So, you’ve decided to start a travel blog. Congratulations! Starting Little Grey Box changed my life and starting your own could change your own too. Kicking off a brand new blog is really overwhelming, like, incredibly overwhelming. It feels like it’ll be quite straightforward, but once you actually get into it, it’s wild. There are so many things to think about, plan and execute. It can be crazy trying to work out where to start and what to do next. To help you get started, I wanted to share with you, my must-know tips for newbie travel bloggers. I hope they’re helpful, if not, just forget you ever visited this part of the internet. Scrub me off your browser history and move on.
1. You absolutely, 100%, most definitely need a niche
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are exactly 1 Kajillion travel blogs on the internet. That’s a super accurate figure, no need to double-check it. If you’re going to start a travel blog in this day and age, you need to stand out. So, before you choose a name, set up a website and ask your mum to subscribe to your e-mail list, figure out exactly what your blog is. It is ESSENTIAL you are razor-sharp, crystal-clear, totally 100% sure what your blog offers people, why it’s valuable to them and what your niche is.
Homework: Sit down with a cup of tea, pen and paper. Set aside an hour or two to write down all your ideas then hone it in. Define your niche, write down what your blog offers readers and why it’s valuable to readers. Come up with one sentence that perfectly captures what your blog represents.
2. Make sure your name is unique
I’m not a name expert or anything, but there are enough blogs with the following words in their titles: wanderlust, wandering, wander, passport, travelling, travel and nomad. I’m in NO WAY bashing blogs with those words in their names, especially because a lot of people with blog names involving those words are close friends of mine. BUT those words have been used enough now. There are already many well-known, established bloggers with blog names involving those words. It’s time to branch out and be unique so your blog can stand out.
Homework: Grab that pen and paper again. Start jotting down words you like; names, places, things, colours, sounds… anything! It’s important to remember that, once you’re big enough, your name won’t even matter. So, think outside the square. Name it something really weird, if you want to. Once you have it, CHECK that name is available as a registered trading name, as a blog name/URL and is available on social media accounts. You don’t want a name too similar to anyone else’s.
3. Get a clear idea of the layout and feel you want for your blog
Before you even begin the process of setting up a blog, you need to know what you want. Do you want a scrolling theme or a static front page? How are you going to organise your blog posts? Will you set things out by destination, region or continent? Will you have different sections of your site, like ‘packing tips?’ Do you want a minimalist theme? What’s your colour scheme? It’s essential you think through every aspect of how your blog will look and how people will use it.
Homework: Spend some time on the internet, visiting your favourite blogs and discovering new ones. Use them to help you figure out what you like and what you don’t like about blogs, then take the best bits or your favourite bits and bring them together to influence the design of your blog.
4. You aren’t just building a blog, you’re building a brand
Right from the start of your blog, you need to be on-brand. It isn’t just a website, it’s a brand. So, you need to understand all the elements of your brand and what you represent and allow those to flow through every aspect of what you do. A big focus will be consistency. Make sure you set your blog posts out the same way each time. Make sure you use the same colour scheme, fonts and logo. Build a reliable, consistent brand. Come up processes and systems for how you post on your blog and on social media, then STICK to them. I’ve got two helpful posts about how to create consistently good blog content and helpful tips to improve your blog writing.
Homework: Take some time to put the skeleton of your brand together. Choose fonts, colours and methods for posting on the site and social media. Remember, if you fail to plan you plan to fail (lame, but so true!)
5. You don’t have to be the master of everything
There’s absolutely no way you’re going to launch your blog and be the master of WordPress, Instagram, Facebook Pages, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat all on the same day. That’s wild. So take the pressure off yourself! Focus on one thing at a time. Sure, you’re going to need social media to support your blog and reach your audience/new readers, but scale back your social media to fit what you can reasonably achieve. Make a plan, for example, to post on your blog twice a week, update the Facebook Page once a day and post a photo on Instagram once a day. Use scheduling to help you. I have a great post about the inner-workings of Little Grey Box and my approach to running a blog full-time.
