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Take a Peek Behind The Curtain – See How I Write A Blog Post

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How I Write A Blog PostToday, I want to share how I write a blog post. Blogging is a big part of my early retirement life and I enjoy it. Frankly, I think all retirees should have at least one long term project that they can work on. Life would be too boring if it’s all about relaxing and doing chores. You need a reason to get out of bed. For me, that’s blogging and being a SAHD.

Blogging isn’t easy for me. I lived in the US for 32 years and my English isn’t bad, but it is my second language. I still occasionally misuse grammar in everyday conversations. In high school, English was always my weakest subject. STEM classes were my forte back then. Logical classes were easier for me. I used to hate writing essays because I wasn’t any good at it. I just wasn’t motivated to write better because could fall back on STEM.

After high school, I rarely composed an essay. I majored in engineering and students didn’t have to write much in those classes. We had to take some elective classes to round us out, but I elected to take them all pass/no pass. I did well enough to pass them. The professors probably were reluctant to fail any student that showed up.

After college, I became an engineer and rarely had to write a coherent essay. I had to give a presentation once in a while, but all the audiences were engineers. Most of them didn’t care much about grammar, sentence structure, or prose. We just need to write well enough to get the technical points across. It’s only after I started blogging that I picked up creative writing again. Blogging didn’t come naturally to me.

Stick to a schedule

When I first started blogging, I wrote 3 times per week. These posts were shorter and the quality wasn’t very high. I’m really glad I stuck with it because I’ve improved quite a bit since then. The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. These days, I write 2 posts per week. I rarely write ahead and I don’t have blog posts queued up unless I’m going on a vacation. Two posts per week is just about perfect for now. I could spend more time on each topic and also try to become a better writer. Currently, blogging requires 20 to 30 hours per week. About half of that is writing and research. The other half is spent on site maintenance, networking, and goofing off. Okay, here is my process.

Come up with a topic

Coming up with a topic can be easy or difficult. It just really depends on the mood. I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years and there are over 1,200 posts on Retire by 40. Are there even that many topics in personal finance? However, it’s been pretty easy to come up with a topic this year. I have more time to read other blogs, listen to podcasts, and hang out on social media. These all help me come up with new topic ideas. If I’m really stuck, then I could go back to the archive and rewrite a post. Most of my older posts aren’t written that well. A lot of them could use a good refresh.

I don’t write ahead, but I have a schedule spreadsheet. It looks something like this.

WW Monday Thursday
19 Generational wealth – education Why saving on little things matters
20 pension Mrs. RB40.. What was your lowest point financially?
21 Housing affordability worse Being a SAHD is easy
22 Best advice for new college grads My blogging process
23 Monthly Goals and financial update School is over update

*WW is an inside joke for the Intel folks.

When I get an idea for a topic, I write it down on this spreadsheet. If I’m not at home, then I’d send myself a message with the topic written down. It’s unbelievable how easy it is to forget an idea. If I don’t note it down right away, the idea disappears into thin air. I’m getting more forgetful as I get older.

Stew for a few days

Once I have a topic, I research the topic on the internet and think about it. There is a good amount of thinking time when you’re a stay-at-home dad so that helps. I think about the topic while I go to the gym, run errands, do chores, and drive around. This isn’t intensive concentration. It’s just pondering about the story and how I’d structure the post.

First draft

Once I have an idea of what the post will be about, then I sit down and bang out a first draft on my computer. I just put the idea down in a word document without much regard to grammar or rules. The important thing is to write it down and make a structure at this point. Usually, I don’t finish this first draft in one sitting. The first draft is interspersed with the stewing process. It usually takes me about 2 days to finish the first draft.

Edit and work on prose

Once the first draft is done, I go back and fix the grammar and work on the prose. At this point, I also try to make the post friendlier and more interesting. Personal finance can be a pretty dry subject. I try to inject some life into the post so readers don’t fall asleep at their desks.

Second edit and add links

After the first edit, I go over it again to add internal and external links. These are links to relevant posts. It will help interested readers find more things to read. Google likes this too.

Send to chief editor

Once I’ve done my best with the post, I send it to Mrs. RB40 for editing. This serves two purposes. One, she is much better than me with grammar. She’d fix any mistakes I left in the post. Two, it keeps her involved on our finances. We don’t talk about finance that often at home. Being the chief editor forces her to keep updated on our investments. Finance isn’t an interesting subject for her so she tends to gloss over it.

