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How I started Man Vs. Debt for just $74

in Do What You Love, MvD Updates, People & Products

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Three and a half years ago, I registered the domain SlowSimpleWealth.com.

That domain cost me $12 to register. (It’s actually available again now.)

For the two months that followed, I hee-hawed around thinking about learning how to install a blog and start sharing my personal finance journey with the world.

At the time, Courtney and I were already aggressively tearing through our debt, selling waves of our excess crap, and preparing to try and meet our goal of backpacking Australia with a newborn Milligan.

We had set this goal for ourselves. Not for an online community, not for a business, not for a blog. In fact, I didn’t even really know about those things.

It was only after we set our personal goal – and started researching websites to help us achieve it – that I was turned on to the power of the blogging community.

After benefiting from several months of following hundreds of personal finance blogs (I was kind of obsessive – go figure), I desperately wanted to join the community that had helped me so much.

“You know what, I could share my own journey, based on my own experience, and it would likely really help hold us accountable…”

That’s the thought process I had when I registered the domain.

But I put it off starting things for months, because I was scared.

I thought it would be too hard. I thought it would cost too much. I thought nobody would care.

So nothing happened.

But a few months later, Courtney and I received a $150 windfall. I forget the source, but I remember it was *exactly* $150 dollars.

We were so uptight, frugal, and aggressive with our money during this period of our “war” on debt – that we decided to reward ourselves by splitting this money and buying whatever we wanted with our parts.

I had $75 that I could spend on anything I wanted in the world.

So I pledged to use that money to start my little personal finance blog.

I wasn’t happy with SlowSimpleWealth.com – it just didn’t shout “THIS IS IT!” to me. It was a little too passive, it didn’t represent how we viewed our journey at that time.

Then, it hit me.

Nah, it’s probably taken. Nah, there is a show called Man Vs. Wild – they will sue me for everything (at the time that was the only Google result for Man Vs. brands or shows).

Oh well, let’s just see if it’s available…

ManVsDebt.com was born a few minutes later.

$24 into my business, I had only $51 left for expenses. I turned to a friend at the time who was pretty handy at Photoshop and graphic design (he had taken a course or two in college). I offered Dustin $50 to design me a banner to go at the top of my blog.

It was a hideous brown-and-white-based design and logo, but it worked. My blog was live and ready for the world to see. (Bonus points for anyone reading this that remembers the brown and white design!)

My hosting came free with the domain name.

I didn’t know about email providers, hiring employees, fancy stat trackers, customer service platforms, merchant fees, or anything else yet… but I just remember being shocked at how cheap it was to get started.

I honestly didn’t know personal finance blogs could make money.

I certainly didn’t know they could make ridiculous amounts of life-changing money (they can and do all the time).

All I knew was I wanted to quickly become part of the community that has inspired Courtney and me so much in our journey. And I wanted to be held accountable.

I wrote down a couple notes about how I would approach the blog:

  • I’ll share everything out in the open.
  • I’ll write more passionately than anyone else.
  • I’ll act like I belong here.

That was my launch strategy. Share everything, be passionate, be confident.

And, frankly, it worked really well.

I was just hoping to recoup my $74 investment at some point.

*****

You all know how much this site has changed my life in the past three and a half years.

But it all started on just $74 and countless hours of learning, sharing, and growing in front of the warm glow of a computer screen.

We’ve done hundreds of thousands in revenue since then – and invested hundreds of thousands back into expenses, training, team members, and new projects.

But it all started on $74. That’s it.

You see, life-changing ideas no longer cost tens of thousands of dollars to get off the ground. They used to, but they don’t anymore.

You can start a profitable business that fundamentally helps people for a few dollars. It may not be for everyone, but it’s insanely doable – on a level we’ve never seen before.

There are lots of limiting factors that can and will hold you back when you try to start a business.

But I just don’t believe lack of funds has to be an excuse anymore.

