One of the funny things with blogging is the delay that happens with everything. Usually blog posts are written ahead of time and scheduled to be posted at a good time for readers, so there’s a delay before the post goes live for the first time. Blogs tend to pick up momentum as they go. The more readers there are, the more referrals that happen, the more links that are made to the blog, the more search engines point new readers to the blog and so on.
In addition to the 4 blogs I’m writing now, I started two other blogs in the past, the second of which I merged with another blogger and wrote on for years. It’s still accessible at http://www.moneysmartsblog.com. The first blog was mostly a diary which I lost interest in fairly quickly. For the second blog, Financial Security Quest, my intention was to detail what I was learning about money management as I went. Since it was mostly a learning exercise to me, I posted without any expectations for what “should” happen.
Surprisingly, there’s quite a vibrant Canadian personal finance blogging community and they quickly started commenting on my posts and mentioning me on their blogs. There was never any intention to network or build links, it was just a big, fun conversation. Over time, after I’d merged blogs with Mike, he became interested in monetizing the site.
I was happy to let him monetize it and give me a cut, but my expectations were that it wasn’t going to amount to anything. It kept growing, and eventually was nice a bit of cash coming in every month. I kept think it would disappear any month when Google adjusted their ranking system and happily sold my half of the blog to Mike when he didn’t want to keep going as 50 / 50 partners. I wrote for him for an extended period for $20 a post until we both moved on to other projects.
Each time I talk to Mike, I expect him to say that the blog isn’t earning anything anymore. Instead, each time he tells me it’s still earning at about the same level as when he stopped updating it. This blew my minds (and still blows my mind). I thought a search engine penalty for the content not being updated would sink the site, but apparently that doesn’t happen.
This makes sense on a number of levels. Google points people towards useful content. It’s absolutely possible that the definitive treatment of some topic was written years ago and hasn’t been updated because it doesn’t need to be. Google isn’t just pointing people towards news stories – it may be pointing people towards a literary analysis of “The Merchant of Venice” which isn’t going to change from day-to-day.
This means that one way to look at developing a blog is that you’re not working for the immediate rewards, but constantly ratcheting the site up towards an indefinite stream of income into the future. I earned $6.64 in August and $12.78 in September from the blogs. From one perspective this is absolutely pitiful: I joke with my wife that I’m making extra-value meal money. I could be writing posts for blogs like my old one for $20 / post and making FAR more than that. The difference is, I believe this money should continue to come in whether I keep writing and promoting the blog or not. $12.78 every month into the future would have a value of $3,834 according to the 4% rule. Even $4k isn’t a great return from 3 months of work on the blogs, but I understand that these are still the early days and that the blogs should all continue to grow.
Humans have a tendency to view everything as a linear growth pattern. If we extrapolate the growth for the first two months, in a linear fashion, it suggests that the blog income will raise by $6.39 / month. If, after a year of doing this, I’m earning $76.68 / month that might be a little bit depressing. If after 5 years it was up to $383.40 / month I might be questioning what I’m doing with my life. The good thing is that blog growth certainly *ISN’T* linear!
Instead, the growth is exponential.
Exponential growth always looks like pitiful linear growth at the beginning. If you look at the figure to the left of this paragraph, imagine how you’d feel at the “now” point. Looking at what you’d accomplished and projecting it out in a linear fashion might be a bit depressing. What you wouldn’t realize is that you’re about to take off.
Comparisons can get you down here as well. If you find out what some other blogger is making and imagine linear growth getting them to that point, it’s easy to think that you’re dramatically under performing and that your site is no good. A better comparison would be to look at their income growth over time, rather than just what it is currently and how you IMAGINE they got there.
I strongly suspect that many bloggers – and other businesses – give up during this ramp up phase. If they’re seeing modest success that’s building on itself, it could be the beginning of exponential growth. The trick to this is to look at the line and be honest with yourself. Is it flat, curving upwards or curving downwards?
If it’s flat (or curving downwards – known as logarithmic), you should probably re-evaluate whether it’s worth your time. If it seems to be curving upwards, it’s probably well worth your time to stay the course and see where it leads you. Mathematical analysis of this isn’t too hard, but you can just chart it and eyeball it easily enough.
I was lucky that I first started blogging not having any intention or expectation of making money at it. This made it easy to just keep writing for its own sake. I think this helped my previous blog grow to the point where it surprised me what it was earning.
What has your experience been like with blogging or building a website? At what point did it feel like a “success”? Did you ever think about quitting?