I first heard the word “entrepreneur” when I was in college, where I studied biomedical engineering. I never thought I’d really become one.
But in 2018, when I started my engineering career at the age of 23, I found that writing Packs Light, the travel blog I started in college, was what I looked forward to most every day. I realized then that I wanted to travel the world and create content for a living.
So, I slowly and strategically moved from working as a full-time engineer to the current full-time content creator. And I have found it very successful.
It started out as a hobby
At first I wasn’t making money with Packs Light. But in 2018, it made $ 2,000 through a few small social media campaigns. The following year, I made nearly $ 8,000.
In February 2020, after saving money and coming up with a plan, I quit my $ 69,000-a-year engineering job to work full-time as a blogger and consultant. Last year, my gross income from Packs Light was over $ 170,000.
My brand and social audience have grown a lot since 2018. Today I have 252,000 followers on TikTok and 50,000 followers on Instagram. I’ve already secured $ 30,000 in deals for January alone, and my hope is to double or even triple my 2021 earnings by the end of this year.
From a full-time job and side jobs to a 6-figure business
Thanks to scholarships and grants, I was able to graduate debt-free. To feel safe about quitting my job, I had to save at least $ 15,000 (for startup costs and an emergency fund).
I have been involved in side businesses doing virtual recruiting, dog sitting, freelance writing and social media management for extra money. I also lived at home with my parents – later with the roommates – to save on rent.
When I wasn’t doing any of these jobs, I created a catalog of articles and social media posts to grow the Packs Light audience. On the way to work, I would “write” blog posts using a voice-to-text app. I spent my lunch breaks interviewing young travelers to participate in Packs Light’s “Young Travelers Network” series.
I have also expressed an interest in traveling more for my work. On my business trips, I would use my grocery salary to try local black-owned restaurants or unique pop-ups to post on my blog.
Securing partnerships was essential to monetizing Packs Lights. So, in 2018, I started reaching out to brands to find out what they were looking for in an influencer partnership. So, I would propose them based on their answers. This is still my strategy for finding partnerships.
For example, GetYourGuide.com, an online travel agency, was looking for influencers with an American audience to buy their tours and businesses. Even though his best-selling businesses were in the United States, I launched a campaign to market their businesses in Mexico City, where I was residing at the time.
I conducted an interest survey among my followers and presented research that showed Mexico was becoming a top travel destination for Americans. Our campaign turned out to be a success.
How I increased my income
During my first year of full-time business, I worked on six partnership campaigns, each worth an average of $ 3,000. In 2021, when traveling got easier, I got 12 contracts and increased my income to around $ 10,000 per project.
My campaigns, which often consist of sponsored social media posts, blog content, and business-to-business marketing consultancy, make up the bulk of my business earnings.
I also have additional streams of passive income: blogging income, paid membership communities, and digital products such as online courses for aspiring digital nomads.
Since I started working full time, I have worked with major clients, including Facebook, The North Face, Delta Airlines, and Adidas.
I attribute my success to three main lessons:
1. Your “why” is an important part of any business presentation
It is more important to establish your “why” in the beginning. I have a deep and genuine love for travel. I like to show young women from all walks of life how they can find joy and meaning through travel, without all the planning stress that usually entails.
Someone who knows their “why” is more authentic and attractive to customers and clients because it makes it clear that they enjoy their job and are motivated by their mission.
2. Be firm and embrace mistakes
As an entrepreneur, you are making all the choices and it is so easy to waste time navigating through different options and potential outcomes. But we go much further when we try and fail.
Being decisive allows you to take advantage of last-minute opportunities and dedicate 100% of your effort and attention to the choices you make. Even if it turns out to be the “wrong” choice, the lessons you learn push you closer to success, especially when confronted with the paralysis of perfection.
I always like to say: “Done is better than perfect”.
3. Study your targeted customers and audience
Identify and get to know your top customers and followers. What are their interests? How and where do they spend their time?
I serve Generation Z and young millennials with my travel content, and since I am 26, I have a head start in understanding their social media behaviors. But I still experimented with publishing content on multiple platforms: TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
I got the most relevant engagement on TikTok and Instagram, so this is where I keep focusing my efforts.
This principle is also valid when you find corporate clients. Remember how I said earlier that I was going to ask brands what they were looking for in a partnership? It was me who figured out which customers they wanted to reach and how they wanted to reach them, then find a way to achieve their goals with my product.
Gabby Beckford is a digital nomad and travel expert, content creator and TEDx speaker. She educates and empowers young people to seek risk, seize opportunities and see the world through her website, Packs LWell. Follow her Instagram And Tic knock.
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