the color of moneyblogging

I’m not nearly as prolific in my writing as I used to be.  I started out blogging in 2007, usually putting one sizable post up per day, sometimes more.  I guest posted, I participated actively in forums and had a real passion for both the business and art of blogging.  I was enthusiastic and enjoyed what I was doing.I’m not nearly as prolific in my writing as I used to be. I started out blogging in 2007, usually putting one sizable post up per day, sometimes more. I guest posted, I participated actively in forums and had a real passion for both the business and art of blogging. I was enthusiastic and enjoyed what I was doing.

I have no doubt if you’re reading here that you’ve heard or read all the same “follow your passion” credos out there that I have. The idea is that you should find something you like to do, and do it – success will follow. The only way you’ll fail is if you can’t apply yourself 110% to whatever endeavor you choose to do.

It’s clear to me that while this is partially true, there is a small gray area between following your passion and the opposite idea: simply find something you can do that’s lucrative enough and do that. I like to kid myself that I’m a decent writer; not great, but I feel that I have a grasp of the language and an understanding of how to write a compelling narrative. You tell me. At one point I had a passion for the craft of writing, and it’s faded away. You know why? It’s not so much that I don’t like writing, I just started to feel that writing brip blap was a job – that I should be targeting keywords, writing to subjects I didn’t care about and putting myself in a crummy position: doing something I had a passion for but in the process of doing it, killing that passion.

So what do you do in my shoes? I’ve read enough blogs that focus on monetization (through ads, affiliate links and other forms of advertising) to know that it’s both possible to find money while producing original (albeit dry) content. I’ve also read enough blogs that DON’T focus on monetization to know that you can have a deeply fascinating blog if you simply choose to write directly to an audience about a subject you care about without worrying about the money.

Where you fail in those models, I think, is if you approach blogging or writing in a half-hearted manner. If Seth Godin and his famously short, no-comment, no ads (discounting ads for his own books) blog suddenly slapped a pop-up ad for lawnmowers in your face, it wouldn’t work. And if ad-driven, highly monetized blogs suddenly expected you to start reading/following/sharing their articles about credit cards as if they were inspirational tracts, they’d have a while to wait before anyone did so, if they ever did.

I’ve approached brip blap in that kind of a half-hearted manner. I’ve got a blog that focuses on a wide variety of topics near and dear to me – weight loss, personal finance, happiness, family and career. These are disparate subjects and it’s hard to find a theme. I have an internal idea of a theme: me. More broadly, though, I set out to write the blog to be helpful. I think some of it has been – I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback on my 101 thoughts on losing 100 pounds, my 8 steps to a six figure career and other posts. That’s the part where I think I’ve been most successful.

Where I haven’t been successful, though, is in advertising. I’ve had more luck than most bloggers, I’m sure – I make more than enough to cover the cost of blogging and have a bit left over for themes or other ‘blog extras.’ But it’s also clear to me that I’m not headed in a direction where brip blap is going to support me or my family. The reason is that I’m not writing the kind of easily monetizable articles I should be, to capitalize on ads or affiliate links.

Now if you’re still reading, you might be wondering if this is some kind of “goodbye” post. It’s not. I intend to keep writing brip blap. But I’ve decided that for the blog to grow, it can only go in one of two ways: I can start putting up articles written by others which are keyword-optimized, ad-focused, etc. I have several such articles ready to go, in fact. Why would I do that? To make money. To treat this blog as a business, not as a personal place to share my thoughts.

Why wouldn’t I do that? Because this blog is a lot of ME. Early on I rejected blatant monetization. Recently I’ve rejected almost everything except affiliate links – which seems fair enough to me. If I recommend Dr. Atkins’ book and put an amazon link for it in an article on weight loss, it doesn’t hurt anyone to click through that link and give me a small commission if you buy it through amazon. Same thing with items like Sodastream, which I love, or even the Amex Blue card, which I have used constantly for years and years.

Again, I only see two ways to keep a blog going: make good money or make it a good outlet for your thoughts. Some people do both. I know that I personally can’t write monetizable articles, or successfully place and convert ads. I’ve thrown a lot of junk at the wall over the years – some has stuck and some has not. But generally I haven’t been that successful with ads. I know from my Moneywriters colleagues that it is possible to make good money with blogs, but I haven’t stayed in their league.

Don’t take this as anything more than me thinking out loud. I’d like to recapture the excitement I had about blogging back when I had 100 readers, made $8 a month and wrote almost every time I was sitting still. I’d also like to make $50,000 a year off the blog, not $2,000 (I actually make a bit more than that, but I see the trends headed that way). It’s a conundrum. So you can look forward to me doing a couple of things over the next month or two: first, a large number of keyword-heavy “monetizing” articles that will always be clearly marked as not being from me. If you like ME as a writer, skip over them – they are just there for me to test those waters. And on the other hand if you don’t like long introspective posts like this, which are too much about my thoughts and opinions, well, sorry, it’s how I write best. I’ve really enjoyed Tumblr and Facebook recently, and I think the reason why – again – is that I don’t feel any pressure there to write FOR money.

