Welcome to my blog income report for August 2018!
If you are new here, my name is Mar and I am the Owner and Editor of Once in a Lifetime Journey. The photo on the left is me in Tahiti on Christmas day a few years ago. I was updating the article this month.
This blog is four and a half years old and is about luxury and out of the ordinary travel. If you are keen to read about one of the 100 countries I have been to, check out my Destinations page. Not all countries are represented there because some of them I visited long before I started this blog, but a fair few will be.
If you are an avid traveler you may also want to check my Travel Resources page with my recommendations for the best apps, tools and websites I use when planning, going on or returning from a trip.
For the book research, I scrutinised in detail, over 50 blog income reports from top earning bloggers. And it got me thinking.
Deciding to do so was not an easy or obvious choice. But like I always say with everything in my life:
So I took it with a “try and see” approach: let’s try to publish a couple of income reports and see if it brings me and my readers any value.
If it doesn’t, I will stop.
If it does, I will continue to share them.
You will be asking, why am I sharing such personal and private information with a world of strangers and what value do I expect this to add to you or me?
That is precisely the same question I asked myself a few times before taking the leap. The answer is similar to the rest of the bloggers who share their income breakdown and it is two-fold:
1. Firstly, I feel it will be valuable for me to reflect and track my own progress and it will aid in keeping myself accountable to my priorities. I am a big fan of data-driven decisions and of analytics, so looking at graphs and trends is something which has always been in my DNA.
2. Secondly, I hope it will also help give others looking to make money online new ideas on ways to monetise their blog, because I am not doing what most people do and have a diverse and varying monthly income which will reflect in a different income report to the majority of the very successful bloggers.
3. Thirdly, although there are lots of bloggers publishing income reports, there are very few in the travel niche, and outside of the US, so I felt I could add something into the conversation
All too often, the more popular bloggers on the list of top-earning blogs I looked at draw too much of their blog’s revenue from streams that are hard to replicate by other bloggers in the short-term. I am referring to things like large advertising amounts or affiliates in very competitive niches with lots of available content. At the lower end of the scale, a lot of bloggers earning $1,000 to $2,000 are just doing the obvious things like ads and some sponsored posts. It is hard to draw too many learnings from that and, as the world of blogging becomes more and more saturated, these revenue streams will only become more scarce.
Why am I different from them?
I am pretty special 🙂 No really, I think I can bring in something the rest of the bloggers publishing income reports can’t.
I had a full time job – For the first 4 years of running the blog and for 15 years in total, I had a full time job for various corporations. This was up until January 2018, when I decided to focus my attention on the blogs and influencer work completely and handed in my resignation for my job at Google. Also, I am open to trying out all sorts of different ideas, testing them, learning what works and what doesn’t and moving on from failures. I was never afraid to fail, but I always feared not trying.
I am in the travel niche – Travel is an interesting niche because not a lot of blogs publish income reports and because a lot of the value received is in kind. This type of “income” is not usually reflected by other bloggers and I want to make a point of adding it in because it is a saving that I would have otherwise incurred.
I hope I can share these insights and also remain more relatable than the larger bloggers who publish blog income reports running in the thousands of dollars every month.
- Previous Income Reports
- What I was up to in August 2018
- Travel in August 2018
- Progress on the blog in August 2018
- Consulting opportunities
- Blogger outreach and program management
- Personal Life
- Revenues in the month of August 2018
- Interesting statistics for August 2018
- 2018 Goals
- Wrapping up August 2018
Previous Income Reports
If you are not new to my Income reports or to this blog, you can probably skip the next two sections about how it all started and what makes me and my blog unique.
If you are new to Once in a Lifetime Journey and just stumbled upon my blog income report, let me give you the lowdown about my background and how I got here.
I started my blog in February 2014 as a repository of my travel experiences. It was mostly an online diary of sorts and I tried to keep the blog as hidden as possible. I did not tell anyone I was writing it for the first few months as I was writing for myself.
Blogging was therapeutic for me, akin to meditation. I had just quit my eight-year long management consulting career and was taking a break, experimenting with opening a cafe, investing in some startups and even running a travel company.
You can read more about my background in my About page, where I tell you why and how I travelled 80% of my time and how I decided to start a blog.
