How I Slowly Grew My Blog My Own Way

How I Slowly Grew My Blog My Own Way

It’s not hard to find posts/entire websites that can help you launch a blog; and launch a blog that gets a lot of attention and success early on; and then use that success to turn it into a blog that not only helps people see you as an expert but also makes you a lot of money. I can’t write a blog post like that. Some of my friends can! I have friends who are really smart and know everything it takes to build a successful blog with a huge mailing list that proves you are an expert and can make you a lot of money. But I can’t.

Instead, I can write a blog post that tells you I launched an anonymous blog on October 1, 2010 to document my debt repayment journey. I can tell you I deleted the first version of that blog in early 2011, then restarted it when I was completely maxed out. I can tell you I connected with a few people and companies I loved on Twitter, and ultimately got my first two freelance writing jobs from doing so. I can tell you I wrote my blog anonymously for close to two years before I grew tired of lying to my family and friends about my “double life”. And I can tell you that, shortly after that, I got a full-time job offer from a company in Toronto.

Of course, a lot has changed since then. I moved to Toronto in 2012, then moved back to BC in 2013 and continued to work remotely for that same company. I built more relationships and got more freelance writing work, and then I quit my job in 2015 and have been self-employed ever since. Working for myself was never part of the plan. I always thought I was going to climb a corporate ladder, then maybe jump off one ladder and onto another. I never thought I would be my own boss, and I especially never thought that this blog would make being my own boss a possibility. It wasn’t part of the plan.

For the past seven years, I’ve shared all of this + the ups and downs of my life here with you. I didn’t start this blog to get attention from the press or reach any level of success, or to grow a huge audience or make a lot of money. I started it to document my debt repayment journey. The success that has come from it has been a result of consistent writing, plus a lot of careful considerations, and the intentional decision to forego all the usual advice and do things my way. It’s also a result of putting people (YOU) over profit. It’s been slow and steady, but I’ve stuck to my gut and built something that feels GOOD.

But for those of you who have asked for more of a step-by-step solution for growing a blog, here is the list of rules I’ve created for myself.

1. Reply to Comments

Those of you who have been reading (and commenting) for a while know this to be true. It’s the first blogging rule I made for myself: if someone takes the time to comment, I will take the time to reply. It’s not only a sign of respect, it also helps us have actual conversations (vs. one-sided responses) and has, in turn, created a real community here. As the years have gone on, I’ve changed it slightly so I usually only reply to comments that come in within the first 2-3 days of a post going live. But this same rule applies to email, too. Depending on how flooded my inbox gets, it might take a couple days or even a couple weeks to reply to them all (and it took even longer after the girls died). But I read everything and I do reply.

1b. To go along with the first rule, I’ve also always monitored comments and sent trolls to spam. It’s fine if someone has a different opinion from me or disagrees with something I say, and I’ll publish anything that’s constructive, or challenges me to think or even change my mind. But I won’t let trolls come in and dominate the conversation, and I especially won’t let people be mean to other people. If you don’t like me, save yourself the energy and just don’t read what I write, because I won’t publish your comment. This is a safe space for people to open up and have conversations, and I won’t let anyone come in and take that from us.

1c. I’ve also always been the one who responds to comments and emails personally. I know bloggers and business owners who hire virtual assistants to do this work, but that has always felt disingenuous to me and is something I can’t do. People write to you because they want you to read their words and they think you will be the one who replies. Even if it means there is a delay, it has to come from me.

2. Support Other Bloggers

A couple weeks ago, Stephanie asked if I could recommend ways for writers to “get their blogs out there”. My first response to this question is always the same: support other bloggers. And don’t just visit their sites and write short comments like “this was a great post” or “I do the same thing”. Write a comment because you care about this blogger and you want to see them succeed. Write a comment because you read someone else’s comment and you want to help them succeed. Write a comment because you want to be part of a community. And then share the post with everyone who follows you online, because you want to help this person’s message be heard.

When I first started blogging, I engaged with a lot of bloggers who were also documenting their own debt repayment stories. We cheered each other on, celebrated our successes, and helped each other with any challenges we had. It was not a strategy to get more readers or rack up pageviews. We were a community within the personal finance community, and I don’t know what they thought of me but I needed them. No one in my real life knew what my financial situation was, except for my blogging friends. I was more honest with them than I was with my own family. So, I always treated them like friends because that’s exactly what they were (and are).

When I finished paying off my debt, I gave a huge amount of credit to my fellow bloggers because I truly felt that I couldn’t have done it so quickly without their support—and I’ve always wanted to give that same support back to others. For years, that support took shape in the form of comments I would leave on people’s posts. I would comment because I read a post and thought OMG I NEEDED TO READ THIS and it felt really good to connect with like-minded people. And I would comment to thank someone for sharing their story, or for being honest and vulnerable, or for writing something that made me feel a little less alone in this world.

Again, as the years have gone on, I’ve had less time to comment on posts but I’ve found other ways to support bloggers. For starters, I help curate all the personal finance content you read on Rockstar Finance, which means I skim hundreds of blog posts each week and share my favourites with Jay. I used to share a lot of posts on Twitter, but now I compile a list of the ones I love and put them into my newsletter. And when something really touches me, I email the blogger personally. So no, I don’t comment as much anymore, but I still find ways to say OMG I NEEDED TO READ THIS and THANK YOU and then share it with my readers.

3. Write What Feels Natural (Not What Will “Perform” Well)

One thing I see over and over again in emails from people who are considering starting blogs is that they get overwhelmed by all the steps it will take to build something “the right way”. They think they need to have the perfect name and the perfect look and a bunch of perfect blog posts, before they can go live. Trust me when I say that it doesn’t need to be perfect. For over a year, the majority of my posts were just weekly spending reports!

On top of feeling like things need to be perfect, there are also a lot of formulas out there for what could make a blog post rank high in Google or get more shares or even go viral. Here’s the only personal lesson I can share about that. Whenever I have tried to write a post that was more formulaic, I hated the process and hated what I was writing and usually deleted it. Whenever I write something that’s on my mind, the writing flows naturally and it gets a great response. These posts are honest and personal, and typically only take a couple hours to write. The result: they get more comments and emails, and support from friends around the world. Who the heck cares about ranking high in Google? I could never ask for more than that. <3

Oh, and my advice for anyone who is thinking of starting a blog: write a handful of blog posts first. Write them on your computer or in a Google doc or by hand or whatever you like. Just write the first few posts that come to mind and see if you actually enjoy the process. At the end of the day, if you want to maintain a blog, you just have to enjoy writing stuff and putting it out into the world. If you like those first few posts, come up with some ideas for your next ones and then start getting the technical stuff setup. But always start with the writing. Everything else will come together, after that.

4. Don’t Worry About the Numbers

There are a lot of numbers you could consider, as a blogger: your pageviews, your unique visitors, the number of comments you get on posts, the number of times your posts get shared, the number of people on your mailing list, all the followers you have on social media, and so on. And there are a lot of ways you can boost each of those numbers. But, to go along with the idea that you don’t need to force yourself to write content that will “perform” well, you also don’t need to do other things strictly so it will boost your numbers. You can, if you want to. But you don’t need to—and here’s why I don’t.

