Blueprint For How To Make Money With A Blog: Laying A Solid Foundation – Setting Up Your Site

How I Replaced My Wife’s Day Job Income With This Blog

Over the past 2 years I’ve been blogging on Bible Money Matters 5-6 days a week, generating over 800 pages of content, 5000+ comments and over 1.3 million page views. The site has become more popular than I ever dreamed it could be, and I feel blessed that the site has grown to a point where it is now able to replace my wife’s day job income. That means we’ll be able to afford for her to stay home with our children, which is even more important now that we’re expecting our first child!

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So how do you go from having a small blog that no one has ever heard of, and take it to a point where it generates more income than some people do at their full time jobs?  I get a lot of questions from people who are wondering how they too can start a blog, and use it to generate income for their family. Instead of writing up a new email every time they ask, I thought I’d put together a post detailing what I’ve done to become successful.   That post has quickly gotten a bit too long for just one post, and I decided to break it up into a series which I’d like to call “Blueprint For How To Make Money With A Blog“.  Here’s a table of contents for today’s post if you’d like to skip ahead.

In this first post I’m going to talk about the beginning stages of starting a blog.  I’ll look at things like choosing a niche, coming up with a name and a domain for your blog and optimizing your site to give yourself the best chance of success.  First, let me give you a little background on my site.

How I Began Blogging

At the end of 2007  I discovered the personal finance blogosphere.  After reading some of the bigger blogs including The Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly and Christian Personal Finance, I decided that I wanted to start my own blog .    I love to write and I enjoy talking about finances.  I knew I had something to contribute.

I finally launched my blog to zero fanfare at the end of  January of 2008.   At the time my wife and I were really starting to pay more attention to our money, reading a lot of books on financial topics, and even taking classes about personal finance.  We discovered Dave Ramsey through some friends, and were energized by his debt free message.   A fire was lit, and I knew that I had found my topic.  I began writing about personal finance almost daily, networked with other bloggers, promoted my site and worked hard on coming up with interesting topics.   Even with all the work, the blog was still just a fun diversion.  About 6-7 months into it, however, the money started to materialize and I realized that you could make some decent money blogging.   I started treating it more like a business.   That was when things really started to take off.

When I first started writing back in early 2008 I was definitely a newbie, and I made a lot of mistakes.   I created a lot of roadblocks for myself by not doing things the right way from the start.  Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, I think that I’ve learned some things that can help others to increase their chances of success.  So let’s get started!

What Is A Blog?

Before we even get started, let’s look at the most basic question.  What is a blog?  Wikipedia defines it this way:

A blog is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.

So a blog is a website that has regularly updated content that contains news, commentary and other informative content.  In short, blogs are a powerful medium for communicating information – and for making money!

What Blogging Software Should I Use?


Over the years there have been a wide variety of platforms developed to make the process of blogging extremely easy, to the point where just about anybody can publish their own regularly updated website.  There are both self hosted and developer hosted options.  Some of the most popular free blogging software include: (for a more exhaustive list, click here)

  • blogging software (self hosted):  This is the one that I use, and it is quickly becoming the industry standard for those who take their blogging seriously.  It is a free software, but it does require that you have a web host, and some basic know-how or help to setup.  If you’re serious about blogging, I’d suggest using self hosted software as it will give you the most options for your new blog.
  • blogging software (developer hosted):  This is similar to the above software, except that it’s hosted on the service’s servers, and your options when using it are much more limited. If you’re looking to make money from your blog, advertising options on are extremely limited.  Skip it!
  • blogging software  (developer hosted): I actually started out blogging using Blogger’s free blogging software.  It was easy to use, allows you to have advertising on your site, and has a decent back end for writing.  The problem?  it is also extremely limited when it comes to adding functionality, themes, and if your traffic grows your site will suffer.  If you’re not sure about this blogging thing, you can test the waters with Blogger, and if you don’t like it, nothing is lost.  I started my blog on Blogger, and then ended up moving it later on to  Looking back I wish I had just started using’s software to save myself the headache of moving.
  • blogging software (developer hosted):  Another free blogging software that is easy to setup and use, but will limit your options if you’re serious about making money from  your blog.

