TEN years today since I set up this travel blog.
Can’t believe it!
In February 2012 I was working at Hostelbookers as a Content Editor in Holborn, London. I lived at my ex’s mum’s flat, in one and a half rooms, and used to cycle to work through Regents Park. I enjoyed my job but wasn’t paid nearly enough. I was going out ALL the time, with my netball friends, friends from my old job, my new job, school, college – anyone who fancied a drink basically. It was FUN. The year before my ex and I had travelled Europe for four months, so I had a lot to say about my travels, and life was pretty great.
That year, 2012, ended up being one of the best, seminal years of my life, but also, sad. Both my nan and my grandma were very ill, nan eventually dying and Grandma early in 2013. We had the Olympics in London – one of the best summers – and by the end of the year I had a sweet new job that flew me out to Toronto and New York for my first week, and finally, paid me well.
On February 1st 2012 though, I set up VickyFlipFlopTravels.com.
Benefits of being a travel blogger
Thanks to this travel blog I’ve now been to over 70 countries, spent three years travelling the world solo, been on some incredible press trips, managed to save to buy a house by myself, and it’s allowed me to consistently learn new things about the world, and about writing online.
The blog started as a way to practice what I was learning at work, then it became a great way to get invited to (free!) travel events in London, then to see the world, and then to support my digital nomad lifestyle. Over the past two years it’s become a lucrative business and job that I love, and was born to do.
My blog has been there for me. It allowed me to travel as I pleased, it’s given me the opportunities to make some wonderful friends, it’s my outlet, and when the pandemic hit, it became my sanctuary and obsession. I feel very, very lucky to be able to call my own hours and to do something I’m so passionate about every day.
As I enter this next phase of my life, I can see how incredible it is to have this blog to support my family. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for the world with my baby.
Starting a travel blog
I’ll forever be grateful to the 1st February 2012, when for whatever reason I decided to bite the bullet and set up this site. For me, it was such a lovely time in the travel blogging world – so simple, so lovely, so innocent and none of us knew what we were really doing.
I’ve written more about the ‘good old days’ in my celebratory 6 years of travel blogging post here, and how it all changed.
So I won’t harp on about them here.
Looking back there are many things I could’ve done differently, to be ‘more successful‘ in this mad blogging world, but I’m happy with the path I’ve taken. I feel very privileged that my travel blogging career has taken place in the years it has. I think if I’d known then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have had such incredible experiences around the world, and be too interested in the business side, when all I really wanted to was drink cocktails on a beach and see the world.
Top tips for making your career in travel blogging last
Ten years a travel blogger makes me an old timer in this business, so I thought I’d share some insight into how to make your travel blogging career last as long as mine (and I plan to stick around for a good few more years yet!).
1. You need to evolve
I was talking to someone recently about travel blogging who couldn’t believe I’d been doing it so long. She told me I must’ve helped shape the industry, which caught me off guard. I guess I must’ve!
Ten years is a long time to stick at something, especially online.
Over the years I’ve dabbled in event organising, a blogging course, ebooks, my own creative agency, setting up and buying other websites, recording a podcast, creating DayOutinEngland.com, and my new book about festivals. I’ve written for numerous websites and publications, and had a go at travel writing for newspapers.
All good fun, all great learning experiences – but I know that writing for this blog is really where my passion lies.
Obviously the pandemic threw a spanner in the works, but DayOutinEngland.com kept me distracted and learning there. I also spent a good amount of time over the last two years editing the back end of this site, and updating and deleting blog posts on here.
Thanks to my blog’s age there was a lot to sort out on here. At one point I had over 1000 blog posts, some of them absolute rubbish. I’ve taken the last two years to update, innovate and restyle them. And it’s paid off. There are now around 700, with many still to update, but the priorities are done and my page views have improved without the rubbish weighing it down.
When you write a blog post the work isn’t done. Things change, you change, and your blog needs to reflect that.
Also, new ideas are fun.
2. Follow your passions, but think about your readers
I read the other day that the average blogging career, in any industry, is about three years. Then bloggers decide they’re not making enough money, or they don’t want to write about babies / travel / make up anymore.
