11 Lessons I’ve Learned From A Year Of Blogging

one year of blogging

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I passed a major milestone in November – NinjaBudgeter has officially been live for a year! WOOOOOOO

This is a great opportunity to reflect on how my first year has gone and the lessons that I’ve learned.

Honestly, this has been a difficult year for our family. Right now, we’re in the thick of parenthood, with 3 kids under 7. Just finding time to write between picking peas out of a toddler’s meal and stepping Lego bricks is pretty tough.

Additionally, we’ve had some other challenges this year including:

  • A hot water tank failure
  • Upgrading one of our vehicles
  • My wife went back to work for the first time since our third child was born
  • A dishwasher leak that lead to a COMPLETE renovation of our lower floor

That last one was NOT expected and was pretty tough to deal with. The truth is it’s not done yet. I still have some finishing work to do.

*Seriously considers living without indoor plumbing*

Through all of this, it’s been a challenge to keep this blog running, but I’m very glad that I have.

Why I started a personal finance blog

I love to write. This is actually not my first blog. In 2011 I started a blog titled How To Electric Car. That blog was intended to document my conversion of a 1991 Geo Metro to electric drive.

HTEC grew over the years and actually built up some authority in that industry. Over time, I found that searches for ‘electric car conversion’ and things like that were trending downwards (thanks Nissan Leaf…). It was actually live until earlier this year, when I decided to focus on NinjaBudgeter exclusively.

Though I did sell some affiliate products and made a few hundred bucks on advertising, I knew that I wanted my next site to be in an industry that wasn’t going anywhere. Personal finance has always interested me and after doing some searching, it didn’t seem that there were many blogs that tried to focus on finance for millennial parents.

More importantly – I think there’s too much consensus out there right now in the personal finance space. There are hundreds of bloggers out there focussing on FIRE, frugality and debt repayment.

These are all good things, but I know that the world could use a different perspective, a dad’s perspective. That’s how NinjaBudgeter was born.

I believe in a balanced approach to personal finance.Debt can be incredibly destructive, but it can also be a useful tool for somebody with the cash to back it up. I have a post on this topic coming out this month.

Below are the top 10 things that I’ve learned after one full year of blogging.

1 . High Quality Content Is A Must

High quality content is no longer something that sets good bloggers apart. It’s the cost of entry. If you can not produce high quality blog content that your potential audience will actually want to read, blogging is not for you.

Naturally, I thought that I was a fairly decent writer before I started NinjaBudgeter.

I was wrong. Like most people, I could write a decent post that was readable. If I’m being honest however, I wasn’t writing the kind of stuff that keeps people coming back month after month.

Nobody was waiting for my next post to come out.

Over the last year, the quality of my writing has improved quite a bit, especially on the formatting front.

My early posts were mostly just blocks of text. I have learned that people don’t like to read a blog the way they like to read a novel. Formatting is super important.

2. Proofread And Edit Content More Than Once

These days, I spend as much time editing and adding to my posts as I do writing them.

I’m a very fast writer. My ideas just kind of flow out, but my first draft isn’t even close to a finished product.

Nowadays I go over a post at least 3-4 times to check for spelling and grammatical errors before I put it out there for the world to see.

Another important thing to check for while editing is unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. The pros don’t include a lot of fluff in their posts, so neither should I. In the editing phase I often take out as much text as I add in.

3. I Need To Spend Half Of My Time Promoting My Content

It’s not worth blogging if I’m not going to promote my content. If nobody sees my content, nobody can share it. If nobody is sharing it, my audience is not growing. See where I’m going with this?

Promotion and high-quality content go hand in hand. It’s pointless to promote crap content and there’s no point to writing stuff that won’t get seen. Unless you use your blog as a personal diary and don’t want to grow your audience, you need to be promoting your content every single day.

If you’re looking for a guide on how to get started with promotion, there are some great tactics in this post.

4. Social Media Is Crucial To Building An Audience

Speaking of promoting content, there’s no better way to do that than on social media. If you want people to notice you, care what you’re up to and share your stuff. You need to add value to other social media users.

