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Feature Friday: Derek Sall

This blog post is from Derek Sall, originator of the successful blog, LifeAndMyFinances.com. There, he teaches people how to ditch their debt, grow their income, and become wealthy!

I wake up, exercise, and then I grab a bowl of cereal and pop open my blog – my past-time, my money-maker, my passion. Over the course of eight years, this blog, LifeAndMyFinances.com, has earned me well over $100,000. Yes, you read that right. Six-figures by simply putting some words on a virtual page each week. It truly is crazy to think about, but it absolutely happened, and it continues to bring more money into our bank account than I can really fathom.

All this extra income has helped me pay off my consumer debts, my house, and has even allowed my wife and I to buy a rental property with cash! We’re 33 years old. We have a paid for house, plenty of money in our 401k, and a paid-for rental house that nets us $12,000 a year. Somebody…pinch me.


And it all really started with a blog…

So how in the heck did I get here? What prompted me to start this silly blog in the first place? Is it possible for others to do the same thing today?

It’s time that we delve into my story…

From Greed to My Creed – A Successful Blogger’s Story

Bum bum bum, boo doo bee doo, CRASH CRASH! Confetti came down and the hats went up! I officially earned my four year degree!

It was May of 2008 and I was walking the stage, shaking hands with the Dean and receiving my BBA in Finance. This was the first day of my future success. Life just couldn’t be better.

…A few days later though, it finally hit me…We were in the throes of the Great Recession...Experienced workers were getting laid off, banks were shutting down, and the odds of me – an inexperienced kid with a piece of paper that supposedly meant I knew something in the area of finance – finding a job were pretty slim…and that was the optimistic viewpoint…

Thankfully, my friend landed a job in Florida and invited me to go with him to expand my search. The economy seemed slightly better than West Michigan, my hometown, and the thought of living on the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean didn’t sound too bad either!

Naturally, I went.

I walked from bank to bank to bank, handing them my résumé and as you may have guessed, got nowhere. Thinking back on it, it made absolute sense that no bank would hire me. They were doing everything they could just to stay afloat and survive another day. The last thing they needed was a greenhorn kid walking around, messing up their already desperate situation!

Finally, through the power of networking (my friend had a friend whose wife was an office manager), I landed my first career job…and it had absolutely nothing to do with finance…I was a temp with the title of “Pricing Specialist”, which basically meant that I proofed pricing in their new catalogs and flagged a page if something didn’t end in a “9”. Basically, the skill level needed for this job was a half-step up from monkey status.

The Blogging Seed Was Planted

When I first started college, I was convinced that I was going to be an engineer. But after three years of writing programs, building robots, and crash testing cars (it sounds cooler than it really was…trust me), I realized that I was having more fun picking imaginary stocks with my buddies than when I was building those award-winning ping-pong ball shooting turrets…

Stocks, savings, income statements, spreadsheets – these were the things that got my heart rate pumping! The fact that my day job had absolutely nothing to do with them killed me a little bit more with each passing day. I desperately wanted to get into finance but saw no real way to do that within that particular company.

And that’s when I read it…a blog that claimed I could make money talking about financial principles. In fact, it said that I could make over a grand a month! Seriously? I could make money simply by writing my passions on a page? Woot woot! Sign me up!

Here’s what I knew:

• I was a decent writer,

• I wouldn’t get burnt out talking about personal finance, and

• I knew I needed a web host to get started.

That’s it. That was the extent of my knowledge.

I didn’t have a clue about web design, SEO, cornerstone posts, keyword analytics, selling advertisements, or marketing my blog. I was a complete greenhorn, but you know what? I learned what I needed to along the way.

The Blog Was Born and the Greed Was Stirring

On August 28th, 2010, I signed up for my blog via iPage.

I wrote an article almost every single day for the first two months. I reached out to other bloggers, wrote for their sites, spammed as many personal finance articles as I could, and I actually started developing a following.

Before I knew it, I was earning some bucks!

• In the first 4 months, I earned something like $5.12 (not huge, but it proved to me that money could be made!)

• In month 5, I landed my first client, put their ad up on my page, and earned a hundred bucks. That’s when things really started rolling.

• By April of 2011, I earned over $500 in a single month

• In August 2011 (my one-year blog anniversary), I earned over (get this….) $2,500!!

Holy shamoleeeee… This was getting amazing!

It was at this point that my eyes were clouded with dollar signs. I hate to say it, but it was already at this moment that I started to become more concerned with my monthly earnings than I was about my visitors and long-time subscribers…

The House of Cards Fell

Here’s the wrong way to do business:

• Reach out to as many advertisers as possible

• Accept all ads…even if they’re contrary to your central message

• Plaster as many ads on your blog as humanly possible, even if it makes the page look atrocious.

Annnnnd that’s exactly what I did! That’s what made the $2,500 possible, but that’s also the exact reason the house of cards fell.

Late in 2012, Google launched a new algorithm, called Penguin, to catch all the businesses that were unnaturally boosting their names (ie. paying for positive feedback and links) as well as any sites that were hosting those links.