I didn’t start my blog with the intention that I would ever make money from it. And, unless you’re trying to make a lot of money from ads or affiliate links on your site, these numbers are just a vanity metric. Nobody cares if you have 1,000 followers on Twitter or 10,000, except for you. It doesn’t mean anything. And for that reason, I won’t play games online that do things to dramatically increase the number of readers or followers I have. Continuing with the example of Twitter and even Instagram, some bloggers follow tons of accounts in the hopes that many of those accounts will follow them back. I’m not kidding. This is a thing. It is a vanity metric, and it is also a false way of determining someone’s potential “reach”. (That’s a note to companies who pay “influencers”.)

Instead of worrying about increasing your numbers, focus on engaging with the readers and followers you have right now. This goes back to my first rule: reply to comments and emails. Also reply to people on social media. There are people right here and now who are interested in what you are saying. Say hi to them! Answer their questions. Help them in any way you can. They are human beings, not numbers. And if you become focused on getting the next 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 followers, you will look past the ones you already have—and those are the ones who matter most. So don’t worry about the numbers, and instead put your energy into fostering relationships with the people who are here and now.

For bloggers who are curious how this rule affects your numbers, I opened up my Google Analytics, mailing list, social media accounts, etc. and looked at how it affects mine. As far as blog traffic goes, I’m on track to have the same number of pageviews I’ve had for the past two years (so now three years in a row). I finished 2016 with about 20,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and currently have about 25,000 (+5,000 in 9.5 months). And I went from having 6,300 people on my mailing list at the end of 2016 to 9,600 right now (+3,300 in 9.5 months). With so many people out there writing about how you can grow a blog quickly, these aren’t exactly numbers to write home about.

You know what two numbers I find interesting, though? My bounce rate was just 7.09% in 2016, and the open rate on my mailing list is 50.92% so far in 2017. People are engaged. And the community we’ve built together here means more than any number could.

5. Put People Over Profit*

I’m adding an asterisk to this point because I need to start by saying that this all depends on the reason you are launching your blog in the first place. If your goal is to make money, great! You probably don’t need to read this point. But if money isn’t your goal, that’s ok too. That also doesn’t mean you’ll never make a dime from your blog; it just gives you more control over how you want to earn that money one day. Here’s my story.

At some point, every blogger starts receiving emails from random companies all over the world who ask if you accept sponsored content (they will pay you to write a post about their product) or paid links (they will pay you to add links to random words in old blog posts). There is a lot of money to be made in this world. I have friends who make anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000/month in sponsored content alone. Add banner ads or sidebar ads to that and they are laughing—at me. I say “at me” because I have turned every single one of these offers down and earned exactly $0 from advertising on my blog. In fact, I even have a line on my contact form that tells people I don’t reply to these offers. I delete the emails.

There are so many reasons I don’t advertise on my blog, and they all come back to putting myself in the shoes of a reader. I hate going to sites and being bombarded with ads, so I don’t want anyone to have that experience when visiting mine. That’s also the same reason I’ve never added (and will never add) a pop-up to my site. Seeing those on other sites almost always makes me click “X” in my browser and then never visit them again. I don’t care about having a bigger mailing list. I care about my readers and the experience they have on my site—the experience that helps us build and foster a community. And let’s also remember that I am in the space of telling people to STOP BUYING THINGS THEY DON’T NEED. Can you imagine if I placed a banner ad at the top of that message?

At the end of the day, I won’t advertise on my blog because it just doesn’t feel good to me. I know this rule has probably cost me tens of thousands of dollars. My old boss once told me I could earn a minimum of $3,000/month from banner ads alone based on my traffic. But I don’t care and I won’t change my stance on this. It doesn’t feel good to me, and I’ve always told myself I could earn extra money in other ways—ways that do feel good to me. For years, that took shape in the form of freelance writing and even a few public speaking events. Yes, that means I actually had to work for the money (vs. earn passive income from my blog) but those opportunities came from having my blog and they felt good. Looking back, I can see they also helped me get my name out there in ways that posting sponsored content never could.

That’s not to say I’ve never made money from my blog. Going back to the first paragraph in this point, it just gave me more control over how I wanted to earn the money. In 2015, I decided the one way I would be comfortable making money from my blog would be by creating a useful tool and selling it. Since April 2015, I have profited exactly $26,807.34 from something I made for you: Mindful Budgeting. The print templates that I originally charged $20 for but are now free, and the physical 2016 and 2017 planners. I made those for you, and built a community around it for you, and have earned an average of $893.58/month for doing so (minus the 5% of sales I give to charity). It’s a tool that I know has helped people, and I made it myself vs. had a company pay me to tell you about it. That feels good to me. It’s not a product everyone needs and I’ll likely never earn a full-time income from it, but that’s ok. It feels good to me.

6. Always Be Gracious + Grateful

This last rule is one that is mixed into all the others. The kind way of saying it is: you should always be gracious with people + grateful for the opportunities that come your way. The simple but more brash way of saying it is: don’t be a jerk. One of the most interesting things I have observed as some blogs have grown is that egos grow right alongside them. I will never understand this. Of course, I think we are allowed to be proud of our work, and be proud of the blogs and businesses we’ve built. But at the end of the day, we aren’t saving lives. We are just people—humans who are trying to make it in this world, just like everyone else. And if we aren’t kind to the people around us, why would anyone want to read what we have to say or even work with us?

It starts by being gracious with your readers. If no one read your blog, you wouldn’t be where you are. Then, be grateful for every opportunity that comes your way—even the ones you don’t take. Whenever someone in the media contacts me for an interview, I genuinely still think to myself: really? Me? That’s so cool!!! The same goes for freelance writing and public speaking opportunities. And you can’t even imagine how literally every step of the book publishing process has made me feel. I’m constantly pinching myself asking if this is real life.

This all goes back to the golden rule you’re taught as a kid: treat others how you want to be treated. I don’t think the world owes me anything. And I don’t do things because I’m looking for something in return. In fact, I think blogging with zero expectations of what kind of response you’ll get from others is what helps you stay humble and so appreciative of whatever does come your way. As for me, I’m just over here documenting my life and all the experiments I’ve done in the past seven years, and feeling extremely grateful for everyone who has been interested enough to read, say hi and share it with others.

Before I wrap up this post, I want to add that I didn’t write this list of rules before I started my blog. It is something that has slowly developed over time, as every new interaction, opportunity and period of growth has occurred. And it took this shape because I always had my readers in mind. Some of these rules were made only after playing around with certain things the “experts” say we should do and quickly realizing it didn’t feel good to me. So yes, I have experimented with their ideas, and I think it’s perfectly ok for people to follow all of the advice and/or do things in whatever way feels good to them. It just doesn’t feel good to me.

I always knew there had to be another way, and there is—it’s called “your way” and you make all the rules. Mine will result in slower growth and will probably make you less money. But it puts people first and helps you stay humble and grateful for whatever comes from it. And in my experience, looking back now, I know that some really amazing things can come from it.

Do you have any other questions about blogging that I didn’t answer here? I’m happy to answer them (or share links to sites that can)!

  • Very helpful! I keep finding myself obsessing over numbers, and trying to find ways to grow and wondering what I’m missing or not doing, but it’s good to be reminded to stay true to what I love and know and let things naturally develop, and to keep engaging with the followers I have now rather than chasing more!

