The world of travel blogging is a fantastical one that seems to take on mythical proportions to many people. How do you become a full time travel blogger? Are you really paid to travel the world? When people ask me what I do, the same eager questions always swirl around the idea of being a travel blogger. I can see the spark in their eyes and hear the envy in their voice as they ask me questions about my life as though I have a secret formula to how they too can swap their 9-5 for travel.
The truth is there is no secret formula to becoming a travel blogger and that anyone with a love of travel and passion for writing can become one. I write often on The Pin the Map Project about blogging and candidly share all my tips–from how I got started to how I grew a blog following–in hopes of showing my readers how they too can start a travel blog of their own. Yet, assumptions about the world of travel blogging constantly toss glitter in the eyes of all who are tempted to become one so here I share my top 10 honest travel blogging confessions.
1. I am not traveling constantly just because I’m a travel blogger.
Here is a misconception of travel blogging that I come across often–that to be a travel blogger means to be constantly on the move. While there are bloggers who have sold everything to jump from flight to flight and trip to trip (kudos!) there are other bloggers who have a home base that they return to in between travels. In my case, my home base is New York City and when I come back from an assignment or trip, I will return to my apartment and my local coffee shop to write about the food scene, destination, hotels and experiences I had while away. Being in a relationship and having a life here in NYC, I prefer to come back home between trips to relax and write my stories; this also allows me to strike a work-life balance and better enjoy my travels since I’m not stressing about completing stories or meeting deadlines while away.
2. To be successful in blogging I approach my website like a business.
I often share blog tips on how I’ve managed to grow my blog and following since The Pin the Map Project’s inception almost 3 and half years ago; and the biggest takeaway is this: I apply the same principles I learned from my work in advertising, marketing and public relations to grow my blog and brand. I spent 4+ years working in advertising for some of the top brands in the world and in doing so I picked up valuable strategies that I later adapted on a smaller scale for The Pin the Map Project. Likewise, from my experience in public relations and marketing; I was able to apply tips on how to approach PR professionals, market my brand and build my following. To many, blogging may sound like a hobby (and for some it is, which is fine!) but if hoping to turn a blog into a career than it has be approached with the same diligence and savvy that you would approach a business.
3. Most of my income actually comes from outside my blog.
I’d like to tell you that the world of blogging is as easy as writing posts, sitting back and letting the dollars roll in from advertising and sponsorships (and perhaps for some A-list bloggers, it is) but the reality is that most bloggers I speak to earn their income from other revenue streams outside their blog. While recently speaking to the Ketchum Public Relations staff on how bloggers and PR professionals can work together, one of my main points about today’s blogger is that they do more than just blog. Take a look at a blog and you’ll notice that many have online stores, e-books, e-courses, offer blog consultations and other additions and services from which they draw revenue. While I can earn money from sponsored posts–it is not consistent because I don’t want to saturate my site with sponsored content–and while I can earn money from advertising and affiliate networks it can be sporadic payments. Most of my income will come from a combination of all I just mentioned as well as my freelance writing and freelance projects (be it freelance travel writing, media planning or consulting or odd jobs).
4. Free travel takes work.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I always see that sparkle in their eyes when they imagine that I am paid simply to sip cocktails on a beach somewhere and then write a 500 word blog post about it. The truth is that yes, I do receive free travel but it is a lot of work since free travel is in exchange for multiple stories and social media coverage both during and after the trip. For example, while on a recent trip to Morocco with Topdeck Travel, I had the incredible experience of enjoying a Topdeck tour and exploring much of what Morocco has to offer. During my trip, I was balancing Instagram takeovers, social media coverage, making sure to take plenty of notes for my stories back home, filming video for a Morocco video–and that was all before I even wrote the stories! Once back in New York, I wrote 6-10 stories on Morocco for both my website and other publications, created the video, pushed out everything on social media and pitched numerous publications with Morocco angles. So while free travel is incredible, it’s important to know that it does take work.
