Hello! Who are you and how did you get started in blogging?
My name is Lauren Bowling and I run a personal finance website, FinancialBestLife.com. On my site I aim to help people achieve their “best life” by figuring out how they’re going to pay for it. I knew zero about blogging/tech/marketing when I started seven years ago and built the revenue to a point where it is now my full-time income.
I made $65k last year just from blogging revenue and I’ve already made most of that in the first half of 2019!
What’s the backstory of your blog and how did you choose the niche?
After two years in NYC working at a hedge fund I moved back home. I was unemployed and didn’t know what I wanted to do next, so my Mom hands me this article from USA today about millennials using blogging to keep their job skills sharp while they’re out of the job market.
I’d dabbled in blogging and writing before but it was always about my personal life. I decided to take a stab at writing a money blog since I’d just worked in finance and found it really, really interesting and relevant. It really resonated with people and the blog just took off.
I used my blog to swap careers from finance to marketing and I’ve been working in marketing ever since. My blog grew alongside everything I learned in my 9-5 job.
Eventually after three years of doing both, the blog replaced my full-time income and I was able to run my own business.
Describe the process of launching your blog/site and getting it off the ground.
I was very lucky in that I was unemployed when I first started my blog so I had 40+ hours each week to devote to learning WordPress, SEO, social media, and networking with other bloggers. It was a lot of testing and learning.
Because I began working in marketing I learned a lot about email marketing, PR, and promoting myself on the job. I’d take what I learned at work and test it out on my own blog, which helped me to grow and find my first readers.
And honestly, a lot of people I know “in real life” supported the blog and read it early on and told their friends. I don’t know where I’d be without that word of mouth. Some people don’t like promoting themselves to their circles, but it can be a great thing for growing any type of business or online venture.
How do you create revenue on your blog?
I make money on my website in four primary ways:
- Product sales
- Brand sponsorships
I have 20-30 affiliate partners, 2 free courses and 5 premium products that I offer via my online store, and I work with Mediavine to serve the ads on my website.
The most popular affiliate programs on my site are for side gigs and ways to earn extra cash. My audience is very debt focused: they want to pay it off so they can move on and achieve other financial milestones, like buying a home.
What are the strategies you use to build and grow traffic to your blog?
For the last six months I’ve been really focused on Google Search and optimizing existing content. For the last seven years I’ve tried to post each week…which means I have a TON of content and I’ve worked hard to keep fresh over the years. I’m constantly reinventing old content, but honestly, that’s my favorite part of what I do. It scratches a part of my brain and it’s the “big secret” behind how I’m able to publish so much as a one woman show.
I took an SEO course (Stupid Simple SEO) and have loved seeing my learnings from it grow my reach through Google search.
I rebranded in December 2016 from my old site (L Bee and the Money Tree) to the new one, FinancialBestLife.com. It was a necessary shift, but I did lose a lot of traffic so it’s been nice to see that return.
You can see the increase in my Google traffic here.
How do you grow your email list?
I don’t do much to grow my email list other than offer free worksheets and courses as incentives for signing up. I get about 2-300 new subscribers each month, but I like to keep a clean, tight, and engaged list. Many people just come for the worksheets and then never interact with my site again, so I’m constantly cleaning the list.
How do you write content that performs well and readers love?
I vary between in-depth financial “how to” articles and then just simple, more free form essays on my thoughts about money or what’s going on with me and my money situation. I think the variation keeps people interested and helps me feel connected to my audience and business.
In the SEO course, they talk a lot about creating the most in-depth, informative content ever. I’ve been rewriting a lot of my articles to make sure whoever visits gets all the things they’re looking for and need to read in the article, even if it feels redundant or like I’m repeating myself.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to start and grow your blog?
Biggest obstacles? Probably time and burnout. I grew the blog on top of a full-time job, buying and renovating my first home, and having a personal life. It was hard to balance it all.
And burnout is so hard, especially if you take your blog full-time. Being my own boss is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’m always learning something new. It’s exciting and exhausting all at the same time and you can get very frustrated with yourself.
What lessons have you learned in the process of building your blog?
Consistency is everything. I’ve learned it’s okay to get burned out and take a break so long as you don’t completely quit. You can build a blogging business with a few small steps each day. It could take months or years, but eventually you’ll have something of your own that just runs and it is beautiful!
What platform/tools do you use for your blog?
Three things I can’t live without in my business:
- Mailchimp for managing emails
- Trello for keeping me organized
- Ahrefs for SEO research
What have been the most influential people, books, podcasts, courses, or other resources?
Early on, I got involved with other finance bloggers online. At the time, one of them was organizing a small conference for us to get together and swap blogging tips. That conference has now grown to a large financial media event, (FinCon), but it’s still been instrumental in helping me make contacts, have people to bounce ideas off of, and make sure at least once each year I’m learning something new.
Advice you can give other bloggers/entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Write down the three things you need to get done for your blog each day and just do those three things. Again, if you do a handful of tasks each day, eventually those will add up to something really big.
For example, I’d schedule a tweet, finish a blog post, send an email newsletter. And then I’d save the rest for the next day because I had a million other things to do (like my salaried job, for example). I’m a big advocate for small, consistent behaviors. The big swings are nice, but they are rare, especially when you’re just starting out.
I also always recommend having a date with yourself and your business. When I worked full-time I blocked off Sunday evenings from 6-10 as my time to do all of my blog work. It became sacred, and that’s how I made time for my side business.
Where can we go to learn more?