So it’s been a rough first month blogging about My Early Retirement Journey on a self-hosted site. I was on Blogger for about a month when I first started blogging as a test run. I wanted to see if this is something I really wanted to do. It is. However, I have had quite a few technical difficulties and the psychological impact of fully immersing myself in FIRE blogging world was significant. I almost quit. I say almost loosely. I still have about 5 days to ask for a refund from my domain host. Yesterday, I was sure I was done with self-hosting. What was the point? What was I doing? It all started to feel like a pyramid scheme to building a business. Make a blog to encourage other bloggers to make a blog, then you make a referral fee. I don’t want any part of that. But what do I want? I definitely want to chronicle my journey. I like writing. I like creating (something I was just able to articulate after reading some of the posts below). But did I want to build a business or was that an idea I was sold hook, line, and sinker? I’ve never wanted to build a business in the past.
If I didn’t have any aspirations for a business, then why was I on a paid site? Honestly, since all the information I learned about FIRE was through other people’s blogs, it felt like my own self-hosted blog was an initiation to be part of the conversation, something I wrote about freely in yesterday’s post. After a month, I started to balk at the perceived constraints and the manufactured box I seemed to create for myself after reading all the blogging stats, and income reports, and net worth stats. Was I trying to keep up with everyone? This was my journey. It says so in the title.
This morning I felt different than I did yesterday. I wanted to give self-hosting another chance. I thought if I just made the changes to speed up my site (my biggest hurdle), maybe I would feel differently. But what do I do when I encounter the next problem? What was my goal here? What was my objective?
If I were just writing for me, then Blogger (free hosting) made more sense.
If I were writing as a blogger to create a side hustle, then Bluehost (paid hosting) made more sense.
The pressure of self-hosting was something I couldn’t reconcile. Was it worth my mental state to side hustle? As I have been doing with most things on this journey, I crowd-sourced intel.
Four Pillar Freedom: I stumbled upon some posts by Four Pillar Freedom (4PF) that helped me start re-thinking what exactly I was doing and why. The information was not entirely new as I had seen similar things on other blogs earlier in the journey, but it was there when I needed it most.
In my first year of blogging I earned a grand total of $37.50. I spent roughly 50 hours per month working on the blog, which equates to 600 hours of total effort in my first year. This means I earned about 6 cents an hour from blogging during my first year.
If you do want to earn money from blogging, make sure you have a multi-year time horizon.
There is one last point I want to drive home: blogging is a marathon. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. You’re almost guaranteed to be a nobody during your entire first year of blogging, with few page views and little income. This is why most blogs die out before they turn one year old.
How does he make money: a combination of ads and affiliate links; after the first year, he eventually was making a few hundred dollars a month; also had a post featured on Rockstar Finance within Year 1 that made it to other national sites. At 6 month mark, he was at 10,000 pageviews per month, and it took about 1.5 years to get to 40,000 views per month which is where he is currently.
He shares a low point in his journey, excerpted:
A few months ago I was feeling particularly discouraged about my low monthly page views and my inability to monetize this blog. I was frustrated that I couldn’t turn my passion into a source of income. I was at a point where I questioned whether all my writing was in vain.
One morning I decided to write a short letter to myself as a reminder of why I even started this blog in the first place. It turned out to be a tremendously helpful wake up call that helped me realize my passion (writing) did not have to be my job (data analyst).
Consider the fact that your blog and your writing may never ever be profitable and you might not make a single dime off of it. …Would you still write? If yes, why would you still write? What drives you to still write if nobody ever reads your stuff and you can’t make a living off of it?
It’s highly likely that you’ll [n]ever make a living off this blog. But write because it brings you joy…
Screw writing for page views. Screw trying to get featured on big websites and being disappointed when you’re not.
…Write for you.
Don’t write for the stats, the money, or the audience size. Don’t write to turn this into a full time profession. Don’t obsess over the popularity of the blog.
You’re…. sharing your own unique journey with others. Write because it’s your voice and you have something to say. If zero people listen, it’s no less worthy than if 1 million people listen. Write to write. Writing needs no justification. It goes beyond everything tangible. It speaks to the soul.
… Obviously I would love to see this blog grow over time and even become a steady source of income, but that’s no longer my top priority. I’m more concerned with writing content that adds value to the world … But I think things get sticky when we try to force our favorite type of work to be our primary source of income. Worst of all, when we try to force our passion to create income, our incentives change. We no longer create because we feel driven to do so, we create for profit. This almost always leads to stress and causes us to produce work that’s less than our best. … I don’t dream of being the world’s greatest data analyst. But I do plan on using the income from my data analyst job to create a financial situation that lets me do more of what I really love: writing and creating.
