What happens when you realize you're not cut out for a 9-to-5 desk job? If you're Kristin Addis, you pack a bag, buy a 1-way ticket to Asia, and set out on the greatest adventure of your life. But not just any adventure—a solo one.
Since 2012, Kristin has been growing her blog, Be My Travel Muse, and today it's one of the top women's travel blogs in the world. She's been featured everywhere from Vogue and Marie Claire to Inc. and Business Insider and more. She's also been to more than 60 countries around the world.
On a slow month, her blog brings in around $15k, but on a good month, she earns up to $50k.
To find out how she got started, where her income comes from, and the tools she uses, keep reading.
How It All Began
I’ve been running Be My Travel Muse for almost a decade now and have been to over 60 countries solo. I hadn't really traveled alone before starting my blog, but I was burnt out from a 4-year career in mergers and acquisitions and felt like there had to be something else out there for me.
I was born and raised in southern California and had studied abroad in Taiwan, and I missed how it felt to live in another culture. So, I quit my job, ended my lease, ended my relationship at the time, and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok.
I had no backup plan. And while I was there I started writing the blog, and the rest is history!
Why Kristin Addis Created Her Site
I’ve always loved being creative: painting, writing, and expressing myself. Photography and blogging were the perfect way for me to try out a new career path that was more in line with my interests and desires.
Plus, I’m not very good at having nothing to do. Even though traveling is obviously “something to do,” I needed a project to focus my energy on too.
How Much ‘Be My Travel Muse' Makes
My earnings can really vary from month to month. My highest earning months have been closer to $50k, but some lean months are more like $15k.
It’s important to remember that this is topline revenue, and a business like this has employees, high costs (when you factor in traveling, gear, and the tech required to run a large website), and it can be easily impacted by what’s going on in the world, like a pandemic.
So while that’s the topline, there are months when I’m reinvesting all of it back into the business. My main income streams are ad revenue from Mediavine, tours that I brand and run myself, partnerships with brands and destinations, and in the past I was freelancing as well.
The percentages of my income that these make up vary wildly from month to month and year to year.
These are stats from Mediavine:
And these are some of the trips I organize:
Kristin’s Winning Strategies
My main strategy is to be authentic and share what I think will bring value to people. I think that’s becoming more and more important and is taking the place of perfect, photoshopped photos.
One thing I do is that I treat each platform as though it’s totally different and unique to itself, with its own audience. I think, realistically, this is often the case, so rather than just seeing Instagram as a way to drive blog traffic, I focus on what is driving the most traffic to the blog and laser in on that, letting Instagram be its own entity within my business.
The same goes for YouTube. Here's one of my most popular videos:
The Importance of SEO for Kristin Addis
SEO is extremely important for my business, and pretty much every top travel blog I know of. It accounts for nearly 80% of my traffic.
My goal is to provide the best possible answer to any question that someone might have regarding our chosen topic, supported by great photos.
My biggest pet peeve is when I’m reading other blogs and the post says to “do your research.” Isn’t that why I’m on their site? At Be My Travel Muse, we like to answer the question fully and concisely and get to the point quickly.
Link building is very important, but we don’t do it in the way that many bloggers do. We don’t do link exchanges and haven’t participated in a round-up post in 5 or so years.
Instead, I focus on writing for bigger publications, being a source for journalists (HARO), and making the site the best it can be so that when a journalist needs a source, they find us.
We focus on the quality of links rather than quantity. And this strategy is working well.
Just in the past month alone, I’ve been a source for both Oprah Magazine and Glamour UK.
I mostly develop these contacts through interpersonal networking whenever possible, but for the most part, they come from people finding me and reaching out directly, usually from Google or another article where I have been a source.
That said, in the beginning, when major media wasn’t interested in my story yet, it was more about guest blogging for any site stronger than mine that I admired and was in my niche.
I pitched and networked with other travel bloggers and wrote guest posts for them as much as I could, and this helped a lot with my early growth.
The Path to Her Current Revenue
It took about 6 years to get to this point, but that’s to be at the point that we’re in the mid-six-figures in topline. It was providing a liveable wage to me from about year two.
That said, I lived cheaply. I traveled in Southeast Asia for two years, only stayed in shared dorms, hitchhiked when the money got really tight, and never gave up.
I recommend that anyone starting out should freelance as well. It's what I did in the beginning to make ends meet.
Traffic has been going up and down lately due to current events, but I get anywhere between 450k-500k pageviews per month.
Kristin Addis' Three Favorite Tools
The main tools I use in my business are:
- Google and YouTube Analytics: I’m a big analytics nerd. I’m always diving as much as I can into both Google and YouTube analytics.
- Where exactly are people dropping off?
- If I’ve lost some footing on a post, why is that?
- Who replaced me and what can I do to get that #1 spot back?
- Ahrefs: I also use Ahrefs, but for anyone whose budget doesn’t allow for a tool that costly, I really liked SwissMadeMarketing’s SEO Cockpit before I switched.
- Final Cut Pro: Finally, I love Final Cut Pro for editing. It takes things up a notch and is so much more robust than iMovie.
Her Greatest Challenge
My main challenges have mostly been things that are beyond my control.
You can be doing everything right, but then things can change and you’re forced to innovate, and quickly.
When I started, Twitter was all the rage, then came Facebook pages. Facebook algorithm changes have effectively killed that though, and maybe Instagram is following.
So then what's next?
Anyone who isn't ready to kill their darlings and move on is going to be left in the dust. And that creates amazing opportunities but also forces you to constantly change your business plans.
Kristin’s Biggest Accomplishment
I’m most proud of helping people change their lives.
It's definitely the most rewarding part of the whole thing. When someone reaches out to me and tells me that they planned a solo trip, that it was empowering, and that it changed the course of their lives—because it totally has the power to do that—I know that everything is worth it.
Sometimes the people reading my site have no support in their immediate circles, and solo traveling can be the most life-changing event for a person, and I love that people, especially women, often find the encouragement they need from my site and social channels.
What Kristin Addis Wishes She Knew Back Then
I honestly don't even go there. I can't go back and redo anything. Everything that I did led me to where I am and it was always right on time and I trust in the process, so I don’t look back and apply any wish-i’d-knowns or what-ifs.
Her Main Mistake
I wish that I had understood how important Instagram was going to be from the beginning.
It didn't occur to me that I needed to be putting way better photos up there from day one. I would just snap them with my phone and put the worst filters on them.
And yet, I was taking really good photos for the blog with my camera! I don't know why I didn't think of editing those and then uploading those versions of the photos. But you live and you learn.
Kristin's Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
My advice would be to differentiate as much as you can.
It has never been more important to have a defined niche. But I feel like that is relatively easy to find, because it’s your passion. It's you. Put yourself into what you do.
And know that nobody is really an overnight success. I think the most important ingredients for success are a willingness to keep learning, and grit.