3 Ways To Prepare For A Personal Finance Blog

After 12 years of internal conflict and through trial and error, I finally decided to launch Frugal Asian Finance.

While I might have missed out on ample time and opportunity to grow my blog, I have also learned a ton from just reading other blogs over the past two years.

Before you decide to launch a blog, there are three main ways to brace yourself:

1) Do the research yourself

Equivalent: Doing market research before you launch a product.

Pros

— When you start a blog, you can research what others have written to see what you like or don’t like, what you’re passionate about, what writing style fits you the best, and most importantly what niche you can fill. You can also research by talking directly with other bloggers about their experience.

— The information you take in is likely to stick with you longer. After all, who can remember what you experience better than yourself?

Cons

— This is the most time-consuming method since you need to start from square one and build up your knowledge gradually.

— What you think is the right product or strategy might end up backfiring since you have never tested it before.

Example

— I am a prime example of this approach. I read personal finance blogs for more than 2 years until I started my own.

During that time, I found my 4 most favorite personal finance blogs which influence my blogging style (i.e. staying personal but offering generalizable tips/advice).

I then found my niche (female Asian personal finance blogger), and selected a page layout that’s modern and easy to navigate.

Right now my blog is not monetized (for many reasons). But once I do and have some income coming in, I’ll invest more in the logo and design of the blog.

2) Hire others to teach you

Equivalent: Hiring a consulting firm to advise you

Pros

— This approach is tempting and can save you a lot of time and effort. Basically, it can mean buying a course from professional bloggers or have consulting sessions with them so that they can impart the knowledge that has made them successful to you in a short period of time.

Cons

— What you learn from them might be applicable mostly to their case.

— You have to pay out of pocket for the knowledge. A lot of bloggers sprinkle their advice throughout their blogs, so you can save some money by reading that online for free instead.

— Have you ever tuned out in class listening to your professor talking even though you’re paying for the tuition, have to do homework, and know there’s an important test at the end of the semester? The outcome is that you don’t digest as much information as you have hoped. It’s more of a passive learning process where others have to take the initiative in imparting knowledge to you.

Examples

— If you go on Smart Passive Income, Making Sense of Cents and other bigger blogs, you will see a series of products that can help improve your blogging experience.

I’m sure there’s a lot of value to these packages. But since I don’t want to pay at this early stage, I’ll take advantage of the free resources online. And you can do it too.

3) Jump right in

Equivalent: Introducing a product that you’re good at making without much prior knowledge of the market demand.

Pros

— If your product is what the market didn’t know it needed, it could be a big hit.

Cons

— Your product could be a big flop because there’s little or no demand for it. And since you just jump into the market without much prior research or experience, chances are your marketing strategy is not so strong.

— You can continue to build your product to create a demand for it over time and up your marketing game. But you run the risk of not getting any return to your investment.

Examples

— J.D. Roth was among the first generation of personal finance bloggers. He started Get Rich Slowly in 2006 and made a name for himself with an undisclosed seven-figure sum with QuinStreet Inc in early 2009.

Mr. Money Mustache is one of the first early retirement blogs that has inspired hundreds of others to follow suit.

— Michelle at Making Sense of Cents started blogging about personal finance as a hobby and didn’t think she was able to make money from it. Now she makes a six-figure-dollar income from blogging every month.

Conclusion

What started out as a hobby – reading personal finance blogs — turned out to be great market research for my Frugal Asian Finance blog.

With a small budget to launch my blog (~$100), doing the research on my own was also out of necessity. I couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on something I wasn’t sure would be successful.

After all, I spent less than $70 on my food for March. It’d pain me to spend $200 on learning something I can get for free just with a bit of patience and self-motivation.

And amazingly, all the little details and big concepts that I noticed about other blogs are coming in handy when I’m writing mine. I know what has been discussed, what I like about other blogs, and what can set me apart in this increasingly crowded blogging world.



45 thoughts on “3 Ways To Prepare For A Personal Finance Blog”

  • Great article, concise but packed full of really useful information for the wannabe blogger. I have only recently come across your blog but must say that you have definitely hit the mark well for me. There is a genuine humility and honesty about what you write that is rare amongst virtually all of the other blogs that I have read and is very refreshing and often touching, particularly for an old cynic such as myself.

    I note that you are of Vietnamese descent (raised there?) and wonder whether this has something to do with it. Maybe worth a future post? We visited Vietnam in 2014 and are returning there again next week because we liked it so much, particularly the local people that we met. In fact, we like it so much that we hope to spend several months a year there, once we achieve full financial independence! I know DC quite well, so am aware of the contrast ?.

    • It’s great to hear that you’ve been to Vietnam before and want to come back! I know the hot weather and traffic can be daunting, but there’s a lot to explore in the country if you enjoy traveling 🙂

      I was born and raised in Vietnam and came to America for college when I was 18. It was a difficult transition, and I’ll think about writing a new post about that. Thank you for the suggestion! =)

      • Hot weather – daunting?!! No way, one of the main attractions, given where I am from (Northern England). Traffic, outside of Saigon, not a problem and renting a motorbike is a great way to see the surrounding countryside and the adorable water buffaloes.

