13 Mistakes I’ve Made as a Travel Blogger


lauren-hammock-belize

I’m excited about this post.

You guys know I’m all about confessing up to my mistakes and sharing the stupid things I’ve done over the years.

Well, at the start of the year, I did an AMA on Nomadic Matt’s forum and one of the questions I was asked was about whether I had any blogging regrets. Of course, I managed to reel off a whole list of things I’ve done wrong over the years!

After having so much fun thinking about the stupid things I’ve done in travel blogging, I couldn’t resist turning it into an entire blog post.

Here are the 12 biggest mistakes I’ve made as a travel blogger. You’ll hopefully either learn something from them or wonder how I ever managed to find success!

I Used to Publish Entirely Blank Blog Posts

Let’s start with what was probably the most ridiculous thing I used to do.

Back when I first created Never Ending Footsteps, I had a real issue with procrastination. It would take me weeks to publish a single blog post because I was forever being distracted by something online.

One day, I published a half-written blog post by mistake.

And, well, shit. Suddenly, my terrible first draft was out there in the world for public consumption and I was horrified. In a fit of terror, I edited the hell out of my post and got it into a readable state in under half an hour. It was the fastest I had ever produced something, and it gave me a fantastic idea.

Why not do that for all of my future posts? 

That way, I’d be able to easily slide into a state of panic-induced productivity and get my articles written and edited in a matter of hours rather than weeks.

So that’s exactly what I did.

I would publish an entirely blank blog post, then I would write one sentence and update the post. Edit that sentence, then update the post. Write another sentence, update the post. Screw my subscribers, right? At the time, I had no idea that anyone who was subscribed by email or RSS was being sent completely blank blog posts or — even worse — ones containing two badly-written sentences.

It’s worth mentioning I probably received less than five visitors a day at this point, but still.

I can’t believe I used to do this.

Working by the pool

I Thought Affiliate Marketing Was Only for Enormous Sites

One of my biggest mistakes as a travel blogger was holding the belief that affiliate marketing was only for the successful.

Ugh, this was so dumb.

Affiliate sales comprise three-quarters of my income these days, and I’ve been breaking income records every couple of months since transitioning to a more passive income.

Not a blogger and have no idea what an affiliate sale is? Basically, if I link to a product on, for example, Amazon and you decide to click the link and buy the item, I make a commission on the sale at no extra cost to you.

I don’t think I placed a single one of these affiliate links on my site during the first four years of its life. I’d write packing list posts, link to Amazon, and not bother finding an affiliate link because I didn’t think I’d make any money from it. I’d recommend insurance companies and hostels, and not include any affiliate links.

I was both horrified and delighted, then, when I decided to throw four or five accommodation affiliate links into my most popular posts one day and began making $500 a month from them. WHY HAD I NEVER TRIED THIS BEFORE?

It was a game-changer.

If I could change just one thing in my blogging career, it would have been focusing on affiliate income from the beginning.

lauren-hammock-belize

I Would Pride Myself On Working Too Much

If you compare my first year of travel blogging to the most recent one, they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum.

When I first started running Never Ending Footsteps, 90-hour weeks were the norm. I would take pride in the fact that I was forever working and rarely seeing the places I visited. I think it stemmed from knowing that some readers might make the assumption that bloggers are always on vacation and lazy, are mega rich, or being funded by their parents. I resented their beliefs, so decided to spent all day every day proving them wrong.

I was the definition of working hard, not smart.

Because back in those early days, I was working 90 hours a week and making around $1,000 a month. That’s an hourly rate of $2.70!

At the time, it was fine for me. I was bumming around inexpensive Southeast Asia, where the cost of living was low and I was making more than I was spending.

Once I started heading further afield to Western Europe, North America, Oceania? I was dip-dip-dipping into my savings.

That was my life for several years before I decided to get smart and research passive income.

As I said above, it was a game changer. I should have started earlier.

So these days? These days, I could take a year offline and most likely continue to make the same amount as I do now. These days, I average 20 hours of work a week, and don’t work at all whenever I’m travelling.

And yes, it does sound good to be true, and I am constantly terrified it’s all going to disappear without warning.

Oh my god. I thought I was a badass with my media pass for Singapore Zoo.

I Was a Massive Dork During My First Comped Activity

I’d been travelling for four months when I decided to start asking companies for free hostel stays and activities.

One of the first companies I worked with was Singapore Zoo, and I was so excited about it. I would get to visit a place I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing, but it would be free!!!!!!!

I had no idea what I was doing, though, or how these travel blogging comps worked. Oh god, I was unprofessional and awkward.

After half an hour of wandering around the entrance in terror, I shuffled up to the information desk.

Me: Hi! I think you might have a ticket here for me.
Her:
Me: Uh, I’m a travel blogger. Lauren Juliff? I emailed someone about a free pass?
Her: Let me check…
Her: Okay, perfect. That’s great. Can you fill in your details here? *hands me a book filled with business cards*
Her: Do you have a card as well?
Me:
Her:
Me:
Her: A business card?
Me: Oh no, I don’t. Will my passport work? *hands it to her*
Her: No… We need a business card so that we can find your coverage at a later date.
Me: Oh. Um, no. I don’t have any of those.
Her:
Me: I… forgot to bring them with me?

Oh god, oh god, oh god. 

So profesh.

Is it any wonder I decided to just start paying for everything myself a few months later?

Working from anywhere

I Wasn’t Comfortable Charging for My Work

For an embarrassingly long period time, every time someone emailed to ask for my advertising or freelance rates, I deleted the email.

I found it stressful to ask people for money — even if they wanted me to! — and panicked over whether I was overcharging or undercharging. I found it easier to not deal with it at all.

