Money comes and goes, freedom of expression is priceless.
One day – not long ago- I was walking down a random street in Playa when I was stopped by a super excited girl who somehow recognized me and my blog. After a moment of embarrassment, we started talking and since I am terrible at acting cool, I was simply… myself.
At the end of the meeting she told me “Wow, you are exactly the same person as I imagined you to be by reading your blog!”
That was one of the best compliments I have ever received.
Why? Because when I published my very first article 4 years ago I didn’t do it because I was wishing to become a popular & rich full-time travel blogger. All I wanted was to express who I truly was, for the good and the bad.
Like all the greatest things in life, It started for fun and I still remember the feeling of lightness and happiness when writing my random thoughts: I did it out of pure passion.
Then I started studying (16 hours per day on an average) but yet again, not because I wanted to be rich and famous. It was simple curiosity towards a world I didn’t really know.
Amateur Blogger Vs Professional Blogger? What’s the difference anyway?
What I’ve noticed during my time studying, was one important principle repeated over and over: To make the transition from amateur to professional, I had to treat my website as a business, like any other. So what? Did I have to go from joyful/playful & clumsy Clelia to a mere money-making machine?
UGH. NO THANKS.
My switch happened when in a year or so, I went from “I can write whatever I want, who cares” to “This article has to give something to the people reading it, being it inspiring them, entertain them or give them valuable information”.
I realized that I had to make a living out of it. No one eats air filled with dreams, I had to earn enough money to make it a full-time job that could pay (at the very least) the rent and give me a decent lifestyle.
So what happened to me when I finally started to see the light out of a tunnel of “I’m gonna run out of money, where is the nearest canteen for the homeless!?” paranoia?
WHETHER I WANT TO ADMIT IT OR NOT, I STARTED TO FEEL THE PRESSURE.
Pressure changes everything, you might become less spontaneous, fear kicks in and over time you might even lose your “mojo” There are people who thrive under pressure, unfortunately, I’m not one of them, but I never gave up and that’s why I am among the small percentage of blogs that has survived the “one-year” milestone.
I remember when it all started. I was in the Philippines and I met an online friend and colleague who pretty honestly told me “you know, when I read your first posts, I thought that you weren’t going anywhere”!
Luckily for me, four years later I’m still here, and so is my blog. Am I super popular, famous or have a 6 figures bank account? Not that I know of, but I’m very proud of what I have done with it, considering the little tools I had (no previous experience, no IT skills, writing in a language I have learned very late in life and having to do all this, and more, by myself).
Back then in the Philippines, I had just published an article that went a little viral and I felt a big blast of confidence mixed with terror, as I thought “How am I going to replicate this?”
People started mentioning, commenting and sharing some of my posts. I even tried to monetize a few articles via affiliates. Boom. It worked, the next month I received my first official payment. Not bad as a start, but I was back to square one: PRESSURE.
So, this is basically what happened to my website in its early stages…But what about ME? What happened to Clelia with all that pressure I was putting on myself?
Remember when I told you that to be a professional blogger you have to treat your job as any other business? That’s where all became a bit frustrating to me. When I realized that more than 200K people per month had laid their eyes on what I had to say, I started asking myself a few questions:
What am I really selling in here? The answer for me was pretty straightforward. I’m selling my credibility, myself and who I really am as a person.
I don’t like to take myself too seriously but I don’t take things like integrity lightly either.
To get to the point, I will write down some of the things I was supposed to do to be seen as a professional, what I did and what are my thoughts about it 4 years later, which sums up why I WON’T change who I am because of my profession.
Even if this means “failing” at becoming super successful and super rich, as long as I don’t lose the most precious gift I got from being a blogger: Express myself freely, and I don’t plan on trading this freedom for anything in the world.
1 | I WAS VERY CAREFUL WHEN PUBLISHING SOMETHING ON MY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS:
What I did about it:
If before the pressure stage I would post basically whatever came to my mind, especially on Facebook, I started to realize that in order to be taken seriously by brands I had to stop or reduce the sharing of “silly” moments of my life. I focused more on posting things related to how I wanted to be perceived as a “brand”, completely repressing the joyful, playful part of me.
What I think about it now:
I know of many bloggers who use this smart approach and in business it is very wise, but for me, this is extremely frustrating. I am who I am and even if I never posted anything embarrassing, I want to be still able to be my old “pre-blogger” self. As a result, I now don’t pay attention to what people think about what I share.
If a brand doesn’t take me seriously because they see some silly videos of my latest vacation, completely disregarding the fact that by doing that I’m being myself and that’s exactly why people follow my adventures and trust my advice, then so be it.
That brand, for how prestigious it might be, is not a right fit for me and my website. End of the story. I didn’t quit my job at Burberry to have to mold my personality in order to please a brand or to be liked by the blogging community either.
