“My wife owns her own business… she's a blogger.” This is how Michael most often introduces me. Every time I hear it, I think “WOW!” and also “WHAT?!” It's weird and fascinating to most. And it's the same for me. I am really really proud to be a blogger. My Mom stayed with us for the past three weeks traveling to 4 different countries. We were in the car discussing our life goals. She said to me, “Do you remember what your goals were?” I couldn't remember. She responded, “Ever since I can remember, you've wanted to run your own business.”
It's true. From age 5 on I was on the street corner turning my lemonade stand into a thriving bracelet and snack business that also employed the local swim team kids to help sell and create merchandise. So, a pretty big deal. Today I am a full time blogger and also run my own business selling online courses.
In September of 2016 my husband Michael and I hitched up our two dogs and two suitcases each to move to Europe with the goal of traveling. It started out slow. We got our bearings and we are now hitting the ground running, trying to see all of Europe over the next few years.
Let me preface this by saying this isn't an easy road. The traveling or the blogging full time part. There are MANY late nights and early mornings. I don't have a car and I get my groceries by walking to the store and then carrying them home in my backpack. For me this is VERY weird. I'm used to doing things with ease (like a car). But I also LOVE this lifestyle. There are always pros and cons. And the pro of me getting a 9 Euro flight to London outweighs any hardship thus far.
With all that said, here's how I make enough money blogging to travel the world.
When did I make the switch?
In August of 2015 I was at a marketing and social media job where I worked from home. It was a good job and I felt I was definitely learning but I kept feeling like I needed to go on my own. I was making some good money blogging but I was also terrified. What if I quit my job and then I fell flat? What if it suddenly stopped or I simply didn't make enough. Instead of crossing my fingers, I sat down and wrote out a business plan. I wrote out my goals, projected revenue and various income streams. Then I wrote down how I'd do it.
I showed it to Michael to see what he thought. I didn't do this so he could “let me” (barf) quit my job. I did it because we are a team. I have been talking about blogging full time for years and I wanted to get his opinion. I then showed it to my Mom and Dad and they said, “looks good.” I felt like this was a good start. But it wasn't enough yet.
I wanted to seal the deal. I launched my first course, Instagram for Success in August of 2015 and in one night made over $7,000. While to some this might not sound like a lot, but to me, it sealed the deal. It meant that people were willing to listen to what I had to say and that my years of experience were paying off.
I have been working as a full time blogger ever since that day – and have NEVER ever looked back.
This is a picture of me working on this very post on the train from Heidelberg to Paris.
How do you live?
Michael and I have always been and will always be frugal people. We don't have a fancy house or brand name clothing or cars. We are fine with that. We find joy in travel and living life in memories. We stay in hostels or inexpensive hotels.
When I decided to go full time, I wanted to be making as much or more money from my current salary. Because of our lifestyle I knew that if I could make enough, it would work. We don't tend to spend a lot of money but we do like to save. We are very keen on saving money for our future and retirement.
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How do I make money?
Let me preface this by saying this has changed over the years. I've detailed out what I spend on my blog, what helps my blog grow, and written out the various ways that you can make money blogging, but I haven't specified how I have. Today I'm going in. Let me tell you it can often feel overwhelming. But HOPEFULLY this will help you and give you some clues that will help you on your merry way. Or help you make some money.
This is one of my favorite ways to make money blogging. I truly like working with products, services, or companies I believe in, then get paid to talk about them in a realistic way. Some of my most popular posts have even been sponsored or branded content.
The way it works is this, I either reach out or most often am approached by a company. Then, we discuss the terms and conditions and also payment for the post. This can be the tricky part since you do often need to go back and forth between the company to work out the terms and cost to you. My advice is to KNOW your worth. I think that as bloggers we more than often underestimate how much time and effort we spend to promote a product. I suggest creating a media kit that you have ready to go that you can send. If you need a good starting point, here is how you can start reaching out to potential businesses along with a free media kit template.
Although I consider this separate from making money just from my blog, I created the audience and interest because of my blog, so it's staying. This is my largest source of income. I sell online courses and also have a membership site called Blog Boss Babe (aka my baby.) This is where I spend the majority of my time to develop and teach what I know.
I developed courses because I was getting so many questions and wanted a way to help every blogger possible. As someone who has worked in social media and digital marketing for years and years I felt it was a good transition combined with my passion for blogging.