Someone wanted me write a guest post for free? I’d do it! Someone wanted to pay me for my time? Delete! 

It took a lot of hard work to start valuing my time and writing, and it was helped by landing a book deal.

Knowing that something I had written was in bookstores, and that it had only been touched lightly by an editor’s red pen, changed everything. Especially when so many of my reviews mentioned how well it was written.

Damn straight I’m a good writer. Damn straight I should be paid for my work.

Lauren Juliff with big hair
I used to upload my images at a larger size than my hair in this photo. Ah, humidity.

I Believed the Bigger Your Images the Better

Oh, man.

For someone who’s knowledgeable when it comes to technology, I made some shocking mistakes in the early days.

I used to believe the bigger your images the better when it came to blogging. I would upload photos to my site that were 5000 pixels in width, display them at 500 pixels in the post, and think they’d look so much prettier that way.

That’s already a horrible way to run a blog, but don’t worry: it gets worse.

At one point, I had read somewhere that images in a blog should be no bigger than 1 MB in size.

Rather than shrinking the width of my images down to the correct size, I instead started saving them at the lowest quality possible.

For years, I was editing 5000 px images in Photoshop, saving them at an image quality of 3, then uploading the enormous, blurry result to my site.

Let’s just say it took a long time to re-upload all of my photos once I realised this was not, in fact, how to convince your readers that you’re a talented photographer.

churches of kiev
I tried to fit in by HDRing all of my photos until they looked silly

I Tried to Fit In and It Made Me Boring

I started a travel blog with lofty dreams of becoming The Biggest and Best Blogger in the World. I was going to crush it. I was going to post every single day, have a site packed with helpful resources and advice, and be known worldwide as a travel expert. I wanted to write travel guides and author guidebooks and build my audience to five hundred million loyal readers.

Yeah.

Let’s face it: one look at my incidents page tells you I’m not the type of person you should be taking travel advice from. I’ve been scammed half a dozen times over the past six years. I’ve been robbed multiple times, too. I’ve fallen into rice paddies and been attacked by monkeys and been abandoned at borders and thrown up over market stalls and been caught up in tsunamis and sat next to a dead woman and eaten a cockroach and shown a tour group my vagina and…

I’ve been incident-ridden from the day I was born, so I don’t know why I thought travel would be any different.

The best decision I ever made was to stop pretending to be something I wasn’t.

Every time I dished out travel advice on Never Ending Footsteps, I’d feel like a fraud. I’d offer tips on how to make friends while travelling when in reality, I’d struggled to connect with anyone on the road.

I decided to stop faking it and I started writing from the heart.

I wrote honestly and authentically about the ups and downs of life on the road. I rebranded myself as a walking disaster rather than a solo female long-term budget traveller on a round-the-world trip. And you guys responded so much more after I made the change — I started receiving emails daily rather than monthly; you asked me for tips on dealing with anxiety; you told me you could relate to my stories; and you told me you thought my honesty was refreshing. I was finally standing out in the increasingly-crowded world of travel blogging.

But for a very long time, I was just another travel blogger writing about how nice it is in Chiang Mai, and does the world really need another blog about that?

Mozambican metacais currency

I Sold So Many Text Links

Here’s a confession: for the first three years of my travels, the vast majority of my income came from selling text links, which is a shady way to run a site.

It was easy money.

Companies would email me with a badly-written article, I’d publish it on my site while using a plugin to hide it from my homepage, and make $250 for two minutes work. It felt like the best way ever to make money — I barely had to do anything, and because the posts were hidden, none of you guys would ever even know they existed.

It was easy money but it’s a risky game to play.

It’s all about deceiving the almighty Google. You’re essentially being paid to boost companies’ search engine rankings, and if the people at Google discovered you’re doing so, they would penalise your site and take away all of your traffic.

So as easy as the money was, it was a nerve-wracking game to play, and I hated every shady second of it.

In 2014, I deleted every single sponsored post from my site, stopped selling links, and vowed to never, ever place another one on my site again.

My site has been going from strength to strength ever since I got out of this terrible, unethical game, and I’m now making six figures a year from entirely passive income. I just wish I’d made that a priority sooner, rather than coasting on the text link money for years. Seriously — if you’re a blogger, don’t sell text links on your site. There are so much better, more ethical ways to make money.

Want to change your life with travel blogging but don’t know where to start? Check out my detailed guide to starting a travel blog. It covers everything you need to know about building a site, attracting an audience, and starting to make money without selling out or resorting to lame tactics. 

Indonesian rupiah

I Hated Spending Money on My Site

When I first started blogging, I was all about saving money. I didn’t spend a cent on my site.

I used a free theme, I got a graphic designer friend to create me a header, I had a friend host my site for free. It was great to save money, but I had no idea how much it was holding me back.

I switched hosts to WP Engine and my search traffic tripled. I spent money on a beautiful theme and my overall traffic doubled. I started paying for social media scheduling tools and gained so much time back.

I shouldn’t have been so afraid to invest in my site. I’ve found that in doing so, I’ve always made far more money than I spent.

Solo woman traveler on sand dune

I Was a Douche on Instagram

Confession: I’ve never liked Instagram.

In fact, I hated it from the moment it launched.

I thought it was boring and narcissistic, I despised the ugly filters everyone used to put on their photos, and I had no desire to even install it let alone use it.

So I ignored it.

But suddenly, everyone was all about it. Everyone was telling me about the amazing opportunities they were gaining from it and how much money they were making. I reluctantly jumped on board, but I still didn’t like it.

I knew the only way I’d find success through Instagram was if I announced here I was going to work on my account, because public accountability is my jam.

