We’ve all heard about passive incomes and side hustles and flexible careers that people have, that bring them wealth and success. Timothy Kim, the author of Words Into Cash, has one of those stories.
Timothy actually epitomizes the American dream. He arrived in the US as a South Korean immigrant with only $500 in his pocket and he worked his way up the corporate ladder, but after that happened, he decided to leave it all behind and pursue his dreams as an online entrepreneur. Today, he is an elite blogger and he was able to become a millionaire using the power of his online presence.
In this episode, he’s going to teach you how to create a beast of a passive income through blogging. If you’ve wanted to turn your digital life into a business and create a career that you’ve always dreamed of, this is the episode for you. Now, here’s our conversation with Timothy Kim.
Timothy Kim: I was born in Korea (South Korea), and my parents moved me and my brother to Hungary, Eastern Europe, because they were missionaries in 1991. This was like, the last year when the Soviet troops were coming out of Hungary. That’s not really what a lot of people might be able to relate with, but the reason I share that story is because it was a real hard life growing up as an immigrant.
I immigrated here to the US in 2004 when I was 18 years old.
I didn’t have a lot of money. Growing we weren’t poor, we never really went like super hungry or anything like that. I know there’s a lot of people out there in the world that are just really just getting by, some of them even have to look for water and stuff like that. Not to that extent, but I don’t think my parents ever made more than $1,500 a month on a good month. All the money that they made was through church support as Christian missionaries.
They’re still actually in Hungary right now. They feed the homeless, they have a prison ministry, and they also go to the gypsy slums and preach and talk to the people, my mom gives them haircuts, stuff like that.
Growing in that background, never having enough money, I think was always a point of contention for me. It was always a struggle for me and my brother. I remember just really not liking that and telling myself, “You know what? When I grow up, I’m not going to be like this. I want more for myself, and I want more for my family.”
Nothing against my parents, I love them and I respect them, but it was too difficult.
Charlie Hoehn: When you say it was too difficult, a particular instance come to mind that maybe you felt the most exasperated or frustrated or embarrassed?
Timothy Kim: Yeah, even the smallest things where my friends would have birthday parties, they would get presents. It’s a pretty normal thing that people take for granted, but I used to never get presents. Christmas, holidays, birthdays, we were lucky to get a cake if that.
I still remember, growing up just those were luxuries. In my childhood, it just never was. That was kind of hard.
Time for Change
Charlie Hoehn: What happened next? You decided that you weren’t going to live that way when you grew up. When did things start to move down that path?
Timothy Kim: When I immigrated here to the US, actually, I was naturalized as a citizen just a couple of years back. I just wanted a different life for myself.
Charlie Hoehn: Congratulations, by the way.
Timothy Kim: Thank you. Yeah, it’s crazy. For people who were born here in the US, it’s really easy to not realize how big of a blessing it is to be here in the US. At the naturalization ceremony, everybody was crying tears of joy. Myself included.
It was very emotional, and it’s interesting, the group of people that were getting naturalized and again, me included, we’re the most passionate about this country.
I’ve been supremely blessed. I feel really blessed.
When I came here, I didn’t have a whole lot, I went, I started working in the warehouse in La Palma California in Orange County, and it was a wholesale garage door company. I started in Will Call, and I think I made like 12 dollars an hour there when I started.
I was there for about 10 years, and it’s a 60 year old company. I started in the warehouse, and I ultimately became the vice president of procurement. I worked my way up, and again, I just hustled, went in there, tried my best. Working 80 hour weeks was pretty common for me, but while I was doing it, I felt very blessed.
It’s just one of those things where you work so long, you work so hard that you feel like you’re waking up every day asking yourself, “Is this really it? Is this my life—all I do?”
I have a kid now, you know? He’s almost three, and it’s just too much time away from home, from my wife, from the kid. It just felt like I was doing this daily grind, and I felt kind of depressed.
“Is this it? There’s nothing else?”
Charlie Hoehn: What else did you think there was?
Timothy Kim: I don’t know, I just thought that it would be more fulfilling. I felt like having money and satiating that craving for money would somehow free me and allow me to do more things and give me more opportunities to have a life that I can enjoy.
