Wow. Three years ago, I quit my band directing job to run M$M. Can you believe it? I can't haha.
Honestly, when I sat down for the very first time to write about personal finance, I would have never thought that I'd be where I am now. I was just a band director trying to inspire a few people to start paying off their student loans like I had.
The memories of writing my first blog post on Medium and showing it to my wife are still super vivid for me. After I finished it, I turned over the laptop to her to let her read it.
I had never written a blog post before. In fact, I freaking hated writing papers in high school and college.
She read it, looked over, and said: “Wow, that was really good.”
And that's when I knew that I maybe had “it” when it came to blogging. I mean it was super raw back then and I didn't know what I was doing at all (arguably still don't but I make it work somehow). Also, when I say that I had “it” – that doesn't mean correct grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. etc. etc.
I just knew that I could use my words to connect with people. Take that for whatever it's worth. And then somehow that led to me making $3 and quitting my job to do this full-time, and here we are.
There are a lot of things that are unbelievable to me, but the fact that I've even made it this long is at the top. I'm going to go through the last 12 months and share what happened with M$M, how I've seen the personal finance blogging game change over the years, and what I'm doing moving forward.
One thing really quick though…
First of all, before I get into this thing where I meander through the last year and try to share all of the inside details with you…I want to say thank you.
Blogs aren't worth a damn thing without readers, and I truly believe I have the best ones in the business.
So many of you have shared your wins with me over the years, and let me be a small part of your lives. That's more than I ever expected anyone would do, let alone thousands and thousands of people.
I really appreciate all the support for these past three years. Even if it's the random “thanks for doing this” or “keep going” emails and messages – they mean a lot and have helped me push through some tough times with this whole project.
It's not lost on me that I wouldn't be successful without the people that have helped me get here (aka you). I'll never lose sight of that, and if I do, then I need to do something else.
Here's how M$M grew in year three:
Honestly, I've been looking forward to writing this post for months now! Year three has always felt like it would be a cool milestone, and now that I'm here…I can indeed confirm that it's true. Three years is a cool milestone.
It's weird because three years isn't really a long time in the grand scheme of life, but it feels like I've been doing this for a decade now or something.
I've just put in so much work. So much time. So much effort.
Fortunately, it's all paying off, but man this has been a journey. Going from band director to a business owner isn't necessarily the smoothest transition, and there isn't really a book on how to become a professional blogger either.
Even if there was a book on it, I wouldn't read it. I'm very stubborn about not following “guru” advice, even if it's from my own peers. I guess in some way I've just wanted to prove that you can be successful in life by being you and ignoring what everyone else tells you that you're supposed to do.
All I've wanted to do is tell my story, help people, and do it the way that I wanted to. So far, I think I've done those three things pretty well. At least…I hope I am. 🙂
Year three of M$M was filled with not much change at all, and then a crapload of change all at once.
In the first half of year three full-time (basically June to November), I was in a little bit of a rut with M$M.
I mean things were going well, don't get me wrong. The site's audience was growing quickly, my email list was growing, and the M$M private group was starting to really churn.
The weird thing was that my revenue really wasn't growing at all. The problem for me has always been that I don't really like pushing products too much unless they are legit, and going out of my way to find new affiliates to partner with or sponsorships to put on the site just doesn't come naturally to me.
I'm also not interested in writing books or speaking, which is what a lot of my peers do once they build up a platform on their blog. I'm sure I could do pretty well with it (my days of teaching band every morning at 7:15 with kids that didn't want to be there made me a pretty entertaining public speaker if I do say so myself).
But…it's just not me. I've always just wanted to work when I wanted to without having to travel a whole lot for business stuff. My author/speaker friends travel constantly! If I'm traveling, there better be a beach at the end of it. 🙂
The thing that gets me excited every day is the M$M audience.
I mean seriously. That's it. During the first half of the year, I was having more fun building personal relationships with my readers than finding the newest and best way to monetize the site. I didn't even really do a whole lot to grow my traffic, other than leaving some really successful FB ads running in the background.
Optimizing for SEO is boring to me, and Pinterest is something that I'd much rather have someone else handle for me. I'm starting to focus more on those things now because I can pay other people to do it for me, but for a while, I didn't even want to bother with it.
So instead, I spent time talking to my readers on every platform I could. THAT is what makes me excited to wake up and do this every day. Community.
When I was paying off my student loans, I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. It was lonely.
So early on in this whole project, I knew that I wanted to create a place where people could just talk about money stuff without being lectured or told that they're weird.
The second half of the year is when everything changed.
At the end of 2017, I had decided that I was going to produce the Make Money Marketing course. The entire time I've been running M$M, I've also been doing marketing work for local businesses. It was the only way I could survive because blogging is basically the slowest business model possible outside of growing and selling Bonsai trees or something.
So during the process of creating that course, I reconnected with an old friend of mine named Mike Yanda, who runs his own FB ad agency.
I had been running ads for a while on this site and for clients, and he had left his lawyer gig a few years ago to build his FB ad business.
One day we just kinda chatted about creating a course on FB ads for my audience, because the reality is that it's a great side gig. It just doesn't require full-time hours unless you have a lot of clients, and the pay is great for the work.
Well obviously, we created the FB Side Hustle Course and it blew up. I released the Make Money Marketing course around the same time too, but after the amount of success that we had with FBSH it didn't really make sense to promote both courses at the same time.
