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Today I have the great fortune of interviewing Marc from Vital Dollar who went from side hustle to full-time blogger. He has successfully launched and sold several online businesses.
I am super inspired by Marc after this interview and y0u should be too! He offers some great tips on starting and running an online business, saving for retirement, and more! Read on to learn more!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Marc. I live in Pennsylvania with my wife and our two kids (5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son). I’ve been working from home managing my own websites and blogs since 2008.
Tell us about your online business ventures.
I’ve had a number of different blogs and websites over the years. My most successful ones were in the web design and photography industries, but I’ve sold those and I’m no longer involved with them. I’ve had 3 blogs/websites that sold for $200,000 – $500,000.
My wife and I also had a business selling private-label products on Amazon from late 2015 to early 2017. That business did pretty well, but it wasn’t something that we wanted to do long-term, so we sold it to a guy who runs several different ecommerce brands.
In early 2018 I launched my latest project, a personal finance blog called Vital Dollar. I’ve been really interested in finance for several years and I wanted to start a blog where I could write about saving and managing money. I also write about side hustles, and about my own experiences with blogging and making money online.
Why do you think you were so successful with all of your online ventures?
I think the biggest factor has been just sticking with it. Building a successful blog or website takes time, and you usually have to put in a lot of effort before you start to see results. I think a lot of people give up too soon. It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like you’re not making progress, but if you go into it with a long-term focus you have a better chance of making it through those early months when it feels like you’re wasting your time.
The other thing that’s helped me is a focus on blog content. I’ve always been interested in how I can create the best content and trying to find ways to make my blogs and websites more useful and helpful for visitors.
Tell us about your blog.
At Vital Dollar I write about topics related to saving money, managing money, and making money. I’m always really interested in finding creative ways to save and spend less. I want my blog to be a great resource for people who are looking for new ways to save. On the blog I’ve published one main article on saving, 101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money, and then there are also many other articles that talk about how to save on specific things like groceries, gas, electricity, etc.
Although saving money is great, I think making more money is equally important, if not more important. My wife and I have always been pretty careful with our money and made saving a priority, but our financial situation completely changed when my business started to bring in more money. So another goal with the blog is to help readers find practical ways to increase their income. My experience is with blogging and online marketing, so I cover these topics, and plan to publish more articles on these topics.
I also want to provide readers with content about other ways to make money offline. I’ve just started to interview some people who have different types of side hustles, and I’m really excited about that.
How did you get into blogging?
I started blogging back in 2007. At the time I was doing some web design work for small businesses as a side hustle and I added a blog to my design portfolio website as an attempt to attract more traffic.
The blog actually took off pretty quickly and within a few months I realized that I liked blogging more than I liked designing websites for clients. I wound up focusing on the blog and eventually monetized it with ads, affiliate links, and I sold my own digital products.
Since then I’ve continued blogging, but it’s been on a number of different blogs over the years. I’ve always found blogs to be a great way to drive traffic to a website, regardless of whether I’m monetizing that site with ads, affiliate links, membership, product sales, sponsored content, or anything else.
What are your blogging goals for the next 6 months?
Right now I basically have two areas that I’m focusing on with Vital Dollar:
1 – I’m working to get a solid base of content on the site. I want to have a lot of really useful, helpful articles that will continue to be relevant and useful for several years (and I will update them when needed).
I’m trying to find all of the main topics that readers are interested in, and these articles will hopefully provide a solid structure for my blog that I can build upon in the future.
I have some of these articles written now (like 150+ Ways to Make Money, 9 Steps to Financial Independence and 21 Proven and Exciting Passive Income Ideas), but there are many others that I want to add over the next few months.
2 – I’m also focusing on building my network and getting to know a lot of other bloggers in the niche. There are a few different approaches I’m using for this, including Facebook groups, cold emails to bloggers that I admire, guest posts, interviews, podcasts, and blog commenting.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to start a blog?
My biggest piece of advice is to have a long-term focus. If you’re looking to make money quickly, starting a blog isn’t the best use of your time. But if you’re willing to put in time and effort and have some patience, a blog can be a great business.
If you start off with realistic expectations, knowing that most bloggers don’t make much money the first year, you’ll be in a better position to avoid discouragement that leads to quitting.
Stick with it. Do something every day to move forward and with time and consistent effort you’ll start to see results.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a full-time income blogging?
