Starting Over


By Carlos Portocarrero

Starting line

A few years after I started this site, I decided I would try to monetize it. I was putting in so many hours and so much work, it only made sense.

Like so many others out there, I tried it all. I tried AdSense. I tried affiliates. I tried anything I could to make some money off the pageviews I was getting.

None of it worked.

But my site had a good reputation, decent traffic, and was starting to get well known in the personal finance space.

Thanks to that reputation, I started getting emails asking to buy text links on my site. $50 for a simple little link? Easy money, baby!

The Money Keeps Coming

The money started trickling in and I got greedy—I decided to up my asking price to $100/month and the money started to really pile up.

I was so excited! I could finally tell people that I was a blogger and that I was making money.

Deep down, I felt a little icky about the whole thing.

As the numbers kept climbing, I set higher and higher goals. In order to meet those goals, I had to ramp up.

So I started selling links to anyone who asked. I rejected a few of them because they were sketchy, but most of them sent me money and I placed an innocuous text link in the sidebar.

Suffice to say, I was able to achieve my goal for 2011: I made over $10,000 (between freelance work and text links).

But the text links were the easiest money of all, and it quickly became a larger and larger percentage of my income.

The Great Delusion

Deep down, I knew this was unsustainable. I told myself I was running an online business. I told others I made “some money” by writing on this site. I started to believe that I had “made it.”

But really? I was simply selling off little bits of reputation I had worked for years to build up. Little by little, I sold off parts of my hard, honest work in exchange for a little money.

Looking back on it, it’s sad that I was willing to make that trade. This site had started as something I was passionate about and every time I got a comment it was like I had “made it.” Now all I cared about was how many dollars I could squeeze out of it.

The thing is, when you’re getting money poured into your Paypal account for not doing a whole hell of a lot, it’s hard to put your foot on the brakes.

The worst part is, I was writing less and less. I was trying to focus on some other projects I have because they actually felt like they could turn into sustainable income.

The Beginning of the End

It all came to a head a few months ago when Google sent me an alert in my Webmaster Tools account:

Unnatural links

Now, I’m not one of those people that believes everything Google does is great and fantastic. I don’t think they’re perfect.

But I definitely felt like I had been reprimanded for doing something I knew I shouldn’t have been doing. It made me realize that this was not a sustainable business model and that if I really wanted to create a business and connect with people online, this was not going to be the way to do it.

In other words, I needed to change.

I needed to start over.

But still I dragged my feet.

It took me a few months to realize what I needed to do. I had to work with advertisers to give them their money back. I had to get rid of every single text link on the site and stop accepting “free” money.

I needed to re-focus and do things differently. I needed to do the right thing.

And that’s what I’m doing today. Instead of just starting a new site with a new URL and keeping the money, I’m starting this site over again and focusing on an area that I’m passionate about and that I feel there’s a real need for.

The site is going to focus on career advice and ways to enjoy going to work.

I’ll still write about money, but right now my goal is to help as many people as I can become happier at work and to become free from the stress of wondering where your next paycheck is going to come from.

No more easy money. No more selling off bits of my reputation.

Starting today, I start to build it back up.

Starting today, I do things the right way.

Starting today, I’m back.


14 Responses to “Starting Over”

  • Careful Cents Says:

    Making the change to start over instead of just dumping it, is admirable. It’s hard to accept our mistakes (especially when we get caught with them) and to move on. But in the end it’s worth it. We learn a lot and hopefully we grow from them. I too am being careful to not “waterdown” my mission and what I’m passionate about. There seems to be a never-ending stream of easy and tempting ideas, just waiting to derail our purpose. Good luck and thanks for reminding me to stay on track!

  • Kelly Says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m constantly discussing this with new bloggers, and now I can point them to your post as a reason not to fall for the text link trap.

  • Ali Says:

    Thank you for such an honest perspective! Good luck with your new start.

  • Jessica Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve recently gotten some emails asking if I could do text links. I was considering it because I felt like it was easy money. After reading your post I know I dont want to sacrifice my integrity by selling myself short. Thank you for your honesty!!

    • Carlos Says:

      Thanks Jessica! I took the easy way but now I regret it because I wasted a lot of time that could’ve been spent starting a real business.

  • Pauline Gaines Says:

    Interesting — I recently got approached by an ad agency to run a text link for a sketchy gambling company. I said no and they came back with a higher price. I still said no because it was too sketchy and really had nothing to do with my web site. Reading this makes me glad I did. I would, however, like to monetize my site and would be happy to run actual ads for well-known companies.

    • Carlos Says:

      Yeah the interesting thing is that you know Google is one step ahead of these techniques, so how do they justify spending money like this to their clients when it won’t net them anything and might even cost them some SEO juice down the line?

  • Michelle Says:

    Thanks so much for this info! I was recently approached for a text link placement and decided against it…mainly because it just seemed too good to be true. I had been kicking myself for not taking the opportunity though….so glad to see your post…now i know I did the right thing!

    Good for you starting fresh! Best wishes!

    • Carlos Says:

      Thanks Michelle! It actually is too good to be true! Literally…free money for very little work. It’s just that you’re selling a piece of all the work you already did over years and years (in my case) to get the reputation you have.

  • Briana @ 20 and Engaged Says:

    Quite a few of us got reprimanded by Google, myself included. I knew it could happen, and I justified it as I needed the money. It truly kept my husband and I afloat as we both lost our jobs and were struggling to make ends meet. The requests have stopped coming in and the few that have are probably getting not much love. Does it hurt? Heck yes! But honestly, I didn’t become a blogger to sell links. I became a blogger to share my story, my experiences, and my opinions in hopes that I can help others. I’m glad you’re taking the high road :)

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