I’m pretty sure I haven’t mentioned that Six Figures Under was not my first blog. I don’t talk much about my first attempt at blogging. Why? Because it was a failure. A complete flop! I pretty much did everything wrong.
As embarrassing as it is to look back at failures, those mistakes can teach valuable lessons. William Whewell said, “Every failure is a step to success.” That’s how I would describe my experience with blogging. What I learned from my failed blog has helped me succeed with my current blog.
Before I get into the reasons why my first blog failed and what it taught me, let me give you a little background.
My First (Failed) Blog
In the fall of 2008, we moved across the country for my husband to start law school. For the first time in our married life we were without an income and were about to sign up for our first debt (which added up to six figures of student loan debt in four short years). I stayed home with our baby and found ways to be as frugal as possible. I was fairly new to using coupons, but I picked up on it quickly and was able to really stretch our budget. Like anyone who gets a great deal, I was eager to tell everyone about it.
I quickly grew a great circle of friends, mostly other stay-at-home moms whose husbands were in law school. Between those friends and other friends at church, it seemed like I was always telling people about (or being asked about) all the awesome deals I was getting. Everyone wanted to be “in the know” about the awesome deals I got on everything from cereal to diapers to free photo prints.
Initially I just started a simple email list (just a group of contacts within my regular email) where I would let friends know when I found a good deal. I figured writing a blog wouldn’t be much more work and then I could share the deals even with people I didn’t know. So I hopped on blogger.com and started up a blog.
While I knew that I could earn an income from blogging (I had been reading MoneySavingMom.com for about a year at that point), I had very little understanding of the different ways you could monetize a blog. When I transferred from an email list to a blog, I signed up for Google Adsense ads and included a coupon printing widget. Together, they probably earned me ten bucks, but I never saw it, because the payout threshold was ten times that.
Within 5 months, I stopped posting on my blog. Having a toddler and being pregnant, it was all I could do to get to the store and get the deals, let alone write about it. After about 60 posts, I abandoned the blog.
My Current Blog
Fast forward four and a half years. I gave blogging another try. And guess what!? It works! I’m two and a half years in, still enjoying myself, and making a healthy part-time income which will hopefully grow to a full-time income this year.
So what was different this time? How is it that now, with four kids instead of one, I can run a successful growing blog when my other blog was a flop? I think it boils down to two major differences: passion and education.
While I was excited about posting deals and couponing know-how, I wasn’t really passionate about it. In fact, it got old quickly. Frugality and finance, on the other hand, is something I will not get tired of. I’m very passionate about getting our finances in order, and I love helping others make financial progress as well.
I had five reasons for starting a blog. To put it simply I wanted to:
- Document our debt repayment progress
- Keep ourselves motivated and accountable
- Share money-saving and budgeting tips, ideas, and tutorials
- Motivate others in similar situations
- Eventually make money.
Because my passion went far beyond making money, I was able to stay the course and “work for free” even when I wasn’t making money.
Right when I started SixFiguresUnder.com, I read How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup. Having guidance from someone who had built a really successful blog (and not just a blog about blogging) helped me to get off on the right foot.
A year later I enrolled in Elite Blog Academy. It was the largest single amount I’ve spent on my blog to date, but it has paid for itself over and over again. While there are loads of blog posts and tutorials about blogging available online, there is serious value in having a step-by-step course that helps you focus in a methodical way.
Elite Blog Academy only opens for registration once or twice a year. I recommend signing up for the waiting list here so that you’ll know when it opens. In the meantime, you’ll get some really helpful emails and resources (seriously valuable tips and info in her emails).
Don’t Make My Mistakes
Here are some tips to avoid the mistakes that I made with my first blog.
Believe that you can be successful!
While I knew it was possible to earn money blogging, I don’t think I really believed that I could earn money blogging. I always felt like I was already so behind when I compared myself with established bloggers. I thought the market was saturated at the time (which is laughable now, as the blogging world has exploded since then).
There is only one you! While there may be thousands of other blogs out there, none of them have your perspective and your voice. There is always a market for great content.
Blog about something you are passionate about.
You need to choose a blog topic that you can write about forever! Don’t choose a limited scope or something that you’re only mildly interested in. You will likely be writing about the topic for six months to a year or longer before you’re making much money. Plus, your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) will come through in your writing. If money is your only motivation, you will likely give up before you make any.
Get a self-hosted site.
On my first attempt, I got a free blog on with blogger.com and made a rudimentary header and sidebar. It really was basic. I didn’t realize that to really make money you need to be self-hosted. I was way too cheap to spend money on something when there was a free option available.
Thankfully the second time around I learned how to set up a self-hosted site. It didn’t cost as much as I thought it would! I made a tutorial to show you exactly how I set up this site, so you can set your own site set up.
Commit to at least six months.
An important factor in blogging success is time. While there are a few overnight success stories, they are by far the exception, not the rule. You have to be willing to stick around for the long haul. Make yourself stick to it for at least six months. Giving up before that doesn’t allow enough time to grow enough to see any return.
Start tracking your expenses and income now.
Even if you aren’t making money yet, you should still be tracking your expenses. Otherwise, how will you know when you turn a profit? I use Blog Finance Spreadsheets to keep track of all my income and expense details. Not only does it keep everything organized and categorized for tax time, you can track your growth and see helpful graphs and tables.
Make education and training a priority.
While I knew that I could earn money blogging, I had no concrete idea how to do it. I had no idea how to grow traffic, leverage social media, or effectively earn an income. What’s worse is I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I didn’t spend any time or effort trying to learn or research anything. In my defense, blogging wasn’t really a career path then. It still isn’t a “normal” job, but the internet is loaded with blog posts, ebooks, tutorials, and courses about how to blog for profit.
The best investment I made in my current blog was signing up for Elite Blog Academy. I bought the course after I had been blogging for just under a year. It’s kind of pricey for a frugal gal like me, but if you are committed to making money blogging, the investment is well-worth it! Enrollment only opens once or twice a year. If you want to be notified when Elite Blog Academy opens, you can sign up here.
Start growing an email list now
When readers like what they’re learning and gaining from your site, they will happily opt in to hear more from you. Once they leave your site they may be lost forever, but if you have their email, you can contact them whenever you want. Tell them about your recent posts. Let them know when you’re launching a product. While you might now have the money to spend on Convertkit (that’s what I use) right out of the gate, you can start out with something like Constant Contact that has a free trial period then moves into reasonable rates.
Though my first blog was definitely a failure, both in staying power and earning power, I like to look at it as a stepping stone to success. I’m glad that I made the mistakes that I did back then, so that I could avoid making them the next time around.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
How About You?
- Have you had blog or business failures that turned into successes after you learned from your mistakes?