In 2013, Sharon Gourlay read the book The 4-Hour Work Week. To say it changed her life is an understatement. The book inspired her to become a digital nomad. She succeeded beyond anything she could have imagined. In the process, she created a better, simpler and more satisfying life for her family. Sharon joins us this week to share her story and some tips for building an online business.
What did your meandering path look like on the way to travel blogger land?
I started my travel blog back in 2005 although “travel journal” would be a more appropriate name. It really was just a place to keep family and friends updated on where we were. I spent a couple of years traveling at that time and would post every day. It never would have occurred to me that the blog would one day become such a huge part of my life.
I didn’t do much with the blog until the end of 2013. By this time, I was married with two young kids and quite dissatisfied with our lives. I had come across the concept of digital nomads and building an online business seemed the way to fix all the things that I felt were wrong in our lives. I decided to stop making excuses about why it couldn’t be me and to start building an online business.
Although I didn’t jump straight away to thinking I would be a professional travel blogger, I ended up coming to the conclusion that it made sense to try to build on what I already had, and I really loved the idea of encouraging others to travel with kids. This was a great choice.
A year later, I had convinced my husband to quit his job so we could all move to Malaysia so I could have time to work on building my business. I quickly earned enough from my blog to cover our living costs in Malaysia and the other places we traveled. Thirteen months after leaving, we returned to our home city in expensive Australia and by then I earned enough to support us there too.
That probably makes it sound simpler that it was. I worked hard and smart and it worked out beautifully but there were definitely some wrong turns in there as well.
I know you eventually sold your travel blog, so explain how that all came about and how someone would price a website or blog they want to sell.
I had success with travel blogging in big part because I took it very seriously. After having our third child, traveling and blogging at the same time became a bit of a nightmare to be honest. Having the blog and having to do a zillion things and spend the time taking photos and writing and everything started to destroy my love of travel. After I found myself describing my travel blog as a gangrenous arm that needed to be cut off, I realized it was time to move on.
At this point, I had just sold another site so I had a good idea of the process and felt comfortable doing it again. I have sold a couple more since.
It was definitely weird to sell a blog that literally had my name in it and I had given so much of myself to, but I haven’t regretted it for even an instant.
How much a blog is worth is based on how profitable it is – not traffic, social media numbers or anything like that. People are buying a business so it’s the bottom line that matters. The sale price of websites is based on a multiple of annual or monthly profits (and monthly profit is usually worked out over the last 12 months). Note that it’s profit, so you need to subtract a wage for yourself first.
The multiple depends on several factors, the biggest of which is age and how long you have been earning decent money. For a site that is a couple of years old, you could get twenty times monthly profits. Over three years, it jumps to thirty. Things like email lists and social media accounts can help – but only a tiny bit. Passive forms of income will help too – a business where you don’t have to work much is going to be more attractive than a full-time one.
So, what have you been doing since you sold the blog and got filthy rich—are you still writing in another capacity?
Unfortunately, I am not filthy rich, but we are definitely more comfortable that I could have ever dreamed possible. I thought about taking a few years off, but I love having an online business and working on this so that wouldn’t make me happy.
I started a second blog in 2013, Digital Nomad Wannabe, when I decided I wanted to start an online business and had no idea how. At that time, I wanted to read the journey of someone who was like me – with no idea – and who made it work. Rather than the blogs that existed at the time which were always from the perspective of people who had already been a success.
I concentrate most of my time on this blog and my associated courses teaching others how to do SEO, affiliate marketing, selling products and other things I have mastered in blogging. I used to be a teacher and I really love that I have been able to return to this. Part of why I sold my travel blog is because I wanted to concentrate on running and selling courses.
Recently, I started a new blog, Simpler & Smarter, mostly so I could show yet again how repeatably solid SEO and affiliate marketing strategies are and that you only need a few hours a week to build a successful blog. I write monthly updates on the traffic, earnings and exactly what I work on for Digital Nomad Wannabe. I also created and own quite a few other sites that my team manages now.
You’ll be speaking at TBEX North America on the subject of selling through an e-mail list and building funnels. What will travel bloggers who have gotten to an advanced level get out of that?
I believe products are the way to really scale your business and take your blog to the next level. I also think creating and selling products that really help people is incredibly fulfilling in a way I haven’t found other areas of blogging to be.
Of course, you can only spend your time doing this if you know how to sell them well and if you can largely automate this process so you have time to do everything else.
In my talk, I’ll be sharing exactly how to build a funnel – what to include and how to structure the parts like sales pages and sales emails. For anyone who is already selling products or thinking about building one, this will show them step-by-step how to sell the maximum number of products possible while really helping your readers.
You’re also doing a longer hands-on workshop related to SEO, so compress five hours into three tips we can use right now, will you?
Firstly, you want your blog’s posts to be the most wonderful, complete guides to whatever you are writing about. Make sure you are creating something that answers all your readers’ questions and really helps people.
Secondly, use keyword research when you are doing this process as both a market research tool and to ensure you have the best chance possible of maximum traffic. For example, looking through keywords on a topic will show you what people want to know. This should help guide the sections for your articles and what you will include. You should also make sure you are including as many keywords as you can. Including just a couple (or only one!) is really not the way to do SEO. I tend to use 50-100 keywords per article. This leads to so much more traffic.
Finally, along with keywords, links are the most important aspect of SEO. You should always be working on building links to your site. Networking with other travel bloggers at TBEX is a great way to do this!
What are your plans for the next year or so and…where are you headed in the world?
I am going to keep working on my blogging course, Build Blog Freedom, to give my students the best chance of success possible in the shortest amount of time. I’m also working on SEO, affiliate marketing and sales funnels courses. Like I said, I love teaching.
I am a total travel addict so I actually already have three trips to the USA booked for the next year, a couple to southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and quite a few Pacific Islands. Then South America is back on my radar.
Sharon Gourlay is an Australian digital entrepreneur, travel addict and mum of three. She loves spending her time helping others create their dream lifestyle via blogging and affiliate sites. You can find her at Digital Nomad Wannabe.
Interview conducted by Tim Leffel, posted by Terri Marshall.