You need to be able to pivot.
Thankfully I’ve always been into travel, but this site started as a way to show full time workers how to make the most of their holidays, then it was all about festivals, then about solo travel, and then I didn’t really know, before I moved into wellbeing and travel.
Don’t be afraid to bring your changing passions into it but involve your readers and do your research.
If you don’t, you’ll get bored, go off it, and it’ll just be another thing you’re meant to keep up with.
For a long time I just wrote about what I felt like, but I know now that if I want to stay in this industry, I need to think about what my readers want, and more importantly, how they’ll be able to find it.
3. Make blogger friends, and spend time with them
I’ve written before about the importance of making friends in travel blogging. You need a crew to get you through.
Last year I travelled the Outer Hebrides with Helen from Helen in Wonderlust, and we’ve also been to Malawi and Zimbabwe, among other adventures. Jayne from Our Travel Home and I went to Greece and Antigua. I went to Paris with Monica from The Travel Hack, and the Florida Keys. Emily and I lived together for two years, and went off on adventures to Florida, Edinburgh and even on a ten day cruise. Dan and I went to India together, and Trentino – and there are loads more examples I won’t bore you with.
I’m also in a pretty active WhatsApp group with some great bloggers too.
Other bloggers just get it, and you can talk about blogging without boring them too. You never know what you’ll learn just by being around them, and you can help each other get along.
4. Success takes time
I earned a decent income from years 3 to 7, bar 2020 that is, but it’s now, as the 9th year rolls to the 10th where I’m seeing the benefits of all my hard work, especially after being stuck in the house for two years.
It took me around six months to earn money from my blog, but that was in 2012 and I’m talking around £100-£300 a month, maybe. The amount you can earn as a travel blogger is genuinely limitless. I thrive off this!
5. Make a business plan
One of the things that really helped me to take my blogging to the next level was to make a plan. I did this in mid-2020 and it really made me analyse what was working and what wasn’t. I did it all Dragon’s Den style, as if I had someone to answer to.
Working on my blog before then I just did what I felt like and there was no strategy or anything. It wasn’t till 2020 that I really learned about blogging, and the theory of it all. Also, what I wanted it to be, and where I wanted to go with it.
Once you have a few years under your belt all this analysis can really help you see where to focus your efforts. It might be a bit overwhelming from the start though, and delay you taking any action.
6. Have goals
At first my goal was to just learn about blogging, then I wanted to see the world, then I wanted to stay in touch with family and readers, then I wanted to buy a house, and now I want it to be a sustainable business that supports me and my family so I don’t have to go and work for someone else.
During lockdown I did a lot of soul searching, and realised the crazy back to back travels were not what I wanted anymore. Nor were the press trips I kept agreeing to. I wanted a family, a community and just a bit of structure.
Once you’ve worked out what and where you goal is, you can work out how to score.
Being all floaty about it is fine, of course, I was for years, but this isn’t how you’ll be able to have a sustainable career in travel blogging, or be able to make it last.
7. Don’t be an ‘influencer’
Eugh, hate that word, and everything it stands for. I’m glad that the gulf between blogger and influencer seems like it’s starting to grow – we’re usually grouped as the same but I hope people can see it’s two different jobs.
The idea of people thinking I’m an ‘influencer’ really turns me off using social media. I’m a writer and a blogger, and if people want to follow my photos on Instagram, that’s cool. I know it’s an important marketing tool and it’s fun to use and talk to a travel loving community on there. It’s not all I do though.
I am not an influencer.
I hate what Instagram and Tik Tok have done to travel, and to mental health, and to the world.
I’m glad I’d had a more straightforward career before starting the blog. I’ve worked on some of the biggest magazines in the UK, and in offices and jobs I’ve hated. I think this has made me all the more appreciative of what I have now, and it’s a Plan B.
You need to have some substance, skill and experience behind your blogging, if you want to last.
8. Know what you stand for and don’t accept the lowballs
Don’t let people take advantage of you, and don’t take advantage of them.
