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Things No-One Told Me About Becoming a Travel Blogger

by Lisa Stentvedt

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At the beginning of 2018, I took the leap to become a full-time blogger. It was an incredibly exciting decision and one that I had been dreaming of taking for quite some time. I still remember when I hit publish on the blog post where I announced that I had quit my full-time job in order to follow my dream of being a full-time blogger.

In my first few months after becoming a travel blogger (full time, I mean), I realised quite a few things that I never knew about the blogging industry. Of course, I had already done my fair share of googling how to start a travel blog, how do bloggers get paid and how I could make money travelling since I was heading out on a 5-month long trip to kick off my travel blogging career. However, there were still quite a few things that caught me off guard.

Instead of listing all these things myself, I thought I’d involve some fellow (full-time) travel bloggers. I asked them all what they wish they’d known before taking their blog full time and was amazed at how many of them had similar experiences to me!

becoming a travel blogger

What no-one told me about full-time blogging

On this list, you’ll find loads of insights on becoming a travel blogger, and hopefully, this post will make it a little easier for you if you are considering starting a travel blog or wanting to take the leap to full-time blogging yourself! Personally, I have never looked back, and I love every second of it, but I still have those moments where I’m pulling my hair out over a blog post at 2 am wondering what the hell I think I am doing. If this post will make those moments just a little easier for you, I’ll be a happy blogger. Another great read is learning what a travel influencer actually is!

#1 That there are so many investments

Free trips! Free stays! Free gear! No blogger actually tells you that there is no such thing as travelling the world for free when they are trying the sell you their ‘how to blog’ course.

Blogging is a tough game. We are constantly learning new skills, breaking technology, and networking our fingers off. If I could go back three years I would tell myself – invest in the business. 

Premium themes, keyword research tools, eBooks like our SEO guides, scheduling tools, virtual assistants – anything which makes your travel platform appear professional, increases your traffic/reach and frees up valuable time is worth the investment. 

Another aspect of blogging worth investment is conferences. You don’t have to travel around the world to attend (unless you are Australian)! Check out local digital conferences, tourism board events and Travel Massive free get togethers if you are short on cash. Here you can mix with like-minded content creators and network with clients. If you choose wisely, you might even learn new techniques. I met Lisa at TBEX in Ostrava and here I am contributing to her business – that’s the power of conferences. Online relationships become reliable friendships and potential business opportunities.

— Gemma from Make Traffic Happen & Two Scots Abroad

#2 How hard it would be

It’s hard to stay productive and work when all you want to do is explore. It’s hard to manage your money when you’re visiting new cities and places. It’s hard when your income takes a hit and you have to live off of rice and beans for a few weeks. It’s hard on your relationships with friends and family, who you rarely ever see anymore. It’s hard to get to sleep when you’re in a freezing cold tent, but it’s even harder when you’re in a city centre hotel. It’s hard to lug around bags and suitcases when your shoulders are killing. It’s hard to keep up with the Instagram influencers and share something unique about your travels. It’s hard to smell fresh when you haven’t seen a shower in days. It’s hard to explain to your peers what exactly it is that you do. 

BUT, do you know what isn’t hard? Waking up every day knowing that you’re not going to be sat in a soulless office for 9 hours a day, waiting for Friday, the weekend, the next holiday – something – something to make you feel alive, because every day you’re a travel blogger, that alive feeling exists. That feeling of freedom, aliveness and consciousness is always with you.

— Brie from Brie-Anne.com

full time blogger
Brie hard at work!

#3 That life still has major ups and downs

Before starting blogging I had no idea of much time I would be spending every single day on my passion, frustrations, craft, skill set building, pitching, social media and explaining what I’m actually doing. The goal was to create a life around travel, to allow myself to be independent and live life to the fullest. I thought I could juggle it all and that I would never tire of neither blogging nor travelling.

One year in, I noticed a slow burn out but ignored it. Two years later I realized this isn’t sustainable but was blinded by all the other seemingly successful blogger. Three years in, I became fed up with being overworked and grossly undervalued (also by myself). The ups and downs come in waves and I can see the patterns now: elation, doubt, frustration, disillusionment and small wins. It’s all perfectly normal, the key is to just push through, organise and prioritise.

It really is a tough job and you are basically a one person power house: content sourcing, creating (copy, photo, video), editor, designer, marketer, PR manager, developer, accountant, administrator, etc. It’s crazy and it’s all I ever wanted. This way I can tap into all the things I learned at university but could never apply in any internships or jobs I had. I can pick and choose my own passion, shifts in my blog, companies I want to work with, collaborations with fellow creators I always admired and fun travel videos.

