Lance Cothern runs a personal finance blog. Learn the art of getting started and adjusting as you go.
Revenue of $4,000/mo
Email list size of 460
Founded in 2012
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
My name is Lance Cothern and I run the personal finance blog, Money Manifesto. I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and spent my first few years after college working in that field.
My personal finance blog, Money Manifesto, is about helping people master their finances so they can live their ideal life. Anyone looking to get a handle of their finances can benefit as I help people learn how to spend smarter, destroy debt, increase their income, save, invest and live the lift they dream of.
Currently, I make anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000+ per month from my blog.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
I wanted to start a personal finance blog because I was a big fan of other personal finance blogs. I saw smaller blogs were able to start up and make money, so I figured I’d give it a shot, too.
At the time, my wife was working toward paying down over $80,000 of student loan debt, so we used the blog as a way to talk about the personal finance concepts we were learning and share our debt pay off journey.
As an accounting major, I feel like I had a bit of a headstart in the personal finance space. I also had been reading personal finance blogs for a couple years, so I had a good handle on the subject.
I never considered starting any other type of blog, but when I started the blog I was still working full time at a corporate accounting position.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
The blog makes me money a few different ways, both directly and indirectly. Directly, I make money from traditional advertisements, affiliate marketing and branded content. Indirectly, I make a decent amount of money freelance writing.
I started making money from my blog within the first six months. At the time, sponsored posts were a big deal and made me a few thousand dollars per month. Now, I’ve shifted into a longer term approach by only accepting legitimate branded content and shy away from the sketchy sponsored posts that got me started.
I’d say in any given month anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of my total income comes from my blog and the rest comes from freelance writing jobs that I landed thanks to my blog.
The biggest tip I have is to simply get started. You can learn as you go an adjust based on what you learn.
What are some strategies you have used to increase the blog’s traffic?
Traffic generation definitely isn’t my field of expertise. I currently am not marketing the blog very well and rely on organic search results and the small following I’ve gathered over the years for a majority of my traffic.
If you want to grow your blog traffic, find someone successful and emulate what they’re doing, without directly copying anything. There is a lot to learn from observing others.
How have you grown your email list?
My email list is currently a little under 500 subscribers.
This is something I plan to grow in the future. I currently only gather subscribers through the sign up forms on my website. I plan to start offering freebies to incentivize email sign ups in the near future.
How do you write great content that performs well?
Creating great content can feel difficult because you feel like everything you want to say has already been said. However, no one has given your particular take on that subject. Personally, once I get an idea I usually sit down and write it out. Sometimes I’ll write from beginning to end without any planning and other times I’ll write a rough outline before I start.
The content that performs the best is content that solves your readers problems. If you can come up with a solution to a pain point for your reader and show how to solve it thoroughly while being entertaining, you should have a great piece of content on your hands.
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?
The biggest challenge I’ve had is growing my blog while maintaining my freelance writing business. Freelance writing pays the bills today while working on my blog doesn’t necessarily turn into increased revenue overnight. I struggle trying to find balance between the two while supporting my family financially.
If I had to start over, I’d probably start by writing meatier content with the goal of completely exploring a topic rather than just touching on a topic and giving my opinion or advice. Of course, blogging has changed a lot since I started back in 2012.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The absolute best thing I’ve done is network within the personal finance blogging community. The people are so helpful and willing to listen and share ideas amongst each other. It easily has been the biggest contributor to my success.'The biggest tip I have is to simply get started. You can learn as you go an adjust based on what you learn.'Click To Tweet
Along those lines, attending FinCon, a conference for financial media, has been the best investment I’ve ever made in my business. I’ve come away with so many great ideas and new freelancing clients thanks to my experience writing on my blog that I never would have found otherwise.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
If I was just starting out today, I’d highly suggest reading other blogs and getting to know the authors. While it can be difficult to break through the noise, commenting on articles and joining their Facebook communities can help you gain name recognition so when you email them they’ll actually open your email.
Other than that, I’d make sure you have a good idea of who your readers are and how to solve their pain points. Without this information, you can often feel like your blog is floundering without any clear purpose.
I’d also suggest against reading too many blogs about blogging. While picking a good resource and sticking with it is a good idea, multiple resources can often end up with more time spent reading about blogging than actually taking action.
Where can we go to learn more?