How A Failed Website Led To A 7 Figure Payout And Why You Need To Start A Business Today

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This post was written by my good buddy Jim Wang, who sold his blog Bargaineering.com for over 3 million dollars. Yes you read that correctly…3 million bucks.

Jim WangAnd remember how I’ve mentioned in the past that it’s important to attend conferences? Well Jim and I met in the elevator during the 2012 financial blogging conference and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

Here’s how our first meeting went down.

Random Girl Standing Behind Me In The Elevator: (Whispering) Oh…my…gawd…That’s Jim Wang.

Me: Who the hell is Jim Wang?

Random Girl: Heeelllllo?? Jim Wang…the man behind Bargaineering.com???

Me: Ah….ok. My bad. Looks like a regular Asian dude to me. Why is he wearing sweatpants to the mixer?

Random Girl: TCH…whatever (turns away)

Me: Hey Jim. My name is Steve. Long time reader here. Always wanted to meet you in person. (I know. I’m full of it. But he bought it:)

Anyways, after selling Bargaineering, Jim has launched and experimented with many other online businesses. Today, he writes for Microblogger.com where he teaches others how to run a successful blog. In today’s post, he’s going to share his story and hopefully fire you up to start your own business.

Start A Business
Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from the Internet for over a decade, you are probably familiar with Groupon, or one of its million clones. Groupon is a daily deal service that aggregates deals to restaurants, retailers, and service providers to get you huge discounts on their products or services. When it IPO’d in 2011, it was the biggest IPO by a U.S. web company since Google.

Even today, since losing a bit of its luster, it has a market capitalization in the billions of dollars.

Groupon was founded by Andrew Mason, who is reportedly worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million.

Here’s the kicker – Groupon wasn’t Mason’s first start-up. He started a site called The Point, which was a social initiatives platform. The Point tried to rally groups of people around a particular social issue and was never meant to make money. It never took off but one group within The Point rallied around the idea of group buying a product. That became Groupon.

That story resonates with me because it’s a much (much) larger version of my own. In 2003, once I started working full time, I knew I wanted to start something on the side. I wanted something to generate a modest income, nothing too big, but I wasn’t sure what it was I would do.

I knew I enjoyed traveling and, since it was before the days of Kayak and Hipmunk, I felt that there had to be a better way to search for travel. My friend and I partnered up to start a site called Ease of Travel (my ability to name websites is the stuff of legend). He would develop the searching capability, I would do travel and other “hot deals” to keep the proverbial lights on.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon blogging and felt like it lent itself to writing more long form articles about hacking deals. Those eventually, about a year later, morphed into writing about personal finance because that’s what interested me in early 2005, a short time into my working experience. The rest, as they say, is history.

The key lesson here is that you need to start your business today.

Mason took group action towards a goal and put it towards group buying. I took the notion of a blog about deals and morphed it into a blog about personal finance.

Let’s dispense with the stories and get into concrete reasons why you should start today, even if you’re not 100% sure what you’re going to do.

You Learn A Tremendous Amount By Doing.


Have you ever picked up a new hobby? I remember when I first started playing golf.

I started by doing a lot of reading and watching a lot of videos. I understood the mechanics, the kinetics, and how challenging it is to stay focused and calm when things aren’t going your way.

Then I went out on the golf course and it went flying out the window. Reading articles, listening to podcasts, and watching videos are all well and good but until you go out there and do it, you haven’t really learned anything.

Shank a golf ball into the woods, no big deal. Shank three balls in a row while your friends are waiting for you, big deal. Try staying calm, it’s not going to happen. :)

The same is true in any business. You can read about starting a business all day long. You can read about it until the day you die, but until you start one you won’t truly know what it’s like to run a business.

Where You Start May Not Be Where You End Up.

I told Mason’s story and then my story because they illustrate an important point – you probably won’t get it right the first time, but you’ll learn a ton along the way. You may learn that the business you wanted to start just isn’t viable. This isn’t a moment to cry and feel badly about your failure, it’s a time to pivot and change your strategy.

I created a deal site because I saw the popularity of Fatwallet, Slickdeals, and the million other “hot deal” sites. I realized I couldn’t compete with them and pivoted, turning Bargaineering into a site focused on personal finance. I took the lessons I learned, in affiliate marketing, conversions, and search engine optimization; and committed them to the personal finance with great success.

I would never have created Bargaineering the seven-figure personal finance blog if I didn’t create Bargaineering the failed hot deals site.

Start Simple And Start Small. But Start.

start

The idea of the Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, is a powerful one. The core idea is that you should keep things as simple as possible, release a product, and improve it based on feedback. Rather than build a huge product or doing a ton of market research, just build a prototype quickly and use the feedback you get to improve it.

I think this applies to any business. If you want to start a store that sells blue widgets, buy a few widgets and try selling them. Don’t invest in building a website, installing a shopping cart, and researching your advertising options.

Just get some widgets and sell them on eBay. Sell them at the places people buy blue widgets. As demand for your blue widgets increases, you can start adding more to your business to meet the demand.