Create an image

While Mrs. RB40 edits, I make an image to go with the post. If it’s a post about family or something personal, then I’d try to find something in our personal photos. Otherwise, I’d search for a good cc0 image from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash. Once I find a suitable graphic, I use Canva to create an image for Pinterest and another image for Twitter/Facebook.

Last edit and formatting

Mrs. RB40 sends the post back after editing and I cut and paste it into WordPress. At this point, I review it one last time while I format the post to look good on a screen. I also insert images and other media at this time. Usually, this would be done around 10 pm the night before publishing.

Schedule blog Post for tomorrow!

The post is almost finished at this point. I just need to work on the SEO (Yoast SEO plugin.) This involves coming up with a snippet that summarizes the post for Google, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. Sometime, I need to make minor changes to the post for the search engines. Lastly, I schedule the post to publish the next morning on Retire by 40 and all the social media channels.

Whew! That’s one down. I can relax a bit before starting the next blog post.

Keep writing

Okay, I hope this post wasn’t too boring for you. Blogging is the perfect medium for me because I can go back and reedit the post as needed. Podcasting or vlogging would be much more difficult for me. You have to be spot on with your first try on those.

Anyway, I just wanted to show you that writing isn’t easy for me. I improved some and there is still a long way to go. If I can do it, anybody can. So new bloggers, don’t give up and keep at it. You’ll get better and better.

Here is an inspirational talk from Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. It’s really good. After 8 years, he was still a pretty bad reporter. It took him a lot longer than that to become a legendary broadcaster.

Do you write? Is your process as time consuming as mine?

Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. See my tutorial on How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you want to join the club. 😉

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 75 comments… add one }
  • Michael @ Financially Alert May 31, 2018, 12:39 am

    Hi Joe, as a fellow blogger, it’s nice to see your writing process. There are some things we do similar (like not writing ahead), and other things you do like using a spreadsheet that are more organized than me.

    I certainly find myself hitting ebbs and flows of wanting to write. So, I try to capitalize when it’s flowing. It’s definitely a time-consuming process to create a post with substance. For me, it typically takes a couple of days minimum. I do wish I had my wife as an editor more often! 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:20 am

      The schedule spreadsheet is really helpful. I refined it to this form recently. Previously, it was glommed into the blog cashflow spreadsheet. This way is much better.
      For me, I stick to a very rigid schedule. That way, I keep writing. If I make it more flexible, I might not stick with it. Thanks!

  • Pennypincher May 31, 2018, 1:14 am

    Wow. Interesting, as always! I follow another favorite blogger that states, “this is a lot of work folks!”
    You always find something funny to throw in. Much appreciated. All of your posts are thought provoking, relevant, informative, very helpful, and fun to read. Love following your travels and food photos! Thanks for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and life, Joe.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:22 am

      It’s work, but I get in the “flow” state easily. It’s doing something I like so it doesn’t really seem like work. Writing takes time, for sure.
      I try my best to inject some humor into every post. It’s just too dry otherwise. Thanks!

  • Half Life Theory May 31, 2018, 2:17 am

    Nice, very good to see an experienced Blogger’s writing process. I do literally almost the exact same thing. I do not write ahead, however i do have one post partially completed waiting should i ever need it. I’ve just had other ideas that interest me more that i’ve wanted to run with.

    8 years seems daunting. I’ve only been writing for a couple months, and only launched my blog about a month ago. I still have ideas pop in my head everyday, i jot them down in my iPhone note pad if i don’t have a journal with me, and then i expand on the idea later.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:23 am

      Keep at it! Make sure you see the Ira Glass video. It’s very inspiring. It takes time to get better.
      Thanks!

  • Accidental FIRE May 31, 2018, 2:21 am

    Joe, it’s amazing that you write so well in a second language. And I’ve heard how hard English is to learn since it has all sorts of illogical rules, so kudos!

    My process is kind of similar, especially with the first draft. Once or twice I’ve even spoken a first draft into Google voice when I had what I wanted to say in my head. It beats typing.

    I do some “data heavy” posts that require a lot more time, research, and spreadsheets etc. Those tend to be different animals, but I like doing them.

