Full disclosure: This is a “monster rant” type post, we will be back to regular programming tomorrow. Lately, I’ve seen some advice and feedback from fellow miles and points bloggers on what it’s like to be one of us. So, I figured I’d chime in. I tend to do that. First, let’s be clear, I’m the last person to coach others on how to succeed as a blogger. I’ve made every possible mistake and ticked off every single miles and points titan. But here it goes anyway.
So, you’ve found that golden combination of high traffic/low competition niche? Yeah, about that…
1) Miles and points blogging is probably the most competitive and least lucrative space at the moment
For a new blogger, that is. Think about your family and friends. How many of them even know that miles and points universe exists? Of course, that’s why this hobby is so darn lucrative. But writing about it? Not so much. The established blogs are dime a dozen and they will crush you in search rankings, guaranteed. If no one (or few people) can find you, how will you be able to monetize successfully? And you do want to monetize eventually, right? Sure you do!
2) Unless you can afford to hire writers and work 24/7 covering deals, you’ll eventually realize that affiliate credit card program is pretty much the only way to pocket some profit for all of your hard work
Put on your thick skin vest, my friend, and get ready to take some heat! Miles and points enthusiasts love getting things for free. Many also love when others are working for free. I’ve never been around a community where trying to make profit in exchange for hard work was pooped on relentlessly.
Of course, I’m not talking about valid criticism but rather shock (shock!) that people would even try to make money online after pouring hours upon hours into their sites. How dare we? Yes, there are many other jobs that are way more stressful, but blogging isn’t a cakewalk by any means.
But let’s say you do make some money via affiliate links.
3) At times, I feel like a monkey performing clever tricks for tips
Let me explain. In my other life, I usually went to work, completed my projects for clients and got paid. Not so here. You may create what you feel is good content, but in the end it comes down to likability. Yeah, about that… Throughout my years on this earth, I got two kinds of reactions. People usually hate my guts or think I’m the best thing since sliced bread. And then there is my husband who fits into both categories.
When you have a ton of traffic and make money on website views, it’s OK to be controversial. In fact, it’s good for business. When you are selling a product (credit cards), you need people to like you. They don’t have to love you, just sort of like you. That blogger? Eh, I guess he/she is alright. I’ll click his/her affiliate link. That kind of thing. Needless to say, that’s not my jam. People either love me or hate me, no in-between.
Readers, all the bizarre posts are written by Julia! It’s my blogging alter ego (long story). Julia is a crazy/sassy broad that occasionally takes over the posts. Usually, she is gone for few weeks at a time, so please, don’t unsubscribe, OK? Julian, if you are reading this, I’m truly sorry for hijacking your name in such a manner.
4) Some readers really go out of their way to support you
One person couldn’t make my Discover referral link to work so he emailed me. He could have gone to a dozen of other sites, but he didn’t. A few have emailed to let me know that they applied through my affiliate link after I temporarily shut down the site. It blew me away. Of course, there are occasional messages of appreciation that just make my day.
Some readers truly, genuinely care and want to support your efforts. It’s incredibly fulfilling and makes you feel like you are adding value to their life. Because in the end, it can’t just all be about money. I honestly don’t think you can last as a blogger if financial incentive is the only motivation.
5) The level of vitriol in the miles and points community is off-the-charts
Let me start by saying that I’ve probably contributed to it, so have to take some responsibility. At times I’ve shown poor judgement, and actually had to email an apology (you know who you are).
The main monetization source (affiliate commission) is fertile ground for discontent because of the obvious conflict of interest. As I’ve said earlier, much of the criticism is perfectly valid and deserved.
It’s OK to disagree, it’s not OK to get nasty. When you make a valid argument and end with an insult about blogger’s weight, family dynamic, vacation choices, you just make yourself look like a fool. Let’s leave personal attacks out of comments and blog posts, shall we?
Sure, I poke fun at trends and fascination with certain destinations and hotels. But let’s not forget, I poke fun at myself too! I think it’s important not to take this hobby, excuse me, The Hobby too seriously.
6) Comparison game is pointless
This is a tough one. It’s SO easy to get discouraged when you don’t feel like you are getting the traffic, recognition and money you deserve (according to you). I would be lying if I said that I’m completely immune to it.
Something I saw in a blog the other day made so much sense. Writing posts is similar to organizing a party and inviting certain guests. You don’t look over the fence and see what kind of party your neighbor is throwing. Does the food look more expensive, is there more of it? Do they have more guests than you? No, you worry about your own party, darn it!
I would add another analogy relevant to this industry: You don’t yell across the fence and ask your neighbor why they aren’t serving the type of dishes you have. After all, your “food” is so much better and their guests are sure to love it!
7) Setting boundaries (is important)
This is the most important point for me. In part, I’m writing it so I can hold myself accountable. The blog tends to take on a life of its own and can be this beast that is difficult to control. It can interfere with your family life and take you away from more important things. This is the main reason I originally walked away. It was a Sunday morning and instead of enjoying time with my family, I was sitting and writing posts, answering emails etc. It dawned on me: What the heck am I doing?
A reader has emailed me and told me she was hoping that I would start writing again. Her suggestion was not to worry about covering everything, but rather share my thoughts and perspective now and again. If it’s once a week (or less), that’s OK. I kept going back to that email and it made sense.
I will never commit to a schedule ever again. It’s a recipe for a burnout: Have certain posts on certain days of the week, have a rant ready by Friday. Guess what? Sometimes I’ve got nothing to rant about! I live in suburbia and my life isn’t all that interesting.
I’m certain that I will take a week or two off now and again, especially during the time my kids are off school. Saying it out loud will hopefully help me stick to it because blogging is addictive. Which brings me to my last point…
8) The Hobby doesn’t revolve around my blog
My readers were able to survive for 2 months I wasn’t blogging and their life didn’t fall apart. The truth is, I needed this site more than I cared to admit. So, ironically, it should be me thanking them for coming to my party, not the other way around.