I'm not going to lie, I'm nervous as I write this.
The funny thing is, I'm not sure why. You Freebs have been nothing but supportive and incredible toward me (and my family!) on my little blogging journey. What started as a whim hobby in 2011 has snowballed into an incredible experience, blessing, and GIFT that I never would have ever thought possible.
I'm about to declare some bold things, and once you put thoughts out to cyber space, it's hard to take it back. (Trust me, I've learned the hard way.)
I've had this post stewing in my head for a few months now. I've sat down to try to write it several times, and the words just haven't come. I don't know how to explain what I'm feeling, or what the end solution is. But I have some things on my mind, and some major changes that need to be made in my life, and with this being the last day of 2016 I figure this is as good a time as any to get it off my chest and put a plan into action.
I'm quitting blogging. Or, rather, I'm quitting “blogging“. And yes, there is a difference.
Buckle up, this could be a long one…
When I first started blogging in 2010, the internet – the blogging world, namely – was the wild wild west. Everyone and their dog (literally) had their own blog; “family blogs” as they were referred to back then. Free for the taking, easy to start, fun to do. A creative outlet that anyone could enjoy, and it was a fun new hobby for the rest of us to be able to peek inside the lives of people we were curious about.
I started FunCheapOrFree as a way to share all the fun, cheap or free things I was finding in and around Salt Lake City, UT, to help struggling families like mine find things to do that don't cost much (or anything at all). I did it outside of my family blog to keep our family protected and retain a little privacy. I mean, who wants to come looking for free things to do in Utah and happen upon Priya's birth story instead?
After a few months of posting coupons, deals, and fun/cheap/free things to do in Utah I realized…
I hated it.
Like, REALLY hated it.
I was expressing my hatred to Bubba one night in bed, telling him how much I loathed the “rat race” I had found myself in. Scraping to be the first to post a coupon, or free tickets to this or that, comparing myself to other coupon and deal bloggers (that's all that existed pretty much back then), and feeling badly that after a few months of blogging, I still only had about 5 readers…3 of them were my mom on her phone, ipad, and computer.
Blogging is NOT for me, I declared.
As Bubba leaned over to turn out the lamp he said, “then stop ‘blogging', and just go back to doing what you love.
Why did you start it in the first place? Forget everyone else and just do what you want to do. If you don't plan to make millions from this, then it's a hobby. Do it your own way and make it yours. There's not even a picture of you on your site anywhere. You need to put your stamp and personality on it, and maybe people will stick around.”
He rolled over and went to bed, and my mind raced the rest of the night.
I woke up early the next morning, ran to my computer, and The Fun Cheap or Free Queen was born.
That was in 2011. I took exactly what I had been doing, “blogging” just like everyone else, and decided to throw it out the window and do it MY WAY.
I vowed to stop looking at numbers. I promised to quit the rat race. I decided that I was in charge of my own real estate. I was going to blog about what I wanted to blog about, because who gives a flip what everyone else does! I wasn't making money from it, it was my hobby, my way. (I'm a bit of a control freak, no?)
I became inspired, and a flame lit in me that I hadn't experienced before. I loved blogging. LOVED it. It was my way, my rules, my readers which quickly became my best friends.
About a year and a half later I was sweating at my computer, with Hutch and baby Priya in high chairs in front of the TV, watching their 3rd episode of Sesame Street. Bubba came into the kitchen and saw me stressed out of my mind, rushing to get my blog post out for the day.
I'll spare you the details but he basically had what we lovingly call a Come To Jesus meeting.
He sat me down and talked me through my “blogging”. I was killing myself, letting my house go, and neglecting my children, in order to get 5-7 blog posts out per week. I felt self-imposed pressure to post certain things, at certain times. I kept committing to things online that ended up being huge amounts of work. I had no other hobbies, barely any spare time, and didn't have much life balance.
I loved it. I couldn't put my finger on it exactly, but I loved it.
