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Why I Think (Almost) All PF Bloggers Have Lost Sight of the Bigger Picture

March 19, 2018


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A few years ago I got sucked in the world of personal finance bloggers. I was inspired and intrigued by the personal stories that were being shared about how to pay off debt, how to earn more money, and everything about people’s personal journeys.

The blogs I loved most didn’t have posts like X Ways to Pay Off Debt, but instead were filled with their budget updates, real numbers, and real advice about what worked, and more importantly, what didn’t. They shared the ups and the downs of getting their money in order and I loved reading their honest thoughts and opinions.

These blogs inspired me to start my own and share my journey. With my blog, I hoped to find accountability to help me get out of debt. But, I also wanted to inspire anyone else that might stumble upon my website.

In the beginning, I didn’t strive to get a certain number of page views, comments, likes, shares, affiliate sales, etc. I just sat down and shared my thoughts openly, honestly, and without judgement for myself. I didn’t self-edit and I certainly didn’t have anyone else edit what I wrote before I hit publish.

I’d venture to guess that many bloggers back then started out like me. But, somewhere along the way, I think we all lost sight of why we started blogging about personal finance.

We wanted to share our stories and inspire others, not just make a crap load of money spinning the same useless content over and over again.

New bloggers today have been lured in by the hype that is constantly being spewed out about how bloggers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars PER MONTH by sitting behind a computer and sharing their thoughts now and then.

I’ll admit it, I’ve gotten sucked into this hype too. It happened when I quit my job.

Suddenly the blog I had used as a hobby and a creative outlet turned into my main platform to market myself to clients so I could pay my bills. I also saw others making tons of money from their websites I wanted a chunk of that for myself. So, I started using my site to spin out that useless content with the hope that it would help me earn more money.

At what point is enough enough?

I made over $135,000 last year working for bloggers and businesses online. A small portion of that came from my efforts on this website, but most of it came from working for others.

Is that enough?

Looking at it by itself it sure sounds like enough for a single person living in a very low cost-of-living area. It’s enough to make me proud and make me feel satisfied by what I’ve done and accomplished.

But, then I find myself comparing it to others.

I compare myself to bloggers making hundreds of thousands per month from only their own website, courses, and products.

And to bloggers who’ve been blogging only as long as I have (or less) making way more than me.

These comparisons start to seep into my mind and make me wonder if I’m working hard enough, if I’m working long enough, if I’m putting in effort enough, and if I myself am enough.

“Maybe that’s why I’m not as successful as them,” I tell myself as I vow to work longer and harder than before. “Maybe then I’ll finally get ahead.”

Last year at FinCon17, I had this exact conversation with a couple of my friends over a tear-filled dinner.

We talked about “the good old days” when people were blogging to share their stories, to inspire, and to encourage.

This was back when bloggers actually interacted with each other with whole conversations taking place in the comments section. Nowadays most of us don’t even find time to read each other’s blogs, let alone comment on them and come back later to find out if our comments and questions got answered.

(Not that it’s all about who gets the most comments, but rather that the comments provided a place for our community to connect.)

What happened to our tight-knit and caring community?

Why are we still doing what we’re doing if we’ve lost sight of why we started in the first place?

What is our community now?

Are we really just bloggers who blog about how to blog to make money?

Are we bloggers who blog about how to pay off debt so we can make money?

Why do we blog only to make more money?

Somewhere along the last few years there has been a shift from being a community that cares to a community that is greedy for more. How is this serving our readers and how is this serving our own hearts and souls?

Wanting enough money to pay your bills is one thing (and is definitely not inherently evil). But, at what point is enough enough?

I don’t know if I have the answers to these questions. Plus, it certainly becomes harder when your blog is your business and your sole source of income. But, I know that I quit my job because I wanted to feel joy in my work. So, if our blogs and our community is no longer bringing that, it’s time for a change.

Stay tuned!

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50 responses to “Why I Think (Almost) All PF Bloggers Have Lost Sight of the Bigger Picture

  1. You know I’m with you on this, Kayla–and guilty of it, too! Would love to see a shift back the other way and I think putting comparison away and remembering that telling our stories is not mutually exclusive to bringing in an income is a huge step. Those stories are what started off all of our jobs in this space, in fact. Abandoning them changes the entire course of what we’re doing.

