Doing Blogging Wrong or Going for a Dream and Failing

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Graffiti, Nantes, 2015

Graffiti, Nantes, 2015

$279 for three months. This is my last hosting bill. It takes me until January 31, 2017.

That night, a few weeks ago, when I finally decided to click on the “renew” button, I felt like a complete idiot. This little side project of mine is costing me money. And not just a couple of bucks per month, but actual money in real capitalist-free-world US dollars.

Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around, i.e. getting paid for blogging? Where is my side income, where are my blogging perks? Where is my success?

And why am I paying so much for hosting, you may legitimately wonder in the first place?

My hosting fees have been slowly creeping up for a few years. I used to be on a shared plan, but traffic went up and eventually, I was using too much resources for this kind of entry-level plan. I moved on to another hosting company, hoping I’d be fine with their cheapest plan, a few dollars per month. I wasn’t. Again, I—or rather, the traffic I was getting—was consuming too much resources. So I moved onto a virtual private server and hosting fees went up. Then I had to buy more CPU and more RAM, again bumping up the bill.

Over the summer, I investigated various options. What could I do on the technical side to reduce my impact on the world wide web? I won’t bore you with the details, but I added a cache, optimized the pictures and set up a plugin that ban IPs using brute force to crack my password—yes, there are hackers who dedicate their efforts to no-name blogs like mine. Crazy, I know.

I also researched various hosting plans and companies but the price range for what I needed was consistent. Alternative suggestions involved a lot of technical work on my side and frankly, I don’t have the skills nor the time to fully manage my own server, I need to rely on a good hosting company.

It came down to either paying hosting fees and keeping the blog online or just giving up on ten years of blogging.

I didn’t want to stop blogging. Like millions of people, I love writing and it’s just more fun when another lost soul, next door or across an ocean, read your words. I’m not competitive enough to even consider using another medium than my own blog—I won’t be a published writer because I don’t even have the guts to submit anything in the first place. I’m realistic enough to know I won’t be “discovered” and I don’t sit at Starbucks with my laptop drafting the next great Canadian novel.

I just write articles and hit publish, hoping that someone will enjoy them.

I get traffic, so some people must.

Is this a good enough reason to keep this costly side project of mine alive?

I firmly believe that not everything in life is supposed to be profitable. Sometimes, it’s good to do things because you want to, because it feels right, without expecting anything in return, whether it’s monetary gain or fame. We live in a society where we are coached on how to live, how to make money and how to behave as if life had a secret code to crack. Fuck this. Take a chance, and see what happens, once in a while. Do things for fun or just for the sake of doing it, because we are humans are this things-doing business is giving us a purpose in life as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Of course, this comes from someone who made many impractical choices in life—a degree in Chinese studies instead of a practical MBA, a freelance business instead of the well-paid government job I had, a Chinese husband instead of a monsieur français. Yeah, maybe taking the highway instead of the picturesque detour would have made my life easier.

Blogging is not a paid gig. I knew that. After all, I enjoy people’s writing for free as well when I browse the web and read bloggers and journalists who put their work online for us all to enjoy. Paying for blogging? I have to be honest, even after this hosting bill, I can still afford Mark’s Oreos and Goldfish crackers. Yet, part of me wonders how other bloggers land gigs or get awesome perks like nights in fancy hotels or plane tickets in business class while I’m stuck with Russian spammers.

I know. The world doesn’t owe me anything.

I should have marketed myself. I should have followed best practices in terms of SEO, like using consistent keywords, delivering short to-the-point messages. Be more present on social media. Write newsletters. Analyze stats and develop traffic building strategies.

I’m sure these tips work for a company website, but that’s the issue—I’m not a company. I’m just a girl with a laptop. I’m not selling anything and I’m not even sharing anything special or newsworthy other than the terribly mundane things that connect us as human beings—life experiences, feelings, trials and mistakes, successes and failures.

I’m just not marketable—at least not until a company trademarks human life.

