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Each month, we share the story of a member of the DNW community that is making money from blogging. These stories share the blogger’s journey and tips about exactly how they make money and get traffic to their blogs. I hope you find these interviews inspiring and helpful in your own journey. This month, we are featuring Katie Dundas who is a Travel Blogger from The Accidental Australian.
1. Introduce yourself!
My name is Katie Dundas, and I am a blogger and freelance writer with a focus on travel, tech, and lifestyle. I am originally from a small town in the US—Poolesville, Maryland, but I moved to Sydney, Australia in 2012.
I love the outdoors, adventure travel, photography, and writing. Up until March of 2020, I also worked for a non-profit organisation but was made redundant due to COVID. It was challenging and emotional to get let go after nearly seven years with the company, but it also pushed me to go full-time with writing and blogging, which I’m grateful for.
In recent years, I’ve been focused on my freelance writing career, which was launched via my blog. I’ve written for publications including Fodor’s, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura, Lifewire, and Outdoor Fitness & Adventure.
2. Describe your blog(s)
My blog’s motto: The Accidental Australian is a one-stop-shop for tips on expat life, unique things to do around Sydney and Australia, and adventure travel across the Asia-Pacific.
The blog has always been about expat issues relating to moving to Australia from overseas, topics like how to buy a car, where to find food from back home, tips for new arrivals, etc. It’s also about helping expats (and locals) make the most of their time in Australia through unique experiences, places to visit, and adventures. It’s a mix of both expat and travel content.
My audience tends to come from the US, Australia, and UK, within the 25-45 age range. I attract readers who have already moved to Australia or are planning a move soon, which I know because I often get emails with questions from people who are planning their relocation.
My blog is unique in that I always try to let my personality shine through, writing from my own perspective. I try to include humour as well, and I am always honest with my readers.
3. When did you start blogging and why did you start?
I started blogging back in early 2013. My blog is called The Accidental Australian (that’s me!)— the name came about since I had never really imagined myself moving to Australia, but life is always unexpected!
The blog was started just for fun, as a way to let family and friends back home know what life is like in Australia. I never imagined in a million years that it would lead to monetisation or travel opportunities, it was really just a little hobby.
Over time, it started to get noticed and grow into something bigger.
4. What is the most rewarding part of blogging for you?
I absolutely love when I get an email from readers saying I’ve helped them—the whole reason I started the blog way back was to help others who were new to Australia and to share my experiences, so it’s really touching when someone finds me online, reads my content, and finds benefit from it.
5. What do you find the most challenging?
So many things! To do well with travel blogging, you need to be a master of so many trades—SEO, social media, writing, WordPress, self-promotion, and photography.
I had no idea about SEO for the first few years and paid it zero attention—I wish I had taken it seriously from day one! It took me a long time to really wrap my head around SEO, so over the course of having a blog, I’d say that’s been one of the biggest challenges.
At the moment, lower traffic this year, due to the devastating Australian bushfires and COVID, has been tough for me, as it has for most travel blogs.
6. How much did you earn in the last month and how?
My blog has opened the doors to freelance writing, which, at the moment, is where most of my income comes from. Here’s a breakdown for the last month. However, I should add that being full-time as a freelancer and blogger means you’re likely to have plenty of highs and lows when it comes to income, so budget accordingly. (This was a good month, but not all months are this good!)
- $100- Advertising revenue
- $400- Sponsored brand campaign (blog post plus social media coverage)
- $600-Travel writing commissions
- $1,500-Tech writing commissions (I write monthly for a US-based tech website)
- $2,500-Additional freelance writing work, not specific to travel
(No affiliate sales payouts within the time period)
I am also working on setting up an exciting new affiliate campaign for my blog, with a bank—this has required a lot of my time this month, but likely won’t see any pay-out for several months at least (due to Australia’s current travel restrictions).
Doing the grunt work for a new project I find tough, as there’s no immediate payday, but I try to look at over the long-term—the work I put in now is setting up my blog for more success in the future. I’ve been putting in long days and working weekends, which isn’t for everyone, I know.
I’m also working to set up a second blog, but that will take some time to get off the ground and start earning.
