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I’ve been a professional travel blogger for 10 years — today I’m going to share my secrets on how to become a successful travel blogger.
When I first started this blog in 2008, never in a million years could I imagine where it would take me.
It’s brought me around the world – across 100 odd countries and seven continents – and led to some epic adventures and lifetime experiences. From expedition cruising in Antarctica to tracking gorillas in the wild, catching Northern Lights in Lapland, and exploring the reclusive North Korea.
Becoming a travel blogger changed my life — in every sense of the word.
Not only do I now lead a life of travel, but I also make a comfortable living doing what I love. I go on assignment to cool places for publications like Lonely Planet and I get to work from anywhere in the world. I absolutely love what I do and I’ve never been happier.
In essence, being a travel blogger is a dream job – after all, I get paid to travel the world. For those who have the same dream as me, here is a detailed guide on how to become a travel blogger.
How to Become a Travel Blogger
Today I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about travel blogging in the past 8 years – what has worked for me and what you’ll need to do to become a travel blogger like me.
Know Your Purpose
Before you start a travel blog, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Why do you want to be a travel blogger?
For me, it has always been about travel and storytelling. I actually started this blog in 2003 (on blogspot then) as a means to keep my family and friends updated about my life abroad. It slowly evolved into more than a journal. Only in 2008 did I decide to transform it into a more professional platform to generate some income.
If you’re becoming a travel blogger with the goal of making money or getting free trips, then don’t even bother. Save yourself some time and find a more lucrative medium instead.
It takes a few years (may be less for some) to build an audience and readership before the money starts coming in. So think about what your motive is before you actually take the plunge.
Find a Niche
What are YOU all about? What truly calls to you? I know you love to travel, but what type of travel do you do? Budget or luxury? Epic adventure travel or beach vacations? Do you like slow travel or short holidays?
Back in the days when I first started blogging, it was enough to specialise in a general field of travel: budget, luxury, adventure, solo etc. Nowadays, you’ve got to be more creative and find a selling point that makes you different from the rest.
Are you an adventurer who leads overland expeditions of your own? Or do you like volunteering and have volunteered around the world? Maybe you like to write about family travel?
It took me a few years of blogging to figure out my special interests. So be patient and take your time to find out what you are most passionate about and go from there.
Most people read blogs because they want to read stories they can relate to; about people who are normal like everyone else doing incredible things. The one biggest thing that differentiates blogs from magazines or newspapers is this personal element.
Always try to inject your personal opinions and experiences. Be open and transparent – and write to them like you would write to your best friend. People read travel blogs because they want to know your first-hand experiences and how it was like traveling to a certain destination.
Develop your voice and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine on your blog.
You Need to Love to Travel AND Write
Many people seem to think that all you need to be a successful travel blogger is to have a passion for traveling.
Yes you do need to love to travel and have some travel experiences (having backpacked southeast Asia once doesn’t make you a seasoned traveler!). But it’s not enough to just have a passion for travel.
To successfully become a travel blogger, you need to love BOTH travel and writing.
At the end of the day, your expertise may be in travel but writing is your craft. If you want to make your career as a travel blogger last, you need to have a love for words and all that comes with blogging (which requires a whole spectrum of skills from digital marketing to social media).
During my early years of blogging, I took a guidebook writing boot camp in Guatemala organised by VIVA Travel Guides — it gave me the foundation I needed to be a writer, and most of it, it made me realise how much I love writing.
Make Building an Audience Your Priority
I cannot emphasize this enough: building an audience should be your top priority as a travel blogger, especially if you are new to this. Not how to monetise your blog, not pitching companies and getting freebies.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve been approached by a new travel blogger to share my contacts when they barely have any readers. I’m always happy to share (this is what the community is about) but I get really pissed off when people don’t get their priority right.
It took me two years to get my first press trip invite and earn a steady flow of income from this blog. For some, it’s happened much faster, and for others it’s taken even more time. The important thing is to know that success doesn’t come overnight — work hard at building your readership before expecting to reap any rewards.
