The three things I am asked on a consistent basis is: ‘How do you become a travel blogger?’, ’You are so lucky, you must get paid to go on holiday?’ and ‘I don’t understand how you actually make any money?’
In a recent interview for BBC Radio Surrey where I chatted about my travels and My Travel Monkey, the radio host made an assumption that I was paid tons of money to go away on holiday. If you listened to it, you may have heard my sharp intake of breath as I formulated my reply in a composed manner. Luckily, I thought on my feet, and said: ‘I do it for the love…’ which, is the truth. Of course, there are times when I do get paid (very rarely), and there are occasions when I have had complimentary accommodation in exchange for a written review. But let’s be clear. It’s never a jolly – I am always at ‘work’.
Like a lot of bloggers, I didn’t start off doing it to make a living, or to win plaudits. I did it because I enjoy writing and wanted to document what I got up to with my son. Only over the years has it turned more into a business and, after my redundancy last summer, I’m trying to push it to the next level and feeling my way as I go along. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I am hoping with enough hard work and commitment I can make some headway into becoming a full-time blogger. Fingers crossed…
And while I can’t claim to be a famous travel blogger with a huge following, I have been at it now for five years, and in that time I’ve learned so much – things that come so naturally to me now, that I can’t imagine life without them. If you’d asked me back then how Pinterest could drive page views to my site, I would have asked: ‘What are page views? What’s Pinterest?’. Yes seriously… I didn’t know anything back then! Google analytics, domain authority, SEO – who’d have known it would become part of my everyday vocabulary.
So if you’re seriously thinking about becoming a travel blogger, here are a few things to consider – it’s not all sunshine and walks on the beach…
Travel has to be a genuine passion
Most people like holidays and relish the chance to spend some quality time with loved ones whether it’s to exotic destinations or closer to home. But actually going out into the big wide world and discovering new cultures, food and experiences, well that’s what makes travel so exciting and such hard work on occasions. And you have to want to do that – even with kids in tow. You will want to go away on trips that are paid for by your own hard-earned cash – because that’s what you would do anyway. Anyone can stay in an all-inclusive resort, these types of generic places are found anywhere in the world, but actually getting out, discovering new adventures and exploring, now that’s having a passion for travel. It’s this effusiveness that will come across in your story-telling.
Good writing helps
I still remember what my lecturer told me back when I was a journalism student: ‘Keep writing, and it will only get better.’ And he was right. If you were to read some of the drivel I wrote back then you’d laugh. It’s only because I write every single day, that I can see my skills continually develop. Everyone has their own style – but refine your capabilities, practice all the time, check and triple check spelling and grammar. And don’t be scared to cut – some articles can go on far too long. Perhaps it’s the old school journalist in me, but while videos and beautiful images are equally important, if you don’t have a good, informative and concise narrative then you can’t share your experiences in finer detail.
It’s Hard work
If like me, you have young children, then it’s quite hard to find enough time to devote to a blog. While I wish the situation were different, it means I have to stay up late, sometimes into the early hours of the morning, working – and it’s been that way for five years. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day… Travel bloggers are editors, picture editors, filmmakers, social media managers, researchers, and entrepreneurs all rolled into one. If you’re prepared to put in the hours, then you will eventually reap the rewards. I still have hundreds of late nights ahead of me…
You have to be inventive
As much as it’s my ultimate dream to pack our bags and go off on a long extended trip around the world, while I homeschool the children, it’s never going to happen. Unless I win the lottery. Most family travel bloggers – and there are the lucky exceptions – can’t travel the whole time. There’s school, financial and job commitments, so finding new content to be able to keep your blog fresh and relevant is time-consuming and tough. And while there is nothing sensational or newsworthy about a trip to the local park, it is real life for most people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means you have to be a bit more inventive on how you spread out your travel writing after you do go on a trip.
It’s hard to switch off
Being a travel blogger is not at all as glamorous as it first appears. It is a constant, that invades every part of your life, from a trip to a park or restaurant to an overseas adventure across the other side of the world. I can never switch off, even when I so desperately want to. There is always a niggle in the back of my mind and endless ‘to-do lists’ which evade my every waking moment. There is always a photo to be taken; there are always notes to make; there are always posts to put up on social media.
You can earn money…
…But not straight away. Don’t expect to be paid mega bucks from the off, or invited on fancy press trips. These things take time and work – a lot of pitching and selling yourself to companies, writing proposals and reports. You have to build your brand and your social media following, as well as visitors to your site – then businesses will come calling. When people ask me how I make money from the blog, their eyes glaze over because it’s not as exciting as they first thought. Affiliate links, advertising on the site, sponsored articles… these are just some of the ways to earn cash. I’ll openly admit that I am nowhere near the point where I can live off the blog yet, but I’m working on it…
Believe in yourself
This is one I still struggle with. I always have done. But it’s an important factor in succeeding in the blogging world – because there will always be someone who is doing better than you or getting more work, or jetting off to more amazing destinations. I am improving at concentrating on my own thing, but it’s terribly hard on occasions not to get caught up in what other people are doing. Luckily, the travel blogging community is hugely supportive of one another, so even when I do get a case of the green-eyed monster, it’s quick to disappear. I also sometimes see it as a good thing, too, there’s nothing wrong in being ambitious and wanting to do well – and your peers are the best people to fire that desire.
You are the brand
When I first started My Travel Monkey, I was never pictured, there were no profile shots of me… I just didn’t want to be in front of the camera. As time has passed, the slow dawning realisation that I am the brand has finally hit me. Granted, it’s taken me a long while to concede this point but now I have, you’ll begin to see ‘me’ being more present. So if you want to be a travel blogger, make sure your partner is good with a camera. Failing that, resort to the selfie-stick which is what I am going to have to do a lot more!