Sometimes I wish I could go back five years to when I was writing blog posts in a sand-filled journal and uploading them at Internet cafes and tell myself that someday I’d be doing this as my full-time job. There’s no way I would have believed it.
I’m well aware that I’ve lived a fairy tale, and I’m incredibly grateful to whatever fairy godmother saw how much I loved blogging and decided to let me earn a living from it. But I’m also becoming increasingly aware that that fairy tale no longer exists.
Word is out that you can earn a good living from travel blogging, and now more and more people are starting up travel blogs in order to do just that. In other words, the competition is intense.
A few weeks ago I was in Antigua with a bunch of other bloggers, and one evening a few people were talking about how much has changed in blogging in just the past few years, and whether they’d even be able to make as successful careers out of their blogs were they to start them today. I suspect they would, because they’ve all picked up a lot of key skills over the years, but I also suspect that they would start those new blogs in totally different ways than they did years ago.
I’m sure you’ve heard lots of stories of people who began travel blogs to keep in touch with their friends and family and then whoops, suddenly they were earning thousands of dollars a month from them. And if you were to ask them for advice on how to find similar success in blogging, they’d say something romantic about following your passions and the income will follow.
And I do think passion is incredibly important when starting up a business, especially in blogging. But these days passion isn’t enough. Over the years my best piece of blogging advice has become a lot less romantic and much more obvious: if you want to make your blog into a business, start treating it like a business. Like now.
Of course first you have decide whether you even want to make your blog into a business, which I know can be a tricky question for a lot of bloggers – it certainly was for me. Looking back, I wish I had been honest with myself about this much earlier, as then I could have monetized my blog much more quickly with a lot less angst. Though I realize it’s easy for me to say that now, when I know how much I love running a business, whereas earlier I was so worried about ruining my favorite hobby.
I think it can also seem taboo for a new blogger to say that want to make blogging into their job, because so many successful bloggers seemed to stumble on the monetary gains by accident. But actually, the top five most successful travel bloggers I can think of all started their blogs as businesses.
I should probably add that I don’t always treat my blog like a business. I often go on trips and write articles that I know won’t make me any money at all, but on the flip side, I also put a lot of work into more “boring” tasks that do make money.
Now, it’s totally unfair that I had an easier time growing my blog simply because I began blogging five years ago, just as five years ago I found it unfair that people who had started blogging five years before me had an easier time. But like I said, most professional bloggers would be able to start successful blogs even in today’s competitive market, because they have the skills and knowledge to do so – skills and knowledge that even the freshest newbie could achieve if they’re willing to invest time and money.
I can’t tell you how many people have written to me asking how they can make money from their blogs and I’ve sent them a list of courses and tools to help them and they’ve replied that oh no, they’re not looking to spend any money on blogging right now – they’ll start investing money in their blogs once they’re earning money from them.
Like what? I didn’t go to business school, but surely that’s not a thing?
This past weekend I was at a talk given by Matt Kepnes and someone asked him what advice he would give someone wanting to start blogging as a profession, and he said “don’t quit your day job.” Everyone laughed, but then he went on to explain that you’ll need money to invest in yourself and your blog if you want to make this into a profession. There’s a reason the IRS expects new businesses to run at a loss for their first couple of years.
Yes, if you have a lot of time and a lot of discipline you could try to make do with the free information and tools on the Internet. But I’ve always found that 1. if I pay for a tool or a course I’m so much more likely to actually use it, and 2. paid resources offer so much value that people are willing to pay for them.
I sometimes joke that I have a course addiction because pretty much every month I’ll enroll in a new course. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on blogging courses, social media courses, photography courses, videography courses, and even an accounting course, and I’m not sure I’ll ever stop. But I’m also not sure I ever should. The blogging industry moves at an alarmingly fast pace – my income sources seem to change just about every year – and it’s the people who are willing to grow and learn with the changes who will continue to find success.
I guess this has all been a long way of saying don’t sit back and hope your dreams come to you, go out and chase them. Do everything you possibly can to make it happen.
Maybe you’ve been eyeing a particular camera or guide for a while but have felt guilty about spending money on it. Maybe it’s time to go get it.
You probably already have an idea of something you’d love to invest in – so go for it! And if you don’t, think about what skills or equipment could help you achieve your goals.