Staying Sane In An Insane (Blogging) World

I started this blog in the fall of 2008. At the time, there were already hundreds of personal finance blogs out there, but I didn’t care. I wanted to add my voice to the Internet and I wanted to write about money, so I just dove right in. Some months I posted just once or twice, some months I posted a dozen times. I had no schedule, not editorial calendar, no social media accounts. It was a simpler time.

Over the years, my blog has grown a little bit. I’m now on a self-hosted WordPress site (thanks Andrea!). I’m on various forms of social media. I went to FINCON12. I make a small amount of money from my blog. In other words, things are a little different than they used to be.

But I’ve managed to keep blogging’s place in my life in perspective, despite the temptations that are out there: blogging is a hobby, I do it because it makes me happy, and if it ever ceases to make me happy, I’ll stop. I’ve seen a number of bloggers over the years get really bogged down by numbers and stats and the chasing of advertising dollars – and many have ultimately quit blogging because the pressure got to be too much. This is a shame, at least to me: I firmly believe that the more voices that are out there in the personal finance community, the better. It always sucks to see a blogger quit, but it especially sucks when she quits because she feels she doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard of “quality” (which usually means that she doesn’t get as many pageviews a day as she feels she “should”).

I’ve had the topic for this post rolling around in my head for weeks, but in light of recent events, it seems especially appropriate to discuss this now. The following are my tips for staying sane in a world – blogging – that can quickly become insane if you let it:

  • Post only when you actually have something to say; don’t post for the sake of posting
  • Blog about something that confers a secondary benefit on your life, beyond the blog itself. This is why personal finance blogging is perfect for me – I get to write, which is fun, but blogging about money also keeps me financially accountable. It’s a win-win. 
  • Only engage in forms of social media that you actually enjoy using
  • Don’t accept advertisements for products that run contrary to the message and content of your blog
  • Don’t use obsess over your numbers unless you’re genuinely interested in tracking numbers. To me, this makes blogging way less fun – I don’t even use Analytics
  • Don’t monitor your pageviews
  • Establish actual relationships with other bloggers – don’t just become “friends” with other bloggers because you think they can help you grow your blog
  • Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers – you never know how “successful” or “big” someone’s blog actually is…or what the blogger has had to sacrifice to build her blog

Of course, if your goal is to make money from your blog, you should ignore absolutely everything on the list above :) And, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with making money from your blog, or to have building an income-generating blog as a goal on your horizon. But turning a blog into a business comes with the stress, competitiveness, and disappointments that starting any other business entails. Bloggers who make real money from their sites are doing a lot more than just writing. Evaluate what you want from your blog, and think about what you’re willing to give up to build a big (or even big-ish) blog. And remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong with blogging just for fun.

In fact, I’d recommend it.

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Staying Sane In An Insane (Blogging) World — 13 Comments

  1. I think I tend to look at blogging in much the same way that you do – the profits of having a personal finance blog are largely due to savings that happen from an increased focus on your own personal finances.

    The only bullet where I’m a bit of a contrarian is with analytics. I’m a numbers geek, so get a kick out of them. There seem to be posts that get read a lot and posts that generate a large number of comments. Analytics shows that those are often two different type of posts. Which is interesting to me and helpful if we feel like we want to provoke discussion. =)

    • Yes, I agree that if you genuinely like look at numbers and tracking post popularity, you should go for it. Personally, that sucks the fun out of blogging for me. I have to look at data a lot at work and I HATE IT, so it would make me miserable to do so with my blog.

  2. Love love love this post. I’m all for blogging for yourself and what you want to blog about. I hate when people make fun of other bloggers or criticize just because they want to have a goals post or something like that.

  3. Great article! I agree with you that it can get out of hand very quickly. I almost got to that place myself..obsessing about numbers…making sure I was busting my butt trying to interact with everyone. But I quickly got a grip. I did have a great Feb as far as advertising, which is the first month I had a page rank, but I also knew I didn’t want to put that much energy into making everything grow so much. If it happens organically, great. If not, I will have stayed true to myself.

  4. I consciously decided not to run ads when I rebranded my site. I want it to be fun for me and I think worry about it as an income would take that away. As a spreadsheet junkie I do like measuring web traffic but I could care less about pagerank. Since my paycheck-job is web-related I try very hard not to have them overlap because I want blogging to stay a hobby.

  5. Cliche as it sounds, I really do think authenticity is key in blogging ( and that underpins most of the things you say here.

    I struggle with the money aspect. There are some who make a full time income off (relatively) part time blogging! And it’s kind of like, why can’t I have a piece of that too! But I’ve turned down money because it’s for stuff that just doesn’t mesh with what I’m about and selling out is the start of a slippery slope.

    But like Leslie, I work in digital (I run a website) and so it can be a bit much at times with blogging as a hobby as well, so I don’t really focus too much on that.

    • Yes, there are a lot of temptations out there! I’ve turned down several offers for ads/guest posts from companies that were willing to pay a lot, but whose services or products I couldn’t, in good conscience, promote.

      It hurts every time, though!

  6. I loved this post! I really do just post when I feel like it and based on what is happening with my life. Sure, earning money would be a nice benefit that I could get out of my blog but it’s not a big focus for me at the moment. So I may not have an Alexa ranking of below 200K but that’s fine with me.

  7. Great post. Like @eemusings, I struggle with the money aspect. I’ve been a business owner selling my own creative work for 20 years now, so I think I probably have a fairly pragmatic attitude towards accepting money/goods. I have no objection to being paid or to receiving products or compensation for review (as long as no one tries to buy my voice), but I honestly don’t see myself earning a living off of my blog. Right now I don’t earn anything and I’m cool with that. It’s a fun outlet and nothing more.

  8. I practice all the points you’ve listed and the “size” of my blog reflects that. While, like eemusings, I sure wouldn’t mind getting a bit of income in return for the time I (voluntarily and willingly) put into the blog, it’s not worth giving up my relative freedoms to do it. A shame it’s so zero-sum in that respect :)

  9. I love how you mentioned how variable your schedule is–mine is the same way; always has been and might always be that way in the future! I do run some guest posts, but I’ve found that I’m much happier (and my readers much more receptive) when I wait to post something I’m really interested in writing about as opposed to writing just to write…

  10. This was great! The links you provided, too, were quite entertaining, lol. I had a hard time getting started with blogging. I started one mostly because I wanted to drive traffic to my website and try to find a way to make money off of it and get lots of subscribers, etc etc. But That was one of the least fun things I’ve ever done. It was stressful, boring at times and just too much work. I finally deleted that blog and took a step back and thought about why I wanted to blog. After a considerable amount of time, I finally started up the one I have now, and I’m using it more as a diary, since I don’t write in my journal anymore. I don’t really have a ‘theme’ yet, I suppose, but so far I talk about what’s on my mind, which has been mostly entrepreneurialism (whoa, that was a long word). And that has been WAY more fun! I love the tips you gave about staying sane and I can guarantee I will be following every one of them. :)

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