J. Money: Making Finance Rockstars and Sexy Budgets

J. Money is the anonymous blogger behind Budgets Are Sexy (winner of multiple Plutus Awards, First Annual, Second Annual, and Third Annual) and Rockstar Finance (winner of Best Micro-Blog, Fifth Annual). Within two years of founding Budgets Are Sexy in 2008, he was able to support himself and his family from his websites. Today, J. Money coaches others as they build and grow their own online businesses.

J. Money has been an inspiration to many other bloggers, and he has an amazing ability to connect with others and let his personality shine through his writing. I wanted to learn more about the ideas that drive J. to move forward with his projects.

J. Money

What is the story behind the beginning of Budgets Are Sexy?

It looked like a lot of people were having fun sharing their stories online, and I wanted in on it :)

Out of all the blogs I was reading, MyMoneyBlog.com was the most inspirational — mainly because he used to share his net worth every month which is what got me hooked. I also read a lot of FiveCentNickel.com back in the day as well as DinksFinance.com and CleverDude.com. But if it weren’t for My Money Blog I’m not sure I would have started it.

I was also super bored at my 9-5 and thought that if I were to put all my thoughts/goals/ideas out there about money, perhaps it would hold me accountable. So one day I said “F it” and just started typing… grammatical mistakes and all (I didn’t care an ounce since I honestly didn’t think anyone would be reading it, haha…)

And now here we are exactly seven years later still going strong! It’s been an unexpected ride to say the least.

I take it your birth certificate doesn’t really say “J. Money.” How has being anonymous helped you? Has it also hindered your success?

Without going anonymous I wouldn’t be able to share every last penny of my finances to the world — which was the most amazing thing I saw other bloggers doing and the only thing I knew I wanted to do 100% too. Which is kinda ironic if you think about it — I have to hide my identity in order to be more transparent with my finances! :)

So it was definitely a necessity, and I doubt I’d still be here today if I hadn’t gone that route. (Also — I wanted free reign to talk about anything and everything I wanted to — even my own work while I was blogging AT work — hah! — so this gave me complete freedom to speak my mind and be “real.” Plus, who doesn’t like a little mystery in their lives?)

As for drawbacks, sure — there are plenty. I can’t market it as well as I would like, I always have to be careful who I tell about it and what info I’m putting out there every day (and I still get stalkers), and every now and then I won’t be picked up for a story in the media as I’m unwilling to give out my real name. This mentality is fortunately changing in the media, however, as just last month I was lucky enough to be profiled in Forbes.

How have your goals for blogging changed over the years? [Read more…]

How Bloggers Avoid Burnout, Enjoy Writing, and Give Readers What They Want While Still Giving Your Audience What They Want

This is a guest article from Elle Martinez, who helps familes at Couple Money and the Couple Money Podcast achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second.

Elle Martinez

For the last eight years, I’ve been blogging about personal finance. I started because I had a specific goal in mind: getting rid of my credit card debt before my wedding. Part of it was due to realization that I could do a better job of handling my finances and part of it was just a competitive spirit.

I had just had a heart-to-heart with my fiance and discovered that the only debt he had was one semester’s worth of a student loan (which he planned on paying off as soon as the grace period was over). I, though, had a bouquet of debt consisting of credit cards, a car loan, and student loans for the last two years of college.

To help me speed up the debt pay off process I started reading personal finance blogs like Get Rich Slowly and Being Frugal, and seeing what worked and what didn’t for others in similar situations. Happy to say I not only got rid of my credit card debt, but along the way I discovered an outlet to bring in some extra income.

As I transitioned from a hobby blogger into self-employment, I experimented with various writing methods and systems to avoid burnout and to make my personal finance site more resourceful for visitors and regular readers. My goal with Couple Money and the podcast is to provide useful content for spouses looking to build up their net worth and marriage.

That hasn’t always been the case — in fact it took me a few years to get the hang out of it.

My money, my problems.

After some time writing about college and finances, I found myself becoming less interested in writing. Part of it was due to the corner I had written myself into. Once I was out of college, I had a more difficult time coming up with topics to write about.

I began relying more on what readers wanted to learn about, and for a while it seemed to work. Understandably I eventually became tired of writing for others and missed sharing personal stories and digging into topics that excited me. I eventually sold my first blog and focused my attention on a new one, Couple Money, where I discuss building up a marriage while improvising our net worth.

Over the last five-plus years, I had my share of ups and downs, periods where I was either enthusiastically exploring how to work together through financial issues or being burnt out and seriously contemplating selling the site and moving on.

Thankfully encouragement from my husband and readers kept me going. It gave me a chance to try out and discover a way to keep me involved and excited by both covering our personal finances and looking at how other couples are dealing with money. I even expanded into a podcast last year to specifically reach out to more couples.

Finding the balance.

I now average about one or two posts a week on Couple Money, one weekly “full-length” podcast episode, and a smaller follow-up show. While I’m posting less, I’m still seeing new visitors and returning readers coming to the site.

Instead of feeling burnt out on personal finance, I’m enthused about coming up with different posts and episodes. The mix of media has been a huge help for me as I get to explore topics on the show and go into more detail on my blog.

Being a work-from-home mom has meant that my time is constrained, so I’ve learned to be more efficient. As someone who would rather focus on content than constantly analyze every bit of data, I’ve narrowed it down to a handful of tools that quickly give me the information I need.

I’ve tried out a ton of tools to gauge which topics are the most popular with readers and other couples as well as keeping tabs on how my site is doing on the whole.

Google Analytics dashboards. There’s a ton of information here so I was easily overwhelmed and only visited it occasionally. Thankfully a fellow blogger showed me a dashboard template that tracked Pinterest pin sharing and I saw that I could have a much more manageable system.

