Have you ever wonder how bloggers truly make their money?
As the Co-Founder of Bramework I feel it’s important to share my journey from Pharmacist to Theme Park Blogger.
I hope my story will educate you and inspire you if you’re on the path to earning $10,000 a month and beyond from your blog.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO. Which means if you click on certain links, Bramework may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.
My Journey From 0 to $10K a Month As a Theme Park Blogger
For those bloggers out there either just starting out or struggling on your journey to $10K a month through monetizing your blog, I want to share my journey in hopes it will help you navigate your journey to financial freedom.
My name is Nikida (also known as NikkyJ) and I’m the Co-founder of Bramework and I’ve been a blogger for over 10 years.
I started my blog back in 2012. So, you know it’s been a 10 year journey from starting as a passion-project and creative outlet to realizing I could monetize it and achieve financial freedom.
As many other bloggers, I experienced a lot of setbacks and moments when I debated throwing in the towel and abandoning the idea all together.
The Ups and Downs of Blogging
I encountered many hurdles that felt too big to get over such as not seeing significant traffic to my blog (although I was working really hard) and losing my mother.
But I kept believing in myself, kept working, kept learning, and eventually was able to leave my full-time job as a pharmacist.
Now I have the freedom and flexibility to spend time with my family as a blogger. Something I wanted so bad but somehow in the back of my mind thought that it may never happen.
From 3 visits a day to over 150K visits a month and generating over $10K a month in revenue, here’s my story.
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Why I started blogging
I had been in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years.
During that time, I was stressed out from the day-to-day of being a Clinical Pharmacist in a hospital working 10 to12 hour days with someone’s life in my hands at all times.
I desperately needed a creative outlet– something to take my mind off the life of “adulting.”
It was through reading the Harry Potter series that an idea sparked. I wanted to do something whimsical and fun to give me a hobby that was outside of the world of medicine.
It was that spark and my love for theme parks that started the idea of blogging.
From there, a quick Google search for “how to start a blog” was the catalyst for ThemeParkHipster.
Choosing the focus for my blog
I started blogging about theme parks because since childhood, it’s been something I’ve been super passionate about.
As a kid, we only went to theme parks once every 3 to 5 years when my parents got tickets through their work so it was a big deal for us.
At that time, I wasn’t able to go to theme parks often, so I’d watch all the movies and shows I could about Disney and Universal Studios.
Living in Florida, I was able to visit Universal Studios on school field trips to supplement my addiction to theme parks until the next visit with my family.
When I was 12 years old I made a commitment to myself, “When I’m all grown up, I’m going to go to as many theme parks as I can, whenever I want, and no one is going to stop me!”
To this day, theme parks continue to occupy a special place in my heart because they bring back those childhood memories of times we used to spend doing something special as a family together.
The journey from passion project to business
ThemeParkHipster started as a passion project where I treated it more as a personal diary.
At the beginning, I would write my personal thoughts in my notebook (my first draft), then publicly on my blog.
I would write about why Disney World made me happy and how Walt Disney’s work inspired me to be courageous.
At the time, I was only getting about 3 views a day on my blog. It wasn’t until 2013 that someone told me I could turn it into a business that I started to think about evolving my blog.
Things start to change for me through education
It heard through Facebook groups how bloggers could leverage Pinterest to direct traffic to their blog.
So I took a Udemy course called Pinterest Profits by Cheryl Stinchcomb (that course is no longer available but I do recommend Pinterest Avalanche) to see if I could leverage Pinterest to grow my traffic.
During that time I learned that by finding popular search terms in Pinterest related to theme parks, I could get content ideas and direct that traffic from Pinterest to my blog.
That’s when I also learned I could monetize my blog – though I had STILL no idea how…
Getting my first big hit in traffic
While using Pinterest to get ideas for topics to write about related to theme parks.
I wrote a blog on Magic Kingdom for Adults and did something different this time.
I typed in that search term and saw other snippets of questions people were asking related to “Magic Kingdom for Adults”.
I used those questions to outline my blog post and made sure I answered all of those questions in my blog post.
The result? It took off!
I went from getting 3 views a day to 1,000 sessions a month!
That’s when I had the first realization that there was a formula to generating traffic.
I started using those search terms and including related questions and keywords in my blog posts to try to repeat what I did to get my first big hit in traffic.
Learning How to Make Money Blogging through Affiliate Marketing and Sponsorships
In 2018 (six years later) things started to really change for me.
