I get many of the same questions or comments throughout my social media channels. People are curious about what I do, how I afford to do it all and how things work behind-the-scenes.
The most common question I get asked is what I actually do. This is usually a polite way of people wondering how I make a living as a travel writer. I understand where their curiosity comes – it’s not obvious like a teacher or lawyer.
People often see me going on adventures and having a great time but don’t really understand how I earn money. (There are four pillars as to how I earn income and I cover all the details here.)
I am truly fortunate to do what I do and be able to make a living from it, but a lot of hard work and time has gone into making it look easy on social media. To help explain, here are some of the biggest misconceptions about my job as a travel blogger and digital content creator.
1. What I do is a holiday
Yep – I get to travel and try some really fun activities. But instead of leisurely experiencing them as most people do while on holiday, I’m working. My work takes the form of creatively capturing the moment or experience to share through social media. It includes detailed itineraries, 12+ hour days, legal contracts and a listing of very specific and time-sensitive deliverables that need to be created, marketed and analyzed.
I’m a mini-production team. This means I’m multitasking: splitting my attention from setting up tech gear, taking photos, shooting video, connecting with my client, learning about what I’m planning to share, fact-checking the details, updating social media and then having the actual experience. Then I follow up with editing and marketing the final content, replying to messages and comments and sending out analytics reports to my clients afterwards. It’s not the holiday it can look like online.
There is a reason production teams are teams. It takes a lot of time, planning, preparation and execution and not one person can do it all, all the time.
Over the last four years, it’s become really important for me to put the camera gear aside and make sure I’m truly experiencing the event or activity. I don’t want it to be a video or photo shoot. I want to be able to tell genuine stories, not just post pretty pictures or videos.
2. All my posts are live and real-time.
It takes time to go through, edit and market the content I’ve created. Occasionally, I’m able to post live and in-the-moment. More often than not, it’s after the event or experience has occurred.
I capture hundreds and thousands of images and videos from an event, and one image posted online doesn’t do the experience justice. I like to share content out over days or weeks afterwards. This helps me get more value for it and to better share the experience with everyone.
Sadly, most of my content never sees the bright side of a computer screen from the 8TB hard drive it’s stored on. This is simply because I don’t have the time to go through it all. (Or too much time has passed and I’ve moved on from that event or activity).
3. I’m adventuring all the time
Surprising to many, I stick fairly close to a typical Monday to Friday, 9-5 schedule. This is partly because the friends, family and partner I adventure with usually work within those hours. It’s also because most of my clients run their businesses during that time as well.
I have the freedom to work whenever I want and often wherever I want. It’s easiest to stick to a schedule and the comfort of my home office. This helps me have a better work-life balance.
I also spend more time on administrative tasks like e-mailing, organizing, planning, writing contracts, keeping my financial books up-to-date and editing on a computer screen than outdoors or adventuring. It takes a lot of organization to make things happen so many of my days are office days.
4. All my adventures are paid for
Sometimes my trip and adventure costs are covered, like when I spent a week in Medicine Hat or when I cruised the Mediterranean with Sun Fun You for two weeks. Those were work trips. Covering travel costs and expenses are a necessary part of having me create content from the experience – like any other business trip. But most of my adventures – including the five years I spent travelling the world – were paid for by me. If you’re curious how I saved money to travel 60 countries and 7 continents, I cover all the details here.
I often choose to explore on my personal weekends off because I genuinely love it. But I also do this because I can potentially sell that content afterwards to clients. I’m very opportunistic and layer what I can get out of personal experiences to help me make money in the future, professionally.
5. Travel is expensive so I must be rich
Absolutely – travel can be pricey. But if you’re clever about how, when and where you travel, you can spend less money per month than most Canadians at home in that same time period. I adventure with friends so we can split costs (in addition to these eight other great reasons why I like to travel with another person). I look for coupons and deals or travel off-season. (Camping is cheap to begin with but often free in the spring, fall and wintertime – plus there are less people around).
It would shock many people to discover how little I live on. I’m aggressive with tracking my spending habits and living on a tight budget. I have a detailed plan in place to make things work. I wouldn’t have made it through my first year-and-a-half of running my own business if I didn’t obsessively focus on money. Thankfully, every year my business grows and it allows me to indulge a little more on things I have cut from my life.
6. I have someone who takes my photos
What I would give to be able to pay a photographer or videographer to come along and help me document my travels and adventures! Maybe one day, but not likely anytime soon.
I have several ways I capture photos and I go into all the details of how I do it here if you’re interested in reading more.
7. I enjoy working for free or in exchange for product
The reality is I need to be paid in money to pay my bills and expenses. It’s not always understood how much time and effort can go into content creation so I break it down for my clients. This helps them realize the value of the services I offer and why I deserve to be paid for it. You wouldn’t offer a plumber or mechanic exposure in return for their expertise and the same goes for content creators.
8. My success came overnight
I’ve been blogging since late 2013. Many other bloggers I meet at events have also been working for as long (or longer) than I have. It’s taken years of my life and many long days and late nights to be able to create the community online that I am fortunate to have today. Sometimes I joke that the only reason I found success was because I was too stubborn to give up (which, let’s be honest, is actually partly true).
But I also genuinely love what I do which makes it easier. I am so thankful and fortunate that I’ve found what I’m passionate about and have managed to turn it into a career. Despite some of these misconceptions about my job as a travel blogger and content creator, I love running my own business and wouldn’t have it any other way.