This is a post from a dear friend and former PF blogger – who’s forged her own path and is killing it if I do say so myself. Enjoy 🙂
There was a season, many years ago, when blogging was my passion and surrounded everything I did. I blogged my heart out from 2011 to 2013 and sold my blog by the end of that year. I still write online here and there, but blogging doesn’t consume me the way it did when I had a very personal personal finance blog.
Blogging Can Change Your Life (It Changed Mine)
Blogging was one of the best, purpose-driven actions I ever took. When I created my blog, I was 28 years old and loaded with over $30,000 of credit card debt. I was unorganized, unsure of where I was headed and frustrated that I always felt broke and trapped in debt. I was good at math, so what the heck was my problem?
Googling my way to a solution, I read a half-dozen personal finance blogs where people took stock of their finances and dispensed advice on ways to keep improving, and I knew I had to start my own blog.
I won’t bore you with the details, because mine is a tale that’s literally become creation myth for hundreds of personal finance bloggers.
So here is the short version: I got my act together financially, paid off ALL my debt, got a much better job and found much deeper happiness in a more frugal and less consumption-focused lifestyle. I completed what I set out to do: paid off my debt and took charge of my life and the incredible growth I had experienced in the past couple years through my blog and connection to the blogging community would soon come from another interest (more on that later).
Fast forward five years to present day, and my life doesn’t resemble those who have turned blogging into a full-time gig. People who used to comment on my blog are straight up famous now!
Some Bloggers Became HUGE
If you look at the Personal Finance Blog alumni network of circa 2012 (my term), it’s a Who’s Who of media personalities: Jeff Rose is a personal finance media powerhouse and recently starred in a TLC reality TV show. Cait Flanders is well on her way to becoming a NYT-bestselling author with her first book, The Year of Less. Michelle Schroeder is about to start sailing around the world while raking in over $100K a month from her blog. I just saw Ramit Sethi on Adam Ruins Everything, among many other TV appearances. Even still-anonymous Financial Samurai dominates the first page of Google search results for tons of key personal finance concepts, bringing in new readers daily to his tongue-in-cheek personal finance site.
A lot of the bloggers I used to know have become polished, gleaming gurus in their own right, selling courses, books, ebooks, hosting podcasts, web series and having fun doing it. If there was one key that it seemed all of us bloggers were interested in both then and now, it was that often talked about, rarely grasped, tenuous freedom we seek in our brief lives.
I’ve watched all of this growth from the outside now. The last FinCon I attended was back in 2012. I don’t really comment or read personal finance blogs anymore, although I am lucky to count NZMuse among a few others as real-life friends who I get to visit and have come visit me.
But all of the incredible growth and success that I have witnessed sometimes makes me wonder: should I have kept on blogging? Didn’t I still have a story to tell? Did I miss my calling as a successful blogger, escaping the 9-5 and creating my own destiny?
It’s the Growth that Matters, Not the Blog
I won’t keep you in suspense for long: being a big time blogger or an online personality is just not for me.
Over the past eight years, I have found a role in a niche industry that I am passionate about and I freaking love what I do. I work with my friends. We laugh all day long as we navigate a fast-changing and fascinating market. I get invited to speak at conferences as an “expert”, which I like to shrug off as no big deal, but I really do know this business and I’m good at sharing my knowledge.
This is not an industry where everything is moving online or where you would be successful as a one-person or two-person shop. This industry requires a shitload of capital (political, social and economic). It’s easy to forget if your business revolves around online media, social media and direct to consumer marketing, but it’s a big world out there. Not all of it gets written about online.
There are more ways to find your calling, your passion or whatever they call it these days then refining a product to sell to your email list. There are more ways to become wealthy (if that’s your goal) than to hawk affiliate products, consumer products or be a media personality and get paid for that.
I know that sounds dismissive, but I don’t mean it to be so. No one knows better than a formerly mediocre blogger how hard it is to be a successful, profitable blogger. Plus, bloggers live a lifestyle that is unconventional and that’s not easy either, because people will always question anything that threatens their conventional understanding of the world. So I do think bloggers are pretty awesome.
But sometimes I get lost in their earnest calls to action. I’ve wondered if I’m doing something wrong because I still work.in.an.office (shudder) and I still get a biweekly paycheck (I’ll pause while the bloggers collectively cringe).
Work is What You Make It
But you know what? I decide when I go to work. I travel as much as I want. I get access to certain travel and business opportunities through work that I never imagined. I may still move on to other ventures on my own, and I am an active investor, but I am right where I need to be. I am somewhere in the top 1% of earners in my specific category (age, gender, education) and top 2% of all US wage earners. As much as possible, I have been creating my own destiny, and I like where it’s headed.
I don’t want to focus on how much money I make as if that validates me. I don’t think it does. Way back in the beginning, I said I started to find another outlet that led to growth after I sold my blog. Are you ready for it?
The Only Way Out is In
I started looking inward. I found a spiritual home in a 12-step meeting group, and even though I don’t abuse any substances, I found accountability, honesty and openness by attending those meetings and connecting to the idea of the twelve steps. Nowadays, I put my spiritual growth and mindfulness even ahead of the growth that I realized through blogging.
I would have never gotten to the 12 steps and mindfulness (I even go on meditation retreats!) without blogging. I had to break through the fog of my unconscious habits, consumerism and untested assumptions through blogging in order to be ready to look at deeper concepts in my life.
The path I walk now doesn’t need external validation. It doesn’t matter whether I create my own destiny as a freelancer, blogger, office worker or anything else. It doesn’t check if I’m doing a lot of things that look fun and amazing to the outside world. It doesn’t depend on another person for my happiness. It doesn’t even purport that happiness is the be-all, end-all of my existence. But the path I am on provides a lot of peace and serenity that I never knew before.
So that’s my story. There’s no product to sell and I don’t have a crafted online image or personality that I can present to the world. But that’s the way I prefer it. I have found other ways to connect to people and I may still write that novel yet (creators gotta create!).
The lessons I learned from having a blog changed my life and got me where I wanted to be in my life and career. I will never doubt my ability to create something, because having a blog allowed me to hit publish, create and reach readers. A blog is a great equalizer, allowing me to connect on a platform where I was only as good as my last post.
I took that lesson and now I create things offline and I don’t talk about it online. But without the blog, I may never have learned to believe in myself.