1) Practise makes perfect
When I started blogging I put myself under so much pressure to fill up my blog with as much content as possible. I spent a month documenting my whole Nepal trek (17 blog posts), for instance. To blog as much as possible, as often times as possible. I thought that is what I had to do. Then I started reading loads of different travel blogs out there and I was amazed with what people write about and how they write their posts.
Truth is: you don’t need to be an insanely good writer. There are travel bloggers out there who’s first language is not English (like moi) and you can often recognise this by the way they use grammar incorrectly in their posts (i’m sure this post could do with loads of improvements).
Let’s put it that way: i don’t think Shakespeare, assuming he had a blog, would knock on our doors and ask us if we wanted to contribute a guest post. The more your write, the more you practise. But it takes a long time until you feel confident in doing what you are doing. And even a longer time until you think what you are writing is actually good.
I recently read a blog post about someone compiling a list of the best sunscreen lotions in the world. There I was…being worried that if I only write about something trivial, no one is going to ever visit my blog. This person got quite a few decent comments on this said blog post. My 17 blog posts about trekking the Annapurna are dusting away somewhere hidden in the back-corner of my blog. I put one hell of an effort into compiling these – no one gives a toss. That’s the reality and the frustrations you will have to learn to deal with when you start your blog and hope to make a ‘career’ out of it.
See, back at uni, I wrote one first-class essay after another. I did my law degree next to full-time work and still managed to have a 1st class honours at an English university despite of English not being my first language. I’m pretty proud of this (once in a while we all deserve a pat on the shoulder – thank you very much).
Back then, I was constructing my essays with the help of legal articles and books (which I had to read a lot of), and only really started getting the hang of it after year two. Year one was all about learning what was expected of you, what type of sentences would make the Prof. happy (not what makes YOU happy) and how to construct an essay in a way that would get you the full marks. The first year was scary as hell and I repeatedly thought: i’ll never be able to do this. What the hell am I doing here!?
Well…I passed. Persistence was the key. But, it was not easy. It took a lot of practise.
The same goes for travel blogging. It will take a while until you feel confident. Keep in mind: only because you are good at legal writing, or any other niche writing, does not automatically mean that you are a good travel blogger! You will have to learn a new lingo – develop your own style. To be honest, I kind of miss the days when I got comments like ‘Exceptional piece of work – please send a copy for my archive’. Right now…I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing….and my blog is scarily silent at times.
All I know is…i can only improve if I keep going. And I’m not someone to easily give up.
2) It’s not about content – but about contacts, right?
Opinions seem to be divided here. Some travel bloggers think it’s all about content. Others claim all you need to primarily focus in the beginning, is to ‘get your name out there’. It’s more about what you do as opposed to what you write about and how often. One ought to read countless of blogs regularly, comment on them (at least 100 in a day if you can), make friends with everybody. Some say that is non-sense – because what’s the point of having travel bloggers comment on your blog? It’s not the primary audience you want to attract in the first place – Liz from Young Adventuress is one such example. She is a very successful travel blogger out there and she doesn’t believe in the whole ‘comment frenzy’ that seems to be common practise amongst many bloggers.
The way I see it? Reach out to other bloggers if you feel comfortable doing so. Comment on their blogs if you genuinely feel it’s a great piece of work they have written – because that is what you do in a team. You cheer each other on – but you also offer constructive criticism. Be a teamplayer. But, don’t arse lick. The whole ‘commenting on 100 blogs per day – thing’ is admirable and ambitious but really…what is the point? Where do your intentions lie with this?
The moment you comment on gazillions of blogs just to say ‘hey hey hey look at me…can you see me? Yes ME! Look I’m great. PLEASE COMMENT ON MY BLOG. YES YOU’, then you are just commenting to expect something in return – not because you care about what the person has written. You have an ulterior motive. And yes, I might sound all ‘Mother Theresa’ here, but I truly believe that good intentions are rewarded with good results eventually. It might take a bit longer – but at least you know it’s genuine. But, everybody is different – and I totally respect that. Bottomline is: do whatever feels right for you and be a teamplayer.
Bloggers are super friendly and approachable (with a few exceptions). As an example, when I summed up my courage to contact Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads, she not only sent me a long message back, she was super friendly too! Yes, someone as famous as her, is actually really down to earth and really easy-going. They have all been there, where you are right now: at the beginning of a very daunting, but rewarding and exciting, adventure.
