I am writing these few lines from our little Airbnb studio in Saint-Igny-de-Roche where we have taken up residence for the next 3 days… I think it must be at least the 40th apartment in which we have lived in the last 2 years and yet I have no trouble feeling “at home” here. As soon as I arrived, I put down my big backpack, set up my small workspace, made myself a coffee and I was feeling at home in less than 5 minutes.
I find it hard to believe myself… It has already been 2 years since we left our jobs in Zurich to become nomadic entrepreneurs. 2 years of travel, work, a full life where everything mixes… euphoria, doubts, freedom, insecurity, adventure! A life that I have the chance to share with Fabienne my love, my colleague, my friend, my travel partner, my confidant.
I reread these few reflections that we have written over the past two years (from world travellers to nomadic entrepreneurs, today I am turning 30 years or even the advantages and disadvantages of nomadic life) and I measure the progress made… and say that everything started 6 years ago with this rather crazy idea of going around the world and sharing our little adventures on this travel blog. It is a long time ago when I thought I would finish my PhD when returning from my trip!
Today I am sometimes web developers, sometimes technical consultants. I am also a blogger, author and even photographer at my own time. I myself have difficulty explaining what my “job” is, and yet it is all these skills that allow me to earn a living today. Moreover, by meeting some of you during our current trip to France (#LetsHaveADrink), we realize that you too are wondering how we manage to earn a living while travelling. So I thought I would take advantage of this article to take a look back at our 6 years of blogging / 2 years of entrepreneurship and explain to you how we manage to make a living out of it.
Novo-Monde: our travel blog is already 6 years old
Ehhhhhh yes, we have been sharing our little adventures with you on Novo-Monde for 6 years now. We started this blog with the idea that it should be our travel journal but also a platform that would allow us to exchange with other travellers. We were also secretly hoping to inspire a few people as other bloggers had also inspired us to embark on the round-the-world adventure. And personally, I also wanted to take advantage of this project to learn how to develop websites because it is a field that has always interested me.
And I can promise you that in 6 years Novo-Monde has been far beyond our expectations:
- As I write these lines in August 2018, 100,000 of you are visiting our site every month. Honestly, we never thought it would be possible and these figures make us a little dizzy… But we are very happy to know that so many people find useful information on our blog and it pushes us to keep on with the same mindset.
- There are countless emails from people who have written to us thanking us for inspiring them or for the information found on our blog. As I was saying, we hoped to succeed in inspiring a few people who would come across Novo-World by chance. And all these emails are proof that what we do makes sense and motivates us every day to work on our blog. We have also created a “adorable e-mail” folder in our mailbox where we file all these messages and as soon as we feel a bit down, we go read 2-3 e-mails at random and it puts a smile on our face right away:)
- We also saw a blog as a kind of exchange platform that would allow you to find information but also to give us advice or give it to other travellers. And here too, whether through comments on the blog (more than 6000 to date) or on social networks, there are many exchanges on Novo-Monde and we think it’s really great!
- It also seems that our blog has had a very positive impact on the lives of some of the people we met on the trip (I think of Mario, my guide from Parinacota, Hung, our guide at Babe Lake and BoneBone, our guide between Kalaw and Inle). Before I started blogging, I was far from imagining that a simple article could have such an impact on the lives of some people. And it is really a source of pride to know that our words have been able to improve the daily lives of those people who were not necessarily able to find many customers online.
- And the coolest thing maybe is that this blog (which is in itself a very virtual tool) has allowed us to meet a lot of people in real life and to make a lot of new friends. Aperitifs with travellers passing through Chiang-Mai, the aperitifs we are currently organizing in France, your spontaneous invitations when we visit your home… we simply never imagined we could meet so many people thanks to a modest travel blog.
As you can see, this 6-year review of blogging is much more than positive and we are just delighted with the turn of events. Frankly, if the next 6 years could go on like the last 6, we would sign straight away!
How do we make money with our travel blog?
But now let’s talk about money because we’ve realized for some time that there were misunderstandings about what our blog can bring us and how we can generate income.
One of the questions that sometimes comes up is: “Are you paid to travel now?“… I was surprised myself that several people I met in France recently asked us this question. So even if I thought it was actually pretty obvious, NO we were almost never paid or invited to travel! (I will explain the “almost never” below).
