The ROI of starting a personal finance blog

home office

Intro:

I’ve been blogging for about a year now, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.  My goals starting out were to learn more about personal finance and quantify some common time and money decisions while picking up a little petty cash along the way.  I’ve succeeded with the first two goals but so far haven’t accomplished the third, that is, to make some extra money.

By my estimates, if I repeated this first year of blogging 10 times over, I’d probably lose about $25 per year of cold hard cash in the process.  However, if I include all the time I’ve invested, my costs jump to an average of $1,850 per year.  Do the math and it’s pretty obvious that blogging, or at least the direct financial impact of blogging, isn’t a winning proposition for me.

A soft focus my blogging experience and plans:

There are a few things I want to note.  First off, I’ve never been single-mindedly driven to make a living from this blog.  I get a lot of intangible value from researching various topics and optimizing my life (and the thought of maybe helping others do the same).

My philosophy has been to use a modest salt and peppering of ads and affiliate links within what I like to believe is some decently good content.  Content, specifically building out a huge reference of ROI’s and ways to save money, has been my goal, not establishing a viable business.

Therefore, I don’t really feel like I’ve failed as much as that I’ve simply learned from a personal experiment (quite a few things, actually, that will likely save me 10’s of 1,000’s of dollars in the future, but that’s the intangible value).

flannel then and now

this blog has been a personal experiment, just like wearing the same flannel shirt for 15 years.

There are some personal finance bloggers that make a whole lot of money, such as Jay Money from Budgets Are Sexy and Michele Schroeder from Sense of Cents, but judging from the massive swell of other PF bloggers out there, I’d say that they are the exceptions rather than the norm.

For someone thinking about getting into blogging as a business, I’d recommend doing much more networking and marketing than I have done (commenting on others’ blogs, guest blogging, giveaways, social media interactions, etc.).  Unless there’s a really compelling story, it seems like this is pretty important.  Another piece of advice that I hear all the time is to stick with it…. most people give up too early.  A loyal following takes a few years to build.  Finding a less-crowded niche might also help out a bit.

Personally, I think I’m nearing the twilight phase of this blog.  I anticipate sort of finishing the ROI reference book of common ways to save time and money in a few months and then shifting into a lower gear, updating less frequently, only when I feel the granddaddy blogging spirit calling me.  I want to continue to produce quality content rather than beginning to write uninspired posts.

If I really did have goals of turning this into a more profitable venture, I think offering some sort of service like blog consulting or personal finance coaching could generate some good revenue, but I’m not inherently drawn to these things.  I’ve got books to read, a career to grow, societal problems to solve, kids to raise, hikes to take, and a wife to love.  This is more than enough to fill my cup for the time being 🙂

Blog stats:

My blog gets about 250 views per day with a little over 30% of them coming from search engines:

blog traffic

I get visitors from all over the world (see below) and have been featured in some major online publications a few times, such as Business Insider and Yahoo Finance.  In fact, my best day of traffic was the day that Business Insider and Yahoo Finance picked up my article, “When can you pretire?”

site visitor heatmap

site visitor heat map (sessions over a specific time period)

I average a little over $9.00 per month in revenue, with about 30% coming from Amazon.com Affiliate links and the rest from Google ads.  Subtract expenses of about $11.50 per month (annual hosting fees and $70.00 one-time site template expense), and it is easy to see how I’m just barely losing money.  However, add in the optimistic 3 hours of time I spend per post at $10.00 per hour and profit turns south very quickly.

The good about these numbers is that, excluding time, I’m right on the cusp of break-even.  One or two more high-ranking posts could actually bump me into the green.  Either way, what it really boils down to is a labor of love.  I’m actually excited to write new posts most of the time.  So it’s all good with me.

Because I’m Flannel Guy ROI, this post wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory summary stats so here they are, the ROI of NOT starting a personal finance blog:

  • 10-Year NPV: $18,446
  • 10-Year ROI: 1,677%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.0 years
roi - don't start a blog

click for link to live spreadsheet

chart - don't start a blogConclusion:

Even journalists are having a hard time making good money these days, which means it’s probably even harder for bloggers.  I’ve loved the blogging experience so far, but it hasn’t been because of the extra income.  Maybe I’m the anomaly, but I don’t think that’s the case.

