I’ve been running a blog now for almost 4 years and I have a few thoughts on the subject that have been rattling around in my head lately.
I probably should be saving this post for my “blogiversary” in a couple of months. But since this was on my mind, I figured I’d be a rule-breaker… yeah, I’m a rebel like that!
Running a blog is a unique endeavor. Some folks do it as a hobby and some as a business. Some writers post routinely while others just go with it when they feel like it, which might only be once a month, for instance.
What really makes it different though is that it’s generally a long-term game of growth. It’s rare for a blog to just take off out of the gate and be immensely popular.
It normally takes a lot of time to build a community of readers. My guess is that that’s the reason so many blogs die off within the first year. You need to love the writing itself or you’ll probably get frustrated pretty quickly at the lack of traffic because, obviously, you want people reading your work.
The good news is that over time, if you’re running a blog with regular, good-quality content, your readership will grow. If you build it, they will come.
Nearly four years in, I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the pros and cons that blogging has played in my life. I’ll also give you an idea of where I think things are headed.
Growth of Route to Retire
I started Route to Retire in May of 2015 with the intention of growing an audience over the years until I reached financial independence. Then I would have an already-growing project to work on in early retirement.
From the onset, I quickly learned that posting more than once a week took too much time away from my family. I settled on posting once a week with a “bonus” post in the mix whenever time permitted.
Since the beginning, I haven’t missed a single week. I’m also very grateful to my readers and have responded to every comment on the blog – it’s time-consuming, but also something I feel my readers deserve.
Year over year, my traffic has at least doubled. We’re barely moving into March of 2019 as I’m writing this and I’ve already matched my entire year’s numbers for 2017.
That’s a great feeling to see this! It means that people actually appreciate and can maybe relate to some of what I’m saying in this blog.
On top of that, I’m starting to notice that my posts occasionally get some random traffic from Google – huge amounts of traffic! After digging into it, I’ve learned that this is when a post shows up in Chrome on mobile devices as recommendations called “Articles for You.” When this happens, the spikes have been awesome…
I’ve been doing this long enough that you would think those days would be just another day for me, but they’re not. I get so excited by it and refresh the stats page throughout the day to see how it’s going.
So that’s the fun part. I get to write about stuff I enjoy talking about, see the site continue to grow, and interact with like-minded folks.
Unfortunately, though, there are parts running a blog that aren’t so appealing…
Ugh, the time involved…
Writing is wonderful. I love writing posts every week and look forward to each time I get to sit at my computer to get started.
However, it takes me a long time to write a post. Generally, we’re talking about 6-8 hours to get a single post done. That includes the writing and creating a couple of images for Pinterest and Twitter. As a side note, if you’re new to blogging, Canva can be your best friend when it comes to creating social media-friendly images.
Although I love the process, it’s soooo time-consuming.
I don’t usually get a post done in one sitting. It usually takes me a few days to get it 100% done and scheduled… that’s a long time!
I see guys like Steve, my BFF at ThinkSaveRetire, cranking out content sometimes a few times a week and I’m amazed. I’m in awe, not just because of the number of posts, but that they’re really good posts – he’s not half-assing it just to get something new on the site.
Not only is he running a big-time blog, but he does a little freelance tech work on the side (ever heard of a tiny site called Rockstar Finance?). Additionally, his wife Courtney runs a YouTube channel that he’s a part of as well.
To top it off, Steve’s now started another website – Digital Marketing 4 Bloggers. That site has to suck because it sounds like he’s spreading himself too thin, right? No, it’s already ridiculously awesome!
The point is that I’m now “retired” like Steve, but I’m still struggling to find the time to get out just one solid post every week.
Part of me wonders if he’s so good at this because he doesn’t have kids. But although that might be a small part of it, my daughter’s at school all day so I can’t blame her for occupying all my time.
Maybe my time management’s not as good (I’m still working on this retirement adjustment) or maybe he’s got more ambition than I do. Whatever the reason, Steve’s definitely a hustler and this isn’t a jealousy thing… it’s some good inspiration to up my game.
Writing’s really a small part of the deal
When you first have the thought of running a blog, you think of all the great ideas you want to share with the world.
Here’s the truth though – writing’s only part of the deal. I’ve hit on the details on this a couple of years ago, but there’s a lot of non-writing work involved.
Although WordPress is pretty user-friendly, there are always going to be small details that you have to figure out. Whether it’s figuring out some HTML or CSS to get something to look the way you want or troubleshooting an issue, there’s work to do.
I’m lucky that I have a technical background – I’m not a developer, but I can usually figure this stuff out. I’m not sure how non-technical folks deal with this aspect of running a blog without pulling their hair out.
