Welcome to my blog income report for January 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 the Faroe Islands and yes, it was really cold!
This blog is four years old this month and is about luxury and out of the ordinary travel. If you are keen to read about one of the 97 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.
It all started with a post about How Travel Bloggers make Money. It then followed with a book expanding to all niches and to all online channels.
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. 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 January 2018
- Travel in January 2018
- Progress on the blog in January 2018
- The book: 30 Proven ways to make money online with or without a blog
- Campaign with Nustay
- Personal and life
- Revenues in the month of January 2018
- Interesting statistics for January 2018
- 2018 Goals
- Wrapping up January 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 10 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 have had a full time job until today so revenue has 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 is 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.
Since August, I have decided to pause the sponsored stay work for a while and pay for my trips. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I want to avoid the very significant extra work that comes with having to fulfill 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 have also become 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.
From August on I have paid for almost all my trips to Azerbaijan, Nihi Sumba and El Salvador and I received no sponsorship.
My approach to working with hotel brands 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 100%.
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 three 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 January 2018
After a rather peaceful December, January was all bang, bang, bang!
I was back on track with a hectic and very packed month and fully recharged after the break, something which I very much needed. The focus has been on writing all the new posts about my trips to Oman, Iceland and the Faroe Islands plus updating my popular post on hipster and cool things to do in NYC.
Travel in January 2018
The beginning of January still saw a bit of the Christmas travel which overflew into the new year, but otherwise, it was a quiet month at home.
This was my travel schedule for January:
1. 29th December to 3rd January in the Faroe Islands
That means I was out of Singapore for 6 days only, in the first week of the year.
Progress on the blog in January 2018
Most of January’s effort was focused on writing all the posts related to my Christmas and New Year travel and that required a lot of my time because I wanted to share really in-depth articles which I put a lot of love and effort into.
The Faroe Islands was a truly fascinating place. As I was writing my guides and posts, I spent quite some time reading more about it and was even more taken in by this isolated place, stay tuned for their publication. Here’s a quick preview of my first article of the series, Fun facts and things you didn’t know about the Faroe Islands, and here’s my full guide to the Faroe Islands.
I also had to finish writing all the Oman posts which are only now going live. If you are keen to read more about the 4th safest country in the world according to the World Economic Forum, check them out here:
A lot of my and Cal’s effort for the month was also spent on making sure we continued to improve the existing content, always keeping it updated and fresh and looking as good as possible so we defined a plan for the first 6 months of the year to update most of the top posts.
There are currently 514 published posts on the blog, that is a lot, and the result of four years of work, so there will be a lot of love and effort that will have to be put into making sure the information stays updated and is useful.
The book: 30 Proven ways to make money online with or without a blog
I am hyper proud to say that I have finally received the proof for the book at the time of writing this, but I do not want to spoil the surprise so you will have to wait until next month or sign up for my newsletter so can I let you know when it is published.
I also updated the article which inspired the book: 28 ways to make money online. It is still one of the most read on the blog and one which provides invaluable insights into the digital nomad life.
Campaign with Nustay
January was very busy with the launch of the Influencer campaign with Nustay. This is a campaign that I defined and implemented with Nustay as part of my Digital and Influencer Marketing practice and although it is still ongoing, it has been a great opportunity to continue learning (an ongoing process in this industry) and also to spread the word about a great new booking site.
You will see below that I was also one of the influencers participating in the campaign, alongside nine other bloggers. The campaign will span two months and include a combination of advertorial posts reviewing the new members-only booking site and facebook posts promoting some of the great discounts the influencers found.
You can find some of the examples of the campaign below.
The Nustay campaign highlights how important it is to engage the right bloggers and how much of a niche and competitive advantage I have by being a blogger myself. My combined corporate background and the now four year experience as a blogger myself gives me a unique opportunity to mediate, in the best sense of the word, between the two sides. No collaboration will thrive if both parts don’t get something they want including value. Often times, money is not enough and is not what will make or break a campaign.
