Part 7 - How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career

How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career is the seventh segment in our How to Build a Successful Travel Blog workshop. Take a look at the previous segments first:

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How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career

Maintain Momentum

Many new bloggers will fail. It’s a reality. It doesn’t mean they won’t succeed because they’re bad, but they fail because they give up too early. Most bloggers quit after a year because of the effort required for limited results in the short run.

It’s a common occurrence that I see all the time. You’re stoked to start a blog. You have unique ideas and are passionate about inspiring people in their travels. You work your ass off to write great content, ensuring it’s SEO’d well, and invest hours in your social media presence to get more readers to your site. This goes on for weeks and months, yet your page views barely move. You spend hours online, researching best practices but when you implement them, nothing. It feels like you’re putting in all this effort but aren’t seeing anything in return.

I’m not going to beat around the bush – this will happen to you. However, all successful bloggers know that there’s a tipping point. They’ve experienced it themselves. It takes a lot of time and a bit of blind faith that all of this effort is going to pay off. But it will. Stay focused on your goals, ensure your expectations are in check, and keep plugging away.

It’s also easy to burn out. Keeping to an overly rigid content calendar while trying to do every single thing on your site is exhausting, so many bloggers throw in the towel when the going gets tough. Be realistic from the get go, rejig your content schedule, and always be thinking of new articles for your travel blog.

Consider Yourself an Entrepreneur

If you view your travel blog as a pastime, you’re not going to make any meaningful waves. To build a legitimate and profitable blog – and to make your travel blog your career – you need to treat it like a business. Research best practices, experiment with different strategies, and know what your competition is up to. It’s time to stop telling people “I just have a blog” like it’s something trivial. If you want to make this your career, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur not simply a blogger, and look for ways to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Be Smart with Your Money

In the early days of travel blogging, many newbies fall into the trap of spending too much money. Getting professional web design, social media support, and expensive hosting can be a serious drain on your wallet. What can you do or learn on your own? If you can’t do it on your own – is it imperative? Will it even be worthwhile at this stage of your blog? Be realistic about what you can and can’t afford and prioritize the hell out of your options before you blog becomes a money pit.

There are so many ‘must have’ tools that “every blogger needs” these days that it can make your head spin. Spending $10 a month might not seem like a lot, but it easily adds up as you sign up for more products and services. While these might make you more efficient or boost your business – be selective. These days, many products geared toward online business offer a trial period or a money back guarantee, so take advantage of that before committing fully. Be strategic, experiment, and analyze everything you spend money on as throwing your cash around blindly is a recipe for disaster.

But Invest in Your Business

Refusing to spend a dime on your site is just as bad. How many successful business do you know that don’t spend money? Not many. The super cliched saying holds true – you gotta spend money to make money. Again – the key is to be strategic with what you do pay for. If you can’t move forward without professional support or need to invest in an online tool that will unlock future income, then go for it. But do your homework first to ensure that it’s imperative and meets your needs.

Upwork and Fiverr are useful sites if you’re looking for professional help at a cost-effective price.

Continue to Pivot

One of the toughest aspects of running your own business is prioritizing what works and eliminating what doesn’t. At least that’s the case for me. I excelled at seeing things objectively and zeroing in on what had the most momentum at my former job, not wasting my time on the stuff that wasn’t getting anywhere. With Departful Media, I inherently have a soft spot for every single strategy and every single piece of content. This makes it difficult to dump what’s not working as it’s all too easy to be in denial: “ I just need to put more time into this for it to reach its potential.” But honestly, it probably won’t ever.

Think of the most successful organizations – many of them followed the energy and continued to refocus their energy into the most viable stream. Your blog is your baby – you’ve poured yourself into it and sacrificed a lot to get it off the ground – but it won’t evolve if you spread it too thin. Always follow the energy and evaluate objectively to identify what’s not working.

Stay Productive

Maintaining productivity can be difficult when you’re on your own and location independent. I’m a bit obsessed with boosting my productivity. I’ve experimented with numerous methods until I found what works best for me. Here are my top tips:

Develop routines

I’m a firm believe that you need to take the thinking out of basic decisions to focus on what’s important. The most successful people rely on their routines so that basic things are not another decision they need to make – whether that’s wearing the same thing every day or eating the same breakfast each morning.

Have the right system

Running four publications and a travel planning business means that I need to be very regimented in order to get things done. I can’t afford to lose momentum through the week on trivial issues and time sucking distractions. I’ve experimented with various productivity systems like time blocking, Pomodoro technique, focused sprints, Getting Things Done, batch tasking, bullet journaling, Kanban – you name it, I’ve tried it.

What works best for me is time blocking (carving out chunks of time to focus on specific projects) while using the Pomodoro technique (timed 25 min intervals + 5 min break, 30 min break after 4 intervals) to ensure that I stay on task. My productivity tends to slump after sticking to the same routine for awhile so I mix it up. When I have a project requiring a concerted effort like launching a new site, I’ll do a sprint – a focused time period like a few days or a week to dedicate solely to this project. This is a great method when you have a strategic initiative that you want to get off the ground but don’t have enough time within your week to make real progress on it with everything else that you’re doing.

At the end of the day, choose the system that works best for you. Don’t follow someone else’s regimen just because they’re successful. Experiment with various productivity systems until you’ve found the one that fits.

Have a clearly defined focus

Managing Departful Media involves running several distinct brands, all with their own content needs, strategic projects, and business development – it’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed. Even with one blog.

