We have a very exciting announcement at Millionaire By Forty! We formed a partnership with the AOL Finance Collective, a group of trusted voices covering personal finance, careers, small business, industry trends, and real estate. How did we go from having nothing to a business partner in less than a month? Here are the 5 steps we took to make it happen, and how you can too!
Start With Why
Before you create your blog, you have to consider the core reason behind what you want to do. Ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is purely driven by money, boredom, or some kind of external pressure, the likelihood of success is very low. It’s difficult to maintain consistency and commitment if the enthusiasm was never there in the first place. In any kind of business endeavor, it could take years to gain any kind of real traction, so you have to find a reason to keep going when times get tough.
In the book “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek proclaims that it is easy to motivate people with money, fear, and incentives. However, this motivation is fleeting. He postulates that true inspiration comes from within. Finding the “Why?” behind your mission will not only drive every decision you make, it will also keep you going when times get tough. Truly inspired people are able to weather the storm when it comes. They are willing to endure discomfort, inconvenience, and adversity in pursuit of their vision.
I have found this message empowering not only in the blog life, but overall as well. It is challenging to get my lazy butt off the couch after a long day of work and write a post, but I find the will to do it. Not because I am some kind of self-discipline guru, but because I have found my “why.” I want to help other people and myself to create better financial futures so they can achieve freedom from money. It’s not just about me. If I am able to help just one person, then it will all be worth it.
Create quality content
This is the most important technical/logistical aspect of your blog. Without good content, what is the point of reading? Quality content can be separated into two categories – message and presentation.
Your message should always take your “why” into consideration. How does the information conveyed service your goal? How is the post helpful? Is it entertaining? Is it even relevant? Before I write a post, I ask myself if it is something that I would want to read. My logic is that if I am interested in the subject matter, then it is likely that other people in similar financial situations may be interested as well. Then, I do a quick Google search. If there are already posts about the subject, I read a few of them. If I believe I could add some insight, then I write about it. By doing this, you put yourself in a position to create new, interesting, or nuanced material, not the same regurgitated advice ad nauseam. When you make a post, ensure that it contributes to the community.
I believe that presentation is one of the most undervalued aspects about writing a good blog. If there are glaring grammatical, spelling, and structural errors in your post, it detracts from the reading experience and subsequently hurts the credibility of your blog. There is nothing that will make me click away from a blog quicker than nonsensical editing and nonexistent proofreading. It doesn’t matter how pretty the website is — content is king. If you don’t care enough about your content to ensure it is readable, why should your readers care? Readers will not think about a post’s structure, spelling, and editing when it is good, but they will know right away when it is bad.
Be active in your community
One of my best friends, an online content editor for a major newspaper in Texas, told me the following:
“The best place to bury a dead body is page 2 of Google.”
He was absolutely right. In fact, at time of writing, this website is still on page 2 of Google when your search “millionaire by forty.” Despite my best efforts, I still haven’t cracked that glorious front page.
So, how do you drive traffic to your impossible-to-find blog? Social media and RSS are your friends. They will be your main source of clicks to your blog, especially in the beginning. Start following people you find helpful on Twitter. Begin reading their blogs on a regular basis. Cultivate relationships by commenting on posts and adding your feedback. Even in our early stages, we have made some really cool friends that regularly comment on our blog and Twitter posts. These early adopters will be the social proof that lends credibility to your blog. Cherish them — they are worth their weight in gold. (Shout out to Jef, MB55, and Dollar Diligence!)
Once you have built some good content, acquaintances in the community, and a small following, reach out to the bloggers/podcasters that you admire the most and offer to add value to their product. Even if you think you are too small or too new, you may be surprised by the answer you get when you offer your services.
For example, I reached out to one of my favorite bloggers, Matt from Distilled Dollar. I was congratulating him on having been recently featured on a slew of major news outlets because of his fanatical saving skills when I offered to help contribute to his blog. I thought he would swiftly, but politely, decline my offer. However, much to my amusement, he offered to allow me to write a guest post! I was amazed that it worked. I am still trying to conjure up a good, fresh topic, but the point is that it is possible!
One of my favorite adages is “The more you give, the more you receive.” This saying has never been more true than in the blogging world, especially personal finance. For every comment I have posted on someone else’s blog, it has generated clicks to mine. Every time I chat with other bloggers on Twitter, my followers increase. For every effort I have put in to help build the community, more support has come my way. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t involve yourself strictly for the sake of self-promotion. The point is that we all benefit when we work together to accomplish our “why.” It’s one of the reasons I am so quick to promote other blogs — I believe in their product and their vision, and I think my readers will too.
Take advantage of opportunity
When I was approached by AOL, I was completely in shock. I did not reach out to them. In fact, I didn’t think I was anywhere near ready to look for partnership opportunities.
But when I read about the program and what they do, I was on board very quickly.
How was it so easy to make the first decision regarding the business side of the blog? The mission of the AOL Finance Collective speaks very closely to my “why.” It is a group of bloggers dedicated to improving finances of themselves and others, not just for the sake of money, but for the freedom and opportunity that it brings. That resonated with me immediately, and the decision was simple.
This lesson should apply to every opportunity afforded to you in the future. Forget about the “what” of the opportunity (money, prestige, exposure, etc.) and go straight to the “why.” If the opportunity is congruent with your values, then the “what” can be discussed. But, if the core value of the project is not in line with yours, then it is best to decline. Remember, any partnership that you bring on is a reflection of your vision and brand as a whole, so make sure they represent you well.