Why Blogging Is The Best Business In The World

The global pandemic has taught us all that having a job you can work from home is huge. Although my son's school was shutdown, I was able to keep working as a blogger on Financial Samurai. The fact that I could keep my business open made me an even bigger believer that blogging is the best business in the world.

A successful business is one that has high profit margins, a defensible revenue stream, can be scaled, and is hopefully fun to operate. Blogging fits all these categories.

Making money is all about identifying opportunity and doing everything possible to succeed until that window of opportunity closes. But most people are too afraid to take any major risks. Why should we when we have the luxury of employment to keep us comfortably numb.

Opportunities And Taking Risks

The two most common people who take risks are: 1) those who start with little or nothing, and who therefore have little or nothing to lose, and 2) those who come from rich families and who also don't have anything to lose. When your name is William Henry Gates III, you're not exactly going to starve on the streets if you drop out of college.

For those of us in the middle class, we only make a change once we're agitated enough to take action. For me, I decided I had enough of banking after 13 years. The correlation between reward and performance broke down after the financial crisis.

After 13+ years of writing online and 13 years of researching every single industry for my job in finance, This post identifies reasons why blogging is the best business in the world.

Anybody can start. The internet, after all, will be a lifelong trend. If you're ready to start right now, signup with Bluehost today. They have the best pricing and make it super easy to get started.

Why Blogging Is The Best Business In The World

Let's explore many reasons why blogging is the best business in the world. I've been making money online since 2009 and have found no better business for the average person to undertake.

1) Large structural decline in the establishment.

The blogging business involves writing interesting enough content to attract the most amount of visitors possible in order to earn advertising revenue. Therefore, our competition was newspapers, which have gone through a tremendous hollowing out since 2000 when the internet really started to take off.

Newspaper Ad Revenue

But newspapers didn't see bloggers as competition. Individuals writing about what we ate for breakfast or chronicling our feelings online didn't matter.

Instead, newspapers saw Google and Facebook as the real competition. Now Facebook is the most profitably media company around. This is partly thanks to the tremendous amount of fake news advertising on their platform.

Newspaper, Facebook, Google Ad Revenue

Newspapers were trying to defend themselves against getting beaten up by Google and Facebook's respective monopolies in search and social media. Bloggers found an opportunity to take advantage of this disruption by siding with the emerging winners.

For example, roughly 70% of traffic to this site is through Google and Bing. The traffic is free (organic) and perpetual. I've got over 50,000 newsletter subscribers, also created for free. Let's say each subscriber paid just $1/month. I could certainly afford to take care of a family of four in any expensive city in the world.

Blogging is the best business in the world due to leverage and scalability. Once your blog business gets going, your operating margins expand drastically.

2) Competition who doesn't fully believe in themselves.

If you majored in English and then went on to journalism school for your Master's degree, you probably have better technical writing skills and reporting skills than 95% of the bloggers out there.

But what I don't understand is why don't more qualified writers with incredible resumes focus on building their own brand and growing their own platform?

For example, instead of making The Huffington Post rich writing for peanuts (or for free), why not make yourself rich writing by writing on your own site? Arianna Huffington and her investors already got rich by selling to AOL for $315M!

Build Your Own Platform

It's great to see more traditional journalists branch out to become freelance writers. That's an entrepreneurial step in the right direction, whether out of necessity or courage. I'm always trying to challenge those blessed with writing skills to build their own platforms. But more often than not, I'm met with skepticism and resistance.

Check out this Twitter exchange I had responding to a salty freelance tech journalist. He wrote, “I begin to think that people who think they can make money from publishing original content on the internet are deluded.” He was responding to publishing platform, Medium, and its layoffs.

Charles is basically bagging on people like me, who've been doing just fine for the past 13 years. What's incredible is that despite helping make The Guardian, a popular British newspaper, rich as their tech editor from 2009 – 2014, Charles still doesn't believe independent publishing can be done!

Why the media is screwed

Blogging is the best business, yet people still doubt blogging as a business!

As you can see from the exchange, even after all his years of experience, Charles still doesn't believe it's possible to make money as an independent publisher despite sending him this article full of examples of people who do.

Anybody can do a quick Google search to see examples of how much people are making from blogging. Yet, Charles refuses to believe. When you adopt a welfare mentality, you'll never be able to make an extraordinary amount of money.

Many veteran journalists all think the publishing industry is broken. Only a few people have the courage to use their skills to make it on their own. One such person is Brian Lam, the founder of The Wirecutter, a tech/gadget review site.

Brian Lam was a contributing editor for Wired Magazine, and then became the lead editor at Gizmodo, a popular tech/gadget review site for a number of years.

He then left and started The Wirecutter in 2011. On October 24, 2016, Brian sold his bootstrapped company to The New York Times for ~$30M. Not every journalist will see the same results as Brian. But every journalist should at least try to leverage their knowledge and skills to make themselves rich instead.

3) Attractively low startup and operating costs.

The New York Times operating costs must be in the tens of millions a year. Jeff Bezos paid $250 million cash to buy The Washington Post in 2013. Good luck to any one of us for coming up with that type of cash to keep the lights on.

Blogging is the best business because the startup costs are so low. Not only that the operating costs are low as well.

When I decided to start blogging in 2009, I hired a guy for $350 off Craigslist. He helped me create a generic site using the now defunct Blogger platform owned by Google.

The site was called “RichBy30RetireBy40”. It could have been huge! After playing around with the inferior Blogger platform for several months, I decided to start over on WordPress.

I'm so glad I switched! WordPress is a much superior website platform that currently runs Financial Samurai today. I hired another guy off Craigslist for $1,000 to set up my WordPress site. Then, I paid another $200 for some custom design work. Further, I had to pay like $25/month for basic shared hosting.

New tech makes it fast and cheap to start a blog.

Now, creators have it so good thanks to technology and competition. You can easily set up your own site in 30 minutes by following my step-by-step guide.

Instead of spending $2,000 like I did, you can spend so much less. Your cost can be as little as $2.95/month for hosting and $15 a year for a domain name. I'm envious and happy for those people who are looking to build their own brand online today.

Nobody is going broke spending $50 a year operating a website. The people who do go broke are those with massive fixed overhead costs who are unable to pivot quickly enough.

