6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of blogging

6 lessons in building a blog

As of this month, I’ve been chronicling my life here for six years. Unbelieveable.

Since I missed the big five-year mark, being off gallivanting somewhere in Europe last year, I’ll have to make up for it now.

Here are the biggest things I’ve learned.

It’s all about me

It’s the rawest and most honest posts that seem to resonate.

Guest posts and posts where I get a bit more journalistic just don’t get the same response.

It makes sense – if I think about all the blogs I currently read, the reason I continue to subscribe is because I feel a connection to the blogger. This is why I read very few blogs that use staff writers (and usually skim over the staff posts in favour of the posts by the original writer). I promise I will never hire staff writers.

Ultimately, the only thing you have to set you apart online is yourself – your viewpoint, your writing, your voice.

It’s hard to know how much to reveal

Walking that fine line is something anyone who writes for public consumption faces.

As I’ve become less anonymous, finding that balance has become even harder. I want to be as honest as possible, but within reason. Although I don’t share my blog with many people IRL, my rough benchmark is ‘would I mind if my family/closest friends read this?’ and that helps guide me.

I will happily talk to anyone, online or offline, stranger or friend, about how I spend and save. I probably wouldn’t share my income or net worth. I might not want to disclose the details if I was going through a rough time personally but I might allude to them or talk about how I’m coping (or not). Struggles with relationships and career/work, I find, are the toughest to navigate.

Go self-hosted early

I wish I’d made the switch to self-hosted blogging earlier. Mainly for selfish reasons, to be honest with you: I could have made a lot more money.

But it’s also encouraged me to take my writing here more seriously. I almost don’t even count those first couple of years of blogging. These days, I usually work on draft posts for awhile and preschedule them – often continuing to make tweaks before and even just after go-live.

Don’t sell out

Doesn’t this directly contradict that last point, you ask? Well, like with most things, it’s all about balance. I’m not principled enough to eschew commercialism entirely. In going self-hosted, I wanted to be confident I would at least make enough to cover the costs involved.

That doesn’t mean jumping at every opportunity, though. I had a phase where I ran a ton of crappy (paid) guest posts, and that accounted for a reasonable proportion of the money I earned online while travelling full-time last year. I tried to edit to higher standards and put my own spin on them with a personalised intro, but ultimately I was no longer comfortable playing that game.

It was a weird and totally conflicting dynamic at play: Advertisers essentially wanted to piggyback off your blog’s SEO juice, but in allowing them to do so you put that hard-earned built-up SEO goodness – the very thing advertisers are paying you for – at risk. And since I was working in mainstream media (which of course is playing its own game with sponsored content and struggling to define boundaries) I felt extremely suspect doing this kind of thing on my personal site.

Suffice to say my standards are now a lot higher. I want to be proud of everything I run here.

Do not obsess over stats

I go through ebbs and flows – currently I’m in a phase where I feel compelled to check in on my traffic every few hours. This is unhealthy and I know it!

I’m used to running larger, non-personal sites and constantly monitoring analytics, because that kind of data informs what we do. I don’t want to do the same here.

I don’t have the huge numbers that some other bloggers do, and while sometimes that bums me out, ultimately, I’m much more interested in quality, not quantity.

Don’t force it

When it comes to blogging, I go through bursts and spurts of inspiration. Often I’ll realise I’ve almost run out of posts, but it always works out. Forcing ideas never works!

16 thoughts on “6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of blogging

  • Reply Kirsten September 15, 2014 at 10:42

    I’m definitely struggling with how much to share. I get called raw and emotional a lot but all I can think is “I tried to be matter-of-fact and also not share everything”. I need to work harder at finding the balance there…

    But, six years!! Wow! Congratulations – that is a huge accomplishment!