        The furthest North we went last time was Hue but we travelled around quite a bit of the South. This time, we’re focusing more on the Central region, between Quy Nhon and Nha Trang but may fly up to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, at a push. Where do you recommend?

        A post regarding your transition to the US sounds great, so let’s hope that you get around to it. I imagine that it would stir up quite a bit of interest. Thanks for your responses to this and my other posts, much appreciated.

        • Wow you’ve been to so many places in Vietnam! I honestly haven’t traveled much in the country. I’ve always wanted to go to Vinpearl (Nha Trang). The beaches in Da Nang (up North) are wonderful. People have been raving about Son Doong, where the scenery is just beautiful! I hope you will have a great second trip to Vietnam! ^.^

          • Just a quick thank you regarding the Vietnam tips. Hadn’t really considered Da Nang and didn’t know anything about Son Doong/Phong Nha, so really appreciated. Thanks again.

  • I’d say no matter what, having at least a few ideas of what to write about to keep you going for a few weeks is helpful. I tried to start up a blog years ago but didn’t really do much thinking about what I really wanted to write about, and so things just kind of fizzled out…

    • I’m always learning new things when it comes to blogging as well, so no preparation is 100% enough. Sometimes I hesitate to read the posts I wrote 2-3 months ago since there’s so much I want to change about them but haven’t had time to. ^.^

    • I have learned a lot of new things while blogging too, especially when it comes to technical issues. I jokingly told my husband I not work as an unpaid IT specialist besides my FT job. 😀

  • Great guide into preparing on how to start one. This will be very useful if/when I start one and already getting a head start by reading various personal finance blogs and seeing the different styles that are out there. Thanks for this again Ms. FAF!!

  • Great perspectives and I’m #3 through and through. No idea what I am doing and I really wish I was more prepared but oh well…

    It’s hard for me to spend $200 (or hell even $70) too. I love your simple clean theme, I wish I got a better layout too but that was after I got a clue ?

    • I think your theme looks great too! I love all the animated graphics you include in your posts. You’re doing really well, especially when you didn’t do much prep. I think sometimes you just need the passion and the courage to share your thoughts with the world to see how things work out. 😉

  • I really like this approach! I did the complete opposite when starting my blog and am constantly running into things I wish I did differently from the get go. I got inspired to start blogging about money and just went for it with basically zero knowledge on how to get started and how to successfully run a blog and drive traffic.
    At times I wish I had taken some time to learn the basics before jumping in with both feet but I also have doubts I ever would have started if I put too much thought into it. The one perk, when you’re brand new and don’t know what you’re doing, hardly anyone is watching!

    • I read blogs for a long time before I started. But I have also run into a lot of problems (technical and writing). It was frustrating to say the least. But now things are looking up, and I have absolutely enjoyed blogging ever since I started in March. 😀

  • Glad I found your blog! I think I read one of your comments on another personal finance blog.

    I retired from the military in January 2015. When I was searching for jobs in 2014, preparing for my separation from the military, I found smartpassiveincome.com. It was literally the first blog I had ever read and I was hooked! I immediately set up a blog called retiredarmyvet.com and posted a few times. I struggled to learn how to do the technical stuff. Later, I started a foodie blog called mancooksfood.com. I might have posted one time. Then I got my current job and let my domains expire.

    It’s great to be able to make a living from your blog(s), but I think connecting with many like-minded people is a fringe-benefit we don’t mention enough. Thanks!

    Darren

    • Hi Darren, thank you so much for sharing your stories! I myself hesitated for 12 years before I eventually started Frugal Asian Finance. I started a couple of private and public blog and just abandoned them at one point. I’ve told myself to just stick with the current blog no matter what and see how it turns out. I also like connecting with the readers and other bloggers. It’s fascinating! 😀

  • Thanks for sharing. I’m the type of person where I just TRY THINGS. And I’m constantly testing and prototyping ideas. I never try to aim for perfect either because after about 70% you get some serious diminishing returns. For example, my PF blog. I started it within 1 week of getting the idea of starting one. I’m big on going for things, and adjusting as I go along. I’ve made a lot of money this way. Not all of them are hits. But it’s easy to get 1 home run if you’re batting 10000000000 times.

    • Hi Tim, I’ve been following your blog this past week and have been really impressed with your progress and blog content. You have such great strategies to grow your reader and subscriber base. There’s soo much to learn from you. And yes, I totally agree that sometimes you just need to gather what you think is enough information and take the plunge. That’s what risk-taking and being successful is about in a lot of cases!

  • Great article and so true! I have found that at an early stage it is important to learn as much as possible about how websites work so that when things break I am not taken advantage of. There are so many great blogs out there that explain how to establish and market a blog!