In a way, this blog was—mostly subconsciously—my best shot at a piece of the American dream. You know the taglines and the script, “go big or go home”, the bum who became a millionaire, the nobody who became someone. Except that behind each success, there is a lot of work. And maybe I didn’t work hard enough to become a modest success.

In the meantime, I’m that cliché of a wannabe writer with poor marketing skills and a hope for fame and success.

I think I failed at some point but I’m not sure how or when. Now, do I whine like a French or fight like a North American?

I’m confused.

I did charge the hosting bill on my credit card—that’s a Canadian move, for sure.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

31 Comments

  1. Oh oh, this hosting charge is way too much for my taste. I pay 69 euros a year with Infomaniak, and I’m so happy with the service they provide, and especially (which is more important to me), their liability. No cuts. No technical stuff to do.
    It’s a damn expensive hobby, at that cost!
    Just be the way you are. Success maybe doesn’t come with numbers or even money. As long as you have FUN writing, that’s the only personnal scale you should have (I think).

    • I remember checking out Infomaniak last summer, when I asked around for recommendation. They seem to charge about (e)40 a month for cloud servers (which I what I need based on traffic). It’s a bit cheaper but I was afraid support may be harder to reach with Sunday off and the time difference :-/

      • Hmmm of course I get that. Though what I was to say is that Infomaniak has a top notch service and in my mind you’d never need support. I never needed it and most of the people I know that use them as a provider (even with a cloud server) never needed it. It’s always scary to change providers though, and be realizing that all the effort doesn’t worth it but I’m always looking for the perfect alternative! 🙂

  2. Hi zhu.. i too wouldn’t have imagined blogging costs you so much. As a reader i only knew that when traffic is high bloggers get paid. I assume same with youtube. But looks like the reality is different. I really wish for you that you get to enjoy some perks and the fruits of the efforts that you put into maintaining a blog moreover for your amazing style of writing!!

    Keep it going !! May be think of it as sowing season, Very soon probably the next hour you get the opportunity to harvest you never know 😉

    • Ah, thank you for sending some luck my way!

      I think most bloggers make very little money. You have to make a conscious effort to monetize your blog for it to be worthwhile, and I didn’t really market mine.

  3. Martin Penwald on

    Hem, no success is not the result of hard work. It is more than often due to inheritance or luck. Hard work doesn’t pay.
    Exemple : how Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg get wealthy?
    Gates got picked by IBM because they needed an operating system for a personal computer they didn’t believe in. They were wrong and offer a captive market to Microsoft.
    Musk got his company PayPal bought at a high price by a big player. He just was part of a team that develop the right application at the right moment.
    Same thing for Zuckerberg.
    And Gates is not said to have been the most dedicated worker, just ask Peter Allen.

    And think of Lagardère, Dassault, Trump : all heirs of big fortunes. If hard workers were getting rich, the guys who wake up early to sell newspapers on sunday morning at traffic lights in Houston under a crushing sun would be millionnaires.

  4. I think if you have a large audience, that means you are marketable. If you do want to monetize your blog, you’ve done the most important part already– building up a lot of quality content and a large following. Doesn’t mean it’ll be worth the time to do it, but if you wanted to I think you’re in a better position than people whose end goal is making money from their blog but haven’t built up what you have over the years.

    Maybe you should have included your own letter to Santa with Mark’s? 😉

  5. I never thought blogging could be so pricey.
    But I think I’ve said this in my previous comment, I do enjoy your writing and even all the comments. You and your readers had really broaden my horizon. the quote I read “Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours bla bla…that is how you see the world” …. is so true.

    well, I ‘ll ask it again, why don’t you try to publish your travelling story?

    PS : I’ll be flying to Bali next month on CNY holiday! See you there? It will be still cold in Ottawa, right? :))

  6. WoW, I’m glad that my blog does not get much traffic. I only pay about 80€ a year for a few domains, and hosting.

    I guess the only way to make money blogging is to become some sort of guru. A guru that knows the 5 things that you absolutely need, the 10 tips you would never believe are true, etc. The type of articles that are not interesting to write as a storyteller.