All of the above mentioned options are free options, with the last three probably having the least amount of up-front work to get your site up and get running.  If you’re really serious about making money blogging, however, I’d suggest starting out with a self hosted blog as it will give you the most options when it comes to design, functionality and monetization.

The blogging software may be free, but you will need to find a place to host your site.  In most cases that will cost you anywhere from $5-7/month, in addition to a domain name, which will run around $10/year.  I believe it’s a worthwhile investment. For some more discussion on choosing a blogging software, check out’s post on the topic.

Choosing A Niche, A Name For Your Blog And Buying A Domain Name

Choosing a niche:  Before you even choose a name for your blog, you need to figure out what niche that you’ll be blogging in. For me that was easy – I chose the personal finance niche because I found it extremely interesting, there was already a pretty large community surrounding the topic (for networking), and because I knew there was sufficient search volume for personal finance topics. I also chose to focus on a sub-niche, Christian personal finance, because it helped to set me apart.  You’ll want to carefully consider your niche (and possibly a sub-niche) as well.  Make sure it’s something you enjoy writing about, and make sure that there is money to be made in the topic (if you plan on doing this for money!).  Do some research on big blogs in that niche and figure out how they’re making money. Then figure out how reasonable it might be to try and duplicate their success.

Choosing a name: Once you’ve chosen a niche, one of the most important first steps is to choose a name for your blog.   There are two main types of names for a blog.

  1. Brandable name:  A brandable name is about creating a name for your blog that is memorable, and that can be used as an identity of sorts for your site.  Examples of brandable names include sites like Boing Boing, DoshDosh and  Brandable named sites can be ideal for sites where you’re trying to build a loyal community of readers, and for building a site with some personality.  Brandable names can also be keyword rich depending upon the name you choose.  For example a site like Engadget has a name that is brandable, but it also includes the word “gadget”.  Double duty name!
  2. Keyword rich name:  A keyword rich name will include keywords in the title that can give cues as to what your blog is about.  This can be great for search engine traffic as search engines will often look to your url to determine whether your search results are relevant to a given topic.  I can’t tell you how many times my site has come up higher in a search because I have the word “money” in the title, along with other keywords in the url.  Try brainstorming names for your blog by choosing some relevant keywords, putting them together in different ways, and seeing what you come up with.   My blog title, “Bible Money Matters” includes two keywords that are extremely important to the subject matter of my site and that help me to come up in search results.  Those keywords are “money” and “bible”.   Try to find keywords for your site niche that will translate to good search traffic.

Choosing a domain name/URL: If you’re going to be trying to come up with keyword rich name like I did, a fantastic site to check out is  The site will allow you to enter in a couple of keywords you are considering, and then it will come up with a list of possible domain names and tell you which ones are already taken.

Once you find a couple of names that you like you’ll want to run it by a couple of people to make sure it doesn’t sound funny, or conjure up things that you didn’t intend.    Remember, once you choose a name, you’re probably going to be stuck with it for a while.

The next step is to register your domain name.  Some of the more popular places to register a domain include:

  •  This is where I have my 5 domains.  Works good for me.
  •  Another of the more popular domain registrars.
  •  I’ve had this one suggested to me.

A couple of things to remember when buying your domain name:

  • Try to register your domain name separately from your website host or other provider:   Some website hosts will give you a free domain name when you sign up for hosting with their service.  The problem is that often they still own the domain name, or it is tied to your account.  That often makes it troublesome to switch hosts in the future if your traffic has grown or if you aren’t satisfied with a certain host.  By registering your domain name separately you can guarantee that you’ll always have control over your domain.
  • Try registering your domain with a company that will keep your information private:  When registering your domain you will have the option to register your domain name privately, or to have your name and contact info available to all who look up your site’s “WHOIS” information.  If you can, register your domain name privately to avoid having everyone know your name/address/phone.
  • Make sure your domain name is easy to spell:  If your name is hard to spell or if people are unsure of it’s meaning, it can be tough to get people to remember it.