When I saw that Megan from Mapping Megan offers to review your blog and give you feedback, I never expected, when I reached out to her, to receive such a long and elaborate answer with so many pointers on how to improve my blog. I was genuinely touched about how much she was willing to help. She not only reviewed my blog but also offered tons of advice on useful plug-ins, layout options, social media techniques – and so much more. All completely for free. Just like that. You see, and I will pay this forward one day. Yep, be a teamplayer and genuine. This will always be rewarded.
Franca and Dale over at Anglo Italian, Follow Us are a classical example of how blog-teamwork works: they go to great lengths to retweet other bloggers content and every week they send out a tweet with a thank you message if you retweeted one of their posts. They are cool like that. There is just something about them…plus they keep posting yummy pictures of vegan food I didn’t know existed (a vegan chocolate croissant? Oh my word…).
I don’t have photos from other bloggers and myself, yet. This one below is my best friend. Does that count?
3) Start early…way before you go on your travels
If you do decide to enter the travel blogosphere, start building up a name for yourself BEFORE you head out into the big wide world. Some travel bloggers have thousands of Twitter followers and very engaged Social Media accounts way before they even have their official website published. Way before they even go on their travels. I did not do this. I started blogging when I was on the road – meaning I wanted to hang myself one too many times when I wrote yet another blog post with 0- ziltsch – nada comments. For the first few months the blog was a monologue for me, myself and…well…me.
As far as I can see, you have two types of travel bloggers: the ones that started a little blog to inform their friends and family back at home about their travels which then turned into a business as time went by – and then you have the travel bloggers who decided to make travel blogging their profession before embarking on their adventures.
If you belong to the second category, here is my advice:
Even before you have launched your website, establish a good follower base via Social media. Facebook, Twitter as a minimum. I started with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus and Trover – from the start. Which was a mistake. I should have just stuck to a few – be really good at it – and then add more onto my plate. You’ll soon establish which ones are your favourites – nurture these like hell. And get your name out there – reach out to people. When I started, I had 247 Twitter Followers.
Now…in my case, travelling the world was a last minute decision and even more so the decision to start a blog. It all happened within a few months. If this is not the case for you, make sure to start early. It will pay off and will make the whole blogging experience way more interesting and rewarding.
Trust me, there is nothing more frustrating than ‘silent blog syndrome’.
4) Consider joining a community
Join something like ‘Travel Blog Success’. Which is kind of hypocritical of me to say. Because I haven’t joined…yet. But, I’m pretty sure I will eventually.
The reason why I’m not joining, is simple: I’m enjoying my travels too much! I’m not ready to commit to a full-time relationship with my blog. We are casually dating at the moment. But, I can see us taking the next step one day – because she is pretty special to me.
At the moment, I want to spend more time travelling and having a good time, than investing in my travel blog (sorry hunny). There I said it. I do as much as I can – but not more. Travelling the world had always been a big dream of mine. Not sitting inside a hotel room to type on my screen! This is what I have done all these previous years. This is precisely what I wanted to get away from. If I do this, it will KILL my dream and my passion for travel – and I’m not prepared to do this.
There is a sentence in German which describes what happened the last few months in terms of travel blogging for me: ‘Ich bin auf die Welt gekommen’. Which literally means: ‘I have come to earth’. What it actually means, is that I have had a massive wake-up call. Travel Blogging is not as romantic as it sounds. Travel Blogging has no real return of investment for a long time. You will work long hours, for no or little pay. No fancy benefit packages. No guaranteed salary at the end of each month. Yes you can sip the Mojito on the beach while you do it, but you don’t actually get to enjoy the Mojito. You just stare at your computer screen for hours, hoping not to get sunburnt, while sipping on your drink, and praying to find a good enough WIFI connection later to upload posts that may or may not get any traction.
Which brings me to my next point.
***Update: I joined eventually. I highly recommend it. Click here to join too!
5) You will spend endless hours staring at Screens
I kind of read about this on many blogs before I started my own and yet, I must honestly say, I was not entirely believing it. I don’t know why. I still had this fantasy that I will one day blog from the beach somewhere, making money and having an easy life.
What was I thinking?
Your MacBook and Iphone will be your new best friends. While people are out there having fun on their RTW trips which are costing them the same as what you are paying for it (if you’re lucky you get some freebies…but essentially you are still paying for your trip…especially in the beginning), you are locked inside typing. Or you are tweeting. Or taking a photo of you drinking a coconut for your Instagram. Welcome to the reality of a Travel Blogger’s life!
In some places you won’t have a decent WIFI connection (Hello India!) and you might end up with a huge backlog of posts, meaning you are constantly running a race against time and feel the anxiety spiking. Or you’ll feel guilty if you don’t spend more time on Twitter. Or spend hours replying to people on your screen.
Just to sum it all up again: you will spend A LOT of time in front of a screen.
