Six-Figure Blogger: An Unlikely Success Story

Adam Bertram

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Hi, I’m Adam. I’m your typical, run-of-the-mill family man. I have no special talents, I was born into the middle class, and I went to work in my 9 to 5 for nearly 20 years. Yet somehow I managed to build an online asset valued at $500,000 generating $14K per month.

But before I can tell you how I did it, you need to know the backstory and what, I believe, led to my success. Life seems to work in mysterious ways and, in hindsight, we can see that the dots are connected.

This is where it all began.

 Throughout this post, I will be listing the lessons I learned along my journey in hopes that they will help you, too. Be sure to keep an eye out for these tips! 

It all begins with one book sale

This journey started 10 years ago when I was at the ripe old age of 30. I sat staring at my bookshelf where books by John Maxwell, Jack Welch, and Patrick Lencioni lined the shelves. At the time, I was working in IT. I thought I was going to go into management and be some big shot CTO. Boy, was I wrong.

As I stared at the half-read, like-new books, I considered selling them. After all, they weren’t doing me any good just sitting on my shelves.

So, I opened up my Internet browser and typed in “sell books.” Of course, Amazon popped up! At the time, I thought Amazon was only for buying books. But they had a marketplace where I could sell them, too? Who knew?!

After finding a few of the same books I was hoping to sell on Amazon and squinting at the prices, I noticed I could make $10, $20, and even $30 for these books! It was amazing! People actually wanted to buy used books?

After figuring out how to list books for sale, I got to work. Once I listed Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, it immediately sold within 15 minutes for nearly TEN whole dollars!

I had just made my first sale on my own. This money didn’t come with a paycheck, 401K, nor health insurance, but I did it all on my own. I was hooked.

 Tip #1: You can generate income on your own without the help of an employer! 

Buying books by the ton

Two months, an irritated wife and $500 later, I rented a U-Haul truck and was on my way to pick up literally tons of used books from a library sale. How did I get to this point? Here’s a quick overview:

After selling my entire book collection, I knew I could continue this mini enterprise.

I stumbled across an ad in the local newspaper for a “Friends of the Library book sale” at our local mall. I decided to take a short drive and see what it was all about.

Here is what I saw:

A brief tour of the Friends of the Library sale where I bought my first inventory

It was amazing! Books everywhere! And for cheap! I hastily scanned around, picked up as many books as I could find and punched ISBN numbers into my Treo smartphone to see what they were worth.

A few hours later, I had some great new books to sell. But before I walked out with my new inventory, I had a thought: if I could buy a few books to resell, what if I could buy all of them? I determined to find a way to buy all of the leftover books for a bulk price when the sale was over.

I chatted with the sale director and learned that they hated boxing up all of these books and hauling them back to the library. They even recycled a bunch of them to avoid the hassle! Lucky for him, he had an eager buyer for the 10,000+ books standing before him.

After some negotiation, I was able to buy all of the leftover books for a measly $500. I was going to be rich! But some doubt-filled thoughts came to mind:

  • How do I haul these books?
  • Where am I going to store them?
  • And will my wife approve?

Irrelevant! Let’s do this. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and got to work.

I rented the aforementioned U-Haul truck and stored the books in an empty building my father owned.

Bertram Books was born and I was well on my way!

Just to give you an idea of the work I had ahead of me, watch this short video:

The Bertram Books warehouse

Over the years, this little endeavor evolved. I eventually recruited my ever-so-helpful wife. Together, we spent hundreds and hundreds of hours of hard, sweaty work turning my small idea into a profitable business.

At its peak, Bertram Books was working with GoodWill, multiple Friends of the Library organizations, solid waste management districts, and other businesses in our region. It was generating nearly $20-$30K per month in revenue. We were on a roll.

Which leads me to the next phase of Adam’s Entrepreneurial Journey:

 Tip #2: Just do it. Jump in and see what you can do. If you never try, you’ll never know if you can succeed or not. 

Realizing my knowledge was valuable… and teachable!

Two years into my business of finding, selling, and shipping books, the thought occurred to me: I should teach this stuff!

I had heard of people building blogs to teach various topics and eventually generating income doing it. I wanted to give it a shot!

Over time, Bertram Books would branch off into Sell Your Books Online, LLC (SYBO) where I’d spend more time teaching people how to sell used books than actually selling them! squeeze page

Don’t judge my web design. I promise I wasn’t a scammer; just really cheesy and inexperienced.

Watch this video to hear more about my journey from Bertram Books to SYBO

Jumping in with both feet, I registered the domain, set up the blog and YouTube channel, and got to work writing everything I could about my experience selling used books on the Internet.

I was venturing into the world of online content entrepreneurship and I loved it! I was writing content that truly made a difference in peoples’ lives by teaching them something that I knew all about.

How to Source Used Books eBook

After months of blogging and recording YouTube videos, I started receiving questions from my readers about how to find books they could resell. So I took the next step: writing an eBook.

