Many people start blogs as a creative outlet for sharing their passions and reaching out to help others by sharing their advice and vast knowledge on an any given topic. Add to that the potential for making a very comfortable living doing what they love, and it’s easy to see why so many are eager to try their hand at blogging.
I’ve spent several years following many talented writers who regularly crank out thought-provoking, valuable content-rich posts on a weekly basis, quickly and insightfully responding to questions and comments from their knowledge-hungry readers. But really, who has time for that?
Let’s be real. Blogging requires hard work, dedication and organization and honestly, wouldn’t you rather be vegged out in front of the TV or tucked away in your bed, dreaming your life away? Of course you would, and I know a few cats who would agree with you. But what do you do when you find that you’re caught up in that exhausting cycle of writing, publishing, promoting and engaging? When the freedom from the 9 to 5 office grind has got you totally regretting that impromptu beach trip with your family?
Well today’s your lucky day, because I’m here to share with you (with the help of a few of my feline [mostly] friends) several fool-proof ways to disengage with your audience, slow down or stop your production and ensure that your audience and profits will drop faster than the speed of light!
You remember how it was before you started your own blog, right? You lurked for months or more in the blogosphere, perusing the comments sections and related social media posts, looking for answers to questions that you yourself were afraid to ask. I get it. You’re a bit shy at times and people can be scary, so the less risk you take by immersing yourself in social engagement with readers and fellow bloggers, the better. And if it ain’t broke… After all, networking is overrated and you surely wouldn’t want to risk drawing attention and traffic to your brand or the posts you’ve worked so hard to write. We’ll talk more about writing posts in a moment. But first:
Nothing you have to say is really important, so why bother sharing who you really are with your readers? Valuable information is valuable information whether it’s doled out in a way that amuses or in a way that bores, and since you don’t really owe anybody a damn thing, don’t feel bad about lulling your readers into a snooze fest with your monotonous writing style. After all, if you really wanted people to get a feel for your down-to-earth nature, delightful humor or scathing whit, you likely would have tried your hand at stand-up comedy, not incorporate these charming qualities into your writing, amiright?
You’ve heard the saying: “Opinions are like _____ …” It seems everybody’s got one and can’t wait to share it, whether you want to hear it or not. Screw them. This is your blog and you can run it any way you like. That a few well-meaning readers might have a question about, or an alternate perspective on something you’ve written does not obligate you to engage in respectful mature debate. And who would blame you for giving the occasional dissenter a real piece of your mind? In fact, the sense of security and anonymity the internet offers can be a real advantage when the urge strikes to respond with contempt to anyone who dares exhibit a thought that conflicts with your own. This strategy is guaranteed to drop your readership, too. It’s a win‑win!
As pointed out above, dazzling others with your winning personality and engaging with your readers and fellow bloggers is a lot of work that takes time away from other activities you could be doing, like napping or bingeing on your favorite Netflix Original show. Happily, this problem is best solved by becoming lax in your blog output all together. By simply learning to prioritize in a way that allows you to be inefficient and maximize the precious time wasted, you’ll soon lose inspiration and ambition, run out of ideas for blog posts and eventually be free of those pesky readers who’ve kept your analytics counter moving north. So free yourself of the guilt you’ve been carrying around the past couple of months because you’ve neglected your writing and embrace your MIA status with open arms. Your conscience will thank you.
Despite employing all of the above, is entirely possible that you will find yourself with a few remaining blog subscribers or readers. Whether these hangers-on are the result of loyalty or the consequence of being too lazy to click the “unsubscribe” link, don’t despair. Their small number won’t bring you enough troublesome traffic to warrant any profit. Just the same, these too are handled with comparable ease as the above-listed steps. Are you ready for it? Simply walk away. Resign your blog to the vast graveyard of dashed hopes and save yourself the hassle of checking your blog dash for comments, keeping up the social media accounts or the expense of a domain and monthly hosting. You’re in good company. One New York Times article cited that 95% of blogs go belly up. That’s huge. Why should you stand apart from the others? You’ve got nothing to prove. Soon you’ll be free to spend your time doing the things you really love. Your couch awaits.