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, make sure it is for the right reasons, and then if you’re still thinking about it, you should really think about using this Bluehost affiliate link I’ve got to get started 😉

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Comments

  1. You got it man – gotta really LOVE and enjoy the game of blogging to stick around for the long haul. If the money comes, even better.

    • Doesn’t sound like a bad philosophy on life in general either… not much downside risk if you’re not making $$ but still pursuing a hobby you love. If only I could get someone to pay me for watching art films and reading fiction now 😉

  2. Ha — I know you probably didn’t mean for this post to be funny, but I had a nice chuckle while reading it. (I mean that in a good way!) I agree that a person shouldn’t start blogging purely for the sake of earning money — there are better businesses to build. I make great money through my blog (mostly via consulting, speaking and freelancing opportunities that arise as a result of my site), but like J. Money said, that’s the end result from LOVING blogging and spending years in the game. It’s definitely not a get-rich-quick (or even get-a-single-dime-quick) operation.

    I think that at the end of the day, as long as a person is hustling in some form or another — whether that’s upping their game at their day job, or starting side businesses , or buying rental properties, or flipping houses, or whatever else — that’s what counts.

  3. Hi Mr Flannel!
    Haven’t been back here for a while, and loving the look of the huge number of ROI posts you have catalogued, it is a labour of love indeed!
    Yep blogging is not really a money making scheme, however the ROI over 10 years is surely a bit pessimistic, as you are basing it on the first year only which is where you are getting the lowest amount of views. You wouldn’t in real life start a brand new blog every year would you?

    So anyway if you managed to keep it going for 10 years I would be very surprised if you did not experience at least some small exponential growth on viewing numbers, and even a modest %age increase of say 5% per month would create a much better ROI for you. You would go from ~250 views per day at the end of year one to 48,571 at the end of year 10… wowza 🙂

    I guess the hard thing is keeping it up, finding the time and coming up with new content (or not being bothered about recycling and rehashing old content over and over and over….)

    Also as the big name bloggers above mention, there will be a lot of opportunities that come your way simply by having a blog, even with relatively small viewing figures. You might not be interested in any of them but you can’t discount those opportunities to zero. Anyway it is all guess work and very untangible amounts of “value” generated in all of these cases, so it is very hard to make assumptions!

    Bottom line is the first year blogging is definitely a losing prospect, I agree on that one, but if you can stick at it, I think it is quite easy to at least break even (full disclosure, I am not breaking even including time I am investing into my blog yet, either, but like you, I am not really trying to make money, it is just for fun right now)

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comments…. it has been a long time! Great points re: opportunities and the first year being the hardest. I actually had a nice (and surprising) affiliate month in November that more than makes up for my paper losses for the year.

      Keep on keepin’ on!

  4. Hey FGROI,

    You paint a bleak image for financial bloggers. I really hope to prove all this wrong, but indeed all the writing I do is more to improve myself as an investor and to maybe help a couple people along the way.

    Some do hit it big as you mentioned, and I hope to eventually gain that sort of traction. It’s all really hard work, but it pays off in dividends.

    Best regards,
    DB

  5. Hey Mr Flannel Guy, I’ve only recently made the transition to becoming a dedicated Mustacian as a result of accidentally stumbling across Mr Money Mustache. Since then I’ve searched, found, and read a lot of great blogs, such as yours. However, being based in Australia, I’ve found that there is a desert of locally based bloggers here so decided to take the bull by the horns and create my own based on the excellent along similar lines to the financial advice blog superstars out there but with a local flavour. Your post, here, pretty well sums up my motivation for creating my blog and I also find it provides great mental stimulation as well. Great advice for new bloggers too by the way. I may well never hit the big time but will continue doing it as long as I get some personal enjoyment out of it. And who knows, maybe I may even attract a bunch of loyal readers along the way.

  6. Azuama Godwin Uchenna says:

    I love this Mr Flannel. I’m about starting my personal finance blog and this is enough motivation already. I’m a student of finance in one of the renowned federal schools in Nigeria. And I love writing about personal finance. Opening a blog will surely make me enjoy it the more. I really do not care much about the financial gains as long as I breakeven yearly. I just want to get people to read what about my thoughts on financial terms

  7. I appreciate the honesty. I’m a college student in my first year of creating my own blog geared at college students. Would be stoked if you checked it out!

  8. Great one man! That’s the real drive behind successful blogger….focus on value, money comes thereafter.

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