How This Journalist Started A $20K/Month Blog About Nomadic Lifestyle After Being Laid Off

Published: November 30th, 2023
Kristin Hanes
Founder, The Wayward Home
The Wayward Home
from United States
started June 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey there! My name is Kristin Hanes and I’m the publisher at The Wayward Home and podcaster at The Wayward Home Podcast, an online business dedicated to helping people achieve alternative living dreams, whether that’s van life, RVing, living on a sailboat or buying a tiny home.

My readers are a combination of people who either A) want a new American dream, away from 9-5 jobs, mortgages, car payments, and the “daily grind”, and B) retirees looking for an affordable way to explore and live and C) people who can no longer afford rent and expenses and looking for a new way of living.

There are so many people out there who are craving something different: freedom and adventure over stuff, more time outside, and living life on their terms. I hope to inspire these people and help them move from a “sticks and bricks” home to a new way of being.

While my signature product is my website and email list, I am working on developing other digital products as well. The very first course I created in 2022-2023 is called Niche Sites Made Easy: The Nomads Guide to Making Money Online, and in my first year, I sold $25,000 of this course. Many people out there want to live nomadically or but aren’t sure how to make enough money to do so. This course lays out the exact blueprint I wish I had when launching The Wayward Home way back in 2017. I hope to help others like me make money blogging, just like I do, as I think it’s the best way to make money as a nomad.

Over the past six years, I’ve grown my site to make up to $28,000 per month during peak season. Unfortunately, I was recently hit by a Google update called the Helpful Content Update in September of 2023, bringing my monthly revenue down to $10,000.

But this is just part of blogging, and I’m resilient and dedicated to bringing my revenue back up, and even to higher levels. Blips in the road are just one part of entrepreneurship and something all of us must be prepared for and take in stride.


Once my site was on the internet, I dedicated myself to taking courses to learn all about the business of blogging. I treated it like a new degree. I’d gone to school for journalism but knew NOTHING about online business.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Before I became an entrepreneur, I was a radio news journalist. This was the career I’d always wanted and went to school for at the University of Oregon. For 15 years, I did many interesting things, such as riding on a vintage B-17 bomber over the city of Seattle, greeting Air Force One and President Barack Obama at San Francisco International Airport, and covering countless fires, shootings, and crime scenes. It was an intriguing and exhausting line of work, and I loved it.

But in 2016, I was laid off along with the entire newsroom at KGO radio in San Francisco. I felt lost, unsure how to make money, and unable to get another job in the media. I moved out of my apartment and onto my boyfriend’s sailboat, which at the time had no running water, no bathroom, no internet, not even a stove. It was like glorified camping, and with no job, I often struggled and felt like a loser.

But in 2017, I read an article about Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents, and learned she made $100,000 per month….BLOGGING. I had no idea blogs even made money! As I investigated further, I got more and more excited about the possibility of creating my blog. I already loved to write, I loved interviewing people, and I loved making a difference. As a journalist, blogging seemed like the perfect career choice.

As someone in the media, I also knew that stories about alternative living were getting TONS of attention in traditional media outlets. People wanted to read about those living in vans, buses, and boats. So, I decided I’d create an entire website surrounding this very topic. I started interviewing nomads and publishing articles on my brand new site, which I’d painstakingly designed and that looked like crap.

At the same time, I was working as a fill-in web producer at SF Gate, the online division of the San Francisco Chronicle. The editor loved the stories I was writing on my new blog and asked if SF Gate could republish those articles using a canonical link. I had no idea what that meant, but knew the exposure could only be good, so I agreed immediately.

Many of my articles were syndicated not only on SF Gate but across the country to other Hearst-owned newspapers. The syndication helped to give my DA a major boost in the beginning, and after just six months, I had the required 25,000 monthly sessions to apply to the premium ad network Mediavine.

I also made my first $500 from a private advertiser in February of 2018. This was my first big win, and it showed me that my idea, and my site, could create a profit. As a broke former journalist, this was a turning point in my entrepreneurial life. I wanted to work harder than ever to make The Wayward Home my full-time income, so I could afford to travel full-time in the sailboat with my partner, Tom.


Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

In 2017, I knew nothing about website design or even how to build a self-hosted Wordpress site. I struggled through online tutorials and learned how to build a functional site with the page builder “Divi.” I’m surprised my site ever got traction because it looked so bad! But that goes to show that as business owners, we shouldn’t go after perfection, our goal should be to just get it done.

Once my site was on the internet, I dedicated myself to taking courses to learn all about the business of blogging. I treated it like a new degree. I’d gone to school for journalism but knew NOTHING about online business. I put my severance pay from KGO into course after course, until I finally took the course that changed my blogging career: Stupid Simple SEO by Mike Futia. I learned all about SEO and my articles started ranking on Google. Traffic skyrocketed in the summer of 2019, and I was able to hire my first writers and virtual assistant.

