If you think FIRE bloggers are all getting rich, why aren’t you writing your own?

Or: Here’s How Much I Earn From Blogging.

From Reddit’s /r/financialindependence forum comes this comment about The New York Times’s gender bias article from a few days ago:

dbcooper4 is raising two questions.

1) Do FIRE bloggers make 5+ figure incomes from espousing frugality?

This is a popular myth arising from a wee little smidge of reality. A handful of us got in early and have been able to garner a bunch of publicity by among other things writing articles about frugality that went viral, and they’ve consequently become widespread objects of fascination and are swimming in advertising earnings. Most of us, though, haven’t and aren’t. More on that in a few.

Er…but why is it frowned upon for FIRE bloggers to espouse frugality if they monetize their blogs to ANY degree? If you think that, you’re falling into the misconception that extra earnings exist only to be spent. Continuing to practice frugality even though you’ve come into what let’s call a life-changing windfall1 only increases the security of your financial independence/early retirement. A good thing, yes?

2) Is it easier to FIRE when you make money blogging about it?

Of course. Extra earnings by definition make it easier to become and stay financially independent and early retired. But I’m not seeing any problem with somebody who’s aspiring to FIRE taking on an extra income stream. If it speeds them towards the finish line, cool. If it becomes freakishly successful, double cool.

And the idea that people who have already achieved early retirement aren’t truly retired if they monetize their blogs seems silly to me. I love writing and I’ve sold a fair bit of my stuff–mainly to a couple of local newspapers and in the form of a how-to book about a particular word processor that I self-published on Amazon a half-dozen years ago. Writing is a pleasant pastime; monetizing it is a game. I can’t speak for other bloggers, of course, but that’s all it is for me. Please factor that into your thinking.

(Upon further reflection…shit-fire: I just spent three days rebuilding my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bicycle from the frame up. Saved a bunch of money doing it. I could’ve written more and earned extra from my blog, but instead I saved extra from a DIY project…and doesn’t that have the same bottom-line effect? Either way, the net impact on our monthly budget would’ve been zero.)


And please factor this into your thinking too. As a guy whose blog was mentioned in that New York Times gender bias article and is therefore presumably an object of dbcooper4’s annoyance, let me tell you that good publicity doesn’t necessarily equal high earnings. At the risk of looking like an arrogant ass:

Since fall of 2018 I’ve appeared in:

  • The Wall Street Journal,
  • The New York Times (thrice),
  • The Washington Post,
  • Kiplinger, and
  • MarketWatch (twice).

Since I started this blog I’ve also been:

  • Featured on Rockstar Finance more than once (including writing what I understand is one of RF’s most popular articles of all time,2 and being named as one of the top twenty early retirement blogs of 2019.)
  • Included in Physician on Fire’s “Sunday Best” (I think twice) and featured in a PoF “Christopher Guest Post.”
  • Interviewed for background information a number of times, including by NPR,
  • The guest on four podcasts, and
  • Get this: the Bloomberg TV people are sending down a camera crew next week to follow me around town for a “man on the street”-type interview they intend to use in a five-minute FIRE feature.

Holy shit! With all that visibility I must be making a fuck-ton of money, right? Five figures at the very least?

Tee-hee. Here are the actual numbers.


First, I’m an Amazon Affiliate. As you can see from the menu bar above I have a click-through gateway that’ll take you straight to Amazon’s home page. Please use it to make your purchases. If you do, I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. 3%-ish.

Here’s what I earned last month:

Five bucks and change.

And then there’s Nativo, the internet marketer that places the “content experiences”…i.e., the sponsored articles in my feed and the ads in my sidebar.

Thirty-ish bucks, although occasionally this number pops to a hundred if I’ve had more views than normal.

I also make a bit of money from Google AdSense. Operative words being “a bit.” As you can see, since last October I’ve earned roughly $75. I don’t put a great deal of effort into AdSense because there are more lucrative revenue streams out there, but hey, seventy-five bucks is seventy-five bucks.

So what am I making in total? Hell, I don’t even track it. Call it generously a thousand bucks a year, which is a long way from five figures.

Surprised?


Well…that’s it. I imagine some of you reading this are among the proverbial five-figure bloggers. If so, and if you see ways I could earn more revenue, please let me know. Maybe there are ad networks out there that pay more, and/or maybe I can do a better job with my layout, and/or maybe whatever else. (Note that I prefer not to advertise credit cards or Personal Capital.)

