Momentum Series Interview: Vital Dollar – Generated Over $1 Million Blogging
This feature marks #10 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week’s Momentum Series Blogger Interview is with Marc from Vital Dollar.
Marc has been earning a full-time living online for over a decade. His blogging efforts have generated over $1 million, including the sale of one website for $500,000 and other sales of $500,000 and $225,000.
He brings with him a wealth of knowledge on blogging, digital marketing and managing your finances. In the interview, Marc shares his online journey, the ins and outs of being a full-time entrepreneur, details around his new project Vital Dollar, personal finance insights and more.
If you want to connect with Marc from Vital Dollar:
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Marc! Let’s get started with Momentum Series Interview: Vital Dollar – Generated Over $1 Million Blogging.
My name is Marc and I live in Pennsylvania with my wife and two kids (5 year old daughter and 2 year old son).
VitalDollar.com is a blog where I publish articles related to saving money and making money. My opinion is that in order to reach the best financial situation possible we need to effectively manage the money that we have, and also find ways to make more money.
I want to be able to help other people in those areas while I work on the same things in my own life.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Bible.
In my 20’s I worked several different jobs trying to find something that would give me the potential for growth that I wanted. In my last job I was an auditor (I did that for 3-4 years).
While I was at that job I started my own business designing websites for small businesses. Originally I was hoping to make some extra money, but I wound up enjoying it and taking it pretty seriously. After a year and a half of consistent effort I quit my full-time job took the leap to self employment.
That was in 2008, and I’ve been working for myself since then.
I wound up not doing a lot of client work because my own blog was growing quickly and I liked working on my own site more than working on client websites.
Over the past 10 years I’ve had a number of different websites in a variety of niches like web/graphic design, photography, and travel. I’ve sold several sites, and also an Amazon FBA business that my wife and I ran for about 2 years.
You’ve been working full-time online since 2008, how did you initially get interested in this field of work?
Mostly it was out of frustration with the jobs that I had. If I had ever found a job that I liked, that gave me the chance to grow and progress I probably would have never started my own business. I really didn’t ever see myself being self employed or owning a business when I was growing up.
After college when I got out into the corporate world it was pretty disappointing to learn how things really work. All through school and college I guess I thought I would work hard, find a good job, and everything would be great. I had a few different jobs in my 20’s and none of them really gave me much of a chance to go anywhere. I don’t like sitting still, so I started working on my own business in my spare time. I worked consistently every evening and on the weekends for about a year and a half until my income got to the point where I could safely quit my job.
One of the things that really attracted me to internet marketing is that I had all kinds of possibilities. I could start a website or blog on a topic that I like, and work was a lot more enjoyable. I also liked the challenge and got really motivated when I started to see results.
You’ve sold a number of websites since entering the online business world, can you highlight what those websites were and perhaps some of those dollar values?
Sure. In 2013 I sold a design blog for $500,000. In 2016 I sold a few photography blogs together for $500,000. In 2017 my wife and I sold an Amazon FBA business for $225,000.
I’ve also had some other smaller sales along the way as well. (Unfortunately, I can’t name the sites because of confidentiality agreements.)
If you were giving advice to others reading this who might one day considering selling their own blog or website, what would the most critical pieces of advice be to set themselves up for success?
There’s a lot of things to consider when you want to sell a website or blog, but here are a few key points. First, plan ahead. Try to plan 6 months to a year in advance so you can work to maximize the profit of the site. Try to add new revenue streams and look to cut any unnecessary expenses.
The amount that a buyer is willing to pay will be based mostly on your profit over the past 6-12 months, so take some time and try to ramp that up as much as possible. Most websites are not completely maxed out in terms of profit. Typically you could find sponsors for content, sell a few ads, start using more affiliate links, or even create your own products to sell.
Next, I’d recommend talking to a broker when you’re ready to try to sell your site. Even if you don’t wind up listing it with a broker it will be helpful to know what value they would give to your site.
