On Starting A Travel Blog And Growing My Audience By 200%

Published: February 14th, 2021
Kelly Duhigg
Girl With The Pas...
from Manhattan Community Board 1, New York, USA
started January 2017
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Hi! My name is Kelly Duhigg and I am the owner and operator behind Girl with the Passport travel blog.

I use my ridiculously quirky personality and over the top sense of humor to provide my readers with expert advice on solo female travel in New York, Europe, and beyond.

I want to use my slightly weird and altogether unique voice to inspire my readers to get out there and live a life beyond their dreams. Because if I can do it then literally anyone can do it since I’ve grown my audience and income by over 200% within the last four years.

And now? Well, I’m a full-time digital nomad who gets paid to travel the world and write all about it on her super snazzy little blog.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

Like most of us, I started my professional life in a traditional 9 to 5 job. Okay, maybe not super traditional since I was a nanny but you know what I mean. I worked 40 hours per week for an okay paycheck and basically lived for the weekend and the measly two weeks of vacation time I received per year.

And that’s when I decided to take a break from it all and use my vacation time to go on a Mediterranean cruise with my mom. Especially since it was her life long dream to stand in awe of Rome and walk along its beautiful cobblestone streets with a huge cone of gelato in hand.

Sadly though, we never made it on that trip since I was hospitalized with a double kidney infection a few days before we were scheduled to depart. And then, when I finally did get home, my mom developed a bad cough that would eventually become a devastating diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer.

As a result, my mom eventually passed away without ever fulfilling her dream of visiting Rome in all its glory and splendor. And I never wanted that to happen again to me or anyone else I knew.

And so, Girl with the Passport was born! A travel blog that is designed to inspire other women to let go of their fears (especially around solo travel), follow their dreams and live a life they never thought possible. No matter what!

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I literally had NO idea what I was doing.

I just knew that I wanted to travel the world and get paid to do so.

So, I did literally the only thing I knew how to and googled, “how to start a travel blog”. I then followed the step by step instructions and created a ton of useless content that absolutely nobody wanted to read. I mean, it was funny but it didn’t make me a whole lot of money.

As I continued to work full time and blog on the weekends, I knew I wanted to take my blog to the next level and actually make some money.

That’s when I joined a bunch of Facebook groups for travel bloggers, chatted up a whole lot of pro bloggers, swan divvied into all things SEO (search engine optimization so that readers can find you on Google), learned what the hell affiliate marketing was (you get a unique link, use it to advertise other company’s products, and then earn a commission for every sale you make), honed my non-existent social media marketing skills, began to grow my email list, and eventually got a nice camera so I could take decent photos.

And now, four years later, the rest is history. I currently work as a full-time blogger and have been doing so for the past two and a half years. I also co-run a successful Facebook group where I help other bloggers transform their passion into a viable business.

Are everyday rainbows, butterflies, and daisies? Nope. Not a chance. Blogging is definitely an incredibly saturated and highly competitive industry. The social media landscape, in addition to best Google practices, is constantly changing and forcing me to develop new and incredibly diverse skill sets. I’ve had to learn the hard way that I need to diversify my income and traffic streams so that I am financially resilient to any global changes that are outside of my control.

But you know what? Despite all that, I absolutely LOVE what I do and actually get paid well for it.

Because unlike most people, I get to wake up every day and am excited about work. I cherish the idea that I get to create new and exciting content that will help women like me travel better, smarter, easier, and for a whole lot less money.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Since the travel industry has been hit quite hard by the pandemic, I am looking to currently diversify my business and expand into areas other than travel.

Instead of thinking about what you want to do and the content you want to create, think about your target audience. What problems do they have and how can you help them solve these problems in a way that will also be profitable for you?

I am also looking to get more financial return from each visitor to my site by creating an email travel course that will then funnel them into various pages on my site and several affiliates that I endorse. In this way, I hope to increase the total revenue I generate from each person who visits my site.

I am also looking to expand the overall reach of my brand by expanding into other social media markets and increasing my brand presence on platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram. In this way, I hope to create multiple traffic and income sources for my blog.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When I started my business, I didn’t really look at it as one. I just kind of wrote about whatever I wanted and hoped that people would find my site and stick around because they thought I was funny.

However, as I’ve grown and changed as an entrepreneur, I’ve begun to realize that I need to focus on making profitable content that my audience actually wants. Therefore, I have learned to assess who my target audience is and give them tools to help solve any problems that they might face. Tools that are usually affiliates that will make me money and that will help my audience members at the same time.

I have also begun to focus more on email marketing so that anyone who visits my site can quickly and easily be converted into a recurring income source. A committed reader who will continually buy things from me over the long term. I also love the fact that my email list is my own and can never be taken away from me, unlike other traffic sources that I have no control over.

And while this year has been challenging, it has forced me to take a look at what is working and what is not and to pivot my content if need be to meet changing demands. As a result, I have begun to focus my time on only the tasks that generate me the most revenue and potential financial gain.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are so many amazing tools out there for bloggers that help make life 10,000 times easier! I typically use Keysearch for keyword research so that I can find high volume, low competition keywords that I can rank for on Google.

I also love Tailwind for Pinterest since it helps me quickly and easily schedule my pins and exponentially expand my reach on that social media platform. Hootsuite is also great for social media scheduling. This way, I can schedule posts for the entire week at one time and then won't have to worry about them.

In terms of email marketing, I absolutely love Convertkit. Not only can you easily create customizable email sign up forms with your articles, but they make it easy to create email sales funnels and landing pages that you can use to encourage more people to sign up for your email list.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to sink all of your time into working. Because generally speaking, the more time you invest into your business, the faster it grows.

However, The Four Hour Workweek has given me a set of invaluable tools that have allowed me to focus on what is really important for my business so that I can work smarter, not harder. Because at the end of the day, I became my own boss to enjoy life and to stop working 12+ hours a day.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

My biggest advice would be to let go of the fear, go for it, and do whatever it is you love. I mean, I don’t think there’s any way you can ever be fully prepared for starting your own business. But that definitely shouldn’t prevent you from doing it.

Sure, you may not know it all and make mistakes along the way. However, that’s part of the process and why networking and connecting with entrepreneurs in your field is so important. They have real-life experiences and are only too happy to tell you about all of the mistakes they made along the way.

So, don’t get hung up on doing things perfectly since that is a myth and a total illusion. Instead, do your research and make a start, even if you need to make some tweaks along the way. I just think a lot of people get hung up on everything being perfect and it never really is. You just do the best you can and learn and grow and evolve as a business along the way.

I would also try and think like a business owner from day one. So instead of thinking about what you want to do and the content you want to create, think about your target audience. What problems do they have and how can you help them solve these problems in a way that will also be profitable for you?

I know I had delusions about writing the great American travel memoir. And the reality? I’m not famous and most people don't really give a fig about how my trip to China made me family. Instead, they want awesome tools that will help them save money and travel smarter.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can follow my journey and sign up for my email list at Girl with the Passport. You can email me at [email protected], and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.