The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: What I’ve Learned in One Year of Blogging

Nearly a year ago – on April 4, 2016 – I unveiled “It’s Five O’Clock Here,” my travel and drinks website, to the world. At the time, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have on my life, but I knew that I had to press that “Publish” button or else I’d never know if I could hack it at travel blogging.

What a difference a year makes. I’m currently en route to Boston as I type this, gearing up to visit Amsterdam and Belgium. I won’t be alone: Ashley, the hilarious travel blogger behind My Wanderlusty Life, will be throwing back a pint or two of beer with me. Still, it’s odd to think that a year ago, I had yet to meet her for the first time on a “blogger blind date” in Boston.

But that’s how travel blogging works. It keeps you on your toes, your fingers glued to a coffee mug in one hand and your camera or laptop in the other. You’re always on the hunt for that next topic or idea for a new post.

Despite this, the rewards will come. You will feel more creatively alive than you have in years. You will have complete autonomy of—and accountability for—your work product. Plus, you never know who will enter your life and when; I’ve been astounded by the number of incredible people I’ve met through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook before we met IRL.

As with everything, though, I’m not always looking through rose-colored glasses. There are days—though thankfully they are fewer now—when I struggle to get work done and toss my computer (OK, my notebook, actually; computers are @#$!ing expensive) at the wall.

So today, let’s pull back the curtain on travel blogging. I’m here to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly—or, what I’ve learned from one year of blogging.

The Good

Joining Travel Blog Success is the number one thing you should do if you’re a travel blogger.

It’s not an understatement to say that this blog wouldn’t be half of what it is without Travel Blog Success, or TBS for short. TBS has a plethora of online courses that are essentially the go-to place for travel blogger professional development. In addition to their general course, I’m a member of their Partnerships course, which has enabled me to write pitch letters to tourism boards, bars, museums, and wineries that are actually getting accepted! They’ve also got great courses on topics ranging from Facebook Marketing to Freelance Writing.

Perhaps the most invaluable part of being a TBS member, however, is the community. You have access to a secret Facebook group where real A-list travel bloggers are dispensing advice (hello Dave and Kate, thanks for answering my questions!). I also met my blogging mentor, Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life, via this group—something that is incredibly helpful to have in the Wild West of Blogging. I could write a whole separate post on how much I’ve learned from her, but suffice it to say that when she introduced me to Czech beer, I knew it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

As a side note, TBS has a killer deal going on for 25% off of their courses. It runs from now until March 31, 2017. Grab it while it’s hot!

Travel Blog Success Spring Sale

You’ll become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

We’re not just writers. Nope nope. You’ve got to be a skilled photographer, savvy marketer, killer graphic designer, adept salesperson… you get the picture. I know more about Instagram, cameras, and affiliate marketing now than the French know about wine. (Well, sort of.) I only wish I had as many arms as an octopus so I could boost my work productivity even higher…

You’ll meet amazing, intelligent, passionate people who know their craft.

Finding like-minded individuals who get what you’re going through is key to success. It’s so awesome to grab coffee and chat with Lynn and Justin of Mad Hatters NYC about social media automation, or talk to Marissa at Postcards to Seattle about camera gear, and not have their eyes glaze over. For the most part, I’ve found that people in this sphere are willing to help each other, too. Lia of Practical Wanderlust in particular has been a godsend in helping me to figure out what the @#$! Pinterest is and how to master it. Plus, I’ve met others outside the travel blogging sector via social media as well. I’ve been to a great writing workshop and book club with Nikki from Building Bold, and attended an Italian wine event with Li from The Wining Hour, to name a few. All of these people mentioned here share one thing in common: their entrepreneurial drive and dedication to success. Their passion is contagious!

The Bad

You’ll compare yourself to top bloggers.

Even though I knew that comparison is the root of unhappiness, I still did it anyway. I clicked through posts by Adventurous Kate, A Dangerous Business, Alex in Wanderland, Valerie & Valise, and others on a daily basis at first, naively wondering why my site wasn’t as successful as theirs. But you know what? These ladies have toiled for years at this. They’re highly skilled, really sharp women who not only put in the time and effort to succeed, but are on the forefront of new trends in the industry. And you know why? Because they treat travel blogging like a bonafide career. It’s their business, their livelihood. Once I realized that, my whole perspective on the blogging changed.

Every once in a while, your friends will get annoyed that you have to snap ten different versions of the same damn cocktail photo.

Sorry, guys; I know you want to drink your drink. But wait—just one more angle and then I’m done? Promise!

People assume they have the right to ask you how you make your money (and what you make!).

If I were a lawyer or a doctor, would you ask me how I made my income? No, you wouldn’t. This is a really personal question that irks me for a number of reasons. For starters, though there are some methods that many bloggers use (like affiliate marketing), no two bloggers’ success strategies are the same. Also, I’m earning income through other avenues as well, like freelance writing and consulting. I get that people can be genuinely curious and want to show interest, but most of the time, I don’t want to talk specifics. I might say “freelancing” or “selling photographs,” but unless you are a client who wants to pay me for my services, I’m not going to freely volunteer my income or my rates. #SorryNotSorry.

Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing

The Ugly

Just like other major life events, people will have opinions about your decision to blog, and it won’t always be positive.

I wish I had been better prepared for this. Sometimes, people expressed their disapproval outright. Other times, they gave that fake smile with the raised eyebrow that says, “I feel like I have to support you because I’m your friend, but man, you are making a terrible decision and are batshit crazy. I’m so glad I’m not you.” (C’mon, I know exactly what you’re thinking, dude.)

I’m ashamed to admit that before I embarked on this entrepreneurial adventure of mine, I was also judgmental of freelancers and people who worked for themselves. Now that I’m doing it myself, I can’t tell you how much respect and admiration I have for people who have to hustle. Trust me: it’s NOT just code for unemployed.

People assume that you’re permanently on vacation and don’t have to work.

How many times have I heard people say “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to work at all anymore?”

Newsflash, people: that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, I’m lucky enough to be at a point where I can get press passes to activities or events, but it’s technically not “free.” I’m writing blog posts, taking high quality photographs, and managing social media posting on multiple platforms for the places I see.

And that’s not even just after the fact. As part of some campaigns, we have to post about it on social media before and during the trip – meaning polished photos and quality content, not just some blurry photo of half of my face and a one-line caption. My time and my labor is real, and it is valuable.

Build a Better Travel Blog

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, this past year has been the best of times and the worst of times. Even so, I’ve learned more about myself in the past year than I have in thirty years. Travel and writing has made me a more thoughtful, creative, flexible, thick-skinned person—and for that, I wouldn’t trade the world.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more thirsty, swashbuckling adventures!

Also, some of the above are affiliate links. This means I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!

21 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: What I’ve Learned in One Year of Blogging

  1. Abhinav Singh

    Reading your blog was like going through my own journey. As mentioned by you, blogging is much more than just writing and photography. I am very bad at marketing and still learning the ropes. There is a lot of hard work involved which people do not realize.

  2. Clare

    In June it will be a year since I started my blog and I have to say at the time I had no idea what I was letting myself in for!! It is so much hard work but its great that you have got to meet so many other bloggers. When I tell my friends and family I am busy as I am working, they always look at me strange as they don’t see this as some kind of job and really think I am wasting my time. I love my life of travelling full time and hopefully it can always stay that way.

    1. Julianne

      Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary! I know exactly how you feel, but I’m so glad that there are bloggers out there like you who get it!

  3. Suzanne

    As a fellow travel blogger, I agree that blogging has its ups and downs. Like you, I relish the fact that blogging keeps the creative juices flowing. Also like you, I’ve got quizzical looks when I say that I “write about travel.” Keep writing. Each blogger has a different story to share.

  4. Bhushavali

    First of all, congrats on 1yr of blogging. I have to agree to most of the points! True we do end up comparing ourselves with top notch bloggers and people do end up thinking our life is a fairytale!!

  5. Lynn and Justin

    As always, you write from the heart and manage to capture the essence of all our struggles! We’ve appreciated your constant feedback and support with our blog. But more than anything, we’ve really enjoyed getting to know the person behind the blogger. We’re looking forward to your continued growth and success!

  6. Joanna

    I am at the beginning of my blogging journey as well (one year and a bit) and I am getting discouraged many times by people saying that it’s just a waste of time. But I love my blog and I do put a lot of passion and time into it. And it’s so worth when I get a thank you message, or an invite to an event just because of my blog. For me, my blog is my baby and I will continue growing it with much love 🙂

    1. Julianne

      I know exactly how you feel!! It’s all about the passion and love. Keep it up — I’ll go check out your blog again too 🙂

  7. Only By Land

    This is a very interesting post, I had never heard of Travel Blog Success but will check them out. I agree with you that the ugly is the amount of work which has to be done, it’s endless, especially when you are working alone. I must admit it took me a long time to work out Pinterest and I’m still very far from being an expert!

  8. Sonja

    Congratulations on one year! A lot of this is similar to what I thought a year after starting blogging. Travel Blog Success helped me to much too! It’s so hard when you compare yourself but you can’t help it sometimes. It definitely sounds like your on the right track so keep on going!

    1. Julianne

      Hi Swati, sorry it took so long for your comment to come through! So strange. Thanks again for reading and understanding 🙂

  9. Archana Singh

    You have captured all the sentiments of how bloggers feel. Though i don’t compare myself to top bloggers or the ones who have been in the industry for long as it will only depress me. But good observations.

  10. Emily Hines

    I started my blog a few years ago but re branded in January, narrowed my niche, and feel like I’m finally doing it right or at least on the right track. Really enjoying your blog and instagram, keep up the good work! I worked with Lia too! She’s a pinterest genius 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Julianne

      Thanks for the kind words, Emily! I really love your blog and Instagram too, especially your beer posts 😉 Wow, re-branding is a ton of work, so props to you for a successful transition! And yep, Lia is a total rock star, and I can’t believe I didn’t get into Pinterest sooner. Doh. You live and learn. Hopefully we can meet up in person one day. Cheers!

    1. Julianne

      Aww, thanks! Blogging isn’t always easy, but those rewarding moments (like your comment — folks actually read what I write!) make it worth it. 🙂

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