Talk to Empire Flippers, FE International, or another broker. They won’t charge for a consultation/valuation, and you’ll get a professional’s opinion on what you site is really worth. Then you can either decide if you want to list it with the broker or try to find a buyer on your own. If you don’t have some potential buyers in your personal network you’ll probably be better off listing it with a broker.
I have an article at VitalDollar How to Know When to Sell Your Website or Blog that might be helpful.
You’ve written and spoken about having a long-term outlook in terms of planning and strategy, can you elaborate on that mindset and the potential impact it can have?
Building a successful online business takes time and some patience. Over the past 10 years I’ve seen so many people who started out with great intentions, but when things didn’t grow as fast as they expected they gave up. Most people wouldn’t start a traditional brick and mortar business and expect to be profitable from the first month, but when it comes to online business most people expect things to happen faster.
When I look back at the people in my network over the years to see what separated the successful people from those who gave up, and the biggest thing is a long-term focus. Most of the successful people I know where not successful overnight, but they could see the long-term benefit in sticking with it, and eventually it paid off.
With online business, once things start to grow, they usually grow pretty quickly. The hardest part is the beginning when you’re putting in a lot of work and not seeing visible results. If you can keep at it and push through you’ll probably have success.
So I think it’s important to have realistic expectations about the amount of work and the patience that may be needed.
Have you noticed any major changes or influential shifts in the online business industry since going full-time in 2008?
Definitely. Things change pretty fast. Some of the changes are pretty significant and others are more subtle. A few things that stand out to me are below.
When I was getting started no bloggers had email lists. Everyone talked about how RSS feeds were so much better than email because you don’t have to deal with spam filters or people not opening your emails. I remember when I first started seeing bloggers add an email list and it seemed kind of weird and redundant since they were still offering an RSS feed that people could subscribe to. Just a year or two later every blogger was trying to build an email list.
SEO has definitely changed a lot over the years. When I started people were selling links with no regard. Google was just starting to penalize people who were selling links without nofollow tags. And of course, there have been a ton of major Google algorithm updates over the years that have changed the way people build and promote websites.
Social media has completely changed. In 2008 sites like Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon were the top social media sites for bloggers who wanted traffic. StumbleUpon is still around, but doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to be. Bloggers weren’t really marketing on Facebook yet, and Twitter was just gaining popularity. I don’t think Pinterest existed yet. Reddit is one of the few sites that has survived and continued to be popular.
There have been a lot of legal changes over the years. Things like affiliate disclosures, sponsored content disclosures, and privacy policies weren’t a concern back then. Sales tax laws have come a long way as well (especially relevant if you sell on Amazon). And a very recent example is GDPR.
What are some of the biggest and most common mistakes you see new online businesses and entrepreneurs making?
We already talked about the lack of a long-term focus, but I would definitely include that here as well. Also, I think just a lack of planning is pretty common. It’s pretty easy to start a website or blog, so I think the tendency is to jump into it quickly. Most people don’t take the time to plan out their business, how they are going to make money, and how they can grow the business.
Another big thing is shiny object syndrome and jumping from one thing to the next. This is something I struggle with myself and I have to try to force myself to stay focused. There are so many distractions and so many different possibilities, but you really need to pick something and try to ignore the noise and distractions. If you’re jumping from one thing to the next you’re pretty unlikely to have much success.
Are there any specific resources that have helped you best navigate your online business ventures?
I don’t read many books, so I’d say that none have really influenced me in my business.
The blogs that I follow have changed a lot over the years. When I was first getting started I read a ton of articles at sites like ProBlogger that gave basic blogging and traffic tips, but I haven’t really paid attention to those sites in several years.
Now I try to look at what other bloggers are doing and see how I can apply the same principles in my own business. For example, I get on a lot of email lists to see how they promote their own products and services, how often they email their list, the types of subject lines they use, and just the style and tone of their emails.
