When people ask me what I do for a living I have many different answers depending on who I’m talking to and how much explanation I feel like giving.
Travel Blogger, Content Creator, website owner, self-employed, travel writer, online business owner, freelance writer…
Unfortunately, all of them inevitably lead to more questions.
Although travel blogger is often the most easily understood it also seems to be the one that people feel most inclined to ask more questions about. It’s not quite understood how something that started out as people documenting their trips abroad for friends and family has turned into a profession that actually enables you to earn money, and enough money to do it as a full-time job.
How to earn money as a travel blogger is a frequent question but not one I’m going to answer in this post (don’t worry, you can find out all about how travel bloggers make money here). Instead, I want to share my path to becoming a full-time travel blogger, or whatever you want to call it!
Why should you care how I became a full-time travel blogger?
Maybe you don’t! That’s ok. But I do get a lot of questions about it. So if there’s a teensy bit of you that’s curious then why not read on?
It also still surprises me that this is what I do sometimes, and it’s not something I’ve widely spoken about or advertised even to friends and family. I’m sure some of them have no idea what it is I actually do or that I do it full-time! So this is an announcement of sorts and a telling of my story and path to full-time blogging. I wish I could say it was a lovely linear one but it’s rather a mess I’m afraid.
The short story would be that I started this website because I needed a distraction and it would help me to learn some new things and get a better job. Then I learned a lot more and started earning money and here we are. But that’s leaving out a whole bunch of detail and the good stuff. So get ready…
Most bloggers fall into one of two camps, they start out with the idea of wanting to make money and a business from it or they don’t. but at some point in time decide to do so. I fall into the latter.
Often people who start a travel blog are going on an extended trip and want to document their experience or try and find a way to continue to fund it. For me, starting my blog came AFTER I did the big trip. Sure I dabbled in blogging before and during m earlier travelling days but not like this…
I remember the first free website I ever created around age 13 (yes, we’re going that far back) had the beginning of Song 2 by Blur on repeat in the background. I was so proud I made a homepage! Although I couldn’t tell you what was on it now and I probably didn’t even know it was called a homepage.
For a few years as a teenager, I blogged anonymously on Teen Open Diary and Open Diary. I loved the creative outlet and messing with the HTML to change the text and page to how I wanted it to look.
Then forgetting about it…
Fast forward to the rest of my teenage years and university, where I completely moved away from anything computer related and never considered it as a career or something I wanted to do.
I moved to the United States on an AFS exchange at the age of 16 and seriously caught the travelling and living abroad bug, before enrolling in a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Art’s back home in New Zealand. The analytical aspects and challenges of studying Law and Criminology kept me occupied and I studied abroad for a semester in Canada to fuel the travel bug.
Quarter-life, post-university crisis
Finishing university in the middle of the recession meant jobs weren’t exactly in large supply, and despite having spent four years and a small fortune on studying I wasn’t sure I was ready to jump into being a lawyer. I had commitment issues and a cold sweat at the thought of being locked in a job in New Zealand “getting experience” before I could travel again. I was 23 and I’d been studying and working hard to fund my travels and life, and I was ready to enjoy my 20s! Surely there was time for serious work later…
My bank account, however, was not so keen on world domination. I had a fair amount of debt from living in Canada, travelling the US for a few months after, and completing a full-time course to be admitted to the bar that meant I couldn’t work. So I took a decently paid job in for the New Zealand government in the Ministry of Education and spent a year pinching pennies while still trying to have as many New Zealand adventures as possible.
As soon as I had paid off my credit card and was the green in my bank account I jumped the ditch to Australia. But I still didn’t get into blogging. Instead, I took a much higher paid job working in a university, slept on a fold out couch in the corner of my parents living room, and saved like mad to fund my dream of moving to the United Kingdom, like so many Kiwis and Aussies on their big OE (Overseas Experience) before me. Well, maybe not that fold-out couch at their parents’ bit…
In the meantime, I went on holiday to Vietnam and added backpacking South East Asia as something to do en route to the UK. And before a year was out I was on my way!
Moving to Scotland (the first time) and blogging again
It was at this point I got back into blogging again. I’m not sure why, but 2012 seemed to be a popular time to start a blog. Except I had no clue what I was doing so my friend and I started a free shared Blogspot blog to document our South East Asia travels and I started my own in anticipation of wanting to share my European experiences. Face palm.
