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Stop Being Travel Bloggers, Start Being Holiday Bloggers

With just over a week until Travel Blog Camp 2010, I thought I’d put into a post something that’s niggled at me for a few months. One of the most common discussions I see on twitter and on travel blogs is about how difficult it is to make money being a “travel blogger”. Some of the most Re-Tweeted items within this group are from other travel bloggers claiming to show you “how to make money” doing it, or more often bemoaning the fact it’s near impossible to make a living as one.

So here’s some advice. Stop being a travel blogger and start being a holiday blogger.

A good number of the travel bloggers I’m aware of are mostly damn good writers, who bring the tastes, smells, sights and pleasure of their trips onto their blog with ease. Treating their readers to a second hand experience that often escapes the traditional (paid and paid-for) travel writer.

Drop the “travel” and embrace the “holiday”. The rules of making money on the interwebs are fairly straightforward, the bigger your audience the higher the payout. While that roadside cafe you spent an enjoyable afternoon just outside Bangkok makes for a great post, it is a limited audience you’re writing for. That awesome little family-run coffee shop you found in a back street of Warsaw, amazing post but again where’s your audience? Embrace the mainstream, go looking for a bigger audience to share your talent with.

If you’re already shaking your head and tut-tuting, bear with me. You don’t fancy writing about Benidorm? Ask yourself why, chances are you’ve never been and are basing your prejudices on those traditional travel writers and the even more sensationalist TV series makers. How about Tenerife? Brits, beer and full-English breakfasts? No, really, don’t think there’s anything there that’s going to raise your interest? Based on? Have a read at Andy Montgomery’s posts, our Tenerife writer, on a few of these resorts you’ve likely never heard of. Did you even know there are pyramids on the island?

So here’s my point. Try writing for a bigger audience, it’s not a question of ethics, snobbery or whatever else you think might be stopping you. If you monetise your site via banner advertising or Adsense even, more traffic = more £££. These destinations are popular for a reason, look past the stereotypes and you could write your beautiful words for an information hungry readership who want to know more beyond the holiday brochure. You might even enjoy the holiday. Holiday, not “trip”, see what I did there?

Convinced yet? Ready to hang up your Berghaus backpack? Here’s another reason to consider writing for the mainstream holiday audience. More of an audience brings with it more companies looking to service these holidaymakers. More companies involved means more opportunities for you to work with these companies and earn. That’s a fairly simplified view, but it’s true.

We (sunshine.co.uk) currently use the services of well-known bloggers Karen Bryan and Andy Hayes. Both great writers with a wealth of travel experience. Karen recently took a “trip” to Malaga, showing there’s more to the area than most people realise. She’s also off to Gran Canaria early next year too.

I look forward to your comments.

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  1. 22 Responses to “Stop Being Travel Bloggers, Start Being Holiday Bloggers”

  2. By Karen Bryan on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Chris, a timely post with TBEX Europe and Travel Blog Camp looming.

    I’ve noticed an increase in the number of “How to make money travel blogging schemes” and encouragement to give up the day job and make a living doing your dream job travel writing. A case of “selling shovels vs digging for gold”?

    Now I don’t want to discourage anyone from following their dream but you have to be realistic too, it’s not as simple as just set up a blog and the income comes rolling in.

    There is snobbery in travel blogging. I think there is a need for a lot more information about popular holiday destinations and if travel bloggers want to get more traffic and higher earnings there is an opportunity there.

  3. By Rob Barham on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Sssshhhh. Chris you are giving away my secrets :) I was going to write about this in my soon to be published ebook ;)

  4. By matt on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Nope, still not tempted to give up a week of my life to Benidorm … prejudices run too deep I guess! I’ll just have to live with that.

    Your point is sound of course. Most people are holidaymakers not travellers, and that’s the market you serve with sunshine so that’s who anyone wanting to earn via the sunshine CPA offer needs to address.

  5. By Andy Hayes on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Hi :-)

    I’ve said this a zillion times, and nobody listens, so I’ll say it here too.

    The reason most travel blogs suck is that they have no idea who they’re writing for.

    Go to a popular sports blog. A popular fashion blog. You will not see “how to make money with a sports blog.” You see ARTICLES ABOUT SPORTS. Articles about hot fashion and how you can own it.

    I think if most travel bloggers actually got out from behind their desk (whether that’s a cafe in China or their B&B in Germany) and went out and asked people what they thought about their blog, they’d be aghast and disappointed at the results.


  6. By David Whitley on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Well, well, well. You appear to have touched on something that I was planning to bring up at a certain blogger’s gathering next week :)

    You’re right – there’s a massive skew in travel blogging towards the constantly on-the-road perma-traveller lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not for everyone. And it’s a small section of the market that actually travel.

    There’s almost certainly some decent money to be made in blogging about popular HOLIDAY destinations. Preferably with a bit of diligent research, informed reviewing and the boring-to-find but important detail that it’s all too easy to skip over in favour of first person ‘What I Did On My Trip’ accounts and opinion.

