It’s the one year anniversary of Educator FI!
Sort of. I actually started blogging in November 2018, but ended up needing to rebrand. I relaunched Educator FI in July of 2019.
Even though the first half of 2020 has felt like a decade, it’s really only been one year since that launch. So, I decided to do the obligatory anniversary post!
Here’s what I’ll cover in this post:
For regular readers, just to be clear – this won’t be financial content. I rarely post about the act of blogging, but this is an exception. Feel free to give it a skip if you aren’t interested in all the gory details.
My perpetual personal improvement goal is to lead with positives and gratitude. In 2020, I’m fighting my natural cynicism. It’s way too easy for me to focus on challenges and negatives. Gratitude is an important practice.
I have SO MANY people to thank that I can’t do it by name. Just know that if you are reading this now I’m grateful to you. Thank you so much to everyone who has read, commented, and shared my writing. I’m honored and humbled by every interaction.
Thank you for those who have taken the time to email me with questions, feedback, and affirmation. I’ve had some incredible email conversations with readers who are looking to improve their finances or grow their careers. For my ~500 subscribers, thank you for your engagement and patience with my haphazard email strategy.
All the Educators on FIOR (Financial Independence Optional Retirement)
Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of is the Educator on FIOR series. We’re now at 30 stories and counting in the series. It’s a mix of other bloggers and readers and I love the variety in this group!
Most importantly, they’re all real educators pursuing financial independence in their own context. If you haven’t read it, check it out.
If you’re an educator and want to be featured just send me an email. I try to make it as easy as possible and would love to share your story.
Readers know that I track my financial goals and am a data geek. I do the same for the site.
As a newer blogger, I’ve tried to resist comparing myself to others. We all progress (or not) in our own ways. Comparison is dangerous!
That said – I’ve always appreciated blogging roundups that show actual numbers. It’s helpful to get an idea of reality. There are far too many “massive growth overnight” stories out there. All the actual data I’ve seen tells a different story. Mine certainly does.
To that end, I’m going to be transparent with some numbers below. These are not for comparison (or mocking me – ha!) but they’re hopefully helpful to someone out there.
In my first year, I had more than 52,000 visitors and a total of 94,000 pageviews. Here’s what my pageviews by month looked like for the first year.
Reminder for newer bloggers – I wasn’t starting fresh in July, because I had some carryover from the six months I’d put in on the other site.
For the first 6 months, I was in the 3000 – 4000 pageview range. Then, I started climbing as some of my posts started climbing Google rankings.
I got close to 100,000 views in my first year. My goal is 300,000 in year 2.
As a new blogger, I remember reading that search traffic takes patience. I have to be honest – I partly suspected that it was a way to keep people buying courses for a year, chasing mythical traffic.
Nope – it really does take time. Here’s what my search traffic looks like, and you can see exactly when SEO work started kicking in.
Search is now 80% of my traffic. Early on, features or sharing were my main traffic drivers. Search helps smooth that out.
I can’t write just for search engines. That wouldn’t be any fun. However, a good post that answers someone’s question is a valuable thing. I’m glad to see my writing is answering questions for people!
My most visited posts are a good mix representing the personal finance and career focus of this site. These 7 posts account for over half of the visits to my site in 2020.
- We Lost to Lifestyle Inflation: Here’s How We Fought Back
- 15 FI Quotes from Atomic Habits
- What Are Furlough Days (I’m a bit sad this one has mattered so much lately)
- Unexpected Benefits of Downsizing Your Home to Save Money
- Principal Interview Questions to Help You Prepare (not an exciting post, but apparently needed!)
- Assistant Principal Interview Questions
- My 4.5 Big Financial Mistakes
Ha – just joking! I haven’t actually seen any income, yet.
The good news is when my traffic started climbing back in April, I decided to check out some ad networks. Given my traffic levels, I looked primarily at Ezoic and Monumetric.
I didn’t have a great experience with an Ezoic rep, so I went with Monumetric. It took a bit to get started, and I’m still working on optimizing the user experience, but I’m happy with both their support and the results.
In June, the site made enough to cover costs. I’ll see my first payment in August. Assuming trends continue, later this year I’ll have made enough to recover everything I spent on the blog.
I didn’t start Educator FI to make millions. If profits actually materialize, I’m excited to start giving them away. More on that later.
Maybe next year I’ll have income data to share.
Things I’ve Learned
So much! Honestly, my favorite part about the whole experience is all the different skills I’ve had to acquire or start to learn. I won’t go into those here, but a few key takeaways about blogging after my first year.
It’s Strengthened My Personal Financial Journey
Having additional motivation to learn new financial information is great. Trying to share your information / choices in a clear and understandable way also improves your thinking. Getting questions and challenges to what you do share helps one think clearly through choices and either defend or adjust.
For all those reasons, running Educator FI has helped us improve our personal financial journey.
It’s Hard to Put Yourself Out There
I’m still working on this one. As an introvert and a fairly private person even in real life, risking things online can be a real challenge. Even as an anon blogger.
There are multiple posts I’ve had a hard time pushing publish on. They’ve often turned out to be my most popular. I’ve still got a few I couldn’t actually publish – we’ll see if that ever changes.
I want to provide information and connect with readers. I’m still working on this balance but know that dry information only doesn’t work well.
Challenges Are An Opportunity
Okay, I didn’t learn that this year. I’ve always tried to approach life that way. What I did learn was that you have to choose your name very carefully.
I started out at Principal FI. It was a sign of notice/growth that I got several letters from attorneys for a certain mediocre financial company threatening lawsuits because I was confusing their customers. (What?!) This was about six months into my first year of blogging, and why Educator FI is now one year old.
