Welcome to my blog income report for October 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 Maldives where I spent a week in October.
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 October 2018
- Travel in October 2018
- Progress on the blog in October 2018
- Consulting opportunities
- Blogger outreach and program management
- Personal Life
- Revenues in the month of September 2018
- Interesting statistics for August 2018
- 2018 Goals
- Wrapping up October 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 October 2018
October has been a mix of work and fun and of course, a week in the Maldives which is such a beautiful place.
I visited with another blogger, Sabrina from Just One Way Ticket, and we had a nice time together, learning from each other and taking nice photos. We also made two videos which you can see in the next section.
I was also a judge for Mumbrella’s Marketing Awards judging three categories related to influencer and social media campaigns in Asia which was interesting and gave me a lot to think about. It was also great to see the industry from the other side as the vast majority of people there were working for agencies.
Last but not least, October is the main travel month in Singapore. There were four conferences taking place in the city during the month and that made an entire week pretty packed and practically devoid of any other work.
I was a speaker at ITB Asia, the Asian version of the world’s largest travel conference, ITB Berlin, moderating a panel on how to make bookings big online and how the smaller booking companies manage to survive and succeed against the larger booking players.
I also attended the inaugural TravMedia Travel and Tourism Media Summit which happened for the first time in Singapore and then the subsequent IMM – International Media Marketplace speed networking with brands the next day.
They were both great for meeting with people and getting to know new and old faces. I made lots of contacts, though less than previous years as a lot of the same people keep coming back.
The most relevant conference I attended was Web in Travel where I was also representing Travel Massive for which I am the local chapter leader, and did a few live interviews on their Facebook page with interesting people like the CEO and Founder of CultureTrip.
Live from Web In Travel in Singapore with Kris Naudts Founder and CEO of Culture Trip on how to scale an online content business and the recent $80 Million investment round
Posted by Travel Massive on Tuesday, October 16, 2018
All in all, it was a very busy month, as always.
Travel in October 2018
This time, we stayed at LUX* South Ari Atoll and at Milaidhoo, both of which were stunning but very different. It was fun to be with another blogger and create content together, though it was mostly work but who can complain if your office has these views?
Best of all, we made videos of both our stays which you can find below. I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy them.
LUX* South Ari Atoll was a large resort with lots of activities and things to do located south of Male about 30min by seaplane. It was great because it had a lot to do and fabulous food. We got one of the overwater villas without a pool there and we spent our time cycling up and down taking photos and flying the drone at the many instagrammable locations.
Excited to share this short video of my time at LUX* South Ari Atoll with Sabrina from Just One Way Ticket edited by Zeniqe – Do you like it? ❤️
Tell me your thoughts in the comments!
#luxsouthariatoll #luxmoments #theplacetobemaldives
Posted by Once in a Lifetime Journey on Saturday, October 27, 2018
Milaidhoo was the complete opposite of LUX*. It was small, a quarter of the size of LUX* and it was quiet, private and exclusive. Made mostly for couples (children are not allowed), no drones, no selfie sticks, no motorised sports. Peace and quiet at its best.
Because just one Maldives resort is never enough, here is the second even more amazing video from Milaidhoo, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, made with DJI and GoPro footage
Sabrina and I hope you will enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!
With Just One Way Ticket at #Milaidhoo #SLH #smallluxuryhotels #travelmaldives #maldives #luxurytravel #visitmaldives #womenwhodrone #fromwhereidrone
Posted by Once in a Lifetime Journey on Saturday, November 3, 2018
And if you enjoyed the videos and are wondering what the resorts are like, you can read my reviews below too.
In Colombo I met a few of the bloggers I had been interacting with online for the first time. Some people I had worked with or engaged with for months, never seeing how they looked in person. This was the main reason why I wanted to go. And it fulfilled that criteria.
I also explored a bit of Colombo, a city that I have visited four times and never taken longer than a day in. I feel that the capital of Sri Lanka is finally re-launching and there is a lot of development. It has always been a city that I enjoyed visiting, a cleaner and less chaotic and dangerous version of India in many aspects.
Progress on the blog in October 2018
We were very busy this month getting all the content about my Montenegro and Albania trips up and also finalising some collaborations with brands. I also needed to prepare for the Maldives and the conference and then get ready for a big 6-month project that is starting first week of November.
We have continued to optimise posts for SEO purposes and written new content following the same thinking.
The results of all the hard work are paying off and the traffic has been increasing steadily, as have the revenues coming from the various fronts.
A lot of the work on this front in October was focused on preparing for November which will be the kick off of the second phase from August’s project.
This meant a lot of calls, a lot of process definition, contracting and legalities and a lot of planning. We finally launched on the last day of October and are keeping ourselves very busy in November.
I have been contacted by quite a few people for more projects but I am currently quite swamped and thinking of hiring someone else soon so that I can get some of the load off my shoulders.
Blogger outreach and program management
There have been two new engagements I have been discussing and which I hope will materialise soon but for the moment, the same four clients continued during the month.