I think you have to approach your blog like a business. Commit to putting in the hours and continue to learn and develop your skills.
Making a full-time income is a lot easier if you have some diversity in your income streams. Rather than focusing exclusively on ad revenue or affiliate revenue, look to make money in a few different ways. Ads and affiliate links are good options, but you can also sell digital products, offer sponsored content, add a membership component to your site, or offer services.
When I made the jump from side hustle to full-time blogger I was also doing a lot of freelance writing. Those freelance gigs made it possible for me to leave my full-time job, and then as my own blog started making more money I slowly cut back on the freelance work until I didn’t need that income anymore.
You mentioned that you’re pursuing FIRE (financial independence, retire early). Can you tell us more about that?
My approach is a little different than some people in the FIRE community. First of all, I plan to work until my son (the younger of our two kids) has graduated high school, which is about 15 or 16 years from now. I don’t have any plans to stop working, or to drop down to part-time work before then. My focus is on how much I can grow my net worth during that window of time, not how long it will take me to get to a certain net worth. At least for now. That could always change.
Also, I don’t really go by the 4% rule for safe withdrawal (having a net worth 25x annual living expenses). My goal is 50x our current annual expenses by the time our kids are both graduated from high school, and I doubt I will feel financially independent until we get to that point.
My opinion is that financial independence means something different to everyone. The 4% rule is a good starting point. The whole point of financial independence is the feeling of freedom, and I know I need to accumulate more if I want to feel that freedom.
How did you learn about FIRE?
I’ve had my goal of somewhat early retirement (55) for several years. My wife and I have been focused on saving and investing. But I didn’t come across the FIRE community online until about a year ago.
What actions have you taken to pursue FIRE and when do you plan to retire?
We try to put as much as possible into retirement accounts each year. I have an individual 401(k) and that’s our top priority for investing. We also contribute to IRAs, depending on our eligibility for the year.
Our biggest strategy has been to focus on my online business, and that’s allowed us to save and invest a decent amount each year for the past 10 years. The lump sums from selling websites has really helped us to add to our investment accounts quickly.
I plan to retire in about 15 or 16 years, when I’ll be about 55. I say “retire”, but really I just want to have the optionto retire. I’ll be bored to death if I don’t have something productive to do with my time, so I’ll probably continue working in some capacity. Ideally, I’d like to be able to continue running websites or blogs, but do it on my own schedule so I can travel and take time off when I want to.
What activities are you doing to make money besides blogging?
I don’t really do much aside from blogging. I have a few websites and blogs that I approach as a side hustle. I usually have one or two main websites/blogs that generate the majority of my income, and also take up the majority of my time. A lot of times I have ideas for other websites and blogs that I want to experiment with, but I don’t want them to take time and focus away from my main sites. In those cases I use my evening and weekend hours for those side projects, and if they wind up doing well I might make them a bigger focus.
I have considered some other side hustles, and I have had other side hustles in the past, but I’ve always found that the most valuable use of my time is to focus on what I know and what I do best, which is blogging and online business, at least for now.
What are your financial goals?
My goal is to have a net worth of $3 million by the time I’m 55.
Who was your greatest inspiration for early retirement?
My greatest inspiration and motivation came from the jobs I had (and the people in management at those employers) before I became a full-time blogger. When I graduated college I figured I would find a good job, stay with the company and work my way up by doing a great job. But I had a really hard time finding a decent job that I didn’t hate. The reality of the corporate world inspired me to find a different path, and eventually led me to starting my own business.
What are some of the financial mistakes you’ve made in the past?
The biggest mistake I made was not starting my own business sooner. I started my blog/business when I was 28, and by that time I had been frustrated with jobs for 5 years or more. During those 5 years I was always trying to find a better job that would give me the opportunities I wanted, but I never really found it. It took a lot of frustration to get me motivated to start my own business, but once I did, things changed quickly. I wish I had started my own business earlier rather than just looking for a job that would make me happy.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who wants to reach financial independence?
I think my best advice would be to focus on ways to increase your income. Being responsible with your money and saving is obviously important, but there’s a limit to how much you can reasonably cut out of your budget. Increasing your income can have a bigger impact and really speed up your progress. For me, that meant a blogging side hustle that turned into a full-time business.
How can we get in touch with you?
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