    1. It’s definitely about finding balance between earning an income and being true to our stories. I just think we sometimes lose sight of that second part and end up only thinking about the money.

  2. This is a great and daring view on all those churned out articles that we often see. I see so many posts on Pinterest for making money blogging or quitting your job via blogging- it starts to sound like a pyramid scheme.

    Disclosure, I’ve made next to nothing on my blog, but getting my thoughts out there, interacting with like-minded people, and knowing I’m financially accountable to my audience has made a big impact on my life. This is a message that needs to be shared more.

    1. I will admit, I have done some of those churned out articles myself. But, I’m definitely frustrated about things lately and trying to find a better balance. I still want my blog to be “me” not just those types of listicles… Some listicles can actually be helpful, but I want to try and keep them infused with humor, personality, and my personal story.

  3. I almost think it’s not us, it is the new bloggers that have made this about money (although maybe our fault for saying they should). I watched an interaction among new PF bloggers go down on twitter, where they mentioned how basically comments are “lame” and bloggers only do them “for click backs”.

    That really soured me on commenting (although not entirely because I still blog because I like stories!! And I read blogs with stories!). How many other bloggers think comments are dumb? I miss the old days where I would post a question at the end of my post (I still do!) and get comments. Are we just talking into the abyss now? I can’t tell.

    I still see bloggers like us making an effort, and yes #notallnewbloggers. Maybe older bloggers (ie been blogging longer) should make more of an effort to reach out and mentor newer bloggers? I don’t know what the answer is! Great post Kayla!

    1. Hey! That’s an interesting point for sure. I do get some comments from people that are clearly just looking for a link back, but genuine comments make me so happy!! 🙂 Maybe something like that is the answer, but how would we go about it? I’m not sure the answer to these questions either, but something definitely needs to change. I miss how the community used to be. Maybe it’s just nostalgia… Sigh!

      1. I hope you continue to tackle this question, or even if you want to do a Q&A about it on your site with some people (I’d be into it!) because something interesting happened to me recently and it made me think of this post…

        I was recently told from a potential (podcast) sponsor that they didn’t want to work with us because “our audience” (people who have debt but are working to pay it off while living fulfilling lives) was basically “too poor” for them and they weren’t interested in poor folks.

        First, hahahahahahahaha… ha… I’m not poor (I’m def not rich) but I STILL BUY THINGS. You know… like every other human on the planet buys things. So… that’s ridiculous. They won’t be a sponsor.

        But second, how many pf bloggers get that message from sponsors and are like, uh oh, I need to pivot from [debt repayment, saving, etc.] and try to market and make money? Or add ads? Or something?

        I’m proud I still write about living on a small income but not sacrificing happiness just because I have a bunch of stupid debt. But I am starting to get the feeling (especially from other pf bloggers) that I’m useless because “debt is bad and people with debt are bad.” Like… not helpful, guys & gals.

        Man, Kayla, you really touched a nerve with this post!! 🙂

  4. This direction is why my reader, once full of PF blogs, has dwindled over the years. I’m not looking for how-tos and coursees, I’m looking for personal stories and ways to think about the numbers that I haven’t learned yet. Philosophies and experiences are more rich and compelling than 3 hacks of whatever.

    That’s not to say that I have anything against making money from a highly time intensive hobby. It’s just that as much as I may want that sell-out money 😉 it’s not worth losing my venue and voice to the inevitable compromises that come with a fully monetized blog totally focused on making money. I’m sure that there is a good compromise between sharing your stories and making money but I’m not sure if they exist on the same platform. Except for Cup of Jo and APW. They do a decent job of it.

  5. I love this! I’ve been blogging for a year and am very, very much still a tiny blog that no one reads. I started blogging because I loved the personal blogs that told their story and I wanted to do the same with mine, and even in the last year it’s been sad to see how many people have moved away from that kind of writing. Last week I finally put up my first affiliate link, and I struggled for months with whether to do that or not. Honestly my goal is to cover my hosting fees, and I sincerely hope that I don’t lose sight of enough or why I started blogging in the first place!