Every now and then I have to remind myself to just unglue my weary eyes from the screen to feed basic needs, such as feeding myself and going to the toilet (or to sleep already). It’s crazy how much work never ends and how much I’ve become a workaholic. But also how passionate I am about this and the freedoms it allowed me. So sometimes you really have to stop working towards your dreams and enjoy how far you’ve come.

— Annemarie from Travel on the Brain

#4 That I need to keep a business mindset

Like for many of us, when I started my blog, my intention was to document my travels. Plus, I wanted to keep my friends and family informed and share my experiences from being on the road. But even more than this, I wanted to inspire others to travel more and try out travelling on a long-term basis. Since I had discovered my passion, I was burning to get more people off their couches and out into the world.

Yet, in the beginning I did not think of it as a business. It was simply fun to write about everything travel related and I considered it more like a hobby beside my job. But when I realised that my first year of solo-backpacking around the world could potentially turn into my lifestyle, I knew I had to figure out more ways to generate an income. The answer was so obvious: online.

I wish someone would have told me when I started my blog that I could actually earn money from my site. I would have started it all with a different mindset. I think if you write for your family and friends as opposed to an audience that could turn into your customer, your writing style changes (needs to change, in fact!). Not only this, of course, it involves so much more, your posts will include other things like affiliate links, strategic links, keywords for SEO purposes and so on. It could have saved me loads of time had I set it up immediately like a travel site rather than a travel diary.

— Julia from JeyJetter

Side note: There are many things you can do to improve your SEO. Head this way to read some great tips for ranking on Google.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘I wish someone would have told me when I started my blog that I could actually earn money from my site.’ – Julia, full-time travel blogger, shares what she wishes she knew before going full time > http://www.fjordsandbeaches.com/becoming-a-travel-blogger/ ” quote=”‘I wish someone would have told me when I started my blog that I could actually earn money from my site.’ – Julia, full-time travel blogger, shares what she wishes she knew before going full time” theme=”style3″]

make money travelling working remotely
Julia working from all over the world

#5 That networking is crucial

Before I started travel blogging, I envisioned that it would be an exclusively independent endeavour. As an introvert, I’m not particularly a fan of networking so this aspect of blogging appealed to me.

However, I started to find that I didn’t have anywhere to turn when I ran into problems or just needed a bit of motivation. My immediate group of friends and other travelers I meet don’t quite understand why I’d spend a full day working while in a new destination.

I began joining Facebook groups related to travel blogging and suddenly, instead of having to spend hours searching the internet when I ran into a roadblock, I could turn to the groups for support and guidance. This type of online networking also opens up opportunities to exchange ideas and work together on collaborative posts (such as this one!).

It’s also fantastic to get to meet these people in real life at conferences and travel blogging events, like Gemma mentions above. While working as a travel blogger is definitely a solo project as it’s up to me to write the posts, develop my SEO strategy, edit photographs etc; creating a network of fellow travel bloggers has been invaluable for my growth and development as a writer, photographer, and all around travel blogger.

— Katie from Just Chasing Sunsets

#6 That it’s not as glamorous as it looks

Being a travel blogger always looked glamorous. And comfortable. Work and travel, travel and work. I thought it a job that would entail spending my time exploring far fletched corners of the world, writing for Nat Geo or alternatively this generation’s version of “On the Road”, becoming the face of the coolest travel campaigns, alternatively parading in a bikini and stuffing my face on local delicacies. And of course, if there were hours to be spent on my laptop it would be a) a glitzy sponsored laptop and b) happen on a beach. 

Fast forward three years and I have gotten a good reality check. Travel and actually getting work done go together just as well as posing for those picture perfect bikini shots and picturesquely stuffing my face with local cuisine without putting on any weight. By now I have realized that every time I see a travel blogger posting a picture of themselves working on a beach, a pretty mountaintop or with a drink in hand I also know this: sand is bad death for laptops as is sun glare for your eyes, nice views tend to come with a site of mosquitos and how many drinks can you actually have while still being productive?! 

The truth is there are very few travel bloggers who manage to do it all. They can explore all day, take pictures with their drone, and post on Instagram while they jump off cliffs and either edit, write and publish on a rocky night train or make the wifi work in a hostel bunk. Either way, for them sleep seems optional. I don’t know if it is an age thing, but I am not one of them.

