7 Signs you might be a Professional Blogger – Lessons Learned from Nordic Bloggers Experience in Finland
This post is about becoming a professional blogger. Rather read a travel story? Head over to this post where I tell you all about my cold (-30 degrees Celsius!) adventure in Finland instead.
I’m writing this on the plane home from Helsinki, where I attended the MATKA Nordic Travel Fair as part of the Nordic Blogger Experience (#NBEfinland). It was my 20th travel trade fair/travel blogging conference that I’ve been to since I turned my blog from a hobby into a business over 3 years ago. Wow.
What most of these conferences have in common, is that they are inspiring yet tiring, motivating and a reality check all the same time. You have the chance to connect with the people behind the brands, the destinations and the other travel blogs from all over the world, while talking about the state of travel blogging and the exciting future of this (yes, still) fairly new industry we’re in.
NBE Finland stands out though. It’s not just any other conference. It’s a get-together of a tight community willing to work hard, learn and grow together and working as a team on educating the industry and growing the business.
Participants of #NBEFinland don’t just get the conference program, they get a unique insight in the country, the culture and the lives of the people they chose to work with. And it’s hard not to leave with the feeling you were part of something special.
Are you ‘Just Another’ Blogger… or a Professional Blogger?
Some of the biggest questions that #NBEFinland tried to answer where: “Why work with digital influencers?”, “How can companies and bloggers work together successfully?”, “Which strategies and social platforms can both parties use to increase success?” and perhaps most important one: “What makes a professional travel blogger?”
With the exponential growth of bloggers in the tourism industry these days, it’s getting not only harder to stand out of the crowd with your blog, but it’s also getting harder for companies to decide which bloggers to work with.
We all know that not all bloggers bring the same value and professionalism and while we have many great case studies of successful blogger collaborations, unfortunately there are also enough examples of bloggers behaving badly, not living up to what they promise and giving the industry a bad reputation.
So how do you recognize a professional blogger? Or what skills do you need to become one?
Is it about writing great stories that take the reader on a journey and give them practical advice at the same time? And is it about photo and/or video skills that capture the essence of a destination? Yes, it is. Absolutely. But that makes someone a skilled blogger, not necessarily a professional blogger.
Is it about a big enough audience, a certain talent or product(s) that makes it possible to earn money from blogging? Yes, it is as well I guess. But earning money from blogging alone makes you someone with a pretty good job, not necessarily a professional blogger.
Is it about passion then? The fact that you write from the heart about a topic that you love to dive into article after article? And perhaps even that you don’t see your blog as just a hobby, but as an integral part of your work ánd life and that you just can’t imagine ever not doing this? A bit as well, I guess. But being a passionate and dedicated blogger is admirable, but again, does not necessarily make you a professional blogger.
7 Signs you might be a Professional Blogger
During NBE Finland we might not have come to a “Ultimate Guide to Professional Blogging” (I don’t believe in ‘ultimate’ guides in general…), but we definitely came much closer to the answer to some of these questions. And I would love to share some of my top takeaways with you:
1. You see blogging as a business
It may sounds obvious, but as long as you don’t consider yourself a business and act like one, you will never be a professional blogger.
This means you have to set up a business plan, including market / competitor research, financial plans, etc. and setting up realistic 1/5/10 year goals for your blog. It also means having your media kit in order, gathering case studies and testimonials from your readers. It means developing product offerings, setting up contracts and accounting programs, setting up your mailing list, your social media strategy, content calendar and creating sell sheets/rate cards. And of course making sure you’ve got the tech side of your blog up and running smoothly and perhaps even consider hiring staff or outsourcing work.
And finally, it also means you actively go out into the world to network, to show your confidence in your own business and to keep searching for and making connections with brands you’d like to work with.
“Serious businesses want to do business with serious businesses” – Sarah & Terry Lee, LiveShareTravel
(click for full view of this example business plan)
2. You teach people how they should treat you
Only when you start recognizing your own power, get out of your own way and start standing up for yourself, your business will thrive.
The discussion of whether or not to work for free (or for compensation in trips, hotel stays, products, etc.) has been ongoing in the blogger industry. There are many examples of one blogger turning down a job because the pay wasn’t high enough for them, with the next blogger gladly accepting the same job for free, because they never asked to be paid to begin with.
Don’t be surprised when brands won’t pay for your work in the future when you let them work with you for free today. Why should they? You’ve conditioned them yourself not to. You’ve basically told them that the work you provide isn’t of high enough value for them to pay for.
“Always remember that your reputation goes before you. Brands talk to you because they see value in you (reach, voice, brand, reputation, audience, authenticity, etc, etc.) and you’re the equal of any brands you’re negotiating with. Only fools and slaves work for free.” – Sarah and Terry Lee, LiveShareTravel
Because, come on, we all now the real value of ‘exposure’:
3. You bring value to partnerships
Have you ever thought about your Unique Selling Point? What makes your business unique and irresistible for other businesses to work with? What do you offer that others don’t?
When working with any brand, think about how you can offer more that just another ‘nice blog’ about your experience in that hotel, destination or while using that product. What else can you offer that makes you stand out when approaching brands to work with?
You can add value with other product offerings, like: sponsorships, (social) campaigns, product reviews, tours, ebooks, competitions, promotional offerings, newsletters, ads, etc.
“Research is your best friend and should be a daily routine. Companies get many emails, so make sure you stand out with your offer.” – Angelika Schwaff, Reisefreunde
4. You walk the extra mile
To make sure your partnerships are a succes, you cannot just sit back and wait for magic to happen. You have to take initiative and keep providing value to make sure you seal the deal for now -and the future.