Why do you think there is so much retail and restaurant turnover? Those operators sink in hundreds of thousands of dollars in remodeling costs. Then there's a lot of payroll costs. Thus, the pressure is on to turn a profit immediately or else you're toast.

Having a web business is the most cost efficient, low-risk way to be an entrepreneur. If you don't succeed, all you lose is your time, not your entire life savings!

4) Unlimited scale.

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world,” wrote Archimedes. Leverage is one of the biggest keys to wealth. There are over three billion people online and growing. Your website can instantly start competing with Yahoo or The New York Times for eyeballs, all at a cost of $50 a year.

Thanks to search engines like Google, Bing!, and Duck Duck Go, you can publish something and instantly get found for free. In the past, you'd have to spend a boatload on advertising to get attention. Now you don't, especially since social media is also free.

Financial Samurai receives about 1,200,000 page views a month with ZERO advertising. Even though 1,200,000 pageviews a month sounds like a lot, there's still BILLIONS more pageviews of upside! I really should start doing some online advertising, but I just can't be bothered.

Check out this regional internet traffic growth chart by data network provider, Cisco. If you want to take advantage of the next phase of internet consumption growth, it may be best to have an Asian-themed website with English written content and multiple Asian language translations. Hmm, know of any sites with this type of combination?

Global internet web traffic growth by region
An Asian-themed website with English written content sounds like a good idea

5) Massive profit margins. 

When you run a lifestyle business, you want to be as profitable as possible. You can't afford to keep on operating at a loss for years because you probably don't have any or many investors with unlimited sums of money. Besides, given the low startup and operating costs involved in being a blogger, the operating profit margins are huge compared to any other industry.

Take a look at this great example of the average fast-food restaurant profit margin. A $27,101 operating profit before paying taxes on $821,256 in annual revenue is absurdly small! Are you willing to earn just a 3.3% operating profit margin for all your hard work? I sure as hell ain't.

I'd rather just spend six months writing a severance negotiation strategy book and earn ~$36,000 from it passively for the rest of my life. Even if my only source of income was my severance book, my profit margin on the book alone would still be well over 80%.

Blogging Profit Margin Example

Now let's take a look at operating profit charts I created for a relatively young blogger. With $12,000 in annual revenue, this 26 year old blogger has an operating margin of 70%. Not bad!

Nancy loves to travel and decided to start a blog to chronicle her adventures and lower her costs. She's built up a brand for herself and now earns a healthy $1,000 a month from her site. It's not enough to live on. But it's a great supplement to her $36,000 a year day job working at a retail clothing store.

Beginning blogger operating profit margin chart

Let's take a look at Nancy's potential future if she keeps grinding away. After six years of working on her side hustle, Nancy decided to leave her $55,000 a year job as a retail store manager and work on her travel site full-time because she's now earning $100,000 in revenue.

She can now afford to boost her travel budget up from $1,500 to $5,000. In addition, she can increase her travel meal budget from $500 to $2,000. The best businesses have the highest profit margins.

Blogging is one of the most profitable business in the world

High profit margins make blogging the best business you can work from home.

Despite her large travel and meal increase, her operating profit margin soars to 90% because all her other costs are relatively fixed. This is what we call “operating leverage.”

Yes, she had to increase her hosting cost from $120 a year to $360 a year due to the increase in traffic. But an extra $240 is nothing compared to her revenue, which has increased by $88,000!

Here's a nice chart that gives you an idea of industry net profit margins (after tax). I wish I could find a similar chart that shows operating profit margins (after expenses, before tax) to have a more apples to apples comparison.

But even if you increase all the net profit margin numbers by 50% (Health Tech from 22% to 33%), no industry can compete with the blogging business at 70%+ operating profit margins.

6) No more annoying bosses.

One of the biggest reasons why I no longer wanted to work in Corporate America is because I couldn't stand the constant micromanaging by new bosses.

I literally had six new bosses during the time I was at my old company. It was frustrating to deal with new management styles. Plus, I didn't like dealing with very insecure people who had to prove to their bosses they were worthy.

I really couldn't stand meetings about meetings. Who needs to meet and talk about what we should talk about in an upcoming meeting. Playing politics to get ahead is a soul-sucking endeavor that will burn out even the best ass kisser.

In the end, all anybody ever wants is to get rewarded commensurately with his or her performance. Blogging is the best business because you're in control. With a blog, you either write and flourish. Or you come up with some excuse not to write and fail. There's nobody else to blame or congratulate but yourself.

7) Much better hours with no commute.

It's completely inefficient to have to commute to and from work every day. Not only do you waste time commuting, you increase your stress level. Plus you increase your chance of getting hurt. In addition, you spend more money on gas, maintenance, tickets, and fares, and potentially hurt someone else as well!

For those of you who leave home between the hours of 7am – 9:00am, I commend you for your bravery and patience. The same goes for those of you who leave work between the hours of 4:30pm – 7:00pm.

Longest commute times by city in America
Source: US Census Bureau

With blogging, all you've got to do is open your laptop at home and get to work. You can also work from anywhere in the world there's internet access as well. No wonder why so many bloggers decide to incorporate travel as part of their blogging business.

Blogging is the best business because there's no face time necessary either. Think about all the times when you stayed back at work, surfing Financial Samurai because your boss was still there.

All you wanted to do was get out of there so you could beat traffic, spend time with your partner, play with your kids, or get a cold brew. But no. Your workaholic boss kept you from living your life.

8) Exercise more of your skills.

Companies like Google are still able to hire the best and brightest kids because they have the most money to pay. Unfortunately, they hoard talent with their mega billions and underutilize a vast majority of their employees' skill-sets.

Imagine going to a prestigious private university for $250,000. And then spend 60 hours a week trying to motivate your Uber drivers to continue working for peanuts by creating happy emoji faces in the app? How mind-numbing is that? If purpose didn't matter, nobody would quit the Goldmans, Googles, and McKinsey's of the world because they all pay so well.

Blogging is entrepreneurial.

One of the main reasons why I decided to go to business school was so I could explore entrepreneurship. I didn't grow up rich (and wasn't too good in higher level math).

As a result, I studied Economics and Mandarin in college to best help me get a job at the time. But after four years of work, I could afford to study new fields. I was lucky my employer paid for my MBA.

