How would you like to start a blog, watch it balloon in popularity, and then leave your job to return to school, using the blog’s income as a financial cushion? It sounds like every blogger’s fantasy, but Amanda Williams, a 24-year-old journalist based in Ohio, found a way to make it work. Her blog, A Dangerous Business, documents her traveling adventures from China to New Zealand. She recently left her job to travel across the country before she returns to school this fall to study hospitality and tourism. We spoke with Williams about how she turned her hobby into a money maker. Excerpts:
[In Pictures: Celebrities with the Biggest Money Problems.]
When and why did you start your blog?
I've been writing it since about February 2010, though I started blogging about my travels as early as 2008 when I was studying abroad in New Zealand. It started out as just as way to keep my family and friends up-to-date while I was overseas, and then turned into an outlet for me to try my hand at some travel writing once I was at home and stuck sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day. I've always loved writing, so blogging seemed like a natural hobby for me to pick up. I definitely didn't go into it aiming to make money. In fact, until about a year ago, I didn't even realize that you could make money travel blogging.
But, once I saw that others were somewhat successful at it, I couldn't help but become interested in the business side of blogging. These days, I do make a small income from my blog. But, for me, my blog is still about my writing, photos, and stories. The advertising income is just a nice added bonus.
That being said, however, I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes daydream about being able to make enough income off my blog to turn it into my full-time job.
Did having that source of side income give you more freedom to leave your job to travel?
My decision to quit my job really had more to do with the fact that I plan to go back to school this fall than anything. However, knowing that I was making a bit of extra income from my blog was reassuring to me that heading down a different career path, and hopefully one that involves travel, was right for me.
As for travel, having the side income from my blog has been vital this past year. It's no secret that you don't go into journalism to get rich, and I was not making enough from my "real" job to be able to set anything aside for travel. So, anything extra I've made off my blog has gone into a travel fund. It's mostly thanks to that money that I've been able to visit Hawaii, New Zealand and Vancouver this year, as well as take the cross-country road trip I'm currently on. Once I start school again this fall, I hope that the extra blogging income will help me be able to travel during school breaks.
Do you have advice for others who want to earn a side income through something they love?
My advice would be to choose something that you love. Any sort of job that gives you the freedom to work from anywhere sounds great on paper. But the reality is that it's a lot of work to do anything while you're on the go. Once you get serious about something like a travel blog, it can often morph into what feels like a full-time job. But, if you choose something that you love, and for me, that's traveling and taking photos and writing about it, it won't really feel like work. And, if it doesn't feel like work, you will enjoy it. In the case of writing, when you're enjoying what you're doing, it comes through in your writing, and your readers can tell.
My other tip would be to work hard at it, which, again, is much easier to do if you enjoy it. Making money online does not happen overnight. I've put a lot of hours into my travel blog that I will never get paid for. I've spent many hours researching, writing, and then promoting things. But, to me, it's totally worth it.