“That great posh office job, that white collar job, felt like golden handcuffs.”
It’s just super depressing, and I was always stressed out. I was taking anxiety medication because every day was really stressful. Money was really good ,and I would have never ever thought in my life that I would be making that much money, but I wasn’t happy, you know?
That’s when I started upon this idea of blogging, because I like to read. So I followed a lot of financial – personal finance blogs. One day out of nowhere, the thought came to me, why don’t I start one? What’s there to lose? Just start one, who knows where it will go? That was kind of the beginning of me with my foray into blogging, and it’s been amazing.
Looking back, I’m so thankful that that thought ever came to mind, because if it didn’t, I’d be still doing the whole nine to five grind.
Blogging Gets Results
Charlie Hoehn: Tim, what is the name of your blog for listeners to check out, and how long have you been blogging now?
Timothy Kim: I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half, and it’s called tubofcash.com.
Charlie Hoehn: A year and a half seems like a pretty quick timeframe to be making a living doing what you love, right?
Timothy Kim: Yeah. I started generating money from my blog right from the get go pretty much because I was putting time into social media even before then. So I had a following even before I started my blog.
I had been working on my following for about a year before I started actually writing in my blog.
Charlie Hoehn: Okay, I’d imagine some listeners might be thinking, “I’ve heard this before.” They’re skeptical, right? What do you say to them?
Timothy Kim: I think it’s natural to think like that because it just seems like most things in life that sound too good to be true. I can understand that. I remember when I was kind of in those shoes as well. I’m actually very naturally skeptical, so I totally understand where that kind of feeling would come from.
“Even if it sounds too good to be true, why not just at least attempt it? What’s the harm?”
I can’t think of, off the top of my head, anything that costs so little capital, whether it’s human capital or financial capital, to start. A blog is like a business, and I can’t think of anything that’s cheaper than a blog.
There’s actually ways you could start even a free blog, like blogger.com. Although they put ads on your site and basically traffic you get and income, they’ll take and you won’t get any of it if you do a free blog. But you can still grow a following through that and later transition to a paid version of hosPostting and actually have your own platform where you can make money.
To people who are just skeptical about it, there’s zero risk. What’s the big deal, if there’s zero risk? Why not give it a try and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
In my honest opinion, I think the blogosphere is under saturated because of literally that kind of thinking.
So many people think that it’s too hard. Everyone thinks if someone’s really successful with a blog, it’s like they just lucked out. It’s one out of a million, you know? It’s kind of like the whole lottery kind of thing way of thinking. It can never happen to me.
The funny thing is, if those exact people thought like that and they would have never started, they would have been exactly where they were before and nothing would have changed.
I’m very thankful and happy that I just made that decision that one fateful day.
I like to ramble anyways—might as well get paid, you know?
Keep It Simple, Silly
Charlie Hoehn: I’m a big believer in the blogs, but let’s pretend I’m somebody who has come to you and it is such a grind. Can you walk me through the steps that you lay out in your book on how to do this right so I don’t keep wasting more energy and time not making any money?
Timothy Kim: There’s a lot to this, but I would first take a look at the website. How does it even look? Because I don’t know the study behind this, but in my book, I decided to study where something like 97% of traffic to a website, they decide within a few seconds if they’re even going to stay or something like that.
It has to do with design of the website.
So many people tend to be perfectionists and they try to overdo it. They think more is better.
Charlie Hoehn: What does that mean?
Timothy Kim: I’ll give you an example like what is one of the most famous companies in the world? I’ll just give you the answer, it’s Apple, right? If you go to apple.com, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
“It’s just a simple website.”
All you see is usually just a product that they’ve just recently released, just that one product. It’s either a phone or their watch, and there’s nothing else, it’s only one image and that’s it. Everything else is white background.
If you want to learn more information about any of their other products, they have a menu. They have a small menu, and you go there and then access other parts of the website.
I think the general of really anything, even my book, is just people overthink things. Overthinking generally leads to kind of like this paralysis by analysis. When they do something, it’s just over the top. Another example actually that’s pretty good with this is that is even their posts, people spend so much time and effort to make it just perfect.
