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Our Journey to building a Six figure Travel Blog
Starting a travel blog is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It requires a lot of work and the more you learn about blogging, it just gets worst. You keep adding more daily tasks to the already big “things to do” list and it always feels like you never have enough time.
If you are like me and like to set up goals in life, you will find out that making 6 figure a year from your travel blog is not an easy one. When people say that it’s easy to make money online or by blogging, they’re lying. It’s not as easy as setting up a website, writing a few articles and watching the cash flow in. It takes an enormous amount of dedication, motivation and hard work to learn how to run a successful blog.
Don’t get me wrong, being a travel blogger has been one of the most wonderful experiences in my life, and thanks to all the dedication and hard work now we can do this full time. Yes that’s right – our sole travel blog is our full time job and from that one blog, we now make enough to cover all our expenses and allow us to save money.
Last year our travel blog passed the 6 figures yearly profit goal, and in this article I would like to share with you some of the highlights of our journey to become a six figure travel blog.
This article might help inspire you to start your own blog or get some ideas to implement in your blog if you already have one.
It’s been almost 4 years since we started our travel blog and since day one it’s been a daily learning experience. Like any new blogger, we had no idea of what WordPress was and paying $100 for a domain name and one year of hosting was an outrageous amount.
Samantha (my other half) moved to Costa Rica when I was starting a job as a resident manager of a hotel in Guanacaste, the Pacific coast of my country, Costa Rica. At that time, we were living in this little hotel room working almost 18 hours a day running the business and dealing with all the hotel operations. We were ok but we knew that it was something we didn’t want to do for long term.
On one of our few days off, we drove around to explore different beaches and we started talking about how fun it would to start a blog to share our experiences with Samantha’s family. When we drove back home we talked about possible names and as soon as we got back to the hotel, we bought our very first domain, Mytanfeet.
The following weeks were dedicated to learning about blogging. I spent hours on YouTube and blogs reading about WordPress, blogging and learning everything I could about the internet after my long working hours at the hotel.
Our introduction to internet marketing
One night we were having dinner with some friends and one of the guys mentioned that he was making money online by selling affiliate products. The minute he said that, I started asking him every single question coming to my mind to learn as much as I could since I knew that was something I wanted to with the blog to make money.
A few weeks later we met Matthew Woodward, one of the leading Internet marketers in the world. He was visiting Costa Rica because one of his readers invited him to come and drink a beer and we were able to meet and hang out with him.
Meeting Matthew was a turning point for us when it came to blogging. He explained us the basics of internet marketing, SEO, content strategy and other subjects related with blogging. After picking his brain and learning more about affiliate marketing, we felt confident that this was the direction we wanted to go with our travel blog. Keep it a pure travel blog but incorporate affiliates to make money.
After Matt left the country, we stayed in contact. We were extremely motivated and excited about the possibilities of having a successful travel blog and continued to bust our asses while working at the hotel during the day and blogging at nights.
Without a job
Not long after, the hotel we were working at was sold and just like that, we were jobless with enough savings to survive for 6 months.
During those 6 months, we decided to pour our energy and time into blogging. It was the perfect time for us – we had enough to survive for 6 months and without another full time job, we could dedicate all our time into the blog.
The things we focused on the most about blogging was writing and studying how to gain traffic. Times were tough but we had each other and when we needed to, we both got side jobs to help our expenses. Samantha worked a few hours a week at a local vet clinic and a clothing store and I got a small web design project.
We were happy doing what we were doing but we both knew that we were in not the best financial situation and we had to make it happen or else. Our bank account was getting smaller every month and even with the little extra cash we were able to make the future was not very promising.
About to quit blogging
By the 7th month after the hotel was sold, our bank account was almost at zero. We were almost completely broke. At that moment, it was “low tourism season” so it was hard to get a job in any hospitality business.
The only option we had left was to move to the capital and get a job on one of the many call centers or online sports gambling companies well known as sportsbooks. But this was something we would do everything possible not to happen since that is exactly the life we didn’t want. Living in the capital city meant a lot of stress, traffic and being tied down to a job we didn’t like.
One night when we were almost sure that our blogging career would come to an end, we had the first sign of substantial organic traffic and affiliate sales on our site. After six months of daily work, Google Analytics was finally giving us a little bit of hope.
The next day we decided that we weren’t ready to give up. The feeling of seeing organic traffic and receiving a few emails from readers was incredibly motivating. That gave us the push and hope we needed to keep going. We knew that our dream was to be full time travel bloggers and make money online.