You may *decide* it’s not worth it to start a business venture if you don’t have enough funds, but the far majority of ventures don’t *require* those funds to be successful.

If you’re hungry, passionate, and willing to bleed and sweat – you can launch something amazing for less than price of a fancy dinner.

The birth of Only72.com…

Flash forward a year and a half or so, and I stumbled upon another potential business idea.

A great friend of mine from the online world had run a sale where he packaged together several dozen of the best “minimalist” books online and sold them together for a super cheap price for a short time.

I put my first book, “Unautomate Your Finances,” in the package and it was a wonderful experience. I got a lot of new exposure, readers emailed me to thank me, and I even made a little money from the sale. Nice!

So I approached Karol to ask him about doing something similar in another area I was passionate about… genuine online business training. I bought many of these resources anyway, so I thought it would be amazing if we could bring together several of the people and courses we knew for a community sale.

We had about three weeks to put together the idea – and it would cost a bit more than MvD did:

  • $10 for a domain name (we called it Only72.com).
  • $15 for hosting.
  • $100 for a spiffy logo and several affiliate graphics.
  • $5 for e-junkie to sell the package.

$130 total to get everything up and running.

The website was super simple, the package of courses was amazing, and we decided to give 10% of every order to our favorite cause at the time, Charity: Water.

We sold $1,000 worth of courses for $97 for a three-day period in late November, 2010.

Almost 1,900 people bought and downloaded the training in three days. That’s just shy of $200,000 in revenue in 72 hours.

We sent tens of thousands of dollars to contributors and affiliates. We raised $30,000 for charity. We collected hundreds of thank-you emails. And, yes, we each profited $30,000 or so from the sale (I’ve shared the specifics several times here).

It showed the power of an idea, when money wasn’t used as an excuse NOT to do it.

We could have easily delayed the project to design a website worth several thousand dollars. We could have easily delayed the project until we had the right sales cart, affiliate program, or email list. There were lots of “better times” to start this.

But we didn’t wait.

We invested $130 ($65 each) and dedicated three weeks of our time to making it happen.

*****

Look, I’m not telling you that you should start trying to sell online business training. That was a passion of Karol’s and mine.

I’m not telling you to invest $75 into starting a blog. That was a passion of mine.

What I’m encouraging is to not let “lack of funds” be an excuse for you anymore.

If you want it – I firmly believe there is a way to make it happen for cheap. The timing for launching your business has never ever been better (even if just on the side).

It doesn’t cost nearly as much as you think.

*****

The Next Only72.com Sale Showed Our Commitment to That Idea…

Karol and I have run a few more sales since the first one, large and small. We run one or two a year max.

We’re incredibly fortunate to now have over 5,000 happy customers, over $50,000 raised for different charities, and to have worked with dozens and dozens of brilliant contributors and courses.

We just finished our most recent Only72 sale.

We teamed up with Chris Guillebeau to coordinate what we called “The $100 Startup” package.

The $100 Startup is Chris’ new amazing book, which we shipped anywhere in the world (at no additional charge!) with every package this time (the first time we’ve had a physical product as part of our sales).

In the book, Chris makes an even more brilliant case, including dozens of examples, of why your world-changing idea doesn’t need thousands of dollars to get started.

Though this Only72 sale is over, we would still love to see you check out Chris’s book here.

If you’re in the market for training to help you start or ramp up your business or income from creative sources, I firmly believe this is a great book. (And I also believe you should stay in the loop about our future Only72 packages!

If you aren’t starting or running a business… Or don’t have interest in leveraging your creative talents to produce side income… then don’t be silly and buy either the book or our future Only72 sales.

At the end of the day, if you never actually apply the training? You help no one.

*****

That’s it for now.

Remember, you don’t need thousands of dollars to start a business that can literally change the world. People are starting these micro-businesses every single day.

