2019 was a year of challenges but it sure has been life changing. This was the year I decided I would become a full time blogger regardless of how much money I actually had at the start this process – and it wasn’t very much at all.
If you’re wondering how to make money blogging, I tell you how I’ve done it below. I hope this post helps you in some kind of way.
Disclaimer – there are a couple of affiliate links in this post at which no extra cost to you will help us keep this blog running.
- We just couldn’t go back to office jobs
- Why I decided to become a full time blogger on $350 a month
- Let’s get things straight
- I’m the salesperson and the writer and…
- The self doubt: looking for jobs
- Finding remote work was impossible
- January: We wanted to be digital nomads
- February & March: Pitching to tourism boards
- I didn’t quite understand the process
- April to June: Not growing at all
- Why I wasted time on Instagram
- I started using Pinterest
- June to December: When it all changed
- How did I do this?
- Build Blog Freedom Fast Track Course
- How did I earn money through blogging?
- Display advertising
- Affiliate marketing
- My third income
- How to make money blogging
We just couldn’t go back to office jobs
Steve and I decided we couldn’t spend our lives longing for the weekend anymore. We’ve spent years working for terrible companies to the point we would always end up escaping every few years to travel the world.
We didn’t want to live like this anymore – we wanted to live a life we really enjoyed that would give us more freedom to be able to travel when we wanted rather than escaping everyday life. When we came back from our trip in February 2019, this is when I decided I would learn how to blog and make money at the same time.
Why I decided to become a full time blogger on $350 a month
After experiencing a terrible job in London (you can read about it here), I vowed I would make money blogging so I wouldn’t ever have to work for someone else full time again.
To give you an insight, I was making about AU$350 a month from Mediavine ads when I decided to become a full time blogger. I had also been blogging just over four years and had previously kept it up because I loved sharing our stories and helping people in some kind of way.
I didn’t make the sensible decision to become a full time blogger once my blog was matching the same salary as a job, like most people do! I spent the majority of this year learning to live with a lot less and out of a suitcase.
But I was lucky because we had Steve’s family to help us out as we crashed with them during most of this year so I could make this dream happen.
And hence, this is why we are currently pet sitting as well because we get to stay in amazing homes in Australia for free whilst we look after someone else’s pets so we can save and I can continue to grow this blog. (We’ll talk more about getting into pet sitting on this site soon).
Steve’s background is in web design and he luckily got an amazing remote job working for the world’s leading web hosting company called Flywheel – it basically means he fixes websites all day long. He’s been able to support us throughout the second half of this year which has been a god send.
It’s been a rocky road being on one wage for the last six months but I can finally reveal I have accomplished way more than I thought I would by now and I’m now earning a full time wage via a few different ways.
Let’s get things straight
Firstly, no matter what anyone says, becoming a full time blogger isn’t easy at all. I’ve spent the entire year thinking about it non stop and working on it from the moment I wake up to minutes before I go to bed everyday.
When people tell you how they travel for free or that they work from a swimming pool for just a couple of hours a week, I’d be surprised if this is actually true. Maybe it is for someone who has a big team doing everything for them, otherwise I can confirm it’s a myth.
I’ve never worked as much as I have done so this year – I’m talking about 18 hour days every single day to the point where I needed time off during the last two weeks in December. But I’m sure the longer you’re doing this, the easier it will get and the less hours will incur and of course the more money you’ll make.
I’m the salesperson and the writer and…
When you run your own blog, you’re the one who has to do it all. You’re the writer, the SEO analyst, the strategist, the sales person scoring partnerships, the marketing manager, the designer, the social media manager and so much more.
To run this as a business is very tricky and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s this…
…there is never enough time in the day. Ever.
I constantly feel like I’m behind with my work and I don’t think that will ever change.
And I never actually realised how much work would be involved. Writing my blog in my spare time is a completely different ball game to trying to make a living from it. There’s so much pressure to actually make it work as a full time blogger.
The self doubt: looking for jobs
I can tell you that I didn’t actually spend the entire year solely working on my site, I spent a good quarter of it (if not more) looking for jobs during the “I’m not good enough” days. And I’ve had a lot of them.