5. I work harder and longer as a full time blogger than I did at my 9-5.
This might come as a surprise to some people but when I made the switch from a 9-5 career in advertising to being a full time blogger and travel journalist my workload actually got heavier and my work hours got longer. It’s right now 11pm in New York and I’m working on this post after having spent the day at a coffee shop working on my latest free travel guide and writing stories for other publications I contribute to. Blogging and freelance writing is an ongoing process and it takes time and effort and is constantly in motion–whether I am pitching an editor, pushing out a post on social media, brainstorming ways to develop my site or looking for opportunities for collaboration with brands. While my to-do list can get long, the beauty of it is that it is entirely dictated by me and is filled with items that are ultimately my passion. As a freelancer, I am able to control my schedule so will usually tend to wake up around 10am, go for a bike ride and have breakfast with my boyfriend (who also works freelance) before heading to my coffee shop to write for a couple hours and tackle some items on my list.
6. Too many people ask bloggers to work for free and it gets old real fast.
When I first started travel writing I took on my fair share of unpaid assignments in exchange for exposure. I wrote for publications like Thought Catalog or Elite Daily because I knew that a story on those sites would drive readers to The Pin the Map Project and help build my following quickly. As The Pin the Map Project grew, I started to take on less free work and look for more collaborative opportunities that I could earn an income from such as sponsored posts, brand partnerships, etc. Still, I would take on unpaid gigs but often in exchange for more than just exposure–for example, free travel or a hotel stay. Now as a full time travel writer/blogger any money I earn comes solely from my freelance work and blogging, so to take on unpaid opportunities isn’t smart. Yet, I get e-mails everyday from companies, PR people, brands and more looking to collaborate with me in exchange for…zilch. Admittedly, it can get frustrating to have opportunities come through my inbox and find that there is no budget in exchange for the stories, coverage and all that is being asked of me. I have had to kindly turn down a few opportunities (especially as of late) due to lack of budget and no compensation for the amount of work being asked. I hear this complaint often from other writers and artists across all fields–especially in New York–and it can be sad as these talented creators are barely scrapping by because companies pay little to nothing for their work.
7. I joined a blogger network as soon as I could.
One of the main things I learned about blogging when working in advertising was that when brands want to hire a blogger for a campaign, they rarely approach the blogger directly. Instead, brands approach blogger networks who in turn reach out to bloggers within their networks for the campaign opportunity. Knowing this, as soon as The Pin the Map Project had amassed enough of a following I applied to some of the top blogger networks I knew and was thrilled to join Mode Media (formerly Glam Media). It was the best decision I’ve made for The Pin the Map Project and for anyone looking to build their blog and give it credibility, I cannot recommend joining a blogger network enough. Some other ones to consider include: Say Media and Blogher.
8. I approach brands and companies as much as they approach me.
On a daily basis I receive press releases, sponsored post proposals, blogger collaboration proposals and brand inquiries and almost half of them are completely unrelated and not a fit for The Pin the Map Project (here’s looking at you adult diapers, press release!). Such is the nature of the game. Many times press releases that are sent to me are blanketed emails sent to a list of bloggers and rarely tailored specifically to my site. Sometimes, I’ll receive fantastic opportunities that fit perfectly with my website and these e-mails are why I’m so excited to check my inbox every morning for the mere promise of having an e-mail like that; but more often than not I tend to approach brands and companies that I feel would be a wonderful fit for The Pin the Map Project.
9. Travel blogging can get lonely at times.
Between the idyllic wanderlust snapshots and videos from abroad, it can be hard to believe that travel bloggers can get lonely. Although the travel blogging community is large and supportive, kind and welcoming–we are all spaced out and often on the move. Many times–particularly on press trips or free travel–you can find yourself alone in a hotel blogging, at a coffee shop solo or wandering city streets sans companions. While I love solo traveling and how empowering it can be, the truth is that travel blogging can get lonely at times as you are often working remotely and alone.
10. There is no “right way” to become a travel blogger.
If I can leave you with anything, dear reader, it’s this: there is no clear path on how to become a travel blogger, you quite literally just launch a blog, start writing and learn as you go. Some travel bloggers hire PR agencies to build their brand and snag them publicity to rocket them to stardom within a year, some travel bloggers take years to gain recognition, other travel bloggers hire writers to turn their blog into a community–whatever the approach, there is no wrong way to becoming a travel blogger.
Share your travel blogging confessions below! For more tips on travel blogging, make sure to check out my BLOG TIPS section.