Here's the deal.
We get a ton of questions about making money online and traveling the world. But without a doubt, the most common question we get is...
"I want to make money online!...But I just don't know where to start?
And believe me - I understand the struggle.
Maybe you are dreaming about traveling. Many of you are quitting your job to travel. Maybe you just want the freedom of working for yourself wherever you want.
I've been working online and traveling for years now... and it's even better than it sounds. Running a successful online business has allowed me to live a lifestyle many people dream about.
But this didn't happen overnight.
I understand that not knowing where to start can be overwhelming.
I get that you want to make money online - you just need to know how to take that first step...
So I decided to make this epic guide to show you the exact process you need to follow to start your first successful online project. This one of a kind resource has concepts that have never before been published. I've designed a blueprint for success for you...
These are my most powerful tips, hard earned through years of trial and error.
With this blueprint, you'll be able to confidently start your first project, and set yourself up for long term success, making money online as you travel the world...
Allow me to introduce you to Ditch Your Desk's 'Tower of Success'
Simply start from the foundation (bottom of the tower) and move up as you build.
This tower shows you a simple (yet effective) process for starting your first online project. It's an easy to follow guide and once you get started, you'll be well on your way to making money online.
You'll be creating quality content like a pro in no time.
(PS - If you want some inspiration for starting your first project, read below! If you want to jump to the actual 3 Step Process, three-steps just click here!)
First things first...
I need to make it clear that Will and I completely understand how intimidating starting your first project can be.
Many people see our travels, our online projects and how we have built The Broke Backpacker up to a six figure income, with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, and think that all of this awesome success has come easy...
Traveling the world whilst trying to scale a business is not easy (but then again - building a business never is).
But the juice is worth the squeeze and after 18 months of working together, Will and I have accomplished some incredible things on our joint ventures. We've achieved a level of financial success that makes endless adventures traveling the world a reality, no longer a pipe dream.
Want to take your business to the next level?
Ditch Your Desk subscribers get access to our best content. Period.
Before Will and I met, we were two broke travelers, adventuring across the world, each of us struggling to get our respective blogs off the ground.
Then, everything changed.
We met, teamed up as business partners, and our fortune's were forever altered.
But whilst our greatest success has been on joint ventures, our paths to success were quite different.
Will and I's stories perfectly embody two very different paths to the same destination - a location independent lifestyle of earning money whilst traveling the world.
By every measure, Will's The Broke Backpacker is one of the most popular travel blogs in the world.
But it did not start this way.
Will wrote stories for months that nobody read or gave a shit about. The first version of The Broke Backpacker website was pretty terrible.
The site was slow to load, there were no images and Will had never heard of SEO. Nobody could find Will's site, even if they wanted to.
The only person that did follow Will's blog was his extremely supportive mum! Will did, however, find his way and relatively quickly figured out that he could sell some of his best stories to media outlets.
By 2015, Will was able to make $1000 a month but this was never passive income and it wasn't until Will discovered his real skill sets that he was able to grow his business into a 6-figure empire.
Will discovered he had an incredible talent for designing high quality content, managing a team, and designing SOPs (organizational systems) which enabled him to explode The Broke Backpacker's growth. Scaling a business, creating awesome content and inspiring a team was in Will's blood, and his success is due to his entrepreneurial mindset, constant SEO experiments and managerial awesomeness.
Will knew that to crush his competition, he needed to pour his time into customer acquisition. He focused on learning everything he could about SEO, doing elaborate tests on a network of twenty sites and figuring out exactly what needed to happen to make content rank.
He took those findings and designed content series and team systems that allowed him to create some of the most informative, high value, content in the travel-space, at a pace that would be unmatchable by any of his competitors.
Will focused on his blog and his brand and put in buckets of blood, sweat, tears, and YEARS of learning, until it all finally clicked.
Will's story is what we will call the 'One Site - Many Years'.
He built a brand, and once he really discovered the best way to leverage his skills for success - The Broke Backpacker became what it is today.
My story starts very similar to Will's story, but then it makes a sharp turn.
I too started as an amateur travel blogger, wanting to share my travel tales with the world. I dreamt of being featured in National Geographic and truly craved success as a world-famous travel expert.