Digging more online, I stumbled across more dashboard templates and I found these to be extremely useful:

Basically I use the social media information to see what people are engaged in and then use SEO dashboard to polish up and hone in on keywords. Let me give you an example.

I noticed that one of my more popular posts was about how far to space out having children. I wanted to reach a wide audience so I created a small snippet of a podcast just addressing that one question. When constructing the script, I made sure to use keywords that were the most searched for.

Once the show was released and the show notes were published, I then went back to my original post on Couple Money. I refined and updated it with the goal of helping parents get the information that wanted.

SEM Rush. I started playing around with SEM Rush because I wanted to see how others in the personal finance niche were driving traffic organically.

I love the site audit feature. After the effort I put into writing, I want to keep it simple for new and long time readers to get the information they need. That means removing dead links and seeing if I can include updated information whether it’s a more recent post on the topic or linking to another site.

BufferApp. This is a handy tool for me to get some immediate feedback on which posts and topics people are interacting with. If I share a post from another site and it takes off with retweets or clicks, I will look at Couple Money and see if there is a relevant post I can share to continue the conversation.

Something I’ve done recently is comparing tweets between my blog account and the podcast so I can find the best time to reach others.

Lessons learned.

So what about those topics that are on other couples’ minds, but I have either no interest, knowledge of, or experience? I used to stress out over this, feeling that I was being selfish, but I’ve come to understand that one of the best things I can do for those readers is to point them in the direction of someone who does have answers.

No blog can be everything to everyone, so there’s no real benefit to myself or them to try. I instead link to, and share across on my social media channels, great content that addresses what they are looking for. It has freed me up to focus on content that I do enjoy writing about.

I no longer feel pressured to produce something, I’m excited about my posts and I have more time to write them and interact with readers in a more meaningful way.

Your thoughts on writing.

Enough from me — I’d love hear from you and get some of your thoughts. How do you balance writing about what matters to you personally and addressing your readers’ needs and questions? What system do you have and tools that you use for brainstorming ideas and creating posts?

Thanks to Elle Martinez for sharing her story. If you would like to share the origin of your successful blog that’s managed to positively affect readers’ lives, contact Luke.

11 Tips to Grow Your Business During Hard Times

This is a guest article by Kylie Travers, the CEO of Occasio Enterprises, an award winning blogger, author, speaker, and writer. She is based in Canberra, Australia, with her two daughters. She has a real passion for helping others, raising awareness and funds for issues surrounding homelessness and domestic violence, as well as helping others with their finances.

Kylie Travers

I’m not going to sugar coat this. I have been through hell and come out the other side.

This post may have triggers; if you’ve ever been raped, abused, assaulted, a victim of domestic violence, homelessness, suffered mental health issues, been or still are a parent of disabled children or anything similar, be prepared.

I’ve overcome all that (although still parenting my daughters!) and it was during this time that I won the Plutus Award for Best International Personal Finance Blog, expanded my business and drastically changed my life so much so that I don’t even recognize my past.

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, in the past five years I have gone from being a stay-at-home mum of two under two to a CEO, international speaker, author, youngest director on a board for a charity here in Canberra, an ambassador for homelessness and domestic violence, a winner of various awards and most recently a finalist for Young Australian Of The Year in the ACT, one of Australia’s highest awards.

It has certainly not been easy. I am pretty open about my life. I compartmentalize so when I discuss it, I don’t tend to choke up. I’m going to be very honest and share not only some of what happened to me, but mostly, how I overcame it all and built the business and life I have now. [Read more…]

Jeff Rose: How One CFP Started a Blogging Movement How One Financial Expert Started a Blogging Movement

Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of the Plutus Award-winning Good Financial Cents. Jeff has inspired his readers and clients to make positive changes, but he’s also worked hard to encourage cooperation and mutual success among his colleagues in the financial media community.

I asked Jeff to spend some time with me discussing his work. It’s clear how his passion for his business extends to helping not just himself and his family, but the community at large.

Jeff Rose

Before you had published your first blog post, you had already been in the financial industry. That sets you apart from the many publishers that come from an amateur position. For instance, I started blogging because I needed to start a journey. You were all ready in a position to help people. What experience in the financial industry led you to start Good Financial Cents?

I initially got started in the business as a financial advisor with AG Edwards and Sons. They were a regional firm based out of St. Louis, and I was with them for five years until they were bought out by Wachovia. At that point in time, I decided to see what else was out there, so I started researching other firms. I looked at the big New York firms like Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, and then I also looked at smaller regional firms like Raymond James and Stifel Nicolas.

None of them really offered the independence that I was looking for, so I and three others joined the independent broker dealer, LPL Financial, which allowed us to operate as a DBA, Alliance Investment Planning Group. That was in December of 2007 — about five months before I even knew what a blog was and seven months before I launched Good Financial Cents. The blog had been going on for some time and compliance was becoming a burden, so in 2011, I decided to drop my Series 7 license and become a registered investment advisor forming my own firm, Alliance Wealth Management.

How did you expect a strong online presence like Good Financial Cents to help with your wealth planning and management business?

I initially founded Good Financial Cents because I thought it would be an amazing marketing tool to bring new clients to my practice. I’ve always been passionate about educating individuals on the basics of investing. Prior to my blog, I had started an investment class through or local community, initiated a stock market game at our local high school, and conducted several seminars across the region.

While all my efforts had some impact, I always felt that it could be on a much larger scale. When I discovered what a blog really was, that’s when the light bulb went off. Good Financial Cents was founded July of 2008 and I haven’t looked back ever since.

What was your inspiration? [Read more…]