11 Things I’ve learned in 9 Months of Blogging

Jen SmithBlogging, Personal Finance18 Comments

What I've learned in 9 months of blogging

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Blogging is a wild ride amiright? I’ve only been Saving with Spunk for nine months but I can’t remember a time without it.

Every three months I do a recap of what I’ve learned to share with fellow bloggers and to keep myself accountable. These have been some of my most popular posts so I’m sure after I do my one-year recap I’ll continue to keep you all updated with income reports (even if they’re really tiny!)

I got off to a running start with my blog. I was growing rapidly, creating good relationships with bloggers and companies, and I started thinking this is something I might want to do full-time.

I wrote a post back in March about how to start a blog and monetize it in any niche. Blogging has been a game changer for me professionally and I think everyone could benefit from having a blog.

In January I got the personal finance blogger chance of a lifetime to spend three months writing in-house for The Penny Hoarder. I slowed down on my blog’s growth for all the knowledge (and bank-links) I would gain from TPH. So besides some general maintenance, Saving with Spunk was pretty stagnant for three months.

I finished my writing internship with The Penny Hoarder a month ago and I finally feel like I’m growing again.

So I’ve been working really hard to create great stuff that I hope will live on the internet for a long time. And I’ve got a lot to share with you about my experience/ So without further ado:

11 Things I’ve Learned in 9 Months of Blogging

1. Auto-Responders & Multiple Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is essentially a freebie you give away in exchange for someone joining your email list. Auto-responders are scheduled follow-up emails to your new subscribers.

When I met Lauren Bowling of Financial Best Life in December she told me that even as a full-time blogger she only had a few thousand email subscribers until she started doing one thing: multiple lead magnets.

Mailchimp started free automation in May and I tried to finagle a way to do multiple lead magnets and a course and find a free landing pages plugin but I’m not tech savvy so I gave in and signed up for ConvertKit.

Now I have my first auto-responder series, a 7-day course to help you pay off debt and set a healthy financial foundation. I’m so excited about it. This is my “signature freebie” and I’ll make 2-3 others for blog posts but they won’t be as in-depth as this one.

If you want to check it out you can sign up below! And if you’re wondering, I used this post to customize the look of the form.

2. Affiliate Marketing

In May I took Michelle Schroeder-Gardiner’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. I was told early on by several full-time bloggers that this is THE COURSE to take for affiliate marketing.

I really enjoyed it. I have a lot of notes and a lot of things to implement from the course. I’ll be adding more groups of affiliate links to posts (you can see how Michelle does it here and how I did it here) and a series of “My Experience With…” posts where I highlight different products and apps.

There’s too much to say about affiliate marketing but the important thing to know is you can’t promote things you don’t use or feel passionate about. People will smell your BS from a mile away.

I made that mistake when I was starting out, it’s time-consuming and ineffective. A few deep dives into products you actually use are better than slapping a bunch of random links in your posts.

3. Facebook Live

I’ve been doing weekly Facebook Live broadcasts for six weeks now. Facebook prioritizes Live video so one Live broadcast reaches 10 times the audience of one of my posts. Since social media is not my favorite, I’m down to make some videos and schedule fewer posts.

I tried a few different types of videos to see which type got the highest engagement. I did deals/sales, a heartfelt story, and money-making tips. People by far prefer when I talked about deals.

I lucked out because “deal” posts mean every week people come back for more and I can highlight affiliates

4. Facebook Content

Since I’m doing weekly Facebook Live videos I gave myself permission to post less other stuff.

I was posting four times per day: my link, someone else’s link, a picture, and a question or affiliate product. Now I’m posting fewer pictures and outside links and making sure my questions, affiliate recommendations, and personal blog posts give readers a reason to engage, like this one.

I’m getting 30-110% reach and engagement on almost all my posts, which is great, but I have a small audience on Facebook so it’s not my highest priority. So I’ll continue to do as little as possible but make what I do really count.

Also, get your spouse or mom to like and share your posts. Travis started doing that without me asking (be still my heart) and it’s helped give my posts a boost!

5. Instagram

I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I was like, I’m on Instagram way more than Facebook and Twitter, why is my blog not on Instagram!? I’ll tell you why, I don’t need another thing to curate and manage.

But I felt like now was the right time to make the leap and not surprisingly it’s been my favorite social media platform. There aren’t many well-curated personal finance accounts so that’s what I set out to do.

I post motivational quotes, pictures from my life that won’t make anyone jealous, and a countdown to debt-freedom every 10 days. It’s brand new but I’m gaining over 100 followers a week so I’m stoked. You can check it out here and plz follow!

One of my quotes on Instagram.

6. Pinterest Manual Pinning

I’ve run out of all my free trials of Tailwind and Board Booster. Of the two I’ve found I like Tailwind better. It takes a little more work than BB but it gives me (and other bloggers I’ve talked to) better results.

But I haven’t sold my soul to it yet. I’m trying manual pinning right now. People know it gives you more reach but they don’t do it because no one has the time.

I figure if I can grow faster with manual pinning even if I miss a day here and there it’ll average out to about the same as If I use Tailwind. I had my first viral pin five days into manual pinning so I’m interested to see what happens.