    If you are dead serious about making money, I guess you could contact immigration lawyers, French businesses or exotic supermarkets to ask them if they would like to put an ad on your blog. I think it would pay more than the ads you have.

    • I really lack many qualities needed to be a guru, including the ability to BS people 😆

      Maybe I should investigate possible partnerships again. It’s just not my thing… It’s hard to be a writer and a marketing specialist for oneself. I can market another company, just not my writing.

  7. Yikes! That’s so expensive! No suggestions on how to get the bill down on the one.

    But I must say that I love your blog. So many blogs today are all about the clicks and traffic and only pretend to be helpful. Some even sound like they’re just flat out marketing to you even if they claim to be a personal blog. Or some people just come on as plain fake.

    • Clickbait and “empty” blogs or websites drive me crazy. I actually feel sorry for anyone has to come up with content just for the sake of it, without passion or meaning :-/

      (and thank you!)

  8. Hi Zhu, maybe you could start having advertisements on your site. We will all just click, and for every click you will get something. With high traffic maybe you could break even.

  9. This has come as a surprise! I really thought that with the amount of posting you do, and I suspect the a lot of traffic (considering number of comments), there was some sort of return on the investment. Even if blogging is not your mains source of income, there should be a way for you not to pay so much for your blog! (I wish I could help you with info, but I am obviously not the right person for that considering my blogging experience is only occasional, at best). 🙂

    • No help needed, this was just something I wanted to write about, but I’m not asking anyone to help out 🙂 I guess I like to destroy people’s dream… nope, blogging isn’t a great source of income 😆

  10. These kind of posts make me feel guilty for having AdBlock and not seeing the ads, let alone click on them :/
    One of the reasons I don’t have a stand-alone blog is that I don’t want to / can’t afford to (really) to pay for it. Yes I do enjoy writing on my blog, but I’m not quite ready to pay for the privilege.
    I understand your conundrum though. Wish I could help!
    I think to monetarize a blog is harder that it’s made out to be, especially since you don’t write about makeup / clothing / parenting products which all seem to be popular sponsored items…
    I do enjoy reading you though and I really do try to avoid heavily marketed blogs…. I like more authenticity

    • Oh, don’t feel guilty! I have Ad-Block as well. I white list many websites but I suck at clicking on ads. It’s a flawed model anyway. Ultimately, I’d rather have real readers who take the time to comment and chat than people who click on ads 😉

  11. Wow, $279 is too much for this blog alone.

    Have you considered WordPress.com paid hosting [1]. They have plans from $3/month onward. I see three limitations with WP:

    1. You’re limited to themes they have
    2. You can’t run ads
    3.Can’t run plugins

    #1 doesn’t seem to be a bummer as there are lot of free themes available that you may like, also there is are many paid (premium) themes as well.

    #2 I see that you run ads here from the side bar but I can’t see them because they are blocked in my hosts file; running ads may not be possible with WP, however, they have WordAds, their own ad platform (but only for $8/month plan), they don’t allow any other ad platforms like Google Adsense. If you don’t get much from the ads it is better to turn them off for $3/month hosing fee.

    From my understanding the bandwidth is unlimited [2] which is a plus you don’t have to ever worry about memory or bandwidth they will take care of everything.

    [1] https://wordpress.com/pricing/

    [2] https://en.support.wordpress.com/space-upgrade/

    • Hi,

      Thank you for your input! Unfortunately, after eleven years of blogging, moving back to WordPress.com would be a major hassle. I do use numerous plugins and I have a customized theme I love. Ultimately, it’s a solution, but a last-resort one in my case. It’s a best option for starting blogs 🙂

  12. This sounds like me. I started out with high ideals but at some point I fell short and stopped trying. But I keep going because I enjoy it. That is all.

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