When reaching out to businesses to work with, make sure to include in your pitch the details of the cooperation, a description of the basic scope of the partnership, deadlines of (parts of) the project and don’t forget the money agreements. Be a real Sherlock Holmes and do great research of every business you work with.
“Make sure to always be honest in what you promise and never fail to deliver. Karma is a bitch and lying or underdelivering will hurt you and the whole industry.” – Angelika Schwaff, Reisefreunde
— Manti Väätäinen (@MantiVP) January 20, 2016
5. You don’t do what everyone else is doing Blogs are popping up all around the planet. It seems everybody is a blogger these days. So how do you keep standing out? Well, that’s easier then you think: by being yourself. At #NBEFinland, I had the chance to meet up with many talented bloggers from around the world. Everyone with their own personality, their own stories, their own voice. And one of the reasons these people were selected to attend this conference as a hosted blogger, was because they all chose to follow their own route and don’t look too often at what other people are doing around them. For example, we had photo- and videobloggers who share their stories through both still as moving images; there were native language bloggers who reach a specific audience of a country they know best; we had bloggers in wheelchairs writing about their experiences while travelling the world no matter what; we had social media experts, rocking Snapchat, Periscope and other social platforms; we had bloggers passionate about food; bloggers passionate about sports; bloggers travelling alone and bloggers travelling with their families; we had bloggers writing poems and bloggers drawing the world around them… and the list goes on and on. What they did have in common though, is that these people all made the choice to stop trying to be everything for everybody and instead focus on their own passion, their own story and becoming really quite successful in doing just that.
“Be Yourself, Everybody else is taken.” – André Noël Chaker
— Manti Väätäinen (@MantiVP) January 21, 2016
6. You are honest to your readers… and yourself
Travel blogging is a constant juggling act between soaking up the experiences on the road, writing for both your audience, your clients and yourself and keeping your own creativity, own voice and transparency. Think about this: what is your job really about in the end?
I’ve been having a discussion about this with many bloggers that have been doing this work for over 2/3 years now and many say the same: they don’t really like press trips, they long for a ‘real holiday’ and they don’t like how their writing has changed from when they first started their blogs. Marketing is a big part of our job and while we do have bills to pay, we like to be able to do this without becoming a sell-out and without losing focus of the reasons we started out with blogging in the first place.
It can be no surprise that one word that kept popping up in pretty much all talks at #NBEFinland therefore was “authenticity”, so I let our speakers share some nuggets with you that I couldn’t have said better myself:
“Authenticity is the key. Write the truth, gain the trust.” – Abigail King, Inside the Travel Lab
“The travellers of today want to find the real magic. People enrich themselves not with things, but experiences. Time is the new money and experience is at the heart of everything we need to do. We want to peel away the layers and to get to know the soul of the destination. Stop selling and start sharing inspiration.” – Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, Destinate
“Authenticity is a requirement for successful communication today” – Catharina Fischer, Tourismuszukunft
“Stop doing marketing at people and start doing marketing with people.” – Jay Bayer
— Hendrik Morkel (@hendrikmorkel) January 21, 2016
7. You do your VERY best Being professional also means you are able to show a professional attitude. This can be found in the smallest actions… that some bloggers often overlook. When I write this, I’ve been on more than 15 press trips/campaigns and another 20 trips related to blogging conferences, so I’ve seen my fair share of professional and -unfortunately- sometimes unprofessional behaviour of bloggers (and journalists) on the road. When you go on an all-expenses paid trip… and you never write about it. Not cool. When you keep complaining about the food… not because you’re allergic or intolerant, only because you’re a picky eater. Not cool. When you show up late… every day on the trip. Not cool. When you solve organisational problems on a trip by complaining on Twitter… or verbally abusing your host. Not cool. When you receive a gift you don’t like and say this out loud… or even toss it away with your host still there. Not cool. Should I go on, or do you get the gist? :) Yes, I do believe we should be valued for our work and time and I do believe that bloggers should be considered more in brand partnerships and marketing campaigns in general, but it can never hurt to look in the mirror every now and then. When you’ve done that and can honestly say that you act as a business person, bring value to partnerships, take that extra step to be noticed, are original, authentic and trustworthy, then you’re doing pretty well in becoming a professional blogger in my opinion. All that’s left for me to say then is: keep being brilliant, keep creating awesome content and never, ever give up. Keep doing your VERY best. Because quite possibly, you happen to have the best job in the world.
“Failure is part of success. Don’t give up when you don’t succeed the first (100) time(s).” – Angelika Schwaff, Reisefreunde
— Travelbloggers (@travelbloggerNL) January 20, 2016
Insights and quotes came from the inspiring presentations of: Anni Aarni, Lola Akinmade Åkerström, Melvin Boecher, Erik van Erp, Mariette du Toit-Hembold, Catharina Fischer, Janicke Hansen, Nina Hüpen-Bestendonk, Abigail King, Inna-Pirjetta Lahti, Sarah Lee, Terry Lee, Angelika Schwaff, Kei Shibata, Konsta Punkka and all my friend/colleague bloggers attending #NBEFinland 2016. Thank you all!
For more information on the Nordic Blogger Experience and the option to participate in next year’s conference, please head over to: www.nbe.fi
Looking for more articles on blogging on The Travel Tester? The following articles are a great place to start:
- Meet the Blogger Conference Recap: Blog Empires, Viral Content & Community Building
- Blogging as a Business – TBU Nantes Conference Recap
- TBEX Dublin Recap – Freelance, Newsletter, Blog Positioning, Contests, Community & Quality Content
- Traverse Workshop Notes – Freelance, SEO, Legal & Publishing Projects
- More blogging tips
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