… What I really love doing in my free time is writing and creating.
That was helpful, but it didn’t really help me answer my question of whether to go back to Blogger or stay on Bluehost. Not writing is not an option for me. I journal even if I’m not blogging. Blogging serves no real motivation for me in terms of producing content. It’s just a tool to share my writing. And I don’t mind sharing. But one of the things I hope to achieve in retirement is everlasting peace on Earth. Some people call it happiness. He enumerated some things I copied to my personal journal. Although he’s a data analyst by profession his writing includes some psychological aspects which is what I was looking for. Right now, the psychological aspect of the Journey (blogging and FIRE) are what I’m having a tough time reconciling.
We just need a better understanding of what conditions are needed for lasting happiness.
Specifically, the field of psychology has identified three conditions:
Connection – a sense of belonging, relationships, a community
Competence – working on challenging tasks, acquiring skills, developing mastery
Autonomy – the freedom to control your time
From this, Competence is what might tip the scales in favor of Bluehost. It is infinitely easier for me to post on Blogger. All the technical elements that I’m interested in are pre-formatted. Even Adsense. I write, add a picture, click post, and I’m done. On Bluehost, I am learning little bits of code; watching YouTube videos to learn how to do a variety of minutia; I’m installing plug-ins and signing up for outside servers just to get the page to load in a fashionable amount of time. But with each challenge I am able to surmount, there is that little tiny thrill of victory. But do I need that hassle? How necessary is that in my journey?
Montana Money Adventures: she shares what she’s learned over her blogging journey at 6 months and 1 year.
… if you are looking for a way to make $1000 by Christmas, this isn’t it. After 6 months of part time to almost full time work, I have made $0 dollars. Impressive isn’t it? Actually I have spent about $500-$700. Although, admittedly I have made zero attempts to monetize this site.
Relationships. Building relationships takes time. Getting to know people takes time. And I’m starting to see a lot of momentum on that front. The number of emails I received from readers month 1 was 0. Month 2 was 0. Month 3 was 0. Now I get emails every week, sometimes every day. It took a year of writing here every week, but we have gotten to know each other a bit.
I’m actually really proud that I hit publish on 102 posts this year! Consistently putting out content is a big challenge to blogging (read: time consuming) but it’s paying off.
Frugal Asian Finance: For the most part, she is in it for the potential income as a side business. Creating a manageable business is her primary objective and what keeps her motivated, excerpted.
On Wednesday, October 25, 2017, seven months after launching Frugal Asian Finance, I officially got burned out from blogging.
… amidst the happiness of staying ahead of my own schedule, I also felt tired and resistant. Blogging suddenly felt like a chore and a job. I felt like I had to stick with my own schedule, and I’d feel guilty and unproductive if I didn’t.
After taking the break and feeling more refreshed and energized, I asked myself the 64 million dollar question: Do I still want to blog?
Now that I have spent almost 1,000 hours on this blog over the past 7 months, I feel like I have invested so much time and effort that it wouldn’t be a wise idea to end the project completely.
And most importantly, I don’t think I’ll be happier without a creative outlet in my life.
… In terms of blog expenses, I have spent a total of $222.96 since the launch of my blog [seven months ago].
11:52 am. I started writing this post at 9am this morning, Sunday, April 22, 2018. It’s now 11:52 am. It was originally going to be describing how I used some other blogger’s stories to motivate me to stay with Bluehost, but I’m back to where I was yesterday. I still just don’t know. Will I reach more people one way or the other? Does that matter?
If I do stay with Bluehost, I made some action items. Maybe that will help put things in perspective. Here’s my list so far.
- Turn off Stats (recommended by 4PF, this took about 3 minutes of fumbling around WordPress: Dashboard > Screen Options > Show Site Stats (uncheck))
- Check no more often than quarterly, if at all in the first year
- Identify some personal goals
- Keep writing content no matter what
- Don’t care what other community members think
- Don’t censor yourself to build an audience
- This is your blog, use your own voice
- Stop looking at other people’s net worth, blog income, and blog stats for the next 3 months, if not the rest of the year
- Recognize it can take about 3 years to establish yourself in the blogging community; and the first year, most make no money
- Keep posting on Blogger, if you need to, because you’re nothing if not a back-up plan/ safety net kind of girl
- Set your own blog milestones, if needed
- Answer the following questions and reflect
- Do you really want to make this a side business?
