Start a Blog
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Travel Blogging has offered up some amazing opportunities for me. It has introduced me to some of my best friends, I’ve connected to thousands of diverse people from around the world and even heard back from some folks that that I’ve inspired them to travel (which is such a great feeling)!
Though I still pay for the majority of my travel, I do receive sponsored trips and travel products through the blog and have begun to monetize my website!
Related | How I Afford to Travel as a PhD Student
So why take my advice? I mean, there are thousands of travel bloggers and influencers out there.
Well I may not be the most famous or successful blogger, but what I am is real. My platform always aims for authenticity and that goes for this post as well. I’m not going to lie to you and paint a rosy picture of travel blogging so you will buy a domain through my affiliate link…the truth is, travel blogging is a ton of work.
The reality of being a new blogger is putting in long, unpaid hours while you get established. Let me repeat: you will likely not make money or get free travel straight out of the gate, so please don’t go into it with this mentality. It can actually negatively impact the industry which sustains the livelihoods of many bloggers, journalists, photographers and videographers.
With that said, hard work pays off and once you get your website up and running, create high-quality content and build a social media following, you will be set!
So you still wanna be a travel blogger? Here’s how!
What is your Vision?
So many blogging guides out there will tell you to ‘find your niche’….Well you are here on my travel blog reading how to start your own, so I’m going to take a wild guess that your niche will be travel. It isn’t rocket science folks!
But, before you do start your own blog, I would suggest taking some time to think about your ‘vision‘. I use the term vision to encompass: 1. What your blog stands for, 2. What you can uniquely offer to your readers, and 3. Creating content that accurately reflects point 1 and 2.
1. What does your blog stand for?
Consider what travel means to you. What are the things about travel that make you feel alive? What topics are you most passionate about? These are the things you need to focus on!
2. What will you offer your readers?
Most people use the internet to answer a question. When it comes to travel, people seek blogs for the same reason. In fact, bloggers are often more trustworthy than large organizations or companies because at the end of the day, I’m not making a corporate salary by manipulating you – I’m just a fellow traveller sharing information. Use this to your advantage and consider what questions people are asking, and how you will help answer them.
This is where your expertise comes in! What can you uniquely offer your future readers? Will you help people plan a trip, learn how to travel on the cheap, or find hidden gems? Or will your blog be more about the art of story telling and highlighting a destination’s essence through writing and photography?
How you will stand out among the thousands of other travel blogs out there? Know that we are all competing for the spotlight on the crowded interweb, particularly for that golden first page on google, so don’t re-invent the wheel. Be creative! How can your unique perspectives and opinions contribute to what is already out there? Or even better, find topics that aren’t already out there!
You don’t need to get SO specific that you box yourself into a corner and limit future growth into other areas, but you should consider which topics you can give unique advice on!
3. Build your vision based on the above
You’ve probably already heard about the importance of establishing “your brand”…what the heck does that even mean? ..and do you need a brand?
If you are starting a blog with a business mind, then yes, establishing a brand is important. But basically all it means is having a consistent vision. For example, if someone was to describe your website and what you do in a sentence, are they able to? Does your domain name accurately depict what you stand for?
My brand (The Pink Backpack) is based on a metaphor for female travel (though ironically, I recently acquired a pink backpack). My content is created from the lens of an adventurous solo female traveller with the aim to inspire others to travel authentically, adventurously and affordably.
My sub-niches under the ‘solo female travel umbrella’, including budget travel, adventure travel and off-beat/unique travel because these are the areas I have knowledge in and am passionate about (essentially, I actually want to sit down and write about them again and again).
I keep this consistent by creating my own content (you’d be surprised how many big time bloggers outsource to ghost writers) on these topics and target it to a specific audience. You will also notice I also use the colour pink quite frequently – this is on purpose and links back to my vision!
Choose a Blogging Platform
Once you have a vision for your website, your first major decision will be choosing a blogging platform. There are a variety of options out there such as Weebly, Wix and WordPress. The first two are notable for their ‘drag and drop’ functions, which are user friendly but extremely limited in their customizability. I personally use WordPress, which has a slight learning curve (speaking from personal experience) if you have never done any web design before, but it is totally do-able!
