Are you someone who loves the feel of a fresh notebook?
Those crispy, white pages offer limitless possibilities for how to fill them. You haven’t spilled coffee on it, or torn off a piece of paper to jot down a grocery list. It’s waiting for you to produce perfectly crafted words or doodles.
The thrill of starting a travel blog is similar. You haven’t built a brand yet. You haven’t honed your blogging style or zeroed in on a target audience. The possibilities are all still there and you haven’t screwed up once!
While mistakes are part of the learning process (don’t worry, you WILL make them), it’s always nice to hear advice from those who have gone before, to hopefully better prepare for what’s to come.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things some veteran bloggers wished they had known BEFORE they started their travel blogs.
Now, before you spill coffee on that beautiful, blank notebook (or your keyboard — gasp!), consider these words of wisdom from those who have already made plenty of mistakes and survived to blog another day.
This is all valuable advice for those who have yet to start a travel blog, but equally helpful to consider, no matter where you are on your blogging journey.
1. Blogging is seriously hard work.
This might seem obvious, but it can’t be emphasized enough. If you’re hoping to create a profitable travel blog and/or use your blog to support your travels, you’re going to have to dedicate A LOT of time and effort.
Blogging requires the skills of nearly every position a traditional publication might employ, from graphic design and WordPress maintenance to writing, editing, and photography skills. You might even want to master the skills of videography for your blog.
The workload of blogging doesn’t cease when you’ve become adept at these skills. Producing regular content, promoting that content, creating products, networking, pitching, and developing your business are all tasks that must be attended to regularly.
This often means more time sitting at a computer than you would commit at a traditional office job.
When I started my travel blog in early 2011, I suddenly switched from an active travel life to sitting 10-12 hours a day at my computer. I worked my a** off for two solid years, 10-12 hours per day, 6 days a week – until I literally broke my body. In Dec. 2012, I suffered a bad slipped disc, which I attribute almost entirely to blogging work. – Lash of Lash World Tour
While physical injuries are rare, blogger burnout is something you hear about a lot.
The New York Times even covered it last year, profiling the couple behind Young House Love who recently decided to step away from their hugely-popular, home-improvement website to focus on their family and other career options, despite their impressive success.
Blogging can be exhausting. But it can also be a joy. The ability to write about something you love and share that passion with the world is incredibly rewarding, if you’re willing to put in the work.
2. You’ll need to develop thick skin.
As mentioned above, blogging involves a variety of challenges. But often times, it’s the simple act of hitting “Publish” that causes bloggers to freeze up with self-doubt.
Even when your audience consists of just your mom and a handful of supportive friends, the vulnerability you’re exposed to by putting your words out into the world can be terrifying. Will people judge you? Criticize you? Correct you?
At first, I was quite apprehensive to publish posts and share them with my friends and family, as I thought they would judge me. But soon I realized that having this great website that was mine was something to be incredibly proud of. -Petra Chappell of The Global Couple
Usually, you’ll find those fears unfounded. Readers will admire your dedication, your skills, and your stories. They might even tell you this in the comments section of your blog, or through social media, which feels great.
Then again, bloggers should be prepared for the criticism that inevitably comes with having an online audience. The more popular your blog becomes, the most likely you are to receive critical, or just downright mean, comments.
I wish I’d known that worrying about other people’s opinions was a waste of time. Before starting my blog, I worried about what my friends and family would think of my writing. I quickly realised that I needed to trust myself. The majority of people are always going to be supportive. -Grace Harding of The Beauty of Everywhere
3. The way you travel will change.
That image of a travel writer lounging on a beach with their laptop perched on their tan legs and a cocktail in hand is nice and all — but it doesn’t work that way. There’s no way the hotel wi-fi reaches the water and the sand would make a mess.
The ability to travel is great and many of us are so lucky to be able to do so. But blogging does change the way you travel.
If you’re looking to use your blog to support a nomadic lifestyle, you’ll have to learn to balance your time between experiencing the places you’re in, and working on your blog so that you can share those places with an audience.
