How do you define a successful travel blogger?
1. Huge number of visitors and endless propositions from companies?
2. A few readers and you get enough work to finance your travels?
3. Mum and dad love your blog, you have a full time job, nice holidays, and your blog is your main hobby?
4. Something else?
Personally, I think all of the above and everything in between. Being a successful travel blogger is completely subjective and I don’t think any one blogger can tell others how to be successful, or announce that they know what ‘success’ is. The aim of Travel Blogger High is to show you what I’ve learned over the years of travel blogging, not to tell you how you should be doing it.
I’ve been to a lot of travel blogging conferences where the most well-known of all the travel bloggers in all the land, usually the ones with the historical highest view counts, will pass on their knowledge on what it takes to be a successful travel blogger. All good knowledge, I suck it up like a sponge, but their success isn’t the kind of success I want to emulate.
Why I don’t want to be a ‘big blogger’
When you’re a ‘successful travel blogger’ in terms of reader numbers and social media followers you have to spend a lot of time answering emails (I get around 200 emails a week asking about press trips, destination advice, advertising, etc. That’s enough for me!), posting on Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Facebook, or any of the other social media sites around. You have to source content to share, comment on blogs, keep up with answering your lovely readers on every medium and generally be available and ready for anything. This, as well as keeping up your travel blog writing, responding to interview requests, staying on top of the latest trends and maintaining the myriad of skills you need to be a travel blogger. You usually have to hire someone else to help (see below) and when your blog is called something like ‘vickyflipfloptravels.com’ there’s not really the scope for anyone else to come on board.
I can’t imagine how long anyone who has a bigger blog than mine in terms of audience figures spends on doing admin and things that they didn’t start up a travel blog to do. All this takes away from the ‘travel’ part of being a travel blogger.
But I still want to be a ‘successful’ one
Personally, and it’s taken me a while to realise, but for me being a successful travel blogger is…
- Being a part of a movement that inspires people to get out there and see the world.
- Helping people to travel better and deeper who wouldn’t have done before.
- Making enough money from blog related activity to live at least hand to mouth on the road.
- Being free to work when, how, where and as
muchlittle as I want.
When I was in Belize I had a whole week off when I was checking out all the things to do in Caye Caulker, and I barely touched my blog. I didn’t even get my laptop out for five days. Obviously I had my phone but the freedom to work as and when I want to, is a really important part of what success is to me. If I stop for a few days I normally get a few emails from my most avid of readers wondering where I’ve gone, but I won’t get in trouble with anyone.
I choose my hours, I choose if I even work, I can write what I want, work with the sponsors I like, I’ve got enough money in the bank for my next adventure and I’m not drowning in social media correspondence. I’m just having fun with it all and I genuinely love doing it. To me, for now, that’s a successful travel blogger.
What does ‘success’ mean to you?
So what makes a successful travel blogger in your eyes?
- Being offered press trips?
- A high number of subscribers?
- Big audience numbers?
- Site wide sponsorship?
- The most amount of social media followers ever?
- Guaranteed Likes on every post?
- Being able to write what you want?
- Getting to spend time on the videos / podcasts / articles as you like?
- Earning loads of cash through collaborations?
- Free travel wherever and whenever you want?
You can’t have everything – I’ll tell you that much now. Decide what’s important to you in your travel blogging career and focus on that goal (s).
Create actionable goals
Now that you’ve decided on your goals as a travel blogger it’s time to work out how you’re going to get there. For example, if you want awards you need to have a blog worthy of them, first off. Then you need to be looking around to find the awards to apply for – a quick Google search will source that for you – and you need to make a note of the deadlines, what they want from you and if they have a hashtag do a bit of snooping to see who else is entering. You could also have a look at your fellow contender’s homepage sidebar to see if there’s a mention of awards they’ve won, and their about page, to see if there’s any you could enter for.
Whatever your goal break it down, and if you’re that way inclined, set yourself dates to complete them by. You need to set SMART goals to really get yourself to where you want to be in your travel blogging career.
