Happy Saturday and welcome to the 12th episode of the ‘Blogger Confessions’ interview series on the blog. Today, I’m bringing in Marc from The Vital Dollar to talk about blogging and how they’ve managed to keep everything straight as a personal finance blogger. 

Marc, take it away.

Blogger Confessions with Marc from The Vital Dollar

1: In at least 100 words, describe the target audience of your blog.

I’m writing for people who want to improve their finances by managing their money better, or by increasing their income with a side hustle or online business. My target audience is at a beginner level in terms of financial knowledge, not experienced investors.

I know there are many people today who are interested in starting a side hustle for extra money, so I cover that as well. I love side hustles because my own side hustle (internet marketing and blogging) turned into a full-time business that I’ve been running for 10 years now. I also turned a photography hobby into a profitable business through websites and blogs on the subject. I want to help others do the same.

2: What makes your blog different from other blogs in the PF blogosphere?

I think my experience with side hustles and online business allows me to help people who want to increase their own income.

I have a pretty good knowledge of basic financial topics like budgeting and saving, but so do a lot of others. I think there are fewer finance bloggers out there who have successfully used a side hustle to speed up their own progress towards retirement.

3: What’s the thing that you’ve struggled with the most since starting your blog?

With so many finance blogs out there, I think one of the biggest challenges for me has been clearly communicating what makes Vital Dollar different. Basically, trying to make the message clear and concise so first-time visitors get a good feel for the site and know why they should care about it.

The other challenge is just getting that initial traffic. With blogs, it usually takes a while until the traffic gets to the point where you don’t have to work so hard just to get people on your site. At first, you don’t really get any search traffic to your site, so you have to get out there and promote your content somehow.

4: Do you publish your net worth on your blog? Why or why not?

No, I don’t. The main reason is because it’s so personal. I’ve already published articles that are more personal than I ever imagined, so who knows, maybe someday I’ll start publishing net worth reports as well.

5: Have you monetized your blog (ads, affiliate marketing, etc)? Why or why not?

I use affiliate links in the blog posts when relevant, but I try not to force it.

I don’t use any ad networks, and I hope to avoid that if possible because I think ads can be intrusive. Most of the other sites I’ve managed the past few years have been monetized by selling my own digital products and with affiliate links. I don’t have any products for sale at Vital Dollar yet, but that is part of my long-term plan (although I don’t know for sure exactly what those products will be).

From my experience, selling digital products is the best way to monetize a blog – but, affiliate links can also be a great opportunity. In personal finance, there are a lot of products and services that have affiliate programs, so it’s pretty easy to use affiliate links in a natural way, and also to promote products and services that I use myself.

6: Would you rather be loved, hated or controversial? Explain, please!

Loved. I definitely don’t like to be hated, and I don’t really have any desire to be controversial. I don’t want to be afraid to do the right thing because people might hate me or because it might cause controversy, but I don’t go out of my way to stir things up.

7: Who would you be horrified to know read your blog?

Pretty much anyone I know personally.

My wife has seen my blog a few times, but as far as I know, she’s never read a single article start to finish. I’ve been blogging and running websites full-time for 10 years and I can’t remember ever sharing one of my blogs or websites with friends or family.

One of my wife’s friends was on my photography blog, but only because she was a photographer and because my wife told her about it. Actually, I’ve had people get annoyed at me because I wouldn’t show them my websites. That can cause problems though, like when my wife’s uncle thought I worked in porn because I refused to show him my website.

8: What’s your most favorite, least favorite and most embarrassing post on your blog?

My favorite is Ways to Make Money: 125+ Side Hustle Ideas for Your Spare Time. I like it because it’s a huge collection that anybody can use to get ideas, and there are some side hustles covered there that go beyond the typical options that you read about a lot. I plan to update the post at least once a year to keep it fresh and as helpful as possible.

My least favorite is How to Start a Blog. There are thousands of blogs that have basically the same article, but I felt like I needed to do it because I have a lot of other posts about blogging. For someone who has no experience with blogging the article can actually be helpful. If I recommend starting a blog I should also show people how to do it.

The most embarrassing is The Realities of Mortgage-Free Living because it covers personal topics like buying a house without a mortgage. Hopefully, no one I know personally comes across that post.

9: Explain your writing process

My process starts with brainstorming. I have a spreadsheet where I enter every article idea I have, and then I go through the list of ideas and prioritize the ones that I want to do in the near future.

I’m adding to that list all the time.

When I sit down to write an article, I start by creating an outline. The amount of time it takes depends on the post, but it’s not unusual for me to spend a full day on an article. Shorter ones probably take a few hours.

Since I have the outline done before I start writing I typically don’t need to make a lot of edits aside from grammar and spelling. I usually don’t make major structural changes.

I proofread articles myself, and typically I read through the article 2 or 3 times to do the proofreading. I also usually add images at the end.

10: What is your favorite blog in the PF blogosphere (other than your own!)?

That’s a tough question, but I think I’d say that right now my favorite is probably Wallet Hacks. There are a lot of good bloggers, and there are a lot of people who are knowledgeable about finances. I think Jim is strong in both areas.

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