    • It’s ok to think about how you want to grow/change things! Just try not to let the numbers be the only metric of whether or not these changes are “successful”. It’s about so much more than that. How does it feel for you, did it help someone who reads your stuff, and so on. :)

  • Thank you for this. You’re one of the reasons why I just started blogging about my efforts to stop spending so frivolously, and I just have to say that it was so encouraging to read this post. I started listening to “Budgets and Cents” a few months ago and you and Carrie really inspired me to take a look at my own spending. I printed out your weekly savings chart and struggled each day with writing down what I was spending my money on. Sometimes, I would omit things because I was so embarrassed that I had no self-control. My breaking point was when I had an expensive repair to make on my car and I realized it would drain my account dry. I remember I came to your site and read post after post and was just so inspired. I’ve always loved writing, myself, and realized blogging could be the thing that held me accountable. So, here I am, just a few blog posts in! Thanks again for everything you do, and especially for this post to help us bloggers who are just starting out. :)

    • Oh gosh, Becca—that reminds me of why I deleted the first version of this blog in early 2011! I started it *thinking* I was ready to get serious about paying down my debt, but I slowly continued to rack it up. It got to a point where I felt like a complete fraud, so I deleted it, gave up—and then came back a few months later completely maxed out. I think it’s normal to make a few attempts at something, before we’re able to get serious about it. I’m excited that you feel like you’re on a new path now, and that you’re blogging about it! :)

  • “Any other questions about blogging?”
    I would say Cait that you’ve just about answered most of them.
    And great answers, btw!

    I do have one more question though, at least in so far as you seem to have been able to handle it successfully. As you probably (or maybe not) know, besides your blog (being one of my top faves), over the years I’ve read literally 100’s of other blogs – many financial oriented, others just dealing with the life experiences of the blog’s author. During all that time however I’ve encountered two things. Some blogs survive and stay active with fresh regular content while others over time just seem to fade away.

    So, my friend, how have you managed to avoid blogger burnout? In other words, not found yourself running out of things to say to your readership? Is it all just a matter of pacing yourself?

    You know personally I envy your talent. I find it much easier to post short comments whenever I’m in the mood to do so, as compared to the ease that it seems that you have in routinely blasting out full blog posts consisting of 1000’s of words of fresh ideas. That I find impressive.

    • Such a good question, Rob! I totally forgot to include a paragraph about this, but I would say it’s a constant work-in-progress for me anyway—so here’s what I can say. About two years in, I started to put a lot of pressure on myself to publish a new post every Monday at 4am PST. I think I kept that up for a good couple of years and, ultimately, it did serve a purpose. People definitely knew they could expect something from me every week, and I would often wake up on Monday mornings with a bunch of new comments to reply to. But after a couple years, the pressure really started to get to me. And it wasn’t just the pressure to publish something at the same time every week, but that the posts were somehow supposed to be super interesting or insightful. It got even harder when my personal life changed for the worse (when I found out my parents were getting divorced) and I definitely went through a period of depression. It was around that time that I knew I needed a break and finally asked my friends for help. I emailed a few other bloggers and admitted I was having a hard time and asked if they’d consider writing a guest post for me. Everyone said yes. Thanks to them, I was able to take a month off the blog, with no new posts from me but with the first few guest posts I’d ever shared. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s actually more important to take breaks than it is to pressure myself to publish something just for the sake of keeping up with this self-imposed weekly deadline. So you, being a longtime reader, have probably noticed I only write a few times a month now—and it’s rare for posts to go live on Monday at 4am PST anymore, haha. I still feel that pressure sometimes, but I know the “best posts” are the ones I write when I’m actually in the mood to write. And I think people know that I’m not going anywhere. I might take a week off here and there, but that’s it. And getting that little bit of space away from the blog is where ideas come from. :)

      • Great question Rob and great answer Cait. For me there are things I would like to talk about and do blog posts on, but I find at times (most of the time) writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Ideas and sentences are whirling around in my head but getting them down on a page takes ages! Then I feel I am not being consistent with my blog.

        I have been asking myself the question – why do it? – a lot lately. The question ‘why’ is something I heard you talk about Cait in the podcast. I guess I am trying to find a community of people who are interested in similar things I am interested in…. Be a small voice for change but I am confused if blogging is the right way to do it for me.

        Would be great to hear if anybody has any thoughts on this?

        • It’s so good that you’re thinking about this/wanting to find a way to express yourself, Sharon! In my eyes, that’s all this is: expression through creation. I will say, I’m with you in that I also have posts that I’ll work on for hours and they never seem to make sense (so I save it as a draft or just delete it). But if it feels like more than that—feels like a struggle—blogging might not be for you! My thought would be to play around with something else! Maybe podcasting would be more fun? If so, there are easy ways to do that don’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of work: You could also create or join Facebook groups, as there are lots of great communities on there. Or write longer posts on Instagram! There’s so much community to be found on there. Just some ideas!

          • Thanks Cait. There is some serious food for thought in that answer :) I love “expression through creation”. Podcasting does sound amazing but will have to build up the cojones first. ;D Will have to do my research! Thank you again.

  • This was really refreshing to read. I, too, have been blogging since 2010, but mainly as a creative outlet. A year ago, I decided I wanted to start monetizing my blog to help contribute to our family’s income while I stay home with our kids. It has been fun learning so many new things, but also tough to navigate what feels right for me and my blog, and what feels slimy. I see many bloggers surpassing me, but I don’t necessarily want to do things the same way they do. I find myself time and time again wanting to do things authentically by creating a community and building the trust of my readers. Unfortunately that isn’t always the most profitable route, but I’m sure that will come with time. Thanks for your insight!

    • It definitely comes with time, Emily! For what it’s worth, I would say to keep exploring and testing different ideas. It also takes time to figure out exactly what works for you! Another thing I think about is that I’d probably be more comfortable with some of the expert strategies if my name wasn’t attached to the site. One thing a few of my friends who are stay-at-home parents do is create small, really niche blogs with content reviews of products and they include affiliate links to Amazon. There are no names or personal stories on them. It’s just a professional-looking review site. And no joke, these sites make them a few thousand dollars a month. I can’t attach my name to something like that, but it’s an interesting way to follow the advice and make some of the money that’s out there!

  • Super helpful post Cait :) I remember I first found your blog years ago when you were Blonde on a Budget and I found your posts super helpful! Another question for you…what do you do when you feel a bit of blogger burnout? Sometimes I know I need to get a post out but sometimes I am just exhausted (7 months pregnant will do that to you!). Scheduling posts doesn’t really work for me because I change my mind a few times before actually writing a post. So yeah, blogger burnout…what are some fantastic tips to avoid that? :)

    • I’m totally with you re: not being able to schedule things out! I write what’s happening in my life RIGHT NOW, so I can’t make that stuff up haha. (As an example, I finished this blog post just before noon today and hit publish right away lol.) Rob asked the same question a few comments above, so you can see my answer up there! In short: remember that the pressure to publish something “on time” is totally self-imposed. No one is making us do that. It’s something we are doing to ourselves. If it’s stressing you out, find a way to let it go. The one thing that helps me is remembering that the posts I write IN THE MOMENT when I’m REALLY feeling it are the ones that get the best response. If I pump something out just for the sake of publishing on a specific date, I usually hate the post—and readers don’t love it either.

  • This is the perfect kind of success story in my book. :) Because my goal is creating significant trajectory shifts for people vs having lots of people know me, here are a few of the metrics I look at. Open rate of email, number of people who reply to my weekly emails, number of asks for help, number of readers who will travel to visit me, and if people will show up in bigger ways. With those numbers I can see if what I’m doing is really adding value and connecting with people. Twitter followers? Peesh. I think when we know what matters, it’s easier to find the metrics that might measure that. :) Andon another note, I’m still slightly terrified to have my family read my blog. :(

  • “this was a great post”

    Just kidding!
    But, in all seriousness, thank you for sharing this – it was a great post! I have been blogging for a few years now, but I have done very little to grow my blog, and I haven’t monetized it at all. In fact, I still use a free WordPress site… And I’m not totally sure I want to monetize my blog… I have read many-a-blog-post on how to grow a blog or a mailing list, but I don’t think those methods are for me. So, thank you for sharing your methodology and making me feel a bit better about my position.

