One question I commonly get from readers is how I’m able to make money while traveling on a sailboat. It’s a valid question and the fact that I do this still blows my mind at times. I mean, look at one of my many office views!
Most people think of work as something that involves sitting in rush hour traffic to get to a boring office where they sit in a cubicle all day. But for the past several years, I’ve been making money while traveling on a boat, and having a blog is one of the ways I’m able to do that.
People also think making money from a blog means having a bunch of ads and affiliate links. But it goes way beyond that. Having this blog has allowed me to:
- Receive generous discounts on products for the boat, just by trying them out and writing my honest opinion
- Get free products, just for putting an ad on my site and posting a few pictures on social media of me using the products
- Get paid to post other people’s articles on my site
- Promote my Maggie & Milly shop, where I sell my handmade nautical bracelets
- Land paid freelancing jobs (web design, book editing, graphic design, etc.)
- Get paid writing jobs (this blog serves as my portfolio and has earned me several writing jobs)
- Land my former full-time job working remotely for a NY Times bestselling author (yes, I was actually hired because they loved the fact that I lived and worked from a boat — even though I had no prior experience as a QA Specialist)
These are just a few of the perks of having a blog like this. 90% of the work I’ve gotten has been a result of having this blog.
In fact, when I first started out, I used to manually seek out sponsors. Now, sponsors find and approach me. I’ve been approached for interviews (you can listen to our interview with Boat Radio International, an online radio program that features boaters from around the world), and I’ve been written up in several online publications including a mention in Oprah Magazine!
I’m not saying any of this to brag. I want to show you that it is possible to leverage your blog to make money while traveling.
So now, how do you get started with a blog? It’s actually not as hard as you may think. I’ll show you step by step how to get your own blog started below. You can also sign up for my FREE course (which goes into more detail).
Step 1: Choose your niche
Just because you live on or travel by boat doesn’t mean you have to start a sailing blog. When I started this blog, I didn’t want to just write about sailing or our travels, so I chose a unique angle, by writing about how much it costs to live on a sailboat, how I save money, and how I make money from a boat.
This has allowed me to separate myself from a lot of the other sailing blogs out there (which I love, don’t get me wrong). But niching it down further and doing something different than everyone else has helped me distinguish myself as an “expert” of sorts when it comes to people’s questions about making money while traveling.
People are always interested in the financial aspect of this lifestyle, and many sailing bloggers understandably aren’t comfortable divulging financial information. So I work to fill that niche.
Your niche doesn’t even have to pertain to sailing or travel. It can be about knitting, or kite-surfing, or whatever hobby you may have. The point is to niche it down. Don’t be too broad.
If you’re starting a blog in order to make money while you travel (or even from home), remember that you want to choose a niche that there’s an audience for. You want to make sure that you’re giving something to your audience. Don’t just make it your personal online journal. Be valuable.
Even if you write a travel blog, you’re teaching people about different places, cultures, and giving them something to daydream about while they’re stuck at their desks all day.
Step 2: Choose a domain name
A domain name is the URL, or the website address you want to use (i.e. savingtosail.com). You want to pick something that’s:
- Relevant to your niche
- Catchy/easy to remember
- Not too long (keep it under 17 characters)
- No numbers or hyphens (too hard for people to remember and type)
- Has a .com or .net extension (no .org, .biz, etc.)
You can purchase your domain separately through a company like Namecheap for about $12/year, which is what I do, but if you’re just starting out, a free domain is usually included when you buy hosting (see below) and requires no additional steps, so to keep this simple, we’ll do it this way.
Remember that your first choice may not be available, so have a couple of backups in your mind.
Step 3: Choose a web host
You need a “web host” to host your website or blog. I use Bluehost for ALL of my websites (I have several). Their hosting packages are affordable, their customer service is excellent, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences using them.
*NOTE: If you purchase through this link, you’ll save money and can get a hosting package for just $2.95/mo… a great deal!
The great thing is that Bluehost includes a free domain with your hosting package, so you don’t have to purchase it separately. When you go to sign up, they’ll ask you what domain you’d like, so put in your choices from Step 2. If a .com version (preferred) isn’t available, try the same URL with a .net extension.
Oftentimes you can get your first or second choice this way. But always stick with .com and .net as recommended earlier. It’s more professional, easier to remember, and Google promotes these in their search engine rankings higher than other extensions.
Step 4: Install WordPress (easy — and free!)
WordPress is hands down my #1 recommended software for websites and blogs. Most websites and blogs you see today are using self-hosted WordPress because of the customization abilities, beautiful free themes, plugins for everything you can imagine, and more.
You can install WordPress for free directly from the cPanel of your BlueHost account as follows:
- Navigate to the MOJO Marketplace section inside cPanel.
- Click the One-Click Installs icon.
- Choose WordPress.
- Click the Install button.
- Choose the domain name to install it to.
