Probably the most common question in full-time RVing Facebook groups is how people who are already on the road full-time earn an income. This was definitely the most common question we were asked during our travels and so we answered that question here in July of 2018.
A lot has changed since that post, so I wanted to give an update on how our RV travel blog, TREKKN, has grown and what we did to get it to $5k a month in one year.
Our Way Isn’t the Only Way
Before I get into the details, I want you to know that my way of turning a blog into a full-time income is not the only way to do it. Not by a long shot. But since this is the way I know and it works for us, I figured it might work for some of you as well.
I also want to note, that there are bloggers out there who have gotten to well over $5k a month in income in less than a year. Just search “blogging income reports” on Google and you’ll find some extraordinary stories.
But for us, given the transitions we have gone through over the last 9 months (like going from traveling full-time to a stationary lifestyle) and the amount of time we have given to TREKKN, I feel pretty dang proud to be at $5k a month (and growing!)
Ummmm, This is a Little Uncomfortable
I feel like I need to throw this out there so you know where I’m coming from. I love talking blogging income with fellow bloggers who I’m close with, but putting numbers out there publicly…well, that’s a little uncomfortable for me.
Because it makes me vulnerable and vulnerability is not something I’m good at. I’ve finally figured out in my old age (lol) that I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of gal and don’t like putting myself out there.
For my blogging colleagues who have put their income out there, they can tell you they’ve received every comment from I can’t believe that’s all she makes and I can’t believe she makes THAT much to well good for you Ms. fancy pants. Or something along those lines.
Obviously putting your income out there opens one up to feedback of every kind and that’s something Todd and I wrestled with when trying to decide if I should write this post or not.
But here’s the deal.
If I help just one person grow a blog to a full-time income so they can either live their dream of full-time RVing or even add some much-needed income to their family’s bottom line, then all the vulnerability will be worth it.
Now that that’s out of the way…let’s dig into the details.
How We Grew Our RV Travel Blog to $5k a Month in One Year
Here’s everything we’ve done step-by-step to grow TREKKN to $5k a month and beyond. We’ll also share future plans, what’s working and what’s not.
*Note: We launched TREKKN on May 25, 2018 but did not seriously start working on it until we were back to stationary life in October 2018. Plus, Todd started working a job in November, putting in 50+ hours a week, which meant he could only contribute a little bit to the blog.
1. Started Our Pinterest Account Before the Blog was Live
While we were in the building phase of our blog (meaning working on our site design and creating content), I went ahead and started building our Pinterest account. Why?
Well before I started sharing our own content, I wanted to have an account that was already somewhat established, letting Pinterest know “hey, this account is all about RV travel“.
My thinking was once we were ready to share our own content on Pinterest, they would start showing our pins faster since we had already built some sort of rapport with them. Is this strategy legit? I have NO idea. As with any social media site, creating a strategy and getting traffic to your site from them is somewhat a guessing game.
What I can share with you are the numbers and let them speak for themselves.
I started our Pinterest account about a month and a half before officially launching our blog on May 25, 2018. Here are our traffic numbers, including how much of that is from Pinterest:
- May 2018 – 3,351 sessions – 217 sessions from Pinterest (we launched with a big giveaway which accounts for the pageviews for this month)
- June 2018 – 8,202 sessions – 5,274 sessions from Pinterest
- July 2018 – 9,513 sessions – 8,712 sessions from Pinterest
- August 2018 – 31,788 sessions – 30,132 sessions from Pinterest
- September 2018 – 24,915 sessions – 23,498 sessions from Pinterest
- October 2018 – 22,006 sessions – 19,820 sessions from Pinterest
- November 2018 – 24,302 sessions – 22,253 sessions from Pinterest
- December 2018 – 20,525 sessions – 18,318 sessions from Pinterest
- January 2019 – 25,724 sessions – 22,976 sessions from Pinterest
- February 2019 – 48,541 sessions – 45,188 sessions from Pinterest
- March 2019 – 70,758 sessions – 64,883 sessions from Pinterest
- April 2019 – 79,568 sessions – 70,593 sessions from Pinterest
- May 2019 – 94,682 sessions – 85,851 sessions from Pinterest
*You’ll notice a dip in sessions for four days in May when Pinterest temporarily decided we were spam. That was fun! Ugh. That’s just one of the reasons why building your site traffic based solely on one platform is a gamble and not a good business practice.