If you are not prepared to do that, then travel blogging is not for you. Simple as.
6) Think carefully what you are giving up
See, I wish I was this 23- year-old-fresh-out-of-uni-person with a plan to travel the world, see what happens and maybe or maybe not come back to a career in ‘whatever’. I started working when I was 21 (i actually I worked part-time when I was in school too since the age of 16) and have since then worked and studied full-time (with an exception of 4 months when I was only working for 4 hours per day and study the rest of the day). My wanderlust kept dragging me away from where I was based, so I ended up doing a distance uni course in South Africa with having a base in Namibia for 3 years.
Then I got bored with living there and decided to transfer my studies and live in London – where I lived for nearly 6 years. It is the place I call my home. I financed my studies in England on my own. Whoever knows a thing or two about how expensive education in England is…knows what that means. I worked my ass off to fund my studies. Just because I did not want to be travelling the world without having a degree first (and yes it took me longer to finish my degree because ironically travelling and ending up living in different countries is what slowed down the process immensely…a bit ironic, huh?). Plus, I had promised my mum – who passed away just before my 18th Birthday.
During these 7 years I learnt a lot. I built up some massively important skills. I worked as a Travel Consultant for Wilderness Safaris South Africa – an incredible place to work for; especially if you are a big fan of responsible travel and eco-tourism, like I am. Afterwards I led my own little travel company and booked amazing itineraries for tourists abroad (i’m a specialist in Namibia travel…i know the country from the back of hand…yes yes I know…I should write posts about it…too bad that I lost ALL my photos during a break-in…). Then in England I worked in Marketing which ultimately landed me a job in one of the biggest law firms in the world.
I was doing well for myself.
But, I hated being stuck in an office the whole day. I wanted to go out into the big wide world and explore! So, I did. But you see…when you are part of the big 3-0 club and therefore a whole lot older than many other travel bloggers, you feel a bit queasy about the whole thing. I guess it’s only natural that you would feel that way, after working for many years, with a steady income and a relatively settled life.
I’m realising what I have left behind and there is a small little devil on my shoulder saying ‘You have given up everything to be an unemployed travel blogger who earns nada (in comparison)?’. However, the plus side of having had a bit of a career prior to travelling: I can go back to a whole range of options, if I wanted to. But, at what point in your life, do you decide to take a stance and decide for good? Or is it ever a final decision? For the first time in my life, I feel the difference between being a 20-year old and a 30-year old. Things change.
Things start to get scarily ‘adult’.
7) There will always be someone who is better than you
That may sound odd – but many people can’t cope with this. See, when you are used to success in whatever you do, then starting from scratch in a field you may not have much experience in, may be something that can knock your confidence really quickly. However, you can find your own voice in travel blogging – but in the beginning – especially, it helps to read a lot of other successful blogs. Try to learn from them. What is it that they do which makes them successful? Learn from them and develop your own style alongside it. With time and practise – you will see results. Just believe with conviction that things will work out. And they will!
Everything you put your heart into will bring results eventually!
When I started blogging, I noticed a few other travel bloggers who had started to travel long-term at roughly the same time as me. They are so much better than I am! Their website layout seems much easier to navigate. They seemed to know already which niche they want to specialise in. They have thousands of comments on blog posts dotted all over their blog. They get invited to do stuff for free. All the time!
But, you know what? That is ok. We are all on a different journey and if things are meant to work out, they will, in their own time – I really believe in this. I will find my voice. And so will you. But you won’t find it, unless you keep practising and learning relentlessly. Keep in mind: it’s not a competition.
There is plenty of room for all of us.
8) Travel Blogging is not just Blogging
So you think you will simply just write a few posts now and then and that’s it? No way José! Travel Blogging is about so much more: Upkeep of your website (which costs money), uploading your posts & editing (not to be underestimated…especially if you are stuck somewhere with bad WIFI connection and uploading takes forever or you lose two hours worth of writing because WordPress gives up on you…patience is a virtue…i don’t possess), editing of images, uploading your images, SEO work (very important, right from the start), publishing content, sharing it on Social Media, keeping up with all your Social media channels, TWITTER (lots of TWITTER), reading other blogs, commenting on other blogs, playing around on Canva, getting over your dislike of Pinterest (eurgh), engage, engage, engage – and so much more.
Oh yes and then the important part: travel and experience things (which is what you came out to do in the first place, huh?!). There are more aspects to just writing a post. The above, is just the start. I haven’t even figured out half of the things I’m meant to do. I’m constantly learning about something I ought to have done from the start. At least, it keeps you on your toes!
