Today’s entrepreneur’s talk is with Meg Jerrard, the lead travel blogger, and creator at Mapping Megan.
She has visited over 50 countries with her husband Mike who is also a photographer.
She grew her travel blog income from only $150 the first year to over $20,000/month.
She shares her journey, best tips for those considering becoming a travel blogger, and the challenges she’s faced along the way.
Mapping Megan has been featured in National Geographic, the New York Times, Forbes, and British Airways High Life.
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Interview with Meg Jerrard from Mapping Megan
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a 30-year-old travel addict and adrenaline junkie from Australia, with an incurable disease called “the travel bug”.
I have a background in Journalism and Law, but my travel blog turned into a profitable business before I had the opportunity to apply for grad jobs!
While having my name etched into a door in a law office would have been cool, the great thing about being a full-time blogger is that my office now ranges from villas in the Galapagos Islands, to beaches on the Great Barrier Reef, bungalows overlooking volcanoes in Costa Rica, and everywhere in between!
What made you start Mapping Megan?
I’ve always had a passion for writing, so when I started travelling in 2007 I began keeping a personal travel blog as a way to express myself, and a way to document my travels – somewhat of an online diary, which I could look back on in the future and remember my trips.
Then technology revolutionized the world, and people began making money online, so I kept uploading my adventures as I had been, though started marketing my content as a professional brand instead of a hobby blog.
I have been writing in the travel niche ever since; guides, videos, interviews with people we meet on the road, and narratives about our adventures.
The Faroe Islands, Northern Europe
What was your career before you became a travel blogger?
A university student! While I was studying, I was working as a paralegal in a Family Law office, and I had every intention of going into law after I graduated. But I’ve come to realize that life often has more imaginative plans!
After graduation in 2013, I moved to the United States to get married (my partner is American), and sadly it would have taken another 3 years of study to transfer my law degree to be relevant in Florida.
So I took up cocktail waitressing and at the same time, started working on turning my blog into a professional brand.
Where was the last country you visited?
I took a cruise from Australia to New Zealand which circumnavigated both islands, and it was a fabulous way to get a taste of the country in a relaxed way and sample some of its incredible scenery.
We’re really looking forward to getting back at some stage, this time flying in and renting a car so we can immerse ourselves inland now having taken in the main coastal ports.
How often do you travel every year?
As much as we can, and want to! There’s really no set answer on how often we travel.
We spent a decent 2-3 year period traveling full-time as digital nomads, though we have recently settled down and purchased a home in Tasmania.
Now we’re taking the opportunity to travel around our home State and domestically throughout Australia as much as we can, taking the opportunity for international trips if and when great travel deals arise.
So, it really varies, but we usually aim for a weekend trip at least once a month, and then a larger 2-3 week trip every 3-4 months.
Do you have a favorite destination?
Iceland by far is one of our favorite places in the world. I would love to live there if I could. It is one of the last untouched destinations left on earth.
It’s exotic, so naturally beautiful, and largely untouched by tourism which we absolutely love. The scenery takes your breath away.
Waterfalls, glaciers, dramatic fjords – there is inspiring scenery at every turn.
Majestic glaciers grind their way through cracked lava fields, gushing geysers explode with a powerful force, glittering ice caps pierce the sky, and vibrant green fjords rise from the mist of geothermal lagoons.
Iceland has a fantastic outdoor adventure scene, which is what I live for!
What is your favorite part of being a travel blogger?
Definitely, the location independence that comes with working online.
As opposed to a traditional career where you’re tied to the location your building or cubicle is in, being a travel blogger comes with 100% freedom and flexibility to work remotely, from wherever you want.
As long as I have my laptop and reliable WiFi, I can continue to work, whether that’s from home, or from Tokyo, London, or Bangkok.
I’m able to set my own hours, take last-minute opportunities as they arise, and only have myself to answer to.
What’s a typical day like for you?
The reason I love travel blogging so much is that every day is different! Though as a general rule, if I’m traveling, I’m not blogging, and if I’m blogging, I’m not traveling – it’s usually very difficult (and exhausting) to try and fit both aspects into one day.
Re my blogging days, depending on how I’m feeling I may or may not be wearing pajamas for the majority of my workday!
I usually start by clearing my social media notifications and responding to comments on the blog. One of the most important things is engaging with my audience, so I make sure I reply to comments, tweets, and messages at the very start of each day.
