Let’s not lie. Anyone who knows me, or anyone who has been reading this blog for the past 5 years, will know that it has always been my lifelong dream to travel the world and get paid for it. In fact, over the past decade, I have done every job under the sun to make a life abroad a reality. From au-pairing in Australia, teaching English in South Korea, doing NGO work in India, interning in Canada, volunteering in east and southern Africa and studying abroad in Europe, I have spent years trying out new jobs in an effort to keep travelling and to hopefully find the perfect fit. The problem
is was, no job that allocates a mere 20 vacation days a year was every going to suit me and my endless wanderlust.
Why I quit my job to travel the world?
Time to practice what I preach
This is where the ‘why’ part comes in. As a strong advocate (to anyone who will listen) of living your dreams and never settling, I decided in August of this year that it was time to practice what I preach. I handed in my one month’s notice for my PR manager job, (despite getting paid more than I had ever been paid in the past, loving my colleagues and having recently got a promotion!) and decided it was time to go solo. Sitting in an office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was never my idea of ‘living my dreams’ and 20 measly vacation days was never, and I mean NEVER, going to be enough.
High cost of living in Ireland
The problem was (and is for many others I believe) that despite decent pay, I was really struggling to enjoy life back home in Ireland. I felt I was simply earning money each month so that I could afford to live in Dublin and pay for transport to get to work. Almost half my pay check each month was going towards rent and transport costs, and the remainder going on food, bills and the odd but of budget travel. I was working so hard to make a living, that I was no longer actually living my life. Not the life I wanted, anyway.
Inspired by other professional bloggers
When your lifelong dream is to travel the world and get paid, following in the footpaths of those that have taken that path before you always a good place to start! Over the past 12 months, as my dream of becoming a full time travel blogger started to take shape and I slowly but surely started to build up the courage to quit by job, I started to follow all my favourite (and most successful) travel bloggers and online entrepreneurs a little more closely. Super successful Irish bloggers such as Carlo and Florence from Next Stop Who Knows were probably my biggest inspiration over the past few months and their encouragement and kind words did not go unnoticed. The fact that they hit their first 5 figure income (after 2 years of full time travel!) in August was a real turning point for me…if they can do it, I can do it!
The time was just right
I decided that if I was ever going to become a full time travel blogger (my lifelong goal!!) and a budding entrepreneur, now was the time. Not next year, not in two years, but right now. I had some money saved to keep me going in case my plan totally failed. I knew I would not find it too difficult to find another job as the offers had actually being flowing in on LinkedIn, and I could always head abroad to find a teaching job if everything in Ireland didn’t work out. My travel blog was also really starting to take off. I was shortlisted (and later a finalist) for Best Travel Blog in Ireland and Cosmopolitan Travel Blogger of the Year, I had started working with very big travel brands and PR agencies, and offers of paid press trips were starting to trickle through my inbox. Just before I finished up, one of my articles got published on National Geographic while another was picked up by Matador Network and had gone somewhat viral with over 40,000 Facebook shares. The time was most definitely right.
How I quit my job to travel the world
Step 1: The Unemployment Plan
I actually sat down one evening, when I had less than 1 week of work left, and wrote something I like to call ‘The Unemployment Plan’. While it was mainly to satisfy my parents growing worries about how on earth I was going to finance myself without a full-time job, it was also to satisfy my own worries and to work out how hard I would need to work to make enough money to survive. I tried not to be over ambitious and told myself that if I could earn 1,000 euro from my travel blog and freelance writing assignments in my first month of unemployment that would be an excellent start. I then made a chart to plan how much I needed to increase this by each month in order to be 100% financially secure by January 1st 2016, four months into my unemployment plan. And by 100% financially secure, I mean have enough money to fly to new travel destinations such as Thailand or South America and enough guaranteed income coming in each month to sustain life as a digital nomad anywhere in the world. Well…anywhere that isn’t ridiculously overpriced like Ireland anyway!
Step 2: Monetize your travel blog
The second step in my long and winding path to becoming a full time travel blogger was to start monetizing my blog. By the beginning of September I was getting up to 50,000 hits a month on this blog which is pretty good for a travel blog. It’s nowhere near the big hitters like Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate or The Planet D, but it was growing steadily and was certainly enough to start attracting attention.
I bought my own domain name (for the past 4 years this blog used to be called janetnewenham.wordpress.com and it’s still my biggest regret that I did not buy my domain name earlier!), went from being hosted on WordPress.com to being self-hosted on WordPress.org then decided to set up Google adsense to see if I could cash in on those 50,000 monthly visitors. Guys, I’m going to be 100% honest here….it was SO not worth it. In total, over the past three months these horrible Google ads (which have since being removed so this is now an ad-free blog!) made me a grand total of…. €34.73. Not quite the figure I had in mind when sat down to write ‘The Unemployment Plan”!
The only real benefit I believe these adverts brought is that big brands and companies saw them on my site and they then thought, “Ohhh she must be getting quite a bit of traffic, we should connect with her.” Still not worth it though. My advice would be to steer clear. Google spies, if you are ready this…you’re awesome. Ahem.
Social Media posts
While bloggers can make money from social media, I find that having a big presence on social media with a large number of engaged followers will help you with all other elements of monetizing your blog. A large Facebook following will guarantee you steady traffic to your blog, and will also get you noticed by big travel companies and PR agencies. I have encountered many digital media agencies over the past few months who all seem to care more about how big my social media following is than how many hits my actual blog gets. Social is everything. Look at people like Scott Eddy (one of the world’s top travel tweeters) for inspiration. His Facebook posts are enough to make even the most well-traveled blogger green with envy, and he is a great example of how people can make a big income from social media. Gloria from The Blog Abroad is also kicking ass in the travel blogging world at the moment, especially on both Instagram and Snapchat.
— Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) August 28, 2015
Sponsored posts While my very high target with Google ads was a complete disaster, I feel my very low target for sponsored posts has been surpassed. Every now and then I get contacted by a company who would like to write a guest post for my site, or would like me to write about them. At the beginning, and with travel startups in particular, I did this for free and always got lots of good feedback. In the last two months however, I did up a rate card and now charge people for these posts. I only ever accept sponsored posts which I feel fit in with the overall theme and tone of my blog, and only work with companies that I would use myself. I now earn about 3-400 euro a month from these posts which is a nice start!
Step 3: Write for other travel sites
This is one of my favourite ways to make money and was not originally in ‘The Unemployment Plan’! Many big travel companies hire bloggers to write guest posts on their site. They know the content will be good, that the blogger already has a big social media following that the blog post can be shared with and that the travel blogger brings with them their own brand or personality and with it credibility. I am currently the resident blogger with a few Irish travel companies as well as a few well known travel brands further a field.
As most of my monthly income comes from freelance writing gigs this is considered the real money maker! If you plan on following in my footsteps and quitting your job, this will be key to your survival (unless of course you have other wicked skills like Michelle-Fleur from DashesnDutch). As Skyscanner has always been one of my favourite travel tools and I always liked to write about them, I contacted their UK Editor and was delighted to find out she was looking for Irish writers for the Skyscanner blog. I absolutely love writing for them as I get to think up new ideas each month and pitch them, which always keeps me on my toes!
Today’s office…. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Step 4: Stop paying for travel
Press and fam trips
For most people starting out in the travel blogging world, press trips and fam trips are their ultimate goal. Nothing beats travelling the world for free (speaking of which, please help me win a free spot on the Kerala Blog Express to India!). Press trips are invitations from PR agencies or Tourism organizations involve a group of travel journalists and bloggers going to a set destination. The schedule is usually pretty jam packed with activities and you will be absolutely shattered at the end of it. You will be expected to constantly update your social media with photos and posts and to be actively engaged with he people you meet everywhere you go. These trips are not not normally paid trips, but all you your travel expenses will be covered. I really enjoy going on press trips and love meeting other bloggers, but I have to be careful not to sign up for too many because each day spent on one of these is lost income for me. The only way for me to actually make money from these trips is to pitch articles to newspapers and magazines to see if they are interested in an article about said destination.
Check it out guys!! I’m on a press trip with 3 other amazing travel bloggers including @nonsoloamore to the town of Huelva in Andalucía, Spain. This was the view from my bedroom window earlier at the @islantilla_golf_resort!! It was about 25’c at 5pm…a little bit warmer than back home in Ireland!!! I will be here for 3 days exploring the area..more photos tomorrow! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
While I have only been on a few of these, they are definitely one of the best perks of being a travel blogger. These paid trips are usually organized by tourism boards or large travel companies and involve either a group of travel bloggers or you on your own going to a place with the sole purpose of promoting it on social media and writing up a detailed review of your stay. This review can either be on your own travel blog or on the companies blog. How much you get paid for these trips depends on how much you can bring to the table and how much of a good of a negotiator you are. In my case in might just be a few hundred euro to cover my time, while all expenses will also (obviously) be covered.
Hotel and airline reviews
One way to save money is to start reviewing everywhere you stay. Hotels, airlines and tour companies love getting feedback on their services so if you can provide them with a detailed and honest review on your site, which they know will be read by your thousands of followers, they will be very open to offering you a free nights stay, an upgrade, a free day tour or whatever else you are looking for. I find that the work I put in when working with hotels and airlines far surpasses the value of what they are giving me, and I would not have it any other way. I will post funny selfies with pilots, take more pictures on board (or in the hotel) than I ever thought possible and be 100% sure that they are happy with the effort I am putting in and the coverage they are getting. Travel bloggers should never take these perks for granted!
Step 5: Be your own PR manager
If companies can pay be big chunks of money to be their PR managers then it only makes sense that I should use my own skills to promote myself and my blog. Admittedly, this can be one of the toughest parts of being a professional travel blogger for most people. Have you ever tried to write a press release about yourself, writing all about how wonderful and talented you are in the third person?! It’s horrible and makes you feel such a big-headed ass. If you want to get places, and win awards, and get featured and be interviewed and make all those top travel blogger lists, then it needs to be done. I have worked so hard for over 5 years to grow my own personal brand, I have stayed up late night after night writing blog posts and doing research and I have spent days on social media trying to grow my brand and get my name out there. Thanks to brilliant PR Manager and agent (ahem, that’s me!) I have been featured in both local and national newspapers and magazines, have had my work republished in The Huffington Post, have been interviewed by top Irish media sites. I also spoke at my first conference this year, the Digital Tourism conference in the Titanic Belfast. It was such an incredible experience and I hope to speak at many more next year.
Like I said at the start, I am very new to this and have only been doing it full time for just over four months! I am so excited to see what 2016 brings and have big plans on how to make this blog much bigger, better and more useful for all! I am hoping to try out some affiliate programmes, write an e-book about everything I have learned from 10 years of solo travel (and 5 years of travel blogging!) and maybe even secure some speaking engagements! If you have any tips I don’t know about, or any useful advice, I would love to hear about them! Janet x