Going from let’s say like 90% great content to like 100% perfect content, in that extra 10%, there’s diminishing returns. I think people spend so much time in that extra 10 to 20% towards the end that they just get burnt out.
If you go to YouTube or any of the blogs that are really popular and successful and you go back to like when they started, the first few videos or first few post or first years’ worth of stuff, it’s all really bad.
All the really great YouTubers and bloggers, it’s usually really bad. It’s another example of just don’t overthink it, do it.
If it doesn’t get results, you just kind of have to do more of what works.
“If it doesn’t work, try something else.”
One of the things that I see is other than the design is just the content is too difficult to digest. I think so many people who are bloggers or who like to read blogs and are motivated themselves to start a blog, they tend to try to sound real smart. So the vocabulary they use is just too much.
If you think about it, even you or anyone else, when you’re reading stuff, whether or not you have an extensive vocabulary, you tend to kind of gravitate towards stuff that’s more simple to digest. I think that’s just kind of a normal thing, because the harder something is to read and digest, even if you’re able to comprehend it, it comes with pain.
I think just inherently, human beings don’t like pain and painful reading does not really translate to traffic.
I don’t know the research, but if you google it, the average reading grade level for top songs
is like a third grade level. For rap, it’s first grade level. The thing is though, those are what sells.
I don’t know what it is, but when it comes to authors and writers and content creators that actually write, it tends to be super dense and hard to digest. I really don’t know what it is. I think something to do with authors and writers.
People tend to use really hard vocabulary. I use slang.
If a third grader can’t understand my blog post, I have to change it. That’s just how people communicate. You have to write your blog kind of like you’re talking to the person.
Charlie Hoehn: They’re writing from almost academic standpoint and trying to sound super smart. But yeah, readers hate that.
Timothy Kim: I’ll tell you what though, if that’s your audience, go ahead—but you’re not going to make any money. I get it, but you have to understand, how much of the population is made up of the average person versus the scholar, you know? That’s the way you’ve got to look at it.
Using Social Proof
Charlie Hoehn: I want to jump to a chapter in your book of building social proof. Now, you had a big social media following before you started this blog. Is that what you’re talking about? To build your social media audience? Or is this something different?
Timothy Kim: Social proof is kind of…I like psychology. Any business comes down to understanding how human beings think, so that chapter’s about building social proof where you kind of that authority thing that we’re talking about earlier.
You don’t have to sound smart to be an authority figure for somebody. There are many other ways to portray an authority type figure where people see you as an authority figure to go to and listen to without sounding dry.
Even social media, I would say, if you have more than 10,000 followers which is very easy to do, you’re automatically a semi influencer.
Charlie Hoehn: How do you think it’s easy to do?
Timothy Kim: It’s so easy to do. I would say, I have about 900,000 followers across all my social media, and that took about two and a half years. It was pretty quick, but 10,000, that’s not hard to do.
You just start. You have to start somewhere. So most people, when they’re on Instagram, or actually, most people that I know that are not millennials or older, a lot of them actually don’t have Instagram and don’t have Snapchat.
Snapchat is so big, and I feel like a lot of people are missing their opportunity because so much traffic can come from Snapchat. All you need to do is swipe up and it will go directly to your blog.
A lot of people I think, older millennial and Gen X tend to stick with Facebook and Twitter, and that’s not too smart.
I kind of give this example: In martial arts, a lot of times, if I say, “Given enough time, can you progress from being a newbie white belt to becoming brown belt or blue belt or black belt even over a long period of time. As long as you can just stick to it, can you do it?” I think most people would say “Yeah, it’s just all a matter of time.”
It has nothing to do with your abilities, it’s just how long can you stick with it?”
Some people who are more gifted, for example, physically or athletically, might be able to get that black belt sooner. But even the least gifted genetically person can eventually become black belt if they can just stick to it year after year.
Social media is exactly the same thing. If you’re on Facebook and all your, like high school friends and relatives, friends, all of that included, most people have over a hundred people that are following them on their social media. That is where you start. Just putting out content and engaging with people.
One of the good ways to do this is if you start your blog, let’s say it is a makeup blog or fashion blog. All you need to do is go to influencers within your niche and start engaging with people in the comment section of your favorite influencer. Like top 10 influencers.