The idea of going back to a 8 to 5 job, taking a bus every day to go to the same office and do the same every day became our #1 motivation to keep going. After living at the beach away with traffic, away from all the stress wasn’t something we were going to give up easily! We loved having the freedom and flexibility and knew that we had to figure out a way to keep that going.
Our first affiliate commissions
Eight months passed since we got our last formal pay check, we were stretching our money and finding freelance jobs to cover our monthly bills. We were still not in a good financial situation but we had a clear goal: to make enough money blogging to cover all our expenses.
After weeks of work, frustration and a little hair pulling, we finally saw real money coming from our blog, I remember that day like yesterday. Our first official income from the blog was $212.13 in September 2013. Time to celebrate!
They say in Internet marketing or working online that making your first dollar is the hardest. But once you make that first dollar, you realize that making money online isn’t impossible. It IS absolutely possible and we felt so proud of ourselves for that $200 something dollar check that we made purely from one small blog.
The next month we made $537.75, the next $ 632.48 and finally in December 2013 we accomplish our first goal. We made $1908.55 which was enough money to cover almost 2 months of rent and some grocery shopping. Woohoo!
In January 2014, we were officially full time bloggers making over $1000 a month on affiliate sales, adsense and local commissions for referrals. It was enough to pay the rent and have a normal Costa Rican life. And we kept the same rhythm as before, spending our time researching, learning and getting more into SEO, keyword research, website speed and more.
In 2014, we were able to jump from 15560 visits in January to 34128 visits in December. We doubled our traffic and we were able to make $26162.05 which is an “ok” Costa Rican salary but we knew we were just starting.
During 2014, we spent 75% of the time producing content. We traveled to Asia for almost 6 months, published over 200 articles, Samantha wrote a short ebook and we were getting the first invitations from local business to write about them.
2014 was a very stable year for us. The blog was making +$1500 every month and we were putting our name out in the travel blogging community and most importantly, in the Costa Rica tourism industry.
Time to tune up our blog
After a solid year of constant growth we noticed that we had to improve our blog on so many aspects like speed, user experience, conversions, linking structure, etc.
When we started our blog, we were hosting our site with Blue Host on their cheap hosting plan. It worked great for the beginning and even today we still recommend to start with a shared host and then move a better service when traffic increases.
So when we found that our site was crashing due to the amount of traffic we were getting, we switched hosting and several other things to help the site run more smoothly. We moved from bluehost to WPEngine, we switched from the “free” mailchimp email manager to Aweber and the most important change we did was change to Genesis Framework.
A couple of months after all these changes, we noticed a 100% traffic increase! It sounds impossible but we’re not kidding - we were averaging over 70,000 monthly visitors and from 10 to 20 new subscribers every day.
Investing money in the blog was a game changer for us, premium services were so worth the money. I noticed that travel bloggers hate spending money for their website but if you want to have a big travel blog, you need to have the resources to back it up.
Software and plugins are premium and cost money for a reason and once we made those changes and invested in some other premium plugins and software, we noticed a huge traffic increase. Some of the software we invested in were Tailwind, Lead Pages, Buzz Bundle and Long Tail Pro.
Speaking at a conference for the first time
2015 went very fast. We just got back from Asia/USA to Costa Rica in January and we were ready to really focus on our Costa Rica content. The first 6 months Samantha was always researching and producing the best possible content for our readers and I was always looking for new ways to monetize the blog and thinking of a long term business model for the blog.
We decided to apply to speak at TBEX, a travel blogging conference we didn’t know too much about, but few weeks later we were confirmed to talk about affiliate marketing in travel blogging. The experience was awesome. They flew us out to Bangkok, Thailand, we met lots of travel bloggers and our speech was pretty successful. We got tons of compliments on it! For our first time public speaking together as bloggers, it was scary but also a humbling experience.
Speaking at one of the largest travel conferences was definitely the highlights of 2015.
Since our first commission sale, we have been keeping track of how much we make from the blog and we used to publish a monthly income report. We did this for 26 straight months. It helped us keep track of our blog and we enjoyed sharing our journey with other travel bloggers. Our friend Matthew Woodward used to publish them on his web site and we got some traffic and attention from other bloggers and business.
We had to stop doing it at the end of 2015 however as some of our local partners didn’t want their other partners to know how much they were paying us in commissions so we agreed to stop publishing them.
2015 was great, we were able to increase our revenue by more than 100% and we closed the year very close to $60, 000 in profit. You can imagine how happy we were when our accountant gave us the final numbers.