With over 1,000 students so far, I'm so happy with how the course has turned out. We already have M$M readers that are making anywhere from $1,000 extra per month all the way up to $5,000+ per month. It's maybe one of the most gratifying things of my career so far. I'm literally watching people's lives change.
If you're looking for a great side hustle with the potential to turn into a full-time gig, check out the FB Side Hustle Course.
Since then – things have grown so fast that it's been hard to keep up!
I went from solopreneur to having an assistant on the payroll, a business partner, and a bunch of team members for the FB Side Hustle course almost instantly.
Basically, it was like going from zero to 100 in a weekend haha. It's been crazy!
But at the same time, it's been so much freaking fun. Working by yourself can be cool, but for me, it just got a little…blah. Having the team and a business partner to strategize with just gives me a crapload of energy every day. In a weird way, it actually reminds me of teaching band because you're all working together towards the same thing, which is cool as hell.
So anyway, that's kinda where I am right now.
I've found a pretty sweet balance of running M$M, getting new content out, connecting with readers, and also building up Laptop Empires and the FB Side Hustle course.
Oh. I make more money now too. I guess that's pretty important in business.
So…yeah. My income has skyrocketed, and it doesn't look like it's slowing down any time soon.
You know what's weird though? It legitimately doesn't feel any different. I always remember seeing people say that when they had “made it”, but it's just so true.
If you're reading this, there's a strong chance that you've got all of these financial goals that you're wanting to reach. Getting rid of the student loans, the mortgage, being totally debt free, financial freedom, retired early, etc.
I think what you'll find is that those individual goals will feel INCREDIBLE when you reach them. But it's not necessarily the money that makes you feel that way. It's the release after years of grinding and sacrificing to get to where you want to be that makes reaching those goals feel so good.
For example – I felt 100x more excited to pay off my student loans than I did when we brought in $100k in a weekend on the first FB Side Hustle launch.
Basically what I'm saying is this – don't focus so much on the money. The actual numbers in the bank account. Focus on the goal you're trying to reach and how you can become a better version of yourself in the process of reaching it. You'll find so much more happiness that way if you stick to that strategy in life.
Unless I'm just weird and broken or something and looking at bank account balances actually does make you happy. If so, go on with your bad self then and celebrate.
The personal finance blogging game has changed so much since I started!
You know what's crazy? Just three years into this, I feel like I've seen the whole personal finance blogging game change a ton.
When I first started – student loans were a hot topic. I remember seeing a ton of stories from bloggers about their loans being featured all over the place, including mine.
Now it seems like the personal finance community (the bloggers, not the people they write for necessarily) have all moved to early retirement.
A lot of that has to do with news outlets figuring out which headlines and blogger stories get the most clicks. I mean let's be honest – “Paid off a bunch of student loans” doesn't sound as cool as “lives in a van and retired at 35“.
And all of that is fine. I think every story has its validity and every blogger helps people in their own way.
I just wonder if the personal finance blogging community as a whole has jumped the shark and started focusing on an extremely narrow slice of people.
Personally, I've never felt super-connected to the financial blogging community, so it almost feels like I'm watching all of that happen from the outside looking in while I focus on my audience (with the exception of a handful of friends I have in that industry).
I mean honestly…it's just kinda hard for me to relate to early retirement bloggers or people that reached financial independence by 25 or whatever. Even though I'm very much on that path right now and could reach FI and move into a paddle boat or something a year from now, it just seems so foreign to me.
I feel like I can relate so much more to people that are grinding and trying to pay off their student loan debt, because that's where I was when I first started caring about personal finance.
Anyways, time will tell. Student loans stories will probably come back again when we aren't in double-digit market return euphoria anymore. I haven't been doing this long enough to see if it's cyclical, but there's a good chance that it is haha.
What I've got planned for year four and my early predictions on how it's going to work out…
1. I'm going to blow Laptop Empires up (like in a good way)
I didn't mention LE very much in this post because I wanted to focus on M$M, but Laptop Empires is going to crush over the next year.
I love teaching people how to make more money just as much as I like to teach them how to pay off debt with it. That's the truth.
So that's exactly what Mike and I are going to do. The Laptop Empires podcast and site is launching this month, so you'll definitely want to check that out (don't worry I'll tell you when it comes).
2. I'm going to blow M$M up (also in a good way)
Yes – I mentioned that I haven't focused on SEO and Pinterest too much in the past, but that's changing now. I'm going back and optimizing some of the low hanging fruit posts that I've done in the past for the old Google machine, which even just doing a couple looks like it's working.
I've got a good backlink profile (some really solid sites link to mine). I just need to play the game a little more than I have in the past.
We're also going to deep-dive into Pinterest and maybe even experiment with some paid strategies there…we'll see.
Also, I'm ramping up my FB game even more. Just like I've always done, I'll invest a crapload of money back into this thing.
I miiiiiiight even hire an additional writer or two, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to bring other voices to M$M yet or not.
3. My wife is retired now, so I'll need to hang out with her
Coral is officially done with her teacher days. I wrote a whole post about it here if you want the details, but I'm really excited about this.
We plan on doing a LOT of traveling in the coming year, so maybe I'll get better at Instagram. I'll at least have someone else to hold the phone and take pictures.
It's the little things in life.
4. More M$M meetups!
We did our first M$M meetup about a month ago, and it was freaking awesome!
There will be more to come. The Grand Rapids, MI crew is having one in the middle of this month, and then it's on to some other places on the map.
The fact that people are meeting up without me actually being there is surreal, but I'll take it.
That's what community is all about, right?