Success Harbor: What were you doing prior to starting Goats On The Road, what is your business/professional background?
Goats On The Road: Before we started traveling, our careers had nothing to do with our current business.
Dariece was a real estate paralegal and I was a printing press operator. We both lived in Calgary, Canada and had a pretty comfortable lifestyle.
Our jobs were high paid and secure.
Before starting the site we had no previous experience with online business, WordPress, blogging or social media (aside from our personal Facebook accounts).
I had taken some visual arts media (movie editing), photography and writing courses when I was younger, simply because they were things that I enjoyed, but I never thought that they would all come in so handy later on down the road!
Success Harbor: How did you get the idea to become a location independent entrepreneur?
Goats On The Road: The idea didn’t come to us until we had already been traveling for a couple of years. In fact, we didn’t really know that being a “location independent entrepreneur” was even feasible for a couple of budget backpackers in love with travel.
For our first year abroad, we were sending emails back to our families to keep them updated with our trip.
During our second year on the road, we started a blog called Goats On The Road, but it was on a free hosted blog site so we didn’t own the domain.
It was during that second year of backpacking, that we came across this post on OneStep4Ward.com while we were in India. After reading it, we both felt inspired and Dariece said: “You should start a proper blog for us”.
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A couple of months later we bought our domain: “GoatsOnTheRoad.com” and started slowly plugging away at our new “hobby”.
Success Harbor: What do you think are the most important skills one should have to succeed as a location independent entrepreneur?
Goats On The Road: I don’t think that people necessarily have to have a particular skill to be successful.
Sure, if you’re going to blog, you should at least know how to read and write and maybe take a few photos, but I honestly believe that people just need to have confidence that everything will work out.
It may sound cheesy, but our lives didn’t start falling into place until we were following our dreams and living our passion.
If you are spending too much time doing something that you don’t enjoy, then life is going to keep throwing unenjoyable experiences your way.
If you change-up your life and start doing something you love, suddenly the world sees that you’re happy and it will send you more happy experiences and moments.
In my mind, the independent entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily need to be skillful, he or she just needs to be confident that everything will work out.
The first step to location independence and its subsequent happiness, often starts with a giant leap into the unknown.
Don’t hold back. Run at it full speed and dive into whatever it is that makes you happy.
Success Harbor: What were your goals and expectations when you started Goats On The Road?
Goats On The Road: Really, when we started we weren’t sure what to expect.
We had read that article on OneStep4Ward, so we knew that it was possible to make some money online, but we weren’t sure if we “had what it took”.
Our main goal at first was to make enough money from the blog to support our traveling lifestyle.
At the time, that was about $1,500 / month and it seemed like an exorbitant amount to make from a travel blog, especially one that was only getting about 25 visitors / day! But that was the goal we had set for ourselves.
Success Harbor: What were the biggest challenges during the first year of Goats On The Road?
Goats On The Road: EVERYTHING WAS A CHALLENGE AT FIRST!
I’d have to say that the biggest challenge, though, was not having the “code know-how” to translate my creativity onto the design of the site itself.
I was the one in charge of the more “geeky” aspects of the blog and I just didn’t get it.
I remember sitting in a little internet cafe in the Philippines and we had drawn designs on a notepad of what we wanted the site to look like. We had pages and pages that included menus, images, videos etc. Then, when I opened my laptop to convert our brilliant drawings onto the blog… I was completely lost.
I remember it took me about 2 hours to figure out how to make a menu item drop-down in WordPress.
Definitely, the design learning curve stunted my imagination and humbled my approach to the aesthetics of a travel blog! These days we have a designer and I’m happy that I don’t need to worry about all that code mumbo jumbo!
Success Harbor: What did you do right and what would you do differently if you had a chance to start over? (Please don’t spare us from the details.).
Goats On The Road: At first, I don’t think we did much right.
The biggest mistake we made was copying all of our articles and photos from our free hosting blog, over to our new domain.
Of course, now we know that the Google Gods condemn duplicate content and we were probably penalized for creating a site that was completely identical to another.
Also, like many travel bloggers out there, our original blog was simply a chronological journal of our travels. While this is great for friends and family, a lot of people didn’t care so much about what we did last Wednesday.
We also did everything to try to rank in Google.
I guess we read too many old SEO articles that were all about jam-packing keywords.
Our post titles weren’t logical and many of our articles didn’t sound natural.
We’ve since learned that the best way to get the search engines to like you, is to write kick-ass content that helps people.
I’m sure we had heard that before, but knew little about what would constitute as a useful, helpful post.
We still have a personal aspect to our blog, which I think is important, so keeping ourselves as part of the brand was a good move in the beginning. But today we have a separate section for people who want to follow our story, and two-thirds of our articles are travel inspiration and how-tos on making money abroad and living a financially sustainable lifestyle.
I’m really happy that we chose the name “Goats On The Road” when we started out because I think it’s memorable and it adds character to our brand. Our readers now frequently refer to us as “the Goats” and we love it.
Success Harbor: On your website, you state “We’re location independent and masters at making money abroad. We travel at our own pace, stopping if we decide to teach English or house sit. We’ve chosen this unconventional way of life and are completely stress-free, happy and alive.” What are the reasons your lives with your location independent business is “stress-free and happy”?
Goats On The Road: For us, our life is stress-free and happy because we are ALWAYS doing what we love.
We absolutely love being on our laptops, connecting with other travellers and great bloggers and creating a resource that people find useful.
We only work when we want, and because we love our jobs so much, we don’t even consider it work. I remember, working in that plant in Calgary, I would spend entire 12-hour shifts constantly looking at the clock and wishing time would go faster so that I could go home.
Today, 4 hours flies by on the computer and we have to peel ourselves away to go enjoy the beauty of our island life.