So that’s what I did.

Except, I still hated spending time on Instagram. I was trying to focus on it while having a mental health breakdown, and the last thing I wanted to do was dance around in floaty dresses, pretending I was living a dream life of travel.

Follow. Unfollow. Follow. Unfollow.

Yeah, I jumped all over that Instagram game. But me being me, I tried to find a more ethical way to do it. I followed people manually, then I’d scroll through my news feed for hours each day unfollowing any of those people who then put up a photo that wasn’t amazing. I’d reason with myself that it was okay because I was actually looking at the accounts rather than using bots. That I wasn’t unfollowing people who didn’t follow me back. It wasn’t okay, though.

It just made me feel like a tool.

And I still hated Instagram.

And you know what’s funniest about this? I was so desperate to catch up with travel blogging friends and gain tens of thousands of followers, but there would have been very little benefit to it. I don’t work with brands; I don’t even accept free products, let alone comped trips; I don’t publish sponsored posts on my social media accounts. Even if I had managed to grow a massive audience and become super successful, it wasn’t like it was going to translate into anything financial. I was just doing it because everyone was so far ahead of me and I didn’t want to be left behind.

These days, I still feel meh when it comes to Instagram, but I’m starting to like it more. I’m only following people who inspire me, and I’m no longer panicking about how many likes I get or whether a photo fits with my *theme*. Once I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to impress companies and that I was now sharing photos so my readers can follow along on my travels, something shifted, and I was no longer so stressed about it all.

What lessons did I learn here?

If something makes you feel gross, don’t do it.

Don’t jump on things just because everyone else is.

You’re not going to fail if you’re not everywhere.

Working in Ubud, Bali
A photo of me working and definitely not on the phone

I Let My Anxiety Hold Me Back

I once turned down an opportunity to be featured in The New York Times because they wanted to interview me by phone.

The Travel Channel wanted to have me on one of their shows as a travel expert, but my anxiety had me so nervous that when they tried to Skype with me to film an interview, I closed my laptop and pretended my internet had dropped out.

Bloomberg wanted to interview me and I deleted the email because, in case you hadn’t figured it out already, I hate phones.

The list goes on.

For a long time, I told myself that running my business like this was all cool. I thought that it was one of the huge advantages to being self-employed. That I didn’t have to do anything I wanted to; that I could down any opportunities that would make me nervous.

I was ignoring the biggest lesson I’d learned from all my years of travel: leaving your comfort zone is how you overcome your fears.

I’m better these days. I’ll still rarely agree to podcast interviews because I’ve found few benefits to doing them, but I’ll always jump on a call if I think it’ll benefit my business. It turns out it’s not that scary after all.

But man, all of that avoidance undoubtedly held me back and slowed my success.

I Didn’t Treat My Travel Blog Like a Business

It was tough for me to start thinking of my travel blog as a business.

For many, many years, I ran this site by essentially working for free to entertain my readers. Everything I posted was a dramatic incident post. Nothing was particularly useful for if you were visiting the place I was writing about. Every destination post had a focus, and that was me screwing up somehow.

I was pulling those 90-hour weeks I mentioned above, writing many thousands of words, and not making any money from it. I was working the equivalent of two full-time jobs for free.

I wrote only about what my regular readers wanted to read, which I thought were incidents.

The problem was 80% of my traffic was coming from Google, so most of my audience weren’t even regular readers. They were people who were coming to a post about Phayao and finding an overly-dramatic story of how I struggled to walk down some steps at a temple.

I think I have a good mix of posts now. I share an incident once a month. I still write about my travels in narrative form, but make sure to include advice on where to stay, where to eat, what to expect, and how to get around.

I don’t regret being so incident-focused because it landed me a book deal, but I should have found more of a balance. I likely would have still caught the attention of a publisher if I’d had a 70-30 balance rather than 100% incidents all the time.

Over the past year, I’ve taken even more steps to get this site feeling like a business. After years of being self-employed, Never Ending Footsteps is now a limited company. I have an accountant and a lawyer. A business plan. Accounting software to track my profits, rather than an excel spreadsheet that I’d only fill in whenever I had to file a tax return.

It feels good to be taking things seriously now.

lauren in roswell

I Worried Far Too Much About My Haters

I can’t believe I used to let them affect me.

When someone managed to hack into my site and changed all of the photos of me into photos of piles of shit, I literally almost stopped travelling and booked a flight home.

When somebody on Reddit called me a terrorist, I sobbed for days on end.

I could sit here and recite every single negative comment I’ve received during those first few years of running my site.

Not only did I let the haters hurt me, but I let them play with my mind, too.

I’d believe them.

I’d sit for days and wonder to myself, what if they’re right? I’d think about breaking up with Dave when someone told me he must have the patience of a saint to be able to put up with someone as awful as me. I’d research nearby therapists when someone told me I was seriously psychotic and belonged in an asylum.

This year, though? I can’t think of a single negative thing that’s been said about me.

I guess once you’ve had several years of negative comments, you just stop caring about them. Maybe it’s something that’s come with age, too. Either way, I stopped reading the comments on any articles or forum threads about me. I delete any awful emails or comments on here without even properly digesting them. I don’t let it bother me anymore.

I regret letting it affect me for so long. Especially because it meant that I was often ignoring the people who have positive things to say about me to obsess over the negatives.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made as a blogger? And if you’re not a blogger, are you really that shocked to see I’m often as disastrous in business as I am in travel?

My 13 biggest travel blogging mistakes
My 13 biggest travel blogging mistakes
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129 Comments

  1. Melanie
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    As ever, a wonderful refreshing account of the life of travel and travel blogging. It’s good to lift the veil and great to hear someone talk honestly about their mistakes. Good on you!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you!

