Adam Baker runs a successful blog Man Vs. Debt, where he teaches people how to “Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.”. You may have seen Baker in quite a few well-known blogs including Zen Habits, ProBlogger and Life Hacker. He also did a TEDx talk, which you can see here.
Baker, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, I’m Baker. Well, Adam Baker, but I have lazy friends. So, mostly just Baker. I’m a speaker and author, but most importantly, I’m a husband to the amazing Courtney and father to both Milli, who’s 3, and soon to be another beautiful girl, Charlie, who’s due to join us literally any day now.
How did you decide to “Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.”?
Well, that’s a long story. My TEDx talk explains that in a lot of detail, but the bottom line is, right after our daughter Milli was born, my wife and I were miserable. Our life and our finances were SO out of line from what we wanted. And we just… we had to change. We wanted to do what we loved – at the time, to sell everything we owned down to what we could carry in two backpacks and travel across Australia and New Zealand – and to get there, we had to get rid of what was holding us back – our CRAP and our debt. I can’t say it’s been easy… in fact, sometimes it’s been crazy hard. But the result so far has DEFINITELY been worth it.
How did you come up with an idea to start a blog and share your journey with others?
We started documenting our progress about five months into our journey to a new life, in part to track for ourselves how things were going. After about 18 to 24 months, it had grown into a full-time business, and that allowed us a LOT of freedom and flexibility to travel! It’s definitely evolved a lot since those early days – I went from writing for “us” to writing for “others” – but that has been a change for the good.
Why did you decide to be so transparent about your financial situation and and everything you own? What was your experience with that? Also, why did you temporarily stopped your monthly transparency reports?
Honestly, at first we started documenting that info because it helped US. Especially with the stuff – it really changes your perspective when you have to take a photo of everything you own and lay it out on one page. With the finances, once we started running Man Vs. Debt as a business, we realized we owed it to our community to show everyone where the money is going.
Regarding not doing monthly reports now – that’s in part because writing those takes away time I could use to create more dynamic, far-reaching work (that helps more people), but also because I now have a half-dozen people “on the payroll” in a variety of positions, some small and some large. While I’m OK disclosing my income, I feel like it should be their choice whether or not they personally disclose theirs!
We’re committed to doing an end-of-year financial statement every January, still, and you can see the 2011 report here.
You have a lot of impressive “As seen on” badges . How did you get on really big blogs like Zen Habits and Life Hacker? What about The New York Times? Do you have any advice for our readers who would like to get that kind of exposure?
Ask. And have something of value to offer in return. What information can you share that will help that site or that brand’s readers? But mostly just build your community. When you have a big network, people will keep you posted when they hear about opportunities that might be a good fit.
You seem to know quite a lot of A-list bloggers. How did you manage to build those connections? Would you say that networking is important for success online? What would you advise to someone who’s completely new to the blogosphere and doesn’t have any connections?
Kind of the same as above. Of course networking is important – and that starts before you’re a blogger. Even if you are just an interested reader on a topic, you should be commenting and seeking out the company of experts in the topic you’re passionate about. Then, when you start blogging, you WON’T be without connections. Not only that, you have to think about what you can GIVE, not what you can get. I tell people to do “free work” to build up awareness of what they have to offer. “If you had 15 minutes, how could you help (insert A-lister you want to connect with) with their business?” Answer that, then reach out and offer it. And don’t get let down if the answer is “No, thanks.” Maybe that author doesn’t need a guest post right now. But that’s OK. Keep trying.
When you look back on your blogging journey so far, what would you say were the key factors to Man vs. Debt success?
Building the community, and then offering top-level products to support the needs of that community. We could launch a crummy product every month. But we don’t – we create only those things that REALLY add value, that are the best in their class, that meet a real need for our audience. And then we keep improving them. We want Sell Your Crap and You Vs. Debt, our premium guides, to absolutely blow away anything else. We want to get amazing results and deliver incredible value for everyone.
Last, but not least, is there anything you would like to say to our readers who want to become professional bloggers, but are on the very beginning of this path?
Stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Stop reading about it. Just do it. You’ll learn so much more from your first month actually blogging, than you would from a year of analyzing. Create content, and get an offer up for a product or service. If it fails, FINE. Like I said, you’ll learn and refine. But you have to shut up and hustle.