My efforts to hide my online presence were quite successful and although I kept adding new content, the Google magic only helped at the beginning, bringing me lots of strangers that were interested in reading about my shenanigans. But once the world of blogging became so crowded and everyone started travel blogs, the additional content started to bring me no additional growth in views or readers.
This inflection point happened just a couple of months after I attended a travel blogging conference in October 2015 in Bangkok. I had not tried to monetise my blog at all until that point, in fact, I had only just started telling people I had it over a year after it started.
The conference opened my eyes to the possibilities of earning a full time living from a blog. From that moment onwards, my entrepreneurial and business mindset could not stop me from at least trying to make it happen.
I also realised that my personal blog, this one you are on, was a good avenue for my trips but that my niche and personal preferences were very unique. I visit either very remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations which receive little to no tourists or go on luxurious vacations. I have a few friends who enjoy the same type of travel, but this dichotomy did not help my positioning as it was slightly schizophrenic and almost an oxymoron.
Do you know what The Least Visited Countries in the World are? -> I compiled my own data in this article
In order to have a more niche-oriented blog, I decided to start Singapore n Beyond which is entirely focused on Singaporean residents, providing them with long weekend trip itineraries curated by local experts in and around Asia or beyond. I started Singapore n Beyond because I realised this was an unanswered need. Singapore is small and residents tend to travel a lot, in fact Singapore ranks among the 10 best travelled nations. I intended to start the blog with the intention of monetising it.
However, I had a full time job until February 2018 so revenue was never been an objective of mine. I have a very financially-oriented mind and I create business plans for everything I do. I have also invested in a couple of startups as an angel investor. But I did not truly look at the blog as a business until 2017.
I am telling you this so you understand my frame of mind.
I never sought maximum monetisation from the blog so I declined a lot of offers from brands looking to collaborate that were not in the price range I was willing to accept. I priced myself at the higher end of the range to maximise my hourly rate not my total income.
Had my income depended on the blog, I would have accepted a lot of subpar offers and increased my monthly earnings, albeit at the expense of my hourly rate.
Although a lot of my learnings and experiences will be relatable and replicable, I need to point out a few things which make my blogs unique:
I am a strong believer in outsourcing for two reasons. I believe in specialisation and in maximising productivity as a whole. Hence, it makes no sense for me to do something I am not good at and will take long to solve when I can hire someone who will do it better and faster (hence cheaper).
What this means:
1. I hired a Content Manager early on to take care of Singapore n Beyond and help me with the management of the two blogs. He takes care of uploading articles into WP, managing all the SEO related stuff, some social media and also editing videos and photos and he has a two degrees in English and Multimedia respectively.
2. I engage paid freelancer writers to produce the content for Singapore n Beyond. This is not just for efficiency purposes but because I wanted the content to be provided by a writer who knew the destination very well, not just me after a 2-3 day trip. So the content there is curated by local experts.
3. I have a part-time social media manager who handles Pinterest.
4. I hire freelancers for a lot of other tasks that require a skillset.
5. I use an IT and WordPress expert who I found on Fiverr long ago to handle all the WP related stuff, changes, fixes and anything. She is awesome and she is quick and very affordable.
You may not have the financial ability or agree with the mentality of outsourcing, but for me it is key and it allows me to be where I am and do what I love while letting others do what I am not good at. Having a virtual team also helps me feel better as I have someone to discuss things with, brainstorm and feel a sense of belonging.
I am very 80/20
This refers to Pareto’s principle that 80% of the value is driven by 20% of the effort and so 80% of the effort brings only 20% of the value. I strongly believe in this.
What this means:
1. I am happy to live with things being 80% perfect. I am a perfectionist and have my pet peeves, but I am comfortable doing things that are not 100% perfect. This allows me to be really fast and try things out, then iterate and improve. It is probably something that was part of my personality and got further emphasized by working for Google where this was very much the philosophy – launch, iterate and learn.
2. This also allows me to be very efficient as I rarely delve into something for too long. I assess pros and cons then just try it and see so I churn out a lot of output leading people to believe that I am super human because it seems that I do more than the average person. This is just because the last 20% takes a lot of effort and I prefer to complete it while something is live than delve on it for too long.