Sure, I was working for free – hadn't made a dime. But I loved my readers. Loved the recognition. Loved that I was helping people. I loved the creative outlet, and felt like the “brain break” from motherhood was making me a better person somehow.
While all of that was true, Bubba helped me see that I didn't have good balance, and was falling back into my old “blogging” ways. The deadlines, the pressure, the rat race…it had crept back up and got hold of me again. I kept insisting it was a hobby, and he said if I was spending so much time on it, that I should at least be making money from it. I told him I didn't want to make money because then it turns from a hobby, into a job…and the last thing I wanted was a job. (Probably said with a melodramatic barfing face…since I'm quite melodramatic.)
He logged into my Google Analytics (which I didn't even really knew I had) and saw that I had 350K people reading my blog each month. After a few “Holy crap, Jordan, did you know your traffic was so high??” exclamations,
…he decided it was time to talk some sense into me.
He Bubba-ized me (as you might have heard me call it before). Basically, he got all Sensei-practical, loving, and analytical on me and helped me work it through. He sat me down, had me write a list of the pro's and con's of blogging. He had me write a list of everything I loved about it, and everything I hated about it. He helped me see that 1) with as much traffic as I had, and 2) the amount of time (and money, at this point) that I was investing in it, I either needed to quit, or make some money to make it make sense.
Quitting wasn't an option, so we decided it was time for the blog to make money.
He helped me make a list of every possible way to make money either blogging, or using my blog as a springboard. The list was quite long, and it was fun to see all the creative revenue possibilities. Then came the easy part…he had me go through the list and cross off everything I hated. I quickly crossed off things like sponsored posts, anything craft-related or making and selling physical products (I really suck at crafts), and writing for other people's blogs (I'd rather write for my own!).
He had me go through again, and cross off things that maybe I didn't hate, but that weren't as important to me…giveaways, sponsored social media posts, and product reviews.
He then had me circle a few things that I LOVED. That, in my dream world, I would totally do for free, but would just die and go to heaven if I could get paid for it. Those things were:
1) Being paid to be on TV, having my own TV show being the ultimate dream,
2) Getting a book deal,
3) Having my own conference,
4) Public speaking, teaching, and in-person events
5) Starting my own budgeting program and app someday.
As many eye rolls as I slung in Bubba's direction during that conversation, there was no denying that his Bubba-izing had worked.
I had new direction, new zest, and was back to “blogging” my OWN way.
Since then I've worked my tail off, and have achieved every goal (except the book deal – I had a contract and ended up cancelling it, realizing it's not for me, and I haven't gotten my own TV show yet but I'm still trying! Oh and I don't have an app yet. But someday, you just wait and see!).
From that point on, the blog started making money, and good thing it did. I had more kids, back to back (I have 5 kids 6 and under right now for anyone who doesn't know…), and with that, had growing family responsibilities. The money that came in allowed me to not only hire some help on the side (meet our current FCF team!), but also helped me simply keep the blog afloat!
One thing that bloggers don't talk about is how expensive blogging can be. My email list alone costs me $500/month to send emails out. FIVE. HUNDRED. DOLLARS. It's $50/month just for my blog to be in existence. I have to pay a tax guy $175/month, payroll is a few thousand each month, not to mention the web development and design, taxes, rentals and overhead costs for my conferences and events, travel expenses for blog conference and speaking engagements, technical support, graphic design, babysitting for doing TV segments and speaking engagements, building programs like Budget Boot Camp that cost over $10K to build…the list goes on and on. I would say my blog costs about $5-$6k per month on average…
…and I still don't take a paycheck.
Full disclosure – for tax reasons, I will be forced to take a paycheck in 2017. But that will be the first time since I've started blogging that I will technically pay myself. Sure, I use “blog money” when I get my hair cut or get my nails done, I can even use it to buy a new outfit for a TV segment since it's all technically a business expense. But it hasn't been about the money for me, and still isn't. A perk? For sure. But I chose to put the money back into my blog/business(es) rather than take it for myself…which most likely would have been blown at Target, anyway.
