I suddenly realized that I’m a professional blogger

Published January 2, 2017   Posted in Guest Posts How to Think

Hey everyone! We are going to kick things off this year with a guest post from my man over at the Millennial Money Man blog about his transition from a band director to blogger – or, as he calls it, “online entrepreneur”. Take it away, Bobby!

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting lately. At 28 years old, I’ve basically retired from one career and started thriving in another. A lot of people change jobs throughout their lifetime, but it seems pretty rare that young people take a complete 180 in lifestyle and career in such a short time like I have.

I’m a professional blogger

I really struggled (and still do) with explaining what I actually do. When you have a normal job, you never realize how many people use the question “So what do you do?” as an ice breaker! I always pause for a second or two, because I’m not sure what would make the most sense to the person that is asking.

I try to answer based on how computer savvy I think they may be, which rarely works and still leaves the person that asked confused 99% of the time.

If you were wondering, the conversation ALWAYS goes to “So…how do you make money?”, and then “So…you don’t really work. Must be nice.” A lot of my friends legitimately think I don’t work at all, and that somehow I got lucky and stumbled into an online career.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand that everything above is a serious “first world” complaint. But it is one of the many weird things that happens when you transition from a normal job like band directing to working online full-time.

The transition from band director to full-time online entrepreneur is NOT how you think it is.

In every blog coaching session I do or email I answer from someone who wants to quit their job to work online, I always try to stress that it’s not simple and that the vast majority of people that attempt it will fail.

Anybody that has taken a swing at blogging knows that just making your first dollar seems like a mountain to climb. Making $10,000+ per month seems almost impossible, and making $1,000,000 per year is just a stupid fantasy (which is one of my many goals for the coming years).

The truth is, working online for a living is a slow process.

I started MillennialMoneyMan.com about two years ago when my wife and I were still renting a room from her parents. I had just finished paying off my $40,000 of student loan debt, and I was starting to become really passionate about personal finance.

My band directing job was something that I always thought I wanted to do, but after getting into the profession I realized that it wasn’t really for me. I felt suffocated by the job, which is a common symptom of being an entrepreneur trapped in an employee’s body.

As far as technical skills like website building or writing, I had none. The night I decided to start writing about personal finance, I opened up a word doc and basically poured everything I thought about money out onto my computer.

After a quick Google search, I decided that Medium was the best option for posting what I had written. I slapped the post on Facebook, and then watched my life change the next morning as the post was shared over and over by my friends.

That post started the slow, painful death of my teaching career.

Once I realized that I had something to say about personal finance (and that people might actually listen), work became WAY harder. I stayed up late every night after teaching all day and researched the crap out of blogging and how to run a website.

Somehow all these random internet nerds were making multiple times what I was making at my teaching job! I thought it was crazy and absolutely fascinating at the same time.

Work from wherever you want, whenever you want. Wow.

So, I started writing a post on the site every week. At the same time, I dreaded going to work more and more every day. Every month that I saw the website traffic climb a few thousand views, the harder it was to focus on the job I had that was actually making money.

My wife and I started ramping up our savings even more, but she really had no idea I was planning to make a leap of faith into running M$M full-time.

I quit my teaching job 6 months after I started my site.

* This is where I need to put a disclaimer. Please please please don’t read what I’m about to write and then quit your job. One of my biggest fears is that a reader quits their job without being completely prepared first!

With our super-aggressive saving, my wife and I managed to put away about a year’s worth of my salary. I was still planning on teaching for another year, but an older, wealthy friend of my wife’s family convinced me to take the leap…so I did.

I put in my resignation the next day and haven’t looked back since. M$M on its own had made about $3 in Google adsense revenue, so you wouldn’t be wrong to call me crazy for quitting the way I did.

Blogging income doesn’t come directly from your own site in the beginning!

This is the biggest misconception that I see from readers about blogging. The majority of your income won’t come from ads on your site or affiliate income in the beginning. The key to making money with your blog alone is to have traffic, and new sites just flat-out don’t have enough to sustain an income.

One of my blog’s readers had been following me from the beginning and really liked how I wrote. He owned a jewelry company that needed someone to write content for their blog, and he asked me if I would be willing to do it. I wasn’t making any money with my own site, so I jumped at the opportunity.