With all my traveling ways, I need a routine and certain work conditions. I do my best work from a nice soft hotel bed or alternatively in an armchair, sometimes even a good old desk. I don’t operate well on little sleep, on a bus or with temperamental wifi. Once I realized that I realized that for me the picture perfect image of a travel blogger exploring and working basically at the same time is just not me. I rather take my time traveling, getting to know a place and having adventures following by a period of standing still and actually getting shit done. Image crushed? Maybe, but a bit of sanity won.

— Annika from The Midnight Blue Elephant

#7 That I would still need a holiday

One thing I would have never guessed is that travel bloggers need holidays too! As a fulltime travel blogger you’re an entrepreneur. You spend the majority of your time on tasks like research, writing, marketing, email, admin and negotiating campaigns. Let alone all the time you spend on strategising for your business. A proper job!

When I travel, I’m always trying to gather as much information, visit as many places as possible and get the right photographs, so while my job is the best in the world, I am actually usually working when I travel! In my case, my brain is always on. I spend almost every minute of every day thinking about my work.

Everyone needs a few days of doing absolutely nothing now and then to reset our busy brains and tired bodies, so a few days of rest & relaxation is much needed at times. I recently had a little holiday and I was surprised to see I came back to my desk feeling refreshed as ever, full of new ideas! Taking a step back usually gives you a whole new perspective to your life, your goals and your business.

— Milou from Explorista.net

How do bloggers get paid
Even travel bloggers need a vacation sometimes

#8 How fast I have to learn new things

For me, the volume of what there was to learn surprised me.  But, what has been really shocking is how fast what I’m learning changes.  Search engines, social media algorithms, design trends, even what potential partners are looking for from me – how it all works changes constantly. 

For example, I put in the time to learn what elements Google likes to see in articles so that what I write is findable.  Then I’ll try to merge those things into my writing without losing ‘me’ in the process.  Making sure my writing is usually at least a certain length, or putting in a bulleted list when it will make sense, or whatever.  But, just about the time I feel I have a handle on that, it changes. 

I have to learn the changes, make shifts to how I’m creating, and often go back and make those same shifts to past posts (whenever I can find the time, I’m terribly behind on that).  The same things happen with how Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and countless other vehicles work. 

The change is absolutely continuous, and the rate of change seems to be exponential.  I could spend absolutely all of my time trying to keep up with those things.  At times have to remind myself to go back and actually do the part that sparked my passion in the first place: write about what I love!

— Megan from Wandertoes

#9 I now have to take on ALL the roles

Just like most travel bloggers, I didn’t start My Five Acres with the idea of it becoming a full-time gig. It started as a creative pursuit, a place to share stories about my travels. For 18 months I wrote a blog post every day, documenting my round-the-world bike trip. When that trip was over, I realized I didn’t want to come home — and I definitely didn’t want to stop blogging! 

As soon as I decided to become a “real” travel blogger, everything changed.  When my My Five Acres was a hobby, I could get away with being just a writer, editor, photographer, and web designer for the blog. Since I went pro, I have had to learn so many more skills and take on ALL the roles!

I am now CTO, CFO, COO, and CEO. I am the SEO manager, head of marketing and PR, on-camera personality, technical support, graphic designer, social media manager, accountant, business development manager, customer service rep, travel agent, human resources, administrative assistant, luggage porter — and chief adventurer!

It can be a bit overwhelming at times, trying to develop new skills while still adding new posts every week. But the truth is, I love the challenge. I love that even after five years, I am still adding to my skillset every single day. The next role I want to take on is that of boss lady — I plan to hire a VA to help take care of the laundry list of day-to-day activities a growing blog demands.

— Jane from My Five Acres

starting a travel blog
Blogging from paradise. Jane in Nong Khiaw, Laos

#10 That I would spend so little time travelling

When hearing the words ‘travel blogger’, most people imagine a life of endless travel and adventures, no responsibilities, and a minimum amount of work. I mean, how hard can it be to spend your days taking pretty pictures around the world and scribbling some words on the Internet?

I used to think that way too. Until I became a full-time travel blogger and one day realized I hadn’t left the house for a few days in a row (let’s just assume I forgot how many).

Of course, there’s a lot of travel involved in this profession, but there’s also a huge amount of work. Except for sharing on social media, I try not to work when I travel and just enjoy wherever I am at that moment.

This means when I’m home between travels it’s easy to get sucked into my endless to-do list: writing articles, editing photos, creating videos, posting and interacting on social media, updating old posts, learning new skills, pitching to brands, optimizing for SEO… there’s always some urgent task that needs to be done.

