Every few months I do a clean up of broken links on my blog and see how many other travel blogs I liked to once became either inactive, completely vanished from the web, or became abandoned. I truly think that blogging is here to stay, but only if you do it right from the beginning and you are willing to put a lot of time and effort into it before seeing the first Dollar back.
Starting a blog today is harder because there are many blogs out there already, but that’s also what makes things easier. There are many resources online, advanced bloggers offer courses and seminars, so you can learn faster these days if you research who you should be learning from and their best blogging tips.
My Journey of Becoming a Full-Time Blogger
I started this blog in February 2014, on a free WordPress template, without knowing absolutely anything about blogging and the possibilities to monetize it. Three weeks into blogging and 14 blog post later, I got lucky. My two posts went viral reaching over 300,000 views.
I quickly learned that I needed to switch to a self-hosted blog to even see analytics of the blog, which also meant to pay a lot of money to me (back then) for hosting.
While my blog was then known already, it didn’t mean that I made any money from it. Neither did I know what did I want to actually blog about. I’ve had over 8 years of solo travel experiences under my belt, but I struggled to find my niche as I wanted to write about absolutely everything.
Plus, I was not good at photography and didn’t feel confident as a writer. I even had a proofreader at first, who turned out to be a bad writer (more on this in point 2).
When I was forced to quit my full-time job and move to California I was happy to take any free trips, products or experiences, simply because it all seemed cool and new to me. It was a great way to establish my relationship with some brands and expand my brand. But, I was still broke. While I knew about affiliate marketing my traffic hasn’t been high enough to make a decent salary from the blog.
I was selling links (which these days are a big no-no) and working as a freelancer for digital agencies. I even coordinated some brand campaigns with Instagrammers.
In January 2015 another post on mine went viral, this time reaching about 1 million views in a few days. Which as great as it was in terms of boosting my traffic, also backfired.
After California, I moved back to London and was about to quit blogging, as I missed having colleagues and a regular salary. I went to probably zillion job interviews which all ended up with the same question: why would you want to quit blogging, we’re impressed with your website and the way you built traffic to it, especially getting your posts viral?
My original goal of using my website as leverage to find a better job backfired. No one wanted to hire me, as they felt like my blog will take off and I’ll quit the job to manage it full-time.
This is when I moved to Playa del Carmen in Mexico. I knew Mexico as I had lived in Mexico City for a few years before and I knew some bloggers living in Playa. There were coworking spaces around, cafes where all the expats were meeting up to work, plus the weather was great and the place was cheap.
For a month I worked my ass off and did as much work as I could. While financially things didn’t change overnight I was offered a remote position as an SEO and PR manager. I didn’t hesitate to come back to London just for 2 weeks to pack my things up and move back to Mexico.
About 6 months later I quit the remote job and was able to focus on my blog full-time and my income grew to a stable 6 figures. However, I was still working with brands for the first time, and looking back – it wasn’t the smartest idea to focus on that (more about that point later).
While obviously in 2020 the well-known disease basically killed most travel blogs, not all was lost! I was able to create a few more websites by using all the skills I’ve learned and ironically – tripled my income.
Here are some of the things I wish I knew before I started blogging and mistakes to avoid when starting a blog. If you have any questions about anything, please ask in the comments!
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Blogging:
Best Blogging Tips
1. You Will Start Doubting Yourself a Lot
I’ve never been very sure of myself despite what it could seem through this blog but I must say that being a blogger made me start doubting myself a lot.
Especially on Instagram, girls, and women who are the most successful in terms of the number of followers, are usually the picture-perfect tall and skinny blonde girls. Many of them promote the high life, showcasing private jets or infinity pools of the world’s most luxurious resorts, designer clothing, and high-end beauty products. Things that the vast majority of regular humans simply cannot afford. All of this with a hashtag #grateful while packing more clothes and cosmetics into their baskets.
Looking at this all, especially when in a way you’re competing with them, isn’t exactly the greatest way of boosting your ego. At some point, I started asking myself if maybe I do need the fake boobs that most social influencers have, or that I should use the expensive creams for my face do you have porcelain skin.
One thing I hate to admit is that I even tested some designer clothes once I could afford them, despite not believing in high-end fashion. Ironically I ended up returning all of the items because I didn’t think that the price matched the quality. I’m more than fine sticking to cheaper regular fashion, as I have for my entire life.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that most fashion influencers actually don’t own anything they wear. They buy expensive clothes, take photos in them, often even with a tag visible, and return them. I didn’t want to belong to this crazy scheme.
For a bit I started doubting my looks, I started doubting my life choices and thought that everyone makes more money than me. I remember having chats with some Instagrammers who kept saying that they can make “so much money from Instagram” and that’s “enough not to work on anything else”.
