I do not normally write about blogging here. For me, writing about blogging is like singing a song about the songs one sings rather than singing a song about something inspiring in itself. Nevertheless, this is a blog in which I write about my experiences with money, and blogging has played an increasing role in my finances over the past few years.
After blogging or adding chronological updates to websites since 1994, it wasn’t until January 2005 I received my first check as a result of this writing. Granted I didn’t start Consumerism Commentary until July 2003 and I didn’t add advertising until November 2004, that’s a long time to have a hobby without any consideration of income. In fact, I could stretch my history back to 1989 with my first experience building on-line communities.
Even after that first check in January 2005, income from blogging was slow. I gradually added new projects like the Carnival of Personal Finance, helped form the MoneyBlogNetwork, created pfblogs.org, and offered to host a number of personal finance blogs by other offers for free. January 2007 was the first month in which my income from these activities surpassed my income from my “real” job.
Invariably, one of the most common questions I receive from friends and readers is about leaving my day job. When will I take the plunge by quitting my nine-to-five obligations and dedicating that time to an endeavor that seems to be providing a better payoff? The idea first crossed my mind as a remote possibility in January 2007 and as a serious option in January 2008 when my income from this “hobby” was consistently twice my salary.
The benefits are numerous.
- I would not be tied to any particular location. Without having to report to an office every day, I would have the freedom to work from home, my girlfriend’s house, a public library, or a hotel in Arizona. Additionally, I could live anywhere in the world with a reliable connection to the internet, saving money on living expenses. If I so desired, I could even take the extreme route and live out of my car.
- I would be my own boss. Rather than being subject to the whim of a large multinational corporations and the seemingly endless levels of authority between the CEO and myself (currently at six or so), I make the decisions about which projects to pursue and how much time and effort to devote. I’ll still need to answer to the government when it is time to pay taxes, however.
- I could devote more time to my projects. By leaving my primary job I would have more time on my hands to work with. With more time, I would be able to focus on improving the quality of everything I do now as well as working on new projects.
If those were the only points to consider, I would have quit my job to focus on my writing months ago. Here is the other side to the story.
- There’s not much of a business plan. A good portion of income from this side business is from advertising. It’s rather short on products that consumers can use other than information. I don’t see this as a sound strategy for the long term. People who study this particular industry believe even in the short term, such as this year, on-line advertising could experience a decline.
- Income is too reliant upon Google. Even though only a small portion of income comes directly from Google, most other income sources rely on Google indirectly. The search engine delivers visitors who search for certain topics to Consumerism Commentary or other websites I manage. As I experienced first-hand about a year ago, one small change in Google’s algorithms or opinions could ruin the business model. If only regular readers visit Consumerism Commentary, advertising mostly fails.
- It’s not wise to voluntarily give up five figures of annual income. It’s hard to turn away from a consistent, relatively stable check every two weeks, including low-cost health and disability benefits, a 401(k) matching contribution and discounted stock purchase plan. I also work with interesting people, and it’s nice to spend my time in an environment that is friendly and not too saturated with a sense of urgency. But if even 25% of my total income is stable as long as I perform as expected, I have a foundation to rely on when the other 75% could be inconsistent.
There are straightforward arguments against most of these drawbacks. With more time to devote to my projects after quitting my day job, I could come up with a more diversified business plan. That might include the typical “financial guru” fare like presenting speeches and writing a book. Neither of these excite me for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that I am quite critical of people who are “gurus.” I am more interested in building communities and would like to find more way to accomplish that.
I could also argue that the time I would receive back from my employer could be used to earn more income than I would be giving up by leaving that job, but that’s not a foregone conclusion.
If I am going to take a risk by leaving the corporate world and possibly revealing my identity, it’s better to do so now before I have more obligations and people other than myself who rely on my income. And it is true that I could reenter the traditional workforce if necessary if my plans for self-sufficiency fail. With all this to consider, I will stick with indecision until I decide to make a decision or until my company decides to make that decision for me.
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published April 6, 2009.