Let’s begin with an apology. It’s been more than a year since we published a blogging business report! In the unlikely case that you’ve missed them, we am very sorry. But if you did notice we’d gone quiet on this front and have been wondering what happened, well – I can explain.

When we launched Career Gappers in 2018, we wanted to document our progress in trying to build it into a blogging business that could help us sustain a lifestyle that blends work with travel, while inspiring others to do the same. We published business reports like clockwork. This was a monthly process to begin with, before we settled into a more optimal quarterly cycle.

A lot has happened since the early days. If you followed our reports throughout 2020 and 2021, you will know how badly we were impacted by the pandemic, along with the entire travel industry. The whole period seems like a manic blur looking back; but its tentacles have stretched far.

Travel has continued to be effected by soaring costs, economic instability and uncertainty. Covid restrictions have lasted longer than many may realise; Japan, for example, only fully re-opened its doors to tourists in October 2022, and still with vaccine and testing requirements in place.

Throughout all of this, we have never lost our resolve to make Career Gappers a success. We ‘pivoted’ (a word that’s now cemented in the blogging lexicon) to a new focus on workations, aiming to inspire people to find different ways to blend work and travel in a changed world. We also launched a second blog, Lincoln and Beyond, to help people visit our home city.

These developments have worked out positively. We haven’t stopped producing content, either; but we have slowed down significantly while looking for alternative means to keep our financial stability ticking along.

Cornwall workation Lisa working sea view
Beginning 2023 on a workation in Cornwall with a view of the sea from our Vrbo

We took a little step back

In the summer of 2021, with Covid-19 restrictions still lingering on, I took on some contract work for an old employer. It was a great opportunity to bring in some stable income while we rebuilt the blogging business after the pandemic. The work was fun, the schedule was flexible on a rolling monthly contract, the pay was great, and it brought back some human connection that I’d been missing.

Then, mid-way through 2022, the organisation offered me a big fixed-term contract until the end of the year. It was a great opportunity to manage a team of talented people and lead some exciting projects while rebuilding our savings; but it also required me to give four days a week of my time for several months. Knowing that I would be able to return my full attention to blogging afterwards, I went for it.

Meanwhile, Lisa has continued to excel in her career. Last year she was promoted to head of marketing in an international sustainability organisation. The increased responsibility has, naturally, brought a more stressful workload. The little time Lisa had previously been able to devote to blogging was swallowed up by the higher demand in her day job.

All of this meant that the dedication we could afford to blogging was drastically reduced throughout most of last year. We put our ambitions for growth on hold, and scaled back our blog strategy and workplans to keep both Career Gappers and Lincoln and Beyond ticking along. This meant publishing just a couple of blog posts per month rather than per week, and hiring VAs to help fill in some gaps.

Cape Verde beach Alex and Lisa
On holiday in Cape Verde at the end of March over my birthday

Trips, partnerships, and the workations campaign

Even with scaled-back resources, last year wasn’t exactly uneventful for Career Gappers. The first few months brought a flurry of travel after so long stuck at home.

A series of collaborations with tourist boards and hotels took us to Lisbon, Hamburg, Barcelona and Malta, with a holiday to Cape Verde in between. Most of these trips were focused on building content for our workations campaign.

In our last blogging business report on Q4 of 2021, Idetailed how we had received an enthusiastic response when pitching the workations campaign at WTM London. We were thrilled to see this begin coming to fruition in the first few months of 2022.

Alongside the workation guides we developed for our featured destinations, we also hired a VA who helped us to build a workations Facebook group. It’s been a gradual process, but we now have some foundations in place. And we’ve barely scratched the surface of the content we plan to produce.

Hamburg workation Alex and Lisa
On a workation campaign press trip in Hamburg, which we won in a pitching competition

Website traffic: back to pre-pandemic levels

Maintaining the blogs on reduced hours has felt like treading water at times. But when we look back at 2022 as a whole, it’s quite satisfying to see that we were able to return our website traffic to nearly pre-pandemic levels, maintain it and steadily grow it.