But I soon realized... it wasn't for me.
I was enjoying blogging and the online game, but I saw that my interests were changing. I noticed I was becoming less interested in being a 'travel expert' and writing country guides and was growing more fascinated with marketing and growth. I liked the analytics and numbers side of things.
Then it hit me.
I knew I didn't want to be a travel blogger anymore, and I knew I needed to pivot.
I hit the reset button. I completely abandoned my travel blog and came to a one year partnership agreement with Will to help grow The Broke Backpacker into an empire. Since then, we have become 50:50 partners on three other ventures, including Ditch Your Desk.
Will encouraged me to go nuts on TBB and I did... I ran A/B tests on everything, utilized audience feedback to tweak our leadmags, homepage and content series. I mastered Thrive and designed new content formats focussed on improving conversions as well as working with Will to strengthen the site's brand and layout.
I designed more and more elaborate content layouts, implemented a CRO plan that led to increased clicks and brainstormed with Will on SEO and overall strategy.
Much of what exists on TBB today is because of my Thrive expertise, split tests and marketing input.
But what about my first travel blog?
I spent almost two years on it, and now it's completely on the back-burner. Was it a waste of time?
Had I not started a travel blog, I would never have unlocked my new passions. My travel blogging days helped me get a taste of online entrepreneurship and directed me towards things I was better suited to do.
Now I'm making a great income, I now have the money and capital to grow my own websites, all while I travel the world freely.
I discovered I had a natural talent for marketing, and a genuine interest in growth software. My success is the result of my creative thinking, and my drive to learn and master new skills.
My story is what I'll call 'Many hats - Many years'.
I tell our two stories to relay something important.
There is no single blueprint for success.
Will pursued success with The Broke Backpacker for over four years. Eventually, he found his most powerful talents, and leveraged them for success with his brand.
I tried many things over four years, failing and experimenting until I found something that suited me best. Eventually, I found my stride and I successfully leveraged my creative side for success with my brand.
But notice that while our stories have differences, they have similarities too...
Similarity #1 - It took us years
Similarity #2 - We never gave up
Similarity #3 - We both threw ourselves into the online game, without knowing anything prior, but we both made that first step.
Nothing can happen until you take that first step.
Which is exactly what you are about to do.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what your first project is. It doesn't matter if you start a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, an online shop, an SEO agency or anything in between.
You just need to start something.
And you need to start it now.
When you start, the exact project doesn't necessarily matter.
What does matter is that you've started SOMETHING.
Start strategically, proceed intelligently (with the help of Ditch Your Desk), but at the end of the day - get fucking started.
And who knows - maybe your first project will work (like Will!).
Or maybe it will take you 4 or 5 different projects (like me!).
Whichever of the two happens for you, you have to understand that something needs to happen first.
"You need to throw yourself into the fire, and start your first project."
This is the only way to achieve success. There is no way around this.
Without throwing yourself into the fire, you'll just keep making excuses, or keep planning, or keep preparing and keep saying the worst fucking phrase in the world.
"I'll start tomorrow."
It begins, now.
You might already know what your first project will be.
You also might have no idea and feel utterly lost.
You may not care what your project is - as long as you're making money online, you'll be happy.
Wherever you're at, let's break down the process step by step so you can figure out how to start your first project...
You might be wondering...
Should you try and pursue the road of passion? Or should you pursue the road of cashin'?
This is often a first cross-roads for first time online entrepreneurs.
Your brain tells you one thing...
But then your heart might be telling you another thing...
These conflicting feelings can be a bit maddening.
Worry not. I'm going to provide you with a super clear path on how to get started.
Here's a few important tips from Will and I to rock your first online business in 2018...
Yes, having 100 million Instagram followers can be amazingly lucrative. Yes, having tens of thousands of snapchat views feels great.
But in the long run, putting all of your effort on these platforms can be a poor investment.
Reason being, while Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms clearly own the attention of the world, they also own something else.
If Instagram went out of business tomorrow, all of your shit would be gone. G. O. N. E.
If Snapchat says, 'we have now decided to charge $10 per video you publish', you'd be fucked.
