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Exactly one year ago today, on February 15, 2016, just a few days after my son’s first birthday, I started this blog. It was interesting to go back and read through that very first post, entitled The Starting Point, where I discussed my motivations for starting this blog and set some goals to pursue. At this juncture, I decided to take some time to reflect on this first year of blogging and write down some of the things I’ve learned in this blogging adventure.
1. I learned the power of setting goals and writing them down.
I’ve set goals in the past before, but I had never put too much thought into them and didn’t usually write them down anywhere. Having this blog forced me to write down my goals. Writing monthly updates reminded me of the goals I had set and measured the progress I was making each month, and seeing the progress was encouraging enough to keep me going. I truly believe that setting goals and writing them down is a powerful act that can even be life-changing. I quoted Zig Ziglar in my very first post, and I think what he said really holds true in everyone’s life.
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar
2. I learned that life happens, and you just have to adapt.
You never know what’s in your future. A lot of big changes came this year. We had our biggest income year by far, and I recently adjusted our $1M net worth goal from 2025 to 2020. Now, my wife is getting ready to quit her job (I’ll probably post about this decision later), so I just might have to push that goal back again a bit. Or maybe not. We’ll see.
We also transitioned from having a nanny to putting our son in daycare, and that helped our financial situation a bit. It also helped me to work better since I work at home full-time and didn’t have any sound privacy before.
We also bought a house this year. That, of course, has a huge financial impact. I decided to keep the goal of paying off the mortgage on our condo, and I’m not really worrying about the mortgage on the house we live in now.
3. I learned how to set up and manage a blog/website.
I didn’t really know much about setting up a website or blog before. I had lots of questions. How do you buy a domain name? What is hosting and why do you need it? How do you set up your website? How do you change the appearance of a blog? How do you connect it with social media? How do you increase traffic?
I found that you can find the answer to any of these questions online. Some answers will take longer to understand than others. After much research, I ended up using Bluehost as my hosting service. It comes with a free domain, 1-click WordPress install, and is the #1 recommended web hosting by wordpress.org. I would highly recommend using Bluehost if you ever wanted to start a blog or a website. It’s only a few bucks a month and has been well worth it for me. I’ve found the WordPress platform to be very easy to use and very user-friendly.
4. I learned that blogging takes a LOT of time.
I was never much of a writer. I was always stronger in math and science. In college, my concentration was chemical engineering. I think I took only 3 or 4 writing-intensive courses.
It’s ironic then that I ended up working full time as a patent examiner for my day job because it involves reading, researching, and a LOT of writing. Now, in my spare time, I read, research, and write about personal finance.
Life is funny that way. Anyway, these blog posts can take as little as 2 or 3 hours or upwards of 10 or more hours, depending on the research and thought that goes into the post. The media loves to portray professional bloggers as people who make a living traveling the world and living the good life. What they don’t show is the countless hours of work they put into their blog and their persistent dedication to their work.
Check out this post of a personal finance blogger who earned almost $140,000 last MONTH and almost $1 million in 2016. She’s only 27 and has been blogging for just over 5 years. I can guarantee you that most bloggers earning hundreds of thousands per year are working 10-12 hours a day. Keeping up a blog is not easy and takes a lot of time.
5. I learned how blogs make money.
A lot of people have been asking me how blogs and websites make money. I didn’t know too much about it before, and I’m still not an expert. However, I’ve definitely learned a lot about how it all works. The biggest income source of most blogs is affiliate marketing. This is when you help someone else sell a product and receive a commission for it.
You get a special link like this Ebates link that contains tracking information. Ebates is a great example of affiliate marketing that benefits everyone using it. Ebates lists a bunch of retailers and websites, and when you click through their link, they earn a portion of anything you buy. The nice thing about Ebates is that they’ll give a portion of that commission back to the buyer as Cash Back! They also let you install a Chrome extension that detects whether a site offers cash back, and all you have to do is activate it. If you don’t have it yet, I’d highly recommend Ebates if you do any online shopping at all.
Other ways blogs make money is through ad programs like Google Adsense, sponsored ads, eBooks, online courses, and freelance writing for other blogs. I’ll write a more detailed post about how blogs make money later.
6. I learned that there is a great community of personal finance (PF) bloggers.
In this first year, I’ve been able to connect with so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to connect with. Other bloggers are very supportive and encouraging, and developing relationships with other bloggers is almost always a win-win situation.
Bloggers write guest posts for each other and mutually benefit by sharing traffic. They share ideas on their sites and promote products that are beneficial to others. I’ve learned a lot from reading other PF bloggers’ posts.
Once in a while, some big name PF bloggers stop by my blog and leave a comment, and it’s very encouraging to see even the big names look out for the little guy. It’s a great little community, and bloggers want to see other bloggers succeed. I hope to continue connecting with more people this year.
7. I learned that anyone can start a blog, but to make a living as a blogger requires commitment, persistence, and resilience.
Initially, I started this blog as a way to track my goals and write about personal finance once in a while. Now, I see the potential for a blog to eventually become a source of income if I invest more time into it, but I would never consider blog income to be passive income. It takes constant work and commitment to make it succeed.
I know there are many areas where I still need to improve. I need more help in the graphic design area as you can obviously see I lack those skills. I need more help with content creation to increase the frequency and quality of posts. Luckily, my brother will be helping me with that. There are still so many things to learn and so many things to change on the blog, but I’m looking forward to another year of blogging and, I’m excited for the progress we’ll make now as a team of two.
Image source: Pixabay