Vans, Boats, & Tiny Homes: How Kristin’s Blog Supports a Flexible Lifestyle

Vans, Boats, and Tiny Homes: How Kristin's Blog Supports a Flexible Lifestyle

Although there are countless benefits of blogging for a living, the flexible lifestyle is one that resonates with many people. For the past six years, Kristin Hanes’ blog, The Wayward Home, has allowed for a nomadic lifestyle while helping others achieve the same thing through her blog.

In this interview, Kristin shares the story behind The Wayward Home, how she grew it, and the lifestyle she lives as a result.

Key Takeaways

⛵ The Wayward Home supports Kristin’s lifestyle of full-time travel
🧠 How Kristin works with expert writers to create content that stands out from AI
📈 Kristin’s strategy for bouncing back after losing traffic in a Google update

Overview

Business Name: The Wayward Home
Website URL: https://www.thewaywardhome.com/
Founders: Kristin Hanes
Business Location: Online (US)
Year Started: 2017
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 8

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2003 with dreams of becoming a radio journalist. And that’s what I did for the next 15 years, working at news stations up and down the west coast, including Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

The entire KGO newsroom in San Francisco was decimated in 2016, so I had to figure out another career path and way to make money online. My boyfriend, Tom, had recently purchased a sailboat and we wanted to travel the world, so it was ideal if I could find remote work.

I started my blog, The Wayward Home, in 2017 after reading an article about a successful personal finance blogger who made $100,000 per month. I was amazed blogs could make that much money, so I decided it was the business venture I wanted to pursue. 

Kristin traveling with her van

How does your business make money?

My website is mostly informational, so I make most of my money from advertising revenue managed by a company called Mediavine. On top of that, I make some affiliate sales, and I just started creating my own digital products, such as my course called Niche Sites Made Easy. 

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

When I was working as a news reporter, I was very in tune with what types of articles people liked to read. I noticed that interviews about people living alternative lifestyles: van life, schoolbuses, sailboats, and tiny homes, seemed to be frequently shared and commented on.

Given that I was living alternatively on a sailboat, I figured this would be a great niche for my blog. I was determined to learn everything I could about the business of blogging so I could make this online venture successful.

Kristin Hanes on a sailboat

How much money did you invest to start the business?

I paid $800 for a course about blogging, which seemed like a huge amount given that I was unemployed and making no income after my layoff from the radio station. I also invested a small amount on hosting and a theme for my site. I designed the site myself so didn’t spend any money on a developer or designer to help me put it together.

What was your first year in business like?

During my first year, I worked 40+ hours per week, both on my website and doing freelance writing and voiceover gigs on the side. Since I didn’t have the internet on my sailboat, I would go to the gym in my area and sit there in the cafe all day long, taking breaks to exercise and shower.

It took six months before I made my first “real” money: $500 monthly ads paid for by a truck camping company called Four Wheel Campers. That’s when I realized this whole blogging business really could make money, and I was doing it!

Kristin with her van

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

At first, I gained traffic to my website by posting pins on Pinterest and articles in related Facebook groups. My friends at a local newspaper in San Francisco also started syndicating my content across the Hearst platform, which I’m sure helped spike my DA in the very beginning. I accidentally got Google traffic before I even knew what SEO was.

In 2019, I decided to get serious about SEO, and so I took a course called Stupid Simple SEO. That summer, my traffic skyrocketed and I was finally able to hire my first contractors and virtual assistants. 

Tell us about your team.

All of the people I work with are remote contractors. My freelance writers have experience in the niches on my site, such as van life, RVing, tiny homes, and sailboat living. It’s important to me to use real writers rather than AI as I think they lend a personal touch and insight to articles. I also have a Pinterest virtual assistant, a blog formatter, and an editor. 

Kristin working outside her van

What are your future plans for the business?

Many bloggers like me were hit really badly by a Google update back in September. I lost 70% of my traffic and this update also decimated my income. I’ve had to pivot and learn how to make money in ways other than Google traffic.

I’ve been focusing on Facebook traffic, my new MSN feed, syndicated articles to news outlets and marketing my course. I feel like in this game of online business, we have to pivot to accommodate the environment we’re in. Things are always changing online, and especially with Google search as more AI floods the scene. 

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

I knew I had made it to full-time when I got to the point where I could hire freelance writers and a virtual assistant. Ramping up the production of articles had a direct correlation with how much money I made through advertising revenue. At that point, I was able to drop my freelance writing clients to focus 100% on my business. 

How much traffic does your website receive, and what are your primary sources?

In the summer of 2023, my website was receiving up to 400,000 monthly pageviews. But after the Google update, it’s now getting 100,000. I am determined to bring traffic back up through Facebook, MSN, and by continuing to update my old content. 

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

That we MUST constantly evolve and continue learning as online business owners. Nothing in this business ever stays the same, and we have to be prepared to pivot and jump on new opportunities.

It’s also important to not lose our positivity and focus. I know when we take a huge loss in income it’s easy to get depressed and want to find another job. But it’s important to stay the course, try new things, and remain motivated.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Creating a blog as an online business takes a lot of time and effort. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. The hardest part for me was the wait, especially because I was doing all the work at my local gym. The sailboat I was living on didn’t allow us to live aboard more than two nights per week, so we also slept in my Astro van and did some housesitting. It was a hard time full of struggles as I built up this online business, but now we are able to travel full-time so I’d say it was worth it. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Keep trying new things! There is always something to learn when you’re an entrepreneur, which is why this career is so exciting. Don’t give up too soon, and if you must, you can even live below your means like I did while starting your business. Get a roommate, get a cheaper car, cut down on your expenses in any way possible. Eventually, your business will bloom if you just stay the course.

Kristin Hanes with her van

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

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