It feels truly wonderful to be able to utilize more of your skills in everyday business. For example, with Financial Samurai, I have fun writing about so many topics. For example, finance, negotiating business deals, marketing my site organically online, and practicing various forms of communication. The more you get to exercise your brain, the more fulfilled you will be.

Blogging is the best business because you get to choose what you write about. When you write about something you love, writing doesn't feel like work.

Related: Why I Regret Selling My Blog For Millions Of Dollars

9) You don't have to sell a thing. 

If you hate selling, like so many of us do, then blogging is simply the best because you can create a revenue stream where your readers/customers never have to spend a penny. Revenue comes from click ads, banner ads, affiliate products, and your own products.

I would venture to guess that 99.9% of you have never given me any money. And that's just fine by me! I like pounding away at the keyboard because it's fun. I enjoy highlighting financials products that are free to use or may save or generate money for everyone.

It's much more rewarding to make money off corporations whose products can help individuals, rather than make money off individuals themselves.

I love the fact that anybody, rich or poor, young or old, can come to Financial Samurai to find an answer to one of their vexing financial problems for free.

Positive reader feedback is another reason blogging is the best business.

They can leave a comment to ask a question or interact with other readers to learn more as well. The best reward is hearing from readers over the years about how an article on Financial Samurai has helped improve their lives for the better. One might even say blogging is like a “passive giving machine” once the search engines index your articles.

Here's the other thing, parents are paying exorbitant amounts of money for grade school and university because they believe education is the most valuable gift a parent can give their child.

Therefore, how awesome is it to give away real world education to the very parents who pay those enormous sums of money for tuition? Right on!

Here's a nice comment I recently got from a reader on my historical 401k contribution limits post. The post doesn't just highlight what the limits are. It tries to illuminate the value of your employer's potential match and to question the employer's commitment to their employees.

Why blogging is the best business in the world

10) Anybody can create.

With blogging, you don't need a lot of capital to start or operate as I've pointed out. Further, you don't need to have a pedigree from UC Berkeley either.

All you need is the ability to regularly come up with helpful topics to write about. If you can speak forever, you can write forever because ideas just come naturally.

There's no need to write amazing prose because you aren't writing a New York Times bestseller nor are you writing for the New York Times!

Dr. Phil's weight loss book
If Dr. Phil can make money teaching
people how to lose weight, anything is possible!

There are people who started with no clue about the topics they are now experts writing about who've made huge sums of money.

For example, Dr. Phil, who is obese, wrote two best-selling weight-loss books, and he's still obese. Dr. Phil didn't give a crap about what other people thought about him and his expertise. He created something from nothing, influenced millions of people, and got rich anyway.

Now imagine what you can do with a little bit of expertise in your field. You could make a killing! This is why it continues to perplex me why journalists with all the skills and pedigree in the world can't go on to make it big on their own.

Blogging also gave me an opportunity to write a bestselling personal finance book that is also affordable. Now I will make royalty income for the rest of my life. I hope you pick up a copy!

11) The ability to create positive change. 

The world is a wonderfully messed up place. Despite tremendous progress on the social and economic front, there's still plenty of issues to address. I'd like to think that we all want equality for our children, even if we do prefer a competitive advantage.

A blogger has the ability to support great organizations, point out flaws in suspect organizations, and share stories about important issues so that nobody ever has to feel alone.

The greatest reward a blogger can receive is knowing s/he has made a positive change in someone's life. This is one of the main reasons why I accepted the job as an assistant varsity boy tennis coach at a nearby high school.

After a while, making more money starts feeling very empty. Knowing that you're helping someone for free is an awesome feeling.

Financial Samurai reader thank you e-mail
Reader thank you e-mail 2017. This type of feedback is way better than money.

12) A blog can't be shut down!

Who would have thought that in 2020, we'd be hit with a coronavirus pandemic and have to shut down most of our economy? Blogging is the best business because blogging can't be shut down. There is no need for face-to-face interaction. A blog can be run from anywhere there is internet access.

Blogging operating margins are huge because costs are so low. You won't make as much during a pandemic because search traffic and advertising dollars will be cut. However, you're still going to make good money and not lose money like many other businesses.

It is my belief that defensive business like blogging will see an increase in valuations. When you can't shut a business down, its income stream become much more valuable.

Related: Reflections On Making Money Online Since 2009

Blogging Is The Best Business

Getting rejected by so many tech companies since I left finance in 2012 was a bummer. But each rejection gave me a “power up” to try harder and make it on my own. Never would I have imagined during college or even just 10 years ago that having a simple website would allow me to be 100% free.

All any rational person ever wants is to see a correlation with effort and reward. Being an entrepreneur gives you the most pure correlation possible. And if you choose blogging as your business, you just might stumble upon the most rewarding, most profitable, and most fun entrepreneurial activity around.

Let me leave you with one final real life blogging income statement that generates $1M+ in revenue a year while working 25 hours a week. Not bad right? Think bigger and you'll amaze yourself.

How much you can make blogging - 1 million pageviews a month

Learn how to start a profitable blog with my step-by-step tutorial in 30 minutes or less. It cost me $1,500 to start Financial Samurai back in 2009 because I had to hire someone to build it over three days.

If you're ready to start right now, signup with Bluehost. They have the best pricing and make it super easy to get started. Today, you can spend less than $3 a month and start your blog yourself!

Updated for 2022 and beyond. Not a day goes by where I'm not thankful for starting FS in 2009. Blogging gives me something meaningful to do every day post corporate America. Blogging also provides me a medium to record my thoughts for my children. Further, blogging got me a book deal with Penguin Random House.

The book is entitled Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom. I'm positive it will be a bestseller and one of the best personal finance books ever. Blogging truly is the best business in the world!

About The Author

146 thoughts on “Why Blogging Is The Best Business In The World”

  1. It is ludicrous that the journalist won’t believe evidence because folks blog anonymously.

    i think you are right, Sam. Blogging is the best business. It is the easiest way to own the means of production. Yes, there are many blogs, but there are also many readers looking for a blog to read that speaks to them. The market is limitless. And bloggers can shift what they write about since they are in control of their own spaces.

    1. Journalists don’t believe a lot of things that don’t fit their “worldview” or what the rest of the journalist “herd” is saying that day. There is no group that more represents the living embodiment of conventional wisdom than journalists.

  2. Way to get me FIRED UP SAM! Great motivation to keep our blog rolling and to keep on interacting with all the fellow bloggers in the community out there!

