They say your lowest point in life might lead to your highest. I would never have believed that if it didn't happen to me.
I've been blogging on this blog for six, almost seven years, full-time for nearly four. But my road to becoming a full-time travel blogger was definitely not a straight path.
I didn't know it at the time, but starting a blog was one of the best decisions I made in my life. It goes right after marrying Michael. I work for myself, anywhere in the world, and I get to write about the things I truly care about: travel, social media, and blogging itself. I also get to share my stories and connect with you. Now, if you've come to this post to learn, step-by-step on how to become a full-time blogger or travel blogger, check out this extremely detailed guide.
My intention to start a blog was not to make money or land a huge following. My first blog started after obsessively (and sneakily) reading a blog at work. A couple of my coworkers and I fell in love with the story about a girl from the USA who married her dream, “prince.” I felt the urge to read her story every single day. We'd look over our cubicles and talk about it during the day and in between meetings. I didn't know her or why I cared so much, but I just felt compelled to read.
Then I thought about my stories and had the craving to write. I started my first blog 100% anonymously. I just wanted a place to write down my story. I was 23 and I focused on my love story with my high school sweetheart I was going to marry in a year. I wrote a few dozen posts, sending them off into the world wide web with no one really reading them. I stopped after a few months.
Fast forward to after my wedding. I decided that I wanted to start a new blog. One that could help people. It was called “Do Dallas Cheap.” If you recall, back in 2012, the deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon were popping up everywhere. My idea was to scour the internet for the best deals and share them all in one place. This was also the time when Pinterest was becoming more and more popular. I started creating images with text overlays to share to Pinterest.
I got into it.
The site was doing fairly well. But it was time-consuming. I'd wake up on Sundays at 5 am to find the best deals. Although the site was getting a few hundred hits a day (pretty good for a brand new website), my heart just wasn't in it at all.
Time went on and I kept writing but not nearly every day. For some reason, I had the urge to start being more personal. I shared some interesting tidbits along with mundane things about my life. Lo and behold, I had my first comment ever.
I felt validated.
I knew I was getting views before, but the comment confirmed that what I said resonated with someone else in the world. I was hooked. Slowly, the blog became less about deals of the day and more about myself.
Just a couple weeks after I found new drive to write; I fell 20 feet rock climbing, shattering my ankle and leg. Unable to go to work for a few months, I was holed up at home. At the time, it felt like the worst thing that ever happened. I was in extreme pain, I was sick from the medicine I was taking, I could barely move, and my plans to travel that coming winter all had to be canceled.
Each day I sat with my leg propped up on our brown leather loveseat with my dog Hugo by my side watching “Friday Night Lights” and eating Cheerios. I felt lonely and like no one could really understand what I was going through.
It's as if a light bulb went off: “I need to blog again.”
I opened up my laptop and my fingers started flying. I caught up my blog about my injury and experience in the hospital. I didn't have much, if any, readers, but just writing down the words helped me feel better. However, that one comment from before remained with me. It's where I started to find a community of others. I commented back on her blog and on the other people's blogs that were commenting on her posts. It was a great way to connect with people I never thought possible.
One sleepless night, my eyes jolted open in bed. I need to change my blog name. The blog was no longer about Dallas or doing anything cheap. It was about me. The rest of the night I pulled the duvet over my head and typed out different ideas in the notes section of my phone. After a few days of thinking, “Helene in Between” came to life. I loved it. It gave me more of a purpose and direction on my blog.
Quickly, I got obsessed. I found a creative outlet to share my stories and struggles, and a place to meet people. Despite feeling (and looking, to be honest) terrible, I had a small place to write.
I didn't tell any of my friends or family. Including Michael. At first, I felt a bit embarrassed. Some of my posts were kind of weird. I didn't want to be judged; I just wanted a place to confide my thoughts. That's still why I adore blogging so much. I can come on here and let my thoughts spill out onto a blank white screen. There's something liberating about that.
As I started posting, I started paying more attention to what was working for others online. An easy to read blog design, a place to search, a navigation bar, clear pictures, and in-depth writing seemed to do really well. Slowly, I started putting more effort into my blog.
Then, it was time to go back to work. Every spare minute I had at my job I would spend tweaking my blog, writing posts, sharing on Pinterest, or leaving a comment on someone else's blog.
I also really started applying to what I did at work on my blog. My job was working in social media and advertising, why not put what I learned there on my blog? It worked. I saw more eyes on my site, more shares, and more followers.
Before I keep going, do you see how none of the above has anything to do with travel? Not even a little bit! And that's okay. It's more than okay. You can change over time.
Slowly, I started investing in my blog. I knew I wanted to make money from it, and I knew that if I wanted to see success, I would need to spend some to make some. I bought a blog design and I migrated from blogger to WordPress. I started really using Instagram as a way to connect with readers and post my favorite photos. I took on some sponsored posts. I added affiliate links and advertising to my blog.