What’s holding you back?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil @ neverendinglist April 30, 2012 at 1:19 PM

Great post Adam and I love the fact it reinforces the old adage that action beats inaction. Too many ideas stall in the quest of perfection, sometimes in life it is better to make a start and fail than to never start at all! I set up my simple little blog a few month back to learn about blogging and start creating something that documented my road through life. Who knows, one day with a similar philosophy to yours I may just create something that changes my life too. Keep up the good work.

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Lou Rodriguez April 30, 2012 at 4:11 PM

“But I just don’t believe lack of funds has to be an excuse anymore”. Truer words have never been spoken, especially given the fact that we live in the times of Elance, Odesk, and Fiverr.com. On top of that, you add guys like Corbett Barr and his “How to start a blog that matters” training along with inspirational success stories like yours, and well, there really aren’t any excuses not to get started, is there? What I’ve experienced with credit and financial devastation in the last 4-5 years, I don’t wish on anyone. However, because I was better equipped to recover than the average person, and with a whole lot of motivation from great blogs like yours and countless others, the light-bulb went off. I no longer feared getting “undressed” in front of whomever, especially since I know if I do, it has the potential to possibly help thousands, just like you are with Man vs Debt! When it comes to getting started, I have removed the “scarcity” mindset and the thought of perfection no longer causes me paralysis. I know, as Corbett Barr’s Blog title suggests, I only need to be “Expert Enough.” Keep up the great work. You have a new follower!

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TB at BlueCollarWorkman May 1, 2012 at 9:25 AM

GREAT post! And I appreciate the honesty! I can relate to the domain name thing. I got my domain name and thought, “No one else already got this one? Weird.” *shrug* Who knows…

I think it’s great the drive and focus you and your wife have – this was very inspiring!

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Kate@NewClientsEachMonth May 1, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Great post, thanks for sharing Adam! It’s amazing what you have been able to accomplish in such a short time! Love the RV by the way.

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Lance @ Money Life and More May 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Adam, I was the same way and I finally started my blog a couple weeks ago. I started a blog maybe 2 years ago and quit after about a week. However, this time I feel like I know more of what I’m doing and am of to a better start! Your post inspires me to continue on and maybe one day I can have an online business empire as successful as yours!

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Marc Davey May 2, 2012 at 5:39 AM

Hi Adam. This is a fantastic post and it really made me decide to take action as your story made me realise I am in the exact same position you were. I bought hosting to start an affiliate marketing site but it has been sitting there with nothing to do because of a fear to take action. But thanks to a post by Josh @ personal MBA, I discovered your latest training package at only72 and decided to buy in and take action. No matter what happens I’ll never wonder what if.

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TLK May 2, 2012 at 1:54 PM

It is possible to get an income from a website, but I hope that you aren’t just saying all this to push some sales. When half the post is about some new program, that will show you the way I start to think of a scam. The reality of websites is very similar to starting a real business Most will fail. So many people get their hopes up thinking they can just whip up a site and somehow replace their regular income. It is great that you were able to get such a high income in just 3 days of putting out a book, but the reality is most will never be able to do that. I think if anything you do it as a side thing because you have an idea that MAY take off.

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Roger the Amateur Financier May 3, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Fantastic post, and a wonderful inspiration to us all (even those who haven’t had quite as much blogging success as you have). You’ve been a wonderful inspiration, and your Only 72 deals have been absolutely outstanding. All your inspiration has been quite encouraging.

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Belinda @ Nextpay.com May 8, 2012 at 7:52 AM

Hi Adam- nice content you have there!
And yes, for small online projects- lack of funds can never be an excuse. With Vworker, Elance, Odesk and the likes, a few hours of your time and skills(from the most basic- copy paste job) can be converted as an initial investment.
The biggest hindrance that I see is procrastination.

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Jim May 10, 2012 at 2:14 PM

We got our copy of “$100 Start Up” in the mail this morning. I can’t wait to get home and dig into it. I’m glad Chris was able to include it in the deal…you guys rock.

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