In February 2016, I read an article in the New Yorker about how Mr. Money Mustache retired at 30 and makes $400,000 a year from his blog. It made me sit up and take notice. And actually snicker a little, because he can’t spend any of it (as it would destroy his frugal reputation). But he doesn’t want to, so it’s all good.
Then I ran across Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who was making more than $100,000 a month on her Making Sense of Cents blog.
These uber-successful blogs certainly got my attention, but I wasn’t passionate about living a monkish denial lifestyle a la Mr. Money Mustache, or helping people develop their own successful blogs, which is where Making Sense of Cents’ primary focus had migrated to.
And I knew these blogs must be outliers – I mean, if anyone could make six figures running a blog, why wouldn’t they?
I knew my Personal Finance King blog would have to be a passion project – sharing what I have learned about personal finance, much of it informed by biblical wisdom. That’s the only way I would stay motivated through the early lean years.
I launched in September 2016, but soon began to wonder: Would there ever be any fat years? What is the expected ROI on PF blogging?
To find out, I decided to reach out to some of the most successful personal finance bloggers who I have grown to admire for their beautiful writing, or money insight, or just plain dogged perseverance in the face of financial challenges.
Most of the responses list multiple reasons – monetary and not – for keeping on, but for the sake of simplicity, I have grouped them into four categories:
- Bringing home the bacon
- A good side hustle
- Helps to make money elsewhere
- Personal fulfillment
Number 4 includes a lot of things, like accountability, learning, connection, helping people, and leaving a legacy.
Following are the best responses in their own words, with some editing for length and clarity.
1. Bringing Home the Bacon
Kylie of The Thrifty Issue
“I make a full time income from blogging, get paid to travel internationally, exclusive invites to events and can work around my kids. I didn’t start out with the aim to make money through it, but once I started I was offered a book contract, international speaking, freelance writing, bought and sold more websites and it ended up being quite profitable.
I started with the goal to be a millionaire by 30 and shared ways to make and save money. I love the community I have developed over time and the fact I help so many people. Since then, I have owned multiple sites, flipped them for a profit, won numerous awards and left an abusive marriage (ending up homeless with my daughters for a while) because my confidence and income grew from blogging.
Finance blogging is no different to any business. If you want it to be financially successful for you, treat it like a business, learn everything you can and split test everything. If you treat it as a hobby, it will likely always be a hobby instead of providing income.”
Peter Anderson of Bible Money Matters
“I started blogging almost 10 years ago, and from the beginning I had the goal of having a monetary AND non-monetary ROI for my time invested. At the time we were going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, getting our own finances in order, and I thought it might be nice to write about the things I was learning, and help other people make similar changes in their lives. I figured, why not also make some money while doing it? I had the goal of one day replacing my wife’s income so that she could stay home with our future kids.
In the end I’ve been able to more than replace her income – she now stays home with our son and is pregnant with our first daughter. In the process I’ve been able to reach millions of people with a positive financial message. I couldn’t feel more blessed!”
J. Money of Budgets are Sexy
“I blog about money because it’s super fun and I love the community around it :). I actually didn’t even know you could make money with it 10 years ago when I started, but over time I stumbled across it and have since become a full-time professional blogger – so now the return is two-fold! Though I still very much consider it more hobby than “business”, if only because the business parts dampen the fun – hah. But yes – there’s def money to be made if you’re passionate and good enough, but I’d say you have to really ENJOY it first to get to that point as it is not easy, and there are MUCH faster ways to make money than in blogging… In fact, I don’t know a successful blogger who started it just for the money. It was always secondary, or not even on their mind, when first launching ’em… I think that’s the best way to go into blogging: do it because you enjoy it or are curious, and then if you become successful great, and if not it was a fun experiment!”
Jim of Wallet Hacks
“My ROI started as non-monetary, when I had my previous blog Bargaineering. As it grew and earned a sizable income, I started doing it full time and the ROI was monetary. I think you have to start with it being something other than revenue because the money is terrible for the first few years. It takes time to “figure it out” so to speak. During that time, you can learn a lot about personal finance and business, so it’s all positive even if it doesn’t make your bank account grow.