You can see in the image below how much my traffic went up when I applied search optimization principles:


In the beginning, my main goal in my new online business was to get traffic. Traffic = revenue, especially if you’re going after advertising revenue. Before I knew anything about SEO, I did all I could to get people over to my site. That included posting in Facebook groups, taking Pinterest courses and posting on Pinterest, and creating an email list where I’d email articles to my subscribers.

All those efforts were enough to get me into Mediavine six months after starting The Wayward Home.

Having an email list is one of my prized possessions over at The Wayward Home. Not only are these my most valuable customers, but they are also “my people.”

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching a blogging business isn’t all that hard or expensive, especially if you know web design. And in this day and age, it’s WAY EASIER with products such as the Kadence Theme, Kadence Starter Templates, and Kadence Blocks. Oh, how I wish I had all this back in 2017 when I started The Wayward Home.

When I launched, I purchased hosting from Bluehost and followed the steps to install WordPress. Then, I got to work designing with Divi and creating the best website I could. The entire expense of launching my business was probably around $50.

It did take time to start attracting customers, and by customers, I mean visitors to my website. I didn’t sell any digital products for many, many years, wanting more of a “news” type site with articles and advertising. It took a couple of months for me to get any real traffic, and this mostly came from referral traffic through syndication with SFGate, Facebook groups, and Pinterest.

I think creating an online blogging business is fantastic as it's so cheap. Just consider the costs of starting a blog versus starting any other type of business, especially brick-and-mortar. All you need is mental fortitude, curiosity, and the desire to apply yourself and learn. It cracks me up when people think they can create a successful blog or niche website with ZERO training. You need to spend money on courses to make money. There are many intricacies to blogging and SEO that people don’t realize. I’d highly recommend learning as much as possible before, during, and after launching a niche site.

To this day, I am still taking courses and learning, one huge reason why I love this line of work so much.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Having an email list is one of my prized possessions over at The Wayward Home. Not only are these my most valuable customers, but they are also “my people.” As a nomad living in a van and on a sailboat, it’s easy to feel on the fringes of society. None of my friends or family members back home are doing this or even understand what it’s like. The people on my email list “get me”, and I am so glad I started this way back in the very beginning.

When I launched my first product, Niche Sites Made Easy, in late December of 2022, I did a pre-launch sale to my email list with the simplest “Cart Checkout” page on Thrivecart. I was convinced only one or two people would buy my course.

Boy was I wrong. Over 50 people pre-purchased my course at the founder's rate of $97, resulting in $5,000 in sales in just one week! I was floored! My people came through, supporting my new business idea. They were excited to learn about making money blogging with a niche site. At the time, I had about 20,000 email subscribers, and many of them emailed me regularly and have for years.

I knew that because I have an email list, any future digital products I create will be received positively. After seeing their response to my online course, I can’t imagine selling digital products to a cold audience. I am so thankful for the people on my email list and appreciate their support.

I believe email works well because I took the time and effort to nurture the relationship. I treat my email subscribers as friends, sharing personal updates, asking how they are doing, and providing relevant and interesting content. I try to email my list at least once per week, and I have a couple of automatic sequences where I email twice per week when someone joins my list.

To gain new email subscribers, I was using Convertbox to create a variety of opt-ins for my website. These were mostly pop-ups that seemed to convert very well, but I recently turned them off in light of the Google HCU. I thought perhaps that contributed to my loss in traffic - were too many pop-ups blocking content? I am now experimenting with Grow’s Spotlight Subscribe feature, and adding an embedded email form to the middle and end of all my blog posts.

I have two main lead magnets on my site: one catering to the van life community (free van life starter kit), and one catering to wanna-be nomads (nomad starter kit).

Email marketing is a work in progress for me, though, as I’m constantly brainstorming new opt-ins and ways to get people onto my email list. My email opt-in rate is very low for the amount of visitors I get to my site, so one of my main goals is to improve this process.

Facebook ads have performed well for me in the past so I may try to implement this strategy again, especially if I create more products designed for the van life community to offset my advertising costs.

While my email list is how I RETAIN customers, my traffic is how I GET customers. Traffic from Google, or SEO traffic, is totally free, unlike paid advertising on Facebook, Google, or Instagram. I think this type of traffic is incredibly valuable which is why I work so hard at learning SEO and creating articles that can rank on Google. Once people arrive on my site, I try to retain them as customers by getting them to join my email list.

Creating an online business like a niche website is a long game. You won’t see immediate money and success. But if you work hard, you may end up with a profitable passive income machine so you can get out of the office and live the life you dream about.

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

To be completely transparent, at the time of this interview, I have lost 50% of my monthly income thanks to the Google Helpful Content Update. I went from around $20,000-$25,000 per month to $8,000-$10,000. This was very demoralizing at first and I didn’t want to work on my site for weeks. It’s extra frustrating because I can’t even tell exactly why my site was penalized so badly.