  • Reply Melanie @ My Alternate Life September 15, 2014 at 11:42

    Wow, 6 years! Congrats. I can also focus too much on pageviews and it’s not healthy. I don’t have amazing numbers, but I get decent engagement, which makes me happy. I wish I would have gone self-hosted earlier simply because I felt others took me more seriously, and I took myself more seriously as well (of course, forking over $120 to get started doesn’t hurt). Thanks for sharing these. I love your personal posts and really resonate with your voice!

  • Reply Michelle September 15, 2014 at 14:07

    Love this! One big mistake I made was not getting self-hosted early enough. I didn’t think it was a big deal and I stayed on Blogger for too long.

  • Reply Kassandra @ More Than Just Money September 15, 2014 at 14:12

    Thanks for sharing 6 years worth of perspective because that’s pretty hard to find in the blogging world.

  • Reply Amanda @ MoveLoveEat September 15, 2014 at 16:32

    Wow, six years!! Congratulations!
    I feel you on the blog stat checking, they are always so all over the place I try not too check them too often but it can get a bit compulsive!

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank September 15, 2014 at 22:28

    Experience really defines it all. Based on what you just listed, it feels like it’s genuine and really based on experience. Six years of blogging? I think you can be a blogging coach for new bloggers out there.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty September 16, 2014 at 01:11

    I agree that it is easy to get burnt out. There are times when I literally have nothing to say. I usually just skip those days instead of forcing something.

  • Reply Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life September 16, 2014 at 02:36

    It’s when I get super honest, even controversially so, that I find I have the most success.

  • Reply The Asian Pear September 16, 2014 at 03:43

    Happy Blogversary! Congrats on 6 years of blogging. 🙂 I wholeheartedly agreed with everything written. Bravo.

  • Reply Addison @ Cashville Skyline September 16, 2014 at 05:55

    Congratulations on six years of blogging – what an accomplishment! As a younger blogger, I appreciate reading your tips and tricks. I’ve enjoyed reading!

  • Reply Stephany September 16, 2014 at 06:13

    Happy six year blogiversary!

    I honestly can’t remember the last time I checked my stats. I think I just realized that my blog is a hobby and nothing more. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop blogging. But I know if I started seeing my blog as a business, as a way to make money, that’s when it would stop becoming fun. I’ve seen way too many bloggers sell out and it really makes me stop listening to what they’re saying or even believing in anything they write – who knows if it’s what they actually believe or are just shilling for a company!

    I don’t read too many PF blogs, but yours is one I really enjoy because you make it about so much more than PF, which I appreciate. Here’s to many more years!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget September 16, 2014 at 08:37

    agreed..in the grand scheme of things, a blog is not the end all be all. I haven’t had much inspiration lately so have been laying low… I have a much more laid back approach to blogging than I have in the past.

  • Reply Pira September 16, 2014 at 13:49

    Wow, congrats on six years! Most people (myself included, half the time) burn out before reaching the one year mark. I always admire bloggers that stick it out for so long – it’s hard!

  • Reply Brandy @ Busted Budget September 17, 2014 at 00:17

    I also enjoy reading the personal posts more than the more formally-written. It really gives me a connection to the blog owner and that’s what I’m really looking for as a reader.

  • Reply Mutant Supermodel September 17, 2014 at 08:26

    Congratulations on your sixth year! I feel you on so many of these points. Being honest and open always gets the best response but sometimes, it is so honest it hurts. It’s therapy for me in that way. Sometimes therapy is painful. That’s what keeps leading me to burnout.
    I had a really hard time with monetizing the blog, not because I didn’t have interest from people– I did, I just felt totally conflicted. Now I just have the Amazon affiliates thingy. That’s all. I haven’t gotten anything from it in months but I haven’t been writing either so it makes sense.

    Keep it up!

  • Reply Nell September 23, 2014 at 10:47

    Thanks for the great post. I’ve struggled with a lot of the things you mentioned in my past year of blogging. Finding the balance between honesty and not giving too much away is probably hardest. That and the stats (trying not to worry about the stats…)

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