I just realized it’s been an awfully long while since I’ve shared my thoughts with you guys about this crazy weird and wild career that is travel blogging. Yes that’s right, Mom. Three years later and I still haven’t come home crying a total failure! Winning!
Well so many main themes and ideas have stayed the same over the years in the blogging world, like make good shit and never give up, but also a lot has also changed in that time too, especially me.
So I thought I would give a new update, a year or two later on how I’ve progressed with this travel blogging career after quitting my job 3 and half years ago to blog full time.
Nowadays the travel “influencer” industry is getting pretty saturated. I go to events and conferences and don’t recognize anyone, and I get daily emails and messages from thirsty bloggers and Instagrammers that range from politely asking me for advice to begging for my entire contact list plus a personal email intro from me. Um, nope.
How do you stand out? How are you going to break in? Let me help you?
But seriously though, guys, I get it. I wish there was one magic formula I could share with you about how to be a successful blogger. But there isn’t one. I can only use this space to tell you all what has worked for me in the past and to share what I have learned in over 6 and half years blogging (and three and half years full time).
And to be honest, I don’t really know what “making it” actually means. What’s the bar? Success means so many different things to so many people. I’ll say that my bar for “making it” 3 things – basically I can pitch any place I want to go to and (pretty easily) get it funded, my blog earns me well into six figures, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have not moved back into my parents attic. Happiness is being self-employed!
So, I’m gonna break it down for you. Hope you’re ready. Here are my 10 best tips for actually making it as a travel blogger.
1. Visualize and run your blog as a business
You not going to get far if you do not view your blog as a business. Period.
This means many things. The easiest way to transition is to start referring to it as a business in your head and treat all your choices around it in that capacity. All of my decisions are based around the success and benefit of my blog. I ask myself that question – is this going to help my blog and go from there.
At the end of the day, blog always comes first, and by default that means you guys come first as readers. And sometimes that means saying no to stuff that isn’t the right fit, or saying no to a lot of money, which I often end up doing.
Finally, from a business perspective, it’s really important to be proactive and to take the initiative with work. I hustle like nobody’s business, and that’s a major key to my success. You don’t get if you don’t ask. And don’t take no for an answer. Politely.
2. Always try new things and experiment
I think one of the main keys to becoming a successful travel blogger is to always be experimenting and trying new things.
If you want to make it, in my opinion, you have to think long term. The travel industry changes a lot and you have to not only keep up, but also stay ahead of the curve. This applies to everything – from how you create your content to how you run your business. You need to stay on top of trends and changes and also keep trying new things to keep people interested.
For me, I’m always trying new things – maybe because I get bored too easily. From experimenting with video (so much cool stuff coming soon guys) to finding new income streams to changing how I write stories and shoot photos to how I run the blog as a business, and even an exciting new blog redesign coming super soon), I’m always on the lookout out for something different.
3. Join Travel Blog Success
Travel Blog Success has been with my on my whole travel blogging journey and helped me get to be where I am today. An online community for travel bloggers, there are two main courses with the membership that walk you through the whole process and teach you how to be a successful travel blogger plus how to improve your travel writing. There are also a few other secondary courses too.
TBS is the only FB group around travel blogging I participate in (besides my Bootcamp group) and pretty much the only online blogging community I’m in.
If you are eager and proactive and keen to take your blog to the next level and get free tips and get paid to travel like me, now’s your chance to join Travel Blog Success.
4. Be unique
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. And again. And again until the message finally sinks in. If you want your blog to be successful, it needs to be unique. Let me explain what unique means, because most of the travel influencer industry somehow still doesn’t get it. UNIQUE means stop copying everyone else’s shit online.
There, I’ve put it in bold font.
One strategy I use with my blog is to think about an article I want to write, then spend 20 minutes dwelling on it and wondering how I can tell it in a more unique and funny way. Then I write. Same with photography. I arrive at a location, take the photos I normally would, then I try and shoot a lot of creative styled shots to showcase it in a new way. I do NOT travel to a location to recreate other people’s Instagram shots.
Dear Instagrammers, that means I don’t plan my Instagram feed around the most popular travel locations. And while that means I am not as popular as other people, it does mean that my channel is longterm and sustainable.
In fact, while travel photography does inspire me, I often intentionally don’t stalk heaps of location photos before traveling in an effort to be able to see it “my way” when I arrive.
I think being unique is really really important in the digital media sphere, but it’s really hard. We consume so much information nowadays online, our eyes and our brains are always looking for something better and fresh. I’m in this game for the long haul, which means the only way I will be able to stick around is by being 100 percent myself and being unique.
5. Do not work for free
This is pretty easy in theory, especially if you view your blog as a business, but much harder to put into practice.
The travel publishing industry has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, journalists and media would be hosted in a destination usually by a tourism board in exchange for an article somewhere. Nowadays, the lines are blurred with bloggers and “digital influencers” offering much larger marketing-style campaigns in exchange for something for than a free trip, cough cough, dollar dollar bills y’all.