    • You’re welcome, Jena! I’m glad it was helpful, even if it was just in the “you’re doing the right thing by sticking to your values” sense. Keep doing it. :)

  • Hello fellow Canuck,

    I have stalked your blog before but I think this might be my first comment.

    Good to see that even though your blog has gotten huge, you still find time to reply to emails and comments.

    And please, don’t delete those old posts, like I said I have been stalking them 😊. They’re perfect the way they are.

    When we launched the blog a month ago, we only had 2 published posts, and we were worried it might hinder our progress, but so glad to hear that it shouldn’t under normal circumstances.

    • Haha, I promise I won’t delete the weekly spending reports! I can see why they might be interesting/valuable. I think it’s just the perfectionist in me that sort of hates the old stuff, you know? But it’s all good. And you were ahead of me with your two posts! I wrote one that essentially just said “I am maxed out and it’s time to get serious.”

  • Cait, you are awesome, and have been a great role model to me. Like some others, I just started listening to your current season of Budgets and Cents, and realized that I need to figure out a lot of things. You two definitely helped frame those questions with the Why and Values episodes. I too have picked up a very old, anonymous blog, and I’m trying to get those feelings out, Cait and Carrie therapy style!

    • Therapy style! That put a huge smile on my face. I think it’s amazing that you are doing this work both on yourself and for yourself, Amber. And stay anonymous for as long as you want. The writing will help, whether you share it with the world or not. :)

  • That is a great post. I agree with it all. I write a blog about my life and daily stuff including cancer, minimalism, cooking and lots more. I write it for me and to share with others. I hate visiting blogs with all those pop-ups. I go once and that’s it. Thanks, Cait!

  • Authenticity is one of the reasons I always read your posts, Cait! I don’t worry that you’re going to have hidden advertorial. I think too many blogs fall victim to their own success, and lose the authentic voices that made them popular.

    • Well and as a blogger, I can see how/why it happens! I know my voice has certainly changed as I’ve gotten older, done more experiments, learned more about myself, etc. But the blogs *I* love reading are the ones who seem to stay true to themselves. :)

  • How refreshing! Thank you, thid post is actually really helpful and hopeful for someone who would like to write about lowering consumption. Advertising doesn’t sit right with me.

    • It’s an interesting space to be in: writing about why we should consume less, but then knowing most potential revenue would come from selling things. The irony is not lost on me! But there is a way to make money (even if it’s less) that we can feel comfortable with. It just takes some experimenting/work to figure out what the right fit is for us individually. :)

  • This was super insightful and very well-written! I found myself nodding along to all of your points. I started blogging a few years ago as a way to catalogue my thoughts and share my photos with whoever was interested and never had the intention to make money. Today, I think most blogs popping up start from the mindset of “how can I make a lot of money really fast”, with owners only posting something if it is in their “niche” or perfectly written for SEO, or just what they think will rank high in Google no matter if they’re interested in it! Every now and again, I find myself obsessing over numbers and I have to remember that no matter how many pageviews, etc. I get, I’ve got a community and that’s what matters!

    • Yessssssss, oh my gosh, yes re: seeing so many new blogs pop up that were definitely created to make money. Again, I don’t have a problem with this—but I’m also not going to read them, because it doesn’t feel like genuine content. It’s the same as curated Instagram accounts. Sometimes, it’s nice to look at pretty pictures—but I won’t follow them, because it doesn’t feel genuine. It’s all for the likes/numbers/other vanity metrics. I’ll take the community over that any day. :)

  • Fantastic! Loved this post. I’ve been doing what you’re suggesting and enjoy the process. Blogging used to be stressful and something I dreaded doing. I just started a new blog for our social enterprise and decided to do it for enjoyment. The response from readers is coming despite being a baby blog. I’m now a guest writer for an online magazine…& I’m actually looking forward to writing. Slow & intentional is working. You’re right telling people to enjoy the process, the people you meet and to always practice gratitude & humility. Thanks for sharing a bit of your soul.

  • This is so refreshing. I only started reading your blog about a month ago, and noticed very quickly that you never advertised anything. The number of minimal/simple/budget blogs that also advertise is baffling and honestly feels hypocritical to me. The way you write and conduct your business truly comes across as genuine and people will be draw to that.
    I love your writing style – did you study to be a writer at all, or does it just come naturally?

    • Wow, that’s a good question, Kate! My mom would probably tell you that I’m a good writer because I was always a good reader. She taught me to read when I was really young, and it has always been my favourite hobby. So, I do think that writers have to read. But you find your voice by writing often (which I’ve been doing here for the past seven years). I am certainly not an English major (as made evident by the oh-so-many mistakes I make lol). But I do have a Communications degree, not that that means much. ;)

      • That’s a great point, about the reading. My daughter is an avid reader and at the age of 9 already has better writing skills than most adults I know!

  • Hi Cait, I found your site tonight, and what a refreshing read. Now I don’t feel so weird that 10 months into my blog the only people that know about it (other than my 6 readers) are my son and daughter. And they don’t really read it. I’m not sure why I’m so hesitant to let family and friends in on it other than I feel like I’m still stumbling around trying to find my voice (as weird as that sounds).
    I understand your need to take a break a while back. Yea, we should work to live, but without getting out and living, we run out of things to bring to our work.
    Your mindful approach to handling finances does make sense. I’m finding that personal finance blogging is not all about hawking Ebates and $5 Dollar Meal Plan. It should be more about figuring out what you value, what your life goals are and adjusting your habits to match. Clipping coupons won’t get you there
    I too was struggling to come up with a post this week. Thanks for letting me know there’s another approach.

    • There is definitely another approach, Bill! At the end of the day, I think blogging is personal, so we should just do whatever personally feels good to us. And if I could reply to one thing you said it would be that your voice will constantly change—and that’s a good thing. :)

  • Hi Cait, thank you so much for writing this – I really needed to hear this right now. I just started blogging a few months ago and its so easy to just slip into the numbers game. I remember starting off just excited to write what I wanted to, but as I read more about the successes of other bloggers, I lost sight of the whole reason I started. It’s really encouraging reading this post and helping me put my focus back on track. What you said is absolutely true – when you write what you really want, the words just come out naturally. Thanks again!

    • That point might be truer than anything else I said here! It feels so much better to write what feels natural than to try and fit your words into a certain box.

  • I don’t have a lot to say other than I really needed to see this today. I hope that doesn’t break the rule about leaving useless comments. I just REALLY needed to read this today. You can send this to the trash bin if the comment is dumb, the message is for you and I know you’ll see it. Thank you.

  • This is such a good reminder. I try to remember why I am starting a blog and potential health platform and that is to do me and to preach what I believe will help people become happier and healthier. When you explore the social media and blog world, you see people who are getting tons of followers and you think hey, maybe my posts should look more like that….but then you think, wait, but I don’t WANT to….the only reason I am thinking about posting something like that is because I am being influenced by this false world and false ideals. I love that you said to do what seems natural. I will be posting the on a post it note on my computer as a wonderful reminder to keep doing me and being true to exactly what I want to to share with the world and why.

