Three months ago, when I made the decision to turn my travel blog into a profession, my inspiration came from others who have done the same successfully. In particular, one of my best motivations has come from the bloggers out there who give back to the community by sharing monthly income reports.
I have decided to do the same, but with a difference: I am starting right now, from the beginning, while the blog is yet to make a single dime. On one hand, I hope that tracking my professional progress will help others with similar aspirations. Even if my attempt turns out to be a resounding failure, I expect there will be lessons to learn from it.
On the other hand, writing a monthly report will be a great way for me to monitor my progress and to keep my targets in focus. If I am falling short in any way, it will be a regular reminder of the fact, and should give me a nudge to either change my approach or reassess my strategy.
Almost all of the blog income reports I have found are by those that are already making a reasonable income, or in some cases a substantial one. These have been a huge help to me in understanding how the best in the business are monetising their blogs, and how they are focusing their investments.
One example is Adventure in You. This blog is run by Tom and Anna, a couple from Wales / the Philippines, and I tell you: these guys are an inspiration. They have been running the blog for three years and are travelling all over the world with it. In their most recent income report, they explain how they made $15,174 in April 2018. Yes, you read that correctly: over fifteen thousand US dollars in a single month.
While this and other income reports from successful bloggers are infinitely useful, I haven’t managed to find any equivalent progress monitoring by new startups. Perhaps it is a risk to share from the beginning; if I fail, it will be there for all the world to see. But at the same time, it gives me extra motivation to make it work. What the heck, let’s see how this goes.
Round-up of monthly activities
I will begin my regular reports with an outline of the month’s main activities. However, as this is the first one, I will cover a period back to March 2018, when I first made the decision to go professional.
The period from March until the end of May has coincided with the last three months of our one-year world travel. As such, the biggest challenge has been to balance business preparations for Story Every Day with enjoying the end of our adventure.
My primary focus has been on learning, and will continue to be in the coming weeks (more on that below). While on the road, podcasts have been a great resource. For example, the Travel Like a Boss podcast by Johnny FD has enabled me to discover insights from location-independent entrepreneurs all over the world. (It was this podcast that introduced me to Adventure in You).
I have also made efforts to connect with the travel blogging community and build a network. The Travel Bloggers Club is one of several Facebook community groups that bring likeminded together and create a support network for aspiring bloggers.
In the same vein, I did some research into the best conferences in the sector for some face-to-face networking. Conveniently, the world’s biggest travel blogger conference – the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) – is taking place in the Czech Republic this coming July. I booked a discounted early-bird registration and some cheap flights from the UK.
Of course, the basis for my business is written content. I began efforts to increase my output while still on the backpacking trail. Before March, I was averaging less than one blog post every six days. Between March and May, I increased this to more than one every four days.
Another early focus has been to develop the brand of Story Every Day. Both Lisa and I have experience of working in brand development. We worked together to refine the look and tone of the various communications associated with the blog. This included introducing a new logo, some primary colours, and upgrading the website design.
In addition to increasing my productivity, I spent regular time (perhaps an hour a day while travelling) on promotion and marketing to drive traffic to the site. The Facebook community groups mentioned above have been a useful resource for this. I also started using SEO tools to improve my search ranking performance, and writing my articles optimised for search engines.
Traffic to the blog has increased sharply, albeit from very modest beginnings. From December to February, page views averaged 439 per month. This increased to 1,433 during March to May – more than triple. There is still a lot of improvement needed here, and this will be a key focus going forwards.
Finally, since arriving back in the UK, I have invested in new equipment. If I’m going to be a travel blogger, I need to have decent technology that runs quickly. I’m now the proud owner of the new Huawei P20 mobile on a two-year contract, and a 2017 model 13.3” Macbook Pro.
Income and expenditure
As I mentioned at the outset of this article, Story Every Day is yet to earn a single dime (all in good time!), so the income report for March–May 2018 is pretty simple. A big fat zero! There’s plenty to report in the expenditure column, however.
