Sandra Foyt is a storyteller and road trip junkie. A veteran of many cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” She writes about her road trips and weekend getaways on Getaway Mavens, a blog she co-founded. Sandra is also a photographer and offers some unique photography services. She joins us this week to share more about that and her travel writing career.
Share a little about your story with us. How did you start down this path to travel writing and photography?
I think I started shooting with a Kodak Instamatic at the same time that I started filling out my first lockable diary. It was on my first trip to the Caribbean in the mid-1970s and my travel writing was mostly variations of “I had a fun day.”
That was better than my travel photos which seemed to mostly feature a thumb.
Then, when I began blogging in 2007, photos were a means to illustrate my writing. It’s only in recent years that photography has taken center stage.
You launched Getaway Mavens in 2013 in an already crowded travel blogging cyberspace. What do you think makes your site stand out allowing it to grow to more than 55k unique monthly visitors?
When I launched Getaway Mavens with my partner, Malerie Yolen-Cohen, we were able to leverage our previous travel writing platform. Malerie has a long list of print and online credits, and at the time, had just published her first book, Stay on Route 6: Your Guide To All 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6. I was also producing freelance online content as well as publishing Albany Kid, a family travel blog.
But what I think makes our site stand out is that we identified an underserved niche: Northeast USA weekend getaways. There are many places in the East Coast that are rarely mentioned in traditional publications. We publish turnkey guides to these lesser-known destinations that feature the quirkiest things to do, the best restaurants, and the most outstanding accommodations. Millennials, in particular, seem to appreciate our romantic getaways articles; our 150 Surprisingly Romantic Destinations in the Northeast USA consistently ranks extremely well with this demographic.
Your focus includes personal branding through photography for influencers and others. Can you share with us your process for choosing that particular niche for your photography business?
In 2018, I moved back to California and established a photography business, Sandra Foyt Photography LLC. I began by offering portraits, headshots, and event photography services. This was in addition to producing editorial travel photos as well as volunteering on a wide variety of assignments that included sports, wedding, and graduation photography.
I quickly realized that I needed to specialize if I wanted my business to succeed. That’s when I discovered an emerging photography niche that dovetailed nicely with my skills and interests. Best of all, I get to work with some of my favorite people—travel influencers and other busy professionals—who appreciate the convenience of getting a wide variety of images in a short session that they can use for websites, social media, or even commercial purposes.
What do you consider the most beneficial income streams for you as a writer and photographer?
Tough question. And one that changes year to year. In 2017, freelance writing assignments accounted for most of my income. But I spent so much time researching and writing anonymous travel guides that it felt like I was only earning pennies per hour. Because of that, I was starting to resent the very thing that I had always loved–travel writing.
Now I’m very choosy about what I’m willing to do for income. And I’m asking for pay that reflects my worth.
In 2019, my most beneficial income streams are travel blog ads, stock photography, and personal brand photography.
What 3 pieces of advice do you have for others trying to grow a business as a travel writer/blogger or photographer?
It all comes down to doing what you love and making choices that will enable you to keep on loving what you do.
Begin in your backyard. Free blog sites make it easy to play around with publishing content. Write about local attractions or photograph your neighbors (with their consent, of course.) The point is to discover what you like doing well enough to keep on doing it.
Start identifying your strengths and figure out how to play to those strengths. If you’re a great photographer, but only a so-so writer, consider partnering with a talented wordsmith. Or if you love to write and photograph, but hate email and social media, hire a virtual assistant. Whatever you do, don’t forget about SEO.
They say that content is king, but really, SEO wears the crown. SEO drives the numbers, even within the social media pillars such as Pinterest that fuel pageviews and consequently income. Learn what you need to know about SEO or hire an expert to advise you.
Finally, do explore all the many, many ways to earn an income as a media producer. But then narrow down your options to what is sustainable for your unique life goals and sanity.
About that bucket list…what’s on the top of the list and why?
My bucket list never seems to get any shorter. I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting every country, but that desire conflicts with really getting to know any one region.
I do, however, have a couple of items on the shortlist. The first is to drive across Canada again. The last time I did that was in the pre-digital era when my photographic talents consisted of chasing after a toddler and two retrievers.
The next is to return to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to photograph the region as it continues its post-hurricane recovery. Well, I have to admit, returning to my Caribbean home is always on the shortlist. That’s the real reason I may never get around to seeing every nation. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Sandra’s editorial stock photography can be found on Alamy, Dreamstime, and Shutterstock. Now bi-coastal in California and New York, she also offers exclusive personal branding photography services by appointment. You can follow Sandra on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.