A buddy of mine who so happens to be a very successful frugal blogger gave me some incredible advice recently. He said,
“Sam, you’re doing it all wrong focusing on the mass affluent / aspirational niche. Instead of writing about investing, entrepreneurship, and real estate, you should focus on frugal living. I teach people how to save money on groceries, encourage people to walk or ride a bike to work, tell people to never turn on the heat, and of course never buy anything new. As a result, people love me for it! Teaching people how to be more frugal is possible for 100% of the population, which is why my site is so popular.
Whereas you, you talk about how earning $300,000 is middle class, establish tough net worth targets by age, and write super long posts on investment strategies in retirement while most of your readers are still working with less. Of course people are going to end up hating your guts because you’re excluding the vast majority of the population!
Showing tough love should only be reserved for the people you care about the most, not your readers who pay you nothing. If they end up getting crushed by inflation 20 years from now because they didn’t invest or thought they could cruise through life, it’s not your problem.
Another thing. I hate to say it but you are at a structural disadvantage as a minority. Most people like to connect with people who look and talk like them. Even if you get a 100% following of the Asian American population, you’ve only got a 6% marketshare. Conversely, if you get only a 10% marketshare of the Caucasian American population, you get a 7.7% market share! Think wisely about the demographic you want to reach.
Carefully analyze the backgrounds of your greatest detractors. Look at owners of the sites that have been sold for multiple millions of dollars or have developed a cult-like following. Finally, look at the profiles of the people in the mass media and the people the mass media repeatedly highlight. You will find a clear trend if you’re honest.
You can’t change your race or the name of your site, but at least you must make your readers feel better about themselves by telling them how little you spend and how little you need to make. I tell my readers I spend less than $30,000 a year for a family of four despite earning well over $1,000,000 on my website each year. This way, most of my readers can relate to me or even feel sorry for me because the median household income is double that. Of course I spend way more than $30,000 a year, but my readers will never know. I’ve carefully crafted a frugal image that is now unshakeable!
At the end of the day, people just want to read what they want to read to validate the decisions they’ve already made in their lives. Stop putting so much opinion in your posts. Every successful site in the PF space focuses on frugal living with uncontroversial topics. Focus on easy and watch your site rocket straight to the top!”
Digesting The Truth
Initially, I thought my friend’s advice was full of shitake mushroom. Why wouldn’t people want to focus on making more money, since making more money has unlimited upside compared to saving money. Further, I love to challenge myself to discover new ways to earn more. Being frugal is boring!
But then I realized much of what he said was true. There’s a reason why I no longer have four-pack abs. Eating healthy and working out every day is hard. Every personal finance site that sold for millions or that has grown to cult-like status focuses on personal finance basics. Finally, the disdain for my work is consistent, which is a bummer because my wife and I can’t stop being silly everyday.
Below is one example of an unpleasant reaction when I used satire to promote my pro-public school post. Even though the post is clearly pro-public school with detailed charts, and even though there’s a friendly dialogue in a podcast at the end of the post with my wife sharing our thoughts on education, there’s still so much outrage.
If I want our business to survive for the next 22 years to give my son the option to work for his old man after college and to have something fun to do as an unemployed person, I’ve got to find a way to at least sustain traffic. The only way I can do so is to broaden the topics in order to broaden the audience. Using controversial words that may hurt people’s feelings is probably not a good long term strategy.
With so much hate in this world, I worry about my son’s future. I know he’ll face bullies and lose opportunities because of who he is and how he looks. Surely, he will make the same mistakes as his father and write or say something that gets misconstrued. But these are all teachable moments that can help prepare him for the real world.
Other teachable moments from Twitter include:
* Realizing not everybody has the same sense of humor, so tread carefully.
* Realizing social media can be a big waste of time, so get off social media if you want to increase happiness.
* Realizing some people only read headlines and not the content, so spend less time writing and podcasting and more time crafting generic SEO friendly headlines.
* Realizing some people will hate you no matter what you say or do because of your background, so learn to accept and let go.
* Thinking differently will jolt people, so figure out when is the most appropriate time to be different and when is the most appropriate time to assimilate.
* Learning how to keep going no matter how difficult the path.
* Showing empathy towards the people who hate you the most, because the way you treat someone is a reflection of your own being.
For our son, I will keep working hard for as long as possible just in case he needs help. Failure is not an option. It doesn’t matter whether folks think it’s ridiculous for me to keep our business going to provide for my family or contemplate important decisions like education to plan for the future. I will always do what’s best for my loved ones and so should you. Contemplation is free and worth doing.
A New Beginning On Financial Samurai
Starting on June 15, 2018, Financial Samurai will seek to become the best frugal blog on the planet with a new URL: FrugalWonderful.com! It cost me $20 to register. Oh, how I love having an internet based business.
I’ve been focused on boosting income and growing my investments since 2009 and now it’s time to boost my Budgeting & Savings category on my new site. By dropping the Asian theme, I hope I can appeal to a broader audience who otherwise might be put off by Asian culture. With a name like Frugal Wonderful, how can the site not be filled with awesomeness!
Here are sample titles of upcoming posts I’d like to work on:
* The 10 Finest Cat Foods That Taste Like Chicken To Use In Your Stew
* Aggressive Snuggling: The Best Way To Save On Heat And Build A Loving Relationship
* If You Spend No Money You Can Retire Yesterday: How One Man Retired By 18
* 10 Date Ideas That Cost No Money If You Don’t Want To Get Laid
* You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Pooped In The Woods
* Biking Is Life: Don’t You Dare Talk To Me If You Drive To Work
How To Make Your Parents Pay For Everything As An Adult Child (oops, I already wrote about that)
How To Get Girls If You Live In Mom’s Basement (darn, wrote about that too)
I really hope everybody can support me in my new endeavor. It’s going to be tough at first given my inexperience as a frugal blogger, but with your support, I believe we can make frugal sexy again!
May we continue to love and accept people from all different types of backgrounds – even those of us who choose to pinch pennies. I hope everybody had a wonderful Easter and April 1!