    • I know! Google has been my life savior so many times I can’t even remember! (I wonder how I could live prior to Google. Maybe Yahoo was my savior then?) Sometimes I feel like it’s a treasure hunt. I just keep searching for the star, and it suddenly appears in front of my eyes. That’s one of the most rewarding moments I can imagine. 😀

  • Thanks for sharing this article!

    This is definitely useful for anyone thinking about a blog. I decided after thinking about it for months to just do it. I should have probably been smarter about how I structured my site and how I wanted it to go, but for me just getting started was the hardest part.

    When I thought I was ‘doing research’ I was really just wandering around the internet reading articles. I should paid a bit more attention to the details. Luckily now I can be more aware of what I am doing and how to differentiate myself. I for sure made some mistakes along the way, but hopefully I get those cleaned up soon enough!

    • We’re always learning and making mistakes along the way. I think that’s one of the best ways to digest knowledge and draw lessons. You’re doing a great job with your blog, so just keep it up! 😉

  • When it comes to courses, buy it if it solves a specific problem you have. Most courses are going to be good as long as it solves a problem you have faster than you struggling with it on your own. You’re paying for time (skip the learning process) so if you view it as that, it’s worth $100 to save yourself 20 hours of struggle and frustration. 🙂

    Don’t, however, “pre-buy” it because you think you’ll need it later.

    And the best way to learn anything (for retention and overall understanding) is to experience it first hand!

    • Hi Jim, you made a great point about paying for what’s worth. I once spent more than 10 hours trying to figure something that would take an expert maybe 5 minutes to solve. I didn’t want to spend the money, and I was stubborn thinking I should be able to solve it myself like I had done many other issues.

      Luckily, a fellow blogger helped me out, and it got resolved after 2 minutes. The good thing about it is that I now remember the problem and how to solve it like the back of my hand and was able to help other newbie bloggers out as well (it had to do with WordPress cache).

      I honestly have thought about spending money on many courses and materials. Part of me feels a bit desperate to grow my blog faster. But I haven’t decided to do that just yet. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes anxiety and impatience makes me want to just buy the knowledge. But I need to think carefully about what I really need and only buy material when I know I will need it. ^.^

  • Hi Ms. FAF!
    I’m not sure how I stumbled upon your blog but I’m sure glad that I did! There’s a lot of very useful financial tips and tricks in your blog. I just started a blog of my own which is not even related to personal finance at all — It’s just a personal blog about my life from a perspective of being a dad. I’m definitely taking approach #3 by jumping right into the blogging world! I look forward to reading more interesting post from you!

    • Hi Chris, thank you for dropping by! I’m glad you liked what I wrote. And welcome to the blogging world! Your kids are absolutely adorable! =)

  • I’ll take courses on things I want to learn quickly, and don’t know where else to find the answer. But when it comes to blogging about personal finance, I’m all about doing the research myself. It just sticks more this way! There have already been times where I’ve wanted to buy something, but had just written a post that same morning about saving or something related and so I didn’t. Plus, I feel like doing the research yourself with primary sources like the IRS or firms like Turbo Tax makes your information more trustworthy rather than just taking someone at their word.

    • Great point, Matt! I’d definitely need to take courses on difficult subjects. But personal finance is something I like exploring and blogging with my own experiences. That said, like you, there have been times when I just wanted to purchase a Pinterest course to have someone show me step by step how to do things. But I eventually figured it out after hours and hours of researching online. It was definitely rewarding in the end! =)

  • Actually getting started is the hardest part. I must have put well over 24 hours into my blog getting it ready for launch. But you learn new things along the way to keep making it better. And with the PF community so big, you can take the good and leave the bad from other sites to make yours however you want. Love seeing the community grow so much.

    • I know! I like seeing how there are so many PF bloggers out there every day. And one key thing is everyone is willing to help each other out. ^.^

      I can’t remember how many days I struggled with the design and technicality of website, but I’m glad those days are over. Now the challenge for me is to get on Pinterest and do my thing heheh.

  • I like this post and how it lists the pros and cons of each option. Although I followed option 1 and did LOTS of research before we started, sometimes I still feel like we just jumped right in. Lol. We’re quickly learning that blogging is a never ending learning process.

    • I feel the same way! I read a lot of blogs before starting my own, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed, confused, and clueless about what it’s really like to blog. I guess we just need to keep researching and learning new things! ^.^

  • I just jumped right in but I really reallyyyy wish I could have read this before and did my research. My biggest issue was not coming with a few things already written. I had a week of utter inactivity where I was too busy and drained and I felt so guilty. Blogging is like a new born and much more work than I have ever believed to be.

    • You made such a great comparison! Many people say blogging is a passive side business, but boy does it involve a lot of work! I feel like I need to nurture my blog from the moment I get up to the moment I’m about to go to bed. Blogging needs LOTS of love and care to grow fast! @_@

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