Why you should NOT start a travel blog

Jack taking some photos with his Christmas present from Nan Jack taking some photos with his Christmas present from Nan

Recently I was lucky enough to write a guest blog for ProBlogger.net, one of the world’s biggest websites for people wishing to improve and possibly monetise their own website. It was titled ‘Why you should NOT start a travel blog and I must say it caused quite a stir (click the link to read it).

The basic premise of the article was to highlight the difficulties we have faced since launching our site in early 2014. It wasn’t written to sugar coat anything, and it certainly wasn’t written to include all of the reasons why we SHOULD start a travel blog. From many of the comments people left at ProBlogger.net, you’d think the article was titled ‘The pros and cons of starting a travel blog’, and that I’d forgotten to include the pros!

Image Credit: Will Lion (Flickr)

Image Credit: Will Lion (Flickr)

The main points of the article were…

  • The market is saturated with travel blogs, so if you’re going to write one that you want to make money from, you’d better make sure it’s in a niche area that you can fill a void with quality content, i.e. you’re writing something that people would rather read over someone else’s content.
  • If you’re only going to be travelling for 6-12 months, and you want to make decent money from your blog, forget it!
  • Building a quality blog takes a great deal of time and effort (you’d have thought I said it didn’t take time and effort from some of the comments)!
  • It’s a good idea to do a course, or spend many, many hours in front of the computer teaching yourself how to be a good blogger.
  • It costs money to blog, from the obvious – premium themes, URL registration, hosting, etc., to the not so obvious – the time you spend working on your blog is time not spent making money doing something else.
  • The stuff you miss when you write like enjoying the place you’re visiting and spending time with other people.
  • Some people just can’t write, and if you want to make money, that’s going to be a problem.
Image Credit: Fred Seibert (Flickr)

Image Credit: Fred Seibert (Flickr)

All very valid points I thought. I also finished the article by stating that if you’ve thought about all of these things and still want to go ahead and start a travel blog, then that’s awesome. I’ve found I really enjoy writing and now that I have blogging experience, I’m going to start a couple of other blogs I have ideas for, with the hope that I can make some money from them.

If you’re thinking of starting your own travel blog, or any other kind of blog for that matter, Kia over at Atlas and Boots have written an awesome guide to get you up and running (just click the link).

After reading through all of the comments on ProBlogger.net, I thought I’d collate some of them here into two categories, Balanced Comments and A Bit Harsh. Not everyone agreed with me, and that’s the beauty of blogging. It gives everyone a chance to be heard and make they’re points, right?

Image Credit: Jeroen Mirck (Flickr)

Image Credit: Jeroen Mirck (Flickr)

Balanced Comments…

I am not sure if everyone who blogs is doing it for the money or as their only means of income. I agree that it takes you away from other things but you also get to build something and for a lot of people that is the reward.

– Dave Powell (www.shoottokyo.com)

 

If someone is in it for the money, forget it. The author is right – competition is fierce, and it takes way more than 40 hours a week to succeed. If you love it, though? Go right ahead. Find your path. Make money, or not. Do it for the joy of it. If you do want to make money, then be an entrepreneur and treat it like a business. Then you will succeed.

The thing is? Travel to enjoy travel! If you love sharing the world, then a travel blog is a fun way to do so. But the more time you spend on your site, the less time you have to get out and experience things…not to mention, your family knows automatically to not enter a hotel room or take a bite of their meal until the photos have been taken. 😉

– Jessie Voigts (www.wanderingeducators.com)

 

Having a blog is just like owning your own business, heck I know, because I did that for 19 years before starting my own Travel Blog and I couldn’t be happier! Sure it is work, but it is the kind of work that one has to have a passion for and enjoys. Travel can be hard, but it can also be the best time of your life!

– Cacinda Maloney (www.pointsandtravel.com)

 

Ummm…I write my blog for me, I have been for the last 4 years. So what if no-one reads it? I like looking back on what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved each year. I like seeing my personal development when I look back on my older content, whether that be my writing style, or just that I no longer feel petrified standing in a foreign airport on my own, without a clue of how to get to my next hostel.

