It’s Jake again, with our monthly installment of Operation Digital Nomad, the post in which I update everyone on our progress monetizing our travel blog so that we can travel the world indefinitely. As always, this post contains affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking on one, we get a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
April was a big month for us as a family and as travelers, but it wasn’t a huge month for the blog. That being said, we have some big announcements, and lots of reasons to be optimistic about this next year. I’ll be getting into that soon.
But first, the bottom line:
Net Income: -$61.19
- Google Adsense: $2.95
- Affiliate Sales: $0.00
- Photography Sales: $0.00
- Total: $2.95
- Cloudflare: (Monthly – Content Delivery Network) $25.20
- Professional Photographers of America (Monthly – Trade Association and Camera Insurance): $27.92
- Amazon S3 (Monthly – Image Hosting): $1.03
- Adobe Creative Cloud (Monthly – Software Subscription: Photoshop, Lightroom and More): $9.99
- Total: $64.14
So anyone who has been paying attention will notice that this is the first month since last November when we didn’t pull a profit. Obviously this is disappointing, but the causes are no mystery. In the last few months, the bulk of our profits came from affiliate sales and the sale of photographs to brands and online publishers. In April we didn’t get our acts together to get that stuff done, and the results speak for themselves.
Our affiliate sales were previously produced mostly by sales of Idaho Jones Diaper Backpacks, which were selling well because our review was genuine, positive, and included a discount code. However, the bag we reviewed has been out of stock for a while now. Selling too many bags is a good problem for Idaho Jones to have, but that’s little consolation for our bottom line. Get on it IJ!
Instant Update: As I write this I see that I have an email from Idaho Jones that I missed earlier, telling me that the new batch of bags is ready. To make it up to them for not checking my email, I will let you skip our review entirely and just tell you that the coupon code is jakeanddannie. So you can go buy your diaper bags now if you had been holding out.
As for the other affiliate programs we participate in, they have been getting views and even clicks, but sales are still not coming through. Actually, there were a few sales last month, but I haven’t reported them here because the payments haven’t come through yet and I don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch.
At least there is good news on this front. April was our website’s busiest month on record, bringing in a total of 2640 page views, almost all of them from Google and other organic sources. This was despite the fact that we took almost the entire second half of the month off from blog related work. I think the gains are partly due to the approaching busy travel season, and partly due to the increase in the quality of the blog posts we have been producing lately.
Here are the blog posts we produced in April:
- Operation Digital Nomad: March, 2018 – Similar to the post you are reading now, except it’s a month older and we made way more money!
- Photographing the Cherry Blossom Valley of Dali, China – If you are into amazing landscapes full of cherry blossoms, then this post is just for you. We happened to stay right in this beautiful place during cherry blossom season, so we wrote a pretty detailed guide for exploring it (complete with photos, of course).
- Why It’s Hard to Photograph the Charles Bridge in Prague – This post is just what it sounds like: it’s me complaining about how hard it was to photograph the Charles Bridge. Just kidding… sort of. I do talk about some of the obstacles for anyone who wants to get a classic photo of this classic landmark, but I also get into how we could have done better ourselves, and what we did right to get the good photos we left with – even if they weren’t the exact photos we’d been planning on.
- Isle of Skye Camping and Caravanning Club Review – This is a review of the Scottish campsite we stayed at for the entire month of August, living in a tent with our two year old daughter Lisa. It’s a good read if you are thinking about camping up there, and it’s also a good post for learning about the Isle of Skye in general, which you should do because it is beautiful and amazing!
- Applying for a Chinese Visa in Hong Kong – A blog post about bureaucratic tedium isn’t necessarily fun to write, but it’s the kind of information that a lot of people are probably looking for. I know we are always searching for this kind of post when we travel. Hey, with this kind of information, when you need it, you really need it.
- Fairy Glen: Family Fun on the Isle of Skye (102 page views)
- Our Experience Staying at Airbnbs in Paris (96 page views)
- Review: The Ergobaby Omni 360 (86 page views)
- Where to Photograph Provence Lavender Fields (83 page views)
- How We Took Our Best Photo of the Roman Colosseum (71 page views)
- Review: The KidCo Peapod Plus Travel Tent (69 page views)
- Review: The Idaho Jones Gallivant Baby Changing Diaper Backpack (64 page views)
- 3 Ways to Photograph the Roman Colosseum (58 page views)
- Photographing the Cherry Blossom Valley of Dali, China (52 page views)
- Photographing the Louvre Pyramid, Fall and Spring (47 page views)
If you look at this list and compare it to the top ten from last month, you’ll notice a few changes. First of all, there are more page views overall. That’s great, but it’s not what I find most interesting about it. What’s interesting is the type of blog post that has started performing well. Our three top performing product reviews are still in the top ten, but a number of European travel posts, particularly posts about photographing iconic landmarks, have started rising in the ranks. Those review posts actually got more views this month than they did the month before, but the travel photography related posts have just grown so much they’ve overtaken them.
As long as our reviews still perform well, the rise of the travel photography posts is still good news. That’s our area of expertise, and if we can’t make that our “thing,” then we really don’t have an advantage over anyone else in the business. We need people who are coming to us for that kind of material, not just so that they can view ad banners on our site, but because we need them to click on affiliate links for our favorite cameras, our favorite lenses, and our favorite books for mastering photography. For a longer look at the process of finding our niche, check out February’s edition of Operation Digital Nomad.
One reason we were a little slow with the workload in April was that for most of the month my family was visiting us here in China. That’s right, my Dad and my Stepmom both traveled from Florida to visit us in Dali, China. I couldn’t believe we were able to talk them into coming, but I sure was happy to see them. Dannie’s mother joined us for part of our journey in Europe, but I hadn’t seen my parents in over a year. They were a little bit nervous about traveling across the world to spend a month in a country they’d never been to and where they didn’t speak the language, but they sure were happy to see Lisa again. She’d just barely started walking when we left in January of 2017.
But as promised in the first paragraph, we have some fairly big news about 2018. During the month of April, we signed a contract to rent an apartment in Dali, China for the next year. That means that after we’re going to be taking slow travel to the next level this year, making Dali our base of operations for exploring Yunnan Province.
We originally traveled to Dali with the intention of spending two months in March and April, which we did. We knew it was a beautiful city, but we didn’t realize just how quickly we were going to fall in love with it. Yunnan is considered by many to be the most beautiful region of China, and as photographers, there is just so much here for us to explore and share with the world. Living in China is going to be a big challenge. Dannie speaks mandarin, and that’s an advantage for us, but the culture, the terrain and the climate are all foreign to us. Dannie may speak the language, but make no mistake, she’d feel a lot more at home in New York City than she would anywhere on this side of the planet.
In May we are traveling around the Shanghai area and clearing doing a visa run to Hong Kong, and already I can tell you that travelers visiting the big Eastern cities of China are not experiencing anything unique as we’ve had in just the last couple months. Dali has its modern areas, but we’re really excited to be in the heart of Yunnan, ready to dive into bustling old towns, foggy mountains, beautiful wildlife and surprisingly good vegetarian food.
And make no mistake, even though we’re “settling down,” for a year, we’ll still be traveling. There are loads of things to do around here and we expect to be going on week-long excursions at least once a month. Every season, every valley and every town has something special to offer.
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read not only this article, but any other part of our blog you may enjoy. All of our work, our photos, our writing and our adventures are just memories in a diary without readers who come to this site. Whether you came here for travel stories or just wanted to find out where a photo was taken, your visit is really one of the most rewarding parts of our adventure. Thanks again, and happy travels to you!