And then there are people who are trying to break into the industry and who often offer everything to the moon and back in exchange for the opportunity to work with someone. Let me tell you, not only is that totally unnecessary, it also undercuts the entire industry. For example, say you really wanted to work for Apple – it is your dream job. Would you say “hey Apple, I’ll come and work for you for free and maybe you might hire me in the future?”
Brands, especially big brands have marketing budgets. Whether they chose to spend it working with you is up to them (and also up to how convincing you are), but stop being whiny and desperate and saying OMG I will do ANYTHING to work with you, so I’ll do it for free.
Why would anyone pay a contractor ever again with that attitude? And where will you be in a year, once you finally have experience and can’t find paid work because you just help undermine an entire industry? Oh shit.
More and more frequently nowadays I pitch something and get a reply saying they will work with me if I provide thousands and thousands of dollars worth of additional services (like photography and video licenses) for free.
I have been encountering this behavior a lot this past year, and it upsets me. It’s not professional, and if you have to be that desperate, it really shows that you aren’t a level where you should be pitching anything or working with brands on collaborations. End of story. Wait until you are bigger and can work more professionally. Start small. Work on building your own brand and following and then you will be ready.
I understand. I’ve been there. I learned my lesson about working for free, the really really hard way. But believing that if you undersell yourself and your business now in the hopes that it will lead to something later on is a often a big mistake and you’ll get burned.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, if you want to be a successful blogger and actually earn money with your site, it’s a good idea to stick to it.
6. Know your exact value
This ties into my last point. If you are going to see your blog as a business, you also need to know your exact value. What do you offer people? Why is it valuable? What are the market rates? What is worth exactly? Why should someone work with you? You should be able to spit professional quick replies in response to all of these without thinking twice.
For example, I have a rate sheet that I send to clients. I know exactly what I charge for all of my services (come to the Travel Bootcamp and I’ll share it with you and tell you everything).
Because I believe so much in my work and I know the exact value of everything I offer, as soon as I started to stick to it, my income went through the roof. Now my blog earns far more than I could have ever imagined and I am able to grow and do the projects I had only ever dreamed about. Just by sticking to my guns, saying no, and valuing the work that I produce.
7. Come to the Travel Bootcamp
If you are super keen to take your travel blog to the next level and you’re in my part of the world on November 12th, come join me on the Gold Coast in Australia for round two of our Travel Bootcamp. An intensive, one day workshop, Lauren Bath (Australia’s first professional Instagrammer), Georgia Rickard (one of Australia’s best travel editors and writers) and I will teach you everything we know about how we got to where we are today. Our first Bootcamp was in Sydney this year and it was phenomenal!!
We were fed up with the wishy-washy bullshit fed to us at travel conferences around the world that offered no real, tangible advice about how to exactly make money in the travel industry, so we decided to start our own conference. Our Travel Bootcamp is a no-bullshit approach to making money in travel writing, photography and blogging. Ask us anything.
From sharing our rate sheets to sample pitches to how we negotiate high paying contracts and what to charge for photos, we share all of the hard to find information about this industry with everyone who comes.
8. Don’t worry about what others are doing
What’s that quote about comparison is the thief of joy?
Over the years I can directly correlate months where I’ve been burnt out and unhappy with blogging to months where I’ve found myself comparing myself to strangers on the internet. It’s NOT healthy. Just focus on blogging and doing what you enjoy and sharing what your readers enjoy. Ignore the haters.
And it gets worse the more successful you are. I tend to forget how vicious the internet can be, and other travel bloggers can sometimes be the worst. While so many can be lovely and supportive, there are plenty of “blogger friends” out there who only want something from you and absolutely relish the opportunity to bring you down.
While that well and truly sucks, don’t let it keep you from sharing what you think and what you’re passionate about. Fuck them.
9. Investing in your blog is really important
From the very beginning, I’ve always invested in my blog where I could. As soon as it’s no longer a hobby, that means you might need to spend on it for it to grow and improve, just like with any business. I can never understand when bloggers whine about costs of things. It’s a business – if you are earning money with your own small business you will also have expenses. I would LOVE to have a business that required no expenditures. It doesn’t work like that.
From having Performance Foundry manage and/or host my blog (and to help me when shit breaks, because it always does) not to mention doing my entire blog redesign, to my web hosting fees, to travel costs, ad costs on social media, camera equipment, and even hiring people to help me run everything, there are always expenses, but they are necessary, especially for long-term goals.
For example, if you want to have your blog reach more people you can become a featured blog with me or work on some other sites to advertise your name. I have a few spots left next month for anyone interested, drop me an email.
10. Love what you do
I can’t repeat enough how important it is to think long-term with your blog. We don’t quit our jobs to travel and to start this lifestyle to become rich. We do it because we love it.
Now more than I ever I always make sure that I love every moment of what I am doing. I don’t want to go back to a nine to five job after this. I want this work to lead to more opportunities and to sustain me into the future, and I believe the key to that is being super passionate about it.
Success doesn’t matter, happiness is what matters, and I always try to remember that.
Do you have a travel blog? Are you interested in becoming a full time blogger? Have any tips to share?