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How I Make Money Blogging Managing Your Monthly Nut

Growing a Blog – Sorry, It Takes Time

A bunch of you have emailed me over the last 2-3 months asking how to grow your site as fast as humanly possible.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you a super fast solution – growing a site takes time.  But here is how I accelerated Budgeting in the Fun Stuff’s growth spurt and my suggestions for newbie bloggers…

To-Do List for Growing a Blog

1.  Guest Post!!!  If your guest posts kick butt, you will draw in readers.  Plus you’ll grow your reputation with other bloggers AND get more links out there to your site for the search engines to find.  Win-Win-Win!!!

2.  Comment.  You will get a ton of new readers from comments that you leave elsewhere if they are well thought out.  It shows that you want to be part of the community.

3. Post regularly. Blogs grow faster when there is material flowing. I’d suggest a minimum of three times a week for fast growth – I post daily at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and used to post about once a week at How I Make Money Blogging. BFS grew way faster.

4. Submit to blog carnivals. Blog carnivals are basically just lists of good posts that are hosted on a different site each week or month depending on the carnival. You can find lists of carnivals that are available by using any search engine and a few minutes per submission.  I actually outsource the submission process since it’s like $20 a month and saves me a ton of time.  Just email me if you’d like me to connect you to my guy.

5. Join a forum. You can search for forums in your niche simply by typing your main keyword followed by “forum”. For example, you may enter “dog training forum” if your blog is about training your dog.  If you’ve ever attended or are planning to attend the Financial Blogger Conference, you should check out their new forum at http://forum.finconexpo.com/.

6. Don’t be in this for the money. It’s a downer to only make 40 cents in the first couple of months. Have fun with it. If you are having fun, your readers have more fun. I look at my blogs as a solid community and the money-making as a huge bonus. I blog full time, but I always keep in mind that having my own online community to hang out with is my primary motivation to do what I do.

7. Read the very first posts on the most successful blogs in your niche. I attacked the archives of a bunch of highly successful personal finance blogs before I started just so I’d have an idea of what helped them to succeed.

8. Start a subscriber list. Whether you want to build a following to eventually suggest products, make affiliate sales, or you just want to build the largest community possible, you will want a subscriber list. I waited nearly 18 months before asking for anybody interested in extra info about me to sign up for my newsletter. That is a full 18 months that I lost out on an additional method of securing long-term readers. First, you should start with a free list setup somewhere. For example, I currently use MailChimp. Then, as your list grows, you should look into paid options like Aweber so that you can better manage your subscribers.

9.  If your blog is very localized, you can search online for companies that may be able to get your name out to the locals directly.  For example, you could use a place like the Local Direct Network if you were in Australia to send out local marketing.  You can find something like that in pretty much any country.

Within four months of starting BFS, I had solid blog rankings, closed my first six-month ad deal for $450, and I’d scored my first-ever staff-writing gig. These tips absolutely worked for me.

Did I miss anything?

Things That Make a Blog a Blog – A First Step of Blogging

As you can imagine, a blog is a very customized thing.  A person’s site is just as individual as the person running it.   That said, when I first visit a blog, there are certain key elements I expect to see on every single one.  It’s generally how I can tell a personal site from a business site.

What’s Your Name?

You’ll want a header with your blog’s name.  It’s your first impression, so make sure it portrays exactly what you are aiming for.  This may change with time, and that is okay.  I know my normal header and holiday headers are all a little cartoonish and fun.  That may not be great for everybody, but it is what my site is all about.  Find your voice through your header and writing style.

Who Are You?

An “About” page or tab is a must!  If I log onto a site and can’t find some background info to help me get to know you, then I assume it’s a business site and move on.  A good “About Me” page gives just enough info to get me to connect with you without becoming blabby.  It’s a great place to highlight the big points and fit in some personal bits that will help readers like me connect and want to read more.

What Do You Like?

You’ll want a category list and/or an archives page that make your past posts easily accessible.  Readers looking for general categories like debt or budgeting can easily flip through that way.  Or people who want to try to read your stuff from the beginning can find a quick place to start.

How Can We Connect?

Subscription buttons so readers can at least subscribe to your RSS Feed, Twitter account, and/or Facebook account. I use a WordPress plugin called “Subscription Options” to help me place my set on the top of my right sidebar.  If they can subscribe, they can keep in touch with your writing even on the days they don’t have time to stop by like usual.

