This is a continuation of my previous post, Want to Start a Personal Finance Blog? In this post, I’ll talk more about what is required in terms of time, expenses, and how much money I’ve made blogging so far.
How Much Time I’ve Spent Blogging
Getting the Blog Started
Getting the blog up and running took a significant amount of time. Buying the domain name and signing up with a web host took just a few minutes, but there’s a lot of related work both before and after that. Choosing a domain name, for example. What do you want the title of your blog to be? Once you’ve jumped in and you’re promoting a blog, it’s really hard to change names later, because you could lose some or all of the goodwill you’ve built up online. It’s worth it to put at least an hour of thought into your domain name.
After that, plan on spending several hours browsing for WordPress themes to see if you can find one you like. I started on a free theme, which I still think was a good idea. They don’t offer as many customizable features as paid themes, and there is usually very little in the way of tech support for a free theme, but it’s a good way to get off the ground without overspending. Also, it’s good practice for learning how to set up your blog, and testing out layouts and colors and all sorts of other things without entirely starting from scratch.
My first theme was the Shamrock theme by Meks, which I still really dig the look of. It has a lot of functionality and a clean look. I spent many, many hours trying to fine-tune it to make it how I liked it. A few months later, I finally changed to my current paid theme, Avada by Theme Fusion. I like Avada, but I’m still undecided as to whether it’s better than Shamrock. The reason I changed is because I was having technical difficulties with Shamrock. For some reason, I couldn’t get replies to comments to nest properly under the comment that they were replying to. Instead, each reply was showing up as a new comment at the bottom of the list. I tried to figure out the issue, but without tech support, I got stuck. I figured it was a limitation of the free theme, so I finally decided to switch to a paid theme.
On a Friday night after work, I bought the new theme, adapted my blog to it, and customized the Avada features so I was more or less happy with the overall look of the blog. It took about 8 hours from 7 pm to 3 am the next morning. I finally decided it was good enough and went to bed, because it was tax season and I had to be up and working again on taxes just a few hours later. And guess what? After I finished doing all that, I STILL had the problem of the comments not nesting properly. A lot of bad words were said.
After monkeying around with plugins, I disabled the Jetpack plugin and discovered that the comments were now working perfectly. Great. I was then able to pinpoint a setting within Jetpack where it was controlling something (god knows what) with the comments. I disabled just that setting, reactivated the plugin, and the comments worked perfectly. Just for kicks (or to torture myself), I reverted back to the Shamrock theme to test the comments. They were nesting just fine after the Jetpack fix. So I spent $61 on a new theme and wasted 8 hours of my time for a problem that was caused by a stupid little setting on a plugin. Aaaaaagh!
Anyway, I won’t tell you about all of the stupid things I’ve done or the lessons I’ve learned in the process, because this simple post would turn into a 100,000-word reference guide. Suffice it to say, you should expect to spend a significant amount of time getting your blog up and running and to a point where you like the look of it and the functionality all does what it’s supposed to do. Your time investment may vary, depending on how adept you are at technology and how picky you are about the look and functionality of your blog.
Average Time Spent During Setup, and Transitioning to a More “Normal” Routine
In the first 2–3 weeks of my blog (November 2015), I probably spent about 40 hours per week working on the blog (all nights and weekends). For the next month, it probably tapered to 30 hours per week, then about 20-25 hours per week through January.
Tax season started in January, which means that in addition to my full time attorney job, most of my Saturdays were eaten up by doing tax work. In addition, our apartment building was about to close escrow, and I was really busy trying to find a new investment property to buy with the proceeds of the sale. I placed an offer on a property which was accepted, and then I had to do the property inspection, the due diligence, and creating/signing all of the transaction paperwork (including drafting the promissory note and the deed of trust for the loan money that I borrowed from another family business) in late January and early February. I was so swamped.
I made the decision at the end of January to cut down on posting from 3 times per week to 2 times per week. That reduced my time invested in the blog from about 20-25 hours per week to about 15-20 hours per week. It takes me about 4-6 hours to research and write each post. I’ve tried to cut the time down and to cut the post length down, but it’s been a huge struggle, and has largely been unsuccessful. I will continue to work on that.