You have no idea how many times I thought: hey, I must be doing something wrong because I don’t make that much money on Instagram alone. Ironically, when I finally got the courage to ask them what’s enough money I heard: “I have enough to do my groceries”
Enough is relative, so don’t get too influenced by what others are doing and do your thing. I think some bloggers may have truly believed they were successful, but they didn’t measure success in the same way I did. I wanted to make blogging my full-time job with a good salary.
I started seeing a trend on Instagram when people had to start tagging branded content, many wanted to be seen as successful and tagging sponsors just to be noticed, not when they’re actually paid. Unless you know that some influencers agreed to a post in exchange for a pair of free socks, you might think that everyone is getting jobs instead of you. Don’t just believe someone is successful because they tell you they are.
Once you enter the industry you begin to compare yourself with other bloggers and social media stars, even if you don’t want to. It’s inevitable.
2. I Wish I Knew Who to Listen To
This somehow relates to point 1.
Some of the biggest mistakes I have made in building my online business have simply been following the wrong advice. When I started blogging I had my blogging idols who I thought were legit and therefore their advice was valuable.
For instance, I kept hearing that some bloggers charge an X amount for sponsored campaigns or product features because of this and that. I started doing the same thing they claimed and… nothing happened. Spoiler alert: they lied.
Months later, when I started working on filtering the right bloggers for many campaigns I found out that many of these people weren’t telling the entire truth. While they might say that they charge X amount for something, if they’re offered 10 times less for it, they will take it too. Does it mean they charge so much? Nope. It meant they might have got this rate once or twice.
Ironically, the same thing goes for your non-blogging friends. Many people will point out your mistakes to you, others will criticize your writing, and trust me – I’m not talking about constructive criticism that I’m a big fan of. Because of that, I was insecure about my grammar and writing and I asked my ex-boyfriend to proofread my posts before publishing them.
After all, he was a native English speaker. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done as he definitely couldn’t write and his grammar was awful. Once I regained confidence and started trusting myself I finally stopped receiving comments that my posts are helpful but weirdly written…
3. Remember Why You Started the Blog Throughout the Journey
Do you know why you want to start blogging? I started blogging in order to boost my career, encourage other people to travel, study and work abroad, and open the doors to other possibilities.
I wish I remembered it every day I worked on my blog. It’s very easy to forget the main reason for starting a blog and get sucked into chasing clients and money, instead of keeping your goals. At some point, I lost my passion for the blog and considered quitting.
The only way you’re going to carry on with your blog is when you remember why did you start it and what’s your goal. While goals may change (mine did when children showed up), it’s important to have a goal. At some point, I lost mine and got unmotivated until I found a new goal.
4. I Wish I Started Working on the Right Things from the Beginning
This point varies per person, but ultimately the end goal should be the same – to create a long-time business. For a long time, I thought that videos were where the money is. Especially these days, with the popularity of TikTok.
I’ve never been a vlogger. I grew up loving books and instead of watching someone talk on the camera, I preferred reading what they had to say. But in the world of blogging, it isn’t about what do like as an individual, but what the audience prefers and the mainstream social media audience prefers videos.
I do think that going further video will play a more prominent role in the way we connect, particularly live videos. We want to be able to relate to one another on a level, so ironically my few vlogs in which I didn’t say anything particularly exciting, received more applause than well-researched articles.
If I started doing videos from the beginning I’d have been more proficient in the process of making them and probably enjoyed it more these days.
However… YouTube doesn’t pay as much as you may think. You can get paid a lot to do a branded project, but in the end, you’re on a hamster wheel of having to create content non-stop and if you make a mistake you may fall from grace (*cough* Logan Paul anyone?).
There’s also an issue of possible getting kicked off the platform. TikTok or YouTube or Instagram can suddenly block you or the app can go down, as it’s slowly happening with Instagram and then you’re going to lose your income really fast.
Traditional blogging is much more profitable and doesn’t require you to create content nonstop. You can take a break, you can choose the pace and most importantly: it’s like real estate. You can sell the website once you’re done with it, but you cannot sell a tiktok account when the way you make money is by ultimately selling your own persona and sponsored deals.
5. People Will Often Annoy You and Will Be Mean
Your blog is expressing the opinions that you’re entitled to have. But since it’s your opinion many people won’t agree with you.
At the beginning of my blogging career, I tried to please everyone. I tried to be liked by everyone. It’s impossible to achieve unless you post no more, but plain pictures of landscapes without any meaningful comments. Even then, there will be people who will criticize you for the way the photos were taken, for your editing, maybe even the way you speak. Someone out there will find something to dislike about you and your work.
One of the most common pieces of advice is to develop a thick skin to protect yourself from haters. More experienced bloggers will tell you to ignore all the negativity and that’s what I did it first. It wasn’t good advice and I think way too many people take it way further than they should.
However, you should always listen to what your readers have to say it won’t always be true you might encounter some pointless hate for comments. Nonetheless, some negative opinions, or simply opinions that will be different from your own, might have a point.
