six months from today

Six Months from Today My Blog Was Born! Here’s Six Lessons I Learned

I made it!  It’s my blog’s 6 month anniversary!  Yup, that’s right!  Six months from today I published my first blog post.  Did you ever think I’d see the day?  Hopefully you answered with a resounding yes!  Me personally?  Maybe!  Well, yes.  When I started The Chic Capitalist blog I vowed to give myself a full year to at least try it out.  The journey has been far more difficult that I thought it would be.  And I’ve learned far more than I thought I would. 

Can you believe this was my first post?!  Neither can I!  Clearly someone didn’t know what they were doing.  😜

To celebrate my blog’s 6 month anniversary, I’m sharing 6 lessons I learned during my first 6 months blogging.  Plus, I’m sharing 1 bonus lesson that I knew from the start as a CPA, but most new bloggers probably don’t!

Not a blogger and have no interest in starting a blog?  Don’t stop reading quite yet!  There’s lots of great information in this post that, if nothing else, I promise you’ll find interesting!  As with any new pursuit, you’re sure to learn new skills and face unexpected challenges.  Well, my blogging journey is no different!  I hope you can derive some inspiration out of my silly little story, even if you have no interest in blogging.

Six Lessons I Was Clueless on Six Months from Today:

It’s true that six months from today, I didn’t know how to blog.  And believe me, I’m still learning more and more about blogging every day!  But since I started this blog, here are six major blogging lessons I learned:

#1 You Can't Just Use Any Old Photo You Find Online

Six months from today I was under the impression I could pull any old photo I found online to use as part of my blog posts.  Wrong!!  Please let me introduce you to the concept of copyright infringement.  Copyright infringement laws are complicated to say the least.  And trust me, I did a LOT of research on this when I first started my blog, so I know.  As important as these laws are, they also make things a good bit harder for us bloggers.  After all, who wants to read an article with no fun pictures!  So, if you’re a blogger like mwah, you must not only write great content, but find cutesy little photos to spice up your post.

Product Images

Even if you’re using someone else’s images to promote their products on your blog, you need express written permission from the creator of the image to use it.  So, for example, you may notice I feature a lot of Pink Lily products on this blog and I use their product images, sometimes entirely for my blog posts!  Why?  Well because I have signed up for their affiliate marketing program and as part of my contract, I’m allowed to use their images to promote their products. 

I also want to acknowledge that although product images taken from the original source may be the most professional-looking, it might be hard to obtain permission from some vendors, especially if you’re a small blogger like me.  In my experience, I have waited weeks to receive responses back, and in some cases, never received a response back to inquiries regarding the use of product images.

DIY Images

Moreover, I take a lot of my own photos as part of this blog.  Original credits to me, thank you very much! 👏  Taking your own photos is the safest option and it allows for you to really have fun and get creative with it!

In fact, one of my favorite blogging tools happens to be a little photo stand I purchased for under $30.  It makes taking photos a breeze!

Stock Photography

However, setting up photo shoots is time consuming and you may choose to instead use stock photography.  There are plenty of sites that grant access to photos, some of which simply require attribution.  Here’s a list of a few resources if you’d like to use stock photography:
  – Unsplash

  – Pixabay
  – Pexels
  – Vecteezy
And more!!

Please do your own research and review the sites’ terms of use before using images.

Admittedly, I have not used stock photos on my blog in the six months I’ve been blogging, but examples of stock photography are rampant across the web and amongst other bloggers, so I’m sure you’ve seen them.

#2 You Need Certain Legal Policies to Blog

Six months from today I had no clue that a blog is required to have legal disclosures.  Maybe you’ve noticed mine?  They’re tucked away at the bottom right hand corner of this page (and every page of my blog).  There are 3 required legal disclosures you need if you have a blog: 

1) Terms and Conditions Policy

A terms and conditions policy essentially serves as a legal agreement between you and your website visitors.  It outlines what is permitted and what isn’t in so far as protecting your intellectual property and lawful use of the blog.  It also specifies the intended age of visitors.  Additionally, if a legal dispute were ever to arise, having a terms and conditions page should help resolve the dispute quickly.  For instance if anyone were to copy my posts or were to copy my free templates as their own, they’d be violating my intellectual property rights, as outlined by my terms and conditions page.

2) Privacy Policy

A privacy policy informs your website visitors that you’re collecting information on them, specifically disclosing which kinds of information you’re collecting and how you plan to use this information.  For example, I use Google Analytics to track my website traffic.  That means if you visit my blog, I have access to see that you visited my blog, the country you’re accessing my blog from, the pages you clicked on, the duration with which you visited my blog, etc.  My privacy policy serves to inform my readers of this and is necessary in order to comply with various consumer protection laws.

