Learning to fly

“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings” – Tom Petty 

Six months ago I was fired… let go… downsized… whatever.  I had worked for the same company for sixteen years and, in return, I was given 32 weeks of severance pay.  While it came as a shock, it was a good thing.  The mother bird had kicked me out of the nest.

I decided to see if I could make it on my own.  Could I earn a living blogging full time?  Could I fly on my own?  As I reported in the post “Up in the air” I made a simple business plan for myself:

To see whether I could make a career at blogging, I drew up a little business plan.  I started with a target monthly salary for 8 months out.  It would be less than what I was making at my prior company, but enough to comfortably live off of.  My goal was to earn 20% of that target in month 1 (April), 30% in month 2, 40% in month 3, etc.  So far, I met my goals in April (woo hoo!), but time will tell how I do going forward.  I’ll check my targets each month.  If I miss a target, I’ll have time to try to do better.  If I’m way off target 6 or 7 months from now, I’ll brush off my resume and start looking at alternatives.


The mother bird’s timing was spot-on.  Blog readership at the time had been increasing steadily as I reported ways to maximize credit card category bonuses and shopping portal promotions.  Still, my niche was with advanced point collectors.  I felt like I needed a way to connect with newbies as well, but without dumbing down my blog.  My strategy was to connect with readers on two fronts: 1) I would continue the daily blog, do more in-depth analyses, and continue to target advanced point collectors; and 2) I would create a step by step beginners guide as a separate venture. 


Continuing the daily blog has been easy and fun.  Each day, I basically research and write-up whatever interests me most at any given time.  Luckily many readers seem to share my interests! 

The beginners guide has taken more effort, but it too has been fun.  I’ve written one lesson a week for 24 weeks now.  I use a service called MailChimp to automatically send the lessons via email, in-order, one week at a time.  For example, anyone who signs up now will receive the first lesson immediately, the second lesson a week later, and so on. 

With both my daily blog and newsletter, my primary source of income is from credit card referrals.  As a rule, I do not put credit card offers directly in my posts, but I do provide a few permanent pages that contain my links:

  • On my “Best credit card offers” page I list the best sign-up offers I know of, regardless of whether I get paid for them.  For some I do get paid, for others I don’t.  I want everyone to get the best offers even if it means that I lose out on some revenue.
  • On the “Preparing for Miles” page I show the credit cards that are best for earning points and miles (and sometimes cash) regardless of the sign-up bonus.
  • For the few who want to go out of their way to make sure I earn a buck, I also provide a “Credit Cards” page containing all offers in which I get paid.  Still, I think everyone should research the best alternatives first.


So far, so good

I love working for myself: no bureaucracy, no timesheets or status reports, and no pointy haired boss!  Since April, blog readership is up 135% and I now have over 700 people subscribed to the beginner’s newsletter!  As to income, incredibly, I’ve done well so far!  Month over month, my income has exceeded my original targets.

Despite my success so far, continued income is no sure thing.  August revenue was amazing.  There was a near perfect storm in which Chase made public their new Ink Plus card, American Express temporarily increased their SPG signup bonus, and Citibank revealed their new Hilton card.  September revenue was much more modest, but still exceeded the goal I had set for myself in April.  Will revenue continue to decline, or bounce up and down?  Only time will tell which way things will go from here.

What’s next

As long as I’m meeting my goals, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.  For now, at least, my point collecting hobby has become my job — my awesome job.  If revenue dips significantly I’ll look for new sources of income — I have plenty of ideas.  Until then, I’ll keep flying.

So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

Tom Petty

Vacation Notice

Greg (Frequent Miler) is currently on vacation. Posts have been scheduled for most days, but emails, comments, and Tweets may go unanswered for a while.

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  1. I don’t understand.. How are you making a living blogging? I work at home and just want to blog for fun. But I want to have my links on my blogs so people can access my links for like ebates and open sky and Amex.. But I have no clue how to do any of this. Do I hire a Blog expert to teach me. I don’t plan on giving up my day job at home but I want to travel more and get more points. ARGGGHHHH. I want to blog but it’s so time consuming. I think if I knew how to do it better I would. It’s just that step to take.

    Congrats on Being pushed out of the nest. I jumped off the bridge 13 years ago when I was teaching and my youngest child was starting school and I didn’t want to miss out and became an Injury Rehab, Pain Management Massage Therapist and Life has never been better. But the Chicks are Grown and gone and now I want to Travel. Life is good.

  2. FM, I wish you the best of luck. You were one of the biggest inspirations as to why I started my blog. I’m truly grateful to you and your creative ways to think outside the box!
    Again, Congrats and may you keep up the success!

  3. @Carla: I don’t blog. But I think the process is to start your blog and then, once readership has developed, to reach out to a credit card affiliate for the credit card links.

  4. @Frequent Miler: Congrats on the success! I think that you and Mile Value are the most innovative bloggers going these days. Your “One Card to Rule Them All” has changed the dynamics of point collecting for me. Now, if you could only find a similar way to manufacture spend on the Amex Delta Reserve for the MQMs (i.e., without buying/selling merchandise).

  5. Congratulations on your success!!! I look forward to your daily posts and really starting to get into this. It is because of your blog that I am planning my first trip to Disney World next year. Thank You!!!!

  6. Congratulations. Building multiple revenue sources is good advice for working as a full-time blogger. As one source might see a decline or fluctuation, you can put your effort into another source and make it grow.

    Seminars, e-books, sponsorships, trip planning, trip leading, and more can be part of your revenue streams.

