Amanda Williams is the person behind Dangerous Business blog. Today, it brings in more than $5,500 per month, which is more than she made when she was working full-time as a journalist!
Revenue of $5,500/mo
Email list size of 4,800
Founded in 2010
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
My name is Amanda and I’m a travel blogger from the US. I have an undergrad degree in journalism and a master’s degree in tourism management and have been blogging since 2010 (professionally since 2015).
My blog, A Dangerous Business, is a travel blog with a focus on bucket-list-style adventures and encouraging people to find ways to fit more travel into the lifestyle they already have.
My readers tend to be the average traveler – i.e. people with jobs, families, and often limited vacation time. I write primarily for the 24-35 age range, though I do have readers from all age brackets and demographics who follow my blog.
Today, I make on average $5500 per month (or more) from my blog – which is more than I made when I was working full-time as a journalist!
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
In short, I started A Dangerous Business because I was bored at work. I was a copy editor at a small newspaper, and often found myself with a few hours every day where I had very little to do.
I decided to start a travel blog specifically because I really liked traveling and had spent a semester abroad during university and figured I could write down all my stories about it.
My blog was never meant to be anything other than a creative outlet, and I knew very little about blogging when I started. I started out with a free WordPress site, couldn’t have told you what SEO stood for, and never dreamed that I’d one day have hundreds of thousands of readers and be a professional blogger.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
Like many bloggers, my revenue model is quite diverse. The main ways I make money are through advertising, affiliate marketing, branded content, selling blogging courses, and partnerships/campaigns with destinations and travel brands.
I now make a full-time living from my blog, but it took a long time and a complete shift in my thinking to get here. I made my first dollar from my blog in 2011, but it wasn’t until late 2015 that I felt confident enough to turn to my blog full-time with no other side jobs. (And it wasn’t really until 2017 that I was making enough to start building up my savings account.)
These days, I make roughly $5000-$6000 per month, and the majority of that comes directly from my blog and social channels. But it would have never been possible if I hadn’t shifted how I think about my blog. I had to go from treating it like just a personal site to treating it like a business.
In the past year or two, I’ve switched over to premium hosting, joined an ad network, got serious about my affiliate marketing strategy, and have put a lot of effort into SEO and creating really useful content to help people travel better.
My advice is that if you want to make money from a blog, you can’t do that without building an audience and authority first. Too many people start blogs these days assuming it’s really easy to make money online. It’s really not. It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and a good amount of luck to turn a blog into a career.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
I started blogging in 2010. The internet was a different place then, so I can’t promise that the ways I built traffic are the ways to successfully build traffic today.
I focused a lot on being very active within the travel blogging community and on social media. I read and commented on tons of blogs, wrote guest posts, interviewed fellow travel bloggers, and joined ALL the travel Twitter chats. Back then, this was enough to get the ball rolling.
Today, though, there are even more social networks to worry about, new automation tools to contend with, and lots of pressure to achieve certain numbers on social media along with growing traffic.
A few things hold true, though: You still need to get your name out there as much as possible (guest posts and interviews are still good for this), and get involved in the community, whether that’s joining blogging Facebook groups, or going to networking events/conferences.
I also think it’s important to publish prolifically, especially when you’re first starting out. There was a stretch of time in 2010/11 when I was publishing something travel-related on my site every single day.
I’m not sure if that’s the best use of time these days, but I do recommend publishing regularly (both on your blog and on social media), and focusing on SEO from the beginning.
How have you grown the email list?
Growing my email list hasn’t been my top priority, mostly because I don’t have a product or anything else to sell (which is generally why you want to build a large email list). My list is still in the 4500 subscribers range, though, which isn’t bad.
I send out a monthly newsletter that contains a unique mini-post, a reader Q&A section, links to interesting travel stories and contests, and a look at my recent and upcoming travels.
My best advice for growing a list is to make sure people know you have one! There are lots of options, from popups to subscription boxes to simply blasting it all over social media.
The options that have worked best for me are having a sign-up box at the end of each of my blog posts, as well as having exit-intent popups (meaning they only pop up when it looks like a reader is about to click away from my site) on specific posts offering an exclusive download. Enticing people to join with a free download is probably the easiest way to build your list.
How do you write great content that performs well?
Even though I’ve talked about SEO several times already, the truth is that I don’t ever do a ton of SEO research for my content. I don’t use keyword tools or anything like that. I tend to write the sort of resources that I personally would want to read as a traveler – often I answer questions that I had when planning a trip that I was unable to find good answers to online.
