December 2019 will mark three full years since I began Adventures from Elle: my baby, my sanity and one of my favourite hobbies. It’s also one of my proudest and most prized “possessions”. I don’t get to write much less travel as often as I’d like but I’ve managed to churn out over 100 articles as a full-time medical student (now doctor) and I’m pretty proud of that. My blog hasn’t had a dry spell of longer than two months either.
This blog is a hobby. I have had a few perks along the way because of it though but I don’t do this for a living. I scarcely make a dime in ads (WordPress’ CPM is horrible) and besides a spontaneous ghost-writing gig I got to do once, that’s about it in way of earnings. Thus, this post isn’t one of those how to make $1,000 after 1 month of blogging and quitting your day job either. It’s quite possible to do that, but it’s not my reality. Instead, here are 10 non-monetary lessons I’ve learnt from travel blogging after nearly 3 years of having my own blog and sharing travel-related and wanderlust-inspiring content on the Internet.
Growing an audience with good engagement is seldom overnight, unless you’re willing and able to invest a lot of money into promoting your blog posts on social media. Your friends and family may visit your site initially for the novelty of it but eventually those views will decline unless you’re consistently churning out new well-written posts to pique their interest and attract a loyal fan base.
Quality is key. Don’t publish something you wouldn’t want to read. Proofread your articles before publishing to pick up and fix grammatical errors, and arrange your articles in an easy to read and follow format. Try to include bright vibrant pictures which support your story as well. Let’s face it. Some people are only here for the pictures and most people will just skim your precious piece rather than read each word.
Reading, liking & commenting on other blogs can get you far, and I’m not talking generic comments. If you read something you appreciate, have a genuine question or respectful opinion worth sharing after reading a blog, do leave a thoughtful comment. They may just check out your website and you gain a new subscriber. Befriending other bloggers whether virtually through Facebook groups, Instagram and in real life is important too. You can get invaluable support, ideas for new posts, great collabs and even form new IRL friendships.
Social media is your friend. Some months my #1 referrer is still Facebook even after having a few posts which have taken off on Google and appear on the first page of results. For a lot of people, myself included, self promotion was initially difficult because you’re afraid you’ll wind up seeming obnoxious. Shed that backward way of thinking this minute! What other people think of you is their business and if sharing your passion and projects online annoys your circle, you are better off without those people. If you follow me on Instagram, you are going to know when I’ve published a new article and if we’re Facebook friends, I will send you an invite to like my page. What you do with that information or invite isn’t my business.
You have to ensure you’re doing it for the right reasons or it will soon feel like work. In the words of Chronixx, dweet fi di love, mi nuh dweet fi di likes. Your blog may never be a success. Maybe only your closest friends or your family will read your articles and that’s fine. You’re expressing yourself, developing your writing and editing skills and publishing pieces you’re proud of. That should be enough. If you spend all your time stalking the stats page and feeling disappointed that your new hit article only got 20 reads and still has no comments after one week, you’re probably not in it for the right reasons. The Internet is very fickle. After 3 years, I’m pretty surprised at the posts which have become crowd favourites. For instance, the blog post 22 Photos Which Show Why Portland is Jamaica’s Most Beautiful and Gordon Town Falls have each had several thousand reads while these posts are far from my best work in my opinion. In fact, hardly anyone bats an eyelid at my best-written or favourite articles but that’s okay. Keep doing you and producing great content. If the crowds are to come, they’ll come one day.
Don’t be afraid to state your opinions. You’ll be surprised how much people appreciate an honest review rather than that sugar-coated “everything was amazing” review, unless of course that’s truly how it was. If you say that about every place though, you’re going to come across as suspicious. For example, I would never recommend nor dine at Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant in Port Royal after a horrible experience I had last year, and while Blue Hole in Ocho Rios is a beautiful place, I wasn’t at all impressed by my experience and I didn’t hesitate in stating that unpopular opinion. That’s what I love about not getting paid to feature any place on here. I have complete autonomy over the views I express and I get to see what the place and its customer service is truly like since the owners or staff wouldn’t know I’m going to write a review. That’s not to say I may not do sponsored posts in the future, but if I do, that will be explicitly stated and I won’t review a place unless I feel their brand and philosophy reflects my own.
Beware of imposter syndrome! The blogging community is saturated with several hundred thousand blogs worldwide so it’s easy to feel like your blog isn’t good enough, your voice doesn’t matter or you don’t belong because you aren’t nearly half as travelled as the other travel bloggers, you aren’t as stylish as the other fashion bloggers or you haven’t dined at even half as many restaurants as the other food bloggers. CUT THAT OUT! You belong, your voice matters plus someone can benefit from and will enjoy what you have to say. It still hasn’t all been said yet.
That being said, find your niche and stick to it. It makes no sense to become a travel writer if you hate travelling or a food blogger if trying new foods and dining out isn’t your thing. Find something you like and then work to become the best in that niche and by the best, I mean better than you started. Your only competition is yourself. It’s also better to blog about one or very few topics, since choosing too many topics to blog about may drive away your current readers who only subscribed for one type of content.
Constantly reinvent yourself as a blogger. Learn how to edit photos better, switch up your blog theme, change your publishing schedule and don’t be afraid to try new ideas. It’s your creative space! For instance, I learnt how to create Pinterest ready graphics from a few free apps, add watermarks to my pictures, and I’ve started writing more lists and travel guides such as my list of all the waterfalls in Jamaica and a Blue Mountains Travel Guide in addition to the usual destination posts I started out with. One thing I wish I’d done earlier though was buy my website. I spent way too long with the free version of the website and lost majority of my search engine ranking and traffic after switching. I’d just assumed they’d automatically link but no, no they did not.
Everyone is an expert at something. Your voice matters. Someone is waiting for your opinions and advice about where to go, where to stay, what to eat and what to do. Go forth and write!
If you were thinking of starting a blog, vlog, podcast or some other online means of creative expression, go for it! I hope you found this useful, and if you already have a blog, vlog or podcast, were any of these points relatable? Sound off in the comments section below.
Adventures from Elle is a blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. Also a budget travel blog, Adventures from Elle is written by Rochelle Knight, a junior internal medicine resident who began this blog as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her own country. She frequents off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, beaches and places with interesting history. Join her in Jamaica!
View all posts by Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle