The Route to Retire blog was born in the spring of 2015. I had a pretty good idea of the game plan for the site, but it’s definitely continued to morph into something more as I continue on the path for financial independence. There are a number of reasons I first started this site:
- Sharing my own financial knowledge
- Documenting my journey
- Learning from others
- Blogging for money
Sharing my own financial knowledge
The biggest reason I started this site is because I enjoy talking about finances and helping others to get on the right path.
I realized how many people around me really need a helping hand – maybe they don’t have a lot of money saved for retirement. Or maybe they focus on material possessions instead of focusing on plans for the future. Or maybe they just need a little bit of a wake-up call to see some of the options available for creating other income streams for themselves for more security.
I definitely don’t know everything there is to know in the financial arena and I’m learning more every day, but I do feel that I have a lot of good information to offer. That was my main objective for starting this blog – to help share what I know and help others to grow.
It’s good to have a place to document the direction you’re heading and what you’ve learned. This site has helped me do exactly that. Although I don’t specifically discuss my net worth or the balances of my various accounts (even though I’ve considered it!), I do discuss my expenses and my game plan.
The plan will continue to change (hopefully for the better) as time passes by, but it’s good to see where I started and the changes I’ve made throughout. It’s also helpful to look at where I stand today, and where I’m headed down the line.
As an added bonus, as my number of readers continues to grow, I noticed that I almost have a feeling of owing it to you guys to reach or exceed my goals. I don’t want to say that I’m trying to prove myself per se, but I do feel like I continue to push forward because I’m excited to share the victories with you.
Documenting my journey
Even though I only started this site in the spring of 2015, I look back at some of my old posts and realize just how far we’ve already come. I started this blog knowing that I was a ways out from quitting my 9-5.
In fact, when I first started writing this, my thought was that I was just trying to retire early… I wanted to find the route to retire (sound familiar?!). But as time went on, I realized that the end goal for me isn’t to just sit on a beach sipping piña coladas (although there will be some of that!).
I found out through documenting my journey that I really just want to specifically reach financial independence so I can quit my day job. That’s not to say that I won’t work at all, but I want the option not to have to. I have a lot of things I plan to do once I’m financially independent, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get bored and get a part-time job. Working becomes something you can do because you want to – not because you need to.
The key is that I can chase my passions without the need for money to survive being the driving force. However, the consensus from the other financial bloggers out there who have reached FI seem to say that money tends to come in even more when you don’t need it.
Learning from others
Even before I started blogging, what got me excited about moving along on my financial journey were all the other financial bloggers out there. I followed a few of them before, but read even more of them now. Here are just a handful of my favorites:
- Joe from Retire by 40 – I swear I’m reading my life story when he talks about himself (except that he’s already financially independent!)
- Sam at Financial Samurai – one of the smartest guys I follow and full of great ideas
- Mr. and Mrs. ONL at Our Next Life – very inspirational and thought-provoking in every post
- Mr. and Mrs. 1500 at 1500 Days to Freedom – Mr. 1500 gets an out-loud chuckle from me with almost every post he writes
- Brandon aka the Mad Fientist – another brain out there with good information (his podcasts are very good as well!)
- Mr. Money Mustache – probably the most famous guy out there – his low-spending life has inspired so many others
- Mr. Tako Escapes – FI by age 38, Mr. Tako puts out a ton of great financial (and other) advice and opinions I love to read about
- The Green Swan – newer to the FI realm, this guy seems to be everywhere – a lot of hustle in his game!
- Steve at ThinkSaveRetire – sold his house and plans to travel the world with his wife while living in an Airstream RV
- The Biglaw Investor – he’s a lawyer – and I’m definitely not – but his posts are full of great value to everyone and I look regularly forward to reading what he has to say
- and tons of others!!
Not only do I learn quite a bit from their sites and enjoy following what’s going on in their lives, but what I didn’t expect was to hear from some of them on my site. After following some of them for so long, it’s almost like having celebrities visiting my site. 🙂
In addition, it’s not just my fellow bloggers out there commenting and sharing – I hear from a lot of very smart readers that have a ton of great information, opinions, and advice. I appreciate all the comments more than you’ll ever know!
In other words, blogging has created a venue for me to put out some of my thoughts and get feedback, both good and bad, on my financial journey.
Blogging for money
So, I’d like to tell you that the only reasons I started this blog were the reasons above, but one of my ambitions is also blogging for money.
First off, know that the whole idea of blogging for money is not as easy as some people say. If you’re hoping to quickly get rich from ads on your blog, you better think twice. Although it’s always possible, building up a big enough following to even generate the traffic you need for that takes time.
In fact, when I started Route to Retire, I anticipated at least a couple of years before I would even see a penny. If working for “free” for a long time makes you stop in your tracks, then you might want to take a pass on the whole idea.
Although I’m not at the two-year mark, I have seen some income coming in – athough it’s nothing I’m going to retire on!
My long-term goal was not to even worry about money. Instead, I want to continue to build a solid following over the next handful of years until I quit my 9-5. As I continue to learn what works and what doesn’t, I’m hoping that I’ll have some decent income rolling in at that time.
Plus, once I am able to quit my regular job, I plan to post a lot more often. I’m currently only doing about one post a week – I started out doing more, but I quickly realized that it took too much time away from my family. I want to continue building up the site, but spending time with my family is also important. So, one post per week seemed to be a happy medium.
Posting so little isn’t favored upon by the king of the universe (Google) so it makes it difficult to get pushed higher in their rankings, but that’s something I just have to deal with. Once I quit working, I’m hoping to post 3-4 times a week. If you can make it work, post more often than I do. In fact, Sam at Financial Samurai created the hugely popular Yakezie Alexa Ranking Challenge to help your blog gain more traction.
Blogging for money can be done, but know that it will likely take a lot of work and is not very passive.
Here are some of the common challenges – some related to blogging for money and some that just revolve around blogging in general…
Growing a following – a lot of bloggers think that everyone is sitting there ready to hear what they have to say. But it takes a lot of time and energy to grow a following. Don’t get frustrated like a lot of bloggers do and quit in a couple of months. Keep chugging along and continue to post.
You’ll likely have posts with no comments and keep wondering “is anyone even reading this?” Eventually you’ll see traffic start to build up, but it will probably take a good amount of time.
In the meantime, you should cultivate relationships. Get out there and make some friends! Check out other blogger sites who are posting about similar topics and comment on their sites… and not just a “hey, I like your post.” Don’t comment unless you have something insightful to add – preferably something that helps get a conversation going.
Commenting on other posts helps add value to the author’s site and helps you create relationships with other bloggers. As an added bonus, those bloggers tend to visit your site a little more often. And hopefully, your valuable comments will draw the interest of other readers which might help send a little traffic back to your site as well.
I have around 75 blogs in the FI/RE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early) realm that I keep up with. If I know I’m not interested in what the author generally has to say, I don’t follow it. But with those that I do enjoy, I follow their blogs and try to comment sincerely on their posts on a regular basis.
On another note, be sure to reply to comments from readers on your site. I think it’s pretty rude not to, especially when you’re not getting a ton of comments to begin with. As your site grows large and you start getting hundreds of comments per article, that might not be feasible. But even then, you should still be responding to some of the comments throughout. Your readers are trying to converse with you – give the courtesy of responding back!
Tweaking your site – creating a blog is easy. Be sure to check out my Create Your Own Blog article on making this happen. Creating and publishing posts – easy. Adding more pages – easy. Changing the whole theme of your site – easy.
Deciding you want something a little different on your site… not so easy.
There will probably be something minor on your site that you want to tweak. Maybe you want to change a font style for all titles. Or you don’t want the title to show up on certain pages. Or maybe you want the post excerpts shown on the main page to only be x number of characters. Or maybe you want to change some text in a theme that isn’t accessible from the theme’s options.