    Keep writing man, yours is one of the “granddaddies” of pf blogs!

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:26 am

      Thank you! I’m still not pretty dismal with conjugation. A lot of rules seem arbitrary. Thank goodness for Mrs. RB40. (I just learn that it’s “Thank goodness” and not “Thanks goodness.” Jeez, what’s the difference? 🙂
      I think typing works better for me. I envy people who can talk better. Google voice sounds like a great option for you. Thanks.

  • Firethe9to5 May 31, 2018, 2:33 am

    Thanks – this insight is useful and I suspect the comments here will be too as other people share their process.

    It’s reassuring to know other people take a lot of time over their posts. I thought I was making a bit of a meal of it to be honest, not being able to churn content out quickly so am reassured by reading this.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:28 am

      I used to spend less time on a post. When I started, blog posts used to be much shorter. I think 500 words was okay back then. Google changed the rule and deeper posts perform better on the search engine. That forced me to write longer and deeper. It was good overall because my writing improved. More time, though. Thanks!

  • Janet May 31, 2018, 2:40 am

    I like your writing, it’s so easy to follow. You’re so lucky you have someone to proofread everything for you. I try to do it myself but of course it’s much harder to catch your own mistakes!

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:29 am

      Thank you for your compliment. I know I’m really lucky. Mrs. RB40 grumbles once in a while, but she’s a good sport about it. It’s a team effort. 🙂

  • Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early May 31, 2018, 3:11 am

    My blog writing process is pretty similar to yours, except I don’t edit most of my posts, whoops. Writing has always been a strength of mine, but I’ve certainly gotten much better at writing blog posts over the last year. Like most things, you get a lot better with time and practice.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:30 am

      You’re so lucky! You can do technical and creative work.

  • caroline May 31, 2018, 3:24 am

    Thanks for sharing Joe. I can relate to the second language challenge sometimes (but you seem to have mastered that part now:)). My posts always take me a long time to write, then edit.
    What tools do you use to check for SEO?
    Caroline

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 9:31 am

      I use Yoast SEO plugin. It works pretty well. My writing improved a ton since I started blogging. That’s one great side benefit of blogging.

  • John C @ Action Economics May 31, 2018, 3:46 am

    My process isn’t as time consuming, I spend roughly 5 – 10 hours per week on my blog, but I also only post once per week. Since my work schedule is often 72 hours per week I will plan ahead and stock up posts ahead of time. I sometimes have as many as 12 posts ready to go. I also keep a spreadsheet of topics, which helps me avoid losing an idea and keeps me from posting too many similar articles in a row.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:12 pm

      That’s great! I plan to spend much less time eventually. Wow, your work schedule is pretty crazy.

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify May 31, 2018, 3:56 am

    My process is similar Joe. It’s nice you have a proof reader. I don’t want to burden Mrs. DD with it. Any particular reason you do not write ahead? I always like to have 2-5 in line and ready to go in case something comes up. Tom

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:12 pm

      I have a hard time writing ahead. It’s just a lot easier to write as I go. It’s probably just a personality thing.

  • Lazy Man and Money May 31, 2018, 4:07 am

    I have been blogging for 12 years now and I have some terrible habits that could be improved by your process. My process is, “Think of topic, write some words, hit publish.” I probably proofread about 5-10 posts a year. I am not fortunate enough to have an editor. I am extremely lucky if I can plan any of my writing in advance.

    Again, my habits are terrible. I’m going to steal that simple spreadsheet editorial calendar idea. I have a Wordpress plugin, but haven’t been able to use it consistently.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:13 pm

      I can’t do that. It’d be a mess if I don’t proofread and edit a few times. 🙂 The schedule spreadsheet is very useful. Try it out!

  • Roseanne May 31, 2018, 4:11 am

    Hi Joe,
    Fascinating! I enjoyed reading your blog post process this morning. I have been blogging just over a year and have 416 posts already (about quilting not finance!). I absolutely agree with the write the topic idea down right away or poof! it’s gone. I have several blog posts scheduled ahead because that works better for me. I’d love it if you would talk about Canva! I created one image but I can’t say the software is very intuitive. Where do you find the photos you use in Canva? Do you use the free version or have you upgraded? Thanks Joe – I enjoy your blog very much. ~smile~ Roseanne

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:15 pm

      Wow! You wrote a bunch in just one year. That’s a ton of posts. Great job.
      I get the photo from cc0 image sites. The links are in the main post. Unsplash is really good.
      I use the free version of Canva. You probably can find a tutorial online. Truthfully, my images are not that good.
      Pinterest hasn’t been that great for us.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance May 31, 2018, 5:06 am

    Sounds like a great process to me. Very logical and systematic!