The beauty of blogs is the freedom they have. If you want to write, you can write. If you don’t, well…then don’t! You as the author sound like you went into writing with the wrong aspirations, and that you’re now burnt out from trying…don’t lump everyone else into the same category, especially for those whose hobby still entertains them.

– Sara (www.thisgirlloves.co.uk)

 

Thanks for this post. I agree and fully disagree!

I agree because yes, there are very, very few people out there doing money with a blog (I am not considering a few hundred USD, but really living out of it). And they started almost all a long while ago, and they are very good, and they all work 60+ hours a weeks on their blog. It’s not easy money!

I fully disagree because you ignore potential other targets of a blog. If you take a career break, a blog will show what you did and is an excellent way to market this time for future employment. I did it when I went on a RTW in 2007 and guess what: even for Management position, the blog was a real plus. Blogging is also a good way to reflect on the many experiences you had, which can turn overwhelming after a few months, with everything mixing up if you did not.

If you want to make money from a blog (live from it), look at 5+ years (3 years if you are a genius) of hard work.

– Gilles Barbier (www.grandescapades.net)

 

I get people asking this question almost daily. How to start a travel blog. Should I start a travel blog.

Can you start one? Of course. Will you make money with it? Probably not. Unless you’re in it for the long-haul & naturally love everything that goes with it (the technical & self-promotional stuff too), it’s not going to provide a reliable source of income – if any.

I make $6000/month with mine, but it’s taken 4 years. Are you prepared to put in that much effort? There are easier ways to make money, if that’s the purpose of your blog.

As Chris mentioned, travel blogging is far more work than it looks like. Get ready to spend thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars learning everything there is to learn. A steady 2nd source of income and backup plan are also helpful, because chances of failure are high.

However another important trait for most successful people I know, including bloggers, is the courage to take risks. So there’s that. 🙂

– Matthew Karsten (www.expertvagabond.com)

 

An interesting article that perhaps should be re-titled ‘why you should not start a travel blog and expect to be a millionaire’? I’m an expat living in Germany and currently watching the snow outside my window. I write a food blog so different camp but I broadly agree with what you say. I started ‘blogging’ years ago with live journal (is it still going?) then a few blogs then went on to write articles and recipes and teach workshops. I decided to start blogging again upon preparing to leave Australia.

A few truths of blogging I like to think about:

  1. Not everyone will get a book publishing deal.
  2. If you do publish a book, you may not make the money you think you will (we ran a vegan publishing company in Australia a few years ago and the money is tight, especially in niche areas).
  3. Your prose may be scrolled by whilst people pause for the pretty pictures of cats or babies
  4. You will be working every day pretty much in front of a lap top whilst life goes on around you (or in my case in the kitchen testing recipes).
  5. Comparing yourself to other people’s success will only leave you feeling inadequate.

In short, it’s not unlike having any dream or passion, like running your own small business. The risk of failure is not a good reason to not try, but going in with realistic aims, some training and plenty of savings is imperative.

– Cate (www.atravellingcook.blogspot.fr)

 

Interesting article and thanks for the mention! 🙂 I don’t think anyone should start a blog for the money, it will take a good while and it is a lot of work. You have to do it for the passion. I love writing, I love marketing, I love social media!

I’m with Sharon. I did start my blog for my family and friends and had no idea you could make money on it or benefit from sponsored travel until about 6 months in when I met another blogger.

But please. Whatever you do. Don’t start it to be the next Nomadic Matt.

– Erin (www.travelwithbender.com)

 

Great points. Totally agree here. In my seven years of blogging it’s been a continual learning process. I also feel like a large percentage of time is networking, building relationships and adding value. A lot of these relationships take YEARS to build for the right project to come together.

Justin, founder of Justin’s nut butter, said to me once that “an overnight success doesn’t happen over night. It usually takes AT LEAST 7 years.”

– Kathy (www.goadventuremom.com)

 

Thanks for your heartfelt article, Chris.