  7. Congratulations FM on a great job building up the blog. I would second Ric’s advice above in that you need to diversify though. My blog I do because I enjoy this stuff, it is unlikely to ever be full-time, my day job pays more frankly than even the most successful bloggers so it just does not make sense for me (though I hope it will add some revenue at some point at least to cover the costs so far). The big risk you are taking is current credit card payouts are in a bubble and they will not last forever. So if 90%+ of your income is from that source, you need to diversify. In fact at some point the credit card sign-ups will shrink, and that will shrink interest in this niche, so think about other areas too beyond just hard-core points collection. Lastly now that you have built a serious following I’d think about leaving mother nest again – this time Boardingarea. I’d say the same to Ric too :) But once agin congrats on a great job

  8. Keep up the great work FM, I always read your blog first every morning. Whenever I sign up for new cards, I always look on your Best CC Offers page. I think you need to team up and become Frequent Miler Value :)

  9. Miler,

    Great work and I have not yet noticed a “dumbing down” of the blog in case you are worried about that as you should be. (You correctly identified that the reason you are so well liked by many as you had a well defined niche that expert collectors like.) Due to some concerns I have had with other blogs, I am going out of my way to bring you as much credit card bonus money as possible. I promise to use you links exclusively if they are best offers if you promise to avoid “dumbing down.” I also plan to keep passing along items by email you may find useful to blog about.

  10. Congrats, owning your own business is frustrating, WAY too much work, infuriating at times, but probably the most rewarding occupation you can have! Be conservative (fiscally), save as much as you can and work your ass off and you will do great! Somehow the universe seems to push us in the right directions and sometimes the big shocks are the push we need the most. Those wings are there, you just need to learn to use and trust them.

  11. Good luck to you. I read this site every day and really enjoy hearing about all the crazy things you are trying to get more points.
    I recently did my first double dip with Sears and earned 6,000 points on a $300 purchase. If not for this site, I would have made my purchase the old fashioned way and only gotten 300 points.

  12. Congrats! Just so you know, yours is the only blog I’m throwing my referrals at these days. The others are just too pushy, too sponsored, too… ugh. Keep up the good work and the creative schemes!

  13. Good luck to you FM!
    Congrats also
    Where’s the beginners sign up?
    Echoing the above commenters, yeah you should diversify your income.
    Maybe actually be an amazon seller, or eBay
    Provide service that you accumulate experience over the years.

    • Thanks so much everyone! As suggested, I’ll look into more ways to diversify while keeping the blog itself at the same level. For those who want to signup for the beginner’s newsletter, keep in mind that it is really for beginners. If you already read lots of miles & points blogs, it will probably be pretty uninteresting. That said, you can find the signup link at the bottom of every blog post where it says: If you are new to collecting miles, sign up for the free newsletter

  14. Guys, “the beginner emails” are not for total noobs only, the emails have relevant information for all levels and is written in the same style as the blog posts. Its always exciting to get one of those emails because it’s like an extra blog post I wasn’t expecting :)

  15. As someone who is a new regular reader of your blog, I can tell you that if you had an electronic product that summarized the best info, I would have purchased it recently just to help me get jump started into this way of traveling. New revenue stream for you maybe?

  16. Congratulations!

    I think I first read about the prepaid Amex card here and successfully used it in an Icelandic ATM to pull out Icelandic Kroner. It failed in a Swedish ATM, though, that the Amex ATM website indicated would work. So the Amex prepaid might be valid option overseas if the prepaid fee is less than your usual bank’s ATM fee.

  17. Congrats on producing such a useful blog and not getting too crazy with pushing affiliate links to make money, like some of the other bloggers.

  18. I love reading your posts. Love your honesty in detailing your experiment, success, and even those attempted “failures”. Love your style of “NOT” dumpling those application links on us.

    My favorite bloggers are — travelsort, milevalue, onemile at a time, thepointsguy, view from the wing and loyalty traveller.

  19. I second the miles trading idea. Also, I recommend you start a members-only private forum where people can share tips/tricks that they don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly.

  20. Congrats on your success!

    Also, a question, if you wouldn’t mind answering it. Is it possible to have someone else sign up for a credit card and then use your mileage redemption account? Say my friend signs up for a mileage explorer plus and then uses my united mileage account. Would he then get rejected for having multiple cards because I already signed up for that card?


  21. FM, I’m dying to know what you did for a living in your prior life. You’re such a clear thinker and writer. I imagine you were some sort of analyst. I point people to your blog regularly because you communicate so effectively that they can understand better than if I explain. Your blog has been immensely helpful to me. I’m going to Paris in February and Vietnam in June in large part due to the techniques you expound. Thanks.

    • Piecerate: Thanks! My undergraduate and graduate degrees were in Psychology, so naturally I became a computer programmer. For the last 16 years I mostly designed and developed software to facilitate Healthcare data analytics (or led teams that did so).

  22. I do agree your blog has been the most innovative but it seems that it has been getting longer between posts since you have proposed anything new regarding advanced mileage collection schemes.

  23. good luck with this as a job man… You have already been a great reference and you also are one of the few who doesn’t kill the goose!

    Keep it up and godspeed.

  24. 6 months ago you received bad news, but also 6 months ago we first found these Vanilla Visa / AMEXs GCs at our favorite office supply stores. I can’t believe it’s been going on for this long.

    Congrats for all of your contributions!

  25. FM: Your blog is the best, most thoughful, interesting and innovative one out there. I get a big ol’ grin every time I read about one of your wacky schemes.

    Regarding the old employer, Illegitimi non carborundum.

  26. This is a really special and original blog that separates itself from the others. I really am glad that you are exceeding the goals you set. Good for you and I wish the best for you in the future! :)

  27. Congrats on being ahead of plan. You’ve earned it. Look forward to the contining idea exchange for the next 6 months, and the next and next.. :)

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