This week marks five years for me as a blogger.
For others though, five years might seem like a lifetime. I’ve heard statistics that most blogs fail within 6 months or that 95-99% of blogs fail each year. I’m not going to link to any of these articles, however, because no one seems to have the data to back up those supposed stats.
Regardless, after being a part of the community for this long, I can tell you that a heckuva lot of blogs do fail. They come and go and seem to do so pretty quickly.
Even though I can’t give an exact number, I’m happy to say that Route to Retire has made it for a solid amount of time.
But after five years of being a blogger, I’m now starting to wonder if it’s time for a change. Let me break this down a little more and tell you what’s going on in my crazy mind…
Why did I become a blogger?
I started this blog in May of 2015 for a few reasons:
- To document my journey to financial independence
- To share with others the money knowledge I was learning
- To create a bridge of something to do once I reached retirement
- To make a little money on the side
Although the reasons were simple, Route to Retire has paid off exponentially (and not from blog income).
Being a blogger entrenched me in the community. To grow my own blog, I started reading other personal finance blogs and commenting on their posts. That strategy was good for my blog, of course, but it also forced me to grow my personal finance knowledge by reading all these posts. I was learning new tactics to get my money on track faster than ever.
As a side note, I’ve spent a lot of time replying to comments on my blog. I’m proud to say that I’ve responded to every single comment since this blog first started.
My blog also ended up making me feel accountable for my actions. As time went on, I felt like I owed it to my readers to show that reaching FIRE (financial independence / retire early) was indeed possible and that pushed me even harder.
And most importantly, I made so many new friends in the community both online and in-person (thanks, FinCon!). These friendships are real and ironically enough don’t even revolve around discussing anything to do with money.
The upward trend
Let’s start with the fun part. As a blogger, you have to enjoy what you do. Otherwise, you’re probably going to jump ship pretty fast.
However, it’s still nice to see more readers showing up and appreciating your content. Almost all bloggers are excited when they first start out and have a ton of ideas. They get their first post out there and then… crickets.
That’s likely a big reason why so many bloggers seem to disappear. That frustration of barely anyone coming to your site or commenting on your posts is kind of a letdown. It feels like nobody’s listening.
But here’s the cool and weird thing about the Internet. If you continue to consistently publish quality material (with an emphasis on “quality”!), traffic will slowly start to grow. Being a blogger is definitely a long-term game.
Here’s a look at the chart of my growth since the beginning…
It’ll be interesting to see if 2020 will actually continue to grow beyond last year’s numbers. This pandemic seems to have killed a lot of traffic for bloggers in the FIRE spectrum. A lot of folks may be trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their bills right now and aren’t worried about financial independence.
My income as a blogger
We don’t rely on my income as a blogger. That said, it’s always nice to see something coming in for the work being done. I’m not bringing in a lot of money but I’m happy to see something coming in.
I’ll be honest – I was pretty sloppy at keeping track of my blog income as it started to grow. Now I’m using a spreadsheet and Wave Accounting (how can this awesomeness be free?!!) to ensure that I’m tracking everything correctly. Keeping everything separate with no comingling using a business checking account and business credit card has made life tremendously easier!
I didn’t really make jack in 2015 and 2016, but here’s how the other years have stacked up:
- 2017: $2,062
- 2018: $2,100
- 2019: $1,891
- 2020 (YTD): $276
I do have around $800 of income that should be posting to my business checking soon so that’ll bring this year up to just over $1,000 for these first 4 or 5 months. But when you think about how much work goes into being a blogger, even a couple grand a year amounts to just pennies per hour for your work.
I will say that 2018 and 2019 were not years I was focusing on monetization. I was a little preoccupied with closing in on leaving my job, selling everything we owned, and moving to Panama. Minor details, I know.
Even so, a few extra bucks from doing something I enjoy is a little bit of gravy for this early retirement life. If that helps us take even one additional vacation each year, that’s not too shabby.
Why this blogger ain’t rollin’ in the dough
There are two big reasons why I think this blog isn’t throwing out as much money as it could be:
- Not enough content
- Not pushing every product/service on God’s green earth
Not enough content
To grow a blog quickly, in almost all cases, you need to be putting out a lot of content. Some bloggers publish posts daily or almost every day. Others do posts a few times a week.