Guess what – this can be a pain.
The good news is that you can find some great plugins to fix some of the issues you’re having. Easy Google Fonts is great for changing fonts easily as needed. Toggle The Title is a great plugin for turning the title on and off where needed.
But there will be certain things that can’t be done via plugin. Besides you don’t want to run too many plugins or they’ll slow down your site. So when you run into these kinds of things, you’ll need to dig into the code and make the changes. I’ve been in the tech industry for almost 20 years, but it’s still a pain even for me to make happen. I don’t know CSS or PHP very well, but you learn as you go.
Sometimes you can get help from the creator of the theme you’re using which can really make life much easier. If not, it’s a lot of trial and error so be sure you have a good backup first. I use UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore and have it also send a copy of the backups to Dropbox automatically.
You can avoid the social networks if you want, but I highly recommend that you don’t. It adds some more work, but a good portion of my traffic comes in via Twitter – @RouteToRetire. It’s not that social networks are hard, but it does add a little bit of a time commitment.
I currently use Hootsuite to manage my social networks and that has helped tremendously. I mainly use it to auto-schedule tweets about my own content as well as push out interesting content I find out there that I think would be useful to others. That other interesting content gets auto-scheduled to go to my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed, and my Google+ feed… works out pretty well!
This is an interesting topic for me. Almost every blog you visit will tell you that you want to focus on building up your mailing list – after all, these are the people who are interested in what you have to say so that list should be your holy grail.
I mean if Twitter goes down the toilet, you lose all your followers. But if you have a mailing list, that’s your list and you don’t have to worry about losing your loyal readers!
Sounds good, but I’m still trying to figure that part out. I have a mailing list and some of you are reading this on your weekly scheduled email right now. But on the flip-side, some of my readers never visit my website if they’re reading my posts via email. That means that they’re also not seeing or clicking on my ads (heaven forbid!!).
I can’t find the post off-hand, but my friends over at Our Next Life have said that they don’t have a mailing list and they still drive a very good amount of traffic through their site.
Advertising / Affiliate links
If you’re blogging for money, you’ll need to learn how to do advertising or affiliate links. As I’ve said, I’m not trying to make a living off the money I get from my site, but building up the supplemental income is definitely helpful.
Learning how to actually do it though is a different story and takes a little bit of time and effort.
Most of us have heard that you can make money from advertising on your blog. That’s definitely true and some people are very successful at it. However, you need to draw a sizable amount of traffic to your site to make it happen. Or you need to have people clicking on the ads, which is not something people really want to do very much.
Affiliate programs are designed for a company to pay you a fee for referring customers to their site. The good thing about this is that you don’t need to have a ton of traffic to get a referral. If someone clicks through a buys something or signs up through your link you get a pretty good penny depending on the company.
I’m actually currently doing both. I use the Google AdSense program to decide which ads will be served up and Google then pays me. I use the Ad Inserter WordPress plugin to link to my AdSense account and put the ads where I want them on my site.
Then I use affiliate links for companies that I feel my readers would like. I will never provide an affiliate link for a company or product or service that I don’t recommend. I want people to come back to my site and to do that, I believe you always need to provide the reader with a trustworthy experience.
I’m still a little new to the affiliate programs, but I really think this will be the smart way to go in the future when blogging for money. I use the Simple URLs WordPress plugin to help simplify my URLs and to allow me to easily keep track of how many clicks the links are getting. Also if a URL changes, I can just update it one time instead of needing to go through all my old posts and update it.
So there you have it – whether you’re looking at blogging for money or just for fun, know that it’s a great opportunity at a low entry cost. Check out my Create Your Own Blog page to see just how easy it is to get started and create your own blog today!
Are you a blogger or thinking of becoming one? Even though this was a long post, I’m sure it could have been even longer. Anything you would like to add?
Thanks for reading!!