I’m a Travel Blogger. I also have a full-time job in marketing, as a project and event manager. I love what I do, I work hard at it and occasionally, it allows me to travel and attend some pretty cool festivals around the world – who said corporate life was dull?
I’ve become pretty good at maximizing my travel time, tagging holidays on to work trips and planning epic adventures into a few weeks of annual leave. A few years ago, I took a sabbatical to travel around the world and I also worked in Africa as a tour leader for a few months back in 2012. But all that was before I started my blog and right now, I am working 9 to 5.
I commute 3 hours each day. I work (at least) 8 hours at my day job, 5 days a week, and occasionally weekends, more when I have a number of big roadshows and events running. I try and sleep around 7 hours a night and probably spend an hour getting ready in the morning and evening combined. So that leaves me with 5 hours a day, plus weekends, for family, exercise, housework, cooking, eating, shopping, socialising or doing any other hobbies, of which there are many!
So basically what I am trying to say, is that doesn’t leave that much time for blogging (and everything that goes with it) or more importantly, for travel.
One of the keys to being a successful blogger is consistency. In quality and quantity. You’ll know yourself, that it is frustrating when you have all these ideas, dreams and (hopefully) the potential to take this blogging thing somewhere, but not the time to actually do it. Most travel bloggers will tell you that their blog really took off when they dedicated themselves to it full time.
But what if you’re not in a position to leave your job and do it full time? Or if you don’t want to? But you still want your blog to be a success? What then?
You know people always say “your blog is your baby” – well it’s kind of true. You can’t really leave it alone and expect it to survive by itself. A blog needs nurturing, feeding, protecting. You love it, but sometimes it drives you crazy.
I’m tired. You probably are too. You’re putting in all this work, but nothing much is happening fast. I know how disheartening and demotivating it can be.
So today I want to share with you some of my top tips on how to manage full time job and a full time blog. I’ve written this from a travel blog perspective, but the principles of the matter are universal. I hope it helps.
1. Use Your Commute
I’m guessing quite a few of you have a commute, it’s a pain in the ass, but let’s think about how it can work for you. If you’re travel by public transport, you could use that time to think or make notes, read books that will help you with your blog, do some of your blog tasks like social media or even write your posts.
This is a bit harder if you drive a car (like me) when you have no hands and have to concentrate. So if that’s the case, you can do like I do, use the voice memo app on your phone or get a dictaphone, set it to record before you set off in the morning, ramble away and get some ideas recorded and then listen back to it later. That’s how I wrote this post!
Or maybe mix it up and listen to some audiobooks or learn a language.
2. Divide & Conquer
“If only I had more time…”
That is what I find myself thinking on a daily basis. And unless I do something dramatic, I’m not magically going to get more time, so the best I can do is try to manage it effectively.
In my day job I multi-task all day long, it’s second nature to me, but I find it just doesn’t work for my blog. I’d used to get home from work and start working through through my never ending to do list, skipping between tasks, getting distracted because I was tired and end up feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed.
Now, I’ve found that the best way for me to cope with everything I need to get done is to separate it all out into smaller bite size pieces. This takes discipline, something I do not have in abundance, but I am working on it.
I try to concentrate on one thing at a time, try to keep off social media and try to get as much done in the time I have. If I find myself struggling, I take a break. Sometimes you can’t force it, and you can always go back to it later. Here’s a little insight into how I now split up my time and some handy hints on how you can do the same.
Ideation: Give yourself some creative thinking time away from technology, before you even start writing. Think about what posts you want to write and how you want to write them. But always keep a notebook handy, you never know when inspiration will strike.
Strategy: You also need some time to look at the bigger picture. Forget the details and think about what you want to do with your blog and your brand long term. Do you want to turn it into a sustainable business and how are you going to do it? What do you want to achieve? Once you know where you want to go, it will be easier to map out the route. Spend a day brainstorming what the future looks like using flip charts, Post-its and different coloured marker pens. Maybe sit down every few months and work out what you want to do next, where your brand needs to go to be the best it can be and then spend the next few months implementing all of those great ideas, bit by bit.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Reading: I spend time reading other blogs (and watching vlogs) to get inspiration, curate content to share on social media and also to comment on and become part of online conversations. I like to look at stuff in my own niche, but I also look to lots of other niches to see how they do what they do, what are they talking about, what are they doing and what’s working really well. Can you apply some of those things to your blog (without copying of course)? How can you innovate? And also don’t forget to read up on things that support your blog like photography, SEO, social media, time management – the list is endless.
Key Word Research: This isn’t something I do a lot of, but I do try to do a little bit of research using Google AdWords: Keyword Planner to try and find out the things that people might be searching for, to help my SEO and maximize the chances of me writing something that Google might actually pay attention to.
