Niall Doherty runs a blog that inspires people to follow their dreams. After quitting his 9-5 job, he has been working online and traveling the world, including one 44-month circumnavigation of the globe without flying.
Revenue of $3,500/mo
Email list size of 5,590
Founded in 2011
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your blog about?
I’m Niall Doherty, a 35-year-old, born-and-raised Irishman who hasn’t lived in Ireland for a decade. I quit my last “real job” seven years ago and have been working online and traveling the world ever since, including one 44-month circumnavigation of the globe without flying.
My blog is called Disrupting the Rabblement, and it’s about thinking different, facing fears and chasing dreams.
The people who read it are a bunch of rabble-rousers, looking for something beyond the norm. Recently, I’ve been writing about how people can start their own online businesses, because the ability to work for yourself from anywhere provides significant freedom and opportunity.
Most of my income the past seven years has come from freelance web development, though the past two years I’ve mainly earned a living teaching other people how to get started working online.
I’ve been tracking all my income and expenditure for seven years now and publish monthly finance reports on my site. So far this year I’ve pulled in an average of $3,629 per month.
What motivated you to get started with the blog?
I started the blog in 2009 as a hobby, while still working a 9-to-5 office job. It was a way to clarify and share my thoughts and experiments related to personal development.
What is the revenue model for the blog?
I didn’t have any revenue model for the blog when I began. Over the years though I have toyed with many different monetization methods.'Don't get into blogging just for the money, and be willing to put in at least six months of hard work before you start seeing results.'Click To Tweet
The blog was actually a great lead gen for my freelance web development business, even though I never really wrote anything related to that. But people would like an article I wrote about not watching the news, for example, then read on my about page that I was a freelance web developer and reach out to me if they needed help building a website.
I became more intentional with monetizing the blog about two years ago. Lots of people were asking me how I managed to earn a living while traveling all the time, so I started producing and selling information products on that topic.
My flagship product right now is a course called 3 Months → $1,000 (3M1K for short), which teaches people how to develop skills and build an online freelance business that earns them at least $1000/month. Twenty months after launch that product has earned me just shy of $40,000.
I also have a couple of travel-related products and two books published on Kindle, but the income from those hasn’t been significant.
My advice for others who are thinking of starting a blog to make money is that a blog is a terrible way to make money! A blog is a marketing channel, not a magic bullet, and it takes a lot of hard work to turn it into a legit business.
What are some strategies you have used for building up the traffic?
My traffic numbers aren’t huge – this year my site is getting an average of 31,600 unique users per month – so I’m by no means an expert on this topic.
But what worked for me initially was to write about taboo topics, publish twice per week religiously, and share my posts on social media. About a year in I also started publishing a simple “talking head” video with each blog post, and I believe that made me come across a lot more relatable and authentic to readers.
My 44-month journey around the world without flying also helped keep readers engaged. They were curious to see if I would keep going and how I would get from A to B. If I had to point to one thing I wish I’d done earlier, it would be starting a mailing list. But overall, I’ve never been very intentional about building my traffic.
How have you grown your email list?
I don’t have one primary list as I write about a few different topics and like to keep it segmented.
In total I have 5,590 subscribers, and many of them are in multiple segments.
3,558 people receive my travel-related updates, but that’s the list I email least frequently at the moment, maybe once every couple of months.
3,460 people receive my general blog updates. I send an email to them at least twice a month, usually about my latest Momentos, my latest podcast episode, my latest finance report, and other bits and pieces they’re likely to find interesting.
2,911 people are on my “work online” list. When someone subscribes to that list they receive at least one email every day for about a month. Most of that content is to help them get started working online, with occasional promos for my related products. I also send them out a monthly email with a bunch of notes and links related to building an online freelance business.
Probably the best thing I’ve done to grow my list is to offer access to my monthly finance reports to subscribers. It’s rare online that someone reports all their income and expenses, in fine detail, and I’ve been doing that for seven years now. That gets people curious and they often subscribe to my list just to get a peek at my numbers.
How you write great content that performs well?
I haven’t used a sure-fire strategy for this, as you can probably tell from how different the topics of my most popular posts are: Becoming Unoffendable; Your Parents Vs. Your Dreams; I Hate My Job; How Much Does It Cost To Live In Amsterdam.
That said, I have spent quite a bit of time optimizing the “I Hate My Job” article this year. I first published that years ago and it received less than 2 hits per day in January. As I’m checking the most recent 30-day period, ten months later, it’s getting 110 hits per day, almost all from organic search.'Try hard to create the best content possible on whatever topic you decide to focus on.'Click To Tweet
My goal is to get that article ranked #1 in Google for the term “I hate my job,” as dissatisfied 9-to-5ers are ideal prospects for my 3M1K course.
Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve done to get that article ranked higher in Google:
- I did some keyword research on ahrefs to see how many people were actually typing those keywords into Google each month, to make sure it was worth my while trying to rank higher.
- I looked through dozens of other articles that rank for those keywords, making note of the most helpful advice.
- Based on that research, I completely rewrote my article, turning it from a 500-word piece into a 9000-word behemoth and making it what I believe to be the absolute best article online for people who hate their jobs. I made sure to link to lots of other bloggers and resources in the article, and embed a bunch of related videos.
- I then reached out to everyone I linked to in the article and asked if they could share it, if it was relevant and helpful to their audience.
- I also reached out to a bunch of sites that linked to my competitors for those keywords and ask if they’d consider linking to my article as well.
That was a lot of work, but it seems to be paying off. Last I checked I was up to #4 on Google for those keywords.
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?
Starting over, I’d be much more intentional about my choice of content. I was blogging about whatever came to mind for years, and that was fine, but it didn’t help me build my audience or serve people as well as I could have.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I really like the guys over at Authority Hacker. Their advice is golden, but only if you want to create something of real value online and are willing to put forth significant time and effort.
Two habits have also helped me quite a bit.
One was publishing twice a week religiously for about three years when I started out. My content wasn’t all that great, but just forcing myself to push publish regularly and stick to a schedule was good training.
The second habit was recording and publishing a “talking-head” video to go along with each article I produced. That helped me develop a personal brand and many readers reported feeling like they knew me and could trust me on account of the videos.
What’s your advice for bloggers who are just starting out?
Don’t get into blogging just for the money, and be willing to put in at least six months of hard work before you start seeing results.
Also, be intentional about your content. Do keyword research, find low-hanging fruit, and try hard to create the best content possible on whatever topic you decide to focus on.
Where can we go to learn more?