All very valid points and a great sturdy warning about the realities of travel blogging.

One thing I’ve noticed by being immersed in travel blogging and really watching who is and isn’t making money from this line of work is this: Every single travel blogger I know who is making good money has a degree and or many years of experience in business and/or marketing. Knowing business & marketing seems to be the key to success in travel blogging…and probably every other online venture. At least for those whose goal is earning a living at it.

Thanks for your perspectives…and kudos for getting a guest post here on Pro Blogger! woot woot!

– Lash (www.lashworldtour.com)

 

The travel niche is SUPER competitive as you’ve already stated, but it’s a huge passion for many people and if you stick it through strategically and work your damn ass off, you can make it work.

If you think about it, any niche out there that’s worth talking about, and where money flows around… is gonna be competitive. It’s just the nature of blogging.

– Jack Johnson (www.protravelblog.com)

 

I love this post for causing a bit of a stir 🙂 These are all fantastic reasons to NOT start ANY blog – not just a travel blog. However, if they aren’t valid enough to put you off doing what you want to do then you certainly qualify as someone who SHOULD start a blog. If you want your blog to be anything more than just a place for you to share your thoughts and opinions then it is important to understand just how much work, time and effort goes into it. Great article for anyone who thinks blogging is a get rich quick scheme. 🙂

– Krystal (www.perfectenoughforus.com)

 

Thank you for the breath of fresh air. There are too many get-rich-quick sites and even more people that believe it is true.

– Paul Osborn (www.theoutdooradventure.net)

Image Credit: Mike Licht (Flickr)

Image Credit: Mike Licht (Flickr)

A Bit Harsh…

Wow. Why you should NOT start a travel blog. That is so wrong. Having a travel blog is a fantastic idea, you are just looking at it from the wrong perspective. You are looking at making a successful blog. That isn’t going to happen straight away.

If anyone starts a blog with the first goal as “make money” then it will fail. Make your first goal as ENJOY YOURSELF, do what you love! To me, travelling is the greatest in the world and travel blogs are great to have. If anyone out there wants to start one, ignore this post and go for it if you love travelling. Just make your passion travelling and you’ll be fine.

Don’t say don’t make a travel blog just because you couldn’t do it. And don’t contradict yourself in your title to your content either. I hope I’m giving enough constructive feedback for you to improve your own writing for your future projects. Cheers.

(Author’s note: Haha, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but your last sentence made me laugh. Despite believing your comment would make me a better writer, it didn’t)!

– Toby (www.onesixzeros.com)

 

Kudos to you for getting on pro blogger, and also for getting the blogging community a little stimulated. It’s very interesting that you are so about nailing the coffin shut on blogging, when many writers are succeeding through it. To say that because only a small percentage are now professional, it’s like saying that because only a small percentage of kids are becoming pro football players – that kids should not bother playing sport.

(Author note: I am actually invigorated to be a blogger and have not nailed the coffin shut at all).

But you infer that if your not an overnight success than give up – you’ll never make it. Yes, many people who are top ranked have been around for a long time. They created the now ‘legitimate blogging career’ you are so desperate to break into. Yet you don’t appreciate the time and effort they spent getting where they are – in fact you just say don’t even bother cause it’s too hard.

(Author note: Everything you claim in this paragraph that I’ve neglected in my blog article, is EXACTLY what I’ve included in my article)!

I believe that if there’s an audience, there is always a way to engage them on another level and still make money. Hell look at how many movies are being remade these days – same shit different approach, right?

(Author note: I’m pretty sure I said this too…i.e. find a niche and go for it)

We have worked at blogging for 2 years and now don’t need to go back to our day jobs. It takes time to grow an audience who appreciates you for your personality, not some top 10 list. The ability and willingness to learn from those more successful than you is important, as no one is ever really an overnight sensation. And it takes some patience, because if this is what you really want in life – you will work hard (as you have to in most things in life) and make it happen.*rant over

(Author note: I’m pretty sure this is also exactly what I said in the article)!

