Hi! Welcome to my A Final Note series.
If you’re new here, in 2017 I’m sharing a monthly goal post that I’m calling “A Final Note”. I’m calling it A Final Note because that’s how I end a lot of my other blog posts, so it’s already a phrase I use. I’ll write “A Final Note” on each month to review and reflect how the month went. You can read more about why I’m doing this in my January 2017 post here. I will post A Final Note on the first Friday of the following month.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m as busy as ever (who isn’t, honestly?!), so I break down this post (and most of my posts) by using headings. Hopefully, it’s easier for you to read this way.
The categories that I break down are what I call the “main eight life categories” that I consider for life planning, and they are: health, relationships, finances, career, personal/spiritual development, recreation/fun, environment, and service.
As you’ll see below, I don’t follow these categories strictly — I break up personal development and faith and I keep my blog and my day-job separate. I just like the list of categories as a reference point.
So, let’s take a look at how my February went…
The progress I made on my blog in February was really good. Here’s what I did in February on my blog…
- I published 4 regular blog posts and my January 2017 A Final Note post. The four regular blog posts I published are:
- Side note – if there’s anything you want me to write about, let me know! I’m open to ideas. 🙂
- I quit writing for Forbes. I know. I’m crazy. BUT hear me out… The time I was putting in to write for free wasn’t worth the return. I was spending 3-4 hours writing one post, which is about all I have in one day on the weekends for blogging in order to get all my other goals accomplished. So, it makes more sense for me to use that time to promote my own blog and focus on ways to actually make money blogging (I cannot afford to work for free – and yes, I was writing for Forbes for free!). There was no ROI. It was purely for status. Yes, I feel like I accomplished something by writing for Forbes. But no, I don’t think it’s worth the ROI. (If you know about Warren Buffets 25 goal list activity or have read Daymond John’s The Power of Broke, I think you’ll probably know exactly what I’m talking about here in terms of focus.)
- I continued to redo a bunch of Pinterest images after my rebrand.
- I also created a Pinterest logo for my new pins, which you can see here.
- I scheduled enough posts on my blog to stay around 2 months ahead. I’m about 1-2 weeks ahead for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- I read Strategies Worth Sharing by Brittany Ann is an eBook about how to grow your Facebook following. I’m sort of obsessed with it!
- I read SEO 2017 by Adam Clarke. This book was a game changer. I knew nothing about SEO really, and after reading this book, I: 1) updated my site speed, 2) fixed my sitemaps, robots, and 404 errors (this alone took a few days and hours on end), 3) learned about keywords (more seriously than before) and readability score, and 4) updated my blog directories. If this sounds foreign to you, it still sounds foreign to me, too! ha. But if you walk through the book slowly and give yourself tasks every day to complete, it’s completely manageable to do without experience. This is what I did and I found it to be very useful.
- I took down the pop up on my site to increase SEO. Honestly, I think it’s causing more harm than good at this point. I get so many subscribers when I have a pop up, so my subscriber list is growing much more slowly right now. I think I’m going to add it back, despite it hurting me with Google.
- I ran three FB ads for my affiliate campaigns (for IWT Dream Job and Elite Blog Academy) – I’m doing SO much better with Facebook advertising now that I have a strategy after listening to Perpetual Traffic Podcast by Digital Marketer ( which is am.az.ing.)! I highly recommend listening to the podcast before implementing a strategy on your own. There is too much you can do wrong without a strategy in place.
- I had a mastermind call with bloggers. These are always so helpful because I learn random things I never would’ve learned somewhere else. Because blogging is all online, the more people you can talk to in your blogging community, the better.
- Unfortunately, I had to deal with silly issues this month on my blog. From tech problems to copyright issues and other blog hijacking stuff. People stealing content, images, etc. It wasn’t fun and more importantly, it felt like a huge waste of time. But it had to be dealt with, and I’m so glad it’s resolved! For the tech part of it, I use Grayson Bell from iMark Interactive. Back in the day, I would stay up for 5-6 hours at night trying to figure out how to do the tech stuff on my blog. All the time spent and I usually still did it wrong. Grayson is the best, and he’s my blog’s lifesaver – especially this month!