The SIX figure goal
If you have ever read any internet marking book or follow other Internet marketers, you will notice that people put a lot of emphasis on figures. I had no idea what this meant until I went to the Affiliate Summit conference in New York City and a friend of us invited me as his guest to a 7 figure party.
He explained that this was an exclusive party for people who were making a million dollars a year from Internet marketing.
Of course I was not even a tiny bit close to make one million a year (and still am not) but getting to know all the “big guys” changed my way to see blogging as a business.
I remember when I was sitting at this table with some new friends ordering a +$150 steak (everything was covered by the invitation), I said “You guys in the 7 figure club eat so well, I want to join!”
Everyone at the table started laughing at my not funny “joke”, and one guy told me something that I will never forget. He said to me “First you need to do 6 figures if you want to even start thinking about making 7.” It sounds like common sense but it makes sense – you need to start with smaller realistic goals before jumping to the highest level. You need to train to become the best – nobody is the fastest runner or swimmer from day 1.
After that, I was determined to make 6 figures in one year from our travel blog and that became our new goal for 2016.
Increasing our revenue by 100%
2016 has been the best year so far and we had a lot of exciting projects. We were recognized by the Costa Rican government as a tourism ambassadors and we were able to work on a campaign for the Costa Rica tourism board.
The key to increasing our revenue and crossing the 6 figure line was not as complicated as some people think, it’s all about WORKING and executing your plans. And it’s all about working smarter, not harder. If you find something isn’t working for you – stop and find a way for it to work or do something new. It’s important to try new things and branch out, but if you find something isn’t working for you, isn’t generating enough money and taking up too much time, put your time and energy into something that will work.
It’s so easy to think of a hundred ideas in one day but never do anything about it. It’s easy to talk but it’s those that DO that make the difference. The thing I noticed about all the 7 figure bloggers were that even though they may only be good at one thing, they get shit done and they do it well.
When we met with other bloggers who tell us their ideas, most of the times I am impressed and excited for them. But months later they never execute their idea and keep going by the “safe” line.
In our case we try to execute at least 90% of our ideas, and to be honest, I have failed so many times and not like normal fails. I usually go all in and thanks to this I have lost hundreds of dollars on incredibly bad projects. I learned my lesson but it was something I had to experiment with, even though I failed.
Thanks to this mentality and discipline, we have been able to learn from our many mistakes. Thankfully we don’t fail as much today. We still do fail and what I mean is that we don’t get the results we want, but the way I see it is that every time we don’t reach the goal, we learn so much in the process. Learn from your mistakes and do it better next time!
Making over $100 000 in one year from our Travel Blog
It’s obvious from the title of this article but officially in 2016, Mytanfeet made over $100, 000. I am not saying this to show off at all. When we were started we got so much inspiration from different bloggers and I hope that our story can give you some inspiration. We literally started from 0 – we knew nothing about blogging, nothing about affiliate marketing, we had to watch Youtube videos on how to publish an article on WordPress! You can’t believe how cringy it is to watch our first Youtube videos too!
But now, we have built up strong social media (over 30,000 followers on Twitter, 11,000 on Instagram, 14,000 on Pinterest and 4,000 on Facebook), we have improved our photography and videography to the point that even the Travel Channel has bought footage from us and our blog ranks on the first page for many Costa Rica keywords. Even keywords unrelated to Costa Rica, we rank very high for!
If you are starting your own travel blog and don’t think that you have 4 years to make 100K, I have seen people that started after us make 5 times what we do. Travel blogging works different for everyone since there are so many ways to make money. Not everyone has to make their money by affiliate marketing. Some people go into freelance writing, social media management, paid campaigns and others. The only thing that has made us successful is hard work and discipline.
Nothing comes easy when it comes to travel blogging otherwise everyone would be a travel blogger traveling the world “for free.”
Samantha and I are still working just as hard as the first day but we know what to work on that improves on our blog. At this moment I am using the same plastic portable table I bought the day I decided to be a travel blogger, and probably after I pass this article to Samantha to edit, I will start thinking about the next project. We actually have a few blogs we want to start but just have yet to find the time. We bought the domain but are just working slowly on building it up.
We have big plans for the future personally and in business. We keep adding more businesses to our affiliate network and things look very busy this year.
Thank you for reading this article and please leave me a comment, I would like to know if you guys like our story and if there is anything you guys would like me to share.
We’ve been following you guys since 2014, before we first interviewed you on our podcast in 2015. It’s always been a positive motivation to see the action you’ve taken consistently over the years and how that consistency and vision has grown into the success you dreamed of. Looking forward to seeing you hit the 7 figure mark!