But if you’re NOT a five-figure FIRE blogger, and if you think by monetizing my blog I’m somehow transgressing the unwritten rules of FIRE, can I now ask you to be more open-minded? For me this is much more important as a hobby than an income stream, and I’m glad I don’t have to feed my family by doing it.

Sláinte.

Footnotes

  1. A horrible over-simplification. These people work their asses off.
  2. This is an updated version I host, but if you go to RF and search, the original’s easy to find.

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit http://EarlyRetirementDude.com or email EarlyRetirementDude@gmail.com.

17 thoughts

  1. Hey,
    Now I feel a lot better about being too lazy to write more into my blog…
    At least with the thousand bucks you pay for hosting, etc, right?
    Kudos to any blogger that’s figured out how to make a living off of this, but on the other hand I think it is a bit sad that people work really hard to retire early and be “independent” and now blog and become dependent on AdSense (worrying about not pissing off Google) or writing a rave review of Personal Capital (when is more like meh…) and maybe put more than 40 hours into it? WTH?
    I don’t know…

    1. >At least with the thousand bucks you pay for hosting, etc, right?

      Guess so. Haven’t really thought about it.

      >I think it is a bit sad that people work really hard to retire early and be “independent” and now blog and become dependent on AdSense

      Yeah, I could see that if you get hooked and dependent on the revenue stream, then it’s a drag just like any other salary-dependency. At least, though, you wouldn’t have to pass piss tests. 🙂

  2. That is almost depressing, or it would be if I had a monetized blog. Instead I consult a day a week which makes plenty of money I’ll never need and just subsidize my blog. So no ads, no affiliate links and no sponsored content and no social media. I’ve been on a dozen podcasts but never been picked up and republished like you. In my case posting is a fun outlet and consulting is a mental challenge that out earns anything I could ever make blogging. But for people who do monetize their blogs, I think that’s great. Why wouldn’t you?

  3. Very impressive about your mass media features! Especially the NY Times thrice. Do they just hit you up?

    Why do you think the revenue is not roaring after all your media mentions?

    In my experience, the traffic uptick generally lasts for three days at most, and often times just one day. Further, the larger your site gets, the less of an impact a media mention has.

    Sam

    1. NYT and others have just hit me up, yeah. I think it’s because I’ve been FIREd for so long and they want that pre-movement perspective. When I first got started the way I got attention was by pitching the bigger-name blogs.

      > In my experience, the traffic uptick generally lasts for three days at most,

      Seems in line with what I’ve observed. Like they say, the biggest traffic driver is the content, but you’d know that better than me. 🙂

      >Why do you think the revenue is not roaring after all your media mentions?

      Among other things, my traffic has never gotten much above 3-4K pageviews at its peak. I get a good bit of search engine traffic, but I’ve only got 550 people on my mailing list and about 1.5K Twitter followers. And I can never be sure, but I’m not convinced I’m with the highest-paying ad network. They’re awesome people, though.

      One problem with my mailing list is that I’m using MailChimp and I haven’t been able to figure out how to mail out only an excerpt of a post so my mailees will be drawn back to my site. The ones who are reading are doing so entirely within their email system and I don’t have any ads inserted there. Gotta cure that someday but I have no idea how. And MailChimp is working great for me otherwise. Any tips?

      1. I’m using Aweber, and it hasn’t sent out my latest post I published on Friday, so I donno. Always some type of issue.

        Are you saying 3-4K pageviews/day or a month? If a day, check out AdThrive. Much higher CPM/RPM than Adsense… we’re talking 5 – 8X higher.

        I’m been writing about FIRE since 2009, but don’t get much love given I talk about a lot of other stuff on FS. All good though!

        Sam

  4. Impressive mentions! Name dropping NYTimes all over the place.

    I thought blogging was going to be way easier than it is but making money off a blog does seem hard. I think the most lucritive way to blog is to sell courses about making money, which I think is the secret.

    My wife tried drop shipping for a bit and all the people making money were the course providers, not the doers.

    1. >Name dropping NYTimes all over the place.

      Hey…they name-drop ME. 🙂

      >I thought blogging was going to be way easier than it is

      Blogging is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, but only because I’m in it for the joy of writing and the joy of offering people hope. I mean…sure, I’m earning money at the same time and I intend to collect it, but it’ll come in time if the market likes my content, so as far as earnings that’s what I’m trying to focus on.

