For the month of November I have made it a personal challenge to improve the blog. The main point of doing this is to help it get to a place where it can reach more people and generate income. My goal was not for it to generate income this month. The goal was to improve aspects of the site that I felt were lacking and therefore could lead to future income. Need to put the work in before expecting results.
There were four tasks that I set out to accomplish this month. They were a bit aggressive but it is better to be aggressive than not. Here is the list again with an update on the progress for each task.
Task #1 – Write a definitive ‘about us’ story
This task is complete. See here for the updated ‘about us’ story. It can certainly be improved upon in the future but it is where I wanted it to be. The goal was for it to be motivating and not necessarily exhaustive.
We looked at other ‘about us’ stories on successful blogs such as Well Kept Wallet and the His and Her Money Show. Initially I anticipated it being exhaustive but after seeing their ‘about us’ section on those websites it made me think that it was more about providing a 30,000 foot view rather than getting into the weeds.
That leaves open the opportunity to get into the weeds in future articles which is OK. Also, if you listen to any of our appearances on Stacking Benjamins, the His and Her Money Show or the Breaking Student Debt Podcast you can her different aspects of our story if you are interested as well.
Task #2 – Crash course on SEO
This is one item that won’t necessarily be evident to the readers of our blog. This could easily have been a personal challenge itself. By improving my knowledge of SEO that should help get more readers to the site.
To learn about SEO I am reading the Yoast SEO guide and the MOZ SEO guide. There are also many videos on Youtube that go over these topics. They are pretty boring, in fact, it is all pretty boring so I am having a hard time keeping my attention. It feels restricting but I hope that I can inject the main principals of SEO while still lending our voice to the blog.
Additionally, my sister-in-law has a successful food blog that we can learn from even though it is a different topic. We will be sitting down with her in a week to go over how she puts together a post. I am anticipating this will be much more exciting than anything I read. You can see her awesome blog at JoanieSimon.com.
This will frankly be something that I will constantly be learning about. For me to recognize this task as complete I am looking for a sense of understanding that I didn’t have before. I am not there yet but I have made progress.
Task #3 – Write a ‘start here’ section
This is the least developed section of the tasks I put in place. The goal is to create a starting point for those looking to get out of debt. I’m not sure how long it will be but it would at least be one big post or maybe a series of posts. We have started an outline of the post which is a step in the right direction.
From an SEO standpoint Google seems to prefer longer posts so maybe one very complete post is the way to go. I can always link to other posts from that main post but I do hope for it to be complete and a resource in itself.
Task #4 – Create 5 tools/resources
Something I always envisioned providing on the site is a series of resources that help you along your debt freedom journey. We used various tools that we created and they really helped keep us going. I would like to share those with you. Additionally, by providing these tools hopefully it will help drive traffic to our site.
These tools are:
Loan Amortization Schedule
Bill Pay Tracker
Daily/Weekly Goal Tracker
You’ll notice that only adds up to 4 tools. Earlier this month I had 5 tools in my head that I wanted to create this month. For the life of me I simply can’t remember the 5th. I hope I remember it but if I don’t I will still settle for 4. This is because it is less about the number and more about having created the page and set up the distribution system using Mail Chimp. At that time it will be much easier to add tools as I develop them.
I do plan on releasing a Debt Snowball calculator at some point but not this month. Erin and I put a lot of time in on one a few months ago and got to a point where the excel formulas got too complicated and my brain basically shut down. I don’t know how to describe it but I literally just couldn’t focus or understand it anymore and I had to step back. We were trying to make it too perfect so maybe when we revisit it we can simplify it a bit just to get something out there. Better to have something that works rather than something “better” that is incomplete.
One thing I have completed though is the debt thermometer of which I am very proud. Much like the debt snowball calculator I previously started the thermometer and hit a roadblock. I recently overcame that roadblock after coming back to it last week. Basically, somewhere along the way I got it in my head that I wanted to create a PDF with fillable fields which I did not have experience with. Also, rather than have the user input each increment of the total number I wanted to make it simpler for them.