I’ve had my blog for more than four years now, with periods within that timeframe where I’ve neglected it completely. It has been only very recently that I decided to really work my blog fulltime and make it my primary focus. In doing so, I’ve been hit head on with valuable lessons, as often happens when one dives straight into any venture. Here are four big ones I’ve encountered:
1. USE IT OR LOSE IT
This oh-so-true cliché applies in at least two ways I’ve experienced: Firstly, when I neglect writing for any length of time, it really affects my ability to craft eloquent blog posts (Honestly, I’m struggling here!). Much like exercising a muscle, writing needs to be regularly practiced in order for one to develop into a skilled and articulate scribe. I’ve always been very aware of the difference in my writing quality after a prolonged hiatus; and the frustrating writer’s block that always follows really slows down my blog output. So, keep at it! Even if you must take a break from blogging, make an effort to write a little something every day. It will make a difference, I promise!
Secondly, neglecting my blog really affects my readership. Even if my readers don’t take the time to actually “unsubscribe” to my blog (though many have, understandably), they simply won’t bother to come back and read my posts when I do publish them. It’s perfectly reasonable when you consider that the writer/reader relationship is just that – a relationship. And just like any relationship, it must be nurtured and I need to be relied upon to be a stable source of education, advice, comfort or entertainment – after all, that’s what we, as bloggers, are sought out for. That’s why it is helpful for me to plan out and write my future blog posts. Some people have a lot to say all the time, but for me that’s just not the case. I need to take advantage of the times I do have thoughts I want to share, to get them out of my head and onto some sort of medium. It’s been difficult for me to do, but the more I practice, the easier it gets.
2. MARKETING IS IMPORTANT
I am not a sales person. At all. I’m painfully shy by nature and the thought of soliciting anyone for anything makes me sick to my stomach. It occurred to me though, that putting my thoughts and ideas out there on the blogosphere will help no one if they’re never seen and read.
It’s taken me a few years of constantly reading other writers’ posts and articles about writing and blogging as a career to finally overcome my resistance to promoting myself; but if I’m completely honest, the lack of confidence in myself as a brand has probably been the bigger hurdle. But it’s important to overcome these obstacles if you want to bring in meaningful income from your blog. As for lack of confidence, just get over it. Realize that there are millions of people out there in the blogosphere, and there are bound to be readers who will be interested in what you’ve got to say. And don’t be afraid to keep changing and improving as you take in more knowledge and learn better strategies. Constant change beats stagnation and neglect – I know from experience!
As far as marketing education goes, if you want to scrape up some money and plunk it down on a marketing course, have at it! But if you’re like me, and you really don’t want to shell out the money, there are so many good blog posts detailing different marketing strategies that you can easily string together to create a successful well-rounded marketing plan of your own. Create a Pinterest account and run a search – the abundance of educational material is staggering!
3. START OUT AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON
I started blogging just to vent my thoughts and feelings, and network with like-minded individuals. Since I had no thought initially of profiting from my blog, a limited free subdomain platform worked for me. It wasn’t until I started reading other blogs and asking questions that I realized the advantages of using a customizable self-hosted blogging platform, as well as the possibility of making money doing what I loved to do best – writing! So, I decided to move to WordPress.org and set myself up for potential revenue.
I was really excited about being on a self-hosted CMF platform with the ability to customize my blog to look any way I wanted. I’m fortunate enough to be married to a wonderful guy who builds websites and blogs for a living, so I have the advantage of an experienced in-house developer but honestly, it is on my bucket list to learn this stuff myself…eventually.
I was not prepared for the reaction of my long-time readers to my new format at all. I think they might have forgiven the drastic aesthetic changes had it not been for the couple of ads now popping up on my blog. Google Ads are a great way to make money, but if your readers are purists and accustomed to an unadulterated ad-free format, the transition can be difficult, and I lost quite a few readers due to the change. Unfortunately, I let that really get to me, which really contributed to the ensuing period of neglect on my part.
It took me longer than it should have to really grasp and accept that many changes can, should and will be made as your blog evolves but not everybody will be on board. So, if you’re at the beginning stages of a blog and you’re already considering monetizing it, I would suggest making that clear now, either by a readily-visible disclaimer and disclosure or by moving ahead and implementing ads and/or affiliate links. Of course, there will be readers that will stick with you through the process of change; but inevitably, you will outgrow others. This brings me to my final lesson:
4. GROW A THICK SKIN
Seriously. If I let every departing reader, criticism or nasty comment get to me, I’d have one grave flop of a blog. Oh wait – that was me! I totally did that. I obsessed over every lost subscriber. I let every nasty and negative comment cut into me. I felt like a failure and I allowed it to prevent me from writing for months at a time and in one case, an entire year. And let me tell you, it’s not worth it. Your real value has no basis in the volume of your readership or followers, nor on the opinions of a few cowardly trolls. Let me say that again: Your real value has no basis in the volume of your readership or followers, nor on the opinions of a few cowardly trolls. Did you get that?
