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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!