When we talk about being paid to travel (it is called “blogtrip” in the jargon 😉 ), it generally implies a rather busy and inflexible schedule, accommodations often predefined in advance, having a driver to take us from point A to point B, sometimes even travelling with other people, eating out etc…. But you will have noticed it if you follow us, it’s not too much our way of travelling! We like above all independent trips that leave room for encounters and the unexpected. We always pay attention to our budget and you will rarely see us spend a lot of money on accommodation because we prefer to keep it for activities or for a good bottle of wine.
So unless we are given complete “carte blanche” (total freedom) to organize a “blogtrip” and are allowed to book our own accommodation, transport, etc., we prefer to refuse this kind of proposal and pay for our own travel (of the more than 300 articles on our blog less than 10 articles are the result of a partnership or cooperation with a destination ;)… and if this is the case, it is always mentioned at the end of the article). I think that if you follow and like our blog it’s also for the way we travel (and maybe also for our sometimes laim jokes) and out of respect for you (and also for ourselves), we don’t accept any partnership if we don’t get 200% freedom in our choices. And for those who would like more details, I wrote a note on our blog about our ethics with regard to all these partnership proposals, which is still very much up to date.
But then how do you make money with your blog?
We do what we call affiliate marketing. This word you may never have heard before simply means that some link on our site are so-called “affiliate” links. You will find these kinds of links in our article on how to choose a camera to travel, our page on equipment for a round-the-world trip or our article on the best travel insurance for a round-the-world trip. So if you read one of these articles, click on an affiliate link and then buy an item that has been recommended to you, we will get a small commission and you will not pay a penny more.
We really like this way of working because it allows us to remunerate ourselves while advising you on objects / services that we consider useful and of high quality. Moreover, affiliate marketinf has the advantage of giving us complete freedom over the content of our site and the way we travel. So if you like the content and information you find on our site, feel free to use our affiliate links if you need to buy something that we recommend. It’s a way to show us your support and allows us to continue writing great articles while remaining independent and without posting lots of ads all over the site.
I hope that this parenthesis on how we make money with our blog will answer some people’s questions. And even if we earn more and more with affiliate (since more and more of you read us 🙂 ), you will see in the rest of this review that we do a lot of other things besides that also allow us to work while travelling.
We have been nomadic entrepreneurs for 2 years
Ehhhhh yes, time goes by so fast! It has already been 2 good years that we (re)left our jobs to try the adventure of entrepreneurship on the Internet and nomadism (to be “digital nomad” if you prefer;)). It must be said that after our “little” 18-month trip around the world, we quickly realized that working from Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 18:00 with 5 weeks of vacation was no longer for us. Don’t understand that we had become lazy during our trip, but we just needed more flexibility and to work on projects that made more sense to us.
I was already talking about it at the beginning of the article, I like to reread these reflections that we have written over the past two years. This allows me to measure a little better the progress already made (because I must admit that I have an unfortunate tendency to always want more and to forget to appreciate the work accomplished). The life of a nomadic entrepreneur is far from all the clichés that can be found on Instagram (no, sand and sun is not good for computers 😉 ). As Fabienne explained here, nomadic life also has less glamorous sides, especially when you live it as a couple, but I think we are gradually improving. In 2 years, I think we can say that we are starting to find our balance in this new way of life.
Convinced nomads are looking for a base
In 2 years we lived 5 months in Chiang-Mai, 6 weeks in Menorca, we slept in more than 45 different beds in France (in apartments, with friends, in guest rooms, etc.), we stayed for a while in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Prague… In short, we are masters at settling into an apartment in less than 5 minutes. In general we put our big bags down, test the wifi connection (always a little stress 😉 ), set up our small workspaces, fill the fridge and that’s it. I must admit that I never tire of being able to take my work with me in my backpack and thus constantly discover new places according to our desires and projects. It’s just the ultimate in freedom and flexibility and that’s exactly what we were looking for when we left our jobs two years ago.
