Let me start this off by saying that I truly cannot believe I’m writing a blog post titled “How I Left My 9 to 5 to Travel Full Time.”
A year ago, I legitimately remember googling “how to be a full time travel blogger” and reading endless (and I do mean endless – I was obsessed) posts about how other women did it. One thing I learned from my time surfing the depths of Google is that there didn’t seem to be a clear answer, which seems like a good place to start this post.
The first thing you should know about entrepreneurship and blogging is that there is no magic formula for success. What worked for other bloggers did not work for me, and what worked for me might not work for you. It takes some bloggers two months to go full-time and it takes others two years. Someone with 100k followers on Instagram might barely make enough money to pay rent, while another blogger with 20k might net $200,000 a year because she’s developed a solid business plan.
Everyone carves their own path in life and the journey to becoming a full-time blogger or entrepreneur is no different. And while that might seem frustrating at first, it’s actually freeing in a way because there are literally endless roads you can take to find success, not just one.
While no blogger can tell you exactly how to get where you want to go, I believe that there are certain things that separate successful entrepreneurs from the not so successful. Later in this post, I explain what I believe those things are.
But first, let me explain my complete journey.
February 2016: Started my blog
The first URL I bought was called New York PRity… Apparently I thought it was a clever play on words since I live in New York City and worked in PR. I didn’t have that website for long before coming up with The Bold Brunette.
(I also just embarrassingly realized that my domain is still open, so if you’d like to see that blog, here it is)…
The Bold Brunette in its infancy was a strange combination of NYC restaurant reviews and vegan food recipes. I would write on it only occasionally and I didn’t have a plan of any kind.
May 2016: Started my Instagram account
Around May of last year, I began to hone in on what it is that I am actually passionate about, on what I had always been passionate about – travel. I then started an account on Instagram called My Bold Travel Moment. Three times a day, I would feature the photos of awesome female travel bloggers around the world (examples below) and comment on others’ photos encouraging them to tag #myboldtravelmoment for a feature. The account grew fairly quickly.
At this point, I knew I wanted to be in the travel industry somehow. I thought about starting my own tour company specifically for females, about starting an influencer/brand platform specifically for travel and even about working at a travel PR firm. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing with this Instagram account, but I knew I was headed in the right direction.
And I was!
September 2016: Committed to the pursuit of location-independence
It wasn’t until five months later, in September of 2016, that I realized I wanted to pursue travel blogging full time. It was also around this time when I came to realize that the 9 to 5 wasn’t right for me (more to come on this later) and I needed to be my own boss.
I began posting photos from my travels (past and present) instead of just featuring others’. It was an awkward re-branding, but I am known now as a travel blogger, not a feature account.
I also decided that I would stop at nothing to live my dream life. I went full-throttle into learning the ins and outs of WordPress, affiliate marketing, advertisements, Pinterest, etc. I spent more sleepless nights tied to my computer than I can count. I said “no” to hanging out with my best friends (sorry guys) because I had to teach myself how to make pins for Pinterest. I broke down crying out of frustration a lot and I doubted myself more times than I should have.
And then finally, my hard work began to pay off. Sponsorship and press trip opportunities landed in my inbox and high paying jobs began to surface. I couldn’t believe it. I was doing it.
February 2017: Quit my 9 to 5 job
I wanted to keep my full-time job (a.k.a. steady, reliable income) for as long as possible. I would answer emails, plan social posts and write from 7 am to 9:30 am, then go to work from 9:30 am to 6 pm. I stayed up until 2 am working. It was like this for 8 months and then, with the social media consulting and paid sponsorship opportunities beginning to surface in early February, I was at the point where I could no longer balance it all without going insane.
I feel/felt mostly comfortable leaving my full-time job. Quitting it was one of, if not the most, exhilarating and terrifying experiences of my life. I will share more about that in another post.
SO. What am I doing now?
Technically speaking, I am not a “full-time travel blogger,” meaning that all of my income does not come from blogging alone. I would go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of bloggers do not make all of their money from blogging. Oftentimes, they offer some kind of online product or marketable skill (graphic design, social media marketing, etc.) to clients.
I would instead categorize myself as a traveling entrepreneur – a “travelpreneur,” as the amazing Elise Darma calls it. A portion of my income does come from blogging (sponsored posts, press trips, affiliate marketing, etc.), but the vast majority comes from social media consulting services that I offer travel and lifestyle clients. And because the social media consulting I do is entirely remote, I can work from anywhere I want and live my desired lifestyle of location independence and therefore, travel blogging.
FYI – Elisa Darma was incredibly helpful in getting me started with my consulting business, so if you’re an aspiring travelpreneur, check her out!
Looking back at this past year, I have come to know a lot about blogging and the travel industry to be sure. But I’ve actually learned even more about entrepreneurship – specifically, what separates a successful entrepreneur from a failed one and what skill sets all influential bloggers share. The things that have without a doubt brought me to where I am today and will continue to push me forward tomorrow.