All of it requires a bit of a routine and a never-ever-give-up-mentality.
9) Travelling will never be the same again
In order to keep up with the (initially unpaid) work that you will be doing and the countless hours of work you will put into, you’ll need to get into some sort of routine. I personally, an insomniac who is most productive at night, do almost all of my typing past dawn. But because I also like to have fun sometimes and love to join other fellow travellers for dinners and drinks, this does not always work – so I need to work around my natural inclination to work post-sunset.
I have a natural tendency to work in the evenings and at night and sleep longer in the mornings. I LOVE this about travel blogging. I can create my own routine that works for me. I do relatively easy tasks in the mornings, such as photo editing or social media upkeep and the creative typing is left for the hours in the dark. As I’m typing this, Ben is asleep in the bed next to me (we are in a dorm) and the guy we are sharing the room with is (thankfully) still at the bar getting pissed. I hope he will be so drunk, that my typing won’t wake him up.
But routine comes with a price: the travelling you are used to, will never be the same again. I noticed, only a few months into my travelling, that every time I see something cool, I think ‘Oh, I must write a blog post about this’. My mind is in ‘blogging mode’ all the time. I feel I’m constantly under pressure to type, interact and do something related to my blog.
Just to compare: I worked LONG hours back in London. But once I was in the train, I was eating my Sushi (or whatever I grabbed at King’s Cross station) and read whatever the hell I wanted. I had ME time. As a perfectionist, I feel I’m struggling to establish a healthy work-life balance which gives me enough ME time while traveling (sounds perplexing, doesn’t it?). I guess, I will eventually fall into a rhythm that allows me to do that. If not, a burnout will be a natural consequence. Because it can drive you mad.
You need to make some time for yourself when running your own blog.
10) Treat your Travel Blog like a Business
I met Ian from Where Sidewalks End at a Traveller meeting in Bangkok and he passed on some awesome advice to me. One of the things that struck me the most was the sentence: ‘treat your travel blog like a business’. He asked me what it was that I could offer to my readers. Emmm…blog posts? Romantic stories about my time on the beach? Is this not good enough?
Well…no! No one gives a F…about your encounters with Nemo if your readers don’t get something valuable from your reading or from any other skill you offer. Since I heard this, I
reluctantly started to change the way I write my blog posts.
I keep asking myself: What value do I bring to my readers with this post?
Apparently, in order to be successful you need to shift the perspective: it’s not about you. It’s about your readers. And you thought YOU were the centre of the universe, hey? 😉
However, to counteract this: Blogging is all about your subjective view on things. If you are no longer doing this, you run a travel magazine – not a travel blog. A blog is all about what you have to say – in whichever form. You can blog about whatever the hell you want to, at the end of the day. And I decided to keep doing this occasionally. Why? I enjoy blogging about whatever goes on in my mind. It’s cathartic, therapeutic and…yes…it’s my blog! These posts are for me. If someone enjoys them…BONUS. If not…they served their purpose: to make me happy.
I think ultimately, blogging should be fun. So, if you intensely dislike writing yet another ’10 things to do in who-the-hell-cares’ post. Don’t do it. If blogging becomes a chore – you radiate this out into the world. You won’t attract readers. People can feel in your writing whether you mean something or not. And don’t forget: your blog is YOUR blog. ‘Successful’ is whatever is successful for YOU. If blogging about your morning run in the park, or feeding the ducks or about Granny Myrtle’s shopping adventure, fills you with massive excitement – go for it!
It all depends what you want to get out of your blog. A question that only you can answer for yourself.
11) For the love of travel, at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, you are not stuck in an office with no natural light. You are out here in the wild exploring beautiful places making the world your oyster. You are meeting wonderful people – making new friends – which you would not be able to, were you stuck in a glass cage (as I like to call it). You get to immerse yourself in different cultures, experience ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ adventures, feel the sun on your skin (or get terribly burnt like I do), swim with Nemo and Dory, eat gorgeous food, dance under the stars, take yourself out of your comfort zone – one day at a time.
Your are free to hop on another plane, train, boat and go to ‘wherever you want’ in the world. ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ will be easy to answer. Everybody back at home is envious of you. You have taken the plunge to transform your life – because that is what travel does to you: it transforms. spurs growth. enriches.
Travel blogging can be frustrating, but sights like this – make it totally worth it!
Don’t you think?
*** Disclaimer: There is an affiliate link in this post. If you join TBS by clicking on the link, I receive a commission. It’ll help me to continue running my business – and help you get started with becoming a travel blogger yourself! Thank you.
Do you agree or disagree with what I’m saying? Have you recently started blogging and feel you have realised a thing or two? Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.