7 Reflections On My First Year Blogging // A Peek Behind The Curtain

Exactly one year ago today, I hit “Publish” on my first post.

My purpose for this blog was simple: I just wanted to write.

I set my expectations low. It would have been okay if no one read the words I wrote. In fact, at first I didn’t share my content in any way. I waited five months before joining any social platforms, and even then I didn’t expect anyone to follow me. I had no idea what was in store for me.

I certainly didn’t expect that strangers would reach out to ask to meet up, or that thousands of people would read what I wrote.

Now an entire year has gone by, rumbling past like a freight train. It was a loud year, a shuddering, clanking whirlwind charging by. In its wake, I am dazed and my ears are ringing.

So in honor of this blog’s first birthday, let’s get into the details. We will touch on the milestones, the crazy days, some stats, and a Q&A.

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Milestones

Most Views

I signed up for Twitter in October. I had never used it before, so I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. One day, a ton of paddle boarders dressed as witches floated past me on my daily walk, and I took a quick snap.

A day later, my phone almost buzzed off of the table. The tweet had been picked up by the news syndicate The Skimm, and on October 30th my baby blog was inundated with people peeking into its crib. Unfortunately, none of them thought it cute enough to stick around, but it was a fun rush to go semi-viral for a day. I am still trying to catch up to that record number of views months later!

Most Viewed Post

7 Reasons You Need to Stop Riding Your Bike To Work

I received a lot of rage clicks for this one, and a lot of people missed that it was satire. However, I think the amount of shares shows that it was appreciated after all. I guess this means I have to keep trying to be funny.

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts:

7 Reasons You Need to Stop Riding Your Bike To Work

How I Spend $108 A Month on Groceries and Eat Like A King

4 Busted Myths About Women and Money

How I Became a Software Engineer Without a CS Degree

Why We Plan To Downsize From 1,000 sq ft 

The Hardest Post To Write

Confessions of a Frugal Fraud

I really didn’t want to write this post. It’s hard to admit that pieces of your life are subsidized by others. However, talking about the bills I don’t have to pay seemed important to the overall context of my frugality. It informs my spending reports, and also my philosophy that you don’t have to do (or pay for) everything alone if you get creative.

Favorite Post I’ve Written

This one is tricky, I think it’s a tie between two posts that pushed my creative boundaries. The first one kicked around in my head for a while, and I eventually wrote it out on paper to try to get it right. It resonated with a lot of people, so I felt pretty proud of the result:

You Flipped the Script

The second was an experiment with humor. Humor is one of those skills I am working to hone; it doesn’t come quite naturally. I’m always impressed when an article teaches me something via humor or by looking at the same old boring topic a new way. I had a lot of fun writing my first tongue-in-cheek post:

How To Make Your Significant Other Hate FIRE

Infographic: A Year In Review

Inspired by The Luxe Strategist’s first year in blogging infographic, I made one too!

 

Features

Every feature comes with its own rush of endorphins. Someone liked my post enough to share it. And now even more people are coming to read it! Having my work picked up by these publications, syndicates, and blogs meant a lot to me.

Rockstar Finance featured me twice.

The Financial Diet

Four Pillar Freedom featured me thrice.

The Money Mix

CampFIRE

Guest Posts

I used to be a lurker. I never commented on any posts or e-mailed anybody in media because I figured that they were flooded with messages all of the time. Cue my surprise when a blogger I admire (Luxe from The Luxe Strategist!) reached out to me for a guest post, and when Gwen from Fiery Millennials agreed to swap posts. Other writers become your teammates when you get off the bleachers and onto the field.

Guest Post for The Luxe Strategist

Guest Post for Fiery Millennials (and she wrote a money diary for me)

Podcasts

I used to think every interview was conducted in-person, with experts flown in to chat for an hour or so. My mind was blown when I realized that many interviews are done over Skype, Zoom, or the phone. This means regular people like me can actually be interviewed for podcasts! Within a month timespan, I was scheduled to be on two podcasts.