If you’re someone chasing a dream, someone who wants to escape the 9 to 5 or just someone who needs a little push, these are my top tips for finding success:
Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about
Ask yourself one question: “Do I love this so much that I am willing to work all day every day for ONE year without seeing a dime?”
If the answer is “no,” move on. Whatever it is, it isn’t for you and you will find yourself unhappy down the line.
But if the answer is “yes,” then you’ve found your life’s passion and you should pursue it ASAP. Because if this is something you would work at for free for a year and be perfectly happy, imagine how it will be when you start getting paid.
It will feel like you’ll never work a day in your life.
The number one question I receive from my followers and readers is “How I do I start my own blog?” The best answer to this is laughably simple, but insanely difficult at the same time – Just start.
When I launched my lil old My Bold Travel Moment Instagram account, I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t tell a single person close to me about it. I started it just simply knowing it was a step in the direction I wanted to go in, and I knew that one tiny step was better than no step at all.
The reality is that there will never be a perfect time to start anything. You will never feel 100% comfortable taking a chance on a new venture. You don’t need all of the answers or even a concrete plan to start. Just take that first tiny step, whatever that may be for you, and see where it leads.
Be a fearless networker
I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough and I would even go so far to say that good networking skills are what separates successful entrepreneurs from the not so successful.
Get used to making a cold call and sending a cold email. Get confident asking a random person to meet you for coffee. Get comfortable with asking someone random for advice. Get good at giving advice.
Networking will get you far. It will teach you a lot about the industry you’re in – how it works and how to succeed. It will afford you amazing opportunities. It will create quality relationships … and even amazing friendships. For me personally, networking alone manifested a paying client, press trip opportunities and amazing mentors in the travel industry.
Who should you reach out to?
Fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs.
That’s right! They are not your enemies, not your competition. Other bloggers in your industry should be your friends. Not only do bloggers help each other out in myriad of ways, but bloggers simply speak a language that others don’t. Trust me when I say that, while your friend in finance cares deeply about your success, he or she (very understandably) doesn’t want to hear about WordPress issues or sponsorship opportunities.
Reaching out to bloggers is easy. Find their email on their Instagram page or website and introduce yourself. If they live in your city, ask to meet up for a coffee and chat about x, y or z. If they don’t live in your city, see if they’re available to jump on the phone with you! And don’t be afraid to reach out to people with larger followings than you – more often than not, those people are more than happy to talk to you and offer advice.
PR professionals are the gateway between you and any brand. If you’re a fashion blogger, they’re the gatekeepers for collaborations with clothing brands. If you’re a travel blogger, they’re the gatekeepers for collaborations with hotel brands and tourism boards. For obvious reasons, you want to be on their list of go-to influencers.
To reach out to the correct PR person, simply call the number listed on the agency’s website and ask for the contact information of the person in charge of social media or influencer outreach. Send them an email introducing yourself and your blog, and ask if they’d be open to getting coffee sometime.
Professionals in your industry.
The industry professionals you should want to target are those in-house PR people. For example, if you’re a travel blogger and you may want to work with Four Seasons down the line, search on LinkedIn and find someone with a title involving “digital strategy,” “social media” or “marketing.”
Both in-house and agency PR professionals are incredibly helpful because you get the opportunity to learn a bit more about what they look for in an influencer. You’re then also on their radar for a future campaign when otherwise, you might not have been.
Build a following
And not just any following – an engaged one. A following that cares about your next move, about your opinions and seeks out your expertise.
* sneaky self-promotional plug *
If you want help with growing an Instagram following and building a lucrative business on Instagram, check out my Instagram Boot Camp.
Do not fear rejection
As cliche as it sounds, welcome rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve. For example, say you pitch a brand to collaborate with them and they say “no.” Take a step back and look at what you offered them from their perspective.
Maybe you don’t have enough followers? Build your audience a bit and circle back to them in the future.
Maybe you didn’t offer them much in the way of content? Offer 3 posts instead of 2 next time, along with some images for them to use on their social media.
Whoever rejected you or whatever the reasoning behind it, don’t take it personally and don’t get frustrated. Just step back from the situation, learn from it and improve.
Above all, be driven. Hustle. Wake up every morning and remind yourself of what you want your life to look like. Make a list of the 5 things you’ll do that day to work toward that life, and then do them.
Work the long, sleepless nights, cry the frustrated tears when you’re down. But learn, grow and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Keep knocking on the door of your dreams and refuse to stop.
And then, one day, live your dream life – whatever that looks like for you. 🙂
So now, tell me… Was this post inspiring or helpful for you? Do you have any questions about my journey or want advice on yours?
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you all and am more than happy to give advice! 🙂
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