If there is no demand, you saved yourself the pain of building a website, installing a shopping cart, and researching your advertising options.

Why Not Start Today?

Create A Profitable Online StoreWhat’s holding you back from taking that first step? Is it because you’re too busy? Is there too much competition?

Let me tell you about The Happy Housewife. It’s a mom/lifestyle blog in a world where there are tens of thousands, if not more, of similarly themed blogs.

Toni Anderson, who runs it, also consults with big brands (such as Savings.com), and throws a conference known as Digital CoLab.

Oh yeah, and she has seven kids. And she homeschools them. And her husband is deployed in Afghanistan for a year.

She may be superhuman but she’s also busy and operating in an arena with a ton of competition.

How does she do it? I don’t know but I suspect she doesn’t spend a second worrying about competition or how busy she is. She just plows ahead and executes.

Are you worried your idea isn’t good enough? Fortunately, human beings can’t predict the future.

Let me illustrate this with a story. Several years ago, a handful of personal finance bloggers joined forces to create the Money Blog Network. We were all separate bloggers doing our own thing, all of us doing it on the side and having fun doing it.

We would learn from each other, swap stories and strategies, and help each other out. None of us were particularly popular when we joined forces, the personal finance blogging community was quite small back then, and none of us knew what was in store for us.

Fast forward – four of those blogs were acquired for amounts in excess of a million dollars. All started as hobby sites. Never in a million years would you have guessed that a personal finance blog would reach that height – let alone four. That four personal finances blogs, started by four totally different people across the country, would each find success on that level is unimaginable.

I shudder to think where I’d be if I hadn’t started that business so many years ago.

Start something today and tell me about it. If you want to start an ecommerce store, Steve has got you covered

photo credit: Mr Shiv jakeandlindsay

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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19 thoughts on “How A Failed Website Led To A 7 Figure Payout And Why You Need To Start A Business Today”

  1. Hey Jim,

    Great guest blog (well done Steve), and so encouraging.

    I’ve been “looking into” earning some money online for a number of years, telling myself I didn’t have time to do it. I realised this was a seriously BAD habit, after doing a lot of self-improvement reading and research. So I finally too the plunge a few days ago and started my site.

    It’s not even in any state at the moment where I want any visitors, but I’ve made it live on purpose to push me into acting swiftly.

    I’m treating it as a cheap hobby, to encourage myself into some vital and helpful habits and to share what I have learnt and will continue to learn.

    I aim to use it to build a list using free content, and eventually monetize that list with high-quality affiliate offers and information/training products of my own. I’m not interested in physical stores at the moment, but I follow this blog as inspiration (and to pick up tips! Thanks Steve :-) ).

    Of course, all this may fall flat on it’s face, or may morph into something else entirely, just as your project did – but the important thing is that I’ve STARTED and I will LEARN a lot (if not earn) from the experience.

    Congratulations on your success thus far and best of luck in all that you do,

    Liam

    1. Liam – Kudos to you for starting, so many people never start and thus never go through the learning process required to ever succeed. You might fall flat on your face, sure, but who cares? If you do, you’ll learn something which makes the next thing better.

      If you don’t, and find incredible success, you still win!

      Cheers,
      Jim

  2. Great points Jim. Once you take that first step, there’s so much to be done that you can’t help but make progress. By the way, back in 2006 I got divorced and had to learn about personal finance FAST. Bargaineering was a huge help to me so just wanted to say thanks.

    1. Hi Carole – I’m so so happy that I was able to help you out through Bargaineering, I love it when people tell me that. Thank you!

  3. BTW, everything in the “first meeting” is fake, except that it happened in an elevator.

    As I remember it… the other person there was a guy and none of the words Steve recollected were uttered.

    And I was wearing jeans.

    Steve’s just getting old.

    1. Nice try buddy.

      It was in an elevator. You were wearing sweats because you just finished a workout. And you didn’t hear any of the words that were uttered because you were too far away.

      Jim is modest though he did seem flattered when I told him I was a long time reader.

      1. I was too far away in an elevator???

        I thought you were lying just to be nice. :)

      2. Do you remember what you did next? You stood there with your chest sticking out and you said “Yes…it is I, Jim Wang”

      3. If only I had my pinky ring.

  4. Hey Steve!
    I am a longtime reader who just got up the courage to purchase a domain and start a site. Thanks for all of the advice.
    Erin

    1. That’s awesome Erin! Best of luck to you.

  5. Hi Steve,
    I have been following your blog for over a year now. I always look forward to reading your blog everyweek! Thank you for all the great posts and tips!
    My husband and I just launched our online store last month. Your blog was instrumental for me in deciding to finally do it.
    Great guest post, Jim. Very inspiring! Thank you for encouraging us all future entrepreneur!

    Mesi

  6. Jim, I think your skill seems to be pure insight and that’s why you first managed to put Bargaineering where it ended up and now are growing Microblogger into a force in it’s field. Your insight is the kicker, not what you write about (I believe you could be successful in any niche that interests you) and the same goes for Mason.

