I have two roles: writer and blogger. I’ve written extensively about what I do as a freelance writer, but rarely talk about being a travel blogger, mainly because so many of my colleagues have summed it up perfectly. I’ve been part of this community for over 5 years, which has brought me new friends and countless opportunities. But blogging isn’t my job, but a passion. I don’t have to write posts here. I get to. I’d like to take this chance to answer frequently asked questions on what it’s really like to be a travel blogger.
Being a “Professional” Travel Blogger
There are a lot of opinions out there about what it means to be a professional travel blogger. Just Google it if you don’t believe me. The official definition of such is a travel blogger who makes money from their website. I’m a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, but I don’t make an income solely from my blog. Instead, I earn money from freelance writing (which gives me work from my blog).
Despite the fact that I don’t earn a full-time income from travel blogging, I take it seriously (the “blogger” vs. “blagger” debate). I conduct myself in a professional manner while on trips and respect my colleagues. I follow up with PR representatives after working together. I attend a few conferences on travel blogging to hone my craft. It’s now much more than a hobby to me.
Blog Trips vs. Writer Trips
Press trips, also known as “blog trips” or “FAM trips” are trips organized by a tourism board, company or hotel group to bring in writers and bloggers to promote a destination. I’ve been on trips of mostly writers and trips of mostly bloggers and they differ mostly by expectations of social media coverage on top of content. My recent trip to Malaysia was a blog trip.
While many people may see this as “free travel,” as expenses like flights, meals and accommodation are typically covered, it’s a business trip. And unlike your typical business trip, you may be expected to promote the destinations on social media while you’re there as well as when you get home. This is on top of the work you’ll have to complete after your chock full day of sightseeing and site visits. Expectations differ for each trip, but most blog trips have a higher emphasis on social media than writer trips.
I’ve been fairly lucky for the most part to end up with mostly fantastic people on press trips. I’ve made some real life friends this way. But with any group of people, there’s bound to be some bad eggs. I’ve had a handful of complainers and drama queens that deserved to be put on the dreaded blacklist, which PR folks save as a way to avoid working with them again.
Not all partnerships for bloggers involve full trips. Many times, I acquire press passes for events or attractions or specific partnerships with hotels, products or tourism boards for a place I was already planning on visiting. It gives me more flexibility in terms of time frames.
The Daily Routine
The first thing you should know about the daily routine of a travel blogger is that there is no daily routine. What I love about it is the drastic variation. One day you can be standing in a rice paddy in rural Malaysia and the next you can be in your pajamas working on blog posts in front of a rerun of Friends.
The average day on a press trip starts early with a quick breakfast before hopping on a bus and being shuttled from place to place. Lunches are big, sometimes with wine pairings, before a late afternoon of more sightseeing. Down time tends to be scarce and I usually get back to my hotel room with just enough time to shower, check my email and pass out.
Once I get home, it’s time to gather my thoughts, wade through the brochures, press releases and paperwork, schedule posts and social media and edit photos. There’s so much more to being a travel blogger than the actual writing of posts. I keep crazy hours, typically working until at least 11 pm and especially when I’m working second jobs and traveling. Most travel bloggers work well past full time hours.
This is where things get tricky. I do not get paid for travel blogging. I make money in a variety of ways, including affiliate advertisements, freelance writing and e-book sales. While advertising is the easiest method of making money, it’s not entirely sustainable. I prefer to rely on nontraditional methods. My fellow bloggers have turned their blog into a job through consulting work, selling their e-book into a print book deal, running tours and creating travel products like my friend Brooke of Aroamas.
How to Get Started
Anyone can start a blog, which is both a good and bad thing. The market is now saturated but there are limited barriers to entry, making for a wealth of information online. It’s taken me almost six years to get to where I am with my blog. If you want to start your own, you should first determine whether it’s for fun or for money. If it’s for money, you should have a brand identity right off the bat and hire someone to set up your self-hosted blog with a design. Become an expert in your given niche. If it’s for fun, start writing! Either way, you should craft your posts thoughtfully and check them for errors.
If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of blogging and where to start, there are courses from Travel Blog Success, my friend Amanda at A Dangerous Business and my friends Bret and Mary of Green Global Travel. For information on travel writing, check out MatadorU and MediaBistro, both of which have courses. And for networking with the community, join the Professional Travel Bloggers Association or attend one of the many yearly conferences from TBEX.