I myself have taken many many courses and feel they can be really beneficial to helping you grow your blog or an area you'd like to improve. I'll mention one that I love below in the affiliate section.
I think I really found my groove while teaching online courses. I truly enjoy interacting and learning from other bloggers. This has been one of my favorite ways to grow online and I truly think we all have a bit of a teacher in us.
I love affiliate sales because I have free reign to include affiliate sales as I see fit. I got a question the other day about Affiliate vs Sponsored posts, so let me answer that first. Affiliate sales are those where you are paid a set commission when someone buys a product through your affiliate link. Sometimes a sponsored post may also have a commission structure, but usually, sponsored posts are those where you are paid a set fee for writing a post or social shares.
With affiliate links, I am generally using the product or service and then might include it in any post I see fit. For example, I am a huge advocate for Convertkit (newsletter) and Siteground (web hosting) because I use both of them. I make about 10% per sale if someone clicks on my link to buy. There is no added cost to you if you click the link. So it's a win win!
If you're interested in learning more about affiliate sales I suggest this wonderful course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. Michelle makes tens of thousands of dollars each month on her affiliate sales and the course is really straightforward. You will learn to make money from it!
Another example of how affiliate sales work is this post on How Lifestyle and Travel Bloggers can use RewardStyle and LiketoKnowIt.
While this could go under the arena of a sponsored post, I decided to separate it out. Because I often work exclusively with companies and brands for promotion on my Instagram (@heleneinbetween) I am putting it in its own category.
I tend to really like working with these types of promotions because they are easy to integrate and promote. When I first started I used to take any and everything that came my way, but now I am more selective to make sure the company or brand goes along with my purpose and even my beliefs.
Display ads are great because it's a very passive and easy way to make money. For anyone that views my blog, I get a very very very small amount. If they click the ad, the amount goes up slightly. While the profit on display ads is low, it's still a great way to make money on the side.
I used to work exclusively with Google ads and have tried a few companies before. I am now working with MediaVine (you need at least 50,000 pageviews a month in order to be accepted.) My only suggestion is to not overwhelm your blog with ads. IT can be distracting and the idea is to get people to stick around on your blog.
These are the 5 main ways that I make money and it's how I fund my travel. Now I'll go into what I spend.
What do I spend money on for my blog?
Website and upkeep. I spend a lot to keep my blog the way it is. With blog design, check ups, and quality, I want to make sure my site is super easy to read and find online. I also pay for hosting, help for my site, and some other side expenses like fonts or graphics.
You might like to read: how to start a profitable lifestyle blog from scratch.
Course platform and payment system. I used to use a course platform but was so unimpressed with how it worked for my students, I developed my own. This cost more and took much more time to develop, but I love it so much more. I also use SamCart to take payments.
Travel. As a lifestyle and travel blogger, I pay for all of my travel and expenses. Unless it says sponsored or ad, I paid for it. Most of my travel is paid for by me, exclusively. I like this because it means I am in charge of where I go and I can maintain my independence and blogging “identity.” But it's very expensive, hence all the income streams above!
How long did it take you to make money?
The timeline on making money on my blog was very different from many. I had no intention of making money with my blog when I first started it. It was a creative outlet for me since I just broke my ankle (September 2012) and needed a way to vent and communicate.
Once I got into the blogging groove I was obsessed. But I didn't start making real money with sponsored posts and the like until 2013. I did get offers and took a few but realized that many of them just weren't worth it in order to make a few hundred dollars. I'll never forget when I took a blog post for feminine pads. It didn't make any sense for my audience or what I promote, at all. I always remember that I need to put my blog and audience first, rather than monetary value.
I quit my job and blogged full time in August of 2015 and haven't looked back since! While I am by no means rich, I have enough money to do the things I love and to save up for retirement (something I am passionate about for my future.)
With all of this said, I will say that until I SPENT money on myself, I really didn't make a lot of money. You need to give yourself permission to invest in yourself. Plain and simple. Bottom line, I think it's best when bloggers diversify their income streams and make money in various ways. The life and income of a blogger can fluctuate and this ensures that you've got at least some revenue coming in.
I do not live lavishly but I do love my life. I work really hard and traveling isn't always easy. But man, is it worth it!
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