    • Heckkkkkk yes, Jamie! I’m visualizing your sticky note right now. That is so cool to hear. I will also say, it’s fine to get inspiration from what’s out there. But people don’t want to read/see the same stuff over and over. They want YOU and your thoughts and your ideas. :)

  • Cait, thank you so much for writing this. I try not to be obsessed with numbers but it’s hard. I for one don’t do anything to grow my followers or email list. If people want to follow me or sign up for the email list, they can. I don’t want to shove it down their throats. I write because I want to share my knowledge and things that I have learned along my FI journey. I think we talked about this when we saw each other, it’s so boring to write these how to and top 10 posts just to gain top position of Google. Blogs that I enjoy reading are unique on their own and provide great insights. Best of all, I can see myself be friends with the blogger. It’s all about having a connection.

    • One of the things I want to say about the numbers is that, unless you let the obsession go, it will truly never end. There is always going to be someone who has more readers or more pageviews or more followers on social media. Like some people might think I have a big blog, but I have friends who get the same amount of traffic I get all year in a single month! We can’t worry about it. Whenever I’ve thought “I should find ways to get more readers,” I end up writing stuff I don’t like, and the blog feels like a business and I hate it and want to give up. Just keep doing what you enjoy, friend.

  • Thank you for sharing, Cait. I look forward to your posts and I was happy to see this one. I don’t remember how I found your blog but I’m glad I did and it’s the one that resonates with me the most. I am truly grateful for your words and that you’ve shared your experiences.

  • Great post and overview.
    I really like that you focus on telling readers that being honest and true right from the get go is the most important. If you can’t be yourself then there really isn’t much point in sharing with others. Integrity and Authenticity are shining traits in both an individual and a blogger.
    Happy to share this with others and thanks for reminding me on several points as well for my own blogging journey.

    • “If you can’t be yourself then there really isn’t much point in sharing with others.” <-- Now ain't that the truth. :)

  • Wonderful post Cait, and a good reminder why many of us started blogging in the first place. It can be hard not getting caught up in the flurry of money making offers and how to grow your blog hype but that’s just the fluff. The writing and spreading knowledge is the real substance. It’s so inspiring to see the success you’ve had doing things the right way.

    • Well and I can see why people want to grow their blogs and make money from them. But every time an opportunity comes, I would ask yourself one question: “is this in alignment with the direction I want my blog to be going?” It’s not about what you “can get” from the opportunity. It’s about continually moving in the direction you want to be going. If it fits into that equation, great! If it doesn’t, pass on it, keep doing what you’re doing and see what comes next.

  • I appreciate this post! I have been blogging off and on, but I always end up deleting it – largely, I just get embarrassed, because I feel like my thoughts aren’t important. I’m realizing now that I *do* have things to talk about, and more than that – who says it has to be important?

    I’m realizing that it’s perfectly fine to write for myself, rather than for other people. If people read it and like what I have to say? Great! But there’s plenty of space here on the internet for all of us to say what’s on our mind.

    Thank you for the tips. Also, it was such a good point about the ads – it really would have hurt your authenticity if you had been advertising to people while encouraging them not to shop.

    • At times, I still feel the same way about my thoughts not being important to others, Annelise. Then I finish a post and hit publish and realize that it’s my blog and that I’ll probably never know if what I wrote impacted someone else. What I do know is that I wouldn’t be where I am today (retired early) if it weren’t for others writing blogs!
      This is an outstanding post! Cait – you hit so many key things here. I am growing my blog slowly too – and that is fine with me! We just got back from a conference (PopUp Business School at Mr. Money Mustache’s HQ) and they stressed the “1000 fans” idea. Find your voice, be consistent and interact with your community – and you’ll find those fans. You are a testament to that!

    • HECK YES it’s fine to write for yourself! I don’t care what anyone says. Blogging is not dead, and personal blogging is definitely not dead. In fact, when so many new blogs are popping up for the sole purpose that they will make the person a lot of money, I think we need MORE personal blogs. Real people talking about real life situations. Write away, friends! We need you.

  • Thank you for writing this, What a refreshing take on growing a blog – I agree with you on developing it in your own time and in your own way. That’s so important and something I need to keep in mind! I have never felt comfortable creating a blog solely based on how much money I can make, and totally agree with you about how annoying it is to have endless pop-ups, side banners, and advertisements on a blog when I really just want to read someone’s writing and learn something new. In fact, my favorite blogs (including this one) are ones that don’t have advertising, so I think that should inform how I go about creating my own :) Thanks Cait!

    • I don’t know why, but this comment also reminded me of the few months where I thought I had to be one of those bloggers who publishes how much they earn each month, etc. It was this internal struggle where I felt like it was almost a right of passage: “this is what all full-time bloggers do, so I guess I should do it too now that I’m self-employed.” But I hated it! Just another example of trying things and then realizing it’s ok to not continue with it. It should feel GOOD.

  • Cait

    First time reader of your blog, but this post really stuck with me. Starting a blog should be whatever you want it to be, and I couldn’t agree more. I also really liked your point about not advertising on your site. Personal finance blogs shouldn’t be encouraging people to buy things they don’t need!

    • Especially not a personal finance blog that also talks about two-year shopping bans and getting rid of all the stuff you wasted money on, haha. Thanks, Kyle!

  • I love this and thank you so much for providing a different perspective on what successful blogging really looks like … connection, relationships and impact. I have so much respect for the work you do. Thank you for your honesty.

  • Such a great post, all 3,600 words! Your advice is very comforting to someone who has very recently started a blog. I find it very overwhelming thinking I should write as well or about certain topics other bloggers write about. But knowing it’s ok to just write what you want to write about then the pressure is off. I am nowhere near ready to share my blog with friends and family yet. Im too scared of judgement of “just another travel blog”. I started blogging really to improve my writing (as I have no writing experience), document my travels and to see if I like it. So far I’m happy but know I have loads of improvements to make. But your post has reassured me it’s ok to just enjoy the process. Thanks so much!

    • This sounds like all of the BEST reasons to start a blog: to document your journey and improve your writing. Also, slow travel? Sign me up. I’m heading over now. :)

  • This post was like blog therapy to me. I haven’t done this blogging thing very long (just crossed my 5th month yesterday). I know for a fact that I can’t write like the whirlwind of bloggers who generated their success in a fortnight. I’m sure in another demension I can but not this one.

    I had some younger bloggers DM me on Twitter asking how I generate my traffic. Very sweet but I don’t know what to say….

    First of all, I’m not even that much or big in terms of numbers. I’m less intimidating to ask? :)

    Secondly, I have no idea what I’m doing and I have less of an idea on what you are doing so I…don’t know how to give you advice. Join Rockstar forums…love your community…write bomb sh*t.

    Third, it took me 3.5 months to realize I needed to write what I wanted to write. And I only realised that because I noticed a slight slump in my numbers – dejected – I thought of quitting for like 25 seconds – but I didn’t want to leave the friends I have made here in this community. So I thought OK: I’m using this as a diary and to practice my writing. Numbers be damned. So from there it became more personal & enjoyable.

    MAJOR props for mentioning #2 btw.

    • “I’m using this as a diary and to practice my writing. Numbers be damned. So from there it became more personal & enjoyable.” Soooo much YES to this. Also, I loved your Nicolas Cage post (but I think you know that, hehe).

  • “There is a lot of money to be made in this world. ” ~ love that. Wish I had that experience. I’m not a blogger, don’t want to be (although I love writing, I just want to do it for myself), and I’m so sick of commercialism so I admire your views. I’m not aware of abundance (in terms of never running out) and wish I had the eyes to see it!
    In the spirit of sharing, here are my two favorite blog posts about money besides yours (the first one being about abundance and I still don’t get it!):

    Thank you for everything you write, Cait.

