4 min read

Follow Your Own Appetite

I got a decent amount of hate over email from one person for this quarter’s Barbehow case study update. Most of it came down to how this site wasn’t earning enough money and how I didn’t really know what I was doing.

It’s hard to argue with an opinion, but it got me thinking about two things.

First, we’ve gotten used to every case study being a smashing success, which is creating false expectations about this business.

I have about a dozen sites in my portfolio right now, and I’ve had quite a few over the years—trust me in what I say that not all were successful. If every case study were a record breaker, it would mean that every method and technique has a 100% success rate.

And that's simply not true.

Second, and this is what I’m going to make the topic of today’s email, what does enough mean?

If you ask me, it comes down to appetite.

Why are you in this business?

What do you want to get out of it—in terms of money, lifestyle, relationships?

I’m doing this because, (a), the idea of making money online is what got me hooked on digital marketing in the first place, (b), online media is a business model that I know very well and that excites me very much, (c) blogs and affiliate websites are an excellent source of "passive" income, or at least income that can run on autopilot most of the time, and (d) it lets me live a boring, uncomplicated life where I don’t have to work 24/7, even if it’s on my own business, and I can spend my nights walking the beaches and streets of the city where I live in the company of my wife instead.

I also have a small—tiny, even—agency that helps brands, retailers, and publishers figure out how to collect and use data; knowledge that I’ve acquired in a previous life, where I used to manage a data and analytics team globally for a Fortune 500 company.

And finally, I work with my wife, who’s also a content creator but who instead does ads, funnels, and products/memberships.

For me, enough means:

  1. Combined, these business lines make enough money to allow us to live a good life and to compound some savings for our retirement.
  2. Combined, these business lines allow me to wake up late, take afternoon naps when I’m tired or lazy, and be able to close the lid on the laptop and live my life from 6-7 pm onwards every night.
  3. Individually, none of these business lines generates a portion of our overall income so big, I’d need to worry about industry changes, technology disruption, or competitors entering the market.

Technically, most of what the reader of the Barbehow case study said in their email was true.

I could have started a weekly email newsletter for the site, then built up a BBQ community from it, and then went into selling branded merch, grilling accessories, and why not white-labeled grills.

But here’s the thing: It’s not what I want. I don’t have the appetite for it.

If I did this for every site in my portfolio (and it worked out), I would either be super busy running a big-time media company with tens, maybe hundreds of staff, or be so burnt out and scarred from failure that I’d never want to log on to the Internet again (if it didn't).

Neither of these outcomes aligns with why I’m here doing this.

I see websites as digital real estate.

And I see myself as one of those people who own a dozen or so pieces of real estate at any moment of time for "passive" income. (It’s "passive" and not passive because there’s always a certain amount of involvement or oversight required from you as the owner and/or operator of your sites.)

So here’s my question for you:

What’s your appetite?

And how are you keeping true to it?

I’m not just asking about the money. It’s about your entire approach to this business:

  • Are you a white-hat or black-hat kinda person?
  • Do you value creating content over building backlinks, building backlinks over creating content, or an approach that balances both?
  • What do you think about aged domains versus brand-new sites?
  • About calling the shots yourself versus hiring an operator?
  • On building your own sites versus buying?
  • Holding versus flipping?
  • AI versus authors?

When you keep yourself grounded in your own appetite and do things in a way that aligns to your beliefs about this business, you will never feel like you’re not doing enough.

Sure, you can always do more—a business is a business because it has a premise to grow and make more revenue, to become more profitable—but you will never feel like it isn’t enough.

And that’s important.

It’s important because there will always be others who do things differently, who achieve more with the same approach, who value outcomes completely different than the ones you’re after.

And if you, as a media owner, are not true to your core, I guarantee you that you will get depressed, distracted, or demoralized because, no matter what you do and how you do it, the grass will always be greener on the other side.

It’s also how you ensure that you don’t sway from one trend to the other and end up spending thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars on techniques and strategies you don’t believe in just because someone else did a case study for them, and in their case, they worked.

And so, I’d gladly call a website that brings in $600 to $800/month from two revenue sources (display ads and affiliate programs; without having been touched for months) a success when others would deem it a failure.

Follow your own appetite and stay loyal to it.

The biggest mistakes I've made in my business have been due to not doing this.