    I used to churn out lots of content. But now I’m slowing down a bit since I’m running out of topics to write about and I’m also getting tired of writing.

    I came to the U.S. much later than you, and English is my second language as well. I have never liked writing. It’s something I felt like I had to do to get ahead in school.

    Now my writing process is very simple. If something makes me think about for more than a day, I will write a post about it. It’s kinda like unloading all the thoughts and emotions that I have. I will review the post once and will make a Pinterest image for it.

    Yay to PF bloggers! 😀

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:17 pm

      Your posts are long too. When I publish 3x per week, my posts were much shorter. I think they were around 500 to 800 words.
      Your English is very good. 🙂

  • Marc May 31, 2018, 5:14 am

    Thanks for sharing your process. It’s great to see how other people work. The one big thing I do differently than you is that I try to write ahead. I prefer to always have a few drafts ready to go, but that’s not always possible. When I started blogging in 2007 I had a full-time job and I would come home in the evening and have to crank out a new post pretty quickly. I didn’t like feeling the pressure of producing something quickly, so I got in the habit of working ahead.

    I always like to have a list of post ideas because ideas come at weird times, and it’s really easy to forget those ideas if I don’t write them down. Then when its time to write I always have plenty of possible topics.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:19 pm

      I worked full time when I started blogging too. I was up at 1 am to finish the post. It was tough, but I didn’t have extra time to write ahead either. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mr. AE May 31, 2018, 5:33 am

    I rarely sit down and hammer out a post in one day – my process is pretty long and I definitely “let the topic stew” after I get the outline completed. For me, it results in higher quality.

    A queue of posts sounds awesome, but it won’t be happening for me anytime soon – time is at a major premium right now and will only get worse once baby #2 comes

    I went back and looked at my old posts and they were pretty ugly, need to get out there and update them

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:20 pm

      Yes, I notice you don’t post very frequently. They are great, though. Nice job. It’s going to be tough with 2 kids. Good luck!!

  • Tawcan May 31, 2018, 6:03 am

    Ha a lot of similarities with the two of us. English isn’t my first language and I graduated university as an engineer. You are right, grammar and sentence structure aren’t as important with engineering writings, you just need to get your points across. I do think writing for a blog has given me more chances to write and express my thoughts and ideas in more artistic ways… If that makes sense.

    Ours writing process is pretty similar. I don’t usually schedule things ahead either, so with a full time job, sometimes it gets hard to write articles, given how long it takes to write one.

    Haha with the WW. I worked with Intel before and when it comes to schedule its always WW this, WW that. ?

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:21 pm

      Engineers also work with many foreign-born people. That didn’t help my English.
      Yes! Someone get the WW joke. 😀

  • Helen May 31, 2018, 6:55 am

    Joe, nice topic, thanks for sharing. Your topic and style is down-to-earth, and I have been following you probably for 5 years. Cool, you got a chief editor.

    Here is another engineer. I’m better on numbers than words. I like bullet points much more than a paragraph. Just like you, English is my 2nd language. Writing used to be my weakest link. But, I have a lot of thoughts and enjoy sharing with others. I just write whatever I’m passionate about. Once a while, my topic has nothing to do with Retire Early, and is more about life.

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:23 pm

      Mrs. RB40 is so helpful. I rarely release a post that she didn’t go over. She’s the best.
      I never liked bullet points that much. Now I prefer paragraphs a lot more. It’s more fun to write creatively.
      I write about various topics too. It’s not good to limit yourself to just a few topics. You’ll burn out..

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene May 31, 2018, 7:27 am

    Do these things ever cut in line? I get new topics and that I’m just like… WHAM! You got to hit publish on this! *Cuts in line* x10 and then I’m 4 weeks late on something that should have been published last month. (Like financial updates…….)