Analytics: This is something I am really bad at, but trying to improve. Use Google Analytics to understand who your audience are and how they are behaving. It’s not the most fun task for everyone, but it is essential to keep your blog growing.
Just don’t obsess over your numbers. A watched pot never boils and all that!
Writing: What you put out there on your blog (or your newsletter) should always be your priority. Saturday and Sunday mornings are my favourite times to write, when I can just sit quietly with a cup of tea. I switch off from social media and try to write a few posts at once.
I’m trying to set aside two or three days a month just for writing. Especially if you’re not travelling much or if you are a slow writer (like me). If I can get around 8 posts written over those few days, then that’s 2 a week which is quite respectable I think. Mix it up between long and short posts – it will make life a bit easier for you! If you can get a few weeks ahead of yourself then it’s happy days!
I like a bit of background noise as I write, so I usually use Noisili and my white noise of choice is ‘Forest’ – which does as it says and makes it sound like you’re writing from a forest. Kind of weird but nice.
Just remember that writing is like any other skill, it takes practice and time to find your voice. There is no substitute for good content. Be raw, be real, be vulnerable, be you.
Photo Editing: This is currently something I don’t really do. I know some bloggers will recoil in horror at this, and I do think it’s important, but I feel as though this is not 100% necessary for me right now. I just try to take the best possible original photos as I can and I think my Morocco photos look pretty good naturally, yeah they’d look better if I edited them, but I see that as a nice to have and not a necessity.
Perhaps one day I will go back and edit them with Lightroom or Photoshop, but until then, the only edited ones that you’ll usually see on my site are ones that I’ve done for Instagram.
Formatting Posts: Once I’ve written my post and picked out my photos, I add them into WordPress. To make the formatting easier, I’ve created my own Helen in Wonderlust style guide and it just makes it easy for me to follow.
Branding: I mean look at every successful brand in the world and what do they have in common – they are instantly recognizable. A strong brand will allow you to stand out from the crowd. Even if you are still new at this and you don’t have any strong branding yet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start thinking about your brand and how you want to present your blog to the outside world in the future. Every big brand in the world has brand guidelines. Believe me, I know, I work for one of them. So you need to think about what your brand represents. What defines your brand? What are your brand values? What is the look and feel? Always think to yourself – is this right for my brand?
Your brand is precious. For most blogs, your brand is you!
Blog Design: The look and feel of your site also ties into the branding. This is something I am working on as a long term project and thinking about for my re-brand in January! I probably spend a couple of hours a month working on this and thinking about what I want to do.
Social Media: Social media ties in to almost everything you do as a blogger – it’s content creation, networking, building your audience, brand building, community building – but mainly it’s also about getting your message across and promoting what you do to the right audience.
This is new for me, but what I am doing as of this week, is setting aside a couple of hours on a Sunday or Monday night to schedule in some stuff for the week ahead. I like to schedule Twitter through Buffer. Facebook, I also schedule, but in Facebook – as Facebook prefer it this way.
Then for everything else, I probably spend around half an hour each day for things I don’t schedule, like Instagram, Instagram sharing to Facebook to respond to comments and Tweets.
It’s good to have a social media calendar, so you can post at your optimal times and spread your posts out evenly.
I’m also trying to get into the habit of setting up my social media for my blog posts, when I post it. I’ve added it to ‘the post checklist’ so for instance, when I write a post, I’ll schedule perhaps a couple of Tweets for that day, one for the next day, one for the following week and I can also look in my social media calendar and schedule in my Facebook post.
There are lots of social media management tools that help you automate your social media. Buffer, IFTTT, HootSuite and Tweetdeck are just a few of them.
On another note, I actually find self-promotion through social media completely soul destroying and cringeworthy, but unfortunately it comes with the blogging territory. Once I learn to get over that, I’ll let you know.
Growing Your Revenue Streams: You should know by now, that you shouldn’t go into blogging for the money. If money is what you are after, there are much easier ways to make a buck and I’d say that probably only a small amount of bloggers make really good money from their blogs.
But, if you are passionate about blogging, why not look to turn it into your business? If you want to do that – you’ll need to dedicate some time to bringing in your income. This could be through affiliate links, writing an e-Book, writing an actual book, creating courses, consultancy work, doing workshops or whatever!
Building Your Email List: This is something that is pretty important, as your email list is one way that you can reach a targeted and engaged audience. These are the people who are likely to click through to your site and buy-in to what you are offering! A great way to get people to sign up is to do a giveaway, or to offer a free product, like a worksheet or eBook!
Networking: Not sure if this one should come under this heading, but let’s roll with it…
I’ve met so many wonderful people through blogging. A few online through social media, some by commenting on each others blogs, but most when I’ve attended a conference like TBEX or Traverse.