“These people are already a warm audience.”
This isn’t something like you’re cold calling people and trying to get them to buy something from you. These people are already interested in whatever you are doing, whether it is fashion or makeup. So there are a lot of easy avenues to get directly into contact with people that are in your niche, even people who are influencers.
I remember when I first started, I DM’ed—which is direct messaging if you are new to social media—more than a thousand people like influencers or people who are somewhat known with personal finance and business and entrepreneurship. I just pretty much DM‘ed the same template.
I just messaged everybody the same thing pretty much, and two of them agreed to me guest posting for them on their website.
Consistency Always Wins
Charlie Hoehn: Two out of a thousand?
Timothy Kim: Yeah, two out of a thousand, but the thing is these people already have hundreds of thousands of followers, so that paid off for me. So I was able to get in front of hundreds of thousands of people for pretty much just sweat equity.
Charlie Hoehn: So did you individually send those messages by the way or did you automate it?
Timothy Kim: No, I don’t even know how to automate it to be honest with you. On Instagram there are ways, but you can get blocked, you can get banned, stuff like that.
I literally went from influencer to influencer and just direct message them, or even emailed.
That is just one way of doing it, and it is inevitable—someone is going to say yes. It is like the biggest guarantee.
Do it for long enough, and someone out there is going to say yes to you as long as what you are offering at least makes sense.
I think there are ways to make it a little bit easier for them to say yes. For example, you email them at the same time and just pretty much give them the exact two or three word documents—attach the exact blog posts that you are going to do and so they can choose—and just make it super easy.
Everybody is really busy, so you just want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Don’t make it painful.
Some people are just really odd. I remember some people would say, “Well what if they steal my idea or my blog?” Dude trust me, no one thinks like that. And even if they were, they don’t have much to lose. You have more to lose.
If you are starting off, you really want to get yourself out there. There are a ton of things you can do.
“Little by little, block by block, you can grow your social media.”
The fun thing about social media is there’s a tipping point once you get to a certain point. Followers will just follow you just because you have more followers. That’s another thing to do a social proof as well. It is just how human beings operate. Because I have hundreds of thousands of followers, I bet you if someone comes across my post, they will look at it and say, “Oh well look at how many people are following this guy. There must be a reason why. Maybe I should follow him.”
That is where it just gets easier and easier.
It is hard to start, but it only gets easier over time. It starts with just a hundred or 200 followers. It is really easy to do, especially if you have at least some money to put towards things like cash giveaways.
I do a lot of giveaways, because people inherently operate out of incentivization.
If you really don’t have anybody following you, you want to get some excitement going with your blog, I would say any type of giveaway is a real easy way to get some buzz going.
Monetizing Your Blog
Charlie Hoehn: What is the one chapter if they’re ready to monetize their blog, they’ve got a following and everything, where do you point them? What should they do?
Timothy Kim: It looks like it is chapter seven, creating income streams. I would say the easiest thing is starting off with something like Google AdSense, because there are really no minimum requirements unless you live in some of the countries like you have to have your website up for six months at least for Google AdSense. But if you are in the US it will take you a couple of weeks for them to approve you and automatically you have a method to generate income.
As long as you have something like Google AdSense, you can use some sort of very easy widget to just build it into your website. You don’t have to know coding or anything. That is one of the things that I learned in my processes. I am so happy that I created my blog in today’s day. Even five years ago, this would have been hard.
I think the last two years it just became so much more easier because Instagram, Snapchat, all the social media has made it so much easier than having to focus on SEO. Search engine optimization is really old school.
“So many marketing people talk about SEO, and I just laugh that off. That will take you 10 years.”
Just going back to the monetization part, it is real easy. All you need is something like Google AdSense at the start, and later as you get more traffic you can have something like Mediavine or AdThrive, where they give you a lot more money for every thousand impressions or click throughs. You get higher payouts. There’s also Amazon Associates, which is an affiliate type program and doesn’t cost you anything.
If you are into makeup and your blog is about makeup, or if you are into supplements so you are going to write a blog about your top three whey protein brands, you can link it to amazon.com.
