I’ve never actually run a marathon. I was almost kicked out of high school basketball because I refused to join the track team. (My hate for running is deep.) But today I feel like I am crossing the finish line of a fancy marathon. Breathing heavy, sweaty, and arms raised in adrenaline filled victory. I want to hug a stranger, cry and kiss my metal. People, today is my 1 year blogiversary!!!!!!
When I hit 6 months, I wrote the 3 lessons I learned in those first 6 months. It’s still one of my most commented on posts. Those first few months were overwhelming and crazy. And if you have just started this journey, check that one out for sure.
I had asked myself two questions for my first 6 months. And I had two questions for these 6 months as well. 1. Who am I trying to help? 2. What kind of transformation do I want to help create? Of course, the questions I ask rarely get answered. So here are the 2 lessons I found out instead.
1. Being known is awesome…and terrifying
I really believe that our stories are important and powerful. If we can speak the truth in a simple and clear way, we can share a tiny piece of our life with another person. It sparks understanding, compassion, ideas, and inspiration. We share our victories, and our failures. The things that we are most excited about and what we fear the most. We let people into our little piece of the world. And good things can happen. It builds relationships. And it encourages.
I love sharing our story because we don’t have impressive stats. We haven’t earned huge incomes. We haven’t saved millions of dollars. But we have lived on target with the things most important to us. We have been able to adopt 4 kids. We have travel through 27 countries and all over the US. We have enough financial freedom that we can focus on leveraging our time in ways that will create the most impact without worrying about paying the bills.
I share our story because if we can get to this place, with those inputs, I think it will encourage others that more is possible than they might currently believe. I share all our monthly expenses so that you can peek behind the curtain and see what this frugal life really looks like. What kind of lifestyle is possible. And tweek it to fit your own needs.
But it’s also terrifying.
Have you ever worried about being “too much?” You’re too passionate, too excited, laugh too loud, too logical, too intense, too silly, too caring, too honest, too trusting, too relational, too focused, dance too crazy, too much of an idealist? Just too much for some people? I was born without the proverbial “chill pill.” And I’ve never found one. I’m just too much. Probably of every single thing I listed. There is a constant temptation to scale back my “too much” to fall within the acceptable range. Where everyone can be more comfortable.
Those things that are too much are also the most sacred. It’s the most honest version of myself. If you ever see me acting cool, and nonchalant, well, that is a total lie. Unless I am asleep. Or sick. ( I live with 5 germ minions, so that actually happens quite often.)
Here’s the thing.
What I love most about others is their “too much.” When they laugh so hard they snort, then I laugh even harder at their snorting. When they start dancing in the grocery store because their favorite song comes on. When they care so much about a world issue that they break into tears because it’s pressing so heavy on their heart. When an author will print his cell phone number in the back of a best selling book. Or a mom will post a picture of a pile of dirty laundry so tall it might avalanche and bury the family dog. There is a short pause where I think, “Oh, God, we are way outside of the socially acceptable level here.”
And then I love them instantly for their unique “too much.”
It’s easy for others to take our “too much” and fashion it into an arrow to shoot at us. Our “too much” is vulnerable. It’s so honest, and so close to our heart. That makes it terrifying.
A few months ago I went out to coffee with a person who was upset with me. It was an hour long list of everything they dislike about me. Every perceived mistake I’ve made was carefully cataloged. Every way I fall short as a human being exposed. After 45 minutes of fighting back tears, this single statement pushed me over the edge. They said of my son who passed away, “I always felt sorry for your adopted son, I pitied him, because I don’t think you loved him. That one time I saw you together, you didn’t hug much. He deserved better than you.”
It was a arrow straight to my heart. And I sobbed hot angry tears. I tried to blubber something thing about teenage boys and reactive attachment disorder, and dynamics of adoption with older kids and alternate forms of affection. But mostly I cried uncontrollably. Hot messy tears. Right in the middle of the coffee shop. They weren’t the most hurtful words ever spoken to me, but really damn close. I couldn’t sleep for 2 nights after that.
All the things close to my heart were fashioned into a arrow. Not by a stranger or internet troll, but someone I thought cared about me. There are a few people very skilled at arrow making in this world. Able to gather the things close to our hearts and craft arrows that fly straight. So with trembling fingers I share my “too much” with all of you. And I steady my breath that the arrow makers won’t find more flint and feathers from these things I write.
I’ll share all my site stats at the end, for all the spread sheet loving, number and chart geeks out there. But the momentum is more than that.
Relationships. Building relationships takes time. Getting to know people takes time. And I’m starting to see a lot of momentum on that front. The number of emails I received from readers month 1 was 0. Month 2 was 0. Month 3 was 0. Now I get emails every week, sometimes every day. It took a year of writing here every week, but we have gotten to know each other a bit. Sometimes you’ll shoot me an email or leave a comment. I’ll get a Facebook comment on things I post or my ridiculous attempts at Facebook live. (These are really terrifying for me! No script, no edits. 90% of the time my “too much” pops out like a wardrobe malfunction, and I want to stick my foot in my mouth!)
I’ve loved Skyping, Google hangouts, chatting on the phone and mailing you all packages! In my 6th month recap I said that “community is magic” and you all leaned in and made it SO much better! Thank you for that. =)
Skills/Identity. I wrote over 100 posts this first year. Or about 100,000 words. I write a bit faster now. I can write longer. I am better able to sit down and write on a schedule. I went from seeing myself as a hobby writer blown about by whim and inspiration to a professional writer. I started earning money from writing words for other people. I send invoices! I actually feel like I can approach people for writing work, because I know the value I can add and the way I can help them in their business.