In my first, we talked about interview tips, negotiation tactics, pivoting in your career, and overcoming imposter syndrome:

Simple Minded Millennial

On the second program, we delved more into my FI plan, my love for travel, and also some more negotiation advice:

FIRE Drill

Both podcasts were amazing experiences. Being on the shows gave me a greater appreciation for those who podcast regularly. It’s not easy! I would like to get better at interviewing and learn how to project the passion and liveliness that makes listening to someone enjoyable.

7 Reflections Via Questions & Answers

1. Michelle asked, when do you do your writing? 

Some people have schedules. They post religiously on Tuesdays or every Monday and Wednesday.

Here’s a handy chart to show when I posted this year:

Chart of the days when I post in a year

Clearly, I have no schedule at all. As a reader, I didn’t realize bloggers had posting schedules. I would just binge read from the beginning, and then periodically check in every few days to see if there was anything new.

Studies have shown that intermittent reinforcement, or rewards on unpredictable timelines (like in gambling) keep people coming back for more. As a writer, I figure that posting irregularly might have the same effect.

Before you congratulate (or condemn) me for the evil-geniusness of posting intermittently, the truth is that I never wanted a schedule for myself. It would be too much pressure to self-impose deadlines when life is constantly in flux, so I write when I have time (usually during the weekends and on some weeknights) and post whenever it is ready.

2. Mr. Thrifty asked, what motivates you to stay in the game?

I mentioned before how I had a really low bar for success when I started. I win this game if I get the time to write and craft something I can be proud of. When my daily views creep down to nothing or a post completely flops, it doesn’t bother me or make me want to quit.

Having intrinsic motivation divorced from others' approval is crucial for the long road of creating content.Click To Tweet

3. Michelle asked, what were your highs about blogging?

A lot of my highs came in October, when I joined Twitter and people started sharing my posts. People other than my English teachers were reading what I had to say! You can see that my monthly views had a huge uptick as soon as I waded into the world of social media.

On an individual level, getting to write again has been the best part. I get excited to come home from work so I can write. I mull over ideas and then sit on my couch under a blanket and try to get everything down on paper. I rifle through hundreds of photos I’ve taken trying to find ones that will fit. The trips down memory lane are definitely high points.

4. Moriah asked, what parts were difficult that you didn’t expect would be?

One aspect I didn’t expect was simply inner turmoil over how much to spend on this hobby. It is a chicken-and-egg problem.

  • The blog needs to make money to be reinvested in the project
  • I need to invest in the blog first so the blog can make money

I would love to hire a designer for a proper logo, but so far I have done everything myself. It took years for me to even cough up the money for a domain name, let alone a logo design, so I am taking my time with this aspect of blogging.

 

My early designs for the blog

5. Dillon (and Jess) asked, how’d you feel about your name being used in a major media outlet when you’ve mostly been anonymous? And why have you stayed mostly anonymous after the name drop?

I almost feel like this could be its own post.

Essentially, I don’t feel very strongly about my anonymity. It seems that people mainly keep anonymous for two reasons:

  1. They don’t want people in their real life to know about their online persona.
    • They could face consequences in the workplace.
    • Friends and family might react poorly to some personal information.
  2. They don’t want people online to find out who they are in real life.
    • It could compromise their safety– physically, emotionally, or financially.

Both are quite legitimate reasons to remain anonymous. Yet neither is particularly compelling for me. I am grateful to have relationships in my personal life and work life that don’t feel like they would be compromised if people were to learn that I am interested in financial independence.

MarketWatch featured me in a story about 401(k)s, and my full name was in the lede, attached to this blog for the first time. Nothing really happened. It helps that there are enough people with my full name that if you Google me, I still don’t even appear on the first page. (Which is too bad, it used to feature the time I got a hole-in-one during a golf tournament!)

Overall, I think it’s okay to have my name attached to the blog, but I’m not going to go out of my way to parade my real identity.

6. How has blogging impacted your pursuit of FI?

I have always been frugal, so the progression to pursuing FI was easy and natural. However, blogging has changed a couple of things. It pushed me to set a concrete goal, a date by which I aim to be financially independent.