Which is again, a trust factor. People aren’t going to go to Amazon and be like, “What kind of website is this?” No, this is Amazon. Most people buy from Amazon, and a lot of people have Prime. So as long as you link it properly, a lot of people don’t know this about Amazon, but about 60% of your income from Amazon Associates won’t even be from the product that you link on your blog. It actually it will be from stuff that they put in their cart.
You just get commission off of it, if that makes sense. It is called the universal cookie, and for 24 hours, they can close out their browser or they can close out everything, they can go on a tablet, they can go on a different phone or a different computer, and within 24 hours whatever you put in that cart and people mostly, if you are like me, I am buying stuff off at Amazon all the time, every day.
So if I clicked on your link, now suddenly, you are going to get commission off all the stuff that I was normally going to buy anyways. People don’t know that. It is just a very interesting thing where you can actually make a lot of money just by writing posts and having people click on stuff, even if they close out of it. Then as long as they click on it, it will save it, the cookie will be saved for something like a year. So if they buy it, eventually even if they just go into their browser, the cookie is saved and you get commission for that.
There’s a lot of things that people don’t know, that it is really easy to monetize. I am not talking about a ton of money. I would say anything over six figures is a little tough to do with just primarily ads. You would have to do a lot of it.
Charlie Hoehn: Amazon’s affiliate payout is what, 5%?
Timothy Kim: It used to be higher so they are really lowering it now every category is different. For books it is something like 10% digital. Anything digital usually get higher payouts. So yeah it is different, there’s Clickbank as well, which is similar. You get higher payouts. But that is just the start.
I would say if you are looking to make six figures or more, you have to start getting into proprietary product and affiliate partnerships that give you higher payouts.
Usually those kind partnerships require you to have at least a certain amount of traffic. One of the ones that I found very successful from the get go was Bluehost. It’s an affiliate program, and as long as someone uses your link to create a website, you get a certain amount of commission. The more you sell their product, they bump you up to different tiers and you get higher payouts.
The other part of it is your Snapchat and your Instagram or whatever other social media platforms you’re on. That page can be its own blog. So as long as you can get a following, you can make money—you don’t even have to have a website.
I would recommend a website because you never know. It is good to build your own land if that makes sense, but you could still make money on different platforms. They’ve made it so easy now.
Part Time Success
Charlie Hoehn: How hard do you work?
Timothy Kim: You know in the beginning I spent a lot of time. For example, as I was growing my social media, I was spending all day interacting with people, interacting with influencers, trying to do as much as I can to get my name out there. But today, I can go even a month without writing a blog post.
It is not one of those things that’s forced anymore.
All the blog post that I made in the past still make money.
So that’s the beauty about having your own website. Your blog isn’t just an income stream, every single blog post is an income stream. So even if you are making a penny a day from your posts, then it’s within your control that if you want to make more money, just write more posts.
The cool thing is if you are starting out and you have zero audience, none of the effort that you put in the beginning is a waste. Let’s say a year or two years later you actually have an audience, they are going to go read the stuff that you published in the past.
None of it goes to waste, that’s what I would say. Then with social media, I am always putting up the same thing. Let’s say I have 100 posts, I keep recycling posts, and some people think that that’s a bad idea but I think that’s just dumb. Why wouldn’t you?
Every time I recycle a post and say, “Hey you know…” and all I do is #repost, it doesn’t upset anybody. Every time I do a repost I get traffic.
Here is how I think, I would rather be spammy than forgotten about at the end of the day. That is how I get traffic, and it works. People tend to over think it.
I would say in the beginning I would spend at least an hour and a half a week, which is not a lot. 30 minutes three times a week just to started.
“I would be so surprised if you can’t make money after a year’s worth of being consistent.”
It would blow my mind. It doesn’t make any sense to me, especially if you are coupling it with social media. If you are not coupling it with social media and you are trying to deal with SEO, then I would understand. That would take you 10 years. But in today’s day where you have swipe up stories and stuff like that, especially if you know how to write your titles…
That is another thing that I talk about in my book. I talk about the value-added clickbait. You write titles in certain ways. I don’t know about you, but I see clickbait stuff and I know it’s clickbait, and I still have to click on it.