    Thanks for the great read.


  3. Vancouver Brit

    There is a reason 97% of blogs fail and it usually revolves around time. Nobody is going to give up a career to start a blog from scratch, and to be a successful blogger you almost need to make it your career. It takes A LOT more time than people realize, especially in the beginning, if you’re doing it properly.

    You need a topic that people are interested in, you need in depth knowledge in that topic which usually requires a lot of reading/skills outside of writing your blog, you need to be a strong, engaging writer with a UNIQUE personality that doesn’t just regurgitate information, you need to be a critical thinker, you need to be active in the community your blog is about, you need to pump out articles very frequently, at least in the beginning and the biggest and most time consuming factor is you need to figure out a way to garner a readership. That’s just a few of the necessities to be a successful blogger.

    Getting a blog off the ground takes a hell of a lot of time and perseverance. I began a blog a few months ago as I had a lot of free time at work and thought why not? Getting it set up is the easy part, but finding the time to write a GOOD article every few days is very difficult when holding down a full time job. As soon as I didn’t have free time at work, blogging became a chore rather than an enjoyment and I struggled to find the motivation to continue.

    Also, nobody finds your blog unless you put in a ton of time and effort to get noticed. You say it’s easy with Google and social media but neither of these get you any readership whatsoever in the initial stages. Nobody sees your Facebook pages or tweets and you don’t show up anywhere in search engines. The only success I found was by reading and writing engaging comments on all the other blogs on the same subject that are already successful. This takes FOREVER and is probably more time consuming than actually writing your own blog.

    I don’t deny there are a ton of perks to making blogging your career and this article gives a good overview of those perks, but you make it sound so easy when in reality it’s a really difficult and skilled thing. Most people don’t have the time to write a great article a few times a week, they don’t have the time it takes to put in the effort to gain a readership, they don’t have an engaging written personality, they don’t have the in depth knowledge to write a detailed article on a given topic, they don’t have the critical thinking skills to think of unique articles that haven’t been covered in other blogs that would interest their readers. All of these skills are a necessity to become a good blogger.

    I consider blogging to have the same barriers as creating a successful YouTube channel. The amount of people that want to be a success on YouTube is staggering and the amount that actually make it is minuscule. I think it’s almost reckless to encourage people to blog simply because it went so well for you, in fact I’d almost want to tell people just how hard it is. The vast, vast majority of people will succeed far more in a career than writing a blog. If you want to blog, either do it as a hobby until it’s big enough to give up any career aspiration or do it when you aren’t reliant upon the money coming in from it. In other words, once you’re financially free for most people. It is not a career most people can succeed at.

    1. Good to get your viewpoint! And the great thing is, at least you tried right? If you didn’t try, then you would never know whether blogging was right for you. Your cost was your time and a small amount of money, unlike remodeling a restaurant for hundreds of thousands of dollars, hiring staff, and then losing money every day to rent and other fixed costs because not enough people came. Further, at least you learned something about online work, which may be very valuable. It was to me as I was able to get four pretty well-paying consulting jobs for fintech companies.

      Blogging is WAY easier than Youtube. The amount of editing required is brutally painful in video if you want to match content quality. Blogging is also way easier than podcasting. I’ve tried em all.

      Last 6 months, and you have a greater chance of lasting 1 year. Last year, and you might as well shoot for 2 years. Get to 3 years of blogging consistently, and I’m a meaningful amount of joy and income will result.

      Just look at your comment. You could write a new blog post about it! There are endless amount of topics to write about. I don’t understand why people run out of topics. Is this my Dunning-Krueger disease in full effect?

      So let’s reverse engineer blogging progress. Why do you think FS got off the ground? All anybody has to do is witness what someone has done and copy, no?

      Did you shut your site down? Let me take a look and I can provide some quick advice if you want.

      1. Vancouver Brit

        I’m not saying nobody should try blogging because absolutely it’s worth trying, I just wouldn’t go recommending somebody to quit their career and have a go at it as the chances of success are very low for the average person. I started with the intention of enjoying it and if it became popular and I earned some money, great. I suspect the majority of people start out that way and quickly realize it’s too much effort and the enjoyment soon vanishes. I also just started my CPA this year which is unbelievably time consuming so I have zero time to commit to a blog at the moment.

        I think I’d give it another shot in the future, but it’s a much, much bigger commitment than most people (including me) realize. At least I now know that so if I want to try again I know how much time it takes.

        My blog is still around but I no longer use it (money-miser.com/) and wouldn’t have the time now even if I wanted to. I’d have probably killed it if I knew how haha.

  4. Grant, I am not sure on the failure rate but I’d assume it is pretty high as I think those are at successful at blogging probably start multiple blogs before one works. I don’t think this was the case with Sam.

    I am planning on doing a weekend of driving for Uber and just paying for 3 years of hosting and domain registration in advance so that I feel obligated to stick with it since it is paid for. As a teacher and coach I am now on my 4th or 5th blog and I seem to hit a wall every fall when I both teach and coach cross country at the same time. I am hitting on all cylinders to do both of things successfully and after the season slowly get back in to it.

    I’ve also got 3-4 journals full of notes but I’ve realized that’s kind of a shame and kind of selfish to horde all of that to myself….which also led me to think…”How many important voices in history did we miss hearing from because there were no blogs/websites until recently?”

    It is crazy to think about.

  5. Wow Sam, it appears you have inspired a lot of us to start a blog over the last few years. Mine will be a year old next month. I guess you don’t mind a little competition? Kind of a rising tide lifts all ships kind of thing?

    I would love to know what the failure rate is on blogs. Of the amount started what percentage are given up on after two or three years?

    Personally I’m excited to start making some money from mine but for me I just enjoy writing every morning. I use to just fill up my journal with random thoughts but I have found the blog to be far more enjoyable.

  6. Hello Sam,

    Awesome article! I appreciate how informative, yet digestible your content is! I have a hypothetical question here for you…If anyone in history were to have a blog, who would you be most interested in following?

  7. Just found your website. I’ve been blogging since 2010. I now make 6 figures. But I’m worried that it is easy come, easy go. It isn’t too difficult to imagine losing this source of income.

    I often think about investing in a brick and mortar business now while I have the money. But the returns are simply pathetic compared to blogging and there is huge risk.

    What do you think?

