Recently, I’ve been going around the blogosphere (what an overused word!) and interviewing the top financial bloggers on the net. Two months ago I interviewed the famous J. Money from Budgetsaresexy.com. You can read that interview here. Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to get to know Jeremy Biberdorf, the founder of Modest Money! His site is rapidly growing and currently ranked in the top 35,000 websites worldwide. As a leader in the financial writing world, I wanted to get to know his tips, tricks, and super secrets for success. Here’s my interview with him:
What inspired you to begin ModestMoney.com?
My main inspiration was a major shift in my personal life. After years of coasting through life, I decided it was time to take my long term goals more seriously. Improving my finances was right at the top of that list. I seriously needed to get my act together with how I was blowing my money and not saving enough. When I started Modest Money, my goal was actually focused on using the blog to increase my income. As an internet marketing professional, I knew a thing or two about website marketing and monetization. Little did I realize that jumping into the finance blogging community would teach me so much. The knowledge, lessons, and contacts helped my finances even more than the extra income.
How did people (friends, family, etc.) react when you first started?
Since I had a history of running financial affiliate websites, nobody was particularly surprised. They probably weren’t expecting me to be so open on my blog though. By opening up I was keeping myself more accountable and ensuring my blog was more personable. My Mom started using my blog as a way to keep up with what was going on in my life. I generally didn’t share my blog with my friends as I wanted to be as open as possible. When I met my fiance and I told her about my blog, I’m sure she was shocked to learn so much about me from my blog. Luckily I didn’t scare her off with all of that public history. Now she is my biggest supporter.
What was your experience with design, code, web work prior to starting your site?
This is an area where I had an advantage over most finance bloggers. I originally went to college to learn programming and other IT skills. I later transitioned into a website marketing career. Eventually I managed my own websites for several years. So I knew a lot more about the technical and marketing side of blogging than most bloggers do when they first start out. Although I had a lot of those skills, I also knew when it was best to outsource some of that work. Sometimes it’s best to get things done right and without it taking up too much of your own time.
What advice would you give to those thinking about starting their own site?
Do not underestimate the power of networking. At first I didn’t realize how much bloggers are willing to help others within the blogging community. If I had understood this from the beginning I could’ve got off to an even quicker start. Be willing to do lots of favors for bloggers and they’re bound to help you out in some way down the road. Concentrate on networking and marketing as long as you can. The other thing to understand is that blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. Most bloggers don’t make any money at all during their first year, yet they put in a ton of time and effort. Too many of those bloggers do not even get to the point where their blog is making money. To be successful you really have to think long term and be willing to put in countless hours without seeing the fruits of your labor. Work at your own pace and know it will pay off later if you stick with it.
How do you make money from your site?
There are several ways that I make money with my blog. Currently the big money maker is private ads from companies that reach out to me directly. That isn’t a sustainable income source, but it is super easy. So I see it mostly as transitional money while I work to build up other income sources. I also do some contract SEO consulting for people who hire me through my blog. Since I have helped so many fellow bloggers, a lot of them are aware of the website marketing knowledge that I have. I charge them reasonable pricing knowing that it can build up customer testimonials for securing future work. The area that I’m working at building up these days if affiliate income. If I refer enough visitors to relevant products or services I can make decent commission. This is likely going to become my big income source over time, but it takes a while to build up. Lastly I am now getting into staff writing for other blogs. Well it’s only one blog to start, but we’ll see how that goes. The part I really like about staff writing is that it can be a much more stable source of income while also helping market my own blog. If only I weren’t such a slow writer.
What do you think you’ve learned from your readers and fans?
That’s an interesting question because blogging is definitely a two way learning experience. On pretty much all of my posts readers leave comments that I can learn from. I couldn’t possibly list everything I’ve learned. The number one thing is probably how lots of people are going through similar struggles. The financial blogging community isn’t like Facebook where most people are only sharing stuff that they can show off. Instead it’s people being very supportive and sharing their experiences good or bad. Because of that support and understanding, I don’t get as stressed about facing any financial challenges.
How can somebody in lower incomes best overcome financial hurdles and prosper?
The first step is educating yourself about day to day finances. Unfortunately there are lots of areas of personal finance where people with lower income face an uphill battle. Think of how the rich get better interest rates and better credit card rewards. Then lower income people get stuck with high interest and big fees if they can’t keep up with their finances. So to combat these kinds of things, you need to arm yourself with the knowledge about how to get the upper hand on this system. Then get in the mindset that you have the power to change your circumstances. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you can reach your financial goals. Almost everyone can find ways to both reduce their expenses and increase their income. Get researching how to save money and how to earn side income. Take on the challenge and you’ll probably be surprised about what you can achieve.
Who are your financial role models?
My number one would have to my mom. She raised my sister and me as a single parent while overcoming all kinds of obstacles. Not only did she get by, but she did incredibly well. Through hard work she was able to become a successful entrepreneur. My dad played a pretty big role too. He may not make a lot of money or even manage it very well, but he provides a great example of being very happy without needing money. Although I will push to do well financially, I still know I can be perfectly fine even if I don’t become wealthy.
What personal finance sites do you read?
To be completely honest I don’t have much time for reading financial sites these days. When I first got into financial blogging I read so many finance blogs that I might have overwhelmed myself. There are only so many times you can read about certain topics that keep getting repeated. That’s not to say there aren’t awesome finance blogs out there that manage to take a unique approach, but I’ve been too busy to keep up with them. I do wish I had the time to keep learning and keep up with all the great blogs.
What else would you care to share with the readers of Frugaling?
First of all, thank you very much for inviting me to do this interview Sam. You’re doing an awesome job with Frugaling and I expect to see you around for a long time to come. For the readers of Frugaling.org, remember that personal finance is personal. You’ll read all kinds of advice and tips on finance blogs, but it’s up to you to find what ultimately works best for you. Everyone’s situation is unique. You can’t always fit a square peg into a round hole. So keep that in mind when reading finance blogs. Take what you can from that advice, but don’t expect to be able to apply all of it to your own finances just as successfully. What you do learn can still help tremendously.
Want to read more interviews like this one? Read the entire interview series here!