I recently dedicated two months to working on my blog. No day job. Just me and my travel blog. I try not to blog about blogging, but I feel like I need to share this unique experience. If you’re not a blogger you may want to head back here to read something else.
Back in July Kit started nursery for three full days a week, but instead of going back to my day job as an Executive Assistant, I took the chance to use those three days to work on my blog. I was due to go back to work after nine months maternity leave, but instead extended it to take the full year off.
I didn’t receive any maternity pay for the last three months of leave (well, I did thanks to a mix up but that’s another story), but this extra time wasn’t about money. We’ve been fortunate that Jay earned some great bonuses this year and he’s been supportive in buffering my extra time off. Seems fair considering I grew, carried and pushed out two babies, right?!
I hadn’t planned to use my maternity leave this way, but one day the idea pinged into my head. I’ve always been envious of people who get to work full time on their blog and have always wondered ‘what if?’.
What if I could spend quality time on my blog? Would it make me infinitely happier? Would I be flooded with work offers; campaigns, press trips and event invites? Was it the missing jigsaw piece? Would my blog be as big as those others if I just gave it more time and attention? What if I could say yes to all the event invites, rather than no? What if I could be my own boss and fit my work around my little ones? What if I could write all those blog posts I’d been meaning to and to swap existing links to affiliate links and to update all those old cringey blog posts with my new SEO knowledge? The more I thought about it the more the what ifs doubled, tripled and quadrupled.
It seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore the what ifs. When else would I have the chance to have a good chunk of time away from a secure, well-paid job with the option of returning to it?
Trying to work and/or blog whilst looking after one, let alone two children, had already proved too tricky for me. I just find I end up feeling like a rubbish worker/blogger/mama when I’m trying to split myself, so it’s much more manageable (for me at least) to have dedicated time for various things.
And so, for two solid months I had three full days a week to blog. Both of my mini-explorers were at nursery on those days, so I knew they were having fun with their friends and getting lots of creative stimulation.
Has it been worth it?
So, were those two or three months life changing? Is the lure of full time blogging as exciting, magical and lucrative as they say? Was it worthwhile?
To put it simply, yes and no.
My blog traffic hasn’t suddenly increased tenfold, which to be honest is mega annoying because I’ve been doing all the things they tell me to do. They being the various ‘Grow Your Traffic’ Facebook groups and guides. Perhaps my posts need time to sit with Google, perhaps all their ideas are myths or perhaps my posts are rubbish. Who knows?
I had some of my best paid gigs during this stint, but whether that’s coincidence or not will remain untold. That said I didn’t earn my goal every single month. It seems blog income, at least for me, is quite erratic. One month I’m riding high, the next down low.
I enjoyed being able to do what I want without reporting in to anyone. In my day job I’m used to working on my own, so that wasn’t too much of a change. I loved not having to request annual leave for trips, but our anticipated house move meant that I wasn’t able to travel nearly half as much as I’d like.
I thought I’d be deliriously happy spending my days blogging, but if I’m really, really truthful – and it pains me to say this – it wasn’t as magical as I thought it might be. It was amazing, but not ah-may-zing. After a little while it soon felt like work. It was great spending my days absorbed in travel, but my days were more so about blogging, which meant techy stuff, SEO life, accounts and everything else. The writing is fun, but the stuff that goes with it (which seems to increase the more I learn) soon felt like a chore. For it me, it seems there are always going to be parts of any job which aren’t as exciting as other parts.
Perhaps if the jump to full time blogging had meant double the income or opportunities I might feel differently. I might think all that stuff was part and parcel of an amazing job. Maybe.
I no longer have that curiosity and all those what ifs in my mind, which has been somewhat satisfying. I had an itch and I’ve scratched it.
What I did with my time…
I’ve satisfied previous niggles of wanting to update old cringey posts. Some of them I’ve changed to private because they don’t really offer anything. Some posts that I had planned to update with new links have now become shiny, new posts. My average post titled 7 Reasons to Love Northampton became a lengthy 30 Fun Things to Do in Northampton post, with a side post on 12 of The Best Restaurants in Northampton.
In my first week I used my Google Analytics to look at my top posts and set about improving them, whether that be adding affiliate links, updating broken links or outdated information, and adding pinnable images and links to related posts. I noticed a difference straight away with more hits on the article itself and the associated posts. It also gave me more confidence to reshare some of those posts on my social channels.
I also looked at my worst performing posts (based on Google Analytics) and made a note of any trends; what style of post it was, the length of words etc to ensure I didn’t bother wasting my time with that sort. I know you’re supposed to write for the love of it, but I haven’t got time to write everything I want to, so personally I’d rather write about things that others will benefit from or things that I specifically want to remember.
On my blogging days I’d drop my littles at nursery for 8am, head home and be at my laptop no later than 9am. I worked at a desk and pretty much stayed there until 4/4.30pm when I’d leave to get my kids. I adored that I could suit my work around them, that I could keep on top of life admin and chores more easily – sticking a wash on or hanging it on the line in between posts was easy – and working in my comfy clothes, often bare-faced suited me.
At the end of each day I wrote a to-do list for the next day. I also figured out regular tasks and programmed them into my planner. I felt like this gave me a purpose and I enjoyed the satisfaction of crossing things off. If I’m honest though, I think I may have got wrapped up in the admin side. As an Executive Assistant by day job, it’s comforting and what I’m used to, I guess.
I also read guides on SEO, revisited blogging articles to follow up on their suggested actions and basically tried to soak up as much knowledge as possible. I became methodical about promoting posts in various Facebook groups and pinning posts a minimum of three times. In simple terms, I tried to do all the stuff I didn’t have time for before and had wondered whether it had a direct impact on traffic.
I downloaded Keysearch – a tool that I’d heard loads of other bloggers recommend, with some of them saying their traffic tripled straight away. It didn’t have that effect on my blog, but perhaps those others bloggers weren’t doing anything at all before whereas I was already using Keyword Planner, so wasn’t starting from scratch. I did find all its features really interesting though, like the competition tracker and the targeted numbers.
I tried to publish a new blog post at least three times a week, as well as updating my weekly travel competition page with at least three new competitions.
Two months went really quickly. At first I was mega excited and full of anticipation, but as I got stuck into the repetitive tasks and wrapped up in admin, the novelty wore off. I was still super happy to be working on my own stuff and loved it, but it wasn’t the shiny Christmas Day kind of excitement, if that makes sense.
So after two months I went back to my part-time day job. My mat leave had come to an end and our new mortgage is still being processed, so it was the natural path.
During my experiment, one month I made the most amount of money I’ve ever done through my blog and the last month I didn’t really make anything and my stats seemed to plateau. It was quite depressing to be honest, but I’ve since heard quite a few other bloggers in a similar niche say that time of year is normally quiet.
Since then another month has passed and my income for that month has actually surpassed that previous record I mentioned. It’s amazing, but who knows what the following month will bring – will it be an upward trend or will it be followed by another low one?
I already find myself reading less blogs and being absorbed in Insta Stories, so have wondered if perhaps I should have focused my energy there.
After two months of full time blogging a lot of what ifs have been answered, but a whole new set have appeared and perhaps that’s just what it’s like when you’re working for yourself and on something that you love.
Originally I said I’d use the two months as one last blast at the blog and then completely quit if I didn’t see what I wanted to, but those months have passed and my fingers are tapping at this familiar keyboard.
So, answers on a postcard please. It seems I’m not quite over this little love of mine.