Melanie started her blog, Dear Debt, in January 2013 to keep herself accountable in the debt payoff process. She paid off a total of $81,000 in student loan debt. Somehow talking about her struggles, building community, and coming to terms with her financial situation has turned her into a writer. She now writes for a living.
1. Can you tell us about your blog and what Plutus Award you won?
My blog is DearDebt.com, which I started in January 2013 as a way to keep myself accountable in the debt payoff process. I really focus on the emotional side of paying off debt and have the dear debt letter project, where I invite people to breakup with debt in a letter. Kind of like a “Dear John” letter, but to debt. It’s been a wonderful ride, with tons of amazing letters and success stories. My blog helped me pay off debt and transition into a new career. In total, I paid off $81,000 in student loan debt and now work as a freelance writer and event planner in the personal finance space.
I won “Best Debt Freedom Blog” two years in a row, which was crazy!
2. How did you feel winning the award knowing it was from your peers?
I felt so honored! I am completely in awe and inspired by the personal finance community. So many of them are my friends, my peers, my colleagues and my inspirations.
3. Where are you now? Are you still doing the same blog? How has it changed?
I am still doing Dear Debt, but have not been as active since I paid off my debt and have pursued other projects. The blog is still some personal updates, but I’ve let the dear debt letters really carry the blog. I think that’s what makes it really unique and collaborative. It’s changed insofar that it’s not just my meanderings, thoughts, and debt updates any more. It’s more collaborative and intended to provide resources.
4. What advice would you give someone looking to grow their blog today?
I’m not a traditionally successful blogger at all. I don’t write for SEO. I barely look at analytics. And I don’t use Pinterest. (Terrible, I know). But what I have done is tell a compelling story and create an opportunity for people to participate in a project that empowers them to pay off debt.
On top of that, I’ve built a lot of genuine relationships with other bloggers which has been key to my success. So my advice is to really hone your voice and understand your unique value proposition. While I love personal finance, it is a saturated market so you need to have an angle.
5. Blogging can be tough. How do you keep up with motivation?
I stay motivated by remembering that it’s all about being helpful. What questions do you want to answer? What stories do you want to tell? Also, I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I guess because I’ve turned my blog into a service-based career — rather than making all my income from my blog — I let myself not publish if I’m not feeling it.
6. Where do you see yourself going from here? Any plans in the works you can share with us?
I want to write another book! My blog turned into the book “Dear Debt: A Story About Breaking Up With Debt” after the first Plutus award win and I’d love to write something else. Currently, I’m really focused on creating Lola Retreat, a women + money retreat. I’ve invested so much time and resources into it and I’m really excited to share it with the world.
7. What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging?
What’s ironic is that I would say my greatest achievement is getting my M.A. from NYU — which is where I got the majority of my debt. It was an intensive program and one of my dreams on my bucket list. I loved living in New York, too — not an easy place to live in!
Thank you, Melanie, for updating us on what’s going on with you!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.