The Business of Running a Coupon Site

Note: when I get the business part of this blog figured out, it will be MUCH easier to print coupons from links on this site. I am not yet set up as an affiliate for coupon sites, but will be working on that shortly.

After I got really good at couponing, I thought it would be fun to figure out how to start a business doing the same thing. I was already spending time doing matchups for myself so it wouldn’t take much more time than I was already spending.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other bloggers out there who are already making money running websites from teaching people how to save money using coupons.

However, many of them do a very good job of posting deals and I don’t see any reason to reinvent the wheel.

I don’t want to spend time beating everyone else to post the best deals. Besides that, they all seem to be reading each other’s blogs, because the photos are sometimes the same and the deals are the same, too!

Although some of my friends would describe me as “obsessed” with coupons, they aren’t my first career love, although they did change my life.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I have a paralegal background and three degrees: an AAS in Paralegal Studies, a BS in Management, and a Master’s in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis. My MA is the achievement of which I am the most proud. It profoundly changed the way I viewed the world.

At age 32, I learned how to think critically, and I stopped just believing everything I read in headlines, heard on the news, and in books. I learned how to poke holes in arguments, take apart processes (“hacking”) and thought about ways to make things more efficient.

I also understand now why men get so frustrated with women’s non-linear communication!

I don’t know why I didn’t learn critical thinking sooner, but that’s another blog post. But learning to think critically is the reason I am so good at couponing.

I have wanted to go to law school since I was a kid. I worked as a paralegal instead. In 2007, I got so bored with my paralegal job that I quit. I took another job for a well known real estate developer here in Phoenix and lasted about eight weeks because the guy was such a jerk. I quit there, and decided to go into business for myself.

I started my first company, Desert Edge Legal Services, LLC, (“DEL”) in 2007, just after the subprime real estate market crashed. Phoenix’s economy was heavily dependent on real estate – we don’t have a lot of larger “home grown” companies like in my hometown, St. Louis. Arizona has become more populated in the last couple of decades, where many cities back east have been around for several hundred years.

From a logical standpoint, it was not the best time to start a business, and everything learned about business was through trial by fire in a tough economy. I developed a proprietary document review process to find weaknesses in a bank’s foreclosure case and have worked with quite a few homeowners and their attorneys to get them alternative outcomes to losing their homes to foreclosure.

You can see my blog, ForeclosureIndustryNews.com (“FIN”) here. Foreclosure defense is an emerging area of law and it’s still new. It was so volatile – one month I’d be doing really well and then a dry spell would hit and things would shift again. I didn’t know this at the time, but much of my fate in that business was out of my hands. Regulation, court cases and the economy, all factors out of my control, were kicking my ass in business.

So what did I do? I got really creative about making money. When the government created rules about no upfront fees, I created digital products. Check out my site DIY Mortgage Review to see some examples of what I did.

Business can be tough. I didn’t have any successful business owners in my immediate family, and I’m not sure how I became so savvy besides perseverance. I didn't want to work for anyone else again, either.

My emotions were an obstacle for me, too. I also think I had to deal with a lot of emotional stuff that we as a society and perhaps even women are not shown how to deal with. There were days I was so scared I could not get out of bed, and I had to figure out how to deal with that.

There were months when I earned NOTHING and I had to live off my savings (before they were gobbled up by the recession).

There have been just two very difficult periods of time in my life and the period from 2007 until just last summer was one of those.

I haven't abandoned DEL or FIN, but neither are doing much in terms of business as of 2010. It comes and goes in waves these days. FIN has a huge amount of great content so I don't see myself taking that down.

I learned how to coupon during a slow time in my business. I also became a SEO writer to pay the bills, and suddenly, everything I was doing came back to writing. I stopped telling people I was a paralegal and started telling people I was a writer. It was less intimidating, that’s for sure.

In 2012, during another rough patch of depression and my mom going into the hospital, I stumbled onto paleo. If I couldn’t control anything else in my life, I COULD control what I was eating. And just like learning to coupon, paleo dramatically changed my life and the lives of the people around me, too. Crossfit was just a natural extension of paleo for me, and it too changed my life. I am much happier overall, but I doubt I will ever give up on going to law school.

I probably don’t have to tell you that couponing is a lot more fun than foreclosure. The audience is a lot happier in general. I’m not working with people who are desperate to save their homes.

And for now, CFP is a fun little side project that I’m looking forward to developing into a profit generator using the things I learned with DEL/FIN, digital products, and whatever else I can figure out to reach more people.

From a business standpoint, I wanted to find a niche for my coupon hobby-turned-business, and it hit me one day while I was at the gym, like a lightning bolt: showing people strategies for saving money on healthy food. Surprisingly, there are very few couponers talking about how to save money and follow paleo. Yet, it was so obvious to me that day that it was the perfect combination of things I love.

The whole point of this novella was to tell you about some changes I will be working on for the business end of the site. I know of a handful of ways to make money from blogging.

They are:

Ad revenue:

I hate ads! I am going to avoid them for as long as possible. I am confident that I can find other ways to generate revenue besides ads. Besides that, I am running this blog on Ghost, which is brand new so without programming skills, I have no idea how I'd even put them on the site! I don’t think there are many plugins for it yet.

Ghost as just launched back in October, so as developers create more goodies for Ghost, the site will get better and better.

Affiliate Links:

This one’s easy – I will become an affiliate where it makes sense, and when you print from my links, you’ll be helping my site earn money.

Subscriptions:

There are a lot of coupon bloggers who refuse to charge money for what they do. I think this is silly. Asking a lot of people to pay a very small sum, e.g., $5/month to get a streamlined shopping list with printable coupon links is a bargain. That's a ways ahead in the future, however.

Digital Products:

I am writing a book and developing lots of other tools for readers to become couponers.

One major obstacle for me is learning how to format for Kindle and Nook. This is getting moved higher on my to-do list this year.

I can reach a whole new audience if my DIY products were available for Kindle. Plus, it would generate revenue.

Merchandise:

Coupon binders, t-shirts, WOD socks (!!!!) are all ideas I have.

Sponsored Posts:

I like this idea, because people and businesses with relevant products and services can sponsor a post instead of having an ad on the site. I am very picky about who I work with, though -- it has to be relevant.

Yard Sales:

I have so much stockpile from coupon deals that I decided to hold yard sales this spring.

Many coupon bloggers are openly critical of people who sell items they got for free with coupons. There are some couponers who clear shelves and do some crazy things for free product.

To be clear here, I'm not clearing shelves in order to sell the items at yard sales. As you learn to coupon, you will likely find yourself with piles of goodies that you got for free or for next to nothing.

After awhile, your friends will get tired of you trying to give them toothpaste (ha ha). You can donate items, but if you keep at it, you'll probably find yourself with more product than you know what to do with.

I’ve had two yard sales this year (it’s been in the 80’s here in Phoenix, so it’s spring here already), and they’ve been VERY successful. I will probably write a how-to coupon to make money at yard sales, too.

For now, the revenue from the yard sales pays the hosting, etc., for this blog.