So, as you can see, thanks to Pinterest we saw some fast growth. I believe that we can attribute part of that fast growth to the fact that I had been pinning other people’s content and building up our Pinterest account before launching the blog.
As of today, our Pinterest account has 1.6 million monthly views, with 7,007 followers and is responsible for the bulk of our traffic. After our Pinterest game was going strong, we started working on other social media platforms as well as increased focus on organic search (showing up in Google search results).
Here are a few general Pinterest tips I believe have helped our growth on this platform:
- I make new pins for 3 old posts a week
- We create 2 to 3 new posts a week, Pinterest loves new content
- We’re a part of Tailwind Tribes in our niche
- We’re consistent on the platform; posting 20-30 pins a day (40% our content, 60% others’ content)
2. Worked on One Social Media Platform at a Time
Blogging is overwhelming, even for someone like me who’s been doing it for quite a few years. There are 100 tasks you could be doing to maybe, hopefully, cross your fingers and wish on a star…bring traffic to your blog and turn it into an income.
And when you get overwhelmed, you stall. And when you stall, nothing happens.
This is why I encourage other bloggers (and do this myself) to focus on one social media platform at a time. Then, after you are feeling good about your progress with that one platform, it’s time to move on to another.
You do not need to be everywhere all at the same time. You don’t even need to be everywhere at all! Decide which platform you want to start with, whether it’s because you know it best, or because you think that’s where your audience hangs out.
I started with Pinterest for three reasons: I knew that’s where my audience was researching the topic of RVing, I knew the platform well and I felt confident it would bring me the fast growth I wanted and needed.
Now, I am having about 0% success with Facebook. 🙂 Why? Well, I think it’s because I just don’t enjoy being there on a personal level. I know I need to hire Facebook out, but can you say control freak? That’s something I know I need to work on if I want to treat TREKKN as a business.
Although we’re bringing in over $5k a month, we’re still treating it like a side hustle in some respects. That’s something we need to work on.
So, to wrap this section up, I believe we saw some great early success because we focused on one social media platform at a time.
*Side note: You can even grow your blog only focusing on SEO and not even touching social media. It’ll be slower growth than we saw with Pinterest, but it’s a fantastic long-term strategy.
3. Published Imperfect Posts to Get the Ball Rolling
The most common thing I hear from new bloggers is that they’re scared to just bite the bullet and hit publish. I get it.
Hitting publish feels like you’re advertising your blog on a roadside billboard. Hitting publish makes this blogging thing real. Plus, you’re scared people will read it and think you’re a horrible writer or laugh at you for blogging in the first place.
But let me give you some tough love.
Nobody is reading your blog in the beginning.
You don’t even want to start promoting your blog until you have at least 10 posts – more is better. So, hit that publish button and move on to the next post.
Now, let me give you some encouragement.
You can go back and edit those early posts anytime you want!
You will get better at writing. You will get better at making your posts visually appealing. You will get better at coming up with posts that your audience can’t wait to read. You will get better at finding and using your own voice.
But you have to start.
Write. Hit publish. Rinse and repeat.
Our early posts on TREKKN are definitely disorganized and our URLs are a mile long. I also thought I would be doing personal recipes (vegetarian recipes to be exact) and so you’ll see some of those in the early days.
TREKKN went from an outdoor adventure blog topic to a heavy vegetarian RV cooking focus and then to eventually what it is now – all about the RV lifestyle.
I’ve been blogging for a really long time and we changed our minds on the focus of this blog three times! Maybe even four.
My point is – HIT PUBLISH. Stop waiting for perfect. 🙂 (Hey, it paid off for us.)
4. Invested In Training
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but just because you read blogs, doesn’t mean you know how to blog. Just because you’re on Pinterest, doesn’t mean you know how to market on Pinterest.
As bloggers, we have to stop expecting ourselves to know how to turn it into something that brings in an income without some training.
I mean, I’ve seen all 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, which obviously means I can perform some sort of life-saving surgery, right? No, of course not! Although the show might make me feel like I know things – I definitely do not. Besides, I can’t even stand it when someone posts their injury videos or pictures on Facebook. (People, please stop doing this. It’s gross and makes me throw up in my mouth a little.)
