Digital Nomad: Everything I Learned + Expenses During My First Month Blogging
This is what my first month blogging looked like, everything i spent money on/ my expenses, the tools I use to improve my blogging experience, and the huge learning curve I am diving into.
It’s been a whole entire month since I published my first blog post.
It feels so weird. Am I doing this now? Wow, I am. Writing with purpose and on purpose is new for me. Ever since I was a little girl, I told people I wanted to be a writer, and it has manifested for me in the form of the website you’re reading. It’s only been six months since I learned blogging was an actual thing people did. I knew about blogs, but somehow I thought that bloggers were people the internet made fun of, and I also believed that they didn’t make money. I was wrong.
I got into a car wreck almost a year ago now. It derailed the plans I was forming for finally leaving my hometown and getting out. I wasn’t able to watch TV, work, or do just about anything because of my concussion. I happened upon and started listening to a podcast called The Goal Digger Podcast in my boredom. I learned that, wow, people really do have blogs that are full-fledged businesses. How cool is that? Slowly, my view of how people earn an income was being widened and re-shaped.
I learned that there is a space for every single person to have a blog. Every. Single. Person. So, I took the plunge.
I started my blog because I wanted to do something that had the potential to change my life. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true. My life has been work my ass off, save up enough money to travel, have life-changing experiences traveling, then come home broke as a joke. Rinse and repeat. Working 70 hours a week at a sub-par restaurant was absolutely worth it for the privilege of traveling this planet we’ve all found ourselves on, but I want a better, sustainable, way to live and travel.
In August, 2018 I spent about 6 weeks building my website using Squarespace. Then, I got a little freaked out and put off the writing part of blogging. So, the blogging.
I realized I had to actually do things on my website, and that was definitely the hard part. You mean, I have to put myself out there on the internet for over 3 billion people to have access to? I overcame this fear, finally, and now here I am. An entire month of blogging has passed. It has been so fun and a surprising amount of work.
I bought two courses.
I was raised with quite a few limiting beliefs around money. No surprise that these have held me back when it comes to actually making money. I’ve been working on changing these limiting beliefs for years now.
One thing I was raised to not do is spend money on myself. However, Jenna Kutcher from the Goal Digger Podcast and just about every other online entrepreneur encourages investing in yourself. It’s a good reminder and a good rule for life and business. Invest in yourself! Why spend literal years learning something the hard way when you could pay someone upfront to teach you? I knew from the beginning that I wanted to get ahead by investing in courses, and I am working on those limiting beliefs while spending money on my business. Save yourself the years (also tears), value your time, and invest in yourself.
Michelle Schroeder Gardner from Making Sense of Cents is one of my big internet inspirations. When I was first learning about running a website, I read a lot of Michelle’s blog, and I knew I wanted to buy her course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
So, I did!
I read a few reviews online from others that had completed the course and I learned Michelle is the affiliate marketing guru. She makes over 50,000 dollars a month from affiliate marketing and shares her income reports each month! I figured the possibility of even making 1,000 dollars a month online is worth the pricetag.
I had been doing quite a bit of research on Affiliate Marketing before actually purchasing the course, so some of the information I already knew. It took me about the whole month to go through. If I had sat down and worked on it for hours at a time, it would have taken much less time. However, I wanted to dedicate focused time to absorb the information.
The course has helped me learn how to implement Affiliate Marketing in a way that aligns with my message and brand. Basically, if you’re not involved in Affiliate Marketing and you have any kind of online presence, you’re leaving money on the table. If someone is interested in what you have to say, they will also be interested in what you have to recommend.
Takeaways from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing:
Be legal. Use disclaimers and obey laws.
Having 1,000 loyal readers is better than 10,000 who don't care.
Be honest and build trust.
If you’re not implementing affiliate marketing, you’re leaving money behind.
Taking the course is way more exciting that reading about the course. If you’re interested in taking this course for yourself, you can follow my affiliate link and click here.
