I’ve started to put bloggers into two boxes: personal and business.
Personal bloggers are those who use their blog for their original purpose; to maintain a public, online “web log” of their lives. A lot of travelers are keeping personal blogs in order to stay connected to far away friends and family. I don’t mean to minimize personal blogging- it takes a lot of energy and courage to write about your daily life. My weekly journal entries are, in fact, the ones which are hardest for me to write. It’s not easy analyzing my thoughts and actions and then publicizing them for the world’s critique.
But I’m not technically a personal blogger. I’m a business blogger.
Business bloggers are those who spend a full-time job’s amount of hours on their blog, the least of those hours being spent on actual writing. As a business blogger I spend my time writing, yes, but also editing photographs and videos, researching keywords and search trends for new articles, updating old articles, taking courses on writing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, etc., building my website’s authority in a variety of boring ways, building my affiliate networks for ad revenue, social media (sounds silly, but this is a huge time suck and very important), and building relationships with brands and potential sponsors.
There are a lot more tiny things which fill up my day and the notes folder on my phone but, honestly, it just sounds so boring when I spell it out.
The point of treating my blog like a business instead of a journal is to earn something in return. Money would be the obvious choice, but it takes an unfortunately long amount of time before a blog has enough authority online to actually earn ad revenue. Mine is just starting to scratch that surface. Instead I spend a portion of each week pitching brands (usually hotels, tourism boards, and activity coordinators) in upcoming locations I’d like to work with. I research each brand and then send them a personalized e-mail about why my blog style and skills would be a good fit for their target audience and what I’m willing to do in exchange for complimentary activities.
Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve had huge stretches of 40-hour weeks working on the blog while my son is babysat not to get anything in return. More than once I’ve thought about quitting because it just doesn’t seem to pay off.
And then someone replies to my pitch, I make an affiliate sale, I see an uptick in viewers, and I start to think… Yeah. This could work.
Well, our past week has been insane, thanks to a very supportive partnership with the local tourism board.
Our first few days in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, we were left to our own devices. Ben and I both had a ton of work to catch up on from our 3 weeks in the States, so we only set out a few times to see local sights and found a local babysitter for Whit pretty quickly. We just had to sit down and do the boring computer stuff, you know? Well, this was when Whit was complaining that he didn’t want to be here (remember that?).
I had planned a couple of weeks earlier to be working with the local tourism board, but we hadn’t nailed down a schedule of events until we were already in town. The schedule turned out to be all-day excursions (and one overnight) almost every day for the past week and more almost every day next week.
Thanks to this partnership we’ve had the luxury of experiencing some incredible activities around Malaysia. We’ve spent a day on a private island, 2 days on an organic fruit farm, visited a local historical village, taken a sea walk under water, and more. Next week we’ll take a river cruise through the world’s oldest rain forest, visit an orangutan reserve, go scuba diving in the second best site worldwide, stay on a converted oil rig, etc.
Side note: looking back I realize our busy schedule this past week has helped Whit immensely. Each day we talk about what we’re going to be doing, and it turns out to be something he really enjoys. Thanks to such a busy, diverse schedule he developed a connection to this place. Tonight he was even sad about having to leave in a few days. I need to remember to keep him busy from now on!
The downside to this incredible lifestyle is that each of these activities are work for me. Of course I try to enjoy them as much as possible, but it’s difficult to shut my brain off. I find myself thinking about the best marketing angle for each activity, making notes on details I don’t want to forget, photographing every step just in case I end up including certain portions in my article, and asking Ben and Whit to pose for me. Then I come home from said activities and try to squeeze in a couple hours of work time to actually chip away at the pile of good ideas I’d just come up with.
It sounds glamorous (and it really can be), but it’s also exhausting.
Tomorrow, for instance, was supposed to be a down day. We planned on renting a car and making a day trip to the foot of Mt. Kinabalu to visit the world-famous botanical park and volcanic mud hot springs 2 hours away. I’ve really been looking forward to it. One of my contacts from the tourism board sent me a message this morning, however, with three possible excursions for tomorrow which they’d like us to experience before we leave on Thursday. This is important because it’s the only opportunity their otherwise booked videographer to record us for a quick promo video. Of course we said yes and the day has been planned. (It’s ok- we will actually have 24 hours back in Kota Kinabalu in a week or so where we can make the trip to the mountain.)
We really lucked out that we love this area. We are absolutely thrilled to be exposed to new ways of enjoying it we hadn’t found in our own research, and I feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to promote it as the paradise it is to other foreigners.
But heavy is the head who wears the crown.
I’m already worried about not doing justice to this fantastic place and the tourism board’s incredible hospitality. I don’t want to let anyone down, and the articles I write could bring a lot of new eyes (and future ad revenue) to my site, so I feel lots of pressure to perform.
But I’m mostly proud. Proud because I’ve now spent one full year building something which someone else thinks is so good they are tracking me down to schedule as much as possible with me. Proud that my website views have jumped 50% in less than a month, which means I’m hitting goals I hadn’t even set yet. Proud to recognize that what I’ve spent so much time learning and honing is paying off, and my skills are getting better. Proud to be seen as the hard-working asset I’ve felt I am for so long.
Thanks for being part of that.