David Cahill helps people with personal finances. Find out how he has been able to build a successful blog while having a full-time day job.
Revenue of $1,000/mo
Email list size of 2,400
Founded in 2016
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
My name is David Cahill. I live in the Chicago suburbs with my wife, Meg, and our two dogs, Ramsey and Coda. By day, I’m a public school music teacher; by night, I am a realtor and blogger.
I started FinanceSuperhero in 2016 as an outlet to help others navigate the slippery slope that is personal finance. Our readership is primarily aged 18-34 with an even mix of men and women who are looking to Take Back Control of Life and Money.
Currently, FinanceSuperhero receives 40,000 to 50,000 page views each month and generates around $1,000 gross monthly income.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
Starting a blog was my wife’s idea. She truly gets 100% of the credit. She saw that I had a love for writing and helping people with money that was left unfulfilled. After months of dragging my feet, I launched FinanceSuperhero on April Fool’s Day 2016.
At the time, I was preparing for a career move from school administration back to a classroom teaching position. I knew several bloggers who earned solid incomes at the time, but at least initially, I didn’t have much ambition to monetize FinanceSuperhero.
My professional background is in education – I hold a BA in Music Education and an MA in School Leadership – and I feel this is a real advantage as a personal finance blogger. My understanding of how to relate to readers and teach in a concise way helps me write actionable content that readers can apply to improve their financial situation.
Though I’m not a registered or certified financial professional, I’ve never felt hindered in my work on FinanceSuperhero. Many times, I find myself learning along with my readers, which demonstrates depth and authenticity, in my opinion.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
My current revenue model for FinanceSuperhero is built upon two core sources: display advertising and affiliate marketing. To a lesser degree, I also work with a very selective number of sponsors whose mission and philosophy align with my brand.
Admittedly, I’m in a unique position with my blog. I can afford to be patient and build slowly without any desperation to monetize to pay the bills thanks to my full-time teaching position and my second job as a realtor. For example, I regularly turn down over $1,000 per month in sponsored post opportunities that don’t align with my mission.
Today, I typically gross around $1,000 per month from my blog. I’m happy with this level of revenue relative to the amount of time I am currently able to devote to the blog (usually around 2-4 hours per week). At the same time, I’m always looking for better ways to serve readers and simultaneously improve my profits. For example, I have been working on writing an affordable e-book as well as building a finance course on Teachable and hope to launch both in early 2018.
What are some strategies you have used to increase the blog’s traffic?
When I started blogging, I knew very little about building traffic. I honestly thought “if I write it, they (readers) will come.” Obviously, I was wrong!
After a few months of building a respectable foundation of posts, I reached out to a number of bloggers in my niche with guest post proposals. I heard back from most of the bloggers who were a bit more established than I was at the time, while most of the leaders in my niche never responded.
However, I was fortunate to have caught one of the leaders in my niche at the right time – he was heading out for vacation and had an article slot to fill – and he picked up my post. This opportunity sent a few thousand new readers to my blog and led to a few hundred new subscribers – and I didn’t even have a good lead magnet or email list sign-up bar at the time!
Shortly after this unexpected win, my traffic plateaued. I was incredibly frustrated and almost quit blogging, to be honest. But I went back to the drawing board and began researching how others in my niche were growing at rapid rates. The answer? Pinterest.'By far my biggest mistakes as a blogger was ignoring Pinterest for my first year. As a blogger, no matter your niche, if you’re not on Pinterest, you are missing out!'Click To Tweet
Over the next few weeks, I read everything I could about Pinterest, group boards, creating appealing pins, and more. I didn’t do everything right, and it took time to learn the ropes, but my traffic grew quickly once I implemented a Pinterest strategy in March 2017.
How have you grown your email list?
Ignoring my email list was one of the biggest mistakes I made early on as a blogger. I was reluctant to invest the time and money into list building because I didn’t understand how a strong email list could help me.
One day, I listened to a Pat Flynn podcast that changed my view on email lists for good. Pat told the story of the time his site was hacked and went down for several days. But rather than panic and lose momentum, Pat relied on his healthy email list and was still able to reach his readers. Essentially, he was a blogger without a blog, but it didn’t matter! My eyes were opened.
Over the next few weeks, I spent hours developing a short free e-book to serve as my lead magnet. Shortly after launching the magnet, I was fortunate to have a few blog posts go viral, and for a few weeks I was receiving upwards of 50 new subscribers every day.
Today, my email list stands at 2,400 subscribers. I am exploring new lead magnet ideas to replace and/or improve my current lead magnet, as it appears to be losing a bit of steam. More and more, bloggers are providing greater value with their lead magnets and opt-in offers. If you truly want to grow your list, you need to give readers a compelling reason to trust you and hand over their email list!
Currently, I email my list 1-2 times per week. My emails often connect with recent blog posts, but I strive to provide additional value and insight beyond simple regurgitations of my posts.
How do you write great content that performs well?
In the “blogging about blogging” niche, the number one tip I read time and time again is “content is king.” While this is true, in my opinion, this advice oversimplifies the issue.
I have always believed that truly “great content” hits a reader’s pain points, motivates them to act in concrete ways, provides actionable advice, or addresses a profound need (whether the reader realizes it or not!). And the best bloggers find a way to do this time and time again while sharing their personal stories, struggles, and triumphs.
From a technical and copywriting perspective, it’s important to remember that a blog post is not a newspaper article, college thesis, or academic piece (unless that’s your niche!). The best posts I’ve ever read are simple to read, broken into sections with compelling headings, and provide a healthy dose of entertaining stories and actionable advice.
Many of my earliest blog posts are the complete opposite of what I just described: full of loaded academic language, large walls of text that are basically unreadable, and devoid of section headings. Once I learned how to craft more effective copy, my blog traffic and income quickly improved.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
By far my biggest mistakes as a blogger was ignoring Pinterest for my first year. As a blogger, no matter your niche, if you’re not on Pinterest, you are missing out!
Pinterest is built solely for sharing blog content designed to help and entertain Pinterest users. And it is one of the few platforms that levels the playing field for bloggers who have very few followers. Thanks to group boards and Pinterest’s smart feed, it’s not too difficult to get your content in front of thousands of eyes every day.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Generally speaking, boldness has been the advantageous asset to my growth as a blogger. I think it’s important to realize that great opportunities aren’t often going to find you – you need to create them yourself.
If you’re looking for sponsors or guest post opportunities with leaders in your niche, you have to put yourself out there and embrace the possibility of rejection. Yes, it is painful to be told “no” over and over again, but it makes the eventual “yes” moments even sweet.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
If you’re a newer blogger, be sure that you’re blogging for the right reasons. If you’re simply in it to turn a profit from Day One, you’re probably blogging for the wrong reasons.
The truth is that most people (with few exceptions) need to put in hundreds of hours of work as a blogger before their efforts begin to pay off and translate to sizable traffic and income. If a product, course, or blogger is promising you instant results, they’re probably naïve or just plain dishonest.
That said, a small dose of realism can a long way when paired with patience, passion, and perseverance. There is more than enough room on the web for many more bloggers, and the good news is other bloggers aren’t your enemies or competition. Most of them are incredibly kind and willing to pay it forward and help you get started on the right foot.
Where can we go to learn more?