I was one of the sites that was flagged and downgraded…

Pretty much overnight, my income went from thousands of dollars to just a few hundred.

The Obvious Epiphany

I’d like to say that I immediately learned the error of my ways, recovered quickly, and was soon back to earning thousands of dollars a month and tens of thousands each year.

But this was not the case…

I wallowed in my self-pity, continued to be angry at Google for their idiotic algorithm, and pretty much stayed stagnant for four years.

After all those years of pointing fingers and placing blame, I finally took ownership of my past actions and questionable business practices. In February of 2017, I had an obvious epiphany.

Here’s the quick summary:

• The more ads I put on my site, the more I earn in the near-term, but I the fewer readers I’ll attract and retain in the long-term, thereby putting a ceiling on my income.

• BUT, if I instead limit the spammy ads and sell quality products instead (mostly via affiliate ads), readers will continue to enjoy the site, grow in numbers, and order even more product, thereby earning me an unlimited income!

So basically, the less greedy I am and the more I do for my readers, the more money I could potentially make! This is the basic reason why most successful business owners (that have been in business for decades) are pleasant and honest, and those that are shifty and slimy just don’t last.

In early 2017, I committed to doing everything possible to help my readers. If that earned me more money, so be it. If not, at least I’d have a clear conscience and I’d help hundreds (if not thousands) of people that were seeking financial help!

The Story Behind the Story

I didn’t quite know how to work it into this post…but when that house of cards fell my marriage was crumbling as well. In the summer of 2012, my wife left and never looked back. She trampled my heart, took as many things as possible, and then demanded a $21,000 payment.

It’s often said that there are two emotions that can move a person to action:

• Fear, and

• Greed

Well in 2012, I discovered a third: anger.

I was pissed off. My wife, a hard-core spender that saw no point in having more than $100 in the bank, suddenly demanded that I pay her half of our net worth (which we wouldn’t have ever had if it wasn’t for me). According to the law though, she was entitled to it…so I had no choice but to bite my lip and pay it.

I got out of debt once…but suddenly I was back in, and I hated every minute of it. I wanted out. Now.

• I bought and sold cars,

• I mowed lawns,

• I wrote articles for other blog owners,

• I sold everything I had, and

• I even biked to work every day to save money on gas.

It took me just 6 months. I paid her off – all $21,000 of it.

Oh man did that feel good! The ties were broken and I was officially free!!

Well, almost…

There was still that mortgage that she was technically on… But you know what? If I could pay off $21,000 in six months, I bet I could pay off my $54,500 mortgage balance in a year!

So that’s exactly what I did. In 11 months and 11 days, I was mortgage free!!

Life since that final debt payoff in 2014 has been completely worry-free and simply unbelievable. I’m honestly having trouble finding the words to describe it.

But one of the HUGE benefits… My wife and I have been able to save up for…everything!

• Our retirement,

• Lavish vacations,

• Our kids’ private school fund, and even

• Our kids’ college!

It really is amazing what’s possible when you don’t owe a single cent to anyone.

My Newfound Creed and Mission

Given my financial education and my life experiences, it’s pretty obvious what God has put me on this earth to do. I’m here to shout from the roof-tops, to travel to the ends of the earth via this blog, and to also whisper in your ear from time to time:

“Debt is bad. It’s simply not worth it. Do everything in your life to avoid it and you’ll never regret it.”

Instead of taking on debt…

• spend less,

• earn more, and

• buy everything you can with cash

I’ve lived with debt (twice…) and I’ve lived without it, and believe me, life is ten times better without it! THAT’s the message I’m going to keep preaching, and I can’t wait to hear the next person that’s impacted by it!

How to Start a Blog Yourself

After having written the post above, I understand that many of you might be interested in starting a blog of your own (in fact, you may have been thinking about it for months…or maybe even YEARS!).

There’s really no reason to wait any longer. When I started my blog, I signed up with iPage. The entire first year costs just $24, and that includes the domain name! If you click on this link to get your blog started with iPage, I get paid for the referral (thank you in advance for your support! 😊). And let me assure you…your price does not go up one cent because of this affiliate payment – it’s still just $24.

Since I’ve been so successful with my blog, I’m quite passionate about helping other people succeed with theirs – so much so that I even wrote out this entire tutorial to show my readers (and in this case, Jess’s readers 😉) how to get through the whole sign-up process without spending more than $24 AND how to make their site look amazing right after (via this post)!

Once you get started with your site, do your best to put the blinders on when it comes to producing an income. Your only focus should be your readers – get a ton of them and serve them like they were your brothers and sisters, mom and dad. When you serve unconditionally, the blessings will follow. Trust me on that one.

Your goal should be 25,000 readers a month. Sound impossible? It’s not. Heck, there are 7 billion people in this world, all you need to do is capture the attention of 0.0003% of them. Yup, sounds doable to me!

Here’s how I built up my site to 25,000 readers. Follow my advice, build up your readers, and start making money.

Are you ready to get started??

Have questions about my post, my life, or your new blog? Visit me at my site http://LifeAndMyFinances.com and click on the “Contact” tab. Leave me a message and I’ll answer you back in 24 hours or less! God bless you all!