Every time I hold a reader meet up I’m asked by you guys what the secret is to travel blogging. There’s nothing that excites me more than sharing my blogging tips with you all as I can still remember the first few weeks of starting my own blog – how little I slept, how many ulcers I endured (as a result of no sleep), and how many caramel lollies I chewed through for a sugar kick.
Many people will tell you that it is too late to start a successful blog of any kind, because those who got in first are way more successful than you will ever be. Not true. When I started my blog four years ago, I read these exact words and took it head-on as a challenge rather than an obstacle… and that’s what you should do too.
Starting a blog is like starting your own piece of the internet – where you can pursue your passion, hopefully turn it into your career, and if travel is your main love in life – turn your life into one on the road.
Here’s everything I would tell a new blogger to help you get started on the right track:
1. Set Up your Blog
When I first started my blog back in December of 2012, I had absolutely no idea where to start. Back then many bloggers were still using the platform Blogger and as far as my research would show, this was the simplest (and cheapest because it was free) way to start a blog. I didn’t have any money I was willing to throw into starting a blog as I was frugally saving for more adventures, so I went down that avenue and started to spend all my time working on my Blogger blog.
It was only a few weeks later that I found further research suggesting that if you wish to take blogging seriously (my eyeballs were eagerly reading the screen while I nodded at the computer – yes! I do!), then you should start a blog on WordPress.org if you ever wanted to reach people around the world by coming in high on search engine results.
Thus I made the switch, started from scratch, and began my 2-3 weeks of sleepless nights to get my little piece of the internet alive and happening.
The same is true for you: if you want to take blogging seriously, I would suggest you set up your blog with WordPress.
2. Start Writing
If I could look back and see those first initial blog posts I wrote, I would cringe with absolute certainty. Luckily for me (and for you), those blogs have since been deleted as they truly were, I kid you not, of the worst kind (dot points and all!)
But looking back I can also see that practice makes perfect – or at least near enough (this site is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors because I very rarely spellcheck given my commitment to pump out 5-7 blogs each week). So although those blog posts sucked in the beginning, the only way I got better was by persisting over time. I soon learned what did and did not work and finally found my “voice” as a writer.
3. Invest in the Tools of the Trade
Another mistake I made early on was to not invest any money in my set-up. Truth be told I would have preferred to spend $1000 on a plane ticket than a new camera lens, so that is what I did. When I realised over the months of thinking “why don’t I have thousands of readers yet?” (naive I know) that I wasn’t producing quality content, I finally came to terms with the fact that I’d need to invest a little if I wanted to take great photos, go to great destinations, travel further and more often.
Originally when I purchased my first professional camera I stupidly thought that the most expensive camera meant that it would take the best photos. Wrong I was. My first investment was a couple thousand dollars, with just one fault in my plan…. I didn’t know how to use it!
Nowadays I use an Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II which was cheaper than my first two cameras, is much lighter and is waaaaaay easier to use. I’d highly recommend it for anyone starting out in the blogosphere.
4. Learn Basic Photography Tips & Styles
After investing so much of my hard earned money, I realised I would have to continue to invest — but instead with my time. I began to spend much more time online reading about how to take better photos, learning how to deal with light and discovering how to use the manual settings on my camera.
I also spent a lot more time researching other photographers’ styles but to the surprise of many, I completely avoided looking at other travel blogs as my inspiration. Instead, I was more inspired by fashion bloggers and their approach to photography. The images were always light, bright, colourful and most importantly — fun. These bloggers were showing much more of their personality and not just an empty landscape. For me, that seemed closer to my style/personality, so I took instruction from them.
5. Connect with Readers & Bloggers
I know it sounds super corny and cliche, but there is no greater pleasure in blogging than the community you create around you. As someone who started out their blog to reach out to others as a solo traveller, I have truly grown so much as an individual by the friendships I have formed through blogging. It still blows my mind how many of you show up to reader meet ups, how many of you tweet me each day just to chat and see what I’m up to and how many of you take the time to send me a postcard in the mail (of which I have a gazillion stuck up on my pin board).
I know it won’t seem like it at the outset, but there is nothing more important than connecting with your readers and forming friendships with them. What could be more rewarding and fulfilling!?
6. Become a Social Media Ninja
When I first started my blog I spent all of my time and effort creating a beautifully laid-out website, learning photography tips and improving my writing skills (which, lets be honest, will never be perfect… just so long as they’re always improving!)
It took me a while to realise that social media was a much faster way to grow your audience and get people interested in what you’re doing. I suppose coming from a small town where people don’t really feel the need to always “be interesting”, I felt that I didn’t really need to worry about my social presence. Wrong I was.
While I still take the odd few days or week offline to “not be interesting”, I do spend a lot more of my time updating my social media followers on my happenings. Becoming a social media is the fastest way to grow your blog audience and yes, it is a fast track to success – but I still spend way more time creating content for my site as it is my first true love!
7. Research Before you Write
I’m sure for any of my readers who have been following me since the beginning you will know first hand that I haven’t always put in this much time, effort and care into each blog post. When I first started blogging I would go for quantity of quality and believe me when I say this will be your last mistake!
If you’re not offering anything new to the internet with each new post you write, don’t upload it at all. If you’re simply regurgitating a travel guide, copying the success of another blogger or writing list after list after list with no original content of your own, you will bore and alienate your readers.
Spend a little time before each trip researching about your destination and uncovering hidden gems. Once there, open your eyes and your mind by trying as many new experiences as you can and share those experiences with your readers. After the trip be sure to continue researching as you double and triple check your facts. There’s nothing worse than giving your readers wrong information!
8. Build up Resilience to Keyboard Warriors
I wish so badly that I didn’t have to mention this in such a positive blog post, but alas, keyboard warriors seem here to stay.
When I first started blogging I was writing to no one, not even my mum! It took me weeks before I told anyone I had started a blog and for the weeks that followed my announcement, I’m 99% it was just my mum reading.
But over the years my blog has grown to reach an audience of over 1.2 million page visits per month and with that growth comes a whole range of critics. While there are many more people who will bring you up than those you will bring you down, the inevitable seems to be that the one horrible comment you read for the day will be the one that will stick in your mind.
The sooner you realise that these people forget what they’ve said the instant they say it, the sooner you can forget it too. It really isn’t worth the while to dwell on negativity.
9. Bring something New
A lot of information I read online before starting my blog said that I would need to bring something new to the table. I totally agree with that. What I don’t agree with, however, is that bloggers “have” to have a “niche” focus in order to be successful. I do believe that the blogosphere is oversaturated with blogs that have similar offerings, but I don’t believe that means you then have to start a blog with a very specific niche, just because someone is already writing a blog about travel. Start a travel blog, but write it better. Take better photos and give better information. Bring something new but don’t sacrifice your visions in a severe effort to be “different”.
Last of all… and the most obvious of all… you’ll need to start travelling!
When I first started my blog I was not travelling full time. In fact, I started my blog mid-way through my University degree and in my third year of law school, decided to drop my main degree and finish only my degree in Political Science. That way I could study via distance education, travel throughout the semesters, and only be bound to return home for exams twice a year. Sure, it wasn’t really the most credible way of finishing my degree, it allowed me to pursue my main passion in life: travel.
When starting a travel blog it is important to know (and remember) that you don’t have to travel full time. Having said that, my blog certainly became a lot more popular when I booked a one-way ticket and travelled the world for a year solo.
Over to you! Do you have any further questions I can answer about starting a blog!? Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me!