I am not afraid to fail
I really am not afraid to fail, do things wrong, be wrong or appear as I have failed. This is very much my personality. I am ok with a high risk of failure. I prefer to try myself and learn from it and I strongly believe it is better to try and fail than to have never tried.
And hey, I am here right? 😉
What this means:
1. I try things, I am not scared or ashamed to admit when I fail, learn and improve or move on. It is probably fair to say that I care less about what others think than the average. This is not to say that I do not listen. I have a group of trusted advisors I refer to, and I always listen to my readers, but I am not worried about the “what others might think”. If I think I am doing the right thing, I will go ahead.
2. This also makes me open to try new things even if they may not work and gives me the chance to learn from myself.
3. At the same time, that may also bring some inefficiencies as I like to try things for myself before reading about other’s failures as I often think one size does not fit all in the world of making money online. So I may waste some time trying something instead of learning from other’s failures.
I am proactive with hotel collaborations, rarely reactive
I have not changed since monetising my blog, nor do I intend to change, my travel style or spirit regardless of how much I monetise my blog or where my income comes from.
I rarely take up hotel/destination offers to go on press trips or stay with them in exchange for coverage unless they are trips I wanted to take anyway and a property I was looking to stay at.
So, I reach out to properties I want to work with after very thorough and in-depth research to ensure I will be 100% happy to recommend them afterwards.
My process for approaching a brand to work together is as follows. I first decide where I want to go, what property will fit the luxury niche of my blog, then conduct detailed due diligence on the options available and finally reach out to them if I am convinced they are a brand I will honestly recommend.
As a result, I work with very few brands and I rarely take up offers I receive for sponsored stays.
This differs to a lot of other bloggers who will include reviews of a wider range of accommodation options and hence can work with many brands. I only review the top of the range as I want to maintain my luxury travel niche positioning.
In August 2017, I decided to pause the sponsored stay work for a while and pay for my trips. This was for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to avoid the very significant extra work that comes with having to fulfil a contract requirement. When your holidays become work, you never take rest or disconnect. This is what happened to me. In order to spend free quality time with my partner, I decided to pause on sponsored work.
That does not mean that I do not review properties, I still do, but I do not have anyone to respond to beyond my readers so I do not need to spend hours taking photos, wake up at sunrise and pose endlessly until I find the right photo. Secondly, I became quite disenchanted with luxury hotels. I had a string of three very luxurious properties which were billing themselves as the best of the best and turned out to have very mediocre service standards. I never want to find myself in the situation where I work with a brand I have to write a lot of areas for improvement about. So I was glad I had paid in full for those trips.
In the second half of 2017 I paid for almost all my trips and in the first half of 2018 this has continued albeit with some selective collaborations now that I have time to travel more flexibly.
But this has not changed my approach to working with brands and this not only ensures that I can be honest with my reviews and remain true to my luxury travel niche but also that, when a brand is not interested in working with me, and that happens 50% of the time, I most likely still book a room and pay for it myself if that is the hotel I want to showcase on my blog.
What you see in my review section is therefore 100% legitimate and honest. But the value I extract from sponsored stays is lower than I could have got and than most travel bloggers enjoy, so I consider it to be at the lower end of the range.
I can currently afford this approach because I can pay for my luxury travel but it also makes me quite unique in the world of travel blogging, especially in the luxury segment where a lot of the brands only work with bloggers that have a very large reach.
Maybe one day I will not be able to continue paying for luxury hotels charging upwards of $1,000 a night and I will have to succumb to my principles. But I genuinely hope I never have to sell my soul to the Devil and can remain independent and writing in the luxury travel niche.
What this means:
1. While the above applies to Once in a Lifetime Journey, that is not the case for Singapore n Beyond which is not segment focused and which recommends brands in all price ranges. For Singapore n Beyond, I make sure the brand is reliable in its price range, its a brand I would recommend and then look for a writer that will be keen to cover the destination and has an affinity for it and I send them on my behalf. I have a few writers who I have engaged this way with.
2. If you are looking to monetise your blog through sponsored stays, consider the value I get in the lower end, you can probably extract more value from a similar reach and audience than me.
What I was up to in August 2018
August was a very maniac month, I was so busy that I probably worked as many hours as when I was still a management consultant, and I say this with a hint of sadness not of pride.
