Freelancing update: How I’m doing after one-year full time travel blogging and freelancing

This time last year I was terrified. I wasn’t even admitting it to myself how scared I was. I’d just quit my secure, fairly well paid, interesting and enjoyable job and decided to go it alone.

Yep, I’d just plunged into the big bad world of freelancing!

I wrote a blog post about it, ‘I’m going freelance!’ and I was overwhelmed by the support and interest you guys showed.

I couldn’t believe how many comments and emails I received from people who wanted to do it for themselves or had delved into freelancing recently. Many people were just curious and some were confused as to how I’d actually make a living.

I’ve had a couple of requests for an update as well as a few FAQs to answer so I thought one year on was the perfect time…

The Travel Hack in Dubrovnik

What do you actually do?

This is the question everyone is thinking but no one wants to ask! I can see the cogs whirling in people’s brains as I tell them I’m a travel blogger and they try to figure out what that means.

I have a few different roles that are the same but different. Everything is essentially related to bringing traffic to a website.

Here are my 5 main jobs.

1. Running this blog

This is funny one because running The Travel Hack is my favourite job and the most time consuming but it’s also the one that earns me the least. I earn money on The Travel Hack through sponsorships, promotions, competitions, social media campaigns, affiliates and reviews.

The reason I spend so much time on The Travel Hack without making an awful lot of money is because this is my portfolio for all the other services I offer and this is usually how my clients find me. Without my blog I wouldn’t have any of the other little jobs that bring in the big(ger) bucks.

2. Copywriting

Copywriting is essentially writing for websites. I began copywriting years ago when I was backpacking in Asia because it was something I could easily fit around my travels. That still applies and it’s a great job for busy people because you’re generally given a project and a deadline and you can do the work when it suits you.

Sometimes I’ll be writing destination descriptions, SEO optimized blog posts, ghost writing for other people’s blogs or writing travel related blog content under my own name.

3. Social media management and strategy

With my social media experience I offer consultation services on social media management and strategy. Most of my clients want to use social media effectively but simply don’t have the time or resources. I teach them how to use social media most effectively for their needs. I offer a few different classes and the most popular is, ‘How to manage your social media accounts in 30 minutes a day’. Time is precious, people!

4. Blogging training

This is something I’d never expected to be doing but I’ve had many requests from my fellow bloggers asking for a personalised training session. I basically share everything I’ve learned from 5 years of blogging and quick tips to get ahead.

5. Website Development

This is another one I didn’t expect to be doing. A have a few friends with a small business who all decided it was time to set up websites. These are plumbers, hairdressers, tutors, beauticians etc. The only problem was they were being quoted crazy amounts for website development and they had no idea if it was worth this huge investment.

A friend told me how much a developer had quoted her to do it and I nearly choked at the price. She’s a good friend so I told her I could easily do it in half a day.

‘But aren’t you a….travel writer?’ she asked (another person not really sure what I do).

‘Well, yes, technically I guess but I know how to set up a simple website because I’m a blogger too.’

Two days later she had a website she was over the moon with (and something that quickly started bringing in new business) and I had a new string in my bow for freelancing opportunities.

Be like a duck

What made you finally take the leap and go freelance?

A lot of people (myself included) struggle to know when the time is right to become your own boss. It’s tough because you can’t get many clients while you’re working full time but you can’t leave your job without enough clients to support yourself.

There were 4 main factors for me when I decided the right time to go freelance

1. I kept asking myself, ‘If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?’

At the time I had no responsibilities. I lived in London but other than my rent and food I had no other major expenses. I knew that as I got older it would get harder and harder as I began to earn more money and have more responsibilities. I was only 25 when I made the decision to go freelance but it was the perfect time for me.

2. My old job

Another factor was my old job. I’d really enjoyed my job as the Social Media Specialist at Flight Centre UK but there was nowhere for me to progress and it was only a matter of time before I left. Knowing I would have left sooner or later made it easier to quit because I knew I’d be going through the job hunt at some point anyway

3. A backup plan

Before handing my notice in I applied for about 5 or 6 social media roles in London. I knew I’d never take any of these jobs but I wanted to gauge how ‘employable’ I was and see if I’d struggle to find work if I need to go back to full time employment. Thankfully, I was invited in for a first interview for every single job I applied for. I knew this didn’t guarantee me any jobs but it reassured me I’d find work again if I needed to.

4. Earnings

I was earning an OK amount at my job, certainly more than most of my peers, but it still wasn’t a huge amount so I didn’t feel like I had a lot to lose.

I understand how people who earn six-figure sums get trapped in a job because they become accustomed to earning so much and could never earn a similar amount doing anything else. I didn’t have that problem and, for the first time in my life, earning less than I wanted really benefited me.