I enjoyed working with the bloggers who were all very professional and can set a good example to others.
Although the campaign has not ended yet, I believe it has been successful for all parties involved and so it is a great example of how well defined and implemented influencer campaigns can bring good value to everyone. Here’s my article on Nustay if you’d like to read more about the company.
Personal and life
January has been a very busy month with lots of work to catch up on from December’s relatively slower month.
At a personal level the most important milestone was the fact that I have finally decided to leave my job at Google. This is a huge step towards building my dream job. As one of my colleagues pointed out, I have been working really hard to create my dream job and have finally decided to make it mine.
I have had a corporate job for 15 years and I enjoyed every aspect of it. Leaving Google is incredibly hard, very few people do. The company gives you the ingredients to have it all: great pay, fantastic benefits (free breakfast and lunch better than any hotel I ever stayed at anyone?) and an exciting company named best to work at for many years running.
I left my job at Google to pursue my passion full time; that is, to work on what is explained in this Income report: the blog and my marketing practice, full time while I continue to travel the world.
You can watch my video announcement below:
What do I think will happen now?
I suspect I will travel less frequently but for longer periods of time. I will probably ditch the short weekend getaways to the places I have been a dozen times in favor of the new places I will explore with better planning and for longer periods of time. I will also be taking more time to enjoy them, without having to rush back to my 17-days a year job.
Revenues in the month of January 2018
January was again back on track after an expectedly slow December 2017.
Some of the work I had spent a lot of effort on towards the end of 2017 came into fruition in January, namely the Nustay campaign, another campaign with Mitsubishi as well as the social media work which will only fully kick in from February onwards.
Here is the breakdown of December’s revenues:
–> S$ 1,885 From brand collaborations and campaigns including Nustay as well as Mitsubishi
–> S$ 203 Accommodation affiliates
–> S$ 92 Context Tours affiliate
–> S$ 747 Ad revenues
–> S$245 Social media management
–> S$ 5,720 from Influencer marketing consulting like the one for Nustay
TOTAL blog income in January 2018: S$ 8,892
TOTAL blog value in January 2018: S$ 8,892
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 has continued to grow and is reaching relevant and stable levels. I expect it to increase a bit more as I fine-tune some posts to reach a bit closer to S$ 1,000 but not more. I still have AdSense on my Singapore n Beyond blog but that is a fraction of my Mediavine revenues.
My social media management work kicked off this month. I started to finally manage the facebook and Instagram pages of a fine dining restaurant and private event management company in Singapore, Xin Divine and that will bring some steady income. These are not income streams I pursue but that find me through networking and word of mouth. I have all the automation tools in place to make this process most efficient so I can make sure I provide good service at an acceptable price. I only started with this towards the end of the month.
Influencer and digital marketing services is something which has been working really well and where I see my real value-add. My in-depth experience on both sides puts me in a privileged and unique position to help both influencers and brands. The more I work in this industry, the more obvious it is that setting up the practice is the right thing to do and I have no doubts I can be successful and better than most agencies in the market who are not influencers themselves and don’t really know the ins and outs of influencer marketing from the point of view of the blogger him or herself.
Interesting statistics for January 2018
There are a few other statistics and elements of the blog that are worth tracking and noting.
My Domain Authority for Once in a Lifetime Journey increased to 38 which is good news considering we are putting a lot of effort on this and 90% of the blogs in my database actually dropped, some of them significantly.
I do not pay too much attention to Moz because it is becoming increasingly of less value with other measures like Ahref’s Domain Rank coming up as better alternatives rising through the ranks but it is something brands look at to (partially) determine the good standing of your site.
If you are keen to know how DA correlates with traffic or what it means, I wrote a very in-depth post about it. I was curious to understand how much correlation there is between DA and traffic of a site. DA is a very obsessive metric for bloggers and a sign of success and a source of pride. If your domain authority is high, you feel that you are a doing a good job. For a lot of people, DA is more important than traffic and for a lot of brands who are purely looking at placing a link, DA is all they care about.