This graph shows the our website traffic from October 2019 – a few months before Covid-19 – through to the end of 2022:

Website sessions October 2019 to December 2022

Keeping our old blog posts updated has been more important than creating new content in recovering our traffic. We have implemented a new blog post update system after picking up a tip at the Traverse 21 conference. It’s very simple: we update posts on the anniversary they were published. We keep on top of this with a simple spreadsheet.

One area we had to cut back in 2022 was the time we allocated to staying on top of SEO trends and new learnings. While we looked after the essentials, like getting set up for GA4, we have definitely fallen behind the curve on the latest knowledge. This will be a priority in 2023 as we scale back up again.

As an aside, every time I have updated an old blog post that we published before 2020, it’s been saddening to see the reality of how many travel businesses have been wiped out by Covid-19. Hostels we stayed in, restaurants and cafés we dined in, bars where we drank, tour operators who gave us amazing experiences – so many of them gone. And sadly, predictably, the number of businesses casualties appears to be proportionally much higher in developing economy destinations; those that rely on tourism the most.

A marginal profit over the year

Naturally, scaling things down in 2022 meant we didn’t make much progress in building the blog’s income. Across the whole year, we made around $8,200 in revenue from Mediavine and affiliate sales. 

Offset against approximately $5,400 of outgoings, this leaves us with a profit of a little over $200 per month. That’s ok given the circumstances we were operating in; we were prepared for a loss.

In previous reports we’ve detailed our expenditure meticulously; I won’t do that here for the whole year as it would be quite tedious! But our expenses have mostly comprised of our regular monthly and annual subscriptions to tools and services, and occasional travel costs for conferences and trips.

If you have found it useful in the past to see our detailed outgoings, please pipe up in the comments! We’re having a think about how to report on this going forwards, and any feedback is much appreciated.

Alex Trembath remote working Lisbon
Working remotely in a Lisbon hotel lobby on a workation collaboration last January

Testing an advertising campaign

Lisa is a professional marketer. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (a UK professional body) and has many years of experience. But until recently, she hasn’t had the bandwidth to apply some of this knowledge and experience to our blogs.

That’s beginning to change. In the final quarter of 2022, we tested the water by running a small-scale Facebook advertising campaign, built and coordinated by Lisa, to drive traffic to our Barcelona workations content.

In 2023 we aim to go further with our campaign goals, for example to target affiliate sales or email signups. This test-run has given an insight into how to optimise a campaign. And it yielded some promising results – we generated 1,250 clicks at £0.16 per click, despite the timing not being ideal for a travel campaign (just before Christmas).

Ambulance conversion: a new side project

Our already-hectic lives took another eventful turn last January when we bought a second-hand ambulance at an online auction.

Trying a van conversion project had been at the back of our minds for some time. Nudged by some inspiration after watching a documentary about an ambulance conversion, and then discovering a bi-weekly auction where you can find good deals for ex-NHS vehicles, one thing quickly led to another.

Ambulance arriving at home Lisa
We bought a second-hand ambulance to convert into a camper

We signed up to attend the auction just to take a look at how it works. We followed one auction to get the feel of it, and then intended to do the same at the next one… but, well, we couldn’t help ourselves! A great deal came up towards the end of the auction, and Lisa stuck in a bid. It held, and now we are the proud owners of Amy.

It’s been a slow but steady process to begin transforming our ambulance into a camper van. We owe a huge amount of gratitude (and many, many pints of beer) to Lisa’s dad, Mick, who has given up many of his Saturdays to help us work on it. He knows a lot more than we do about all things mechanical, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without his energy and expertise!

Will the ambulance project be appearing on the blog, I hear you ask? Not any time soon – but watch this space. We’ve been recording everything as we progress with it, but it’s miles down the priority list for the foreseeable future to create any content. We will eventually, and we might even make a YouTube channel, but you’re more likely to see George RR Martin’s Winds of Winter published before we get round to it. IYKYK.

Just the one conference in 2022

I usually try to attend at least three travel blogging conferences in a year, but circumstances in 2022 restricted me to just one. I couldn’t even make it to WTM London in November as my contract role involved a lot of work around the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt. And for Lisa, one conference is usually a stretch anyway to fit around her work commitments.