    I also think there’s a big market in finding interesting things to do in popular mass market destinations for people who don’t necessarily want a sun-and-sand holiday but have to go there out of practicality. Call it the dad factor – having the kids in tow makes two months backpacking through Asia inpractical, but he’ll still probably be interested in discovering places with a story to tell in the Benidorm hinterland or going kayaking around Dubrovnik.

    Cheers Chris – good read.

  7. By Caitlin @ Roaming Tales on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry, but a lot of the most popular travel/holiday sites are really boring. They might make some money because of Google traffic but where’s the reader loyalty and engagement? Where’s the passion and fun?

    I don’t see the point of blogging if my heart’s not in it, even if it’s possible to make a living from it. I may as well just take a corporate job (which would undoubtedly pay better) to pay the bills and fund the travel I really want to do.

  8. By Jools Stone on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Caitlin’s right, a lot of holiday sites are pretty boring, but I think Chris is saying that the same talents and knack for unearthing interesting things in sometimes unlikely places could be applied for more profitable ends. There are parts of Ibiza which could easily rival more trendy Andalucia for example. I haven’t been blogging long, but am still gobsmacked at the sheer proliferation of aspirational RTW/backpacking blogs which seem to rule the roost in terms of community love. I blog about train travel and have a similar issue with the whole green travel army. What’s often overlooked is the impracticality of slow or train travel, especially for families and ordinary people working conventional 9-5 lives. But will regular consumers really follow travel blogs anyway regardless of their focus? I dunno. Seems to me that blogging is the scene that supports and celbrates itself. 99 times out of a hundred those commenting on blogs are bloggers themselves. Like here for instance. ;-)

  9. By Karen Bryan on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Caitlin – It’s quite perverse as you quite rightly sat take a corporate job to pay bills and fund travel that you really want to do, as there’s so much talk about giving up the corporate job to do your dream job of travel writing.

    This is exactly the point I’ll making at my TBEX Europe talk in Copenhagen later this week, you have to keep it real i.e. how are you going to pay the bills? Reader loyalty, engagement, passion and fun are worthwhile goals but can you balance them with earning a living?

  10. By Caitlin @ Roaming Tales on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    I’m not saying to take the corporate job. I’m saying that it’s not worth writing for SEO or writing about topics that bore you in order to avoid the corporate job because in the end that’s just as dull and soul destroying.

    If you can make a decent living from travel blogging AND love what you do then more power to you. If you have to choose (and I suggest that many people do need to make a choice), then I say keep the love and the passion and do travel blogging as a hobby. If travel blogging is just a job, then you’re no better off than someone in a corporate job.

    There are a few big blogs that are about the perma-travel lifestyle and clearly there’s a market for backpacker blogging. However, I don’t think that’s the majority of the travel blogging scene.

  11. By Caitlin @ Roaming Tales on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    The bottom line is that there are always going to be more lucrative ways to earn a living than travel blogging. It’s worth that sacrifice if you love it. If you have to turn it into something you don’t love in order to make it viable, then you’ve missed the point.

  12. By Chris Clarkson on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    @Caitlin – I’m not suggesting all bloggers are in it to make money, or suggesting they start blogging randomly about places they have no interest in.

    My suggestion is for those that are striving to make their passion for writing become a level of income, look beyond the norm of travel blogging.

    If making money from your travel blog is of no interest, there’s nothing here for you :)

    @Jools – Yup, what you said!

  13. By Karen Bryan on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    Caitlin – ~I think it’s unrealistic to only be able to do what you love in any job. If you blog as a hobby, you’ll still have to earn a living and if you blog as a full time job you’ll need to earn a living from that.

    I wouldn’t be too harsh on corporate jobs they have their good points too e.g. regular income, hours, sick pay and holiday pay.

  14. By Darren Cronian on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    I haven’t until recently really thought about making money from writing Travel Rants – for me it’s about the discussion and ranting at companies like sunshine.co.uk ;)

    My Life in Leeds is a completely different matter, and well I am seeing good results – the thing is a lot of the destinations you mention Chris are very competitive and you really have to either be 1) a local or 2) become an authority on a specific destination to get the links.

    For destination content I opted for Leeds, because it has a tourist industry (sort of) and has less competition, but I would never think about rolling the same model out to London – just way too many people blogging about the city.

    So, I think you have to find the middle ground.

  15. By Caitlin @ Roaming Tales on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    @Chris I understand your point. I am not opposed to people making money from blogging and I understand that there is great interest in that. I just think that they should think about WHY they want to make money from blogging. If it’s because they love to blog and want to be able to do it full time, then of course they need to think about how to make a living from it. All I’m saying is that it’s somewhat pointless if that requires so many compromises that the end result is that they no longer love it. Then they’re back to square one and no better off than an ordinary office drone.