  6. I definitely envy the bloggers who make money hand over fist, and I’ve monetized my site a bit more lately. But my blog definitely isn’t all about money — mainly because it doesn’t make much.

    I’ve tried monetizing more, but I couldn’t keep up the efforts.It felt too artificial. I keep reverting to what my blog is now: a conversation between myself and the reader, including general updates on my life. I’m still going to take a couple more steps to make a little more off it, but mostly I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll never make thousands — in a year, let alone a month — on my blog. It will always be a labor of love.

  7. Oh my gosh this. And in a similar vein, I feel like the blogosphere has become more competitive and less supportive over time. There’s a lot less anonymous blogging now and accordingly, a lot fewer real numbers as people want to maintain boundaries and privacy, which I do understand. I see a lot more judgement and insulting, people talking about how people who make $X don’t need to worry about money, that life shouldn’t be difficult for them. This used to be a place to authentically talk about money without judgement (back when I started blogging in 2011) and I don’t feel like it is so much more anymore.

    1. Even when I started in 2013 it was more of a conversation and less of a competition. This is a big part of why I stopped posting income reports – not because I didn’t want to share my numbers (I still share my budget and debt numbers to this day!) but because I was tired of feeling inadequate and “behind” for not earning as much as some others.

  8. I love this post. One of the most important things that I do is share a post every Monday about my financial reality. My story, the stuff that’s on my mind and that I think about. While it absolutely makes sense to me to want to earn money from blogging, I also loved the personal finance blogosphere because of the stories. One of the reasons I love doing my podcast is because it gives me the opportunity to have those deep, connected conversations. I think that we can set aggressive earnings goals and share our stories…we just have to want to.

    1. That’s a good point. I’m definitely trying to find a balance here. I’m not vowing to never share things that are monetized but I want to keep myself and my stories in my blog too. 🙂

  9. I am pretty new to the blogging scene with almost a year under my belt. I felt the pressure to monetize early on but now I am more focused on getting my thoughts out there and building a community. I am posting less often but spending more time on each post. I didn’t like the pressure I put on myself in the beginning to produce content that many new bloggers fall into. My favorite blogs are genuine and tell a great story. I don’t have time to read them every day though, but I love checking in when I can. Thank you for posting this!

    1. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of a newer blogger and to hear about the pressure you felt to monetize right away. It’s interesting how things have changed in the last few years for sure. I’m glad you didn’t give in to the pressure. 🙂

  10. This post came at such a great time.I was definitely beginning to feel a bit disillusioned with all these blogs. I just started a blogging as a creative outlet and wanted to share my journey. Needing some guidance, I started to read posts from the more seasoned bloggers and felt discouraged when they advised not to turn your blog into a diary because no one wants to read about you. Instead, I should write how to, # of ways to, research keywords, etc. It just felt like blog posts was just like every other blogger and honestly, I didn’t even want to promote them.

    I subscribed to a lot of well known bloggers, but quickly started to unsubscribe when I was bombarded by emails to buy “xyz”. I understand that blogging is their bread and butter but it was a big let down when all they see is dollar signs when someone subscribes to their blog.

    With all that said, I learned a lot from those bloggers but I also learned what NOT to do. I’m just going to continue blogging and start writing pieces that are more authenically me even if that means I don’t get a dime or any traffic.

    1. I’m definitely going to be trying to find a balance between personal stories and posts that are how to, X ways to do, etc. I do need to have some posts that convert as this is how I earn my income (this and freelancing), but I don’t want to get so far removed that I forget why I started in the first place.

  11. Interesting perspective. I’m a newer blogger (almost 8 months in).. I didn’t get into it to make money but I would like to eventually make money. I’m fortunate in that actually like my job, like my salary and really like my health insurance. I’m struggling with not getting down about growth though.

    1. Growing in the beginning is so hard. Once you get the ball rolling (so to speak) it gets easier. Then again, what do I know, I’m not one of the bloggers making six figures from my site. Ha!

      1. Thank you! I think if you had told me on day one I would be where I am today at month 8, my day-one me would have been completely happy with my progress. Unfortunately, my day 240 self can’t help comparing my progress with other bloggers with tons of subscribers and oodles of money flowing in. Comparison really is the thief of joy!