I never went to college, but all of the training I’ve taken on the subject of blogging and marketing makes me feel like I have an advanced degree. (And thankfully, it pays like it also.)
My Blogging Course of Choice
The course I purchased that took me from making around $1,500 a month on a previous blog I had to some months making over $10,000, was Elite Blog Academy.
I shared a little about my blogging story here, but the gist of it is, investing in EBA helped me take my blog from making a side income to a strong full-time income. It was a dream come true for us and was the reason we were able to travel full-time.
EBA is a hefty course. I tell everyone it’s like getting a degree in blogging. It’s obviously not the only blogging course out there, but it’s my favorite and let me tell you, I’ve taken a bunch of them.
One thing that’s different about EBA is it definitely treats blogging as something personal. It teaches you how to build a brand, but that brand is you. Building a blog like that is definitely not the only way to make a living blogging.
There are other courses out there that teach you to create blogs that are niche sites, where you’re the behind the scenes kind of person. If that’s more your jam, then EBA might not be for you.
As of this writing, Elite Blog Academy is not open for enrollment, but you can get on the waiting list for when it does open as well as read the EBA blog, grab some phenomenal freebies and start learning asap.
Todd and I are both going through the course right now for TREKKN, because even though we’re making over $5k a month, TREKKN is still a side hustle and not the brand we want to turn it into – yet. We’re both creators and not naturally wired to think like business owners. EBA is helping us take it from a well-paying hobby to a legitimate ad highly profitable business.
5. Invested In Tools
When we first launched TREKKN, I knew I wanted/needed to grow it as fast as I could. We were living off the sale of another blog and knew that money wouldn’t last forever. Plus, we decided to stop full-time RVing and go back to a stationary lifestyle, which ended up being a bit more expensive than we bargained for.
So, from my past experiences, I knew the fastest way to grow the blog was through Pinterest. Which is why I invested in one tool before we had a stitch of traffic to the site.
And that tool was Tailwind. (If you click on our link, you get a free month to try it out!)
What is Tailwind?
Tailwind is a scheduling tool for Pinterest (and now Instagram as well). Here’s a snippet from Tailwind about who and what they are:
Tailwind is the smartest way to manage your presence across the visual web (Pinterest & Instagram). Tailwind is an official partner of both Pinterest and Instagram and offers a complete suite of marketing tools including Smart Scheduling, Analytics & Monitoring, Content Discovery, Promotion, and more.
Find out why over 200,000 bloggers, brands and agencies rely on Tailwind as their visual marketing co-pilot for winning on Pinterest and Instagram.
I had already been using this marketing tool for another blog and had quickly grown that Pinterest account to over 100,000 followers with it bringing over 300,000 visitors a month to the blog. At one point that blog was bringing in over 600,000 visitors every month! Needless to say, I knew Tailwind was a very powerful tool that I needed to use from the get-go.
I love this tool primarily for two reasons:
- I can schedule Pinterest pins (both mine and relevant pins from other bloggers) and not have to be on the platform all the time. It’s a set it and forget it tool.
- I can find other bloggers in my niche through their “Tribes” tool, which helps me share relevant content to our audience. I’m in several Tribes with fellow RV bloggers and it’s been fantastic. I’ve had several pins “go viral” thanks to them sharing our pins.
I’m now using Tailwind to grow our Instagram and after just a couple of weeks of using it, I’m seeing fantastic results.
Let me know if you have any questions about Tailwind! I’m a total fan-girl of this company. 🙂
And don’t forget, if you sign up using our link, you get a free month to try it out. Click here for your free month.
6. Created Content In Order to Solve a Problem
I want you to remember one question when you sit down to brainstorm post ideas:
“What problems does my audience have and how can I help solve them?”
If you write posts with this question in your head, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of others.
Too many times when starting a blog, new bloggers tend to make it all about them. I am 100% guilty of this. We write our “About” page all about us (when you should start your “About” page with how your site will help your readers and then talk about you), we write posts about our day, our life, our likes, our dislikes…it’s me, me, me.
When you write posts that help your readers solve a problem, they will come back.
Now, there is nothing wrong with having some posts that are about you. Your readers will want to know about you! I love reading about pages on other sites in order to get a glimpse of the person behind the blog. But be sure to balance those posts about you, with posts that solve your readers’ problems.