- If necessary, you can edit the email address, username, and password for the new WordPress installation. Click “advanced options” and you can change those settings.
- Read through the license and service agreements and check the boxes.
- Select the Install Now button.
Step 5: Choose a WordPress theme
Once you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll want to log into your WordPress account and choose a theme. Your WordPress account is now where you’ll be going to do all of your bloggy stuff. You’ll rarely need to log into your Bluehost account at this point.
To log into WordPress, go to:
So for me, mine is: savingtosail.com/wp-admin.
Once you log in, you’ll see the WordPress dashboard (the column on the left side). This can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s an easy learning curve. To install your theme, just look on the dashboard and select Appearance —> Themes.
There are so many awesome themes that it can be a little hard to choose. I recommend Divi by Elegant Themes because it is SO easy to work with right out of the box — even if you’re a beginner and have no technical or coding skills whatsoever. You can create a site that looks like something that a pro designed in as little as a weekend (not lying). Don’t believe me? Check out these sites I created with the Divi theme:
When I design sites for my clients, I almost always use Divi, because it allows them to make changes in the future without having to re-hire me or hire another designer or webmaster. Seriously, it’s stupid simple. And gorgeous.
Divi is purchased separately (and not available in the free WordPress store) so if you have any questions whatsoever about how to get it and install it, feel free to contact me and I’ll help walk you through it.
Step 6: Write your first blog post!
Now, we’re talking! To create a new (first) post, just go to Posts —> All Posts. You’ll see one that is a default “sample” post already there, called “Hello World!”. Just click on the “edit” button, and it will open that up.
Change your title, write your post, upload images using the “Add Media” button, and when everything is all set, hit the “Publish” button on the upper right-hand side.
Do you want to make money while traveling?
The point of all this is that so many people hold themselves back from their dreams because they think it’s impossible to be able to make money from anywhere, and that’s just not true.
Granted, it takes a lot of work (these posts don’t just write themselves), but writing is something I love to do, and the benefits of having a blog have been amazing.
Will everyone have the same results? No. I know bloggers who make a lot more than I do, and I know some that don’t make any money. Hell, I don’t even make that much money through my blog itself, but the fact that I have a blog gives me credibility. Readers hire me for jobs that I never otherwise would have gotten, and I’m able to promote myself and my ventures in a way that wouldn’t be possible without a blog.
And it’s almost all pure profit because the expense to have a blog is minimal. I pay about $60/year to host and maintain this blog, and it paid me back 200x that last year, not including my full-time job. Yes, I averaged over $1000/month in SIDE income last year — almost solely because I have this blog.
Pretty cool if you ask me.
Have you thought about starting a blog? Are you just not sure where to start, or need to bounce around some ideas? Want help with the technical aspect of it?
Sign up for my FREE online course where I’ll show you how to launch a profitable blog! Click below to get started.
What a timely post! My husband and I are not sailors…yet. We hope to move onto a boat in two years though, and then set sail two or three years after that. One of the preparations is of course figuring out how to create an income while sailing so that we don’t have to live off of and deplete a savings account. I have my own small business now designing and making clothes and leather bags. Just a week or so ago, I started a class to learn how to turn my hand drawn patterns into PDF patterns that I can sell in my Etsy shop. I hope to build a customer base for my patterns so that I have a continuing income when we set sail. I also have a monthly newsletter that I will start sending out every other week some towards the end of this year, and hope to also start writing a blog (my newsletter is a bit like a short blog right now).
This has now turned into a long story, but my question is simply to ask if you have any ideas or tips to offer, given the direction I am planning on taking, to help ensure a reasonable salary.
Hi Meghann! That’s awesome that you’ve got your own small business going already, and super cool that you can turn your hand-drawn patterns into something you can sell. If I were you, I’d try to focus some energy on that, since it’s considered a “digital” product, therefore, doesn’t require materials or overhead, and you can create a pattern once, and sell it a hundred times. It allows you a more passive income stream.
Is your newsletter all sent via email? If so, AWESOME that you’ve already started an email list. Email lists are the number one way to turn readers into buyers. I’m not sure what all you write about, but perhaps you can start finding ways to promote your products within your newsletters.
I highly suggest you create a blog or website if you don’t already have one. The reason is, even if you have an Etsy page, Etsy doesn’t let you set up a way to collect email addresses of potential customers (that I know of). If for any reason they ever decided to shut down (not likely), you don’t technically “own” your space on their store.
I have an Amazon shop for my bracelets for instance, but because I don’t really have control over how they market my page, I personally have my own website in addition to my Amazon page because I can control how it looks, how its marketed, etc.
But again, the fact that you have an email list is big, and I say just find a way to promote your bags and patterns however you can (without being super annoying about it). Create a FB page for your stuff, ask your friends and family to share, etc.
It takes a lot of work, but it can be done! Good luck!