Straight up – nobody pays attention to the blogger on Twitter that just drop links in a few times per week with no other engagement.

Ask yourself every time you log into a social media platform: How can I give value to others?

That is the key to social success.

When you constantly give, it’s like you’re building up a debt bank with other users. When the time comes for you to ask something of them, they will be happy to oblige because you have already made it worth their while by promoting them without asking anything in return.

Here are some ways that you can give to other social media users:

  • Follow them
  • Comment on their posts
  • Share their posts/tweets
  • Interact with their tweets by responding to other’s comments
  • Share content directly from their site with a sentence about why you like the post

If you do this everyday, you’re going to make friends on social media fast.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Tools To Build Social Following

In the past I felt a little odd about using automation to build my social following. Now, I’m all about it.

To be clear, I’m not talking about fully automated programs that like or share things without my direct input.

I’m talking about tools that help you target people who are likely to be interested in your content.

When you’re starting from zero, it’s important to build some credibility and influence as fast as you can. Below are the tools I’ve used to do this.

ManageFlitter

I have been using a tool called ManageFlitter to grow my Twitter following and I highly recommend it. Basically, it allows you to target all of your actions on Twitter.

You can follow people who follow other users in your niche, unfollow people who don’t follow you back, and target your posts for peak times when more people will see them.

All actions I’ve done have been manual. They offer a service where they fulfill your saved actions but I don’t recommend it. I have the $12/month pro plan and it’s fantastic. This program has helped me build my Twitter following to nearly 5,000 while engaging people who are interested in what I have to say. It’s a win-win.

Check out ManageFlitter here.

Tailwind

In case you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t heard of Tailwind, it’s a Pinterest scheduling tool. Tailwind allows you to pin to group boards on a schedule so that you’re not on Pinterest all day. Though I find Pinterest useful, I definitely don’t spend a ton of time on there.

Check out Tailwind here.

Buffer

Buffer allows you to schedule posts to a variety of social networks in advance. Buffer is super easy to use and they have a free version. The free version allows me to schedule up to twn posts in advance. This means that I have to fill it up again every few days rather than once per week or month.

Give Buffer a try.

6. Connect With other Bloggers

Personal finance is a big space, and it’s an intimidating topic. When I first started this blog I had trouble with the idea of reaching out to the big-timers.

Have you felt this way? I want you to repeat after me:

‘Big time bloggers are just people. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like me.’

Generally, big-time bloggers who have built a huge community are friendly, decent people who want to help others. It’s part of the reason they made it to the big leagues.

Try reaching out to a few big-time bloggers in your niche for a tip on something. I think you’ll find that they’re more than willing to help.

7. Blogging Is Not A Business

Yah I said it.

I’ve put a ton of work into this site. My blog has traffic, but nobody is ever going to pay me money because I wrote stuff here.

It’s not going to happen. In order to make money from a site, you must treat that site as a business, and a business needs something to sell.  A business needs a business plan, strategies for growth, monetization and time management.

I’m going to tell it to you straight and hopefully save you some time – if you want your blog to grow and pay you money, start treating it like a business.

Which leads me to my next point…

8. It’s Important To Know When To Invest

The beautiful thing about blogging is the same thing that makes it really friggen hard to succeed as a professional blogger.

The barrier to entry is really, really low.

If you pay a few bucks for a domain name, buy yourself some hosting and download a free theme, you can have a  shiny new blog up and running for less than $100.

Part of what sets those who grow apart from those who give up is the willingness to invest hard-earned dollars into a site to help it grow.

I’m at that point right now. This site has been live for a year and my traffic and engagement is growing, but still relatively low. Investing in a couple of tools will help take me to the next level.

This month I’m investing in a tool for capturing email leads and a year’s subscription to Tailwind to help me build my traffic.

9. Pay Close Attention To Others Who Are Two Steps Ahead Of You

Have you heard about my $100 challenge? I’ve challenged myself to make my first $100 with this site by following this step-by-step plan by the guys over at Breaking The One Percent. Jeff and Ben are a few steps ahead of me and they’re killing it.