If you are trying to budget your time for starting a new blog, I would plan to spend 40 hours for the first 3–4 weeks, 30 hours for the next 4 weeks, then maybe down to 25 hours for the next 4 weeks, then maybe down to 20 hours after that. That includes reading about how to program websites, reading (briefly) and commenting on other blogs, setting up a Twitter account and paying just barely enough attention to it, and setting up a Pinterest account and paying zero attention to it (sorry, Pinterest folks). I don’t include time spent listening to blogging/finance podcasts in the car, because I’m driving anyway, so there’s no additional time commitment.
You could spend less time per week and just have a slower blog roll-out, or you could potentially cram more work into a shorter period of time and have a faster ramp-up. You could also do more than I have in certain areas, or less in other areas. For example, I am focusing more on content creation at this point than I am on social media and promotion. I will need to put more effort in on that later, but right now, I am just maxed out on the time I can devote to the blog, so something’s gotta give, and that’s the something. I think content creation is more important at this stage of the blog, anyway. Once I’ve got a year’s worth of posts under my belt, I will look less silly rotating the promotion of the posts through Buffer.
Total (approximate) time spent in 23 weeks of blogging (on this site) = about 600 hours.
How Much Traffic I Get
Not a ton, to be perfectly honest. I’ll put the numbers below. Some of them included my own pageviews as I was testing and creating the website.
November 2015 (starting Nov. 9) – 258 visits and 908 pageviews
December 2015 – 230 visits and 880 pageviews
January 2016 – 599 visits and 1,600 pageviews
February 2016 – 559 visits and 2,944 pageviews
March 2016 – 550 visits and 2,469 pageviews
past 30 days (part April, part March) – 594 visits and 2,887 pageviews.
I had a bit of a boost from the beginning because I did some guest posting on the No Nonsense Landlord‘s blog just prior to my blog’s launch. By the way, Eric, who runs that blog, is an absolute gem of a person. He is so kind, and helped me out a TON as I was first starting out. I am ever so grateful for the tips he gave me over the phone, and for his little nudges along the way, like when he told me I was required to set up a Twitter account. 🙂 OK, he didn’t quite put it like that, but close.
I got another big boost in January 2016 because I posted my income and net worth recap for 2015 and submitted it to Rockstar Finance for inclusion in the Blogger Net Worths list (also at Eric’s suggestion). That led to a lot of referral traffic, especially because I was listed as “NEW!” for a while. The newness wore off, and traffic from Rockstar Finance dropped by 75 sessions from February to March, but my total number of sessions only dropped 40 visits, so I was picking up 35 new sessions organically. Between February and March, Rockstar traffic declined by another 45 sessions, but I only lost 9 sessions overall that month, so I must have picked up another 36 sessions organically in March.
Also, in February, I had a little positive blip (about 15 sessions) because I was quoted and included in the Reach Financial Independence blog, which was picked up by the Huffington Post. I’ve only had 5 referrals from those posts since March 1, so they’re not a major factor in my stats.
Anyway, I could go all day analyzing Google Analytics, but that’s enough. The point is that now, about five months in, those are the traffic numbers I’m getting, which is many multiples less than the big guys. But I am seeing some positive momentum, especially after isolating the impact of the Rockstar Finance post and the Reach Financial Independence/Huffington Post mentions.
How Much Money I’ve Made Blogging
Fasten your seatbelts: as of April 13, 2015, I have made a whopping $11.58 from AdSense, a big fat goose egg as an Amazon affiliate, and 95.80 (net of Paypal fees) for other affiliate/sponsored post income. Total = $107.38.
How Much I’ve Spent
Logo design – $200.00 (No, I did not use Fiverr, I used a real graphic artist)
Bluehost – $142.20 on basic hosting – 3 years @ $3.95/mo.
Bluehost – $180.00 on upgrade to cloud hosting – 3 years @ $8.95/mo.
Bluehost refund (prorated) on switchover to MDD hosting – <$281.31>
MDD hosting – $37.52 for basic hosting for 1 year (discounted)
Avada theme – $61.00
Total = $339.41
Income / Expense Recap and Hourly Rate
Overall, I’m $232.03 in the red so far, but I do have a year’s worth of hosting paid in advance, so there’s still time to bring the numbers into the black before the renewal comes up. I don’t foresee any other expenses in the near future apart from attending FinCon16 in September (which I will count as an expense when the time gets closer).
Excluding expenses, at 600 hours of work and $107.38 total, I’ve made 17.8 cents per hour. If you factor in expenses, I’ve been earning negative 38.6 cents per hour. If I can bring my blog income into the black by my one year anniversary (November 9, 2016), I’ll be pretty happy about it.