How This Police Lieutenant Started A $3.5K/Month Side Business Blogging About Financial Education
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ryan Luke and I am a Police Lieutenant for a large agency in Arizona. I started an online education business called Arrest Your Debt which is geared to help first responders get out of debt and start building wealth on any income.
I offer personal finance advice to help people take control of their debt and to stop living paycheck to paycheck. I’m launching an online course in the next month or so to further help people who need more personalized support and guidance.
I started to Arrest Your Debt two and a half years ago and have slowly built it up to bring in about $3,500 a month and growing. I also travel to other police departments to offer in-person financial wellness training for first responders.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Flashback to the year 2009 – I was newly married with a brand new baby. We lived in a small condo I purchased in 2004 on an interest-only loan with a five-year Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). After having our first child, my interest-only loan was restructured due to my five-year contract running out.
After the mandatory restructures, my payment skyrocketed and I was unable to make my mortgage payment.
Newly married with a brand new baby and I was unable to provide for my family. That was rock bottom for me.
Embarrassed, confused, and angry, my wife and I decided to change our course. We found I was the main culprit in our terrible financial situation because I was also spending about $1,000 a month eating out at restaurants.
We each had car payments totaling about $1,000 as well and lived paycheck to paycheck.
I nearly forgot to mention, I put my wife’s engagement and wedding ring on a credit card that we were still paying off. You read that right – my wife was helping pay off her own engagement ring.
Fast forward 10 years and we now have paid our new home off and have no debt to our name. We are essentially financially free!
I have always been interested in personal finance and the mystical way that people were able to live debt-free and exponentially grow their wealth. The problem was, I had no idea how to do it.
I Want To Trust Others - But It's Hard
A little over 10 years ago I decided to meet with a financial advisor. During the meeting, I couldn’t help but look around the room and judge everything I was being told. I wanted to trust the advisor but I couldn’t help but feel like she only wanted my money.
Long story short, I left that office feeling even more uncomfortable with people in the finance industry.
I decided that if I wanted to protect my family financially, I needed to at least learn the basics of personal finance on my own. Even though I have a Masters in Administration Degree, with a focus on Leadership, I was definitely not well versed in finance.
Thus began my long self-taught process by reading every finance book I could get my hands on, attending financial seminars, and actively listening to financial podcasts. I quickly learned that financial education is something they do not teach us in school, at home, or in the police or fire departments.
It took me about two years to start to feel comfortable with the business of blogging and how to start monetizing content while providing value to others at the same time.
Financial literacy is a first responder wellness program that is missing in most of our employee wellness classes.
Fast forward 10 years and I have committed most of my free time to run this blog and coaching first responders on how to make their money work for them, rather than working for their money.
Since I began, I have been featured on MarketWatch, Forbes, Fox Business, Experian, MSN, and USA Today. By focusing on providing easy-to-understand personal finance information to first responders, I have been able to help many of my brothers and sisters get out of debt and build wealth – even on a public servant salary!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The first product I designed was a printable budget to help people start a monthly spending plan. There are countless budget templates online so it was easy for me to get started with my own version that worked for me.
After designing this simple lead magnet, I started collecting emails. To date, I have collected about 18,000 emails that I occasionally reach out to with updates. I will admit, my email list has been neglected and is something I plan to work on in the near future.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I first started with the idea of writing a book. It was called, “Arrest Your Debt - How to build wealth on a public servant salary.”
As I continued to write, I discovered that many of the younger officers didn’t read books but read blogs and watched YouTube videos instead. At this point, I made the significant shift from writing a book to learning how to run a blog and start an online business.
I formed an LLC and started reading and learning as much as I could learn about starting and running a successful blog.
It took me about two years to start to feel comfortable with the business of blogging and how to start monetizing content while providing value to others at the same time. Luckily much of my content was already written and I was able to expand upon sections of the book I started to create unique content on the website.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The best way I have been able to continually engage and retain customers is by staying constantly engaged on social media. I was not a fan of social media before I started but it is essential to creating an audience and keeping them motivated.
Social media can be exhausting but there are many creation and automation tools out there to help you with the process. I have become a huge fan of automating everything and anything I possibly can in my business. This includes email automation, social media, blog posting, you name it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now I make about $3,000 a month in my business which varies from month to month. Because my main job as a police officer pays the bills, everything I make from the blog is extra money. I invest most of my blog profits back into the blog for marketing, outreach, etc because I quickly found out it takes money to make money.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The most helpful thing I learned was there was always something new to learn. Just when I started to feel like I had everything figured out, Google would update its search ranking algorithm and my SEO would be put into a tailspin. Expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. As long as you keep moving forward, it will all work out in the end.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The structure and background of my business is WordPress. From there, I heavily use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr, QuickBooks, Deposit Photos, Camtasia, and PromoRepublic - just to name a few.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I really enjoy the podcast “The Blogging Millionaire” and anything by Tony Robbins. These two helped me create a business that was built on a solid foundation accompanied by relentless encouragement.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
It took me about two years before I started seeing any real progress or income from my business. I am nowhere near where I want to be but the fact that I’m bringing in a few thousand a months in extra income is much more than I thought possible at this stage in my life.
Success will take time and most “overnight success stories” really had years of hustle and determination that took place before their “overnight success.”
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Right now I am not making enough to hire a full-time employee but I regularly hire freelancers on Fiverr to help me with tasks like data entry and graphic design.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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