How I Started A Niche Blog And Quit My 9 to 5 Job

$4,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
My Curly Adventures
from Texas
started January 2017
$4,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
1.25M
alexa rank
35.4K
followers
1.98K
followers
28
subs

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Jessica and I am the Content Creator, Blogger, and Influencer of MyCurlyAdventures which inspires people to travel more through finding exciting adventures close to home!

Through my website, I have created a Texas Travel Series to highlight different cities that people can visit for a weekend getaway. There are currently over 30 cities with my list of Texas cities being over 100 long. Additionally, there are places that are only a direct flight away!

My goal is that people can come to my website and find a quick trip for when that travel bug hits or they can browse my Instagram and be inspired by destinations close by! My favorite thing is when people come to my website or social media and say “wow! I never knew that was in Texas!” or “I never knew THAT city” had so much to do!

Through Instagram advertising, sponsorships, and affiliate income I’m able to make a living wage. Plus since I’m traveling so much many of my major expenses have been eliminated such as rent, food, clothing, beauty products, and obviously travel! So with everything I also get for trade that I don’t have to directly pay for, my income would be even higher.

how-i-started-a-niche-blog-and-quit-my-9-to-5-job

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Two years ago I was working a 9-5 and while I loved it, with limited PTO I couldn't jetset around the world.

In order to cure my wanderlust I would look for places close to home that I could visit. I would go sand surfing at Monahans, go on a safari in Glen Rose, try cuisines from around the world in Houston, and visit the wine country in Fredericksburg. I would post pictures on my social media for fun. I had also worked as a semi-professional photographer so I did have photography experience.

how-i-started-a-niche-blog-and-quit-my-9-to-5-job

Soon I had people asking me how I was traveling so much and asking me where these places were. One day a brand reached out to me and offered to pay me to talk about their product related to travel. It was then that it clicked that I could actually make money off of doing something I was passionate about but I didn’t really know where to start.

how-i-started-a-niche-blog-and-quit-my-9-to-5-job

I joined a local group of bloggers who encouraged me to start a blog to document things and joined any Facebook group that had the word blogger, influencer, or travel in it. In my free time I would read anything I could about this world.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

One of the first steps for me was creating a blog. I had an old wordpress page from my college days (I think there was a total of 3 articles), but it was by no means professional. I started reading up on how to set up my Wordpress on a hosting site and developing a layout that was visually appealing. I found that you can buy premade Wordpress templates on Etsy and so I found one that I liked, but I was still missing content.

Be solid on why you want to do something. I hear so many people say “I want to be a blogger but I don’t know what I want to write about”. I don’t want to be a blogger. I want to help people see all of the unique things in Texas and to realize that you don’t have to travel far to live a travel lifestyle.

So now I had the blog, but when I had previously traveled I hadn’t taken pictures for documentation purposes. My then boyfriend (now husband and I) went on a road trip from Texas to California and used it as a work trip.

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We carefully took photos and documented everything and by the time we came back I had multiple articles, hotel reviews, and more so that I could legitimately market myself.

Here’s a look back at those posts:

One thing I get asked often about is how do I start travel blogging. If you don’t have a portfolio of work you can’t reach out to a hotel to ask them to sponsor you. I had several city guides that I had spent my own money on to link back to as examples of what I could offer.

I also read many articles about how Instagram was where the money was at. Brands wanted to use the platforms of influencers to promote the products in exciting ways and weave them into their own story. I saw that if I could also grow my Instagram following, the draw of not only featuring products on my page, but also in a cool location would be a unique opportunity for myself and brands.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The main step was the website and from there I started work on setting up and optimizing my social media. I see that growing on social media gets harder and harder every year especially as more brands and influencers join the space, but if you have the right niche and you solve an issue people have, there’s still a lot of opportunity. Focusing on a certain location where you can be an expert or even your own town is a great place to start! If you like budget travel think about what you can do to stand out because I guarantee if you write about how to travel to new york on a budget there will be a lot of competition. However, think about what you can do to add on to that.

I saw that a lot of people wanted to travel and while a lot of people were following influencers jet setting to Bali, then Italy, then Bora Bora and so on, they enjoyed it but it wasn’t a reality for most people with a 9-5. At most you might take 4 international vacations a year, but by finding exciting destinations that were only a drive or direct flight away people could travel 2-3 times a month, something I was doing with my 9-5.

One thing that is great about blogging is there are relatively few start up costs. I utilized Pinterest to draw people to my blog which had links to my Instagram and I used Instagram to draw people to blog. By utilizing growth tactics I was able to mainly focus on Pinterest and Instagram to continuously grow my audience.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

While my site and social media serves consumers, my customers are businesses. By keeping my readers happy I’m able to attract businesses who want their destination or products advertised on my site and social media. This means that all of my work goes towards building my audience and keeping my current audience engaged.

All of this relies on high-quality content and constant networking. Just like a magazine, you need to write what people want to read! I’m writing 2-4 articles a week that people want to read to keep them coming back for more as well as attract new people.

I went from 400 page views a month to 4,000 page views in less than 6 months. Since then I’ve seen anywhere from a 150%-200% increase in traffic every month!

Pinterest is my main source of blog traffic and I invest a lot of time into growing that. People are always looking up destination pieces on Pinterest. I originally hired a Pinterest expert to optimize my account and teach me how to create pins people will actually click on.

