It was two years ago to the day that I sent tayloronatrip.com out into the world with a crash and a bang!
I remember that day like it was yesterday, the day I told my entire world about this huge, personal project I had been working on. A project – which should come as no shock to anyone – that took me well over six months to initially create. Yes, because even though my site went live in December 2015, learning how to build a website from scratch and then publishing content takes time y’all.
Believe it or not, my primary goal when I told myself “I want to make a website” was not to be a press-trip getting, affiliate-marketing travel blogger (like, I didn’t even know what those things really were). In fact, I initially built it to learn some new skills, build a creative outlet for myself, and make some extra money as a virtual blogging assistant. The last being an avenue that I never quite pursued.
Building this website took a lot out of me at first. It involved writing posts at work during my lunch break, and then going home at night to spend hours on the phone with my website host, my theme developers, and the lovely people at WordPress as I figured out techy lingo and the logistics behind actually making my dream come to fruition. It months and months of 24/7 work.
And I’m not claiming to be an internet or travel blog expert here. I mean, my blog is only two years old with a teeny tiny following; it’s a freaking infant compared to the behemoths that rule today’s travel blogging universe! However, I’ve been writing for fun since I was a child, and I am an expert in what I’ve done to get where I am; I think that counts for something.
Maybe one day I’ll write a post about how I logistically built my blog, but for now, we’re gonna get a little more broad and dreamy. Stay with me here.
What I’ve Learned In Two Years Of Blogging
Confidence is key
Pardon my French, but I almost shat myself the day I began promoting my blog. I mean, first of all, lifestyle blogging is inherently narcissistic, right? Despite excellent intentions and ideas, i’m still writing my personal experiences in the hopes that like, everyone cares.
Hell, even though I’ve now spent years of my life devoted to this site, I’m still embarrassed whenever someone asks me about it in person.
Not to mention the fact that publishing this website meant pulling back the veil and opening myself up to criticism and public failure. Although, I’ll admit, the most I have experienced in this regard has been a couple strangers politely berating me for not using outstanding grammar and proper English.
Like, um, hello, I’m not writing a term paper here.
Anywho, putting yourself out in the line of potential fire takes a lot of confidence; confidence that what you are putting out into the world is of quality and ethical, and confidence in yourself that you know what you’re talking about and are worth reading. I remember the first time any of my articles on here went little-league viral. All of a sudden, I had 700 people reading something I wrote on here all at once, and it took everything I had to not just shut it all down on the spot due to faltering self-confidence.
Cue the hyperventilating and pacing.
Be creative and do it your own way
Do you know how many travel blogs are out there? A bazillion, that’s how many.
And do you know how many music blogs are out there? A million bazillion, I counted.
But do you know how many young women with a record label background have created a blog highlighting different music points of interest around the globe? If you find another one, let me know.
I’m not tooting my own horn here, but I knew from the get-go that if I wanted to endure in this business, I was going to have to do it my own way. And honestly, that was easy, because I was already travelling music-tourism style regardless.
Trying to do what someone else has done to get where they got is fruitless in such a rapidly-changing industry anyway. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel, but without your magic touch on everything you create, you’ll quickly fall behind in a sea of people doing the exact same thing.
And yeah, I know I’m not the first person to do a “what I’ve learned from blogging post.” Bite me.
Krka National Park, Croatia
It can’t just be about money
About a year in, a had a little chat with myself. Why was I continuing to write for Taylor On A Trip? What primal need was I fulfilling by continuing on this venture?
For so many people, that answer is money. They dream of leaving their 9-5 life behind, becoming an entrepreneur, and having a steady passive income alongside tourism companies falling at their feet to grant them press trips. I mean, that’s the dream, but it’s beside my point.
And yet, most blogs fail in their first year. Presumably because the creator just wants to make a buck, didn’t realize the steady and ever-increasing amount of work that goes into maintaining a website, or didn’t have the passion to make it a priority. I mean, every now and then I have a day where nobody reads my blog. And you know what? It’s disheartening, but it’s also humbling.
So, after some soul searching I found my answers. Primarily, I realized that Im able to keep Taylor On A Trip physically going because I love to write and share my experiences, and I feel angsty and stunted without having a creative outlet. Secondly, I love the community that I have built around myself in the blogging world – both with readers and with fellow bloggers. And thirdly, and most importantly, because the feeling I get when I help somebody else learn a little more about the world is unbeatable.