Ultimately, Social Media platforms are like renting an apartment, except that instead of an apartment, it's content. But you don't want to rent your content. You want to own your content.
Further reading - Social Media 101
That's why starting a website is priority number one. You own a website. No one can take that away from you.
Yes, you want to eventually be on several of the platforms out there - social media included, but don't put all of your chips in one basket.
Especially if that basket then owns all of your eggs.
This is what you should be doing...
This is the biggest reason why we recommend starting and running the majority of your content on your own website (but more on this later).
If you have a passion and you want to create content around that passion, do not give up on this dream for a path that may be more lucrative.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the money... You must learn how to monetize your passion. And of course, you need to be aware that some niches are easier to monetize than others.
If you don't have a passion that you can create content around, you will have more options than somebody who is constrained by creating content only around what they are passionate about.
Our advice is to try and create content around your passion but to realize that working online is not always fun and that sometimes the most boring niches are the most lucrative.
If you are a business savvy person and have been eyeing drop shipping or have been thinking about building a tasty buffet of niche-sites, please brother or sister - DO IT. You won't regret it.
But if creating content around a passion speaks much more highly to you, then you should follow your heart. Your path to success will be much more likely, as you will be driven to create content for an audience you care about and to keep pushing yourself.
Even if that first passion-project doesn't work out (like my story!) it will be an amazing crash course into the online game and will set you up for your next big thing.
Simply put - do not be afraid to learn something new.
Four years ago I could barely operate a computer. I used Wikipedia, a bit of Facebook, ESPN to check to NBA scores and that was about it.
WordPress. Thrive. Plugins. KWFinder. SERPWatcher. Convertkit. Facebook Ads. Affiliate marketing. CSS. Yoast. Google Search Console.
These are things that I personally knew nothing about four years ago. Not a single thing.
Now I use them on a daily basis, and comfortably.
If you fear to learn new things, you need to summon some inner-courage and tell youself ...
'I can do this'.
You need to be above the fear.
This entire game is about one thing - learning new skills. And the better and quicker you are able to teach yourself new things, the better and quicker you'll be able to make serious money online and build something amazing.
And believe me - there's nothing to be afraid of. It's so easy to learn new things these days. Just Google 'How to use ____' or '____ tutorial' and BOOM, you'll find what you are looking for.
Be above the fear.
Now let's dive into Ditch Your Desk's Three-Step Process to start your first project.
As mentioned, if you've been particularly drawn to something (dropshipping, niche sites, SEO agency) - just go for it! There are tons of resources on Ditch Your Desk, and more in the works, to help you explore these paths...
But if you want us to guide you, then I'm going to say your first project should be a content-passion-project.
Not sure what content is? Content is anything you make for your audience to check out...
And since this is your first go - you should make content about something you are passionate about.
Whether creating content about fashion, making videos about food, podcasting about UK politics, or anything in between - you can absolutely create content on topics that you enjoy.
51% of the population of our planet have daily access to the internet.
That's a market of 3.4 billion people.
And every day, that number is only going up. More and more people are accessing the web and more and more people are getting comfortable searching, learning, and purchasing online.
The entire world is turning digital, and when people look back hundreds of years from now, they'll look at this time as the transition period (before the robots took over). Right now, there is a golden opportunity for online entrepreneurs to create content and make money out of that content.
Saturation will come - but for now, there is so much traffic left to divide it's insane.
This is why new bloggers come out of the woodworks nearly every day. And a lot of new ones are making serious money.
Is blogging becoming a more saturated niche? Sure.
Is it more difficult than it was 5 years ago? Absolutely.
But emerging markets, new interests, and a world that is becoming exponentially more connected = a nearly unlimited base for you to market your project to.
Further reading - 10 Reasons why you Should Start a Blog
No matter your interests, there's space on the web for tons more talented and dedicated content-creators.
And passion projects are great because that's what people are looking for - I would far rather consume content created by somebody who cares about the topic...
So if you are here, and you're not sure where to start. It's OK. You don't need some super unique niche idea. Let's start with a passion of yours.
Pick a niche you are passionate about. Some things to ask yourself...
By asking yourself these questions you'll be able to better identify your niche of choice.
