This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
The morning after a lazy Labor Day weekend, I hit publish and started this thing called Saving with Spunk. I had big dreams, a little talent, no experience, and no idea where I’d end up. That was a little over 3 months ago and it’s been a very unglamorous ride.
I too read income report after income report of people killing it in their field and women telling other bloggers that if you buy these ebooks, these courses, and these memberships you’ll dominate the search engines, make sense of affiliate marketing, and pwn every social media platform.
Like every millennial, I want to be good at everything very quickly. I didn’t have little goals when I started, just big ones (honestly, I didn’t know any realistic goals to have.) From everything I’ve read I should have 1,000 subscribers, be making a couple hundred per month, and have way more followers than I currently do.
I know I’m not alone in this. I used to be the newest at this, now I’m just a regular noob. So if you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this for a while with little to show, be realistic and don’t get discouraged.
The Internet rules out who they’ll care about by their longevity.
So if this is what you’re serious about, keep pushing with me. We’ll figure it out together. But until then here’s 12 things I’ve learned in my first 3 months of blogging:
1. Write More Before you Launch and Batch Write After
I launched with 4 posts I’d transferred from my wordpress.com blog and had 3 pre-written to post my first week. If I could go back I would’ve started with 5-10 and had 10 pre-written to drip out over 3-5 weeks. Figuring out everything in real time and being inundated with advice was overwhelming. Also having no content to test the advice on was pointless.
Your blog is your content and it should be thought out and worth reading. So before you have everything else to worry about, write. You need to be putting content out at least once a week (I say twice) to maintain relevance and readership. You can’t fall off the face of the earth and expect to pick up where you left off. You can take time off but you’ll it’ll take more time to regain what you’d built.
Also, after I launched I got behind on writing and found that I do my best work when I’m working on two posts at a time. I try to finish them a week early and it’s been a game changer. I listened to an episode of Side Hustle Nation with Rosemarie Groner and she said she wrote in “batches”. So writing everything for the month in 2 days. I’m looking forward to being at a place where I can do that soon.
2. Self Hosting is the Standard
3 months ago, I had no clue what self hosting meant, I’m still not completely sure but luckily you don’t have to be. I do know one thing, everyone was telling me to get Bluehost. It’s the best! I have a special offer! YOU’LL NEVER SEE THIS OFFER AGAIN! You know why? Bluehost has the best affiliate program in the game! They pay out more than it actually takes to host with them for a year. I don’t get it.
But I will tell you that while your favorite bloggers make a pretty penny when you sign up for Bluehost through their link (cough, cough, just saying.) I’ve found that it is the most affordable hosting for new bloggers and if you have a small (<100,000 pageviews per month) following it’s extremely reliable. No one will take you seriously, and honestly, blogging is much more limited with a blogger, blogspot, or wordpress.com hosted site.
So if you’re considering starting a blog, Bluehost caters to new bloggers. It’s really easy to switch if you get viral and famous but there’s no need to spend $50 a month on hosting when you can get what you need for $50 for a year. SO USE MY AFFILIATE LINK TO GET MY SPECIAL OFFER ON BLUEHOST HOSTING!
And for Jesus’ sake use WordPress.org, you’ll thank me later.
3. Be Patient With Making Money
Here’s my affiliate income report for my first 3 months: $73.30. Only $24.40 of that has actually seen my bank account because you need $100 to cash out and it’s over 4 platforms so…. I’ll be waiting. But what a thrill it is to see that number go up! I’m getting the most response from businesses through FlexOffers but I have hits from ShareaSale and Amazon Affiliates as well. My last was for the post I did on Lauren Greutman’s Personal Finance Planner. I really do love that planner and apparently it resonated with some people!
I also have a Resource Page which is chock full of affiliate links (but obviously only companies I like and are suitable for my audience.) While I recommend starting your affiliate game early, don’t expect to see the fruit til later. Think of it as just saving yourself some time for when you are getting those big number pageviews.
4. Premium Themes are Standard
I started my blog with this theme. Pretty different right? Totally not me but it was free and not from WordPress, so I went with it. I don’t regret it, it’s more important to get it out there than to make it perfect out of the gate. I learned quickly that free doesn’t fly in search engines and it’s not safe, free themes are unmonitored and easily hackable. Now I use X Theme. It came with a bunch of add-ons that I knew would be useful in the future and had the clean look I was going for.
In total it was $66 and I set it up myself (difficult but I figured it out in a couple days) There are even cheaper options but know that you don’t have to pay a designer butt loads of money for a nice website you just can’t spend $0 with all the competition on the web.
