A few scrolls through the glossy beach, sunset and adventure-filled Instagram accounts of travel bloggers and influencers can easily make you question your own life decisions and job when they suddenly seem “less than.”
After all, getting paid to travel the world and documenting it one epic shot at a time pretty much sounds like the dream life. You may even think you could do it yourself.
Disrupting the travel industry, travel seekers are increasingly turning to influencers over traditional travel agents when deciding on a trip. “Consumers are looking for true experiences and validation of traditional advertisement offerings,” says Emily Ward, co-founder of Shine Influencers, a global talent management company that specializes in influencer representation.
“Travel bloggers are becoming a resource for all things travel,
including the location, items to pack, experiences to have, where to stay, what to eat, how to budget and more.”
The thing is, millions of people love to travel – and a lot of them are great content creators. So, what does it take to really become a travel influencer? (Hint: it’s not proclaiming yourself as one in your Instagram bio).
In the words of Coco Chanel, “don’t be like the rest of them, darling.” Living like a dime a dozen isn’t going to win you any campaigns. “We want someone who has a unique spin on the space,” says Hunichen, co-founder of Shine Influencers, when asked what would impress her about an up-and-coming travel blogger seeking representation. “There are a ton of travel bloggers in the landscape, but if someone has niched into a specific category or focused on a different angle, it would show us that they have an offering that we could take and grow together.”
Build Your Brand Beyond Your Passport
In order to make a career out of planes and your passport, you need to think about building your overarching brand. “For travel bloggers who are hoping to make this into a full-time career, they need to be thinking about their brand offering beyond just the places they are visiting,” said Ward. “Platforms should create natural opportunities for other categories of brands to be seamlessly integrated into their content.”
Take Risks And Work Your Ass Off
At 24, James Asquith became the youngest person to travel to every sovereign country in the world – but he wasn’t a trust fund kid who did it courtesy of his parents’ bank account. He’s now the CEO at Holiday Swap, which allows users to match up and swap their accommodation anywhere in the world. “Like anything in life, this wasn’t handed to me. I don’t come from money and my parents worked really hard,” said Asquith. “I started washing cars from 12 years old and from 15 I was working three jobs, to save up initially because I had dreams of wanting to buy a house. This all got turned upside down when I discovered travel at 18. I kept working in an office until I had enough financial safety to take a risk and work remotely, starting up a business that allowed me to do so.”
Asquith is the first to recognize a career in travel as a major grind. “A lot of people only see the fun parts of being able to travel and work remotely. Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but making travel central to what I do means a lot of discipline and still working 12-hour days mostly seven days a week. I’m just lucky enough that I can do this from different locations,” he says. “None of this would have been possible without taking risks, and most importantly, backing myself that I would stick at it even during tough times.”
Stay Humble and Keep it Real
When the free trips and campaign offers start to roll in, it’s easy to let it get to your head. After all, influencers are the new celebrities. “Say yes to risks and experiences, all whilst remembering your roots and where you’ve come from,” says Asquith. “I think for anyone to call themselves an influencer entirely misses the point. People can call you influential, but to do that, it’s so important to stay true to your roots. Showing your personality – and both the highs and lows – is what audiences want in 2019; because life is not always flower petal-filled bathtubs in Bali. This ‘faded’ form of being an ‘influencer’ I feel detaches you from reality and your audience, so I would always say keep it real. That’s what we all want to see.”
Don’t be too ‘Precious’
Most of the time, being a travel influencer is more about the grind than the glam. “People focus on Instagram a little too much I feel and it only shows a few minutes of my day. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into working remotely and it means I am not on holiday – ever,” says Asquith. “I may always have to take calls and with that comes that fact that I’ll visit places and a lot of the time now, not be able to actually see what I want because I’m working. Away from that, the main real-life problems are sometimes being away from family and friends for long periods of time and doing laundry! One huge positive of social media is that I feel as though I now have friends dotted around different corners of the world, but that won’t always fix the issue of cleaning underwear in a sink.”
Be Prepared to Drop Dollars
“I think most people think that all travel influencers do, is lay around on the beach on someone else’s dime. That’s so far beyond the truth, a lot of the time we are paying for our own trips. You have to be willing to put your hand in your own pocket; travelling is an investment,” said Filipa Jackson, an influencer specializes in travel. “Granted, if we’ve done our job right some things will be comped but most of the time to keep our content fuelled we have to invest too. Oh and about laying on the beach; sure maybe I will spend an hour working on that golden glow, but that’s after I have chased the sunrise for some epic shots, done about six different outfit changes and then spent the rest of the day editing 1k plus images. So, I think a little rest time is justified.”
When travel is your job, it takes on a different meaning than the breezy beach vacations you may be accustomed to. “My biggest tip to anyone wanting to become a travel influencer would be you have to really – and I mean really – love travel.” says Jackson. “It is a major time and financial investment and will take you away from home for quite a while. You have to be ok with living a lot of your life at the airport. But ultimately, have your eyes open and take every second of it in, the good and the bad, because these adventures will all become part of your story.”