- Are you willing to do the work required to make this a side business (i.e. social media accounts, active engagement with the community, make business purchases, etc)?
- If so, what are your goals for the business?
- End of Year 1: $500/mon gross income
- End of Year 2: $1,000/mon gross income
- End of Year 3: $1,500/mon gross income
- What will you do, if you don’t hit these goals?
- How do people make money on these blogs anyway?
- From the blogs I see, Personal Capital affiliate links.
- Blue host, Siteground affiliates (about $50 or $65 per referral).
- Google Adsense (around $30/mon for fledgling blogs, less than 3 years old).
- Do you really want to make this a side business?
- Remove featured images (to help load time)
- Add the smaller versions of what you have on Blogger, if so inclined
- Use images of no more than 100k moving forward
- Disable Google Adsense (to help load time), until ??
- Re-think plug-ins
- Aggressive caching (Word press setting)
12:01 pm. I think I might stay with Bluehost. What is helping sway my decision that 1% over the limit was the fact that I still spend $2/week for the lottery pool at work, so that brings my total to about $104/yr which is about 40% more than this blog for the year. And if I weren’t the one collecting the money, I probably would quit altogether for a year. Secondly, I have nothing else to do this summer. I usually take a seasonal hiatus from cable, and barring any actual side jobs, I will have plenty of daylight with li’l to do. This might just be my $60 hobby for the year. Re-assess at Month 3 (June 28, 2018) and Month 6 (Sep 28, 2018). Is it worth it? Is the technical side of self-hosting getting in the way of my creating/ my creative outlet? Is it changing my voice? Thirdly, I might stay with Bluehost the same reason I stuck with my side hustle. Not one I always willingly believe matters in the long run, but there is that momentary high that happens when you defeat an obstacle.
Other Action Items, no matter who I choose to host my blog:
- Streamline categories – it’s getting too muddled even for me.
- Determine if the attempt to learn from other bloggers/ use them as a road map/ follow their breadcrumbs (benefit) leads me to play the comparison game (detriment). If so, stop doing that.
- Analyze if the psychological impact of being heard/being noticed after spending the last 2 years fading into the background is desirable. Are you ready to change paths?
- Find an objective for this blog; clearly articulate it; make it visible to you as reminder and to readers as a guide.
Four Pillar Freedom:
I’m more concerned with writing content that adds value to the world. … My reason for writing: because I believe anyone can radically transform their lives if they get a grip on their finances, and I want to share my thoughts on how to do so.
Montana Money Adventures:
I believe transformation and progress happens in community. When we hear people’s stories and they hear ours. That is magic. Blogging transitioned me from a consumer of information to part of a community. So I am trying to create that community here for you. There is a saying, “A rising tide raises all boats.” But community is magic. I think community can raise the tide.
Being known is awesome…and terrifying…
Frugal Asian Finance:
I wanted to start my own business when I was a freshman in college. I didn’t know what I’d do, but the desire to own and run my own company was burning inside me. Seeing how many bloggers have successfully built their sites, made a good income from their blogs, and become their own bosses gave me [my] eureka moment. I decided to start my own blog and wanted [to] grow it into a side business one day.
There’s a little bit of me in each their stories. I don’t know that I have defined a clear objective for writing though there’s a semblance of one in my Pilot Post. I don’t particularly have a strong desire to start my own business, never had, though the potential is what led me to self-hosting in the first place. I don’t want the pressure of being the voice of a community, never have, though I don’t mind having a voice. I don’t really think what I have to say is going to transform any lives. I guess I was ok being a me-too. That’s what we call generic drugs in the pharmaceutical industry that offer no real therapeutic benefit over what’s already on the market. There was no one like me on a FIRE journey, and I wanted someone out there to know they’re not alone. I’m here too. And it’s hard and it sucks, most of the time. Sometimes things hurt less when someone is going through it with you. Basically, the point of my blog is I’m here with you!
The only question I’m trying to decide now is which is the better platform for that?
12:22pm – I still don’t know. I’m leaning towards keeping both sites for now.
Final Thoughts. One of the reasons I could not be really successful in business is I believe if I have something you need, I should give it to you. I’ve said something similar in previous posts. That’s what it’s like where I was born (unspecified country). It’s a third world country; people get by not with wealth but with sharing resources. That’s all I’m trying to do. There are a lot of people who have blogs of how quickly they ascended to financial independence and even blogging success, but there are still some of us who are living the journey, struggles and all.