Here’s an example:
One of our most popular posts is how we went from a house to full-time RVing in 100 days. That’s obviously about us and our experience, but we knew people would be interested in how long it took us to go from the idea of full-time RVing to actually hitting the road. 100 days is also very (very) fast and we knew that would grab people’s attention.
So take your topic and write down all the questions you think and know that your audience will have. And then answer those questions. Write, write, and write some more!
7. Worked On One Income Source at a Time
As I mentioned before, I hear all the time how blogging is so overwhelming and it is! I’ve been at this a very long time (almost 15 years!) and I still get overwhelmed with all there is to do.
One thing we decided to do when starting TREKKN, was to focus on perfecting one income source at a time.
The first income source we focused on was Amazon. We started our site at the end of May 2018 and in August 2018, we earned over $1,000.
Why did we start with Amazon? Well, because when we were getting ready to hit the road full-time in our RV, we bought the majority of what we needed through Amazon and we knew others would be doing the same thing!
Plus, after being on the road for a while, we knew what products we had used over and over again and which ones we ended up not needing. This allowed us to give our readers some helpful, first-hand experience related to RV products.
Amazon continues to bring in a healthy income every month for us, along with our advertising network, Mediavine.
Todd and I went back and forth between wanting to put ads on our site. But the bottom line was…we needed to earn an income from the site in order to justify spending time on it.
So as soon as we hit the 25,000 pageviews minimum that Mediavine requires in order to apply to their network, we applied.
In August 2018, we had 42,484 pageviews (remember, that’s only 3 months of the site being live) so we applied to Mediavine in September, were accepted and starting running ads I believe in November of 2018.
We’ve followed everything Mediavine recommended to do and it now brings in a great income for us.
As of today, we only earn an income from Amazon and Mediavine. We’ve just started experimenting with another revenue source and let me tell you, it’s been slow. But we’re going to continue to experiment with it, perfect it as best we can and basically just give it some time.
For us, focusing on one income source at a time kept us from having too many balls in the air. We knew if we tried to juggle too many income sources, we would get overwhelmed and in the end, not have the results we wanted.
7 Steps to Blogging Success
So there you have it – seven steps we feel helped us grow our RV travel blog to $5k a month in a year with little effort (relatively speaking).
Remember, in the beginning, while we were still traveling full-time, we didn’t work on the site very much. And then when we stopped full-time RVing and moved into our apartment, Todd was working 50+ hours a week at a job and I was working on TREKKN, but only a few hours a day.
We’ve just started giving this blog and the TREKKN brand a full-time effort in the past few months, and we can’t wait to see where that takes us!
What’s Worked, What Hasn’t & The Future for TREKKN
To wrap this up, I want to quickly cover what we feel has worked well for us in growing the site, what hasn’t and what the future holds.
What We Feel Has Worked Well
- Creating content that solves a problem
- Focusing on one income source at a time
- Focusing on one social media platform at a time
- Investing in marketing tools
- Investing in training
What We Feel Hasn’t Worked Well
- Making the site impersonal by writing content solely for Google (we were trying to write buying guides and it was soul-sucking).
- Making the site too broad – at first, we were building the site around too many topics, but when we decided to niche down and write about RVing specific topics. That’s when we started seeing incredible growth. We’re now branching off into broader destination-specific topics, but still mentioning RVing (like RV parks to stay at, etc.).
- Getting side-tracked by looking at what everyone else is doing – instead of focusing on what others are doing, focus on what you know and what you could write a ton of content about. Not only is “comparison the thief of joy” but it can also affect your growth and how you run your business. We know this first-hand.
Our Future Plans and Projects
- Continue to write content, but branch out more into destination-specific posts (for example things to do, RV parks to stay at, hikes to go on, etc.).
- Look at old posts and see how we can make them better.
- Create TREKKN products (I’m going to be very vague on this because we’re in the early stages of product creation and there’s not much to say!)
- Take TREKKN from a little blog about RV travel to a real business – in other words, stop treating it like a side hustle, dream big, create a vision and work hard.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I truly hope this has helped you and answered some questions you’ve had. I could talk about blogging all day long! As I mentioned, I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years. Blogging has changed my life, my family’s life and has provided us with opportunities like traveling full-time. No regrets from my perspective!
Let me know if you have any questions or would like me to expand on anything I mentioned.
Julie Bonner is one-half of the TREKKN team. She specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.