  2. Craig Cranenburgh
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    I too dream and just documenting the way you do. You somehow make it seem so honest and so scarred and yet just perfect. It’s almost like it’s part of Iskra Lawrence’s Arie campaign.

    Please keep up the honesty. Keep up the inspiration. I feel a ball in my chest when I read your blog. A ball of desire, regret, fear, desperation, patience, control and sadness. I wish to do this (travel the world and tell honest, real stories) but I feel so unable. Thank u for the hope you give. Stay blessed.

    • Natalie
      June 5, 2017
      Reply

      This! So much this.

      • Lauren
        June 9, 2017
        Reply

        :-)

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Wow! Thank you so much for that lovely comment, Craig! You’ve made my day :-) And I highly recommend giving it a shot if that’s what you dream of doing — you only need to take a look at some of my early posts to see that my writing was atrocious when I first started out!

  3. Natalie
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    I really love this post. I think I suffer from many of the same things as you – some anxiety, imposter syndrome, and so forth. It’s also really nice to know that you made a lot of mistakes and still went on to publish a book and run a very successful site. Kudos!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yep! I think everyone has a trail of mistakes behind them, no matter how quickly they’ve found success. You’ve just got to keep pushing through in order to overcome them.

  4. Kaya
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    I’m fairly new to travel blogging, and I’ve only got a handful of posts at present. I’m not sure I have the confidence to try and expand it but your honesty about your ups and downs in all of your posts – especially this one – really inspires me to try and put more time into my blog. I always love reading about your experiences and there is some awesome advice in here. Keep up the great work! :-)

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      I’m so happy to hear that, Kaya! Best of luck with it :-)

  5. stephanie
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    Sorry my comment got mixed up!
    I meant: Great article! It was very helpful for me as a new travelblogger :)

    • Lauren
      June 6, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! No worries :-) Glad to hear it was helpful!

  6. Katie
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing Lauren, I have definitely made some of the same mistakes – and in fact I still haven’t set up affiliate marketing on my site and I know I should, even though I don’t get a huge amount of traffic. I also had a free theme and a terrible self designed logo to start with and am so much happier with the look of my site now.

    • Lauren
      June 8, 2017
      Reply

      Start with your most popular posts and see how it goes! It doesn’t take long to set up and will be worth it in the long-run :-)

  7. Kevin
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    This had me cracking up and taking notes at the same time. Such an honest look at some of the things that easily plague so many bloggers, especially the one about not treating it as a business. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Lauren
      June 8, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Kevin!

  8. Jenn
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    I am so glad we have similar feelings on instagram! While I love it for personal use, keeping up with it for business purposes does seem self-serving and gloaty. I went back and forth with myself about creating one for my own blog, and decided against it. Glad to hear it’s possible to still be successful! I am still in my youth stages of building an audience and this post was so helpful. Thanks!
    Jenn

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      So glad you found it helpful, Jenn! It was a valuable lesson for me when I realised I didn’t have to be trying to rock every single platform that exists.

  9. Melanie
    June 5, 2017
    Reply

    Your raw honesty is refreshing and it’s great to see how far you have come. Also lots of helpful tips for a new blogger like myself. Thanks!

    • Lauren
      June 6, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Melanie! I’m so glad to hear you found it helpful :-)

  10. Britt
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I’m definitely still making some of these mistakes. Deleting emails from people asking for advertising rates is one of them- although that’s mostly because I presume all of them are scams.

    Writing about six months behind (I’m currently writing about Mexico when I was there late October) is a huge one that I’m still trying to fix. I hit a huge patch of writers block and it killed my flow and now I don’t think I’ll ever catch up. But I’m trying- at least for now.

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah, to be honest, 99% of those emails probably are scams.

      And don’t talk to me about being behind! I have a full two years of travel I’ve never written about on my site and desperately need to catch up on. What helped me was drawing a line under my past travels and writing about what I’m up to now. For me, I’m much more inspired and motivated when I’m writing about where I currently am, and then I can publish flashback posts whenever I catch up.

  11. Ben Farrell
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    This was such a good read! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who dodges phone conversations and Skype interviews like the plague! I’ve always got an excuse as to why I can’t take a phone call or do a Skype interview and I always push people to email instead. I’m still overcoming this but it’s so refreshing to know it’s not just me! :)

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      You’re definitely not alone! I’m much better now, but if I can avoid a call, I’ll always opt to do so.

  12. Leah McQuade
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Lauren! Thanks for the advice! My husband and I are getting ready to take off on our big trip and I have used lots of your blogs as inspiration! I do appreciate you and your work. Hope to maybe see you on the road sometime. Would love to meet you in person and if you have time I would love some advice about our blog. Audaciousduo.com

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Leah! Thank you so much for your kind words! Most of my comments are design/formatting tips.

      I’d get rid of the slider on your homepage, as visitors to a new site rarely just sit and watch a slideshow of posts, so these tend to just take up space with few benefits. I’d maybe change it to just an image of you guys for branding. I’d also move the sidebar to the right-hand side on the homepage. Fix the font colour in your footer as it isn’t really readable. Have a widget at the top of your sidebar on your posts, talking about who you guys are and what you’re doing — most people will get to your site from Google and land on a blog post, so it’s important to tell them why they should care about you, and that’s the easiest way to do so. I’d consider a new logo, as I find the white background jarring to look at, and it makes it look cheap. I’d also change the font in your navigation bar, as it looks generic right now. Get rid of the page for travel guides — you’ll just annoy people who will click on it and find nothing.

