When I meet new people and tell them what I do for a living, very few people actually understand what exactly a travel blogger does or how we make money. So I thought that as Roving Reporter and I travel around Vietnam this week, I would write something a little different. I will cover some of the most commonly asked questions.
How or why did I start Turning Left for Less?
I started the blog about two and half years ago. I was previously in air traffic control for 23 years, first as a controller and then as a manager. Unfortunately, in 2016 I needed a kidney transplant and I decided to use this an opportunity to change career to something a little less stressful and demanding. My passion had always been travelling so I thought I would try to find something that could use this. I had always been good at finding luxury travel bargains so it seemed natural to concentrate on this area – something I knew about. At the time there were no blogs covering excatly what I was interested in reading, so I thought I would give me own a go!
Is it easy to start a blog and does it cost much to run?
It seemed quite straight forward to start a blog when I did a bit of research. Stupidly I thought I would build my own website using Youtube videos to guide me. Some aspects were fairly straight forward as many options can be done for you when using WordPress – the platform most blogs use. However, some seemingly simple things such as centring a photo required coding – something I had no idea about! There are also lots of other aspects to learn such as how to rank in google, how to make money, how to make sure you get PR companies to send you information (you would think they would want to, but no!). If you just want to do a very simple personal blog, it’s quite easy. The complications come if you want to run it as a business which requires a lot more thought.
Again if you want to run a personal blog you can do it for next to nothing. However, when you start running a blog with a high number of readers it starts to get a lot more expensive. We have to pay for things such as hosting that can cope with the viewing figures and not crash if we get a surge, support to do all the techy stuff I don’t have a clue about, mailing lists which cost money, equipment for travelling such as cameras and of course, all the travel which gives me stuff to write about!
How did the team evolve?
Initially, I started the blog on my own but Roving Reporter soon came on board to submit the occasional review. The rest of the team don’t do this full time. Paul, Claudio and Roving Reporter all have other jobs and contribute about their travels when they get the time.
Mrs B used to work with me in air traffic control and as a frequent traveller, she fancied sharing her travel experiences with TLFL readers. I met Claudio through my BA Gold + GGL facebook group that I administer. We have regular social events which I have made many new friends from! Claudio now mainly concentrates on being Editor of TLFL Brazil but still contributes to TLFL UK as well.
Finally, Paul came on board nearly a year ago. Paul and I met through FlyerTalk where you may know him as Teledude – responsible for many a social occasion for the BA FT forum! It soon became clear that Paul’s expertise and flexibility would make him able to take on more than just writing reviews, so late last year he became Deputy Editor. Paul often attends events in my place when I am away travelling.
How do bloggers make money?
Most bloggers make money in one of three ways – advertising, affiliate links and sponsored posts. Most of the TLFL income comes from advertising. Sponsored posts are where a company pays money for you to write an article about them or we publish an article they have written. This is something we have not done up until now as I don’t accept anything that isn’t a fit with TLFL readers and that I am sure is a decent product. I wouldn’t rule it out for the future if the right company was interested though. We do get given products for free to review occasionally.
Affiliate links are where the blog gets a small amount back on any sales they generate through a link in an article. We do use these on TLFL although many airlines don’t offer affiliate links and those that do offer very low commission. We write about all airlines, hotels and offers regardless of whether there is any sort of commission. I generally choose what to write about based on how good the deal is. Also whether I think it is something that is of interest to a fairly wide group of readers – so I’m probably not going to feature a flight from Tehran to Addis Ababa, even if it’s a great deal!
What most people don’t realise is it takes 18 months to 2 years to start making any sort of liveable income. Then it’s only the bare minimum usually unless you are able to invest a lot up front in advertising and marketing. Most bloggers work 2 jobs initially until they can afford to go full time on the blog.
Sounds like the perfect job – surely you just sit around in first class drinking champagne?
Well, yes sometimes we do! But unbelievably that does get tiring – not so much enjoying the champagne but sometimes we would just like to get on and enjoy the flight as it is without having to take notes and pictures. Often I don’t really want to eat much and would rather just go to sleep but I need to sample at least a few bits to make a decent review!
It is also difficult when travelling with friends on a holiday. I nearly always have to work when I am away which not everyone understands!
Surely it’s not a full-time job – it can’t take more than an hour or two to write an article?
The actual writing part of an article can be pretty quick for standard offers and news but the time is in the research of what to write about and finding the best deals. We also have to deal with our travel bookings (there are a LOT!), PR companies, mailing lists, reader queries, social media and search engine optimisation. I generally work 7 days a week about 355 days a year but it’s not usually for a standard 8 hours. Some articles such as an in-depth flight review can take up to 6-8 hours including all the photo editing.
How do you cope with jet lag and do you get tired of the travelling?
I don’t tend to get bad jet lag probably because I’m away that much my body doesn’t ever really adjust! I use melatonin, a natural substance that tells your body when it is time for sleep. You can buy it in drug stores in the US. My main tip is that I try to get an hour or two of sleep on every long haul flight, even if it’s daytime unless it will be bedtime when I arrive. That way I arrive at the destination able to do things for a few hours. I find getting a little sleep and then staying up until the normal destination bedtime is usually the best way to go. Getting some sunlight as soon as you arrive also helps a lot.
Yes, I admit I do get tired of travelling, although only really when I have crammed too many trips together! If I get a couple of weeks between trips then I am quite happy but the last couple of months have been crazy for both myself and Paul. I have done 10 trips this year already with around 35 flights! I try to take notes but when I cram too many trips together I start to forget details. When writing my last review I spend ages trying to remember if I had watched a film on board and if so what! I also miss just having a quiet night at home catching up on some TV viewing.
Does it get lonely being a travel blogger?
This was something I wondered at the very start of the blog as most bloggers work solo from home apart from when you get to the corporate levels of the biggest blogs. I travel with most of the TLFL team a few times a year but rarely actually work side by side with them. Most of the time it is just me working from wherever I happen to be in the world or my home office. Hence why the odd typo and mistake slips through! But I have made lots of friends with other travel bloggers since starting TLFL.
I never realised that most of the bloggers in this field would be so welcoming! Although there is still competition between us, we all see each other at various events so it is easy to make friends. Some of the bloggers have been incredibly supportive and helped along the way – particular mentions to Michael from TravelZork, Gilbert from God Save the Points, Tim Lai from Points to be Made and John from Wheelchair Travel.
Do you have any questions for me or the team about the blog or our travels? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.