You don’t have to be a born risk taker to be an entrepreneur.
Marc Andre, founder of VitalDollar.com, is an online entrepreneur from York, Pennsylvania. Prior to starting his own business, he spent 6 years working in the finance industry, mostly as an auditor. In 2008, he left his career as an auditor to pursue his own online business, which had started as a side hustle.
During the past 10+ years, Marc has built and sold websites and blogs in several industries like web and graphic design, photography, travel, and finance. His first project was a web design blog that attracted over 1 million visitors per month.
After selling and exiting the web design industry, Marc built a blog and digital ecommerce website in the photography industry. His photography products from that site were purchased and used by thousands of photographers around the world.
In 2015, Marc and his wife started an Amazon-based ecommerce business that reached $500,000 in sales during its first year. They sold that business in 2017.
Marc launched VitalDollar.com in 2018. It is a personal finance blog that specializes in helping readers to save money and to find ways to make extra money. Marc has been quoted in publications like U.S. News & World Report, Huffington Post, and Business News Daily.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I’ve been wanting to start a personal finance blog for several years, but I never had time for it due to the other projects I was working on. In 2017, my wife and I sold an Amazon-based business that had been taking up some of my time, so I started to plan the launch of VitalDollar.com.
Through the site, I wanted to share the things I’ve learned about the basics of personal finance (like saving, budgeting, etc.), and I also wanted to help people who are looking to make more money. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work from home and make money online for more than 10 years, and I come across people all the time who would love to do the same thing.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I typically get up between 5:30 – 6:00, and I’m in my office by 6:30 – 7:00. I usually spend the first couple of hours on basic things like responding to email, managing social media profiles, checking website analytics, and other administrative tasks.
Somewhere around 9:00, I’m usually able to get to the most important work for the day, which often includes researching or writing a blog post. That will often take the majority of my day.
I’ll usually spend the last hour or two on some smaller tasks like more email, networking, or paying bills. By that time in the day I’m usually not at my best, so I try to end my most important work earlier. At 5:00 I stop working, close my office, and spend time with my family.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a blogger, there are two main ways that I bring ideas to life. The first one is obviously through the writing of blog posts or articles. I usually start with an idea, brainstorm by writing down different points of things that I want to cover. Then I take those random thoughts and form them into an outline that will make the content well-organized. And lastly, I sit down and write the full article. Depending on the topic of the article, I may need to do research during the brainstorming and outlining phases.
The other way that I’ve brought ideas to life involves creating digital products. My previous websites in the web design and photography industries made the majority of their revenue through the sale of digital products. My process for the products begins with an idea of how the product will help the customer or user, and then I have to develop the product and create the marketing materials to promote it. Most of my products were add-ons or resources to use with popular software. In some cases I was able to create the product myself, and in other cases I’ve hired freelancers to create it for me.
What’s one trend that excites you?
As a personal finance blogger, I’m excited about the trend of the gig economy and how many opportunities there are for people to make money outside of a traditional job. Things like driving for Uber, charging electric scooters, walking dogs, and performing tasks online make it possible for everyday people to earn money while working around their own schedule.
If you have a full-time job, you can easily pick up a side hustle for some extra money. And if you don’t have a job, you can still make money even without finding employment. There are so many people that can benefit from this, including retirees, those who have been laid off from a job, millennials looking for extra money to pay off student loans, or people who want to make money while working on a hobby.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think my best productivity habit is my use of to-do lists. I found out very earlier on that if I don’t have a set list of things I need to accomplish, I tend to waste time on things that aren’t really that important.
At the end of each week I create a to-do list for the following week. Anything I didn’t complete on that week’s list gets carried over to the following week. And then at the end of each workday I also create a to-do list for the next day.
The to-do list helps me to stay focused on the most urgent and important tasks, and I can make sure that I’m always using my time wisely and not wasting it on things that really don’t matter.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice to my younger self would be to start my own business sooner. Throughout my 20’s I bounced around a few different jobs and a few different companies. I never found anything that really satisfied me, but my approach was always to look for another job that I thought would be better.