    Sometimes passion drives people and that makes them successful, sometimes the right time, right place but I guess the point is that failure is almost certainly always part of success. If it isn’t then the success is likely sheer dumb luck!

  7. Hi Steve/Jim,

    It’s always good to read inspiring stories like this, it fires an impetus of wanting to continue trying in this clustered online world.

    I’m from Nigeria and the internet is fast growing, Google realizes this and even sets up an office in Lagos. The guys from rocket Internet invested and they have clones of groupon( as mentioned above) in Nigeria and making serious money. One of their greatest hit is Jumia ( dubbed the amazon of Nigeria).

    I have learnt a lot from the inspiring story of Jim; and I’m determined to do something. My online consulting business is just starting but not just that, I want to venture into real time online business e.g. having an online shop e.t.c.
    What advice can you give on this? should i just open an ecommerce site with bigcommerce or shopify?

    Please advice, and thank you for sharing this helpful piece.

    James

  8. Great post Steve C, But I believe there are quite good reasons that people avoid entrepreneurship, now I am not here to scare people off or criticize your article but I believe providing a balanced picture would make this article much more reasonable and valuable to the readers, precisely to the would be entrepreneurs.

    Each year around one million small-medium businesses starts in USA alone that exclude online start-ups (1), now that is around 114 businesses each hour. And as we know majority small medium businesses are imitative than innovative.

    Which means 114 businesses each hour or increasing new competitors each hour, now imagine competing with them… imagine how tough it would be to just get customer attention when there are 114 new businesses each hour. This is crazy!!!

    So starting now, like just starting, you know like the old days buying few things and starting selling it around isn’t a good idea considering the present day situation, rather you need to plan, you have to have a comprehensive business plan, now a business plan alone takes from 100 to 200 hundred hours (2) that only when you know what you are doing.

    And once you implement the business plan, you need to survive the first six months, the first six months are really a challenge, where you need to have enough financial back up to not only support your business but you and your family.

    And with that, developing a new business for the first six months require around 12-14 hours work on your business each day, that’s a big time, if you don;t have time, well my suggestion would be stop thinking about bricks and mortar, you won’t be able to do it effectively.

    Okay suppose you are doing good, now the question is how to differentiate when there is no difference, when there are million others doing the similar thing, offering the similar value.

    There are many things that can help you to compete and differentiate, like identifying your USP or unique selling proposition (3), which is again not such an easy thing, but let me briefly tell you how to do that.

    USP
    Unique selling proposition, in simple words

    1. Giving better than others (competitors)
    2. Giving what (customers) they want
    How
    Step 1
    Research your target market in terms of what they want, prefer, like, buy when it comes to your product/service or to similar product/service. Likewise assess your competitors (SWOT) like for instance what makes your competitors offer (Product/Service) better than yours.
    Step 2
    Associate/alter your product/service according to those preferences/likes of your target market. Likewise alter, improve, redesign your product/service in terms of its features, attributes etc to overcome your competitors.
    Step 3
    Then promote your product/service through all available/feasible touch points (online, social media, mass media, outlets, PR etc) with focus on customers preferences, likes etc and competitors, that’s it, if carried out effectively you will soon be on top in terms of quality, customer likes, preferences in your niche.

    Now that costs and I know most new businesses can’t afford that, so whats the next option that would help a new business to differentiate/compete and attract customers.

    Well, branding is I believe the only option left then, because branding can help you to stand out, to differentiate when there is nothing to differentiate in terms of valued being offered and because you can’t afford to differentiate via USP, can’t afford to Innovate either which is another way to differentiate (and probably you can’t afford to brand too!!!)

    Unless you do it personally, on your own, in that case Here is an interesting post on branding, Branding Strategy: How And When To Brand Effectively . It would definitely help you in branding your business on your own.

    My last advice would be, No matter what niche you are in, what nature of business you run, always, “ALWAYS” think like a marketer, consider marketing not as function of business but THE function of business, that way you will not only bring creativity into your business but it will also help to differentiate your business from the rest by developing marketing expertise that none of your level competitors would have and that would lead to a competitive advantage.

    Competitive advantage in a sense, when you do something daily, over and over, you become effective and efficient at it thus leaving everyone else (competitors) far behind.

    That’s it, hope it would provide value to the readers, thanks for sharing such good post, got to it from BizSugar. Thanks man!!! :)

    Reference
    1.Small Business by the Numbers (Washington DC: Small Business Administration, 2004).
    2.David Gumpert in Burn Your Business Plan Needham, M A: Lauson publishing, 2002.
    3. Reeves, Rosser (1961). Reality in Advertising. Macgibbon and Kee. pp. 46–48.

  9. I have decided that this site is intriguing.

  10. Arshad says:

    I apologize for assuming the post from a different author in the beginning of my comment, great piece Jim Wang :), thanks for sharing!

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