It’s been almost five years since I quit my job to follow my dreams traveling the world and becoming a full time professional travel blogger. Yes, it’s a thing.
Five years of crazy adventures, heaps of countries, learning new stuff, discovering things about myself, of ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures, it goes on and on. Though thankfully, I haven’t failed catastrophically at this whole blogging for a job thing. And let me just tell you, there were plenty of people who were
hoping expecting me to fail.
Take that, I am not back home living in my parents attic working at Starbucks! Which to be frank, was a very strong possibility. The world has been saved from a potentially bitter barista full of failed dreams giving thin bitches who order skinny pumpkin spice lattes wholemilk out of pure spite.
But I digress.
In 2012 I had the dream of building my blog into some kind of empire to fund my travels. No, I didn’t want to enter the real world. No, I didn’t want a real job. No, I didn’t want to settle. No, I didn’t want to pay my student loans back. I just wanted to explore. And I figured out a way to make it a reality in a way that let’s me tell stories and be creative.
But what essentially started as very selfish travel goal has slowly evolved over the years into something so much more; I like to think anyways.
Nowadays, travel doesn’t mean as much to me as it used too. I don’t really care about ticking places off a list or all the must-dos, to be honest. Now I’m rather more interested in the experience, the journey, the learnings, than the location. My blog has become my outlet for inspiring other people to chase their dreams too. To look outside convention and not be afraid to dream big, whatever that entails. It’s become a place for me to be creative again and make something meaningful that lasts.
I think everyone has a story to share and should start a blog. For me, blogging is for everyone.
Whether that’s traveling for the first time or going somewhere new to learning a new skill to trying to fix and change the world, for me what started as a self-indulgent journal of my adventures has grown and evolved into something much bigger, perhaps even more self-indulgent and totally different. At least for me.
In 2014, about a year or so after I had been blogging full time, I wrote a post called So you want to be a professional travel blogger, which is still one of my most highly read pieces. In it, I share all my knowledge from years of blogging and open up about how I make a living online.
It’s something a lot of people are curious about. Without fail, when I tell someone I’m a pro travel blogger, 95% of them will immediately ask me how I make money. Man oh man, if they only knew. Literally it’s the same conversation. Depending on my mood, I often now just straight up lie and invent various boring career paths knowing that the conversation will end there. Accounting (hey, I do my accounts), publishing (obviously), project managing (sure), investment broker (ok, what?!).
Because when I do open up and share about my life and work, I can’t do it half-assed. I’m all in. Hold on for the ride.
It’s been a couple of years since I wrote in-depth about building a career as a professional travel blogger, but it’s something I think about all the time. While many of my tips and secrets stay the same over the years, like be consistent and don’t share shitty content, some of my other pointers have taken much longer for me to realize.
I’ve been really involved with the travel industry over the years, and have picked up quite a few tips along the way for going professional and “making it,” whatever that means. My tips for becoming a professional travel blogger aren’t hacks or shortcuts. I’m a big believe in doing the work that is required to build something that lasts, and I’ve seen people over and over again try to jump the gun only to disappear a year later.
Here are my 8 best tips for becoming a professional travel blogger. Enjoy!
1. Have clear achievable goals
I think most blogs are sloppy. Hell, even I’m sloppy. For any of you who’ve met met me personally, you know I’m literally all over the place. I’m messy. I’ve been called a hurricane. I’m glad you can’t see my desk space as I write this.
Organized chaos guys.
That being said, I have always had relatively clear goals regarding my blog, and I slowly worked at ticking them off over the years, setting the bar higher and higher for myself as time goes by. A tumultuous overachiever if you will.
Whether that was hitting certain numbers of followers, or developing a channel like Instagram, to organizing a specific project, I’ve always sat down, clearly outlined what I wanted to achieve and figured out how to get there. Funny enough, money has never been part of my goals ever except to earn enough for rent and coffee and to pay my blog costs.
In fact, I’ve hit peak goals – I’ve got an email chain currently with NASA. Like, what?!
2. Find your tribe + join Travel Blog Success
I hate the word tribe; I can’t believe I just wrote that. Community. That’s what I meant. Find a community to help you on your journey.
Listen, I’m an introvert at heart. I hate people. I hate talking to people. I want to be left alone. Mostly. But even I, in my harsh and lonely cynicism, will admit that I would have never gotten where I am today without an amazing community of other travel bloggers who helped me over the years when I needed it and who didn’t bother me when I wanted solitude. I’m grateful.
In addition to my own travel media conference I launched last year in Australia (The Travel Bootcamp), I have only ever been a part of one blogging community – Travel Blog Success. I’ve been a member since 2012. Travel Blog Success is an amazing resource, consisting of two major online courses that teach you everything from how to start and build a blog to going pro with it, along with other courses to help you advance your online business.
