The highlights for me and the blog over the last 12 months.
As has now become tradition, I use Be Clever With Your Cash’s birthday as a chance to share with you the good and the bad from the last year.
I rarely write about “blogging” itself or the challenges of running my own business, so also it’s a good opportunity for me to reflect on how things have gone and give you a bit of an insight into what happens behind the scenes.
Plus, I’d really appreciate it if you can fill in my annual survey so I can get your feedback on everything I do.
It’s been a pretty big year for me. Though I quit my job at the Money Advice Service in May 2018, I immediately went on to work at least two days a week on Shop Smart Save Money on Channel 5 for just over a year. So it wasn’t until that finished last summer that I was finally 100% self-employed.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, but when it happened I actually found it really overwhelming. I’d put off so many ideas and tasks until I had more time that when that time finally came I had a bit of paralysis in terms of what to actually do. Which meant I didn’t actually do anything new!
Fortunately, that only lasted a few weeks after I realised I still couldn’t do everything I wanted. So I focused instead on kick-starting my Cash Chats podcast and YouTube channel which had both taken a back seat during filming (more on those later).
I still don’t have enough time to do everything I want, but I’m really enjoying the ability to help you all as well as reach new people via these other formats.
There have been other challenges too. I’m essentially on my own in my basement office five days a week, so I do miss having colleagues around me. One thing that’s helped is a weekly video chat with some of my fellow money bloggers from my UK Money Bloggers community, many of whom are in the same boat.
But there are good things too. I love that I’m not constrained by working 9-5, or Monday to Friday. I’ve been playing tennis twice a week in the day and (despite how expensive my local David Lloyd club is) it’s the highlight of my week. I occasionally let myself sneak out to the cinema too!
My focus, of course, has been the blog itself, and it’s gone really well – though it’s not always been a certainty!
Most of my traffic comes from Google searches, which can be quite unpredictable. Every month or so Google releases an “algorithm update”, which (in theory) makes the search results better for everyone. As someone who runs a website these changes can actually be a little scary.
I’ve had months where previously popular posts have lost most of their traffic after an update, followed by them regain much of what they lost with a later change.
It’s frustrating, and particularly hard to keep on top of this as a lone blogger when you’re competing for the top results with massive publishers backed by team’s who’s only job is “Search Engine Optimisation”, aka SEO.
But even with these ups and downs, pages on the blog have been viewed just under 1.6 million times in the last year, with November getting 179,000 odd views – both best-ever figures since I started.
And obviously that all adds up. In a few weeks time, Be Clever With Your Cash will have been visited by its 4th million person since it launched. When I started the blog I never imagined I could help this many people.
It’s impossible to know if every person has taken some action after they’ve read something I’ve written, and the amount they’ve saved or made as a result. But I like to think everyone one of them has saved at least £1. Just a quid.
I think that’s more than fair seeing as I’ve shared dozens of ways you can save hundreds of pounds over the years. And that means the blog has helped save the UK £4 million. At least!
The blog also picked up Best Personal Finance Blog and was chosen as runner-up for Best Money Saving Blog and Article of the Year at the 2019 SHOMOs.
I’m probably most proud of Cash Chats in the last 12 months. Though I started it three years ago, this year was the first time I really felt I knew what it was and who it was for.
Part of that was realising that it is its own thing with its own audience. Yes I’m sure of you regular readers also listen to the podcast, but many people are coming to the podcast without even knowing about the blog.
I’ve also been more committed to getting an episode out every week, and as a result the listenership has grown since the relaunch in July. I’m not quite sure how the Apple podcasts charts work, but it’s also peaked at number 20 in the Business chart and number 5 in the investing chart (even though it’s not about investing!).
There’s been wider recognition too, receiving recommendations as one of the best money podcasts by Good Housekeeping, the ‘i’ and Stylist, as well as featuring in Apple Podcasts’ “Be A Better You” curation.
To cap it all off, it was awarded Best Money Podcast at the 2019 SHOMO awards in September, beating some excellent and well-established shows.
If you’ve not listened to Cash Chats before you can stream or download it here.
TV and YouTube
My Channel 5 series Shop Smart Save Money returned for another eight episodes last summer. It was such a privilege to work on this show, in particular getting to meet different families who really needed my help.
I really think we made some great TV, and I was delighted to be shortlisted for Financial Broadcaster of the Year at the 2019 Headlinemoney awards for the work on the show. I’m hoping I’ll be back on your screens soon (any TV producers are welcome to get in touch!)
In the meantime I’ve been upping my game on the videos I make at home for the blog and my YouTube channel. Previously I’d just used my phone, but this summer I invested in a decent camera, microphone, lights and even some fancy furniture for a nice background.
It’s hard work growing the YouTube channel – like the podcast it seems it’s a different audience again – and I’m still learning. It certainly takes up a lot of my time! But once more I’ve seen some really strong progress.
The big editorial change I’ve made from previous videos is the move from short two or three-minute clips to videos that last 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve always been someone who prefers to read an article, but it’s good to be able to help those who prefer to watch.
If you haven’t already, please do subscribe, and hit the thumbs up button or comment on any videos you watch – it all helps.
New this year has also been a special “deals of the week” video every Thursday morning for social media, which allows me to talk a bit more about the offers I feature in the weekly newsletter. You can watch follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you want to catch it.
My annual survey
It’s so important to me that any content I produce for you is what you actually want to read, hear or watch. So please do take a few minutes to answer this short survey.