My top 10 rules for building a blog

My top 10 rules for building a blog
29 July 2020

The following advice is probably worth thousands, but I’ll give it to you for free.

There are countless other websites where you could buy an expensive “How to become a millionaire blogger” course or webinar. Before you fall for their hype, I advise you to check out what I’ve got to say.

Just 15 months after I launched my investment blog www.undervalued-shares.com, it hit its first month with six-figure revenue. A one-off promotion played a significant role but still, it was the first six-figure revenue month.

Result Undervalued Shares February 2020

That’s a financial result that most bloggers can only dream about – and it wasn’t down to coincidence or pure luck. I have about three decades of experience in other forms of personal publishing, including books, newsletters, and magazines. My previous work enabled me to be very strategic in my approach and do everything a bit faster.

Seeing how well my investment blog is doing, several readers have recently started to ask me for advice on their own blogging plans.

Why I decided to reveal this knowledge for free

Up to now, I have only provided some casual feedback to a few ambitious would-be bloggers. Still, I may have already spawned one or the other new blog.

That’s my primary motivation for writing this article.

I’d love to see more people launch blogs because we urgently need higher-quality independent media in this world. We have entered the peculiar situation where information may be abundant, but high-quality public thinking is scarce. Bloggers are ideally placed to fill that void.

In particular, I’d love to see more blogs in the investment industry. There is a large number of unexplored, under-exploited niches when it comes to writing about investing, personal finance, and anything relating to money. In these areas, in particular, I sense an urgent need for a new, younger generation of writers. The oldies of the industry are marvellous characters, but there are too many subjects for them to keep on top of. Fresh minds are needed to deal with a rapidly evolving world – and a more diverse landscape of finance bloggers would also help my own growth plans in direct and indirect ways. The more successful finance bloggers are out there, the better everyone in this sector will do because the market as a whole will become larger.

Which is why I have a special offer for those of you intending to write about anything relating to finance: I will happily help you with specific, personalised feedback on your blogging plans – entirely for free. I really want to go the extra mile to help others in getting their finance-related blogs off the ground (more about this offer nearer the end of this article).

What follows are the key aspects that I believe any aspiring blog owner should keep in mind, no matter what sector they intend to write about or which format they intend to use.

These points all stand on their own, but some of them also tie together to a bigger picture.

Do keep in mind, though, that this is just one person’s opinion. My article contains a few points you will not easily find elsewhere, or which go against conventional wisdom. However, I am far from claiming that this is the gospel. Different things work in different circumstances, and any individual author can only ever provide inspiration. You will need to gather information from different sources and make your decision based on your specific needs.

There are further resources for you to look into at the end of this article. Some of them are for free, some will cost you no more than the equivalent of a dinner for two. I would like to arm you with all the tools you need to create a blog on the back of minimal investment. Blogging, to me, is one of the best businesses in the world because you can start with almost no capital at all. If you manage to turn such a low-investment project into a profitable enterprise, there’ll be a near-infinite return on your initial investment.

With all that in mind, here is what I advise you to keep close to your heart.

1. Let authenticity define your product (and nothing else!)

Starting a blog right now is a once-in-a-generation entrepreneurial opportunity.

You’ve got a vast market wide open to you.

A large and growing part of the public is yearning to hear from people who they perceive to be real, independent, and smart.

More people than ever before distrust corporate media. Media trust is a complex subject with many nuances to it. The longest-running data set is that of Gallup in the US, which extends back to the 1970s. Since then, corporate media have gone from 70% trusted to never getting back above 50% since 2007 – and being “rated as among the least-trusted institutions in the nation” (Gronke and Cooke 2007). Many factors play into it, but a few factors stand out consistently. These include a suspicion that the talking heads of corporate media are overly dependent on advertising money, too close to the subjects they report on, or too caught up in the cult of the “celebrity newsreader”. The consistent financial difficulties of the corporate media sector even have their own name: “The troubles“. Corporate media have been finding it difficult to change their approach, and large parts of the industry will continue to suffer from a plethora of challenges.

That’s where your opportunity lies.

A large and growing part of the public is yearning to hear from people who they perceive to be real, independent, and smart. They increasingly turn to the Internet to find such people.