5. Living on the essentials

I worked out that I actually only need to earn about £1,000 a month to survive. It was tough to know how much I’d be earning initially but I knew I’d easily be able to make this minimum amount so that was the deciding factor for me. Of course, I had savings but I’m happy to say they only grew once I went freelance.

Good things come to those who work their arses off and never give up

How do you manage to get any work done when you work from home?

Lots of people ask me this! I think it’s because most people’s experience of working from is from their student days or snow days when they can’t get to work.

When I was a student I really struggled to work from home but it’s different when you’re earning money from your work.

Trust me, when there’s a direct correlation between how hard you work and how much you earn, you work pretty damn hard.

At first, I thought I’d work flexible hours and work from cafes around the world. Unfortunately, it isn’t nearly that exciting and I pretty much work 9-5 Monday-Friday. This is when everyone else is responding to emails so I can get things done much faster.

It’s also when all my friends and family are in work so it means I can be sociable in the evenings and weekends. Having an afternoon off to go out for lunch and go shopping sounds fabulous but it gets boring on your own so I’d rather work when everyone else does. The same applies to the gym. I couldn’t wait to go to the gym at 10am when it’s nice and quiet but it’s full of pensioners at that time!

My office space | The Travel Hack

How do you manage to get client work done while you’re travelling?

I don’t. That’s the simple answer.

At first I tried to juggle travelling with blogging and doing the work for my clients but it was too hard. It meant I didn’t enjoy the travelling, the blog posts I was writing were either crap or written weeks after the travels happened and my client work suffered too.

So now when I travel I focus 100% on the travelling and the blogging. Then when I’m home I focus 100% on my clients.

I respond to emails on the road but that’s pretty much it.

I used to do a lot more social media management where I actually run the social channels for brands. I love doing this and it was one of my main sources of income but it meant I could never relax while I travelled, particularly when I had 6-7 clients at one time. I can manage with 2-3 but any more becomes very tough because I worry I haven’t responded to all the comments, queries or complaints.

The secret to getting ahead is getting started

How do you get your blogging work done while you travel?

I like my blog posts to be as close to being live as possible. Unless it’s a factual blog, I like to read about a blogger’s travels from that week rather than what they did three months ago. That’s the whole point of a blog, it’s live and fresh and exciting, so I do my very best to post ASAP. This obviously means doing lots of work while I’m travelling.

The way I do this is:

1. Writing in a journal every time I stop for a break. Yep, I’m old school and write by hand in a scruffy journal every time I get on a bus or train or stop for a coffee. I jot down some notes every couple of hours so each blog post is pretty much written by the end of the day.

2. Editing and organising photos daily. Photo editing can be one of the most time consuming parts of blog writing so if they photos are all ready it makes it much quicker.

3. Planning beforehand. I often know what I’ll be doing most days while I travel so I already have an idea of what I’ll actually blog about. This means I can do my research first which again makes the blog writing quicker.

4. Using chill out time effectively. Most people take an hour or two before dinner to chill out while they’re travelling. Unfortunately, bloggers don’t have this luxury. While everyone else is napping, watching TV, reading and having long showers, I’m blogging. This means I get my work done but don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything important.

5. Get plenty of rest. Some people can function on 6-hours sleep. I am not one of those people. I used to try and get more work done by sleeping less while I was travelling but this just doesn’t work for me and I end up getting less done because I’m tired and grumpy.

If you don't go after what you want you'll never have it

Have there been any moments where you haven’t been sure you made the right decision?


When I’d be freelancing for about 6 months I took a month out to travel to the USA. It was one of the best months of my life so I don’t regret it but taking so much time off made things difficult because I didn’t earn anything all month. The following month was a slow month so I really started to panic when a month later I barely had anything coming into my bank.

I felt frustrated and lonely working from home and started accepting jobs that weren’t right for me. I took copywriting work that was underpaid, worked with clients on products I wasn’t interested in and lost my blogging mojo and love for the online world.

Again, I started applying for jobs and I was even offered two jobs that would have been perfect for me. But as soon as these job offers came in I realised I wasn’t ready to give up on freelancing.

Once I got my mojo back everything fell back into place with a few new clients I love and a regular source of income.

I hadn’t realised how much my personal feelings an attitude would affect my work and ultimately my income. It’s really important not to accept jobs I’m not 100% enthusiastic about because otherwise they become a chore and I stop loving what I’m doing.

Never allow waiting to become a habit

How much time do you spend worrying about the next pay check?

Apart from the two months I mentioned above, I actually don’t worry too much about getting my next pay check. My income is really spread out so I don’t have one big lump sum that comes into my account each month. It tends to come in dribs and drabs. This means my account is never full with a nice chunky amount like it would be with a regular pay check. But it also means it’s never empty because at least 2-3 times a week I’ll have a different client pay me.

