An Interview with Chloe Dickenson – How I Became a Published Author at 25
Chloe Dickenson is a Travelista contributor specialising in travel. Here she shares her inspiring story of going from a University law dropout, to Starbucks barista, to a full-time world traveller, writer and now published author aged 25.
Despite having an overwhelming passion for writing pretty much ever since I first learned to hold a pen and write my own name, I didn’t think it was possible to earn money from writing unless I was to become the next world-famous author.
Therefore, becoming a lawyer seemed like the most logical step for me and it was all my parents and I ever talked about. That is until I completed work experience in a lawyer’s office when I was sixteen years old. My decision to become a lawyer soon dwindled as I simply couldn’t imagine myself in that line of work.
Fast forward two years later when I turned eighteen in 2016 and received my A Level results in Business Studies, English Language and History, I knew that I no longer wanted to do law, but I still had the intention to attend university to study something in the field of English or creative writing.
However, much to my dismay, my results weren’t quite what I’d anticipated so I was entered into university clearing and got an offer from the University of York to study English in Education. I knew immediately that this wasn’t the course for me, but I attended the first few days anyway, just to see what it was like.
During this time, I was working part-time at Starbucks, so I immediately asked to increase my hours until I could “figure out” what I wanted to do with my life. At the same time as working at Starbucks, I had just started my blog, imjustagirl16.co.uk, where I was sharing snippets of my daily life, diary-style entries from my past travels and various makeup and clothes reviews.
For the first couple of years of writing on my blog, I worked on it almost every single spare minute I could get. I would draft blog posts in my notes app on my phone on my lunch break at Starbucks, I’d open my laptop to start writing posts as soon as I got home and I would post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and reply to comments on the way into work.
Even though I really did enjoy working at Starbucks, I knew it wasn’t a career path that I was destined for.
After several hours of trawling through Indeed, I found a job advert for an apprenticeship in digital marketing at a local firm in York. I’d never even considered an apprenticeship as a means of starting my career, but I applied for the position, using my blog as a portfolio for the kind of work I could produce as a copywriter and marketer. I was invited for an interview and much to my surprise, I was offered the position as an apprentice shortly after.
Over the next year, I learned so many skills, both from working in the office as a digital marketing junior and through the coursework I had to complete in order to finish my apprenticeship. I learned skills such as email marketing, copywriting, SEO, Google Ads, social media, Google Analytics and much more. Every night when I went home from my day job, I used these skills to build my own blog and grow a following on social media.
The growth was very slow for several years and even though I started making a tiny bit of money through my blog via sponsored posts and brand collaborations, it was nowhere near enough to support me full-time and as I was only receiving an apprentice wage at the time.
I created my own website on WordPress, I pitched to various brands and businesses on LinkedIn and Twitter, and I slowly started to build up a decent roster of clients, especially after a few months when previous clients started recommending my services to other businesses.
Once I had completed my apprenticeship, I left my role with the company and started a new job at a similar company in the city centre of York. My new role as “marketing operations and provisioning executive” included creating and editing text ads, reviewing, reporting and analysing campaigns and generating keyword lists. It felt like a huge step up from my previous job (not to mention the fact that it came with a decent pay increase) and it felt like an opportunity to learn even more skills to grow my blog.
Thanks to my new job, I was able to transfer these skills to my blog and freelance writing business and I was soon making more money from freelancing and blogging each month than I was at my day job.
It was around this time (November 2018) that my boyfriend and I decided that we would leave our full-time jobs to go travelling for at least a year, with the intention to begin in April 2019. We booked one-way flights to New Zealand and then put a plan in place to save as much money as possible in just five short months before we left the UK indefinitely.
At the time, many people (myself included) thought I was crazy for quitting my full-time job so soon to pursue freelance writing and blogging full-time. Even though I wasn’t on a super high wage in my role in digital marketing at the time, it was at least a stable and steady income that I could rely on which would help us save towards our goal of travelling.
However, with the goal in mind of travelling the world, I was determined to figure out a way to make a somewhat consistent income from writing so that I could earn money online while we were travelling, so I put my absolute everything into finding ways to make money.
Some of the ways that I earned money for my services back then (and still do today) include:
- Copywriting for websites, magazines and various publications.
- Social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok for brands on my own social media channels.
- Selling photographs on websites and licencing my images to various magazines.
- Sponsored blog posts on my website for brands and businesses.
- Affiliate income through links on my website and social media.
Between 2019 and today, my boyfriend and I have travelled to over 40+ countries (aside from a little hiatus in 2020/2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and my blog and freelance writing business (along with my boyfriend’s various online money-making endeavours) have enabled us to explore so many places. We’ve completed road trips in New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Wales, Scotland and England. We spent seven months backpacking in Southeast Asia, we’ve interrailed through Europe for two months and we’ve spent months at a time living in Croatia, Cyprus, Mexico and New York.
Receiving this email was one of the greatest achievements of my life so far; not only was my dream of being paid to write for a living coming true, but I was going to be a published author! The writing process for my book was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Of course, it was tricky and time-consuming and often very overwhelming, but it also felt like the most natural thing in the world to be writing about my favourite place in the world.
Getting paid to travel the world is quite literally a dream come true for me and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t pinch myself.
Making money online as a writer and blogger isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t always consistent (looking at you, pandemic!), but it’s also incredibly rewarding. I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging and I’ve received some of the greatest career opportunities that I never would have thought possible seven years ago.
I’m so grateful that I get to call this my job and I hope that I can continue to do it for a very long time!