Blogging is work…
If you read anything that claims blogging is simple or always fun – don’t believe it. I really enjoy writing and I enjoy the topics I write on. Still, there are some days (weeks?!) where I just don’t feel like it. In those moments it shifts from hobby to work.
I’ve learned that it makes a dramatic difference to be a few weeks ahead on posts. If I’m writing to deadline, I’m much more likely to hit that “ugh” moment.
Others may have a different experience, but be ready for that to happen to you.
…But Worth It
Never once have I regretted starting the site or the work involved. I find the learning invigorating. The connections with readers are amazing. I’ve gotten some great emails, and had really energizing interactions with participants from the Educators on FIOR series.
I’ve also connected into a community of great content creators. I’ve made great connections on Twitter, and had planned to attend FinCon in 2020. I’ve cancelled those plans while waiting to see what changes they make. I’ve found a great Mastermind group and colleagues in Online Impact.
The opportunity to really impact educators who are working on their finances is amazing. I’m fortunate and glad to do it despite feeling like work now and then.
Totally worth it.
Writing is 50% or less of it.
Part of the work aspect is understanding the writing is only half (some would say less) of it! For every post you’ve also got formating, images, and sharing.
Then there are the site maintenance pieces, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) if that’s your thing, and managing emails.
I *enjoy* all of this because I’m learning so much while doing it. Just know that if you start a blog it’s not “just writing.” Not even close.
The Right Support Matters
Finally, I want to mention a few businesses that have helped make my first year a success. These are affiliate links, but I’m not trying to sell anything. I use and believe in each of these. They’ve made a difference for me, so I’m mentioning them. Check them out if you like, and decide what’s right for you.
Siteground Hosting – When I had to change my URL and site last year, I was thrilled with the support I received from Siteground. I continue to be thrilled and plan to upgrade to the next tier soon. I can’t recommend Siteground highly enough.
Online Impact – This is a membership community. Blogging can be lonely. For the reasonable amount I pay, it’s been a great way for an anonymous blogger to connect with others. The group has helped increase my skills and maintain focus and accountability. Some of the choices I made that led to traffic growth this spring were a direct result of a conversation I had with Pete back in November. Online Impact only opens from time to time – but it’s currently open for new sign ups now!
A few shorter thoughts:
I’ve realized that I’d make more money doing freelance writing. I’ve had some offers already, and they’d be immediate income. I’m not doing it to maximize money though. I’ve got a career for that.
I’ve intentionally avoided some opportunities that would have brought in quick income. I’m trying to build authenticity and support rather than make money. You start getting offers or requests early, but I’m still committed to only writing and publishing things that are directly aligned with my mission and beliefs.
I’m fortunate to be able to do that. I don’t hold it against anyone who needs to make money. You shouldn’t either.
I enjoy amplifying the voices of others. My favorite part of this, easily, has been the Educator on FIOR series. It took off immediately, and I continue to get requests to participate. I’m thrilled to share the stories, and happy that some have started their own sites after writing an interview.
Social media is a mixed bag. I stick with it because of the ability to share and interact directly. I’ve connected with some great people. But, it’s often more energy draining than worthwhile. (My favorite group is the outrage about outrage group. Bleh.)
Note: At time of publishing, I’m taking July off from social media consumption.
When I first started, I committed to sticking it out for two years. I’m happy to say that it looks like I’ll be around longer than that!
In Year 2, I’m going to build on what I’ve learned in my first year.
I read early on that one thing new bloggers do is tinker endlessly with site design to the detriment of content creation. I avoided doing that, mostly. As a result, the blog is functional (I think?) but not what it could be. Over the next few months I’ll be cleaning it up.
When I first started, I was a bit all over the place. I think that’s natural.
It took me a while to figure out my focus and identify what readers wanted and/or needed. I’ve got a mish-mash of categories and no real clear structure to find anything.
I’ve always known that my focus is on financial independence for educators. I’m clear now it requires a combination of personal finance, career, and decision-making. In the coming months, I’ll tighten up my writing and site structure to focus on those things.
I don’t think my content will change much, but it should be easier to find things.
Figure Out An Email Strategy
This is an area where I’ve still got a lot to learn and feel like I’m not doing well. I’ve experimented with different things. At times, I’ve simply pushed out new post updates, I’ve published a weekly email series, and now I’ve paused entirely.
At times, I feel like I’m “doing email” and just mailing it (ha!) in. I want to add value to my more than 500 subscribers. I need to find that balance between automation, effort, and annoying readers. If you’ve got input – let me know!
Build a Giving Structure
This is what I’m most excited about for the coming year. As I mentioned above, I expect income to have covered costs by fall of 2020. Then I’ll be making a little bit each month. I don’t think I’ll be raking in a fortune, but I’m excited about giving away most of my profits.
I’m going to build a strategy for identifying charities, gathering input from readers, making charitable donations, and tracking giving. I can’t wait to get this up and running by 2021!
More Educator on FIOR Interviews
I mentioned it’s my favorite part of the site. The interviews aren’t always the most read posts I do, but they align perfectly with my mission. Sometimes, they do spread and bring in new readers. I’m looking forward to continuing publishing these as frequently as possible.
Whatever Readers Need
Let me know what else you’d like to read or see on Educator FI!
Year 1 Down – Thanks!
It’s been a great first year. My expectations going in weren’t exactly clear, but I can confidently say my first year was a success by my own assessment.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading this post and (hopefully) other parts of Educator FI. I’m so grateful for all the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the past year. I’m honored that some of you choose to read my words.
I can’t wait to see what happens in the second!