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:25 pm

      Yes, I rearrange the schedule all the time. Sometimes a topic just wants to cut ahead. 🙂
      Financial updates are rigid for me, though. I need to get those out on time.

  • Susan @ FI Ideas May 31, 2018, 7:38 am

    Your Ira Glass video is a good example of the process you lay out here in the post. It is a helpful link and example that you’ve found, probably after your first draft. For me as a new blogger, and uncertain about whether to continue on, your post and the video are very good windows into the process of successful creators. I realize that my own taste in this topic makes me picky about my own posts. I know they could be better, but as a result, I’m only managing to produce one every few weeks or a month.

    My most deliberate practice is actually in commenting. I try to read a lot of good blogs, like yours, and put in my two cents, which helps build my skill of writing and thinking. If I’m doing well, I try to come up with a clever headline for a tweet. Let’s see how I do!

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:28 pm

      That video is great. I love it. You have to keep producing so you’ll get better. Greatness comes slowly to most of us.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Xrayvsn May 31, 2018, 7:57 am

    Thanks for sharing some of your process. I just started my own blog after years of tossing it around in my head and I have to say that there is so much that goes behind the scenes. I really took for granted what a blogger did to provide content for me to read each day. I realize now that a 4-5 min read literally takes 4-5 hours (at least for me it does).

    When I finally made the commitment to start a blog (when I actually paid money for a domain/host site) that night I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep and would have all sorts of topics float in my head on what I should write. Luckily I had my phone next to me and jotted down every idea (when I woke up I had about 35 topics).

    I wanted to launch my site to coincide with my 47th birthday (4/23) and basically had about 2 weeks to fine tune the site and write the posts (when I published I believe I had 30 posts already made and lined up in cue).

    I am sticking to the 2x/wk schedule as well (Tues/Thurs) because it gives me a little breather in case I do get behind on other life’s adventures. As of know I am scheduled out to the end of Nov as is so I have a pretty good buffer.

    Definitely been an amazing experience so far and the discussions with the commentators is probably the highlight of my efforts (it certainly isn’t the financial compensation which as a physician I could probably earn reading one CT scan).

    • retirebyforty May 31, 2018, 2:29 pm

      You’re doing really well. Just stick with it. I can tell you’re still trying to find your voice. You’ll get better and better at this.
      Did you see Ira’s video the whole way through? It’s really good.

      • Xrayvsn June 1, 2018, 9:18 am

        Thanks Joe. That video actually was pretty inspiring/encouraging to continue the process. It definitely gives me hope.

    • David @ VapeHabitat July 21, 2018, 11:02 am

      The schedule is the most hard-to-do for me. On my blog, I try to stick to it as hard as I can, but I’d rather say I fail on a schedule not succeed.

  • Mr. Enchumbao May 31, 2018, 8:02 am

    Hi Joe,
    This is a very interesting post and your process sounds a lot like mine. English is also my second language and the fact that there’s a third language in the house and we watch Korean dramas (fourth language), doesn’t it make any easier. LOL
    I have reviewed and try to work out different blogging templates but I end up going back to what works for me. Since I always have my phone nearby, any time an idea comes up I jot it down in Google Docs and start writing. My most creative time for writing is at 5-8 in the morning and if I don’t have a post that I’m working on by then it’s hard to begin writing for the rest of the day.
    Mrs. Enchumbao edits my work for the same reasons you mentioned above. Since our finances are mostly on autopilot, we don’t talk much about it and that way she stays informed. I don’t blog regularly since I’m still working and other priorities (some we’re keeping a secret until the fall) take most of our time but I can see myself blogging more often after early retirement for as long as I continue to enjoy it.

    • retirebyforty June 1, 2018, 9:00 am

      You write on your phone? That sounds tough. I can barely make a coherent Twitter post. 🙂
      I heard some people write better in the morning. That’s great. You get it out of the way.
      I usually write when my kid is at school. That works really well because nobody is home to bother me.
      Editing is okay at night. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire May 31, 2018, 8:48 am

    Nice one, Joe! I’m sure I missed this from prior posts, but it’s cool to hear how long you’ve been in the U.S.

    It’s cool to hear how your process goes in writing . There are parts that are obviously similar and different for all of us.

    I’m constantly adding ideas to a note in Google Keep – that way I can also reach for my phone when I get an “ah-a” moment in the middle of the night. It’s usually a topic with a few bullet point ideas.