Opportunities. In certain situations, a blog can be the longest business card ever. It’s not just a small blurb on a website. In the longest possible form, it’s where I stand on things, my ideas, my experiences, my stories, my tips and tricks, how I see the world, our know-how and skills and personality. If you have a few hours to binge read, you can probably figure out if I can help you out with something. When you first start blogging, you get a few emails from spammy companies wanting to work with you. 12 months in, and there are more companies, that I am legit interested in. People creating high value products and services who I really want you to know about. Other people I have gotten to know and want to partner with to create things. New ways of teaching and being able to go deep into a topic with people that I am excited about.
Impact. This is just nuts to me. Everything I write about are conversations I have had with people. Maybe just my husband or a friend over coffee. Maybe I gave a talk to 50 or a 100 people. Maybe I chatted with a few friends. But the idea that hundreds or thousands of people get to read the ideas that have helped us create financial freedom blows my mind! I grew up in a town of 800. And now I get to “chat” about personal finance with 7000+ people a month? It’s such a privilege to know that I can help so many people in some small way via this blog or in a much bigger way with money consults and mentoring.
It’s all more, not less. But those 2 questions I keep asking become even more important. Just because it’s a great opportunity or idea, doesn’t mean I have space on my plate for it. I’ve had to learn to say no more often. I suck at it. But am slowly learning.
Ready to geek out on some numbers!?!
These aren’t incredible, but they aren’t horrible. I would say they are rather average.
But that’s exactly why I want to share them. So you see a benchmark for average. If you want to leverage a blog to grow your business, start an entrepreneurial endeavor, build a platform to expand your impact or blog for personal growth, it’s good to go in eyes wide open. I have a super helpful post coming Wednesday, if you are interested in building an online presence (Plus a GREAT offer at the end of this!).
I’m actually really proud that I hit publish on 102 posts this year! Consistently putting out content is a big challenge to blogging (read: time consuming) but it’s paying off.
Here are my top 10 posts from the year. I think it’s kind of cool that the “Our Story” is the top page now. =)
On the shoulders of giants!!! I am overwhelmed with gratitude from the very bottom of my heart. Everyone who shared my posts on Facebook or Twitter. Everyone who shared a link. Every blogger who let me guest post on their site. There were literally 500+ places that references came from. And I am super thankful to each and every person. You all helped a newbie out and I am truly grateful. And a really big thanks to J$ and Cait who featured 10+ posts on Rockstar finance. J$ featured Walden Theory on my blog launch day exactly 1 year ago. If you, for some crazy reason, aren’t subscribed to their email, go do that now. We’ll wait till you get back.
I’m working really hard to make Facebook a great place to connect. I would love it you would follow me there! Plus I have these crazy fb live videos. =)
Mr. Montana took and SEO course, and my site is doing much better! Plus more people are searching each day to try to get here. Last summer I averaged 5-10 a day. In the fall I was in the 30-50 each day. Now I am averaging 60-100 searches a day.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!! To everyone who has subscribed to my email list and allows me to write you a letter each week. It is absolutely my favorite thing to write. It feels like such a privilege. (Pro tip: if you ever want to get a hold of a blogger, subscribe to their email and, if possible, hit reply to send an email to them. If you reply to an email I sent, I figure we are already basically friends.)
Ah, the good stuff! Page views. Every time someone clicks on a page it’s counts as 1. So if you come to my site, but read 15 posts, I get 16 page views (home page, plus 15 posts.) Binge reading is encouraged. =)
First 4 months: 1,000-10,000 a month
Months 5-9: 10,000-15,000 a month
Months 10,11,12: 20,000-25,000 a month
This gives you a better idea of unique visitors for my first year. The last few months I have had about 7,000-9,000 people showing up here per month. In Wednesday’s post, I want to talk about ways you can leverage a blog to help grow an existing business, start an entrepreneurial venture or personal growth. But if you have a message you want to share, product or service that can help people, or want to create community to support your growth, having an extra 7,000-9,000 people on your site each month is a HUGE help!
For fun…here are the top places in April that people checked out my site. I love seeing these! I’ve been most of these places, and left a bit of my heart in each. I haven’t yet made it to Australia, but Mr. Montana’s dad is from there. So we have a close connection. His whole family is an awful lot of fun, and I completely blame that continent! Too much sun and surf. =) Or maybe it’s the Vegemite. Ugh. I don’t get it.
So that wraps up my first year!!! It’s ended up being way bigger than I ever expected. So many cool things have come out of it. Because I have had such a great experience, I wanted to give a special offer to my readers.
If you want to get started on a blog for yourself, I am going to offer a FREE hour consult to the first 20 people if you get your website hosting with my Bluehost affiliate link. I have had a great experience with them this year!
Starting out can be a little overwhelming. From the tech side, SEO, finding your audience, when and how to monetize, finding the right schedule to meet your goals, well, it’s a lot at first. If you think that adding a blog could really help expand your reach, I’d love to help you get started. I’m not a expert, but after a year, you pick up a few things. =)
We can jump on a call or Skype and cover any these topics:
Narrow which of the three groups your blog would fall into.
How to narrow down your niche.
How to find the voice of your blog.
How to join the conversation already happening in your field.
How to grow your email list.
And anything else we can fit into an hour!
But I only have 20 spots for the free 1 hour consults. Just click on the link to sign up for your hosting if you are interested! Hosting is just a few dollars a month, but you never know what might come from it. =) They will send me a notification, and I’ll reach out to set up a consult call!
Do you ever struggle with the line of how much to share, or feeling like “too much”?
If you blog, what were your first year experiences?
Any advice for other newbies looking to build an online platform?