I also have never been a budgeter or paid much attention to the actual numbers, but writing this blog makes me do more careful accounting. Every month I publish expense reports, and after trips, I tally up the total spent. Before, I didn’t know how much things actually cost, or what was an average grocery budget, but through the blog I have much more data.

7. Jess asked, What are your long term goals for your blog?

Despite low expectations when I started, I want to invest in this project and make it grow. I have seen what others have done with their platforms. They create real communities, get people talking about important issues, and most of all, inspire and motivate people to change their lives.

I have already been surprised by the number of people reaching out to me and even readers e-mailing in their questions. I have realized that I can have a real impact on people’s lives. If I can make them think, reconsider, or laugh, that is success.

My ‘dream big’ goals would be to be able to earn money from the blog and to use this experience and platform to build enough of an audience to write a book.

What’s Coming Next?

There are a few things I am aiming to achieve in the next year of blogging:

  • Highly detailed ‘cornerstone’ posts with concrete advice.
  • Figure out my “pitch”: how would I describe myself, my blog, and my mission with few words?
  • More Q&A Posts

I can already see huge improvements from the first few posts to my most recent posts, so hopefully as I continue each post is a little better than the last.

What Do You Think?

What would you like to see on the blog in the upcoming year?

Were you surprised by any of my answers?

What happened to your hobby in the last year?

Thank you for being here and reading Financial Mechanic. This blog is made possible because of readers like you!

51 Comments

  1. Wow! What a year!

    Thanks for writing this post. I just started blogging in January and am feeling a bit like you in your early days. I just want to write about my finance journey, I don’t know if I’m adding much value to the world (I hope I am!) and if my only readers are my husband and my dog. But I’m inspired by your journey and I’ll be following your story closely.

    I have some questions – personal finance is a heavily saturated niche. So much has been covered, multiple times over. What do you do for idea generation? Have you found coming up with new content challenging, and what are your tips to overcome writers block?

    1. It has been a wild year!

      I think sometimes our own finance journeys are more valuable than financial advice– there are plenty of great articles already out there with great advice. I think this relates to idea generation– you have had a lot of experience and a lot of life stories. Any story you start to tell your friends over dinner is probably a good story to craft into a post. Any new ideas I put on a Google Keep checklist and reference it every once in a while.

  2. Congratulations on your first year of blogging and your accomplishments thus far! And I love your “year in review” infographic. It’s interesting that posting randomly has worked well for you. Our first time around with blogging we tried posting weekly and eventually got a little burnt out. Now we post about every other week and it has worked out a lot better.

    1. Thank you! The infographic took me much longer than I expected to make. I think getting your cadence is a satisfying part of blogging for sure.

  3. Solid first year – congrats! I think your mindset is the healthy way to grow a blog and is paying off. Love the info graphic idea too – might have to steal that for my yearly update. 🙂

    1. Do it! I will try to remember not to compare my numbers to yours 😉 Even if it grows slowly, it’s still growing. As a dev, I love going to your blog and seeing all of the interesting things you’ve done with it.

  4. Congrats on an incredible year 1! 🙂 Looking forward to reading your work over many years to come! Also your Pinterest graphics are fantastic!

    1. Thank you! Unfortunately Pinterest brings me about 3 clicks a pin, but I still love making the graphics. I checked out your yearly recap before I wrote this one and was quite impressed with the income you managed to bring in with just one year. Killing it!

  5. Congrats on your amazing first year!! I love this recap and can totally see that book in your future (can’t wait to read it). Way to go and looking forward to this next year of reading the great content you create :)!

  6. I really love this recap! Thanks for answering my questions. Intermittent reinforcement, hey? How devious. Well deserved success there.

    I’m coming up on one year of travel, so gathering stats for a post on that too, as inspired by this blog journey recap. Related: How do you make your infographics?

    1. I do feel quite devious although it’s more of a justification for the lack of a schedule 😉

      I use Canva, there are some infographic templates to use. I am really excited for a one year of travel post! You have done/seen/met so many people and places. I love your lifestyle design so am looking forward to reading it.

  7. Congratulations on a year! I enjoyed the format of this roundup. It’s a great balance of numbers and thoughts. I will definitely think about this When I got my year.

