What’s your excuse for not succeeding with your writing career or blog? Is it Google’s fault? Pinterest’s? Editors who don’t respond? The pandemic?
I’ve been talking to other travel writers since “travel writing” meant you had to write for magazines or guidebook companies. Then I’ve been talking to travel bloggers since I launched the Cheapest Destinations Blog in 2003.
Yes, I’m old. But maybe that makes me at least a little wise.
I have heard a lot of excuses over the years, some of those excuses 100 times. Most of them, I hate to tell you, are bullshit. This has been an especially trying year, but some travel writers are still raking in a good amount of money each month while others have thrown in the towel. Why is that?
Making Money as a Travel Writer is Far Easier Now
You see, I learned to hustle for magazine gigs when that was the only way to earn money as a travel writer who wasn’t on staff. You think your petty WordPress problems are hard? To get paid, I used to mail a package containing my hotel reviews and the associated printed press kits from locations such as Turkey and South Korea. I mailed Kodachrome slides (truly #nofilter) from Bangkok and Delhi.
Then I learned how to get traffic back when Yahoo was the main search engine. That was when Mark Zuckerburg was still in high school and nobody had even dreamed of YouTube.
Nearly everything about being a travel writer now is easier than it was in “the good ole days.”
There are a lot more ways to get distracted and lose focus though. Sure, I have decent engagement on social media and my Instagram photos are pretty sweet, if I may say so myself. When I saw how Pinterest or Flipboard could send a flood of real traffic, I pounced on each one as quickly as any narcissistic millennial.
The key is, I always have an eye on what is producing results. If an effort is just feeding your ego, it’s probably not going to feed you for real. If it’s putting cash in your bank account, different story.
What Path is Going to Earn You a Real Income?
If you’re just toying with this travel writing thing as a hobby, I understand. It’s a pretty fun hobby to have. When we’re free to move around the globe, you go on press trips and have a fun time, and all you have to do in return is write up an article or two, maybe post a few photos on social media. If a spouse is paying the bills or you are retired, who cares if you’re making any money?
For those who approach blogging or travel writing as a profession, however, a whole different mindset is required. This mindset affects how you spend your days, which trips you say yes to, and even what you do on those trips in order to get the kind of articles that will help your business. You’re not just having fun on someone else’s dime. You’re building an asset.
If this is a hobby, you go with the flow. If this is a vocation, your business defines your travels and you pursue excellence every day.
Do You Really Want This Bad Enough to Commit to It?
After consulting with travel writers and bloggers for years, speaking at conferences, and running workshops at writer events, I had a pretty good handle on what stories people tell themselves. Then I started the Travel Writing Overdrive course and worked with a few dozen of my Mastermind students one-on-one. My previous assumptions were right, but then they became really crystal clear.
Want to know what holds writers and bloggers back? Here’s the honest truth:
– Unsuccessful writers and bloggers are searching for easy answers. They think others who are more successful than them have somehow discovered special secrets. There must be a certain plug-in, a certain Pinterest board, or a special SEO tactic that will ensure success. When confronted with the fact that these more successful writers/bloggers just spend their time more productively and grind it out every week, the ones looking for shortcuts are highly disappointed. They’re often a bit skeptical, like there must be more to it. Sometimes they quit and blame it all on bad luck, especially when we’ve had a year like 2020.
– Those who try to do everything themselves are often the least successful. It sounds logical that bootstrappers can save some money by using “sweat equity” to build their business. But in an industry where there are no barriers to entry and the overhead costs are close to zero, this is a bad idea. If you could earn $20 an hour by creating content and you’re wasting time on tasks that someone else will willingly do better for $7 an hour, why are you doing them? That’s a bad use of your time. Focus on your core skill set, where you provide a valuable service that generates revenue. Trying to be a martyr or superhero who does everything will lead to failure.
– Those who don’t invest in themselves and their business will usually fail. If you pay to go to key conferences, buy software that will help your business, and spend money on the right books and courses, your odds of succeeding increase dramatically. One line in one book can literally change your life. One module in an online course can mean the difference in wasting two years on a failed project rather than doubling down on the one thing that can cover all your bills. Are you too cheap to succeed?
Every month, I pay out a good bit of money to freelance writers, two assistants, a commissioned sales rep, and a whole slew of one-off hires on Fiverr and Upwork. I seldom regret those expenditures because I know my business would be less successful without them. I’d be spending time away from what I’m really good at, where I can excel.
I’m also perfectly willing to pay for the right course or right tool that can give me a clear edge. Last month I spent $99 on Publisher Rocket, for example, which is simply a keyword research tool for Amazon. But if I sell 20 more books because of that small up-front investment, it’s worth it. Since I have multiple books out that move 20 to 300 copies a month, paying for that was a no-brainer. I can’t blame bad keyword research as my excuse for not succeeding anymore.
I could write a whole book about the mindset problems holding most writers back and that’s half of what Travel Writing 2.0 is about. If you really want to take your career to the next level though, as you have probably seen so many around you do, there’s a good chance you need some tough love guidance. You may even need some peer pressure accountability and some personal coaching.
Get Some Solid Guidance on Financial Travel Writing Success
Three times a year I offer to tell students everything I know about earning money as a travel blogger and/or freelance writer. Since I’ve been full-time since 2006, supporting a family and putting a kid through college, I think you might be able to learn something from me.
I only open my course three times a year normally though, and in 2020 just twice. Enrollment is open for one week, then it’s gone.
This is one of those times. If you’re tired of watching others rake in the cash while you sit on the sidelines of this gold rush, you’ve got a few days to make it happen. Go here for details:
Travel Writing Overdrive
If you click on this link and see a sign-up prompt instead, it means enrollment has closed and you’ve missed the boat. But that boat will come around again. I hope to see you boarding it.
After that when you look in the mirror and ask, “What’s your excuse for not succeeding?” you won’t have an answer. No excuses, because you’ve learned to adapt, survive, and thrive.