Last week I had an awkward conversation with my Dad.
“So with this travel blogging thing you do, how do you actually make money?”
For it seems I may have accidentally perpetuated a myth, particularly amongst my friends, family and readers who do not work in the industry, that travel blogging was my job. From what my Dad could deduce via my online presence, he thought that being a travel blogger was how I made my living. I think he thought that people paid me to travel the world and write funny stories. (Wouldn’t that be nice!?) But I had to tell him this was wrong.
On Tuesday I participated in a panel discussion on blogging for the British Guild of Travel Writers. Alastair McKenzie, who had arranged the talk, opened the session with a slide demonstrating how the role of the blogger translates to a traditional media outlet – namely that they have to be the writer, editor, designer, broadcaster, marketer, in short, everything. I crafted my presentation around the difference between what I do for a living versus what (little) I knew of their role as traditional journalists, with a focus on monetization and the art of self-promotion. The result was a lot of slides on how I don’t get paid, namely all the content I write, and blogs I have built, for which nobody paid me. So then I had to explain how the hell I do manage to survive. Although every week is different, from my experience over the last few months of freelancing, I can identify 4 main strands of income.
Consulting – for brands and bloggers on social media strategy, mainly within the travel industry
Content – for other people’s websites
Public Speaking – often on travel, social media or the blogger/brand relationship
Campaigns – I’ve started experimenting with some small-scale projects like the #TravelBookChat on twitter which I open to sponsors
My travel blog is a springboard to the opportunities mentioned above. It’s what gained me the role as a social media specialist for a leading travel brand 2 years ago, it’s an online portfolio of the type of content I can provide clients with, but it’s something I spend about 15% of my, now freelance, working days on.
So at Traverse, a travel blogging conference I ran a workshop at in Brighton this weekend, when Kevin Luke May from Tnooz asked for a show of hands to see how many people in the room were ‘full time travel bloggers’, I ended up with an arm at half-mast.
It’s fairly telling that at an event drawing a crowd of over 150 budding bloggers, and with a speaker line up of some very established ones, there was only a tiny sprinkling of arms raised in answer to this question. Knowing many of these expert bloggers, and having had the opportunity to speak frankly with them at the event, it transpires that the way they make their living is as varied as mine. So too are their goals. Something which I ask all bloggers who come to me for advice is what does success look like to you? For some it’s sustaining a nomadic lifestyle, for others it’s a book deal (yes please) and every now and then it’s money (I mean it would be nice wouldn’t it?!) All I can tell them is how I make it work for me (just about) but that for them it may be very different. In my case, my travel blog was just the start of a new profession, but it is not my job in itself.
Also at Traverse I was lucky enough to be able to attend a session on freelancing by Frankie Bird. It highlighted how much I still have to learn but also gave me lots of helpful tips about ways I can (hopefully) make this lifestyle work for me long term. (Click here for Frankie’s great list of freelancing resources.)
So in that awkward conversation with my Dad I had no idea what to say my job is; he started to look bored about half way through my breakdown on income. But to the students I will be presenting to at Manchester University tomorrow about how travel and social media became my career, I think I will say this:
Blog because you want to, write content and share stories that make you happy, pursue your passions because you never know where it may lead. But if you want to get rich quick, I’m pretty sure there must be an easier way than this.