Thankfully, though, both Lisa and I were able to attend Traverse 22 in the Czech Republic in September. It was a brilliant week of catching up with old friends, making new ones, going on a whole bunch of tours, and learning from some of the best in the travel blogging industry during two days of talks.

No doubt we’ll be keeping a keen eye out for the announcement of the destination for Traverse 23! This year I also hope to make some of the smaller-scale events that Traverse holds occasionally in London, as well as returning to WTM in November. These events are great opportunities to build networks and stay in touch with what’s happening in the blogosphere.

Traverse Brno Alex Lisa Nele Rich
At the Traverse 21 conference in Brno with our friends Nele and Rich

Ending the year with a dream trip

We ended an intense and stressful year in a very happy way. We finally made it to Mexico! This is something we’ve wanted to do for years, and it was especially rewarding to spend Christmas there in the company of some of our best friends.

Chichen Itza is an absolute marvel – it was incredible to see it up close. We also filled our time in Playa Del Carmen and Tulum with scuba diving, cenotes, nature reserves, beach days, and consuming our body weight in Mexican food, tequila and beer.

It’s impossible to do Mexico justice in two weeks, and I remain exceedingly jealous of friends who’ve been able to travel there for several months or longer. We’d love to return for a longer trip when circumstances allow.

Playa Del Carmen Christmas Day beach
Christmas Day cocktails on the beach at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Our blog strategy for 2023

As I write this, nearly a month of 2023 has passed already. It’s a month that has been dominated by getting back on top of the mountain of admin that has accumulated over the last year of reduced hours. But it finally feels like we are in shape again to build and grow.

It’s fitting that we’ve started the year by taking a two-week workation in Cornwall. The crisp winter seaside air has a refreshing effect that is impossible to replicate at home! So, while getting back in the flow of operational matters, we’ve also begun to piece together a strategy for the year ahead.

Redefining our purpose

Workations will continue to be a big focus. But now, nearly three years on from the beginning of the pandemic, it’s time for us to reflect on the overarching vision and purpose of Career Gappers.

We started in 2018 with an ambition of being a champion for travel sabbaticals and career breaks. We’re still passionate about that. But our refocus on remote working has taken us in a slightly different direction.

What does this mean? We aren’t going to do a big rebrand or anything like that. But perhaps it’s time for a subtle repositioning. Travel career breaks and workations share a common quality: they are both ways that ambitious professionals can enjoy adventurous, wandering lives while still having a successful career.

In the weeks ahead we plan to dig a bit deeper into this and condense it into a fresh vision and mission statement. When we’re happy with that, we will need to revisit how our website is structured and presented. Not a complete redesign, but more a refresh to bring it in line with our purpose in 2023 and beyond.

Cornwall workation Alex and Lisa garden
Enjoying the crisp winter Cornwall air on our January 2023 workation

Building a new series content pillars and funnels

Our SEO strategy remains the same as ever. We aim to build pillars of content around specific topics (in our case destinations), as we learned on the Blogging Fast Lane course.

We have already implemented extensive and sophisticated funnels on travel career breaks and destinations such as Peru, Patagonia and Bolivia. Now we are going to replicate this strategy for our workations campaign and the European destinations we have identified.

This means fleshing out our content from last year’s trips – Barcelona, Lisbon, Hamburg, Malta and Cornwall. And, over the coming weeks, Lisa and I are taking separate workation trips to visit Paris and Venice. That’s seven content pillars we aim to build over the duration of this year, while maintaining and updating the old ones.

There are a lot of improvements we need to make to our email marketing, social media and advertising campaigns. But crucially, we now have the time to do it.

We’re back on the horse, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Wish us luck… we might need it!

How we will report going forward

As it stands, we intend to write our next blogging business report half way through 2023. But we’re not set on a specific frequency, and we’re giving a lot of thought to the way we structure and focus these reports.

If you’ve got any feedback, or there’s something in particular you’d like us to cover, we’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Thank you for reading this far, and for staying on this journey with us for so long. We won’t leave it so long next time.

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We review our blogging business progress in 2022 and outline the key elements of our strategy for growing Career Gappers in 2023. #incomereport #blogreport #travelbloggers

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