It’s not so much of a secret in the blogging world to know that the more quality content you release, the faster your blog will likely grow. You have more content to be referred by Google and you have more readers excited to come back more often to see what you’ve got going on.
In my world though, I learned real fast that balancing the home and work life left little time for being a full-time blogger. My posts tend to be a little longer and unless I shunned my family, I wouldn’t have time to do a few posts every week. I’ve had some weeks where I’ve been able to squeeze in a second post but not many.
In fact, this is post #292 since the origin of Route to Retire five years ago. That includes 288 posts from me and 4 from Lisa. You can always see a list of all my posts here. Although a newer blogger or non-blogger might look at that number and think it’s pretty high, it’s really not that impressive for that amount of time.
I could open things up for guest posts, but I haven’t wanted to go down that path as of yet. My goal is to just continue to take my time and publish posts I think are worthwhile and not to throw out content otherwise. Others can churn out quality content faster, but it takes me about 6-8 hours to create a post.
Between that and spending a lot of time with my 9-year-old daughter, that doesn’t leave much room. Sometimes I get frustrated with the slow growth of the site, but it’s still a nice upward trend and that always makes me a little more content.
Not pushing every product/service on God’s green earth
If a blogger wants to make money, there are several ways to do it. Here’s a few of the more common:
- Sponsored posts
- Selling a self-made course, book, etc.
- Affiliate marketing
Advertising is the easiest to do. Slap a few pieces of code in place and you’re basically done. The more traffic you get, the higher the potential for advertising revenue is.
Sponsored posts are when another person or company publishes a post on your site usually revolving around subtly (or not so subtly) endorsing or selling a product or service they sell. You can make some pretty good money with these. I haven’t touched them though because I don’t want to confuse or mislead the reader in any way.
Selling a course or book is a fantastic way to make money. In fact, that could be the biggest money-maker for a lot of bloggers. The downside is that it takes a lot of work (like a real lot) to get it done. I can vouch for that in that I’ve written and published a couple of non-fiction books over the years (computer-related). I’d eventually like to write another book or two but we’ll see if they’ll be related to personal finance or not.
And then there’s affiliate marketing. That’s when you refer someone to a product or service and get paid a commission on it. That’s also the sweet spot for me right now. When I find something I believe in or use and feel you could too, then I’m happy to recommend it. Here are just a handful of examples:
- Personal Capital – I use it and love it! How could you not?! It’s a free, easy, and awesome way to manage your finances.
- How To Engineer Your Layoff (eBook) – I bought this book myself while I was still at my 9-5. It’s an expensive eBook but I picked up a lot of good information from it and thought it was worth it. I wrote about my thoughts on it in my post Get Paid to Get Laid Off – How to Engineer Your Layoff.
- NordVPN – I signed up for this once we moved to Panama, but I probably would have even if we had stayed in the U.S. I’ll be writing about this soon, but using a VPN for security and privacy is something that should be in everyone’s arsenal.
- Credit cards – We love travel rewards and have saved thousands over the past couple of years. If you’re considering signing up for a new credit card, please consider clicking through on my recommended credit cards page to do it.
- Namecheap – Namecheap is now the registrar for all my domain names (e.g. routetoretire.com). Buying one is the same everywhere, so don’t waste your money elsewhere – Namecheap is about as inexpensive as it gets!
- BigScoots – I switched to BigScoots in 2018 from a different web hosting provider and it was like night and day! Every website needs somewhere to live so be careful of just signing up for the cheapest – you’ll regret it later. Slow speeds and bad customer support plague a lot of the cheapos out there. BigScoots provides a fantastic value for a good price with great customer support.
- Backblaze – If you’re not backing up the valuable data on your computer, you’ll inevitably regret it. Backblaze is fantastic, inexpensive, and just works in the background. I use it to back up our home theater PC (the rest of our computers are Chromebooks and don’t need to be backed up).
- Money Academy – My daughter, Faith, is now trying this out and I’ll be doing a review on it, but so far, we’re enjoying it quite a bit. This is from Scott Alan Turner and consists of money courses broken up into age ranges from kids through adults: KIDZ Money, TEENZ Money, and BEST Money Academy.
- Amazon – That’s right, anything you order from Amazon after clicking through on my link won’t cost you a penny but will shoot a commission our way to help support the site.
So why am I telling you this? Because there are also tons of other products and services out there that I could be selling through pretty easily and earning hefty commissions from that are garbage.