Why join Travel Blog Success?
It’s the only really established travel blogging group started and filled with genuinely good people. It’s really open and everyone is really supportive asking questions and getting good answers. There is a secret Facebook group where everyone asks everything, creating good dialogue, and perks and job offers that often pop up. While I joined 5 years ago, I didn’t actually go through and do the courses then, which I wish I had because it would have saved me years of trial and error.
And I’m still learning new things. TBS just helped me last month about setting up new adshare opportunities here I would have never known otherwise. Most of the major travel bloggers are in and participate in the Facebook group; it’s the only group I participate in, and it’s been instrumental in my growth and success. It taught me everything I needed to know, introduced me to key people, and I ran with it.
3. Think outside the box
It is so easy to copy what other people doing, especially successful people, but that will only get you so far. There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence today. If you want to be in it for the long haul, and be a serious professional travel blogger, you have got to stand out.
And you will never stand out if you do what every one else is doing. Obviously.
Figure out your point of difference and run with it. And it can’t be bird stuff or getting hate mail, that’s mine.
4. Diversify what you do
Would you believe me if I told you that my blog earns me into the six figures, something I never thought was possible. I went pro solely in the hopes I could pay for my travels, and now it’s gone so much further than I could have ever imagined.
If you think the only way to make money as a travel blogger is through advertising and affiliates, you’re not thinking outside the box. The ways I earn really vary, and I’m always trying new things. My work through my blog has been anything from location scouting New Zealand to hosting my own tours to launching my own events. But if I’ve learned one thing in this industry as a professional travel blogger, it’s that it’s really important to diversify both your content and your revenue streams.
Don’t just focus on one social media platform either. When I started this blog, all that matter was Facebook and Twitter. Quickly that changed to Instagram and who knows where we will be in another 5 years. I’ve made sure that I’ve built a strong solid presence both on different social media platforms but also running my own column on Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand’s biggest newspaper and writing, creating and consulting for others too.
Try new things, and don’t put all your eggs into one basket.
5. Tell a damn good story
It blows my mind that the stuff people are creating online these days are both simultaneously amazing and shit. Literally most of the blogs I see online are terrible. Even the really famous ones. Perhaps I’m being judgmental here, especially when I know for a fact there are a whole lot of people who hate my guts out there, but still. Why can’t everyone be like me?
Jokes, I jest I jest. Please don’t be like me. The world would implode.
What I’m trying to say is I would like to fight for the value of a truly good tale. Storytelling is incredibly important in digital media these days. We crave good stories and we don’t always get them.
If you can craft a good story, in any way you can, you will do well. And I don’t mean just being a good writer, I mean in terms of what you make. Whether that’s through photos, videos, art, words, whatever medium you want, storytelling is a powerful and important tool to have if you want to be a professional travel blogger.
And don’t get caught up on making it perfect. I think actually that shiny polished content doesn’t matter as much as a rock solid story. Look at Casey Neistat. His vlogs are intentionally a bit messy. He’s all over the place, you see him adjust exposure on his camera. It’s not refined at all. But he’s a great personality, a great storytelling and a damn good editor, that’s what matters more.
6. Hustle til it hurts
No one is going to hand you anything if you’re trying to be a professional travel blogger. You have to work for it. You’ll never stop working for it. It doesn’t get easier. You have to hustle to make shit happen, like with all things in life.
I can’t even begin to express just how difficult and hard this is. It’s stressful and exhausting but worth it.
I send out huge proposals almost daily. I am always on the phone with potential new clients. I chase up people I might want to work with. I make an effort to meet people face to face. I make people say no to me three times before I give up, and even then I don’t always. But I always try to do it in a nice, polite way, and I spend a long time building relationships with people before I pitch or ask for anything. Don’t be thirsty.
Hustle and don’t be afraid to go after what you want, but be genuine and don’t be a dick about it.
7. Be memorable
8. Mistakes and failures are lessons
Don’t be afraid to take risks or to fail. In all aspects of your life.
Success only comes after hardships and screw ups. But if you play it safe, and have a boring, average blog, it’ll be very hard to go professional nowadays. Dedicate a lot of time into coming up with creative things, projects and strategies that could launch your brand into going pro. And well, if oyu screw up on the way, no big deal. Everyone has the attention span of a toddler these days, and they’ll have forgotten it in a week and you’ll likely have learned something very valuable.
This is the most important thing I’ve learned with my blog, and it’s one of my greatest tips to give to people. This is a fucking hard industry to break into. But if you are willing to jump in feet first, be open minded about opportunities, be creative with your work and above all, be willing to take risks with what you do, you are setting yourself up for success.
Do you have a blog? Link below and I’ll add them to my list to read. Are you interested in becoming a professional travel blogger? What’s your dream job? Share!