On the other hand, the little downside is that after a period when we have moved a lot (as now in France for example), we would just like to have a base to rest for a few weeks, work and recharge the batteries before leaving again. For the moment, this base is a little bit like our parents in Switzerland (you said #Tanguy;))… So these days we are in very active search of an apartment to buy (in France, Spain or elsewhere) or we could easily come back between 2 trips. The idea would therefore be to stay there probably 2-3 months a year and to do AirBnb the rest of the time. So if you have good deals, we’re interested! (like 60-80 m2, old stones and especially no garden to maintain 😉 )
Finding the right balance between work and couple
That I think is the biggest challenge we’ve faced in the first two years on our own. Since we’ve been working for ourselves, we’ve been in a relationship and at work together, and I must admit that it’s not necessarily easy to manage. When we were in Chiang Mai, we had just left our jobs and we had 10,000 ideas of things we wanted to work on to move our projects forward. So we got up and wetn straight at work, ate our meals while talking about work, drank a beer while talking about work… In short, our professional projects were obsessing us and we completely forgot to give a little time for our couple.
The thing is, since we work for ourselves and on projects that we like, the barrier between free time and work has become much more blurred. We are well aware that we have to take a little more time for ourselves and we are trying to make efforts in this direction. But we haven’t found the magic recipe yet…. So if there are couple entrepreneurs among you, we are interested if you have any advice to give us.
Work on projects that make sense to us
You may be familiar with the horrible feeling you feel if you have to sell a product you don’t believe in or if you have to justify mistakes that don’t necessarily depend on you. I sincerely believe that Fabienne was on the verge of nervous breakdown after 18 months in the company in Zurich because of this kind of things. And I believe that this is one of the decisive factors that has pushed us to take the step of entrepreneurship.
For us, there is nothing more satisfying than working on heart projects and realizing that what we have done has been useful to someone. When we receive a thank you email from someone who has read our book or a customer is delighted with their new website, it just feels great and gives meaning to what we do every day.
We certainly earn a lot less money than before, but being self-employed gives us the freedom to work on projects that we like. Before, we would never have had time to write a book even if it was something Fabienne had always dreamed of doing (it still took her a good year to write). We can also choose to work only with customers we like, to work on fewer projects but to do them better… I promise you that as long as I can find a place to live and eat, I will not trade the flexibility that entrepreneurship gives me for anything in the world.
Diversify our revenue streams
I was explaining earlier how we made money with our blog by doing affiliate marketing and it’s something that works well enough for us. However, we decided from the beginning with Fabienne that we should not depend only on our blog to earn a living. There are 3 main reasons for this:
- You never know what might happen… Our blog could be hacked (even if I do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen), the Google king could suddenly decide to de-index us, making us almost invisible on the web (everyone uses Google…), affiliate could be banned… who knows what might happen? It is therefore better not to have all your eggs in the same basket.
- With Fabienne, we love blogging but we also like doing other things (web development, photography, training people). So we might as well take advantage of our other interests and skills to diversify our income.
- If we depended only on our blog to pay our bills, we could “in a bad month”, be tempted to accept a little bit of everything and anything to earn a little money. Having other sources of income will certainly allow us in the long term to stay in line with our values on the blog.
As a result, for the past 2 years we have done a lot of things in parallel with our blog and I will tell you a little more about it below.
We wrote a book!!!! a real paper book with a cover and everything…
I should rather say Fabienne wrote a book (even if it has our 2 names on it) because she is the one who wrote the 99% of the words in it. More than a way to diversify our income, this book is rather the result of a dream that came true thanks to a beautiful meeting with our publisher (who is also a travel fanatic like us). Note: The book will soon be available in English as well!!!
I won’t hide it from you, the creation of a book is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process. I think it took 18 months between the time Fabienne wrote the first lines of “Destination Tour du Monde” and the time we held our “baby” in our hands. After the first draft, the most time-consuming part was the numerous ping pong sessions with our editor to correct / rework the texts and then to illustrate its content (we can never thank Florient Bellon enough for his work and his crazy investment on our book)
And finally the moment that rewarded all those hours of work… the moment we held our first book in our hands. It is difficult to describe what it felt like at that moment, a mixture of happiness and pride that alone more than compensated for all the efforts made to write it.
