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There are many different ways to achieve financial success. Steve Adcock had a productive 14-year career in information technology. Although the salary was great, the job ultimately wasn’t fulfilling.
Steve says, “The problem is I didn’t like what I did for a living, but the salary kept me getting up every day and robotically doing that job. I was very much shackled with the golden handcuffs. Luckily, I possessed skills that would enable me to quit my job and live on my own terms.”
In 2016, at 35 years old, Steve was able to retire from full-time work. Two years before reaching that milestone, Steve started a personal finance blog called Think Save Retire.
Think Save Retire was a part-time project, but Steve was able to sell it for six figures in 2019. In this article, he shares the story of Think Save Retire and his exit experience.
The Origin of Think Save Retire
“I started Think Save Retire in 2014 to chronicle my journey toward financial independence. I had no interest or desire to sell the website at the time. All I wanted was a place to write about my journey and the process I was going through to save money and build wealth. I also wanted to integrate into the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, which was extremely welcoming and uplifting.
“I had a lot of experience running my own websites, so starting a blog about financial independence wasn’t intimidating. Moreover, I worked a job with a lot of free time during the day and wanted to put effort into something productive.
“As a result, Think Save Retire was born.”
“The first year was pure content. I don’t think I made any money in my first year of blogging because that wasn’t my priority then. Instead, I wanted to make a name for myself and my blog and my focus was getting connected to the FIRE community and some of the bigger names inside that space.
“Toward the end of year two was my first stint at monetization, and it came from affiliate marketing and banner ads on the site. I also started an email newsletter to accompany the blog and I put affiliate links inside those emails. I started making only $50/month, but that amount slowly climbed over time.
“I invested a lot of time into Think Save Retire, but not a single dime (other than the cost of the domain name and web hosting). I never paid for advertising.”
A Content Plan (Without Google)
“At first, I didn’t have an approach. I knew I didn’t want to play the Google game and just wrote from the heart, expecting traffic to come naturally over time.
“And it did. By 2017 (three years after starting the site), Think Save Retire was getting over 100,000 pageviews per month, which felt good for a personal finance blog like mine. I spent more time networking with other bloggers, commenting on blog posts, and interacting on social media than researching keywords and squeaking out Google juice with my posts.
“Toward the end of 2017, I started paying more attention to Google page rankings, but it still wasn’t my primary motivator. The truth is Google is ruining content for a lot of bloggers. Their standards force bloggers to write long, dry, keyword-heavy posts that don’t feel natural or helpful, and I refuse to play Google’s game (and still do). Using an SEO plugin for WordPress, I did the bare minimum (SEO title and sub-titles, image with keyword as the “alt” tag, etc.), but that’s about it. And Think Save Retire did just fine because it was more genuine.
“Think Save Retire didn’t read like it was designed to make Google happy, and that’s part of why the site did as well as it did and started ranking naturally for many competitive keywords. This was also before artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, so I wrote 100% of all content from scratch. I liked it that way.
“I generated traffic by getting to know other bloggers by commenting on their blog posts and interacting with them on social media. I also wrote guest posts for other blogs, which helped generate exposure and traffic to my site.
Monetizing the Site
“I started with affiliate links but wasn’t satisfied with the results.
“Once my site reached the required monthly traffic numbers, I joined the Mediavine ad network, which generated between $800 and $1,000 per month of revenue. I was okay with that type of income because, once again, the driving force behind the blog wasn’t to make money, though I was okay with accepting revenue if it was relatively easy to make happen. Mediavine was.
“It was primarily beer money (no, I didn’t spend $1,000 monthly on beer!).
“As Think Save Retire grew, I eventually qualified for AdThrive (now called Raptive) in 2019. AdThrive was the ‘holy grail’ of ad networks that generated the most revenue for bloggers. At the time, your site needed at least 100,000 monthly pageviews to get into the AdThrive network, and mine did. That boosted my income to around $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Better than Mediavine, but again, I wouldn’t become a billionaire with those numbers. I was okay with that.
“Coincidentally, I got into AdThrive about 2 months before I sold the blog, which probably helped increase the sale price well into the six figures.”
“The investors didn’t have many concerns, but they did ask me to continue writing for six months after the sale. And I did. However, my writing motivation wasn’t nearly as high as when I started the blog because it was no longer mine.
“Nevertheless, I fulfilled my obligation.
“To their credit, the buyers kept Think Save Retire focused on personal finance and financial independence. Many blog sales result in a total crumbling of the blog (I’m looking at you, Dividend Mantra), but it didn’t happen that way with Think Save Retire. Though I cannot speak to their success with the blog regarding traffic or income, the site is still alive and well, and they kept all the articles I had written back when I owned the site.”
Steve’s Keys to Success
“Consistency and authenticity were the two keys to Think Save Retire’s success. As I said earlier, I didn’t write for Google. I wrote for the reader. I didn’t care about page ranks or SEO-optimized content for the longest time. All I cared about was sharing my story. That type of authenticity made Think Save Retire different from many blogs out there.
“I got into a schedule of publishing two articles a week and I stuck to it for many years. My email newsletter also helped keep traffic consistent because I would email my audience whenever a new article was published. Email newsletters are critical for most blogs these days.”
Selling the Site
“A financial investment firm contacted me and asked if I was looking to sell the site. I tried to play it cool by saying I wasn’t interested, but I might be persuaded if the price was right.
“Deep down, I wanted to sell. But, there was a side of me that didn’t want to give up the site I poured my heart and soul into, either. If I let it go, I wanted it to go to the right buyer and for the right price.
“The buyer was particularly interested in the keywords that Think Save Retire ranked for, and that convinced them to increase the selling price into the low six figures.
“After a half-decade of running Think Save Retire, churning out content was getting old. I wanted to move on to something else but wasn’t at the point of actively looking for someone to buy it. I assumed I’d keep running the site for a while but didn’t have a clear picture of my exit strategy.
“When the investment firm reached out to me, that was my opening.”
After the Sale
When asked how the sale of Think Save Retire changed his life or his career, Steve said, “It changed neither.
“Sure, I got an influx of cash, which was great. And the sale also helped me reclaim some of my time during the day, which was also great. But by the time I sold the site, I had already quit my job after achieving financial independence, so the sale didn’t change my life. It only changed what I did between 8 am and 10 am every morning.”
“I have several projects that I’m actively building.
“First, I’m building a big social media presence on Twitter. I post two to three times a day on Twitter and make $3,000 to $4,000 a month on that platform helping people grow their business on social media. This is all extra money that helps improve our lifestyle.
“Second, I’m building one of the biggest online personal finance resources at Millionaire Habits. This is the first project where I’m investing money, not just time, in its growth. It started as an email newsletter and just recently, I started an accompanying website to further its growth.
“Millionaire Habits is less about me and more of a “how to” with building wealth, and it’s going well so far. It’s keeping me active and pursuing a worthy goal of reaching 10 million people with the message of financial independence.
“Third, I built a popular financial independence course, FI/Accelerator. The course takes people down the exact wealth-building journey and shows them how to make more money at work, build wealth, save hard, and prepare for retirement on their own terms.
“Some ask why I spend so much time making money if I no longer need it. First, I enjoy making money from anywhere. It gives me pride knowing that I can generate income from anywhere in the world. And second, millionaires don’t give their hard-earned knowledge and experience away for free. That’s what makes them millionaires. “
Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer these questions and share about your experience.
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