My Brief Reign as Queen of Cheap

stretchLast year I was the Queen of Cheap, doing the best I could to attract users to a website about free and cheap things to do in Portland, Oregon. My site was part of a nationwide network of cheap sites. When a reliable friend recommended that I take over the Portland site and its connected Facebook page as a quick and easy way to have another income stream, I was interested, particularly since I knew the managers of the network to be reputable journalists whose names were familiar to me.

My interest grew exponentially when one of those journalists, my new boss, told me that I could earn $2,000 to $10,000 per month from operating this site. Easy money! I didn’t hesitate to sign a one-year contract promising multiple posts on the site per week and a monthly feature article on an approved cheap-related subject for the main site.

I spent countless hours bringing myself up to speed on WordPress and familiarizing myself with the site’s approved style. I invited all my Facebook friends to like my new page and I proceeded to become a local expert on frugal entertainment, dining and other such activities in my hometown.

The first month passed . . . no check. My boss told me it was too early. She said my ad revenues had to start building up. When I had accumulated enough, she would cut me a check.

The second month passed, and the third and fourth. No checks. I was losing my enthusiasm. My boss told me that when the checks finally started coming, I would be amazed by how fast my income would grow.

Five months after beginning this venture, I received my first check: $2.53. I was tempted to use it as toilet paper. It was hardly worth the effort to take it to the bank.

My boss said I had to hustle more, to volunteer as a columnist at a newspaper or to offer a frugality feature on a local television station. It was becoming clear that if I wanted to make any money at this I had to be obsessed with cheap lifestyles and devote nearly all my waking hours to getting hits from visitors to the site.

Before my one-year contract ran out I told my boss that I had completely lost my enthusiasm. She tried to persuade me to continue. She was right about one thing: my income from the many hours I put into maintaining my site did rise. My last monthly check, after working on the site for an entire year, was $42.74. My grand total after 12 months’ effort was $148.16.

What did I learn from this absurd experience? 1) I can apparently put up with anything for a year, 2) sometimes you should just go ahead and break a contract, 3) if I am ever tempted to work on such a web site, I will run the damn thing myself and 4) I will never be tempted to work on such a web site again.

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