Course: Creator Club
The second course I bought during my first month blogging is called Creator Club. It’s created by a really awesome #vanlife couple I’ve followed on Instagram for a while now (@40hourstofreedom). They live in a beautiful van, drive all over the US, and they have a course that teaches others how they too can make money online and live life on the road.
Their amazing success wasn’t enough to convert me into one of their students. It was actually a really lovely Instagram friend I made named Kate (@relokatetofreedom) that took their course and moved from Texas to Thailand. Yay, kate!
I’m in the very beginning of this course. Kate will be along for the ride and help me with coaching calls. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to for the next journey of this blog. I have high expectations, and I’m sure they will be exceeded the more I dig into this course.
I created a Pinterest for my blog when I first created my website. I learned how to create images, create a business account, and figure out my analytics. Then, I neglected it. Oops. This past month I have been working my ass off on Pinterest. That’s something I never thought would pass through my fingers, but Pinterest is the #1 source of traffic to my site.
I post about 3-6 times a day at optimized times to increase the potential reach of what I’m posting. I create about 5 pins or more for each blog post to test out different design styles, copywriting, SEO, and to see which one’s work best for my target audience. So far my audience is almost entirely women between 20 and 30. Knowing this can help me create future blog posts, digital products, and optimized email campaigns when I reach that point in my business.
I have been spending so much time on Pinterest that I finally took the advice of all the other internet marketers, and invested in Tailwind! Y’all, I have had Tailwind for less than a week, and it is saving me literally hours. It may even be saving me up to 10 hours every week. That’s over an entire work day!
How does Tailwind work? Tailwind connects directly to your Pinterest account and all of your boards. Select all of the pins that you want to be in their SmartLoop, and they will pin on your behalf every single day. If that’s not cool enough, they figure out the exact optimized times to make sure the most eyes are on your content.
The very first day my Pinterest impressions increased just from Tailwind posting during optimized times. Since using tailwaind, my Pinterest impressions have grown from 2,000 impressions monthly, to over 21,000 impressions monthly, and this is just the beginning! I am so thrilled to see my traffic take-off and reach even more beautiful people that are interested in what I have to say. Just by subscribing to Tailwind, I’m significantly stretching my reach in the world!
I am slowly developing romantic feelings toward Tailwind, but my favorite part about it is the Tribes. Tailwind Tribes are like group boards. I can pin to the Tribe, and other members of the Tribe will find my pin and pin it to their own boards on Pinterest. So far, almost every single pin I’ve pinned to Tribes has been re-shared many times. My reach (total potential audience) has increased by more than 100k just by joining Tailwind. I also am able to find relevant content for my own Pinterest followers by looking at the Tribes I have joined. Tailwind is now a must for my blog. (It should be for yours too). It has increased my productivity, and now I’m able to focus of creating more content.
I use Pinterest, and Tailwind helps me use Pinterest, but it’s easy to overlook that I have to create each and every pin before it goes on Pinterest and Tailwind. I do this by using free design website, Canva. I have quite a few pictures from my travels that are perfect for creating Pinterest pins. Using Canva, I can use their free stock photos (or my own pictures), add text overlay, and work from templates created just for Pinterest. I haven’t dabbled in the rest of their free services yet, but anything that needs to be designed can be designed on Canva. I don’t have a need yet to upgrade to the premium version, but it is available for anyone that wants access to even more stock photos and templates.
The first thing you must do to create affiliate income is be apart of an affiliate program. The one I’m currently focusing on is Amazon Affiliates. Because I’m new and don’t have a strong, trusting following, I wanted to work with an Affiliate Program that my readers would trust. The best part about being an Affiliate for Amazon is that very niche brands and products are part of Amazon.
I was nervous to apply for their Affiliate Program. I assumed that since I was so new, I wouldn’t be accepted, but here we are, and I have be accepted. The only requirement for staying in the program is making at least one sale within the first 90 days. Challenge accepted. If you want to help with this, click on any of my Amazon links, and purchase anything you were going to purchase anyway. (Many thanks in advance).