I enjoy helping people when they want help. All too often you see people in trouble but they don’t know it, so they refuse your help. With a blog, people only ask if they really want to fix something. I get a lot of pleasure helping folks that way because there’s none of the fight. It’s especially rewarding when I help them avoid a scam that could’ve cost them thousands.”
2. A Good Side Hustle
SB of One Cent at a Time
“My decision to start a PF blog was part monetary and part hobby. I was reading a few blogs and their income reports for almost 2 years before I took the plunge in March 2011. I joined a PF blogger community which is now defunct but the group of people helped me immensely. So much so that I felt encouraged to write every day, 7 posts a week. Soon all my stats started skyrocketing and money started coming in.
My first income was through a sponsored post, a mere $60 to promote a business. Over the years I started diversifying my income from the blog. Now I earn money through ads, affiliate commissions, sponsored posts, business promotion, influencer marketing, and sponsored social media campaigns.
Over the years my involvement also changed, after a promotion and a child (who’s just turning 2). My blogging hours have been reduced to one per day, at most. But my income didn’t reduce at all. So, in essence, ROI from the blog is increasing every year. My blog income is nearly 1/3 of my day job income with only 1/8 of an effort, which is awesome.”
Derek Sall of Life and My Finances
“I have never viewed my blog as a true business and therefore haven’t ever calculated the ROI. I do, however, earn roughly $1,000 a month, which is more than enough considering I mostly write to help others achieve their personal finance goals and dreams. Beyond this, the blog pushes me to get better and do more, which actually improves my knowledge around finance and improves my own net worth over time!
This past year I received a $60,000 offer for my blog…I turned them down. I just love it too much. I’m not sure I could ever give it up!”
Mr. CBB of Canadian Budget Binder
“When I started in 2012, the blog was merely a way to share finance information and the path we took to become debt free before 40. Now that the blog is almost 6 years old, I know that I could make lots more money but at this time am keeping it as-is.The money the blog does make goes back into the blog and my community in the form of prizes during contest times. If I ever sold the blog, I know much can be done to make it a fine-oiled reading machine that earns a decent income.
Now that I’ve learned over the years about monetizing my blog, I’ve slowly incorporated that but not overkill. I have a full-time job I enjoy with a great pension. I love blogging but have no intentions to do it full-time even if the money is outrageous. Money isn’t everything after all.”
Dave Domzalski of Run the Money
“It’s really a labor of love for me. I love the idea of starting something from nothing and growing it. Furthermore, I love knowing that I’ve helped somebody I don’t even know in some small way by my insight and personal experience. No amount of money can replace knowing you’ve truly helped a fellow human being. I also do it because I want to leave a legacy for my son and daughter. So, yeah, there is a financial element in that sense. Plus, I’ve always wanted to replace my job income with my blog income. While I’m not there yet, my blog income did pay for all Christmas expenses in 2017.
Blogging has also provided me a platform beyond the blog. In November 2017, I was asked to write for Forbes and the experience is incredible. It’s given me the opportunity to write about and network with some of the most fascinating individuals you can imagine. That is the epitome of ROI. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me. And I have God, my wife, and my family to thank for it.”
PoF of Physician on FIRE
“I started because I thought I had a pretty good story, having achieved financial independence more or less by accident – early retirement chose me. By reading, researching, and writing, I’ve learned a ton – about investing, taxes, and even myself and my future desires.
In terms of pure dollars, I passed the break even point after a few months, but considering the amount of time and effort I put into the site and all that goes along with being a blogger, even with a decent income now, the returns are not exactly stellar. My day (and sometimes night) job as an anesthesiologist certainly pays better. As I continue to reach more people and the message of financial independence spreads, I imagine the profits will grow. I didn’t know what to expect when I started, so it’s pretty much all gravy.
