Today is the 1000th post for The Soap Boxers. (Technically, we’ve had more than 1000, but a bunch of them had to be deleted after I discovered that a writer was plagiarizing). It’s been three years since the blog was launched. Has it been successful? Depends on what you’re trying to measure.

Financial Success

Regardless of how you measure financial success, the answer is probably no. My business first appeared on a schedule C for the 2009 tax year. The business recorded losses for tax year 2009 and 2010. Things have turned the corner this year, and I should make a slight profit. Still far below minimum wage, but black ink nonetheless. If things continue down this path, profit-sharing for the other writers should be triggered next year.

The core business – The Soap Boxers blog – still doesn’t generate significant revenue. I change the mix of ads, to no avail. I flash reminders of people’s favorite online merchant – Amazon.com – to no avail. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I’ve spent screwing around with the ads for the site. Definitely a poor use of time.

That’s not to say that there’s not money to be made. There’s fairly strong demand for my talents as a personal finance blogger. This is somewhat strange, due to the fact that I never set out to be a personal finance blogger (and have never actively sought any paying gigs in this niche). I knew that I didn’t want much focus on financial topics on The Soap Boxers, so whenever I had an idea for an article, I’d place it as a guest post on some other site.

From a pure dollars and cents perspective, it’d make sense to shutter The Soap Boxers and take on as many freelance gigs as possible.

But that wouldn’t be as much fun.

Fiction Writing Success

A major reason I started The Soap Boxers (or The Casual Observer, if you remember the old name) was to refine my writing technique in anticipation of a novel.

Is the novel done? No. But I’ve written more than 100 short stories, and I feel that my technique has improved greatly over the years. In the early days, I’d often crack out books on the craft of writing, to figure out how to attack a certain writing problem. I haven’t dusted off any of these books in a very long time. I’ve found my own writing style, and many people seem to like it.

[Looking for a collection of those stories? You can find my collection Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms in Kindle format. The fan-acclaimed short story The Cell Window is also available as a stand-alone Kindle book (it is also included in Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms).]

I also led a fiction writing seminar last spring. I had the intention of turning this into a recurring paid gig, but wanted to test on the process first, so I solicited a few students to join the first class, which would be free. It was supposed to be four students, but scheduling issues for one student caused the class size to drop to three. I quickly discovered that trying to provide analyses of several stories with a quick turnaround was difficult. The course ended up stretching much longer than expected, mostly due to my inability to meet the timelines. It was smart to pilot this idea with one non-paying group – I learned that, at this time, the fiction classes are not something I can commit to. However, the course was interesting, and I think the students got benefit out of it, so it might pop up as a future venture.

A Forum For Other Writers

I started out running a one-person blog. Eventually, I brought on Johnny Goodman to cover sports. That may have seemed a bit like taking coal to Newcastle, considering that I’m a huge sports fan. However, I wanted to free myself up to write more about baseball and dump the other sports on Johnny.

Since then, the group of writers has grown, and at this point nine writers are contributing on a regular basis. These folks are working for a share of profits. Since the venture hasn’t turned a profit yet, it means that none of them has earned a penny from their writing … yet. I doubt any of the writers will ever retire from the money they make from their writing on The Soap Boxers, but I am confident that there will be profits to share in the future.

So I’m a bit like Tom Sawyer, getting my friends to help whitewash the fence. However, the writers do get a benefit. I give them a soap box to jump onto, allowing their opinions to reach more people. During lunch on Monday (at a local BBQ joint) Martin Kelly commented that he sometimes feels that he should pay me for the privilege of writing on the site. That’s crazy talk, of course, but gives you an insight into the mind of many writers.

Friends

I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way – both readers and other bloggers. I can’t possibly name everyone (and I’m sure to forget someone important) … but special thanks go to Evan, Barb, Lazy Man, SVB, Baker, and Mrs. A. (Yeah, you too, Johnny Sacks, even if you do cheer for the stinking Yankees).

1000 down … one million to go!

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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