As the old saying has it, there’s riches in niches. For Jessica Moorhouse, that niche is being a female Millennial Canadian personal finance blogger. Though she started her blog in 2012 as a hobby, for the past three years, Moorhouse has taken it seriously and it is now her livelihood. For Moorhouse, her eponymous blog is part of a media ecosystem including a podcast and presence on YouTube and Facebook. Moorhouse said of all those properties, the most effective is her podcast, which averages some 30,000 downloads. Moorhouse recently discussed the genesis of her blog and how it allowed her to quit her full-time job. Below is an edited version of that conversation:
TBB: Why did you start the blog?
Jessica Moorhouse: Honestly, I started the blog back then just to be creative. I graduated film school and realized — this was during the recession — that there were no jobs and so I was unemployed for a while and during that time feeling broke and had a student loan to figure out how to pay off. My older sister started reading blogs about personal finance and honestly at that point I didn’t even know blogs were still a thing. When I thought about blogs, I thought they were still like the LIveJournal days when people just talk about themselves in an open diary. I didn’t know there were blogs that were more like articles and news and stuff like that.
For me, money has always been pretty interesting just because we didn’t have a lot growing up so I wanted to do better for myself. I got deep into the world of personal finance blogs and I thought that I could start a blog if these people could start a blog. It’s also a way for me while I was working a sales/advertising role at a newspaper, which isn’t exactly my career trajectory that I wanted to go down. It gave me an outlet to be creative and actually write on the side and just have something to look forward and create basically after coming out of an artsy film school where I was creating all the time. It opened this whole other world to me.
But for like three to four years it was something on the side. I made a little bit of money on year three or four but not a lot because I didn’t have a purpose or direction for my blog. But when I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I went back to school but once I got a job in digital marketing, I realized that wow this is still just a job and not as exciting as I’d hoped. What was exciting though was that my blog was kind of taking off.
So I rebranded. I didn’t want to be just a blogger anymore, my dream was to be a go-to personal finance expert that you’d see on the news and had a book deal and all that. I thought maybe I should try to do that. So I rebranded and positioned myself as that. That was about two or two and a half years go and it worked out in my favor, because I do that full time.
TBB: Does the blog make enough money on its own to support you?
JM: Whenever I see bloggers saying “I made this much from my blog,” I’m always so curious about what do they actually mean. There’s not a lot of clarity on that. For me, I’ll be very transparent. I started with the blog and branched out to other kinds of avenues because whenever I would talk to a potential advertiser or brand partner they’d always be like “How can we work together?” and my answer was never “Well, I have a blog and we could do a sponsored post or I could write for you on your blog.” Now I have the blog, I work with brand sponsors or social media promotions but I also have the podcast sponsorship so I get advertisers for that and I also do more YouTube stuff so I get sponsors for that. Or I’ll work with them on the blog and then offer a video review at a discounted rate or for free. I also now host my own events — Millennial Money Meetup that runs in Toronto and Vancouver. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half now. That was a way to take the conversation offline and differentiate myself from other bloggers.
So I’ve got a lot of different streams, but it all started with the blog.
Whenever I see bloggers saying “I made this much from my blog,” I’m always so curious about what do they actually mean. There’s not a lot of clarity on that.
TBB: What kind of traffic does the blog get?
JM: I don’t want to say but I will say that I’ve been able to quit my job and get a larger salary than I got at my last job and that was a fairly decent salary in Toronto. It’s not because my blog gets the most traffic. There are bigger blogs out there that get way more traffic than I do that are making way less money. I think a lot of it has to do with I position myself not as a blogger, but as an influencer or an expert. In general, partners don’t want to work with someone who has some silly blog name. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional go-to person. Because I position myself as the go-to money Millennial person in Canada whenever a brand wants to have a spokesperson or book me for public speaking, they’ll book me instead of a random blogger who is anonymous.
TBB: You said that blog took off three or four years ago. Was there one post that really made it take off or was there a link somewhere else that did it?
JM: It’s really when I started to rebrand. Originally my blog was called “Mo Money, Mo Houses.” It was a funny name I thought it was cute, but whenever I went to a networking event, everyone would be like “What is that about? Is that real estate or something?” No one would get that it’s a play on my name and a rap song. So I said well OK, I need to do something about that. So I rebranded with just my name and did a really nice refresh of the website so it didn’t just look like the blog it was a full website with a lot of different offerings. Then I started doing all the things that digital marketers say to do so, like have build your email list and focus on your key social network to grow that audience. So I did a lot of different things to grow it.
TBB: How did you start the podcast? What equipment did you buy?
JM: I’m lucky because my husband is an audio engineer so he helped me buy the equipment I needed. We spent a little bit of money, but basically I have two condenser or dynamic mikes — one of those — they’re basically the microphones you see people use on TV. I also have a scarlet, it’s this red box where you could plug in those two mikes. Originally I wanted to be able to interview people at my house. That just connects to my computer and then I record my interviews now using Zoom. I used to use Skype and I record video so I have that extra component. When I edit I use Garage Band.
TBB: Was it difficult to get traction on iTunes?
JM: It took a while. When I started, podcasts were just getting popular — in June 2015. That was six months after Serial came out. I looked on the charts and in Canada there was no woman who was talking about personal finance — certainly not a Millennial. So there was an opportunity there. I was kind of the first one in that space and I’ve been doing it consistently since then. I put out an episode every week, so that’s 52 episodes in one year. I think because I’m so consistent with putting out content, people then start subscribing. And that’s how now I get 30,000 downloads a month, which isn’t the biggest podcast in the world, but my fans are dedicated and I know that because I go to events and they tell me that they listened to all 150 episodes I have. For me, it really was about being consistent and being patient really. I mean, I didn’t have anyone listen for the first couple of months and it just kind ramped up as I proved to people listening that I’m not going to stop.
TBB: Are you on a schedule for blogging and podcasting?
JM: I try. The podcasting is something I’ve been very diligent with. I basically put out a new episode every Wednesday and sometimes there’s this other part of my podcast called the listener series where I interview listeners of my podcast to share their money stories and I post those on Thursday. But it’s generally every Wednesday and I only take a break in December and then July and August.
TBB: You don’t have advertising on your site. Why?
JM: I only make money through paid sponsorships. I don’t do any ads just because there’s no ROI on that. No one makes money off of ads and they’re ugly. They detract from all the good stuff I have on my site.
TBB: Do you use WordPress?
JM: Yeah. When I first started I used Tumblr because I was so cheap I didn’t want to pay anything. That was OK for a while when it was a hobby but I had to move over to WordPress and I would never go back. Whenever I see people choose SquareSpace or whatever else is out there I always think you’re going to eventually switch to WordPress.
I don’t do any ads just because there’s no ROI on that. No one makes money off of ads and they’re ugly.
TBB: Did you ever consider Medium?
JM: That’s for a different thing. If I ever wanted to write something that was maybe a bit off-brand or a bit more personal I would do Medium. But I generally don’t have enough time.
TBB: Of all your outlets — YouTube, the blog, Facebook, the podcast — which is most effective?
JM: For me, podcasting isn’t as saturared as the blogging world. When people listen to me for 30 minutes a week, you develop a very strong relationship besides just writing stuff that they read.
TBB: What would you attribute your success to?
JM: Just not quitting. The only reason I was able to get some sort of success is because I didn’t stop and believe me there are a million times that I want to stop. I want to do it on a weekly basis because this is not an easy thing to do — I’m completely responsible for earning all my money to pay my bills and save for retirement.