My blog has to make money, and honestly, I wouldn't work so hard at it if it didn't. It's not only a passion project, but it's a working, functioning, lucrative business now. That I can do from home. While being a stay at home mom! What a blessing! I don't have a nanny, I don't have a regular babysitter. I drive carpool, I do my kids' homework with them, I volunteer in their classes. I do my own dishes and grocery shopping, and I even date my husband still (as we all should). It's been a blessing that I still can't believe I've been gifted with.
…and frankly, I'm not really sure why anyone still reads it!
(Literally? Why is anyone reading this? If you're still with me I fully apologize for the heavy word vomiting, and think you deserve a cookie and a DDP for staying with it for this long! I swear I'll wrap up soon.)
My point of all that is…
Sure. My blog makes money. It needs to make money at this point. If it stops making money, it would cease to exist.
BUT…I don't want to “blog” any more…so I'm going to quit.
When someone asks me “do you love blogging?” I never really know how to answer. It changes each time, but I usually fumble something out to the effect of “I love what my blog leads to…but I actually hate blogging.”
Back in 2010 I blogged for me. For my soul, and for any other person who happened to stumble upon my little corner of the internet and somehow, found some tiny form of inspiration from it.
Over the last few years, this blessing has became a curse at times. The deadlines. The rules. The analytics. The “pay to play” game that every. single. social media channel is forcing us to play. The emails. Oooooooh the emails. The (surprisingly occasional but still there) snarky comments online. The try-as-hard-as-I-might-its-hard-not-to-compare-yourself-to-others game.
I'm done. It's enough.
Over the last year I gave it one last giant College Try. I decided I was going to give it one year where I “blog” like the big dogs do. I decided to follow all the “rules”. Play all the “games”. I decided to focus, and treat my blog like a “blog”, according to the professionals, articles, and conferences, and do it…”right”.
I hated it. And so did you.
My traffic dropped. It plummeted, actually. My workload increased. My stress level went up. I took on sponsorships that paid well, but made me want to dig a hole and bury myself in it. I played by all the rules, and
It. Didn't. Work.
Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. I'm just committing to change things; redirect the path of FCF. So yes, I'll tell you “what now”. It's pretty simple, really.
I'm taking my site back.
I'm done “blogging”. I'm over it. I've done this long enough, my Budget Boot Camp is paid off and is bringing in side income. I've got some money in the bank to make sure my team members don't have to worry about job security or payroll. I'm finally at a place that I'm going to light my torch, throw some war paint on my face, and
take. my. site. BACK.
I won't do sponsored posts any more. I have some contracts left to fulfill, then my answer is NO if I want it to be NO.
I won't do things just because an algorithm, or blog conference, or class, or person tells me to.
I won't hover over my phone to see how many likes and comments something gets.
I won't pretend to love your product because I can get paid $500-$2500 to do it (yes, you read that right. Now you see why it's so tempting!).
I won't follow a schedule that everyone tells me to follow, or blog how everyone tells me to blog, and
I'm not going to follow the damn rules! (Pardon my french.)
2017 is the year I take my site back, and stop “BLOGGING” for everyone else.
Let me get one thing clear – I deeply respect and admire professional bloggers who make money from their blog. There's nothing wrong with it! I'm simply talking about my personal situation, and how I've let “blogging rules” cloud what my heart is telling (and wanting) me to do.
Even now as I write this, I have this little pit of anxiety. “It's 2pm! I'm about to publish a blog post at 2pm? No one's going to see it! It's not following the Pinterest rules. I should wait and do it on a high-traffic day. I should have a better Google search term in the title. I should…”
SHUT YOUR BRAIN, J!
I'm clearly going to need to re-train myself, and I'm excited to get started.
For the last few months I've been wracking my brain, trying to come up with a new name for it. I wanted to completely detach myself from the terms “blog” or “blogger”, but unfortunately I'm not sure a term exists.
