Johnny Ward, a 32-year-old Irishman intent on “living life with passion,” is one.
He’s one of a handful of travel bloggers in the world earning six-figure incomes each year through their blogging.
In a few weeks he’ll complete a decade-old quest to visit every country in the world, a mission he’s documenting on his onestep4ward
An impressive achievement on its own. That he’s been able to earn more than $1 million over the last three years through blogging puts him firmly in the “whaaaaa?” category of inspirational own-your-own-life stories.
And he seems astonished that so few others are doing the same.
It’s hard to tell whether he thinks us office drones are dumb or he has sympathy for our plight. But he speaks with the zeal of an evangelist who’s seen the light and can’t believe no one else is even looking.
“If I can do this, anyone can do it,” he says via Skype from a stylish two-bed apartment in Bangkok that he bought outright with his earnings. “It just takes a bit of belief.”
And he seems to genuinely believe it.
“I’ve been extolling the virtues of chasing your dreams and living the free life that you want to live and not signing up to the nine to five slog for years, you know. So it’s a bit disappointing that only when I mention the money does it go viral.
“I understand it — money is important and I’m grateful for all the attention. But it’s a little sad too.”
He’s referring to last summer, when Business Insider, HuffPo, Forbes and others picked up his $1-million-in-three-years story.
But what comes easy to Ward doesn’t come easy to everyone.
His tale starts in 2006, when he left university in the UK and headed straight to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to teach English.
He earned peanuts.
After a year he moved to Sydney as a sales rep, cold-calling customers, and earned $20,000 commission in one month.
Ward quickly points out that was a one-off — but here we get our first clue to Ward’s success — he’s a born salesman.
“I have no problem asking for the world. If you don’t ask you don’t get,” he concedes.
Having saved some money, and growing bored of the cubicle life, Ward quit to travel. But forced to see out his notice period, he started a blog.
While traveling through Ethiopia he won his first ad.
“A great day. I started posting more regularly, and by Christmas I was making about $500 a month.
“Around this time too all the stuff about SEO and link-building was starting to take off. By 2011 I was hitting $1,000-2,000 a month and I was starting to realize that this was legit, that I could actually earn a living doing this.”
He launched and bought more websites.
“Eventually I was making upwards of five figures a month, with the best month being $60,000. That was amazing. And so I worked out that averaging about $30,000 a month, over three years I made about $1 million. It’s all totally accurate and real.”
‘I just want to be free’
From his single blog his stable has grown to around 250 websites and Ward also now runs an online media company.
In a move “The 4-Hour Work Week” author Tim Ferriss would be proud of, he outsources a lot of the hard graft so he can work just a few hours each week.
He says: “I just want to be free, you know. I want to be financially strong enough to be able to do what I want. If I want to go to Brazil tomorrow, I want to be able to go. That’s it.
2009: Started a travel blog, posting once or twice a week
2010: Got a request for a single $85 ad
2010: Posted more frequently, saw more ads come in
2011: Generated revenue of up to $2,000 per month
2013: Started to ramp up with more sites and more content marketing
2013: Hit a high of $60,000 in a single month
2015: Passed 250 websites under management and $1 million in earnings