    • Thanks for sharing these, Sue! And for what it’s worth: this is the first year I’ve started to try and wrap my head around the abundance mindset, as it is something I’ve always struggled with too. I’ll write some thoughts about it, towards the end of the year. :)

  • You did not mention the obvious attention you give to writing well! It has been a pleasure to read your blog and watch it evolve over the years. I started reading your blog when I heard an interview you gave with Gail Vaz Oxlade many years ago and have continued to learn and enjoy your thoughtful posts since then.

    • Oh, that is so cool to hear, Katherine! And Gail—she has become such an incredible friend and mentor. I am extremely grateful for that. <3

  • Wonderful tips, Cait! I am always disappointed when I leave a comment or write an email and someone other than the blog author/owner replies. It just doesn’t feel authentic to me, which is why I also try to always reply to every comment.

    • My thought on it is always this: I would rather get NO response than hear from a stranger. It honestly would feel better!

  • Cait, I LOVE this post! I view my blog in much the same way that you view yours. I write because I love to write, and I support the community because I love the people. It’s helpful to keep your motives clear. Love your stuff, hope to meet you in Dallas.

  • Thank you so much for this post! I just started my own blog a week ago with the intention of documenting my own process. I have been reading all those blog posts and articles about growing your blog and getting more followers and readers, but it all feels kinda, well, icky to me. I have every intention of earning an income from freelance writing, in whatever form I decide to pursue, but I want my blog to be about the process as it applies to me. This post was exactly what I needed to read today, thank you for articulating what I’ve been thinking!

    • I’m so glad it came at the right time for you, Tara! And as a freelance writer, you will already have extra writing on your plate, so you don’t need MORE work. Start by writing for you. :)

  • Thanks for this, it was a lovely read and very timely too. I’m trying to start a new blog again this year, and starting one in 2017 seems so much more difficult than 2009 …but maybe it’s just my perspective :) (there’s things like Pinterest now, and these pageview blog stat reports!) but I’ll just keep plodding along because-as you put it so eloquently, I enjoy the connection and developing the friendships with the readers.

    • Seriously, forget about all of it. I don’t do Pinterest. That’s not to say it can’t help you get traffic, but if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it!

  • Hey Cait,

    I’m glad you wrote this. I wrote an emo post last week on my blogging thoughts and I feel the same way you do: I try to focus on the actual people instead of the page views, only on social media networks I want to be on, etc. However, I do feel pressure to post on a schedule, or at least twice a week. Do you think a new blogger in 2017 would win an audience posting just once a week or once a month? It does feel like bloggers need to give a lot in the beginning nowadays, especially as there are so many bloggers now. Curious to know your thoughts!

  • Cait, I love this post. Just what I needed to hear. I got a bit lost for a while in writing what I thought people wanted. (Turns out they didn’t anyway) and lost my authentic self within my blog. So reading this validated I was right to go back to what I love. Even if I never make any money. Ever.! Thanks Jo

  • This is great! Now that I have started writing posts about things that interest me I am finding it a lot easier to write; it flows better when what you are saying comes a place of passion rather than “what do people want to read about’, ‘how can I tailor my message to suit others’ It is a lot easier to be authentic and just write your own story and hope it resonates with others than try and craft a fake narrative just for views. Love what you’re doing here, one day I look forward to writing that blog post where I can announce being debt free and that I am off on my world travels.

  • Have you ever felt like you needed someone’s permission to do things differently? I do, and I feel like that’s what you just gave me. I get sucked into the metrics of blogging a lot, especially when its a post I poured my heart and soul into and then nobody read. I’ve never felt comfortable with the ways bloggers are normally told to run their blogs in order to make money (ads, sponsored posts etc). That’s probably because, like you, I blog about not filling your life with tons of stuff you don’t need and blatantly selling would be disingenuous. I’ve been struggling with growing my email list lately, but, I realized my open rate is close to 60% and my bounce rate is around 5% – that matters! I would rather have a small list of people who actually like what I’m doing, then a large group of people who are only clicking through for a flashy title or graphic. Now, I just have to remember that the next time I have a bad blogging day. Thanks for sharing this, Cait.

  • You always remind of how it’s important to write for yourself. Reading your blog always feels like a friend talk next to you.

    I started my blog in early 2016 after having a previous one for three years. I started it because I was yearning for something creative to do after being unfulfilled for a long time. This always led me to a confused state whenever I started getting sponsored inquiries and reading blog growing tactics. It was confusing because I had just started writing my blog to fill a creative void, I never knew it could actually make money.

    While I have gotten freelance writing gigs (that I like!) from it, I’ve learned I don’t really want to have ads or and a pop up on my site. I really like being able to write what I want to write. The way your blog has helped you is great. Thanks for your insight and writing about what’s on your mind.

  • Girl, this was EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog, but I always find reasons not to. This gave me exactly the perspective I needed on the subject. Thank you. Thank you for being you, and for being so real all the time. You have no idea how appreciated you are! <3

  • Thank you so much for creating such a fantastic blog! The authenticity, self-awareness and honesty in your writing helps me think about what I consume, why I’m drawn to consuming it and how that negatively/positively impacts my finances and sense of self. I’m really excited to get the Mindful Budgeting planner when it comes out for 2018!

    One last thought- it’s also great to read a blog that doesn’t constantly feed you more stuff to buy in order to achieve the perfect Instagram life. Thank you, thank you!

  • What a brilliant and insightful post. I love each and every point you made but especially point 2 which really does make a difference to the whole blogging thing and on a personal level. Why shouldn’t we boost each other in general? I find it a fantastic tip to put into practice in all areas of life and certainly within the blogging sphere.

  • Hi Cait. This is my first time commenting. I read your blog all the time and I am on my own debt journey. Counting down the months left. You always emanate sunshine to all. I truly look forward to all of your posts. You are inspiration to not give up and do things your own way. Thank you!

  • I loved reading this Cait – thank you so much for sharing your approach. I’ve always hated ads, sponsored posts, and pop-ups and have chosen to keep them off my site. That said, I’m in that weird state of trying to turn this into a full-time gig so I’m working on finding things I can do that provide actual value to my readers to the point that they’re worth paying for. Right now, that’s an app and I’ve got some thoughts about coaching and a course or two, but we’ll see what the next few months hold.

    If I can’t make it that way, I’m pretty sure I’m headed back to a 9-5 because making a living off ads and sponsored posts just isn’t the right fit for me :)

    I’d consider your “numbers” a real success story because of the way you did it. I’d rather have 1000 truly engaged and passionate regular readers than 100,000 drive-bys!

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I needed this reminder. My husband, Chris, and I are working on our blog full time now. We don’t have an income and are using savings we had built up to try working on our blog for a year. We love what we write about and connecting with others. Being a month and 1/2 into doing this full time, we don’t have a blog income. And that’s OK with us. We feel strongly about not having sponsored content or ads on our site. And we don’t want to compromise on that, but it’s hard when you hear about other blogs that are financially successful because of those things. We’re definitely happy for them! But we don’t want to go in that direction personally. I was starting to think maybe we would eventually need to, but your words inspired me to keep the course we believe in!

