Learn these four critical truths about travel blogging for beginners before starting your travel blog!
Do you ever dream of traveling the world while getting paid to travel by writing a blog on your laptop?
Yeah, welcome to the club.
It’s called the entire traveler world. And we meet at the hostel bar.
Find me and the first beer is on me.
In all seriousness though, as my travel blog has grown, I’ve been amazed at the number of inquiries I’ve gotten from people who want to know how to start a travel blog or how to get a freelance travel writer job.
And, more often than not, they seem to have this notion that one can simply pick a travel blog name, start a blog, and use it to fund your travels around the world. But the truth is that travel blogging for beginners, while not impossible, is much harder than many seem to think.
With that said, here are four hard but useful pieces of advice about travel blogging for beginners.
I promise that if you take the time to truly internalize these realities, you’ll be better off for it!
Travel Blogging for Beginners: 4 Honest Tips
#1: The Vast Majority of Travel Blogs Fail.
And even those that “succeed” rarely provide a full-time income to their writers.
The truth is that even most successful bloggers are either only part-time or pursue it as a hobby (this includes me). Are there true professional travel bloggers out there — people who manage to make a solid, sustainable living off of travel blogging?
But there are probably more people playing in the NBA than there are truly professional travel bloggers.
Yeah, you read that right: you are more likely to play professional basketball than become a financially secure, full-time travel blogger.
I’m guessing that despite everything I just wrote, you’re saying something in your head like “well, you know, that may be true but I’m different and I’ll be the exception.”
And maybe you will be!
There are plenty of reasons to think that travel blogs, despite the growing number of them, are still an emerging space. International travel is a trillion dollar a year industry, and travel blogs account for only a tiny fraction of the broader travel media space.
And if you are skilled at affiliate marketing, you can make some decent money when readers buy products through your links (such as my affiliate links in this post or over at my Traveler Resources page).
Plus, obviously, some people do actually succeed (if you define success as making an income). It’s just that, statistically, you’re really unlikely to be one of them.
Sorry if that’s not what you want to hear.
#2: If You Blog, Don’t Just Do It For Money.
But, perhaps more importantly, the definition of success as a travel blogger doesn’t have to revolve around whether or not you make money.
There are lots of good reasons to start travel blogging that have nothing to do with dollars and cents.
I started doing it largely because I thought it was something I would enjoy. I’m a writer by nature and after six months traveling the world, my fingers were feeling a bit itchy to write SOMETHING. Plus, my in-real-life friends seemed to really enjoy my increasingly less incompetent travel photography, so I figured others might as well.
I also figured that blogging could be a good launching pad for other things I’d like to do down the line. I’ve got a couple book ideas I’ve been toying around with for a year or two now (I even wrote the first couple chapters of one of them already). If I ever get around to actually finishing a full book, maybe having a social following will help me promote it.
Plus, a growing trend in travel is travel bloggers who lead their own tours with a dozen or so dedicated followers through their favorite countries. While I don’t have any immediate plans to do that, I think that’s the sort of I’d love doing later in my career (anyone want to go to Svaneti, Georgia together??).
All of which is to say that, despite the harsh guidance at the beginning of this post, you shouldn’t shy away from blogging if that’s what you want to do.
In fact, after six months of blogging, the truth is I really just enjoy doing it. I enjoy getting emails and Facebook messages from random followers who want help planning a trip, I love that it helps me to meet like-minded people around the globe, and I just generally have fun writing about travel.
Plus, I had a blast hanging out with other bloggers at the recent TBEX Ireland travel blog conference as part of my trip through Ireland.
So if you want to start a travel blog despite the odds, by all means do it – just make sure you are in it for the right (and realistic) reasons.
#3: Building A Travel Blog Following as a Beginner Takes Time. A Lot of Time.
Getting blog followers takes time. A lot of it.
First, there is the obvious fact that it takes a lot of time to write, edit, and publish posts — even after you’ve gone through the trouble of getting a site set up.
Second, and maybe more importantly, it takes time for a blog to grow. For most people, it will take at least a year and maybe more before you can build a meaningful following. Even if you do everything perfectly, it takes time to build a following social media, and even more time for search engines to grow to respect your content (though check out my guide to finding travel blog ideas that will generate search traffic).
The first two months I was blogging, I had fewer than a dozen people visit my website per day — almost all of them my personal friends and family.
Six months later I’ve managed to grow a Facebook following and have seen a steady increase in traffic — but I’m still far, far away from seeing the kind of traffic that even an average travel blogger receives after a couple years plugging away.