    How much would I have to invest to bring in six figures annually in interest. The amount required must be huge.

    1. After almost 7 years, not sure it really is “easy come, easy go” with a six figure income! The only people who really fear “easy come, easy go” are those bloggers/website owners who conducted shady blackhat SEO strategies to try and get their sites to rank better.

      We’ve seen hundreds of sites get blown up because of these strategies over the years. But for those who continue to just write helpful content on a consistent basis, I’ve seen a great correlation with their efforts and growth.

      Using online money to buy REAL ASSETS like real estate is something I’ve done and encourage people to do. Just buy appropriately. See: Turn Funny Money Into Real Assets If You Want To Stay Rich

      Also see: Practice Taking Profits To Pay For A Better Life

      1. Tech changes all the time. It’s ridiculous to assume this will last. Blogging didn’t even exist when I was born. After doing it I went from making nothing to four figures to six figures. It could easily end. It probably will in fact.

        Look at MySpace, Altavista, groceries, Polaroid, pay porn, beanie babies, etc.

        Remember telegrams? Neither do I.

        The other advice seems more reasonable. I’ll look into your investment recommendations. Right now I’m spending 100% of my money on experiences like travel, massage, partying and great restaurants. I need to put my money to work!

  8. “For those of us in the middle class, we only make a change once we’re agitated enough to take action.”

    Yup, that exactly what motivated me to become FI. Inertia is a human being’s biggest enemy (that and bears). It’s so easy to fall into the trap of mindlessly going into work everyday and following the herd. But in reality, what feels “safe” means you’re actually drowning slowly.

    While I agree that blogging is a very rewarding experience and one of the biggest advantages is the low startup cost, the low barrier to entry is also one of the biggest disadvantages. Since it takes so little capital to start and anyone can do it, you are competing against millions of other bloggers. So you really have to figure out how to stand out. Not saying it’s not do-able, but it does take time and skill.

    I also don’t think English majors would necessarily do better than the rest of us. One of the things that keeps an audience is not how perfect your grammar is but how useful your articles are and how well you connect to people. People don’t connect to grammar, they connect to other people. That’s why, in my opinion, artistic voice is more important than grammar (hopefully my high-school English teacher isn’t reading this)

    But I do agree that blogging helps you become part of a community and develop your writing skills. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t make any money, it’s still worth it to develop new skills and for networking.

    1. As an on and off blogger who is also majored in Journalism and now teaches English all of this fascinates me.
      I’ve actually started having my kids read articles about those making a lot of money writing to get my kids more interested in writing and so far it has been working.

      Thank you Sam!

    2. “People don’t connect to grammar, they connect to other people.” this is a great point I hope my father (occassional editor) reads!

      Now imagine if you were an English major + Journalism grad student AND could connect to people? Home run!

      There really aren’t millions of other blogs in one’s niche to compete against. There’s really only several hundreds, maybe, which is nothing compared to the potential real audience.

  9. Ten Bucks a Week

    Woah, I’m a 26-year-old blogger, but my name isn’t Nancy. I think blogging is great and continue to produce articles regularly, but not at your tremendous pace.

    Having your own platform is so important, just look at what happened to the Uber driver who bought a car to drive Black, the rules changed and now he is out of luck. We own the means of production, oh capitalism.

  10. Thanks for highlighting the salty response from the journalist. It’s absolutely mind boggling how many with a background in traditional publishing who still fail to recognise the possibilities afforded them by the internet. Instead they waste their time longing back to the good, old days.

    I see you’re familiar with Ben Thompson, given you referenced him in one of your charts. He’s not only a shining example of how you can make a living from online, independent publishing, but he’s also the best at explaining this new economy, and the possibilities it bring in a way that’s concise and understandable for everyone. I always try to refer people to him when the future of publishing comes up.

    That said, I think this is a good, understandable and concise article highlighting some of the opportunities that exist. Well done, Sam!

    1. It is kind of sad that a veteran journalist who helped make a site successful with his writing can’t realize the potential of making his own platform successful with his own writing. Maybe inertia just traps us into thinking and doing what we’ve always been thinking and doing. I don’t know. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” I don’t know.

      If only I had as good as a grasp of the English language as Charles Arthur, FS would be huge! Alas, I’m happy to grind away. At least I can read and speak Mandarin!

      Carpediem blog is great.

  11. Sam,

    Great post and thanks for everything you do! The financial resources on here are incredible to the point where sometimes you can’t believe they are free!

    I agree with you that blogging is the best business out there (not the most profitable in my case, but certainly the most fulfilling) and I’m glad you’ve been successful with it.

    I congratulate you on all your career, investment, and business success and wish you more in the future!

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. Just wait until year three. Due to operational leverage, your profit margin will SKYROCKET as your fixed costs stay the same. The key is to hone your audience to a specific niche, learn about ways to build your brand and monetize, and you will have clients knocking on your door to pay you more money than you could ever have imagined.

      Blog for fun, but also blog with the notion you could make your site significant one day.

  12. Done by Forty

    I love the post, Sam. Blogging really is a fantastic opportunity for someone wanting to start a business, and dip their toe into entrepreneurship.

    Though, is blogger really defunct? Isn’t it, like, retro and cool now?

  13. Hi Sam,

    Fantastic post and great discussion from all. It is posts like these that inspire the rest of us to get started with blogging. I’m 1 month into my blog about singing/vocal development. I’m loving the process and slowly but steadily seeing views rise. However, I do want to add a caveat for all blogging beginners though. IMO you need at least one of the following to succeed, and preferably both:

    1) Serious subject matter expertise and experience (10+ years ).
    2) Lack of intense saturation in the niche you are looking to blog about

    For example, my blog is about singing and vocal development. I didn’t pick personal finance because:

    1) I haven’t worked in investment banking/accounting/etc for 10+ years and I haven’t retired at age 40. But I do have nearly 15 years experience/ expertise in my niche.
    2) There is already intense saturation by serious experts like yourself, MM etc. I don’t feel there are too many singing blogs that set out to do what I do, etc

    The second point could also mean there is less demand. That is the $64 million question! However, as you mention, even if a blog can get 50-100k views/ month there can be some considerable monetization.

    I just want to hopefully highlight the value for a newbie in considering the topic you write about in depth before you start writing in a niche where it’s hard to add value.