I had decided to take July and August as months in Singapore without any travel so I could focus on the blog but then a large opportunity to work on a project came up and I could not pass it up. And it kept me up until very late at night on most days.
However, it was also the start of my “real” annual leave, something which I very much needed badly.
Travel in August 2018
I traveled a fair bit in August. First, I had a press trip to Phuket with Baba Beach Club and Sri Panwa, one of my most favorite luxury hotels in Phuket. The place is just stunning and going as a media representative with other journalists and press members was a rest as we really got to spend time with the owner and the team and get the inside story. Check out my reviews below, they are both awesome places to stay on your trip to Phuket.
Then I just worked, worked, worked non-stop until the 22nd, at night, when I finally went on leave. I had not been on a real holiday, like the ones you take, for years.
What do I mean?
I mean a holiday where I am not taking photos of myself for social media or having to meet hotel teams I am partnering with. It was also a holiday where I set my autoresponder on and did not reply to (most) emails.
The only work I did in this trip was the collaboration with Lufthansa for the Business Class flights from Singapore to Munich. This was long in the making and properly planned with the Lufthansa team. We had a storyboard and all the permits to shoot and it was going to be the first airline video I did, so I was both excited and nervous.
Shooting in a plane is not like recording in a hotel. There are double takes, there are no weather issues, but there is a whole new side. The space is compact, there are other passengers and, on an overnight flight, there is very limited time to shoot and showcase anything as the lights go off quite soon after dinner is served.
Also, I barely slept because I was so stressed and worried I would not have enough time that I was awake shooting most of the time. In the darkness you ask?
Well, I actually went to the galley with the lovely crew and recorded a live Facebook video and chatted to them to get more insights on the experience. That was really interesting and, as an #AvGeek, I was very excited to chat to them and be able to do a live video from 33,000 feet.
Have you watched it already? See it below. It was amazing how strong the signal was to allow for Facebook live videos, Facebook can be very moody and hard to work with if the connection is not strong enough.
So yes, I was pretty nervous about this collaboration. We also shot a lot of footage of my home, Singapore and Changi Airport before the flight, so there was a lot of planning that went into this.
But I think we did a good job, what do you think?
What did my holiday consist of?
I had the most amazing trip planned and I was very much looking forward to it.
I first spent a few days in Spain with my sister and her newborn baby who was only two weeks when we arrived. They came to the airport and he was the most adorable baby. He never cries either. How cute is he? His name is Roger and he was very happy to see me (clearly).
After stuffing our faces with as much good food as we could possibly stomach, we headed to Montenegro to fulfill another of my dreams.
Every year I try to plan something special for my birthday. This year, because of the birth of my nephew and the crazy project I was involved in, I had no time to celebrate my day. In fact, I worked all day from 4am. But I know something special was to come: a stay at Aman Sveti Stefan.
This hotel has been on my wishlist for years and it was fabulous to finally stay there and test it out. Also, Montenegro is a great country I very much enjoyed visiting so it was double great.
After a week in Montenegro with my partner, I headed to Albania with my best friend for another week of road tripping the Adriatic coast. Albania was a nice surprise. The country was very lush and pretty and the people very kind.
But more about these two countries to come in the next few months as I share my articles on the many things we did and saw.
Progress on the blog in August 2018
On the blog’s side August was a deviation because I had no time to even breath or eat so there was obviously no time to focus on the fundamentals like I was expecting. I am not happy about that, but sometimes, when great opportunities come up, you just can’t say no.
Cal continued to work on the blog though, thankfully, and took a lot of the tasks that I could not take care of, so he was also very busy. We make a good team and it is great to have someone to take some of the workload off me when things get crazy like they did.
Having a team and outsourcing some of the tasks is definitely one of the best decisions I made and it is almost two years since he started working with me. How time flies!
As anticipated in July, this month was all about a huge consulting opportunity that came up and which evolved into a more program management type of job. You can see more in the next section.
Already from July, I decided to split the two: pure consulting from blogger outreach/program management as they require different sets of skills and work with different types of clients.
I continued to work with Andaz Singapore which is a great team to work with, and finished a short collaboration with a restaurant chain in Singapore. My work with Andaz will continue until the end of the year, a bit longer than what was originally anticipated, and will yield some amazing content for them and hopefully spread the word about the fabulous hotel.
