5 Lessons Learned from Travel Blogging!'Maybe you should start a travel blog' is what a friend said about two years ago when I was finishing another dive instructor course in The Philippines. Since Robbert-Jan was working location independent already I thought it would be better to get back in to teaching SCUBA diving in every place/country we would stay for a while...
When facing our VISA limits in the Philippines, the maximum number of days you can stay in a country without permits, I decided to skip teaching in order to see more islands of this beautiful and diverse country. This happened country after country and the idea of sharing all my travel and dive experiences to inform and inspire others became more and more real although I had no idea what was really involved in this business. Within a few months I dare to follow that dream and started my first travel blog: Crazy Dutch Abroad!
Two years down the road (in various ways) there is sooooo much I have learned about all the different aspects of blogging. Starting a travel blog is easy, making it successful is something completely different. With this post I am sharing 5 important lessons I have learned from travel blogging, things I wish I had known/focused on from the start. For sure I wanted to do it my way and regarding all the new aspects it was not the most efficient way to do it! If you would like to know more about this business and especially if you are thinking of started blogging yourself read the lessons learned below.
- A travel blog is NOT a travel diary
- Finding a niche makes blogging a lot easier
- Forget about working up to 40 hours a week
- Let your personality shine through your blog
- It might take a very long time before you become a successful blogger
1. A travel blog is NOT a travel diaryThere are thousands of travel blogs around. Writing about traveling alone will not make you stand out from the crowd anymore. It needs to be special, different, adding value and/or a lot more. Just writing about where you have been and showing beautiful photos is great for friends and family but it will not turn your blog into a business. For sure I was caught in this trap. As I already hosted a travel diary website from my solo round-the-world trip a few years ago I copied the basics and continued on the same level. Since social media has became huge since my first website (and I am not even that old!) I needed to gain followers. Mostly this starts with inviting friends and family. They loved it and soon I got the first hundred followers. It was months later I realized they would probably follow anything I would ask - just to support me as a person. So, the question was: What kind of posts can I offer so people I do not know personally are also interested? Now we are talking business.
If you have been following us for a while you might have noticed our crazy travel and SCUBA adventures have been split in to two separate blogs. The main reason is that sharing the funniest travel stories does not match explaining why some SCUBA diving techniques can be dangerous and so on. Dive O'Clock is fully focused on SCUBA diving and snorkeling, it became very popular quickly and is still growing fast.
For this travel blog, something extra/specific was necessary - a niche. Something to stand out from the huge crowd of travel bloggers. For sure we have our crazy travel speed, less covered locations by other bloggers, hilarious moments and off the beaten track expeditions but that did not seem enough. It did not seem to match what we were actually doing and why people should visit the website was not clear. Focussing on a niche was necessary.
Taking a picture of one of my favourite
Dutch snacks in Yogjakarta, Indonesia: Bitterballen!
2. Finding a niche makes blogging a lot more easierOver the last few months I have talked to friends, asked advice from other bloggers and fellow travellers about how to make this blog more appealing, more interesting. Finally I realized what is so special about our way of travelling: We work over 40 hours on our laptops as well!
In itself that might not be the 'X-factor' but the side-effects of this busy schedule are. If we spend a week on one island we work at least 50% of our day-time leaving less time to explore the local sights and activities. This is why we plan a lot of travel / sightseeing activities in a short period, like when you are on a holiday. We plan this with the knowledge and experience of a well-traveled person. This makes it super efficient for when you are on a holiday visiting several places in a short time or for the quick facts just to compare basic (but very important) information. Traveling fast, flexible and smart while being always online (if you want)! Finally we have a proper niche, about time two years later :), time to align the website and all communication with it.
3. Forget about working up to 40 hours a weekIf you want to make a living out of travel blogging - be prepared to focus on it whenever you are awake! There is no 'closing the office door' in the afternoon - the show is always ON! There is a strange work-life balance when blogging. Without complaining, because I love this lifestyle - it can become hard to take a full day off! You are always creating new ideas or taking pictures once you have started a (travel) blog, social media is a 24-7 business and even automated programs (which I still refuse to use) do not allow a full day off without checking-up on things. This is just like anybody starting their own business I guess.
Being in a holiday spot does not mean being on a holiday. When you are just starting you might need to get back in to the working mode. Something that many travel blogger encounter is that it might be hard for friends and family to understand you are building a business, especially if you are still working towards an income to fully support your lifestyle. You are possibly cutting your own profit if you take off too many days, when friends come over to visit for example.
Working from a laundry facility in Miami!
After working on the laptop during the day we often walk to the beach for a sunset drink or do some sightseeing in the late afternoon. As soon as we sit down, the phones are out for a quick check and scanning emails. While watching the beautiful surroundings new ideas pop-up, photo opportunities pass-by and notes are made for new posts... and I love it!
4. Let your personality shine through your blogBlogging in general is all about being personal, giving your unique touch to the things you write about. For sure it is easy to give an opinion about anything but you need to do it with care. Are you sure you know all the facts? You might damage another business with your negative review for example. Research is key but still - you need to make things personal.
As you might know I am not a glossy magazine reader or writer and I do not watch gossiping entertainment shows - I prefer informative and educational articles over reading a novel. My blogging style started more like a summary, short and compact - slowly I started writing longer posts (as this is probably the longest EVER!) with opinions about places, restaurants and travel bookings. With the new destination set-up: 'things to love', 'things we skipped', 'lessons learned' and 'facts' I think I am on right track here. Here is an example Please let me know if you have a different opinion! It would be great to get some personal feedback or tips from you as a reader! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Or just ring the Bell of Happiness (Singapore)!
5. It might take a very long time before you become a successful bloggerWhen is someone successful as a travel blogger? Is it having a countless number of fans, a full income or some sort of state of happiness? This depends on you as an individual, your environment and where you stand in life for sure. Often I read that most (travel) bloggers stop actively blogging within the first year - I survived and even doubled that! For sure I have had moments where I thought about quitting and going back to a paid job, but I am just too eager to make this work - one way or the other.
Getting rich with a passive income is NOT something you should aim for as a blogger. For sure there are bloggers that earn up to a million dollars a year, but that is probably not why most of them started. Blogging is more about playing the game, if you play well - money will flow. Quite a lot of (if not most) bloggers do not make most of their income directly from their blog (as in advertising for example) but from side-kicks they can offer with their digital skills learned along the way! If you are looking for side-kicks to support your blogging life have a look at Search Jobs Abroad.
As many of you have asked and I am not shy to tell you - there is no full income here to support this lifestyle yet - but I am working on it - HARD! For me, there are so many skills I have learned last year through self-learning and online courses, my market value has grown fast - that alone makes it successful for me.
Are you thinking of starting a travel blog or do you own one already?
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Crazy Dutch Abroad
Work online & travel the world!
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