More easily than ever before, a person with a laptop or smartphone can now grow an audience bigger than that of many corporate media outfits. There are plenty of examples of bloggers who have already done it.

However, your potential audience will only seek you out if you offer something that they cannot get elsewhere. First and foremost: authenticity.

It’s imperative that your blog is 100% aligned with who you are and what you are.

Start with that notion to create your product. Don’t let anything interfere with it.

Here are examples of how NOT to do it:

  • I am not into crypto stuff, but it’s the hottest content on the Internet right now so my blog will be about crypto.
  • I am not comfortable with videos, but a good friend said that video is the next big thing so I’ll produce a vlog.
  • I feel politically more attracted to conservative values, but I am afraid of activist mobs campaigning on Twitter to shut me down. That’s why I’ll keep some of my real thoughts to myself.

Your blog has to genuinely connect with your followers. You have to share what is going on in your head. You have to be open to the point of feeling naked.

It’s not easy to do, all the more since anything you put online will stay there forever

But it’s key to achieving rapid growth. It will enable you to tap into existing market trends and exploit niches that no one else has occupied yet.

The more you open up personally, the more your writing opens up a bigger audience.

The authenticity will compound your blog’s growth. Eventually, the compounding growth will show in your bank account, too. Your followers will even be happy about your financial success because they will feel that they are rewarding you for something that is genuine and which they couldn’t have gotten elsewhere.

I am putting the need for crystal clear authenticity in spot #1 for a reason. This point is the foundation on which everything else stands.

If you are not willing to take this particular point on board, you probably shouldn’t set up a blog in the first place.

2. Prepare for media getting cheaper and cheaper

The following is a megatrend that you can either see as a disastrous disadvantage or as the biggest opportunity your generation will get in the media sector.

The price for media will only know one way, and that’s down.

Two key factors are shaping this trend.

Any media operation worth its salt can nowadays:

  • Reach a growing global audience (= ever-cheaper unit costs).
  • Use the Internet to deliver its products (= almost zero distribution costs).

You will be able to see it all around you if you care to look.

I am subscribed to the online version of The Times for a paltry GBP 5 per month (USD 7). The New York Times keeps sending me special offers for USD 1 per month. I remember picking up Wired magazine at the airport newsstand and paying a small fortune; today, I have an online subscription that costs me just USD 19 per year (and their entire archive is thrown in for free).

These aren’t just world-renowned publications, but they offer you incredible amounts of content – more than any one person could ever consume. Still, they are cheaper than ever before.

Through their visibility and reach, these successful publications are driving down prices for everyone else, too. Even those who can’t afford to lower prices are dragged along unless they go out of business (which many of them do)

There will always be outliers, and no trend ever unfolds in an exactly linear fashion. The direction is clear, though: media will get cheaper.

When I launched www.undervalued-shares.com, I priced my premium content at USD 49 a year.

Comparable products in my sector cost USD 500 to USD 2,000 per year.

My contemporaries in the industry thought I was mad. I can’t count the number of people asking me why I priced my product at a fraction of the usual cost.

Now they know. I stuck to what I see as the ONLY strategy for succeeding in media during the 2020s and 2030s. Only ever create a product that is suitable for addressing a global audience (whether it’s niche or mass market), and work on the assumption that you will face ever-increasing competition for the lowest possible price (because you will, eventually).

Most bloggers make the mistake of focussing on the audience of their home country. What you need to develop is a game plan for engaging a global audience. Only then can you reach the best economies of scale of anyone in your class.

If you have economies of scale through a global audience, you can afford to charge a lower price than anyone else in your sector and STILL make more money than your competitors.

If you don’t address a global audience and fail to build economies of scale, those media and publishing companies that do will price you out of the market.

Only ever create a product that is suitable for addressing a global audience (whether it’s niche or mass market), and work on the assumption that you will face ever-increasing competition for the lowest possible price (because you will, eventually).

There are, of course, shades and variations to this. For example, bloggers based in the US are lucky enough to have a huge domestic audience – 300m+ people, most of whom are connected to the Internet and able to make payments online. For those bloggers, economies of scale are entirely within reach in their home country alone.

But the overall market dynamics are as clear as they can be:

  • Media is getting cheaper for consumers to purchase, and price IS the central consideration for most consumers.
  • The media industry will increasingly earn its profits through large volume rather than high margins.

