to some kind of financial decision or trade-off.
That’s how I try to convey benefit. There’s a lot better chance of that conveying benefit than never-ending pictures of what I had for dinner.
(Oh, and pick a schedule and stick to it. I fared much better doing that than the times I didn’t.)
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog (in any niche), what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
There’s definitely a lot more maintenance than I thought there would be. Spammers and hackers are *relentless*. Dealing with hosting companies at the drop of a hat when things go bad isn’t something I expected.
Also, things likely will grow very slowly at the beginning. It took me about a year and a half to earn my first $100 on Google AdSense. That first check takes the longest. It’s not get rich quick. (But, then again, most things worth doing aren’t easy!)
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?
A savvy savings tip: Consider buying things used, rather than new. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
For questions and answers on a variety of topics, there’s little more that’s as addicting as the Stack Exchange network (stackexchange.com). (I hang around a bunch of them.) The larger ones have a lot of activity and produce great questions and answers. Oh, and badges and reputation points and stuff, too.
At work I use AcronymFinder.com frequently. It has what I need well over 90% of the time.
And for fitness stuff, I use Fitocracy.com. There are a *lot* of supportive people out there.
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks so much John for sharing your story with us today.
What did you think of this interview? Are you currently struggle to make a side business success? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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