Lessons Learned from Blogging

Now that I’ve “retired” from the blog owning business of things for a few months, I’d thought I’d share my thoughts.

Everyone dreams to make it big while doing what they love, sharing their opinions, and being creative.  Blogging can be a great avenue for this.  As someone who was able to make four figures on a consistent monthly basis, I would say I was one of the lucky ones generate a little bit of income from being passionate about personal finance and writing.

I certainly didn’t start off this way and have had many moments where I thought I would just hang up my hat and call it a day.  Certainly in the first 6 months to 1 year of blogging I felt that more often than not.  This all changed when I was given the big break through the creation of the Yakezie.

Although I did many things right- like get an avatar, host my own site (instead of using wordpress.com or blogger to start), and write detailed content, in hindsight (because we all know it’s 20/20 looking in the rear view mirror) I wish I did things differently when I started blogging.

There were some essential blogging lessons I learned from the 2.5 years of turning my hobby blog into a business.

One of the key messages I learned is that blogging as a business is NOT passive (unless of course you create a niche site).  I spent hours and hours every day after work on my blog- to the point that my relationship with my boyfriend was feeling neglected lol.

Don’t Quit

lessons learnedThis is huge and I can’t stress it enough.  It took me 6 months to one year to actually have regular Google Adsense income.  I went from earning $0.01 to $0.10 a month (oh that penny was so well deserved- that’s worse than slave labour really) when I first started to breaking the $100 threshold in about 3 months time after 6 months.  It takes time for Google to find your site and crawl it.

After 1 year, the Google Adsense became more consistent and I was breaking the $100 threshold on a regular monthly basis.  I know that there are many bloggers who are successful at doing this in less than one year.

There were so many fantastically great bloggers with great potential (they had a unique site design, excellent content, great presence) but just disappeared.  Tell yourself that you won’t become that statistic.

Have Plenty of Posts Ready

When I first started Young and Thrifty I think I had about a month’s worth of posts and I thought this would suffice.  I ignored the recommendations to have at least 6 months worth of posts to one year’s worth of posts ready before you start your blog.

This was one major regret I had when Youngandthrifty.ca became bigger and more popular…  I wished I had more posts ready.  With work constraints, school constraints, and needing to focus on my relationship, I was often “burning the midnight candle” and writing posts well after midnight.  Unfortunately when you’re tired and exhausted after a long day, it’s difficult to get the creative juices flowing to be able to write freely.

So the lesson of the day is to have 6 months to 1 year of posts ready!  That means that if you post three times a week, make sure you have 72 posts ready to go.   You don’t necessarily have to schedule 6 months in advance, but having them ready in a word file for when you want to pull them and load them up in wordpress is essential.

After 2.5 years, I have come to the realization that writing on a word document is a bazillion times easier than writing on wordpress.  For some reason, I get easily distracted on wordpress and tend to get more “writer’s block”.

Time Management

This is another lesson that is so important.  Social media is important, there is absolutely no doubt about it, but being conscious of how your time is spent is important too.  Limit your time spent on social media to certain times of the day.  Spend time in advance scheduling tweets (Hootsuite is pretty awesome for that) on some old stellar posts that you want others to see.  HOWEVER one important thing to note is not to over-schedule tweets.  It gets kind of annoying seeing the same post referenced 50 times a day in the twitter timeline.

Answering emails can be very time consuming and if you limit your time to answering emails for 30 minutes a day.

Spend 30 minutes or 1 hour a day commenting on other sites.  I made it a habit to visit the sites of other bloggers that took the time to visit and comment on mine.  I think this is one aspect of the giving selflessly concept in the Yakezie that is important to be cognizant of.