Research the competition
The best way to learn is to learn from what’s been done before. If there’s a blogger you admire who’s achieving the goals at the top of your list, stalk them. Not in a weird find-out-where-they-live way, but in an online ‘research’ kind of way.
For example, if your goal is to use your blog to make money and go freelance do some research into how other travel bloggers are financing themselves. Do they have any tips posts? Is there a ‘portfolio’ tab, or a ‘hire me’ area? Make notes about companies they’ve worked with and if they give any advice on how to score paid writing gigs, advertising opportunities or any other ways to make money.
Be patient and keep working at it
Unfortunately there’s no quick way to be a successful travel blogger. One of the quickest rises to success I can think of is Brooke from World of Wanderlust – within a year she’s got millions of readers. I don’t know how she’s done it – I even bought her book to find out but sadly she doesn’t reveal much.
Whether you have a team behind you, some money to invest or just some mad writing skills, play to your strengths and keep going. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a successful blog. Keep your goals in mind and strive to working towards them. Thousands of blogs are started up every month but it’s only the people who are really dedicated that will reap any benefit from them.
Reward yourself at milestones
Beavering away on a travel blog can be a lonely business at times. I’ve definitely gone a whole day without even thinking to speak to anyone at times and it’s only when my tummy rumbles I realise I could probably do with some company, and some food. It’s important to be nice to yourself when you’re working hard to achieve your goals – you need it to stay motivated.
For example, back to the money goal, you could tell yourself…
“Once I make my first £100 I’ll treat myself to a selfie stick, at £1000 I’ll buy a new top, and at £10,000 I’ll book that flight”.
Or replace the money with whatever it is that floats your boat.
Keep learning and refining
It could take a long time to reach your goal so you need to keep learning as you go. The travel blogger world, the internet and social media changes all the time, and as a travel blogger you’re now entrenched in all three. Keep up with the latest trends and stay inspired from tech sites (like copyblogger.com and moz.com), from your favourite bloggers and from whatever hits your senses out there in the big wide world.
Manage your expectations
If you’re starting a travel blog while working a 40-hour week, keeping up a social life, nurturing a relationship, attempting some sort of fitness and trying to see your family, you’re not going to become the world’s biggest travel blogger in three months. For the first 2ish years of my blog these are the plates I was trying to spin, but I wasn’t really interested in quantitive success, I just wanted a blog to play with.
Don’t put a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself for any of the goals you identified above – travel blogging is meant to be fun. There’s a famous quote in surfing – ‘the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun’. If you substitute ‘surfer’ for ‘blogger’, I think it works well for travel bloggers too.
A word on delegation
A lot of the ‘big travel bloggers’ have to hire people to work for them. Check out this example from ytravelblog.com about how many staff they have and you can see from the comments how surprised everyone is about the size of the team. Readers just can’t see all the hard graft that goes on behind a blog – Caz and Craig would never be able to keep the success of ytravelblog up alone, as well as travel and care for two children. A lot of work goes into being a travel blogger, and a lot more to being a popular one. I know of one travel blogging couple who’ve hired someone specifically to manage their StumbleUpon accounts, nothing else, that’s how much time you could spend on all these social media platforms.
I’ve dabbled in hiring people from elance.com and the like, but with all the back and forth emails I could’ve done the job myself quicker. See that vickyflipfloptravels.com logo up there? That took me three months and three freelancers to get, even though I knew exactly what I wanted. I decided at that point I wanted my blog to be all me and so ended up doing the site redesign myself, in two weeks, at a cost of just £50 for the basic theme.
As a travel blogger your blog-related to do list will be endless. It’s important to enjoy the travel blogging journey as well as your end destination, when you get there.
I hope this article has helped you to think about your goals with travel blogging and also reassure you that it’s not just the numbers that matter. There’s a lot more to being a successful travel blogger than your Facebook Likes!