They’re not mega-bloggers with stratospheric monthly income but I figure they’re a year or so ahead of me if I continue on the path I’m on.

Find somebody who is a few steps ahead of you and pay careful attention to how they got there. Study their social media, read their posts and consider reaching out to him/her directly to ask for specific recommendations.

10. Do Something Every Week That Scares You

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

 – Neale Donald Walsch”

Here’s what I have learned: if you want to grow your blog, you need to grow as a person.

I have challenged myself to do something every week that I’m a little nervous about. Next week’s task is being interviewed on a podcast, which I’ve never done before.

Reach out to somebody new, pitch a guest post, ask a big-time blogger to retweet something for you or for advice on something. No matter what the actual task is, going outside of your comfort zone helps to expand your comfort zone, which will open up new opportunities in the future.

11. As You Build Influence, Do As Much As Possible For New Bloggers

As I mentioned before, I have a modest following of around 5k on Twitter now. I’ve reached the point on that platform where it really means something if I retweet somebody else’s content.

Despite the fact that I’m still new in the grand scheme of things, I’m a couple of steps ahead of some other bloggers. It’s important to do as much as I can to help and promote them. Why? It’s simple:

They’re not going to be small forever.

Some of those bloggers are going to grow and become well known. If I can help them get there a little faster by giving them some exposure now, then I’m happy to do it. I believe that what goes around comes around.

What is next for Ninja Budgeter

Post frequency

I’m not going to stress about posting weekly anymore. Weekly posting is my goal, but in the past I’ve pushed out content that is not up to my standard of quality, just for the sake of meeting my imaginary deadline.

I’m not going to do that anymore. If it’s not good enough it doesn’t go out, period.

YouTube

This year I’ve made a couple of  YouTube videos. I really enjoy making video and there’s a lot of opportunity on YouTube. I’d love to continue making videos and build up a bit of a following there.

The funny thing is, making YouTube videos is a lot less time-consuming for me than writing blog posts. It takes me only about 30 minutes to film a quick video and another 15 or so to throw it up on YouTube. Professional vloggers are cringing right now.

Pinterest

Right now I am a contributor to about 6 group board on Pinterest. The consensus online right now seems to be that Pinterest is the best way to generate large amounts of traffic. I have a list of 50 other group boards that I’m going to try to get added to.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be purchasing a membership to Tailwind. This will help me with the posting but won’t get me over my biggest hurdle – design. I’m considering purchasing the BTOP Pinterest design course but have held back as the course teaches designing with PowerPoint which is not a program I’ve ever used.

Have you done this course? I’d love to hear how you liked it!

Products

My long term goal for my site is to become profitable through a combination of affiliate marketing and my own products. Right now I’m researching what products I can build to serve my audience and what is the best format for delivery. Video, PDF, an ebook, a physical book…it’s all on the table.

Connections

I want to connect with more bloggers. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of you over the last year and I’d like to meet more! Drop me a comment below and I’ll head over and check out your site.

FinCon

I am planning to go to FinCon in 2018. I am in Western Canada and FinCon is in Orlando so it’s a long-friggen-way to go. That said, everybody I’ve talked to who has been there says it’s worth it and I’d love the opportunity to connect with more people in this space.

Conclusion

Like so many of us millennials in the internet age, I’m easily distracted. Over the years my short attention span has resulted in more changes of direction than I care to admit.

first year of blogging

When I first started this blog I committed to myself (and my wife) to stick with it for one year. I have done that now and since I’ve fulfilled my obligation I’m going to shut the site down and move onto something else.

Just kidding!

I am recommitting for 3 years. Now that I’ve completed one full year of blogging I can see what is possible in such a big market as personal finance. Even the small amount of success I’ve had has been enough to keep me motivated and encouraged about what is possible for the future.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear about your blogging goals in the comments below!