And then came the time to sell it…. So certainly we suspected that we weren’t going to become millionaires by writing a book, but we now realize a little more how difficult it is to earn a living from writing (and we are all the more happy to have developed other income streams).
But don’t worry too much, it doesn’t mean we’re disgusted with the publishing world. A little bird tells me that we might even have a second book in preparation 😉 #SpoilerAlert
We have launched our website development and digital strategy consulting activity
Since we started blogging 6 years ago, we have developed many new skills… It must be said that even before going on a world tour, we decided to use our blog as a kind of skills showcase that would make it easier for us to find work when we returned.
From the beginning, for example, I decided to develop Novo-World by hand, without using a tool like WordPress out of pure curiosity and to learn how to code websites correctly. Then during the trip I became passionate about web programming. I started to develop a solution to geolocate articles on google maps, to develop new features for our blog etc…. So much so that when we returned from our trip I managed to find work in web development and completely change my professional orientation.
But in 6 years of blogging, we have also learned to master the tools of digital marketing. Fabienne has become a ninja of social networks, we have learned to rank our articles well in google (it is not just by chance that our site now has more than 120,000 visitors per month), we have also improved a lot in photography and so much more… so much so that when we started our own business, we decided to offer our services in these fields and that is how Novo-Media was born. In 2 years of existence, we have already worked on a lot of different projects:
- We have taken care of the development and hosting of several websites in the field of tourism.
- Websites were audited to help their owners identify problems on their sites and help them increase their traffic.
- We are starting to sell more and more photos for the tourist offices of the places we have visited.
- We facilitated web-based workshops for children aged 10-15 years
- Fabienne led a training session on pinterest.
- I gave a conference on optimizing the loading speed of websites at WAT18.
What is certain is that in 2 years, we have not been idle but we are very happy to see how our activity is developing on novo-media which today represents 30-40% of our revenues (a percentage that we hope will increase again in the coming years).
Conclusion and plans for the future?
When we set up our own business two years ago, we had absolutely no idea what the future would bring. Certainly we had saved enough to last 1 to 2 years without earning too much money to give ourselves time to work quietly on our projects. But we had no idea where all this was going to lead us… We didn’t know if nomadism was a way of life that would suit us, we didn’t know if we would be able to work as a couple, if we would be able to find clients etc….
2 years later, we don’t have answers to all the questions we were asking ourselves yet, but we can already see much more clearly. We love the freedom and flexibility this way of life gives us and we wouldn’t go back for anything in the world. On the other hand, we realize that we need a base to recharge our batteries between two big travel periods and we hope to quickly find a cozy little nest (all we need now is a crush on an apartment 😉 ). On the work side, we’re not yet rolling in gold (and that’s not the goal!) but our small business is starting to run and we’re very confident for the future.
As for travel, we’re going to return from 5 months of quite intensive Road Trip in France at the end of August and we’re reserving for you a big surprise that revolves around this trip (you still haven’t guessed?). And already at the beginning of September we leave with my sister and one of Fabienne’s best friends for Sweden’s Lapland for a 7-day autonomous trek on the Kungsleden trail (the royal road). We are so happy to discover Lapland without the snow and while hiking… it will be great! And as 7 days is too short, with Fabienne we took a one-way trip with the idea of crossing the Norwegian border to the Lofotens hoping to see our first northern lights… 😉
After this damn program, I think we’ll need to take a break to recharge our batteries and work. As a result, we also think we’re going to spend the winter in the warmth, probably on the side of Tenerife, which we’ve contemplating for some time. And then, well, we still have no idea! (we are never immune to last-minute changes)
But hey, if we have chosen this way of life, it is precisely to avoid planning too much in advance and to allow ourselves the freedom to change plans according to our meetings and the opportunities that are available to us.
I hope you enjoyed this little review of our 6 years of blogging and 2 years of nomadism. Anyway, it felt good to put it all down in words. It will allow me to come back to this article in 2 years time and not to forget to appreciate again all the progress made.
P.S. One last word to thank you for always being behind us after all these years. It is undoubtedly the messages, the exchanges we have with you, the meetings ( #Apéros) that motivated us in our choices. Without you we would clearly not be where we are today… so THANK YOU!