I have been reached out by two more clients this month but it has become apparent that I cannot take any more work unless I hire someone. Looking at the rest of the year and the many projects already lined up, this will not be possible or make any logical sense in 2018. But it is something that I need to seriously look at for 2019.
Blogger outreach and program management
I have three ongoing clients that I help every month on blogger outreach efforts. These are relatively easy for me to handle as the work is repetitive and after working with them for 8 months, I know what to expect and how to manage it.
In July, a new client came onboard with a mix of content management and project management, also with bloggers. It was a stressful, well paid project and one which I enjoyed, if only it had been spread over two months instead of one!
This project will resume from October onwards as the next phase of expansion kicks-off but I will have a full team of four behind me to help this time.
Happy in my new apartment but without any actual personal life, this is how August was, until I went on holiday. And it was so nice to be on leave.
My partner organised a surprise party for my birthday and that was lovely, otherwise I would not have had any celebration this year!
Revenues in the month of August 2018
Hard work paid off and August was a stellar month on the financial front. At least all the long hours were worth it.
Here is the breakdown of August’s revenues:
–> S$ 1,625 From Brand collaborations
–> S$ 354 Accommodation affiliates
–> S$ 92 Tour affiliates
–> S$ 1,531 Ad revenues
–> S$ 2,366 Writing freelancing
–> S$ 12,285 from Digital Marketing Consulting
–> S$36 from sales of my Amazon book 30 Ways to make money online
TOTAL blog income in August 2018: S$ 18,789
TOTAL blog value in August 2018: S$ 30,789
Things to note:
– All amounts are in Singapore Dollar which fluctuates around 1,3 times the USD. This is because my accounts are in SGD and so is my accounting.
– I included affiliate revenues which have been accrued even if they have not been paid because affiliates have a threshold for payments which can be as high as USD150.
– The above includes income generated from both blogs. It is time consuming for me to split the two so I will keep it together for now.
Mediavine advertising revenues have continued to grow and are reaching relevant and stable levels. Also, my sessions increased dramatically in August because of one post going viral and ranking high on Google for lots of high traffic keywords. August is also known for being a great month for advertisers so it is normal for the revenues to go up. I expect September to be lower, despite the increase in traffic, because of the seasonality that kicks in then.
I still have AdSense on my Singapore n Beyond blog but that is a fraction of my Mediavine revenues yet still growing as that blog grows as well.
The eternal issue of time… if I had more of it I would focus on growing Singapore n Beyond to get it to reach the minimum level, but I don’t even have the minimum time to go to the hairdresser!
There were two content collaborations this month. One is a two-post series with Macao Government and WeGo. You can see the articles below:
The other post is an ongoing collaboration I have with the Wines of Italy via the Italian Trade Association which I picked up via Izea. I enjoy very much writing these posts because I love wine, I grew up in a winery and I also visited some in italy, so this was a great fit.
Also, if you are interested, I did a Facebook live video while home this last summer walking you through my dad’s winery. Check it out below:
Did you know I grew up in a winery? It’s now wine harvest season in Spain, let me give you a tour of my dad’s winery!
Posted by Once in a Lifetime Journey on Monday, September 10, 2018
I continue to decline lots of opportunities for sponsored posts because they are just not at the right rate or topic. I am very selective in what I write about and the above posts are from content I would have produced anyway because Macao is a city I very much enjoyed, so I frankly recommend it to others.
Influencer, digital marketing consulting and blogger outreach
My work with Andaz Singapore continued this month. I also continued to work with a digital marketing agency for who I take care of influencer outreach. As they expand and get more clients, so do I.
The main project I talked about before is also included here. I have chosen not to break down the amounts because these contracts are all confidential and what matters is the type of work that I do and the overall value without having to enter into details of who pays how much and for what.
It seemed that the accommodation affiliate revenues were starting to be meaningful in July but the numbers dropped again in August. I have tried everything and anything, and some of my hotel posts are ranking pretty high, but I just can’t crack this. It just doesn’t work for me.
In August we started to add TripAdvisor. And some revenue started to come in but looking at September I wonder if TA is actually negatively affecting my commissions and bookings from both Agoda and HotelsCombined. More to come next month.
Interesting statistics for August 2018
There are a few other statistics and elements of the blog that are worth tracking and noting.
