How This Attorney Started and Grew a Travel Blog as a Hobby

How This Attorney Started and Grew a Travel Blog

Many people are held back by limiting beliefs. They don’t take action because they don’t know where to start, and they don’t think they can succeed.

While Julianne Brainard was working full-time as an attorney, she complained about not having any hobbies. A co-worker pointed out that she loved to travel and suggested she start a travel blog.

The problem? Julianne didn’t know the first thing about blogging.

But she didn’t let that stop her. Julianne Googled “how to start a blog” and quickly launched her travel blog. A year later, she started earning consistent income through Mediavine.

In this interview, Julianne shares her story and how she uses social media, SEO, and email marketing to grow her online business while enjoying the flexibility that comes with it.

Key Takeaways

🩴 This successful blog began as a simple hobby
🤷‍♀️ Julianne knew nothing about blogging when she started, but she dove in and took action
📌 Traffic from Pinterest was key to the blog’s growth
🥰 Today, Julianne makes money blogging about something she loves

Overview

Business Name: Pints, Pounds, & Paté
Website URL: https://www.pintspoundsandpate.com/
Founder: Julianne Brainard
Business Location: Online (US)
Year Started: 2018
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 0 (soon to be 1)

How much revenue does the business generate?

It depends! Last year (2023) was just over $80,000.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I trained and worked as a lawyer, both at a big law firm and in-house at a pharmaceutical company. I really enjoyed it, but needed something as a hobby, for myself, in my (very limited) free time. So, I took the plunge and started the blog one Sunday morning in my living room, after literally Googling “how to start a blog.”

And Pints, Pounds, & Pate was born! It started as a blog purely about European travel, and it was very much in the ‘diary’ format. But, I learned a lot along the way and the blog has grown to include tons of US travel topics, in addition to lifestyle and family topics. In 2020, as travel was largely off the table, I also added an Etsy store.

My parents have run a small business for most of my childhood, so I had some basic business acumen from watching them. The legal training did come in handy when it came to starting an LLC, etc.

Julianne Brainard

How does your business make money?

My most significant source of income is hosting ads on my website through Mediavine. I’ve been with them since 2019, and it’s a very low-maintenance revenue source. That said, I always have to keep generating significant traffic to my website, to make the sort of money I want to make. Seasonal traffic fluctuations and advertiser ad spend mean I’m always working to generate more!

I also use several different providers for affiliate links. Given my audience, affiliate links can be hit or miss, so they aren’t a consistent revenue source. Sometimes a person may buy nothing, and other times someone orders all of their Christmas presents through your links. 

Ad revenue is much more predictable for me, and I can view my stats year-over-year.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

When I was working at my law firm, I was complaining that I didn’t have any hobbies. An attorney coworker gave me the idea! She said, “You do have hobbies, you’re always going on trips to Europe. Why don’t you start a blog?” 

It was a phenomenal idea. Now that I think about it, I really need to thank this friend. She may not even remember!

So, that very weekend, I sat down and Googled “how to start a blog.” Then, probably without quite enough forethought, I kicked things off! Of course, there are things I’d do differently if I could retrace my steps (for example, I don’t love the name of my blog), but sometimes you just have to dig right in! 

It started as a blog solely about European travel, but as I learned the ropes of the blogging business, I’ve expanded from there.

Julianne Brainard

How and when did you launch the business?

I launched the blog in August of 2018, as just a website and a Twitter account. I’ve expanded from there, adding other social media channels and the Etsy store.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

It was a very slow build. I’d say I invested only a few hundred dollars at first for a couple years of website hosting. I thought, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll just chalk it up as a loss. And as far as hobbies go, it costs less than golf.”

Even as the blog has gotten significantly bigger, I’ve kept my expenses very low, but I’m actually looking to spend more this year, to try to grow. Generally, I’m just paying for website hosting, and a few tools to help me – Tailwind for scheduling, RankIQ for SEO help, Canva to make images, and MailChimp for my newsletter.

What was your first year in business like?

For the first six months, I was really still learning, and I was working as an associate at a big law firm. There are some extremely embarrassingly rough blog posts still floating around from when I was doing a real trial-and-error method on nights and weekends.

I was getting almost no traffic, but I was so new that I was excited by literally two people on my website at the same time. I watched my statistics constantly (when I should have been doing something more productive to get more viewers).

Julianne Brainard

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Things started to change when I began using Pinterest. Like any good Millennial sorority girl, I was a dedicated Pinterest user throughout college and honestly, that knowledge has become extremely profitable for me. Pins started taking off, and I started to see real traffic.

From there, I started writing articles that I thought would do well on Pinterest. I qualified for Mediavine the following year, 2019.

Tell us about your team.