It would be great to just write what’s on your mind and be done with it. But once you’re post comes out, you need to market it. Between Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest
and Google+, there’s a lot of work involved in getting folks to show up to read what you just posted.
Remember how I was just talking about Steve’s new site, Digital Marketing 4 Bloggers? He addresses how to draw and keep traffic coming to your site. A few thoughts I know already and have in place and then there are some great ones I didn’t know.
But most of what he talks about takes some work to get set up. I can’t wait to start implementing a bunch of these things, but it’s going to be a slow process.
Right now, my email list is just an RSS feed that goes out every week. That’s far from an optimal way to handle your email list. Not only that, but it’s ugly… real ugly.
I plan on changing that soon, so if you’re not already on it, now’s a perfect time to sign up. Just imagine – you can be a part of something about to go through a magical rebirth into a pot of gold even greater than what you’re already looking at.
Yeah, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity… do it. You know you want to:
I could go on and on, but you didn’t come here to hear me rant, did you?
The point is that if you’re running a blog… the writing? Yeah, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle.
Show me the money
So this might surprise you a little bit, but I’m not just in this for the money. Sure, I’d love to earn a good income from the blog, but it’s not why I’m doing this. In fact, if it was, I would have quit a long time ago – I mean, we’re financially independent now, right? Earning from the blog is just icing on the cake.
I don’t write my content based on what’ll make the most money. I write about what’s on my mind and if I can integrate affiliate links for businesses I truly believe in and recommend, I’ll place ’em. Additionally, of course, I do have ads on the site that bring in a small amount of income.
The business-minded people are probably shaking their heads in anguish for me saying that, but it’s what makes me feel comfortable.
Here’s the thing, though – you already saw that my traffic has continued to basically double year-over-year. So what happens?
As a result, I’m organically seeing more ad revenue and garnering more income from affiliates. I should be able to change ad providers soon enough which will generate even more money.
Basically, the income should continue to increase without me needing to compromise the direction I’m comfortable with moving in.
I do still think I can get to the point in the next couple of years where the blog brings in $25k per year. But if it doesn’t, so be it.
Running a blog – yeah, this one
I have a lot of plans for this site that I’ve been putting off that I’m starting to work on or plan to very shortly. Here are just some of the checklist items on my list:
- Change the theme and menu – it’s time. It’s been four years and it’s definitely needed. It’s a pain in the butt though because of all the customization I’ve done on it over the years. So, I’m currently using WP Staging to test things out and troubleshoot problems. I’ll go live with it once all the kinks are ironed out.
- A logo – not a new logo, just a logo. I went into this with only the picture of the ocean we took on a prior cruise that symbolized the freedom of FI in my mind. That’s kind of become recognizable to folks as I use it everywhere, including social media profiles. So I need to be careful that I don’t lose that recognition, but I’m working with my cousin (she’s good in this area) to come up with something new. Hopefully, that should be in place soon!
- Update a bunch of pages – I have a number of pages that are just getting old. For instance, I moved my website over to BigScoots a few months ago. That was such an awesome night-and-day change and I’m so glad I did it. But I still need to update my Create Your Own Blog page to reflect that. The pages that I need to change shouldn’t take too long – I just need to make it happen.
- Create a podcast appearances page – Friends and family always tell me they want to hear some of the podcast guest appearances I’ve done. Why anyone would want to put themselves through that torture, I don’t know! I have a category for that appropriately called Podcast and Other Appearances, but I don’t like how that takes you to a big old list of multiple pages. I want to just create something simple for folks to be able to see and click on – let’s keep it simple!
- Security / Legalese / Guest post terms – I just lumped all this in here, but when you’re running a blog, you gotta keep up with all the crap that comes with it. It’s time to move all my reCAPTCHAs to version 3 if possible, review my legalese, make sure everything’s GDPR-compliant, blah, blah, blah. I also need to make a decision on if I’m going to allow guest posts or not. If so, I’ll create a page explaining my requirements and link to it from my contact page. If not, I need to specify that on my contact page to hopefully slow down all the solicitations.
- Revamp the mailing list – I talked about that already earlier in this post, but it’s time to make that happen. I’m also going to work on following Steve’s advice and segment the list to make the emails you get more meaningful because, well, I love you guys!
- Pinterest – yeah, let’s just leave that as an area that needs some work.
All and all, I love writing and I cherish the folks in the personal finance community – especially you! I can tolerate all the other technical and administrative stuff that comes along with it, but it’s time-consuming.
As we prepare to leave a month earlier before our move to Panama, time still feels like it’s tight for us. But hopefully, I’ll be able to continue providing you with some good reading along with a new look in the near future!
Thanks for being a loyal reader!
Any thoughts on running a blog you want to add?
Thanks for reading!!