Pulling the trigger and buying tickets to a travel blogging conference was a pretty big deal for Tom and me. We’ve been casually blogging since 2015, but it’s always set solidly on the back burner. We’d dig into it when we had time, and neglect it when we didn’t. Late last year, we decided it was time to take this thing a little more seriously so we started the process of rebranding from our former blog Bad Sentences to this lovely little space we have now at The Tasty Escape.
Suddenly, it felt like we had more focus and drive than ever before to blog as a couple and really make something of this website. We’re proud of what we’ve built so far, but wanted to learn more about travel writing and running a successful website.
There are definitely bigger and more popular blogging conferences out there, but we were intrigued by the smaller nature of TravelCon. The conference was put together by travel blogging master Nomadic Matt, and overall it was a wonderful experience. I was incredibly impressed by how smoothly things ran and how many informative sessions we were able to attend. It also didn’t hurt that Austin is a city we enjoy and drivable from Oklahoma City.
What We Learned at TravelCon 2018
It would be impossible to include everything we learned at TravelCon, but we definitely left with a handful of key takeaways and a LOT to think about. In fact, Tom and I find ourselves bringing up different lessons we learned every day as we continue to try to grow this blog. Here is a very brief overview of what we learned at our first travel blogging conference! (Note: If you’re not a blogger, feel free to skip this post!)
Lesson: Blogging is Here to Stay
It seems like a week doesn’t go by that I don’t see a click bait headline proclaiming the death of blogging. A new social platform pops up and it’s the “new blogging”. Instagram is definitely the greatest example of this. The reality is that audiences and brands alike see the value in lasting, long form content. A blog post is permanent, whereas an Instagram story or Tweet is forgotten with hours of its posting.
This lesson definitely motivated us to work on creating more quality content for the blog and not getting too caught up in the social media web (and to be smarter about our social media usage – but that’s a whole other story). It’s taking us a little while to get there, but this is one of our main goals and takeaways from the conference. We have a lot of fun ideas of things we want to share on The Tasty Escape, so stay tuned!
Lesson: Don’t Let Your Inner Introvert Stop You
Let’s be real. A lot of people who write blogs do so because they’re maybe not that great at social interaction. This is definitely the case with me. I’m socially awkward with people I know well, so getting to know a bunch of strangers is pretty terrifying. The first day of TravelCon, Tom and I kind of stuck by each other and didn’t reach out to new people. This was a huge mistake. Not just because networking is important for building a business, but because when you give strangers a chance, they’re actually pretty awesome.
On the second day of the conference, we went to a couples blogger meet up and almost instantly connected with some amazing people that I know we’ll stay in touch with for years to come. It was so much fun to meet people who also do this kind of strange thing we do. We talked until all of our voices were hoarse – such a great time.
I’m hoping to keep this trend going by getting to know more of the local blogging community in OKC. It also reminded me that even if I’m super awkward, it’s always worth putting myself out there.
Lesson: It Isn’t Wrong to Want to Get Paid for Your Work
A key factor for many attendees at TravelCon was learning how successful bloggers make money. Most blogs, our included, start out as a place to write about things you are already doing on your own – no sponsored posts, no branded content, just organic content you want to write about. So how do you cross that line into monetizing a blog? How do you get paid to travel and paid to write posts about it?
A key lesson we learned around this topic was that you have to be willing to ask to get paid and be willing to hold out for what you are worth. If you spend time and money building out your blog and your following over the years then you shouldn’t be willing to give it all away for nothing. Your hard work has built a brand, grown website traffic and supported a loyal following. These things all have value.
TravelCon taught us that we need to determine how we value our work things and, most importantly, be willing to ask for that value. We don’t heavily monetize this blog, yet, but in full disclosure – yeah we’d like to get paid! That’s why we include the occasional affiliate link (for things we really love), run ads on our site and partner with brands we support. We don’t expect to do this as a full-time living, but a little spare change never hurts. However, we will always be up front about anything we are getting paid to do.
Lesson: Self Promotion is a Necessary Evil
Okay, so you’ve overcome your inner introvert and realized your work is worth money. Now what? You have to promote yourself! This is hands down my least favorite part of blogging. I am just not good at it. I don’t love attention, and it feels weird to ask for it. But TravelCon inspired Tom and I to get over our fears of rejection and start putting our work out there. We’ve started sharing our posts on our personal Facebook pages and studying up on Twitter and Pinterest (we’d love for you to follow us!) to create more brand awareness. So if you notice us being a little extra with our self promotion, just blame TravelCon (kidding!).
Lesson: Be Nice and Professional
It should seem like common sense, but it was surprising to hear so many speakers talk about the value of being nice and professional. Nearly every session we went to included a story about how NOT to do things and usually it involved someone being a jerk or unprofessional. It was a great reminder to not overlook the small things.
A few simple pieces of advice that we heard repeated included:
- Send professional emails: Check for typos and errors and make sure you are communicating clearly and directly. If you want to make money from your blog, treat it like a business.
- Respond in a timely manner: This came up a lot. Many speakers shared frustrations about bloggers who took forever to respond or straight up ghosted them. People don’t like to wait, so don’t leave anyone hanging if you want to continue working with them.
- Be nice: Many people reiterated that they prefer to work with bloggers with a small to medium sized following who are good people over bloggers with a huge following that are self-centered, greedy, and disingenuous. Nice guys don’t finish last, they get referral and repeat business opportunities.
Lesson: Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight, But You Will Never Succeed by Quitting
This came up in almost every session and keynote speech we attended. Consistency is THE most important thing you can do to become a successful travel writer or blogger – or anything really. Nearly all of the most successful bloggers at the conference had been working at it for several years before they started to see increases in site traffic and followers. Since Tom and I both work full time, it’s pretty difficult for us to create a steady stream of content. It’s easy to get frustrated that we don’t have tens of thousands of page views a day. But we don’t intend to quit anytime soon. While sometimes our aspirations are grander than our actual output, we’re excited to continue to write on this space and share our Tasty Escapes – as always, one bite at a time.
Interested in attending a travel blogging conference yourself?
TravelCon will be back next year in Boston and tickets are already on sale! From new and aspiring travel writers to established bloggers looking for a little extra motivation – we definitely recommend this conference. We noticed tickets were a little pricier this time around. But they include replays of all the sessions and there are some pretty awesome keynote speakers already lined up so it should be worth it!