Buy Web Hosting For Your Site

Once you’ve chosen and purchased a domain name, it’s time to find and purchase a web hosting package.  For a new blog you’re probably OK purchasing a cheap shared hosting package that will cost you in the neighborhood of $5-7 a month or so.  That will most likely be fine until your blog has built up traffic of 1000 page views or more per day – at which point you may need to consider upgrading.  A few recommended options for cheap shared hosting packages:

If you’re looking for a higher end host to begin with, it’ll probably cost you a bit more money, but you are more assured that your site won’t go down, go over it’s allotted amount of CPU usage, or have other common problems.  The host that I’m currently with is Media Temple.  It costs me about $33/month (I have a discounted rate) for my own dedicated virtual server where I run several websites .  Since I’ve switched to them from my shared host I’ve had exactly zero problems.

  • Media Temple:  You can read about my experience switching hosts from a cheap shared hosting plan to my dedicated virtual server at Media Temple here.

When shopping around for hosting make sure to search for coupon codes and discounts to make your service cheaper.  When I signed up for media temple I used a coupon code that allowed me to get 20% off for the life of my relationship with them.  (In case you’re interested – Media Temple coupon code: retailmenot –  will give you 20% discount on (gs) and (dv) hosting plans for the life of the plan.)

(Disclaimer: the hosting links above are affiliate links and this site will receive compensation if you choose to sign up through our link. (Thanks!)  It should be noted, however, that we only promote affiliates that we believe in and that we think would be beneficial to our readers.)

Setting Up WordPress On Your New Host

Once you’ve signed up for your new hosting package, you’ll want to get WordPress setup on your host.  Most hosts will have an option to do a 1 click install of WordPress through their hosting administration panel.  If you  have that option, I’d suggest using it (If you can’t find it, ask tech support!)   It makes things a lot easier.  Have your site name, url and a username and password ready to go because it will ask you for them.

If you prefer you can install WordPress yourself using an FTP software.  I won’t go through all the detail here because has already put together a detailed manual walking you through how to setup WordPress for your blog. You can find it here

Some things to consider when setting up WordPress:

  • Change your permalink structure in WordPress:  Most blogging experts think that having your permalink structure show your post name only is the best for SEO and for traffic.   By default, however, WordPress has a structure that looks like this: ““.   Change your permalink structure to have just your post name showing by going to “settings/permalinks” and entering “/%postname%/” under “custom structure“.  That will make your posts look something more like this: “”. More about permalinks here.
  • Check security, discussion and other WordPress settings: Consider enabling pingbacks/trackbacks, disabling remote posts and setting up how people can comment.  For a great list of things to set up and change, see this post: The Ultimate Guide to Setting up WordPress after an Install.

Install A Custom WordPress Theme On Your Site

WordPress comes with some basic default themes that a lot of newbie bloggers will just use on their site for loss of something better to do.   If you’re serious about blogging you’ll want to consider upgrading from the basic theme to a more customized WordPress Theme.  While having a nice looking theme isn’t the most important thing, it can give you some credibility by making your site look more professional that 99% of the other sites out there.

On this site I use the Thesis WordPress Theme as my framework of choice.  It’s extremely easy to use, is customizable and if you’re an advanced user you can make your site look pretty incredible.  Thesis would be my first choice if I had to recommend a theme.  Read my review of it here.

There are plenty of other good themes out there beyond Thesis, and some of them are even free, however,  if you’re serious about blogging I’d consider a premium theme first.  It will more than pay for itself through the upgrades, support community and other perks that you’ll receive.   Premium themes are also often better optimized for SEO.

With that said, here are a few of my favorite premium and free themes below.

Premium Themes

  • Thesis WordPress Theme:  $87 for a one site license, $164 for the developer’s option.  Lifetime upgrades and access to their excellent support forums.   Hundreds of tutorials on how to optimize the theme.
  • Headway WordPress Theme:  $87 single use or $164 for developer’s option.  Theme that is similar to Thesis, but has it’s own strong points.  Also has support forums and a large community.
  • Frugal WordPress Theme:  $87 single use or $164 for developer’s option.  Another great theme with a ton of options and great customizability.   Smaller community, but growing.
  • Studiopress WordPress Theme: Another great theme made by a true design and WordPress genius Brian Gardner.  Highly recommended.

Free Themes

If you do end up using the Thesis WordPress Theme don’t forget to install the Thesis Openhooks Plug-in as well, and read up on using hooks in the theme.  Which brings us to our next topic – plug-ins. (The links above are affiliate links, however, I genuinely recommend these themes)

Want to really make your site look great?  Get a custom site logo and background created through my graphic design site at!