How Can I Find More?

A search box is a must.  I wrote a whole post about this here – http://howimakemoneyblogging.com/let-me-taste-your-soup-the-importance-of-a-search-box/.  But just know that you must have a search box of some sort.

Legal Stuff

You will need a Privacy Policy, a Disclosure Policy, and a Disclaimer.  You can find easy templates online.  The Privacy Policy and the Disclosure can be in a tab or sidebar link to a page.  The Disclaimer seems to be found directly in sidebars.  You need to let stupid people know that you are not their brain and they should use their own.

If your blog has these basics, it can survive right from the start while you build it up. If you don’t give yourself a “hook” that will catch interested readers, it will be hard to build a following no matter how hard you work.

What else would you consider a blogging basic?

Like the Little Changes? Go On, Take a Look Around…

Hey everybody!  Thanks for noticing the seasonal banners!  I’ll go back to the normal one between holidays, but October-December is my “feeling festive” time of the year.  :-)  Halloween dress-up, Thanksgiving food, and Christmas peacefulness…what’s not to love?!

Back on topic – I’ve spent some hours this week updating BFS and was hoping for some feedback.  Even negative feedback can be used to help this blog stay as awesome as you like it to be.  With that in mind, could you please answer these questions in the comments?

  • First question is the biggest, lol.  Did you even notice any changes this week?  :-)
  • What changes did you like or dislike?
  • Did you quickly notice the “New to BFS?” section in the sidebar?
  • If you read the “New to BFS?” page, should I add anything else?  How would you make it better?
  • Lastly, if you had a day to play with this site, what would you do?

Thanks in advance!  I’m attempting to make this place as welcoming as possible.  :-D

P.S.  You can now sign up to receive these daily BFS posts via email AND/OR the weekly newsletter by clicking here.  There is one signup form for each different email list.  I’ll figure out how to conglomerate them sometime, I’m sure.  :-)

Wow, #FinCon13 was the Best Yet!

I’m going to be a little different this time for my Financial Blogger Conference 2013 breakdown.  Usually I go day by day with everyone I met and what we did.  Very few of you seemed to really care if you weren’t there, because why would you?So this time around, I’ll do a day by day breakdown that also includes blogging lessons learned to help those of you that have a blog or would like to start.  I’ll also do a cost summary so you know what to expect for next year.

Tuesday Evening – Arrival

Like last year, I hung out with my FinCon core group a lot this past week.  It started with Tuesday.  I met Jason from Live Real, Now, Shane from Beating Broke, and Jesse Michelsen at the airport.  We grabbed the Metrolink to the stop near our Hyatt Hotel.  We were all starving, grabbed dinner, headed back, met up with the rest of the early arrivers (like Ashley at Money Talks and Sherrian and Khaleef from KNS Financial), and decided to go to dinner with them too.  Yay for Vietnamese followed by chocolate cake!

Blogger Lesson #1 – Never skip an opportunity to network.  Especially when it only costs you about $5 and you get to eat cake.

Wednesday – Bootcamp Day 1

This is when things really got rolling for me.  I helped plan this Bootcamp, so I had butterflies on how it would turn out.  I did not want to disappoint Phil Taylor, the man behind the conference (PT Money).  His staff, like Jessica and Ryan, worked so hard that I wanted everything to just go off without a hitch.

The St. Louis Arch

Here was the view of the Arch from the Terrace at the Hyatt. It was amazing. The scratches and stuff are on the window…so just imagine it all clear. :-)

IT WAS FANTASTIC!  The sessions went well, the side discussions went well, the site teardowns and suggestion groups went well…it just all worked!  Veteran bloggers answered the more advanced questions, all of the bloggers helped and learned from each other in whatever area they chose to be, and we got some very helpful feedback for next year!

At the end of the day, we headed to karaoke.  Let me just say that karaoke rocked!  Just please try to picture JD Roth and Kraig singing “Thrift Shop” with me, or Jason from LRN tackling songs about the human anatomy and “The Asshole Song”.  Oh, and a bunch of people really enjoyed watching me do “Amish Paradise” – it’s been a while but I still remembered 75% of it.  :-)  It was a hilarious night and will be logged away in my head forever!!!