5. Blog Coaching is a Time Saver
About a week and a half in I was totally lost. So I dropped $100 on an hour long coaching session with Bobby at Millennial Money Man. We have the same niche and similar readers and I NEEDED someone’s guidance. I’d still be over here figuring out H tags if he hadn’t told me what they were.
I could’ve found most of what he told for free on the internet but it would’ve taken me double the amount of time and I wouldn’t have appreciated the importance of it. And there’s so little out there for finance bloggers in this world of mom and recipe blogs, having niche specific guidance is clutch.
6. Spend Money on the Right Things
Aren’t we all just trying to figure out what the right things are? I mentioned self hosting and premium themes are worth spending $$ on but what about the copious amount of “blogger education” out there. Not including coaching I’ve spent $60 on books and courses. Definitely worth it but I won’t be spending more anytime soon.
The single best purchase I made was my ticket to FinCon17 (over a year in advance.) My gracious and supportive husband was on board with me dropping $350 on the Pro Pass even though I’d only been in the game 4 weeks. But I think it’ll pay for itself before I even get to FinCon…
7. Facebook Groups are worth what you pay for them
Why do I think it’ll pay for itself? Buying my ticket to FinCon gave me access to their private Facebook group. So without even attending the conference yet I’ve got mentions on other blogs, a freelance writing gig, and roommates for next year’s conference, all from the group.
No group has provided me with as much value as the one I paid for. There are a ton of Facebook groups out there for bloggers. Most are free to join and others require you to purchase a course or pay for membership. Know that you will get what you pay for in these.
8. Social Media: Be Everywhere, Don’t do Everything
I was told to be present everywhere but focused on one or two. I’ve found the most value in my niche with Twitter. Twitter is a place to communicate with influencers and the media. I took a note from M$M’s playbook and I chose a different influencer every week to follow 1,000 of their followers then unfollow the ones who don’t follow me. I get at least 150 followers whenever I do this and more people like and RT my posts.
Most of my (minimal) website traffic comes from Facebook. I’m not as active there but I share mine and other’s posts and my posts on my personal account. I’m still figuring Pinterest out. I’ve followed all the tips I’ve read and I’m having growth, but it’s minimal. I’m also on Google+ But that’s as easy as telling WordPress to automatically post them there when the post goes live. I only do that one for SEO.
I learned enough SEO to know that it’s a slippery slope into a never-ending Google rabbit hole. I use Yoast to tell me if I’m doing OK but I honestly don’t even what it means. I have learned a few valuable tidbits: don’t include publish dates in your URLs, do one blog post per month of at least 2,000 words, and go with 3-word keywords. Millennial Money has an epic post on SEO tips for bloggers that he’s continually adding to, I highly recommend it.
10. There are Peaks and Valleys
In less than 3 months I’ve been contacted by The Financial Diet to syndicate my content, AOL to join their Finance Collective, and had a request to post an original prewritten article on my blog. I’ve had some great wins so far but there are a lot of things that aren’t going as fast as I’d hoped. I haven’t broken 5,000 monthly page views, no freelance writing gigs (just one I’m waiting on an assignment from) and less than 100 subscribers. These things will come with time but
11. Quality Over Quantity
I wasted too much time on the pointless things. I’ve been worrying myself to death trying to get the right Pinterest to Twitter to Facebook to Google+ posting ratios, description content, etc. I joined a ton of groups to boost my social media presence but it’s all a façade. The referrals that get me the most traffic are my posts reposted to other big sites.
I would rather have a small interested following than a generated audience because while it looks cool, they’re not buying products or using affiliate links.
12. Create an Editorial Calendar
Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? It’s just a plan for your content. I hear about bloggers using Asana and Trello to plan content but I don’t have time to figure out. I use a word document and plan all my posts for 3 months in advance. It changes almost everytime I go in there but at least I’m not racking my brain to figure out what I’m writing today. Work smarter not harder!
11. Have a Blog/Life Balance
I could work on Saving with Spunk all day and all night and never be done. That’s the beautiful thing about having your own business. It’s also dangerous. I’ve had to consciously step away from the computer to spend time with my husband, clean the house, and sleep. I’m a hard worker so it’s easy for me to work but I have to remind myself that SwS isn’t my life and my life deserves to be lived.
I think I could write 10 more of these but that’s for my 6-month milestone. 😉 My goals for the blog for the next 3 months:
Get a few more freelance writing gigs
Hit 1000 Subscribers
Make a free email mini course to give to my subscribers
I’m excited about Saving with Spunk, what it’s doing for me and how it’ll help more people in the future. Blogging is the foundation of online small business and I’ve loved learning about it. If you love solving problems and encouraging others I highly recommend starting a blog. (If you just have feelings and like to write about yourself, then probably get a diary.)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Making purchases through these links keeps Saving with Spunk surviving and thriving. Cheers!