May 22nd, 2016 marked a new milestone in my travel blogging career: I finally made the decision to make blogging my side hustle and switched my hosting plan to SiteGround after a short time struggling with GoDaddy. A new chapter has begun.
A year after, I started to earn from my blog. I was so happy and thought, it must be IT, travel blogging, that is my passion, my perfect side hustle, my thing to do in my life. It’s more than just the happiness when you can earn some extra money from your hobby, but the happiness you’ll have when you know what you’re doing is right, that you’re meant to do it. That’s awesome.
However, there was a time when travel blogging was my dream job, as it was so difficult running a blog, writing new and engaging contents, driving traffic, and monetising it. Everything was new and complicated as nobody told me what to do or how to do it.
I took some courses online for travel bloggers and they helped, but not that much. I have a special niche written in Vietnamese, meaning my readers are from Vietnam with different culture and mentality. I couldn’t simply apply what I’ve learned from other English speaking bloggers to my blog because it may not work as expected. The beginning of my travel blogging career was hard.
Fast forward to 2019.
It has been three years since I started this blog, and that dream job has become a dream comes true to me. Yes, it was a dream, but not as easy as you go to bed and have a sweet dream, and the next morning you can get it in real life. There is no dream that can come true if I, you, or whoever, don’t work hard, learn from the failure, and work harder to make it comes true.
So, today, I’m taking a look back and sharing with you things and stories I’ve learned after three years of travel blogging.
Things I’ve learned after three years of travel blogging
1. It’s competitive.
If you’re just a hobby writer, you can drop off this article here. But since you’re still reading, I can assume that you are among us, professional travel blogger, or at least, someone who wants to make travel blogging your side hustle. So, keep reading!
As you may have noticed, there are thousands of blog posts from other famous travel bloggers featuring them travelling for free, staying in luxurious hotels, cruising days to days, eating gourmet food at the best restaurants in town, and so on. The most interesting part is that they are paid to do it. Not only to travel for free but get paid to do so. Does it sound tempting or promising?
The good news is that it’s totally true. Top travel bloggers are paid to travel and then produce contents related to their trips. The bad news is, however, there is no such thing as a free lunch! They didn’t just travel. They rather work than enjoy it. You cannot 100% enjoy the meal if you have to take at least a handful of photos to make sure everything looks OK before you can actually start to eat. And trust me as I’ve done it before, it’s not funny at all.
However, the idea of travelling for free seems to be very interesting and tempting. I mean, who doesn’t want to travel for free anyway? That’s why there are more and more travel blogs out there, making travel blogging a red ocean! There was a time when I woke up every day, checked my Facebook feeds, and had the feeling that half of my friends or people I knew on the Internet have become travel bloggers. I could feel the heat just by scrolling down my feeds!!!
I normally don’t care if they’re just Facebook users sharing their photo albums and notes about their trips, as it’s a longggggg journey to jump from Facebooker to blogger, to be honest. But when it comes to a proper website, it’s a different story.
New contents are created hourly, not even daily. So, if you cannot make any newer content than the others, you’re out. But more than just creating contents, they have to be informative yet personal, they must be well visualised in different ways (say beautiful, flawless photos), and the most critical part, they must be read! It’s really upset if you’ve written a nice article about top things to do in Antwerpen, just to hear crickets chirping. If nobody cares enough to read your blog, you’re done. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the truth.
For a full-time blogger like me (as of June 2019), nowadays, it has become harder to find sponsors or brands that are ready to collaborate with bloggers. It’s harder to pitch, to convince them, and to close deals. Yes, travel blogging has actually become a red ocean.
2. Competition + money = You may lose yourself!
After three years of travel blogging, this is what I’ve seen: Unless you’re an A-class travel blogger or you have an exceptional niche that makes the competition irrelevant, you’ll be affected by its competitiveness, which will gradually kill your blog.
I knew a blogger with a very nice niche in the beginning, travelling around Saigon by moped. I liked reading her blog posts as they were “pure” and refreshing, and they really reflected the writer in many ways. Until she started to monetise her blog in an absolutely different way, focusing on promoting cruise trips and other irrelevant topics. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who left disappointed and left her blog.
But don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean it’s bad to monetise your blog. We need to live and pay our bills anyway. But try to put aside the money-element when you collaborate with brands. It’s nice to have big money, but ask yourself this very question: Is it worth it?
For a newbie blogger, you may be afraid of saying No, like, if you say “no” this time, no brand will ever reach out to you again and you’ll never ever have the opportunity to make money or to work with other sponsors in your entire blogging career. I personally think all bloggers had the same fear in the beginning. But it turned out that if you say “no” to an irrelevant brand or sponsor, you’ll actually make your blog a better chance to collaborate with brands that share the same ideology/style/niche with you.
Let’s say I’m a Europe travel blogger focusing on Vietnamese readers travelling to Europe. That’s what people think when they talk about Misa’s Travel Blog, and I’ve worked my fingers to the bone to promote it. Branding a blog is difficult, but keep your branding consistent is just another game. Don’t waste your time and effort in promoting things that are not relevant to your blog branding. You’ll lose yourself, and your community will leave you.
3. Haters gonna hate.
… and prepare yourself to get familiar with the negative vibes out there!
But I know, it’s easier said than done.
Naturally, not many of us can cope with negative vibes and feedback from the beginning. It’s not coded in our brain, I think, and reacting to it is a kind of defencing. However, there are two types of people, those who learn how to cope with it, and those who don’t. Sure, it will take time, but you can do it.
A couple of years ago, when my blog started to gain intention from the community, haters started to appear, too. I was shocked in the beginning and it left me worried. I didn’t know how to deal with it without damaging my personal image and my blog’s image. It was frustrated and all the thing I wanted to do to that person was to give the finger. (Well, I didn’t do it, of course.)
Gradually, I just learned that haters gonna hate, even when you basically do nothing. They just hate. So, instead of wasting your time being worried and replied to all these hate speeches, just ignore them, unless they harm your personal brand and image, then that’s another thing. But in most cases, they are just jealous of what you get and the intention you get from the community, and they want to drive you crazy.
Those who understand and support you will keep doing the same thing. Those who do not, skip them. Life is too short to let negative vibes take you down. Think about your loyal readers, your business, your beautiful blog and all the sparkling things that make you happy every day.