Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
In January 2017 I made $8,155. I didn’t step foot in an office, have any conference calls, or have to sit in traffic.
Instead, I wrote articles, took afternoon walks with my son, and looked for a cruise to take in February for “research.”
That’s not to say it’s all fun and games. It has taken me a few years to get to this point, and that includes a lot of work.
I’ve written hundreds of articles. I’ve spent countless hours planning and researching topics in cruising. I’ve been up at 6 a.m. writing before my son wakes up. I’ve been writing at 10 p.m. after he goes to bed.
But through it all, I’ve had fun. It hasn’t seemed like work. It has given me total flexibility to do the things I want to do when I want to do them. If I wanted to go on a cruise tomorrow, I could do that.
What I think is best is that I’m nobody special. I’m not some genius (my wife will tell you that with no hesitation). Anyone can do exactly what I’ve done. I’ll tell you precisely how I did it step-by-step.
Where I Got the Idea to Write About Cruising
My wife and I married in 2012. As two 20-somethings, we had never been on a cruise… or even thought about it.
As a wedding gift we received a nice gift certificate to Royal Caribbean. It was enough to completely cover a 7-night cruise. Score!
My wife and I knew nothing about cruising. We didn’t even know where to start when it came to planning. Where did we park? When did we board? What should we pack?
The good news is that being a novice was actually helpful in starting to write about cruising. Because we had never cruised before, our questions were the same ones that tons of other first-time cruisers were having.
In other words, my questions about cruising were ready-made topics to write about. (For more on why novices make the best travel bloggers, click here.)
For years I had also heard stories of people earning side income from websites. I had thought about it too, but always thought it was too complicated for me to do.
Still, cruising seemed like something that could interest me for the long-term. So instead of debating back and forth in my mind. I just took the leap.
Starting A Successful Cruise Blog (Before I Ever Took a Cruise!)
Just before my trip, I started my first blog — GalvestonCruiseTips.com. I set the site up in Bluehost because it was cheap hosting and got good reviews. They also gave me my domain name for free for the first year.
At first, I just wrote about what I was searching for. I wrote articles about all the different parking lots in Galveston. I wrote about hotels where you can stay and things to do in town before your cruise.
Once onboard the cruise, my mind was racing with idea for topics. I began to jot them down as fast as I could write. What could people do in port? What was served on the buffet? When was the best time to talk to the front desk and avoid the lines?
All of these ideas became fodder for future articles.
For months after the cruise, I continued to add content. I didn’t worry about traffic. I didn’t worry about money. As this point, I knew focusing too much on these aspects would cause me to get discouraged.
When you first start a site, there isn’t much traffic. You just can’t get discouraged. You have to give it some time.
Instead, I told myself I would give it a year. I just wrote articles and posted them to my website whenever I had spare time.
Then, something amazing happened.
The longer my site was up and the more I wrote, the more traffic it began to see. Whereas in the first few months I would get literally 15 visits a day, that traffic increased. In October I was seeing 100 visits a day. By the end of that first year I was seeing 250 visitors per day. (Today, Cruzely receives more than 7,000 visits per day!)
Looking back, there were tons of things I could have done to grow traffic faster. At the time, I didn’t know any better. That’s ok. We all have to start somewhere.
For the first year, I did nothing other than write and post articles to the site. And the traffic came.
Of course, as traffic grew, so did the money I earned. At the end of one year I was earning $400 a month in Google ad revenue, and it was totally passive. Earning money while I slept, ate, or worked got me hooked.
Not only was I writing about a fun topic, I was also making money.
Expanding My Reach (And Income!)
Given the success I was finally seeing, I was pumped!
It then became an addiction. How could I expand my reach? That’s when I started other cruise sites focused on ports outside of Galveston.
I already had my template that worked for cruising from Galveston. I simply took my most popular pages and recreated them for ports from Seattle to Miami.
Sure enough, even without much promotion, these new sites started to take off as well. My earnings kept increasing. From $400 a month, I moved to $800. From there, I broke the $1,000 a month mark.
Think about it. I had more than $1,000 a month in extra income just from writing about something I loved.
And Then… I Quit My Job (With a Pregnant Wife)
Frankly, I was satisfied with to let my websites just sit in the background and earn me some extra cash each month.
I went back to school and then landed what I thought was my dream job. I had a nice salary, my first kid on the way, and my wife and I were buying a house.
Then I quit my job.
Yup. Pregnant wife. House-hunting. And I left my job. I thought it was going to be my dream job. The reality was that I just couldn’t take working there anymore.
It was a great company with great people, but work that should have taken days to do dragged on for weeks because it had to be approved by so many people. In six months I had received more than 6,000 emails (that’s about 46 a day or roughly six per hour for every single workday).
It wasn’t how I pictured my life. So I quit.
We signed up for health insurance to cover my wife’s upcoming delivery. Thanks to savings, we were able to put enough of a down payment down to where we could afford a house on my wife’s salary.
In the meantime, I turned my full attention to my cruise sites — finally giving them the attention they deserved.
It was scary to take that plunge, but I knew if I didn’t give this a shot then I would never forgive myself. I wanted to be around when my son was born — not chained to a desk in an office until 6 o’clock every night.
Starting Cruzely.com and Working Full-Time
One of the first things I did was start Cruzely. Having so many sites to keep updated was spreading me too thin.
Now I had one site to focus on. I began to write religiously. Within six months of launching, I had more than 150 articles up on everything imaginable about cruising.
I also started work on building my web presence. I signed up for a service called HARO to be a source whenever a writer had an article about cruising. That got me quoted in tons of publications, from CBSNews.com to Yahoo to MSN with links back to my site.
At the same time, I found ways to increase my revenue.
First, I found affiliate offers for hotels. This way, visitors to my site looking for information about who research hotels through my links generate revenue.
I also found success with Lyft sign-ups. Since so many people were coming to my site to find details on getting to the port, Lyft was a natural fit.
Combined with Google advertising, these three areas generated the bulk of revenue.
Meanwhile, traffic continued to grow as I added more pages, acquired more backlinks (which help search engine ranking) and also started a Facebook page for Cruzely.
All told, after earning roughly $1,000 in January 2016, I was able to increase my earnings dramatically — to $8,155 in January 2017.
Here’s a portion of my earnings from the month:
So what’s in store for Cruzely? I continue to add pages, go on cruises (only for “research,” of course, and build more outreach to continue to grow the site’s traffic.
It’s extremely satisfying to be able to give tips and advice to make sure other cruisers have a fun time on their cruise.
At home, I love that I’m able to provide for my family without having to be tied to an office. It’s amazing be able to see my son grow up and not have to put him in daycare just yet.
Whatever is in store, I’m excited about what’s next.