Install Plugins On Your Site to Increase Functionality

One of the great things about WordPress is it’s ability to extend it’s functionality using plug-ins.  There are an endless number of plug-ins that you can install and use on your WordPress blog, and a few of them are essential.  The key is to install the ones you need, but not get carried away with useless plug-ins that bog your site down (especially if you’re on a shared host).  Here are a few of my favorites that i think most blogs should use.

  • MaxBlogPress Ninja Affiliate:  This is a great money making plugin for those promoting affiliate offers.   It helps you manage your affiliate links within WordPress, along with giving you reporting on your links.
  • Akismet Spam blocker: If your site gets any traffic at all, you’ll get a ton of spam. Use this to help weed it out.
  • All In One SEO Pack: A great plugin that helps you to optimize your site for search engines by helping you optimize titles, descriptions and more.
  • Contact Form 7:  Every blog needs to have a contact form so that your readers or people interested in buying advertising can contact you.
  • Google XML Sitemaps:  Important to have a good sitemap so that google can index your posts!
  • Optimize DB:  Sometimes your database can get clogged up and may need a little optimizing. This plugin will do it for you.
  • Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu:  I use this plugin because I prefer the admin website layout when using this plugin. Purely optional.
  • SRG Clean Archives:  Plugin that will help you to create a nice looking archive page.
  • Thesis OpenHook: For Thesis theme users to more easily access their thesis hooks.   If you’re not using Thesis you can skip this one.
  • Stats:  WordPress’s built in stats engine.
  • WordPress Database Backup: If you don’t want to lose your site, you’ll want to make regular backups of your WordPress database. I have mine setup to email me a backup file daily.
  • WP Security Scan: This plugin will help you make sure your installation is secure.
  • WP Super Cache: If you are on a shared host and you get a rush of traffic, it will help to have this plugin installed.
  • WP eStore Plug-in: If you plan on selling your own information products, e-books, services, or just about anything else you can think of, this plugin will allow you to sell them easily through your blog. Diversify your income and make money with more than just Adsense!
  • WP Affiliate Platform Plug-in: If you’re selling your own products you’ll want to have an easy to use affiliate program so that other people can help you sell your items. This WordPress plug-in works in tandem with the eStore plug-in, and no monthly fees like some services!

Those are a few of my favorite plugins for WordPress.  Have your own favorite plugins?   Leave a comment below and let us know what it is!

Setting Up Your  WordPress Blog – Wrap-Up

In this first post in the “Blueprint For How To Make Money With A Blog” series we talked about setting up your first blog.

I recommended using self hosted software as the best blogging software for monetization.  We talked about  choosing a name for your blog and why it is so important.  We looked at why having good keywords in your domain can mean additional search and referral traffic.

After choosing a name and domain, we discussed how you should get a hosting package that fits your needs, and how shared hosting will work for most new blogs.  We then gave some tips for  installing WordPress on your new web host.

Finally, we talked about the importance of a custom theme, and how it can make your site look and feel professional – in addition to giving your site better SEO out of the box.  After installing your theme we listed a variety of plugins that can increase the functionality of your site, and help it to meet it’s potential.

Next Wednesday in the “Blueprint For How To Make Money With A Blog” series I’d like to talk about how important content and SEO are, and then explore the many ways to promote your brand, build traffic and bring more readers to your site.  After we’ve looked at that we’ll list a variety of ways that you can make money from your site.  Stay tuned!

Do you have tips or tricks that you think aspiring bloggers should know? Good places to host their site?  Custom themes you want to point them to?  Plugins that have made your life easier?  Settings you think they need to make sure to check when setting up their blog? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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How To Make Money With A Blog – Series Links

Last Edited: 10th February 2014

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  1. says

    If you want to make money from a blog this is a must read. Period.

    Always carefully plan your permalink structure BEFORE going live. I suggest not using Adsense until you are already getting around 500 unique visitors/day. Pay for a premium theme that is easily upgradable like Thesis – if you’re looking to make money on your blog then don’t be afraid to invest money in your blog. Treat your blog like a business, and it will treat you like a business.