If you’ve never heard of affiliate marketing before, you have been apart of it without knowing. Almost every single time you click on a link that takes you to some kind of sales or sign up page, the original website you were on will make a small commission on that sale or sign up.
I consider this a form of wealth sharing. Jeff Bezos doesn’t need another penny in his life, but we all shop on Amazon. If there was a way to help single moms, broke college students, and digital nomads earn a percentage of the purchase, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? I now make sure I’m following an affiliate link every time I purchase on Amazon. When I do this, I am spending the exact same amount of money I would’ve spent anyway, but an internet marketer is getting some commission. It’s a way to be more intentional with the money I spend. If someone does the research to recommend a product to me that I would like, I absolutely want them to get a commission for that product when I buy it.
Learning basic code
Joining Amazon Associates felt like one of the most important steps I’ve taken for my blog so far, but that came with a learning curve. I had to learn how to use Affiliate Links. I blog using Squarespace. It’s been a great platform, and I haven’t had any problems, but I found it challenging to use Affiliate Links.
First, I tried using the Amazon Block. It was, unfortunately, very bulky. I didn’t like it, and it ruined the cohesiveness of the page. After much Googling, I learned how to use a Code Block. All I had to do was add the affiliate link into the Code Block, then move that around once it was saved. This was easy once I learned how to do it, but I found it very frustrating to get to that point. It actually took me an entire day to learn how to do this even though it can be explained in five minutes.
The learning curve is steep.
Blogging seems easy, and the barrier the entry is definitely pretty low, but the amount of effort I have put in just the first month has really surprised me.
Now, for anyone wanting to start a blog, it doesn’t have to be this much work. I want to put in as much work as I possibly can to reach my goals of becoming location+financially independent. If you just want a way to put your thoughts out into the world, that will take much less time than someone intending on creating a business. The ultimate goal of having this website is to reach people. (Serve before you sell, you know what I mean?)
If I can inspire someone, teach someone something, or make a connection, all of this is worth it.
Part of continually learning everything that has to do with running a blog, having a website, and internet marketing is that I am constantly improving and learning about my website.
If I had tried to make it perfect before going live, I would have never gone live. The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that done is better than perfect. As I discover what I’m doing, I’m learning how to tweak my website. Don’t be afraid of not having a perfect website. It is something that will be constantly evolving with moments of rest. I will grow and change just as the internet will, and that will reflect on the website.
Squarespace makes building a website super intuitive. Just about everyone on the internet uses WordPress, but I have really enjoyed using Squarespace, and it has been incredibly beginner friendly.
The most important thing about any business/blog/website is an email list. These are the people that have said, “Hey. I like what you’re doing here, and I want to be a part of it. Keep me updated.” Without a place to opt-in, it’s hard to create fans of your work and repeat visitors. I haven’t hooked up my email to my website yet, but I’m on my way. I’ve been having some technical difficulties, and this has been one of the more frustrating things to learn.
I’ve signed up for Convertkit, so I can hit the ground running. It’s an email list/marketing service created for blogger by bloggers. No matter what kind of business you’re running, a blog should be integrated into it to create more content, help educate, and connect to consumers. That’s why I signed up for an advanced email service provider right from the beginning. One of my goals for month two is to have it up and running.
Google offers a free service that tracks:
Who comes to your website.
Where those people are in the world.
How they found your website.
What time people are coming.
How long people are on your site.
How many people stay and look around.
The main ways I’ve been using Google Analytics is to track if my Pinterest marketing is working, which countries are most interested in what content, and finding out what my most popular content is so I can improve it and create more related items.
I’ve been able to learn that, yes, my Pinterest skills have been improving, America only makes up 50% of my site traffic, and this has been my most popular post during my first month.
There’s so much more that I’ve yet to explore about Google Analytics, but these are my favorite features so far. If you have a website, it’s a must.
Skillshare isn’t a service directly aimed at bloggers/internet marketers, but it has a vast resource of classes available on just about any subject. If you want to learn it, there’s probably a class about it on Skillshare. I haven’t watched as many classes as I intended to this past month, but it’s great to have to the opportunity to be constantly learning.