– Megsy (www.fivedollartraveller.com)

 

This post is incredibly negative; while you raise a lot of points, they all revolve around the idea that there are so many people doing this already, why bother? And that is just a lame attitude to have. I run a jewellery business and if I’d thought “oh but the market is saturated; there are already loads of jewellery companies; this is going to be hard work” then I never would have started the business, I never would have quit my lousy day job, and I never would have become full time self employed.

(Author note: Absolutely not what I said at all. I said because the market is saturated you needed to be different in some way to stand out. If you line up 50 identical jewellery stores next to each other in a street, almost all of them will go out of business).

The same goes for my blog; I started a beauty blog two years ago, there were and still are tons of beauty blogs, but I did it anyway and the blog was successful. It’s evolved into something different now, but the premise remains the same: you only achieve what you believe you can.

(Author note: Totally agree).

Really, what it comes down to is.. you have to be good at it to succeed and you only know that until you try.

– Sophie (www.theprivatelifeofagirl.com)

 

I don’t disagree with your overall point but this is probably one of the worst written articles I’ve ever read on this site. If you want people to take this piece seriously you could at least put together a coherent article that had headings to support your argument and doesn’t include the likes of ‘sooooo’ in a non-ironic way…

(Author note: I used plenty of sub-headings, and didn’t use ‘sooooo’ in the article once. Perhaps you should leave comments on the article you’re actually talking about).

– Alyssa

The blogging community is rock solid

What I found most interesting about my article and the response it got, was the way the blogging community were so quick to defend blogging as a legitimate art form. For the most part I think blogging is far more legitimate than some of the utter crap I used to read in the daily newspapers before I gave up on them a few years back. As someone who used to work in communications for high profile organisations, I know how the media works. Conservatively speaking, you can believe about 50% of what you read in any newspaper, the rest is either the old ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ agreement between journalist and (insert politician, athlete, businessman, etc.), the journalist has a bee in his bonnet and nothing (including the truth) will stop him or her from writing their story, or the subject of the story has been so well coached to say the right things as opposed to the truth (this is what I used to do) that the story has no chance right from the start.

Because of my respect and admiration for all bloggers, particularly those who are successfully making money from their blogs, I have several ideas for other blogs that I hope to pursue at some stage in the not too distant future. People who jumped to conclusions when commenting on my blog article were wrong, I’m buzzing to blog and I can’t wait to dive into it full-on, and head first!

Have I got it right or completely wrong? Leave your comments below, I look forward to reading them.

17 Comments on Why you should NOT start a travel blog

  1. One other thing to note is that while you may not make money directly from your blog, it’s a great place to showcase your personality and work for future job opportunities. Showing my blog to potential employers/freelance clients has helped me obtain significant work even though it wasn’t always blogging related, it was a great display of my writing ability and knowledge/passion for travel. Maybe you’re a freelance graphic designer who loves travel, a travel blog is an easy way to promote yourself indirectly!
    Anna | The Blonde Banana recently posted…Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $50 for TravelersMy Profile

    • That’s a great result Anna, and I have probably earned myself some oDesk contracts thanks to my blog as well. When I write my next article, ‘Why you should DEFINITELY start a travel blog’, I will use this as one of the reasons for sure.

  2. Nice summation and a great reflection of experienced peoples’ views.

    I’ve been blogging for more than 2 years and it is a labour of love. Yes I enjoy what I do, connecting with people and the online interaction.

    As for as money is concerned, I’m not a role model if people want to make money from their blogs. Yes I’ve covered my monetary costs, just but that’s it. I’ve got close to zero return on the thousands and thousands of hours I pour over it.

    It is now a very crowded niche and you can really see the good and the bad ones quite quickly. The crowded niche though means that it is great to connect with like minded people 🙂
    The Guy @flightsandfrustration.com recently posted…Tipping In USA Is Ridiculous? Why This Brit Still StrugglesMy Profile

    • Thanks. From all of the research I’ve done, the number one way to be successful in terms of making money, is to come up with a unique(ish) idea and write great content. Some really popular blogs don’t even look that great, so that can’t be it, and a lot of them only post once a week, so posting often can’t be it. You need to have a great idea, write great content, and stick at it for a long time.