#4: Building A Serious Travel Blog as a Beginner Requires Investing Money.
Sure, you can throw up a basic blog on some free hosting site.
But to have any chance at real growth, you’ll likely have to spend money on at least the following:
- Self-hosting fees – Around $100-200 for your first year (if you’re starting out, BlueHost is a solid budget hosting option).
- Website design – Even a basic WordPress theme will run around $100-150. I use Thrive Themes, which costs about $20/month for their full suite of products (I love them because you don’t need coding to make a nice website!
- Logo – I paid $100 for a designer to create mine (but isn’t the lemming cute??).
And you really SHOULD also spend money on:
- An online blogging course – You wouldn’t try to get started in other business without some sort of training. Personally, I highly recommend Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Business of Blogging course, which gives you the tools you need to grow your blog. It’s not cheap, but I think it’s worth it. Read my full Superstar Blogging Review here if interested. Bottom line: though pricey, I think it’s the best travel blogging for beginners information you’re likely to find out there.
- Social media automation tools – Most bloggers use one or more of these, especially for Pinterest. Services like Hootsuite and Tailwind cost $5-15 per month.
- Keyword research tools – Successful blogs will eventually get most of their traffic from Google, which means finding travel blog post ideas that are search engine optimized (SEO) is really important. The really successful bloggers outsource this work to professional SEO agencies, but that can get expensive and so in the meantime you’ll probably want to learn how to self-serve on this one — and that means you need to learn keyword research first and foremost. There are some free tools out there, but to get your SEO game really going you’re going to need to pay. I’ve used Keysearch when on a budget and love it. It’s a fraction of the cost of its competitors and has an intuitive interface (you can get 20% off by buying through this link and using the discount code KSDIC).
- Facebook ads – Did you know that Facebook makes me pay just to show my posts to my own followers? Crazy right? And I do it because, well, what’s the point in having followers if they don’t see your stuff? While it’s not a ton of money when you are starting out, but you should still plan to spend a dollar or two a day on Facebook.
- Email service – I pay $15/month for the software that runs my email newsletter [edit: now that my list is bigger, that’s closer to $100/month!]. There are free options when you are just starting out, but to get the best service you’ll have to shell out.
- E-book design – I paid $70 to a graphic designer to set my free e-book, 99 Tips for Traveling the World LIke a Pro.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – By far the best way to grow your blog traffic long term, SEO is difficult to master but super important once you do. The best way to get started is to join this step-by-step SEO course put together by my travel blogger friend Gemma.
As you can see, this all really starts to add up. After just six months, I’ve spent well over a thousand dollars on my blog!
And, while I have made some of that back through commissions made by recommending products I actually use and love, I’m still in the red as of the time of this post! You can make some money through affiliate networks like Awin, but it takes a lot of traffic and a lot of time to make it add up.
Moreover, blogging costs will just continue to increase if I’m lucky enough to grow further. The really successful bloggers spend thousands more on high-end hosting, virtual assistants for social media, tech employees, massive Facebook ad spends, and more. A professional blogger once told me that he spends over $50,000 per year on Facebook ads alone!
So realize that, while it’s fine to have a cheap personal blog if all you care about is updating your friends and family on your travels, if you want anything more than that it is going to involve a significant investment of both time and money. This is a harsh piece of advice for those looking for tips for travel blogging for beginners, but you’ll be better off to plan for it in advance!
Summary: Travel Blogging for Beginners
So, in summary, after six months of blogging, here is my advice to beginners who ask me if they should start a travel blog:
First, start a travel blog only if you want to do so for reasons other than just making money. Blogging for beginners just takes too much work relative to the likely financial reward.
Second, don’t expect a travel blog to fund your travels, though it can still be rewarding.
Third, realize that it will take a lot time to get your travel blog off the ground.
Fourth, plan to invest considerable upfront money in your travel blog, with no guaranteed return.
I realize that’s not the rosy picture about travel blogging for beginners that a lot of folks came here looking for but, in my opinion, it’s the reality of the business. This doesn’t mean that a beginner can’t start a travel blog and be successful (click here to read my step-by-step guide for doing that). Just realize going into it that you need to have clear eyes about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
What do you think? Have you started a blog – or are you thinking of it? Do you think I’m wrong here? Tell me in the comments? I’m eager to hear your perspective on travel blogging for beginners. And I’m more than happy to help if I can.