It wasn’t until I was 28 and very frustrated with my lack of progress that I eventually started my own business. Since then, my career has been completely different and my work has been so much more enjoyable and rewarding. I wish I would have started a few years earlier, rather than just looking for new jobs.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You don’t have to be a born risk-taker to start your own business. When I was growing up, I never envisioned myself as owning a business or being self-employed. I always thought I would find a good job, work hard, and steadily move up throughout my career. But when I got out of college and experienced the reality of corporate America, I decided to start my own business.
When you look at famous entrepreneurs, or even people on Shark Tank, you usually see someone passionate and willing to take a big risk to grow their business. But in reality, not every successful business owner has that type of personality. It’s also possible for people like me, who don’t thrive on risk, to be successful with their own business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I put a lot of emphasis on networking. Every successful business owner I know is well-connected, and in many cases I think those connections have played a big role in their success. I know networking was one of the big things that helped me to get from part-time side hustle to full-time business.
Networking can involve different things depending on your industry and what you do. For people like me who are building online businesses, it mostly involves getting to know other business owners in the industry, and also connecting with people who work for companies that could be potential advertisers or partners in some way.
One of the keys to networking is to be genuine. You need to actually care about the people you’re networking with, and don’t just view them as an asset that can help you. Look to give more than you take, and you’ll be well on your way to building a strong network.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
With all of my websites and online businesses, I’ve always tried to make helping visitors and readers my number one priority. I don’t want to create content that ranks well on Google searches but doesn’t really offer anything of value to people who are reading it. I also don’t want to sell or recommend products that I don’t stand behind. Sometimes that means passing up an opportunity to make money in the short-term, but I believe in the long-term it is the better approach.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Several years ago I have a popular web design blog that generated a lot of traffic from Google, and after a Google algorithm update, I lost a good portion of traffic.
Up until that point I had mostly been focused on making money by selling advertising space on the blog, and that revenue is heavily dependent on the amount of traffic that you get to the site.
Not wanting to lose a lot of revenue, I needed to put more effort into other monetization methods that weren’t as dependent on having high levels of traffic. I started to put more time into developing my own products to sell and in affiliate marketing (promoting products sold by other people or companies).
With that approach I was able to increase revenue and profit significantly, and thanks to my email list I could make money any time without relying on Google for all of my traffic and income.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe strongly in creating and selling digital products as a great way to make money online. This could be informational products like ebooks or video courses, or it could be anything like software, apps, music, digital photos, graphics, website templates, printables, and many other things.
One of the reasons I love digital products is because of the possibility to generate passive income. I’ve had some products that I created in a week or less, and I’ve been able to sell those products over and over again for several years. If you have a blog or website with a steady flow of traffic, this is a great way to make money.
Another great thing about digital products is the possibility of generating ongoing revenue by using paid traffic. For example, if you have a video course that you sell for $100 and you can run Facebook ads and generate a sale by spending $50 on ads, that gives you the possibility to make money virtually on auto pilot. You’ll need to spend a little time monitoring the ads, tweaking them, and creating new ads from time-to-time, but it’s very scalable and once you have the system down it can be very profitable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’d say the best $100 I’ve spent recently was taking my wife out to dinner. With two young kids, we don’t get out just the two us all that often, and when we do, it’s a special treat.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
When I first started working from home one of the biggest challenges I had was managing my email. I always have a few different websites, so I need to be able to manage several different email address, and I need to have access from home or on the road.
Early on I had trouble with making it work from both my desktop and laptop. If I had an email on my desktop and needed access to it from my laptop, it was not always possible.
A few years ago I started using Zoho to manage my email and it has been a game-changer. Now I have web-based email that handles about 10-15 different email addresses, and I can use my desktop, laptop, phone, or any other device that has an internet connection. I don’t have to worry about traveling and not having access to an email that is on my desktop.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. Through the book the author covers case studies of 50 different entrepreneurs who started their business with less than $100. There are all different kinds of businesses represented, and if you enjoy entrepreneurial stories, this book is highly inspirational. You’ll probably even pick up a few ideas that you can use with your own business.
What is your favorite quote?
“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.” – P. T. Barnum
- Use to-do lists to stay focused on the most urgent and most important tasks.
- You don’t have to be a born risk taker to be an entrepreneur.
- Networking is critical for business success. Focus on giving more than you take.
- The combination of digital products and paid traffic is a great way to make money (mostly) passively.
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.