Can you make a good living from blogging? Last week I shared the inside scoop on How Much Money I Make from Blogging. This week, I’m showing a different perspective.
Please welcome Mara Strom, the blogger behind Kosher on a Budget. Over the past 2.5 years, Mara has built up one of the most popular independent blogs in the Jewish world, and a good source of Parnasa for her family.
I first met Mara in Rebbetzin Rubin’s chumash class at Midreshet Rachel in Jerusalem more than a decade ago. It was fun to reconnect with her and hear about her journey as a blogger.
In this interview, Mara gives the real story on what it takes to build a blog as a successful business. I think her insights are spot on! Enjoy!
Naomi: Hi Mara!
Mara: Hi Naomi
Welcome to My Parnasa: The Jewish Business Blog. Please begin by telling us a bit about your blog and what makes it special.
Kosher on a Budget occupies the intersection between frugality and Jewish living. There are thousands (if not tens of thousands) of frugal blogs and hundreds (if not thousands) of Jewish blogs. But Kosher on a Budget is one of the only ones that straddles both niches.
In addition to its unique real estate, Kosher on a Budget has been blessed with an amazing community of readers. On Facebook and on the blog, readers share generously with each other – and with me.
How long did you work on your blog before you knew for sure that it was going to be a success?
My expectations have grown as the blog has grown. So, my definition of success has evolved, too. Two and a half years ago, when I started Kosher on a Budget, I thought it would be cool if I could help a few people cut their grocery budget and save some money.
Today it’s more like tens of thousands of people – but the goal of helping them save more and live better has not changed.
Did you ever think about giving up?
I’ve never considered quitting the blog. I love what I do – and while balancing it all can be challenging, I feel fortunate to be right where I am.
How much do you work on your blog?
Kosher on a Budget is my full-time job. It didn’t start out this way, of course, but has grown into that over time.
Today, I work on my blog at least 40 hours a week — from writing posts, to managing the social media channels, to all sorts of behind-the-scenes administrative tasks.
How much do you earn from your blog?
I didn’t monetize the blog at first, but once I did, I’ve seen a steady growth in income, primarily from advertising networks, affiliate links and private ads.
After about a year, that income was enough to completely replace the part-time freelance writing work I had been doing. Over the past sixteen months, my income from the blog has continued to grow, in step with my readership and reach.
Do you think that you owe your success to your niche, since it is relatively commercial?
I know that most of your readers probably aren’t thinking about starting a frugal blog, but for anyone who may think this is a get-rich-quick scheme, I would say: Think again. The competition is fierce. There are thousands of blogs in this niche right now and to stand out, you need to differentiate yourself in some significant way. I think the vast majority of success that KOAB has had is thanks to timing, positioning, voice and, frankly, luck — not the niche.
What other benefits has blogging brought you?
Blogging, like any work-at-home job, affords me a lot more flexibility than an office job. For example, we decided this year to homeschool our children. Blogging allows me to be home with them – fitting in math lessons between posts about Amazon deals.
Beyond that, though, the blog has become a platform, through which I can connect with people all over the world. I have the rare opportunity to not just help people score a few great deals, but also to see their finances in a whole new way.
My husband and I had been though the money gauntlet. Five years ago, we were buried in debt. We crawled our way out of that hole – and today are happily debt-free. I made the decision early on to share our story on the blog. It was rather frightening to be that transparent, but my husband and I both felt that it was worth it if it could help people.
There can be tremendous shame, guilt and secrecy surrounding debt and financial mismanagement. I wanted people to know that they aren’t alone – whether they are at with their finances.
What are the most common mistakes that you see bloggers making, which undermines their success?
Online success means different things to different people. You can have a blog with only a few readers but still have tremendous impact on those readers’ lives. I’d call that a success.
You can have a blog that earns a ton of money, but hate what you do.
Does your blog help people, materially or spiritually? Do you find fulfillment in your job? Do your readers value your opinion and trust your advice? These things can indicate success just as strongly as your bank account.
Am I grateful that I can earn money from Kosher on a Budget? Of course – it’s what allows me to do it full-time!
But, the best way I measure success is by staying true to who I am. That means writing about what matters to me in a manner that’s genuine and authentic. I think any blogger who does that can attract readers and achieve success.
I completely agree with you, Mara. I can’t imagine being able to maintain a blog without a passion for the subject and without the feedback of my readers.
Many other people are considering starting blogs nowadays, but then you hear voices that say there are already too many blogs. Do you think there is still room for new Jewish blogs that can become popular?
Of course! We as a society spend more and more of our time online, so this well is far from filled. But again – popularity is about more than just numbers.
I think new bloggers have to ask themselves: What’s my motivation? Am I doing this because I have something to share, and want to do it online?
Or am I doing this because I see someone else succeeding and think, “hey – that looks like an easy way to earn a living.”
Because if that’s your motivation, I would encourage you to do something else. Anything else. You’ll probably earn more by working at Starbucks – and at least there, you’d get health benefits.
Can you make money from your blog? Absolutely. Can you make enough money to quit your day job? Possibly. But not without a lot of blood, sweat and tears – and a huge helping of good luck on the side.
Thank you Mara, for sharing your insights with us. Anyone who wishes to contact Mara can do so via her blog. I wish Mara and all my readers continued hatzlacha and a Happy Pesach… on a budget !
Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear from readers: does this post inspire you to get more into blogging or does it make you more cautious?
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