The world of blogging is a little bit crazy. It’s hard to imagine it is a job and something you can actually do for a living. A few years ago I didn’t even know what blogging really was and I certainly had no idea how to get started or make something of it. Without a doubt, starting Little Grey Box has been one of the best decisions of my life. When I talk to people about what I do, I usually get asked the same questions. So today I thought I’d give you a bit of insight into how my world works and answer those big questions I hear regularly.
First things first though, I have to say upfront that I work as a writer, so the title of ‘travel blogger’ is a happy job title I’ve kind of fallen into. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, that has always been my dream career at heart. It’s what I’ve aspired to do and now I get to do it. My life isn’t just about travel, it’s also largely about writing and my love of words and LGB is a way for me to do something I really love; write.
‘How did you get started?’
Matt asked me a question, “If you could be anything, what would you be? What’s your dream career?” I told him I wanted to be a travel writer, a combination of the two things I love most. He suggested I start a blog, but I had no idea whatsoever how to do that. Coming from the creative industry, he knew about bloggers and helped me create a WordPress site, choose a name and design a logo (just one of the benefits of being with a Graphic Designer).
We were living in London at the time and I used LGB as an outlet, a way for me to vent my frustrations, share my observations and put together travel information. When I started it, I had no idea exactly what I wanted the site to be. I wrote about food, random events, funny stories and anything else I thought to write about. Quite simply, I just made a start. I had no blogging experience, I just learned as I went along and slowly got the hang of it.
‘What did you study?’
Other than taking English at school I haven’t studied anything additional to get me here. I haven’t taken journalism courses at University or College or had work experience with magazines or travel companies etc. I started writing for the love of writing and it just took off from there. I was very fortunate to have a boss in my old job who mentored me with my writing, as I was writing high-level reports for the Government, and he really helped me learn a lot.
I guess all I really did was take something I’m good at and absolutely love to do and found a way to turn it into a career. Because of this, I have unlimited amounts of energy and love to keep doing it. It makes me happy so I look forward to it every day.
‘What was your big break?’
Not long after I started LGB I was Freshly Pressed by WordPress, this sent a LOT of traffic to my site and increased my readership a lot. A few weeks later, it happened again! That gave me a big confidence boost and made me feel really happy, which made me want to do more of it. But I fizzled out a bit and lost track of the bigger picture, I felt like writing couldn’t be a career for me and so I slipped back into my work and just put my head down. I was really unhappy and had an empty feeling in me, knowing this wasn’t all there could be to life. I nearly closed LGB down!
Thankfully, I didn’t and the real ‘big break’ was finally having the guts to listen to my heart and dedicate the time and energy to doing what I love to do. My readership slowly grew, people told me they liked what I created and I felt happy, so I just kept going. One day I made the decision, mentally, to really truly give it a go… the moment I committed to it, it grew more and more
‘How do you make money?’
This question used to really bother me because it felt really intrusive having strangers ask you how you make money and I used to loathe answering the question. I’ve gotten used to it, but prefer not to go into too much detail. I earn enough money to live a life I love, that is all anyone needs to know. My income is derived from a few sources. I don’t place advertising on LGB because I hate advertising popping up on sites when I’m trying to read them. Instead, I monetise the site through sponsored content and reviews. I always do my research before I say yes to a review and don’t provide any false or misleading information. If I wouldn’t genuinely recommend a place to my own friends or family, then I’m not going to recommend it to LGB readers either because you guys are like family too.
As I said, I love to write! So I do some freelance travel writing for a few different companies including Brisbane’s BMag and I also do food reviews and write-ups for Urban List, both of which I absolutely LOVE. From time to time I do some freelance photography work, but it’s not something I want to take over too much of my time. I prefer to put my time and love into writing.
‘How do you find work? Does it come to you or do you seek it out?’
It’s a combination of the two, to be honest. I may have someone approach me and invite me to stay at their hotel, visit their restaurant or take part in their event. Other times, I contact them. For instance, if I were planning a trip to Sydney I would reach out to local businesses and their PR Agencies and ask if they’d like to work together.
I balance organised work with discovering things organically too, like walking past a bakery that smells amazing and buying food from there then adding it to a ‘Things to do’ guide. I wouldn’t try to make money off that bakery, I’d just share it because it was great and I think people should eat there cos it’s yummy.
‘What happens if you get paid to do something but you hate it?’
Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet because I really look into something before I commit to it. If it did happen, I would definitely tell the client/company in the first instance and give them a chance to rectify whatever was wrong. After all, it’s reasonable to expect things can’t always be perfect, so why not give a hotel, for example, the chance to fix a problem rather than just blasting them on social media. Sometimes you experience the best customer service in response to an issue!
If I really, really, really hated it and there is no way they could fix it, I would be honest and tell the company why in a polite and professional way. Money isn’t worth writing about something you don’t really want to share with readers. I’m not going to jeopardise LGB for a few dollars, I’d rather terminate the contract and move on.
‘What do you do all day?’
This question comes directly from my Grandma who is always asking me what I do all day, it makes me laugh! I think she’s a little bit suspicious of it all.
My days vary a lot, but I usually start the day by checking my favourite websites and catching up on news and social media junk. Then I go through my emails and write back to people, send things off or contact someone if I need to. Afterwards I might edit photos, post on social media, do some research on an upcoming trip or destination. Then I start writing, for LGB or for another source. Sometimes I have an event on during the day or evening, possibly a restaurant launch or tourism event if I’m lucky, so I get a chance to dress up nice, eat some great food and meet some people who work in the industry.
I get bored really easily, so I need a lot of variation in my days (and my life!). Working like I do is perfect because every day is different. I’m always juggling deadlines, coming up with new ideas, meeting new people, talking to agencies on the phone and sorting through new opportunities. It’s really fun and keeps it interesting for me. I loathe predictability and mundane routines that suck the life right out of you.
I also take time out during the day to do things like meditate or chill out and eat my lunch, grab coffee with a friend or do some drawing. I have to make sure I take that time out because I love what I do so much it’s easy to lose hours and hours to it without a break, which causes burnout. I have to actively stop and do something else for a while to give my mind a break.
‘What’s your favourite place you’ve visited?’
This is always a tough question and, to be honest, it changes from day-to-day. My favourite destinations are definitely Iceland, Tokyo and Morocco. I also really, really love Rome, there’s just something about it! Which is odd for me, because I tend to like places that are a little bit different and not so touristy.
‘How do you afford to travel?’
The thing to keep in mind here is that travel is our priority. Some people put their money into a home loan or a new car or toward their family, we put our money toward travel. Matt and I live a simple life, neither of us are concerned with owning the latest gadgets or the newest fashions. We just keep it real.
We live within our means, steer WELL away from any kind of debt and use our money to fund our next big adventure. When we travel, we do so within our means. We don’t stay somewhere we can’t afford or eat at a super fancy restaurant. I’d rather eat at a local restaurant than eat at a five-star fine dining restaurant. We’re just regular people who like regular things.
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Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.