Keep Writing and Don’t Give Up
To be a professional travel blogger requires TREMENDOUS hard work and commitment. Don’t expect to make money immediately after starting a travel blog; if you are not ready to dedicate all your time and effort to it, then it’s best to just treat it as a hobby.
Many bloggers I know give up after a year or so because they had no idea how much commitment was required. Besides putting in long hours, you need to keep at it for a long time (talking years, not weeks!) before you see any kind of return.
I remember the days when I first decided to take a shot at travel blogging in 2008: I would rush home after a day of work at my full-time job and get all excited to work on my blog. On weekends, I was happy to stay home and write for hours on end. That’s the kind of dedication you need.
Being a travel blogger is like running a marathon — you need to have stamina, go slowly but steadily and conserve your energy to last through the race.
TAKING IT A STEP FURTHER:
Take a Blogging Course
Every job requires you to know some skills — so does being a travel blogger. Besides knowing how to write, you need to know SEO, web developing, social media management, graphic design and so on. It took me years to pick up all that on my own and I feel that I STILL have so much more to learn.
If you’re serious about making money from travel blogging, I recommend investing in a blogging course to learn all the skills you need. Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Academy is well worth checking out if you’re interested in learning every major aspect of blogging.
Their in-depth course covers everything you need to know about the business of blogging: from the technicalities of building a blog to what to charge for advertising and how to approach companies.
The online course can be taken at your own pace and you can read the detailed tutorials as many times as you want. Besides the tutorials, you’ll also have access to audio interviews and webinars. There are also job opportunities on their job boards and forum.
Photography is a big part of any blog and great photos are a must for any successful blog. You’ll need some basic photography skills even if your interest lies in writing. Moving forward, videography is the next biggest thing so I recommend looking into that.
Firstly, get a good camera. Trust me, it’ll be a good investment. I used to have a DSLR, specifically a Canon 60D, but it was exhausting to lug around such a heavy equipment. I recently upgraded to a lightweight mirrorless Olympus E-M10 Mark II and I’ve never been happier.
Next, streamline your editing and organization process. It takes a while to figure out the process that suits you, but once you have it, it’ll be quick and easy to upload your photos each time. Read my article on how I organize my travel photos.
I use the Lightroom software program to edit all my photos in bulk and add my watermark. I already have a Lightroom preset in place (you just need to do this once when you start) so editing just involves applying my preset to all my images in a folder at once.
Lastly, use a cloud service to store and backup your photos. Dropbox for example is the most popular file storage service. Just pay a fee each month for the advanced plan and you’ll get extensive storage space. Plus they are all automatically backed up and include file recovery and history.
Rock Social Media
For bloggers, social media can be an immensely powerful tool to help you reach an even bigger audience.
I spend a huge chunk of my time on social media. This is not just because it helps me build my brand but simply because I enjoy it. Social media lets me connect with my audience more directly and allows me to engage with them more regularly than on my blog.
For me, my primary channel is Facebook, followed by Twitter and then Instagram. Again, you need to experiment and observe to see which platform works best for you. Each channel requires a different type of posting and content curation. Be sure to check the analytics for each platform to find out the best time to post and when to post.
Here’s my personal approach to each channel:
2-3 posts a day following the rule of thirds. In general, I always try to share a variety of updates — one-third of them would be personal updates that give readers a peek into my life on the road; one-third are questions directed to my followers to create some engagement; and one-third are some interesting and viral content from others. Check out my Facebook page.
4-5 posts a day with links to my blog posts. Images create more engagement, so I always try to include photos in my posts. Tag relevant profiles and include hashtags whenever possible. Click to see my Twitter profile.
1 post a day, usually more when I’m on the road. Tag the location for people who are nearby to find my photos. I also include up to 10 hashtags for my photo to pop up in searches. I recommend taking the time to research which hashtags are most popular for a particular destination or activity. Add me on Instagram!
Join a Blogging Community
In all honesty, I owe much of my success as a travel blogger to my friends in the blogging community.