- Last month, I created a blogging eBook called How To Go From Zero To Profitable Blog In 1 Year for new bloggers, which I’m getting really good feedback on.
All the stuff I do on my blog is in the name of making money so I can repay my student loan debt. If I didn’t make money blogging, I would be -$1k in my budget every month because my student loan payment is at a minimum $1,500/month.
Since people always ask how I make money blogging, here’s a look at how I do it…
First, I make money from advertisements on my blog. I have an ad agency that does the placements for me (called Ad Thrive), so I don’t have to worry about the logistics (this is so nice!).
Second, I make money through affiliates. This is becoming huge for me. The affiliates that do the best for me are:
- Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich Programs
- Bluehost (from my How to Start a Blog post)
- How I Made $40k My First Year of Blogging by Chelsea Lordes
- Your Way to VA (a course that teaches you how to make money at home as a Virtual Assistant)
- Real Life Money Plan (a money course that teaches you how to budget)
- Personal Capital (an online budgeting tool)
- Elite Blog Academy (a blog course for starting a profitable blog)
Affiliate marketing is sooo much more of an art that requires a strategy than I ever knew before. Before, I would just throw up posts randomly or throw up a tweet or send a random email.
If you really want to be successful with affiliate marketing, you have to put time and energy into creating a plan for each of your affiliates, specifically when you’re doing a launch. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. And how to actually do this isn’t obvious either. For me, a lot of my success comes from my email list, Facebook Group, and Facebook ads.
I learned this from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing — a course that shows you how to implement an affiliate marketing strategy. I’m retaking the course next week, actually. I’ve learned so much in the last two months from the two launches I did that I want to retake it and see what I missed that I feel more confident with it.
A third way to make money blogging is by freelance writing. I used to do this, but I’ve backed off to focus on my own blog instead of writing for other people’s blogs.
For a deeper explanation about how to make money blogging, read 6 Ways Bloggers Make Money.
As far as stats go, I’m still only bringing in about $3k/month from my blog (and remember that’s gross, so I have to pay taxes and expenses from this number). My traffic in February was down and right now is only hovering only 100k/month. Typically, I’m used to 200k-300k pageviews. As is typical in the blogging world, I’ll have to think of more ways to increase traffic!
Overall, the effort I put into my blog in February was great. I’m making sure I do something (even if it’s small) every day to help me get a little bit further ahead with my blog.
I’m continuing to focus heavily on increasing my traffic and increasing my blog income. I’m going to re-take Elite Blog Academy, too and continue to use Facebook ads.
Health was just about awful this month.
Traveling and social life definitely is getting in my way of losing weight. Hashtag adultingishard! 😉
I did actually do things for my health in February, but spoiler alert — I didn’t lose any weight. In February…
- I ran 1-2x week for about 30 minutes at a time. I’m struggling with finding time to workout more. Between work, blogging, my boyfriend, and friends, I barely squeeze in time for the gym.
- I stayed on top of my cooking goals. One of my goals (or habits) in 2017 is to cook one new meal every Sunday evening (there are only 3 for February because I was out of town one week). I pin all the recipes I make on my Pinterest Food Board. And I also snap when I’m cooking on Sunday nights (@NatalieRBacon on snap). In February, I cooked
- Skinny taco dip (kind of a cop-out to consider it a dinner but it was Super Bowl Sunday and we went to a friend’s house, so I brought this dish)
- Shrimp and veggie stir fry (it was amazing)
- Oven-baked chicken tacos (also delish but not so great for reheating/leftovers)
- I weigh 128lbs – still. I didn’t lose any more weight in February, but with going to Florida (more on that below), I actually gained weight at one point and had to get back down. So, I’m happy with 128lbs and looking forward to dropping a few more in March.
Overall, weight loss in February was non-existent, but cooking went well. Randomly, I watched a documentary about food as it relates to health and cancer. I’m interested in learning more about plant-based foods and healthier options. The only hard part or obstacle I see is that it’s very different from the food I’m currently used to eating. So, stayed tuned to see if this develops into anything… I’m such a steak and potatoes girl that I need to let this idea manifest for a while before I do anything about it! 🙂
On to cash money. Money was great in February. A lot going on but all good stuff.
