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:
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.