A year ago, I bought Add-Vodka.com from the original owner with the goal of using my blogging skills and personal finance knowledge to help readers improve their financial lives.
As a reporter who worked for years covering personal finance for other websites, I was ready to start writing for my own website. Two things motivated me: To make money on my own as an entrepreneur with my writing, and to cover the topics I wanted to cover in a way I wanted to cover and write about them.
What I learned about money
It has been an interesting year for me and Add-Vodka. Financially, the site is doing well, though my goal in 2016 is for the site's income to double. Income is a good thing for websites, because creating quality content takes time, and I like to be paid for my time working on this site.
I won't go into the specific numbers because I want to keep them private, but after paying for the site and the expenses of a tech consultant and a virtual assistant, Add-Vodka turned a profit in November.
My plan was to put all of the income each month either back into the business by hiring writers, and to put the money that was coming in toward paying myself back for the money I took out of our savings account to pay for the initial purchase. The payback was complete in November, and I'm now focusing on increasing income and looking to hire more writers and keep my assistant busy.
Making money blogging
Before I bought Add-Vodka, the site made money with sponsored posts and didn't have ads.
I've continued with sponsored posts, and have had limited success with advertisements on the site. Most of the ads on Add-Vodka are affiliate ads, meaning I get money if a reader clicks through on the ad and buys something.
These aren't working too well for me, so I'll soon be getting rid of the ones that don't work. I think the site is pretty clean looking as it is, but fewer ads will make it look less cluttered. I also like to only run ads that I think will be of service to my readers and are related to personal finance.
By having sponsored posts, I've learned that it's important to only have quality sponsored posts that are beneficial to readers and don't go far off the mark of what Add-Vodka is about.
For example, months ago we accidentally allowed a sponsored post to run that linked to a gambling website. That's not a personal finance strategy we support, so the post was removed soon thereafter.
When I first got my hands on Add-Vodka, one of the first things I wanted to do was change the look. It looked a little dated and I wanted something that was easier to view and had a cleaner look.
A website crash created an opportunity to change the website theme, which a tech expert helped change.
While I don't think the site is perfect, I like the cleaner look and think articles are easier to find and make blogging easier.
Given how popular our blogging slogan is — When Life Gives You Lemons, Add Vodka — we opened an online store in 2015 to sell shirts, bumper stickers, hoodies, coffee mugs and much more with our logo and slogan on them. We're hoping to expand the store's offerings this year.
One of the biggest things I learned after a year of blogging and owning Add-Vodka.com is an obvious one: writing posts that matter.
Before I bought the site, it was a tale of the owner's personal journey into her finances. That was something readers were really interested in, but as a new owner, I couldn't continue her story.
My main goal was to use my reporting and writing skills to bring personal finance stories to the site that would help readers with their personal finances. I didn't want the blog to be about my finances, but about money tips that could help people in their everyday lives.
The difficulty is coming up with unique content that isn't repeated on every other personal finance website out there. I've tired to publish unique content that's informative and interesting, but admit I haven't always hit the mark.
One way I plan on doing that in 2016 is to write less often. In trying to find the sweet spot between too many posts per week and too few, I erred on the side of having too many posts, I think.
Some weeks I had three or more posts up. This can give readers a lot of options and a reason to come back often. But unless the posts are well thought out and full of awesome content, then they're a waste of time. My goal this year is to only write when I really have something to say, and not just write for the sake of having something new posted.
Thanks for helping make 2015 a success, and please let us know how we're doing and how we can improve in 2016.