Reading, travelling, and communicating opens up our personal world to other people’s experiences. It builds empathy. If something I wrote strikes a cord with someone in even the smallest of ways, and helps bring some cultural walls down and raises a level of understanding, then why would I ever stop?
Santa Monica, USA
You will become a jack of all trades
You’ll realize the inevitability of this the moment you sign up for a web host.
Unless you plan on being merely a facilitator in the runnings of your blog, you’ll at least have to know the basics in web design & maintenance, writing for the internet, photography & photo editing, videography (if you’re not a slacker, like me), social media, marketing, and general business practices. Oh, and you know, a superstar organizer.
Tip of the iceberg, guys.
Prague, Czech Republic
You must surround yourself with community
The day I signed up for Travel Blog Success was a monumental day in my travel blogging career. Not only did this decision give me access to amazing coursework and information, an opportunity board, and an affiliate program, it also gave me access to the incredible TBS Facebook group.
In this group, the industry’s top bloggers all come together to give and ask for information and advice in order to run their best possible blogging businesses. Topics in the Facebook group range from ethics, to technical jargon, to a weekly “where in the world are you” check in; and everything in between.
Note: As of writing this, I have just learned that TBS has been bought by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt (also the creator of Super Star Blogging). All of my affiliate links will soon change accordingly. So while my community is definitely in for a change, it’s about to grow substantially.
Additionally, having real life friends who are also bloggers has been highly beneficial. From complaining about Instagram algorithms to keeping one another accountable to a schedule, blogger friends keep me sane.
Blogging will open some exciting doors
Channeling SEO, promoting my blog online, and just good old world-of-mouth about my efforts have given me amazing opportunities. From writing gigs, lasting friendships, partnerships, and advertising opportunities, people started knocking on my door early on in my writing career.
Why? Because having a well-loved regularly-posted-on blog shows both work ethic and passion. And, if the content is good enough, it shows dolla dolla bills y’all.
But you can’t take every opportunity
Recently I received an e-mail from someone wanting me to publish an article they’d written, and they were willing to pay me to do so.
But… not only did I not know this person, and therefore didn’t care enough to seek out their writing (they neglected to send me a sample), they wanted to post about something that would be totally out of left field for my audience. I declined their offer.
This is only one example, for I’m constantly having to make decisions on what kind of opportunities are best for my blog. Should I write for an online publication even though they don’t pay me but will give me exposure? Should I work with this start-up company that just e-mailed me and write about their product even though, once again, they’re only offering me exposure? After working with bands for so long and demanding money over exposure on behalf of them, “exposure” is a mild kick in the gut.
It’s a constant battle.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Your audience will change over time
When I first started blogging, my friends and family eagerly came along for the ride. Every time I posted something I wrote on my personal Facebook page, the post would get tons of views from both Saskatchewan and Ontario, my two home bases.
Now? Not so much. Not only are my family and friends no longer my main audience, but I also no longer get the most traffic from Facebook. Imagine that.
This blog is for pop-culture, travel, adventure, and storytelling lovers. And although I do have a hefty personal touch to everything that goes on here, at the end of the day, I know everything I do is for a niche audience. To those of you along for the ride, I see you, and I salute you.
San Francisco, California
Blogging will change the way you travel
In some ways that is, in other ways though, not so much.
I travel for adventure, for learning, and for the culture shock of it all. However, I’m much more aware of my surroundings now that I’m a blogger than I ever was before.
I worry on a grander scale if the photos I take aren’t to the best of my ability, I worry if I go somewhere and can’t formulate my experiences into a story right away, and I choose my future destinations more-so on the kind of experience I think I’m going to have. I.e: Going somewhere specifically because of a pop-culture connection.
Although I still travel for me, at the end of the day having something tangible to write about never leaves my mind.
It ain’t cheap
In the beginning, the bills racked up real quickly – my website host, website theme, website security, personalized e-mail address, must-have plug-ins, and social media scheduling programs. Not to mention a DSLR, lenses, miscellaneous camera equipment, an Adobe subscription, a Travel Blogging Success membership, a photography course, and a social media course.
Oh, and then there’s the whole question of actually travelling.
Once again, tip of the iceberg man.