Over the past few weeks, a couple of readers have reached out to let me know about the blogs that they have started. I was particularly touched by one such heartfelt request from a fellow millennial who started the blog sginvestorboi95 (please support him if you can). The readers of the Financial Horse are the lifeblood of this website, without which none of this would be possible. So when this young reader reached out for my input and comments on his blog, there was no way I could turn him down. I wanted to pen this article to document everything I know about starting a Financial Blog. If I can inspire just one reader to start a successful financial blog from this article, it would have all been worthwhile.
Why start a blog?
The first and most important question you have you have to ask yourself, is why start a financial blog? The reasons vary from individual to individual, and I have set out some common reasons below:
- Organise and catalogue your investing thoughts
- Creative outlet for your energies, to reduce incentive to meddle with your investment portfolio
- Start a successful online business
- Help and inspire fellow investors
- Because all other financial bloggers are idiots and only your opinion is right
All of the reasons set out above are completely legitimate (except maybe the last one), and I will not pass judgment on your motivation to start a blog. But this is crucial because it affects your strategy and positioning for the website.
Once you understand why you are starting a financial blog, the next step is to set a bunch of ground rules for yourself.
Here are the ground rules I set for myself when I first started Financial Horse:
- Only create content you would want to read.
- Be clear and concise. Each article should be about 1,500 to 2,000 words. This is sufficient to go in depth, but not too long that it becomes excessively long.
- Never treat your audience like an idiot. Only create content you would read.
- Write only great content where you have an edge. Always write from experience, on something that you would do.
- Don’t focus on monetisation. Focus on writing great content that you enjoy and are passionate about.
- Always be honest and write your true thoughts.
- Worst case, this will be a way to catalogue your own investment thoughts and journey.
- Build a community. Your community always comes first.
- Have a consistent writing schedule, at least once a week.
- Focus on content. Design is secondary.
- Write a post a week for 3 years. And then reevaluate where you are.
What you set as your own ground rules will vary depending on why you started the blog. For me, Financial Horse was started because I felt that most financial blogs for Singaporeans only performed a cursory review of the investment in question (there are some notable exceptions of course). I also hated when the writer would treat the reader with kid gloves, and explain simple concepts like DPU or P/B ratios to the reader. I felt that there was room for a financial blog that started with the assumption that all readers are already sophisticated investors, and wrote articles that dove straight into the juicy content.
Which is why my first and most important rule is to “Only write content that I myself would want to read”. In fact, most of my rules above are based around creating quality content. This ties back to my original objective, where I felt that there wasn’t enough financial blogs out there with quality content, and Financial Horse was intended to plug that gap for Singapore investors.
Once you have determined the broad objective and ground rules, the next is to focus on logistics. Never underestimate the power of logistics. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and many great plans have failed because there was no one who could execute it.
Financial Horse isn’t my first website. I’ve started one or two in the past. So trust me when I tell you that if you are starting a financial blog, you want to use WordPress (WordPress.org, not WordPress.com). The WordPress software is by far the most powerful tool for creating a website. I dug around the various service providers when starting Financial Horse, and I eventually settled on Bluehost (available here at US$2.95 a month). It comes built in with the WordPress software, and I’ve been very pleased with the overall reliability and stability of the site thus far.
I see a lot of other financial bloggers out there running a blogspot (Blogger) account. Blogger is easy to use, but what you gain in ease of use, you lose in customisation. Blogger vs WordPress is a bit like the Apple vs Android debate. I’ve always been an Android guy, and I would hate not being able to customise just about everything I want to on my website. And that’s simply not possible on Blogger.
The other thing with Blogger is that it puts you on a .blogspot.com domain. I’ve always hated this. Web hosting is so cheap these days. It’s about US$100 for a 3 year package on Bluehost, which is only S$4 a month. If you’re serious about blogging, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be on your own domain. If you’re signing up through Bluehost, they even throw in the domain name for free.
Just a quick word on Weebly, Wix and the other drag and drop website builders. I’ve used them previously, but the tools they have are just not as good as WordPress. They’re good for getting a website up and running quickly, but in the long run you’ll truly come to regret it due to the lack of customisation options. If I were to rank them, it would be WordPress > Blogger >>> Weebly/Wix.
After all this, I’m sure there are still some readers who would think WordPress is too daunting, so here’s a couple of quick screenshots to walk you through starting a WordPress site on Bluehost.
Clicking this link will take you to this page.