Tasks that filter in from day to day include things like researching for future articles, mapping out our editorial schedule for the month, scheduling social media posts, editing photos and video, and being active within Facebook forums where bloggers interact and help each other out with support, tips and advice.
Then I jump over to attack my inbox, and my tasks for the day will be based on what’s there.
That may mean composing a sponsored post for publication later that day, sending responses to queries for guest posts or advertising requests, liaising with clients about press trips, or if my inbox is empty, reaching out to advertisers to drum up new business for the month.
Related Content: The Complete Guide to Making Money with Sponsored Posts
Arches Nat Park, USA
Do you dislike anything about being a travel blogger?
I’m so grateful that I’m making money in a career I’m passionate about that there’s not really a lot I truly dislike.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of blogging though is that the industry and job are constantly evolving, but this is both the biggest challenge and the biggest reward.
It’s a challenge as there’s no set job description, and there’s no real industry standard as this is a very new field.
Online platforms and therefore marketing strategies for the online space are constantly evolving, and if you don’t keep up and adapt business strategies/plans to new technologies you’ll become irrelevant.
There’s, therefore, a huge learning curve that comes with new technologies, though this is one of the aspects of the job that I love. I love being challenged, and it’s very rewarding to constantly feel as though you’re learning something new.
How do you generate income with your travel website?
One of the biggest keys to creating a sustainable income with blogging is diversifying your income streams.
So we have quite a number of different revenue models.
Quite a decent portion of our profits come from content-based advertising, which is creating posts around a product, destination, or service to promote to our audience.
However, we also make money via affiliate marketing, banner ads, freelance writing services, consultancy, social media promotion, social media management for companies, attending paid press trips.
The biggest advice I can give to anyone planning on working for themselves is to diversify your income streams. If one dries up all of a sudden you have others to fall back on.
Blogging is, however, one of those industries which require a rather large investment of time in the beginning, without any direct reward.
You have to put in the time, effort, and money to set yourself up, and put yourself in a position where brands actually want to work with you. You have to establish an audience, develop trust as a source, get a solid base of content up etc.
So many bloggers just starting out won’t start making money for at least 8 – 12 months. In my first year of blogging, I made $150. But the second year rolled around and this figure jumped up to $20,000.
With the more effort and groundwork you put it, it’s like a rolling ball effect, and you should see your profits continue to increase, if not double over the first couple of years.
I know some bloggers who make up to $50,000 a month. Quite an extreme example, as many travel bloggers average more around the mark of $2 – 5k a month, but it’s proof that anything is possible if you’re willing to put in the work to get there.
What would you say is your greatest achievement since you started your travel website?
Having created an online business that sustains both myself and my husband; we both now work on the blog full time, and it has become 100% of our household income.
When I first started the blog I wanted to build something which might help finance our travels. But I never imagined I would be in a position two years later to quit my full-time job and make a household income from creating content.
So in terms of comparing where I started and where I am now, now the blog has evolved into a business, which is very different from how it started out as a hobby blog.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a full-time travel blogger?
I know I mentioned this above, but I think the biggest thing I would stress to those just starting out is to understand that it’s one of those professions which first requires a large investment of time without return.
You’re not going to instantly start making money from a travel blog, and nor are you going to find success overnight.
It’s a slow and steady slog to grow your audience to a point where advertisers start wanting to invest, but once you do get there the benefits and rewards are well worth the hard work.
Sand Boarding in Peru
If you had to do it all over again from the beginning, is there anything you would do differently?
I would definitely focus on SEO from the very start! I’ve personally focused a lot on building my social media following, and for the first few years, this was reflected in my analytics. Sources like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest were my # 1 referrers of traffic to the blog over Google.
It wasn’t until maybe 4 years in that I really started learning more about the benefits of targeting SEO, and since then search engine optimization became one of my biggest tactics for targeting ongoing, sustainable traffic.
This is a huge source of my overall page views these days, and while I’m very happy with my traffic growth, I imagine it would be a lot higher if I had been optimizing posts for SEO from the beginning.
Are you living your best life? Or do you feel you’re still working your way towards it?
Absolutely! I’ve built a really fulfilling career, and wake up every day fortunate enough to have a job I’m passionate about and love. And one that allows me the freedom and flexibility to pursue other life goals and dreams while I’m still working.
Interested in starting your own travel blog? Have a look at this free blogging boot camp to jump-start your business brain.
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