While speaking at the New York Travel Festival this past April, I was overwhelmed by all the enthusiastic audience members that rushed me after the panel discussion with more questions about blogging, working with brands and building their own sites. Travel blogging seems like the unicorn of careers; those who aspire to do it wonder where to begin, how to get started and if they’ll ever build a following. As someone who continues to build The Pin the Map Project on a daily basis and who (to this day) is surprised when an amazing opportunity arises from my blog, I can attest to the fact that becoming a travel blogger is possible. In an effort to address the many questions that surrounding travel blogging, I’ve decided to launch a BLOG TIPS VIDEO SERIES to compliment the posts I’ve written addressing the ins and outs of becoming a professional travel blogger! To get started, this first video covers the 5 steps to becoming a travel blogger.
1. Choose your passion.
Anyone can start a blog but what will ultimately differentiate the hobby bloggers from the professional ones will be passion. Before you start a blog, before you even come up with a blog name, decide on what your blog will be about. If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie who finds themselves devouring news on restaurant openings and chef gossip, then your blog should be about food. If you’re a fashion addict who can’t get enough of Women’s Wear Daily, then make your site about style; and if you’re addicted to globetrotting and love writing about destinations, then focus on travel. It seems easy enough but as someone who has started and stopped at least 3 blogs in the past, you have to be very honest with what is your passion because a strong blog will require you work on it every single day. Whether you are writing blog posts, updating social media, promoting or networking your brand–you should love what your blog is about as it will quickly become your life.
2. Start your blog…but wait to invest.
With WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace and other blogging platforms, anyone can start a blog in 5 minutes and begin sending their thoughts out into the world. The Pin the Map Project uses WordPress.org and is hosted on BlueHost; but before my site was thepinthemapproject.com, before it was on WordPress.org, my website was hosted on a free WordPress.com site with the domain thepinthemapproject.wordpress.com. It costs money to purchase your domain, to transfer to WordPress.org and to choose a web-hosting service so before I put my money where my words were I waited two months to see if I would remain consistent with The Pin the Map Project. Did I post often? Was I excited about blogging or did it feel like a chore? Like choosing what to blog about, it is important to be honest with yourself about the level at which you want to blog. Do you want to blog casually, every couple of weeks for fun? Do you want to become a full-time blogger and attempt to turn this into a career? If you answer yes to the latter, then it’s time to invest in your website.
Check out my post BLOG TIPS: LAUNCHING YOUR OWN TRAVEL BLOG for in-depth tips on choosing a blogging platform, designer and setting up your website.
3. Build your following on social media.
Build your following. Three words yet the hardest step of blogging and admittedly the step that separates the bloggers that go on to become widely recognized and the ones that remain in the shadows. Building your social following is a painstaking process that you will end up doing every day–whether you’re pushing your posts out on Twitter, building and maintaining a Facebook page or creating YouTube videos. For The Pin the Map Project I leverage all forms of social media–from Pinterest to YouTube– but am particularly keen on Instagram.
Instagram is a necessary tool for travel bloggers because travel is a very visual thing. People get inspired by travel shots so to be active on Instagram is a savvy way to build a following and link back to your blog. Always use hashtags as they help people find your Instagram (I like to use #travel #instatravel #travelgram #wanderlust #onassignment and #globetrotter) and make your Instagram handle related to your blog; for example mine is @pinthemapproject.
When it comes to social media, remember that it is better to engage with your readers over just speaking at them. Imagine your social conversations like a dinner and you’ll quickly understand why bloggers who ask their followers questions tend to be more successful than those that share a blanketed, unpersonalized update. I will not sugar coat the fact that building a social following is difficult (it is something I do daily) and a long process, but it is fun to share updates with your followers and watch as your numbers swell.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! (My most important tip)
If there is one takeaway to have from this article it is this: one of the reasonsThe Pin the Map Project is where it is today, the only reason I have partnered with brands, been paid for my work, been sent on assignment around the world, been featured in media or published in VICE or FOOD & WINE Magazine is because I dared to ask for it. This is not to say that after two months of blogging I approached tourism boards and brands with the savoir faire of Matt Kepnes or Brooke Saward, but once my blog had reached a good following (I waited until about 5,000+ monthly readers) and was streamlined (i.e. professionally designed with a purchased domain) I began approaching travel brands and pursuing travel opportunities.
Of course, some of my e-mails in the beginning went unanswered or were rejected but in time I soon found I was able to secure amazing things by simply throwing my hat in the ring for consideration. I reached out to a podcast I admired and offered to do a piece on becoming a freelance writer, I reached out to be a speaker on brand/blogger partnerships for the New York Travel festival, I reached out for the opportunity to join a press trip to Miami, I reached out to two travel agencies to review their tours and (in many cases, much to my surprise) my simple inquiry blossomed into a full blown opportunity.
Check out my post BLOGGERS & BRANDS PART 3: HOW TO FORM A BRAND PARTNERSHIP for tips on approaching travel brands and tourism boards.
5. Be consistent in your blogging & keep evolving your blog.
I try to update The Pin the Map Project every other day if not every day; the fact is that there is a world of bloggers out there and the ones that post infrequently will fall to the sidelines. Take a look at your favorite travel bloggers–you’ll notice that (barring any life events like having a baby, getting married or being somewhere without internet) they update their websites daily, sometimes multiple times a day. The key here is consistency–if you want to keep readers visiting your website and enjoying your content, it is important to keep creating stories and posts for them to read.
Additionally, keep evolving your blog as it grows, look towards your favorite travel blogs and take note of what worked for them! This is not to say copy their content (that’s a big no-no and quick way to be ostracized in the writing community), but if you notice that they have a travel shop that seems to be successful, have a plug-in that you like or admire the person who designed their website, there is nothing wrong with taking note so you can apply and personalize these concepts to your own blog. Although there are many tips to becoming a travel blogger–some straightforward, others a bit more complicated—they will always boil down to one simple truth: if you want to be a successful travel blogger than you need only to put in the time, effort and passion towards the dream to see it become a success. I am a firm believer that anyone with a knack for writing, passion for travel and determination to succeed can become a travel blogger so long as they are dedicated and have a love for what they do.
Keep an eye out out for upcoming blog tips videos on my Youtube! Make sure to subscribe here and share any topics you’d like to see covered in the comments section below!