How's it going? I'm excited about this post because I'm going to talk about something a little different than personal finance. Namely, I'm going to talk about what it's been like to blog for the past 90 days.
The Dollar Blogger has been live for approximately 90 days. But the blog's concept started on January 2nd of this year. I was having a relaxing weekend getaway with my wife. She was stressed out at her job, and we were brainstorming ways to make more money and get her away from her job.
One of these ways was for me to create The Dollar Blogger. I'm not new to writing for companies and websites. I've been doing it on and off for many years.
But, I never had my own blog that lasted more than a few weeks. I was pretty determined, back in January, to finally get a blog started that I would stick to.
In this post, I'll go over:
- What got me started blogging
- What I did to prepare my launch into blogging
- My social media strategy and how it has evolved
- My SEO strategy and how I've worked on it
- Unexpected things that have come up
- My thoughts on income and expenses so far
- Tips for people thinking about blogging
- Lastly: My income and expense report for the first 90 days
Let's get right to it.
What Got Me Into Blogging
As I mentioned above, one of my main drivers for starting this blog was to help my wife quit her job. We were set to move to Delaware, and my wife would have had to seek employment in her field once we got down there.
Perhaps a silver lining to COVID-19 was that we had to cancel our move, and my wife was able to quit her job, not seek new employment, and focus full-time on both helping me with day-to-day blog tasks and our other business, our online apparel store, Pebblebrook Apparel.
I've also always wanted to make money doing something online that I also thoroughly enjoyed doing. I enjoy writing, and I also enjoy personal finance. Out of the past 10 books I've read, I'd say 9 of them were about personal finance or something finance related.
I'm involved in investing and actively looking for more ways to increase my wife and my net worth. Some people think focusing on matters of money is silly or unnecessary, but money is such an integral part of life that I definitely have to disagree with that opinion.
With that in mind, The Dollar Blogger officially launched on February 3rd, 2020. Here's how I prepped for that launch.
How I Prepared To Launch My Blog
After laying out what I wanted to do, that is, create a personal finance blog and website, I signed up with the hosting company, Bluehost, to get started. Bluehost offers a competitive $3.95 per month hosting plan to get you started.
Related Post: How to Make Money Blogging: An In-Depth Guide
My brother is a professional web developer, co-founding Bocain Designs with his wife. We worked together to get this site up and running in mid-January, and I spent a lot of my days writing what would become the first 8 posts, which would go live throughout February.
I didn't have much of a social media strategy, only that I would create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, post to LinkedIn, and eventually create an Instagram account.
I also registered for Elite Blog Academy (EBA), a course that I'm currently still enrolled in. This course, while carrying a lofty price tag, has totally been worth it so far. At my 12th week of blogging, I've been about 60% of the way through EBA for a bit now.
After the website looked about what I wanted it to, and I had several posts scheduled, I reached out to friends and family to look it over. I got a lot of good feedback, both positive and some with constructive criticism. I went back and made updates and finally launched The Dollar Blogger on February 3rd.
As I kept my focus on staying 3-4 weeks ahead of myself at all times, I slowly added a social media strategy, which I'll go into now.
My Social Media Strategy
I'm going to be perfectly honest. I'm not the most social person when it comes to large crowds. And what's social media? A large crowd of strangers, mostly.
The idea of building a Twitter following, for example, initially, was not something I looked forward to. But now I have a modest 850+ following, and I interact several times a day. I guess it's something you just used to.
My Facebook strategy got temporarily nipped in the bud a bit after Facebook rejected my Page Like ad campaign. For now, I'm not focused on Facebook as much as the other platforms.
On Twitter, as I mentioned above, I interact regularly, and while I don't get a lot of traffic from there, I do get ideas for blog posts. Twitter is a great way for people who share common interests to chat. I've learned a lot by just chatting with people and reading what others have to say, both in their tweets and in posts that they share.
My Pinterest strategy has changed here and there. I pin original pins a few times per day and re-pin other pins the rest of the time. Using Tailwind has really made this easier as I don't think I could keep up with Pinterest without Tailwind. Most of my social media traffic comes from Pinterest.
Speaking of Pinterest – My Pinterest strategy was failing miserably until I picked up an excellent guide, Big Pin Energy, which went over how to use Pinterest, how to optimize pins and boards to increase traffic, and with examples. My Pinterest traffic increased by over 1000% with this guide, so if you're struggling with Pinterest, check out Big Pin Energy.
I didn't get into Instagram until the end of March, and I'm not terribly sure how I'll use it to drive traffic. I've gotten a few clicks from Instagram, but most of the time, I see it as a place to build a following for sponsored content in the future.