- I filed my taxes in February. I thought I was going to only owe about $3k, but it turns out I owed $6k. This is because once again I was not able to take the $2,500 student loan interest deduction (the only difference this year was that I thought I would be able to take it). The reason I couldn’t take it had to do with the amount of money I made in the last two years.. I wasn’t aware this was even a rule. So, that kind of stunk! And the additional amount owed was from 2016 local taxes and prepaying 2017 local taxes. When it comes to my business bank account, I always err on the side of caution, so paying it wasn’t a problem. It just meant that I had less to put onto my student loan debt than I’d hoped.
- I made an additional lump sum payment of $2,000 to my student loans above my normal $1,500 payment, bringing my total student loan payment for February to $3,500 (I typically pay at least $1,500). The additional payment of $2,000 came from my business bank account. I was waiting to file my taxes to see what kind of extra payments I could make. It felt awesome and I seriously can’t wait to keep it up. And of course, I wish it was more!
- I want to be paying more towards my debt. 7.5% interest rate is a killer. By the end of the year, the ideal situation would be to be making $3k+ payments… but we’ll see! This blog is going to have to make some serious dough to make that happen. 😉
- My student loan debt is approximately $110k now (I say approximate because with the interest rate I have, it’s constantly going up a bit, even with my payments).
- I will start making $1,200 estimated quarterly Federal income tax payments this year based on what I owed in taxes this past year. One of the cool things about running a blog is that I’m learning all about business, including accounting and taxes. It’s fun stuff to experience for the first time.
- I started tracking my net worth more closely than I had been. What I like best is seeing my student loan balances on a daily or weekly basis (because I have them linked electronically). A good way to do this is through Personal Capital. The best part is definitely seeing it grow (or in my case, become less negative)!
- In case you’re new here, I should point out under the financial section that I’ve never had a credit card, and at this point, I don’t plan to change that.
Overall, a lot happened in February with my finances. It felt really good to get my taxes filed and paid. And it’s amazing to track my net worth and see it increase over time. I’m hoping that in the future I make more money and my debt decreases as fast as possible.
Personal development is always fun for me. I focus on reading, listening to podcasts, and doing other activities (like practicing gratitude and journaling) to keep me growing. I really believe the quote that your level of success can seldom exceed your level of personal development. So, I plan on keeping this up as a life practice.
I set a goal to read one book every month in 2017. Whenever I set the goal of reading one book per month for the year, I always exceed it. I set a habit of reading at least one hour per day (usually during lunch), and I’m always surprised how much more I read during this time than I think I can. So, in February I read 2 personal development books (plus the 2 blog books I listed above).
In February, I read:
- Just Listen by Mark Goulston. This book was part of the book club I have at work. It was good. It talked a lot about “mirroring” (the idea that people just want to be heard and usually aren’t) and empathy. I recommend this one because it was practical and useful. I don’t think it was earth shattering, but I think it helped me, so it was worth the read.
- As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. This book I’ve had on my Kindle for quite some time and hadn’t gotten around to. I finally read it when I traveled to Florida. It was SO good. It was written in 1903, so the language is a bit hard to read, but otherwise the content is awesome. It’s deeper and less practical, but at the same time, more meaningful. My favorite quote from the book is, “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.”
I also keep a list of books I’ve read in Evernote every year. So, this year, I’m tracking my “2017 Book List” in Evernote. I highly recommend this list-tool (I’m sort of obsessed).
- Kept up with my gratitude jar. Every Sunday I write down something I’m thankful for from the prior week and put it into my mason jar. The idea is that you re-read these at the end of the year to remember and reflect on how much good came from your year.
- Listened to several personal development podcasts this month. My two favorites are from the same podcast — 1) Knowledge For Men epi 337 with Anna Akbari: How to Hustle and Hack Your Way to Happiness. I loved this episode and will probably use it in a future blog post. Podcasts help me keep ideas flowing and keep me inspired. I’m obsessed! And 2) Knowledge Form Men epi 340 with Kamal Ravikant: How to Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It. This one was phenominal. My favorites quote of his, which sums up the entire episode is “Destiny favors the committed.”
