How I Got Over the Hump and Sold My Blog for $3 Million

By Jim Wang on 5 December 2013 (Updated 9 July 2014) 11 comments

Editor's note: Jim Wang launched the personal finance blog Bargaineering.com in 2005. Five years later, he sold the site for $3 million. Today, he runs Microblogger.com, where he teaches new bloggers how to build successful blog businesses.

There's always a wall. A hump. A plateau.

It might come on day two, it might come on year two, but there's always a point in every business where you feel like you've hit a wall. That moment when you aren't quite sure if you're just going up a small hill or if you've just run into Mount Everest.

For me, that moment was about six months in. I'd started Bargaineering in January of 2005 and by July and August, in the depths of the summer slowdown, I felt as if the site might have run its course. I started it as a journal to document everything I was learning about personal finance. Six months in, when the rush of constant discovery and of daily growth had subsided, I was left with a website that was only making a few cents to maybe a dollar a day and a feeling that I'd learned enough.

This is very common. When the euphoria of starting a new venture, of meeting all these new people, and of discovering something fresh and new subsides, you're left with the reality of running your own business — and it's tough.

Fortunately there are techniques you can use to get over the wall, crest that hump, and overcome the plateau so you can escape the local peak and reach your full potential.

Hit the Reset Button

Any business can be a grind; sometimes you need to hit the reset button. I don't mean that you should reset the business — reset yourself. If the business can handle it, step away and go on a sabbatical. Use this time to think about what's important to you, what you want to focus on, and whether you can adjust your situation so that you spend more time on the things that are important, rather than the things you "must" do.

If you can't get away, take some time to re-evaluate your situation. Are you doing tasks that drain you of your energy and could be outsourced? Are you stuck doing the day to day, which you hate, instead of strategizing and planning? Oftentimes it's the day to day minutiae, which is a necessary evil, that causes us to feel like we're in a rut — not the business itself.

Lean on Your Support Network

A strong support network, whether it's just a handful of close friends or a more structured mastermind group, can help you overcome many of the emotional challenges of running your own business.

You just spent the last week putting together these awesome posts that you swore would become popular, but didn't. You just recorded and edited these amazing podcasts, but only a few people listened. You just released several new products, but no one is buying.

You're starting to doubt yourself, doubt the mission, and ponder quitting.

Lean on your support network. Ask for their opinions, bounce ideas off them to see what might work better next time, and otherwise just use them as a way to get things off your chest.

Network, Network, Network

Ask anyone who has ever been successful and they'll often point to their network. Networking, which is a fancy term for going out and meeting new people, is absolutely essential to any business and can be a lifeline when you've hit that proverbial wall.

Meeting new people gives you the opportunity to constantly evolve that support network, and it also gives you the opportunity rely on the expertise of others when yours might be insufficient. There is so much you can learn by meeting new people, especially if they're outside your domain, and you can only do so if you meet them!

Create or Update Your Plan of Attack

When you started your business, you probably had a plan of attack. A list of things you were going to accomplish, target milestones, and a schedule managing it all. Oftentimes, we run into that wall when our business reaches the end of that plan or we get derailed somehow. Our efforts become unfocused, we don't see progress, and we feel like we're in a rut.

Use this opportunity to update your plan of attack, reset your milestones, and focus on your effort, rather than the results. It's very difficult to get over the hump if you have no plan for doing so.

Pick Up a New Hobby

I love the concept of flow, which is defined as a mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full engagement, and enjoyment of some activity. When someone says they're "in the moment" or "in the zone," that's the feeling we're talking about.

You want to pick up a hobby so that you have something else that you are constantly improving and can feel "in the flow." I started running, and it's given me an opportunity to both exercise and think about my business with a clear mind.

Focus on Data, Not Emotions

Why do you feel like you've hit a wall? Is it because sales have stagnated? Traffic? Revenue or profits? Has growth slowed? In many cases, it's data that's driving the emotion, so why not focus on that and dig deeper?

If your business is a blog and you measure your progress based on traffic, dig into the numbers to see if you should be focusing on one channel over another. How much traffic do you get from social media? Search? Referrals? Which channel needs more attention? Should you be doing more in social or perhaps writing more guest posts?

In almost every case, there is always something you can do. If you can't think of what that might be, ask people you trust for their advice.

I'm glad I was able to persevere through those moments of doubt because by September of 2005, just a couple months after I had hit that wall, I was featured in the New York Times, and I never looked back. I hit a few more bumps in the road, found myself stuck on a few plateaus, but the rush of being on the New York Times, the prospect of being in it again (I would eventually get mentioned three times, each one was a thrill), and of the techniques I shared was enough to push me through.

If you ever need a little help getting through the hump, reach out to me. I'm happy to help.

Jim shares insights and lessons learned with new bloggers at Microblogger.com. Be sure to sign up for his free (and very in-depth) Create a Lifetime Income Blog course to learn from his experiences.

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Guest's picture
Start Up Business Accountant

Hi Jim, what an insightful post- So many of us hit the proverbial brick wall and think that's it, game over but sometimes we really do need to just take a break and re-evaluate a situation. You mention a concept of flow- do you think this is something that would help in any situation? - Ben

Jim Wang's picture

I think so, I think the more you're in the flow, the more you recognize what that feeling is like. It's a great feeling and it only spurs you to work harder and harder. It applies to anything you're interested in doing.

Jim Wang's picture

Thanks guys -- If anyone has any questions, please leave them in the comments or reach out to me directly!

Guest's picture

Love this post! I always love reading about other bloggers' success stories. It's a great thing to aspire to :)

Jim Wang's picture

Hey Michelle! Glad you liked it, thank you :)

Guest's picture
Jane

I started a blog covering the Miss. S. Ct. at the beginning of the year. (It was only possible then because the court just now requires electronic filing so it's really the first time that it is easy to access that information). Anyway, I'm only doing it because I want to but I figured I would eventually get some income from it. Is there some rule of thumb about when you might expect to generate some money? That is, should I give it a certain time period before reaching out to potential advertisers? Reach a certain number of views? My target audience isn't that huge and I'm not in a hurry.

Jim Wang's picture

I'm afraid there are never general rules of thumb that apply but it never hurts to ask. When you ask, and if they think it's too early, ask them what metrics they care about so you'll know when to go back.

Ashley Marcin's picture

This is a great post, Jim. Thanks for sharing. I have been blogging since 2008 and my site has recently fallen stagnant. The sentence about writing up a week's worth of posts you think are dynamite and then they just flop totally describes my last week. I will definitely be following some of your suggestions!

Jim Wang's picture

Thanks Ashley, glad it resonated!

Guest's picture

Really great post, whenever I start a new project it's always the second 6-12 months that are the hardest. The first 6-12 are the easiest because you have so much energy and so many ideas and you notice the greatest growth.

If people want to delve into this a bit deeper, I suggest reading "The Dip" by Seth Godin. Fantastic book.

Big congratulations on the 3,000,000 sale as well. Well deserved, Jim.

Jim Wang's picture
Jim Wang

Thanks William!