That partnership evolved and I eventually started managing his SEO (Search Engine Optimization), email marketing, website, etc. I was barely able to make a sustainable income with that gig, but it gave me a platform to survive on while I continued to add content to M$M.

Making money blogging is more about monetizing your skills than anything else. In today’s online environment, understanding how to produce content for companies is a service that a lot of small business owners need, but can’t afford a big marketing company or to hire someone full-time to run a website.

After almost a year, M$M started making money too.

While I was hustling and trying to get more clients for my marketing business, I kept writing content for Millennial Money Man even though it wasn’t doing much. I would get a $100-200 sponsored post offer here and there, but it obviously wasn’t enough to live on.
I’ve always read that most bloggers quit too early, so I kept going even though it was frustrating.

Then one random day I was mentioned on Marketwatch. Then Lifehacker. Then International Business Times. Then Reuters…US News….Forbes….CNBC…Business Insider…and on and on. All of the sudden I was a “personal finance expert”, and things have legitimately been incredible for me since then.

I’ve been flown out to places like Boston and New York to speak to large banks and brokerages about reaching Millennials. I’ve done radio shows, podcasts, and even TV appearances in the last few months. It feels crazy honestly, but the key was that I put in the work without reward and found creative ways to make money through the skills I already had by running my blog.

If you want to make money blogging – it IS possible. But I would highly recommend that you continue to work your blog as a side-hustle until it consistently matches your existing income.

Don’t be crazy like me and leave your job…yet!

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


40 responses to “I suddenly realized that I’m a professional blogger”

  1. Interesting. I’ve always wondered how people progress into the world of a professional blogger who aren’t retiring anyway. It’s interesting about the sponsored posts. Do you have anything on your blog about how you found those opportunities?

    • I’ve done some content about sponsored posts, but I haven’t necessarily written a full article on it. It’s definitely something I plan on including in a blogging course that I’ll create later down the road. If you build up a nice social media following you can usually get a couple of offers to roll in throughout the year.

  2. Quite a successful career transition, Bobby! I’ve really enjoyed following your blog and journey. I’ve found that some of the most growth I’ve experienced personally and professionally came when I took a leap of faith be accepting a new job in a new city, etc.

    Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story!

  3. Roadrunner says:

    Thank you Steve for sharing your story. For many people it is like a dream come true. One thing I’m sure about is that there is a huge amount of work behind your site and you couldn’t be where you are without putting all these efforts into it.
    Congratulations and I wish a very happy New Year!

  4. Love your passion but also your disclaimers and realistic advice here M$M! As an educator, I’m sad that kids are missing out on time with you – as I’m thinking you were a pretty great teacher. But if your heart wasn’t in it, it is awesome that you found something you are passionate about. There’s nothing worse than being in class with a teacher (or professor) who is just there and wishing they were somewhere else. Everybody can read it – even little kids! Looking forward to following your work over the years – such a cool adventure!

  5. Great story and perspectives on taking a risk to do something new. I’m new to personal finance blogging and hoping to one day make some money with the whole thing – but for now I get quite a lot of enjoyment just writing, sharing, and being part of a community of like minded people. Best of luck in 2017!

  6. Hmm. I never thought about how awkward it is to talk to new people when you have a non-traditional job.
    I do want to blog full-time, but I know that it’s NOT an easy transition. You have to constantly hustle all the time to make an income; nothing is guaranteed, unlike a safe and steady 9-to-5 paycheck. But good grief, some days it’s so tough to go to work. I have a good job that pays very well, but it’s not what I want or even like to do. It’s tough to do something you don’t enjoy when you know there’s an alternative that you absolutely love.

    I’m glad it all worked out for you, M$M, but I’m sure it’s still not easy. 

    As for me, my plan is to grow blog income substantially before taking the plunge. I’d like to have at least half of my annual income from the blog before quitting my job—then I could focus on blog earnings part-time or full-time.

    • Haha yeah it’s actually one of the weirdest parts of doing what I do. I never realized how many people use that as a crutch to start conversations. It’s not easy in the beginning, but I tried to maintain a long term approach and still do. Even making the kind of income I do now doesn’t feel comfortable honestly.

