Lessons Learned from One Year of Blogging

When Partners in Fire turned one year old, we published an article highlighting the lessons learned from the first year of blogging. Although the website has changed significantly since then, we decided to keep all the content about growing a blog to help others on their journeys. 

Here’s what we learned from one year of blogging, edited for grammar, clarity, and to add additional insight from the benefit of hindsight. 

Lessons Learned From One Year of Blogging

Blogging is Hard Work

“I can write that! How hard can it be to put a few words on paper and post them online? Anyone can be a blogger; it’s nothing special.” 

Before starting a website, I thought it was easy. I scoffed at those claiming it was hard work. 

All I have to do is write a few words and post them online; that can’t be hard, right?

During my first year of blogging, I learned that running a website entails far more than writing a post. It also includes website design, sourcing images, and marketing.

Blogging forces you to develop new skills. To help grow the website, I’ve become a graphic designer, web developer, SEO expert, and social media manager. 

Blogging also taught us about journalism, editing, email marketing, copywriting, sourcing, copyright law, and marketing. The skills learned from running a website are immeasurable, and we learn more daily. 

And Time-Consuming

Although it may only take me an hour to write a blog post, it takes about five hours to get that post published and another few hours to market the post correctly. 

All in all, I spend 8 hours per week on just one blog post.

But that’s not all!

To stay relevant on social media, I must do much more than promote my blog. I need to share other people’s blogs and comment on their posts. I need to maintain a social media presence by posting engaging content that isn’t necessarily related to my blog. Although I enjoy doing all these things (Blogging is a labor of love), it’s incredibly time-consuming.

I spend about five hours weekly on social media, engaging with people and posting things to help build my community.

In the first year, writing was the easy part because we weren’t good writers. Anyone can type out 1000 words and publish it. Writing the post takes a lot longer as we research facts and talk to experts to ensure we’re providing the best information. 

It takes about two hours to fully write and edit an article and another 30 minutes to ensure it’s ready to publish. The task includes formatting in WordPress, sourcing images, adding internal links, and conducting a final read-through. 

We don’t spend as much time on social media, but we know that hurts our branding and growth potential. 

It’s Not Field of Dreams

“If you build it, they will come.”

Affiliate marketers trick newcomers into buying hosting and courses by claiming blogging is easy money. They make it sound like the movie Field of Dreams. All you have to do is post content, and people will come. You’ll be swimming in cash!

Blogging is nothing like Field of Dreams

After a year, I’m still struggling to get consistent traffic. Although I’m seeing minor improvements from month to month (generally, some months are outliers), I still haven’t organically reached 1000 users per month. 

Partners in Fire had a little over 8,000 visitors during its first year. That’s not bad, but I know I can do better. 

We thought we could do better because of all the fake gurus online claiming they got 100K in organic traffic after just a few months. That kind of growth is unrealistic for most people. 

Blogging is NOT Easy Money

Blogging influencers want you to believe that blogging is easy money. You’ll find tons of articles titled “How I made 10K in my first-month blogging,” instilling the idea that you, too, can earn great wealth by starting a blog

It’s not easy. 

Some beginners get lucky and blow up right away, while others have experience in related industries that give them a leg up – and kudos to them! 

However, most people aren’t going to make money during their first month of blogging. 

Most bloggers take over a year to see progress. Establishing a domain authority and backlink profile, crafting a social media presence, and building a brand take time. 

Most bloggers quit within six months because they don’t see any growth or income. I’ve been blogging for a year and have only made a few bucks through affiliate marketing. 

We’ve been an established website for over five years, but we still don’t make a full-time income from blogging. We average a few hundred dollars per month but have a few months of extraordinary viewership sprinkled in that helped boost our income. 

Even after five years, our income is limited by two massive hurdles. 

First, it’s still a side hustle. You can’t expect to make a full-time income from something if you don’t dedicate yourself to it full-time. 

Second, it’s constantly changing. Many website owners rely on third-party algorithms for traffic. When those algorithms change, bloggers can lose income overnight. Google is the most prominent example, with its constant updates decimating website owners, but it’s not the only platform that’s changed. Pinterest and Twitter both saw massive changes over the years. Instagram shifted towards video. Tiktok and webstories emerged. To stay relevant, you must adapt. 

Affiliate Marketing is Harder than it Seems

Affiliate marketing lets you earn a commission if someone uses your link to buy a product. 

I’m a member of a handful of affiliate programs, but I barely made enough money to cover the cost of my domain ($12). I made a little over $13 via the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program. 

Many established bloggers make a killing on affiliate marketing, but although Amazon is the most well-known program, most website owners don’t make much through it. If you read blog income reports, you’ll find that Amazon only accounts for a small portion of their earnings. 

There are many other affiliate programs that pay far more money. One of my goals for this year is to find other profitable affiliate programs that fit in well with the blog so I don’t rely on Amazon as my sole source of income.

Influencers make affiliate marketing seem easy, and on the surface, it is. But they never tell you that traffic is the key to affiliate marketing. If you don’t have traffic, you won’t make money. 

Although we didn’t realize it at the time, there’s a massive difference between “blogging” and running a “niche website,” which is 1984 double speak for an affiliate website. Many so-called bloggers are actually disguised salesmen. They aren’t writing great content to help people; they’re writing content to drive sales. 

These website owners made big money tricking search engines into promoting their content. In 2023, Google started a campaign against these niche website owners called the ‘Helpful Content Update” (HCU). Many actual bloggers got hurt in the process. 

Though affiliate marketing still offers opportunities, a few bad actors who only cared about money made it difficult for everyone else to rank great content. We don’t know what the future holds for this type of website development. 

I’m a Horrible Writer

When I started blogging, I thought I was a good writer. I wasn’t. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how bad I was at writing after my first year. It took four years of blogging for my writing skills to improve, and I’m finally realizing how bad my earliest articles were. 

But I also learned that it’s okay to be bad. Nobody is good at something when they’re first starting. It takes time and practice to cultivate skills. I wouldn’t be the decent writer I am today if I hadn’t failed at writing for the first few years.

Blogging is Fun

So, if blogging is difficult, time-consuming, and not profitable so far, why am I doing it? 

Because I love it! 

I’ve always loved writing, so writing for an audience (regardless of how small) is always fun. I also love learning new skills. Who would’ve thought I’d be able to reach three thousand Twitter followers, learn how to design t-shirts, or figure out how to drive (even a tiny few) people to my site view SEO? I learn something new about myself and the industry every day, and it’s all been amazing!

Blogging also allows me to explore exciting topics. During this first year, we stuck to the personal finance niche, but we’ve since expanded to cover everything involved in living a happy life. It took two years to discover our “passion fire” niche and another year to fully understand what that means. 

It’s been an exceptional journey. 

6 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from One Year of Blogging”

  1. I loved this post Melanie. It can be a lonely road in the blogging world but you are so right about how satisfying it can be. I have made a total of 4 bucks off wordadds in 3 months so I said screw it and turned the ads off. As long as we keep adding value to others, I have no doubt we will find our place in this niche. Keep it up!

    • Thank you Ryan! I agree, it can be hard especially when you don’t see immediate results. I agree that we will find our places with a little perseverance! Lets do this!

    • Vielen Dank für den netten Kommentar und für einen Besuch! Ich spreche kein Deutsch, daher hoffe ich, dass Google Translate dies richtig übersetzt 🙂

  2. Love reading your insights. I’m in the process of starting a blog and feel overwhelmed but am also so excited to share with others. Best of luck to you in 2019.

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