I think about and worry about my blog constantly. I think about the type of "food" that I should feed this digital creature so that it becomes the resource that I want it to "grow up" to be. Yessir, my blog is my baby.
So...I'm very selective of what I feed it. Here's my advice on feeding your blog. Do not feed it stuff that you yourself don't want to eat.
Find your niche.
This should come authentically from who you are. I don't like phonies and I think most people can spot a phony from miles away. You may have to do a bit of soul-searching to find this and confront truths and realities that you didn't want to face. And don't just look to what's popular and copy them. Copy their business strategies maybe but not their content. Be original. Be unique. Again, I will repeat: Do not be a phony. Even if you think there are people who will not like you for who you are, who cares? It's not really your problem. Their friendship preference is their own concern. Don't waste your time. It's better to be liked for who you really are anyway.
Here's my story. In terms of travel blogs, I see a lot of websites that are about teaching English in Thailand and all these other foreign countries and backpacking solo throughout South America and having wild parties on the beach, dancing with fire-dancers, getting drunk at full moon parties and such. When I first started travel blogging, I have to admit that I was intimidated by this raucous group of traveling heathens (and I say that lovingly) and I was often challenged by my fellow traveler friends to follow in their footsteps to sleep on the floor of the subway or spend a night in a hammock and hitchhike across South America without knowing a lick of Spanish. So I tried it. I slept in a raw foods food truck. I traveled with no money. I went to Costa Rica knowing only a few sentences in Spanish. I've danced in drum circles with people high on hallucinogenics. But in the end, something about all of this travel felt empty to me. It was not me. I was trying to be something I was not.
So I made a list of how I really like to travel. I like visiting friends and family when I travel. I love markets and organic food. I love yoga. I love children. I love boutique hotels. I love visiting not-for-profits and art museums. I love uncrowded beaches and I love hanging out with animals in the wild (caged animals make me sad) and rolling around in nature without the influence of drugs. I'm not against experimentation or anything, but it's just not my thing. Now write a list of how you like to travel, no judgment, no limitations.
Sometimes it takes being with people who have the opposite travel style to figure out what your own travel style is.
I was traveling in Nicaragua, on the way to volcano boarding (which is super awesome by the way!), when a fellow traveler chatted with me. He was a backpacker passing through and asked me whether I was backpacking too. I said no. I was in Nicaragua for 15 days working on a project and I didn't even really own a backpack. I have a rolling luggage - mostly because of my back and spine problems.
Suddenly, I was no longer cool. There was silence between us and it was not the comfortable kind. I tried to recover from the silence by continuing the conversation, but the next thing that tumbled out of my mouth was that it was really my second time staying at a hostel and the first time I really hated it. I found it noisy and I couldn't sleep, which would make me really grumpy. I usually like staying at boutique hotels. Oh, that made it even worse. I was shunned by this backpacker. I wasn't trying to be pretentious. I felt ostracized because I was honest.
A very good backpacker friend said to me in jest that the way I was traveling was "too prissy" and "too feminine" for his taste. But you know what, when I look at myself in the mirror, that's what I am: a female and I like to travel and you know what, I also like to go shopping for (gasp) nice clothes, artwork and jewelry that are made by local designers and artisans so I can give gifts to my friends when I come back home. Okay, I'm not the most frugal person ever, but I don't go overboard with my spending either. I like a good deal. I am willing to pay a little bit more for better value. Note: that backpacker friend and I are still friends and we respect each other's differences.
So although I totally respect the culture of backpacking (because it really is an awesome eye-opening culture), I came to terms with the fact that I was not a cool counter-culture thrifty backpacker. But I had to experience it a little bit to know that it wasn't me.
Define your niche.
I try to define my travel style in a tweet (I like the 140-character limitation): "unique and memorable adventurous travel with a small carbon footprint in often-hidden boutique properties off-the-beaten-path" (that's 125 characters). Now try it for yourself. Try labeling your travel style in 140 characters or less. It's not easy and it's probably going to change about seven to fifteen times, but it's a starting point nonetheless.
Become an expert at your niche and write about it.