Turns out I had absolutely no clue what I was doing moving abroad when I wasn’t going with a program or to study. Even though I’d saved a fair amount of money I hadn’t anticipated how much travelling through South East Asia for a few months followed by establishing myself in the UK and looking for a job for another few months would deplete my funds. Let’s just say the week I started a job and the week my bank account ran dry were fairly close!
The next two years were a whirlwind of travelling around Europe as much as my meager wages from an admin job and time off would allow me to. Luckily, I discovered the Skyscanner Everywhere option and mostly went wherever was cheapest. I developed my love for travelling in off-season and winter in Europe! After every trip I religiously uploaded photos and a trip report to my little blog, sharing it on Facebook and feeling proud of myself when I looked at the number of people I could see reading it (really not that many…hi Mum).
Whew, I realise this is a long story, but I feel like it’s important to share the background part of how I came to a decision to start this website and how it fully developed! So now we’ll get to the actual starting blogging for reals stuff…
Second adulting crisis
By the time my working holiday visa for the UK was ending I was really over working whatever job I could get to fund my travels and being limited by said job as to how much I could travel. It had been around 4 years since I finished studying and although I’d travelled all over the place and had some amazing experiences, I was kind of at a loss about what to do next.
Did I keep moving to different places and finding jobs to fund my travels? Did I try and settle down somewhere for a bit longer? Did I want to be a lawyer? Or try to have an actual career and stop paper-pushing?
I considered moving to Ireland on a working holiday visa for a year. I thought about applying to teach English somewhere (South Korea, Japan, Georgia?). Or moving to somewhere cheap in South East Asia to work in a hostel. But I felt like all of these options led to me ending up in the exact same place I was currently be in, in a few years time. A little bit older and still confused.
Ultimately I ran out of money and returned to my parents in Australia (thanks, Mum and Dad). Before, we had lived in the Gold Coast but while I was away they’d moved to Perth. However, they were planning a move back to the Gold Coast, so one of the first things I got to do was drive all the way across Australia while having an existential crisis. It had been a dream since I was 18 to drive the Nullabor but it wasn’t exactly how I thought it would go. The wide open road and stark Australian outback gives you quite a lot of time for thinking (and crying in the car)…
Back on the Gold Coast, I applied for jobs like a madwoman, with hundreds (literally) of applications completed before I landed another admin job at another Australian University. Not exactly living the dream, but the money was good.
Australia is kind of a funny place for me. It’s always been good to me, in terms of giving me the opportunity to earn money and work on my own personal and mental health. I seem to eat better and feel better there, and I hit and meet personal goals like I never have anywhere else. Maybe it’s the mind frame and determination to move on I’ve had both times I’ve lived there, who knows.
In any case, I was back doing something I didn’t want to really be doing, but that would help me get to where I wanted to be.
Which was apparently Spain.
I don’t really remember the thought process but I think I wanted a target for the end of my time in Australia, to feel like I was moving forward.
I’d always wanted to learn another language and also to teach English, so I figured I could do both at the same time and applied for the Auxiliar de Conversacion program which I heard about through a friend. It meant I would be given a job as a Language Assistant working alongside Spanish teachers somewhere in Spain, with a modest monthly salary and a visa for EUROPE. Where my heart wanted to be.
The intervening months in Australia were spent once again saving money and still travelling as much as I could justify. I ticked off bucket list items like learning to dive, paddle boarding, and running a half marathon. And I smartly saved far more money than the first time I left the country!
Did someone say digital nomad?
Playing on my mind in those first few months was a conversation I’d had with a friend back in the UK. It was after my work visa ended and I was ticking off a few things I wanted to do before leaving the country. We were on a train from Edinburgh to York and she was telling me about digital nomads and people who earn money from their websites or online skills while travelling and doing whatever they want. She’s a self-published author and was encouraging me to look into doing something like starting my own travel website so I would have the freedom I craved. It sounded amazing. And completely and insanely unattainable. I nodded along but had no real clue of how such a thing was possible and even if it was, didn’t see how it was possible for me.