      In the posts themselves, bigger images! Much bigger. Make your images the width of the post area, and they’ll look much better. This is so, so important, and the number one thing I’d recommend changing. Small thumbnails that are left- and right-aligned make a site look unprofessional, and will turn a lot of readers off. And go for smaller paragraphs, too, to make your posts easier to read for people with short attention spans.

      Hope that helps! :-)

      • Donné
        June 13, 2017
        Reply

        Hi Lauren,
        Sorry about all the comments… this is my last one, promise. On the topic of advice, I am trying to figure out what is the best post length. Is it better to have very long posts with tons of info, or break it up over several smaller posts to help readers “digest” the material? I’ve noticed that you often opt for long, detailed articles. You think that is better, or does it really depend on the topic?

        Many thanks
        Donné

        • Lauren
          June 14, 2017
          Reply

          Long posts, always, as you’re going to rank better in Google with detailed resources. I used to write 500 word posts for the first few years of running my site, and close to none of them get any traffic now. 2000+ word posts do so well in Google!

          • Donné
            June 21, 2017
            Reply

            Thanks so much! That’s very interesting.
            All the best,
            Donné

            • Lauren
              July 18, 2017

              :-)

  13. Gary
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks Lauren. I am a new blogger and will learn from your mistakes, but will probably still make some as part of the learning process. Have you ever found a way of speeding up your posts? It does take me a week to write, edit, lay it all out, edit pictures, etc. I have not found a way to get a post done quickly. But, maybe that comes with experience.

    • Lauren
      June 8, 2017
      Reply

      Try using the Self Control app to take yourself offline for a set amount of time. I always find that whenever I don’t have access to the internet, I manage to write my blog posts in about a tenth of the time!

  14. Anuradha Goyal
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I can so relate to almost everything you say. Most of us have made those mistakes.

    I still have not explored the affiliate links on my blog, I think now I am going to take it seriously.

    You do have a lovely style of storytelling that keeps the reader hooked to you.

    • Lauren
      June 8, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you so much! :-) And definitely look into affiliate stuff, especially if you already have some well-ranking posts on your site.

  15. Simon
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks for this post Lauren; entertaining and useful, and also reassuring.

    I say reassuring because my blog’s been online for 6 months now and I feel like I’m getting exactly nowhere. The 90 hour weeks sound familiar, and I stress that I’m pissing all that time away on something which isn’t going to work out. So, knowing where you are now, it’s good to read about your early days, and I’m reassured to see I’m already doing two things that you took years to start doing – treating it as a business, and affiliate marketing. I’ve spent the last month setting up a bunch of affiliate links on my site, wondering if there’s even any point when I have such little traffic… so it’s good to read your thoughts on that. No much money rolling in from those links yet though!

    I also know my site needs a better theme, a proper logo, better hosting, etc… hard with no budget though! So that struck a chord too.

    As for Instagram… ugh. So far anyway!

    Cheers

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Speak to any successful travel blogger and they’ll most likely tell you that they were in the exact same situation when they were six months in. In fact, I just looked at my Analytics and in June 2011, when I had been running my site for six months, I received 1500 page views for the entire month. So I’ve definitely been there, and it does get better — it just requires a fairly substantial investment before you start seeing success.

      • Natalie
        June 9, 2017
        Reply

        Wow, 1500 page views?? I’m over a year in and I haven’t had that many in any month. ? It’s a good thing I enjoy what I do, huh?

        • Lauren
          June 9, 2017
          Reply

          You’ll get there eventually! :-) And jump on Pinterest if you haven’t already, as it’s great for generating traffic.

      • Simon
        June 15, 2017
        Reply

        Hey, thanks for responding with some stats! It’s heartening to know I’m in roughly the same ball park as you were at the same stage… although I also really hope it doesn’t mean I have to keep going like this for 4 more years to make it work!

        • Lauren
          June 15, 2017
          Reply

          No problem! :-)

  16. Claudia
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    This is a great post, thank you! Great tips for some people like us who are trying to start a blog. Do you ever feel like writing about something other thant travel, i.e. politics, books, random thoughts? Just wondering how one would include these kind of posts into a travel blog.

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      I personally don’t, because I like to keep things consistent, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t. Just publish them on your site and see how they’re received by your readers!

  17. Jayne
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I have made so many of these mistakes Lauren – the image thing especially, in fact it was only last year I learnt you can resize them on Mac in 2 clicks! Cannot believe someone hacked your site and changed the photos though, people on the internet be mean. But many are lovely too, let’s focus on them. ?

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yes! I gave all of my energy to the criticisms for so long, and it meant that I neglected all of my lovely readers who had so many nice things to say!

  18. Anne Betts
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you for such a detailed and entertaining read. It’s a refreshing contrast to the “things you should do” posts, and so relatable. This has been very useful.

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Anne!

  19. Mat
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I think I did all of these things myself at the beginning of my blog, except for the pictures size (smaller is always better).

    Anyway f..k Instagram unless you want to spend all of your time on social media, just post your favorite pictures and dont chase the followers like your life depends on it.

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yep. I’ve been much happier since I stopped even monitoring how well my photos do on Instagram.

  20. kindoflost
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I am just starting and I already committed 5 of these. Including posting unfinished blog posts. I always think the post can be improved and want to do an extra tweak and so I improve it forever. I want to at least put out a post a month so at the end of the month I publish it. But then I keep on tweaking… I know my subscribers receive multiple messages but by the look at their email addresses it looks like they are trolls. Maybe not. Very fun post to read! Thanks

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Your subscribers shouldn’t receive another email if you’re just editing the post. I edit mine all the time — no matter how perfect I think a blog post is, I’m guaranteed to want to make some edits when I re-read it a month later.