I like to write a variety of content, but I’ve found that informative posts with lots of pictures are my favorite. (Lucky for me, those are also the types of posts that do best on Google and Pinterest!)
I don’t usually plan out my topics before actually visiting a place, but rather jot down post ideas as my trip progresses, or as I receive feedback from people following along on social media. My main goal is to always provide useful, actionable content (with the occasional personal or just-for-fun post thrown in).
When it comes to the writing itself, I’m very lucky that I’ve always loved to write and have always been pretty good at it. But here are four tips for effective blog writing:
- Write in whatever order and at whatever pace works best for you – but be sure to give your content some room to breathe and edit/proofread it before you hit publish. If you find the editing process tough, try reading your content out loud to yourself – you often catch mistakes better this way!
- Definitely use a plugin like Yoast that allows you to write one headline for the Google SEO gods and one for your site, which can be more creative. Write a headline that would make YOU want to click on the link and read it.
- Be sure to break up your content – huge, long paragraphs might be great in academic writing, but they’re awful on the internet. Use sub-headings, bulleted lists, and images to make the reading experience better for your audience.
- And, even if you’re writing an informative post, don’t forget to let your unique voice shine through. You can still add personal anecdotes and little bits of YOU into even the most info-heavy posts. (This is how you build up a loyal audience who will read your content simply because YOU wrote it.)
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome with your blog? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I mentioned this already, but when I started blogging I knew nothing about best practices or how to grow an audience – and I really had no idea that making money from a blog was possible. I had to learn everything, sometimes by trial and error (and I’m STILL learning, 8 years in!).
Business-wise, an early mistake I made was accepting way too many sponsored posts and text links (back when selling links was pretty much the only way to make money from a blog). Back then everyone was doing it, but I can see now that it did nothing to help my brand – and the money was never that good.
In the past year or two, I’ve learned to balance the message I want my brand to send with making money in a sustainable way. It took me a while to be comfortable with the idea of monetizing my site with ads, but eventually, I came to the realization that I don’t need to apologize or seek approval for wanting to make money from my business.
There are always challenges with blogging – striking the right balance of SEO and personality in your writing; reaching your audience on social media through ever-changing algorithms, and finding ways to make money without feeling like a shill. But I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Everything I’ve been through as a blogger has taught me things, and I don’t know that I’d be where I am today without those experiences!
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
When I was starting out, there weren’t really courses about blogging like there are today. But I learned a lot through joining travel blogging Facebook groups, and by making friends with other travel bloggers – I have a good group of blogger friends that I can always turn to when I need to talk about new ideas or just vent.'I think the most important thing is that you start a blog because you really love it. I mean the writing, sharing, and teaching part of being a blogger.'Click To Tweet
Today, though, there are lots of resources online to help with starting a travel blog. There are courses and ebooks and podcasts and lots and lots of blog posts.
You just have to decide how serious you are about it (i.e. is it worth investing in a course?), and know whether you’re the type of person who learns better from someone else teaching you, or by just trying things out on your own.
I can’t pretend that I have all the answers, though. I started my blog at a time when the internet wasn’t quite so inundated with blogs, and when travel blogging was still fairly “new.”
The timing was right, and I got lucky that my voice was loud enough to be heard. (I’m also lucky that my writing voice is something I’ve never really had to “find” – I’ve always been a writer, and having a passion for writing/blogging has meant this has never really felt like work to me.)
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
I think the most important thing is that you start a blog because you really love it. I mean the writing, sharing, and teaching part of being a blogger. Most people enjoy traveling, but writing about traveling isn’t quite the same thing. The people who start travel blogs simply because they want free trips or assume it’s an easy way to make money are the ones who usually don’t last too long.
It’s also important to be patient as a new blogger – audiences aren’t grown overnight. (And please don’t buy followers; people can tell – including PR people you might one day want to work with – and it just makes you look bad.) Growing a blog is kind of like nurturing a plant, or raising a kid.
There will always be bumps in the road, and at times you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it. But if you’re patient and continue working at it, blogging can be really rewarding.
Lastly, don’t get too caught up in what other people are doing. At the end of the day, you need to be happy with and proud of your work, and comparing yourself to everyone else is one surefire way to undermine that.
Find yourself a tribe of blogger friends who will support you and cheer you on, and then just do your thing. The most successful bloggers are the ones who are real and relatable – not the ones trying to emulate everyone else.
Where can we go to learn more?
I also have two courses for travel bloggers (one about partnerships and one about affiliate marketing) that are available on Teachable.