Before moving on - whether it's travel, food, culture, sports or anything, make sure you have a good idea of what your niche will be.
Here's the truth.
While I completely recommend choosing a niche you are passionate about or have interest in, this comes with one enormous caveat.
And it's something that I always, always need you to remember.
Whatever your content's niche - make sure it helps your audience solve a problem.
People don't want to consume content about you. They want to consume content that helps them reach an improved version of themselves.
What this means is that most people can't expect to make money online just by being the star of the show. You have to make your content about your audience.
Hear me when I tell you - people only give a fuck about you if it is going to help them.
So when it comes to choosing your niche, you need to focus on other people - not yourself.
This is why most travel bloggers who do nothing but tell personal travel stories fail, and fail miserably. The reason is that people don't want to read about other people's travel stories (at least not overwhelmingly).
The Broke Backpacker has it's fair share of personal adventure tales - Will enjoys writing them and his audience finds them amusing, but the majority of The Broke Backpacker content is aimed at helping readers on their travels.
High value, information rich, posts make up the bulk of content of any great content marketer and is what enables you to create content about things you are passionate about.
These are the posts that get the hits, these are the posts that provide sales, these are the posts that people give a shit about because it helps them solve a problem.
It's pretty simple - just don't allow your blog to become a narcissistic, one (wo)man show.
This can easily be summed up.
Simply focus on the problems of your audience.
What are your audience looking for? What do they need advice on? What are there common questions?
These are the questions you need to be answering.
Focusing on fixing problems and providing solutions is the secret sauce that so many content creators forget.
Yes, you may need a healthy dose of you on your site - but 90% of your material should be about helping your audience in their quest for self-improvement.
This means you need to focus on product reviews, how-to's, best ____, epic guides, and everything in between.
You can go as wide as 'women's lifestyle' (an enormous market) to as niche as 'millennials who like to knit cat sweaters' (a very small market... I assume). Each comes with its fair share of pros and cons.
Some 'wide-niche' examples
Examples of niches you can start (sub-categories of the above niches)
Don't stress too much over this, if you want to create content about something super-niche, then you can expand your scope further down the line, you just make sure your brand/URL doesn't limit you (something we'll discuss when you actually start your website).
And on the other end, don't worry if you want to go super-wide. You can always niche down later.
It comes down to this. If you want to start a blog about rock climbing - DO IT.
If you want to start a blog about finding antique's and selling them - DO IT.
If you want to start a blog about traveling - DO IT.
But maybe, your passions aren't as obvious. Or maybe you want to write about all of these niches!
If this is you, don't worry, I have an easy solution.
Just start a fucking website!
Make a start and then you can figure it out as you go, nothing will happen until you actually pull the trigger.
Choose a general name for now - something like epicblog.com or yourname.com if you're unsure what exactly you'll cover but hell, if you want to make money online, just take that first step.
So you've established your niche for your first project.
It might be a wide niche, like a lifestyle blog so you can create content about anything you'd like.
It might be super niche, like 'how to play guitar and sound like Jimi Hendrix'.
Or it could be something in between the two.
And you also know that the content you create has to help your audience solve a problem.
Now it's time to choose your medium - aka, through what type of content are you going to solve your audience's problems?
A medium refers to materials used to make art, and for content creation on the internet, we recommend three different avenues.
Let's break down these different mediums one by one.
Pros of Blogging
Cons of Blogging
The written word is the oldest, but most solid and most searched for medium on the internet.
This is because most people still use Google as their search engine, and while YouTube is closing the gap, it's still years and years away from replacing Google as the leading search engine.
The written word is the most assured way to get success online. With the right content plan and some basic SEO (see the Glossary) on a blog, you can start generating traffic very quickly.
One misconception is that to be a great blogger, you have to be a great writer.
This is incorrect. In fact, I can think of a handful of popular bloggers who are fairly awful writers.
But that's the beauty of blogging. You aren't writing 18th-century literary masterpieces. You are creating concise, yet easy to digest content that helps to solve your audience's problems.
Even if you aren't a great writer, or don't love the idea of writing, you can still take advantage of the benefits of blogging with low cost and very little work (but more on this later).