7. What tips do you have for bloggers trying to monetise their blogs?
Monetisation can be hard, but it’s certainly possible—even with lower traffic. I’d encourage bloggers to really research affiliate sites and then poll their readers to see what they use when booking travel—no point in using affiliates with Get Your Guide, for example, if your audience tends to book from Klook or Viator.
Also, network with other bloggers as much as possible! Learn what works or doesn’t work for them, share tips, and read one another’s blogs. I have learned invaluable tips over the years from getting to know other bloggers and sharing advice with one another.
If you don’t have a local network of bloggers, the DNW Facebook group is a great resource.
From a practical perspective, always do keyword research before writing a new blog and use a keyword research tool— I use Keysearch and find it very helpful. If you’re trying to write blogs that will make money, you want to be sure you’re using keywords that aren’t too competitive—or your new blog post might never get noticed.
8. How much traffic did your blog have in the last month and where does it come from?
According to Google Analytics, my traffic last month came from the following sources:
- 78% organic search
- 11% direct
- 9.5% social (predominantly Pinterest)
- 1% referral
My traffic is still massively suffering from COVID, as no one can enter Australia at the moment. It’s been just under 10k in the last month.
9. What tasks do you do that have the biggest impact on your traffic?
Optimizing old posts, keyword research, and writing posts with SEO in mind. Finding keywords you can rank for is the most important task when it comes to getting traffic.
I focus on Instagram as well, as I do sponsored Insta posts, but I don’t recommend focusing on Instagram as a technique to drive blog traffic directly.
10. What has helped you the most when it comes to getting search traffic?
Similar to above, updating old blog posts and keyword research. I also get some traffic from Pinterest, but to be honest, I don’t put in as much effort into it as I should.
When I first started blogging, I would just write about anything under the sun without thinking about keywords or SEO. When I started doing keyword research, the posts that I’d written based on keyword research started to see traffic. Most of my original blog posts don’t rank at all—I need to work on deleting or updating them in the future.
11. What are your main goals for your blog?
Ooh, this is a tough question, as I feel like my goals change from time to time. At the moment, hoping to match or beat my previous full-time salary with my writing and blogging income, which I’m optimistic about.
12. What are you doing to work towards your main goals? How do you work out where to prioritise your time?
Prioritising time can be hard, but the best way (for me), is to have a daily routine. Set your schedule, hours, and breaks, and try to stick to it each day. Know what you need to accomplish each day and week, and make sure you get those tasks done.
To meet your goals, you need to be organised. I use an old school planner and keep track of everything I need to get done each week, prioritising freelance work by deadlines. I also set financial targets for myself, which motivate me to work when I’m feeling sluggish.
13. What three biggest tips/pieces of advice do you have for other bloggers?
1. Work out your own unique selling proposition
When it comes to my blog, I think part of my success has come from being myself and having a unique, quirky style. I see so many blogs that are written with only SEO in mind, and sometimes they can come off as a bit uninspiring. I read somewhere ages ago that people gravitate toward blogs for travel planning because they want something different, like inspiration or personal reviews—if they wanted straight travel advice, they could just read a guidebook.
So, try to work out your USP, or unique selling proposition. It’s a marketing term but very much applicable to blogs—why should readers check out your blog over another? What makes you stand out?
Everyone has something amazing to share with the world, whether it’s your writing style, photography, a clear niche, or otherwise, so work out what it is about yourself and your blog that will really make your blog shine.
2. Be authentic
On a similar note, I’d advise all bloggers to always be honest and authentic. If readers suspect you’re not genuine, you’re likely to lose them.
When it comes to travel blogging, this means always disclosing sponsored or paid trips (which is a legal requirement in many countries, and also the ethical thing to do), and share with your readers both what you like and don’t like about your travel experiences. Travel is never perfect, so share both the ups and downs.
3. Treat blogging like a job (because it is!)
To find success with blogging, you need to treat it as a part-time (or full-time) job. It can be hard to find the motivation to blog each week, and I am definitely guilty of neglecting my blog in the past. However, it takes regular content, constant upskilling, and dedication to succeed—I think many bloggers don’t succeed simply because they don’t put the effort in.
14. Where can we find you online?