7. Pinterest Graphics

I am not a graphic designer. I would rather research and write than make something look pretty. But my problem is that I know hat looks good and I don’t want to put something out there with my name on it that doesn’t look good.

One day I’ll outsource Pinterest images but for now, I’m learning what makes them look good. A few things I’ve learned include:

  • Bright and warm colors work best on Pinterest.
  • Images with red and orange are repinned 200% more than those with blue.
  • The ideal image size is 735 px by 1103 px but I find I like longer so I’ll go up to 1500 px tall.
  •  Always brand your images with your logo
  • Bold text that goes almost edge-to-edge
  • Multiple fonts and colors in your text
  • Write the description you want people to see on your pin in the “alt text” and it will automatically come up. Rosemarie Groner suggests writing it as a fan would.
  • I made my logo in Canva with the free 30-day trial of their pro account. You can upload your own font and download with a transparent background.
  • Pretty stock photos are made for bloggers, take advantage of them!

8. Spend Money Where it Counts

I spent a few weeks avoiding ConvertKit. I don’t like spending money right now (obviously, have you looked around this site?) so paying $30 per month to send emails when I don’t have a product just didn’t feel right.

But it’s a time-saving investment that I know will pay for itself in the end, as most things that cost money do. In the last three months, I’ve bought Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, ConvertKit, Canva Pro (because I forgot to cancel my subscription) Likegrowers, and Pinteresting Strategies to see how far I can take the manual pinning thing.

Aside from the fact that I’m a total cheapskate, I don’t feel comfortable spending money on a blog about paying off debt while we’re still in debt. We’re going to be debt free by Saving with Spunk’s one-year anniversary so I’ll rev it up after that.

9. Freelance Writing

At the end of my internship, I was offered a position with the Penny Hoarder that was extremely hard to turn down. TPH is a stellar place to work and it’s staff is the cream of the crop.

But I have another job I love and my ultimate goal is to work-at-home so it wasn’t going to advance my plan forward. But I gladly accepted a freelance contract with them.

Online writing has been the most lucrative tool my blog has given me. I’m not sure that would be true without the unique opportunity I got at TPH but I’m glad it is. If you’re looking to make money with your blog before your blog makes money I highly recommend freelance writing.

10. Keyword Density

I’m a little bit of an SEO nut. I really like keyword research. I used to just look at volume until I discovered keyword density or KD. KD is how saturated the keyword is with content, it’s why long-tail keywords are so valuable.

The Penny Hoarder could write about almost anything because they rank so high in domain authority. But we would be particularly interested in keywords that had a KD less than 20 and volume over 1000.

I’m small so I look for keywords with a KD around 5 and volume of 500. My best ranking organic search has a KD 5 and volume of 250 and I rank number 3, and it’s not even long-tail. So don’t underestimate the power of small.

11. Focus on One Thing at a Time

With all the things involved with working and running a side business, I have a really hard time focusing on one thing. For a while, I got so caught up in listening to podcasts that I was trying to do everything and ended up executing nothing.

So now I’ve committed to picking one thing and doing it right. My goal right now is to grow my email list (hence the new 7-day email course) and build page views by publishing more and promoting it on social media.

I’m going to FinCon in October and I want to have really good site stats so I can make lots of great connections and grow my business there. So I’m being patient with making money, I know it’ll come.


If you’re thinking about starting a blog I highly recommend it. It’s been a great motivator for me in paying off our debt and has easily paid for itself in less than nine months (not even counting wait The Penny Hoarder paid me.)

I wrote a post about starting a blog that I hope you’ll find helpful. I know it’s convinced at least one person to start a blog! And check out my three and six months blogging lessons as you continue down your blogging journey.

Tell Me: Do you use any of these in your blogging?

18 Comments on “11 Things I’ve learned in 9 Months of Blogging”

  1. I still have so much more to learn when it comes to blogging. I started taking my blog seriously at the beginning of this year, and for me the best lesson I’ve learned so far is take one thing at a time. Everything can seem so overwhelming when you’re trying to do it all at once, and when you see how successful other bloggers are. I have to remind myself, they started somewhere too, and success doesn’t happen overnight.

    1. That’s a valuable lesson. When I look at some of the things these money making bloggers do I get overwhelmed and I have to remind myself I’m not there yet.

  2. This is really helpful. I’ve been blogging for about 8 months, and the process can get really overwhelming. I’m starting to wonder if there’s any way to monetize my site, but I’m really focused right now on increasing traffic to my site.

    1. Guest posting really helps me, and making sure you have places all over to for people to grab your opt in freebie.

  3. I have a huge problem with focusing on one thing at a time. That usually gets me in trouble and I have a bunch of partially finished tasks that I don’t get anything done to the potential it could be if I had worked on each one singularly.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  4. I like the idea of writing posts on “my experience with…” to get more out of affiliate marketing. Totally implementing that and definitely checking those articles you linked!

    1. Awesome Veronika! Good luck! And def check out Michelle’s course for all the affiliate marketing goodness!

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