The Bargaineering Story

by jim on December 17th, 2009

This blog is, for the most part, a collection of my opinions and thoughts about a variety of topics. One of those topics is how to earning a living off the internet. I am one of the fortunate few, percentage-wise, that has managed to turned a hobby site into a moneymaker and been able to quit my full time job to pursue that site full time. The site I’m talking about is a personal finance blog named Bargaineering.com.

Here’s the story behind Bargaineering.
Bargaineering Logo

The Beginning

Five years ago, I started working at a defense contractor in the Baltimore Washington metropolitan area. My girlfriend, now my wife, is two years younger than me so in my first year of work, she still had a year of school left (I spent a year in graduate school). After work, I’d go home, spend about an hour at the gym, and then have three or four hours to kill before going to sleep. I didn’t watch a lot of TV, I didn’t read a lot of books or magazines, I spent that time surfing the internet and chatting with my friends online. I spent a lot of that time trying to understand the various financial acronyms I’d been learning since starting work.

401(k), IRA, taxes, investing, blah blah blah. It was a whirlwind and I felt like I needed to take notes. That’s when I discovered this funny thing called blogging and the free blogging platform named WordPress. So I decided to start a blog about personal finance.

There’s actually a bit of revisionist history in there because part of what happened was that my friend Ryan and I were very much interested in travel. We were going to start a website that would help people find travel deals, sort of a Kayak + Travelzoo, and to help pay the hosting bills I discovered affiliate marketing (after following one of CJ’s kkqdidlkfjlejflsd.com tracking links). That spawned easeoftravel.com, which is dormant today, which hosted the personal finance blog until several years ago.

Microblogging

At first, the site had three visitors: Myself while at work, myself at home, and my girlfriend. I was ecstatic when I had my first comment almost a month after my first post was published (Published Jan 31st, first comment was March 2nd) and I was ecstatic every time someone clicked on a Google Adsense block and I earned ten cents.

I would later tell my friend Fred, who runs oneprojectcloser.com, that anyone who starts a blog thinking they’ll be rich in a year will be mistake… it takes a lot of time. Along the way you have to celebrate the small victories, like the first time you earn a dollar in a day from Adsense, the first time you earn a dollar in a day for a whole week (those weekends can be tough), the first time you earn $100 in a month (to qualify for a payout), etc.

If I were to start it all over again, I would work on the early promotional aspects of blogging that I never did. I didn’t approach it like a business, it was a hobby site. Part of the reason for wangarific.com is to help bloggers who are at this stage get to the next stage faster.

Reaching The Next Level

The next few years the site grew tremendously, at least doubling the number of visitors each year to over 600,000 visitors a month (December 2009) and revenue growing even faster. Along the way I tested a lot of different things, many of which I’ll talk about on wangarific.com, and learned a lessons I hope to pass on to you.

Today, Bargaineering generates a healthy six-figure income that enables me to test and learn even more. I hope to share a lot of those lessons with you.

Why?

You might be wondering why I’m doing this… because that’s what I’d ask if I were you. There are a lot of smart people out there trying to game the system and earn a quick buck online. Just look at all the scammy types of advertising that have moved off late night 2 AM TV and onto the web. If you are willing to listen to what I have to say, if you are willing to work on a project for months, rather than days, then you aren’t that type of person. You aren’t a get rich quick scammer looking to the perfect demographic on Facebook to spam.

I want to help you become more popular so good content written by smart people can beat out scammy crap written by smart people. I want to help you make money, get more traffic, so you maintain that energy and motivation continue to share your expertise with the world so that people like you win.

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10 Responses to “The Bargaineering Story”

  1. Monevator Says:

    Fascinating to think Bargaineering is five years old. I came across the site three years ago and thought it’d be great to something similar in the UK, but it took another year before I really got going (and I’ve taken a different route to you as it happens anyway. A nerdier route I suspect!)

    It’d be great if you could share some graphs showing progress. If I look on the yearly view like you mention above, my traffic is going up okay, but from month to months a snail would move faster.

    I guess I could make my posts smaller. I know Bargaineering lives up to its name with a lot of benefit stuff, too, but I guess I treat Monevator as more of college lecture (even though I’m still learning in some areas myself – we all are, aren’t we) which might not be ideal for rapid traffic growth.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing what you can.

  2. jim Says:

    I’ll take a look at what sorts of metrics I have and can share, unfortunately I didn’t install Google Analytics until recently.

    As for content, write what you want and the readership will come. There are folks who love the long form and those who don’t, you will appeal to your demographic. Maybe not ideal for rapid traffic growth but it’ll still grow.

  3. Austin Says:

    Good stuff, Jim.

    I’d love to read a post about your suggestions for marketing for new blogs (less than 6 months old).

    Thanks,
    Austin

  4. Monevator Says:

    Thanks for the feedback Jim, I have to say I’m more advised to listen to someone who has made it like yourself.

    All the best.

  5. Monevator Says:

    (Oops, I meant “inclined” not “advised”.)

  6. jim Says:

    Well, I haven’t made it yet. :)

  7. Ryan @plantingdollars Says:

    Jim,

    Thank you for sharing your story. 5 years is a long time in the blogging world so it’s impressive that you stuck with it that long!

    From that angle I think time and content are the two main ingredients, which you’ve proven yourself.

    This quote helps get me through with working on long projects and in keeping my motivated:

    Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not;
    nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
    Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
    Education will not;
    the world is full of educated derelicts.
    Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
    The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always
    will solve the problems of the human race.
    -Calvin Coolidge-

  8. jim Says:

    Yes, sometimes it can be a slugfest but it’s always a challenge because I’m constantly learning. Even as I write some of these posts, my brain starts going and even more ideas come back to the front of my mind.

  9. Peter Says:

    It’s very motivating Jim to hear about how you grew bargaineering from nothing into the empire you now rule over now! I’ve only been at it for about 2 years now, and like you, i wish i had known a lot of things earlier – but you can bet I’ll be on here regularly to learn from you what I can! I look forward to reading more posts!

  10. jim Says:

    It was quite a journey and I’m hoping to share a lot of that with you all through this new blog. If you have any questions, let me have them!

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