I’ve had so many highs and lows going down this path, and mentally it’s been very hard to stick to. There were days I wished I just had a normal job and I missed the interaction of chatting to people at work.
I longed to be able to switch off at 5pm and not think about it anymore and to have a life again. But I had to remind myself that I wouldn’t ever want to do anything else. This is my ultimate passion and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be able to help people is the ultimate goal and if I can make a living off it then life is pretty good in my eyes.
Behind the scenes I’ve been to various job interviews this year and I even made it into the top 30 for a job which 5,000 people applied for. When it came down to it for me, I just couldn’t go through with it and work for someone full time again. I absolutely love this blog and I knew I needed to see it through.
Finding remote work was impossible
I also spent a long time trying to find remote work which is actually near to impossible. No matter what other blogs tell you, it’s so so difficult. You know why? It’s because you tend to be up against the entire world, not just the city you’re living in. I still have no idea how Steve scored his remote job.
I also went for writing jobs and a lot of remote companies didn’t see the value in bloggers, they wanted journalists to write their online content.
I also attempted trying to score freelance travel writing gigs but to be honest it never paid much at all and I’d prefer to put that content on my site than on someone else’s.
But, what I can tell you is this…
…I wasted the first six months of this year. I’ve basically grown this site in just the last six months alone.
I’ve learnt a lot this year about being a full time blogger and I’ve ended 2019 by exceeding my blogging goals to doubling my traffic from 2018 which is now on track to double again within the next six months!
I know I can now write a blog post and it will pretty much be on page one of Google within weeks for the targeted keywords.
So I’m going to break it down so you can find out how I started the year with 50,000 readers in January and how I ended it with 135,000+ in the month of December.
January: We wanted to be digital nomads
Working in Mexico helped us to set up a daily routine.
January is a hard one to factor in because we were still travelling but one of the things I learnt was to start the process of being a full time blogger in Mexico before we came back to Australia. I started a routine to help me get back into the swing of things as soon as we landed back in Sydney. This helped me massively push on with my site rather than spend February sitting on an Aussie beach talking about what I was going to.
On this note, it is so hard to be a travel blogger when you’re constantly on the move. Being able to keep up with blog posts is so difficult when you’re going to new places every few days. I’m glad that we moved back to Australia to have some sort of base so I could catch up with all of the content I had captured.
If you’re thinking about being a full time travel blogger, try and implement as much as you can before you leave on your trip. We originally thought in 2018 when we left on our travels we were going to become digital nomads. We honestly didn’t really know how much was actually involved to do this. Ironically we could do it now if we wanted to.
February & March: Pitching to tourism boards
From February to March, I spent a lot of time faffing around and not being nearly as productive as I should have been. I made a mistake with tourism boards.
I went to travel conference in Sydney which is designed travel writers and tourism boards to connect and work together on future campaigns and famils.
I got loads of leads but I didn’t do a lot with it because no one wanted to pay me (understandably) and although I got offered loads of free trips to places like Thailand, I literally had zero money. This meant that although most of it would have been paid for, I couldn’t viably accept it because if I wanted to do anything outside of the trip like pay for any meals or other activities, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Also, it wasn’t really for us. We didn’t want to write about a planned tour, we much prefer to work with small companies to help their businesses out rather than going on a well trodden famil that’s already been written about too many times already – because is it really benefiting anyone?
I also spent at least a month writing follow up emails which I cringe at now because I didn’t clearly didn’t pitch very well or offer them any value. It was more of a ‘Lovely to meet you. Love to work with you’ email.
I didn’t quite understand the process
I didn’t quite understand the tourism board process. To be honest, unless you have a big social media following and blog audience, it’s probably going to be on contra – aka you write a post and they give you a hotel stay.
The way to think about it is rather than the tourism board paying you, you’ll get a free trip to be able to produce new content on your site. You then make money via advertising and affiliate marketing on your site or even selling your images to other companies. This is still something I need to work on in 2020 but it’s probably different for every blogger to be honest.
I truely wasted a lot of time with this because at the time I naively thought we could just go and travel around the world again and inspire our audience to see some awesome places whilst doing it for free and getting paid for it.