Very interesting… My question is how did you go about beginning to make money as in did you approach businesses to sample their products etc? Thanks 🙂 also if you look at my blog can you not use one like this as the domain is through WordPress also?
I’ll start with your first question first. 🙂 When I first started blogging (about a month or so into it), I emailed a swimwear company and explained to them that we had just moved aboard our boat and would be sailing around, and asked if they were interested in sponsoring us. They ended up sending me 8 different swimsuits and a coverup, as well as accessories, all from their new line (which wasn’t even available yet). I couldn’t believe it!
After that, I emailed other brands to ask if they’d be interested in a partnership as well. Most either didn’t respond or politely declined (not surprising because I didn’t have much of a following then), so I decided to just focus on writing.
After awhile, I started getting contacted by brands directly instead of the other way around. As my blog had gotten more popular, they were seeing me in Google and on social media, so they took notice. (These brands have people in their marketing departments whose jobs it is to seek out “influencers” online to help market their products).
So now, I’ll occasionally contact a brand if I really love their stuff, but lately most of the opportunities have come to me without me having to seek them out. It takes awhile, and a lot of hard work to get noticed, but it’s fun and worth it!
As far as your blog… WordPress.com is different than the self-hosted WordPress I talk about in the post. WP.com doesn’t allow much customization, and THEY own your domain. You’re just using it, on their site basically. (Which is why you have the .wordpress.com extension at the end.
Also, I notice that you have “wordpresscom” at the end of your domain name, in addition to the standard wordpress.com extension, so it’s selahsailingwordpresscom.wordpress.com. That makes your URL way too long (33 characters vs the max recommended 17), so it’s hard to type, as well as hard to remember because you have two mentions of wordpresscom in your URL.
It all depends on what you plan to use your blog for, really. If you want to just keep a journal of sorts for friends and family to follow along, then yours is fine (they can bookmark it so they don’t have to type it in every time). But if you plan on monetizing it at all, then you absolutely need your own domain, owned by you (not wordpress.com), and you should use self-hosted WordPress, rather than WordPress.com. That way you have full control over every aspect of your site, and potential sponsors will take your site more seriously.
Hope that helps!
Great website and love your nautical jewelry! We moved onto our boat back in August and I started the blog shortly thereafter. It’s still in it’s infancy, but I have hopes of someday making side income as a result of my blogging as well…especially since I have no plans of returning to corporate America if I can help it! What intrigues me the most is the story of how you got your current full-time gig, and was wondering if you’ve got any suggestions for how to go about looking for a similar part-time gig?
Thanks much and hope to run into you at some point down the road!
Hey Chris – I’m actually working on putting together something (maybe an ebook?) that talks about how to find remote jobs. 🙂
Okey doke! I’ll be keeping an eye out!
Some nice tips and a much nicer office view than the busy street my office looks out onto (I’m jealous!)
Getting samples related to your niche works nicely – I get them regularly for various products I promote, a friend gets different samples because he hashtags anything and everything related to his mountain bike posts on Facebook. He’s now sponsored – it helps that he can actually ride a mountain bike as well as use hashtags!
Honest reviews help a lot as well – anything contrived just to blag more freebies will show through to your readers as well as potential sponsors.
Trevor – great points! Yes, it’s definitely crucial that you write honest reviews or only promote affiliate links for products that you use and love. It helps build trust with your audience and gets you a lot further. It also attracts the right kinds of sponsors (and they’ll pay more).
I never thought about using hashtags as a method to entice sponsors. Great idea! Thanks for checking in, and for the great insights!
good for you! I follow other sailing bogs where after a while all they do is review and plug products. All their content goes out the window. You stay true. Blogging and making a living is a full time job, glad you’re seeing returns.
Did you wait until your stats were high before approaching companies (likes, followers, email subscribers etc)?
Hey Carly – thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I notice that a lot of blogs do tend to plug products, and I totally understand why they do, but you’re right – you still need to have a good balance and still create good content.
As for waiting until stats were high before approaching companies… nope – not necessary. It’s all in the positioning. Yes, popularity, social proof, and impressive stats can definitely make an impact, but I know blogs that have tons of readers or Facebook followers who have a hard time getting sponsors. The key is to not just rely on stats. You have to position yourself and your blog in a way that shows you can offer value to the company you’re approaching. Numbers don’t mean much if your readers aren’t engaging with you. So even if you have only a few followers… think about what kind of content gets the most comments, likes, etc. Then write more of that. Get your audience engaged, and see what companies are in line with the type of content that’s generating the engagement. Approach those companies, let them know that you’ve been writing about such-and-such, and why you think their product would be a great fit for your audience. Show them examples of how your audience is already “primed” (because of your awesome content that’s getting engagement), and let them know you’d love to work out a partnership opportunity with them. Marketing departments know the value of “warm” leads, so engagement can often go a lot farther than sheer numbers. And regardless, it never hurts to ask, right?
Great advice! Thanks!