I know I said earlier that your writer/reader relationships need to be nurtured, and that’s true; but let me be real clear: While that writer/reader relationship does need to be cultivated in order to breed a level of familiarity and establish trust, there is a limit to what you as a writer owe anyone who reads your blog. From time to time, you will encounter some readers who will demand more of you than they’re entitled to. That’s not okay. You have your limits. State them and stick to them. And remember that there will always be critics. Get over it; opinions differ. And then there will always be the cowardly trolls. Always. And vicious ones, too. It’s inevitable. But remember that these know nothing about you, their toxic communications made only in the security of their own homes, shrouded in complete anonymity. They hold no merit whatsoever. Please don’t let them affect your self-value and consequently, your brand.
Sadly, I watched two very skilled writers over the past year shut down their blogs and close up shop over the stress of intense harassment from individuals who had nothing better to do than to spend their days sending nasty emails and posting hateful comments to thoughtful, well-written blog posts. Please, please, don’t let this happen to you. I know I’ve stumbled under the weight of it before, but I’m determined not to let it happen again. Learn from my mistakes.
These are no doubt the four most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in my blogging endeavor thus far. As with any worthwhile project or venture, you will make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons, adding to your knowledge base and strengthening your skillset. If you have a moment, share some of your great lessons learned – I’d love to hear from you!
In this post you will find, as promised, the credit verification letters you need to send to the credit agencies demanding that they provide you with physical proof of signed contracts for your negative credit accounts or alternatively, delete them.
I know these letters work because I USED THEM MYSELF, word for word, to get current collection accounts and hard inquiries removed from my own credit profile, raising my credit score substantially – with positive results in as little as a month!
While not difficult, the process can be tedious and if you’re willing to be patient and somewhat organized, you can can succeed in giving your personal credit status a significant boost!
Feel free to download and use, making adjustments as you see fit. Additionally, drop me a line and let me know how your process goes!
Addresses for the Three Main Credit Agencies:
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Disclaimer: I am not being paid or sponsored by, and am in no way affiliated with any brands or products mentioned in this blog post. The opinions and conclusions of such are my own and are as a result of my unsolicited use of said products and brands.
About a month after mailing out your initial credit verification letters to the three main credit bureaus, you will start getting your responses. Each response will likely be a multipage document letting you know that an investigation has taken place and that the pages attached detail the results of that investigation.
Following are the results I personally experienced from each of the credit agencies.
I immediately set out writing my responses to all three credit agencies. As you will see in the 609 credit verification letter No. 2, I addressed the fact that the agencies incorrectly assumed I was disputing the items and that I was still waiting on physical proof that I had entered into contracts with these companies. I also addressed the fact that they claimed some of the items were “verified” as mine and asked them who specifically verified the items and how. Additionally, I reiterated by basis for writing in the first place, referenced the law and demanded again that I wanted to see proof, and that I would seriously consider a lawsuit should my demands not be met. I included a photocopy of the report they sent me, as well as a reference to the certified mail receipt from my initial letter with the date they signed for it to prevent the agency from claiming they ever received a letter in the first place. Additionally, I took a highlighter and emphasized all points in the letter that I wanted the bureaus to take note of, especially the laws and the fact that I was demanding physical proof of a contract.
I sent each letter immediately upon receipt of the agency responses, thereby keeping with the staggered schedule. The responses to this second letter were quicker in coming than the first round and looking back, I think that might have had something to do with the widespread snow storms we were experiencing earlier in the year. The results were more a bit more encouraging and were as follows:
So that’s where things stand for me as far as my 609 credit verification experiment. I recently sent out Letter No. 3 to TransUnion and Experian in an attempt to get those remaining negative items off my credit report, and am awaiting responses. Letter 3, as you will see, is pretty much a repeat of Letter 2, with a reminder of the law and the possible outcome of a lawsuit if the agencies don’t comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act by either providing physical verification of the credit accounts in question, or deleting them. I will be sure to update you as to the outcome of those letters.
My takeaway from this whole experiment thus far is that it does work, it’s just a lot of tedious work and you really need to keep organized. I have files on each of the credit agencies in which I keep copies of the letters I send, responses received from the agencies, and the certified mail receipts for the letters I mail. I document EVERYTHING, including the date I receive responses from the credit bureaus. It doesn’t look like I will have to make good on my threat to file suit, but if for some reason I did go in that direction, having everything documented would really help my case.