The biggest cons of blogging are the fact that other mediums have a greater 'sticky' factor, which I'll explain in the video section next.
If you are interested in blogging (and you should be) check out our 10 Reasons to Start a Blog.
Video coming soon!
Pros of Video
Cons of Video
Let me tell you a secret. Video content is on the rise.
Just kidding, it's not much of a secret. 20 years ago someone posted the first video on YouTube. Now almost 5 billion YouTube videos are being watched every single day.
And while Google is the primary search engine in the world, as YouTube grows and more people upload video content, it will absolutely challenge Google's supremacy.
While we mostly recommend starting a blog... it only barely pushes doing video content.
Ultimately, if you are good at it, video content is the best thing you can do for your personal brand. Video content is aimed at people of all age groups and is super 'sticky'.
'Sticky' means it's something that 'sticks' with people. When someone sees you on video, it's very personal. They hear your voice, they watch you move, they relate to and understand you more as a living, breathing human being.
Compare that to a blog post... well, there's no comparison. Video wins.
But wait, there's more.
You see, video is not all unicorns and rainbows. Creating video content is hard, and it can be expensive. And it has to be great. No one watches a crap video, meaning there is less room for error, especially when you are starting.
In contrast, a half-decent blog post can still generate a ton of shares and interest. Plus more people search for blog posts because they don't always have the time to watch a video. Brushing through an article for the information you need is easy.
Typically the decision between video and blogging has always been tough, but I have a hack to help you choose that I'll explain in a bit.
Pros of Podcasting
Cons of Podcasting
As someone who loves listening to podcasts, I truly hope to get into podcasting one day. It's an incredible medium and is only growing in its influence.
I'm going to be super honest here, neither Will nor I are experts in audio/podcasting. But it would be a disservice not to mention it.
The only negative thing I will say about podcasting is that it is removed from the other aspects of digital marketing. For example, when I am listening to podcasts, I am normally driving, at the gym, or cleaning.
Podcasting, for many, is an activity done, whilst you are doing other activities.
For that reason, while it's still great for your brand and a completely viable way to forge a successful online career, we don't have any more information on podcasting yet, but if you are interested we could run some test studies - let us know in the comments below!
If we take podcasting off the table, that leaves you with two mediums.
And you need to choose one to start. It doesn't need to stay that way, you can eventually do everything (if you get good enough at making that work).
But to start - you need to pick just one.
If you only want to blog - totally cool! Get at it, Hemingway.
If you only want to vlog - totally cool! Lights, camera, action, Spielberg.
But if you are interested in both - DO BOTH... Hemingberg?
Blogging and video content go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly, and if you can use the two in action together, then world domination will be just around the corner for you and your brand...
Why is this so?
I'll be explaining that back in detail in a future post. Stay tuned.
No matter your choice of medium - word (blogging), video (vlogging), or audio (podcasting) you need to have your content lead to your website.
This is because, as we said, you want to own your content.
This means that you want all of your content to be hosted on your website.
Writing blog posts? Host them on your website.
Shooting video? Put them on YouTube AND your website.
Recording a podcast? Put the episodes on iTunes AND your website.
This is all pretty self-explanatory, but it needs to be made a point for one very specific reason.
A lot of people think social media should be their primary platform. These people are wrong.
Make your website your primary platform. Yes, you can host your video on YouTube, but also have the videos on your site, and most importantly you'll have your funnel and sales mechanisms set up on your site (we'll cover this later).
Like I said, this section is pretty easy, all you have to do is start your own website.
Which is the most important next step!
If you are ready to jump ahead and start your website - read our concise step by step guide here (with a few sweet hacks).
If you've been following along, you should have your 3 things prepared.
With the use of these three things, you'll be able to start your first online project and kick ass at it.
Remember - don't expect things to happen overnight. Overnight success isn't real.
What is real? Hard work and patience.
It worked for me.
It worked for Will.
It works for everyone who's ever been successful.
It will work for you.
Now it's time for the next part.
Thanks for reading, and remember...
Be one with the hustle
City dweller. Noodle crusher. Obsessed with business growth and optimization - Aaron Radcliffe is Co-Founder of Ditch Your Desk.