        What I do know is that I don’t want to ever prioritize making money over helping my reader.

  12. Kayla, I’ve vaguely been feeling this way lately as well; you have put it into words so succinctly. I’ll be brutally honest – yours was one of the first blogs I discovered, and I went all the way back to the beginning to read every post. I have noticed a change here, even occasionally skipping posts because I know what will be in them…

    You are highly successful, and I honestly believe that people relate just as well to a balance between factual and personal. Blogs aren’t meant to be newspapers or textbooks – they are meant to give freedom of expression, to court discussion or dissenting viewpoints, to share new ideas with the world. I’d love to see a balance between Kaylas Sloan the businesswoman and Kayla Sloan the person.

    I really think you’ve tapped in to what a lot of people are feeling.

    1. Thank you so much for your words. I’m so glad to hear from someone who’s been around and has seen the change here and how it affected you as a reader. I definitely want to try and find a balance. Maybe a percentage of those more monetized posts and a percentage of more personal posts… I’m not 100% sure what it will look like, but I’m going to try and get back to my roots a little more!

  13. This is why I mostly read blogs that are fairly new on the scene. They haven’t gotten caught up yet in the monetizing thing so they write more personal stories, which I prefer. In general, blogs that have “how to” content don’t have content I want to read at all. But I don’t blame anyone. I have a full time job. I don’t NEED to make money from my blog so it’s easier for me not to care, although I do know many people with full time jobs monetized so much they were able to quit their full time jobs. I guess I’m not sure I want to go down that path.

    1. I get exactly what you’re saying. I miss the more personal side of blogging. So, while I still do need to be monetized, I also want to start sharing more personal things again too. 🙂

  14. Hey Kayla, great to see that you’re doing so well. Nice job.
    Money is a factor, but I’m sure you can find a balance. To me, it’s about how you treat blogging. Is it a full time job, part time job, hobby, or what? If it’s a full time job, then you need to make money to feed yourself and family. That will be the first priority.
    For me, it’s like a 20 hours part time job that’s still fun. I still mostly blog about personal stuff and monetize when I could. I don’t need to make money from blogging so I think that’s the big difference.

    Anyway, good discussion.

    1. Thanks Joe! I do get what you’re saying, but even if it is a full-time job, does it NEED to be so heavily monetized as to have no genuine personality or value? That’s what irks me about those making TONS of money from it.

      1. I look at it this way. It won’t always be raining money. In 10 years, everyone will have a blog so you won’t make much from Bluehost anymore. If you can make money now, you really should do it. Also, it’s going to be much harder once a recession hit.
        But you’re right. It’s no fun to read a blog post with no personality in it.

  15. ^ This. It’s all so true, and I’m glad someone finally talked about it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong with making money from your blog. A lot of us put in so much time and effort into this “hobby”, so I think making money from it is okay. HOWEVER, I don’t like going on a blog and seeing a constant sales pitch. It’s just not genuine. And I’m seeing that so much more these days. I really hope we can get this community back to the way it was. Because it’s such a great thing.

  16. It’s one of the (albeit minor) reasons I chose to stop blogging – people who had really authentic personal blogs completely jumped the shark out of greed. And a lot of these people have high-paying actual jobs too, so you wouldn’t think they need the extra coin that desperately.

    There definitely has been a shift from sharing stories and conversations about money towards the blatant chase of money. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t see it going back to the way it was.

    1. I don’t think they needed it desperately by any means. However, I get why people monetize. Blogging is a super time intensive project so it’s nice to make some money, but not at the expense of everything else.

  17. I read this on Monday, cheered loudly but got interrupted before I could leave a comment. While I don’t consider myself to be a personal finance blogger, I am very familiar with the old world/community from my time with Shannon. And that was one of the big reasons I initially wanted to have a PF blog because the community was so awesome and supportive. I realized quickly, though, that talking about money wasn’t my passion, so I went in another direction. But every so often I pop my head back into the PF world and it astonishes me how much it has changed. Not all the new bloggers, that’s normal in every niche, but how the focus shift away from how can we can help people through sharing our experiences and knowledge and more to how can we make money off of people. I have zero issues with people choosing to monetize their blog but I do believe there is a right and wrong way to do it. And I do see a lot of PF bloggers who suddenly seem more interested in how they can make money from their readers than actually helping them get out of debt, reach financial freedom, save money , budget, etc. And that makes me really sad because I believe you can still do all those things (even in an SEO-optimized way) and make money without selling your soul.