Making sure you set aside time to network with other bloggers, digital influencers and entrepreneurs is really important, as they will be your biggest ally. You can support each other, brainstorm, swap advice and you understand what each other are going through. They don’t have to be people in the same niche as you either!
The biggest bonus of networking is that you will make some fabulous friends in the process who will be your biggest supporters in the long run. They may also become your business partners.
Pitching: At the moment, I pay for 99% of my own travel. I do occasionally pitch and work with companies, but I am very selective about who I work with, because my time is more limited and I don’t want to take on more than I can handle and not deliver on what I promise.
I get offered press trips, but I haven’t taken one yet, mostly because of time – last year and this year, my travel plans were mapped out pretty early on! But next year, who knows?
Emails: I get a lot of emails –from advertisers, companies and readers. I check emails once every day, delete the crap, send pre-written responses to those I’m not too sure about and respond personally to any interesting ones ones.
I do spend a lot of time emailing readers, helping with their questions and giving support. Where I can I direct them to relevant blog posts, or sometimes turn their questions into blog posts.
Site Maintenance: Spend a few minutes each week making sure your plug-ins are up to date and that you have the latest version of WordPress – it will save you in the long run as the more up to date your site is the better protected it is.
Try not to get too caught up on tweaking your site – you can do this for hours. Concentrate on your content and set aside specific time for blog design/menu set up.
Accounts: If you have started making money from your blog, you need to start doing your accounts. Otherwise the tax man is going to come and get you at some point! Raj Dhokia did a great talk on this at Blogstock, and he specialises in Bloggers and small businesses.
For me, it’s travel/ adventure, travel planning and photography. My true loves and the whole reason I started this blog in the first place.
You need to make sure that you give yourself the time to do the thing that you love, the thing create your blog around. Travel is a difficult one, as it’s not something you can do in the comfort of your living room, but you need something to write about. I very rarely use a day off, just to have a day off. I’m almost always traveling somewhere.
When your day job doesn’t involve much travel it’s hard, I know, but no matter where you live, there is always somewhere nearby that other people want to travel to!
This list isn’t exhaustive, but these are some of the things that I spend my time on (when everyone thinks I am lounging about in a hammock on a beach somewhere). It’s up to you how you divide your time as appropriate, you’ll know where your strengths and weaknesses are and what needs more time.
No doubt things will take a lot longer than you anticipate, but my best advice is to just dedicate as much time as you can to each task, but don’t get too hung up if you don’t get everything done. You need to have a life too.
3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity
I never stop looking for opportunities. Even if I’m just pottering about near home, there’s always something to photograph! Just because it’s normal to you, doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting destination to other people. Over the last year, I took loads of photos on business day trips to different cities in the UK and also when I was at home in Liverpool. This gave me tons of great content for my blog and social media channels.
When I can, I try and tag holidays on to work trips. In July, I had to go to northern Spain for a festival we were working with. The following weekend I had a hen party in southern Spain. The two trips were only a week apart, so I decided to take the 5 days off in between and road trip it between the two destinations.
Then there was the time I only had one day to explore Brussels whilst away for a conference. I only had my iPhone, but I did of sightseeing, took a few pictures and now the resulting post is one of the most popular posts on my site, receiving hundreds of views each day.
Then more recently, I climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales for a work team building day. I took my camera, and posted some of the photos on Instagram and Facebook. This picture was one of my most ever liked pictures on Facebook.
4. Routine, Check
I know routine is a bit of a dirty word among creatives, but in this distracting world we live in, sometimes you need one. Especially if your time is limited.
As well as getting into a routine with my general blog tasks, I’ve created a checklist of things that I try to do every time I post, like format the text, add in the alt text to my photos, add a featured image, add in links, add in a meta description, create a good URL, schedule the post, schedule social media etc. Some of it sounds quite basic, but when you are busy, sometimes you can forget even the simplest of things.
Once you get into your full blogging flow, you can always shake it up!
I find it really useful, so if you want a copy of the checklist I use for each post – let me know in the comments below and I’ll email it to you!
5. Outsource – the ‘Gift of Time’
I‘m going to say that I think it’s pretty impossible to do all the things I’ve written above, if you have a full-time (8 – 10 hours a day) job. If you have figured out a way to do it all by yourself and work full time – please let me and everyone else know how!
We beat ourselves up, but seriously? When does anyone have the time to do all that stuff and have an actual life?
When most of us start a blog, we’re effectively a one man band. You have to play all the instruments, be the conductor, the manager, the agent… aka, a solopreneur. It’s tough, and sometimes we need some help. And what better time to do that than when you are earning a full-time income and you don’t need your blog to support you?