  5. I look at these blogs, and I follow a few, sort of like art forms. Maybe music is the best analogy. Some people are forming bands and doing marketing surveys to figure out how to dial into a pop hit with just the right beat, and look, to hit a specific mass-market appeal and dollarize it. Nothing controversial and feels good. Others are making music in the garage for fun with friends and writing for an artistic outlet. They’re trying new stuff, even if its a little bit edgy. If someone listens, fantastic.

    I follow your blog specifically because its a little cynical, critical, and forces self reflection. That’s probably not the recipe for our feel good society that wants affirmation for everything they do….but surely does resonate with some of us. Plus you drop the F-bomb on occasion!

    1. >I follow your blog specifically because its a little cynical, critical, and forces self reflection.

      Man…that’s one of the nicest compliments anyone has ever given me. Thanks! I try to be a straight shooter who communicates FIRE philosophy by sweetening it up with entertainment. And I’m not afraid to be self-deprecating.

      As far as the F-bomb…well, it’s called “fuck you” money for a reason, right?

  6. BTW, what are your thoughts about me revving up the revenue engine to make more money blogging? All I’ve got is a book that I wrote in 2012 and updated this year about teaching people how to negotiate a severance if they want to retire early.

    Like you, I mainly just write for the joy of writing and connecting. Do you think I should concentrate more on making money? Stuff like more books, ecourses, hiring staff writers, doing more product review posts, etc? Does the brand take a hit, if it doesn’t seem like other sites who do this are taking a hit?

    I would think it would be pretty straightforward and easy after 10 years of blogging, but not sure what I’d do with the extra money. Maybe just more passive income.

    Sam

    1. >BTW, what are your thoughts about me revving up the revenue engine to make more money blogging?

      Well…far be it from me to advise you, but I can tell you my opinion and experience. First, do what you like, and I know you know this stuff already. But my main thought would be that the content’s what you want to focus on because that’s what draws the traffic to the monetization. I’ve always thought of a blog as a gumball machine at the grocery store–the more people who pass by it the more likely one person is to drop in a quarter. You just want to make the gumballs extremely shiny and delicious-looking.

      >Stuff like more books, ecourses, hiring staff writers, doing more product review posts, etc?

      Certainly there are other bloggers who do great utilizing those tactics.

      I think it’s possible to over-saturate a blog with advertising, and I define that to be the point at which the aesthetics are overwhelmed by the ads. Like: my ad network wanted to put video complete with sound in the sidebar and I in no uncertain terms refused. Good lord…that would’ve been horrible.

      I also refused to carry political ads. “Trump ends another Obama-era program!” over a mortgage pitch. Great…you just alienated half my readers.

      Er…sorry, that might’ve been a digression.

      >I would think it would be pretty straightforward and easy

      IME the technology was easy, but some years ago I (arrogantly) set up a blog about my opinions on good writing. Never went anywhere, but at least it got me up the WordPress learning curve. My ad network set up all my ad insertion stuff for me–I just gave them the keys at GoDaddy and they took care of it.

      >not sure what I’d do with the extra money

      Oh, if it’s tips on spending money you want…you’ve come to the right place.

      1. Cool! I think it would be nice to make a lot of money blogging and then brand as a FIRE blogger and sell a lot of e-courses and stuff!

        But then again, that takes a lot of work and I don’t know if I can be bothered. Taking care of my boy full-time as a full-time job already!

  7. Thanks for sharing your blog revenue numbers that should help shine light on the myth all FI blogs are rolling in the money. The only one I know of that’s making big money would be Mr. Money Mustache site.

    My experience with people who make statements like “dbcopper4” is they are justifying to themselves why it’s not possible for them to FIRE or why FIRE does not make sense with the way they see the world. I have conversations like this all the time when talking FIRE to mainstream thinking people. It is easier for them to make excuses to why it is not possible rather than change their perspective. When that happens I give up and change subjects it’s not worth the time and effort trying to change their minds since it becomes their mission to switch your mind and prove that they are right.

    1. >help shine light on the myth all FI blogs are rolling in the money

      Yeah. I wish the “early retirement police” would give it up. But I think you’re right. Not our mission to convince them…just to share info so people can make up their own minds. If FIRE blogging was so lucrative you’d think a bunch more people would be working in this space.

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