Value from sponsored stays
The most notable and only collaboration this month was with Lufthansa. They provided two return tickets for me and partner to fly to Barcelona via Munich and Frankfurt so that we could create the video. These tickets are obviously expensive and I put an approximate value of S$6,000 as this was the peak season. They can sometimes be bought for less on offer but rarely for lower than S$4,500 and not for the peak summer months.
I conspicuously declare when the stay has been sponsored to comply with regulations, my code of conduct and the professional integrity I believe all bloggers should adhere to. If you see no disclaimer in a hotel review or post, rest assured I paid for it as I do in more than 90% of my travels.
Traffic and readership
August was an excellent month for traffic. This is partially explained by the work of the entire year, the summer seasonality, with more people traveling to the destinations which are top for my blog, as well as a new article which has started to go viral.
This month the blog reached 136,000 page views, about 20% more than in July. My current obsession is definitively on traffic rather than on anything else and I am painstakingly working towards boosting it.
Summer months have helped as a lot of my content is seasonal, but the goal will be for it not to drop after the summer ends. I am very pleased with the increase in August, which is definitively sustaining in September as I write this, and I am getting confident that I will be able to hit the year-end target, maybe even before the year ends.
You can also take a look at the split between active and passive income as that is something I am keenly monitoring.
My objective is to maximise the red column there so that I can reduce the blue one and have the life that everyone thinks I have and which I don’t: Permanent holidays.
August was great but almost all on active income. I made a substantial amount in revenues but most of it was generated via active project engagement and very long hours which are not sustainable. The only way this amount can be repeated and maintained is if I either hire someone full time or I translate some of the active revenue into passive income.
Business opportunities I declined
The amount of unsolicited emails and spam correspondence I get is incredible, it truly runs in the dozens a day. I try to reply to almost all of them because I think it is unprofessional not to and because you never know what you might get.
A fun email I received this month:
Like with July, I had to decline and postpone a few opportunities to next year. There is no rush, I have the rest of my life to see the world 🙂
I set these goals in January so let’s see how we have progressed in the first months of the year.
|Area||Goal for 2018||January progress|
|Traffic||Bring traffic to 200,000 across both blogs||I feel that I am finally on track here and confident we will make it|
|Domain Authority||Increase to 45||Decided to stop tracking this and as I write this, I don’t even know what my latest DA is!|
|Influencer and digital marketing practice||Set up Once in a Lifetime Media|
Build the revenues to $15,000 a month
|It seems that I may have already reached that number and given the commitments until the year end, this is very much on track|
|Build Case Studies of campaigns (formerly TrustPilot)||Create 5 case studies with impact and results||Definitely no time for this… 🙁|
|Press Kit||Revamp and improve||Yay press kit made and on the site, and constantly updated|
|Affiliate revenue||Increase revenues to $1,000||Things seems like a monthly struggle. No matter what I do I do not manage to crack this one|
|Book||Sell 100 books||This is a trickle and definitely not the priority at the moment|
Make S$2,000 a month
|Target met in August! Yay! Now heading for $2,000|
|Personal branding||Build my personal brand||- Interview filmed with an Influencer marketing platform and published here |
- Two conferences done in April
- Speaking slot at ITB confirmed
- Attending WIT Bootcamp and WIT in October
- IMM Singapore confirmed too
- Interview about food in Macao done
|Niche Site||Build a site generating $2,000 a month||Not started, may not even start it at all.|
|AdWords||Test AdWords budgeting and monetisation||AdWords spent was decreased in May and the traffic and revenues still continued to increase so I may test a few things here in the future but probably not this year|
|Travel||Continue to travel and reach 105 countries visited. Beat my 140 days on the road personal record||- I have added Rwanda, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Albania and Montenegro and reached my 100th country!|
- Planned Argentina, Tequila (Mexico) and Cuba (though I visited this one before)
- I will stay at 103 as I cannot do any more travel this year
Wrapping up August 2018
August was a very tough month and I was reaching burnout when I went on leave but it was worth it for the future opportunities that it cemented. I am excited about September and the rest of the year although I am bracing myself for really really long hours and tough days.
Let me know what your thoughts are, what you would love to see more of, less of and what questions come to mind. Also, if anything is not clear, drop me a line. My contact details are in the Contact page.
Looking forward to another great month.