    1. Great job focusing on your expertise! That’s a no-brainer versus starting a PF blog without finance experience.

      You only need a TINY sliver of the internet’s traffic to create a great income stream. Forget about world domination. Think small to earn big.

  14. Excellent article – thanks for the info. I really like the part about declining establishment. For years I thought the best days of blogging were over, but with the current political client in the US and globally, it seems that small groups and individuals are really gaining a lot of power and the ability to quickly communicate with large audiences. I hope you’re right and I hope this bodes well for my sort of new website/blog.

  15. Thanks for the thorough discussion — it’s for many of these reasons that I decided to start a blog. The most important reason for me is the ability to teach others and reach as large an audience as possible.

    If you haven’t yet, I think a great follow on post would be how to grow your audience in the early stages. Once I get “over the hump” and know I’m getting consistently viewed on a daily basis, it will add quite a bit of motivation.

  16. Great post, Sam.

    While I do agree that blogging is a great business, I would say that the barriers of entry are getting harder and harder with each passing day. With how “fierce” the competition is in the blogging arena and all of the new blogs coming out, it may sometimes be very hard to create unique content and not have posts that other bloggers have already covered.

    However, I do agree that with persistence, perseverance, a consistent blog schedule, and a stroke of luck, it is possible to come out ahead and turn a blog into a successful venture.

      1. Smart Provisions

        Yes, set-up costs have gotten very very cheap. With hosting for $5 a month and a domain for $10 a year, you can easily get set up with only $70 a year.

        Sorry, but I may have mixed up my definition of barriers of entry. I was more thinking of how “hard” it is to write good and unique content instead of reinventing the wheel with content other bloggers have already covered.

  17. Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    I really enjoyed this post, Sam.

    I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of blogging as a business, but I 100 percent agree that blogging is the best business in the world.

    I also thoroughly enjoy reading posts about blogging like this from successful bloggers like yourself.

    For me, I enjoy blogging most because I enjoy writing. It’s fun to put your thoughts out there and see how others react. Further, blogging is progressional. Each article you write is another piece of content for someone to find. I always think about it as building a giant web online. I love anything that builds upon itself…(blogging and dividend investing). It’s also great to connect with like-minded people. Additionally, writing is very therapeutic. There’s something so calming about sitting down with a coffee at my desk by myself to work on my blog.

    I enjoy blogging for a lot of the reasons in your post too. I dislike micromanaging bosses and don’t think that’s a good way to develop employees. I’d rather work from home and avoid the commute. Furthermore, blogging is such a great way to build skills. It helps will relationship building, writing, communication, and much more.

    Thanks for the read! Have a great week.

    1. Yes sir about writing as a great form of therapy. It was my cathartic therapy when the world was falling apart in 2009!

      There are HUGE synergies once you have a large enough portfolio of articles out there. One article now on FS may reach 10X more people than just two years ago.

      Just got to keep building. After 10 years of focus, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people can make a living blogging. The question is, how many people will ever last 10 years?

  18. Great post, Sam!

    I’m starting my own blog too, and for now is just for sharing my thoughts. Eventually it my turn into a business. We never know.

  19. Boom! Great post Sam.

    Your website inspired me to start my own personal finance blog over the pond for UK readers.

    I’m now at 310 email subscribers :)

    Hoping to start earning some revenue later this year.


    1. Great job! I didn’t focus on my e-mail list for years. It was a mistake, so it’s good you are building your subscriber list now. Nobody can take away your e-mail list! It’s your own Google.

  20. Very informative post Sam. For me blogging is a way to express my creative side and connect with like minded people. I haven’t too put much emphasis on the monetary side of things but that’s certainly something I should explore more in the future. What’s the minimum traffic you’d need to make a decent amount of money via blogging?

    1. Depends on what your definition of decent is? Perhaps 30,000 pageviews a month. You can make $300 – $3,000 a month with that traffic, which I think is a significant amount.

      $1,000/month was my early goal to achieve after one year.

      Replicating your day job income would be extremely significant! Even just 50% of it would be great.

  21. Passive Investor

    I found this article to be very interesting and timely for me. After being a reader of yours for years, I started seriously considering starting a blog based off your inspiration. Being the “fact checker” or skeptical type, I asked several CPA’s I know if they had any clients or knew of anyone who made decent money blogging. Every one of them chuckled and said there’s no money in blogging.

    350 hours of investment later, I’ve launched my own blog from FS inspiration.

    I created my own platform instead of using WordPress, mostly because I wanted to incorporate a real estate calculator I built and other custom tools. I’m suffering my deviation from FS recommendation now, because my platform is not SEO friendly! Oh well, I will re-calibrate and grind forward.

  22. Save Splurge Deny Debt - Cameron

    Awesome and Informative Article to say the least,

    As someone who has owned a very time consuming business (bar and restaurant) this post is spot on. I still have the itch to own a business and a brand, and the internet allows people to do that with relative ease.

    I appreciate your posts about blogging tend to give a much more realistic view. To make it work and help people there is much more involved than just writing. There is marketing, time management, and networking involved. To have the audience that people want to reach there site is more than posting, and that’s what makes it exciting.

    For people who are entrepreneurial, and have some experience in a topic, then blogging is an amazing business opportunity. I would venture many entrepreneurs do not mind the competition, as it is in any business these days.

    Lastly, I think you can tell when people are honest and wanting to help. I think a vast majority of people want to help others and not gain a quick buck. The cream always rises to the top in business.

    Great post

    1. Ah, a man with the experience of running a bar and a restaurant! I would love to know more about the pros and cons of such a business. I see bars and restaurants open and close ALL THE TIME on every popular street here in SF.

      When restaurant owners tell me they are going to spend $1,000,000 remodeling the place when it already looks great from the previous owner who was there for only three years, I’m like “what the hell?!” Folks don’t remodel their primary homes for 20+ years usually!

      Is running a restaurant/bar really that good? Seems like A LOT of work and startup capital!

  23. Sam,

    I like your blog a lot but I disagree with your statement that blogging is high margin, because you assume your time is worth 0. This is like saying an employee has 100% profit margin as the ‘revenue’ always equals ‘profit!’

    The margin of blogging can only be compared with other businesses if you can pay other people to blog for you.