    Follow this advice and the rest of what Pete gives here and you will be well on your way to earning from your blog!

    Matt Jabs´s last post ..Monthly Debt Reduction & Savings Statement – December 2009

  2. says

    I love the detail, Pete. Keep it up.

    I remember reading a ‘Intro to Blogging’ series at Frugal Dad and he suggested getting to 50 posts before you make any extensive moves on your blog to prove to yourself that you can consistently churn out material. That was a number I kept in the back of my mind when I started.

    Thanks for the adsense suggestion. I’ve been considering adding it but I’m going to hold off and work on content/visitors instead of pulling in .32 cents a day.

    • says

      I’m not sure I agree 100% with the suggestion to not include adsense right away. Personally I think there’s something to be said for having it there from the get-go because it gets people used to the idea that you’ll have advertising on your site, and that you don’t mind making a little money through all your hard work. If you add adsense in later on you may get reactions from people who think you’re selling out, or that you’re now more worried about making money than churning out good content. If you do it from the beginning people are used to the idea that this blog is ok with having some advertising on it, and it isn’t a shock when it gets added.

      With that being said, as Matt said adsense probably won’t start making decent money until you’re getting some decent visitors to your site – however – it can make money. On my site I didn’t cash out for my first few months using adsense, but every month since that 4th month I’ve made enough to cash out every month ($100 is the minimum). $100 can go a long way towards paying for your hosting, domain costs/etc. I think the key to making money with adsense is writing about the right topics, and targeting the right keywords. Stay tuned next for next week’s post for more discussion on that!

  3. says

    Jumping into the blogging niche?! LOL…just kidding. Great info up there for anyone looking to start a blog and generate income from it.

    Blogging really is a way to create residual income online that does not stop with the click hits 5. You just have to be determined enough to see it all the way through.

    It has been fun watching this site grow Peter. Keep up the great work!
    Robb Sutton´s last post ..Blogging, Life and a Chick Flick

  4. says

    Nice article! Wish I had this when I started so many moons ago.

    I like the plugins Insights and PhotoDropper. One makes finding links easier and the second makes finding creative commons pictures easier. I’ll have to check out Optimize DB. I’d also add FeedBurner Feedsmith for your feed (and make sure you burn one in FeedBurner).

    I’m sure it’s part of the series but I find the FireFox plugin FireFTP real helpful. It’s easier than opening up another program (like FileZilla) for FTP, at least for me.

    As for Adsense, I’m not if it’s still the case but at one point you had to first be approved for Adsense so it was a good idea to have a week or two of content up first before applying. Once approved I see no problem with using Adsense. Just don’t make the mistake of plastering it up all over the place hoping that will drive the bucks in.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series!
    FFB´s last post ..Download David Bach’s Start Over, Finish Rich For Free

    • says

      You make a good point about adsense, one I hope to make in the next post. Make sure you aren’t plastering it all over your site – add it into at most 1 or 2 spots on a page, and try testing out different sizes, placements and color to see which ones work best for you.

  5. says

    Thanks for taking the time to put this post together. It’s a great resource.
    I especially liked your list of plugins – there is always another good plugin to consider!

  6. says

    Great information Peter. I’ve enjoyed reading your work over the last few months and for the support you’ve offered to me as I’ve launched my blog.

    I still have a lot of room to grow and look forward to learning from this series.

    I tend to agree with your stance on AdSense. It has taken me about 9 or 10 months to earn enough for a payout and I just accomplished that this month. While the incremental monthly amounts have been low it has been encouragement to me knowing that increased traffic is indeed a path to revs.

    Thanks for starting this series. I look forward to reading along.
    DoYouDaveRamsey´s last post ..2009 – A Year In Thanks

  7. says

    Yes, this is a great, extremely well-organized introduction useful even for those of us who’ve already been blogging a while. I’ve been at it 1.5 years now and there are still some good plug-in recommendations here I need to check out. Really looking forward to the rest of your series – thanks. Congrats on your income replacement – I’m slowly getting to a similar place myself, but it does take patience!
    MoneyEnergy´s last post ..Is Gold Dead? The Tricks and Traps of Gold Trading

  8. says

    Great resource for all bloggers!