I used to think that once we were traveling full-time it would be all relaxation and fun. But the reality is, it’s hard work! We don’t want to return to our nine to five life, but sometimes, we’re exhausted. We are three years in, and trying to figure out how to create a balance of traveling and being at our “home base”. – Shannon Lynberg of 2 Travel Everywhere
Consider what you require to be productive at home. Do you need a quiet space to work in? How much time do you require to develop an idea and write a killer post? What sort of equipment do you use regularly that you’ll need to lug around once you’re on the road?
All of these factors will effect the way you work from the road. They’re important to consider before you start a travel blog, especially if you’re going to do so while traveling. But heck, it sure beats an office.
4. Creating products is key.
If you want to make money from your blog, it’s beneficial to approach your blog as a platform to sell something else.
Sure, there are people who will create a profitable website through banner ads, sponsored posts, links, and other more passive streams. But the most reliable way to make money off a blog these days is through products like books, ebooks, courses, consulting services, design work, photography, art, etc.
Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads does a great job using this strategy. The Legal Nomads Shop, prominently displayed on the home page of her blog, showcases hand-drawn posters and t-shirts of Vietnam.
Jodi has written extensively about her time in Vietnam, and knows that many of her readers have a connection to that country. Offering them a product that directly relates to what they read about on her blog is a sure win.
Darren Rowse of Problogger aptly compares blogging without a product to busking on the street without a CD to sell.
You might collect some tips by playing your music (or by slapping a couple ads on your site) but the real money comes in when you’ve got something to offer those people who love your music and want to take it home with them.
It might seem like a lot of work to create a product but once it’s available, you can ideally rely on it to continuously make you money.
Writing my first Ebook was not easy. After 7 months of hard work it was finished and that was it — a passive income product was created. Now it just sits there on Amazon, a reliable stream of income comes in each month, and I do nothing. The more passive products you build the more reliable income you can create for your blog. – Dave Brett of Travel Dave
5. Honesty with your readers shines through.
When you first start a travel a blog, you likely have zero intentions of misleading your audience. Why would you?
But then opportunities start appearing in the form of money and freebies. You’ve likely dumped months, or even years of work into your blog by the time you’re offered compensation for that time.
Would it really be so bad to promote a brand that you don’t actually use, or write a glowing hotel review after a terrible experience because it was free and you feel like you owe it to them?
These ethics can be confusing to navigate when you first begin facing them, but if honesty with your readers is a top priority, that should give you a guiding light when faced with business decisions.
You’ll develop a better relationship with your readers when you’re honest about your travels and where your income comes from. Not everything has to be rosy and peachy, either. Sometimes the best stories are the hard ones. – Candice Walsh of Candice Does The World
People read blogs because they’re personal. You provide first-hand accounts and personality that people can’t find on bigger publications. If someone likes your blog, it’s partly because they like you. (Or at least the version of you that’s displayed online.)
Don’t cheat them out of that relationship by being dishonest. Readers, especially once they’ve taken the time to get to know you and your work, will see right through it.
6. Your email subscriber list is your most valuable number.
I wish I had thought to start an email list right away. When I finally started one after blogging for several years, it was disheartening to think how many readers I missed out on capturing by not having an email list from the start. – Katie Gard of Domestiphobia
It’s easy to get caught up in the page views per day game. Those WordPress stats and Google Analytics are fun (and torturous) to track as your numbers grow. It can also be REALLY exciting when a post gets a lot of love and suddenly your numbers soar. But to develop a sustainable, dedicated audience, you’ve got to capture those emails.
When a reader gives you their email address, they’re telling you that they want more. They want to know when you post new content, and when you release a new product. They don’t want to forget about you.
That’s an impressive commitment to tourism boards and brands looking to work with bloggers. Your list of email subscribers tells them that people are listening to what you have to say, rather than happening upon your blog for just long enough to skim an article and then leaving, never to return again.
It might feel fruitless to start an email list in the beginning, when your numbers are low and the growth of your list is slow. But every single reader counts. ESPECIALLY the ones that find your blog and love it form the start.
Starting a travel blog is an exciting adventure with plenty of challenges to face along the way.
Those who truly feel passionate about it and are willing to dedicate the time and effort it requires to build a successful business from their travel blog, can trust that despite the frustrations and the many mistakes you’re bound to make, hard work will pay off.
Then again, no matter how successful your travel blog is when it comes to making money, you’re creating something special and documenting experiences you’ll want to remember forever. That accomplishment alone is priceless.