Nine years ago I had a dream – to become a digital nomad. No longer content with just travelling, I wanted to do something with it so I started my blog. It was never my intention to earn any money from it. I just wanted to document my travels and especially how travel was my coping mechanism after separating from my ex-husband.
Today my blog covers my bills each month! I’m not at the stage where I could afford to live in New York or London from my income, but it definitely gives me a life in Barcelona which (for the moment) is my home. If you ever wondered how to start a travel blog, this post should help.
Not only do I now make money from my blog, but I am also lucky enough to get invited on press trips, create my own press trips, and travel for free. Has blogging changed my life? Yes, it has and it’s allowed me the freedom to do something that I absolutely love – travelling. If this is something that you're looking at starting, I hope that my article will inspire you to start a blog too.
But enough about me. How can you do it?
Starting a blog is easy. I’ve broken it down into 6 easy steps to follow. If I can figure it out being an un-techy blonde, then anyone can. I can’t guarantee that you will cover your bills every month but if you love travelling and you love writing about it. Here are my tips on how to start a travel blog…
Step 1 – Decide on an Amazing Name For Your Blog
It was the night before I was due to fly to South Africa. The last task on my list – start a travel blog. I had to think of a name and fast. I liked the thought of Girl about Town, and then had a lightbulb moment. “I was a girl about to be travelling the globe so “girl about the globe,” came to mind. Within minutes I had opened a blog account in my sparkly new name.
(Side note – Don’t forget to Google the name you want first, just in case it’s already taken).
One other note on this is to think of your purpose for starting a blog. If it’s to document your travels then maybe “Gringa Gail, or South America Suzy” will work but consider your long term goal, whether that’s to create a long-lasting brand, or just showcase your travels in South America.
Step 2 – Choose a Hosting Company
If your goal is to make money from your blog (such as advertising or affiliate links), I definitely recommend paying for hosting. It sounds so much more complicated than what it is. If you can use one company to buy your name and to set up your hosting at the same time. There are a few to choose from and you’ve probably heard of HostGator and GoDaddy but my fave is Bluehost.
Not just because it allows you to incorporate advertising if you want it in the future, but because it gives you a free domain (and it’s cheap). It’s $8.99 a month and comes with 24/7 support and a 30 day money-back guarantee. At the moment Bluehost have a $2.95 a month introductory offer so it’s the perfect time to start 🙂
To sign up, you just need to click on the ‘Get Started Now’ button on this screen. Then pick your plan. I personally think that the cheapest package gives you everything you need.
Then you’re onto the domain name part. Go to the ‘new domain’ box and input your chosen name, then if it’s available – purchase it, then click ‘next’ to set it up.
Step 3 – Install WordPress
Now that you’ve bought your blog name, and the hosting for your fabulous new blog, the next stage is to make it live. How do you do this? With WordPress. It’s a free software which allows you to create a design for your blog and publish all your articles. If I can use WordPress then it must be easy. When I first started I used eblogger which in hindsight was a bad idea.
Since switching to WordPress my blog has truly taken off. It allows you more creative freedom and it’s simple to use. It’s really easy to install it onto your BlueHost account. Just go into the hosting page and click on ‘Install WordPress.” Don’t click ‘import,’ instead click on ‘start.’ Select your new domain name from the drop down menu then click ‘install now,’ to begin installation.
Your website is now live! woohoo.
Step 4 – Get Creative
Now that all the groundwork is over, it’s time for the fun part – the design. WordPress comes with lots of themes. Mine is based on a travel theme and tweaked by Eldo Design to make it a bit more bespoke but there are so many great designs to choose from that you can just pick a free WordPress one.
Try out a few to get a feel of what is right for your blog and what you want to achieve. Then add your very first post by clicking on posts, and then ‘add new.’ When you’re ready to showcase your writing to the world (I know how nerve-wracking this can be) press ‘publish.’ That’s it! That’s all there is to it, then keep writing. Tip – Don’t forget to add an ‘about me’ page too. Here’s mine.
Step 5 – Add Plugins
Plugins make your life so much easier. Most of the comments I receive on my blog are spam so adding a plugin such as Akismet helps to alleviate most of the spam. Luckily I have freelanced as an SEO journalist but sometimes I completely forget to SEO my post. SEO stands for search engine optimisation which basically means that your page will get ranked higher in Google for a certain keyword (e.g. solo travel). You can plugins for social sharing too so if people like your post they can share on Facebook, Twitter etc.
So now you have your blog live and are writing posts, how do you make money? This is where the next step comes in.
Step 6 – Join Superstar Blogging (or another blogging course)
In the beginning I spent months not really knowing what I was doing. I just kept writing about my travels and knew hardly anything about guest posting, back-links, and how to turn my blog into more of a business model etc etc. One huge piece of advice that I wish I had known when I started was – to learn from the experts. Since then I have become a member of two blogging platforms:
Superstar Blogging is Nomadic Matt's blogging course. The course teaches you how to define your niche and stand out from the rest plus how to use social media to build your following. Not being a very technical person, I am pretty clueless when it comes to Google analytics etc but this course speaks my language when it comes to all the techy stuff and explains it in “blonde” terms so that I can easily follow.
Essentially the course is a school which teaches you everything about running an online travel website, and has courses from travel writing to photography. You also get to learn from Nomadic Matt's mentors!
Superstar Blogging covers: How to leverage social media, SEO, how to work on the road (which in itself takes a lot of practice), how monetise your site and building a long-term plan.
Since I have I have learned many tricks to making a blog really work and take it to the next level. If I had joined this four years ago when I began to write my blog then I would be way past where I am now (but hindsight is a wonderful thing).
I also work as a freelance writer and although I wrote for free for two years to build up my portfolio before even having my blog, the blog has been such an asset when pitching for article ideas with new companies. You can use your blog as a portfolio if you also want to break into freelance writing.
When I first began my blog, I travelled too much and didn’t put in the work at the beginning. I was just writing for fun and had no idea that I could make this my business. The travel blogging courses which I have taken taken have helped shift my perspective and I am now focused on growing my brand and helping as many women to travel solo as possible.
So if you ever see me chained to my laptop when I’m travelling, now you know why. Travel blogging is pretty much a full-time job but if you put the hard work in, find your own voice and keep at it, you will see rewards. Even if it just helps a handful of solo women travel easier, it is definitely worth the effort.
Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links which are of no extra charge to you and 10% of each sale goes towards War Child and Save the Children. Thanks for helping x
Are you ready to start your blog?
Can I really start a blog?
If thousands of other people can do it, then yes you can. Follow your passion and you’ll have so much that you want to write about from bungee jumping in New Zealand to abseiling in Belize. Anyone can start a blog.
Do I need to blog in English?
I would say no. Someone who I really admire is my friend Angel Alegre Garcia who has a huge blog called Vivir al Maximo, and it’s all in Spanish. Write in your mother tongue or whatever feels more comfortable to you.
How can I compete with the other blogs out there?
There is always room for other bloggers. The only advice I would say would be think about which niche you want to go into and connect with others in that niche. I have friends who blog about everything from expat life in Beijing, to finding vegan food in Asia. There is always room for new blogs.