When I started travel blogging 13 years ago, becoming a blogger was not a lifestyle or career choice. For most of us who started blogging back then running a blog was a passport to seeing the world. I was at the time working three not so well-paid jobs to make ends meets. I started the blog in my spare time. It was a tough time in my life. Blogging for me was a form of escape. The moment I would start writing, remembering all the stories from recent trips, looking through all the pictures, I felt I was entering my own dream world. Slowly but surely, through the word of friends and family, the blog slowly spread it wings. Then came the birth of social media networks which started opening up my blog to a much wider audience. Blogs, like mine became a lot more relevant and well known thanks to the birth of social media.
I never set out to be a professional travel blogger and getting paid to see the world. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to think how much my life has changed. For any of you who are considering starting a blog and becoming a professional travel blogger, I have shared some tips which may help you in achieving your goal.
1. Be original
The first and most important tip to becoming a professional travel blogger is to be original. I came across a statistic recently where there are apparently 152 million blogs out there. So, there is a huge amount of competition for eyeballs out there for content. Besides travel blogs you have also have mainstream media outlets, Youtubers and Instagrammers so there is a wealth of content sources out there from which you have to stand out. To set yourself aside from the competition, you have to have an eye for original content. There is no point in writing another list of 10 cool things to do in London or Paris. I started out writing a blog about budget travel and realized that there was already a ton of blogs out there focusing on this particular niche. It is only after 2 years I pivoted my blog and started focusing on stylish budget travel. It was then I picked up on the trend of luxury hostels and wrote a guidebook about it. So, my most important for you when you start a blog is to look at the niches and see what information gaps in content are out there. This brings me nicely onto my next tip
2. Make mistake and keep experimenting
It is important to allow yourself to make some mistakes and experiment when you start your blog. It takes a lot of trial and error to realize what works and doesn’t work on a blog. There are so many aspects you need to master running a blog: writing, photography, SEO, maintaining a blog, mastering social media: lot of topics to cover. This process takes time and means you will have to be patient with yourself and prepared to make a lot of mistakes. As I mentioned earlier, after running a blog for 2 years, investing a huge amount of time and effort, I needed to start again from scratch with a new blog name and idea. It was frustrating at the time but in the long run, it paid off. I see the evolution of a good travel blog as a series of small experiments. Some work, some don’t, and some could be better. Important thing is that you keep building on the success of each storytelling project and allow yourself to be creative as possible.
3. Write well
Besides having original ideas for your content, it is essential that your content can inspire people to travel. Travel is an emotional sell. You have to engage with the emotions of your readers. Address their fears and concerns about travel. Give them practical, easy to follow tips so that they can follow in your footsteps. I try and give them as much information as possible in my posts, address, and critical details like cost. Many bloggers miss out on the practical details like costs and how to reach there for example. So, think about that when you write.
4. Take good photographs
As storytelling is becoming more visual, it is really important that as a content creator you try and be as visual when sharing your stories with your readership. A good picture is worth a thousand words and a thousand likes so it’s important your get the right shots for your trips. This means investing in a decent camera. I have a Panasonic micro-4/3rds camera paired with a Leica f1.4 lens which takes fantastic photos. Recently I bought the iPhone 13 which also takes fantastic photos and really good quality videos. It pays off to take a photography class that will help you take your game to the next level. Tourism boards when inviting bloggers sometimes have a separate budget for buying photographs so if you are good at travel photography, it can be a good source of income.
5. Attend a travel blogging conference
There is now a wealth of excellent travel blogging conferences where you have the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best bloggers in the business. Conferences cover a wealth of important topics ranging from how to build a business from your niche, how to write better, tips on improving your SEO or taking videos with your smartphone. Besides learning, these conferences give you a chance to meet bloggers within the community. The people you meet, the ideas you exchange, the friendships that you form during a conference are often the biggest takeaway from these conferences. The other key aspect of the best blogging conferences is that there are numerous networking opportunities with brands and DMO’s aka destination marketing organizations. Sometimes one good meeting with a brand or a DMO at a blogging conference can be the turning point of your blogging career. Travel blogging conferences I recommend you attend include Traverse in UK, Nordic Bloggers Conference in Helsinki and iAmbassador’s Social Travel Summit. Plus, the two big travel trade shows of the year: World Travel Market in London and ITB Berlin have a number of dedicated workshops and networking events aimed at bloggers and industry which are extremely worthwhile attending.
6. Design is very important
Another critical aspect that many blogs choose to overlook is the importance of good design. It doesn’t matter how great your content is, you should dedicate some time to getting a good logo plus also choose a nice template for your blog. If you can afford hiring the services of a professional, this is a very worthwhile investment. If your blog is well designed and professional, it makes it much easier for brands to work with you.
7. Pitch your ideas like a pro
If your content ideas are original, interesting to read and the design of your blog is professional then you’ve won more than half of the battle. However, many professional blogs still fail as a business because of their lack of ability to pitch, promote their ideas. To give you an idea I spend almost 50% of my time developing and pitching ideas to brands and businesses. Travel trade conferences like WTM, ITB and networking at events like Travel Massive gives you plenty of opportunity to practise your pitching. Make sure you have a kickass well designed media kit-this can make or break your pitch.
Also, if you don’t feel confident pitching, many bloggers now have agents who pitch on their behalf. While personally I feel happier pitching my stuff, I know many bloggers who have gone down this route and have had a lot of success.
8 Become a social media professional
Thanks to social media, there are now a number of exciting platforms via which you can share stories from your trip. The ability to share stories in real time is what makes bloggers /influencers very attractive to brands and agencies. So, it is really important that you master and build a following on one of the key social media platforms. I have a good following on both Twitter and Instagram. I prefer Instagram as it is a very visual and fun way of sharing stories. Plus, there is a strong community aspect about Instagram, and I’ve met some very creative and talented people via the medium. Now thanks to Instagram stories, I can share small bite sized moments from my travels. Snapchat and Tiktok are also a fantastic platforms that offers rich possibilities. I’ve also started working on a series of videos about some of the luxury hostels I visit and started to build a following on YouTube. Social media can be overwhelming and a major time suck when you start blogging, so my advice is to keep it simple and concentrate on one platform at a time, build your following and your community.
9. Be yourself
Be yourself. Your blog, your rules. It is important to stay true to the things you feel passionate about. Don’t write or promote anything you don’t feel comfortable endorsing. Say no if it doesn’t feel right. Try and be as transparent as possible with your readers. Same goes when working with brands. Be clear in what you want and what you are prepared to deliver when you enter into any working relationship with an agency or brand. Always get everything in writing.
10. Picking a domain and how to start your blog
One of the most important things a successful blog needs is a catchy and recognizable name that is also available as an online domain. But let’s start by dissecting what a good name is first.
A good name for a blog is short, memorable, and melodious without being too abstract. At the same time, it should target the group of people you are interested in writing for.
People will form a relationship with your blog the moment they read your name. If it doesn’t seem relevant for them, they will filter it out faster than a flash. So, put a lot of thought into it.
If you need help or inspiration when finding a good name for your blog, click here. Here, you will also be able to find curated names for blogs relating to travel including an available domain and a logo to really start branding your blog from the get-go!
With a name, domain, and a logo at hand, you are ready to use the rest of the tips in this article and start writing your very first post for the world to read and share the very best of your own travels.