Don’t become that person who takes screenshots of each comment disagreeing with you and posts that on their Insta story or blog with the comment I must be doing something right since I have haters or calling out these people idiots.’ While it’s currently trendy, it’s not always smart, nor polite. You can always respond in a polite way.
Plus, there will be times when you won’t be right and others will be, and it will take you some courage to admit it. That said, think twice before you write something online. What goes online, stays online, even after you delete it.
6. You Won’t Be the First, You Won’t Be the Last
Writing any sort of advice-type article is like working on academic research. You won’t be the first to write about a destination, product, or anything, and surely you won’t be last. No matter the topic. Don’t bluntly claim to be the first to do something, because you’re surely not the first or last.
When I started my blog I wanted to be innovative in every possible way. I wanted to write about things that no one else has written about, just to be the first one. And while there might be some things that aren’t best covered yet, there are many that aren’t already, simply because there isn’t enough interest in them.
Just because thousands of other travel blogs covered the topic of the best spots to visit in Paris, it doesn’t mean that you were too late to write one in a better way. Most successful people in any discipline didn’t invent or discover something but turned something that already existed and did better or different (eg. AirBnB wasn’t the first apartment rental site out there, Google wasn’t the first search engine that existed).
Many bloggers spend way too much time focusing on what other bloggers are doing instead of focusing on their own work. When I started, I spent way too much time worrying about not ranking for a keyword in Google search just because “everyone is writing about it” instead of focusing on making my articles the best to actually rank for desired keywords.
The same goes for blogging groups on Facebook. While these might seem helpful at first, most of the time they get really annoying and people get very petty. I rarely go into blogging Facebook groups anymore, because the information in many of them is often terribly wrong and this is why with time, more successful bloggers leave them.
By no means, I’m saying that you shouldn’t be creative. But you need to understand that just like in any other industry, there will be blogs with the same design (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they copied yours or you copied them), and there will be hundreds of other articles that might seem similar to yours. After all, if you’re writing a travel guide to Morocco, or things to know if you’re traveling to Iran, you’ll have to repeat some common facts about traveling to these places.
7. Learn the Basics of Everything Before Outsourcing Tasks
I’m a DIY kind of person. I hate outsourcing things because I’m a control freak, I like the challenge and don’t trust other people to mess with my stuff. But at some point, it’s not possible and I couldn’t do everything by myself.
While hiring people is an absolute nightmare, because many are unqualified, flakey and let’s leave the rest for a separate post, I believe that my biggest mistake was not learning a bit about things I was outsourcing before handling someone the job.
Back when I knew nothing about web hosting and design, I asked a colleague at the time (when I worked at an online marketing company), a professional developer, to help me transfer my website, re-do some design flaws, etc. It turned out to be a disaster that almost ended the life of my website because he had no idea what was he doing and I couldn’t check on his work during the process.
Since then, I have always tried to learn the basics of things I’m outsourcing and try to figure out the problem myself first. I’m pretty sure my husband Matt would completely disagree with this though. 😉
8. Your Blog Is a Business (AKA Blogging Isn’t Free)
The more money you make, the more money you’ll need to reinvest in the business. For example, when you’re starting out with little traffic to your website and a few subscribers you might be able to get away with paying $2.95 per month for website hosting and a free email list on MailChimp.
But once you have over half a million page views per month and over 10,000 subscribers you won’t be able to get away with free things. Then we’re talking about $300+ monthly expenses not counting a VA, social media tools and other things you might need as a professional.
I was very hesitant to spend any money at the beginning of my blogging career, what looking back is one of my biggest mistakes. Not everything you find for free on the web is useful and enough for your needs, even if you think it might be.
I haven’t got a very good camera until last 2017, and I’m not going to go back to all the places I visited to reshoot my photos, will I? I haven’t invested in a self-hosted website until my posts went viral, which resulted in my site going down when for a few days and losing traffic.
Recommendations for What to Invest in For Your Blog:
- Good VA, simply because you’ll have more time to work on what actually matters for your business, instead of doing easy tasks you could outsource to someone else.
- Reliable hosting, not something that will cause your website to go down when your post actually goes viral.
- Good scheduling tools for social media.
- A decent camera that will allow you to shoot in RAW format, plus Adobe Lightroom subscription.
9. Industry Keeps Changing, so Have Multiple Streams of Income
Never put all your eggs in one basket. The social media industry is constantly changing. While a year ago everyone was loving Facebook, these days the platform limits the reach of pages. When Instagram started it quickly became a leading platform, but will it be forever? No one knows.
Case in point: Vine. How many of the Vine stars survived and successfully transferred their followers to other platforms? Not many. If one thing stops working, you’ll always have another one to fall onto.
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to focus on, but get some affiliate income going as well. Have enough views to place ads, write e-books, sell your photos. Do as much as you can to diversify your income.
Writing this post I tried to be as transparent as I could be and I assume that not everyone will agree with some things I said. That’s totally fine and I love intelligent discussions with you guys, so if you disagree with something or have questions, post a comment and I’ll reply 🙂