PERSONAL FINANCE LUMINARIES-Flexo, Consumerism Commentary

Welcome to the first of a monthly series featuring in-depth interviews with the super stars of the on-line PERSONAL FINANCE universe. These interviews will educate and inform offering insight into their successes and challenges. Learn what makes Flexo, of Consumerism Commentary tick.

 What is your personal finance philosophy?

First, the universal basics; provide for necessities first and spend less than you earn. Realize that the main benefit of a sound financial strategy is to allow you to live the life you desire.

What activities that you perform weekly related to your blog and how much time do you spend on these functions?

I have a full time day job that get’s in the way of the blog. Consumerism Commentary requires about 40 per week. The varied blog tasks include writing, managing the blog, emails, advertisers, writing for other blogs such as US NEWS, and American Express. In all, I spend about 50 percent of my time writing and 50 percent in other activities. Although I’m not crazy about the marketing, it is an integral part of allowing others to be aware of Consumerism Commentary. 

I read that you are considering transitioning out of your day job and are considering pursuing the blog full time, is that accurate?

Yes, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Consumerism Commentary has made enough money for me to live on for a few years. I haven’t been able to make that jump yet, I’m not sure if it’s that I like the security of having a full time job with benefits. Also, I’d like to buy a house some day, and in qualifying for a mortgage banks prefer to see a W-2 rather than self employment income. I might consider a leave of absence to try it out.

 What are your top 3-5 tips for staying organized and focused?

Organization isn’t my strongest suit and I struggle with it. Keeping a calendar, to do list, and list of contacts are essential. Next I make sure to follow up when necessary. For financial record keeping I use Quicken. I’d be lost without it as I have over 60 accounts which I have opened to review for the site.

What are the best and worst parts of being an elite blogger?

I don’t know if I’m elite, although I have been around a long time. Best- I have the option and freedom of leaving of my day job. Worst-Sometimes it feels like a chore. Not often, although I love writing, but on occasion it’s tough.

When you feel like quitting, what keeps you going?

When I occasionally have writers block I step away for a moment and get a fresh perspective. And if I’m having trouble coming up with ideas, I do a lot of reading, and listen to the radio to get inspired. Of course, there are times when I feel like, why am I writing? Everything has been written already? All in all, I really like writing, and that keeps me coming back.

Who and what inspires you on and off line?

Financially, I was in a bad position before I founded Consumerism Commentary. At that point, I inspired myself to seek out information on personal finance.   I became interested in keeping myself accountable and was motivated by watching my account go from negative to positive. My parents also inspired me. My dad said if there was one thing he could do over it would be to avoid debt. That motivated me to get rid of my student loan and credit card debt. My mom inspired me by saying that if you want to do something you can do it, as long as you put your mind to it. Personally, I’m inspired by what I read, and by devoting time to writing and thinking.

How long does it take you to write a typical post?

An involved article requires one to two hours for research and organization.  Guest writing might take even longer. After the original preparation, writing takes an additional one to two hours.  Smaller articles take less time and only about one to two hours in total.

 How have your goals evolved over time?

Initially, my blogs goals were quite simple, learn about personal finance and keep myself accountable. I posted balance sheet monthly as a way to keep myself on track. (Barb’s comment; Flexo probably initiated the ever popular trend of full financial disclosure) Initially, when I put out my finances, I didn’t think I would have any readers. In the beginning, I didn’t start writing stories but just  linked to other posts that I liked.

Now my goals are to build the site, gain more readers, and be more of a presence on line.

What distinguishes CC and makes your readers return?

My personality and my writing style; although sometimes dry other times it’s more personal. My subtle sense of humor appeals to a small a group of people who have become big fans. I appreciate that connection with those readers that really get me.

What are your largest sources of revenue?

Although I receive revenue from advertising programs, affiliates, contextual links, and writing for other web sites, Google is the only real source of income. I am not referring only to adsense but everything is based on google. It’s the only major search engine. If you want to be visible, you must appear on Google searches. I’ve been somewhat lucky since I was one of the first in the field. If google didn’t rank Consumerism Commentary well, I would lose advertisers and visits which would lower my affiliate income and other income.

You don’t do much Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For newer blogs, do you think it is important to participate in SEO techniques such as keywords etc.?

Most important is to produce good contact. Next, format page so it loads fast and google likes it. But if your articles aren’t good you’re not going to get the organic growth and linking. Focus on content first as search engine traffic won’t last without good content. Partner with major sites as much as possible-if they like what you are doing, they will help you out to get the word out.

What inspired you to join the Yakezie Personal Finance Network?

Sam of Financial Samuraihas a way of capturing people’s attention. I may not agree with everything he writes but he is a force. I want to be a part of that. He’s a good presence on the internet. Finally, it’s a way for me give back and network with other bloggers.

 What tips do you have for personal finance bloggers interested in making money?

I’m not sure if my path would work today, as the internet changes rapidly, but here goes:

  • Write and write-content is king
  • Don’t consider making money until you have been blogging at least six months
  • Participate is social media; twitter, facebook etc.
  • Get eyeballs first-fortunately, advertisers love the money topic
  • Guest post-If you are a great writer, major websites are looking for writers

If you had a do-over, what would it be?

I did lots of things non-traditionally. I have a bachelors in Music education and wouldn’t change that! In general, I’m happy with my life’s path. Then I worked at a non-profit. Next, I had a financial break-down.  I began working at a financial company at the bottom and worked my way up to the middle.

My do-over would be to learn about personal finance earlier and invest earlier.  Also, I would have spent less in college.

Add to the conversation. What are your personal finance strategies, successes, or regrets? (Barb’s question)

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