How I Started A $25K/Month Job Search Advice Website

$24.6K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
Career Sidekick
from St. Petersburg, Florida
started June 2013
$24,600
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
24.8K
alexa rank
9.88K
followers
7
subs
market size
$250B
avg revenue (monthly)
$24.6K
starting costs
$15.8K
gross margin
90%
time to build
7 months
growth channels
Organic social media
business model
Advertising
best tools
Teachable, Screaming Frog, Ahrefs
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
Discover what tools Biron reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Biron reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Career Consulting Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Biron Clark and I’m the founder of Career Sidekick. We’re a job search advice website that’s read by millions of people per year, and we’re a multiple six-figure per year business.

To earn money, we started by selling digital products: two job interview preparation e-books and a job search video course. However, in the past few years, we’ve started earning more revenue from display advertising and affiliate marketing.

So, we’ve become more of a publishing company rather than a product-focused business.

The website has gone through many iterations and we’ve tried many monetization models, growth tactics, and more. I’m excited to share what’s worked coming up.

The website earns approximately $25,000 per month and I’m the only full-time employee.

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

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

I always wanted to earn a full-time income online, but for years, I struggled to figure out how. I had studied the basics of SEO and digital marketing online and tried building websites on everything from home decor to brain vitamins. None of them succeeded long-term.

A few years later, I was in my mid 20’s and working as a professional recruiter, earning around $40,000 per year in Boston.

I think choosing a narrow niche is extremely powerful. You can always expand later. But if you try to be known for everything, you’ll be known for nothing.

Friends kept asking me the same questions about their job search and career, so I thought: why not start a blog and answer these questions publicly?

I didn’t know this would be the one website idea that would work for me, but it seemed reasonable to try. I think part of success is just trying a lot of things and refusing to quit.

I also think that my expertise as a recruiter helped me gain credibility and trust in this vertical. That may be why my past websites had failed. I had nothing unique to offer in terms of perspective. I was just repeating generic info that was available on every other website.

However, with this project, I could share unique stories, including what hiring managers talk about “behind the scenes.” I could reveal information that job seekers don’t typically get to see and help job hunters by doing this.

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

I launched the blog without a product at first. It takes most blogs a long time to grow enough to earn six figures, and that was my goal. So I focused on publishing content and growing a following instead of monetizing in the first year.

To earn money, I continued working as a recruiter, and eventually quit to pursue freelance digital marketing. Freelancing was a great short-term choice, even though it wasn’t my long-term dream.

It allowed me to pay my bills while improving my skills. I was essentially being paid to learn. It was also a bit of a symbiotic relationship between my freelance work and Career Sidekick. I gained credibility when pitching clients by talking about how I run my own website, too. And I gained ideas and tactics for my website through my client work (my clients were always in other industries, so no conflict of interest).

The first product I launched on CareerSidekick was a short job interview guide called The Job Interview Cheat Sheet. I waited until I was getting hundreds of visitors per day before creating this.

Most of my existing content was centered around job interviews at the time, so I knew I had an audience interested in this topic.

I could already see which of my job interview articles were most popular and I had a lot of questions saved from readers via email, blog comments, etc. So I knew which questions and topics to tackle in the book.

My initial goal was to write the e-book in seven days. It ended up taking 14 days. It was relatively short, at under 30 pages.

I did some market research and did my best to validate the idea beforehand (for example, I verified that other websites were selling similar e-books before creating mine, which suggests there’s a general appetite for this product in the market). However, the best protection I had was that it simply didn’t take very long to create. If the e-book failed, I had just invested two weeks and almost no money (I created the entire guide myself in Canva).

Here’s an image of the book cover, designed in Canva:

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

It’s now 35 pages and has gone through numerous revisions, but is still one of my top-selling products and is the cheapest product I offer at just USD 7.00.

We see other people’s success stories in the media and it always seems like an overnight success, but there were typically years of struggle behind that.

I think it’s a good idea for many businesses to offer something extremely cheap that can be an impulse buy. This book doesn’t make me a lot of money, but it gets people familiar with what I teach and gives them a chance to see if they like my products.

From there, I can offer more expensive products like my video course, or upsells immediately after the purchase.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I launched the website in under two weeks because I knew almost everything could be improved and iterated upon later. I didn’t want to over-analyze small details and thought I’d have a clearer picture of what to improve after I get user feedback, too.

I did spend a full week looking for a domain name, though. That’s the one piece that would be difficult to change later. I settled on CareerSidekick.com. I used Lean Domain Search to find it, which is still my favorite free tool for finding available domains.

I wanted to build an authority website that could expand into various topics over time, so I needed a broad, brandable domain (whereas I didn’t want a domain like interview-answers.com, which would be too limiting).

After registering my domain for approximately $10, I found shared web hosting, set up WordPress, installed a free theme, and got to work. Total costs were under $250.

Here’s a screenshot of the blog in the very early stages:

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

You can see from the article dates (2013 and 2014) that the site is relatively old. I bought the domain in 2012.

The site didn’t gain any traction for the first few years and remained a side project while I worked as a recruiter and then freelance marketer.

