Yesterday I spent 3 hours playing around with structured data, trying to help Google understand that Matt Burns the actor and Matt Burns the writer are two entirely different people.
That led me down a technical rabbit hole and before I knew it I was half an hour deep on graphic design tasks trying to edit a new logo for the blog.
After lunch, and several strong coffees, it was time to start sketching out my new email list welcome series and thinking about what kind of split tests I should set up on my email signup forms to increase my conversion rates. Side note – I haven’t had chance to implement the new welcome series yet, but feel free to sign up to the email list anyway. It’s coming soon, I promise 😉
By the time I’d done that, I only had a few hours in the afternoon to work on actually writing a new blog post (Hiking to a natural hot pool in New Zealand, which you can read here).
How’s that for a glimpse into the real day to day life of a travel blogger?
And that’s not even the half of it.
A few nights ago (technically I suppose it was more like the early hours of the morning), I was up obsessing over pages of code, attempting to do a complete redesign on my destination pages. I still haven’t finished that, by the way. And for all our sakes, don’t even attempt to view them on any kind of mobile device.
At some point in my sleep deprived state, I got to thinking about all the different hats you need to wear as a travel blogger – particularly in the early stages where you’re trying to handle everything yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it.
I studied computing at school and worked in digital marketing for a while after that, so I’m a bit of a geek at heart.
But the reality is not all beaches and permanent vacation.
As a travel blogger, there’s an insane variety of skills you’ll have to master.
The “Web Developer” Hat
Setting up your new blog is fairly straightforward.
In fact, if you do it with WordPress, you don’t need to know any code or technical stuff at all.
But as soon as you want to change or tweak how something looks, improve how something functions or
As your blog grows, you’ll need to know about all sorts of technical stuff.
How to speed up your website, how to optimise your pages for search engines like Google, how to make your own changes to the style and layout of your blog, how to protect your site from being hacked….I could go on forever.
Luckily, I’ll be covering all that and more in my email course and here on the blog over the coming months, so signup for that if you’re keen to learn some new stuff.
The “Graphic Designer/Editor” Hat
This is one of those things you’ll find yourself doing more of than you thought.
And if you haven’t done much of graphic stuff before, there’s a bit of learning involved.
Editing all those pictures, getting them ready for Pinterest, resizing them…it all takes time. And practice.
The “Admin” Hat
As your blog grows and your readership and following increase, your inbox will start to fill up faster and faster.
You’ll be dealing with answering readers questions, moderating your post comments, replying to enquiries from businesses who want to partner with you somehow and telling those spammy SEO companies that you’re not interested…again.
If you some day make it into the top 10% of travel bloggers, you might be able to afford to pay someone to help you with this sort of stuff, but for the vast majority of us who are just trying to carve out a living online, it’s a case of getting on with it.
The “Sales” Hat
Presumably at some stage, you’re going to want to make some money to fund your new travel blogging live.
Whether we like it or not, ultimately that’s going to come down to selling something.
Whether it’s advertising space on your site, brand partnerships, exposure on your social media channels or, like me, your services as a writer.
All of those things require some degree of sales know how.
Understanding what companies are looking for, what their goals are and how you can help them to achieve those goals is the key to selling into businesses.
You’ll need to know how to demonstrate and clearly show the value of what you do and the return those businesses make on partnering with you.
You’ll need to know how to position your offering to give the businesses your pitching to no option but to say “Yes! We’re in!”.
Know what value you’re adding, and be confident about it.
The “Photographer” Hat
This has been one of the biggest challenges for me personally.
I’m not much of a photographer.
Actually, that’s an understatement.
Before I started this blog, I probably averaged about 10-15 photos a year.
I’m still pretty terrible.
Jess is responsible for most, if not all, of the cool pictures you’ll see on here.
But I’m gradually getting better.
In any case, the point remains the same.
Travel blogs in particular are usually very visual and even the best words can’t replace a good picture when it comes to setting a scene or getting a point across.
Photography is a whole thing within itself, but you’ll need to master at least the basics of it if you want to start your travel blogging career.
The “Social Media” Hat
Think building a social media following is easy? Think again.
Don’t be fooled when you see bloggers with hundreds of thousands of fans and followers.
Building a social media following of those proportions takes hundreds of hours of work, and several years to achieve.
Every platform is different and requires a different approach or technique, as you learn what works for one audience might not work for another.
Increasing your influence on social media is not only important for helping increase your traffic, but it’s also seen as an endorsement of your influence in the industry.
Increasingly, companies are looking to partner with bloggers who have a heavy social media presence. And that trend is going to continue to grow.
The “Writer” Hat
Finally, but by no means the least important, is the business of actually writing the blog posts and creating the content that makes up your blog.
You might start out thinking that this is the only hat that matters, but I can tell you now, it’s not.
Nevertheless, it’s obviously an important one.
You’ll need to be writing constantly to gain momentum and build up your online presence.
That’ll involve writing for your own blog, as well as building up your reputation by writing for other blogs and publications and getting in front of their audiences.
If you’re looking to branch out and make some money in freelance writing, you’ll also need to write to build up your portfolio to put some weight behind your pitches.
Travel blogging requires a lot of work.
There’s always something to learn and something improve, and before you despair at the size of your to-do list you should really take a moment to enjoy it’s current state because it’s never getting smaller.
That being said though…it’s kinda fun.