Digital Entrepreneur Interview Series: Meg Jerrard

I’m all about inspiring others to pursue their dream life.  Life is too short to simply exist.  Everyone has a different story and I wanted to inspire my readers by sharing the stories of other digital entrepreneurs whom have taken the leap. 

I’m all about inspiring others to pursue their dream life.  Life is too short to simply exist.  Everyone has a different story and I wanted to inspire my readers by sharing the stories of other digital entrepreneurs whom have taken the leap. 

I want to SHOW you it CAN be done.  Live life on purpose is my motto and these Digital Entrepreneurs are doing that in spades! 

Today, Meg Jerrard from Mapping Megan shares her story.

MappingMegan.Dubai
Mapping Megan in Dubai

Tell me about yourself

I am a 31-year-old travel addict, an outdoor adventure enthusiast and adrenaline junkie with an incurable disease called “the travel bug”. I am from Australia and have a degree in both journalism and law. My passion for traveling and writing overtook my desire to sit in a corner office, and instead, I am now a professional travel blogger, my office ranging from villas in the Galapagos Islands, to beaches on the Great Barrier Reef, bungalows overlooking volcanoes in Costa Rica, and everywhere in between!

Do you travel full time or have a base? 

While we (we being myself and my husband) travelled full time for a few years, and fully embraced the life of a homeless digital nomad, nowadays we have a permanent base. And we love it! We tend to move against the grain (not purposely!), so just as it was becoming a trend for newspapers and magazines to run the ‘I quit my job for a life of full time travel’ style articles, we published one called ‘I quit my life of full time travel to buy a house and my previously sold stuff!’

I say it in the above linked post, but for all the advantages of full-time travel, after multiple years on the road there are certain comforts of home you begin to crave. Small things like sleeping on the same pillow and hanging clothes in a wardrobe knowing they’re not going into a suitcase the next day. Not forgetting to take your medication because the time zone has changed. Ironically enough, you begin to crave the mundane things you were trying to escape!! And there is definitely something to be said about allowing yourself time for a break in between international trips.

How did you become an entrepreneur?  Did you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment?  Or was it something you kind of ‘fell into’?

I’ve had a travel blog since 2007, though when I originally started it was a hobby, and a way to chronicle / keep a diary of my adventures. That was until 2012 when I was flying from the US to Australia and was fatefully sat next to a gentleman called Gary Arndt on the plane. We got to chatting, and I found out that he was a professional content creator; someone who actually made a full time living off his blog. That notion – that people were actually making careers out of being a digital content creator and blogging professionally, as opposed to just as a side hobby, really opened my eyes to the possibilities, and I decided I would commit myself to making it happen for me too.

In 2013 I transitioned from a hobby blog called Where in the World is Megan Claire, to an actual brand – a website on my own domain called Mappingmegan.com. I developed a business strategy and threw everything I had into monetizing the blog and building it to ultimately create a long-term, sustainable income. It took two years before my income was sustainable enough to quit my day job, but it’s been 5 years since I handed in that letter of resignation, and the site is still going strong!

Tell me about your ‘why’ –  why are you pursuing this business in particular?

Because I’m passionate about it! I’m passionate about both travel, and about writing, and it’s an absolute joy to wake up every day and love what you do. Travel writing is a dream come true; it’s hard work, and there’s definitely a learning curve to being your own publisher (learning  the ins and outs of web coding, staying on top of digital marketing trends etc), but it is both my job and my hobby, and that’s ultimately what I chose to pursue. 

The big question everyone wants to know –  what’s your main source of income?   How do you make money doing what you do?  

There are many ways to make an income from blogging, and really it’s only limited by your creativity and imagination. 

Personally, my main source of income comes from content based advertising (selling sponsored posts and link placements, and publishing content to promote an advertisers product ), as well as freelance writing for travel clients. I also make money from in-content ad placements (banner ads that pop up throughout content on the site), as well as affiliate marketing, which is where the blogger makes a commission on the sale of a service or product when referring people to a partners site.

The most important key to creating a sustainable income in this world of digital content is to diversify your income streams, so that that way, if one source of income dries up, you’re still adequately sustained by the others. 

What piece of advice would you suggest to someone considering ‘ditching the desk’ to become an ‘online warrior’?  

Create a business strategy that plays to your strengths. As I mentioned, there are many, many different ways to make money online, though no-one will be suited, or interested in pursuing all of them.

If you’re a photographer, perhaps you’ll be successful in selling your photography. If you’re a writer, perhaps a focus on selling sponsored posts, or freelance writing as I do will become more your style.

There are sites that are solely created to target affiliate income, sites that are solely created to sell digital products; you’ll be more successful with something you’re passionate about, and know the ins and outs of, so as opposed to worrying what other people are doing, make sure you play to your strengths. 

One of my favourite resources for learning the tricks of the trade and everything there is to know about making money through blogs and websites is Digital Nomad Wannabe, run by Sharon Gourlay. I highly recommend checking out her free guides and resources.

What’s the one thing you can’t do without to run your business? (Apart from readership…)

An internet connection! That’s THE biggest thing about working online, and when you’re traveling it’s not always guaranteed; when it is ‘guaranteed’, you can’t always rely on the strength of the Wi-Fi nor the speed! 

Is there anything you miss about having a 9-5 type of job?

