When I started this blog, it was a passion project. I have always loved writing and I wanted to write about my passion, which is traveling, and to a lesser extent, art and food. As the blog has started to grow, I’ve discovered a whole new world where I might just be able to make something of this. Maybe not a career exactly, but certainly something where it could be an income generator and actually move me closer and closer to my life goal, which is to travel all the time, of course! I’ve been extremely hard at work since April, creating content, engaging in social media, and trying to get the word out about my blog as much as possible. I’ve learned a lot in the process, and I wanted to write something for those of you who might be just starting out with your blogs. I know a lot of my readers are other travel bloggers and as a member of this awesome community, I want to share the knowledge with all of you.
Travel blogging as a professional is hard work.
There’s a difference between recording your travel journals online and blogging in a more professional way. The main difference is that the online travel journal is a blog for yourself and your friends and family to enjoy. This is a valid reason to blog and many people are happy to keep it there. However, once you make the decision to become a professional blogger, you cease to blog for yourself and begin blogging for your readers instead. You have to ask yourself what kinds of things your readers might find interesting or useful, and you have to work hard to put out quality content for them on a consistent basis. This isn’t to say it isn’t work I love…but it is certainly work.
Social Media is key.
A professional blog is a small business and you have to hustle if you want to make it. Most of my subscribers aren’t on the blog at all but are instead follow me on Twitter. A significant amount also follow along on Facebook and to a lesser extent, Tumblr and Bloglovin. I have it all set up to auto-post whenever I make a new post to the blog, so it’s pretty easy, but it involved setting up pages and accounts for my blog on all these platforms. It also takes some engagement. I check these pages every day to respond to people who comment or like my posts.
Good graphic design is important.
Ok, so maybe I already knew this one since I’m a graphic designer by trade. Branding is so important! You have to have a consistent brand that matches your blog. You’ve also got to have a logo designed. If you’re not a designer, I suggest you hire one to help you out if you’re serious about blogging at the next level. It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can find help for a reasonable price on places like Fiverr. I also offer these services for a little more money but with a little more customization options than Fiverr. Message me for details. I won’t feel bad if you go with a different designer, however. You should choose a designer whose style aligns with your own. Also regarding price, graphic design can get expensive. I’ll be the first to tell you that logo design isn’t cheap but that there’s a very good reason for that. What looks like something simple might be a lot more work than you think if there is a lot of time spent figuring out your look and making a lot of revisions. There are budget ways to get this done (Fiverr) but generally, the more you pay, the more you get to choose exactly how you want your logo to turn out.
Network, network, network!
Talk to other bloggers, share links with them, and importantly, give other bloggers a little love on your site. Your blog isn’t going to generate followers all by itself. If you’re serious about getting followers, you’ve got to be all over the internet. Use hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. Engage with other users. Comment on other blogs, but don’t comment “hey, follow my blog”. Instead, make meaningful comments on the articles others have written and engage with others online. Be active online. Respond to people who message you and comment. Try to get guest posts and interviews on other sites. Also offer guest posts and interviews on your own site. By offering these things to others, you’re not only helping them get the word out about their own blog, but you’re also gaining interesting content from other perspectives for your own site, and usually people will share links to their guest post, thus sending people back to your blog as well. It’s win-win. Another thing that has helped me tremendously was becoming a Huffington Post contributor. Once you’re accepted as a contributor, you can post whatever you want, but only posts their editors pick will be promoted. Only promoted articles will show up on their site for all to see without going to your specific page.
On making money blogging.
I’m only now starting to get inquiries for paid stuff on my site. This includes advertisements, sponsored posts, etc. It’s pretty exciting the moment you get that first email where somebody wants to PAY you for putting something on your site, but it’s also an important moment to take a step back and think about what you really want your blog to become. I don’t want to say yes to every single inquiry that comes in because some of them won’t match the message of my blog. It’s important to first and foremost keep the integrity of your blog intact and then think about monetization within that. Really think about whether or not you believe in the products and services you choose to promote on your site. I will only ever promote products and services that I would use myself or that I believe in. You should do the same.
Tough lessons learned in web hosting.
My site is currently hosted on WordPress.com. I have my own domain and I paid for a premium theme, which I customized to my liking, but there are some limitations to hosting on WordPress.com vs. using WordPress.org and hosting your own site via the hosting provider of your choice. I’m not going to get deep into the details here, but I will tell you that this can be a tricky thing. When I started this blog, it was a free blog and had an address of arttraveleatrepeat.wordpress.com and a free theme. This is a great option for those who are starting out in this world and want to try it out for a while before they decide if they want to dive in and start paying money. When I decided I wanted to get serious about this blog, I first purchased my domain. Then, I purchased this premium theme which gave me some more customization options than the free theme. I was doing well for a while, adding new content and growing my audience, but I decided it might be time to self-host my blog on WordPress.org, and this is where I ran into trouble.
In theory, a blog can be transferred by downloading the XML file in an export and then loading it onto the new blog site. So, I purchased hosting and found somebody to help me run the setup. Unfortunately, the hosting provider had an issue due to the size of my file (I have a lot of articles and images) and only about half of the articles I’ve written and scheduled ended up transferring. Not only that, but my premium theme didn’t transfer either even though the same theme is available for WordPress.org. I ended up having to buy the same theme twice (long story) and spent a couple panic-filled days attempting to do damage control. This was all behind the scenes, of course, because I hadn’t transferred the domain yet (phew!).
To make a long story short, I stopped the transfer and I’m going to continue to host on WordPress.com for now. I did, however, learn that they offer a paid guided transfer service should I ever attempt this again, which I will certainly take advantage of when the time comes. For now, I like my blog being intact.
The lesson? Make sure you’re doing it right if you transfer your site over to self-hosting.
Why go to the trouble, you might ask? Well, there are some distinct benefits to self-hosting. More options for customization and the ability to add an array of plugins including interactive maps, the CommentLuv plugin, etc. I also wanted to make some updates to the site design to include a HTML5 video cover image and add Google Analytics tracking to the site. WordPress.com is a little limited so doesn’t offer these options, and the SEO options are more limited as well.
If you’re just starting out and you want to get serious about blogging, I recommend starting out with self-hosting. You’ll save yourself some headaches down the line.
The bottom line.
It’s all a learning process, but my blog is my baby. I spend a lot of time working on the blog, and it’s important to me. If you’re serious about taking your blog to the next level, I hope you found these insights useful.
Have anything to add to this list from your own experiences? I would love to hear about it!
Categories: Travel Blogging