Back when I first started travel blogging, the community was a relatively small and tight-knit group. I made close friends right from the start and we often helped each other out, offering support and advice whenever needed.
These days, the travel blogging community is a rather sizable one, and it can be quite overwhelming to make genuine connections in the crowd. Thankfully, there are plenty of Facebook groups created to discuss specific aspects of travel blogging.
Here are some great Facebook groups:
- Travel Bloggers — general topics
- The Business of Blogging — more technical and business aspects
- Travel Press Trips — for press trip alerts
- Professional Travel Bloggers Association — only for members
- Travel Photography Community – photographers will find this useful
Before joining each group, please read the rules or guidelines first. Feel free to ask questions and respond when someone offers you advice. Always take the advice with a pinch of salt, as something that has worked for others might not work for you.
Attend Conferences and Workshops
Conferences and workshops can be an extremely useful way to connect with other travel bloggers, as well as potential clients and partners. These educational workshops usually cater more to those new to the blogging world, but the advanced blogger can still find inspiration in such a setting.
While it’s easy to make contact with people online, nothing beats meeting in person. These conferences provide an opportunity for you to network with brands and companies, creating the first bridge to future partnerships.
I’ve personally attended several conferences and even spoken at a few (TBEX and WTM) and definitely recommend attending especially if you are a new travel blogger. Here are some of them:
- Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) – the most popular travel blogging conference
- Social Travel Market at WTM – a small section of the massive World Travel Market dedicated to social travel
- Social Travel Summit (STS) – for a small, elite group of travel bloggers that are a part of iAmbassador
- Travel Bloggers Conference (TBC) – organized by the PTBA (Professional Travel Bloggers Association)
Be Creative and Versatile
A successful travel blogger is one who knows how to diversify his/her income stream. They must be constantly coming up with new ways to generate new income.
In the first two years, I made most of my income from web advertising in the form of banner ads and sponsored advertorials. I tried different things to see what would work for me. Alberto even quit his job to work on this blog with me and we launched a digital magazine as another income stream. While it didn’t work out for us, we did learn a lot from this experience.
Eventually, I branched out to also do sponsored campaigns for companies, brand ambassadorship, and social media consulting work for companies. I also generate a small passive income from my book, The Adventure Traveler’s Handbook. I started running WildJunket Tours in 2017 and they’ve been an excellent way to generate extra income and connect closely with my readers.
Freelance writing has always been my biggest love. Even though it isn’t quite a profitable stream I still do it because of my love for magazine writing. I currently write for Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Today and many more.
Here’s a detailed look at how I get paid to travel, including my various income streams and their sources.
Some of the ways we travel bloggers generate income:
- Advertising: placement of display ads on website
- Sponsored Advertorials: publishing sponsored posts written either by yourself or the advertiser
- Affiliate Marketing: earning commission from recommending products on your site
- Brand Ambassadorship: representing a brand and becoming their spokesperson of sorts
- Freelance Writing: contributing to travel magazines or websites
- Creating Products: selling your own products (ebooks, courses, artwork etc)
- Consultancy Work: offering advice to companies on how to manage their blog or social media
- Designing Trips: planning trips for other travelers based on your expertise on specific destinations
- Leading Tours or Workshops: running tours using your knowledge on certain locations
Set Goals and Work Towards Them
When I first started to become a travel blogger, I would set monthly goals for myself and always try to work towards them. My goals were anything from growing my unique monthly visitors to increasing my Facebook followers to getting an article published in a popular magazine.
Having goals kept me motivated and pushed me to work harder than ever.
I remember how happy I was to meet the milestone of reaching 20,000 unique monthly views. And when I got my article published in a local newspaper. Oh and that time I signed my first contract as a brand ambassador.
A blog is a business — you need to be serious and treat it as a business if you want to carve a career out of it. At the end of the day, the key to become a travel blogger is writing compelling stories and capturing destinations with good photography. Focus all your efforts on writing well and you’ll be on the road to success.
Any questions for me on how to become a travel blogger? Feel free to leave a comment below!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.”
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