I was as busy as ever during the month. I socialised a bit, met a lot of bloggers and had a great time with Sabrina. There has not been much other happening at a personal level but I have been finalising the last trips of the year and started to get planning for 2019 which, for now, is wide open and ready to be filled with new countries!
Revenues in the month of September 2018
October showed a lot of the hard work in revenues, especially on the passive side, which makes me very happy. It is still not as good as I would like it to be, but it is starting to become a relevant chunk.
I also added two new affiliate programs which are starting to bear fruits and revenues, and that is finally something I was looking forward to.
Here is the breakdown of September revenues:
–> S$ 1,300 From Brand collaborations
–> S$ 241 Accommodation affiliates
–> S$ 65 Tour affiliates
–> S$ 2,300 Ad revenues
–> S$ 5,915 from Digital Marketing Consulting
–> S$49 from sales of my Amazon book 30 Ways to make money online
TOTAL blog income in October 2018: S$ 10,398
TOTAL blog value in October 2018: S$ 24,898
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.
With the surge in traffic to the blog, I did not see the same equivalent increase in September, but October finally showed the results with a whopping 50% increase in ad revenues. This is possibly the greatest achievement of the month even if that is a mere $700, but it shows the potential.
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.
I know that I can still change a few things to keep on increasing the revenues and have been thinking to remove AMP from the blog but I am on the fence because I know that speed is important to my readers and removing it could cause issues, so I stick with it even if the RPM (revenue per mil session) from Mediavine with AMP is a fraction of the revenue without.
I continued to collaborate with the Wines of Italy to write the last post of the collaboration about Full Bodied White Wines of Italy and it was so much fun. To write it, they paid me to buy some of these wines and taste them with some friends (I cannot drink 3 bottles on my own).
So we ordered some Asian favorites and tried to pair them with the wines, it was very interesting and some of the wines very very nice. A lovely Saturday afternoon with a couple of friends and Nir on the balcony enjoying the weather, wine, good food and some more drinks resulted in an early night…
I declined an enormous amount of collaboration opportunities, every month I decline more. It is as if the more I say no, the more offers I get. I found this one particularly interesting since, for a change, I was actually offered to BUY a sponsored post rather than to place it.
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 whom I take care of influencer outreach.
My big project was in planning phase this month so we devoted time to making sure we were ready to go for full launch in November.
It seemed that the accommodation affiliate revenues were starting to be in the summer period but they dropped again in September and stayed in October.
We have implemented some Booking.com affiliates finally and it is taking off a bit. I met the CEO of HotelsCombined in Singapore and shared my frustration with their product, their affiliate program and the fact that once you start to improve in revenue it all suddenly drops.
He has set up a call with his team to follow up and help improve the communication with the blogger community on this regard as it does provide a very bad image for their company. If you don’t know what I am referring to, you can read my February Income Report.
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
I did no collaborations of paid work this month.
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
October traffic continued to break all records to surpass 300,000 page views. I may even manage to double the yearly traffic target.
I have had a few articles truly making the cut and pushing the blog to new levels and I am pretty proud of this moment. It is like a small lightbulb finally lit and I understood it all.
Check the graph below.
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.
This month, passive income started to reach a reasonable level, one which would afford me a good life back in Spain (though not in Singapore).
Business opportunities I declined
Aside from the unsolicited emails I get, I also met lot of interesting people at the various conferences this month which presented fabulous opportunities to work together. I was also approached by several others which will not materialise and may not go anywhere else.
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||SMASHED BIG TIME!|
|Domain Authority||Increase to 45||I decided to stop tracking Moz. However, my Ahrefs score is at 44 which is pretty good|
|Influencer and digital marketing practice||Set up Once in a Lifetime Media|
Build the revenues to $15,000 a month
|This objective will be met even without a company website!|
|Build Case Studies of campaigns (formerly TrustPilot)||Create 5 case studies with impact and results||Definitely no time for this… 🙁
But I am collecting the data for a case study with Sabrina on out Maldives collaborations
|Press Kit||Revamp and improve||Yay press kit made and on the site, and constantly updated|
|Affiliate revenue||Increase revenues to $1,000||Things seem 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 but in October there was a push as I think the book was promoted in an Amazon newsletter. There are 5-10 sales a month which is not bad considering I do nothing to promote it|
Make S$3,000 a month
|Initial target met in August, S$2,000 target met in October! Yay! Now heading for $3,000|
|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 and done interviews
- IMM Singapore confirmed too
- Interview about food in Macao done
- Judging of Mumbrella Awards in October
- Opportunity to speak at Mumbrella 2019 received
|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 and Tequila (Mexico)
- I will stay at 103 as I cannot do any more travel this year
- Planning some nice trips for 2019 which I hope will be a big year for travel
Wrapping up October 2018
October was a great month because of the traffic boost, the passive income increase and the project planning that will guarantee crazy but good revenue months until May next year. That is not only promising but also brings me peace of mind.
Wish me luck for another roller-coaster of a month!
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.