When I was working on the Amazon business I listened to a lot of podcasts, especially The Amazing Seller and SellerCast. Recently I’ve been listening to Do You Even Blog. I also started listening to a few financial podcasts like Money Peach.
Other Services or Products
Email has been big for me. I use ConvertKit for the VitalDollar email list. I’ve also used AWeber and GetResponse (and MailChimp to a lesser extent) over the years.
You’ve recently launched Vital Dollar, what was your motivation behind starting this most recent project?
I’d been wanting to start a finance blog for several years, but other projects just always took priority. I didn’t want to start it and then just let it die because I didn’t have the time for it.
I’ve always had an interest in things like saving money, investing, and planning for retirement. I’m not a financial professional, but I’ve learned a lot over the years and I feel like I have some things to share with others who are in the same spot I was in 10 years ago.
Also, I also get a lot of questions from people I know who want to start their own online business. Most people who are just getting started don’t know where to turn for advice. So I wanted to put together some articles, and eventually courses, that can help people who want to make some money online, whether it’s something they want to do full time or simply to make some extra money.
What is the mission and central purpose of Vital Dollar for its readers?
The central purpose is to help people who want to improve their financial situation. There’s already some content that will help people to budget and find practical ways to save money. I’ll be adding a lot more of that as well.
There’s also some content that will help people find ways to make extra money, and I’ll be adding more content in the future focused on creating a profitable blog or online business.
What are your goals with Vital Dollar over the next 6 months? 1 year? 3 years?
For next six months it really depends on what happens with some of my other projects. Right now I’m considering selling one my websites that takes a good bit of my time to manage, so if I wind up selling that I’ll have more time to devote to Vital Dollar.
For now, my goal is to turn Vital Dollar into a full time income (enough to support my family) in 2 years from when it was launched, which would be January of 2020. In order to do that I need to create content that will truly help the people that read it, and get that content in front of the right people.
What are the specific strategies you’re implementing to achieve success with Vital Dollar?
I had a list of about 20 articles that I wanted to get written and published on the site before doing much to promote it, and I finally have that content live and on the site. Over the next few months I plan to put more emphasis on growing traffic.
My plans at this point are to focus on guest posts and social media promotion. So far the only thing I’ve done to promote the site is actively use Pinterest.
If you could recommend 3 Vital Dollar blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
How has being involved in the personal finance community helped you with your own financial situation and mindset?
I’ve always had an interest in managing my money effectively, which is why I decided to start Vital Dollar. One of the things I really like about the site is that working on it forces me to take a critical look at my own habits, and I also wind up coming across a lot of awesome resources when I’m researching.
For example, when I wrote a post on mobile apps for making and saving money I came across many apps that were new to me. I started using several of them and I’ve saved a good bit of money as a result. Basically, running the site forces me to think a lot about my own money habits and allows me to learn a lot while I’m working.
Is there an area(s) of your own personal finances you’re looking to improve and better master?
Investing. I have a good understanding of investing basics, but I’ve never had the time to really dive in to some of the things that have always interested me. One example would be real estate crowdfunding.
What is the plan for your life and finances over the next 5 years? How does that change if you look 10 years ahead?
At this point my plan is to keep doing what I have been doing, which is focusing on running my own websites. The specific websites I’m working on change from time to time, but in general I’m always doing the same thing, trying to create a valuable asset.
My hope is that 5 and 10 years from now I’m still working for myself, and still living in the same place. But that can all change at any time. One of the downsides to selling websites and online business is that you basically have to start over. It’s definitely possible that at some point I’ll need to get a “real” job.
My goal is to be able to retire by the time my kids graduate high school, which gives me about 16 years. I don’t actually want to stop working, but I want to have the flexibility to work on my own terms.
Any final recommendations or pieces of advice?
My biggest recommendation is to take ownership of your own financial situation. Look for ways to save money and manage what you have. And if you’re looking to make more money, take action and find an opportunity that interests you.
Any special shoutouts?
Just a shout out to you Scott to say thanks for the opportunity.