Have you ever had a hobby that has changed your life? Maybe you've found true happiness or enjoyment in your time, but I would venture to guess that it's not everyday that a hobby can completely alter your life. Despite some recent challenges, blogging has slowly change my life in more ways than none. Today, I thought I would take some time to reflect on what has happened in the past nine months and how I see it going forward.
Beginning to Write
I started out in the beginning of August blogging at my first site: 20's Finances. This was the place that started it all. It started with an honest attempt to provide young adults with quality information that they could trust. We all know there are too many spam sites out there and you never know you can trust. This was only the beginning.
I quickly learned how to write about almost everything. Take any normal activity and I can now write 3-5 blog posts about it. I proved this to my wife when we went out to the Cheesecake Factory. I told her I was getting better at finding topics out of everyday experience and so she tested me. She said, what could you write about this, pointing to the plate in front of her (not the food). Well, I could write about how to view dinnerware as an investment and how it contributes to better business. "Fine," she responded, "how about this or that…" and the conversation continued until I had named numerous different blog topics at her request.
As it turns out, blogging over the past 9 months has dramatically improved my writing. Not only can I write about almost anything, but I can write faster, and my writing style is better. It is more fluid now. In graduate school, I label myself as a "big-picture" kind of guy. The details often bore me and go in one ear and out the other, if I cannot connect them to a larger picture. This is great for my field of study, but horrible for my writing. I would often have great ideas, but the inability to put them on paper in a way that was easy to read. It was like trying to connect lincoln logs with legos, and realizing they just couldn't come together. I had trouble connecting my big ideas. Now, it isn't a problem. Just yesterday, I wrote my last term paper for the semester (all 13.5 pages of it) in basically one day. As I was writing it, I could tell my writing style had improved. It has much better flow than my previous papers.
Building a Business
Believe it or not, I started to make money from my site early on. I consider myself lucky in some aspects, but I also put my heart and soul into building my site. I was committed to networking early on, commenting on 20 sites a day. I was so effective at networking that I had nearly 10,000 pageviews from referral traffic alone. That's right – in my first full month at my own domain (September), I had over 12,000 pageviews and I can tell you that I had horrible SEO (that's the power of commenting). When I started to focus on learning SEO and advertising the next couple months, I was horrified when I saw my pageviews cut in half. I knew I had a lot of work to do.
When I bought my first domain and webhosting account, I was hesitant to invest $110 of my own money into something that I wasn't sure would pay off. Now, I look back and laugh at my hesitancy because I have paid much more than that for websites and have saved a lot of money from my net profit in a high interest savings account. What I didn't realize at the time is that I was building a business. I now make a couple hundred of dollars from my traffic in CPC ads and a couple hundred more from my freelance work. I hope to improve this to make $1,000 of sustainable, guaranteed income throughout the course of this year and I think I can accomplish it if I stay devoted and re-invest my profit.
In less than 9 months, I have turned that $110 initial investment (and hundreds of hours of work) into a business that is worth over $10,000 (if not way more). I am excited to see what I can do with my time and energy over the next couple of years. In two – three years from now, I hope to accomplish my goal of replacing my day job with online income and be able to focus on just that going forward – which is in line with my early retirement plan.
I still have a long ways to go to create a sustainable business, but I now have the blueprint of what I will be working with. I have several sites that have 10k+ (if not 20k+) of pageviews and many more in the works. I am always excited about the potential of my online efforts and I constantly look forward to see if it will pay off.
Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.