  21. April Carlson
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    This was a fun and helpful read. I have had my blog for 5 months now – time flys- and I have only focused on getting it up and running and getting some posts out there. I was looking today and I can’t believe Hal’s many posts I have- time to start trying to make a real go of it and get some followers- thanks for the tip on affiliate links. I need to read the next sections in Superstar Blogging to try to make a go of this.

    What’s up with haters?? I don’t get mean people. Good advise about ignoring them!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      I’m a big fan of Superstar Blogging. It’ll help you a lot with setting up affiliate links and doing well from them.

  22. Mao
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,

    I appreciate your honesty and open to share your experience. You are definitely an inspiration and make me want to work even harder.

    As for haters, you know you’ve made it if you have haters haha.

    • Lauren
      June 8, 2017
      Reply

      That’s true! Thanks so much for the kind words :-)

  23. Albert
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    It’s refreshing to see the same concerns and issues I have you also encountered at some point! The whole approaching how to start charging for my work is the greatest obstacle. At point do I start this? How many followers are enough to even be considered. Thanks for the motivation!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Start from the beginning! Your time and work is always worth being compensated for, and it doesn’t matter how many followers you do or don’t have.

  24. Kerry
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    How refreshing! Thank you :-) I started my blog a few months ago and I’ve not dedicated as much time to it as I should (or investment) This article has come at the right time for me though since this very week, I have reduced my employed hours to free up more time to work on the blog and travel. I will immediately be implementing some strategies to avoid falling into the traps that you did or missing opportunities. By far and away my biggest issue is imposter syndrome. I must get over this and thanks to your article, I’m on my way. PS, I’ve not read your blog before ( I came across this in my feed on Bloglovin) but it’s my next stop after here. I’m particularly looking forward to reading about several of those incidents!!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Imposter syndrome is the worst, and it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. Something that sometimes keeps me going is reading criticisms of Dan Brown’s books, ha, and reminding myself that if such a poor writer could be so successful, there’s no reason why I can’t, too.

  25. Leah
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    I laughed with you– and nodded my head. Thanks for being “real” with your readers. And I’m glad you explained the text links..I’ve started getting so many requests for those and it gives me anxiety, too!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah. It was a good way to make money, but ultimately made me feel dirty, uncomfortable, and worried. I don’t think it’s worth pursuing as an income source unless you need the money.

  26. Michelle
    June 6, 2017
    Reply

    Loved this post!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      :-)

  27. Katelyn
    June 7, 2017
    Reply

    I love this! I’ve recently just started a blog to document my 2 years in the UK and these tips really helped! Love reading your blog :)

    • Lauren
      June 7, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! Glad to hear it helped :-)

  28. Jessica
    June 7, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, I can relate to so much of this! It’s so refreshing that you write from a real perspective and not what you think you need to personify. I just launched my blog a couple of weeks ago, and found this article super insightful. I’ve been finding Instagram so exhausting lately, so I’m glad I’m not the only one that is feeling that way. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Jessica! Happy the article resonated :-)

  29. Antonio
    June 8, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren.
    I dig this post, just like the travelin’ones. That’s great learning along the way how to manage “your job” the best way.
    I really like the Instagram these days. For you, it can be kind of a complement to FB and your site, for more informal pics, for example. I guess younger generations are adopting more Instagram instead of FB.
    You never thought of doing a youtube channel? (A while ago I watched an YT channel from a Brazilian flight attendant on Emirates – she does videos about her destinations, experiences and even tips to other girls who want to be attendants too.)
    About rising visitors: Funny reading you story about travel channel, etc. I work on a “study abroad” agency, and some time ago our director was invited to a live tv show about education /careers,etc to talk about people getting out to study, grown up, learn, gap year, etc. Well, the days after that tv show our site page views and information requests raised A LOT! I couldn´t believe. A bit of exposure couldn´t hurt I guess 
    Don´t give much attention to haters. It’s bad to your health ahah. But it’s cool to listen to constructive opinions, even the negative ones, of course. You don’t need to please everybody.
    Cheers, and can´t wait to read more about your next adventures! Antonio

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Antonio! Videos aren’t really my thing, so I don’t do much with Youtube. I don’t think my life is interesting enough to appeal to people, ha!

  30. Rachael
    June 9, 2017
    Reply

    I started my blog back in September last year, it’s really bad and I need to invest both time and money into it. I wanted to have some content on there before really putting it out there and attempting to make my own theme. I’m a workaholic and therefore on my days off I rarely get time to sit down and write. I have lots of half written blog posts and lately I’ve lost enthusiasm. One of the reasons I always come back to your site regularly is because it inspires me. It excites me, and therefore I start writing again. Thanks Lauren!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      That’s amazing! I’m so happy to hear that, Rachael :-) And yeah, a blog can be a tremendous timesuck, and it’s especially tough to keep motivation levels high, but I do believe it’s worth it. And I always try to remind myself that done is better than perfect.

  31. Ivan
    June 9, 2017
    Reply

    Lauren, great stuff I found here!
    I love your honesty and desire to share these useful tips with fellow travel bloggers!
    I have two more questions though – was traffic improvement more rapid when you worked 90-hour week? Do you feel you should put more efforts when working 20-hour week in order not to lose traffic?
    Thanks!

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      Surprisingly, growth was much slower when I was working the 90 hour weeks. In fact, I took a year off from writing here a couple of years ago to work on my book and my traffic increased over that time! So I personally haven’t seen a correlation between traffic/income and hours worked.