YEAR OF BLOGGING

22 thoughts on “11 Lessons I’ve Learned From A Year Of Blogging

  1. Loved this post Mike! Great advice for a rookie blogger like myself. I’m also aiming for one post a week, but I got some great advice recently from one of the guys over at ChooseFI. I’m trying to write awesome content that will help readers today, but I’m trying to build a treasure trove of content so that a year from now when people come across an article they get sucked in and read 10.

    Quality content is the only way that happens.

    Would love to connect more sometime.
    –Rich

    • Hey Rich!

      Quality always trumps frequency. Each piece of content needs to have standalone value for months and years to come. Cranking out sub-par stuff to meet an imaginary deadline just doesn’t work. It might if your niche was ‘Fidget Spinners For Alf Puppets’ or a blog about plants that only grow in the hills of Southern Tibet.

      Personal finance though…not gonna fly. I’m glad I figured that out early!

      Thanks for the comment Rich!

  2. My publishing schedule is a new post every Monday. Sometimes that leaves me scrambling on Saturday and Sunday to write something new from scratch.

    I always want to proofread and edit more, but I know it’s important to stay consistent. I also know myself well. If I didn’t give myself that deadline, I would surely keep pushing it back and would post more like once a month.

    I’m coming up on the 1 year mark at the end of December, and the year has been full of ups and downs. I’m excited for year 2. Just renewed my domain today!

    • Good words. I know that for some consistency is what keeps them going. For me, I found that focusing too much on being consistent was resulting in an unacceptable reduction in quality.

      Congrats on the (nearly) year of blogging!

    • Thanks GYM!

      I don’t believe in the follow/unfollow method going into the tens and hundreds of thousands. Really though, everybody needs to get a start, and it’s a great way to find a bunch of like-minded people and start building an audience 🙂

  3. Great post. You are a few months ahead of me but I think I might finally be breaking through to having actual traffic. We’ll see you you referenced some good tools which I will check out. Good luck and I know I will be following along.

    • Thanks for the compliment and for the comment Kevin.

      “Actual traffic” is completely relative. I get some, but with no promotion I’m still sitting at around 50 views per day. but months ago I was at 20. Things are growing, it takes time. Thank you for checking out my recommended resources – they’ve been good for me. Manageflitter in particular.

  4. Mike,

    Wow. Wow. You crushed that post. Great tips for me as one of the newbies you’re talking about.

    I’m working hard to get my message out and to build my following. The fact that you’ve built your Twitter following to 5,000 in a year is inspirational…and daunting.

    Thanks for sharing your tips with us. It’s easy to get discouraged when you feel like your wife and mom are the only ones reading your work. I appreciate the encouragement and the tips. I’m going to check out that Twitter tool you mentioned.

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be looking to you as someone who’s a few steps ahead of me!

    Thanks again -Matt

    • Thank you Matt, I really appreciate your kind words.

      If you want to build your Twitter following, get Manageflitter, for real. It’s the only way I’ve been able to do what I have. Tools are important to success on social media in my opinion.

      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! Everybody you see online, all the big dogs, they all started at 0. Everybody does. The key is to stick it out through that first major growth phase. If you can make it one year, you can make it ten.

      Reach out anytime if I can offer some advice or help in any way.

  5. This is awesome! And super inspiring! I appreciate posts like these knowing that larger more popular bloggers want to help the little guys. Not sure if you’ve seen my blog but I’m for sure a little guy haha.
    5,000 twitter followers in a year is incredible I was hoping for maybe 500… but hey take that goal and 10x right?
    Thanks again this is encouraging and makes me want to continue working hard… after finals… school is first for me.

    • Thank you for that Jillian. I think FinCon will be a game-changer for me. I love to network and meet people. Everybody I’ve spoken to about it says that it’s well worthwhile!

  6. Great post, Mike! Everything you said, I couldn’t agree with more. I think that stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching out to other bloggers is huge. Because blogging is all about community. Also, I’ve taken Jeff and Ben’s BTOP Pinterest course, it’s great. I don’t use PowerPoint either, but there are ways around that.

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