Well, here’s some exciting news. FinCon is coming, and I’m actually going! FinCon stands for the Financial Content Expo, and basically it’s like Comic-Con but instead of a bunch of nerdy people walking around dressed as superheroes, it’s a bunch of nerdy people walking around dressed as ordinary folks. The point of it is for financial bloggers, media folks, and people like that to get together, network, and learn from each other. I hope to learn more about how to provide better content, promote this blog, and maybe earn more than 17 cents an hour from this blog.
What Could I Possibly Have to Learn?
Ha! OK, obviously I’m kidding. I started this blog in November 2015, and I’ve basically stumbled my way through since then. Thankfully, it’s easier to start a blog nowadays than it used to be. But there’s still a hell of a learning curve.
The Basics of Setting Up a Blog
The technical aspects are fairly manageable, but there are a lot of them. You’ve got to buy a domain name, purchase a hosting plan, and figure out how to point your domain name to your hosting company. Then, if you’re me, you have to Google the next several steps (such as how to set up a MySQL database) and try things and see what happens.
After you get the basic technical stuff handled, you set up WordPress and design your blog. You might draw your own logo, and remind yourself that you’re not an artist. You might then decide to have someone else design your logo.
Then you’ve gotta write something. And then write another post, and another. You might try putting ads on your blog with Google AdSense. At that point, more or less, you’ve got a functioning blog.
I feel like I’ve got this part mostly under my belt, and I’m not really hoping/expecting to learn much about the basics of setting up a blog at FinCon. We’ll see, though.
Find a Good Web Host
As a quick aside, I did run into some trouble with my website setup in the beginning. I chose an unreliable web host. Bluehost was not very good for me from the outset. Some people have good experiences with them, but many people don’t. Bluehost gets relentlessly promoted by bloggers because they pay such high commissions on new signups.
If you want to try Bluehost anyway, despite this warning, then feel free to use the link below. They’re having a 48-hour sale on Sept 15–16 which will let you sign up for $2.95 per month for a 12, 24, or 36 month term. If you sign up for their service I’ll get about $65 in commissions. This is why Bluehost gets promoted so heavily! If you run into trouble with their service like I did, you can always cancel and get your prorated refund.
After having issues with Bluehost, I switched over to MDD Hosting. It pays a much smaller affiliate fee (around $15), but I’d rather promote it because they provide good, reliable service. If you hunt around for an online coupon code, you can get your first term at a discount. I found a 50% off coupon and paid about $37 for my first year of hosting, which is about how much Bluehost’s cheapest plan is. So far I’ve been on MDD hosting since April 7th, and my site’s total downtime has been 16 minutes over that 5-month period. By contrast, I was with Bluehost for just shy of 5 months, and the total downtime was over 66 hours.
Anyway, try to find a good web host from the outset. Switching web hosts was a pain in the butt, and I hope I don’t have to repeat that anytime soon. Thankfully the MDD Hosting support team was helpful, and they got me switched over quickly.
Building Up Readership
After your blog is set up and you’ve written a bunch of things, then you have to figure out how to get other people to read it. Writing good content helps. But the internet is a big place. You could write the best content out there, and it might never get seen. Some people get lucky: some media person stumbles across a relevant post by sheer luck, and their blog blows up with new readers. Most people don’t get that lucky.
For me, I mainly got started by writing a few guest posts on the No Nonsense Landlord‘s blog. I reached out to him to ask about guest posting, and told him that I wanted to start blogging as a side gig. Thankfully, Eric was kind enough to carve out time over the phone to talk about blogging. He told me about his experience, and gave me some really good information that helped me get started.
I wrote some guest posts for his blog, and then started my own. Within a week or two after starting my blog, Eric emailed me and said “Set up a Twitter account and follow a bunch of bloggers.” Okay. So I did, and it’s definitely helped. I’ve “met” (virtually) a lot of other bloggers that way, and have been introduced to a number of great blogs. (See ZJ Thorne, Rental Mindset, Out of State Investor, and Cash Flow Celt, to name a few.)
Another thing that helped (also Eric’s suggestion) was to try to read and comment on other blogs, and to try to be included in other bloggers’ lists, like Rockstar Finance’s list of blogger net worths. I got a huge boost from that at first. I probably need to update my net worth there again, since I last did it in December 2015, and a lot has happened since then.
What I’m Hoping to Learn at FinCon: How to Better Promote the Blog / Monetize It
I’ve put in a lot of effort to try to promote the blog, but there are still a ton of things I need to learn. For example, lots of bloggers out there are better at collecting email subscribers. I have a link for people to subscribe to the blog, but it’s not all that noticeable, and I haven’t gotten a lot of signups. Although, somehow, I am getting a steady stream of readers, about half of whom are repeat visitors. So maybe I’m missing something about how the subscriber list works, or all those people have bookmarked my site instead of subscribing.
I’ve tried starting a MailChimp account to start building my email list, and I’ve played around a little with the Sumo Me app to try to design a splash screen or some other thing to try to encourage signups. So far I haven’t been able to get it to work. I’m hoping to get more guidance at FinCon about how other people are doing this.
There are a lot of other things that other bloggers are doing better, too. Some have webinars that they offer. Some have books or other written products that they sell. These are things I’d like to do in the future, but I don’t really know where to start. I’m hoping to find out more about that at FinCon.
Cost of Attending FinCon
FinCon is not free, unfortunately. I signed up in March, and the ticket itself cost me around $205 on an early bird special with an online coupon code that I found. The conference technically starts Wednesday evening, but to save on the hotel for that night, I’m driving down early Thursday morning instead. I’m staying at a local hotel on Thursday and Friday nights, and I will be driving back home late Saturday evening after the last event, rather than sticking around and paying for a hotel for that last night.
The hotel where the conference is being held was offering a rate of about $160 per night, but parking was another $32 per day on top of that. Instead, I chose to stay at a hotel 2 miles away for $104 per night (incl. tax) with free parking. I should be able to Uber to and from the conference for about $6 each direction. Hotel and transportation to/from conference = $244. At least it’s better than the $450 it would have cost to stay at the conference hotel (approx $353 incl. tax for 2 nights in the hotel + $32 parking x 3 days).
Total cost for hotel and admission: approximately $450. If you add mileage costs from my house to the convention and back, it’s probably really $510. Could be a lot worse, though. At least I don’t have to fly in, and I’m saving those two extra hotel nights, which is huge.
Goals for FinCon
If I’m spending $510, I’ve got to try to get my money’s worth. Here are some goals for FinCon:
- Show up. This sounds simple, but I’m a huge introvert. I have previously signed up for events (like the Mensa convention) and no-showed at the last minute. (My excuse: it was a Mensa convention. Probably half of the people who signed up no-showed, too.) My insurance policy against flaking out this time is that I already know of two other people who are going, and they know that I’m supposed to be going. If I don’t show, they will give me crap about it. Plus, now that I’ve posted about it here, it would be pretty embarrassing to chicken out. You’re part of my accountability now. 🙂
- Learn more about building an email list.
- Learn more about developing a product (ebook, webinar) that I can sell on the site. I don’t expect to become a millionaire based on my earnings from this blog. It would be nice, though, to be able to help people and to develop a reasonable passive income stream from the sale of products over time.
- Make at least 2–3 new, good connections.
- Get fired up about my blog again, which will hopefully give me the energy and motivation to put the new knowledge to work.
This should be achievable, right?
Anyone else going to FinCon?