I’ve started to worry a little bit more now because I’ve just bought a house. I had a stash of savings that was my safety net if I ever had a bad month but now those savings have gone into the house deposit. Argh!


Would you do anything differently knowing what you know now?

The only thing I’d do differently is keep a closer record of my expenses. There is nothing more boring than going back through old receipts and bank statements!

I’d also set up a separate business bank account sooner. I used the same account for personal and business expenses at first and it all got very muddled and confusing.


Are you planning for 10, 30 years down the road?

No, I’m not really but I know I really should. The problem with blogging is that things move so quickly and the internet changes. 2-3 years ago bloggers were making a fortune from selling sponsored links but that’s very much frowned upon these days so those bloggers have had to come up with a whole new strategy.

I think it’s important to think about the future but also adapt to the changes life throws at you. I regularly take courses to ensure I’m up to date with the latest trends and I think this year will be the year to develop and expand. But no, I’m really not sure exactly what I’ll be doing in 30 years time.


Do you have a contingency plan?

No. Sorry I can’t elaborate more but I just don’t. Maybe I should. Argh, that’s another thing to worry about.

Let's not try to figure everything out at once


How much time do you spend looking for travel writing opportunities?

I’ve actually been really lucky so far and I’ve only ever pitched for one job. That was a job I saw in a Facebook group so I just stumbled upon it during my regular scrolling.

Other than that I’ve always been approached by other people and then passed along as a recommendation. (I know, REALLY lucky!)

There was a time when I did a lot of networking and went to some kind of networking event at least once a week. This definitely helped to get to know the right people so, although I can’t quantify how much networking helped, I’m sure it did help a lot.



What would be the one thing you wish someone told you before taking the plunge into freelancing?

Make the most of having colleagues while you can. I really miss my work colleagues and often get lonely working alone. I’d give anything to have an annoying team meeting or get stuck chatting to someone at the water cooler!

It’s important to build up a network of other freelancers so you can support each other and chat about your work.

I also wish I’d known how difficult it would be to get a mortgage if you work for yourself.

I wasn’t planning on buying a house so it didn’t even cross my mind but things changed and my boyfriend and I decided to buy. It’s now costing us quite a lot extra to get me on the mortgage because I’m considered to be financially dependent on my boyfriend as I have less than 3 years worth of records to show my self-employed income. It’s really frustrating but that’s just the way it is.


And finally, the question that everyone really wants to know…

How am I doing financially?

Without going into too much detail (us Brits get funny about discussing how much we earn, you know), I’m doing pretty flipping well. Surprisingly well. I’m earning 40% more than I did in London and now I don’t live in London my expenses are pretty much halved.

So, yea, it’s all good and I’m really excited for the next year!

Work hard and be nice to peopleThe very best advice I could give to anyone is to work hard and be nice. It’s a small world and people talk. Be nice to everyone and work your socks off and you really can’t go wrong. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have an uncle who knows ‘all the right people’. You just need to work flipping hard and be a nice person to be around.



Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel.Monica has recently had a baby and is now determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (35)
  1. What an interesting, honest and inspiring read. I know what you mean about missing colleagues when working form home but sounds like it’s all paying off. Good luck for the future and well done!

  2. What an inspiring post. It is my goal to go freelance one day. I wish I could do it now but I don’t have a regular stream of freelance work. I work full-time and I find it hard to fit in freelance projects. Plus with having kids I can’t just throw caution to the wind. It won’t stop me trying though. I’m really pleased it has all worked out amazingly for you. I wonder how different it would be for you if you had gone to Glyndwr instead of London? X

    1. I can’t even begin to imagine how different my life would have been if I’d gone to Glyndwr. My course in London was actually useless but the people I met were invaluable.
      I imagine it must be much harder if you have kids. I have no idea how you fit it all in with full time work, kids and all the writing you do!

  3. I’m so glad everything’s going well for you, Monica! I remember you telling me you were going freelance while we were walking around Camden Market and I was so excited for you! 🙂

    Personally I find it really difficult to find clients. I attempt to advertise the services I offer on my blog (and have even taken some of your advice on trying to include it in blog posts) but I would say 90% of the jobs I’ve got is because I’ve pitched for them. Hopefully this will change in the future, and I’m working on ways to increase visibility of what I can do! 🙂

    1. Ah I remember that too!
      That’s great that you’ve got so many jobs through pitching for them. I always think it must be harder to pitch for jobs because people might not even realise they need you until you approach them.

  4. wow, what a great accomplishment and very inspirational! I feel like going freelance is a great way to make money now, but it sounds like building up a name for yourself is the most important thing to do first. congratulations!

  5. What a fantastic post! Truly, thank you so much for sharing this since I am where you were a year ago and on the brink of living a rather stable job in lieu of pursuing my writing full time.