But it must have struck a cord and because I went home to Edinburgh after that trip and bought a domain name and started trying to set up a website. Then it seemed all too difficult and I still didn’t get how it was going to earn me cold, hard, cash. I shelved the idea while I dealt with leaving the UK and moving back to Australia. But once the dust settled and I was working another job that I didn’t particularly enjoy (except for the people) and coming home in the evenings to twiddle my thumbs I started thinking about it again.
Sure I had plans to move to Spain and teach English, but what was I going to do after that? It wasn’t a job I was considering forever and there were only so many times I could renew within the program anyway. I was terrified of being in a position like I had been at the end of my UK visa. No money, no career, no idea what to do but go crawling back to my parents. I was getting into my later 20s (eeek!) and the idea of constantly yo-yoing back home didn’t hold a ton of appeal. For them either I imagine…
So I enrolled in an Internet Design university course online. Traditional study and working for someone else was what I understood, and I figured no one was going to employ me in some sort of online or remote business without any experience, so I better get some.
Getting serious about (starting) blogging (again)
And THIS was my turning point. Well, one of them on this crazy squiggle to being a full-time blogger.
My travel blog from Europe had died when I left and wasn’t exactly the most amazing thing to start with, and although I’d looked at other travel bloggers websites I really didn’t get how they made money and made it all work. Plus, there seemed to be a few big names dominating the space and how was I supposed to compete with them? Then I was tasked with coding a website from scratch for my course and I had to research other similar websites to do so. Of course, I chose a travel website, and in the course of my research I realised there were THOUSANDS of blogs out there. If all of these people could give it a go, why couldn’t I?
I proceeded to devour every “How to Start a Travel Blog” post I could find (there’s a lot, including my own now!) and signed up to the Travel Blog Success Course to give me a jump start (which it truly did, I HIGHLY credit it with starting me out on the right foot. Sadly the course is no longer but has been absorbed into Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging, which I haven’t personally done but have heard is also good for beginners).
I still didn’t see myself becoming a full-time travel blogger who earned money from my own website by any means. Instead, I saw starting a blog as a way to teach myself a huge range of new skills and present them in an online portfolio, enabling me to apply for a remote job, or marketing, or travel jobs. All things that had been out of my reach before.
It was around the end of August or beginning of September 2015 that I accidentally made my website live. It was a good thing too or I probably would have messed with it forever trying to make it perfect (it’s still not). From then on Migrating Miss was on the internet!
Year one of blogging (and living in Spain)
My first year of blogging was a whirlwind. I learnt a ton in a short space of time but always felt like I was on the back foot still. I made some awesome friends online who I have since met in person and still chat with today. I did make my first income from my blog around the 7 or 8 month mark but it was a one-off and I didn’t really know what I was doing and still saw it as a way to learn and get other work than a source of income in and of itself.
Then after almost a year of blogging I went to TBEX (a conference for Travel Bloggers) where I landed some awesome opportunities and had two sponsored trips back almost back to back. It felt a little like things might be working, although I also kind of felt like a fraud who didn’t know what I was doing!
Throughout this time I’d been living in Spain teaching English. The job itself was only 12 hours a week which gave me plenty of spare time that I filled with teaching adult students to earn some extra money, learning Spanish, travelling around Spain, and blogging. I definitely wasn’t working full-time on the website but I was focused on content creation and growing my social channels, and I was happy about the opportunities that were coming my way. It was what I had wanted after all!
Oh and something else…
Now I sort of left something important out of this story, and that’s my (now) husband, Phil. We met back when I was on the working holiday visa in the UK and he was part of the reason it was so tough to leave. But when neither of you can live in the other’s country and those countries are literally around the world from each other it’s kind of rough.
While I was in Australia we didn’t speak a whole lot, but closer to me moving to Spain we started to speak again, and given I was passing through Edinburgh en route to Spain it was kind of natural that we met up… and the rest is, as they say, history! Long distance between Spain the UK was still hard but actually doable, plus I had the whole summer off teaching English to spend back in Scotland. And then that summer in 2016 we got engaged!