Pinterest is such an underutilized tool and it’s all about creating a graphic that is eye catching and not too busy. I hired a Pinterest manager to design 4 different pin templates that I can alternate through, but Canva has some great templates. I used {interest for inspiration on what type of photos perform well and then while traveling I take several “Pinterest” photos (usually a scenic image with a sky above so I can put text there). I will create 2-4 pins per post.

I also use Tailwind, a Pinterest tool that helps you collaborate with other people to repin each others pin and increase your reach as well as schedule pins. Once I publish a blog post I then go to Pinterest where I schedule it to different group boards and Tailwind tribes. So my post will go out to over 50 boards and then typically people start reposting it from there. Even content that I reposted years ago is rescheduled to regularly go out so the content stay evergreen. This helps draw traffic to my blog which brings in the affiliate income. Before Pinterest I was getting 400 page views and in a year I increased to 25k page views and it’s only gone up from there! 50% of my traffic is from Pinterest.

I also have my Instagram posts embedded in my blog posts and multiple calls to action to direct people to my Instagram page. Like I mentioned growing Instagram can be tedious. There’s no one thing you can do, but I developed a set of techniquesI use to continually grow.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I feel lucky because I stumbled across my niche fairly easily. There’s an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to travel in Texas and not as much competition. I travel 3-4 times a month and then write about it. I have a pretty solid schedule now that I rely on. After traveling I write about it and then distribute it on different social media platforms. I know the more I write the more my material shows up across the web and attracts a larger audience. Right now I’m producing endless content to attract new people.

As far as content, I have about 70 more cities I plan on visiting and hope to create a book from that. I’m working on building up more affiliate sales through my website so that I can rely on those sales rather than just brand partnerships.

I’ve been slowly working on my Youtube channel and I want post there more regularly and building on that platform.

SEO is also something I want to work on more. While I have basic SEO down, I know part of my website is slacking as far getting my site at better speed, a few broken links, and getting better at identifying key words. It can be a little overwhelming when there’s only one of me who is simultaneously writing new articles, posting and engaging on Instagram, managing Pinterest and Twitter, negotiating brand deals, responding to emails, optimizing my site, managing finances, and more. As I grow I hope I’ll be able to outsource some of these tasks. However, I’m grateful for all the skills I’ve learned.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When I first started blogging it was all about traveling around Texas. Then brands started reaching out to me. I got drawn in by free products that while I loved, didn’t fit in with my brand.

My blog quickly started to take a turn for lifestyle and I let brands dictate my content. I lost my unique voice. I started losing the motivation to post. It wasn’t until I went back to my roots and why I started in the first place that I found my motivation again and started growing.

I’ve also come to appreciate slow and steady wins the race. So many people try to hack the system but you end up paying for it later. You have to get creative when it comes to growth.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Instagram and Pinterest are my absolute favorite platform as I described before.

For bloggers I cannot stress how important Pinterest is.

I went from 400 page views a month to 4,000 page views in less than 6 months. Since then I’ve seen anywhere from a 150%-200% increase in traffic every month! Tailwind is a tool I use to schedule my pins and collaborate with other bloggers.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Pat Flynn’s Podcast Smart Passive Income was huge for me. One phrase continues to stick with me is “be everywhere”. If there’s ever an opportunity to get my name out there I will because of his advice. It also made me think about how I can build my business so that my income will be more passive.

Tony Robbins YouTube channel and books are also great. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to stay focused on my goals.

Lastly, for social media I rely on the Fohr.Co youtube shows A Drink With James. These videos are created by a man that runs an influencer marketing company and has relevant information in regards to the field.

I’m currently reading How to Be a Travel Writer (Lonely Planet) by Don George. Anything I can do improve my writing skills and pitch to potential publications is important.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Be solid on why you want to do something. Especially in the blogger industry, I hear so many people say “I want to be a blogger but I don’t know what I want to write about”. I don’t want to be a blogger. I want to help people see all of the unique things in Texas and to realize that you don’t have to travel far to live a travel lifestyle. Blogging just happens to be the best tool to do that. Find your why whether it’s in blogging or another business.

If you do want to be a blogger/influencer I can’t stress how important having a niche is. Everyone wants to be a lifestyle blogger, but unless you have some crazy lifestyle that can be hard to sell in a see of lifestyle bloggers. You have to find that one things that makes you stand out. Are you exploring a certain region people love? Do you homeschool your kids and have great resources people will want to use on that? Think of what you want to see more of and then create there.

For bloggers/influencers just starting out and monetizing, I think there is a delicate balance. Brands are getting reached out to like crazy by people who haven’t developed an ROI. Build up a solid following and focus on your content before you start monetizing. However, brands also save a lot of money by going through bloggers and influencers.

As an example, I also do somet acting on the side and my agent told me that a model got paid the booking/modeling fee ($1,000+) plus $3,500 for 3 years of print usage. So that brand had to pay over $4,500 for the model and that doesn’t even include the photographer's fee, the set fee, and staff on set who had to plan the shoot and work.

However, I’ve had brands ask for full rights to photos for free. And I’ve seen bloggers of all sizes agree to those terms simply because they don’t know. Make sure you know your worth and the industry standard before agreeing to a payment and don’t sell yourself short. Not only does it hurt you, but it hurts the entire photography and model industry and all the jobs associated with that.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I would love to bring on an intern at some point in the near future. I have some exciting projects and I know a lot of people want to learn about pitching, working with brands, how to grow, and other information that I want to help share.

Some other part time positions I might look for the future include someone for an SEO audit and a brand manager/agent.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Jessica Serna,   Founder of My Curly Adventures

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