Meh. Nothing sounds right and nothing seems to fit. So sure, call me a blogger. I don't blame you, there's no other term (…yet! But one of my bucket list goals is to get a word in the dictionary, so maybe we can be the first to pioneer a new phrase…so be thinking and share your ideas below, mmmmkay?).
Whatever you call me, I'm going back to focusing on ME, YOU, and nothing else.
I'm going to write about what I feel like, when I feel like it. MY words, not theirs. I'm going to have ugly pictures on Instagram because it's REAL LIFE FOR GOSH DARNS SAKE! I don't really care if I never make it to 100K followers as a result.
It just. doesn't. MATTER.
I'm going to get back to that conversation in 2010, where Bubba encouraged me to go back to doing what I love. I love helping people live a better life. I love reading your comments (and in case you are wondering, I read 100% of blog and social media comments, and I read every email that comes in) and I love knowing we are part of this crazy little online community that has somehow survived my whiplash and the ever-changing internet trends.
So, what do I love?
- I love writing. I really do. …as long as it's my words, my way.
- I love video. Recording, editing, I love it.
- I love teaching and public speaking.
- I love doing my annual conference for you Freebs.
- I love doing TV segments.
- I love building programs that help people succeed. (Yes, plural! Hoping to do more very soon!)
- I love having a corner of the internet that is my own creative space!
From this point on I promise to go back to how it should be…
A girl, her computer, and her heart, being poured out to anyone who wants to read it.
So, here's how it's going to go from here on out…
I need you to understand and trust that yes, my blog still needs to make money. That's why I'm choosing not to remove ads. It's easy revenue that the blog needs to stay afloat, that doesn't take any money out of your pocket (as annoying as they are). I'll never hide the fact that there is revenue in blogging.
BUT…here's my commitment for 2017:
- I commit to stop looking over my shoulder at what “all the other bloggers” are doing, and stay true to myself and MY personal goals and mission.
- I commit to not doing any more sponsored posts, UNLESS it's something I am planning to blog about anyway, and I reach out to them to ask if they will throw money behind it, to help keep the blog afloat. It will always be in my words, my way, and if I don't love it, it won't touch the blog. Don't get me wrong, there are brands and products that I love and adore, and I'd be a fool not to collaborate with them in some way or another. But it will be true to what FCF is all about.
- I commit to stop worrying about analytics. In fact, I've decided I don't care about blog traffic any more. I don't need it. I don't want it. I believe that if I focus on keeping this platform PURE and about YOU, it will all work out.
- I commit to focusing on what YOU want me to talk about, and not worrying about the Pinterest trends, social media hype, and the “rules” that everyone else is following.
- I commit to getting back to blogging about things that I truly believe will help myself and others.
QUICK PSA – be sure to come back tomorrow for a new FREE 2017 year program that I'm launching to help us ALL get focused and have the best year ever. This will be my perfect segway to get back to blogging about what's important to me.
BUT…in order for that to work, I need your help.
Will you do these little things for me?
- 1- Never forget that I love you, and YOU are the reason I do what I do. Just tossing that out there.
- 2- Leave me comments! If I don't know what YOU want me to talk about, I'll just get all caught up in my head again! If you want me to cover a topic, let me know. Though I physically can't reply to them all, I read every single comment that ever comes in – so don't be afraid to say hi!
- 3- Click. Comment. Subscribe. Share. All those things that don't cost you any time, energy, or money, really will help keep this blog going. I'm going to do this MY WAY, without all the gimmicks, but I can't do it on my own. So if you genuinely like what you see, I just ask that you engage in your own way. It helps more than you'll ever know!
- 4- lastly…Never forget how amazing you are.
I'm not going to lie, I'm a little afraid. Sticking my big middle finger to the “blogging monster” is never an easy thing to do. But I believe that the world needs a few more rule breakers, and a little less conforming.
So, I guess at the end of the day, if this all crashes and burns, at least we will go down in flames together. Most likely wearing sparkles, of course.
Here's to big changes!