April to June: Not growing at all
When we’re not pet sitting, my time is usually spent at a University working in their communal spaces.
During April to June I spent most of my time split between applying for jobs and continuing with the blog. The blog wasn’t growing and it had reached a plateau.
Do you know what I did wrong during this time? I continued to write about things I thought were interesting and I wasn’t implementing any SEO. I just guessed what people would be searching for on Google and I wasted a lot of time. This was my process I had always done. I was writing about my stories than about what people were actually looking for.
I found it difficult to concentrate and I’d end up producing about four posts a month which weren’t gaining the traffic I thought they would.
Why I wasted time on Instagram
I also spent a lot of time trying to make my Instagram better and I started using Pinterest. Do you know what I’ve learnt about these two platforms? Instagram is more of a fun platform for me although it’s really engaging to chat to our readers on there and to share our Insta stories, that’s about as good as it is.
I think it’s really easy to want to be both a blogger and an Instagrammer at the same time. Unfortunately a lot of brands seem to be only interested in your Instagram figures which has always been a bizarre concept to me.
Technically your Instagram account could be deleted instantly because you don’t own it. With a blog you own everything and have control of it, plus you can reach way more people on Google than on a social media app. I’m not sure if many brands understand the power of blogs and SEO yet in Australia especially, but here’s to hoping I’m wrong.
I too wanted to become a bigger Instagrammer in the hope more brands might be interested in working with me. To be honest, you don’t need to be good at everything and it’s best to concentrate on fewer things and be good at them than to try to be mediocre at a lot of things.
I started using Pinterest
I’ve since learnt to keep Pinterest super simple. I tend to use the same pin design and just add in a different image and copy now when I use Canva Pro.
I pay for Canva Pro because it offers up way more selection and I love that I can easily resize the image if I need to (something you can’t do on the free version). Back when I started, I was trying to create new designs each time. This does nothing for branding and takes too much time.
I also use Tailwind (which every blogger should be using) and schedule 30 pins a day but for traffic wise, I don’t get a huge amount back yet. The main thing is, I don’t spend a lot of time on it which is something I’m looking to outsource this coming year. Australian content is notorious on the Pinterest platform for not seeing decent engagement.
June to December: When it all changed
I spent 5 weeks sat at a desk in this studio room in America when I figured it all out.
It was in June when Stevo got his awesome job that we both went to Mid-West America for his training. Whilst he went to work, I stayed in the apartment and worked solidly on the blog. This is when I started to see a huge change as a full time blogger.
I finally put together a strategy, a content plan and goals I wanted to reach within the next 12 months.
My plan was to hopefully see 100,000 readers a month by next July 2020. I smashed this goal two months later, not 12.
How did I do this?
I finally learnt all about SEO and how to properly implement it. Using this combined with having an actual strategy and a content plan with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks, I started to get much more done a lot faster.
Instead of struggling to write four random blog posts a month, I was writing four structured posts a week as well as optimising old posts.
By September my blog views increased even more to 130,000. This means within three months, I had increased my traffic by 160%.
Build Blog Freedom Fast Track Course
You can see my monthly blog stats started to grow in July and have continued ever since!
And I learnt all of this from doing the Build Blog Freedom Fast Track course ran by Sharon Gourlay. Sharon used to be a teacher before she built one of the biggest travel blogs in the world called Where’s Sharon.
She now concentrates on teaching people to become professional bloggers on her awesome website called Digital Nomad Wannabe. When I finally bit the bullet and signed up to her course, this is when everything changed.
Although the course isn’t cheap, I took the option to pay monthly so I didn’t take a big hit at once. But I actually made the money back really fast from what I learnt on her course anyway so it didn’t really matter.
She taught me to set my goals and to not be overwhelmed anymore and to literally just get on with it. With her combination of SEO techniques and her structured guides, it all started to make sense for me.
How did I earn money through blogging?
There’s two things I have implemented since June to make money blogging which is also known as a passive income. This basically means that you can make money whilst you sleep, literally. Once you have the basics set up and you keep producing content, you can make money this way.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make money on a blog via a passive income stream, these are the two simplest ways to do it.