Click Get Started Now and you will get to this page. Just select the Basic Plan which is good enough for anything you’ll need for a financial blog. If for some reason you plan to start more than 1 website, Prime is a good choice, as it allows you to connect an unlimited number of websites.
Pick a domain name. Choose something that is catchy, and is easy to remember. A lot of people get spend a lot of time choosing a name, but it really isn’t all that important. For me I picked Financial Horse and was done with it.
You then have to fill in account information and select any additional features. You can unselect all the extras like domain privacy, sitelock security, codeguard basic, Bluehost SEO. You don’t really need them, they’re just extra cost.
Once you make payment, Bluehost will configure all the settings for you, and you’ll get to the WordPress software that is installed on your server.
This is what my dashboard looks like, it’ll be pretty much the same for yours. You have to a pick a theme for the blog (you can use the default one which is good enough, or any of the thousands of free ones that are available). I used a free Heuman Theme when I first started, but I recently decided to splurge on a premium theme, but it’s really up to you. And then you’re done! You can now start writing!
Eventually when you become more familiar with WordPress, you can start adding in new features and addons, most of which are free and available through the addon store. You can also start focusing on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), to improve your google ranking. With WordPress, you are limited only by your imagination.
Have a Schedule
So that’s web hosting out of the way. To be very honest, all that was the easy part. The hard part comes after you’ve set up your website, and have to sit down and write articles week after week.
A lot of people start a blog, and then for certain reasons, life gets in the way, and they find excuses not to write. If you want to create a successful blog with a strong readership, it is vital to keep to a consistent writing schedule.
One of my core rules is to “Have a consistent writing schedule, at least once a week.” I publish a core investing article every Saturday, and a lighter weekly link roundup on Sundays. It’s a brutal publishing schedule, and because I work quite a demanding day job, and there are times when I get home at 10pm and I just want to lie down and watch some TV. But I’ve committed to this writing schedule, and I told myself that I just have to find a way to meet it. For most of you out there, if you’re willing to give up an hour or two that you normally spend on TV or games each week, you’ll be astounded with what you can do with the newfound free time.
Nobody is an overnight success. When you first start writing, no one will read your posts. In fact, for the first few months, you may only get a handful of readers a day. But don’t let that discourage you. Keep writing articles, keep promoting them on Facebook Groups, keep commenting on other popular financial blogs. If you have good content, eventually people will come around and notice you. When I first started Financial Horse, nobody read my posts as well. It took many months and countless hours of writing to get here, and I still have a long way to go.
One of my core rules is to “Write a post a week for 3 years. And then re-evaluate where you are.” And that should give you an indication of how long to persevere for. It’s not enough to start something and expect to see results in a week. That’s just not how the world works. That’s not even how investing works. If you want to build something great, you have to keep going for years. Kyith over at Investment Moats (one of my favourite Singapore bloggers) has been running his site for close to a decade, and he still comes up with fantastic new content every week. Not all of us can be Kyith, but we can at least try.
Focus on your readers
Another of my core rules is to “Build a community. Your community always comes first.” Readers are the lifeblood of my site, without which none of this would be possible. When I write, I always try to think about what my readers would want to learn about. It’s why I always take the time out of my day to respond personally to any reader who reaches out to me, whether through email, comments, or Facebook message.
On this note, I also decided to generate the demographics overview for readers of Financial Horse, which was surprisingly interesting:
- You guys are mostly millennials, with the 25 to 34 age range forming 35% of my readership. I’m a millennial myself, so perhaps that may be why.
- You guys are overwhelmingly male. This was a surprising one, I would have thought that girls are equally into investing as us men. If anyone can figure out a reason for this, please please please let me know! I would love to hear from the female readers out there!
Use good English
Okay this last one is just a pet peeve. As a lawyer by training, I really appreciate good writing, and I find it hard to make my way through an article if it has poor grammar or spelling. Not every article you write has to be a literature piece, but a bit of good grammar, punctuation, and spelling, really goes a long way to make an article a joy to read.
And there you have it! Financial Horse’s thoughts on starting a financial blog. I cannot stress how important it is to just get started. There’s no point coming up with a fantastic business plan in your head unless you actually go about and set it in motion. Which is why I was so impressed by Sginvestorboi95, because he actually got around to starting his site. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the day you write your first article, is the day you wrote your best piece.
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Cool stuff! It is partly because of your post, that i have finally started writing my first blog post. Thank you!