Expenditure March–May 2018
- Travel Blogger Exchange registration, flights and deposits for accommodation: £190.23
- WordPress business plan upgrade: £204
- Macbook Pro: £950
- Adobe Photoshop monthly subscriptions: £29.97
- Camera insurance: £20.97
- TOTAL: £1395.17
You may wonder where I am finding the funding resources for all of this with no income. Well, before we set off on the recent one-year trip, we saved for five years in order to afford it. We’ve got some of that money left over to invest, and Lisa’s salary is sufficient to support our living costs in the early stages of the business.
Priorities and targets for June 2018
Top of my priority list for June 2018 is to complete my business plan. I started work on this back in March, but it’s not something that I wanted to rush. To date, I have begun customer and competitor analysis, and used models detailed in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great to identify brutal facts and outline my ‘hedgehog concept’.
Now, with three months of learning, and more time on my hands to press ahead, I aim to have a full draft document by the middle of June. I am lucky to have some excellent friends with many skills. One of these is highly qualified in business planning, and has offered to help me refine and improve mine. By the end of June I should have a completed document.
Another top priority is to continue my learning. I have signed up to take the Income Boss course, created by Johnny FD, the host of the above-mentioned Travel Like a Boss podcast. The course has great reviews and I’ve found all of Johnny’s content extremely useful so far, so I believe this will be a valuable investment.
For further learning I will focus my efforts on search engine optimisation (SEO). Although I have a background in digital marketing and have a record of improving SEO performance for large organisational websites, I haven’t done it for start-up websites before, and it is the most important source of website traffic. In June I will scour current web resources on SEO and hit up my industry contacts for initial advice.
Now that I am able to truly work full-time hours on the blog, I will be able to increase my written output. By the end of June I intend to be posting one article every two days, to increase to one every day in July. (Literally a story every day.)
Alongside content production, I aim to steadily grow my social media presence, in particular Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. There will be learning involved here, too; while I’ve used these platforms professionally in the past, I am a little behind the current trends and so I need to read up. For Instagram and Facebook, I aim to reach 750 and 500 followers respectively by the end of June, as a step to reaching 5,000 on each by the end of 2018.
All of this contributes towards growing my general website traffic. My target is to reach 25,000 monthly page views by the end of 2018. My target for June is 2,000.
Underneath the headline priorities, I have a swath of admin to undertake on the back of returning to the UK. The two major tasks at hand are to sort through and edit all of my photos, and to begin slicing and dicing my data on our general travel expenditure.
On that last point, I will be looking to transform my money data into a new series of blog content. Over our year of travel, I kept records of every penny we spent. This could be transformed into an invaluable resource for travellers, especially first-timers who are unsure how to budget. In June, I will publish the headline statistics of our expenditure, which will be followed later with various breakdowns and visualisations.
I mentioned earlier that I will be attending the Travel Blogger Exchange conference in July. In June I will begin to give some thought to my objectives for the conference, and prepare some promotional materials such as business cards.
My final consideration is one that is often overlooked, but is perhaps the most important of all: work–life balance. I don’t expect the transition to self-employment and working from home to be an easy one. I’m very much a ‘people person’, especially when it comes to work. I thrive on being around people. Working alone will be a shock to the system. To combat that, I will book in plenty of time to see friends and family, and look into local digital nomad communities and communal work spaces.
It will be a challenge to look after myself physically and mentally. I’ve got a new Fitbit watch, and have set a target to keep up 100,000 steps per week. I am also returning to the healthy, balanced diet that I followed before we set off on our travels. This should help me maintain some semblance of routine and self-care.
Lisa and I haven’t yet sorted a permanent abode, so all of the above will be undertaken while seeking out a place to live, and if successful, moving into it. Yikes.
That’s about it for now. If you have any advice that can help in this endeavour, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email at email@example.com or post a comment below. I’ll be back with my first full monthly business report on the 1st of July. Until then – let’s do this!