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Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a B-List Blogger

beginners-guide-b-list-bloggerThis is a guest post that covers an interesting and important subject, especially after coming back from FINCON, a personal finance bloggers conference with nearly 600 attendees. I think it’s an important subject because in any industry, you have the rock stars and the “regular folks.” Call it A List and B List and C List and whatever List.

There’s a sense that if you don’t one day get to A List, you’re a failure – but that’s not true.

Eric builds his case and I’d like to hear what you think about it in the comments.

Ramit Sethi. Darren Rowse. Pat Flynn. JD Roth. Chris Brogan. Eric Rosenberg. Which of these names doesn’t belong? Clearly Eric Rosenberg isn’t an A-List blogger.

Since you’ve likely not heard of me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Eric Rosenberg, and I am a B-List blogger. You might have heard of me, or my site Narrow Bridge Finance, when perusing personal finance tips online over the last few years. But maybe not. And I’m okay with that.

Most Bloggers Don’t Last

There are lots of bloggers, and lots of blogs. Millions of new blogs join the internet each year thanks to free blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com. It is easier than ever to start a blog and get your thoughts on the internet.

With the low cost and easy startup costs, there is no surprise so many people start blogs. However, most blogs fail. New bloggers are quick to learn that it is hard to get more people read your site than your Mom on a regular basis. It is hard to stand out from the crowd. Most people don’t really care what you have to say. It is a tough reality, but being a successful blogger is very hard work. Keeping up with a regular content schedule alone leads people to burn out in a few weeks. Most bloggers don’t make it past a few months. Very few make it past a year or two.

The core of my online business is Narrow Bridge Finance, a personal finance blog I started about six years ago. That blog is what propelled me to the elite inner circle of B-List bloggers.

What Makes a B-List Blogger?

So, what gives me the cockiness to declare myself above the rest? What makes me a B-List blogger? A lot of things. Here are the basics.

Blogging Pays My Rent – Yes, you read that right. My online business has made enough for the last few years to cover my mortgage payment each month. I was very excited as I climbed the online income rankings to cover my beer tab with my blog. Then one day I realized I was earning enough online to cover my car payment (which has since been paid off), then one day I knew I had done something special when my online income was more than my monthly mortgage payment. I have a goal of making over $2,500 online each month, and I have done that a few months in a row. Maybe I should increase my goal? If you are curious exactly how I did it, this is my last online earnings report.

Some People Have Heard of Me – All bloggers have to have some sort of an ego. It takes guts to put yourself out there and think that people are going to care what you have to say. Over time, I must have done something right. Some people actually do care what I have to say. While my traffic has grown and shrunk over the years thanks to Google’s bi-polar algorithm disorder (yes, that is a post I wrote for Problogger), I have built an audience that comes back again and again, engages in my site, and cares what I have to say. I have an email list well into the three figure range, and a lot of them open my emails when they show up in their inbox. And I get that special feeling each year at the Financial Blogger Conference when a first year attendee tells me they have heard of me and they are excited to meet me.

I am a Recognized Expert – I have been quoted in a handful of big new sources, but not quite the biggest. As my cool “as seen on logo” proudly tells visitors, I have been featured in local news sources like The Denver Post and 9News, and recognized online sites like The Consumerist, MoneyTalksNews, and ProBlogger. Sure, that isn’t the Wall Street Journal or The Today Show, but hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to my writing, opinions, and thoughts on my topic.

Friendships with A-Listers – When I send an email to people like J Money from Budgets or Sexy or pitch an awesome post idea like “How to Become a B-List Blogger” to big names like Jim Wang, they respond to me. When I see Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt at FinCon, he knows who I am when I say hello. When it is time to bust a move at a conference after party, Pat Flynn is right next to me rocking out some sweet moves. It doesn’t make me a millionaire, but it helps to know bigger names when you do want to share a new project or bounce an idea off of a successful member of your niche.

How to Get Here

So, now that I’ve told you all of the benefits of becoming the equivalent of the James Rebhorn of blogging (you probably don’t know his name, but if you Google him you’ll be like, Oh! That Guy! I know him), here’s how to get there.

Consistency – Half of the challenge is just showing up. All the time. Again and again. If you can be consistent in your blogging and keep it going for years, you have a lot of what it takes to make something of yourself. If you are not a part of the crowd, you won’t be able to stand out from it someday.

Networking – The single biggest turning point for my online blogging was joining the Yakezie Challenge on March 8, 2010. Joining the Yakezie Network, a network of personal finance bloggers with the motto “selflessly helping others,” my blog would be something very different today, if still around at all. Joining that group helped me build relationships with other bloggers that helped my site gain recognition online.

Quality – If your site sucks, no one is going to read it. I always try to be professional, high quality, and helpful when I publish a new post or make a change to my site or any of my online businesses.

Something Special – No one wants to read something that is just like everyone else, so you have to do something to stand out. Whether it is your personality that comes through in your writing, your superb insights, or your outstanding value to readers, you need to have something that makes people want to visit your site and help it grow.

What Could I Have Done Differently To Join the A-List?

This is something I’ve thought about time and again over the years. What could take me up to the A-List where I am a pseudo celebrity like Chris Guillebeau or Tim Ferris? What would take me a to a point where I could sell my site for seven figures like Jim did with Bargaineering, or like JD Roth or Flexo did with Get Rich Slowly and Comsumerism Commentery?

If I knew the exact answer, this post wouldn’t be about joining the B-List, but I do have some ideas that I’ve put together on my own and feedback I’ve taken from people who have made it bigger.