I pledged from day one that I’d donate half of my profits, and in two years I’ve been able to donate tens of thousands of dollars. That’s exciting!”
3. Helps to Make Money Elsewhere
Erin Lowry of Broke Millenial
“I never focused on earning money off the blog itself, but rather saw it as a way to build a portfolio which could be leveraged to get other opportunities. The ROI on that has been huge because I’ve gotten three book deals, now get paid to come speak at companies and colleges, and routinely get paid to write for major outlets. Considering how lean I kept my expenses for having the blog, it’s also been a net-positive for me.”
Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt
“My blog doesn’t make much money at all. I have not tried to monetize it that much as I’m picky about ads and such as my readers are getting out of debt. Instead of having an advertising model to make income through blogging, I have leveraged my blog into a new career in freelance writing and event planning. The blog showcased my writing and built authority. It led to a book! This made it much easier to pitch myself to companies and get started writing and doing events.”
Julie Rains of Investing to Thrive
“The monetary benefit I’m deriving has been more for my personal portfolio, rather than loads of income from the site. I’m about ten years from traditional retirement age and sorting through stock selection, asset positioning, taxes, portfolio management, etc. – by researching, analyzing, and writing about these topics – has helped me make better decisions.
Similarly, I hope that I am helping folks to understand, weigh, and be at peace with their financial decisions, especially in regard to investing and planning.”
Josh of Money Buffalo
“ROI for my blog: My personal portfolio to attract freelance writing clients and being able to connect with other financially-savvy bloggers with similar life experiences.
My blog is mostly a personal hobby to share my story of getting out of debt and quitting a job that earned $80,000 a year after working the swing shift and 3rd shift for 7 years. I started the blog in 2015 a month after I quit my job with the intent of earning passive income, but it helped me unexpectedly become a part-time freelance writer in the process.
I earned $500 in blog income in 2017. I want to see the blogging income progressively grow so I can transition away from writing for others, but I just started earning a monthly affiliate paycheck in the fall of 2017 so I don’t have a target date in mind.”
4. Personal Fulfillment
Fritz of The Retirement Manifesto
My ROI is 100% personal satisfaction. I wrote for 2.5 years before I made any attempt at monetization. The pleasure I get from writing, and from the feedback from readers who are being impacted by my words, are more than enough for me. Having said that, I’m now at the point where my blog’s growth is exceeding many of the “Free” service levels (e.g., Mailchimp charges after you exceed 2,000 e-mail subscribers), so I’ve added a few advertisements on my blog. Rather than attempting to make any profit, my goal at this point is simply to keep my hobby cost neutral.
Mr. FWP of Finances With Purpose
“My ROI is profound. The most important parts of it are not monetary. And while others save thousands, I have yet to make a net profit on the blog after expenses. Instead, I am hopefully helping people find more fulfillment and purpose. My ROI comes from living out my life mission: to encourage, equip, and influence others to do good, to live well, to lead well, and to honor God in whatever they do. I love seeing people achieve more abundant living; it is its own reward.
As it happens, God has been looking out for me on the finances piece of life anyway, even during periods where I had no idea why or how it would work out. So, who cares if my blog does not make much profit? I am confident I will be provided for and I will continue providing what I can for others.”
Chris of Can I Retire Yet?
“I’ve been blogging for about 3 years and to this point it has been a net negative financially, i.e. I’ve made less through Amazon affiliate and pay for freelance writing than I’ve paid for my domain, hosting, etc. However, blogging has paid tremendous dividends for me personally. From my community I’ve connected with others (bloggers and non-bloggers) and established genuine friendships, mentors, and people who I encourage and encourage me on the journey to financial independence and on a larger level in life in general.
Also, now that I have time to devote to it, my efforts have put me into a position where I feel that is highly likely that I will benefit financially as well. This includes turning my attention away from my original blog Eat the Financial Elephant and to partnering on the blog Can I Retire Yet? going forward. I am also working on writing a book which has potential to be financially lucrative.