3) Disclaimer and Disclosure Policy

A blog disclaimer serves to limit legal responsibility by stating that published content is for informational or educational purposes only and should not be replied upon.  For example, I’m a CPA by trade.  I may publish an article regarding a new tax law.  Say, I didn’t do my proper research and I have an incorrect figure or the information I include becomes outdated and I never go back to update it.  Well, my disclaimer policy protects me by stating that information published on this site is not professional advice and that it’s the website visitor’s responsibility to conduct their own due diligence. 

Along with these disclaimers, this policy also includes certain disclosures.  An example of a disclosure would be posts with affiliate links where I’m promoting a product or service in the hopes of earning a commission if someone purchases through my link.  Similar to the privacy policy, disclosures are required by law to protect consumers.

If you’d like more information on these 3 policies, check out this great article by Dollar Sprout!

How to Add These 3 Policies to Your Blog:

In my opinion, the easiest way to ensure you are compliant with laws and regulations is by purchasing a template.  It may feel like a lot of money to spend right when you’re trying to get your blog up and running, but luckily it’s only a one-time purchase.  Of course, you are free to create your own policies, but I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll want to ensure you’re compliant with all laws.  Believe me!  If I felt confident enough to create my own policies without paying for it, I would have!

Instead, I purchased legal templates from A Self Guru and amended them to fit my needs.  I’d recommend these templates or something similar to make sure you’re covered against legal liability, while your intellectual property is protected.

#3 Tech Issues Can Be Very TECHNICAL

Six months from today I could not have imagined the technical expertise that goes into running a successful blog.  As a newbie blogger, I still don’t understand much of it!  HTML coding?  No thanks!  But with all the tech issues I’ve encountered, I’ve been forced to turn to Google for some very technical searches. 

Without boring you with technical jargon, here’s a few tech lessons related to my site’s load speed I learned and thought interesting, since starting my blog six months from today.  

1) Image Size and Format Affects Performance

Any blogger will tell you web performance is vital!  If your website takes too long to load, you could be losing valuable eyeballs.  The culprit behind a slow load?  None other than those cutesy little photos of yours.  If the photos are too large or if they’re not optimized for the viewing device, you can kiss those page views goodbye.  Furthermore, a photo’s format also affects load speed.  Amongst the various photo formats (JPEG, JPG, and GIF to name a few), WebP format is largely considered the fastest for load speed (Themeisle). 

2) Cacheing is a Must

Adjusting image sizes and formats isn’t the only way to improve web performance.  Six months from today, I couldn’t tell you what “cacheing” meant or why it’s an important for website functionality.  Spoiler alert: cacheing is super important!  According to Cloudflare, cacheing is the process of storing files in a cache, or a temporary location, so that they can be accessed faster.  Hence cacheing of HTML files, Javascript, and images will speed up the time it takes for your website to load.  I personally use the LiteSpeed Cache plug-in to assist with cacheing.

3) You Need to Minify HTML, CSS, and Javascript Files

Here’s another tech word I learned over these last six months: “minification”.  Minification is the process of minimizing code and markup in a web page or script files, and it’s considered one of the main methods to reduce website load time (Imperva).  Although it may sound complicated, minification is essentially just showing the same information in a more compact manner.  And trust me, you need to minify if you want those eyeballs on your website.    The easiest way to do so is by installing a plug-in that automatically minifies coding and script files across your website.  Personally, I use the Hummingbird plug-in.

And again, I realize tech issues can be challenging for folks like me, who are less tech-savvy.  However, in the end, resolving tech issues is an important part of maintaining a website.  Also, don’t forget – there’s tons of valuable information available online if you encounter technical issues.

#4 You Can Spend a Lot of Money Very Quickly

Six months from today I was under the impression that anyone could start a blog for FREE!  And guess what?  You can!  But, if you want your blog to feel like it’s a professionally crafted and potentially provide a source of revenue, you’re better off paying for some services.  And I may have alluded to it before, but there will be some things you’ll almost need to pay for; legal policy templates, for one.

To give you a better idea, I’ll go through my expenses from my first 6 months blogging. 

A Breakdown of My Blogging Costs Over the Last Six Months:

Before I even launched this blog, I knew I wanted to protect myself from legal liability to the greatest extent possible.  I immediately registered my business as an LLC.  The cost to do so…$520!  Unless you’re willing to take on an ungodly amount of liability and risk your own personal assets in the process, I recommend any new blogger consider registering their blog as a LLC.  I then spent another $129 for website hosting, $26 for a photo stand, and $167 on legal policy templates.  Would you agree these are all pretty necessary blogging expenses?!  And they come out to a grand total of $842!      

