How a travel blogger made $1m in three years

Don't hate Johnny Ward, he just did what you've been dreaming of.

Meryl D'Souza January 16, 2017

The idea of travelling across the world may seem romantic, but it is hard to do. Johnny Ward knows this from experience. Before 2010, Ward spent most of his life like a nomad.

There were times when he didn’t know where his next meal was going to come from. Or if it was coming at all. The idea of being broke may be romantic, but living through it without a place to call home can be excruciating. 

After getting his degree in International Economics at university in England in 2006, Ward moved to Thailand to teach English.  Although he earned peanuts, he saved what he could and headed to Australia to take up a sales job. It was during this time that he came across a story by a blogger called Nomadic Matt who claimed to make $3,000 a month from his blog. 

Intrigued, Ward dug a little deeper. He found that his travel experiences trumped those of Nomadic Matt. Inspired, he decided to start one of his own. His only hurdle was that his digital knowledge was at the same level as his grandmother’s – non-existent. He decided to let a pro handle that bit and thus his blog was born in 2010.

Weary with his mundane nine-to-five, Ward quit his sales job – one where he once made $20,000 on commission – and headed to Africa. He was at an internet café in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when he checked his email. Someone called Baba Bojang offered Ward $85 to advertise on his blog. Convinced it was a prank, Ward played along until he saw the $85 in his PayPal account.

What started with $85 went on to become $500 in three months, $1,000 in six and by 2011 reached $1,500 a month. With his blog now generating a steady income, Ward decided to head back to Thailand. 

One of the first things he did with the money was buy a two-bedroom apartment in Thailand, in cash, where he now spends about three months out of every year working and relaxing before heading off again.

The revenue grew at a steady pace. Ward was making $2,500 per month while working for a maximum of five hours a week. He was living the dream. While partying at the clubs in Bangkok one night, it hit him: he could make so much more if he owned more websites.

Ward tried to solo it for a while but then realised he was starting to work more than play. That, to him, was unacceptable. So he hired a guy from Bangladesh and the two of them built two more sites before Ward bought his fourth website for $8,000 – a sum he made up in six weeks.

Inundated with work, Ward ended up branching out and creating his own digital media company, Step4Ward Media, managing over 200 sites. As the company expanded he managed to take on a handful of staff and freelancers; all working for him from their laptops. The anti-establishment rebel in him would not succumb to an office and accountability. 

In the short span of three months Ward had made his first million, and all while he was travelling the world, working from a laptop. Today, his business takes care of corporate blogging for companies, enhancing their SEO and helping develop their social media presence.  He earns about $800 - $1,400 a day. And despite being hit by a Google algorithm change that halved his revenue in 2014/2015, "it's never dipped below five figures in a month."

With his revenue stream flowing, Ward now has set his sights on becoming one of the youngest people to visit every country in the world. According to the UK Express, that goal is just a month away. So, how long before you start your own travel blog?