An Interview with Tammilee Tillison

tammileeI recently met the woman behind Tammilee Tips after the TBEX North America conference, when we were on a post-trip together in lovely car-free Holbox Island, off the Yucatan Peninsula. After fishing, snorkeling, and sharing golf cart taxis, I asked her for some travel blogging advice to share with the Travel Writing 2.0 readers.

We both attended the 2014 TBEX North America conference, where there are a lot of hobbyist bloggers making almost no money (so far). I’m sure you were one of those once upon a time, since we all have to start from somewhere. How did you get from there to the great level of financial success you enjoy now?

Going from making no money to making a living blogging takes a couple of things. First it takes time. You have to invest time into your blog. Time spent creating amazing content, building a client list and working your blog as a business. Second you have to focus on the blog as a business. If you treat your blog as a hobby it will continue to be a hobby. If you treat it as a business and focus each day on creating a future then you are moving in the right direction.

We have spent years cultivating an audience, working our email list and creating a growing business. It has taken time, energy, lack of sleep and more than one breakdown but it has all been worth it.

You have the kind of social media numbers that make people either drool or go “WTF?” As in 27,000 Facebook fans, 94,000 Twitter followers and 32,000 Pinterest followers. How did you build up such a huge following?

Over the past six years I have really focused on building an audience of readers who want to see what we produce. Each social channel brings in a different type of readers. Twitter readers want info fast and quickly. Pinterest followers want to be in awe of our photos and Facebook readers want a bit of both. The biggest part of growing the following has been using each social channel daily and interacting with our audience. Finding out what they want to see and then cultivating that content.

Many freelancers who cover multiple subjects say that travel is their loss leader (but most fun) category, while they make tammileefoodtheir real money from something like business writing or tech writing. How much of your income is travel-related and how much comes from other subjects?

A portion of our income is travel related. It is not our largest income producer but it is growing. Our income is diversified between ads, product placement and sponsorships. The travel content produces an avenue for each of these. It is hard to say specifically how much of a part of the income it is because it all works together.

Let’s face it, there are a zillion family travel bloggers out there and plenty of women doing product reviews. How have you managed to separate yourself from the pack?

I think we separated ourselves from the pack by being ourselves and not following what other people thought we should do. We don’t have kids and I am a vegetarian. We blog about our life and travels. Our readers know that we will be honest and share the good, bad and sometimes ugly parts of life. Our best advice is to be yourself and not try and copy what others are doing. If we all did exactly what everyone else is doing it would be a pretty boring internet. Being unusual, funny, random or just quirky is great. You have to showcase what is amazing about you and your travels. What makes people want to read your posts?

Where do you see things headed in the next two or three years for bloggers? How do you see your income sources evolving?

Looking forward over the next few years I am excited to see the amazing things that will happen for bloggers. When we started blogging 6 years ago people looked at us like we were crazy. They had no idea what a blogger was and thought I had lost my mind to venture into this arena. Now when you say you are a blogger people get it or try and get it and don’t think you are losing your mind. I think the future is going to hold endless possibilities as long as we continue to try and innovate and produce great content.

I do worry that there is already a large sense of entitlement that I am hearing a lot about from PR reps and industry leaders. They worry that bloggers now think that they walk on water and don’t have to produce amazing content. I think we have to always remember where we started from and know that the trajectory can always end if we don’t do our best work.
I’ll see you again in Athens when you’ll be on stage as a TBEX speaker. Tell us what you’ll be talking about and give us a few of your favorite related tools.

In Athens I will be speaking about the business of blogging. I want to help other bloggers understand that blogging can be a business and you can make a living doing it. While it does take a lot of work it can be absolutely amazing. Who else gets to travel the world and take beautiful pictures for a living?

One of my favorite tools right now is Co-Scheduler. It is a life saver for scheduling out social shares and managing your editorial calendar. Along with that, having an editorial calendar is a huge time saver. Knowing what you plan to write about each month ahead of time makes it easier to pre-schedule out posts and help minimize writers block.

Our session is going to be jam packed with a ton of tips, tricks and tools to making blogging a business and getting it done every day.

Tammilee Tillison runs the popular lifestyle and travel blog Tammilee Tips along with her husband.

Interview conducted in October, 2014 by Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Winet.

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