So if you’d like to help me out, consider using the amazon link to the side if you were going to use amazon anyway, or just keep reading and subscribing. Share an article with a friend if you like it. Send me an email or a message on Facebook or a tweet. Interacting with people on the web is one of the biggest rewards of running and writing a blog like this. Fair winds and following seas, my friends. My next post will be far less serious!

  • http://zfarls.com zfarls

    Hey, I appreciate you thinking outloud. I feel your articles are the most in depth in the personal finance community which has become a joke over the last 3 years. Everyone has banded together with guest posts and best of links every week to form a “socialist” community where there is no creativity or domination. (sorry to use capitalisim)

    I like your site because I don’t have to read, 8 money tips from charlie sheen etc, or a guest post which is in an unfamiliar voice. I know the line between writing for love and writing for content, but I think you bring something extra by being personal and shooting out 2-3 good articles every week.

    I will read either way and want to say thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

      Wow, thanks zfarls – I really appreciate that!

  • http://moneytalkscoaching.com/blog-2/ Ashley @ Money Talks

    I’ve been reading your blog on and off for several years. It’s always been one of my favorites in the pf world. I’m kinda glad to hear you say you don’t make much money off the blog. It feels like if you are not making a lot of money off your blog that you are doing something wrong. So I’m happy to hear that you don’t make much. I guess it’s not a measure of a good blog.

    • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

      Thanks Ashley! I don’t think money’s a good indicator of good writing. Maybe someone could manage my traffic better, though… So it might be an indicator of good blogging (business) if you see what I mean. I’m writing these responses on my Blackberry, so forgive their (relative) brevity!

  • Chad

    Your PF blog is the only PF blog I still read. The majority of the PF blogs just post the same bland “work like a slave and retire with index funds” or “make your one toothpaste and save $.05 a month!” Hell, most of the time those PF blogs are giving incorrect advice (I’m looking at you Simple Dollar). I will still be coming back for your pieces.

    • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

      Thanks so much Chad – I really appreciate that!

  • http://www.myjourneytomillions.com Evan

    Steve,

    You were one of the first blogs I read prior to starting my own in 2008 (and I obviously advertiser a lot heavier than you)…and it really sounds like you almost feel guilty having the hobby you seem to love make money.

    There are ways (text links for one) to make that $2K in a month…just saying.

    • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

      Thanks, Evan, and I know text links are a possibility – that’s one income stream I shut off a few years ago because of concerns Google was penalizing my site because of them. I don’t really feel guilty, per se… I just don’t see how I can incorporate advertising into my site without having to concentrate on topics (credit cards, credit scores, mortgages, etc.) which bore me. It’s not like I will remove all advertising or anything – I’m mainly trying to convince myself it’s ok to write what I want and quit chasing the money, because to get it I’d have to change this site in a direction I don’t want it to go. That’s how muy brain works :)

  • http://www.moneysmartsblog.com Mike Holman

    I think you know my opinion on monetization. :)

    You have to get something out of blogging – money, good feelings, knowledge…something. If you’re not – it’s time to stop or change directions.

    It’s unfortunate that bloggers have to provide free content to readers – most of us end up writing about topics that make money from third parties and ignore topics that don’t.

    If it was the norm for bloggers to charge readers per pageview (or some other $$ model), there would be a better cross-section of topics covered and awesome bloggers like you could make enough money to be more motivated to continue.

    Unfortunately, that’s just not the way the world is.

  • http://www.freemoneyfinance.com FMF

    My two cents:

    Write what you’re interested in — as if no one else was reading. If you make money, consider it a bonus. IMO, what you’ll learn/sort out/apply to your own finances will more than compensate you for your time and effort.

  • http://greatcreditscore.org ross

    I think you should try to make more money off of your blog. You put in all the hard work and effort that it takes to build up a blog and you deserve to earn money from it. As long as you put out quality material and like what you do , i don’t think your reader would mind at all.
    I have several sites and i always try hard to put out good information and articles, so i feel like i deserve to make money from it.

  • http://monevator.com Monevator

    Hey Steve,

    I don’t have the answer either. Every now and then I think i should write about savings accounts and credit cards… and then I step back from the brink and stick with my love of investing.

    Getting a solid co-blogger covering an area I wasn’t doing justice (passive investing) helped put some juice back in my tank.

    But yeah, I feel your pain. I recently added a ‘trendline’ to my Excel tracking of Monevator income, and nothing even mildly life changing looks like kicking in for five years! By that time I’ll have been blogging for a decade…

    Luckily I enjoy it. So only do what you enjoy, I say, with these side things.