I made plenty of mistakes that led to the site failing initially. One was starting too broad in terms of topic. You can see the wide range of topics in the screenshot above, from job searching to career planning to salary.

I tried to tackle so many different topics that I wasn’t recognized or noticed for any.

It wasn’t until I niched down into just job searching that I gained some traction in Google search, social media, and more. In fact, I spent a couple of months writing only about job interviews, which is an even narrower niche.

I think choosing a narrow niche is extremely powerful. You can always expand later. But if you try to be known for everything, you’ll be known for nothing.

And while you have a smaller potential audience in a narrow niche, you’re a much clearer choice for that audience. So they choose you more often. Once you expand, you’ll have a fanbase who will follow you into new topics as well (assuming they’re somewhat related).

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

We’ve done well in organic search (mainly Google). While I began by blogging about topics on my mind, I realized that the best way to gain search traffic is to address the exact questions my audience is already searching for.

I still see so many blogs writing seemingly random articles with headlines that nobody’s searching for. The first step to take if you want to grow your blog/website traffic is to start titling posts with exactly what people search for and writing about that.

I use Ahrefs for keyword research. Google also shows you a lot of related/similar ideas after you type in a search.

As an example, I searched “Best Laptops for Business” and Google provided these additional ideas below the search results:

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

Google autocomplete is also useful. Type the beginning of a search into the search bar and then see what suggestions are offered before you hit “enter.”

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

In terms of on-page content strategy, I only publish long-form content and only “evergreen” content that will remain relevant for years.

I won’t publish anything under 1,000 words these days. There’s some debate about content length for SEO, but this has worked well so far.

Next, I break my posts down into many smaller topics via sub-headers, so each post is answering many questions if possible.

For example, if the main topic for a post is, “How to prepare for a job interview,” then sub-topics might include:

  • What to bring to your interview
  • How early to arrive
  • What questions to ask the employer
  • How to research the company before your interview
  • Interview mistakes to avoid
  • A checklist to ensure you’re ready
  • Follow-up steps

Inviting multiple experts to contribute to an article (known commonly as an expert roundup) has worked well for traffic growth, too. These experts typically share the piece once it’s published and sometimes link to it.

Plus, inviting experts to contribute will help you build relationships in your industry so you can get featured/mentioned on their websites, too, or any publications they write for.

Career Sidekick now receives tens of thousands of organic visitors per day through the content strategies above. See below for Google Analytics from 2016 to the present:

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

I’ve also done well marketing the site on LinkedIn, growing to 200,000+ followers and being named a LinkedIn Top Voice in 2019.

I wrote about my LinkedIn strategy in-depth for Social Media Examiner, but to summarize, these are the types of posts that I’ve found perform well:

  1. Posts telling a story or sharing a transformation.
  2. Posts that ask a question and facilitate an unbiased debate (for example, “Do you think job seekers should send a cover letter even if the employer doesn’t ask for it? Why or why not?”).
  3. Posts that dispel a common myth in your industry, ideally saving people time, money, or frustration/hassle.
  4. Positive encouragement/”feel good” posts (it’s possible that this only works well in my niche, but job searching is frustrating and sometimes my audience just needs some encouragement).

I don’t think that every business needs to be on every social channel. Just decide (or test) which few are best for your niche and focus there. Go where your audience spends time online.

For me, this is LinkedIn and Twitter. I still don’t have an Instagram account for my business and probably never will. I just don’t think a lot of people are going onto Instagram for job search tips.

Next, answering questions on Quora has been another good way to drive traffic to my site consistently. It’s quite “evergreen,” meaning answers I wrote years ago still get read.

I haven’t written a single answer on Quora in over a year, yet you can still see consistent views over the past three months:

how-i-started-a-25k-month-job-search-advice-website

I also have an email newsletter that helps bring readers and customers back. I use it to highlight everything that we have to offer (both free and paid content), as well as announce new content.

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

We’re currently a multiple six-figure per year business and have been profitable for the past four years.

In 2019, we grew 344%. In 2020, we grew 62% (the pandemic did not help). I want to get back to 100%+ growth this year.

Digital products have become a relatively small part of our total revenue, and we earn more from advertising and affiliate marketing now.

Plans and “big” ideas for this year:

I’m looking at potentially expanding into the personal finance niche this year, which is a highly lucrative blogging niche. I’m also looking at strategic website acquisitions and/or building a software tool/product for Career Sidekick. Those are the three “big ideas” I’m looking at right now.

Personal goals and growth:

In terms of my own time/focus, I’m planning on hiring more help so that I can work on the business, not in the business. This is something I should have done a long time ago.

I currently have an editor/proofreader and two writers but would like to expand further soon. I don’t want to be the bottleneck in the business.

My ultimate goal in the next 18 months is to double revenue. I don’t necessarily expect to double profits, though, because I’ll be hiring more and doing less myself. I think that’s a good thing for long-term growth, though.

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

Be patient and focus on the process, not just the results. Most businesses take time to grow so it’s important to be consistent and enjoy the steps along the way.