Yes, I could bring in a lot more money selling them, but that’s not what this blog is about. My goal is for you to see something I recommend and know you can trust that I do feel it’s worthwhile. Then if you want it, great – click through and I make a little money for the site. Otherwise, no harm no foul.
What’s the problem?
Being a consistent blogger in early retirement with a kid presents a few interesting challenges…
The feeling of a deadline
Even though I’m retired from my 9-5, Route to Retire makes me feel as if I have a deadline to keep. And in a way, that’s 100% true.
In five years, I’ve managed to not miss a single week of getting a post published. When I first started, I didn’t have a set day of the week, but now that day is every Tuesday morning… rain or shine!
That’s great for a blogger when your readers know your schedule and start to become accustomed to seeing that new post every Tuesday. It’s also good for me because that consistency makes it harder to fall off the wagon. Lisa, Faith, and I all know that I need to get a post written and ready to go for the next week. It’s just become part of our schedule.
The problem is that I don’t want a deadline. I’m retired now!
It’s not a matter of topics – I keep a running list of topics and thoughts I want to write about and that could keep me going for months. I just want to write when I feel like writing.
If we’re out playing or having fun, I don’t want to worry about getting back so I can work on a post. On the flip side, if Faith’s doing her own thing and the mood strikes, maybe I could crank out a couple of posts.
Selfish, right? But I’m allowed to be – blogger privilege! This isn’t a full-time career bringing in the bucks to put food on our table.
The excitement about money is well… losing some excitement
Here’s an odd little tidbit… once you reach early retirement, for some reason the subject of money doesn’t seem to be a topic you’re consumed by anymore. That’s not to say that it’s not important – it very well is. However, you knew where you needed to be and you’re now there.
I don’t listen to a ton of personal finance podcasts anymore. I do listen to every single daily episode of the Clark Howard Show because I seem to always pick up something useful from every episode. But otherwise, I rarely tune into podcasts as religiously as I used to.
I still have hundreds of personal finance blogs in my news feed, but I do a lot more skimming than reading nowadays.
It’s not that I don’t love and respect what everyone’s doing – there are some crazy smart and creative people out there. However, a lot of that has become less critical to me now.
That said, you’ll notice that a number of my posts now revolve around other aspects of personal finance, early retirement life being the most prevalent. Why? Because that’s what I’m living now and that’s what’s on my mind.
Time to try other things is finite
If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know that I tend to struggle with finding the right balance in life. And sometimes that leads to me to frustration or ticking off Lisa or Faith.
But recently, I realized that my expectations have been too high. As I talked about in “Early Retirement with Kids Is Wonderful… but Frustrating”, I figured out that I was trying to live the retired life of a guy without kids plus still spend tons of time with my family.
It’s not possible. I came to the conclusion that it’s not my time in life to try knocking out all these big ambitions in life. My main focus is on quality time with my daughter before she grows up. Once she’s done hanging with her dear old dad and eventually leaves the nest, then I can start looking at my ambitions more.
That wake-up call has helped kill a lot of my frustration. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try doing a few projects here and there. Maybe I can’t start writing new books or start a podcast with all the time involved, but why couldn’t I learn new things like a programming language, playing the harmonica, or martial arts?
Right now though I spend a chunk of my free time working out and learning Spanish. Throw in my time as a blogger and that free time quickly disappears.
So, if I want to do some other things, I need to cut back somewhere. Working out is what it is and learning Spanish will be ongoing for a while. So that leaves Route to Retire as something that might need to be pushed back a little bit.
Don’t worry – I don’t plan on going anywhere soon. But I do think that you might see some of the strict structure start to soften around here.
The more you put into a blog, the more successful it’s likely to be. And although I love being a blogger here and enjoy my time writing, success doesn’t need to be the motivating factor.
I love being a blogger – I enjoy writing each and every post. If I didn’t, I would have packed up and called it a day years ago.
I really thought I’d post more often once retired (and still may one day), but right now, I don’t want to take away any more time that I could be spending with my daughter.
Maybe it’s time to ease up a little on hard deadlines and stop feeling so obligated to get a post out every single Tuesday. Now that’s easy to say that, but let’s see if my Type A personality will allow that to happen! 😉
What do you think? Am I being a selfish blogger by wanting to loosen up my schedule?
Thanks for reading!!