After taking the Pinterest course I realized the potential to grow my blog; however, I still didn’t have enough traffic to monetize.
I took an affiliate marketing course after hearing Pat Flynn on YouTube talk about how you could monetize your blog through affiliate marketing.
It was a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.
Seeing Michelle’s blog and what she had accomplished was what opened my eyes to what was possible with monetizing my blog in a big way.
Seeing that Michelle was able to generate 6-figures a month through her blog made me realize that I could really do this and make more than I even imagined was possible.
It opened up my mind to what was possible beyond what I was making as a Pharmacist.
I wasn’t making money through my blog yet, but it got me into the mindset that I could make money.
My Experience with Affiliate Marketing as Theme Park Blogger
I started researching Disney affiliate marketing, theme park affiliate marketing, and travel affiliate marketing to find potential sponsors and affiliate programs for my blog.
It’s challenging with theme parks because a lot of travel affiliate marketing programs aren’t a good fit for my theme park blog but I was so passionate about it that I kept with it.
3 Tips I Learned with Affiliate Marketing
Although my industry is a niche within a niche, you can apply some of these tips below to your own blog.
1. Know your reader
This will help you pick good programs that are both broad but also ones that are super niched for your community.
For example, the programs that are broad for me are hotels, flights, vacation home rentals, and travel accessories.
Whereas the more niche programs sell tickets and vacation packages to the theme parks.
2. Establish relationships with the brands you’re working with
This is super important and something many pro bloggers don’t share.
You should have a contact with someone in the affiliate program who can answer your questions quickly and one that help you come up with ways to share their product with your community in a fun and natural way.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for more
I know it’s hard to have that conversation about money, but if you bring in a significant amount of revenue for that brand, don’t be afraid to have a call to discuss increasing your commission.
It never hurts to ask.
Overcoming Blogging Burnout and Wanting to Give Up
Then I hit a pivotal point. I had been blogging for 6 years putting out 4 posts a month (on top of working full-time as a pharmacist) and I was getting burnt out.
I wasn’t making any money from it, other bloggers around me were far surpassing me, and any bloggers I reached out to for help, weren’t willing to help me.
No one else (in the blogging Facebook groups) was interested in blogging about theme parks or helping me build my blog.
I offered to pay people for their time just to learn how to set up and structure my blog business properly, but no one took me up on the offer.
I was feeling discouraged and was working tirelessly on my blog, when I hit a roadblock and contacted Brandon Gaille for help.
The Email that Changed My Life
In that ask for help, I unloaded all my fears about not being able to monetize my blog.
He helped calm me down and asked me questions about my traffic and encouraged me to work on my keywords and make the best blog post.
Brandon suggested I stay focused on that to get my traffic up and then I could get on an ad network and to start looking for sponsorships.
He told me that from getting sponsorships, that could then evolve into becoming a Brand Ambassador.
Growing to 25K visits a month
The pep talk from Brandon Gaille gave me a new sense of confidence.
I found someone, Jenny Melrose, to help me learn about getting sponsorships and brand ambassador positions.
She told me that my traffic was moving in the right direction and if I could continue working my way up to 25K visits a month, I could get on Mediavine (keep in mind that this was in 2018 before the new requirement for Mediavine became 50K).
That gave me the motivation I needed. With a clear target and goal in mind, I started pushing out 2-3 blog posts a week.
For the next 6 months I stayed focused and hit my goal of 25K sessions a month!
Scaling up from $2K a month
After reaching my target of 25K monthly sessions, and monetizing my blog through Mediavine, I saw the possibility to increase my income by scaling.
At the time I was earning around $2,500-$3,000 a month through my blog.
I then learned through MediaVine that I could get more traffic by updating older articles to the same formula that I had been using for my new blogs.
Now my goal was to work towards $5K a month from my blog.
This was when it really hit me that there was a formula to writing a blog post that generated traffic – I needed to focus on keywords and use the related searches and top questions to create my outline.
I had a formula, but was limited to my output by time.
Leveraging Technology to Scale
I started talking to my husband, Handy, who’s a software developer about how I wished I could get help from a system or some sort of automation that could use my formula to help write blogs faster.
That was when the initial idea for Bramework started.
This was in July of 2019 and at the time I wasn’t aware that AI was even a thing. He started building out the first version of Bramework and it evolved from there.
AI writer – Bramework
Today, Bramework is a core part of my tech stack.
It helps me come up with better ideas for titles, gives me new ideas by using the AI-generated outlines, and helps me get started and continue when I’m stuck.