However, I do know that taking losses is just part of running an online business. I know what I need to do: add more income streams and more traffic streams to my site. I was relying too much on Google for traffic, and Google shouldn’t have that much power over my business and profit.. I have new plans to start creating more digital products, monetizing my podcast, seeking new traffic streams, and improving my backlink portfolio.

When we are hit hard as entrepreneurs, it’s a wake up call to ask ourselves: How can I improve? How can I better serve my audience? How do I recoup my lost income?

The beauty of online business is that there are so many options for growth. All it takes is creativity, discipline, and fortitude. And not lying around licking one's wounds for TOO long, right? We have to jump back on the horse and try to get it back up to a gallup again. There are just so many options and opportunities out there if we know where to look.

My long-term goals are to increase my reach and traffic. I’d love to hit one million monthly pageviews. I’d like to publish a book on van life and create a van life course. I’d like to reach 10,000 downloads per month on my podcast. These are all lofty goals, but they are achievable with the right amount of strategy and work, and I’m prepared to go at it for the long run.

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

I think my positive attitude has been the most advantageous thing for my business, haha. I’ve been through two Googe updates now, both of which had serious impacts on my bottom line. But I picked up the pieces and kept growing, and after the first update, had higher traffic and revenue than ever. Even now, I am continuing to smile and enjoy life, because $10,000 per month is still a VERY GOOD INCOME. It’s easy to just look at the loss and feel sorry for oneself, but it’s also very important to keep perspective.

Another advantageous thing is to always try new things. One year ago, I joined Rick Mulready’s Accelerator program which taught me how to pre-launch and create my course. That program was a huge risk because at $2,500 per month for a six-month commitment, it wasn’t cheap. But I made back what I spent on Rick’s amazing program with course sales, and I learned so many invaluable lessons along the way. I am not afraid to invest in my business and my learning, and that has paid back great dividends.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I have several favorite tools that help my business, which I’ll share in terms of what I use the tools for. I spend about $800 per month on my business tools, but that varies as I try new tools and get rid of old ones.


  • Ahrefs: For keyword research and checking on how my blog posts are doing
  • SurferSEO:For keyword cluster research and preparing briefs for my writers
  • RankIQ: For low-competition, long-tail keyword ideas, headline optimizer, and bog post optimizing

Digital Products:

  • Thrivecart: For sales pages and for course hosting
  • Leadpages: For sales pages, Tripwires, and lead generation

Email Marketing:

  • ConvertKit: Gathering leads, segmenting, email sequences, and broadcasts


  • Gusto: For payroll, paying contractors, issuing 1099s and managing my S Corp

Graphic Design:

  • Canva:Creating social media posts, templates, PDFs, digital products

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

  • Niche Pursuits Podcast: I love this podcast as it gives tips and advice on niche websites and how to make them successful
  • The Art of Online Business Podcast: Rick Mulready’s podcast is a treasure trove of online business tips, including funnels, products, and inspiring stories
  • Blogging with Lesli Peterson Podc ast: Great tips and advice aimed at bloggers
  • Grow the Show Podcast: Excellent podcast advice and success stories
  • Smart Passive Income Podcast: Pat Flynn has been around forever and has inspiring success stories and tips for online business owners

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

My biggest tip is to go get started right now! I see so many people working away the best part of their lives at jobs they don’t truly love. They’re sitting in offices, wishing they were doing something else. The good news is this: there IS something else and you can start doing it RIGHT NOW.

You can find time during the day and/or weekends to start working on whatever online business intrigues you the most. Learn all you can. Lower your expenses. Ditch your rent and go live in a van by the river while you figure all this out. My living expenses were CRAZY LOW when I started my blog as I was living on a non-functioning sailboat. Anything is possible!

If you are interested in starting a niche website like what I have, you must do your research before jumping in. I have a free PDF of 10 Profitable Blogging Niches (with examples)you can go download. You must make sure your idea is valid because you don’t want to waste your time, effort, and money. Niching down is always a good idea - if you want to do a baking site, can you niche down and do sourdough baking? If you want to do a pet website, what about focusing on a certain type of pet?

My biggest advice is to be authentic with your blog or niche site. Google is telling us to add our own experience and our insights and advice into our sites as much as humanly possible. They want real people telling real stories. So add your anecdotes and opinions to articles. Choose a niche you are passionate about and that you have a personal vested interest in. That is one of the main keys to blogging success.

Creating an online business like a niche website is a long game. You won’t see immediate money and success. But if you work hard, grow your business, take courses, and stick with it, you may end up with a profitable passive income machine so you can get out of the office and live the life you dream about.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m pretty much always looking for writers for my site. But I only hire nomads or subject matter experts. So if you currently live in a van, an RV, on a sailboat, or in a tiny home, reach out to me: [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!