So I guess in summing up, if you are looking for a way to get rich quick and with little work, I think blogging is a horrible idea. However, if you have other good motives, are willing to put in the time, and are playing the long game, it has potential to have tremendous financial and non-financial ROI.”
Mrs. Groovy of Freedom is Groovy
“The biggest surprise about blogging is the friendships we’ve made – real, in person friendships. We’ve visited a few bloggers; a few of them have visited us. These friends will be life-long, whether we continue to blog or not.
Making new friends at our age is a wonderful and unexpected bonus. We feel very lucky to be a part of the personal finance community. That many in the community are decades younger is a double bonus – they keep us feeling young too.”
MR of Millionaire Renter
“MRS & I love to talk about money – we talk about it everyday at the dinner table. So one day we thought to ourselves, what if we have a blog and just post everything we talk about at home, some day our children can read about it and be educated.
We were in debt $750K with $40K income 4 years ago. We don’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through and hopefully through our blog, we will make a difference.”
Menard of Millionaire Before 50
“My ROI is negative. I am not doing it for the money, anyway. I started my blog primarily because I’m passionate about the subject. You have to be in order to continue blogging year after year. Being able to share knowledge to help other people while doing what I love is an added bonus.
I’m primarily doing it to keep me and my wife motivated. I wouldn’t say my wife was a shopaholic, but she’s now a sell-aholic ever since I’ve started the blog. She’s been selling all our old stuff on FB marketplace like crazy.
There were many opportunities for me to make money. In fact, I’ve rejected two marketing offers last week because they wanted me to publish a sponsored post about Bitcoin and Binary Options, both of which have links to a gambling site. That said, I do have plans to make money in the future. I’m planning to use my blog as a platform to sell services or products.”
Reid of Wealth Rehab
“I feel like I am an artist at heart. I see my blog as a work of art. In each post, I am trying to craft something that is enjoyable and helpful. Honestly, there is nothing new in the personal finance world that hasn’t been said in the past. So the creativity is in how we present info.
My breakeven point has nothing to do with money. Rather, I believe it is at the point where I have nothing else to say about money and my relationship with it. I don’t think that it will be anytime soon.”
Kyle of Steward and Slave
My blog has earned me exactly seven cents, which I can’t even withdraw from Amazon’s bank because it doesn’t meet the threshold for earnings. In 2017, it attracted just a little over 6,700 visitors, which is incredibly humbling to me, but doesn’t exactly make me a household name.
Why, then? For me, writing is cathartic. In this fast-paced, multi-tasking, swipe-down-to-refresh world, writing is a chance to slow down and process what’s going on. Having a blog allows me to think through why I view the world the way I do, put it together in a way that makes sense, and write it out in a format I can reflect on later in life. In one sense, even though my site is about personal finance and the Christian faith, it also serves as a journal that I invite you, the reader, to look at with me. As I grow and my station in life changes, I can look back at my blog posts and see what and why I thought about life’s curveballs.
I also believe strongly that everyone, no matter who they are, has a story to tell, and that each story, though it may not be relevant to everyone, will always be relevant to someone. When my wife and I started our financial journey together, we looked for other couples out there like us, who didn’t have great job prospects, who were buried over their heads in debt, and who wanted to better themselves for tomorrow. I know those people exist, but we couldn’t find them! No one like us was sharing their story, at least not that we could find.
That’s when God planted the bug in my mind. I’d start a blog, in case a younger version of ourselves was out there right now, making the same mistakes we made, heading down a path that would lead them to want to find a story like theirs, like ours, in the future. Maybe this blog will get them to understand that there is someone out there like them, and they’re not alone in the issues they face.
Steve of Think Save Retire
“My ROI isn’t really measurable. Blogging for me is something that I do because I enjoy it. While I do run ads and like to earn a small income from it, I don’t really care too much about that side of things. Nor pageviews. I’d rather see how far I can take the blog…how much influence I can have within the community…and not worry about the money side of it, or how many hits I’m getting every month.”
Any additional perspectives from other bloggers? Share it in a comment.