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Johnny Ward of One Step 4Ward is one of the biggest bloggers in the business. Travel Continuously caught up with Johnny to find out how he made his millions and what the future holds for the travel blogging industry.
Johnny Ward is an average Irish guy with an extraordinary story. He’s travelled to every single UN country in the world- all 193 of them- and he’s made well over a million dollars online, through blogging and business. His story sounds incredible, and it is, but the thing is, it’s possible for anyone to do what he’s done too. Johnny’s story is extraordinary, but when you break it down, it’s hard work, persistence and determination that have got him where he is today. Jordan Simons interviewed Johnny to find out his story.
Jonny Ward. Just A Normal Irish Guy.
Johnny has recently completed his journey to visit every country in the world and he reckons that from blogging, he’s now made almost 2 million Dollars. His journey really started in 2007, when he moved to Thailand to teach English.
“A lot of people have these beautiful stories”, Johnny says. “They were sitting in a cubicle, and they say screw this, and you know what I never really did that. I started travelling literally the day after I finished University so I never really joined the real world. For me there was no real epiphany. I decided to take a gap year, then at first I thought that after I was going to move to London, to work in the city in finance.
“I had no money at the time. I come from quite a poor family, I wanted to travel but I couldn’t afford to so I taught English in Thailand instead. That was my first move after graduating University in 2006. But in my first year in Thailand I thought this is the lifestyle, this is better than selling my youth to the highest bidder in the finance world. So I made a decision then to never return to the ‘Real World’ even if it was a world I’d never really been apart of. And from there I decided to try and work out a way to try and maintain that lifestyle”.
In Search Of A Life Of Freedom.
Johnny didn’t set out to conquer the blogging world or make a million dollars when he first landed in Thailand back in 2007.
“Blogging wasn’t a thing back then, Instagram didn’t exist. Now people can look at me and they can be inspired, they can see that you can make money doing this. We were the trailblazers if anything, we were the first generation of people making money online. I heard rumours and whispers of people making money from websites and Google adverts”.
It wasn’t a quick jump to riches though, and the main goal for Johnny was the freedom to travel. It wasn’t until 2010 that he made his first dollar online, 3 and a half years after starting a blog but up to that moment, “…every decision I made was trying to drag me into a world where I would be free to make money from my laptop, to make me free”.
Travelling To Every Country In The World
Just as making a million dollars wasn’t Johnny’s original goal, he never intended to set out to travel to every country in the world, this was something that evolved later.
“My goal was to be free, to travel in terms of not being on holiday. The freedom of travel, to be free was the real goal and with that freedom I then decided to try and visit every country in the world.
“When I was younger we couldn’t afford to go on holiday. I grew up in a single parent family on benefits, so even with my friends going to Spain, or the USA, I was just stuck in Ireland. I really felt confined and I always said that as soon as I have the freedom to make my own decisions I’m going to really spread my wings and go to random places all over the world”.
Initially the goal was just to be free but as Johnny started to make money online he started to realise that he was free to a higher extent than he’d ever imagined possible. He realised that he could aim higher than he had before.
“When I was about 27 blogging started to take off for me and I decided to visit 100 countries before I was 30. I was on 49 at this point and I’d visited that many by mistake because I loved travelling. I thought: there’s roughly 200 countries, I’ve done a quarter by mistake, I’ll aim for another 50 before I’m 30. I’m a real goal orientated person, and when you quantify it it gives you a long term goal. Whether it’s business, money, travel, life… it’s easier to break the goal down into chunks and chip away at it”.
Johnny made a big effort to see every country too, not just tick to them off a list, and that took a long time.
“I know a lot of people are trying now to go to every country in the world and are just border hopping and I made a real point to not be that guy, so for me to visit every country in the world took me almost ten years of full time travel, whereas now I know some people have been doing it in as little as two years.
“It’s a huge sacrifice, you miss birthdays and Christmases and funerals and weddings. It’s sort of selfish but it’s a beautiful selfishness”.
How To Make Money Blogging
Johnny has made money online using a variety of methods. Some require lots of traffic, others very little, but with so many ways to make money online there’s a chance for everybody to succeed.
“With blogging, you can make money through direct advertising, where Berghaus or Turkish Airlines for example will physically buy a space on your website and you rent that to them but you need a lot of traffic, even I’m only just at the bottom level of that where you can even begin to talk about it.
“Then you’ve got google ads, although this will only make a few hundred bucks a month unless you have huge traffic. There’s link sales, where brands will pay for an article on your site- that’s the easiest most lucrative way to make money when you’re just starting- there’s affiliate marketing and brand ambassadorship.
“When you get to hundreds of thousands of followers or readers on your blog brands will pay you anywhere between 500 and 5000 dollars a month to be their ambassador and that’s really lucrative, but the point is there’s really a lot of ways to make money”.
An important factor says Johnny, is Domain Authority– how much Google trusts your website.
“Domain Authority is important and as you start to write more and regularly update your blog, as people link to you and you get featured your authority will slowly increase. Once you get to a score of about 30- which if you’re good you could do in about a year- then advertisers will want to start to purchase blog posts on your website.