- Started journaling every Monday night. I have always journaled, but have done it only when I feel like it. The problem with that is, I only journaled when I wasn’t feeling that great, and lately, that meant I wasn’t journaling much at all (kind of a good thing). But I was missing the habit of journaling and the benefits that come from it. So, I’ve started journaling for about 15-20 minutes every Monday evening.
Personal development went well this month. I really liked As A Man Thinketh, and I have a very personal post about it coming up — stay tuned!
Faith was a bit skim this month (I seriously don’t know how people travel a lot and keep up with all their goals and habits – it killed me in February). So, here’s what I did for faith in February…
- I attended church 2 out of the 4 weekends. 1 weekend I just didn’t go (no excuses here) and the other weekend I was out of town, in Florida.
- I listened to Andy Stanley’s Your Move Podcast every week. This podcast is a modern Christianity podcasts, and it intertwines personal development with Christians. His motto for the podcast is that by listening to this 30 minutes every week, you’ll make better decisions and live with fewer regrets. The entire month of February was dedicated to a four-part series called Address The Mess (each week featured 1 part of the series). It was a fresh reminder to focus on forgiveness, loving other people, and praying for your own spiritual maturity (e.g.: how your ability to love difficult people is a direct reflection of your own spiritual maturity). I love this podcast and look forward to listening to it every Monday morning while I’m getting ready for work.
In March, I’m not going anywhere, so church should be back to normal and its Lent for me, so I’ll be refocused.
I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend and my friends this month, which was really nice.
Here’s a look at what I did in February…
- I went a Columbus Blue Jackets game (hockey) twice – tickets were free from someone at work, so those were two awesome free date nights.
- I went to happy hour with 1 of my girlfriend’s from law school.
- I visited my friend from college and her new baby!
- I went on a party bus for my boo’s bestie’s wife’s birthday. The party bus was so fun – I hadn’t been on one in at least 5 years, and it far exceeding my expectations. I’m sure most of you who follow me on snap saw how much fun it was! 😉
- I made bae cookies for Valentine’s Day. <3 He’s 100 times more frugal than I am, which is something I admire so much about him. He’s really good with money. Of course, he takes me out, too – just saying I’m very lucky!
- I went to Orlando, FL for a friend’s wedding. I got to see my high school girlfriends – it was awesome (see the pics below!).
- I went out for another friend’s birthday on the last weekend in February. It was fun to be with lots of people out and about in Columbus. I love weekends at home!
Overall, relationships were a lot of fun this month! I was busy and constantly around people, so that was a really nice balance to working and blogging.
I’m a big believer in having relationship goals, too (I should probably write a post about this), but one thing I’ll say for now is that if you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you should if you’re married or in a relationship. It’s amazing.
Anyways, here are a few pictures from my trip to Orlando, Florida. We stay in Winter Park and spent one day at Epcot (all we had time for). The weather was amazing!
That’s A Wrap!
That about does it for February. Overall, it was … a bit more of a struggle than January on the goal front but much more fun. I got to travel (a rarity) and spend quality time with my favorite people. That just may be the only thing worth sacrificing your goals for! (Although rest assured, March will have more trips to the gym for me hahah.)
I didn’t have updates for career, service, or organization this month. Career and organization are steady right now. Service is missing, which I’m not proud of. I do things like donate clothes and other items (one of the perks of being a minimalist is that I’m constantly purging!), but I haven’t made it a point to volunteer my time or money like I wish I was. I admit, I probably won’t commit to more service until my loans are paid off, and I make time. Right now I feel like I’m working two jobs and trying to maintain relationships, so I haven’t made the time for community service. I think this will be easier when I don’t have to hustle to pay off my debt so much. So, stay tuned! I’m kind of excited for when I have the time and can share it all with you.
One thing I want to mention before I wrap up is that I get asked all the time “how do you get so much done?!”. The best way I can answer that question is: habits and planning. I live and breath my gCalendar. I lived and breath my habits. I get up at 4:45am to go through my morning routine (and blog) before work. After work, I have planned out what I’m going to do, and I have it listed on my gCal for that day. Of course, things change sometimes, and my plans get messed up or I don’t get things done. But most of the time, I’m intentional with my time and it pays off.
Going forward for 2017 my biggest goals are still to increase my blog income (to pay down my student loan debt) and lose a few more lbs.
How did your February go? Do you have any questions for me?!