You are either prepared to take advantage of these trends, or run the risk of missing out on opportunities. You might also end up getting crushed by your competitors.

For me, the strategy was obvious:

Old Thinking: find 1,000 subscribers in Germany for USD 500 each (USD 500,000 annual revenue).

New Thinking: find 100,000 subscribers worldwide for USD 49 each (USD 4.9m annual revenue)

The possibility of going global with a blog is THE opportunity of your lifetime. It’s where Millennials can build a fortune because their skills in digital media are way ahead of anything the older generation can come up with.

No more complaining about Baby Boomers having it all – here is your chance to strike even bigger!

Go global, and go low on price – right from the start.

3. Marketing is worthless, relationships are everything

There will be successful bloggers who disagree with me on this point.

I am the first to accept that many ways can lead to success. However, this point is worth making because so few are making it.

If you are starting out, I doubt marketing will be worth it for you. There is even a good chance it will lead your fledgling operation to ruin.

I know one very successful vlogger who started with ONE person as his audience.

Marketing is expensive. It’s also damn difficult. You will probably need an expert with experience, which you won’t be able to afford. Even the fabled “experts” will have to admit that “50% of all marketing spending is wasted, we just don’t know in advance which 50%.

If you are about to set up a blog, I would leave the idea of “marketing” in the conventional sense aside entirely.

Think about your initial growth in terms of *relationships*. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Who in your existing professional network might be interested in reading your blog?
  • Do you know one or two bloggers with whom you could swap content and links? If not, how could you build these initial one or two relationships?
  • Can you entice an established vlogger to do an interview with you?

I know one very successful vlogger who started with ONE person as his audience. His dad watched his vlogs, and he did so on three computers so that his son got three views on YouTube. You can read an article I wrote about him: “Building an online business with $0 starting capital but keeping it 100% portable to live where ever you like – this man did it!

We all have to start somewhere. And everyone will have SOME existing relationships to bring into the fold.

Others you will have to build.

You don’t know any other bloggers? Simply follow them on social media and drop the occasional comment or message. Start to get onto their radar. Build a rapport and relationship, instead of making your first message to them a sales pitch (because that’d be guaranteed to fail).

I guarantee you that by pursuing this approach, you will manage to:

  • Get to your first 1,000 readers.
  • Establish your first one or two ongoing collaborations that help you grow faster. Once you have the first one(s), others will be a lot easier to get.
  • Have a feeling of success and the momentum to keep you going.

You will have done all of this with zero cost, no time wasted on lengthy discussions with marketing “experts” (who are mostly salespeople for their little niche, not experts for the field of marketing as a whole), and lots of practice that will help you replicate this approach for further growth.

Marketing is something you can invest in once you have cash flow, or you may never need it at all. In any case, don’t be misled by anyone who makes you believe that you need to spend money during the initial phase.

Build relationships and leverage them to fuel your initial growth.

4. Invest in a high-quality website

Unlike marketing, I advise you to invest as much as you can in a high-quality website on which your products and services will unfold.

This investment can consist of your own time or money, depending on what you prefer.

If you don’t have much (or any) money, you will have to learn how to build a website yourself. Luckily, nowadays you don’t even have to know a single thing about coding – simply use one of the “drag and drop”-style website builders such as Wix.com, Squarespace or Weebly. They also come with all sorts of plug-ins, such as payment systems.

If you have some money to invest, invest it in hiring someone who can do this work for you. It does help to buy expertise in this area, and it will help you save time that you can then direct towards creating content. It is, without a doubt, the best thing you can invest money in.

Over the past 12 months, I have probably looked at over 500 blogs that relate to investing, finance and similar topics. I’d say that 90% of them will never succeed to any extent worth mentioning because they are poorly built. It’s quite shocking. Even in the year 2020, much of the blogging industry still seems in its infancy. I could rattle off a long list of bloggers in my field whose content is nothing short of world class, but whose blog will never be more than a niche operation because they put too little thought into the technical side of things.

The good news is that by putting SOME initial effort into your web platform, you’ll already be ahead of most of your competitors. A high-quality site is your best marketing tool as it will help increase the rate at which you convert free readers into paying customers.