    Never lose sight of everything you have accomplished, Kayla. You’ve undoubtedly inspired so many people to take control of their financial lives and see what amazing things can happened when they do from seeing you do it.

  18. This post makes me think of some personal finance blogs where immediately upon going to them, I’m hit with a welcome mat, then a pop-up, then a sliding signup box. It never ends! haha.

    For the longest time, I was conflicted on monetizing my site. I thought I always had to choose between being personable or making money. At FinCon17, I learned it was possible to do both. Several bloggers come to mind who have growth their blogs, made money, while still being personable and relatable.

    I do wish more bloggers would see the value in having really relatable content. It’s not always about the listicles and affiliate ridden posts that make your blog known. An alarming thing I also noticed while at FinCon17 was the idea of distancing yourself from your readers, setting up systems so you wouldn’t have to interact with them and so forth. It was dishearting to see that be promoted as some great thing to do.

    1. I would love to take this convo else where and find out more about your favorite bloggers who do a good job of balancing personal and monetized content (unless you’re comfortable sharing here!). I want to do a better job of that! I like interacting with readers and would never want to remove myself from that, but I do try to automate some things to take a little less time when possible.

  19. So, mine isn’t a personal finance blog, it’s a negativity disrupting blog, and I admit I debated whether to even add ads and affiliate links because I never want to make my content less meaningful or have ads disrupt my message. That said, I don’t think there’s any harm in trying to have this work pay off. Making some income from it someday will allow me to scale what I offer, so I do weave carefully-selected affiliate links into meaningful content. And I don’t really make much money from it but I made a conscious decision not to lay it on thick so I’m ok with that.

    That said, I see tons of these “list” blog posts and imo they’re oversaturating the blogosphere without adding much value. Occasionally a post like that gives you a place to start looking for more info, but if all I see is list posts I run screaming. You offer meaningful content, and that’s why many of us read you! Try not to compare yourself to others, too…we can only control what we do in life.

    Thanks for not cheaping out, Kayla! Keep doing what you’re doing!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Beth! That really means a lot. I know I have done more of those types of articles lately but I’m really trying to find a good balance between monetized and personal content. 🙂 I’m so glad to hear from you!

  20. Hi
    First time reader here so I can’t comment on how your blog has changed but I’ve been reading PF blogs for around 4 years and have noticed there are a lot more ‘listicle-how-to’ blogs/articles which are regurgitating the same stuff over and over again. Like many here, I prefer reading about people’s personal journeys.

    My own blog is first and foremost a document of my own journey, with numbers and stats. It’s monetized only because I think ‘why not?’ but I’d never put the effort in to try to make any serious money from it because I don’t intend to try to live off my blog earnings. The small amount I make from affiliate links etc is detailed in my regular updates for all to see.

    Hopefully, you will be able to find a balance with your content which you (and your readers) will be happy with.

  21. This is a refreshing read and reminder. I am totally guilty sometimes of finding myself trying to cater my content to what I *think* people will want to read or to what “everyone else” is doing. Whenever I catch myself doing that, I give myself permission to stop trying to create for others and just create what I want to create. That makes it so much easier because I’m not trying to be anything but me, and I always feel a lot better about my content when I know it’s what I actually wanted to write. And I love reading people’s stories, not so much the “top 15 ways to make money side hustling” etc. filled with things they’ve never actually tried, with affiliate links strewn throughout. I would never expect someone NOT to try to make money from their site, but when that becomes obviously their primary focus (as opposed to putting out helpful/real content or their own stories) the value goes down for me.

    1. Thanks! I do think everyone can be guilty of creating content that caters from time to time. But I think we would all be happier in the long run to just be ourselves. We may not make as much, but it keeps it real.

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