Until this week, I have been a completely lone wolf! I am going to start working with a social media manager because frankly, I can’t get it all done and take care of my 18-month-old! My favorite part of the job is the actual blog post drafting, so I don’t see myself ever outsourcing that.

What are your future plans for the business?

Grow, grow, grow. I want to grow the business to the point that I can count on the sort of income I generated last year. I want to continue outsourcing pieces of work to keep the growth going while reserving the elements that I enjoy most.

How do you market your business? 

Social media marketing. It’s free, easy, and I’ve always been able to fit in when I have time.

Organic search through Google.

I don’t really do paid marketing because the return per user just isn’t high enough to make it worth it.

Julianne Brainard

What is your social media strategy? 

I think everyone has certain social media channels on which they feel most comfortable and where they can express themselves most effectively. 

For me, as a lawyer who loves to talk, that has traditionally been Twitter, and I’m working on shifting that to Facebook. I definitely prefer a text-heavy format. 

I always make an effort to support other bloggers, not as a growth method, but as a “pay it forward” for all the help I’ve been given over the years. There’s so much free help available if you’re genuine and make real blogger friends.

Do you use email marketing? 

Yes! I have a great welcome letter (with freebies) that users get when they subscribe to my blog newsletter. Including freebies (“Sign up for the newsletter to download your FREE xyz”) makes all the difference. I get so many subscribers that way.

I have over 3000 people on my email list, and I’m working on growing that every day!

I also use Mediavine’s automated email feature, which sends subscribers a summary of your blog posts each week that it thinks they may enjoy.

Do you target organic search traffic? 

Yes. Growing my organic search traffic has been the main focus of my blogging work for the last quarter. It’s going so well – I’m absolutely thrilled. 

I write some articles specifically for Google, as opposed to the aforementioned articles I write for Pinterest. I target accessible keywords in my niche (often about my hometown, or specific seasonal content). They don’t always pay off, but you just keep trying!

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

I had a viral pin that allowed me to qualify for Mediavine. At that point, I went from making $5/day to around $30/day right before the pandemic struck. Making more than a cup of coffee’s worth of money just changed my mindset. I thought, if I can multiply my daily income 6x in a few months, then surely I can keep going from there. And I came back to blogging with more passion. I started truly seeing it as a business, not a hobby.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

To take risky chances. 

As an attorney, my career was all about advising my clients on risk mitigation. 

But with the blog, the stakes were pretty low at the beginning and I took the opposite approach…and just went for it. I’ve written blog posts no one read, launched paid ad campaigns that failed miserably, made failed pitches to businesses for collaborations, and I’ve come out on the other side of it. I’ve had people write nasty comments on my blog and bully me on social media. But you weather the storm, you’re stronger for it, and I’ve learned so much.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Lack of confidence. My early blog posts were filled with up-speaking and self-doubt. Constantly hedging and undercutting my own opinions. Who was I to have an opinion?

As I’ve learned more about blogging, and had more experience putting myself out there, I’ve become more confident not just in my blogging prowess, but also in my right to have an opinion. No, everyone won’t like it, but they don’t have to.

Julianne Brainard

What motivates you to keep moving forward?

I love nurturing my little blog and watching it grow. When I get discouraged, I go back and look at my old stats, even from the previous year, and am always shocked by how much it’s grown.

What are the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur?

The best part for me, especially as a new mom with a severe, chronic illness, is flexibility. You just can’t put a price on that. The whole family got the stomach flu over the holidays, and I was able to just take a week basically off from blogging, without any major crisis.

The second best is that you reap all of the rewards. Conversely, you bear all of the risks as well, but having come from a law firm with a strict profit structure, it’s very exciting to bring in money and have it all be mine, mine, mine.

The worst? It can be lonely. As a blogging friend of mine always says, your coworkers are really your social media friends. I have to find ways to get out of the house and interact with people in person, whether for work or play.

What is your favorite quote?

Great lives never go out; they go on.

(Hoosier) President Benjamin Harrison

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

If I had to start from scratch, I’d do the same thing I did: start with a passion. The rest will come.

Whatever topic you choose to write about is going to become a major part of your day-to-day life. 

As a lawyer/history major/dedicated traveler, writing about Europe travel really gets my creative juices flowing. 

For example, I’m a…lukewarm cook, at best. Writing about cooking would just not get me out of bed in the morning. A successful blog isn’t a chore. There has to be passion. I could churn out perfectly SEO-ed blog posts on cooking, but I’d get bored and it wouldn’t be the thing I’m dying to do the minute the baby’s in bed. 

Viewers can sense your passion. We have AI if we want to read dry, boring content riddled with mistakes. We want to connect with humans and learn about their experiences.

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