    Is it just me, or are others against Adsense and other similar platforms? I don’t click on any Adsense ads, so I don’t think my readers will either.

    “Penny Stocks Up 800%” and all these irrelevant ads just bums me out, and I feel bad having readers click on them and potentially getting swindled if I can’t stand behind what the advertisement is selling.

    I’m happy keeping the blog relatively ad free for now, and introducing ads that I can verify and back. Installing ad campaigns, and negotiating direct ads is much more preferable to me. It’s harder work, but my conscious won’t allow me to do anything otherwise.

    Financial Samurai´s last post ..Creating A Masterpiece By Failing Forward

    • says

      I do think there are a lot of people that don’t like adsense, I’ve heard it called “welfare for bloggers”. I think a lot of the time people don’t like it because they can’t get the ads to look right, and they haven’t had much success with it. I think if they were to do some more research, figure out what people are doing who are successful with it, find a nice blending ad that fits in with their site, and do other things to improve their CTR, they might be happier with it.

      There is a way to block ads you don’t want to show in the adsense back end. It’s called the “competitive ad filter”. You just put in the url that appears on the ad you don’t want to show – and it will filter it out. Of course trying to filter out all ads you don’t like is going to be a losing battle, and it’s just one of those things – you have to educate your readers as to what types of things make good financial sense, and hope they don’t click on any of the bad payday loan or penny stock type ads.

  9. says

    This is a great list of plugin!
    I would add the wp table plugin when you want to add tables!

    I agree with Matt; you must invest money in your blog if you want to make some out of it! There are so many blogs out there that you must to offer unique and original content in a unique and original design!

    Having a custom made design also help to improve monetization.

    On the other side, I disagree with Matt regarding advertising. It is a good thing to include ads on day one. Your blog will grow with ads and your readers will get used to it since the very beginning. Plus, you never know when your blog will pick up and get some traffic. better be ready to make money out of it when it happens!



  10. says

    Wow! This gives me great hope. You’ve been blogging for almost 2years and already able to supplement income. I’ll be paying close attention to your blueprint. Thank you for giving us this gift :-).
    Patrenia´s last post ..Setting Goals

  11. repo2riches says

    Thanks Pete for the wealth of information. I’ve been following you for almost a year and this post gives me hope that I’ll get my blog up and running one day!!! Thanks again…Puna

  12. says

    Outstanding. Thank you so much for your wonderful post!

    There are so many people who are having trouble getting a job or are worried about the economy. This post and your blog show that anyone can do it. I think it is so wonderful to provide a blueprint so people know exactly what to do, step-by-step. The information that you share here is a powerful tool that anyone can use to take the first step to financial freedom. It is really outstanding.
    George´s last post ..Hacking Your New Year’s Personal Finance Resolutions

  13. says

    thanks peter great job!!

    Couple other things if I may suggest:

    1. stats tracker like sitemeter can be a great tool, but also super dangerous as you’ll spend too much time on it.

    2. Have a dozen or so articles pre-written when you start your blog, this will make sure you wont fall behind.

    3. Connect with other bloggers, email/comment/twitter.

    As for adsense I dnt see why not include it right away. Although I am reducing ads on my blog next year, but I had adsense from day 1.
    Ray @ Financial Highway´s last post ..Best of 2009

  14. says


    What a great idea for a post. Should be one of your most popular since I’ve been following you.

    All great info, although I can’t wait till you get to ideas for making your blog more popular and how to drive traffic to it–that’s what I am going thru right now.

    I’m a little concerned about Word Press though. I am starting to get advertising requests and hoipe that WordPress is compatible when I go live with the advertising thing.
    David/Yourfinances101´s last post ..Another Don’t Be a Mule Moment: Batteries

  15. says

    Starting a blog could be easy, but having to maintain it is hard work, especially if we want to generate income from it. I have started my blog five months ago and until know I’m struggling to give my best work. :-)

  16. says

    Thanks for taking the time to put this all together. Like you, I have chosen the personal finance niche, with a subniche of helping married couples realize lifestyle design freedoms through debt freedom. I have my site looking great, now for the hard part – getting someone to read it. Also thanks for reminding us that we need to stick at it for at least 6 months to a year before seeing results.

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