In 2020, at the age of 24, I quit my job as an engineer to devote myself to my travel blogging activity. It turned out to be the best career decision I have ever made.
My blog, Packs Light, brought in over $170,000 in gross revenue last year from sponsored social media posts, blog posts, and B2B marketing consultations.
But my success has not been easy. When Packs Light started it was just a hobby, and I had no idea how to create content that would increase readership and attract customers. I had to find mentors, ask questions and accept failures.
The good news is that I can now give advice to people who want to turn their side business into a profitable full-time business. Although you can’t anticipate everything that will happen on your journey, knowing the obstacles you will inevitably face can help you stay motivated and mentally prepared.
Here are four things I wish I had known sooner:
1. In the beginning, you’ll take on roles you didn’t even know existed
The key to success is to be independent and to learn continuously. If you really want to start a business, you need to be prepared to take on as many roles as necessary.
As a content creator and marketing consultant, I’ve worn every hat imaginable: writer, photographer, graphic designer, editor, accountant, and marketer. I also had to teach myself how to do all these things.
I regularly applied for corporate grants and pitch competitions. And to save money by not hiring a web designer, I launched the Packs Light site on my own.
do all this work and working full time was exhausting. But I’m glad I did, because you can’t start delegating until you have a solid understanding of how every aspect of your business works.
2. Invest in building a team
Once your business begins to grow rapidly, don’t operate with the mindset of trying to do it all yourself. Plan ahead and strategize how to build your team.
Today, I have a personal assistant, a blog manager, a management agency, and a whole bunch of entrepreneurs. But I wish I had known earlier that growing a team is a key ingredient in creating a sustainable business and work environment.
In “The Big Leap”, psychologist Gay Hendricks says there are four working areas:
- The zone of incompetencewhere you’re doing things you’re not good at, and therefore wasting time.
- The area of competence, where you do the job, but no better than the next person.
- The area of excellence, where you do things you love and do better than most people.
- The Engineering Zone, where you do things that you are intuitively amazing at, and that only you can do.
Time is the most precious resource. And Hendricks says that to see the best business results, entrepreneurs should spend as much time as possible in The Zone of Genius. Developing a team ASAP allows you to outsource the work you’re not good at and focus on the tasks where you shine.
3. Not everyone will be happy for you
When I shared that I made $170,000 in my first year of full-time blogging, I received many congratulatory messages. But some were less supportive.
People online said I was wasting my engineering degree, while others suggested I just got lucky with my success.
Now, when I face criticism for my business or my entrepreneurial lifestyle, I don’t allow myself to feel down. I’m watching Brené Brown’s Netflix show, “A Call to Courage.” She quotes Theodore Roosevelt: “It’s not the criticism that counts. The credit belongs to the man who is really in the arena.”
Don’t take criticism from people who aren’t willing to bet on themselves and are taking the risk to pursue their passions in life.
4. Don’t let money be your driving force
Having a six-figure year as a small business will mean different things to different people. This can mean breaking out of the five-figure range the first time around, but it can also mean tipping over $1 million.
Financial milestones are fun, but ultimately they are arbitrary. It’s more satisfying to be able to say “I’m financially free” or “I do what I love every day” or “I’m having an impact”.
Enjoy the milestone, but don’t get caught up in the race for your next turnover. To be successful, you need to remember your “why” and keep going. Financial success will eventually follow.
Gaby Beckford is a digital nomad, travel blogger, content creator and TEDx speaker. She educates and empowers young people to seek risk, seize opportunity and see the world through her website, Packages Llight. Follow her on instagram and ICT Tac.