My first eBook was titled How to Source Used Books. I offered all of my knowledge to answer my readers’ questions and charged $10 for it.

And to my surprise, the eBook sold! Although I can’t recall the exact numbers, I believe I pocketed close to $10,000 overall.

 Tip #3: Listen to what your readers are asking you! This will tell you what they want to know and what they may be willing to pay for. 

Used Books: Big Business ebook

After seeing the success of the first eBook, I decided to write an all-encompassing eBook called Used Books: Big Business. The Secrets to Selling Books Online for Big Profits.

It took many months to write, but I was able to make a healthy income from this eBook as well. I was off and running!

Though my blog was generating less revenue than Bertram Books, I was still making a profit from my online business. What’s more, it required significantly less overhead and a whole lot less time and labor to run than an e-commerce store!

Running Bertram Books and Sell Your Books Online didn’t allow me to retire from my full-time job, but I was able to supplement my income and help my family through some low-income and high-stress times!

My success in these ventures was exciting. However, at some point, the drive and interest I once had in selling books was waning and I could feel that the end was near.

The passion is gone

I’m a firm believer that if you’re passionate, want it bad enough, and are willing to put in the hours to get there, you can do just about anything. At one time, the Bertram Book enterprise was my number one priority. But after awhile. . . not so much.

I lost my drive and motivation to continue. Bertram Books wasn’t generating nearly enough profit to support operations and I came home discouraged quite often.

SYBO was coasting, but I lost traffic because I only posted once every few months. This, too, was losing steam.

My little enterprise was slowly dying and I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

The end was inevitable. I decided to sell.

Unfortunately, I could not find a buyer for Bertram Books. However, a loyal SYBO reader was interested in buying my SYBO blog and YouTube channel!

After a little negotiation, the deal was gone. I handed over my blog, my email list and my YouTube channel all for the rip sum of $4,000.

At the time, $4,000 seemed like a lot of money. But as I think over the time I put into SYBO, I now know that I made an estimated $0.25 per hour.

After a final farewell post, I handed the SYBO reins to the new owner, Jonathan.

Thank you blog post on
 Tip #3: Losing passion for something may be a sign that you need to pivot. 

The Phoenix Rises: Adam the Automator

Adam the Automator persona

While I ran my book businesses, I maintained a full-time job in the information technology (IT) industry. Aside from my literature empires, I have always been in IT.

During my IT career, I was employed at a local consulting company, where I became acquainted with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). A local hospital employed me as a consultant to design and implement it. I worked in this position for five years.

During my time in the community, I was awarded the prestigious Microsoft MVP award along with a PowerShell Community Hero reward from the PowerShell team at Microsoft.

Microsoft MVP and PowerShell Community Hero award
Microsoft MVP and PowerShell Community Hero award

My work with the SCCM product eventually led me to a lesser-known computer scripting language called PowerShell. Developed by Microsoft, PowerShell allowed me to automate the numerous tasks I was dealing with in my full-time job. I loved it!

I’ve been infatuated with computers ever since I could talk. I have always been a script writer with a need for productivity and efficiency; automation was in my blood and PowerShell was my tool. I loved them both so much and knew I had to share my findings with the world.

In 2014, I decided I needed to do something else. My full-time job wasn’t cutting it, and I missed connecting with people. I wanted to build another online presence!

After considering my strengths and passions, Adam the Automator (ATA) was born!

Freelance writing here I come!

At first, I’d randomly write posts on my new ATA blog, where I occasionally received a comment here and there. It was a fun side-project but nothing more.

However, I had a hunch that I could find additional income streams relating to my SCCM and PowerShell knowledge, so I began writing freelance articles on other blogs in the same niche. . . and getting paid to do it.

I found myself becoming a regular contributor to a handful of websites. These articles became a sizable chunk of my overall monthly income. The more I wrote the faster I became and the easier it was to earn a higher hourly income!

I became a regular contributor to these sites and built a name for myself in this niche. When I wrote for other blogs, I included backlinks to ATA and started to build my own audience. I met authority figures in my niche who were also running blogs, writing articles, and building courses.

 Tip #4: Focus on other sources of revenue (and blog promotion opportunities). To build a successful blog, you must work on promoting your blog wherever you can. 

Branching out into video

One of these acquaintances built online video courses. Tapping into my past experience of teaching aspiring booksellers, I applied to design courses on a platform called Pluralsight.

Pluralsight, at the time, was a small online training company focused on software development and IT operations video courses. They offered me an upfront payment of a few thousand dollars and an ongoing royalty payment (passive income!).

It took nearly 100 hours to build that course in 2014. I had to learn how to properly teach a topic, design PowerPoint slides, set up recording equipment, edit. . . the whole nine yards.

My first Pluralsight course
My first Pluralsight course

The effort was worth it, and it led me down a path to publish over a dozen courses which now generate a healthy five figures!