Outsource tasks that you’re not good at because they will be a guaranteed time sucker.  I don’t know how many hours (probably hundreds and hundreds) I spent working on coding the html to fix things and in the end, ended screwing up my site.  This caused the plug-ins to malfunction.  I spend hundreds of hours trying to find the source of the problem but in the end decided to spend money on creating a new site design courtesy of Dividend Ninja.  Getting rid of the headache was so worth it.  My University Money is lucky to have JB dedicated to doing the coding/html/computer side of things.

Guest Posting

Because I was always so busy writing for my own site (remember, I didn’t have a backlog of 6 months of posts available) and playing catch up, I never got the opportunity to write for others consistently.

Guest posts on well established blogs are so important for Page Rank and this is another important lesson I cannot stress enough.  The person you are guest posting for will often be so grateful for the opportunity for the guest post (unless you are spammy of course).

The important thing to remember about this is that you need to develop a relationship with the blog you are guest posting for first.  I remember feeling “put off” when people who never even visited my site let alone commented on my site asked to have a guest post on my site.

So to Recap…

These are all lessons that I wish I adhered to when I created Youngandthrifty.ca.  Hope that they are helpful to you if you are interested in turning your hobby blog to a side business :)

PF Bloggers, are there any other invaluable lessons that you have learned since starting blogging?

About

Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

32 Responses to Lessons Learned from Blogging

      • @young – that’s true. I must say it’s taking way more time than I thought… and I only have two posts so far!!!! Yikes…. Do you think that it would be a good idea for me to join Yakezie? Exactly what kind of help will I get?

  1. Wow, months of posts ahead of time? I don’t think I’ve ever been more than a week ahead of myself, I think i just work better writing a post at a time. :)

    I do definitely agree to stick with it though. It can be easy to get discouraged if you’re not dedicated to blogging, but if you stick with it to that 6-12 month period you’ll hopefully start to see some of the fruits of your labors.

  2. One thing I wish I did earlier was invest more in my blog (remember the forest path header?). Most bloggers want to wait until they’re earning some decent income with their blog before investing more money into it, but don’t be afraid to shell out a few bucks for a good theme, design or plugin.

    I still write posts the night before they get published – that’s just my procrastinating nature, but it’s worked for almost two years now so I doubt I’ll ever change.

    • @Echo- Yes I totally remember the forest path header!! ;) I regret that too- Dividend Ninja did such a good job with the design of my new blog. The free theme I used before was pretty rare, until one day I was searching something unrelated to personal finance and suddenly my theme popped up. I had a heard attack almost just because I didn’t recognize it but recognized it at the same time. It was surreal.

      You’re doing amazing for writing posts a day before they get published! Sometimes I can’t get “in the groove” of writing.

  3. I only have one or two posts in my queue like Echo. I don’t think anyone has 72 posts in the queue before they start a blog. I think it’s more important to get things rolling and just write consistently.

    • @Joe- Oh good then! Because when I first started out, I knew that was the recommendation and I still went ahead and started a blog without having a good queue. Haha is it only Financial Samurai who has 50+ posts in his queue then? ;)

  4. I like the idea of the backlog of posts but how I write my posts has changed so much since I started that I think I am glad I didn’t do it because my formatting has changed so much! Commenting has helped me a lot but I probably spend too much time on it. Oh well you live and you learn.

    • @Lance- Yes good point. When I read my earlier posts I cringe. It’s true that your writing style and design evolves- I guess as we read more and more different styles you sort of unconsciously develop it into your own. You can never spend too much time commenting IMO ;)

  5. Great post Y&T! I definitely have been burned more than once by not having posts in a backlog. I find my problem with having a backlog is that if I know I have it, I won’t write anything new until I’ve used up everything in the backlog. Its like I need the pressure of having to put an article together to get it done. Guest posting is also something I haven’t found time to do but should eventually. My advice would be to figure out all the technical stuff early. Put the time into designing a great looking blog before you even start posting and then you won’t have to worry about the backend stuff and can just focus on content production.