The goal was to make it so that they put in one number only and the remaining fields calculated the increment on its own. My thought was that I wanted to do the heavy lifting and frontload the work on my end to reduce the user’s work. That is one way I am trying to provide value to the readers.
My Debt Thermometer Journey…..
While this next portion is off topic I would like to share my experience creating the thermometer. I think it can serve as an example for aspects of paying off debt.
Achieving the level of customization I mentioned above is something that I had to learn about. This was new to me. I know and had access to Adobe InDesign and Acrobat Pro through work so I wanted to use both programs to make the thermometer. I quickly learned how to make the fillable fields through tutorials but the tricky part was making them customizable. To do this I needed to essentially program a formula into the field of each increment and I am not a programmer.
Through Google searches I figured out a formula/calculation that Acrobat understands and added it to each cell. Acrobat Pro isn’t exactly the most advanced software so I was pushing what it typically does (or at least that is what I am telling myself). The problem though was formatting the number as I couldn’t figure out how to have it display in dollars. It was the kind of thing that if I couldn’t format as dollars then I might as well not include the customizable feature. This was my roadblock. I came very close and didn’t know how to get past the finish line. Therefore, I stopped working on it.
Well, last week, I woke up early and decided to make a simplified version of the thermometer. I just wanted to get something of value out there for this monthly challenge. As I was familiarizing myself with the fillable fields again I returned to this issue. I didn’t want to spend too much time on it though. I then Googled a new phrase and sure enough found how I can format the number. Once I received that information I updated my file and it worked! This was huge for me since I now knew I could have it do what I wanted it to do. I wouldn’t have to compromise. All I needed was a break and clear mind to get over it. Here is a screenshot of it for proof. Now I just need to figure out Mailchimp and I can get this out there for your use.
By committing to finishing the debt thermometer as part of this monthly challenge it forced me to return to it. Otherwise, it would have just continued to sit there. This is exactly what I wanted to have happen with this month’s challenge. I feel like the whole thing is a success simply because of this small personal victory. I am excited to get this out there and really think that this tool could make a difference in paying off your debt.
PERSONAL BEHAVIOR & HABITS
Another cool thing is that I finally started getting to work early and before 8:00 AM. If you recall, personal challenge #6 was to get to work early. In my follow-up post I talked about how while I did get to work early I literally never got to work before 8:00 AM. I know, that is pathetic. That is why this is a blog about paying off debt and not about efficient morning routines. I am not the expert on that.
Anyways, after realizing that to be of more help to Erin with the kids I had to get to work earlier. That way I can get home earlier. Work has been more intense lately so it hasn’t quite worked out that way yet but I know that if I keep pushing to improve on getting out early it will pay dividends for the rest of my day. I don’t get there before 8:00 every day but I have made a vast improvement and I need to celebrate that rather than dwell on what I didn’t do right.
Also, I have done better with not letting stupid stuff like Candy Crush get in the way of writing posts. I am not going to lie though, I don’t really see how I can fit this blog into my life the way I would like to. Regardless, I am going to keep working on it. This is just like how I want you to work on paying off debt or saving. The easy thing is to say we don’t have the time. The hard thing is to try anyways. So just do it.
As I mentioned earlier I am not trying to monetize this blog this month. I just don’t have the traffic to do that so I am wanting to work on the traffic first. Even before monetization though I want this site to be a resource and motivator for those getting out of debt. The main driving factor needs to be quality content that provides value to the readers. That is the only way to create long term success.
You won’t see any affiliate links this month. You’ll just see better content and resources for your debt free journey.
To the small amount of you that do follow this blog, thank you. I sincerely appreciate each one of you. For those even smaller amount that comment on my posts frequently, thank you again. I don’t have many people to be accountable to with this blog yet but I am happy for who we have reached and that people are willing to listen.
Even with the small number of visitors we have I am excited to say that we have visitors from all over the world. These countries include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa amongst many others. I never thought that we would have had that reach so soon. It really is fantastic and I appreciate all those that visited.
GET BACK TO WORK!
This might be my longest post ever. Regardless, time to get back to work and focus on the other resources, mail chimp and the ‘start here’ section.
Thank you for your support and hope to have more for you soon.