  3. So I was one of the original well-rounded comments (woo! I thought I was being harsh, but thank you for taking it the right way, and for also changing my typos, very much appreciated!)

    I’m glad our united front convinced you to become a part of the community! You’ll never regret it, I’m sure of it 🙂
    Sara recently posted…A Taste of MadeiraMy Profile

    • To be honest, it was touch and go if you were being a little harsh or not in my humble opinion. I can assure you though that I’m not a burnt out blogger, and that I am as invigorated to continue blogging after the response to the article as I was before it. I just thought I’d put down in words why people should not write a travel blog if your goal is to make money. I’m looking forward to writing my next article about why people should write a travel blog. Thanks for commenting.

  4. What I think is that you are the kind of person who doesn’t like being contradicted (hope this is the right way to say it in English), so you write about the same topic twice to show others how wrong can people be regarding your content or ideas and you even make notes on the comments you didn’t like which I find really amusing. Regarding the question “Have I got it right or completely wrong?”, it is a bit awkward because of course some people will think you got it wrong, some partially agree,some will think you’re completely right. In any case, you’ll be exposed to people not agreeing with you and if your blog becomes popular, making notes on all of the comments you don’t like will be hard work. The one thing I’m sure is that writing provocative titles is a good strategy to attract readers to your blog.

  5. Chris, it is very interesting to see what sort of feedback you got from your article! (which I did read but didn’t comment on when it was published).

    Travel blogging is a very interesting industry – there is a very low barrier to entry ie. anyone can start a blog if they have a computer, internet access, and a little bit of money to pay for some basics, but it is also very competitive with so many out there and there is a lot of new knowledge to learn, which includes trialling and filtering to find the options which best suit you.

    I have recently been researching many blogs to put together the Oceania Travel Blogger directory and unfortunately I have found that out of close to 200 blogs I assessed that close to 15% had ceased publishing since I had originally put them on my list over the past six or so months. Also note that the only travel blogs which were on my list for consideration were those who had made the effort to purchase their own domain name and were already reasonably well established, so I had already excluded most of the hobbyists. So the travel blogging industry is also easy to leave.

    For those of us who stick around it does take time to build your business and work out what niche is going to work for us – and many of us (like me) decide to start additional websites with what we have learnt from travel blogging with an aim to build more viable online businesses!
    Anne Sutherland-Smith recently posted…How Travel Brands Can Find the Right Influencers For Their Social Media CampaignsMy Profile

    • Hi Anne, thanks for your comment. The reaction was definitely interesting. Some people I think saw it as an attack on travel blogging, which was not the intention. I was just trying, in my own way, to bluntly point out the difficulties of blogging in an industry as cluttered as travel if you want to make some money. From my limited experience, I think the key ingredients to a success blog are quality writing, a unique point of view catering to a niche market segment, and time. Like you, I’ve got ideas for other blogs which I believe, given what I now know, might hopefully be somewhat successful. Time will tell!

      • Chris, while I agree with the elements you describe, I also think there are additional elements which contribute to a more rapid success. Some travel blogs progress faster, usually where the owner has already learnt the basic lessons of travel blogging elsewhere, combined with having a good network and the personality and image to really stand out from the crowd, plus deciding to really invest in their business. If they can grow rapidly and actively seek guest posts etc and attend travel blogging conferences to quickly grow their industry profile (and deliver what they promise) then they can reach a much higher level in a shorter period of time – then they leverage from that initial base to really step up quickly again. Anyway, I will leave that thought…
        Anne Sutherland-Smith recently posted…How Travel Brands Can Find the Right Influencers For Their Social Media CampaignsMy Profile

  6. Hi Chris,

    I liked the article, though I found it to be quite inflammatory which I think is what you were going for when you wrote it?

    It rustles feathers because we are all so passionate about blogging. For us (and I’m sure for you) it is not a job or a hobby, we are writing about our lives and nothing is more personal.