    Then I skim through that list throughout the week to see what strikes my fancy and try to get it in WordPress. I use the editor in there for my writing which I guess is not necessarily the norm based on people I’ve talked to! But I try to at least get started on things in there. Before I get anything really rolling, I use the Google Keyword Planner to figure out a little bit of how this might be able to work with SEO.

    Unfortunately, my boss doesn’t seem to want me writing blog posts at work and before I know it, it’s usually the weekend before I get to really work on the bulk of it. I just go to town typing until the motivation dips. That’s when I step away from that and get to work on Canva before going back and finishing the post.

    I read the post from start to finish to find mistakes. Then I run it through Word’s spelling/grammar check and then through Grammarly’s. Feeling confident, I schedule it for Tuesday morning (usually the night before!). Regardless of all the checking, my brother then reads the post that morning and starts texting me spelling/grammatical errors… doh! 🙂

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty June 1, 2018, 9:04 am

      Thanks for sharing. I should use the Keyword planner more. But I feel like that will interfere with my creative process. Usually, I just write and then try to make the headline more eye-catching later.
      I write in MS Words. That works for me because it’s easy to send to Mrs. RB40 for editing.
      Grammarly is very helpful. I just installed it.

  • Mr. Tako May 31, 2018, 8:55 am

    Interesting post Joe. Do the sausage eaters really want to know how the sausage is made? I’m curious about how this post is going to go.

    I have a similar process for my own blog, but lack any kind of editor. Typically I’ll write a post in a couple sittings. Then I’ll go work on something else to “refresh my mind” and come back to edit later. This helps, but I still miss minor issues all the time.

    It’s frustrating. That video you embedded really resonated with me.

    • retirebyforty June 1, 2018, 9:05 am

      This post seems to be working pretty well. It’s really more for my kid and people who are curious about blogging. I know most of the comments are from bloggers, but they are just a tiny fraction of our readers. I try to write for the regular readers first.
      The video is great. I’m glad I found it. There are other parts to this video too.

  • Emilia May 31, 2018, 8:55 am

    hi there- thanks for the great post. can you tell us what else you do in order to optimize your content/SEO? How important have you found SEO efforts to be in your blogging?

    Thanks!

    • retirebyforty June 1, 2018, 9:07 am

      I use Yoast SEO plugin. I have no idea how important SEO is. The headline and the summary for Google is very important. I don’t think the other stuff is a huge deal, but it doesn’t take much time.

  • david Michael May 31, 2018, 9:19 am

    Thanks for posting your writing process Joe.

    After I retired, I went back to school and got a master’s in ESL (English as a Second Language), age 65. My first career was teaching chemistry and oceanography in college but I had a great background in English because the Jesuit High School I attended in D.C. demanded excellent writing skills. Consequently, after Latin for four years and Ancient Greek for two, we were assigned a writing project every weekend for four years. Gotta admit that it wasn’t fun at the time with three hours homework every night, but I learned the ins and outs of English Grammar and Composition. So, by the time I reached 65 after ten years of retirement, I looked around for a retirement career. After teaching Business, ESL, and Chemistry at our local community college for a few years part-time, I found ESL was the most fun. Thus, the decision to spend $30,000 for graduate school back East and get a Master’s in ESL. One of the best decisions and investments I ever made. Totally enjoyed teaching at univertsities in the Middle East and travelling in Europe on vacations. Only downside was most colleges stopped hiring at age 70.

    I find your writing as inviting, fun, and informative. Yes! There are a few common errors that crop up dealing with singular vs. plural, and verb tenses, but mostly great writing. Most importantly, you have the energy and willpower to keep plowing along week after week. One of the great differences with our generations is that blogs reach out to teach people of many different backgrounds the reality of finance and strategies that work or not. Wish I had known how powerful DGI (Dividend Growth Investing) was when I was in my 20’s. It’s great to see and read first hand how a Middle Class family can start with few assets and become a millionaire in 20 years. So…keep up the good work. Love your blog! Bravo!

    • retirebyforty June 1, 2018, 9:11 am

      Thank you for sharing. It’s very interesting to hear about your ESL experience. I’d like to try volunteering with ESL someday too. It sounds fulfilling.
      The verb tenses are very tricky for me. We don’t have that in Thai. It’s mostly contextual.
      Thank you!

