One of the questions we get asked the most is, “How do you get started?” If you’re looking to create a blog or start an Instagram account, it can seem scary or overwhelming getting started, but it doesn’t have to be! One of the things we love the most about 2019 is that it is so easy to create the life you want for yourself! When we first started, we had no idea this is where we’d be three years later, but if you never start, you’ll never get to where you want to be! Since we truly believe in helping you pursue your passion, we put together this list of things to help you get started living the life of your dreams!
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Go outside and take a picture every single day. You don’t have to use the pictures (you’d be surprised how many pictures we take that never see the light of day haha), but the art of practicing every day will inevitably make your photos and your photography skills better. Work on writing blog posts and learning SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and editing every day. Practice your writing skills and find other blogs and Instagram accounts that inspire you. There’s always room for growth and the best way to be successful is to constantly practice and learn new things.
9. Explore new places
Okay, that seems obvious, but if you want to start a travel blog, you need to establish yourself as a traveler. You don’t have to be a full-time traveler (we’re not), but you should plan at least one or two trips a year. Get a good travel credit card and use the sign up bonus to pay for your flight or hotels, so your trip is a little more affordable. When we were first starting out, almost all of our flights were booked with credit card rewards points. And we still use them to pay for our flights all the time! We actually just booked flights to Europe using our credit card rewards points.
A lot of times when you’re just starting out, you have to be strict with your budget and we totally get that. Save up for big trips and spend your weekends doing new and fun things around your home, so you can still create new and valuable content for your readers without having to spend hundreds of dollars on plane tickets. You also don’t have to fly to Bali and explore all of Southeast Asia in two weeks in order to be a travel blogger. You can go on a road trip and explore a town an hour or two away from your home. Explore your own home town. There are plenty of people who want to know what to do in places like California, Utah, and New York. You might feel like your hometown isn’t that exciting, but I promise you that it is to someone else!
Visit the National Parks, find undiscovered restaurants in the area, or create a list of the best things to do on a weekend in your state. A lot of times we get stuck thinking people only care about exotic travel destinations, but in all honesty, most people aren’t traveling all over the world, so having helpful guides to places like San Francisco, New York City, or Washington D.C. are probably a lot more helpful for your average reader. Do you live near Washington, D.C.? Create a post about all the best free museums in the city. Write about the cherry blossom festival! The best part is, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan to see the cherry blossoms and that’s an event people from all over the world come to D.C. to see! Take a staycation and write all about the best hotels in the city. Share the best ways to take a weekend trip to NYC. You get the point, haha. What I’m saying is it doesn’t matter where you live, you can always be exploring new places, so you can create valuable content to share right from your home.
8. Invest in yourself
Whether that means buying a new camera or taking an online course, it’s important to treat your blog like a business from the beginning. Any start-up company requires a lot of up front investments, including time. Don’t be too afraid to invest in your business. This doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars you don’t have, but we do think it’s worth it to spend the money to create a professional looking website and buy a domain. You can do this for a pretty reasonable price on Squarespace That’s what we use, and you can create a website starting at $12/month and buy a domain for $20/year. For as long as you can, you should try to invest everything you make off your blog back into your business. That way you can keep making your business better and better. When we booked our first major photo shoot, we took that money and invested it back into our business by buying a new camera. Our business is what landed us the job and we knew if we wanted to continue creating even better work and working with new clients, we needed to put that money back into our business.
Looking to invest in some new camera gear? Check out our Equipment Guide.
7. Up your photography game
A lot of what makes a blog or an Instagram account so engaging and captivating is beautiful images, which is why focusing on photography is so important. Plus, photography is a skill that you can use to market yourself, so getting better at photography is going to help you in so many ways. You don’t necessarily need to buy a $5000 camera, but you should definitely learn how to use what you have. Being a good photographer isn’t about having the best equipment, but it is about knowing how to use the equipment you have. Start by learning how to use your phone camera or whatever camera you have. Learn about light and where it’s coming from and figure out how to manually adjust your camera settings. In my opinion, if you have an expensive camera but don’t know how to use it, you might as well save your money and practice getting better at the basics of photography just using your iPhone. Once you feel like you have a strong understanding of how a camera works and how to use it, that’s when you should save up and invest in a new camera. We started with a Canon Rebel t3i (it’s discontinued now, but probably pretty similar to the Canon Rebel t7i). Then we upgraded to a Canon 6D, and now we use a Canon 5D Mark IV.
Practice editing your photos too. We use Adobe Lightroom and absolutely love it, because it allows you to do so much to really bring the color and light back into your photos. There are a lot of other apps out there that you can use to edit, but we suggest getting familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite, because it’s what all the professionals use and in my opinion you’re better off getting started using it right away.
If you don’t feel super comfortable with taking pictures on your own, find a friend who is looking to practice photography or who also wants to start blogging. The two of you can help each other by taking photos of each other. It’s always nice to have a friend that can help you pose, find new locations, come up with creative ideas, practice with, etc.
Want to learn how to take better travel photos? Check out Passport to Travel.
6. Use a preset
For your photos, use a preset so all of your photos have a cohesive look and style to them. Presets are basically filters that you can apply to your photos in Adobe Lightroom, so all of the colors and overall look on your photos match each other. Using presets will allow people to see a photo and know it’s yours just from looking at it. They also help your Instagram grid and your blog look cohesive and professional.
I love using mobile presets too, because then all of the photos in our Instagram stories match the photos in our feed and on our blog, so our overall brand style matches everywhere you see our photos.