It will also make your life much easier going forward. If you repeatedly have to re-do your website because the previous version was too low quality, it’ll slow down your growth. It might also frustrate you to such a degree that you will be at risk of giving up. Or it might upset your readers. I have seen several blogs go out of business following embarrassing tech-related problems, all of which would have been easily preventable had they invested a bit of time or money.

Even in the year 2020, much of the blogging industry still seems in its infancy.

I’d go as far as saying the following: teaching yourself to be strategic about the technical aspects of your website is well worth three to six months of your time. Do give yourself ample time before creating the website. Make sure you are informed before deciding which race car you will want to sit down in. As a future champ, only the best should do for you!

5. Consistency is worth millions

You will have heard this one before. It’s probably the most frequent blogging advice, and it’s anything but original to bring it up.

Still, it’s so vital that it’s worth repeating.

To make it more memorable for you, I’ll illustrate it with a story.

Would you love to feature an interview with Seth Godin on your website?

Seth Godin is one of the most widely-known business authors, bloggers, and commentators. He is also fairly generous with his time and generally happy to be interviewed by almost anyone. An interview with him on your website could bring serious amounts of traffic.

Seth’s only non-negotiable criteria for an interview is that you have already done at least 100 episodes of your product. It could be 100 videos or 100 articles – but you need to proof consistency.

It does boil down to this: your entire potential audience will take you seriously if you create content on a regular basis. If you don’t, you’ll probably never succeed.

I stick to this rule myself by publishing a free article every week. As in EVERY Friday. I have made a public commitment to it. By doing something regularly, people start to trust you. Once they trust you, they might proceed to purchase a product from you. It is how commercially successful blogging works. Everything else is just a hobby.

You can achieve this by thinking of it as a very simple system. There are only three criteria for you to keep in mind:

  • You need to create personal stories. That’s what blogs are about.
  • You have to teach your audience a lesson. They want to learn from you.
  • You have to produce content regularly and consistently. If you don’t, those bloggers who do will kick your arse.

This is a non-negotiable truth not just for Seth Godin, but for the entire blogging business.

If you aren’t willing to swallow it, you may as well stop reading now.

6. Stay away from social media

This is the other point where I am going to put out a controversial thought (besides #3). There will be many people arguing against me, and I accept that they have valid arguments.

Still, it’s a point that is well worth making, all the more since I have been doing so since 2016 and history has proven me right in many ways.

Starting in 2016, I’ve warned against using social media platforms to build audiences. At the time, the West Coast tech companies began to engage in censorship. They started to shadow-ban, demonetise or outright cancel some content creators.

The more naïve observers of these developments said: “Oh, but it’s only white supremacists.

To which I said: “Today, it’s the white supremacists. Tomorrow, it’ll be you.

Fast-forward to 2020, and that’s precisely what has happened.

Anything and anyone can now be subject to cancel culture. I have longed “joked” that finance bloggers will one day be banned for so-called “hate speech” if they criticise the policies of central banks. After all, isn’t it a financial “hate crime” if you argue that the central banks don’t have our best interests at heart? We are not too far off it anymore.

Hollywood celebrities were often the first to applaud cancel culture. Because, you know, “white supremacists“. Inevitably, they themselves are now starting to fall victim to social media censorship and cancel culture. It would have a beautiful irony to it if it wasn’t so serious.

It will probably only get worse. The signs are everywhere.

One of the taxpayer funded, internationally renowned Smithsonian institutions in Washington recently published an infographic that classed the following societal values as “aspects of whiteness” (= implied racism):

  • Emphasis of the scientific method.
  • Hard work is the key to success.
  • Following a schedule.

The museum subsequently took down the infographic, but make no mistake about it – the so-called “progressive left” knows neither limits nor reason. They will come after you, even if you consider yourself to be one of them.

Twitter has already banned posting: “Men are not women.

The large social media platforms are risky platforms for investing time and effort in. You might lose your audience because you’ve made an innocuous, objectively true statement.

Building an audience on social media platforms was already a risky strategy in 2016, and I’d deem it a suicide mission in 2020.

There are exceptions, but there is also one objective fact you will have to come to grips with.