    1. Good point about the value of time. It is subjective. To me, I would blog for free b/c I love it. And that’s pretty much what I did for the first two years. I would also be willing to blog for minimum wage now, or for the median per capita income of ~$40,000 a year. If I locked down expenses, and paid myself a $40,000 salary, my company operating profit would still be well over 50%, which is well over the highest profit margin in the chart I showed.

      In the case of Nancy earning ~$90,000 a year in operating profits, that is what her time is worth.

      For me, I can make $40,000 in salary and have my company earn $100,000+ in operating profits. That is what my time is worth as well.

      The bloggers who succeed the most are the ones who’d blog for free.

      1. I still think there is a difference between how much you are willing to take and how much your time is actually worth. You cannot pay 40k to have someone blog for you with the same success and no one can hire you to blog for them for 40k.

        1. Sound good. What do you think my time is worth? And how do you calculate the time for any startup founder in the beginning when there’s no revenue or very little? And how do you adjust the value of one’s time over time?

          What is your entrepreneurial experience and how you valued your time when first starting a business.

          BTW, if we use $200,000, instead of $40,000, the 50%+ margin is still the same. But this is where you should read:

          What Is The Right Ratio Of Salary And Distribution To Minimize An Audit

          1. Like you said, it is subjective. I can think of three ways to think of the value of your time. For the purpose of thinking of the blog as a business, maybe we should take the smallest of the three. First way, your time is worth $200,000, exactly the amount the blog enables you to realize, because the blog’s identity is you. Another way to think about it is the amount other people have to pay you to do the same work. My guess is that if considered this way, the value of your time is priceless. Yet another way is the amount you have to pay someone to do the same GREAT job. My guess is that you cannot find anyone at all or have to pay a fortune if not $200,000, or in other words, it is either priceless or worth a lot. To sum up, for the purpose of considering the profitability of the blog, your time is worth 200k or maybe just a tad less. The margin of the business can be quite low if you decide to separate yourself from the business someday.

            The value of the time of any startup founder is the expected future value of the firm, which is more based on future growth potential than on current cash flow. There are businesses that the founder is the business. I guess if everything else is the same, the future value of such business without the founder is much less. In that case for sure the founder has created value, but the value can only be realized with HIS time, and so a large portion of the firm’s value is attributed to the founder’s time. BTW: the cost of the founder’s time is the opportunity cost.

            I am not getting your point that if we use $200,000 instead of $40,000, the 50%+ margin is still the same. We are talking about the margin of the business. Hypothetically let’s say the company/blog is owned by someone else. If they pay you $40k, they might have a business with 50%+ margin, but if they pay you 200k, they have 0 margin. :-)

            It’s interesting to think about it.

            No I have no entrepreneurial experience, but someone thinking about retiring early and do things I like, but I feel like I need to use a 2% rule instead of 4%. :-)

            1. Thanks GZ. You should consider starting a business to help see the different angles of a businesses’ operating profit margin because you’ll get intimate with S-Corps, LLCs, distributions, taxes, etc.

              Let’s talk about the margin of a business that pays an employee $200,000 instead of $40,000.

              Gross Revenue: $1,000,000
              Operating Expenses excluding salary: $100,000
              Salary Expense: $200,000
              Operating Profit Before Taxes: $700,000
              Operating Profit Margin: 70%

              As a business owner, you can retain the earnings after paying taxes on your company balance sheet, spend it on building your business, or pay yourself a distribution. You earn $200,000 + whatever you want to distribute to yourself + you own the business, which has an equity value.

              This hypothetical business can raise salaries to $400,000, and still maintain a 50% operating profit margin. If you are the sole owner of the business, you can see how paying yourself is just accounting, since you are taking all anyway. This is where reading about the right distribution of salary and distribution comes into play.

              Running a business is a more efficient way to earn, if you can get the business off the ground. But it’s hard to fully know until your start running a business. It’s kind of a chicken or the egg scenario.

              What line of work do you do? It’ll help me understand where you are coming from. Thanks!

              Related: Lawyers, Bankers, Techies: You’ll Never Get Rich Working For Someone Else

            2. Thanks for the detailed response. There is no question about the total profit before salary. In your example that is 900k. There is also no question that it is a matter of allocation to arbitrarily split the 900k between salary expense and profit after salary, because the ’employee’ is also the owner. You cut the pie into two pieces and no matter how you cut, it is still the same pie. You are absolutely right that the only accounting constraint is that the IRS requires the business to pay the owner/employee a reasonable amount for SE tax purposes.

              The problem comes in when we start to analyze the business without the owner/employee. We are still splitting the same 900k profit before salary, but what would be the right economic split if our interest is in determining the economic margin of the business without the owner/employee. Pretend that I bought this hypothetical business in your example and the owner/employee quits. I have to find a replacement. Let’s say the only replacement with similar qualifications I can find costs 600k. Now after paying him, I have only 300k left as profit, and my operating profit drops to 300k, and operating margin 30%. What happens if I cannot find a replacement at all? Well, the profit drops to 0 and so is the margin. In general, the more _unique_ value the owner adds to the business, the more value we allocate to the owner.

              Now what is the point of this analysis? It is to compare only the merits of the business with other businesses. The newspapers or Coke Cola, McDonalds are not run by owners and so we need to take the value of owner out to do an apple-to-apple comparison.

              PS. Huge fan of your blog.

              One might want to say that since it is a lifestyle business, the owner and the business are by definition not separable. That might be true, but in that case I would argue that instead of creating a business, what the owner really created is a job for himself.

              I am an option trader/quant and want-to-be security analyst. :-)

              1. Cool. I appreciate your insights and tips on running an online business. Even though you are an options trader, it sounds like you are plugged into running a business.

                Any specific insights on how I can do better (traffic and revenue)? Right now, about 70-75% of my traffic is passive from search engines. If I didn’t write another article this year, that percentage will probably grow to 85%, with the rest, direct traffic due to brand and existing link backs. What percentage would you recommend for search, and how would you structure things so I don’t create a job for myself?

                If you need some insights on the securities analyst position, let me know. I worked with them closely for over a decade. How long have you been an options trader after college? I remember the derivative traders at GS made bank! I interviewed with the desk and didn’t get the job. My math skills were terrible.

                Feel free to start a new thread.