By the end of the night, about 20 different people had sung a total of more than 40 songs.  It was a very memorable night.  Here’s my official shout out to Tom at the Canadian Finance Blog and Phil Taylor – Tom brought the karaoke paraphernalia and Phil sponsored the event himself.  We would not have been able to rock out without those two!

I think my roommate that night, Kim at Eyes on the Dollar, only had to even see me for about 5 hours while we shared the room for one day.

Blogger Lesson #2 – In one of the sessions, I learned that broken backlinks and bogus redirects can kill your site with search engine rankings.  I am in the midst of installing a Broken Link Checker plugin so I can perform a proper check of my site.

Blogger Lesson #3 – I need to install Yoast to help me with post search engine optimization (SEO).

Blogger Lesson #4 – 15-30 minutes brain storming with other bloggers that just want to help can help you more than hours and hours and hours trying to figure things out on your own. 

Thursday – Bootcamp Ends and FinCon13 Started

Thursday morning through lunch, we finished up the Bootcamp.  We used the feedback from the day before to actually revamp the schedule and give way more time to teardowns and small discussion groups.  It finished just as good as it started.  :-)

Thursday afternoon was spent practicing for hosting for the Plutus Awards (Jason and I were presenting three awards).  The ceremony was outrageously cool – very fancy, posh, and humorous as usual.  Our one-liners while we were on stage got a few laughs, which made us extremely proud.  Jason successfully humorously zinged every Canadian with “America’s Little Brother Award” (aka, the Canadian Blogger Award), I poked at the winning retirement blogger with a walker joke, and we played off the “secret” part of the “Best Kept Secret” award.

Thursday evening was going to be spent at a bar for the Plutus After Party, but we just used our free drink tickets and escaped from the loud.  It was so loud!  We ended up enjoying a very cool dinner including Duck Fat Fries down the street.

I got to know my core group and Alex Conde from the TSI Network way better.  It was truly fun.  Then we ended up in the hotel lobby as usual – hanging out until the wee hours of the morning.

I accidentally woke up my new roommate, Barbara at Upside of Money, when I went to bed that night.  I pretty much accidentally woke her up every night for the rest of the conference.  Lucky for me, she is the only person I have ever met that actually gets her sleep disturbed and wakes up alert and perky!  Some of our best conversations happened at 3am…

Blogger Lesson #5 – A little practice and a sense of humor will go a long way.

Friday – FinCon13 Day 2

With Bootcamp and the Plutus Awards all done, I was done with my FinCon responsibilities.  I let my hair down, met as many people as I could, made it to a grand total of two sessions, and generally just hung out.  I visited all of the sponsors booths that afternoon during the Expo and then we attended the Ignite FinCon event in the evening.  It was best to travel in groups, so we walked back about halfway through.

Ignite FinCon was fun, but we had an even better time when we got back and bumped into Joe from Stacking Benjamins (remember my podcast last week – How Do You Break Out From the 9 – 5 Grind?).  Joe, Len Penzo, his wife Mia, Jason, Ashley, Travis, Vonnie, Luke (Consumerism Commentary), and me (plus and minus others as they popped up and left), had a grand ol’ time playing Cards Against Humanity for hours!  It made me laugh several times until my sides hurt.  That was a true highlight.

Blogger Lesson #6 – Keep your eye out for opportunities.  You can leave one thing and find another if you keep a lookout.

Jesse at Ignite FinCon 2013

Jesse either lost a bet or was trying to complete a dare with that sweater…no, for real. He borrowed it for one of those reasons…

Saturday – FinCon13 Day 3

Saturday was my last real day to network.  I did my best to meet absolutely everybody I could, and I know that I probably still missed about half of the attendees.  I attended a few sessions (shout outs to Jeff Rose and Marie at Family Money Values)!  I also watched a very male chin up competition that inspired a female push-up competition a few hours later.  Yep, that’s me in light blue below.

Pushups

Mary Beth at Workable Wealth and I joined in on a friendly push up competition after Derek left the stage Saturday afternoon. I only got to 26 before getting pooped out, but Mary Beth made it to 27. :-D

 

At the end of the day, we listened to the closing key note speaker, Derek Halpern from Social Triggers.  I learned a bunch about blogging psychology and he even used a few tips on us as an audience that he was suggesting as he went – savvy, smart, and subtle.  Pretty cool.  He sponsored an open bar after party that evening that I enjoyed tremendously as well.  Got to really talk to Teresa Mears, Donna Freedman, and Maggie at Square Pennies.