    Glad you started writing and I look forward to many more years of reading.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, I edited a bunch to try to get the right balance, since my reflections got quite lengthy at first. Am excited to read your year roundup!

  8. Love your blog, FIMechanic! You produce loads of great content! 😃 Is your views for your blog page views or session? Obviously it’s really smart to use Twitter a lot!

    1. It might be smart to use Twitter, or there might be even better platforms that I’m not using at all! Still, I think there is a great community on Twitter and I enjoy it. I think the stat is for sessions but I’m not 100% sure. I will have to dig in to see. Thanks for all of your support!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad the stats and info were presented in a clear way, there is a lot that happens in one year!

  9. Hi FI Mechanic,
    Great first year summary!
    It’s definitely a good insight when your answering the questions of readers (opposed to writing what you think people want to see).
    How are the page views going? Are they tracking with the amount of articles that you have written?
    I’m looking forward to seeing the article next year – 7 Reflections On My First Two Years Blogging!
    Keep up the good work,
    Matt

    1. It was great to get some reader questions, there were definitely some thought-provoking ones there. Page views are on the rise, although May dropped significantly, most likely because I didn’t post anything in early May while I was in Colombia. Hopefully the trajectory keeps going up!

      Thanks Matt, excited to get to two years. Time flies!

  10. Happy blogoversary! Sounds like you’ve learned a lot this past year. I’m off to read the frugal fraud confessions now. I missed that one the first time around.

    1. I have definitely learned a lot. You have been here most of the way! Thanks for the support 🙂

  11. Congrats on your first year. Many blogs diseapper after 6 months so making it to the year mark is a great milestone. Here’s to many years to come.

    1. Thank you! It feels like I have barely started, so it’s just the beginning for me. Here’s to many years!

    1. I am glad to hear! It’s hard to know what is ‘success’ without knowing the average numbers of other early blogs. I hope to keep sharing a compelling message that keeps people interested!

  12. Congratulations on a great first year! I’m most intrigued by your lack of schedule for writing. I’m interested if there is a particular impetus for when you write. That is, even though you don’t have a publishing schedule, do you find there is something that causes you to write/publish on a given day.

    1. I almost wrote a bit about this in the post– but there is a tiny bit of anxiety if I haven’t posted in a while. I feel the underlying impetus to continue writing, because I worry that if I skip it or let it fall by the wayside for too long it will be tricky to pick back up again.

      Usually what I want to write about day-to-day changes so I let myself let go of an article I tried to start the day before but don’t feel like writing about today. Whatever the article is that I feel compelled to write that day, I write it.

  13. Congrats on the anniversary – I love your blog and unique take. Not to mention I was eagerly watching to see what happened when your anonymity cloak was dropped, it’s great to see the positive (or lack of negative) reaction.

    1. Thank you! I’m curious if it changed anything for anyone (did anyone Google me? Were they nonplussed?). I know some bloggers do big reveals, but I hadn’t been anonymous for long so it didn’t seem like as big of a deal. I’m glad there wasn’t any negative reaction definitely! I might start using photos with our faces in them, but it really depends on if it actually helps tell the story.

  14. Congrats on the year! I noticed your blog a while ago and was intrigued by your unique posts and writing style! You stand out for sure (in a good way)! Will be staying tuned over this next year and perhaps we’ll both figure out the monetization part.

    1. I think I found your blog through reddit 🙂 Thank you for all of your help and getting me plugged in to some of the communities I didn’t know about before. Yes will be nice to figure out some monetization without compromising the blog’s content!

  15. First, congrats on what is clearly an extremely successful first year of your blog! Second, thanks so much for sharing your insights. As a new blogger, it’s great to hear your thoughts and detail of the initial year – very helpful and informative. Here’s to an even better 2nd year and I’ll be sure to follow you!

    1. I always wish that others would share some specifics, whether it comes in blog stats or salary ranges, because it helps put everything in context. Good luck on your new blog!

  16. Well 49 comments nice. That in itself proves the success of your blog. I too finished my 1st yr, but I am no longer doing mine to make money. I do it just for the fun. Congrats on your first year

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