If you pick an external ecosystem for your operation, you won’t own your audience.

Repeat after me, because your life may depend on it:

If you pick an external ecosystem for your operation, you won’t own your audience.

The user always belongs to whoever’s database they are on. If they aren’t on your database, they aren’t part of your user base.

In essence, you only own a user if you have his or her email address.

You could also say that one user you have an email address of is worth 20, 50 or 100 social media followers. (The ratio is actually roughly right in terms of revenue you can generate from prospects.)

If you want to build a sustainable, reliable business that you own and are in control of, then my advice is the following:

  • Do not rely on external ecosystems. I wouldn’t even use a newsletter platform like Substack, convenient as they may seem. Do not trust anyone with your data.
  • Make sure to always keep backups of everything, and a list of alternative service providers you can switch to if needed.
  • Focus on email subscribers, not social media followers. Email communication is king: it is the direct way to a consumer.

As I said, there are valid arguments in favour of disregarding my advice. There are many people who have become way more successful via social media than I am. I recognise that. I am also breaking my own advice because I still use my LinkedIn profile for a few limited purposes. But someone’s got to point out the risks.

At the very least, don’t enter this arena without also having considered the potential downside. If (or when) it hits you, at least you will be able to admit that you have no one to blame but yourself.

7. Run your blog as if you were in beta mode forever

If you launch a blog, you’ll find that you never run out of room to improve it. I keep a folder called “blog improvement ideas” on my hard drive.

Every time I come across something that might improve my blog, I drop it in there. Even though I regularly work through it and make some improvements, it’s never empty.

Beta versions used to be test versions, which were eventually replaced by the final product.

The truth is, though, that there is no such thing as a final website. If you run a blog or any other kind of website, there will always be something you need to improve on.

You can (and should) learn from the best. Who’d say it’s wise to ignore the lessons learned from building Google? I have read a whole bunch of books about the history of Google, and one lesson, in particular, stood out to me.

The methods that led Google to become such an incredible success should never be ignored.

When Google launched Gmail in 2004, it had the word “beta” stamped across its logo.

Gmail stayed in beta mode until 2009, even though it was already used by nearly 2m corporate customers (and tens of millions of individual users). The testing seemed to be never-ending. How come?

The Gmail service had long reached a stage where it was anything but a test version. However, the engineering team was mindful of the fact that there was ALWAYS room (and need) for further improvement.

By keeping the beta sticker attached to it, they made sure everyone remained on their toes. By considering their product to be in a perpetual beta mode, they prevented complacency from setting in. After all, it was only a beta mode product! They also kept their customers aware of the fact that at any time of the day, Google was working hard to make the product better still.

Eventually, it was dropped at the behest of senior management, who felt that large corporations could be put off the idea of adopting Gmail if it carried the beta sticker.

As a blogger, you are less likely to encounter such a problem. More likely, your audience will appreciate the fact that you are forever making efforts to improve your product for them. Tell them regularly that you are in perpetual beta mode. It’ll prepare them for the occasional change and show them how deeply you care about ongoing improvements.

The methods that led Google to become such an incredible success should never be ignored.

8. Write back to everyone

I am quite proud of the fact that I personally reply to every single email from my readers (even though others in the industry believe it’s insane).

There are three reasons for that, each one of which you should keep in mind.

  1. It’s quite simply an expression of the kind of person I am. If someone makes an effort to check out my website and write to me, then it’s the civil thing to answer. I’d consider it rude not to reply. Refer back to point #1, authenticity.
  2. It helps you to create those all-important super users who will get your blog off the ground. Out of each 10, 20 or 50 emails you reply to, there’ll be that one person who REALLY appreciates your reply. That person will repost your content to their personal network, or offer you to be on their blog, or later buy ANY product you offer them. It’s quite simply good business sense to reply to everyone.
  3. I learn a lot from my readers. I have some of the world’s smartest people as readers. Quite often, their emails make me pick up on something that I did not know before. It’s free advice and free information. I’d have to be stupid to not encourage people to email me. This point alone would be enough of a reason for replying to everyone.

For a long time, I did expect that the day would come when I will give up and stop replying to everyone. Surely, one day it will become too much, and I will just need to declare defeat – right?

