On January 20, 2012, I wrote a pretty hard-hitting post entitled, “Quit Your Job And Die Alone“. In the post I highlighted examples of three people who I admired given they were at the top of their game. They were: 1) Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt, 2) Erica from Erica.biz, and 3) Mike from The Financial Blogger.
My thesis was simply, “Don’t quit your job because entrepreneurship is brutally difficult. If Adam, Erica, and Mike are at the top of their respective fields, and aren’t crushing it in the business world, what chance do you have?” The post was written to help people who were jumping on the lifestyle design, blogging, and internet marketing train to open their eyes to reality. The post was also written to beat myself up before taking the leap of faith.
For a fourth example, I highlighted how even though I was generating over 150,000 page views a month, I wasn’t making big bucks at all. It’s been over two years since I wrote the “Quit Your Job And Die Alone” post and I’d like to provide an update on what everybody is doing. If you haven’t read the post before, please have a good read first.
TWO YEARS LATER
Adam: Some time in late 2012, Adam from Man vs. Debt decided to stop blogging, despite his large following and dedicated community. Sydney and I met up with Adam for some Korean BBQ in San Francisco one day during the summer and he mentioned he no longer enjoyed writing. This was surprising to us because Adam, like JD from GRS, is good story teller.
Adam was in town with his family after crossing the country in his RV, sponsored by Adaptu, which unfortunately shut down. (See: Adaptu Business Lessons and Alternatives). Instead of blogging, Adam decided to make a documentary called, “I’m Fine, Thanks,” which I think did well. But since the documentary’s launch, I haven’t heard from him. I believe Adam is teaching other people how to make their own documentaries, which is a neat endeavor. But unless you are Michael Moore, the documentary field is a tough way to make money.
Mike: Mike, The Financial Blogger is still publishing somewhat regular content, but he mentioned various Google algorithms hurt some of his sites’ rankings and traffic. He was on pace to regularly make more than $10,000 a month in revenue (split two ways, with ~$4,000 in expenses) as his tag-line is “Making 6 Figure Income, Working 4 Days A Week”, but his latest income report showed him generating $3,363 a month with $3,000 in expenses for a profit of ~$300. Mike started a membership site, which is smart. But I guess it takes time to gain traction.
Mike is one of the people I first started reading five years ago before I started Financial Samurai. He helped motivate me into thinking about my blogs as a business, in addition to a writing platform to connect with like-minded people. Mike’s persistence is very admirable because I know plenty of people would have quit already had their revenue declined by 70%+. But not Mike. He continues to try new revenue generating projects to see if something sticks. Mike’s experience with Google reminds us that there are so many exogenous variables outside of our control that we must continuously diversify our income streams in order to survive. Check out Mike’s blog for some really good ideas and transparent thoughts about the realities of pro blogging.
Erica: Erica just announced on 5/1/2014 that the SEO business she’s been working on for two years while living in Texas failed. The SEO business is hard because Google continues to get smarter by the day. Google’s goal is to make sure nobody with great content ever needs to pay for SEO to work the system. Google also has a monopoly on search, makes its own rules, and has a huge war chest of cash. Nobody is going to take them down.
If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO expert, you should consider asking the question, “If you are such an SEO expert, why not just have a huge revenue generating site of your own?” If they got one, then you know for sure they are practicing what they preach and know their stuff. Before dedicating all her time on Whoosh Traffic, Erica ran a terrific site that had frequent publication.
On her site, Erica writes that she used up all her savings and lost $640,000 of her investor’s money. I admire Erica a lot for being so open and for not giving up. She’s starting a new marketing software product called MarketVibe, and I’m sure she’ll take what she’s learned from Whoosh Traffic and do better with this new endeavor. My fear is that we entrepreneurs are dead to banks, and I hope she doesn’t lose her house or get shunned by other investors with her new endeavor.
Sam: Two months after I published this post on Jan 30, 2012, I decided to negotiate a severance package and pursue entrepreneurship full-time. This post was my way of kicking my own ass to make sure I wasn’t being absolutely foolish in throwing away a good six-figure job to be a starving writer and internet entrepreneur.
I worked my butt off to write consistent, high quality content on Financial Samurai 3-4X a week. All the posts are 1,000-2,000+ words long and most are evergreen in nature. Traffic on Financial Samurai is actually now a little over 500,000 pageviews a month funny enough, a level which I threw out there for shits and giggles as a blue sky, unobtainable level. I’ve aggressively diversified my income sources, but I’ve done very little to build my social media presence or e-mail subscriber list.
In the fall of 2013, I decided to launch YakezieNetwork.com, my attempt at creating a CPA network for personal finance bloggers. The idea was to sign up the best personal finance related products with the best personal finance blogs and offer the highest payouts. I partnered up with a woman who had the business connections to sign up clients. But she lost enthusiasm after several months and needed W2 income in order to buy a house. Then there was me who signed up bloggers.
We used the HasOffers affiliate platform, which cost us $280 a month. After six months, 80+ bloggers, and 35 clients later, we failed because we decided to shut it down due to not enough conversions to make up for all the time spent book keeping, maintaining, troubleshooting, and recruiting. The company was profitable, but I underestimated all the work it took to make this program work because someone always had a question, or something was always going wrong. Furthermore, Financial Samurai was starting to grow, and that business is so much easier because I love to write. Perhaps I’ll try again if there’s a cheaper and easier-to-use platform than HasOffers.
There’s no doubt in my mind everything could come crashing down one day. It gets lonely working on an internet business all by yourself too. Here’s a post where I reflect on the past two years of freedom from work and lessons learned about my YakezieNetwork.com failure.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS BRUTALLY DIFFICULT TO SUCCEED
We are constantly bombarded with success stories. The reality is that huge success stories are rare, they just get magnified to the point where you think making it as an entrepreneur is common. (See: How Much Do You Have To Make As An Entrepreneur To Replace Your Day Job Income?) The worst is when these success stories then sell you something to show you how to be a success story. Whether you succeed or fail does not matter because they will have already taken your money.
The main lesson I learned is to really prepare before taking the leap of faith. You don’t need as much as you think to survive, but you do need unbridled enthusiasm and dedication to make your business grow. Hopefully the above four examples give you an idea that not everything is cherry pie and vanilla ice cream.
Pursuing entrepreneurship is an admirable endeavor. I really look up to anybody who has the guts to risk it all for a dream like Adam and Erica. It’s just important to be calculated in your approach. Perhaps moonlight for a couple years first and leave when you’ve got a years worth of expenses in the bank, or your side business is generating enough income to cover the basics.
One positive thing that could happen is an x-factor that presents itself out of the blue. For example, I’m currently consulting for a financial tech startup in San Francisco for 25 hours a week. I got this opportunity because they are also one of my main affiliate partners.
You never know where the path will go. But you will certainly never know if you do not try.
Recommendations For Increasing Your Financial Freedom
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* Never Quit, Get Laid Off Instead. Learn how to negotiate a great severance for yourself in How to Engineer Your Layoff! By getting laid off from a job you wanted to leave anyway, you can collect a severance, health care insurance, deferred compensation, unused vacation days, and be eligible for unemployment. The book provides helpful case studies and a framework for you to have a strategic conversation with your manager on how to profitably quit your job.
Updated for 2017 and beyond.