      My traffic grew the most when I switched to an expensive host, when I invested in a premium theme, and when I stopped selling text links.

  32. Atanas
    June 11, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren.
    I think you might actually underrestimate these 90-hour work weeks at the beginning. Cause, I’m sure they’ve been well paid in raise in traffic on a later stage. What I mean, you’ve put a lot of effort at the start, so the blog can turn into a snowball. With this, it is understandable you decreased the hours per week. But I believe bigger dedication in the beginning is essential for having success later.
    Don’t you think so?

    • Lauren
      June 11, 2017
      Reply

      Honestly, not really. The 90-hour weeks were spent writing blog posts that never received any traffic (and still don’t) or made me any money. It was basically an enormous waste of time to spend all of my time working on these! It wasn’t like I was building a foundation for working less in the future back then — I only really started that when I’d been blogging for around four years. So yeah, definitely wasn’t working smart or particularly well.

  33. Stephanie Craig
    June 11, 2017
    Reply

    I literally started reading your blog because the first post I read was the one where you accidentally showed your vagina on the boat tour. I think I busted out laughing in my apartment to myself.

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! Amazing :-D

  34. Courtney Blacher
    June 11, 2017
    Reply

    I find this article very useful, so much to learn here! And I LOVE your sentence “I Tried to Fit In and It Made Me Boring”.

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Ha, thanks so much! :-)

  35. Katie
    June 11, 2017
    Reply

    This is such a honest post! I have personally followed you since your book release and always loved the mixture of blogs you post! In fact, your blog was one of the blogs that inspired my partner and I to start our own little travel blog. Whenever I feel like it isn’t going anywhere or read rude comments, I read your latest blog post and it inspires me to keep on going! i am sure this post will help other newbie bloggers too so thank you so much for sharing!

    P.S. I hate instagram too! Our numbers can change so dramatically over night! :(

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, wow! That means the world to me, Katie! :-)

  36. Natalie
    June 12, 2017
    Reply

    Excellent post! From the outside it can seem like people have got all of their stuff together so it’s helpful to know things aren’t always as they seem!

    • Lauren
      June 13, 2017
      Reply

      I agree! Sometimes I feel as though I’m the only person making all of these mistakes, but let’s face it: everyone probably has a list just as long as this one!

  37. William
    June 13, 2017
    Reply

    This post. Good.

    • Lauren
      June 14, 2017
      Reply

      Your comment. Also good.

  38. Gina and Zeke
    June 14, 2017
    Reply

    Love love LOVE this post. It’s so true, we all make mistakes but not everyone can admit them and you just put it right out there! Now we have a list of things to NOT do ourselves, so thanks so much.

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      I love putting my mistakes out into the world, for some reason! :-)

  39. William
    June 14, 2017
    Reply

    Oh right, Happy birthday! Not sure if I am early or late, read somewhere that it was in June.

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      The 7th! Thank you :-)

  40. Ganesh
    June 14, 2017
    Reply

    Are you for real:?You reply for each and every comnent in detail.Just awesome thats the word for you and the way you write blogs i mean the way u express your honest experience.

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Ha, thank you! I do my best, although sometimes it takes me several weeks to get around to replying to all of them :-) I figure that if someone can take the time out of their day to leave a comment on my site, I can do the same for them :-)

  41. Courtney Blacher
    June 14, 2017
    Reply

    We learn on our mistakes and we all make them. I LOVE your honesty.

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! :-)

  42. Rosamund
    June 18, 2017
    Reply

    I have always loved your honesty and openness about traveling. To be honest I came across your blog when I lived in China and was having an awful time. I has anxiety problems and a couple of instances (taxi drivers ripped me off, one got a bit creepy) had me in a very negative place. I came home one day feeling so sad and angry about the country, googled ‘I don’t like China’ and your blog came up. It was a post about being taken advantage of with the tea scam and I just appreciated your honesty so much! So many travel blogs perpetuate this idea of traveling being full of amazing experiences where challenges are talked about as great stories that make you stronger. In reality challenged for me often spending the weekend crying in bed. I loved how you made it okay to admit that sometimes traveling was hard and have found it motivating to read about someone else who struggles with anxiety. It has also given me the motivation to try China again! Your blog definitely showed me that one bad experience shouldn’t hold you back forever.

  43. Stephanie
    June 19, 2017
    Reply

    I love your honest blog post about mistakes. I’ve certainly made some of these too.

    • Lauren
      November 17, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! I love talking about how I’ve messed up for some reason :-)

  44. Alex Steven
    June 19, 2017
    Reply

    Nice blog! Loved reading it throughout. The way you admitted your mistakes for the better is simply amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren
      June 21, 2017
      Reply

      Ha, thanks, Alex! I’m all about owning my mistakes :-)

  45. Ronnie Walter
    June 20, 2017
    Reply

    Hats off to you for your courage to accept all your blogging mistakes and also change them for your betterment. I loved it. Good Luck!

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Ronnie! I always enjoy talking about the various ways I’ve messed up! :-)

  46. Erin
    June 20, 2017
    Reply

    This is a wonderful post! I’m a total beginner, but this helps a lot. Also, your writing is honest and hilarious!

    • Lauren
      June 21, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you! :-)

  47. David
    July 3, 2017
    Reply

    Hahaha! You used to send blank posts…? Not charging for your work though, there you missed out

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Definitely. It took a long time for me to value my writing.

  48. Dee
    July 9, 2017
    Reply

    This is so hilarious, and so refreshingly honest. Especially the blank blog posts… he hee. Love it :)

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      I still can’t believe I used to do that… but it really did help with my productivity!