  • I enjoyed reading this post. It seems to be very timely for me as I’ve been blogging for a little over 6 months with my husband. Over time we’ve had our ups and downs with blogging and considered quitting, but quitting didn’t feel right. We started our blog to share with people what has worked for us and what could possibly work for them, and if we made any money along the way so be it. We had to realize that even if people didn’t always leave us comments, we could see that people were reading it. Or even if the stats were low for one day. Oh well. As long as the information is helpful to someone and we’re still enjoying it, that’s what matters. So reading your blog post just puts all of this even more into perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you, Cait for this article. I was waiting for it like crazy from the time you’ve told us, you’re working on writing it down.
    You’re right about the blogging metrics – they’re not the most important. I realized that the moments when I think that my blog is a “success”, that somebody reads it and cares is when I get an email, a comment, a question from my reader, and not when my social media “following” grows.
    I want to add something here. Many people criticize some forms of money making on the blogs. I think it’s easy to criticize people who write on their blog “I try to spend less” or “I’m a minimalist” and then they write “Consider buying this and that”. But people need to make money somehow. And when a minimalist or a person who tries to save or pay off debt, works in a coffee shop, selling unnecessary coffee or works selling clothes, or home decor, or not so valuable services… – it’s the same. Just the shop assistant in a shopping gallery don’t wear a t-shirt saying “I try to spend less.” And bloggers have it on their websites.
    When we change our mindsets to being more conscious about money, possessions or environmental issues, we still need to make money. It takes time to find a work that aligns these values!

  • I always love reading about how other people approach blogging.

    Personally, I started my blog with the intent of eventually monetizing it but have since changed my mind. I write about being a widow and had thought about putting together a course for other widows but in the end, I feel icky about trying to sell something to people going through such a traumatic time. So my blog has remained more of a personal journal although I still have ads up to try to offset the costs. But that brings in pennies a day.

    However, I would eventually like to create some other site that actually makes money. As a freelance writer, I think I wrote 300+ articles for clients last year and conducted about 500 phone interviews to write them. I don’t think that’s something I want to do year in and year out for the next 20 years.

  • I tend to focus too heavily on numbers, but not because I want to be a popular blogger or make money from my blog. Instead, I want to grow a community of people going on the same journey as me (much like you said with your finance blogger community). Sometimes I get discouraged because nothing seems to be happening… But! This post reminded me that it takes time and that is something I really needed to hear.

    (And a kick in the butt to start commenting on posts that I enjoy!)

  • cait, i just have to say something about this post.
    i actually started reading your blog in the beginning of 2016, and went all back to the start. i was amazed by your journey, by your idea of not consuming what is not necessary, and by how you felt when you finished your 2-year shopping ban. i told myself: this is how i want to feel. i want to feel that my happiness is not attached to buying stuff. and i wanted, also, to write about my journey.
    i have had personal blogs since 2001, but in the beginning if this year (January 2nd precisely) I decided to finally stop buying stuff and create my blog to talk about it. My focus is on sustainable fashion, wearing what we already have instead of buying new clothes, and I am now also writing about minimalism, living a simple life, career choices, being a woman, the politics of fashion and clothing and even about saving money. I mention you in my posts a lot because you were my great inspiration, even though you do not talk about fashion.
    I didn’t start my blog because I wanted to earn money – I have a job that makes me enough money to pay my bills and allows me to have free time to write on my blog, photograph my outfits, respond to my readers and followers….. People always tell me I should add ads to my page to start making money, but I feel exactly like you: I hate visiting a website and feeling that the purpose of that page is to sell me something. I hate ads and use AdBlocker at all times in all websites. In my blog I talk specifically about how our relationship to fashion, clothes and feeling beautiful should not be attached to consuming all the time. I am also on a shopping ban and already decided I will extend it to next year, and what is the point of talking about not buying useless shit if my site is going to be advertising useless shit, right?
    I felt so touched by this post because it is all I believe in: we should write about what touches us and if
    someone is reading it, we have to care for that reader and show that they matter to our writing.
    Of course I would love to make money out of my blog – but just not through advertisement. I am also not in a hurry – I’ve had the blog for 10 months now and some people would already be profiting, right? I don’t mind waiting for the opportunities that will feel right – and coherent with what I write about.
    (I am Brazilian so I am sorry about any mistakes!)

  • Cait, I love your honesty and integrity. It’s a model for all of us starting out and it’s nice to see that we don’t need to do all those list building tricks that don’t feel good. I know you’ve got a lot of comments here, but in case you read this one I want to let you know that one of your posts inspired me 3 years ago to start dreaming when I googled intentional finance. All the best, Emily

  • I am so glad you wrote about this. I’m not a blogger (though my husband just started one!), but engaging with bloggers like you has helped me find balance in social media. I used to get stuck scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, not really engaging. Now I only follow people who I actually want relationship with in some way and I engage with them. If I follow bloggers who are never responding to things I comment on, I’m less likely to keep following them. Following people like you not only gives me space to learn things and feel empowered, but also helps me connect. Thank you for being a part of that :)

  • Oh, I love this.

    I feel like my Pinterest is filled with “hacks” for bloggers to fix the system to get more views and more notoriety. And hey, they work. I’m a marketer and I do that stuff full-time and I know it works. But it’s not always the most fun thing to do, and I do think blogging should be fun. :)

    If you’re you and do the right thing, people will come.

    I had no idea how WONDERFUL and supportive the blogging community is for personal finance. Everyone wants everyone else to do well and it’s such a great group. :)

  • I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot during my time away from my own blog. Why do I feel pressure to turn it into a money-making machine? To churn out “how to start a blog” posts? The truth is: I’m more interested in writing about where I am on my own journey now that I’m over a year past paying off the student loan debt. I could keep writing about debt, but it doesn’t seem right. I’m grateful for this post. It gives me permission to do it my way, which I think will be similar to your way. I don’t want to do facebook. I don’t want to worry about my number of Pinterest followers. And I’m glad you say that about vanity metrics. I don’t want to create Google Analytic goals.

  • Hell yeah! This is exactly what needs to be put out to the blogging world, do what feels good and enjoy what you do. It isn’t about the money and we shouldn’t be stepping on everyone to get it. So glad to have found this space as a positive in your life.

  • Have you ever thought about using Patreon? People can choose to support you just because they find value in the work you put into your blog and I think can even choose the amount they give. Then you aren’t selling “things”, yet get something back for all the time you put into the site.

  • Hi Cait, I have been silently following your blog for a long time now. As a soon-to-be graduate thinking about starting my own blog, you have provided me with a lot of helpful tips and information here and I just want to thank you for it. I think you make a great point here about obsessing over numbers versus creating a genuine community. My only question is, do you think its more difficult to start a blog now compared to back in 2010? I feel like it is harder to start a blog now because there are so many great ones like yours out there.

  • This is perfect. I find it odd when people have tens of thousands of followers on social media but get no engagement-no likes on their posts/tweets. Isn’t the point of social media to be social? Thanks for writing this, as you say, I NEEDED to read this.

  • Cait, I am beyond shocked to see my name in your post. Doesn’t that just hit all those points home? I am struggling personally with the desire to build my income, grow a blog and a brand, impower people and then there’s the Cait in me – this is my writing space where I can take my time, and what does it matter if there’s no comments yet?
    I’m not a patient person and for that, I can burn out easily. Thank you – THANK YOU – for writing this. I needed to read this. I need to remember that sustainable ideas take time. Gardens take time to grow. People do not evolve as adults immediately, so why does my blog need to?
    Thank you.

  • Thank you so much for this.

    It can be really easy to get discouraged when you see a ton of “How I Make $XXXXX a year after Y months of blogging” or other posts about vanity metrics like followers. Then I feel the urge to crack open that SEO book or exhaustively curate a Pinterest page, even when I *hate* both those activities…and then I stop posting because I feel bad if I don’t do all the extra marketing things.