Our happiness and lack of stress come from freedom. The freedom to live where we want, do what we want and be what we want.
When we were at home, we were shackled to a system that we didn’t agree with. Debt, commitments, drama and stress all tied us down and limited our freedoms. Now we’re committed only to things that we love and we’re able to spend our lives together… in paradise.
The amazing thing is that I know hundreds of friends and family in Canada that are still in the same position that I was in when I lived there and they could so easily break free if they chose to.
I think it’s all about finding a work/life balance, wherever you are.
You don’t need to travel to be happy.
Maybe you just want to spend more time with your family or perhaps you want to hit up the golf course 7 days a week.
I think that when you balance your life between work and leisure, stress starts to lift and happiness floods in.
Success Harbor: How did you promote your blog in the beginning?
Goats On The Road: When we first started blogging, we didn’t really know how to promote our writing!
It took us an entire year just to open a Facebook and Twitter page for our site.
I think that was what I would consider our first method of promotion and at the time, with just 20 or 30 followers, it really didn’t make much of a difference.
We also wrote guest posts on a few other domains.
Success Harbor: What are the most effective ways to promote your blog today?
Goats On The Road: Today we use Triberr to share our content with like-minded bloggers in our niche and they then share it with their followers and their followers share it and so on.
Triberr can be an effective tool, but I think our most valuable marketing ploy is something I learned from Adam Costa of TravelBloggersAcademy.com and I’ve since dubbed it “The Guest Post Bomb”.
Basically, we write 20 – 40 original, awesome articles and we pitch them to 20 – 40 great bloggers. Once we get a large amount of them accepted, we ask every blogger to publish them on (or around) the same day.
We find that when the online travel market is suddenly saturated with our content, it creates a buzz and makes people think “hm… why haven’t I heard of these bloggers before?”
We finished a Guest Post Bomb in 2013 and it accounted for a 31% increase in traffic that was fully retained (meaning we had a huge spike in traffic, which never went back down).
Success Harbor: Can you describe the different ways that you monetized your blog?
Goats On The Road: We started the same way many travel bloggers start, with sponsored posts (don’t tell Google) and we’ve since stopped that because it’s too risky. If people are paying you for links… you’ll get penalized!
We also have some affiliate partners, the best paying ones are TEFL247, Trusted Housesitters, and World Nomads.
But just having those alone isn’t enough to support our travels.
Today, the best monetization strategy we have is banner ads and freelance writing. Making money from Freelance writing is a two-fold approach that has proven to be very beneficial for our blog and our brand.
Companies pay us to write informative articles on their site, and we get to link those articles back to our blog. So not only are we getting paid, we’re also driving valuable traffic and links back to Goats On The Road.
Success Harbor: At what point did you decide that you were ready to monetize your blog and what advice do you have other to start monetizing their own blogs?
Goats On The Road: We started trying to monetize after about a year, with banner ads and affiliate sales but we really didn’t make a cent from this.
If you know that one day you want to make money from your blog, then you should start to monetize it now.
If you build a readership that loves your blog because they never see banner ads, and then you decide to monetize and you start putting up ads and affiliate sales, you may offend them. But, if you have these ads from the start, then they’ll already be used to it and there’s a better chance that your readers will understand your monetization strategy, and maybe even try to help you out.
Success Harbor: What is your process of creating great content, something that stands out?
Goats On The Road: I think our greatest content is planned out before we start writing.
For our Backpacking Guides, we have a template that we follow that makes sure that we cover EVERY ASPECT of traveling to the destination.
For other articles, I like to draw a mind map and make sure that the article will have continuity and depth before I begin writing.
There’s nothing worse than starting an article like “25 Awesome Ways Make A Cookie” and then, after writing for an hour, realizing that you only have 3 ways and none of them are awesome.
Mind mapping and creating our own post templates is a great way to ensure that we cover all bases and pump out some awesome content.
Success Harbor: What are the reasons you have managed to build a successful blog with substantial traffic?
Goats On The Road: I contribute a lot of our success to the great connections we made along the way.
We reached out to top bloggers in our niches like ThePlanetD and Vagabondish and they were so generous in helping us out.
It’s amazing how selfless and empathetic top bloggers can be to those who are just starting out. I’m happy to say, that in the travel and lifestyle category, most bloggers seem to be very accommodating and helpful.
We would never be where we are today without the help of top bloggers who allowed us to have our articles seen on their sites and shared by their readers.
Success Harbor: What challenging and uncomfortable things do you push yourself today, to take your location independent business to the next level?
Goats On The Road: These days we’re all about reaching out and we’re always challenging ourselves to write better articles to be seen on more sites.
In October, we’ll have written 50+ articles for some really great blogs and, while it’s been hard to come up with so much original, quality content, we know that it will pay off in the long run.
But we’re always careful to limit the “challenging and uncomfortable” and balance it with the “fun and exciting”.
Even with all of the work we have in October, we’re only spending about 25 hours / week on the blog. For us, it’s important that we stay happy, refreshed and energized if we want to continue to grow our business and our brand over time.
Success Harbor: What mistakes do you see aspiring location independent entrepreneurs make that might prevent them from success or slow their progress?
Goats On The Road: Over-thinking.
We hear too many people making too many plans before they head into this unknown lifestyle. We’ve had emails from readers who follow us and have decided to live a location independent lifestyle, but first they have to work for 5 years, pay off their car, pay off their student loans etc.
I believe that the key is to just go for it.
You don’t need a lot of money to travel these days, in fact, we share plenty of ways to travel for free and make money abroad on our site, so nobody needs to be rich to start this life.
The most common mistake that we come across is when people wait until tomorrow. The world is there now, the money is there now, the life is there now. Just go for it!