Thank you so much to Laurie of Passionate Penny Pincher for taking the time to share her blogging tips with us. I’m so excited to be featuring several bloggers this month – real-life successful bloggers – and hearing their thoughts and tips about blogging! So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and be inspired!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog:
I’m Laurie, a stay-at-home mom to three cute (busy!) kids, and have been married to my husband James for almost 16 years. I run Passionate Penny Pincher, a blog encouraging readers to save money for their own family, as well as give abundantly to local churches, food pantries and schools by clipping a few extra coupons and using them to purchase a few extra items each week to donate.
How did you get started with blogging?
I started blogging on a whim back in the fall of 2009, when my husband’s father became ill with West Nile Encephalitis. While my husband was away helping to take care of his dad, I constantly found myself up in the middle of the night worrying. When I couldn’t sleep, I stayed up reading frugal blogs (I’d been a couponer for years), and then considered starting a blog of my own. At that time, I didn’t see many coupon blogs that frequently encouraged readers to give to local charities through their coupon savings, so I decided that was a place to start. I also was looking for a website that paired grocery deals with menu ideas, so I decided that might be something unique that PPP could offer.
I read enough to know there was some potential income to be made through blogging, but I had no idea of specific numbers. I prayerfully considered beginning the site, and felt called to donate one half of any proceeds to overseas mission work. So from my very first blog post, one half of the proceeds from PPP have helped support a missionary family from our church who’s serving in Costa Rica. Being able to give to mission work, earn extra income for our own family, and stay at home with my kids has been an incredible opportunity for me.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started because it would have saved you so much time and energy?
My computer skills were pretty pitiful when I started out, and I knew next to nothing about the importance of good web hosting and a decent computer. I spent my first two years blogging on computers that were incredibly slow, and the hosting company that I used didn’t fit my needs as the site grew. I finally purchased a decent computer and switched to a new hosting company in November of 2011, and it has made a huge difference in my productivity.
What is your balancing secret in managing a blog and a family?
I’m not quite sure that I’ve figured this one out yet! My older children are in school, however my four-year-old won’t begin kindergarten until next year, and getting my work completed each day often seems next to impossible. I’ve recently challenged myself to work more efficiently, specifically by limiting my time spent on social media sites and carefully handling emails as concisely as possible. I also hired a (fantastic!) virtual assistant in the Spring of 2011 to handle most of the store matchups that are posted each week, and that has provided me several more hours to spend with my family.
My goal each day is to finish the bulk of my work in the morning when my youngest is in Mother’s Morning Out four days per week, and then I try to limit myself to an hour on the computer in the afternoons as well as another hour or two once after our children are in bed. At this point, I’m really just hanging in there until my youngest goes to school when I’ll be able to devote more time to the site, and then I’d love to focus on getting all my work done during the day while they’re at school.
What is the biggest mistake you made and how did you fix it?
I’ve made quite a few mistakes along the way, however I’ve been fortunate that none of them have been irreconcilable. For me, blogging has been a constant learning curve, so when I have made mistakes, I’ve been able to search Google to help fix whatever mess I’ve made without any long-standing impact. (I often tell folks that I’ve learned everything I know from Google!)
What has been your best readership building tactic?
I’ve found that well-written, unique & genuine posts have earned more readers on my site than anything else. There are so many fantastic frugal bloggers out there, and I often struggle with how to differentiate my site from the rest. I think people who read PPP can tell that there really is a person behind the screen who gets just as excited as they do about a deal, and who genuinely cares for them and wants to encourage them to reach their financial goals.
I also think Facebook has been a huge traffic boost for my site. While I don’t have nearly the Facebook followers of many other frugal blogs out there, I interact frequently with Facebook readers which seems to help them see my posts in their Facebook feed. (Although that’s definitely becoming more difficult all the time!) The truth is, I love hearing from them on Facebook, and as my Facebook interaction has grown, my emails have somewhat diminished because people can easily contact me there. Now readers sometimes answer each other’s questions, and there really is a sense of community on the page.
What has been your most successful way to make money?
Making money is undoubtedly the most stressful part of blogging for me, because I only want my readers to use products from affiliate links that I truly believe in. I didn’t start blogging to make money (I had no idea there was any real money to be made, so that was just a lucky bonus!) I feel incredibly fortunate that the site has made any money at all, and never really expected it to turn into a job.
I do let readers know when an offer includes affiliate links, and I think being upfront and honest with readers helps them trust my motives better. Because people know the heart behind my work, I think readers support my site which ends in increased income. I’m also very forthright and honest with my readers in how blogging makes money, which has led to incredibly supportive readers and eventually to increased income.
What is one tidbit of advice that you would offer to a new blogger, just starting out?
Make sure you’re blogging because you absolutely love what you’re writing about, not because you might make money. I worked the first full year for a tiny amount of money, and it’s really only been in the last twelve months that the money has even begun to be worth the hours that I put into it. I love what I do each day, but it is a huge commitment and has not come easily. (Blogging well is serious work!)
Also, remember that the power you have as a blogger can become significant, so even if you don’t make as much money as you’d like (which definitely happens in the beginning!), the power of your impact is often more valuable than a few dollars. I recently contacted a major company for a giveaway, and asked them to consider making a donation of a few free products to a local group home. They happily donated fifty items to the group home, so even though I didn’t “make” anything off their donation, the impact of 2 ½ year of blogging and thousands of hours of work totally paid off, as I was able to give back to a group in our community in a way that would never have happened had I not started blogging.
Consider where and how you want to make your own impact, and recognize that through blogging you may be given the opportunity to influence hundreds, if not thousands of readers. For me, that’s what makes blogging each day worth the incredible number of hours I’ve put into it. And, when my readers share how they’ve been able to give abundantly because of the tips they’ve learned on PPP, then I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Still Have Questions?
Leave them in the comments below – then be sure to head over to Laurie’s blog – check the current deals and catch her passionate in the meantime!