      • NinjaPiggy says:

        It is amazing how many people ask “what do you for a living?” as a conversation starter. It definitely is a crutch, and I’ve been guilty of using it myself plenty of times.

        We live in a culture where we our defined by our careers. I think a far better (and more interesting) conversation starter is “what do you like to do in your free time?” Asking that question will allow you to discover their true passion, instead of giving you details on a job they don’t even like.

        You are fortunate M$M to have your passion and career aligned. Kudos to you on achieving that!

  7. Thanks for sharing M$M! I think two important takeaways for bloggers or anyone else who is starting a new venture are: 1) minimize risk by assuring an adequate cash reserve and supplemental income (if possible) and 2) expect that it could very reasonably take a couple of years before the income level is meaningful – so stick with it and don’t give up!

  8. Joe says:

    Great job with taking a chance and getting out there. This is why you need to do it when you’re young. It’s a lot harder to make a big change when you’re tied down to a job, house, car, etc… Nice.

    • Yeah that was the goal – I wanted to do this before we had kids. I think too many young people are afraid to try something that might fail. The worst thing that would have happened for me is that I would have had to go back to band directing (which wouldn’t be terrible).

  9. Mrs. BITA says:

    I enjoyed your story, thank you for sharing it. I liked the fact that you highlighted how much hard work you put in, and that failure at an endeavor like this is so much more likely than success. You have clearly earned your success, so congratulations!

  10. Wow, what an incredible story! That’s a huge leap of faith to quit your job at such an early stage in your blog. Cudos to you for having the guts to take a chance. It’s obviously paid off! Thanks for sharing and best of luck in the future!

  11. Completely agree. Building online income isn’t easy, and way too over-hyped. Don’t quit your day job until you can afford to live off savings and investments.

    I pretty much live off my portfolio dividends, which amounted to around $48k last year. That’s not a huge income.

    There’s a lot of competition too… There are literally thousands of personal finance blogs out there. Standing out from the crowd is *hard*. M$M got some good breaks, and that’s outstanding for him, but don’t assume it will happen for you.

    • Yeah I think since a lot of us make money through web hosting affiliates, the ease of blogging is played up too much. You can definitely make money doing this, but it takes time and consistency for sure. Some of the breaks were lucky, but some were also a product of figuring out the right way to market myself to reporters.

  12. I love your perseverance and your passion, Bobby! You’ve got a fantastic story that is so encouraging to those of us in the beginning of our blogging journey. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Apathy Ends says:

    Love the jump you took, it takes a lot of guts to do it and its a great example of the choices you give yourself by spending less than you earn and saving money. Hope to join you in this world one day.

  14. Great to read your story Bobby! You’re really an inspiration for a lot of us newer bloggers!

  15. Your story is very inspiring. I remember when you first started your blog and I had been tinkering around with my own site for quite a while. Now look at you! Your hard work has made all of the difference. Congrats!

  16. Desi Hisab says:

    Great Post on how to earn money online. i think set backs should not deter you. Keep up the spirit!

  17. Mr. Grumby says:

    This is a helpful post. We are relatively new to blogging (3 months) and don’t have income expectations yet. But it will be nice down the road if we can make it happen. Still trying to increase traffic….

  18. Michael says:

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate how you told both sides of the story. It’s really difficult to make a go of blogging full time. Really, really difficult. But if you persist and keep learning, there’s no ceiling to what you can accomplish.

    I had a (sort of) successful blog making some money after three full years of effort. After all that, it turned out I was in a rapidly declining industry and decided to change course as I couldn’t keep the traffic up.

    Your story was encouraging!

  19. That PF Guy says:

    I’m curious how many people start blogging in hopes of turning a profit versus just blogging to reach an audience. For me, I’m more interested in spreading the knowledge of learned and continue learning through writing. If it turns a profit someday in the future, awesome. If not then that’s okay too!

  20. financeswithpurpose says:

    Love it – and love your courage (and perhaps craziness) in jumping into your own venture. Nothing will make you work harder like knowing you need the money. So, your post raises a question: how did you get noticed by Marketwatch? And what was the post/thing that was noticed?

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