    Notice I say “stop posting” and not “stop writing.” I think I have more draft posts than published posts right now, because I get all gung ho about compiling research and drafting an article, and then…I worry too much about things that don’t matter. I need to pull myself back to why I started writing in the first place. :)

  • I love your blog Cait, and have been reading it for a while now. I started from the first post when I found you :) and have read them all. We have actually connected before, although under my actual name and a different email. As I begin my own blogging journey, I hope I can remain as true to myself as you have. You are an inspiration!

  • I’ve never commented here before but wanted to join the chorus of people thanking you for your wise and timely perspective, Cait. I’ve visited and followed a lot of blogs in the worlds of minimalism, simple living, and personal finance over the past six years or so, and am finding a strong correlation between a lack of advertising and my long-term interest in the blog. I think it all comes down to authenticity. No matter how much distance or how many layers of technology lie between us, we’re all ultimately still looking for authentic human connection.

    Coincidentally, I just started pondering the idea of a blog about a week ago. I’m going to mull it over some more before deciding, but the timing and content of your post is super relevant. Thank you!

  • Hey Cait! Came across your article through the Rockstar forums. As a new blogger to the PF space, I cannot tell you how refreshing of an article this was. It seems that everything is all about numbers rather than people. Grow more, monetize earlier, build the list. Of the hundreds of blogs I’ve read over the last 6 months, this is my first comment on any of them. Why? Because your genuine and real.

    This is my first visit to your website and you can bet that I’ll be back. Subscribed!

  • Hey Cait, I just came across your post via Bloglovin’ having never visited your blog before.

    I just want to say – thank you so much for sharing this!

    As somebody fairly new to blogging this advice is invaluable, and so different to other advice I’ve read. I’ll definitely be putting this into practice! I’ve already bookmarked the page :-)

  • Thank you so much for confirming what my instincts were already telling me. I’m often uncomfortable with the advice I read about growing my blog, because it doesn’t really resonate with how I want to treat my blog and my readers. It was refreshing to hear your approach, and reminds me that it’s okay to ignore the popular advice and do what feels right.

  • I’m looking into starting my own blog as a personal outlet source. I loved this post and it gave me a better insight to how I’d like my blog to look/read even if it is solely for me at the moment.

  • Thanks Cait. This post came at such a great time for me, you reminded me of the things that I really love about blogging. Since reading, I’ve been making more time to read and comment on new blogs. A lot of the bloggers who I connected with when I first started out have dropped off now.
    And a big thanks to everyone who has commented as you’ve given me a whole list of new blogs to check out.

  • Cait, thank you so much for this post. I have been blogging for a lot of years, and recently have decided to do more writing on a regular basis. I strive to always be authentic in my posts, and it’s one of the reasons your blog is one of my favorites. You are REAL in everything you write, and it shows through. It’s another reason why I love, love, LOVE the podcast you have with Carrie. I truly feel like I’m sitting there in a room with the two of you (even though I know you guys are several hundred miles apart!)

    I too see all those posts about “how to grow your blog and make this much money per month, and here’s how you do it!” But I don’ want to write posts just to get clicks on them. I want to touch people and have an effect on them. I’m studying for a masters in humane education and one of the ways I want to teach others is through my writing. i will continue keeping you as my role model when it comes to blogging. Hopefully, my blog will grow, but because of what I’m saying touches people, and gets them to think, and maybe modify some behaviors in a way that is friendlier to our planet and to our furry animals who we share this world with.

    Thank you for showing you can write what you want, what makes you feel better, and be successful at the same time. It might just take a little bit longer to grow my blog, and I’m fine with that.

  • I really enjoyed reading this long post. I have just recently started a blog of my own (like literally two days ago) and have no experience with it at all. I am not a writer by any means but I really enjoy reading blogs and following them so I wanted to give it a go myself. I am looking at it as a creative outlet for myself. I am always looking for ways to better myself and I am very excited for the journey ahead. Thank you so much for this.

  • I love this post and how you have found your limits and stand for what you believe in. I work in marketing and boy is it exhausting to advise clients on how to reach a bigger audience and drive more sales when I try to live a very minimal lifestyle. I feel like a fraud constantly and am somewhat “stuck” with what to do next to break away from the “golden handcuffs” as we call them at our office. I am not excited about one single part of my job at this point and hope that very soon I can find meaningful work that brings calm and clarity to my day. Your blog’s look and feel resonates with me; less is more and boy the ads and constant links to Personal Capital from many in the FI/RE community is really wearing thin. Kudos to you!

  • I love this, Cait! And I heartily agree with all you’ve written, here.

    I, too, go my own way with my blog. I write what’s true and honest for me–not for some elusive and ever-shifting set of stats and measures. My blog is not a moneymaker, but that’s okay–it’s a showcase for my writing–my breadth and depth, and so in that way, indirectly, I guess I do profit from it (several clients have hired me because of what I wrote–but not because my blog is *monetized*).

    Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  • I’ve been playing around with a blog off and on for years, trying to soak up all the advice and “rules” about what it takes to be a “success.” No huge following, no money flowing in. And sometimes it felt like I was not being real. So I stopped writing, stopped posting, and decided it wasn’t for me because everything seemed to be all about gaining hundreds of thousands of readers and “monetizing a blog” while producing content that people wanted. The content part, sure, that feels perfectly right but the other pieces, not so much. That’s why reading your post resonates deeply with me. And it gave me a little nudge to start writing again about what matters to me, hopefully connecting with others who care about the same things. As you pointed out, building a community is way more important than worrying about analytics, monetizing, and becoming a “successful blogger” (whatever the heck that really means). Thank you, Cait, for this post. It came at just the right time for me.

  • Of course I love this, will be bookmarking this, and will re-read it every time I find myself focusing on my blog stats instead of my blog content. (Which happens entirely too often!)
    I started my blog for me. And while I’ve made some money off it, that was never my goal. But over the years, watching blogger after blogger quit their jobs to blog full time, I couldn’t help but feel like that was the path that I was supposed to be working towards as well. Even though it’s not something that I want. Time to focus on what I *do* want instead. :)

  • Amazing blog post! Thank you for sharing your story. I know you may not reply b/c this post is a bit old now but I’ll still ask.

    My question is how do you balance growing your blog/getting more subscribers with being present and interacting with your current ones? I see so many posts about “growing, growing, growing” but at the same time I know that I need to blog with intention – being mindful when I blog.

  • Readers can definitely tell the difference between blogs that exist to make money and blogs that exist for their own sake. I can learn from both of them, but I have a strong tendency towards the latter. I don’t want to “maximize” my earnings etc. I want to write about things that help me and I hope that my writing about them will help others like me. The PF blogging community has inspired me a ton and I am in a much better position because I’ve been reading what folks have put out.

  • cait, i just started my blog, and i wrote about how this post is my guiding light. THANK YOU for being the person that you are, and sharing your life with us. i really really love you (is that weird?) and your blog. thank you again.

  • I NEEDED TO READ THIS! I have read so many of the “make money on your blog from the start!” and “do this and your blog will make you rich!” posts. I was starting to wonder if there were even people blogging about anything other than starting a blog anymore! It all became overwhelming and made me wonder if starting a blog was even something I really wanted to do. I am just starting my own budgeting and blogging journey and stumbled upon your podcasts and now I am so glad I did! Thank you for inspiring and keeping it real! I can’t wait to read and listen to more!

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