I'll preface this by saying I am not yet an expert when it comes to monetizing travel writing. I began it as a hobby just in March of this year (now being the start of November) and have only started getting paid to write within the past month. That said, here is how I started blog and marketed it out for potential writing deals.
Creating the Blog
I had toyed around with the idea of starting a blog for nearly a year, waiting for ideas to hit me in order to get started. Finally, during the long, cold Russian winter, I decided to stop waiting for the perfect idea and created the initial site. I went on Square Space and purchased my site's domain (some people prefer WordPress, but Square Space was easier to use and I'm a bit technologically challenged). I realized It doesn't matter how creative you are or how talented you are at writing. If you never take that step and start something, all your ideas and abilities are wasted. If I didn't take the jump, nothing was going to happen.
I personally liked using Square Space because they walked me through everything and made it very easy (also I got a discount code from listening to Duncan Trussel's podcast). I would recommend at least taking a look at it, but if you find out you like WordPress or something else better, go for that instead. I wouldn't be offended.
Finding an Idea
Once I decided I was going to make a travel blog/website, I searched all over the internet and read through many well established, existing travel blogs. I wanted to see how other people were doing it and hopefully get a better understanding of how to actually get started. I found many that were very detailed and informational, often containing 'Top Ten' lists, and some that showcased amazing photography, but almost uniformly, there was no humor or unique creativity.
Sure, they were very good when it came to providing statistics and photographs of various locations, but the writing content seemed reminiscent of the cereal box ingredients I had read that morning (yes, this was one of the odd ways I tried to study Russian). Not to mention, so many of the blogs were flooded with terrible selfies taken at dreaded places like monuments and artisan western-style cafes. Shuttering in horror, I knew I could never live with myself if I stooped to such self-absorbed mediocrity. That's when the idea came to me: Stories!
I had found my focus, my subcategory to stand out from the thousands of others. My blog would be about bizarre happenings, hilarious misfortunes (usually at the expense of my own physical well-being), and the downright weird and awesome things most of these bloggers neglected. That's when I did the most important thing of all: I bought the domain and actually started the thing.
PREPARE TO ADAPT!
Once I had a few basic ideas of what I wanted to write about, I began creating pages and posts. Initially, I only had a couple stories and information pages about the countries I had been too. For each section, I challenged myself to think of either the fumiest or most creative way I could describe something, and at first I was rather happy with the result. However, it felt as if something was missing. I looked through old photo albums on my computer to see if I had anything to use as a visual aid, but in most circumstances I found nothing. That's when I came to a realization that would change the nature of the blog forever. I would make my own images! First I sketched out a cartoon with pencil and paper, then photographed each individual section which I then colored in using Microsoft Paint.
Not only did this make my blog more interesting and unique, but it also made it infinitely more fun for me. I could now add hyper exaggerated images that could convey a whole new message or bring out an extra laugh that would have been absent from written word. When I started, I had no intention of making cartoons. That idea just came to me in the process, and I couldn't be happier that it did.
And the point I'm trying to make here is this: you don't need to have everything perfect when you start. You will thing of new ideas as you get going that will alter and enhance your project. You will learn what works and what doesn't. The more you work on it (as is the case with me), the more your project will change and adapt in a good way. Be open to new concepts and thoughts. That's where your own ideas and creativity can flourish.
Two things are particularly important here. First, you need to write something that other people would want to read, and second, you have to write something that is enjoyable to you. I mean, if you're creating a blog or website that bores you to death and brings you no joy, then it is absolutely pointless. What I try to focus on is being entertaining. Whether it's a full story or just a sentence or two, I challenge myself to think of the funniest and most creative way I can present something. Therefore, I'll often use ridiculous metaphors, outrageous hyperbole, or cartoon imagery. For example, instead of saying, 'the car was moving slow,' I could say, 'if the car had been in a race with an opiate addicted sloth, it would have handily lost.' It is worth the extra time, both for yourself and the readers.
I am not yet an expert at this, but here is what I have done so far. Once I had a great deal of content, I began visiting ex-pat websites and Facebook groups for some of the countries of which I have written extensively about (like Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan). I posted some of (in my opinion) the better articles and stories and said something like "Hey, if you're bored and want to stare at something other than the neck hairs of the guy in the cubicle in front of you, check out this story I just wrote!" And surprisingly enough, people actually liked it. I began getting emails and messages from people who operated travel websites and newspapers asking to showcase some of my articles.
This is where I took more of an active role. Once I had the contact of writing outlets that were interested, I replied asking if I could get paid to write some articles for their publications, and in nearly every circumstance, they said yes (albeit the pay doesn't start off that high). This is even how I got the interview for the television program in Georgia. So, I guess I can sum it up by saying, just get your work out there. Send it to different sites and social media groups. Make yourself known and people will reach out to you. It takes time to build a name for yourself, so when you get a writing offer, absolutely take it.
Think of your own idea (one that can stand out)
Purchase the domain and start writing
Adapt as you think of new ideas
Put the work into it and write as much as you can
Make your content known
Post on social media and every outlet you can
Don't be modest, tell everyone about it
When people are interested, offer to write for them
Be persistent. This will take time to get up off the ground.