A friend recently asked: “How are you enjoying your break from vacation?” I had to reflect for a moment but realize these days I don’t see my travels as “vacation” per se. After two years living in Australia, I am counting down the days until my 6-week, 18-country Eurotrip. Travel is a passion, an addiction, a lifestyle “I want to travel the world” is no longer an idealistic statement, it is a living, breathing reality.
As I dive head first into the world of travel blogging, I envision Sea Salt Secrets evolving into a platform for aspiring travelers to visit for inspiration, to find the courage to stop dreaming, ditch that dead end, passionless job and start living a life of adventure!
Building a travel blog is an thrilling experience with many challenges to face along the journey. To be successful, you have to find you voice, make sacrifices, and stay true to your vision. I am by no means an expert yet, but keep reading for the key takeaways I have gathered from fellow travel bloggers and in my own experiences.
1. Find your passion
To become a successful travel blogger, you need to find your purpose and establish yourself as an expert on a topic you are passionate about. What sets you apart from the swarms of travel bloggers fighting for a name out there?
Discover what makes your voice unique and let your personality shine through your writing to keep your readers coming back for more. Make a personal connection by honestly sharing your experiences, mistakes, failures, and victories, rather than general information that can be found on Google.
If you are enthusiastic about your blog, you will find time to dedicate to it, and curating content won’t feel like a chore. On the other hand, if you lack gusto, your readers will notice, your blog will suffer and you will inevitably burn out and give up.
2. Build a strong personal brand
First impressions are everything. A visitor will likely click away if they aren’t immediately intrigued by a clean design, crisp photography, and a clear message.
Rather than trying to be super(wo)man conquering everything for everyone, narrow down your focus to a destination, photography or a type of travel such as budget, family, solo, adventure, food, volunteering, or expat life. Gain credibility as an authority on a specific niche of travel.
Create a memorable About Page, up to date Media Kit, and consistent branding across your social media channels. Brainstorm a short, quirky tagline that grab new readers attention and resonate with the audience you are trying to reach. Effective branding is your gateway to a loyal readership, influence, and rewarding collaborations with other bloggers and brands that wish to tap into your target market.
3. Stay authentic
What does success look like to you? A large social media following? Making lots of money? Free flights and accommodation? Site wide sportsmanship? Being offered press trips? Comments on every post? The ability to write on what you are passionate about?
This will be different for each blogger. I learned from The PlanetD that it is vital to create a mission statement to guide your vision. To clearly define your goals, purpose and what you want you blog to communicate.
Think quality over quantity and don’t spread yourself thin. Always think to yourself before posting, is this article what I would like someone’s first impression of my blog to be? Will it add value to my readers? Let your authenticity speak for itself and shine through your content.
4. Treat your blog like a business
If you intend to make a living from your blog, don’t risk short term satisfaction of money for your long term reputation. Kindly turn down campaigns that don’t align with your core mission and values, which will only dilute your brand in the long run. A good rule of thumb with any opportunity is asking yourself, would I do this if I wasn’t getting paid for it?
Treat all partnerships big and small with the same level of vigor and professionalism. You never know who is connected in the travel industry and never want to regret burning bridges with potential clients in the future.
Always under promise and over deliver. When collaborating with brands, set realistic expectations up front. Communicate early and often with updates on your progress. Shift your mindset to what value you’ll bring to the table and how you’ll fulfill a need or want, not what you will gain out of the collaboration.
5. Know your value
The ability to craft a story out of a travel experience, literally on the fly, is much more difficult than it may appear to outsiders. To run a successful travel blog, you must take on the role of CEO, along with writer, photographer, editor, graphic designer, web developer, accountant, marketing and PR team! Not to mention, learning the soft skills of travel like planning an itinerary, packing and dealing with the stress and challenges of traveling to foreign countries. (Not limited to jet lag, delays, bad weather, sickness…)
It can be difficult to prove that bloggers are worth investing in. Convince yourself of your value before approaching others to convey confidence. Travel brands and tourism boards are finally starting to realize that travel bloggers can be a valuable resource when out of date guidebooks and Tripadvisor reviews fail. In the years to come, more opportunities for bloggers that can churn out quality writing, photos, and videos are sure to arise. Do you have what it takes?
6. Consistency is key
Maintaining a consistent and professional identity across your online presence helps drive your success. Your logo, social media channels, photography, and blog content should all reflect the values and mission of your personal brand. Be diligent in your posting and promotional schedule by creating an editorial calendar.
Organize your ideas in a digestible way for greatest impact. One resource us travelers are limited on (beyond money!) is time, so keep posts clear and concise. Break up text by adding headings and using lists. “Edit” your thinking rather than a massive brain dump.
7. Create evergreen, shareable content
Provide value to your readers by making content relevant to their lives and without expiration. Complement your personal stories with practical articles similar to what you’d find in guidebooks (Think 10 Experiences in Thailand + 10 to skip! or Singapore on a Shoestring) Budget travel tips, food recommendations, and details on sights and accommodations for a given location.
8. Don’t judge yourself on the success of others
Comparison is the thief of joy in the blogging world. We are likely only seeing the positive snippets of our fellow travelers lives. Not when rain ruins plans, flights are missed, baggage is stolen, or words are lost in translation. There is no “right” way to be a travel blogger. Be honest with yourself and make the decisions that will move you along your own path to success.
The vulnerability of thrusting your words out into the outside world and exposing ourselves to a world of judgement and criticism from individuals we will likely never meet, can be downright terrifying. Odds are, readers will come to admire your dedication, zest for travel and unique stories.
9. To grow your blog – get off your blog!
It can be difficult and downright frustrating to drive traffic to your blog, especially when first starting out. It is the nature of travel blogging that you must be traveling for content, but it is crucial to make the most of those in between hours.
Without the support of a tribe of loyal readers, there would be no point in putting our lives out in the public eye. There are a plethora of ways to engage with your audience and connect with the overall travel community:
- Pin yourself to the Coast to Coast map and connect with other bloggers around your area.
- Facebook communities: A valuable platform to share ideas, grow readership and form lasting digital connections. Girls vs Globe, Travelettes, and Wanderful to name a few.
- Twitter chats: If you can’t physically be at an event, you can still join the conversation before, during and after, for the whole experience. Hashtags create engagement to extend your influence beyond the boundaries of your own followers.
- Meetups: Network with other travel bloggers and those looking to partner with travelers. Travel Massive connects thousands of travel insiders to meet, learn and collaborate at events all around the world. 124 chapters globally and growing!
- Conferences: TBEX, Women in Travel Summit, Traverse bring together like-minded travel influencers.
- Guest Posts: Reach a new audience and establish yourself as an expert in a topic. I would love to feature your favorite destination in my Sonderlust Secrets series.
- Social media promotion: Whatever you blog, should be tweeted, facebooked, instagrammed and pinned to bring visitors to your site and encourage organic word-of-mouth advertising.
10. Stick with it!
It’s all well and fine if you just want to blog as a hobby or to keep your family back home updated on your travels. But if your goal is to make a sustainable profit, blogging takes hard work and dedication.
Don’t expect to be an overnight success! I’ve been blogging for 5 years now, but only in the travel industry for the past year. You will get out of your blog what you put in, so put all your effort in and you’ll see amazing results right before your eyes. It takes patience, passion and determination to thrive.
No matter how successful your travel blog becomes (or doesn’t), you are able to document experiences to look back on for years to come, all while sharing your passion with others. Priceless.