Little did I know, until I attended a webinar with Sir Martin Sorrell and watched a podcast with Tyler Cowen. Their two cases are worth taking a brief look at in this context.

Sir Martin is the former CEO of WPP Group, which he built out of nowhere into the world’s largest advertising group. He is currently the CEO of S4 Capital, an aggressively-growing digital advertising company that he set up and successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange.

For decades, he has been one of the most sought-after speakers globally.

He has nearly 700,000 followers on LinkedIn.

Lo and behold, he STILL replies to every single email he receives.

As he said in his webinar with Barron’s magazine, just drop him a line (martin@s4capital.com), and he WILL reply.

There is a lesson for you. If Sir Martin can do it, so can you.

I did wonder, though, how he does it. Coincidentally, as part of my research for this article, I came across the perfect answer.

At the end of this article is a list of resources, which includes a podcast with Tyler Cowen, the author of the Marginal Revolution blog. Cowen has written a blog post every single day for the past 17 years. What I didn’t know was that he, too, replies to every email he gets.

How does he do it?

You can hear his full (and relatively simple) explanation if you skip to 1:20:48 of the podcast. It’s fun to listen to this particular section!

I have now officially cancelled my plan for ever stopping to reply to emails.

9. Don’t coerce your followers – ever

Established marketing wisdom will tell you to offer your readers something for “free“, if in return they hand over their email address to you.

We have all seen it more times than we care to remember.

Fancy my free eBook? Register here.

It’s the epitome of inauthenticity because you are effectively lying to your prospective customers. Everyone knows that data is not for free.

Never, ever insult the intellect of your customers (whether current or prospective).

I also consider this approach entirely out of date. It’s a remnant from a time when white papers needed to be delivered by post.

Make your eBooks and white papers totally free. Don’t coerce your website visitors to surrender their valuable email address to you. All you’d end up with is a bunch of email addresses from people who wanted your initial content but nothing beyond that.

If or when they have come to like your content, they will register their email address based on their own decision. Once they do, they will be an even more valuable prospect.

Never, ever insult the intellect of your customers (whether current or prospective).

Right from the start, I decided never to coerce my investment blog visitors into anything. They can register for email alerts about new content if they wish to, but they can just as well visit the blog every Friday to read my latest article (regularity and consistency – point #5). Registration is entirely optional.

Of those who did register, an incredible two thirds (!) eventually proceeded to purchase a product. Probably because I treat my readers like grown-ups, and don’t insult their intellect with cheap marketing stunts.

Speaking of which, I also never display any advertising. I want my audience to know that I only serve them, not any advertisers.

Anything that gets across that you are not part of the typical corporate media mob is a plus.

10. Play the long game and do so right from the start

The opportunities offered by the blogosphere will not change materially for years to come. With every passing year, more people around the world consume more media. To a growing extent, they seek out content creators outside the corporate media sector.

If you enter this business now or in the near future, you will have a growth opportunity at least for the next one or two decades. You can set up a blog with little or no capital, and achieve compound growth if you stay in the game long enough.

Treat this opportunity accordingly. It might be one of the most exceptional opportunities your generation has. Don’t approach your blog project with a short-termism mindset. Ask yourself instead, where COULD you be if you compounded your growth over a decade or two?

Compounding is the world’s 8th wonder. That’s according to Warren Buffett, who made 99.3% (!) of his wealth after the age of 50. The effect of compounding only sets in if you play the long game.

I don’t approach the growth of my investment blog from the perspective of how many users I will gain next month or next year. My primary focus is, how can I maximise the effect of compound growth further down the road?

That’s why my key metric is my readers’ cancellation rate. How I can ensure that those readers who do sign up will stay on board for the long term?

A couple of critical factors to watch out for are:

  • Authenticity, because that’s what has won them in the first place.
  • A competitive price, to make it easy for them to stick around.
  • Reliability through consistency, so that your product becomes one of their habits (the fact that media consumption is heavily habituated is one of the lesser-known facts of the industry).

These are examples, but they illustrate the point.

By focussing on keeping my cancellation rate low, I have kept my customer churn to less than 3% p.a.

I don’t approach the growth of my investment blog from the perspective of how many users I will gain next month or next year. My primary focus is, how can I maximise the effect of compound growth further down the road?

