Turn your hobby into location independent business

What does it take to start a location independent business?

Pauline Paquin is a serial blogger. She was born and raised in Paris. Pauline has traveled around the world and now lives in Guatemala.

She is passionate about writing, travel and personal finance.

I love her story because she is building her business to support her lifestyle as opposed to many entrepreneurs that live for their businesses.

Read the following interview to find out how Pauline has turned her hobby into an awesome location independent lifestyle business.

In 2010 you have quit your job and started freelancing. How did you land your freelance gigs?

I started writing for a travel website that an acquaintance launched. He asked if I would like to write for them when he heard about my extensive travels, and I couldn’t pass on a chance to offset my travel costs! Then a second site contacted me via that first one. Then the first site launched a sister site in France as well, so they recommended me to the French partner and I started doing posts in French too. Thanks to that I landed a contract with a second French website. I stayed in touch with old business partners and did some freelance translation work for a few of them as well. Looking back it was mostly networking, I tried Elance and other websites but it is hard to compete with people bidding really low.

Are you still doing freelance work today? If yes, how do you land your new clients today?

I am not actively looking for freelance work, as I have my hands full with my blogs. But they provide good exposure and a few people have asked me via the blogs to write personal finance posts for them, as well as help creating websites.

When you started the Reach Financial Independence blog what were your expectations?

I had written over 5,000 travel articles, so I wanted a change of scenery. I loved personal finance and thought I would add my voice in the niche, but had no idea how to start. I learned via trial and error, and was pretty surprised when the site started making money after a few months. It was a hobby initially, so I had no more expectations than getting people over to read it.

Was blogging just an experiment, hobby, or did you know from the beginning that you wanted to turn it into a business?

It was a hobby. I am really pleased that it makes money but still consider it a hobby. The day I stop enjoying what I do, I may end it.

In 2013 you have started the Make Money Your Way blog. What were your reasons for starting Make Money Your Way?

My first blog is pretty personal. I talk about location independence, travel, freedom, and money as a way to reach my goals. People started asking about ways to make money to create a lifestyle they want, so I thought about starting a second site to talk about just that. We cover investing, real estate, improving your career and side hustles, as well as ways to make money online.

How did you start monetizing your blog?

I put a few adsense blocks at first, but my viewings were low so it wasn’t a hit. Then I started reading more about monetizing a blog, affiliate marketing, and how to improve your stats so that you attract direct advertisers. They started getting interested in the blog after about three months, once I had a more engaged readership and better stats.

How are you finding advertisers for your site?

They mostly find me. I guess they google keywords they need to work with, and if your site comes up, they drop you a line. I have tried reaching out to advertising agencies, but with little success. What I do proactively is register to affiliate programs and try ad blocks, from companies offering alternatives to adsense.

What are the most effective ways for you to monetize your blogs?

Affiliate sales are great in that you just need to write one helpful post, and then it keeps on making money month after month. For example I talk about how I am renting my house on Airbnb, and then get a referral fee if people join the site. Renting banners or doing reviews is easy money but it is just a one time thing.

What were the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site when you started out?

I reached out to other bloggers in the niche. I guest posted on their site, commented on their content, tweeted their stuff, in hopes that they would return the favor and promote mine. Strangely, helping others has helped me a lot. Reddit is also a good way to drive traffic, but that is a tough crowd to please and if you promote too much of your content, you get flagged as a spammer.

What are the most effective ways to drive traffic to your site today?

Today I have a virtual assistant who does social promotion on twitter, facebook and other platforms, I am not guest posting as actively but trying to target bigger sites when I do, to get more exposure.

Can you give us some specific examples of marketing/getting more visitors to your blogs today?

I am not the best person to ask I am afraid, as I still treat blogging as a hobby, my efforts are pretty limited in that area. I just write and write, in hopes that people will like what I have to say. That said, I am running an anniversary giveaway for $500 this month, and it has helped quite a bit in getting new followers on RSS and social media. Reach Financial Independence is pretty personal, so I write a lot about myself, but on the other sites I write in hopes to help people save money, make more money, etc. so they find something helpful to them.

How many different ways are you able to monetize your blog today?

I don’t know how many affiliate programs I am registered to, maybe a dozen, only products I use and love. Then there is Adsense, direct advertising and banner rentals, reviews… I also give back 10% of my income to education projects in my Guatemalan village and have received $2,550 from readers, three laptops for a computer literacy project, school supplies… technically that is not monetizing as I just pass it forward but it is a way to get exposure for a cause that is dear to me.

How much traffic does your blog get in a month?

Reach Financial Independence gets about 60,000 page views, Make Money Your Way and Savvy Scot 25,000.

Can you give me some specifics in terms of using social media to drive traffic to your site?

I have tweeting agreements with other bloggers so they tweet my content and I tweet theirs, getting exposure to their readers. On Facebook my assistant often promotes old posts to give them extra views. Pinterest has also been working and we have a small base of followers over there, where we pin the posts and try to find nice pictures for them, as it is more visual as a platform.

Which one is your favorite social network and why?

I like Facebook probably because it is the oldest one I have been using and the one I manage the most. Twitter goes a bit fast to my taste, so I leave it to the VA. On Facebook I can choose to reach my followers, but also my personal network, or just a random group of people I chose.

What advice do you have for those that haven’t been able to monetize their blogs?

Focus on getting known, money will come. Guest post, reach out to other bloggers, write quality content, but mostly look for exposure. More readers mean more income if you do CPM or CPA but also better stats so advertisers will end up knocking on your door.

What do you think bloggers should spend their time on to be successful?

Writing. I am not really good with tech stuff so I hire out most of the tasks, on Fiverr if it is basic (like a server migration) and on Elance for bigger tasks, if my VA can’t do it. Being a blogger means being able to write quality content day in, day out. If you let menial tasks get in the way, for as much as you promote your content, if you don’t have more, people won’t come back.

Where do you look to find popular topics to write about?

Mostly in my head. Sometimes I am faced with a situation, or talk to a friend about money, and then write about it. Once in a while I read an article that makes me want to react, and I write a full post as an answer. I don’t specifically look for things to write about, because I am not in the SEO game. I write about what I feel like writing about.

How do you improve content, so it is better than what’s out there?

Again, I don’t look for ways to compete, or improve SEO for my posts. I think I add a different perspective to a few topics, as I left my day job at 29, worked a bit more than managed to  generate enough in investment income to cover my living expenses, and now live a simple life in Guatemala. Readers come to read an original story. If I want to rank on “five ways to save money at the supermarket”, I will be a bore to regular readers. I prefer to have a small engaged community than bigger search traffic that will leave after 20 seconds.

What is your biggest win as an entrepreneur?

Managing three blogs in a couple of hours a day. I can even schedule posts and travel for a month without impacting my income. Most tasks are automated or delegated so if content is written in advance, I have all the freedom I want.

What is your biggest loss as an online entrepreneur?

I guess that is a loss to some that I am not reaching higher. I am happy with the way things are and the income I generate, so I could work ten times as much and maybe make three or even five times as much, but I choose my time over money. Maybe one day my blogs will be totally outdated and that will be the end of it.

What is your goal for your blogs?

To have fun and interact with other interesting people along the way.

Is there a question I haven’t asked that you wish I had?

I think you pretty much covered it all! Thanks for having me.