Value from sponsored stays
When I started monetising the blog, this was the main source of income and something which was very valuable to me. In September, I told you how I put this on hold for now and I have continued to do so.
In January there was no additional value generated through brand collaborations. Me and my partner paid for all of our travels. I have however been selected to one of the most amazing campaigns: The India Blog Train which is taking 60 bloggers in for luxury train travel across several parts of India.
I love, love, love train travel and have been on several long term train trips, including one through Rajasthan in India, onboard the Maharajas Express, also part of The Great India Blog Train. I have also been on Golden Eagle’s Trans-Siberian luxury train trip, a completely over the top luxurious experience, and on the Rovos Rail Pretoria to Cape Town train.
This time, I am going to explore Karnataka, one of the southern provinces of India, on a journey starting and ending in Bangalore onboard the Golden Chariot train. This is a train journey costing upwards of USD6,000 per person and I am very excited to be enjoying it courtesy of the Indian Tourism Board. I will then add on some more days in Kerala.
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, rest assured I paid for it as I do in more than 90% of my travels.
Traffic and readership
Last month I started reporting traffic figures so you can see how revenue correlates with traffic in the passive income streams.
January was an exceptional month for the blog in terms of traffic, it was also a longer month, three days more than February, so I do not expect this trend to stay but to have February somewhere closer to the 80,000 page views which is a small increase from December and something more reasonable.
This higher traffic was the reasons for a lot of the higher revenues from ads and affiliates so these two will also decrease in February. But January was a great month nonetheless.
Business opportunities I declined
I received lot of emails in the month after everyone came back from the Christmas break, also the automatic emailers.
There were no strange or unusual emails except for the hordes that I receive every day. I did hear from another blogger receiving communication from someone who also emailed me looking to get free exposure and links for a popular destination website for a European island. Incredible the lengths and lies people go to for a link. This particular person was claiming to be an NGO and hence have no budget for advertorial coverage.
So I set up these goals for the year and I want to stay accountable and check progress every month.
|Area||Goal for 2018||January progress|
|Traffic||Bring traffic to 200,000 across both blogs||Definitively on track for that but largely driven by the January crazy traffic trends affecting all travel sites|
|Domain Authority||Increase to 45||So far so good, slowly climbing to 38, I need it to go up a point a month almost|
|Influencer and digital marketing practice||Set up Once in a Lifetime Media|
Build the revenues to $15,000 a month
|January was also great for that, but it was an exceptional month partly thanks to December's slowness so definitively on track but not vastly exceeding as the numbers may show|
|TrustPilot||Collect 15 reviews from clients and brands I have worked with||I need to chase clients for this starting asap|
|Press Kit||Revamp and improve||Not started|
|Affiliate revenue||Increase revenues to $1,000||Increased dramatically in January but definitely seasonal|
|Book||Sell 100 books||Not started|
|Advertising revenue||Make $1,500 a month||On track|
|Personal branding||Build my personal brand||One conference just confirmed for April. I also just filmed a video interview with another site, so doable, but need to keep pushing so timelines don't slip|
|Niche Site||Build a site generating $2,000 a month||Not started|
|AdWords||Test AdWords budgeting and monetisation||Not started|
|Travel||Continue to travel and reach 105 countries visited. Beat my 140 days on the road personal record||Working on planning trips to Somaliland, Eritrea and maybe Uzbekistan|
Wrapping up January 2018
January was a great month. At one point I thought the traffic was going to continue increasing and increasing until it would reach 100,000 page views. It did not, but it did give me a great boost and the confidence to finally leave my job.
This is not something I have done after an impulse decision. I have been thinking about it and working hard for it for months, in fact years. I built a business plan for my life, including all my expenses, my passive income from the two properties I have in Dubai and in Sitges, and then worked until I could make enough income from the blog and my digital marketing practice for enough consecutive months to believe it to be true.
And here I am, ready to take on this new stage in my life and looking forward to doing so with the continued support of everyone reading my site.
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.