    Personally I make some money from my blog and I know I could make more as I turn down a lot of offers. However, I come to realise that the things that earn me money actually detract from my enjoyment of the blog without rivalling the income I can earn from other jobs. So I’ve chosen to limit them. Other people need to find that balance for themselves.

    @Karen You may have misinterpreted me slightly. I wasn’t saying that you have to love your full-time job. I’m saying that if there is something you love to do, then you should protect that.

    The corporate job might not be what you love but if it funds a hobby that you love then that makes it worthwhile. However, I don’t see the point in taking a hobby that you love and turning it into a job that you don’t love. Then you’ve just robbed yourself of something that you once loved to do.

    Sure, if you can manage both then that’s great. I’m not saying to NEVER compromise, just not to compromise too far.

  16. By Durant Imboden on Nov 1, 2010 | Reply

    My wife and I own a European travel-planning site, and we earn most of our income from practical “how to” articles about destinations like Venice, Paris, Germany, and Switzerland. Have we sold out? Would be happier in corporate jobs: “No,” and “Not on your life.”

    The thing is, we LIKE helping people explore cities on their own. We occasionally indulge ourselves in personal fun (our “Maggie in Venice” dog blog, for example, which is linked from our main Venice for Visitors site), but on the whole, we’re more interested in serving our readers than in writing about ourselves.

    As it happens, that helps us make a good living from our site, but what we do isn’t dictated by income. (Does anyone seriously thinks that Major League ballplayers pitch or hit baseballs just to make a buck? Or that singers at La Scala got into the opera business because being a tenor or soprano sounded easier than managing a hedge fund? Or that Stephen King really wanted to be a poet instead of a horror novelist?)

    In my opinion, you need to be passionate about your topic if you want to earn a good living as a travel Website owner or blogger.

    If you’re lucky, you’ll be passionate about helping travelers take cruises, explore Europe, or visit New York instead of being passionate about chronicling your own spiritual journey as a wannabe Buddhist monk in Nepal.

    Still, it takes more than luck and passion to earn a living from writing or blogging. You also need editorial and publishing skills. Just slapping a daily dose of text and photos into a WordPress or Typepad editing window doesn’t entitle you to success.

    Finally, if you want to be a hobbyist, there’s nothing wrong with that, any more than there’s anything wrong with singing in the church choir for free or writing poetry instead of bestselling novels.

  17. By Dave from The Longest Way Home on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    I was hoping for a different article based on the title, but the comments et al are interesting nonetheless.

    2-3 years + ago running a travel blog was just meant to be an online journal of your travels for people back home etc. & Travel writers were the paid people of websites and books.

    Now they’ve merged. Though the “old school” travel blog still exists. Within the “travel” community a travel blogger is often seen as a “for profit hopeful”.

    Sure there will be those that say they do it for the fun and etc. But I don’t quite know where they are hiding these days.

    “Holiday Bloggers” now there’s a term I could relate to many “travel bloggers” who are actually living a non-travel based lifestyle. AKA, writing about travel from behind a desk, and taking annual holidays whilst milking it for all it’s worth.

    All of which I have no problem with. By “old school” logic only has a problem with the terminology used.

    A comment above mentioned that most travel websites (corporate) are dry and boring. And I agree. But, sponsored posts and travel blogs displaying them v boring too.

    Likewise with travel blogs than have become generic recycle bins of content.

    It’s rare these days to come across people who are actually putting out good content and not blatantly cashing in at the same time. Or making out they are the “travel writers / photographers” of note.

    The end of the article does have a good point about “for profit” travel bloggers though. If you are trying to make cash from your blog … For goodness sake stop babbling and start writing content for a specific market!

  18. By Kevin May on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    All valid points…

    But, as Grumpyboy Whitley hinted at yesterday in his very valid tirade at the Indy, and which is extremely relevant to this post, there is such a lack of quality control across both forms (niche or mass-market blogging) that the need to fill the personal coffers from writing if offset by the reams of drivel out there.

    This is not exclusive to bloggers, as Grumpy highlights with the pisspoor effort by Lawson last weekend.

    So, in a way, this isn’t about luring more people to blog about holidays (rather than travel), but simply trying to get better written, researched, engaging articles in the first place.

    (some) B2B media – in other words, niche – shows that if the content is any good you can make a living from it or get an audience.

    Or both.

  19. By Rachelle on Jul 27, 2011 | Reply

    Love that the “snobbery” was addressed. I find the notion out there that you’re not a “travel blogger” unless you’re a nomad. But that’s such a small percentage of the population. I think more people are interested in how to keep your job, keep your house, and travel to cool places too. Plus, the “popular” destinations are the ones that have advertising budgets. ;)

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About me...

Name: Chris Clarkson
Location: Strathaven, Scotland
Occupation: Marketing Director for sunshine.co.uk
Why This Blog?: Sometimes I have thoughts,
opinions and general ramblings that aren't really suitable for the company blog.
Why pfft?: Mostly because meh wasn't available.
Experience: In 2003 I built this
and then we did this with it. Now I mostly
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