As we fast approach TTT’s third birthday, we’re in a reflective mood. The last three years have been a whirlwind of writing; photography; tweeting, instagram-ing; emailing; running to meetings and, of course, travelling. It’s been a blur. We now find ourselves busier than ever, where discussions concerning outstanding invoices, unsigned contracts and deliverables have become common place – phrases that were foreign to us a few years ago. It’s an entirely different world to the one we thought we’d inhabit – and one in which sticking to our principles of why we began blogging have become more important than ever.
Sticking to our ethos of providing an authentic and honest experience of travel, we therefore thought we’d share with you, ‘six truths’ of travel blogging. These are the realities of blogging that we’ve experienced: realities that remind us that sometimes, there’s more to life than getting the perfect shot or enviable social media following.
There’s a common misconception that travel bloggers spend the entirety of their time travelling for free, or even better – being paid to travel. Whilst this is true on occasion, it certainly isn’t the norm. As a travel blogger, particularly as a newbie, the only person footing your travel costs will be, well you. In the last three years since we launched TTT, I’d estimate that 70% of our travel has been self-funded. We pay because we want to travel, not because we want to be to run a blog – an important difference.
So, you’ve set up your blog, you have a couple of hundred followers on Instagram – surely the offers are going to role in? Unfortunately, no. In an already over-saturated market, you have to work hard to make yourself known amongst brands and PRs. A new blog is likely to lay under the radar for at least the first year.
From the start, Laura and I would email hotels at the destinations we were visiting, asking if they were interested in a collaboration. Most of the time, we wouldn’t get a response, but for each glorious reply we did receive, we seized it as an opportunity to add it to our ‘portfolio’. In the early days, the collaboration was usually just a small discount on a hotel room in return for a blog feature.
As a new blogger, you have to be prepared to put yourself out there and accept the small things that come your way. They will prove important building blocks in developing not only your blog, but your experience of working with brands and PRs.
‘You’re so lucky to be paid to go on holiday,’ are words we’ve had uttered to us many a time – words we’ve acknowledged with a small smile and nod of the head.
Press trips are hard work and certainly nothing like your family holiday. These trips often include lengthy itineraries, high expectations regarding content production and even greater expectation concerning results. You’re not free to simply jump off a plane and disappear into a city for a week: you’ll have a contract, deliverables to complete and a constant underlying anxiety about whether you’re meeting expectations. Of course, they can be hugely fun, but are nothing like those laid back personal holidays, where the days are free for you to enjoy at your leisure.
A particularly uncomfortable memory from one press trip centered upon one lunch time. As delicious, steaming food was delivered to our table, our group of fellow bloggers instantly grabbed their phones and cameras; hauling themselves up onto chairs to furiously document the lunch from above. We found the whole thing mildly mortifying and edged away from the scene, wondering how we had found ourselves caught up in this bizarre world. By the time the photo frenzy was over, our food was cold and we were both left a little disillusioned.
We’ve learned a lot from press trips – most importantly that individual trips, where we have more freedom to create our own stories (and eat in peace), are what suits us best. As veritable introverts, we need ‘quiet time’ – alone – where we can decompress, have time to be mindful of our surroundings and rest (nap).
From our experience, only 40% of projects or collaborations that land in our inbox come to fruition. More often than not, those exciting initial emails and plans will sizzle out before they become reality. It’s best, therefore, to be continuously ‘hustling’ (I’ve never used that word before); working on multiple pitches and collaborations every week. The majority of our inbox is actually made up of strange press releases for women’s incontinence knickers, unheard of ‘celebrities’ launching new perfume lines and interesting advice on how to raise our imaginary children.
Being pro-active and creating pitches to approach brands with, are tasks that take up the majority of our time. Around 50% of the collaborations we work on are those that we’ve put together ourselves. Over the years, these pitches have moved from small emails, to multi-page documents with an all singing and dancing media kit. It requires effort, thought and an (often pretend) confidence.
‘What are your fees?’ – the dreaded question all bloggers fear. I’m guessing, if you’re like us and started travel blogging as a hobby, the concept that you should put a price on your ‘work’ is completely alien. It’s taken us a long time to put a price on our ‘worth’, having previously undersold ourselves countless times. This includes not only the good old ‘exposure’ offer from brands, but also in the way that we’re often treated as ‘one’.
Admittedly, this is a struggle that we’ve had most of our lives, including once being given a £5 note in a birthday card to ‘share’. We’re often expected to share a product or fee. Our favourite example of this was being gifted a pair of shoes. The right shoe now resides at Laura’s, whilst I look after the left. It’s all about equality.
There can be weeks or months when it feels like your blog’s audience consists of just your parents and that strange colleague in the office. Even after three years of running our blog, there can be periods when everything feels a little lack-lustre: the inbox is quiet, invoices remain unpaid and the question: ‘what are we doing this for?’ creeps in.
I believe it is these moments when those who started a travel blog for the right reasons – i.e. as a genuine hobby – will continue to flourish, whilst those who set up a blog for the desire for followers, opportunities and freebies, will ultimately fade away.
The real truth of being a travel blogger is that it requires true perseverance and grit, where your drive to keep blogging, snapping and tweeting stems from a simple love of travel.