This metric is even stress-tested. During the March 2020 stock market turbulences, some of my reports turned out to have missed the mark. I introduced my readers to three aviation-related companies just before the coronavirus crisis struck. The share prices tumbled, so naturally, many of my readers could have turned their back on me.

However, they knew I had given it my best shot (authenticity). I had given them a product that didn’t make them feel like I ripped them off (uber-competitive price). And I reliably kept reporting through the difficult times (consistency and regularity).

As a result, I have kept my customer churn to a level where 97% of paying readers renew their subscription. They do so even during difficult times.

Repeat customers are your best customers. If a subscriber extends for a second year, almost the entire second-year revenue will go to your bottom line. Never mind year three, year four and so on.

Does that make the power of compounding clear enough?

You can use this mindset to reframe a whole number of aspects of your operation. For example, if you don’t work tomorrow, then the revenue you are missing out on isn’t what you would have earned tomorrow. It’s what you would have made on the last day of operating your business because not working tomorrow takes away one day from the later part of your business’ life span – got that?

Always play the long game. Few people do, which is why it will make you stick out all the more.

Combine it with the other nine factors spelt out above, and you’ll find yourself owning a business that others envy you for.

My top 3 resources for you to dig in

Are you feeling inspired now to pursue your plans for a blog or some other kind of e-publishing business?

It is a broad subject, and I don’t claim to know everything or have tried every resource available. But I can tell you which resources stuck out to me during the many years that I have followed the sector. Many are free, while others don’t cost more than a regular book.

If you spend USD 200 on some of the products listed below, you should already have the necessary knowledge to plan, set up and operate your blog successfully. If you end up needing anything else, wait until you have some revenue from which you can purchase further products.

None of the following people knows I am recommending them (and I don’t know them personally).

Resource #1: David Perell’s website

This is a website I am personally obsessed with: www.perell.com

David Perell describes the goal of his website “to teach thousands of people to write online“.

If you are serious about creating a blog or becoming a professional content creator, then this website can serve you in countless ways.

I can’t get enough of it, and have consumed some of its incredibly valuable (yet free!) articles and podcasts more than once.

It’s also an excellent example of a blog that is amazingly good in terms of design and functionality. Last but not least, I love how it breaks with many conventions – such as the outdated idea of having to have a focus. In between the countless articles on becoming a better writer, Perell also published an analysis on “Why did the Boeing 737 Max crash?” (Which reminds me that I want to write the definitive analysis if anyone should give money to beggars in the street. Watch this space!)

Perell’s commercial product is a five-week course “Write of Passage – Accelerate your career by writing online“, which costs USD 5,000. The cohort of his recent round of training has 200 participants (which will have generated a cool one million dollars in revenue for him!).

Here are some of the free Perell resources you should look at.

Articles:

The ultimate guide to writing online

Why you should write

How to maximize serendipity

How I choose what to read

How to learn on the Internet

Where the wild things are (how to find creativity)

How to maximize creativity

The magic moment (for starting to write)

How to cure writer’s block

My writing system

Roberto Caro’s writing secrets

Podcasts and videos: 

Anthony Pompliano & David Perell: Growing Your Audience (one of my favourites!)

How to Grow Your Business by Writing: Sahil Lavingia + David Perell

Tyler Cowen: Production Function (see my point #8 regarding Cowen)

Sara Dietschy: From YouTube to business (if you are interested in vlogging)

Austin Rief & Alex Lieberman: Morning Brew’s secret sauce (covering the extraordinarily popular Morning Brew newsletter, a USD 13m annual revenue)

Austin Rief: The secrets of email marketing (founder of Morning Brew, see above)

Robert Cottrell: The secrets of reading (Cottrell built “The Browser” newsletter)

Miscellaneous other articles recommended by David Perell:

Nat Eliason: 21 Tactics to Help You Become a Better Writer

Jordan B. Peterson’s 10 Step Guide to Clearer Thinking Through Essay Writing

Paul Graham: Writing, Briefly

Eugene Wei: The Rhythm of Writing

Khe He: Create Your Own Luck with a Writing Practice

Ernest Hemingway: The Art of Fiction

Venkatesh Rao: Tips for Advanced Writers

Morgan Housel: Make Your Point and Get Out of the Way

Gergely Orosz: Why Writing Well is an Under-Valued Skill

Morgan Housel: Why Everyone Should Write

Steve Cheney: On How to be Discovered

Tyler Cowen: My Personal Moonshot

Julian Shapiro: Writing Well​

Nivi: How to Write Like a Great Entrepreneur

This is just a fraction of the content David Perell keeps on his website.