            3. As I don’t have real experience, I have no idea what’s the right % for search. What I suspect is that if you stop updating your blog, the absolute number of unique visits will eventually go down. On the one extreme, if the number can last forever after you stop updating (and stop promoting), then you have essentially created an annuity; on the other extreme, if you immediately lose all the visitors the moment you stop updating, then it is just a job. The reality is likely somewhere in between. The minimal amount of maintaining needed to maintain the traffic is the time cost…

              I have been in the business for 16-17 years and have been in a lot of different roles. :-) Right now security analysis is mostly a hobby. I will bug you when I am ready to be more serious.

              1. Ok, thanks for your advice. What about just hiring staff writers to keep the posting schedule given 70% of the traffic is recurring? That way, I don’t have to do anything.

                Also, what about replying less to comments and focusing the energy on creating new posts? I’ve noticed a lot of sites don’t respond to anybody.


            4. I was thinking of your stats. You said 70-75% are passive from search engines. That makes me wonder how many of this 70-75% are returning visitors. Maybe a lot of them are in fact returning visits but people just want to type “financial samurai” into the search engine to get to your site. But in the case that it is indeed 70-75% are first time visitors, maybe it is indeed that spending time on comments don’t make much sense.

          2. One concern about staff writers is if they can keep the “personality” of the blog. Out of the hundreds of PF blogs, I only read 3 blogs. Yours I always read. You are what makes it special. I am sure there is a way to hire someone to do it but still keep the “personality” but not sure how.

            On comments, I guess you can do experiments and analyze the data, or do a survey. For me, the 3 blogs I read all have owners actively participate in commenting. I personally enjoy reading the comments and especially the owners’ response. A lot of the times I return to the same article just to read comments. The questions are if returning visitors to the same article is worth much after the initial visit, and if the owner seldom comments, will the readers stop commenting too and how that is going to affect the traffic?

    2. I had this thought too about margins initially – in some ways blogging is comparable to the margin on other self-employed businesses such as doctors / consultants / private corporate financiers / real estate realtors. You have to take into account your time or hire someone. Where blogging does well is that although you might earn more revenue initially in a self-employed role your scale is limited to your hours or your rate/commission. A successful blog could scale significantly more than a consultant, and even a private financiers fees would be capped at a certain stage. Lastly, all of those self-employed skillsets require a significant technical skill which is location dependent. Blogging is definitely a great business platform indeed.

  24. Jim @ Route To Retire

    Shhhh, don’t tell people all the good or everyone’s going to start doing it. :-)

    One of the unexpected rewards I’ve gotten from the past couple years of blogging is the number of fellow bloggers friends I’ve met along the way. The community is fantastic and most people are very supportive of others.

    That to me actually makes it worthwhile. Blogging is a business that seems to have a slow start, but if you can hang in there, it’s definitely worth the effort in my book.

    — Jim

  25. Duncan's Dividend

    Blogging is awesome, I just started it myself after thinking about it and dabbling off and on with it for the last two years on unpaid sites. I finally hunkered down and paid for my own domain to hold myself accountable and I could not be happier. I think the biggest challenge is building up that critical mass and not getting lost in the noise and I know I am still trying to figure out this whole industry. Right now it’s a good day when I have almost ten people stop by, but hey we all have to start somewhere and I’m a couple weeks in with limited content, but I’m enjoying a story every couple of days right now and there’s a ton of topics to write about in the financial freedom world.

    1. I remember when I first started and had little traffic. I always told myself this,

      There’s nothing but upside, baby!

      It’s when you break a 10 handicap when golf starts not being as fun b/c you’ve got to get on in regulation every single hole. One triple bogie and your round is ruined!

  26. I agree that blogging is great, but do you have any concern that the potentially unlimited competition may make it difficult to succeed at any point?

    Given all the great aspects to blogging that you point out, there are more and more coming online every day. How can a new blog stand out among all the noise? No matter how great you are at writing, there are probably several people blogging on the same topic who are more established and even better writers. How do you overcome that? I know you talk about finding your niche, but doesn’t it seem like every niche will eventually be full?

    Personally, I got a wake-up call recently when J Money released his directory of personal finance blogs. There’s now over 800 blogs listed. That’s a lot of competition for clicks and eyeballs.

    1. I’m actually surprised there’s ONLY 800 blogs in that directory. I thought there would be thousands by now because Wisebread had 500 around seven years ago.

      So perhaps this is my glass half full approach. With only 800 blogs in the PF space and 3 billion+ people online, I feel there is so much upside! That’s 3.75 million potential readers for each of the 800 PF blogs! Awesome, especially since you only need about 50,000 – 100,000 readers a month to start making some decent money.

  27. Hey Sam,

    Thanks again for the inspiration you regularly dole out! Since you inspired me to start a blog a year ago (its birthday is in 2 days!), I have spent $100 and earned $80. Not bad for a first year startup-side gig. More satisfyingly, I have written a novella and a novel just by posting a chapter a week. It’s cathartic and has helped me understand my place and participation in the War on Terror.

    Additionally, all the thinking and writing I have done about my career field (law enforcement) has certainly developed my ability to speak passionately about it. It is easy to nail a promotional interview when you have been posting 2x a week on the subject for the past year!


    1. Nice job almost making all your expenses back! We call this the “payback period” in business.

      The X Factor is the rewarding feeling one gets from creating something from nothing and connecting with cool folks from around the world.

      The leverage really starts kicking in after the 2nd and 3rd year.

  28. I both read your article you wrote about how to start blogging, and also bought your book “How to Engineer your layoff.” Sam, I must say you are doing a great service to society.

    However, I only have a few articles out, but my only fear is there are so many blogs and so much competition, that the low barriers to entry are going to make it difficult to make much money in the future. Ergo, for an aspiring early retiree like myself with lots of investment assets, the pressure to make a LOT of money blogging is entirely off. Still, much like yourself, I get personal enjoyment and a sense of achievement from seeing numbers go up, such as visitors go up.

    Also, what is your take on advertising on a blog? I’d like to be ad free at first until I get a fair amount of good content out there. I don’t want viewers to be hit with ads until I am good and ready with a lot of decent content. How long do you suggest I wait until I add ads to my blog?

    Thanks again,

    1. Thanks for your support!

      I think you should add ads on your blog immediately. 2 or 3 ad blocks will suffice. Everybody is used to ads now, and lots of them (8-10 ad blocks), so 2 or 3 isn’t going to hurt you or look weird. In fact, it will look underwhelming. Play around with ads and products you believe in that fit your writing.

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