  • Really Stand Out From The Crowd – J Money is a finance blogger with a Mohawk, and he stands out from the crowd for a reason
  • Do a Better Job Promoting Content – Derek Halpern is the king of content promotion, and his blog Social Triggers has very clear data as to why it works
  • Build Site Value – Ramit Sethi is able to sell $12,000 courses for a reason

The Big Benefits of the B-List

I wouldn’t mind joining the A-List of blogging, but I don’t hate where I am either. It lets me write cool posts on sites like Microblogger and name drop like a douchebag trying to pick up a hottie at an LA bar. And there are some actual, tangible benefits.

The Money – As I mentioned above, I cover my housing cost each month with my online money making activities. That is pretty cool. It isn’t a full time income, but it is a lot of money.

Business Opportunities – Writing my blog has helped me learn a hell of a lot about personal finance and running a website. I now have a successful freelance writing and web design business on top of my blog. I even have a fancy business name for it, Narrow Bridge Media.

A Fun Ride – I get to travel to cool places each year like Chicago and New Orleans for blogger conferences. The friends I’ve made have helped me learn and teach cool things like travelhacking and making money from something that started as a hobby. I’ve partied with startups, shared a drink with millionaires, and made awesome, close friends through my blogging adventure. That might be the best part of all.

If You Shoot For the Moon and Miss, You End Up Among the Stars

Because you are reading this today, you obviously want to make something of yourself online. Or you are my fiancé or mother that I told to read this really cool article I wrote on a popular blog. This advice is for the bloggers, not my Mom.

The cliché expression that “if you shoot for the moon and miss, you end up among the stars” is totally true in blogging. If you try hard and do everything right, you might not replicate the success of Apollo 11 and land on the moon. However, you still got to be an astronaut and do some amazing things online. If you work hard, follow great advice, replicate what works well for your site, and keep at it long enough, someday you will be able to join the club and introduce yourself as a “semi-pro blogger” too.

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

22 responses to “Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a B-List Blogger”

  1. J. Money says:

    I think you’ve now become an A list blogger for getting a post published on this blog 😉 Jim doesn’t just let any joe schmoe come aboard!

    (Also – very fun post, well done sir.)

  2. Nice, clear piece. I guess it comes down to level of motivation, then, no?

    • Eric says:

      Motivation and hard work is certainly part of it, but I didn’t know everything that I do now when it may have been the right time to implement some of that. And of course luck and timing has a lot to do with making it big online.

  3. Mike Collins says:

    Nice job Eric. Your consistency and networking have definitely been assets in your rise and those are two qualities every blogger should strive for.

    • Eric says:

      Not giving up is the biggest challenge. It takes a lot of hard work to keep it going for years on end, but it has been totally worth it for me.

  4. Mario says:

    Definitely lots here for me to aspire to. Thanks for the tips and hopefully see you on the B-list side 🙂

  5. Glen Craig says:

    Great article Eric!

  6. Miranda says:

    Great post. I really enjoyed reading it. And, I’m surprised to note that I might be a B-list blogger — when I thought I was on the C-list. So maybe the B- List 😉 Anyway, great post, and a practical look at breaking in so that you can make a living as a blogger.

  7. John says:

    Excellent post Eric! I remember just starting blogging and having no idea what all would need to go into it in order to be relatively successful – very much why so many give up. A very select few are going to reach that superstar status, but you can still find nice success without being one of the select few.

    • Eric says:

      You do an awesome job getting yourself out there John. I have seen great work from you on so many sites, not to mention your own rock star finance blog.

  8. I love the post, Eric. I don’t know about the B-list but you’ve done great here. This made me think where do I fit? (I never dance, mind, so I suppose this gets me into C).

  9. Nicola says:

    Great post – enjoyed reading it. I don’t think I’m on any list (yet!) so lots of practical tips for me to mull over.

  10. It’s all about the b-list baby! 😉

    It’s funny- I went to two blogging conferences last year, in the same city, in the same week. You asked one crowd about the other “big names” and they had NO idea who the blog-celebs were, just another reason to stay humble and serve one another within our blogging circles..we’re all human and all have something to give! Luckily in personal finance, everyone is awesome and the A-listers are pretty darn nice!

    • Jim says:

      Very very true, and in the end, what does it mean to be a “big name” in anything? If you think it means you can act a certain way or the world owes you something, you’re in for a rude awakening. 🙂

  11. Nice post, Eric! Great to see you here. You have a point — there is nothing wrong with being B-list! Extra money and connections are awesome! I personally find that networking and building community are key. As I was reading the list of bloggers you mentioned, and something I was reminded of at FinCon, is that the “big names” in finance are still very much male-oriented. I wonder if any females have sold their blogs for 7-figures? And if so, who are they? I’m not downplaying the awesomeness of the A-listers mentioned, but I’m just interested in the gender dynamic. I know mommy bloggers MAKE a ton of money, but I wonder a) who are the A list females in the finance space b) have any of them made 7 figures from selling their blog? (I apologize if this sort of went off on a tangent, but the post triggered this thought)

    • Eric says:

      I’ve never thought of it, but it definitely does seem like the men have had the most success with the big sales. I do know of some women bloggers making six-seven figures a year, but their primary focus isn’t on the finances.

      I think a bit of it happened by chance. People like JD, Jim, and Luke all started their blogs very early on and stuck with it. But that is a pretty small group.

      • Jim says:

        I don’t know of any female bloggers but LearnVest is a financial planning company founded by Alexa Von Tobel and they’ve raised nearly $70 million in venture capital.

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