I plan on spending quite a bit of time watching videos about how to use Lightroom.
There are a bunch of repetitive tasks to do for the blog:
Creating pins for Pinterest.
Writing blog posts and Pinterest copy.
Editing those blog posts and Pinterest pins.
Scheduling using Tailwind.
Optimizing keywords for SEO.
It’s easy to get distracted and become very unproductive and feel like I’m spinning my wheels with very little to show for it. Many people claim to be amazing multitaskers, but multitasking is a myth. Have you heard of the study that proved that multitasking is worse for you than smoking weed? If not, you can read the Forbes article here. It trains your brain to focus poorly AND you will get less done versus if you just picked one thing to do.
The way to be insanely productive and get ahead of work instead of in it is to batch work. The idea is to do all of one thing all at once. If you need to write 5 articles, do nothing but work on those articles. If you need to create content for Pinterest, set aside half a day just for designing pins in Canva. If you need work on SEO, spend an entire day tweaking and improving your SEO.
I had already implemented batch working+time chunking into my pre-blog life. I will take an entire day to clean Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up style. I will also take a day to finish a crochet project, or edit travel photos, but it’s a little different to be disciplined with something that is still incredibly new and unfamiliar (and sometimes very frustrating).
This part is a little scary to reflect on, but I know that all of these investments are worth it and are setting a foundation for my blog/business. I am incredibly grateful for these funds right now and grateful to be able to invest in myself right from the beginning. Part of feeling scared is growing.
Every healthy new headspace I can explore for the growth of my business/blog is creating a foundational life/business skill. The idea that if something scares us it’s wrong for us can stunt our growth in life. Do the scary thing! For me, spending this much money on something that isn’t yet creating money is a little bit scary. Part of working through this is just doing it. Every single thing I’ve spent money on is valuable and is adding value to myself and my content.
One thing I didn’t purchase but seriously considered is Laptop Empires Facebook Ads Course. With the full 12-month mentorship/coaching course, it was $800. For an entire year of coaching and a course that’s a steal!
I had a hard time stomaching spending $800 on a course during my first month of blogging. I am still unsure of whether or not I made the best choice. Was I making a fear based decision and coming from a place of lack? Or was I making a decision from a place of abundance? If I’m being brutally honest, I was not coming from a place of abundance when I chose to pass on the course.
My money mindset is a work in progress, and I work on creating an abundant mindset every day for my personal life and my online life. Every dollar I invested in my website this month is a win!
Here’s the breakdown of this months expenses:
Creator Club $97
Tailwind Plus Plan Annual Subscription $119.88
Tailwind Tribes Pro Annual Subscription $59.88
Squarespace Business Plan $26
Tea+Pastries purchased while working in coffee shops $50
Total Expenses: 593.76
Most of these expenses were one time expenses or plans that I chose to pay annually. So, if you’re reading this because you’re interested in starting a blog/website, remember you don’t have to start off by spending this much. I chose a few annual plans to give myself a head start for the year without having to focus on so many different bills each month.
I realized pretty quickly I was really racking up the amount I spent at coffee shops. I love co-working spaces, and it really helps me get into a creation mindset, however, I’m writing this from the comforts of home, because I felt that I was not spending my money in the best way when going to coffee shops every day. I also ate quite a few pastries while I was there, and I felt it was best to lessen that temptation, because my pants actually got a little tighter. (Oops.)
I’ll be doing these recaps each month to hold myself accountable, to be able to look back on them and track my progress, and to inspire others.
My ultimate personal goal is create a life that allows for a nomadic lifestyle, slow living, and intentional actions/choices.
My business/blog goals reflect my personal goals. I am working to create location independence and financial independence.
I want to spend more time with my dog.
I want to spend summers enjoying the midnight sun in Scandiavia
I want to go deep into the forest beyond wifi.
I want to experience the digital nomad lifestyle and work alongside other digital nomads in beautiful cafes around the world.
I absolutely want to spend more time volunteering on farms.
I’m on my way.