Check out our custom presets here
5. Find your niche
Think about what you’re good at and what sets you apart. Do you love fashion? Are you super into interior design? Are you a major foodie? Do you love writing? All of these things fit into travel, but will also help you find other like-minded people who are interested in what you’re interested in. It will also help you know what to share and how to help your audience. If you’re a budget traveler and that’s where your expertise is, don’t try to sell yourself as a luxury traveler. If you’re a solo female traveler, don’t try to come up with couples getaway ideas. You don’t have to have the answer to every travel question. We certainly don’t. And that’s actually a good thing! Chances are you didn’t come to our site to look for the best hostels or solo female travel tips, because that’s not our expertise. And that’s okay! Don’t try to be anyone else. Just be you, because that’s where your passions, vision, and unique personality comes through and connects with others. The more you know who your audience is, the better you’ll be able to serve them and the more they’ll keep coming back to you, because they’ll know what to expect from you.
Remember: YOU are unique and you have something to offer. Don’t let the fear that “everyone else is already doing it” stop you from pursuing your dreams. Just because Mariah Carey is already an amazing singer doesn’t mean there isn’t space for Ariana Grande or Selena Gomez. (Hello, they’re both freaking amazing and the queens of Instagram but that’s a different story, haha). Just because Jimmy Fallon is hilarious, doesn’t mean James Corden can’t be funny too. There is space for everyone! You have a unique perspective and plenty to offer and bring to the table.
4. Make Time for Your Blog and set Goals
Set time aside every day to work on your blog and pursue your passion. If you don’t make time for it in your schedule, you’ll never find the time. Write down goals that you want to achieve. You might not reach all of them, but it’s so important to write your goals down and look back over them every once in a while. You’ll be surprised how many goals you hit when you actually write them down and make them your priority.
Set aside 30 minutes every day to learn something new. Create a list of YouTube tutorials you’re going to watch every day or articles you’re going to read or photos you’re going to practice editing. Make a content calendar where you write down what you’re going to post to your blog and Instagram every week. How many times are you going to post to Instagram each week? How many blog posts are you going to write per week? Set realistic goals that work for you and your schedule and be consistent.
I find having a planner is really helpful, because then I can write down what I’m going to do each day to achieve my goals, i.e. Monday—watch YouTube video on photo editing, Tuesday—listen to a business podcast about growing your Instagram following, Wednesday—read an article about SEO, Thursday—write captions for Instagram, etc.
3. Be confident
Putting yourself out on the internet takes a lot of confidence. It’s not easy and unfortunately, there will always be people who judge you or have something to say about what you’re doing. But, and I wish I could shout this from the rooftops, YOU DO YOU! Seriously. If it makes you happy, keep doing it. You’ve got this. Don’t listen to anyone else. Haters will always be there. I love the quote, “You can be the juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” And that’s okay! You can’t please everyone, but there will also always be people who appreciate what you are sharing and people you are helping and that’s what you should focus on. Focus on the good that you’re putting out into the world and sharing with others and that will help you keep progressing and getting better.
Also, have confidence in your work. It might not be the best out there, but it’s the best you can do right now. If you talk negatively about your photos or your blog or are dismissive about your work, then why would anyone want to work with you or follow along? Be confident. You’re working hard to create helpful content and that’s what you should focus on.
2. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Another question we get all the time is, “I’ve started my Instagram, but how important is it for me to have a blog too?” Or vice versa. We strongly believe that it’s important not to put too much trust in one platform. Don’t just be on Instagram. Don’t just be on YouTube. Diversify yourself. Not only will it help you attract a wider audience, but it also keeps you safe in the event that changes are made. You don’t own Instagram. Facebook does. But you do own your blog. Or your email list. If Instagram were to disappear, but you still have a Pinterest or a YouTube channel, then you’re not completely out of a job or a community.
The beauty of being on multiple platforms is that you have more to offer both your community and companies when you want to work with them. Want to create a video that’s longer than one-minute? Put it on your YouTube channel. Want to write about the best places to eat in Bali or a really personal post about how your life has changed since you’ve started traveling, but it’d be too many characters for an Instagram caption? Write it on your blog. Having multiple places where people can find your work allows you to grow and have a stronger overall business.
1. Just Start
Honestly, our best advice is to just start. It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, the only way you’re ever going to get to where you want to be is if you start. Create an Instagram account. Start a blog. Create a YouTube channel. Whatever it is that you want to do, just start.
Don’t worry about everything being perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect when you’re just starting. And that’s okay! A lot of times, we’re too stressed about having the perfect name or logo or photos or whatever before we even start. And honestly, it’s never going to be perfect from the beginning. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh, but it’s the truth. That’s why it’s the beginning. Nike didn’t start with a perfect logo or their “just do it” campaign or giant show rooms all over the world. They started in the trunk of a car.
You’ll make mistakes. You’ll probably be scared out of your mind. You’ll probably fail. But that’s part of the process. Messing up. Making mistakes. Figuring it out as you go. That’s how you grow. That’s how you learn. That’s how you succeed. You never know what will happen until you try.
Something that always helps me is remembering that everyone starts somewhere. Go find your favorite travel blog or Instagram account and scroll back to the very beginning. Chances are you’ll be shocked at how much their work has changed. It’s easy to compare our day one to someone else’s year five, but when we remember that it’s their year five, it makes it a lot easier to remember that we all start somewhere and we’re all practicing, learning, and growing along the way.
You’ve got this! Don’t give up. Keep practicing and showing up and putting out valuable content, and we promise you’ll see results from your hard work!
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