Problogging Tips: Follow a Budget

Are you amongst the slice of bloggers who make a living online full-time? What about part-time? Or are you just aspiring to be blogging full-time as a career? It’s a fact that most aspiring bloggers are not full-timers, nor will they be. I’ll not get into the reasons here, as this has been discussed at length all over the blogosphere. What I’d like to focus on is budgeting for those of you that are/ will be successfully blogging part- or full-time.

Who Are You?

“Why budget?” Let’s look at it this way. If you blog for yourself, you’re basically running your own business. If you blog for hire, you’re a freelancer. That means that income can be unpredictable. Smart business owners and freelancers learn how to budget. It’s crucial to financial survival.

“But I don’t need to budget!” Sure you do. Let me take a guess and say that you fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You have never been a business owner or freelancer.
  2. You have never had a full-time job and recently went into blogging after graduating from college.
  3. You are in a career transition and want to become a full-time blogger.
  4. You are a part-time blogger earning some income online.
  5. You are already a full-time blogger, either freelancing or running your own web properties – possibly both.
  6. You have some previous experience owning a business or being a freelancer.

If you’re in the latter two categories, you probably already have some sense of how important budgeting is. If you’re in one of the other categories, you might not have any true sense of business budgeting. If that’s true, you’d better learn.

More Reasons Bloggers Should Budget

It’s already being accepted the United States is currently in a recession. Even if you don’t live there, the American economy affects the rest of the world. I’m already seeing repercussions. Hopefully this is a short-term effect and things will look up, no matter who becomes the next U.S. president.

So budgeting becomes even more important right now. Just because you’re riding high with some web work or a popular blog does not guarantee that will continue. It seems to me that web work is still highly unreliable and income subject to a lot of external factors:

  1. Topical trends, and your ability to keep up and write about them at the right time.
  2. Success in search engine results for various keywords. (This is not wholly beyond your reach – sometimes – but may take considerable effort.)
  3. Google search engine algorithm changes. Let’s face it – they’re number one in the search space, and we’re affected by their rules.
  4. Google AdSense payout changes. (Because even if you blog for pay, it’s quite possible that the person paying you is relying on this income.)
  5. Seasonal trends – though that affects offline businesses as well.
  6. Success at social media sites. This isn’t always easy for new blogs, whereas highly favored sites sometimes get tons of votes for crap content. Well-researched content is not always going to succeed in getting traffic or backlinks. What’s more, some topic-hater might bury you just because they can, or because you had the audacity to write something that disagrees with their view of the world. Or a vindictive competitor might do this because they forget that succeeding online requires networking and making friends.

How many of these factors would affect you if you were running an offline business or freelancing/ consulting? Very few, is my guess. At least, that was the case when I was a consultant. Maybe you can see why I feel that earning a living online is still an iffy prospect for most people, thus fueling the need for budgeting the money you are earning. If you don’t, it could lead to some very difficult times.

How to Make the Best of Inconsistent Income

Long experience of making a lot of business/ consulting mistakes leads me to the following rules of self-employment success:

  1. Ability to differentiate between “want” and “need”, when it comes to business or even personal purchases.
  2. Discipline enough to save up at least a few months “operating” expenses before making any large-ticket item purchases.
  3. Applying the 70/30 (or 80/20) rule to work opportunities. The gist of this is that one client or personal project is always going to be more valuable to you than all the others combined. That means that that client/ project should get the lion’s share of your time.

As you can see, I’m not one for sugar-coating things. There are many aspects of pro blogging that I love and many that I hate. If you’re getting into pro blogging, it’s important that you know and really understand both sides.

6 thoughts on “Problogging Tips: Follow a Budget

  1. Troy: You bring up a good point. If you don’t have a budget, barter your skills.

  2. Right now, my blog has a budget of exactly $0.00, but that’s a big part of the mission for the blog, and it’s proving to be an interesting one. With this amount, I was able to get a pretty good free hosting package from Byethost. In a few days, if you check back, you’ll see that I have the domain name (donated by Mark from DotSauce), and a professional design (done for free by Josh Goodwin), and a logo that RC cosmos did. If I couldn’t have called in help from all these folks, the site would probably end up costing less than $100 so far because I’m cheap and would shop around a lot .

  3. Markus: Oh you are so right. A few years back, I lost several “good” domains that I was building into personal brands. But that was back when registration was $55/yr, not $5-9/yr.

    Tom: That’s the hardest part of freelancing/ building your own business. After 20 years now of mostly freelancing, I still don’t find it any easier.

    Troy: You’re right. I forgot to mention time, explicitly. (Just curious: what purchases are you ending up with? I got addicted to buying domain names and hosting accounts for a while.)

  4. This is very true… a great blog can be run for absolutely nothing (which is what I’m trying to do), but it can also suck you in to a lot of purchases you don’t really need. Like everything else in the world, if you shop around enough you can probably get the services you need for a better price, but the big investment is time. Budgeting your time is different for everyone, but it is every bit as important as keeping tabs on your expenses.

  5. Most people simply are used to getting guaranteed money. Whether this be a student loan, or a wage slip. Once that disappears it is a whole other ball game. You need to be prepared to do the beans on toast/ tomato soup thing if you have to in order to cut back. It is a commitment that your business needs early on.

  6. “Discipline enough to save up at least a few months “operating” expenses before making any large-ticket item purchases.”

    This is absolutely important. I would even consider to talk to your ISP(s) and ask for a possibility to pay in advance or have a buffer. I have read about situations were people lost domains because they did not pay the expenses.

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