Between Derek’s talk and the party, I grabbed dinner with Joe Taxpayer.  This is the second FinCon that I really got to know him – I think he is a cool cat.  Realistic, optimistic, and genuinely kind.  I headed back from dinner to go to the party.  After the party, I hung out in the lobby for hours again.

Blogger Lesson #7 – Guest post.  And when you forget that lesson, start again.

Blogger Lesson #8 – Systems (like templates for general replies to emails) can save you a ton of time.

Blogger Lesson #9 – Friends kick butt.

Blogger Lesson #10 – Give value to your readers.

Blogger Lesson #11 – Listen more than you talk.  I suck at this one.

Our FinCon Crew

From left to right: Shane, Jesse, Me, Khaleef, Ashley, Jason, and Sherrian. We were missing Suba, but maybe next year! Thank you guys for being my blogging buddies!!!

Sunday – FinCon13 Day 4

Sunday is always a dead day at FinCon.  I woke up late, grabbed some breakfast, and got packed to go.  Then I hung out in the lobby even more with the core group and got to know a blogger named Thursday at Hyper Modern Consulting that fit right in.  Thursday, Amanda from Frugal Confessions, and I even talked about having kids.  It was deep.  :-)

On the way back to the airport, I started talking to someone else I didn’t know well already too.  Here’s a big hi to Joel from Save Outside the Box.  I really enjoyed our chat!  Had lunch before our flights left with Shane and Sandy from Yes, I Am Cheap (heya!).  Also, a big hi to Derek at Free At 33 and Mandy from Money Master Mom.  Thanks for chatting with me before my flight – I learned a lot!

Blogger Lesson #12 – Communicate outside of your comfort zone.  You could be making a new friend.

Cost Summary

  • Ticket to FinCon13 – $0 for helping to organize the Bootcamp (regularly $99 – $150 depending on the time you buy)
  • Ticket to FinCon13 Bootcamp – $0 for helping ($99 normally)
  • Hotel – $0 for helping (ran $135 with taxes per night or you could split it with a roommate)
  • Plane Ticket – $347.00
  • Food – $87.21
  • Transportation (Metrolink and Taxis) – $20.00
  • Tips – $15.00
  • Total = $469.71 (would have been around $1000 if I hadn’t had anything comped and shared a room)

Hope you enjoyed this run through and the blogger lessons!  Did you attend?  Anything to add?

Packing for the Financial Blogger Conference (or Any Conference)

I am typing this up at 1am Sunday morning.  I don’t leave for the Financial Blogger Conference 2013 (FinCon13) until Tuesday morning, but I am already too pumped to sleep!  That is pretty bad.  I keep thinking of the last two, and the fact that I am actually helping with this one via helping with the Bootcamp and announcing a few Plutus Awards.  Here were the recaps of the last two conferences:

Anyway, since it is on my mind, I figured I could at least share my packing list.  Oh, and keep in mind, this is all coming with me on the plane in one rolling carry-on and a laptop case.

Conference Specific Items

  • Business Cards!!!  I usually end up handing out and receiving business cards from 50-100 people minimum!  I take about 250 with me.
  • BFS Tote Bag – I actually had a tote made with the BFS logo on it for the first FinCon and use it exclusively every year to carry around everything.
  • BFS Necklace – Yep, I am that geeky.  I have a resin necklace with my logo, hahaha.
  • Cough drops – I talk so much that these are just preventative, they’re necessary.
  • Printed Versions of my eBooks (10 each) – I am selling “How I Make Money Blogging” ($15) and “Managing Your Monthly Nut” ($10) in print at the conference.  If I sell out miraculously, I’ll keep taking orders and get the books shipped out over November.

Regular Trip Stuff – Clothes

Please keep in mind that most of my clothes (other than jeans and my sweatshirt) are made of thin, light materials that are wrinkle-resistant.  That helps with packing tremendously.