Do you think you want to try this on your own credit profile? As promised, here is the link to download the letters in PDF format for you to send to the agencies, along with the agency addresses. I hope things work out for you!
Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored or endorsed by, and am in no way affiliated with any brands or products mentioned in this blog. The opinions and conclusions of such are my own and are as a result of my unsolicited use of said products and brands.
In my last post, we briefly discussed two key elements or laws of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that benefit you, the consumer.
First and foremost, the credit bureaus are responsible for verifying that the information they receive from banks and other creditors about you is true and correct. In fact, they are required by law to maintain a copy on file of your signed contract or credit application. The simple fact is that they don’t have it. Your information is plucked right out of your application and sent electronically to the credit reporting agency in large batches, along with other consumers’ information. It’s just more efficient that way.
Second, you have the right to your personal information from your credit file upon written request and proper identification verification, which by law is your driver’s license and Social Security number.
In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to get started cleaning up your credit report.
You need to obtain your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, and start going over them with a highlighter to determine which accounts need to be removed.
As it had been a while since I’d pulled my reports, I was easily able to go to www.annualcreditreport.com, and pull all of them easily in electronic format for free.
When you’ve determined which accounts you will be removing, you will write a letter to each credit bureau, detailing that you are a consumer who is aware of the law (chances are, whoever opens your letter and reads it is completely unaware of the laws in the Fair Credit Reporting Act), and that you are requesting the copies of the contracts bearing your signature that they are required to keep on file for each of the derogatory accounts you are inquiring about. You will detail each account in your letter by name and account number. This part of the letter will be done by hand, as well as your personal information such as birth date, social security number and credit report number (which you will find on your credit reports). The rest of your letter can be typed. A template of the letter with what you need to say is provided here.
NOTE: PLEASE READ ALL OF THE POSTS RELATED TO THIS CREDIT VERIFICATION PROJECT BEFORE YOU SEND OUT YOUR LETTERS. NEGLECTING EVEN THE SLIGHTEST DETAIL CAN IMPEDE THE GOOD RESULTS YOU WILL GET FROM SENDING THESE LETTERS.
Once you’ve done this for all three of the credit reporting agencies, you will mail your letters, one at a time, several days apart. YOU MUST SEND THE LETTERS CERTIFIED MAIL BY THE USPS!! This is very important. It costs very little to do this. For all three letters, the postage for certified mail amounted to less than $12.00.
After you have mailed the letters it’s mostly a waiting game until you get your first responses. To help pass the time, I downloaded the Credit Karma app to my Android phone and checked weekly to see what changes had been made to my credit, including the score. As the credit bureaus take their allotted 30 days to respond, it was encouraging to me to see the changes updated weekly via the Credit Karma app. Additionally, the information pulled weekly from Credit Karma are considered “soft” pulls and therefore do not negatively affect your credit score.
Some who have tried this 609 verification method have been fortunate enough to get everything removed in one round of letters. I, however, was not so fortunate. Trans Union seemed to be the biggest hold out, and as I will detail later, I had to actually write three rounds of letters to them before they finally removed all of my negative items.
It is strongly advised that during the 1 to 4 months it may take you to get the negative items off of your credit record; that you do not open up any new credit accounts, such as loans or credit cards.
If you have read all of the posts regarding this project (all found under the “609 Credit Verification Experiment Project” category to your right) and are ready to move on to the next step, click here!
In my previous post, I summarized the little-known method of removing derogatory credit items from your credit report using the verification inquiries based on laws in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Many people on the internet charging a fee for this information refer to this method as “609 Credit Verification” or “609 Credit dispute.” The name is only partially accurate, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know why you’re doing what you’re about to do.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act dictates that the credit reporting agencies are to verify all information received from creditors before they put it in your credit file. The law recognizes proper verification as a contract or application with your signature on it. When was the last time you actually signed a credit card application?
This law was practical when it was written, as facsimile machines were the technology of the time, and the banks no longer had to snail-mail copies of the contracts into the agencies. But with the increased use of the internet and electronic data filing, it just became more efficient to use software that electronically pulls your information from the bank database and sends it electronically over to the credit agencies, which they then place into your credit file for all potential creditors to see. They do this with NO actual verification that you even signed a contract or application! They are breaking the law!
Additionally, you need to understand that the Fair Credit Reporting Act also states that you have the right to know the information in your credit file pertaining to you, the consumer (not your creditors), but you can only have the right to this information if your request is made in writing and if you can properly verify your identity with a driver’s license and Social Security card.
If you understand these two key points of the law, you can easily get started removing derogatory marks from your credit report and raise your credit score! Are you ready to begin? Then let’s get started!