    • @E&M- that’s great advice-. The technical stuff is ridiculously foreign to me and I can’t believe I learned how to do some of the things I learned how to do (but proceeded to forget how to do them a few months to years down the road).

  6. This is a neat topic to me because over the last six months I’ve really begun to push hard at blogging again, after realizing some previous mistakes and how to fix them.

    -In the first six months, I pretty much had it all right. I did planning, I met all my goals, and started making $350+ in adsense per month in the first few months.

    -For the next 18 months, I had slow growth. There was a lot going on in the offline world so my interest on the site was mediocre, even though I kept posting 1-3 times per week. The biggest mistake I made was not guest posting. You have that right- the page rank and the referral traffic from guest posts are key. I also realized how poor I was at SEO. I bought into the idea that I didn’t need any SEO if I just have good content. But the 80/20 principle applies here; I had to have SOME optimization. I fixed a few things and it helped. The main thing was, I didn’t have enough evergreen content that I could regularly link to; most posts were time-sensitive.

    Another problem with time-sensitive material is that I don’t have a backlog. If I publish a stock report, it has to be current. So I’ve had to publish articles consistently every week for 2.5 years now with no backlog. (I could develop a small backlog of some evergreen content but I haven’t.) The advantage of my niche is that I always have something to write about; there’s never writer’s block. But the disadvantage is that there’s always something to write about…

    -Over the last six months, I’ve been realizing the importance of building a regular readership by more actively asking them to subscribe (over 3k email subscribers now), fixing some SEO, and planning a few other big projects for the site later this year.

    • @DM- Those are great tips DM! And that’s an impressive 3k subscriber count! You should be very proud that you were able to grow so quickly in such a short period of time :)

  7. D o n ‘ t b e a p e r f e c t i o n i s t ! ! !

    I swear that I stalled launching my blog for 2-3 years because I wanted everything to be perfect at launch. Not only was it delayed 2-3 years before launching but I spent countless hours researching things that weren’t important and when I launched it was still very far from perfect. I would be so much further ahead right now if I had just done it all those years ago.

    • @SM- LOL I KNOW!! You were such a perfectionist! I remember our conversations early on when you started ;) It’s hard though- I found myself being a perfectionist too. As growth (to me) stalled, I just sort of lost my mojo I guess.

  8. I’m so grateful I found your blog – so many valuable tips and great information! I realized that so far I’ve been only following the “Don’t quit” lesson, and sucked at all others;-) thank you for the reminder about the other three;-)

  9. I liked your post, and have to agree with Saving Mentor.
    Blogging has no rules, there are no pre-written rules on doing this, writing on that, or reacting to this. If readers want perfection, they have it at the big media outlets. Blogs are meant to be more down to earth and not perfect, then again what’s a true detention of perfect?
    Thanks again for a great post and awesome tips!

    • @Eddie- You’re right! I need to remind myself of that when I get criticism lol. It is nice though to spark debate because not everyone agrees with what you say on a blog 100% of the time of course.

  10. A backlog of 72 is an over kill IMO.

    Even my current 51 post backlog is an overkill. Best is probably around 10-20 with various topics to pull from.

    Luckily, I’ve got three to four outlets to publish my posts on, otherwise, things get stale.

    Good to hear from you!

    • @Sam- Good to hear from you! You never seem to whittle down your 51 backlogged posts though- which is pretty awesome lol. Good to hear from you too! Congrats again on financial independence/ retirement from corporate world!

    • @Nell- Well this is what worked for me lol. I didn’t like the stress of making sure I had content the next day. I guess I”m a bit OCD like that if no one has noticed yet.

  11. I do, too, Nell! I’ve JUST started scheduling posts in recent months…I used to write each entry as I went. I’ll work on getting more ready. I should guest post more, too.

  12. Very enlightening – I didn’t think it was actually possible to make that much from adsense! We’re still back around $0.01 a day!

    Scheduling posts is very important as it takes some day to day responsibility off that can be used for commenting.

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