I had to declare bankruptcy.
I was a real estate flipper in the height of the market. I lived in a 3,200 square foot house on an acre of land. Drove around in a gigantic Hummer. Hit up the casinos on the regular. Ate out every night. In one year I had close to a half million dollars pass through my bank account. I held title to seven investment properties. And while I was creating revenue, I was also leveraged to the max. I was sitting under a mountain of crushing debt. I was fat. I was unhappy. I was unhealthy…both physically and spiritually. And then the economy went to shit.
I would lie awake at night wondering how to keep all the balls in the air. Both of my vehicles were repossessed. All of my houses were in foreclosure, including the one I lived in. The creditors were calling me every day. I was being audited by the IRS. I had let down friends who had partnered with me on deals. I had run out of options.
It was one of those life changing moments. And while it was horrible, I was not going to let it define me.
So I got rid of everything I had. And once the dust settled I started a little blog where I wrote about the one thing that still brought me joy in that dark place I was in. I started from scratch. I had no idea what I would write about every day but I made it a daily practice. It was a hobby that I could really get into. And then twitter happened. And I connected with folks just like me that shared the same interests. And my life began to get brighter. I took what I had learned from my hobby blog and decided that it could be something I could turn into an actual business.
I thought about what was trending at the time. I did a little research using Google and found a niche that had a significant amount of searches performed for it every month and made up my mind that I would build a blog around it. What was it? Cupcakes.
Now mind you I knew nothing about cupcakes. I didn’t bake them and I only occasionally ate them. But through free resources available on the internet I knew that I would get traffic if I wrote about them.
I had just finished up a book by Gary Vaynerchuk called “Crush It”. I was inspired. Gary mentioned that in this newly emerging digital economy, “information DJs” would be able to make money. And I thought, that’s the kind of business I’m going to build. Like a DJ plays other people’s music. I would promote bakers’ cupcakes.
I purchased a URL. Installed WordPress. Grabbed a Twitter handle and a Facebook page and started posting pictures of cupcakes with a link out to the original source. I didn’t write any text. Just an image of the cupcake with a link to whom it was made by. I didn’t ask permission. I just did it. 10 posts a day. I treated it like a business. I was serving the food blogging community. Some may be thinking…but you stole those images. Stay with me here…
I became a sort of Google of cupcakes. See..Google is a curator of content. An information DJ of sorts. When someone comes to Google and asks them a question, they don’t know the answer but they freely admit that. They say..hey…I don’t know…but here are 55 million other people who do. They direct their traffic to other websites. They turn their traffic fire hose towards other sites bringing in floods of traffic to those they promote. It’s a genius business model. Bloggers put pics up on their websites and Google indexes them. When a blogger’s site comes up in a Google search it may display one of their images or a small excerpt from their content with a link to their site. Bloggers don’t get mad at Google for displaying some of their content in an effort to bring them more traffic do they?
This is what I was trying to accomplish. I knew I wasn’t as talented in the kitchen as the bakers that I featured so I decided to become a marketing machine to drive traffic to them. I wanted to serve them. And in serving them, I also ended up serving myself. And I did all this work for free, in the beginning. It wasn’t until I had significant traffic that I placed ads on my site. I had earned the trust of the bakers. I had put the time in. They had seen the effects of my promotion.
So, here’s how I did it. I started the blog. I did 10 posts a day religiously. It only took me an hour per day to get the posts up. I did them sitting in bed from my laptop. I treated it like a business and I saw my traffic start to grow. And the bakers that I served saw their traffic start to grow. And I started getting bakers submitting work to me to feature. And after 24 months I was receiving roughly a half million pageviews per month on the site and generating over $1,000 a month in income. Roughly 30 hours of work per month was bringing in $1,000. That’s $33 an hour.
A wise man that I follow said that you should “Always be selling”. I took that advice and listed my site on Flippa and auctioned it off for $36,200. And then I took a year off. I’ve now started two new blogs and am using the same principles I used to build my cupcake blog. Find a niche that has traction. Serve the bloggers you are promoting by driving them traffic. Sell. Rinse and repeat. The business model is simple really. Most successful business models are. And you can do it too. Just treat your blog like a business and make sure you serve, serve, serve. Serve others and it will come back to you tenfold.
Anyone who tells you that you can’t make money blogging is someone who hasn’t made money blogging.