  • Jacket – I live in Houston where it is 80-90 degrees right now.  FinCon13 is in St. Louis and the forecast says it will be 42-66 degrees this week.  That’s frickin’ freezing for me.  I’ll have to wear this on the plane rides.
  • Fuzzy socks – see above.
  • Sweat shirt/sweater – Just one that I can put on over my blouses and under my leather jacket if I am completely freezing regularly.
  • Tennis shoes – 1 pair for daytime wear and to keep my feet warm.
  • Regular socks – 5-6 pairs.
  • Nice shoes – 1 pair.  I learned from last year that I need tennis shoes (not sandals) and a nice set of black shoes that are comfortable and will go with my classier outfits.  That’s it.
  • Underwear (duh)
  • Bras (double duh)
  • Jeans – 2-3 pairs to use during the days.
  • Slacks – 1-2 pairs for days or nights when I want to look dressier without going all out.
  • Blouses/shirts – 5-6 to go with jeans during the day or slacks/skirts at night.
  • Dresses/Skirts – 2-3 for the nice events like the Plutus Awards and evenings out with other bloggers.
  • Hose
  • Pajamas

Regular Trip Stuff – Electronics

All of this will fit in my laptop case for sure.

  • Laptop
  • Laptop Charger
  • Plug-in Mouse
  • Cell Phone
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • Cell Phone Backup Batteries
  • AAA Batteries for Mouse
  • iPod if it worked anymore – My iPod Nano from 2009 seems to be dead.  It won’t hold a charge at all anymore.

Regular Trip Stuff – Extras

  • PLANE TICKET
  • DRIVER’S LICENSE
  • HOTEL INFO
  • Credit cards
  • Cash
  • Insurance card
  • Travel wallet for everything above.
  • CHAPSTICK – I live with 70-95% humidity as the norm.  The rest of the world is too dang dry for me.
  • Glasses and contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup
  • Hair stuff (comb and the hair cream I use to try to tame issues)
  • Sunscreen
  • Lotion
  • Medicines for stomach problems or allergies.
  • I’ll use the hotel’s shampoo and soap (yay for short hair!)
  • Nice but inexpensive jewelry set for my dressy outfits.
  • Book for the plane (will be in my laptop case).

Whew!  I think that is about it.  I am hoping this all fits into my bag like usual and that I still have room for some swag that we get at conferences.  It worked out the last two years.  We’ll see.  Worst case, I have to check my bag in on the way back for $25 and carry my tote instead of repacking it with everything else.

Did I forget anything?  What are you packing for conferences?

Have a Personal Blog? Want to Guest Post? Need Them by Sunday Night!

Hi everybody! I’m leaving for The Financial Blogger Conference on Tuesday and won’t be back until Sunday night!  Help!

Guest Bloggers Please!

If you have a blog, a personal blog that isn’t spammy or all commercial, please send over a personal story for a guest post! Here are the very general guidelines that may help:

1) Be a Blogger or a Reader – If you are a fellow blogger or a regular reader, please continue reading the remaining points, thanks! If you are a guest posting on behalf of a business site (any site whose main purpose is to sell a product or service), email me since we’ll need to discuss a different set of requirements.

2) Any financial or fun topic – This is a very eclectic site. The more personal, the more responses you will get though.

3) Original content – All guest posts need to be written by you and not previously published at any other site. Once it posts at BFS, please wait at least 3 months before publishing it on your own site, thanks! Neither one of us wants to get dinged for duplicate content issues, right?

4) Edited – I do not mind doing minor edits but if a post has too many problems, I do not have the time to do it, sorry. :-(

5) Minimal links – I will gladly link to your site in the intro (in fact, include your own 2-3 sentence intro with your link please!), but please keep other links to a minimum in the actual post unless they are truly useful to the readers. I don’t mind useful links, but I am not your personal link warehouse. :-)

6) Participate – I will tell you exactly when your post is scheduled to go up, so please check in to answer reader questions and comments at least once at the end of that day. It’s more fun for everyone that way, right? :-)

I appreciate everyone’s participation! Please email all guests posts or ideas to budgetingfunstuff *at* gmail *dot* com. Thanks!!!

*Image from http://blog.directorymaximizer.com/2013/01/17/pros-cons-of-accepting-guest-posts-on-your-website/

You Can Comment Again :-)

You may have noticed some issues with BFS over the last 2 days – the server has been going down on and off.  It should be back up and stable now.  That means that if you were getting error messages when you tried to comment, it should be good to go now.  :-)  Sorry for the inconvenience!!!