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.
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
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:
The Hardest Post To Write
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:
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:
Infographic: A Year In Review
Inspired by The Luxe Strategist’s first year in blogging infographic, I made one too!
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.
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.
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:
On the second program, we delved more into my FI plan, my love for travel, and also some more negotiation advice:
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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!