    I think if the article had been written by an influencer (such as Nomadic Matt or the like) it would have received a different response from the community but seeing as it was released at the same time you announced that you were heading home, it may have come across a tiny bit bitter, whether that was intended or not.

    Either way I appreciate the thought it provoked. Please don’t label me a harsh commenter! 😛
    Claire recently posted…Our first visit to a CAT CAFEMy Profile

    • Hi Claire

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you liked the article. There’s no doubt the article was inflammatory, but that’s not what I was going for. I just wanted to write from the heart, from personal experience, and with the intent to give people a reality check if making money was one of the goals. I think that point has been lost in all of this, that is if you want to make money it’s hard work and in all likelihood you won’t.

      I’m also quite passionate about blogging, and I can’t wait to get cracking on a few other ideas I have. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of it, or spell out a few home truths along the way. And if people took offence, then so be it.

      However, that article was posted on ProBlogger and our website a few weeks before we decided to head home, so those responses had nothing to do with our subsequent decision. There is no connection between our going home and that article, and I can absolutely guarantee there is no bitterness at all. I’m sure if Nomadic Matt, or some other ‘influencer’ had written the article, there would have had the same reaction, only on a larger scale.

      P.S – You’re a little harsh, the comment about not being an influencer was slightly belittling given we get a decent following to our site and my article was posted on one of the biggest blogging websites in the world. Perhaps not on the Nomadic Matt scale, but we have a tiny influence here and there 🙂

  7. Haha I’m sorry Chris – I certainly didn’t intend to belittle your blog – I’m reading it aren’t I?

    Perhaps my terminology was wrong. There are lots of people who get good traffic, earn income and guest post, but only a few who are the real faces of the community (in my opinion) and those people have all been on the road for a long time.

    I back away with my hands in the air! I did enjoy the chat though! 🙂
    Claire recently posted…Why it’s cheaper to travel than to stay at homeMy Profile

    • Haha, me too. I love a robust conversation. And I think that’s one great aspect of blogging. People can express their opinions, and in return you’ll get responses. It’s brilliant and I actually enjoyed reading the more critical comments as much as those who thought the article was great.

      I agree, there are only a handful of people who are the ‘face’ of the travel blogging community, but they’ve been doing it for a while and have worked hard to get where they are.

      Our decision to go home is merely a pause in our travels, and when we hit the road again, if you’re in our neck of the woods perhaps we can catch up for another robust chat 🙂

  8. I enjoyed the original article on Problogger, and I think this follow up article is a BRILLIANT idea! I launched my RV Travel Blog in Feb 2015 (but worked on it for months before the launch). So I have about 5 months or so under my belt. I connected with much of the article, but specifically the sections that talked about the investment of time with little return, while missing out on “life.” Thanks for articulating something that I have been quietly struggling with.

    I shared the article on my FB Group “RV Happiness,” which is place I created for bloggers and non-bloggers to gather and share their RV enthusiam. What I thought was interesting in the responses on RV Happiness is that no one has lofty expectations of their blog. They blog for personal enjoyment. It seems this perspective is critical in sustaining a blog long-term. I also noticed that my favorite RV Bloggers do not post daily (or even weekly). They seem to have arrived at a balance that I am hoping to achieve sooner than later.

    Thanks again for a great article.

    -Chris http://www.cuontheroad.net
    Chris Hughes recently posted…History Meets Wine: Fantastic Overnight RV Parking In Gettysburg, PAMy Profile

    • Hi Chris, thanks for encouraging comment, that’s really great to hear. When I started the travel blog I’d read you really needed to get great content flowing through the site regularly. But on reflection the best idea is one post a week and then try and promote it as much as you can. You’ll get a much better travel/blogging balance and you’ll actually use your time much more efficiently. The article sure did spark up some debate, and everyone has their own perfectly valid opinions. The key to success is no doubt a love of blogging and the personal satisfaction that gives them. It’s just important to get the right balance between working on your blog and enjoying travelling. I’m a bit jealous of your travels actually, I’d love to get an RV and just travel through North America, that would be amazing! Safe travels 🙂

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