The truth is anyone can be an entrepreneur, and you DON’T need some grand unique idea that no one’s ever thought of. You just have to be willing to put in the work, to show up day after day and work harder than anyone else.
Jeff Proctor, millennial entrepreneur and business mentor, is the Co-Founder of DollarSprout.com , a personal finance website geared towards helping lower income individuals make smarter choices with their money. His company generates income primarily through sponsorships and affiliate marketing.
Prior to founding DollarSprout with his college friend, Ben, Jeff spent nearly three years in private wealth management as an investment analyst. The idea of only helping high net worth individuals didn’t suit him, and he didn’t like the idea of working for somebody else. So, in 2015, he decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship at the age of 25. A growing name in the online personal finance community, Jeff has been quoted in various publications and websites, including Entrepreneur, GoBankingRates, Student Loan Hero, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, and more. He also dedicates some of his time to mentoring new online business owners and helping them conquer to massive learning curve that comes with starting a brand new venture.
Jeff lives in Blacksburg, VA, where he attended undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech. In the nearly 3 years that he has been running his business, he has managed to grow from $0 to $250k projected annual revenue. In his free time, you can find him golf, working out at his local boxing gym, or spending time with his girlfriend, Paige.
Where did the idea for DollarSprout come from?
My co-founder and I launched DollarSprout in October 2017. It’s essentially a re-brand of an old personal finance blog we started in 2015 that never really took off.
The personal finance niche is one of the most saturated spaces in the blogging world, but we noticed a gap in content that appeals to millennials who are struggling with money. There is plenty of content out there for people looking to reach financial independence or retire early, but there is not as much stuff for people just trying to get a solid footing in their finances. Those are the people that we really want to help.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Since I primarily work from home, I’m free to have quite a flexible schedule. On most days, I get up around 7am and begin like most other people do: drink coffee, read the news, and check out social media.
Once I’m settled in and ready to tackle the day, I get going on my to-do list. I make one every night before a workday, which really helps me hit the ground running when I start my day. Because I normally work from home, staying productive (and not getting distracted) is extremely important!
How do you bring ideas to life?
For us, the secret lies in a perfect blend of research and execution.
Since content is the backbone of our business, we put a high level of thought and care into every piece of material that we produce for DollarSprout.com. We want a deep understanding of the issues our readers are facing, what questions they’re asking, and what’s already out there that can help them.
Then, we try to create something even better, in terms of both utility and presentation.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Right now I am so excited to see remote work (as a freelancer, entrepreneur, or employee) growing in popularity. It’s opening up a lot of doors for people, and I think it’s only going to get better.
As a business owner, I love hiring remote workers. It’s much easier for me to find high-level talent at an affordable price, and I’ve found that happy people tend to create better work. People who are free to work from anywhere are usually a lot happier 🙂 It truly is a win-win.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am really good about not spending too much time with my head in the clouds.
I’ve seen many entrepreneurs struggle with “paralysis by analysis.” They spend all their time thinking about what they want to do, rather than just doing it. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn early on that planning and strategizing will only get you so far.
Earlier I mentioned having a to-do list. This does wonders for keeping me on track and making sure I finish tangible things every single day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Not that I am old and wise just yet (I’m only 28!), but I would tell my younger self to focus more on your competitors to see what’s working for them and what isn’t. For the first year of our business, it felt like we were operating in a vacuum. We tried too hard to reinvent the wheel.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Anyone can be an entrepreneur.
A lot of people think entrepreneurs are “special” or that you have to be super creative or have a unique idea to be one. But the truth is anyone can be an entrepreneur, and you DON’T need some grand unique idea that no one’s ever thought of. You just have to be willing to put in the work, to show up day after day and work harder than anyone else. That’s the stuff real entrepreneurs are made of.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, one of my biggest jobs is to constantly step back and audit what’s working and what isn’t. It’s very easy to get caught up in routine and do things “as they’ve always been done”, but I have found that to be one of the the quickest ways to failure.
Make a habit of always refining your processes, experimenting with new strategies, refining customer acquisitions channels, etc. Never stop tinkering.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Our business’ success depends almost entirely on getting people to come to our website, so that is where a lot of our focus has been in terms of growing the business.
Our traffic primarily comes from social media and search engines, like Google. The best strategy we’ve found for growing traffic has been to focus on just one thing at a time.
We started with Pinterest. Once we had an established following there, we shifted focus to building up our presence on Facebook. Now, we are putting more effort into search engine optimization (SEO). By only tackling one area at a time, we’ve been much more effective at building our readership.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I left my full time job before our business was making any money. Looking back, that was a mistake.
In fact, about 10 months after I quit my job, I had to go back to work because our business was not yet making enough. That was the real “gut check” time for me. I needed to decide just how badly I wanted my dreams of entrepreneurship to happen.
There was no secret trick to overcoming the setback of returning back to the working world. Between my new full time job and my online business, I was working upwards of 70+ hours a week. After almost a year, I was making more than enough in my business to be able to leave my job for good.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is something I’ve seen floating around on social media quite a bit recently, but I still think it’s a very untapped market with lots of potential: running Facebook ads for local businesses.
Think about your favorite hole-in-the-wall cafe or bar. Or the new MMA gym that just opened up down the street. Chances are, they’re not owned by people with a lot of social media marketing experience.
If you can develop the skills and use social media to attract new clients and customers to local business, you are going to be in very high demand! Lots of opportunity there.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m a big golf fan, and recently I treated myself to a new 5-wood I’ve had my eye on for a while. Life isn’t supposed to be all work and no play!!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We recently invested in an SEO tool called KWFinder, which helps us with keyword research for our articles. It’s not a productivity tool, per se, but it has without a doubt helped us identify keywords with the highest ROI for our business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Sell or Be Sold, by Grant Cardone. This book has totally changed the way I look at business – not just the sales aspect.
What is your favorite quote?
“You can always become better.” – Tiger Woods
Speaks for itself.
• Make a list of tangible things you want to get done before each work day begins.
• Prioritize execution over strategy and planning. Planning’s important, but no idea will ever get off the ground if you don’t take actual steps to make it happen.
• If your business depends on social media traffic, focus on one platform at a time. Trying to be everywhere at once is hard to do when you are first starting out.
• Don’t work yourself to death. Having balance in your life is key to long term sustainability.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.