“You should focus more on your blog.”

Over the years, I continued to contribute to other sites, learn content marketing, write for major tech vendors, write a couple of books, speak at conferences and webinars, and establish myself as an influencer in my space.

I always treated my blog as my “home base” and continued to backlink. This expanded my reach and improved my rankings on Google.

One day, I was casually looking through my Google Analytics for ATA and was pleasantly surprised. Despite only having a few dozen posts, Google favored my blog! I mentioned this to my wife.

Because I didn’t have ads nor affiliate links, I wasn’t making a penny from this blog at the time. My wife noted how well I was doing and saw the potential to generate income.

“You should focus more on your blog,” she casually encouraged me.

She was right.

 Tip #5: Listen to others. You will get so focused on one area that you’ll neglect other areas at your own peril. 

Introducing monetization

My wife’s comment helped me realize that I could tap into this potential if I spent the time and effort.

I started off by learning about Adsense. After trying it and struggling for months without making a notable profit, I switched to another program called Ezoic.

In August of 2019, the ATA blog had 10,000 visitors per month and began generating up to $4,000 in monthly ad revenue! I was elated! The hundreds of hours I was putting into building the blog and writing posts was finally paying off!

Ezoic revenue from August 2019 to July 2020
Ezoic revenue from August 2019 to July 2020

I was on a roll. I created a publishing schedule for myself, focused on on-page SEO and gave the ATA blog the attention it deserved. And it was paying off.

During that time, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called Income School. I learned a lot from these guys who provided great information.

Through Income School, I learned about AdThrive, a company that is similar to Ezoic and Adsense. I decided I wanted to replace Ezoic with this new company.

But there was a catch: they required 100K visitors per month over the past three months. I wasn’t there. Yet.

I was on a mission to get more traffic. I doubled-down on building quality posts, did regular SEO audits with SEMRush, and learned everything I could about building traffic.

Bringing in my friends

Adam the automator logo

There was a lot of work to be done, but I didn’t have to do it on my own! I was part of a community of experts in various IT fields. Then I realized that they had valuable knowledge to teach, but most didn’t have the platform to share it with the world.

That realization inspired the ATA Friends program.

This program would combine my writing experience with their expertise. It’d be a win-win for everyone! I would pay these experts for their contribution and coach them in writing and editing. In return, the ATA blog would get a huge amount of content about topics from a wider range of experts.

After an initial announcement on Twitter, I soon had a few dozen interested writers ready to get started.

ATA Friends announcement on Twitter
ATA Friends announcement on Twitter

After building a writing and publishing system, I and the other writers started cranking away. After a month or two, I finally hit my goal of 100K visitors per month and I was approved for Adthrive!

ATA Friends announcement on Twitter
ATA blog traffic when starting AdThrive

The move to AdThrive nearly tripled my monthly revenue. My revenue and traffic have been in an upward trajectory ever since.

 Tip #6: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you can create an arrangement that benefits everyone. 

Hiring help

Even though the ATA Friends were a huge help in creating content, this was only one component of building a successful blog. I had to edit the content, manage SEO, manage the technical infrastructure, and mop the floors.

I had to wear a lot of hats, but my hard work paid off once I began generating income. At that point, I could afford to hire help.

One of the first hires I made was a jack-of-all-trades friend I met back when I build a tiny startup called TechSnips. I hired him on a fixed monthly retainer to be my web guy; taking care of maintenance and updates on the blog as needed. No more website work for me!

Next, I needed a blog manager; someone that could be the writers’ first line of contact and ensure that the ATA blog published quality content on a regular basis. One Upwork contract later and Chella joined the team!

Nowadays, I still continue to offer my writing expertise to writers with coaching and editing. I also build all of the internal documentation to make the system run as smoothly as possible. Though I am still working on many aspects of my business, these hires have freed me up to focus on other areas.

 Tip #7: When you can afford it, consider hiring help. This will allow you to be more concentrated in your preferred areas of the business rather than being so spread thin. 

The road ahead

It’s been a long 13 years since I sold that Patrick Lencioni book. My entrepreneurial journey has been a steep roller coaster ride with many ups and downs:

  • I’ve gone from the elation of being my own boss to nearly going broke to being on top again.
  • My marriage has gone from overwork and strife to freedom and excitement as our family now takes fancy vacations and spends more time together.
  • My online businesses have allowed me to help so many people but has also opened me up to public scrutiny and criticism.

Entrepreneurship hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t go back and do it differently even if I could.

This brings me to this new venture: Action blogger. Through Action Blogger, I intend to take my decade+ level of experience and help YOU! I want to build a platform just like SYBO which allows me to create the content that you’re reading now.

I want to build this platform to help aspiring bloggers and online entrepreneurs achieve what I have and go farther without all of the hardships I’ve had to endure.

Here’s to the next 13 years and my latest efforts to continue helping people all over the world build a successful blog and lifestyle business with Action Blogger!

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