My SEO Strategy
My SEO strategy has evolved throughout the 90 days I've been blogging. What started as focusing on a few keywords per post, nearly blindly, has turned into a concerted effort to target many keywords and use other words to create rich content.
I consistently go back to earlier posts and update them, as all bloggers should do. I use SEMrush to do an in-depth analysis of each post where I find ways to improve my Google rankings and also use this tool to research what my competitors are doing in order to do what they do better than them. That's something that will take time, but SEO is something I definitely wanted to tackle early, not late.
When The Unexpected Came Up
Just like with anything, you go into an idea with many assumptions in mind, and you find out that many of your assumptions are just that – assumptions.
I've learned that when it comes to blogging, I juggle a lot more things than I ever expected. If I'm not writing blog posts, I'm doing many other tasks. My wife does the majority of my Pinterest pins, which has taken work off my plate. I come up with Instagram posts, engage on Twitter, come up with new post ideas, build backlinks, further update previous posts, work on guest posts periodically.
The short of it? There's a lot more work involved than I expected. When people suggest that I simply write two posts per week and that's what blogging is all about, I remind them that writing two posts is a small portion of what I do.
Some other unexpected things that have come up are the income and expenses, namely that there are quite a bit of expenses and virtually no income so far. I'll go over that in more detail in the next section.
Yet another thing I think most bloggers don't realize is: You are competing for the top 100 spots on Google on every post that you make. And of those top 100, you're really competing with the top 10 or less, since the vast majority of all traffic on Google comes from page 1, mostly in the top 3 positions.
Considering there are arguably millions of people out there who have something to say about personal finance, including banks and institutions, and major corporations, I have to bring my big-boy guns to every piece of content I write. There's no place for being casual if I want organic Google traffic. Social media will only get me so far. I have to rank against my competitors by providing content that people want to read and find helpful enough to want to come back in the future.
Income & Expenses
I imagine this one is on a lot of people's minds. It's a very common question: “How much money can I make blogging?” This question, and many variations to this question, is asked at least a thousand times per month on Google.
Here's the short answer: You can make $0 from blogging, or you can make over $1,000,000 in a year from blogging. True fact!
So what about after 90 days? The hard truth is that you shouldn't even be focusing that much on monetization that much in the first 90 days. You should be focused on creating a site that looks fantastic, has engaging content, and is driving traffic.
Many popular bloggers release their income reports every month. This is something that I've toyed with doing once I reach a respectable amount of traffic and/or income.
But for the sake of answering the question of how much can you earn in 90 days? Not much. I earn coffee money when I'm lucky and pennies a day otherwise.
My weekly ad revenue barely covers a cup of coffee at Starbucks. My affiliate income is rare, but a nice surprise. I think I was able to fill up my gas tank once using it.
But what about expenses? There's hosting, subscriptions, legal fees, and more. This causes me to operate at a loss so far (despite me toting about filling up a gas tank). And this net loss is completely normal.
You don't need to spend a lot of money at all to start a blog, but it certainly helps you get a headstart. I am in a much better place than some folks are at this stage, and not because I'm doing anything special, but because I invested early and am treating my blog like a business.
Long story short? You need to work hard for a long time to earn any money. In fact, it could take 6-12 months to earn a part-time income. Most bloggers don't get into the full-time income range until 18-24 months, or at least, that what's the pros tell me.
Tips For People Starting Out Blogging
For a full post on how to start blogging for money, click here. Otherwise, check out my tips to get started:
- Be patient: It can take months or more to gain traction, and this is 100% normal. Focus on creating consistent, high-quality content, and the results will come.
- Blog because you're passionate: If you're blogging just for the money, you'll fail. Blog about a topic you love to talk about. My first blog was a programming blog because I was a software engineer, but honestly, I had nothing good to talk about because I didn't enjoy it at all. Blog about something that excites you.
- Read other blogs in your niche: The best way to beat your competition is to see what they're doing and do it better. If you know what your competitors are doing, you have something to work with. If you blog blindly, you won't truly know if you're doing something better or worse than other blogs out there.
- Network like crazy: I said earlier that I'm not a fan of huge crowds. That said, I'm on Twitter every morning and most afternoons. Make yourself heard and take ownership of driving traffic to your blog.
- Keep to a small budget in the beginning: In the beginning, use affordable hosting, such as Bluehost, and stick to free plans on plugins and apps that have them. Upgrade to paid versions later.
The Dollar Blogger's First Income Report
I wasn't sure if I wanted to share a monthly income this early on, but popular opinion swayed me otherwise. There's not much to report just yet, and that's fine by me.