I would recommend WordPress to anyone due to its customizability. Since I started with it from day one, I got a free theme and played around with its options to add on plugins and widgets to get the look I wanted. Once I was ready for the next step, I hired a web designer who was able to code a theme for me from the ground up using the same WordPress platform. If you are familiar with coding or want to learn, you can build your own theme using WordPress.
Before you make any decisions, I would recommend thinking about the direction you want your blog to go in the future. Will blogging be a hobby for you, or do you want your website to grow? Can you envision making money from your blog? Do you have aspirations to add a shop to your page or run an e-course? WordPress has ecommerce integrations so essentially there is a lot of room to customize your website to suit your vision and modify it as you grow. So, if you are thinking longevity with your website, WordPress is for you!
Find a Host and Buy a Domain name
Your second decision will be whether a to pay for a hosting platform, or get a free platform.
So what is the difference?
A free platform is great if you don’t have the funds, but your website will look slightly less professional in its branding. For example: if I got the free package with WordPress.com, my URL would be www.thepinkbackpack.wordpress.com.
The second issue with a free platform is that you don’t actually own your website because you haven’t purchased the domain name. This is problematic if their server crashes or they go bankrupt – in theory you could lose everything because you don’t own the rights to the website. Think of the platform as a free car you are borrowing – you don’t actually own that car, so what happens if it breaks down or dies, or someone tries to steal it? You will be sh*t out of luck.
A paid platform means you will be purchasing a domain name (Example: www.___________.com) through a hosting platform and paying the host for that space on the internet. With this option, you will own the rights to your website. Think of the domain name as your newly purchased car, and the host as your car insurance provider! You will have theft coverage, on-star support for any technical issues and others will admire the oh-so pretty exterior. 🙂
I personally use iPage and have only had good experiences with them. Compared to some of the horror stories I have heard, I have never had issues with their server going down or my site being slow. The only time my site went wonky, was due to a change I had made but could not figure out how to fix, so I called them and they walked me through the entire thing!
Plus, they are super affordable! For just $3.75, you can purchase your hosting AND wordpress plan (and snatch up a FREE domain for the first year with their current promotion).
Note: A domain is regularly 10-15$ per year so expect this to be billed to your credit card on file once your first year is over (FYI: they are really good about emailing you reminders about billing dates, so in the case that you did want to cancel after the first year, you can simply log in prior to the billing date and cancel, or call them and cancel).
Note: Have you seen ads or blog posts where you can start your blog for just 1.99? Well you can, but folks this does not include WordPress!
With iPage you can purchase hosting for your website for 1.99 USD or 2.50 CAD, but it is just basic hosting. I fell into this trap when I started out and then had to purchase a WordPress plan on top of my basic hosting which meant I paid way more.
Note: The $1.99 promotion is only for a 3 year term (if you only want to pay for one year, the rate bumps up slightly). I would personally take advantage of the 3 year package if you are starting a blog with plans for growth, longevity and a business attitude because you would likely still be blogging by year 3, so you might as well take advantage of the deal now.
However, if you are starting a blog with growth in mind, than you are probably going to want to use WordPress anyways, so I would just do the $3.75 / month WP Starter plan for the many reasons I mentioned above. WordPress is the bomb!
Customizing your Website
Let’s assume you have chosen to move forward with iPage as your host and WordPress as your platform with the $3.75/month plan.
Once you register, you can easily launch your WordPress dashboard (the backend of your site) through the control panel in iPage.
Conversely, you can access your site through the admin log in page (which you can find at www.______.com/wp-admin).
You will find along the left side of your dashboard, the ‘Appearance‘ menu; click ‘Themes‘ and browse from thousands of freebies.
Once you choose the theme you think will be the best fit for your vision, click ‘Activate‘.
Return to the ‘Appearance‘ menu on the side bar of your dashboard and click ‘Customize‘. Here you will be able to tweak the theme by changing the font style and colour, menus, side bar widgets and more! (Note: the flexibility of modifications varies theme by theme).
You can add photos to your blog through the ‘Media‘ tab.
If you have any troubles along the way, iPage offers 24/7 support and wordpress.org offers online support specific to their themes. You can also feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have!
Welcome to the club my friend!
I look forward to following your adventures in travel blogging!
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