Mediavine is basically the ads you see on this site. You need to have 25,000 sessions a month to apply for it and to be honest I could have applied back in 2017 if I knew about it, but I had no idea. I read a post by Jayne from Girl Tweets World who talked about it which is when it came onto my radar.
You see back then I just wanted to help people with my website, I didn’t truely see it as something I could make a living from at all. It’s taken me five years to actually get smarter with it.
I’ve heard if you have a strong audience from USA, you’ll probably make more money. I don’t know why but ad revenue seems to have a much higher RPM than for the Aussie market.
If you haven’t reached 25,000 sessions yet, you can apply for Google Ad Sense or Ezoic (the better one). I don’t think they have a minimum requirement either so you could be making money already!
Because I have ads on my site, my plan was to increase the amount of people reading our content which I successfully did by actually implementing SEO. This means my ad revenue would increase.
‘Yeah, but what is SEO?’
Although there are many areas to work on with SEO, one of the major parts I implemented is keyword research. I basically started implementing targeted keywords so more people would find my posts on Google.
I did this all by using a tool called KeySearch. This is honestly the goods. I can now see what articles I should write which will rank on Google purely by using this keyword research tool. Best of all, it’s really cheap and I know I was a bit sceptical at first, but it’s what has lifted my blogging game tremendously. I’ve managed to get a discount for you if you’re interested in using it. Just type in this code: KSDISC when you sign up here.
I remember spending ages writing posts which I thought were going to do well. They were some of my favourites post I had written yet they bombed and I had no idea why. So I rewrote them and they are now ranking at the top of Google for the place it’s about. It was purely because I just needed to tweak some of the words within the post. That was it.
If you’re unsure what affiliate marketing is, it’s basically a unique link for something I’ve already mentioned within my blog. If you click on it and book the tour or buy the product, I make a really tiny commission. But, if a load of people click on it and buy then the money amounts up. So I can basically make money off something I was already going to promote anyway.
Before I started the affiliate marketing process on this blog, I read a lot of other blogs which talked about it and I was never convinced. I just didn’t get how people could make money from it or even a lot of money from it.
So I tried it out a year or so back with one company and saw nothing. I sacked the idea off until in June when I realised there’s so many companies out there that I actually promote already, I’ve been missing out on making a small commission from them. I hate to even imagine how much I’ve missed out on since this blog started.
As times gone on, I’ve seen a rapid increase in bookings and sales which is amazing. We’ll always make sure we don’t promote random things to make money as we’ve always tried to make sure this blog stays as authentic as possible.
My third income
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about being a full time blogger is that you need to have multiple income streams. You don’t get one pay packet at the end of the month in this game. Although it might sound obvious, it took me a while to get my head around this idea.
I think this is where I went wrong at the beginning of the year. I was just concentrating on growing my page views to earn more money on through Mediavine.
I didn’t look into affiliates or sponsored posts (which I do every so often now if the brand fits in well) so it was always going to take me much longer to make enough money unless I changed my way of thinking.
I randomly stumbled across an awesome Sydney based company who were looking for writers for two days a week. This fits in well for me as it’s only 8 hours a day and I can start whenever I like. Because I get up early, I can technically get the work done by 2pm and continue on with my own work.
The point is, the company doesn’t only fit in with my work schedule, it fits in with my morals too. Because I believe in what they are doing, it makes me want to do my best for them.
I love their products and as it’s a start up, I’m now working on their content strategy for them – something I’ve learned to master in the last six months. And the interesting thing I’ve learnt is it’s so much easier because I don’t have to work on all areas of the business for them, it’s just one.
As someone who’s been working on their own for a year, it’s interesting to see how much I’ve learnt to be able to help other businesses. I can see how much I’ve grown and it’s only going to help me succeed more in the future as a full time blogger – I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!
I hope this post has somehow reassured or helped you in some sort of way with the blogging path you’re on.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?
With Steve’s impressive website skills (he literally fixes websites all day long) and with my content knowledge, we’re thinking of doing a Facebook Live to answer any questions you might have about blogging.
Let us know if you’re interested by dropping us an email here >
How to make money blogging
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