“For example, a holiday company might want to buy an article on your site and within that there would be a link to their website which they will pay you for. It’s a very easy and very lucrative way to make money. That’s how I made my first million, it’s easy and you can scale it quickly, and it’s easy to find more advertisers”.
Is There Space For More Bloggers Even In 2018?
It’s harder these days to make money so easily, but Johnny says there are always more opportunities. These days, it is all about quality though.
“There are still massive opportunities. There are always opportunities. It’s ignorant to deny that the market isn’t saturated, but there’s always room for one more quality anything, one more sneaker brand, one more sunglasses brand, one more blog, one more Youtube channel. If it’s quality, there’s always space for quality. All you end up doing is pushing some of the lower quality stuff out, and that’s fine. So long as you aspire to create quality content then there’s more than enough space.
“The internet is only getting bigger, and the money floating around the internet is only becoming bigger. It’s slightly harder, you have to create better content than when I fist started. Now you have to aspire to create something of better quality.
“It all blew up in about 2012 and I was making footballer money, crazy money for months and months but then google released a new algorithm called penguin and that devalued the strength of the adverts on your site and that reduced my revenue by about 70 percent but now the last 12 months it’s completely come back and it’s flying again.
“The price per article, per link is probably down a bit though, because of supply and demand, the economics of it- there’s more blogs out there- but the amount of SEO companies out there too who know the value of these links has increased so it’s totally viable, even as a 6 or 7 figure business”.
Johnny’s Proudest Moments Travelling And Blogging
“My proudest moment was when I bought my first apartment. That was huge for me. I was 29 and I’d always had this huge dream of being mortgage free in my 20’s, and then I bought a nice apartment in Thailand in cash, tax free, mortgage free. You never know when it will all end, you have to invest money wisely when you have it. I don’t have a career, and if it all goes wrong this is all I’ve got so buying an apartment meant I’d always have a roof over my head.
“My second proudest moment was visiting my third last country. My 195th was Yemen and I’d spent so much time and thousands of dollars in Oman trying to get in. Eventually I managed to bribe this guy who got me on an Indian cargo ship. It was dangerous, there were pirates and when I landed on Socotra Island that was a massively proud moment, as I already had my Saudi visa- my second to last country- and Norway was the last one.
“Thirdly- without getting soppy- I would also say being able to take care of my mum is something I’m really proud of. She always took care of me when I was a kid. She always supported me and when I was backpacking she supported me emotionally too. People would always ask when would I get a real job and she would always say look he’s doing what makes him happy”.
Have There Ever Been Moments Of Doubt?
Johnny has never doubted what he is doing, but there have been moments when he has thought of flying back to Ireland or Thailand to have a break from travelling.
“Many times when I was trying to get to every country in the world, when I was on my own or dealing with police or corruption I thought I’m just going to fly back home and recover for a year but you’ve just got to keep going, eyes on the prize”.
In terms of money too, Johnny is always looking for new avenues, as you can never be sure in the online world when things will take a turn for the worse.
“It’s not so much doubt when it comes to money- money’s not the most important thing in the world of course- but it is naive to say its not important. You need it. The dream is to be free, and to be free you need money, that’s the reality. You can be a hippy and hug trees but that’s the reality.
“I continue to believe that this business model, this revenue will not be around all the time. Things are always changing. And when you find a way to make money you’ve got to be as aggressive as you can, you’ve got to drive it to make money when it’s there. I’ve never doubted what I was doing but I was well aware that I had to make as much money as I could while I could”.
Give Back Give Away
Johnny’s next project is the Give Back Give Away, a charity he set up with his long time friend Josh that aims to give travellers a meaningful travel experience, a chance to give back to needy communities and to travel at the same time.
“Me and Josh decided we wanted to give something back as travel had given us so much, and we wanted to use my social media, my platform to generate money from my followers that we could allocate to projects around the world.
“We built a dormitory in Thailand, a playground in Cambodia, a learning centre in Myanmar. It’s proven popular and is resonating with a new wave of travellers who understand they are lucky to travel but realise that not everyone is so lucky, and rather than spending ten weeks and 15K on a trip, they maybe travel 8 weeks instead and spend the same budget but leave a lasting and positive effect on a community that’s not so lucky. We are trying to expand, and we are running four trips with the charity this year.
“The concept is its a two week trip, you work hard for 3 or 4 days, build something, then explore for the next ten days. It’s a really fun trip.
“We hope it’s the start of a movement where more companies and travellers start to give back more, and not in the concept of voluntourism where you pick up a baby and take an Instagram and teach English for an hour and pretend you make a difference. It’s the opposite of that, you liaise with a community and you understand exactly what they want and need and you help them with that direct need. It just feels good. It’s stressful raising funds but worthwhile”.
You can find Johnny’s Website at onestep4ward.com
The Give Back Give Away is an awesome charity that is changing the way people travel and helping out less fortunate communities around the world. Find out more about the project at givebackgiveaway.com
Interview By Jordan Simons
Article Compiled By Richard Collett
All Photos From onestepforward.com
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