I have never met anyone who took his “Write of Passage” course. But I would suspect it’s worth the money you have to pay for it, because: i) Perell’s website is SO good; ii) he visibly loves what he does; and iii) a growing number of people keep signing up. Also, Perell does offer a 100% money back guarantee.

What I find most incredible about Perell’s website is that it hasn’t got millions of subscribers. It still feels a bit like a secret discovery. No doubt, in a few years Perell is going to be an Internet household name. Use his resources before everyone else discovers them. Right now, blogging is still a low-competition industry – and I mean it!

Resource #2: Russell Brunson’s books

If you want a conventional “I teach you how to blog and get rich” guru, make it this one.

Russell Brunson has written three books, all of which I highly recommend (and have read multiple times).

Disregard the shouty website and all that. His three books are really worth their price.

I don’t like purchasing from Amazon, but the following links go through to the books’ respective Amazon web pages so that you can check out the reviews:

Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online

Expert Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Creating a Mass Movement of People Who Will Pay for Your Advice

Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Filling Your Websites and Funnels with Your Dream Customers

I disagree with Brunson on many of his points about marketing funnels being the be-all and end-all, but that’s a story for another day. I respect his method because it’s a proven success, and his books raise countless valuable points.

That aside, for anyone wanting to create a blog, I consider these the three best books you can purchase. And it’s less than USD 50 to get all three of them as a bundle.

Resource #3: copywriting books from the olden days

Copywriting is another term for “words that sell”.

I believe it is valuable to know a thing (or two) about copywriting. How do you write in such a way that people enjoy your content and eventually purchase your product(s)?

There are more ways to go about learning the art of copywriting than anyone can keep track of. I’d like to highlight one of the lesser-known paths because you are unlikely to come across it elsewhere.

Purchase books written by the copywriting pioneers. Like, really old books.

Quite possibly the best book ever written about copywriting is the 1926 (!) bestseller “The Robert Collier Letter Book“, by an author of the same name.

Collier was an unordained minister and the author of several religious books. He was also an outrageously successful copywriter.

“The Robert Collier Letter Book” was reprinted several times, and it keeps inspiring (and informing) those who do come across it. Copies offered on the likes of Amazon are often low-quality, pirated versions of the originals. If you set out to purchase it, make sure it’s from a credible source. The book is still under copyright with Robert Collier Publications, and the authentic versions have the following ISBNs: 9780912576200, 9780912576206 (softcovers) and 9780912576219, 9780912576213 (hardcovers). If you wanted to treat yourself to one of the earlier editions, you can find them on www.abebooks.com for prices ranging from USD 200 to USD 750.

There are many others. I recently wrote an article based on one of these books. Check out “The only marketing secret you need to know” if you’d like to know which book it is.

I won’t mention the title of any others, because we don’t want too many people to discover them. Once you have read Robert Collier’s book, you will have what it takes to find them yourself.

Now go and find your first 1,000 readers – or ask for my input

I am convinced that if you apply the information provided in this article, you will succeed in creating a blog-style operation and turning it into a commercial success.

If you think that anything is missing in my article, then you have the entire Internet available to help you. It is the best school ever created, and there is an abundance of tools for learning.

If you don’t make use of it, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

And to come back to my offer and my reason for writing this article, I would like to create a global network of finance bloggers who are in friendly contact and collaborate where it makes sense (without any pressure).

If you are already running a finance-related blog of some kind or are contemplating one, please feel free to ask me for specific advice and feedback. I have no product to sell in this regard, other than wanting to increase the size of the sector and getting to know colleagues to exploit potential synergies (now or later).

Also, if you are in a position yourself to advise on how to set up and successfully operate a finance-related blog, please do step forward!

Oh, and in case you wonder, I do reply to every email myself. As Tyler Cowen said when asked how he does it: “I just do it.” 🙂

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