In the first three months of The Dollar Blogger, I focused on content and social media growth. If you were an early reader, you probably saw some really ugly Pinterest pins. Yeah… I'm not a graphic designer. My wife took over that position in mid-April, and we're fleshing out new designs.
Social Media And Traffic Data
My following on social media, as of April 30th, 2020, is:
- Facebook: 56
- Twitter: 864
- Pinterest: 701
- Instagram: 378
I spend a lot of my day on Twitter, and Twitter has surely grown the quickest. That said, I still get most of my traffic from Pinterest when it comes to social media traffic.
Here's some traffic data for April 30th.
- Unique Visitors: 894
- Pageviews: 1464
My traffic was 20% higher in April than it was in March, and pageviews remained about the same.
Income And Expense Data
Normally, I would make separate posts for each month's income/expense data, but since this is the first one, I'll organize it all here.
Going forward, I'll post monthly (or at least quarterly) reports. I'm hoping this will help new bloggers have an idea of what goes into blogging for money.
My plan for The Dollar Blogger is to replace full-time income one day. My income numbers right now are probably not indicative of anything specific. Some bloggers may see more results than me, some may see less.
What I can say is that I invested early on and spent quite a bit upfront to get started. I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and I knew I was in it for the long haul.
How I'll categorize expenses – Most of my expenses are billed once per year, but to show the breakdown, I'll record them as monthly expenses so that you can get an idea of what you're looking at making/losing (losing most likely) in the early stages.
February's Income And Expenses
There was zero focus on income in February, but I did have AdSense running, so my whopping income was…. ready for it?
- Adsense: $0.72
Ha! Not even a dollar in month one! Sadface. But that's okay, I didn't expect to make a penny in month one. Let's look at expenses:
- Optinmonster $29
- Hosting: $15
- Grammarly: $11.66 (annual subscription divided by 12 months) – Grammarly is the absolute best app I've found for improving my writing and for correcting spelling and grammar errors. I use Grammarly not just on my blog but on all social media as well. A must-have.
- Tailwind: $10
Total expenses (annual expenses converted to per-month): $65.66
So month one was a net loss (-$64.94), but that's to be expected at the beginning of a blog journey.
March's Income and Expenses
In March, I began signing up for affiliate networks. These are the ones I went with:
Being brand new, I didn't get accepted by many advertisers, but in order to increase my acceptance rate, I contacted a lot of advertisers and personally introduced myself.
There was slightly more income in March, but I still wasn't focused on monetization. This is the reality of blogging. Making money in the first few months is not common, and even if you are making money, it's likely coffee money.
Here's the data:
- Adsense: $6.02
- MaxBounty: $14.40
- Swagbucks referral: $3.33
$23.75 in total. Not bad! Small problem, though. My expenses also went up. Here's how. $64.66 from February rolled over to March, and in March, the following expenses were added
- One-time business fees: $230
- SEMrush: $100/month (This SEO tool is absolutely worth it, despite the price tag.)
Ouch, this month's expenses were $404.66. While SEMrush is certainly something you don't need early on, I use it for both The Dollar Blogger and my Print-on-Demand store, Pebblebrook Apparel. It's an expense I'm willing to have due to the amazing value the site provides.
The summary? Net loss of $380.91. That's not that bad, though, considering most of my expenses were around my business fees and a top-tier SEO suite.
Spoiler alert: April will post a net loss as well. This will likely go on for a few more months. Let's take a look!
April's Income and Expenses
As I've been writing this post, particularly the income report, I keep thinking, “Wow, these numbers are awful!” but then I tell myself the beginning IS awful. That's why the majority of bloggers fail. They go in it just for the money, and when they don't see money right away, they quit.
Most bloggers don't see results for up to 12 months. Some longer. Alright, here's April's results:
- AdSense: $4.96
- Bluehost affiliate program: $65
- Product sales: $13
- Swagbucks referral: $0.10 (ha!)
Gross revenue in April was $83.06, yet another increase.
No new expenses were added in April, so based on last month's expenses (and subtracting the one-time fees), April cost me just shy of $190. Glad to see the expenses decrease.
What's The Summary, Dave?
If you skipped all the way down here, the TL;DR of the income/expense report is that making money blogging early on is possible but not probable. I did gross some revenue, but I'm operating at a loss, and that's expected.
Wrapping It Up
It's been a great first three months for sure. I'm actively working on upping my traffic and building a course for my subscribers (coming soon!). I'll likely write another post like this in three more months, and we'll see how everything progresses by then.
If you're new to blogging or have any questions about the startup process, feel free to drop a comment!