Keyword Research with Semrush
I also started using Semrush to do my keyword research so I could get better at identifying keywords that had high search volume but low competition.
Images with Canva
Before using Canva, my images were huge and often pulled directly from my phone (I know….that is the worst mistake to do).
I learned about the importance of keeping your image optimized to avoid issues with page loading speed.
Canva was able to help me do this and find eye-catching images.
Leveraging other writers to scale
I started updating old articles to the framework of a proper blog post. At the time someone contacted me asking if I’d hire them to write for my blog.
Though I was unsure at first about bringing someone else on to write for me, I knew she was an expert at Disney and she had media passes and thoroughly understood my niche.
After reading her article, I was really impressed. For the first time I was hopeful that I could start scaling my blog by getting help from other writers instead of just myself.
Keeping $5K a month in sight
In February of 2020 I was headed towards making $5K a month through affiliate marketing and display ads.
My blog business was so close to hitting that $5K goal when the pandemic hit. I then experienced the biggest drop in traffic I had ever seen.
It was like climbing a mountain and just when you’re about to reach the top, you fall off a cliff.
It scared me and made me question if I could leave my career as a Pharmacist to be a blogger full-time because everything could get taken away so fast.
But somehow I still had faith in myself and kept blogging.
I continued paying writers to contribute to my blog, and paid them all throughout 2020 with money from the family’s bank account.
We were committed so my husband, Handy (now CEO of Bramework), and I decided as a household we’d set a budget for our writers and continue working on growing my blog.
Around that time we were writing 5 new articles a month and updating about 3 to 5 articles a month.
Finally getting to $10K a month
In May of 2020, Florida started opening up again. As fall approached, people started coming back to the parks and that’s when my traffic started to slowly increase again.
I started getting really good with keyword research.
Plus, I learned from Brandon Gaille’s blog course to trim my keyword list and pick the low hanging fruit keywords that had low competition and then as I built my domain authority, I could start going for the more competitive keywords.
That’s when traffic started to really take off and that carried me through 2021.
I was able to take advantage of the spring break traffic and summer, and around Halloween and early Christmas I was able to leverage the holiday traffic.
Plus, I used that same keyword strategy to sustain my blog during the holidays because in the theme park industry, December traffic starts to decrease.
Instead of being able to rely on my evergreen content at that time, I needed to shift to writing about holiday related content by using Semrush to find good keywords and that’s what got me through 2021.
Using those strategies help me reach $10k+ per month in blogging income for the first time in May of 2022!
It was also around this time when my monthly blog pageviews started to go past 150k per month.
Repeating the process for a new site
Each year the blog continued to grow because now I had that solid foundation.
In September of 2021 I did an experiment. I started a new website to use as a case study to see if I could repeat the same process with another blog and go from 0 to 150K visits a month in a shorter time frame.
That’s when I started the Florida Hipster Blog where I focused my content on my Florida travels, my love for the state, and sharing it with everyone so they could see it wasn’t just about theme parks or Disney.
I took it from 0 to 50K sessions a month in under a year (from Sept 2021 to July 2022).
A Small Setback with Google
After I exceeded the 50K sessions a month I got hit with a Google update that affected my traffic. I had fallen off the proverbial cliff again.
I had my next goal in plane sight but unfortunately, Google’s update put the kibosh on that.
Believe me, I was defeated but kept working on it – I’m still working on it and the traffic is going up again, thankfully.
But it just goes to show that you never know what hurdle you’ll face on this journey as a professional blogger.
Either way, it’s worth the struggle to have the financial freedom I have now and the time to spend with my husband and our two children.
My advice for new bloggers
If you’ve read my whole story, you can see that it’s for sure been a journey and maybe it’s even been similar to your own experiences on your path to financial freedom.
What’s important is that through this journey – through the hurdles and cliffs, you keep at it.
If there’s any advice I’d give to another blogger – advice I wish I could have told my younger self…
I’d say to make sure you help the people first!
I started off making my blog about me, but what I learned is it’s about helping other people.
Once I started focusing my content on helping other people through answers to their questions, that’s when it all changed and it started to work.
On top of helping the people first, I’d recommend you:
- Find a good blogging course to understand the business of blogging – because it is a business
- Learn how to set up your blog properly
- Know how to do keyword research
- Be the best blog post writer you can be
I hope my story helps give you the motivation you need to keep going – through whatever challenges you’re facing on your blogging journey – and maybe even helps inspire someone else you know who’s considering embarking on this journey.
Just remember – help the people first.
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