    I’m curious to know a bit more about the money earned from copy writing. It is a reoccurring piece of advice I’ve read from travel bloggers, that copy writing is a good way to earn money whilst traveling or freelancing. Where do you usually pick up your copy writing assignments? Is there a preferred website you find is great for picking up these gigs?

    Similarly, I’m curious to learn more about your website development. When you set up websites are you setting up the basic site (i.e. getting them up and running on a wordpress or blogger) or are you designing the site and getting technical with the html?

    Sorry for all the questions! Really love this post and want to pull as much as I can from it 🙂

    1. Hey Nikki,
      No, I don’t use copywriting websites or anything. I had a look when I first went freelance but often found the pay was very, very low. I worked for a copywriting agency called Snack Media when I was travelling in Asia. The pay was pretty low (a little above minimum wage) but it was my first writing job at 21 and my expenses were so low I didn’t really mind. Now websites have always come to me and then recommended me to their colleagues and it’s gone from there.

      With the web development I set them up on WordPress and basically do everything for them to have a static website up and running. I write all the copy and make it look exactly how they want it. It requires a little bit of techy html work but I’m no expert so it’s all fairly basic stuff.

      I hope that helps!

  6. Congratulations on your new house! I just settled on my second house purchase ever and we still haven’t moved in, but how exciting! It’s definitely a reality check and thoughts of being an adult without really feeling like an adult spring to mind, but it’s all part of life I guess. I think it’s really fantastic when a blogger gets to travel for a living. It must be so freeing to just up and go and experience all of the wonder of new places and I still have England at the top of my travel list. Which places did you visit in the States? Now that we have kids, it’ll be a while before we go anywhere international unless it’s a cruise, but that’s also something to look forward to down the road.

  7. Thanks for the post. I have just lost my job so I am concentrating time on writing and my blog. It is a reminder that it not be easy. Well done on reaching twelve months.

  8. Congratulations on a great first year! It’s fascinating to read how other freelancers get on and sounds like we had very similar plans (right down to my £1000 a month minimum target too!). I had the same trouble with buying my house too – I was only a year into freelancing so my income counted for nothing, though when we remortgage next year I will finally count!

    I’m with you on the work when you’re home and concentrate on the travel while you’re away too – when I tried to combine them I ended up missing out on the proper travel experience and resenting having to work. Super impressed with your photo editing each day though, I’ve usually got a hideous backlog!

    Hope year two goes just as well for you.

  9. Congratulations! This is really encouraging to read because I am very close to taking the plunge into full time freelancing. It’s been hard to get to that point because I have a social media management job that allows me to telecommute. So cutting that secure income plus benefits is super scary. But how well you are doing feels encouraging.

  10. Great article Monica – I’ve also been freelance for the last year (albeit in a slightly different way) and love the freedom it brings. Currently working from a nice pad in Medellin and not everyone can say that! Thanks for sharing your tips x

  11. Really enjoyed this post. I’ve recently taken the leap into freelancing, and it’s nice to hear your success story — and especially your moments of doubt, as I’ve had several lately, particularly sitting in a cafe in Switzerland trying to get wifi (it was down at my hostel) so that I could work on client work and not my own site and arrghh it was so frustrating. I like your idea of separating client work from travel blogging. It makes so much sense. As a side note, are you going to TBEX Athens or the World Trade Market in London? Would love to meet up if you are. Cheers!

  12. Thanks so much for sharing this. I really enjoyed how honest and open you were about the work that you do, what has and has not worked and how your source your work.

    Most of the time when I read about bloggers ‘explaining’ their work they still tend to gloss over the details since I think people are still a bit shy/ nervous/ reluctant sharing secrets of the trade to others who might one day end up a competitor so really appreciate you sharing yours.

  13. Congratulations on your first year of freelancing Monica!
    I remember reading your post about it a year ago, where did that year go?!
    I really want to get in to freelancing too but don’t have any contacts and keep putting off pitching! 🙂

  14. I love this post! It’s so interesting to hear about your freelancing work and wow you were so brave. Clearly that braveness payed off! I am at university and I love to blog, I just like many other bloggers can’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. I hope that with hard work and hope I can manage to do this. Lovely, inspirational post!

  15. Hi Monica
    Thanks for your informative and inspiring post on freelancing. I’ve only been travel blogging since October 2014, so not too long really. I self hosted the site at the end of October and I have been reading all about social media marketing, SEO and blogging ever since. Not sure where to take this from here, quite fancy doing something in social media and SEO, but need more content to grow my blog further first of all!

  16. Once again… loving your posts. This one was a great read as I am not new to blogging as I blogged all about our first adoption as a sort of therapy. But, I am a newbie in the travel blog space trying to make my hobby into something more. How do I get more info on your blogger training sessions??

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The Travel Hack

The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.