  • Chris Urbaniak @ deliberatechange.ca May 31, 2018, 10:04 am

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for sharing your process. I love the opening honesty about goofing off!

    Seriously, though, it’s nice to compare your and my processes. We do many things similarly, and some things differently. For example, I also keep a running spreadsheet of ideas, and send myself a note if I’m out and come up with a new one. I also start writing in Word. I don’t have a separate proofreader, though.

    It’s also interesting to see how the process changes as we become more efficient. I’ve become much more better at converting from Word to WP, adding photos, etc.

    Are there any specific things you do now in your process that are markedly more efficient than when you started out?

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2018, 9:21 pm

      Like you mentioned. I’m better at getting things over to WP.
      I’m also much faster with finding and making images. That used to take a ton of time. There are more cc0 images now so that makes it a lot easier.

  • Felipe May 31, 2018, 10:09 am

    Definitely interesting post. I’d never have guessed English isn’t your first language. You write very well and come up with fresh topics.
    Spanish for me will always be my second language. I use it for work, spoken and written, but I’m never as comfortable as I am in English. An Irish friend says the same for French, and he lives in Paris for years. I still live in the US so am not immersed completely.
    I love to write and perhaps I will consider a blog when I retire. My personal mission is financial literacy, lately talking to people on the new tax law and that they may not be getting to write off mortgage interest for 2018 unless they have a ton of it. If I understand correctly it may be better to mortgage a rental property and pay off the primary residence. I’m not sure all the nuances of the new tax code are being emphasized in articles I’m reading.
    Thanks for the post, and you give me good ideas of what to do at FIRE.

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2018, 9:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing. Taxes are very tricky. Usually, I just wait for the new tax software. The changes will be tough to process next year.

  • Doc G May 31, 2018, 10:31 am

    We all have our process. I have to write everyday. Not because I want to produce a blog or because I want my site to be popular. I just have a drive to create something everyday. Often topics come to my head and I just have to go and write them down on paper. Other times I have to really think about what I want to write.
    Like you, my first draft is usually horrible grammar and word choice. I like to add images and links last to.
    Fun post!

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2018, 9:24 pm

      That’s neat. Writing sounds like a good outlet for you.

  • Millionaire Doc May 31, 2018, 5:53 pm

    Thanks Joe. I am the same in that I don’t write ahead. I also have to jot down ideas when I get inspired because they are fleeting and I’ll forget them two minutes later. I don’t have anyone to edit so I just do the best I can. The final touches like SEO, pics, links take quite a bit of time too. Thanks for pulling back the curtain and showing us behind the scenes.

  • David @iretiredyoung June 1, 2018, 1:04 am

    Did you say “I hope this post wasn’t too boring”? No, it’s definitely not…completely the opposite, really interesting to see the process that you go through. I’ve picked up some tips from it, so thanks for those.

  • WTK June 1, 2018, 7:32 pm

    Hi RB40,

    You made an effort in making the posts interesting. Kudos to you.

    I think that it takes time and effort to make the post interesting and relevant to the readers. You are right to state that the tone of the write-up also plays a part in making the reader want to read more on the details of the posts.

    WTK

  • Sharon June 1, 2018, 11:06 pm

    I was worried there for a moment when I saw the column heading WW, thinking that you still used work weeks to track your schedule, but I’m happy to see it was a joke 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2018, 9:25 pm

      Heh heh. WW is just an easy way to label the weeks. 🙂

  • Your Money Blueprint June 2, 2018, 1:28 am

    Hi Joe – thanks for sharing your process. It is good to learn from the pros 🙂 I’m only 1 month in and the consistency in scheduling you have kept to is inspiring. Despite so many posts, they are still as interesting as ever.

  • FIRECracker June 2, 2018, 6:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your writing process! I’m totally with you on the “write on a schedule” advice. Without it, you’ll just wait for inspiration to strike and we all know that’s not reliable.

    Like you, English is also my second language. Took me a while to figure it out, but when I did, writing because my passion and far exceeded my interest in STEM. And so ditching writing to become an Engineer was a pretty difficult choice, but one that I don’t regret because no way I would’ve been able to pay the bills if I’d become an author first. We have a joke in the writing community “Q: what’s the difference between a bench and a writer?” “A: a bench can support a family.”

