What is it like being a full-time travel blogger? The ugly, the bad and the good
I sort of fell into becoming a full-time travel blogger and digital nomad. After a sudden change in my work circumstances, I decided to shift my attention to blogging on a full-time basis. Now into my second month — though it feels like 6 — I’m sticking it with. However, it’s coming at a cost.
‘Nothing good comes easy’ as they say, and that’s definitely true when it comes to blogging. Once you decide to go full time, you either choose to go the distance, or fall at the first hurdle.
As the title of this post suggest, I’ll list the ugly truths first, then the bad, and lastly the good. This way, you can decide whether going full time is for you — or whether it puts you off for good!
The realities of being a full-time travel blogger
When you start blogging in general, you quickly realise how much work goes into one post. Being a good blogger is hard, but being a good full-time blogger is 10 times the effort. From the planning to the promotion stage, it’s constant.
Every article becomes a mini project, with its own SEO strategy plan. For the non-suspecting reader, all they see is the polished product. But for the blogger behind the words and pictures, it’s many hours stuck behind a screen.
I work solo, so everything’s on me. From planning the articles and writing, to taking photos and managing my social media, it’s a one-person job.
Turning your blog into a business, and getting paid from it isn’t easy, especially at the start. Seeing the low numbers from your affiliates is discouraging, and will make you question why you’re doing it.
I recommend researching well any affiliate programmes you sign up to, and more importantly, to give it some time. You need to have a lot of patience, persistence and dedication to succeed. And that’s before you even start seeing results.
That said, I offset the minimal pay from my blog by doing freelance work — yes, even more work! My 15+ years’ experience working in communications allows me to explore different avenues of income as a digital nomad. While I’m far from where I want to be, I’m prepared to stick to it, and be successful.
A slave to social media
This may come as a surprise to read, but as a blogger, I don’t actually like social media. I’m very private, and don’t use it for any personal use, nor have I any desire to be on it. So, it’s pretty ironic that I currently manage 8 platforms, and a few others on a freelance basis too.
Managing my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Bloglovin, Flipboard and Google+ is ridiculously time consuming. After a while, you’ll begin to feel like a zombie, given how much time you spend on social media.
To counter this, I aim to post 1 to 2 times a day — though not across all platforms. Scheduling websites like Buffer and Hootsuite do help, but you still have to engage with comments in order to grow.
Travelling full time
Going full time means travelling on a full-time basis, right? Wrong. I don’t actually travel full time, but I do travel more. And when I’m away for long periods— and solo — it’s a struggle being away from home.
My social media channels will tell a different, and happier, story however. It’s especially difficult if, like me, you really enjoy being at home. One of my simplest pleasures is eating homemade focaccia with my partner on the sofa. And that’s something I can’t get on any of my travels, no matter how incredible the destination.
“After a while, you’ll begin to feel like a zombie, given how much time you spend on social media.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Me, myself and my laptop
If I wasn’t with my partner, my significant other would be my laptop. Morning, afternoon, and early evening, we spend a lot of my waking hours together. Long periods of solitude are something you get used to as a full-time blogger, and it can take its toll.
Some days I’m working so hard, I don’t leave the house. And while it’s true I get more done, the long-term effects can be damaging. To counter this, I give myself a cut-off time, and also take frequent mini breaks.
I also try to exercise daily. Walking, running or any form of physical activity is a big help, and boosts serotonin in the brain. It also helps me to work smarter, not harder.
Lack of a social life
The more time you spend blogging full time, the less time you’ll have to socialise. This may not apply to everyone, but it does in my case.
I’ll still turn up to important events, but most likely not to invitations for a last-minute drink or coffee. Sad, but true. It’s something you have to decide whether it’s worth sacrificing, which for me at this moment, it is.
Less passionate about blogging
Like most bloggers, my blog started life as a hobby, and a part-time one too. In those days, I gave zero thought to SEO or how much engagement I received from my latest Instagram post. I published posts once a month, and wrote sentences that went beyond the 20-word rule. In a word, I really enjoyed blogging and the entire creative process.
As a full-time blogger, I don’t have the same approach I did when I started. While the passion to travel is still there, I think more strategically for my blog than for my own enjoyment.
When you step off a flight into a new country, city or small town, the thought of work doesn’t cross your mind. For work assignments, it’s trickier of course, as you need to take notes for your write-up. However, for the most part, travelling reminds you why you started blogging in the first place.
Ultimately, it’s that feeling of wanting others to experience the highs of a destination, while also being wary of the lows. For me personally, it’s that awesome sensation that I’m living, and seeing sights I never thought I’d see.
The biggest and best high is when you see any kind of good result. Whether it’s an increase in traffic on your website, or better engagement on your social media, it’s a win. For me, I recently hit the 20k mark in monthly traffic, which is a huge achievement for me.
When I see these wins, however small, it gives me the sign that I’m doing something right. It also encourages me to keep going, and more importantly, reminds me why I wanted to go full-time.
Another encouraging sign from seeing a ‘win’ is getting paid for your hard work. I’m now at a point where companies are approaching me, and wanting to collaborate — and paying me well. I’m also securing more press trips and sponsorships that will help to raise my profile.
“The biggest and best high is when you see any kind of good result. Whether it’s an increase in traffic on your website, or better engagement on your social media, it’s a win. ”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
A real plus of going full time is having the time to read and learn from other bloggers. I’m especially grateful to Gemma and Laura from Make Traffic Happen, for their consistently excellent resources and advice.
Knowing that you’ve been doing nearly everything wrong is a hard pill to swallow. However, the sooner you understand where you’ve been going wrong, the sooner you can fix it. Constantly learning and adding to your knowledge portfolio is never a bad thing. That, plus you end up picking up essential transferable skills that you can use for the future.
No matter how much I moan about my dislike of social media, it’s essential for growing your blog, and audience. Thanks to several Facebook groups I belong to, I’ve gained more followers, views, and most importantly traffic to my site.
After a while, you become familiar with the regulars in each group, which reinforces a sense of community. It’s highly likely I’ll ever meet these people in person, but it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone.
Most people in the real world will never relate to what it’s like to blog full time. But, the online community are always there to support and advise on any blogging issue. And in the end, that’s what always draws me back.
Independence and flexibility
One of the biggest factors that pushed me to go freelance, was that I wanted to be independent. I enjoy the freedom of working anywhere I want, and when I went. Sure, I may have to work on a Saturday morning, but come Monday, it’s free to do as I please.
I also love that my schedule is flexible, as it gives me the freedom to book my next travel when I want.
Where are you on your blogging journey? Would you like to go full-time one day? Drop me a comment below, and let me know your thoughts!