The plan was for us was to get married in the UK, enabling me to apply for a visa to move back to and stay in Scotland once again. It’s an insane process that turned out to be one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done (still never written about it!) but at the end of it all, I was able to move back to the UK just in time for the wedding. After a year of living in Spain I was definitely sad to leave, but it was a temporary sort of life and I was excited to build a more concrete future together, whatever that meant.
We got married in Scotland in May 2017 in front of friends and family from all over the world with a relaxed ceremony and barn BBQ reception that was just perfect for us. But what was I going to do now? The thought of going back to a full-time office job after the freedom of teaching English for a few hours a week and having more time of my own wasn’t exactly appealing (read: DID NOT WANT) but I wasn’t sure what else to do.
My blog had started to pull in a teeny bit more money from various sources but it wasn’t anything to actually live on and I didn’t see it escalating quickly. We also had a six-week honeymoon to New Zealand planned for the end of 2017 into 2018 (read: no one wants to give me a job with all that time off). Luckily I still had some of my savings from Australia to tide me over for a bit (thank you past self).
In Scotland (again), freelancing and year two of blogging
And this is where things really started to work for me in the blogging world. I landed a job as a remote blog editor for a United States based company. I was in charge of writing all their blog posts for them, and I got the job because of my own blog! It wasn’t full-time but it was decent money, plus the small earnings from my website, a supportive husband who knew I really wanted to make this work, and taking on the odd temp office job meant I was able to survive (data entry in a windowless room should be listed as a method of torture by the way).
And so Scotland became a more permanent base for me than anywhere I’d had in years, although we still travel as much as possible and I love exploring new places here too. I always said I’d look for a proper job after our honeymoon if I needed to. But by the time I reached year two of blogging my website and the freelance blog editor job were giving me enough money that it didn’t seem to make sense to give them up. That didn’t stop me from panicking and taking on a part-time job briefly (read: 3 weeks) and interviewing for a full-time job (which I thankfully didn’t get), but hey, keeping my options open?!
The decision to go full-time on my own website
By around April or May of 2018 I was realising that the time I spent freelancing for a set amount of money was taking away from the time I could be working on my own website to earn even more money. My website was looking like it COULD be a viable source of income and for the first time I was really considering that it could be. All the work I’d put in over the years for nothing had led to this point and I needed to take the leap, rather than continue working for someone else’s dreams instead. It was time to dive into full-time blogging…
There are many diverging paths to becoming a full-time blogger. Some say the best way is to jump in no matter your income and you’ll have to make it work. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’ve researched a ton and really know what you’re doing. At least have some sort of vague plan!
Others say you should wait until you have earned a level of income you’re ok with or that matches your current income and you can afford to leave. This is the more cautious approach and closer to what I actually did, but it’s also more difficult because, in my opinion, it’s hard to earn full-time money as a blogger if you’re not putting in full-time (or MORE) hours. I didn’t have the best level of income, but I knew unless I gave myself more time I’d never get it either.
As soon as I quit my remote job I was amazed at how much more time I had, despite it not being a ton of hours, and I started getting offers for work that I wouldn’t have been able to consider or would have been super stressed to fit in before. I don’t believe in “The Secret”, but the Alchemist, however, is my favourite book…
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
That’s not to say life as a full-time blogger has been all la-de-da, sunshine, and rainbows. Working for yourself is STRESSFUL. You only have YOU to rely on and to motivate yourself. Running a website is also a business, and with a business comes pesky things like taxes and invoices and chasing people to pay you (far more often than you’d think). I still have a lot to learn, but I’m trying to rock my #girlboss entrepreneurial side (read: doing lots of Googling…).
So here I am today, writing half of this post in a cafe where I had a leisurely lunch and half at home at my dining table. I’m not raking in the dosh by any means but I am earning an ever-increasing amount and the flexibility I have in working for myself is the real dream for me. I can’t say I got here easily, with any great planning, or even any kind of strategy at all. But I got here in my own meandering way.
Some people quit their jobs to travel the world and never end up going back because they make their website work at the same time. Others work for years on their website alongside a full-time job and quit when they can sustain themselves. I did both and neither. Because no one ever said I make things simple or easy!
I’d love to say I’ll never step foot in an office again but the internet is a fickle place and I have no idea what opportunities might arise or what the future will bring. But I’m definitely content for this to be my job at the moment. Even if I don’t know what it’s called!
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