You just have to know how to formulate these titles. It is not hard. It is almost impossible to not get people to click. It is like a human thing.
Creating Your Platform
Charlie Hoehn: Of the people that you’ve helped, are there any success stories and transformations that really stand out in your mind?
Timothy Kim: I have a club, which is again, another thing where when I think about proprietary product, and that is when you can start getting into a lot of money. Everybody that I talk to and teach, I always tell them start with something like Google AdSense, but later on, if you want to make a lot more, the brown belt level of income from blogging would be once you start getting into affiliate income. Then the black belt level is when you start doing your proprietary products.
So I have a club where I am teaching beginners who are just blogging how to blog. That’s a proprietary service and product that I give people. So off the top of my head, I have about 500 people in my blogging club. I can’t think of a specific site, but I do know most people are making some money and not a lot of money.
I would say the average is $100 a month.
So that is not a lot of money, but there are outliers that are making a few thousand dollars a month. There is also one website, one company where some big chain national company contacted them about acquiring their online store.
It started off as some sort of Etsy thing, and because they actually had a website and some sort of platform, they were noticed by a big, national company. They are looking into acquiring that website.
I would say the biggest problem for anybody, whether you’re a business person or you’re looking to make some side income or whatever, it’s just that no one knows that you exist.
“That’s your biggest enemy: obscurity.”
No one knows that you exist.
Just by having something out there, it gives you a leg up on almost anybody else out there who isn’t doing anything on Instagram, who isn’t doing anything on Snapchat, who isn’t doing anything on Twitter, who doesn’t have their own blog.
People who have that automatically have a leg up. You at least have some method of reaching people.
If someone googles your name, for example, do you want random things to come up about you or do you want to cater your own persona and have your own platform where people can see who you are and what you’re about?
If you google my name, for example, I have either CNBC, Business Insider, Huffington Post, or some of these other articles that come up about me. My CNBC one, the contributor for that was Ruth Omo, and she saw my blogpost on LinkedIn.
I don’t know of any blogger, I’m sure there are some out there, who puts their blog posts on LinkedIn. They might do it on Twitter or some of these other, more like traditional social media outlets, where LinkedIn isn’t really considered social media. But I don’t care.
For me, if one extra person sees my thing, that’s good enough. I try to get my thing out there on as many avenues as possible, and somehow some way, Ruth saw my blog post on LinkedIn and contacted me about doing a feature.
Now, if you google my name, that’s where it started. Then I have all these other things that come up because it started there and opened new doors for me to be able to get featured on other places whether it’s MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, all these other national publications.
Connect with Timothy Kim
Charlie Hoehn: What is the best way for people to follow you?
Timothy Kim: I’m most active on Instagram. It’s kind of the king of social media platforms right now. You can find me @timothyskim.
Charlie Hoehn: The final question is, give our listeners a challenge, what is the one thing that they can do this week from your book that will have a positive impact?
Timothy Kim: I would say, everybody who is listening to this should at least give it a go. When I say that, I’m not talking about my book. I’m talking about blogging in general. I give an example where it’s just crazy to me. If you go to YouTube right now and type in ant farm or something similar to that, you’ll come across this kid who has like 1.5 million subscribers and all he talks about is his ant farm.
Personally, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a single person in my vicinity that actually loves ants, but there must be 1.5 million people out there who actually love ants. That’s just an example that I like to give. So many people think that no one wants to listen to them, no one cares what they have to say, or they have to be Einstein or super smart or know a lot about what they’re talking about.
As long as you’re passionate about something, whether it’s ant farms or worm farming, it doesn’t matter what you care about, there’s somebody out there that’s willing to listen to your story or the things that you’re already passionate about.
“Don’t think of it like it’s work. It’s not. You already like it.”
Think of it like you’re going to make money off of something that you already like and enjoy to do. It shouldn’t even be that difficult.
I started my blog the day that I thought about it. I didn’t wait. I just started. Thank god that I started it that day, because I wouldn’t be where I’m at.
Anybody who is listening to this, I would say, just give it a try. There’s nothing to lose, you know? Go on google, type in any word, you don’t have to use Bluehost, you can just do a web host provider, and start your blog today.