Homework: Do up a realistic post schedule (for the blog and social media). Make sure it’s something you have the time, energy and content to achieve. Each time you meet your target for the week, give yourself a treat! (Food is a great motivator).
6. Success is unlimited, so stay focused on your grind
It’s really easy to look at the number of talented, successful bloggers out there and feel like you’ll never succeed. I do it all the time. You guys, success is unlimited. There’s no limit of success in this world, so someone else’s success doesn’t have any impact on your own. Your success is all your own and it will come to you at the precisely right time. So, rather than looking left and right at what other people are doing, focus that energy on your own grind. Stay focused and consistent. The key to succeeded in the blog game is to never stop and never give up. You have to want it more than you want to stop doing it because you don’t think you’ll succeed. You might want to read this post about how to be a full-time travel blogger…
Homework: Watch Rocky or Flashdance or 50 Cent’s cinematic masterpiece, ‘Get rich or die tryin,’ or some other motivating shiz.
7. Know right now that it ain’t going to be easy
Becoming a successful blogger is not easy. I want you to know that upfront. I’ve spoken to and met a lot of people who start a travel blog for the supposed ‘fame’ and the ‘glamorous lifestyle’. Many of these people will start a travel blog expecting themselves to find fame and success within a few weeks or months of laughing and, when it doesn’t happen, they give up. It’s important to be realistic, you guys. It takes around 3 years for a blog to mature, so get that number in your mind right now and let it motivate you, let it take the pressure off you. You might want to read this post about how I learned anything in life is possible.
Homework: Set yourself some goals. What would you like your following to be 6 and 12 months from launch? How about 1, 2 or 3 years from launch? What kind of work offers would you be getting? Goal setting is really important and something I do regularly. How can you reach goals you don’t have?!
8. Decide how you want to make money
I’m always asked how much money I make as a travel blogger. I’m not going to go over that again here, I’ve got a really detailed blog post all about that you can read here. There are many different ways to monetise your blog. As a blogger, you will make money however you want to make money. The best example I can give is this; right from day one, I knew I didn’t want to place advertising on the site. I made the decision that I wanted to be paid to travel, so I said no to offers that didn’t fit with how I wanted to make money. This forces brands to work with me how I want them to if they want access to what I offer. I’ve got a great guide here about how to set your blogging rates and what to charge for stuff. I also have a helpful post on how to approach brands about working together.
Homework: Where’s that pen and paper? You need it. Write down exactly how you want to make money from your blog. No dream is too big or too small. Then, write down all the things you won’t do. Be specific.
9. Know that, at some point, you’ll need to jump
My blog wasn’t successful when I quit my job to do it full-time. In fact, it was fabulously unsuccessful. I was earning nothing from it, posting semi-regularly and wasn’t very focused on it. Those issues were the symptom of me not having the time, energy or love to pour into it, despite how much I loved it. So, I quit my job to give it a go. That changed everything. It was ‘do or die’ from that point on, though it never felt like I could fail because I was chasing my dream. There will come a time with your blog where you will be exhausted by juggling a full-time job and the blog. At that point, you’ll need to make a decision. To jump or not to jump?
Homework: Make sure you have a strategy to take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. Running a blog is a lot of work, it’s a business! Adding that to your existing responsibilities can be very draining. So make sure you’re prepared and have a plan to give yourself the rest you need and soul-nourishing required to be creative. You can do it!
10. Have a blog coaching session with me!
That’s a bit of a shameless plug, isn’t it? Look, what I’ve shared with you in this post is a fraction of what’s in my mind. I love talking to people about their blogs and sharing my experiences and advice with them so they can experience that sense of love and pride you get watching your blog grow. So, if you think it’d be of benefit to you, read more about my one-on-one blog coaching sessions (held via Skype). I also have some great guides for bloggers in a special section of the blog, here. Totally free!
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 and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.