If I haven’t clearly defined what I’m working on in advance, I’ll sit down at my desk and be overwhelmed with all the things I need to do, all the things I could do, and all the things I should be doing. I feel that I have so much to do that I do nothing. It’s paralyzing.

Every Sunday, I open up a blank calendar and plot out my week. I list all of the small tasks that I have to get done and choose one or two larger initiatives that I want to accomplish. I used to write every project that I had on the go, but by the week’s end none would be completed.

Narrowing your focus on a couple of things that you can actually achieve will ramp up your productivity considerably. It’s also important to re-evaluate your focus on a recurring basis to ensure you’re focusing on the right things.

Set timelines

Creating timelines for your travel blog is imperative for getting things done in a timely manner. Set realistic timelines for projects like launching your travel blog, implementing your affiliate marketing strategy, and creating your first e-book.

Sticking to timelines can be difficult when you’re working for yourself. It’s all too easy to push something back a week or two as there’s no boss waiting for the final outcome. Suddenly it’s six months later and you’re still not done the project you set out to accomplish.

The key to meeting your own timelines is to align them with your daily routine. If you use time blocking, ensure you’ve blocked sufficient time to make meaningful progress. If you use Getting Things Done, break each task of your project down and assign them a timeline too.

Work to your preferences

There’s no need to work 9 to 5 if you don’t want to. Take advantage of when you work best, where you work best, and what conditions are necessary for your success. If you hit your peak at midnight, work then. If you’re a morning person, then start at the crack of dawn. Aligning your schedule with your personality will make you more successful (and more motivated) than trying (and failing) to fit a standard mold.

Set goals

Goal setting is critical in any business. Setting short and long term goals can help you focus your energy on the things that matter, and provide a yardstick as to whether you’re on track. Your goals should be challenging but achievable, and keep them visible throughout the day to stay motivated. Measure your progress as you go, and tweak your goals as you go.

Give yourself downtime

You’re not a machine. You can’t work sixteen hours a day, at least not sustainably. When I first embarked full time on Departful, I scheduled my week with from 7am to 8pm, six days a week, with very few breaks. And I never stuck to it, which was demoralizing.

Even if you’re totally swamped, taking time away from what you’re working on can be beneficial. Reading a few chapters of a book or going for a walk in the middle of the day can actually enhance your productivity – and is good for your personal wellbeing.

Productivity tools we love

Trello: I’ve been using Trello to map out my tasks and projects for awhile now. I usually lose interest with planning tools shortly after discovering them, but I’m a Trello convert. I have a board for each of our business lines, where I list out the strategic projects for each. I love being able to see everything high level but then drill down into the details. And I’m constantly learning more of Trello’s capabilities and implementing these into my system.

Google Docs: I gave up Microsoft Office when I bought my latest laptop, but thanks to Google’s products, I don’t miss it.  Google Docs is great creating documents, spreadsheets and slide decks, while allowing you to collaborate with others.

Evernote: I use Evernote to keep track of project notes and my content concepts. I love a physical notebook but Ive weaned myself to an online version so that it doesn’t get lost on the shelf. I love that I can store my ideas or add to my article drafts from all of my devices, and can search something from years ago that might be relevant again – instead of digging through old notebooks.

Freshbooks: Accounting isn’t the easiest thing in the world for creatives, but Freshbooks makes it super simple. I use it to generate invoices for consulting work, pay assistants, and manage expenses. It’s intuitive and easy to use – enough said!

Coffitivity: I get distracted easily and work better with white noise. This simple app has three settings that provide coffee shop background noise. I even listen to the app when I’m actually in a coffee shop.

Work on the Road

You’ll like be a digital nomad as you make your travel blog your career. This is a topic that I’ve covered a lot on Departful as most of the time I’m working away from home. Though you may have a homebase where you spend most of your year, you’ll inevitably be out exploring the world from time to time as a travel blogger. And you can’t hit the pause button on your blog – well you can but you risk losing momentum. I’ve written a few articles on digital nomadism (you can read them all here), but I’ll sum up my top advice:

Balance: Have a healthy balance between work life and travel to be successful. It’s not a vacation but don’t work so much that you never take advantage of your new location

Pick the right spot: Selecting somewhere that you can be your most productive is key. Also consider destinations that are cost-effective, have good internet, and have access to local or expat networks.

Stick to a budget: Costs can soar when you’re in a new spot, even one that has a lower cost of living than what you’re used to. You might be eating out more, socializing a lot, traveling to nearby destinations, and signing up for once-in-a-lifetime experiences – all of which adds up.

Stay connected: Traveling around the world certainly has its perks, but it can be lonely. It’s vital to keep up with friends and family back home.

Have the right gear: A laptop is obvious, but consider a portable laptop stand so that you can work at any coffee shop, library or co-working space without slouching. It gets mighty annoying to always be looking for wifi, so you’ll want an unlocked smartphone and a local SIM card wherever you go. A portable charger keeps your devices charged on the go, while a universal plug adapter ensures that you can actually use the plugs wherever you happen to.

Be Patient

Good things take time. A successful travel blog is not going to happen overnight, nor will your efforts to make your travel blog your career. Most of your effort will pay off down the line but it won’t be immediate. Don’t be disheartened by the lack of initial progress and celebrate all wins – both big and small.

How to Make Your Travel Blog Your Career photo courtesy of Unsplash