It’s simple, the less time you spend doing stuff you don’t like, the more time you can spend doing stuff you do like.
So, why not outsource?
It’s that speculate to accumulate thing. Every business has to do it at some point. Use some of that money you are earning each month to get someone in to help you with the things you find more difficult or don’t enjoy doing, and then use that additional time to work on the things that will bring you more money and make your blog sustainable to reach your long term goals.
You could hire a VA, perhaps they can help you with scheduling your social media, SEO or formatting posts. Someone techie could help you with the maintenance of your site or helping you to understand Google Analytics. Never worked with a VA before? Then try this post which has some tips on how to work with one.
If your blog is your baby, and this is the equivalent of hiring an au pair to help you out a little. It’s going to feel uncomfortable at first, but if you get someone you trust and rely on, it will hopefully take a lot of pressure off your shoulders.
6. Just Say No
When you start blogging, slowly but surely offers will start coming your way for sponsored posts, advertisements, reviews, trips… and it’s tempting to be so flattered that you’re like “yes please!” to all kinds of stuff. But then you have to create the content around it.
A company approached me the other day, offering me a free sample of their product. It’s nice and all (and they’ve offered to put my logo on it) but has nothing to do with what I write about or what I’m hoping to achieve longer term, so I said no thank you.
It would have been nice to get some ‘free stuff’- but it’s not really free because ‘time is money’.
This also applies to other aspects of your life too. You have to learn to make some sacrifices. I love going out and socializing, but I have to bit a bit more picky about what I go to.
7. Set Boundaries
When you’re at your day job, be at your day job. When you’re with your friends and family, be with them. It’s so tempting to check your comments, Facebook messages, Tweets, but it’s a slippery slope and before you know it both your employer and your loved ones will be getting pretty annoyed with you and you’ll find it even harder to switch off from your blog.
8. Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
It’s true, comparison is the thief of joy and all that, but it’s also the thief of creativity.
You should read other blogs but you will be doing yourself a disservice by comparing yourself to other bloggers, especially those who are doing it full time. So what if they started at the same time as you?
Maybe they had saved up money so they were able to work on their blog all the time. They’re probably working 12 hour days just like you are, but whilst they’re working 12 hours on their blog and doing exciting things they can blog about, you’re working 8 hours on your day job and only 4 hours (probably less) on your blog. So if their blog grows 3 x faster than yours, then that’s probably why.
Try to be consistent, but give yourself a break. Do what you can with the time you have, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Your dream life might be a bit further away, but then you can appreciate it all the more when you do get there.
Remember that you are the one who defines your own success. You’re doing good, I promise.
9. Look After You
When you have so much on, with life, work and blog, the one thing that usually gets forgotten about is the most important thing. YOU.
Remember, you can’t do any of the above (including travel) if you make yourself ill or burnout!
It’s tempting to just keep working and working – trying to keep up with all those full-timers. But it’s just not sustainable. Your time will come, it might take a while, but it will happen.
- Take a break every now and again – step away from the computer! Go for a walk around the block, take a shower, all my best ideas come to me in the shower!
- Sleep – try and get 8 hours, you’ll be much more productive with your time, than if you’re up half the night. Getting no sleep is what’s known in the business world as false economy.
- Drink water – this is so important, I cannot stress enough.
- Eat well – we all know what bad diets do to our bodies and minds, they make us irritable, less able to concentrate and lethargic. Go eat some broccoli. And have another glass of water.
- Exercise – go outside, run, stretch, take a yoga class, beat the crap out of a punch bag at a boxing class, play netball, whatever it is that gets your mind back to centre and helps you focus and makes you feel good.
- Disconnect – have a long bath, go somewhere beautiful, turn off your phone, stare at the sky and thank your lucky stars that you are alive right now and able to do the things that you love.
- Connect – with the people who make you feel energized and uplifted, play with your kids/nieces/nephews, go meet a friend for coffee, watch an old movie with your mum.
- Get inspired – go to workshops and seminars, read books by great people, go and see some art, watch a Ted Talk.
10. Don’t Give Up
I know it’s hard when it seems like everyone else is racing ahead and you feel like you are trying to walk through mud. But don’t give up. Believe in what you are doing. Enjoy this time whilst it is still a hobby! Hobbies are supposed to be fun! This isn’t a race. Make your time count.
I’m pretty sure every blogger (or entrepreneur) has been through it or is going through it. I’m still going through it. You’re not alone.
Here’s a few other books and articles that I find really useful!
- Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography
- The 4-Hour Work Week
- Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
- Steal Like An Artist
- Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Amazing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and More
- Working 5 to 9: How to Start a Successful Business in Your Spare Time
- Secrets to Running a Travel Blog When You Aren’t Traveling