4 Lessons from a year of investment blogging

This blog is coming up to 12 months old now. What have I learnt about investment blogging and about investing over the year?

1. Focus on content.

This is a great tip from one of my favourite bloggers, Leo Babauta of zenhabits. Rather than focusing on tweaks and gimmicks, focus on producing great content that is of value to your readers.

How do you know what your readers want when starting from zero? I’ve found it helpful to think of a few people in your life who might appreciate what you write. Although you are thinking of specific people, there are likely to be other people out there with a similar profile. These are the people you really want to share your message with.

I think of a couple of friends and family members who are either entrepreneurs or professionals and successful in their own right. They work long hours, usually have cash to spare at the end of the month and so look for investment solutions.

But often times, because they are so busy in their businesses or careers, they don’t have the time to devote to become successful investors. Also, the skills set and strengths they use in their work may not lend themselves readily to investment work. Writing to them as smart and intelligent lay people helps focus my message.

Thinking about people you know and like also helps write in an easy-going and relaxed style (e.g. when writing his annual shareholders letters, Warren Buffett pretends he’s writing to his sisters, Doris and Bertie).

2. Consistent effort pays. 

Over the last year, the blog has had just over 1750 hits at last count. After the first month, it got around 250 hits for 3 months each. I was writing about once a week, but then due to other work commitments my writing tailed off. Hits dropped way down and only now are starting to climb back up again since March when I’ve committed to write once a week.

This hit rate is actually pretty low for a blog. But that in itself is liberating. Instead of thinking about what’s going to improve hit count, and create a viable business model, it helps me to come back to centre and really focus on what I’m trying to do here – become a better investor. And writing helps my thought process as well as a way to connect with others.

3. Focus on the work.

This is the most important lesson for me. It can be easy to get distracted thinking about, reading, or doing peripheral things. For example, I’ve played around with sharing on various social media channels.

But the thing that brings most value is to do the basic work, time and again, and making small continuous improvements.

Run screens to help focus your investment research, build watchlists to get to know companies over time, read about companies and their competitors. Read 10-Ks and get to understand what’s behind a company’s numbers.

Build your knowledge base over time; this is where your best insights will come from. Focus on the small steps you can do right now as an investor to improve your game.

This recent quote from Seth Godin’s blog sums it up perfectly:

“…Someone focused on doing the work, her work, relentlessly getting better, shipping it, racking up small wins and earning one fan at a time. And doing it all with a trained eye on what it means to do it better.”

What will you do to get better?

4. Have fun with it.

Learning about investing, and practicing your art to become a better investor is only worthwhile if you’re having fun doing it. For me this involves digging and reading in a quiet room, losing sense of what’s around me, and searching for nuggets of information or insights that make the difference.

It is rarely a “eureka!” moment, but usually as I build an understanding of a situation the pieces slowly start to come together and an answer spurts out the other end (as with this recent post on Weight Watchers).

I also find that writing helps those thoughts and insights to crystallize – so even for companies where I don’t write-up cases on this blog, I still keep an investment log of key points for any situation.

But the point is, for me, the whole process is fun. If it’s not fun for you, and you really want to be an investor, find a way to make it enjoyable. Or do something else fun, and find someone who does enjoy the process to help.

By Raman Minhas