  49. Izy Berry
    August 6, 2017
    Reply

    Yes, I am extremely shocked about all of this -> I’ve fallen into rice paddies and been attacked by monkeys and been abandoned at borders and thrown up over market stalls and been caught up in tsunamis and sat next to a dead woman and eaten a cockroach and shown a tour group my…” How??
    Is it bad that I’m laughing?? Hahaha
    Regardless, I’m genuinely happy with your content and I THANK YOU for sharing your talent and experiences to the world! You’re a really great blogger :)

    • Lauren
      August 7, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! Time for you to dig through my archives to see just how disastrous I am as a traveler :-)

  50. Rajat
    August 12, 2017
    Reply

    Well, these are some of the common mistakes which everybody must have done once. But it’s good that you made a list and let everyone know about them.

    • Lauren
      August 12, 2017
      Reply

      Really? You think every single travel blogger has published completely blank blog posts?

  51. Renee
    September 4, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this post, I too suffer from anxiety and I am just starting out as a travel blogger. It’s a relief to read that I’m not the only one that procrastinates to write a blog post. I can relate to so many of your struggles, thank you for sharing.

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      No problem! It’s tough to find success as a travel blogger, so I’m always keen to help others in any way that I can.

  52. Mary
    November 22, 2017
    Reply

    Been there, done that – I think we’ve all experienced some of this when we first started in the world of travel blogging. At least now we’ve realized the error of our ways. The worst I think is follow/unfollow!

    • Lauren
      November 23, 2017
      Reply

      Yep! Especially when I had basically nothing to gain from it. In fact, since writing this post I’ve stopped using Instagram entirely and feel so much happier since doing so.

  53. Marian
    December 2, 2017
    Reply

    What an incredibly inspiring post. Seriously. It’s easy to get lost in your own bubble, which is how I feel and I echo your feelings on just about everything. You’ve inspired me to dig deep and make some changes, so thank you!

    • Lauren
      December 3, 2017
      Reply

      Happy to hear that, Marian! Good luck! :-)

  54. Shivam Sahu
    December 26, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Great list. I’d like to add one! ‘You write in block paragraphs and don’t reformat your post to emphasise certain messages’.

    It’s true that people reading a post/article will skip through to find key messages. Why not make their life easier (and allow them to read efficiently) by making words bold, italic, using bullet points, increasing text font, in order to allow key points to emerge.

    • Lauren
      December 29, 2017
      Reply

      What the fuck? Many of my paragraphs are one line and there are bold headlines all over the place. Can’t tell if this is a spam comment or not, because it really doesn’t make sense.

  55. Greg Seymour
    April 17, 2018
    Reply

    Wow – so many lessons here. It could be its own blogging course! I’m glad I found this. I have been blogging for awhile and still make some of these.

    • Lauren
      April 18, 2018
      Reply

      Ah, thank you! Maybe I should do a part two? :-)

  56. Sarah Walt Weaver
    June 20, 2018
    Reply

    Lauren,

    I’m compelled to write to tell you what an astounding post this is. So real and raw – I absolutely love it! Your posts always are.

    I relate to so many things that you said – particularly on the hatred of Instagram (but how you feel like you SHOULD play the game) and feeling downright terrified when confronted with big opportunities (delete!).

    I am currently traveling with my husband, and writing a comic along the way about what I call the 3 big D’s: Death, Depression, and Diarrhea. I have received tremendous feedback on the comics, and it is incredible/terrifies me. I want to turn the comics into a book, and I am am inspired by your story!

    Thanks for putting yourself out there. I’ve loved following you over the years.

    My best,

    Sarah

  57. Muhanji
    August 23, 2018
    Reply

    …Jeez. It’s been a long time I actually pulled out a piece of printer paper to take notes on a blog post lol. Thanks for this. You’ve earned yourself a new reader!

  58. Alicia
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    Hey Lauren! So glad I came across this post! I’m Alicia, a nurse and lover of travel showing people that it is possible to travel with a career! I started my travel blog aliciaoverseas.com last year and made a tonne of mistakes! In fact I’m still making them now, I’m slowly rectifying any mistakes I’ve made as I really want 2019 to be the year I turn my blog, into a business!

    Chat Soon, Alicia

  59. Mavis Poppe
    May 16, 2019
    Reply

    Hi, Lauren. I just want to say that you seem like a very genuine person and that I can relate to you so much. I turned down job offers before because of my anxiety. Like what you did, I went out of my comfort zone (which is also hard to do, by the way) and regretted the times that I let opportunity pass. But now, I’m striving to become better in whatever I do.

  60. Dean
    November 7, 2019
    Reply

    My Goodness! Such a good read! I owned 3 blogs before and got offers! Good pay but I went on hiatus because I couldn’t think of anything good to write anymore. Hope I could get back on my feet and write again :(

  61. bromotravelcenter
    January 15, 2020
    Reply

    This was such a good read! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who dodges phone conversations and Skype interviews like the plague! I’ve always got an excuse as to why I can’t take a phone call or do a Skype interview and I always push people to email instead. I’m still overcoming this

  62. Elly
    April 4, 2020
    Reply

    Great post-Lauren. The mistakes which you have mentioned in the blog are totally right. I agree with you that bloggers often belive that affiliated marketing is only for enormous sites. I think travel bloggers should start focusing on affiliate marketing from starting. Thanks for sharing such an informative post.

  63. Lois Summers
    April 20, 2020
    Reply

    Even after so many mistakes, your blog is still the best. I love reading it. Keep sharing amazing stuff.

    • Lauren
      April 20, 2020
      Reply

      Thank you so much!

  64. siddharth
    September 17, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this post!!! It helps a lot to new bloggers like me !!

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