    I’m so glad you mention Ira Glass because he was a major inspiration when I was learning how to write. This is my favourite quote from him:

    “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit..”

    It’s really hard to explain “taste” to someone who hasn’t developed it yet, but basically I see it as experience. We only get better as we write more and gain experience.

    Glad you stuck with it even though writing wasn’t your passion!

    • retirebyforty June 2, 2018, 9:28 pm

      Right, I wouldn’t be able to stick with it if I don’t have a schedule.
      It’s really neat to hear that writing is your passion. And you get to do it now. That’s awesome.
      I don’t regret being an engineer either. It was a good run and I was able to save up.
      I hope you saw the whole 5 minutes. That quote is good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
      The real message is to produce a huge volume of work. You’ll get better at it. I’m sure you know that already. 🙂

  • GYM June 4, 2018, 10:30 am

    Thanks for sharing your thought process, Joe! Hey, you’ve probably spent over 10,000 hours writing and blogging, and you know what they say (Malcolm Gladwell’s books) that the key to expertise is 10,000 hours of honing your craft.

    Have you tried downloading “Grammarly”? It is a free download onto your browser and it is AMAZINGLY helpful for my spelling and grammar issues. I saw these ads on Youtube for it and downloaded it and so far it’s been very helpful.

    • retirebyforty June 4, 2018, 1:05 pm

      I’m probably close to 10,000 hours. 🙂
      Yes, I just got Grammarly. It’s very useful. Thanks!

  • Steveark June 5, 2018, 7:25 am

    I only post about once a week but I have no schedule partly because I’ll never monetize the blog, it is just for fun. I keep a Word document full of ideas for future posts and it always has twenty or thirty on there that I could write on at any time but usually something new will come to me and I’ll just start writing. I almost always write it in one burst, might take thirty minutes or maybe an hour at most then I’ll save the file and come back to it the next day or a few days later and make one pass through it revising and adding to it. Then I’ll preview it on the site and do one or two final passes for grammar and punctuation, I’m pretty good at spotting errors. I am also an engineer but I was a non typical engineer who also served as the spokesman for my company and even my entire industry at times so I gave a lot of public speeches and wrote my share of Op Ed’s. I reviewed the work of lots of engineers in my day job and they typically do not write well, you are an exception to that rule! Your posts are excellent.

    • retirebyforty June 5, 2018, 8:32 am

      Thank you for sharing your process. It sounds like you don’t need to spend a lot of time on the first draft. That’s great! It usually takes me 3-5 hours to complete a good first draft. Some posts are easier than others, of course. I think my writing has improved a lot. It was terrible when I was an engineer. Thanks for the compliment!

  • Airman Duffle June 8, 2018, 4:20 pm

    I send myself ideas throughout the day then sit with them at night and expand on one. My blog is fairly new so I’m presently focusing on getting some content out for readers while I work on larger posts for the future, on the side.

  • Get Rich Brothers June 9, 2018, 11:54 am

    Hi RB40,

    Thanks for sharing your post. I like to try to hammer out a post all at once, but that often depends on the level of research I’ve done in advance. If it’s going to be a very in-depth post, I do as you said and spend considerable time ahead of time researching and jotting notes as I decide on structure.

    Very informative and great to see behind the curtain of a fellow blogger.

    Take care,
    Ryan

  • Drew July 2, 2018, 8:37 pm

    Thank you! This is helpful to see. 20 to 30 hours a week…wow! I feel much better now. I thought I was slow but that is just how much it takes. Good stuff. Thanks for the transparency.

    • retirebyforty July 4, 2018, 7:46 am

      Blogging takes a lot more time than I thought too. I’m cutting back to about 10 hours/week this summer. It’s working out really well personally, but traffic is down. I’ll get back to working more once school starts. 🙂

  • Eric @ Flip N' Finances July 21, 2018, 4:19 pm

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for this. I’ve been writing blog posts for a while and this definitely gives me more ideas. I definitely agree that you should ponder the topic and then bust out a first draft while you’re in a groove and then come back to it. Personal finance blogging is so awesome because we learn by writing, enjoy it (hopefully), and can even make money from this hobby 🙂

    ~Eric

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