I definitely miss the office comradery, and the social aspect of having people around with whom you form friendships. Working from home you don’t have this, so you have to be very comfortable in your own company. Working online, you do network in Facebook groups, and other forums and social media, and you still establish very strong friendships and connections – it’s just in an online environment, which is different than physically being around other people.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this – while you don’t have physical social interactions, in an online environment you do get to be a lot more choosy with who you surround yourself with, and the pool of people you can interact with is exponentially larger than your typical office. 

What three things have you learned in the last year?

  1. That I don’t have to spend the whole day in my pyjamas just because I can! (I’ve actually found myself more motivated throughout a workday when I put the effort into wearing nice clothes, even if no-one else will see me!)
  2. That diversification of income is the biggest key to a sustainable online career. 
  3. That when you’re traveling you’re not blogging, and when you’re blogging you’re not traveling! It sounds strange, but as a travel blogger you need to pick which one you’re going to 100% commit yourself to. You’re either a traveller or a blogger – each requires 100% of your time and commitment, and most people will quickly realize that it’s quite difficult to maintain the running of a full-time business while they’re also traveling for leisure. You can take trips of course, but it’s all about finding the balance, and understanding the reality around the level of work that is required to successfully run a full-time business. 

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?   Or better yet, is there anything that would make you go back to a 9-5 job? 

Nothing would make me go back to my 9-5 job; I had the opportunity recently to accept a marketing position, though it was an office job, and I’ve grown far too attached to working for myself, on my own timetable, with total flexibility. It’s not just about being able to drop everything if an exciting trip comes up, or decide to spend a day at the beach if the sun comes out, and catch up on work later that evening, it’s also about being able to choose which clients I work with, set my strategies in line with my interests and passions, and not have to answer to anybody.

And, admittedly, staying in my pyjamas all day if I want to!

Give me a reality check moment that people considering this lifestyle needs to understand, before they take the leap?

Understand that it’s really hard work. Really.

I work more hours now than I did in my 9-5 job; sometimes up to 12 hours in a day. Granted, I don’t realize that I work that much because I love what I do and I really, really enjoy it, but not every day is going to be sitting on a cruise ship in the Bahamas, or an expedition to Antarctica. That’s part of the job definitely – exciting press trips where you get to travel the world, but in between these trips, you’re sitting behind your laptop writing, web coding, optimizing posts to rank well in Google, pitching, networking, doing keyword research, link building, editing photos, updating old content, fact checking, developing a social media strategy, analysing your analytics, managing your finances, etc, etc, etc. 

There is a lot more work that goes into the behind the scenes of running a website than most people realize, and it’s usually a pretty big reality check for those people who jump in thinking they’re going to be making money the next day. 

Also, it’s one of those industries where you’re not going to make money overnight; you have to establish a platform that people are willing to invest in before you start making money, and that’s something that takes time. You have to jump in with the long-term goal in mind; you may not be making money in the first year, or seeing an immediate reward, but the work you’re putting in initially is an investment of time until it starts paying off tenfold in the future. 

If you would do anything over again, what would that be?  

To have started sooner! 

As a traveller, what is your style of travel? Do you go budget friendly or live life luxuriously? 

We like to splurge on experiences, but when it comes to everything else we’ll go mid-range to save money. I’ve found that this is a pretty good balance – I would rather stay in a cheaper hotel room, and cook my own food overeating out, if it meant freeing up money for skydiving, or tracking tigers in the wild on a jungle safari. After all, nobody really remembers their hotel rooms, or the food – you remember the experiences. 

How do you keep the budget under control?  

By planning it out in advance. Before we even pick the place we want to travel, we make sure we know what our spending limit is. We figure out what we want to spend and then plan our holiday accordingly: not the other way around.

Which country has impacted you the most as a traveller? Tell me why.

This would easily be Antarctica. 10 years of travel has made me cynical about destinations which come with a lot of hype. Building impossible expectations of what a place will be like means the reality almost always falls short – you can ruin a destination by building it up in your mind. So I was naturally apprehensive of traveling to Antarctica, but as it turns out, the hyperbolic praise isn’t exaggerated. 

Antarctica lives up to and actually surpasses the hype. I would even go as far as to say it’s undersold. 

The continent is as remote and pristine as you have ever seen and evokes such a sense of raw emotion that can’t be captured or conveyed. There are few places in the world where you can feel completely removed from civilization, though this is definitely one of them. It’s immaculate and unspoiled nature unlike anywhere else on earth; a faultless landscape which is dramatic and powerful, though at the same time, fragile and pure. Antarctica is a place that such a small percentage of people have a chance to visit that we are still left speechless by its photographs. This however fails in comparison to seeing its grandeur in person. It truly touches the depths of your soul. 

Mapping Megan Glacier Hiking, Alaska

Tell me your best travel tip! 

Always carry a spare change of clothes in your carry on – including clean underwear! It usually only takes 24 – 48 hours for lost luggage to be returned to you, but if it does happen, having a spare change of clothes is a LIFE SAVER (trust me, I’ve had to walk around Italy wearing my husband’s briefs as underwear before!!!!).

You can find Meg here:

Website:          https://www.mappingmegan.com/

Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/mappingmegan

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/mappingmegan

Instagram:       https://www.instagram.com/mappingmegan/

YouTube:         http://www.youtube.com/user/mappingmeg

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