How I Started A $30K/Month Blog About Saving And Making More Money

$30K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
The Ways To Wealt...
from Geneva
started August 2016
$30,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
143K
alexa rank
1.4K
followers
422
followers
9
subs
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello there. My name is R.J. Weiss. In 2016, I created a blog called The Ways To Wealth. Our product is our content on the site, where we teach hundreds of thousands of visitors each month how to save and make more money.

The business earns over $30,000 in monthly revenue from a mix of affiliate and advertising revenue, with the caveat that I drive paid traffic to the site, so my margins tend to run rigger than other publishers.

how-i-started-a-30k-month-blog-about-saving-and-making-more-money

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I had no formal business plan, or even big aspirations when I launched the site. My original idea was for the blog to be a small niche site where I posted investing reading lists (this was my homepage).

how-i-started-a-30k-month-blog-about-saving-and-making-more-money

My view was that if I made more than a thousand dollars a month, I would consider the project a success. For the first six months of the site, that was my focus.

Around the six-month mark — and through reading income reports from other financial bloggers like Michelle Schroeder-Gardner — the lightbulb went off and I saw the bigger potential in affiliate marketing, beyond earning a few bucks here and there from Amazon links.

Around this same time, the small financial services company I had worked at for 10 years announced it was going to be selling within the year. And I knew I didn't want to work for the company that was acquiring the firm (a bigger, publicly-traded company with a long commute).

So, for the next eight months, I doubled-down on the site to get to a point where it could support my family of four.

With the site being so young, it wasn't generating a lot of Google traffic at the time. What got the site to a point where I could at least pay my bills was Pinterest. There were months where Pinterest brought in over 200,000 unique visitors.

Since those early days, I've focused on balancing out my traffic sources, which now includes organic search and paid ads. Unfortunately, my days of viral Pinterest traffic are long gone, as the Pinterest algorithm has changed quite a bit.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

The content we produce, which is primarily long-form blog posts, is our only product. For the first 18 months of the site, I was the sole writer and editor for The Ways To Wealth. I would get up at 5:00 in the morning and write as much as I could before my kids woke up.

For the next year, I worked with a ghostwriter to produce new content, while I handled all of the editing and uploading. This increased the quality of the content a lot and allowed me to focus on the marketing side of the business.

Today, the site has a professional editor, as well as a team of writers (including myself) that produce content.

Ironically, I’m still on a similar publishing schedule as I was in the early days, publishing 2-3 pieces of new content per week. The big difference is the number of resources I now put into a new piece.

At first, I could go from start to finish on a post in about 2-3 hours. Today, our team puts in a combined 15-20 of work per piece.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I wouldn't classify picking a domain name, setting up WordPress, and subsequently publishing a dozen posts read by very few people as a “launch.”

Often, it's only after you start a business that you learn what opportunities exist inside an industry. So, getting this hands-on experience as quickly and cheaply as possible is what really matters today.

But that's how things started for The Ways To Wealth. Yet, what was happening at that stage was me figuring out what worked in 2016.

I had experience in digital marketing, but it had been a while since I worked on a site from scratch. The only way I could do that was by getting hands-on experience.

I read every income report and case study I could get my hands on. Most importantly, I learned by actually doing. If it worked, I did more of it. And if it didn't, I tried something else.

That's been a core part of my strategy since the beginning: testing a lot of new things, discarding what doesn't work, and going all-in on what does.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our three main traffic sources of organic SEO, Facebook, and Pinterest have been our top three since 2017. Although, there are ebbs and flows with each.

The site was hit hard by a Google update in November of 2019, losing 40% of its organic traffic overnight. It was unfortunate, but long-term, it's been a benefit to our readers. We've worked hard to improve the site from where it was then.

Long-term, I'd like to add a fourth pillar of traffic to the site. I was on Pat Flynn’s podcast recently, and we discussed taking Fridays to experiment. Since then, that's what I've been doing (mostly focusing on email marketing).

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As for many businesses, 2020 has been a wild year. Revenue will be up over 2019. Yet, a lot has changed about how we earn that revenue.

In 2019, we earned around 80% of our revenue from affiliate partnerships and 20% from ads. In 2020, the breakdown is closer to 60% from affiliates and 40% from ads.

Our top earning affiliate partnerships have also changed. The reason being was once COVID hit, a lot of partners terminated, suspended, or reduced their commissions.

What's helped stabilize the site has been that it doesn't rely on one traffic source. The site’s three main traffic sources are Google, Pinterest organic, and paid Facebook Ads.

This helps stabilize the business. So too does the fact that we don't rely on one source of revenue.

As an example, when RPMs decrease, as they did in Q2 of 2020, we're able to drive more paid traffic to the site. When RPMs increase, we're still able to take advantage even though we're not driving traffic, because both Google and Pinterest are still working for us. So, it tends to balance itself out a bit.

Looking forward to 2021, I'm aiming to both grow the existing sources of traffic, as well as pay more attention to building out our email funnels and a YouTube channel.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Running a business now for nearly five years, I've made my share of mistakes. But then again, most blogs don't make it to this stage — so there were some good decisions, too.

Both the best and worst (i.e., most expensive) decisions I've made are with people. And after some reflection, I've found the common denominator is working with people who care.

Specifically, people who care about our readers and making their lives better.

Whether it was hiring an agency or working with a freelancer, I've found those who care most about producing quality content that's going to make a meaningful difference in someone's life are not only the highest-quality people to work with but also the ones who make running the business much more fun.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Trello to manage our content and different projects. And I really like seeing everything that’s on my plate on a single screen.

I'm a long-time AHREFs subscriber. Not a day goes by that I'm not using the tool for keyword research or competitor analysis.

I've hired a lot of good people from Upwork. Problogger is another great job board with quality writers.

We write everything in Google Docs, which allows for easy sharing, editing, and discussion.

We recently switched from Thrive Leads to OptInMonster for email capture, which I've liked so far. OptInMonster seems to speed up the site quite a bit.

I do my writing in the Hemingway app. The desktop version allows you to see readability scores, word count, uses of passive voice, and hard-to-read sentences while you're writing.

I do a lot of link outreach through HARO. This is where I’ve been able to get featured on sites like the New York Times, The Points Guy, Bankrate, and more.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I got the inspiration to start a site by listening to Pat Flynn, and his work has continued to be an inspiration.

I've been a long-time listener to The Authority Hacker podcast, which helps keep me up to date on the affiliate site industry. SEO For the Rest of Us is a newer podcast I've started to listen to, but it's top-notch when it comes to the information.

When it comes to books, going way back, The Four Hour Work Week got me down the path of entrepreneurship. After I read that book, I always had at least one side hustle I would be working on.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Just start. It's cliche, but I've always found it’s a good mantra. In my case, I'm glad I didn't sit on the sidelines waiting for that perfect idea. Instead, I started and let my original idea evolve as I saw what worked.

Often, it's only after you start a business that you learn what opportunities exist inside an industry. So, getting this hands-on experience as quickly and cheaply as possible is what really matters today.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m always looking for freelance writers who care about helping people financially. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
R.J. Weiss,   Founder of The Ways To Wealth LLC
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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