Bloggers have a bad rep as blaggers, but honestly, if I showed you some of the emails I get from people trying to get me to WORK for free, or offer me 10% of what I’ve quoted, you’d know it’s just as bad from the other side.
Do not waste your time. Block and delete.
I’ve done a lot of stuff for free in the past, or even that I’ve had to pay for in return for an upgraded experience – no more! Obviously this depends where you are in your blogging career, but take time to weigh up whether what you’re being offered is really worth yours.
It might help to set out a flow chart to help in your quick decision making.
9. Narrow down your focus
You absolutely can’t cover all the topics on all the platforms. You need to choose. I’ve massively cut down on social media over the past two years, and my income and page views on my blog have risen because of it. I’ve focused on my passions and interest, and it’s worked with my new goal of creating a business.
My social feeds for my second site (DayOutinEngland.com) are nothing to shout about, but it’s fine – I’m prioritising my time.
Also, setting up my new site just proved to me how powerful the niche is. I can sum that site up in a sentence, whereas this site is a little more like my head, a bit messy. Focus and niche will help you – if people know what to expect from you, then they know what to come for.
10. Blogging as a career is hard
There’s so much to learn, and so much to be good at – travel blogging is definitely not an easy way to get a free holiday.
11. Be careful of who you take advice from
Like most things, every part of travel blogging has become monetised.
If you go to a travel blogging conference, research the speakers. Many of them aren’t paid for being there, so they’re there to sell their courses / filters / presets / merch – whatever it takes. Often, I’ve noticed over the years, they don’t always know what they’re talking about either.
Before you invest your time and money, do your due diligence to check the credibility of who you’re actually investing in. There can be other benefits to conferences, I recommend them, but choose your influences wisely.
Remember, time is the most important thing you have.
Like with anything out there there’s so much info, so much to learn, and so many people wanting to charge you to learn it.
12. Don’t be afraid to fail
Over the last ten years I’ve had a go at quite a few different ideas. I’ve failed at some, and it’s made me stronger and more knowledgable. I actually had two websites before vickyflipfloptravels.com, then about four in between, and then I started Day Out in England in January 2020. Only those two are actually still going.
In the future I plan to try more things, learn, innovate and keep going. Accepting failure is an important lesson, and it’ll help you project forward.
Looking back on my travel blogging career
From the age of 27 to 37 of course I’ve changed loads, and so has the industry. I used to have to explain ‘blogging’ and Instagram wasn’t even really a thing.
The pandemic was of course, a massive blow to my blog and my income. In fact one month I didn’t even reach the threshold with my advertising partner to get any sort of payout. In November 2020 I was even looking for another job, worried about my mortgage. In November 2021 my advertising income was up 850%!
I had to have faith through the lows as well as the highs. And to learn to save for the future.
In the past I’ve focused on the amazing experiences I’ve had thanks to the blog, to celebrate the milestones. But now it’s the all round freedom that I thank.
Next year in travel blogging
Since being pregnant, I’ve felt these massive waves of gratitude for everything I have in my life. And a lot of it is thanks to the blog. My friends, the time I can spend with them and my family, my income and my house. Being my own boss with a flexible schedule will be amazing with a baby.
2022 will be a relatively quiet year for me. I don’t have any plans to traverse South America with my baby on my back, or to take him to see the penguins of Antartica. I’m going to take it easy, enjoy this first year with my baby, and hopefully get to a European island or two to give him his first taste of adventure.
I’m actually looking forward to leaving my blog for a bit, seeing what happens and acting on that, when I come back from maternity leave.
I still LOVE travel. In fact, only the other day I was writing up my list of travel options with a baby, but I want to enjoy the run up to the holiday, take in everything while I’m there, and have the down time to get back into life when I get back. No rushing around, and no putting any pressure on myself.
I really hope that travel will get back on form, and that my readers will have a use for all my blog posts on Vietnam, Japan and maybe even Papua New Guinea. It’s been a crazy ten years as a blogger in the travel industry – I wonder what the next ten will bring!
Thank you to anyone reading this post, or any of my posts, and who’ve supported me working on this blog for the past decade.
What a ride!