We see other people’s success stories in the media and it always seems like an overnight success, but there were typically years of struggle behind that.

99% of the people who see my successful website now will never know that I built many websites before this and they all failed.

I’ve also learned to get comfortable saying “no” to some opportunities. When you’ve got a business, people come to you with all sorts of offers, ideas, and partnerships. Not all of them are good.

Every business owner or marketer will tell you that they’re bringing you the best opportunity ever, but sometimes it’s not a good opportunity, it’s a distraction, and you should say “no.”

If your business is already growing at a fast rate, sometimes the best course of action is to just double down on what’s working and ignore all the distractions that are disguised as opportunities.

I also learned that relationships are powerful, including within your niche/industry. Look to collaborate with competitors. They’re not the enemy. You can work together and mutually benefit. In most markets, there’s plenty of room for more than one player to succeed!

Networking has gotten me featured in large websites like Forbes, for example.

Also, look for relationships and ideas outside of your own industry. You can sometimes borrow ideas/tactics from other verticals that haven’t yet been used in your niche. I like to go to more competitive, lucrative markets (like personal finance) and see what the top bloggers there are doing, and then bring those ideas back to my blog.

This tactic is how I grew to 200,000+ followers on LinkedIn. I simply took what the top marketers were doing on more competitive platforms like Facebook, and then moved those ideas over to LinkedIn, where my audience was.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

WordPress for building a website that can scale. From what I’ve seen, platforms like Wix and Squarespace don’t handle a high number of visitors nearly as well. So, if you plan on having a popular site, start with the end in mind and use WordPress. There’s a reason that WordPress’ market share is 40% of all websites. That said, if you’re primarily in e-commerce, I’d use Shopify.

ActiveCampaign is the best email marketing tool I’ve used. Good support, very advanced/robust tools, without being too difficult to learn or too expensive.

Buffer for social media posting/scheduling. I’ve found it to be relatively simple and minimalist, which is what I always prefer.

Evernote for keeping information, lists, and notes that I don’t need to edit or check too often.

Google Docs/Sheets for notes and lists that I edit more frequently.

SendOwl for selling and delivering digital products. They integrate with my two payment processors — Stripe and PayPal — and offer some features that I love, like the ability to create product bundles, offer one-click upsells, and more.

Ahrefs for SEO research.

Canva for DIY graphic design.

Upwork for hiring freelancers. It’s not perfect, but I’ve found it to have the best talent for most of the projects I’ve tried to hire for (with a few gaps/exceptions).

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

Books that inspired/helped me:

  • 4-Hour Work Week. This book inspired me and opened my mind to what’s possible in terms of earning an income online, disconnecting your time from income, etc. It all started here. Plus it helped fuel my sense of adventure, my desire to travel while building my business, and more (I’m a nomad, and have been for the past six years).
  • The Millionaire Fastlane. This book further reinforced how (and why) to separate your time from income. It helped me recognize that I needed to stop selling my time if I wanted to build wealth quickly, and it showed me the alternatives.
  • The Power of Habit. A powerful book revealing how habits form and behave in our brain, and how to replace the habits you don’t want.
  • Scientific Advertising
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter
  • The Irresistible Offer

The last three books are only recommended if you want to learn marketing/copywriting, but I think that’s a powerful skill for any founder to have. Even if you’re more of a technologist or software developer, if you “stack” a bit of marketing knowledge on top of what you already know, you’ll have a really unique skillset and possibly an advantage over other business leaders.

Favorite blogs:

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

A lot of entrepreneurs think they need to invent something new. You don’t. Very few entrepreneurs are inventors.

Instead, look for what’s already working and then find ways to improve it. You don’t have to start from scratch.

Here’s an example of taking an existing idea and just making it better:

I remember a long time ago, I read a case study about a man who found a top-selling product on Amazon — wooden cooking skewers — and then read the reviews and discovered that everyone was saying they’re a bit too short.

So he took the same idea, made them 16 inches long instead of 12 inches, and created a top-selling product.

My point is, you don’t need to create something brand new to carve out a niche for yourself in the market and succeed. In fact, seeing some competition is a good thing, because it means people are willing to pay for your product/service idea.

One other tip that’s crucial yet counterintuitive:

Start with a narrow niche. Gain a foothold in one specific thing before trying to do more. Even Amazon began by just selling books.

I didn’t start gaining traction with Career Sidekick until I niched down into just job searching (as opposed to general career advice). You can always expand later.

And finally, just start! It’ll never be the perfect time or situation to begin your business. You’ll never feel 100% comfortable. Just begin. Nobody was great at their profession on the first day, but they started, and that’s what leads to everything else. The biggest mistake you can make is to doubt yourself and not begin. That’s the only guaranteed way to fail.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes, writers. If you’re a native English speaker who writes in a conversational tone and who has some basic knowledge of job hunting, careers, business, etc., then I’d love to talk. You’d be writing articles but also learning a bit about SEO and using some of the latest tools like SurferSEO.

Where can we go to learn more?

-  
Biron Clark,   Founder of Career Sidekick
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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