Image source: Flickr - Giorgio Montersino
In part due to my writing for a travel insurance website, every day I receive emails from folks who want to know how to start a travel blog and live out their dreams of traveling as a career. Sadly, the answers I provide aren't usually what they want to hear, but to save everyone some time and to help you get started, I decided to put together this post on starting travel blogs.
Make Sure It's Your Passion
If you're only looking to get free stuff, then the world of travel blogs is not the right path for you. The only people who are really successful in this newish industry are those for whom travel and writing is an absolute passion. It must be what you eat, breathe, and dream, otherwise this just won't work for the long term. Why? Because producing content for the best travel blogs is a tremendous amount of work, and to keep that up year after year with little or no benefits (other than your own enjoyment) takes dedication and true passion. That doesn't mean you can't start a travel journal blog if you're about to embark on a special trip - that might be a good way to share your journey with friends and family - but in order to transform your site from a hobby to a business, being an online travel advisor has to be your one true love in life.
This may seem a bit obvious, but you also have to make sure that you actually travel. No matter how often you publish, good travel blogs always have fresh content, and in order to have that all-so-important content you have to be traveling to the places included in your online travel guide. You don't have to be a permanent nomad or anything that extreme; when I started my website I still had a 9-5 office job. But traveling does have to be a part of your life in some way.
Since we're on a travel insurance website, I definitely need to mention the importance of travel insurance when traveling. Many folks only consider getting travel insurance for a major or potentially hazardous trip, which is fine. But from personal experience, I know how important it is for EVERY trip, no matter where you're going. First there's the unexpected, which travel insurance can help protect against, from cancelled flights to lost bags. But they also cover specific travel styles, like adventure travelers and even honeymooners. We get insurance because we can't anticipate the unexpected, and that's certainly the case when we leave home and set out traveling the world.
Along with this, make sure that you can offer something different and interesting. No one will come to your site to read Five Things To Do In Paris. That's been done a million times and probably much better than you will ever hope to accomplish. Instead, publish content that can't be found anywhere else.
The Tech Side
Believe me, you don't have to be a tech genius to start a travel blog. That's one reason why there are so many actually; there's a very low barrier to entry. First, you need to decide on a name, and then buy rights to the address. Please, please, please don't be too cutesy with your site name. Double entendres and plays on words do not translate well in the digital space. Also stay away from something too generic; the world doesn't need another Travel With Bob travel blog.
After this easy part, it gets a little tricky, especially if you're new to Wordpress. I recommend following advice from pros, specifically enrolling in an online toolkit like Travel Blog Success. Sites like this one include all of the relevant information you'll need to get your own website up and running.
Develop Your Voice and Brand
You must have something to say. If you're starting a travel blog just to get a few free trips, then it's time to move on to a different career path. Your voice and how you approach travel is fundamentally important, and it WILL determine whether or not you're successful. All the time I see new travel blogs pop up, but they're all the same. Either it's a wet-behind-the-ears college student who is taking a gap year, or it's a traveling couple who sold it all and is now traveling the world - regardless, they are in no way unique. There is a glut of travel blogs out there nowadays, so in order to be heard above this Internet noise you must be unique and you must have an interesting voice and things to say.
Start off by taking some writing classes. Even if you're an excellent writer, classes never hurt anyone. Use these to help fine-tune your voice and how you convey information. Ultimately people will visit your site to read your unique perspective, so make sure you have one. Along with this voice development comes brand development. Any good blogger knows that they are a brand, and just like any company they must develop this brand with a coherent strategy. Be consistent and never deviate from whatever your messaging is. A few examples of the best travel blogs with consistent messaging include:
Nomadic Matt - He started his site with budget travel in mind and has never, ever deviated. This is further defined across multiple social media platforms and even through books he has written.
The Planet D - Known as Canada's Adventure Couple, this is the message they almost always portray in all of their writing. Not once do you see boring hotel reviews on their site; it's all adventure, all the time.
People also ask me what it takes to make travel blogging a full time job and to frankly be good at it. The answer is the same in ANY profession; work very hard, never give up, and with a little luck you'll be successful. You'd be amazed though at how few people actually want to hear that advice, much less heed it. My personal website has been around for five years. In the first 1-2 years I saw very little benefit other than my own personal enjoyment from it. Even now with travel blogging as my career, it's not the site itself that generates income as much as it is other services I provide based on the skill sets I learned from blogging. Of the thousands of travel blogs out there, a tiny percentage will be actively updated after the first year and an even smaller percentage will be able to generate enough income to call it a career. This isn't meant to dissuade anyone from blogging; quite the contrary. But I think it's important to be honest and to share the realities. Our job as travel bloggers is to show the world for the beautiful place that it is and to also make it look easy, to be honest. That's not always the case though, and while it's arguably the best job in the world, it's still a job and requires a professional and businesslike approach in order to realize real success.
Do you have any other questions about how to start a travel blog?