Have you ever wondered how some of the best blogs are started?
They are often the result of personal needs and experiences. You are ripped off. You succeed. You fail. You want to share it all.
Jim has always been interested in personal finance and investing. His challenge was that much of the financial advice he received ended badly for him. Jim wants to help doctors learn about finance and investing without having to go through the school of hard knocks. Jim Dahle is a practicing, board-certified emergency physician. He is the founder of “The White Coat Investor,” a blog that provides financial advice for doctors.
In the following interview, Jim shares the story behind “The White Coat Investor.”
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Success Harbor: How did being a physician help you make The White Coat Investor a success?
James Dahle, MD: There are a few blogs and podcasts out there done by financial advisers who would like to fill their practices with doctors.
However, there were very few, and none very well known, written by physicians for physicians on the subject of personal finance and investing.
Success Harbor: How did you get the idea for The White Coat Investor?
James Dahle, MD: I had been active in online forums for about 6 years, helping doctors and others with their questions.
“I got sick of typing the same thing over and over and thought about writing a blog with all these answers so I could just post a link to it.”
About that time the Bogleheads asked me to help with their Wiki, a massive undertaking. My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I decided if I was going to be spending that much time online I wanted to be paid for it and voila, the blog was born.
Success Harbor: What were your goals and expectations when you started The White Coat Investor?
James Dahle, MD: My main goal was to help other doctors easily learn the stuff that I had to learn the hard way so they could stop being taken advantage of by financial professionals.
My secondary goal was to make some passive income on the side.
The income was never passive, and so after a while, I set a goal. If I wasn’t making $1000 a month after two years, I would quit. I barely made it and so here we are in the fourth year of the blog.
Success Harbor: What were the biggest challenges during the first year of blogging?
James Dahle, MD: The biggest challenge for most professional bloggers in their first year is making enough money to support themselves and their family. I was lucky that I had a very good job “on the side” as a physician so I didn’t really need the money, allowing me to basically blog for free that first year.
“I wrote off all my income that first year, made about $5,000 the second year and then hit what I thought was a reasonable level of success, where I could start supporting a family after about 3 full years of blogging.”
Success Harbor: How did you promote your blog in the beginning?
James Dahle, MD: There’s really no secret. It’s a lot of hard work.
I wrote consistently, learned what I could about Search Engine Optimization and implemented it, interacted with other bloggers, both allowing and contributing guest posts, and continued to contribute in various internet forums where my target audience could be found.
I also made sure to respond promptly to every email and comment I received. I built an army of loyal readers and then it was basically word of mouth from there, both online and in person.
Success Harbor: What are the most effective ways to promote your blog today?
James Dahle, MD: The world hasn’t changed that much in 3 or 4 years. If I knew of something else that worked better, I’d be doing it. One thing I have found is that it pays to be generous with your time and your readership.
“Rather than competing with other bloggers, I try to collaborate with them.”
Success Harbor: What is (are) the most effective ways to monetize your blog?
James Dahle, MD: For me, it is really two things. The first is private ads.
Financial businesses that specialize in doctors love to advertise on my site. I rarely lose an advertiser, despite continually raising prices.
The second is selling my own self-published book. I reached a lot of people the blog hadn’t reached through the book and the promotion of the book. It’s only been published for about 8 or 9 months, but it’s been producing more income than the whole rest of the blog for that time.
Success Harbor: At what point did you decide that you were ready to monetize your blog
James Dahle, MD: I put ads on the site on day 1. It’s been for-profit from the beginning and I’m not ashamed of that. Every year I give a “state of the blog” post which indicates where my income comes from. That way they can evaluate my conflicts of interest.
Success Harbor: What advice do you have for other bloggers to start monetizing their own blogs?
James Dahle, MD: Some niches monetize better than others. You can be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond, which is what I chose. Different things work for different niches. I found affiliate marketing and random ads from Google and similar ad servers weren’t nearly as good as privately placed ads in my niche.
Success Harbor: What is the smartest thing you did on your blog?
James Dahle, MD: Wrote a book called The White Coat Investor.
Success Harbor: What is your process of creating great content?
James Dahle, MD: Figure out what your readers want and give it to them in high quality, great quantity and for free.
Since I’m one of them, it’s not that hard. But I generate a lot of content from questions via email, comments, and forum questions. Sometimes I just post what I’ve been thinking about.
Success Harbor: What are the reasons you have managed to build a successful blog with substantial traffic?
James Dahle, MD: I have a niche where there is a real need and I have a real passion for it. I also try to keep the content quality very high and readers let me know when it isn’t!
Success Harbor: What surprised you about having your own blog?
James Dahle, MD: How much work it is outside of the writing.
Success Harbor: What would you do differently if you have started your blog today?
James Dahle, MD: Written my book sooner.
Success Harbor: What mistakes do you see bloggers make?
James Dahle, MD: Too much writing, not enough marketing. I probably make this mistake too.
Success Harbor: Is there a question that I should have asked that I didn’t ask?
James Dahle, MD: Yeah, why doctors.
The reason, aside from the fact that I am one, is that doctors deserve their reputation as terrible money managers.
They have great difficulty transitioning from an income of $50,000 as a resident to a much higher one as an attending.
The ever-increasing loan burden they face makes managing that jump properly ever more difficult. Plus, they have a huge target on their back for the financial services industry.
It’s hugely rewarding to help these people who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of humanity, but often at the expense of their own personal finances.
Say hi to Jim at whitecoatinvestor.com.