Marc Andre has been building and growing online businesses since 2007. He launched his first blog (a web design blog) as a side hustle while working in finance full-time. A little more than a year later, he left his full-time job to focus on his websites and blogs.
Over the past decade and a half, Marc has built and sold several successful online businesses. He’s had 6 different six-figure exits, with selling prices that total more than $2.2 million.
Marc has built online businesses in several different industries, including web & graphic design, photography, travel, and personal finance.
In 2018, Marc launched the personal finance blog, VitalDollar.com. After working on the site for five years as a side hustle, Marc sold in it 2023 for a mid-six-figure sum.
Today, Marc manages content strategy for a few clients, and he also launched a new blog, FlipMySite.com in July of 2023. Flip My Site publishes content related to building, growing, buying, and selling online businesses.
How did you get started in this business?
I started Vital Dollar to share what I’ve learned about making and managing money. I was basically writing content for a younger version of myself. In my 20s, I didn’t really have much direction with my career and I wasn’t making any progress. I wound up leaving my full-time job right when I turned 30, and that completely changed my financial situation and my career.
I have a lot of experience with side hustles and making money online, so I started creating content focused on helping other people who are looking to increase their income outside of a full-time job.
When I launched Vital Dollar, I also owned a landscape photography blog, which was my primary focus at the time. Vital Dollar was really a side hustle experiment to see if I could get any traction in the highly competitive market of personal finance blogs. It didn’t happen immediately, but with some persistence, I was able to get many of my blog posts to rank on the first page of Google.
How do you make money?
Vital Dollar makes money through display ads and affiliate marketing. Mediavine handles the display ads, and there’s really nothing I had to do except keep traffic coming to the site. Additionally, I joined several affiliate programs related to personal finance. That includes investing platforms, banks, credit card providers, online courses, side hustle apps, and more.
When I sold the site in May of 2023, about 60% of the revenue was from affiliate programs and 40% from ads.
Using display ads allowed me to monetize all of the site’s content, so it wasn’t essential to promote affiliate products in every single article.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I didn’t earn a profit for the first six months. I waited until the traffic was established before putting ads on the site, so initially, affiliate marketing was the only source of revenue. Early on, I prioritized growing traffic over making money. This was helpful because I was free to write about topics I thought could generate interest, even if they weren’t ideal for promoting products or services as an affiliate.
My expenses for the business were very low for the first year because I wrote all of the content. Once the site started generating enough revenue, I hired some freelance writers to increase the content output, which helped drive more traffic to the site.
Over the years, I worked with a few different freelance writers, with three that contributed a significant number of articles.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I always knew the site could make some money as a side hustle, but I wasn’t sure how much or whether it would turn into anything significant. The second year (2019) was really good in terms of traffic and revenue growth. But the site took a major step back in 2020.
After a Google algorithm update in January, it lost about 10% of the search traffic. Then Covid hit, and many companies dropped their affiliate programs or reduced affiliate payouts. Then, in May of 2020, a major Google update had a much bigger negative impact on the site’s traffic. During the summer of 2020, traffic was down about 50% from its peak in early January of that year. At that point, I wasn’t really sure if the site would ever be truly successful.
I worked on the site part-time, and with traffic and revenue down, it got less and less of my time and attention. For about a year, I mostly focused on updating and improving the existing content on the site, and I didn’t add much new content.
In 2021, things turned around. The updated and improved content started to rank higher and get more search traffic, and affiliate programs started to open up again. I joined a few new affiliate programs, had some success with them, and by the end of 2021, the site was generating more revenue than ever before.
Throughout 2022 and early 2023, I continued updating and improving content but also focused on adding a lot of new content as well. As those new pages began to rank and attract visitors, the site grew to the point that it generated a low-six-figure annual profit on just part-time hours.
How did you get your first customer?
I didn’t work directly with customers or clients through Vital Dollar, so I guess my first customer would have been an affiliate conversion. I don’t remember what was the first conversion, but it came as a result of blog content.
Blogs monetized with display ads and affiliate programs rely on content that draws visitors to the site and sends them to relevant products and services. The key is finding search queries that people use (I do this with keyword research tools like KWFinder and Semrush) and creating content that provides them with whatever information they need.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Search engine optimization and content marketing were essential to Vital Dollar and most of my other online businesses. For promoting products and services as an affiliate, it’s helpful to do keyword research to see what topics to write about that allow for natural promotion of an affiliate product or service.
For example, if I’m promoting an investment platform, I can find topics or article ideas that allow me to naturally mention that affiliate platform within the content. Then, when someone searches Google and finds my content, they’ll see a promotion for a product or service that’s relevant to them.
The same approach can be used for e-commerce websites that sell their own products (rather than affiliate products), or service-based businesses that offer a particular service to customers and clients. Essentially, you’re just finding out what your target audience is looking for and then getting your offer in front of them by producing content.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Earlier this year, I decided to sell Vital Dollar. It was a tough decision because I really enjoyed working on the site, and it had a lot of year-over-year growth. Since my business model involves flipping websites, I always knew I would sell the site eventually. By this time it generated enough profit that it had some value to potential buyers, and I liked the idea of selling while the site was growing. (It’s much easier to sell a site that’s growing than one that’s declining.) So I decided it was time to sell, and I listed the site with a broker. I accepted an offer about three weeks later, and closed the sale the following month.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Blogging and content marketing require some patience and persistence. Very few blogs experience quick success, so you have to be willing to invest a lot of time and effort (or money if you hire others to do the work) before you start to see the results.
I believe I had success with Vital Dollar because I stuck with it. Many people get discouraged when their new blog isn’t making money and give up too quickly. I wasn’t expecting to make any money for the first year, so I wasn’t disappointed that it took a while for the site to grow.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Selling Vital Dollar was probably the most satisfying moment. One of my favorite things about selling a website or online business is the closure. At that point, the project is complete and won’t require any more work from me. I can look back at the time I spent working on the site, and I can see how much money it generated while I owned it and how much I sold it for.
I appreciate the closure of looking at the project and knowing how successful it was. Since I intend to sell all of the websites I start, I don’t really know exactly how successful any project is until it’s sold.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
After selling Vital Dollar, I started my new site, FlipMySite.com. I considered a few potential projects but decided on this one because I think it’s what I know best. Rather than learning something new, I can use my experience and expertise.
I’m also really excited because I get to interact with others in the industry. I started a series on the site where I interview people who have successfully bought or sold a website or online business, and I’m loving the inspiration I get from their stories.
What business books have inspired you?
I don’t read many books, to be honest. I prefer to read shorter articles online, listen to podcasts, or watch YouTube videos. My favorite podcasts and YouTube channels include Niche Pursuits and Side Hustle Nation. Both are excellent sources of inspiration and information for entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to start a business earlier. I was never interested in starting a business when I was growing up. Throughout my 20s, I bounced around a few different jobs looking for something that would give me the opportunities I wanted, but I never found it.
Eventually, I started my business as a side hustle because I was frustrated by the way things were going with my job. That decision changed everything, and I wish I had tried it earlier.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to mentor anyone.