My blog was growing, I was seeing some profit, and I knew I could take it to the next level. But I wasn't exactly sure how. Sure, I was writing some sponsored and affiliate posts here and there. But I didn't want my blog to become a walking advertisement.
I decided to start selling t-shirts. The first one was emblazoned with the words “Wine Not?” in maroon letters. To my delight, people bought them! So much so, I decided I could quit my job. I was at a job for the past year or so that I hated. It was a toxic environment and made me feel like crap every time I went.
This was it! I thought.
But as the months passed my sales started dwindling, fast. I also hated the amount of inventory I had in my house. I despised taking hours a day to package and ship shirts.
It was time for me to go back to work. This just wasn't it for me.
I ended up finding a great job working from home at a wonderful, well-known marketing company. My job was to help companies grow their social media accounts and stay abreast of any new changes on social media and marketing. It was fun. And I learned a lot. But I kept feeling that familiar pull to go back and try again.
Michael and I also made a big decision. We decided we needed to move abroad. The best way to travel and see the world would be to move. We would test it out for a year by living in a new state, away from Dallas.
We moved to Nashville, Tennessee where we both worked from home. It was wonderful. Despite being in a new place, we were embracing it and eating some of the best fried chicken around. Finally, I started talking more about travel. I wrote posts about where we traveled in Nashville, Asia, and Europe. I was gaining more traction on the blog and felt like the travel aspect was something I could passionately write about. But I knew I needed to find a way to make blogging my full-time job.
At this point I was making money, I had steady, increasing pageviews, and I was really growing my Instagram. I felt the best way that I could monetize would be to help others who wanted to grow. My background in social media, marketing, SEO, and advertising had been such a big help to bolster my blog. I could help others, too.
After debating, Michael finally convinced me to spend some real money on my blog. He was tired of me talking about making it full time and he encouraged me to take the next step. So I took a course. It was an investment. Looking back I can't believe how long I agonized over spending this money. Now, I take courses all the time to help me improve.
The course was a game changer. It helped me get super clear on my goals and why I was blogging and sharing in the first place. With that confidence and knowledge I decided to start selling courses on the two areas I knew best: blogging and Instagram. Within weeks after selling that first course back in August 2015, I knew this was it. I haven't looked back since.
I was making a real income for myself and honestly, I was the happiest I'd ever been. I didn't dread Mondays, I worked my butt off, but it was for myself. At the time, I had 14,000 Instagram followers. I quit my job, mostly making money off of my Instagram and my courses at just 14,000 followers! So often people think you need these gargantuan followings in order to make an income or an impact. And that's just not the case! I promise.
And then… we moved to Germany. Having never stepped foot in the country before we brought along Hugo, Millie, and two suitcases each to explore Europe. The travel blogging side of things exploded. I didn't even have enough time (still don't) to write about all the places we went to.
When we moved abroad I was worried. Could I keep up blogging and selling courses? Michael, too, was struggling to find what to do for income in Germany. I hired someone to help out, but it just ended up being more work than help. After Michael struggled to find something he liked we decided the best solution was to work together.
It felt odd for both of us. We didn't want work to affect our relationship. But slowly, it started blossoming into a truly incredible partnership. Now, I can honestly say this blog and business are doing better than ever.
Today we travel almost 80% of the time. I get to go to places I never though in a million years I'd go to. I get to write and share about what I truly love. And I make an income from my passion.
This blog truly started because I fell rock climbing and didn't want to sit around all day. I had no idea this would turn into a career, not only for myself, but for my husband, too. It's been an incredible journey and I can't wait to see what else lies ahead.
Some recommendations, if you want to go full time now or one day:
1. Invest in yourself. I know it's hard. I know it's scary. I recommend courses that SHOW you, not just tell you their strategies. Also, read testimonials to see if it's something that can work for you.
2. Diligently pay attention to your stats. It will end up being fun. Or at the very least, it will show you what to work on. This post might help.
3. Reach out to others and focus on creating your own community. No matter the size, creating a community is how you start fostering relationships. It's SO important!
4. Create content that you care about that will resonate or help others. I call this “foundational” content.
5. Use social media to grow your presence, community, and create interest. It's the best way to grow a blog in my opinion.
6. Have a voice and let it shine in everything you do.
7. Just do it. I know it can feel scary, but the world needs your talents.
What I understand is that success helps to fuel passion. We can all have passion for things. But when you see that passion having influence or meaning to others, it empowers you to share more. It might take some time to see real growth and progress but I promise you, if I can do it, so can you. Thanks again for being part of my journey.
My blog through the years:
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Free, 32 Page eBook to help you grow your blog.