More recently, I spent $290 on a SEO tool.  I’ll talk about the importance of SEO a little bit further down in this article.  But with this purchase included, I’ve spent a grand total of $1,132 over the last six months.  Yikes!  Not cheap.  And trust me when I say I have been thoughtful of how I’m spending my money.  There’s a heck of a lot more I could be spending money on in an effort to grow this blog.  Costs to operate a blog is something I’ve been increasingly conscious of and is something to consider with any new hobby or business venture. 

#5 You Need to Promote Your Blog

Six months from today I thought creating great content was enough to attract loyal readers.  Boy was I wrong!  Traffic generation is something I’m still struggling with, even six months after starting my blog.  And I’m not alone in that.  Many new bloggers struggle to attract an audience.  So, to build a following, many bloggers turn to social media outlets to promote their brand.  Personally, I use Pinterest, almost exclusively.  

And here’s my plug…if you like this post and want to connect with me, follow me on Pinterest!

As I’m sure you can tell by my lame attempt to promote The Chic Capitalist brand, this is an area I struggle with.  And probably will continue to struggle with!  Promoting this blog is not something I enjoy and not something that comes naturally to me.  I’d much rather spend my time creating additional content than spend my time promoting content I’ve already produced.  And again, this is simply my personal preference.   

However, after six months of blogging, I recognize how important it is.  As much as I love creating posts for my own personal enjoyment, it is, admittedly, much more satisfying to know others are reading and enjoying them too!

#6 Don't Underestimate the Importance of SEO

Six months from today I had no clue what SEO stood for or why it was important.  SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Basically, without SEO, none of my posts would be found via Google.  Tragic, I know!  In fact, the only reason you may be reading this right now is because this article popped up on Google as part of your recent search.       

Unfortunately for me, I learned the hard way that my posts and my website doesn’t magically appear in Google searches like I initially thought when I started my blog six months from today.  Eventually, I learned about a fancy little tool known as Google Search Console from a blogging podcast I was listening to.      

With this tool, you’ll first need to verify your ownership over a site.  However, once you do so, you have access to submit a sitemap and have your pages indexed on Google.  Essentially, what that means is your site will appear in a Google search.  For example, at the time of this publication, if you search “Cash Wedding Gift Calculator”, my post appears 7th in the search results on Google.  How cool is that?!

That being said, don’t underestimate the impact SEO has on driving traffic to your website!

Bonus Tip: Your Blog is a Business to the IRS - Run it Like One!

As a CPA by trade, I once prepared individual tax returns.  As such, I know what constitutes a business and the taxation benefits businesses receive.  In the eyes of the IRS, your blog is a business!  Even if you don’t register it like I did, you’ll automatically be considered a sole proprietorship and be required to fill out a Schedule C if you have income.  If you have no income, it’s still in your best interest to fill out a Schedule C (assuming you’ve incurred expenses related to running your blog), so you’ll be able to claim deductions and hopefully avoid taxes. 

So, that means all those expenses I listed up above, I can claim them as deductions on my Schedule C.  Note: a Schedule C is used for sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs.  Please perform your own due diligence into what forms you are required to file for tax purposes based on your specific circumstances. With that said, it’s important to keep track of your expenses and keep a copy of receipts in case you get audited. 

Blog-Related Schedule C Deductions:

Here are some blog-related items you may be able to deduct on a Schedule C:

  – Office supplies and equipment
  – Subscription costs
  – A portion of home-related expenses if your office is in your home
  – Advertising costs

  – Insurance costs
  – And more!

Essentially, expenses that are considered reasonable and necessary to your blogging profession may be deductible (Turbotax).

Also, please note that you are required under law to report all income generated through your blog and you may be required to pay taxes on this income.

What Will You Accomplish Six Months From Today?

Before I conclude this post, I want to leave you with one very important question: what will you accomplish six months from today?  Do you want to start a new hobby or develop a new skills?  How about refining a skill you already have or improving upon an identified weakness?  Or maybe you read this post and feel so inspired by my blogging journey that you want to start your own blog?

In any case, I hope you reflect on your accomplishments over the last six months and ask yourself what you want to accomplish six months from today.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

What I Hope to Accomplish Six Months From Today!

To close out this article, I’m going to practice what I preach!  Here’s a few personal goals of mine that I will work towards over the next six months: 

  – Continue to grow this blog
  – Be a better partner, dog-mom, daughter, sister, and friend
  – Exercise regularly and eat better
  – Set aside time to read

Thanks for reading!  Hopefully you found this valuable!  If you liked this article, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to be alerted to other awesome stories and articles and gain access to exclusive TCC Club content.

Hi! I'm Mikaela, a blogger, CPA, soon-to-be bride, dog-mom, and self-proclaimed finance enthusiast. Join me on my journey to uncover some of the best financial practices and investment opportunities.

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