TL;DR: Credit agencies are all about money and don’t care about the law. They suck. Get ’em back by learning about some laws written to protect you, the consumer, and take some action. Oh, and it’s free. Doesn’t cost anything but time and a little postage.
For a long time, attempting to raise my credit score has been a losing battle. Poor choices and impulse buys finally caught up with me about the time my family hit a rough patch financially. As anyone who’s found themselves suddenly short on income and low in savings can tell you, the lack of digits in your credit score can seriously affect the ease with which one can sail through such unexpected circumstances.
While it seems counterproductive to make it nearly impossible for those with a low credit score to obtain credit cards, car loans, mortgages, employment or any other fundamental necessity for comfortable living here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., such is the way of things here, and maintaining clean credit really can make all the difference between struggling and thriving. As one blogger aptly said it, “A person with poor credit is treated as a second-class citizen.” Amen, brother.
Admittedly I know very little beyond the basics of credit. Keeping credit card expense to a minimum and on‑time bill payment are pretty much the extent of my knowledge; but I have learned through experience that once caught in a cyclone of over-the-limit fees, late penalties and high interest, the damage is done, and the conventional road to recovery takes sacrifice, time, patience and let’s face it – humility. But I’ve never been conventional. I’m a naturally optimistic person. I’m disorganized, I tend to procrastinate, I get bored easily and often lose focus, but I’m always able to pull myself out of a tailspin and start battling. I’m a real Sue Heck. (High fives to you if you get the reference.) With that in mind, let’s talk about the real purpose of this post.
609 Credit Dispute
Have you heard of the 609 Credit Dispute or Credit Fix for your credit score? I ran across it while looking for advice pertaining to raising my credit score and was instantly intrigued. “Dispute” is really a misnomer, as it’s merely a reference to a law in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In part, the law states that a consumer (you or I) have the right to see our credit files if we can appropriately identify ourselves (driver’s license and Social Security number) and that there are two ways to get information removed from a credit file: 1) If it can be proven incorrect or if it’s outdated (based on terms in §605); and 2) If the information cannot be verified [emphasis mine] (More on this aspect in a future post.
Now we’ve all been told that it’s a good idea to occasionally sweep through our credit files and correct old or outdated information, and that is really sound advice. But what about the information verification aspect? That’s kind of a vague statement. And seriously, have you ever tried to get erroneous negative third-party information off your credit report? It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. My husband was once harassed by a collections agency due to non‑payment of a phone bill for a phone he never owned that was established in a state he had never lived in. Countless time and energy was spent making calls to the three credit bureaus, the phone service provider and collection agency, resulting in a lock on his credit that lasted a long time and a derogatory mark which sat there for the customary 7 years. We were completely helpless in the situation, or so I thought.
It turns out, there is a very effective, not‑so‑simple way to get derogatory information removed from your credit. It takes relatively little time (3 to 4 months) and a bit of perseverance, but it can be done. I know, because I have done it.
There are websites all over the internet charging anywhere from $30.00 to $699.00 for the information and/or assistance in executing the method. There are also others out there that give you partial information, but don’t include the exact documents you need unless you pay them. But there really is no need to spend that money. I’m going to give you all the information you need clean up your credit and raise your score so that you can enjoy lower payments and interest on the things you need to live a comfortable life and I’m not going to charge you a penny for it.
First, you need to understand a few basic facts about the credit bureaus, how they operate, and about the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
They’re all about getting paid. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian need to make money. It’s their primary interest. Every time a lender contacts these agencies and gives them your personal information, there is a money transaction. The credit bureaus get paid to receive information and they get paid to give information.
Their customer service reps are clueless. Most people who work for these big agencies have no idea what the laws are regarding credit reporting. Their work is mostly automated and they have quotas to reach every day.
They are breaking the law! There are laws written in the Fair Credit Reporting Act that protect you and I, the consumers, and much of the reporting in these agencies goes against these laws. This is primarily because the Fair Credit Reporting Act was written before the age of electronic information and has yet to be updated. But you can use this to your advantage.
The best way to get derogatory marks off your credit score is to start asking questions. Yup. It’s that simple. Well, it’s a little more involved than that, but that’s what it boils down to. You don’t have to “dispute” anything. Beyond your identity, you don’t have to “prove” anything. Provided you approach them the “correct” way, they (the credit bureau) must do all of the work. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well it isn’t. And I am going to give you exactly what you need to start the process, step by step. Are you ready? Then go here to my next post to find out what you need to do next.