If you're obsessed with cars, the gym, surfing, stuffed animals, whatever your passion is, you're most probably going to be already reading a lot of literature about it and you're probably living it. Share articles and the knowledge that you've gain from your research and also your real-life experiences with others. In fact, talk and write about it so much that you're known as the "surfing guy" or the "bacon maple syrup donut girl". I'm aiming to be that "off the beaten path follow your bliss travel girl".
My advice here is find the things that you are naturally attracted to and write about those things. Your passion will shine through in your writing. Be authentic and write as if you were writing a postcard to a friend.
Take your niche and build a business model around it.
I originally started my blog as a portfolio site for my screenwriting work and to promote a different type of travel but I love FreshTraveler so much that now I want to do so much more with it, so I am building a business around it.
At my panel at the ASJA conference on Building Your Business Through Travel Blogging, I mentioned that if you want to make a living off your travel blog, you have to think of it long term, as a marathon run, as a business.
I work with a business coach to get FreshTraveler into shape. It really helps to have a sounding board or just someone to keep me in check and make sure my hair-brained ideas are also applicable in real life.
In choosing your business coach, I say go with your gut. If the relationship clicks and there is chemistry go for it. If not, drop it and keep looking. Also, find someone who understands what you're all about. My business coach is a female who is around my age who is into holistic practices and following your bliss. She understands my irrational, seemingly illogical decision-making process and she gets me in a way that no one else does. And because she understands my values at the core, she has helped me push FreshTraveler into a direction that I want. Not to any one cookie cutter direction.
If you need a push and a shove to find your direction (oh, and a vacation!!!), I invite you apply to the Trailblazer's Retreat that I will be at in Costa Rica on September 7-14th, 2013. It's a fun way to intensively figure out your direction (whether you still have to define your business or are looking to rebrand an existing business) and get a vacation out of it as well! It's a "workcation". I personally love "workcations". Click here for a great article on the benefits of "workcations" from LearnVest.
The Trailblazer's Retreat is a launching pad to help you create or recreate your DREAM BUSINESS. It's run by my phenomenal business coach Lynan Saperstein who has really been integral in encouraging me to push FreshTraveler in the direction that I want to go.
Here's my testimonial about her:
"You know Freud's id, ego and super ego? Lynan's your ego externalized. Organized, realistic and fearless, she'll tell you everything that you need to get things done without any bullshit and she'll be up in your face until you get the tasks done. She's your brunch buddy, best friend, soccer mom, cheerleader, business coach, shrink and a personal trainer wrapped in one. She intuitively knows what you need to get things done and she'll give it to you straight. She'll help you get over your hurdles, both emotionally and mentally to help you balance your business and your personal life. Lynan will be there to cheer you on or beat you up (whichever one is necessary at that moment) until you cross that finish line. A must-have coach in your life: When she's started with you, you wonder how you'll ever function without her. But no worries. Once she's done with you, you'll have all the self-confidence and the self-sufficiency to continue growing as a business and as a person."
I stand by this testimonial a million %. By the end of the TrailBlazer's Retreat, Lynan GUARANTEES you will not only have a clearer vision of your business, you'll have a PLAN of how you're going to execute it. I know that I definitely did after my sessions with her.
I will be at the Trailblazer's Retreat teaching a workshop on how to tell a compelling story using any device that shoots video. This can be about your business, or we can even go on an adventure and shoot a travel video! You don't need a fancy camera to start video blogging. Just bring your simple point and shoot camera, Iphone, Samsung Galaxy and your laptop. But sign up quick, there are only 30 spots and I know they will fill up! When you apply, make sure you mention that you heard about the retreat through me! I would LOVE to see you there.
ADDED BONUS! During your stay, you'll get a personalized one-on-one consultation with me to show you how easy it is and ways that you can incorporate videos into your current blog or business plan... and oh, did I mention, you'll have an AMAZING vacation as well? :) I have photos from my last trip down there to prove it!
What are you waiting for? A sign? Here's a sign (see below). Now sign up! :)
Hope to see you there! And even if you can't make the retreat, Lynan offers consultations so you can reach out to her independently to see if you guys are a good fit. If it turns out you're not, she has a network of other coaches she can reach out to.
As for me, I also offer video and writing services, classes, and consultations. A 15 minute SKYPE consultation is completely FREE, so drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule an appointment. Don't be shy! I want to help you achieve your dreams!
Talk to you soon! :)