Monday, May 12, 2014

Monetising my travel blog: traffic and income report May 2014

It's been two months since I last wrote about my travel blog's monetisation journey and I thought that made it time to check in again. You might remember that last time I listed quite a few bloggy tasks to do and I have definitely made some progress but at the same time, the monetisation progress does seem kind of slow. Probably also a consequence of having not many spare hours to spend on it, but anyway ... here's the news!

Traffic not growing

One of my not-so-favourite things this time round is that the traffic to my blog seems to have stagnated. I've not done anything super-spectacular to promote my blog more, but at the same time I've kept up with a lot of the regular stuff (such as tweeting and Facebooking archived posts). You can see the stats below and if you compare to last time you'll see it's not an exciting comparison!

Not A Ballerina traffic statistics - at a bit of standstill at the moment!
I've been joining in with a really nice link-up called Instagram Travel Thursday with a bunch of other travel bloggers and I know I've had some extra traffic through here (plus it's a lot of fun) but obviously it hasn't made much impact! However, I am working on a not-so-secret weapon this month which I'm hoping will help with this traffic situation, and it is:

Using Pinterest to build traffic

I have seen heaps of articles and heard from fellow bloggers lately that of all the social media, Pinterest is the one that actually drives a lot of traffic to your blog. This makes perfect sense because it's a very different social media platform - one that's based on finding information rather than finding people.

So, I enrolled myself in the Practical Pinning course to get this figured out (not a sponsored link! I can tell you I'm enjoying the course a lot so far, a week and a bit in). I must be doing something right as over the last week my follower numbers both on my business Pinterest account and my Not A Ballerina account have been rising rapidly, and I'm hoping that in the next couple of months I'll be able to see these impacting on my blog traffic - fingers crossed!

Not A Ballerina on Pinterest at pinterest.com/amandatravels
This Pinterest section should come with a warning though: it's crazily addictive ;-)


Sponsored posts

There is a lot of discussion in the blogger world about sponsored posts (just google it and you will disappear into a rabbit warren of opinions). I don't do them very often, and when I do, I insist that I write a normal post that would appear anyway on the blog and then include the sponsorship at the bottom. If the brand doesn't agree to that, then I don't do it. And I hope it goes without saying that I don't do any from irrelevant, unrelated brands. The reason I do any at all is because thanks to the longevity of my blog and its reasonably high page brands are interested in the link and because, quite frankly, I need to pay my mortgage! I would say I do less than one a month on average.

As an aside, I had an interesting email conversation with a potential banner advertiser who told me that their requirements were 20,000 page views/month before they'd consider an ad deal. (I'm rather a long way off that at the moment!)


Income

And so, to income. I did promise to talk about this right back at the start of this series, not just traffic. My big, big must do in the next couple of months is to finish work on the e-products I want to promote though the blog because I'm very keen to diversify (and increase) the income sources. In the meantime, this period included:

Adsense: $25
Nuffnang: $113
Sponsored posts: $550
Total: $688

This is just direct income; the existence of my travel blog is also the reason I'm able to run blogging courses and have a consulting business, so in effect it earns much more for me, but this is the online, purely blog-based income.

What's next for Not A Ballerina's monetisation journey?

So I have just had a look at that long to do list from last time, and I'd say the three most important points are:
  1. Continue working on building up my mailing list (with giveaway - now in place - etc)
  2. Complete the Pinterest course and develop strategy to grow traffic to blog from Pinterest
  3. Complete work on e-products.
How's your blog going? Or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.





Thursday, May 1, 2014

Alfalfa sprouts and my entrepreneurial journey into social media and blogging

I've been thinking about this post for ages. I even got my Mum to look back over old pictures in case we had one of me with alfalfa sprouts (don't worry, it'll all make sense soon) but alas, back in the olden days we didn't take photos of every single second of daily life, did we! Then my friend Jo wrote about her journey to having her own business and I found it so interesting that she, too, had really been headed in this direction since she was a kid, too - and finally today I have got around to writing this post!

Are entrepreneurs born that way?

I didn't actually intend to start this business; I didn't intend to start an income-generating travel blog. Both things happened by accident, or so I thought - or have I been headed in this direction all my life?

It has taken me almost forty years to realise this but it shouldn't be too surprising that I'm now running my own business and can't really imagine ever working for someone else again. As a child, my mother ran her own small real estate company. In fact, she was one of the first women in Western Australia to have her own real estate licence (this is back in the era when, because she got married, she had to leave her job at the bank - not because she had kids - we came later - just because she got married! It seems preposterous to us now). I spent quite a lot of time as a child seeing the inside of other people's houses (I loved it!) and watching my mum do business. There were no mobile phones either so we had to answer the phone especially nicely in our house, because it was often a business call. So, there we are - my mother the role model!

Alfalfa sprouts: back in the days before blogging and social media were invented (image Frédérique Voisin-Demery)

My mother also helped my sister and I start our own small business when we were aged about 10 and 12. I'm not sure how it all began but we started growing alfalfa sprouts (and got more exotic later) and selling them to the local greengrocer. We had to set up the punnets, water them, package them, and my mother would help us deliver them on the way to school a couple of times a week.

Next stop for me was tutoring. A little-known fact is that I studied mathematics at university. This made me an ideal candidate for tutoring primary and high school kids in maths and during my university years I'd built up a huge number of students - I still have some of the paperwork today, as I carefully kept records of the payments and the topics covered. I made about four times as much per hour doing that as I did working at the local KFC so I quit there to do even more tutoring.

Working for a boss

Despite this record, it never occurred to me until very recently that perhaps starting a business might be something that suited me. Instead, my CV lists bunch of jobs working for others which, most of the time, I enjoyed - I worked as a research assistant in mathematics education, then as an instructional designer for distance education units at the same university, and later as an academic helping medical and dentistry lecturers to teach and assess in more effective ways. All of these jobs were really interesting and I got to meet some really amazing people, but they weren't enough, somehow - which led me down the path of going overseas and teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL to kids and adults; but photos with the kids are cuter! This is Momoko, in Osaka.
During all these years, though, I'd been plugging away at something that I'd always really loved: writing. Even before I moved abroad I had found some websites that would pay me to write - not very much, but enough to encourage me to keep at it. When I was travelling so much while living abroad, I got into writing for travel magazines, and eventually from that into writing for big travel blogs and websites. And when I came back to Perth, I was determined to keep generating an income online, because we wanted to started a family and I wanted to be at home when my kids got home from school each day, just like my mother was (unless we were whisked off straight from school to take someone through a house!).


The aha moment: working for myself in social media and blogging

I would like to say that I then cleverly and carefully sat down and created a business plan and started up this business. However, the truth is nothing like that at all. I pitched a course on blogging to UWA Extension, because I really loved teaching adults and I could think of nothing better than combining that with my other passion. Using my own experience on social media - developed through the writing I did and the various travel sites I worked for - I filled that first blogging class very quickly and the delightful Bill at UWA Extension had the bright idea of hiring me to do the same for all their courses. He even sent me my first client, suggesting I might be able to help her out with some social media strategy too, all while my son was still a tiny baby and I was up all night to him, but those midnight hours actually got me ready for that first client meeting. (So yes, Bill, thank you SO much for everything!)

The aha moment didn't really happen - I just suddenly found that I had a business and it keeps getting bigger. Over the last couple of years I have learnt to get more strategic about it although that's still a work in progress, especially while my time is limited to my son's kindergarten hours plus some evenings and weekend work. So however it really happened, I'm grateful, and I love it, and have met so many fantastic people through it, which is the biggest bonus of all. You know, sometimes I look at interaction on my business Facebook page and think, "Oh, but it's just all my friends who are liking and commenting, not proper clients," but then I take a second look and realise that most of them are former students and clients and "real" business connections, it's just that they've come to feel like friends. What better clients could I ask for?

Which brings me, finally, to the YOU part of this post. Lots of my clients run their own businesses: what made you do that? Tell me your story!


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