It’s harder than it may seem to maintain a healthy work-life balance when you’re a full-time travel blogger, and I know about many people who got burned out after some time. Working from home and being your own boss has its challenges and it’s not any different for travel bloggers.

— Vanda from The Yogi Wanderer

#11 That writing is just a small part of a blogger’s routine

When I first started travel blogging, I though most of the time I’d be writing. Having published articles in Portuguese travel magazines, I looked at myself as a travel writer, thinking that most of my day I’ll be sitting down somewhere – either in an office or in a cozy beach bungalow in the Philippines – writing about my experiences and publishing it in the blog. It couldn’t be further way from the truth.

In fact, I was very surprised to realise that writing articles is actually a very small part of my travel blogger daily routine. Between managing social media, replying to readers and potential partners, choosing and editing photos, improving the usability of the blog, solving technical problems, fighting spammers, planning trips, reading articles from fellow travel bloggers, learning about SEO and affiliate marketing, and a million of other daily activities, I certainly have time to create writing content. But the truth is: that’s just a very small part of my job.

In fact, being a travel blogger is like being a dozen different professions at the same time – from photographer to editor, from designer to programmer, from marketing director to sales manager, from public relations to SEO expert, from travel agent to journalist! All in one person. It is quite challenging – but I love it! I just didn’t know that in the beginning. 🙂

— Filipe from Alma de Viajante

become a travel blogger
There’s less time doing this and more time spent doing everything else

#12 That going for unachievable things is one of the best ways to succeed

Being a full time travel blogger often means working with others in order to build exposure and develop your own blog’s credibility. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pitched to other bloggers and small brands and had no response back. This can be one of the most deflating parts of being a blogger – especially when you put your heart and soul into it.

When I started blogging, one of my main successes was learning not to let knock-backs discourage the belief in myself (and my work). I didn’t let rejections deter me and, as a result, I ended up working with some great brands and travel groups. One of my biggest gigs came from an audition video I was asked to film an hour before a submission deadline. I did it in my lounge and was certain it was never going to be good enough, but I had nothing to lose.

A lot of my work came from persistence and developing a pitch that was true to me. When pitching for work or a collaboration, try to include the following:

  • Who you are (be honest, you’ll automatically find it easier to write/speak)
  • Why you want to work with them (elaborate on your experience with their brand)
  • What you can do for them (be realistic and bring something new to the table)
  • What experience do you have that can deliver this

— Sarah from My Veggie Travels

#13 That my values would be tested

Proposals will come through your email and seem like easy money and because your income depends on you making money through your blog, you may be tempted to take it. But knowing your values and writing them down ahead of time is so important. It makes it easy to come back to them when you feel tempted to make money in a way that goes against your values — whether they be personal values or ones that relate to your blog.

What do I mean by that? Every blogger has their own way of monetizing that they are comfortable with. Some want to say yes to anything that pays. But knowing your values and goals will help you decide what to say yes to. If a gambling site sends an email and will pay you to put a do follow link in an article, is that something you are okay with even though it may not fit your niche or audience?

Did you start your blog only wanting your own voice and maybe that of other bloggers to be on the website and then you get offered pre-written posts with do-follow links that don’t add value to your site…or maybe they do add value but they don’t fit your style at all?

Our values are tested every day because we want to be able to support ourselves. At the end of the day, working hard, learning constantly, and networking will get you results. So, understand your values, write them down, and stick to them. You’ll need them more than you realize.

— Jessica from A Wanderlust for Life

#14 That my to do-list will never end

No one told me that when you become a full-time travel blogger the to-do list you’ve been trying to get through since you launched your website doesn’t get any shorter. I imagined with all the extra time I would have to dedicate to my website that I would be able to really get through all the things I wanted to do, from writing more content to making adjustments to the look of my site. Wrong!

I swear the list of things to do has only grown longer! This is somewhat due to having more work coming in as a full-time blogger, partly because I have the time to accept it (or do I?) and because I am constantly finding new things that I want to do. Blogging is ever-involving and there are always changes to the industry and new things to experiment with and try. 

However, on a positive note, as a full-time blogger I have become more adept at refining the list and working the most on what enables me to make money and keep doing what I’m doing, rather than trying to do absolutely everything, including things that may not be a lot of help in the long run. 

— Sonja from Migrating Miss

There you have some of the main things travel bloggers wish they knew before going full time with their blogs. As you can tell, there is a lot more than what meets the eye when it comes to becoming a travel blogger, and everyone has their struggles with the industry. Did any of these surprise you? Let me know in the comments!


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