My freedom and probably a lot less money than some of my colleagues earn suits me just fine. In addition to that, when I am my true self, the right brands actually do approach me, which means a more genuine and worthy partnership for everyone involved.
2| I WAS AFRAID TO POST PICTURES OF MYSELF IN A BIKINI
This is the best I can do to look cool in a bikini 😉
What I did about it:
Damn it, why I’m not a mountain freak, a foodie or an expert in city breaks? My life would have been a lot easier. Nope, I love the sea, the water is my element, and there is nothing that can change that.
Oh, almost forgot, to make things worst, I have boobs on a tiny figure which makes them stand out even more. As I have chosen it and people are somehow entitled to judge 😉
I still remember a colleague saying “If I could earn a dollar for every bikini picture you post, I would be rich!”. I was still in my first year of blogging and by then I had posted a couple of pictures tops, because excuse me if I don’t wear a burka to get into the water. But I had to admit that it really hurt to read it.
So now what? To be taken seriously I can’t post bikini pictures? I replied that in this case, he would probably starve. He never replied.
What I think about it now:
If in the past I always thought twice before posting a bikini picture (and several colleagues warned me to be careful on how I wanted to be perceived, heaven forbid!!) now I don’t care anymore. Being a woman in business is already hard enough on so many levels to add more stress to it.
The fact that some people think I look good in a bikini and this either helped my career or made me a shallow attention-seeker blogger, is not reason enough to disregard the fact that I earn my money not via these pictures (nothing wrong if that was true but it’s not).
The biggest chunk of my revenue comes from my affiliate programs (where people don’t have the slightest idea on what I look like) or biggest partnership not related to travel clothing or bikinis whatsoever. Get real people, as I see it, this is pure misogynism and I’m pretty sick of it.
Someone might say “Yes but the fact that you post them makes people follow you more, hence your life as a blogger is easier. WRONG: The followers I have on social media are not very much involved in my money making process. End of the story.
So yep, I just moved to Mexico and live 5 minutes walk from the beach and, amongst other photos where I’m not even in the shot, you will probably see more bikini pictures as well. If you think that this is a marketing strategy to get attention, go on and criticize, I will be too busy working my ass off on my website (as soon as I’m done with my daily dose of swimming… In a bikini of course 😉
3 | I FELT GUILTY WHEN I DIDN’T WRITE A POST IMMEDIATELY AFTER A PRESS TRIP
What I did about it:
This is super tricky for me. I learned English at age 30 and it takes me forever to write a blog post that I truly feel MINE. Granted, I can write one in 2 hours if I want to, but the quality of it would not be the best I could give to the people who read my articles and to my sponsors. I’m a perfectionist.
I only accepted a handful of press trips, a lot less than the majority of my colleagues out there. I prefer going by myself and not with a caravan of 20 other bloggers. For some people, it might be fun, but for me, it is an unnecessary cruel tour the force.
That said, when I’m back from a complimentary trip, I need some time to metabolize the experience, and seeing other bloggers writing post after post in a few days made me feel super guilty and unprofessional.
What I think about it now:
I’m still slow when it comes to writing, Being a perfectionist and an emotional person (super bad combination) really sucks, but I’m trying to keep the guilty feelings at bay and trying to get better when dealing with deadlines.
I give you an example. Almost one year ago, four amazing companies agreed to let me experience my dream trip to Africa. Well, I am still writing those posts! To my credit, I never had such a massive delay in my entire career, but life happens and I had to deal with some important personal issues, not exactly in the right frame of mind to write about such an emotional and unforgettable trip.
People who know me well, also know how I feel about not having published my African articles. Is this being unprofessional? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how you look at it.
I’m a blogger, not a journalist and my mission is to convey my true emotions via my posts, inspire people to visit a destination and to talk about my experience with the companies I have worked with, not to write a sterile recap post of the places I’ve seen. That is simply NOT ME.
I could have written the posts almost immediately, but they would have felt a total fraud to me, as they didn’t come from my heart, and my readers would have noticed that, losing their trust in me. The articles are going to be online virtually forever anyway, so I might as well wait and create something worth reading.
For the rest, I am not guilty anymore as I have started to tell everyone beforehand that It might take more than the average time to get their post online. This way I’m honest and most importantly, true to myself, so no… I’m NOT going to write a post in a flash because I need to please a sponsor or compete with my super fast colleagues.
If companies stop offering me trips, it’s totally fine. I’m sure the ones who understand where I come from are still out there and I have some great relationship with some of the ones I have worked in the past. Not a coincidence that many times I get a comment along these lines “It took you a while but it was well worth the wait”. That’s all that matters to me. This is what I call integrity.
4 | I FELT BAD ABOUT MY TERRIBLE (OR SHOULD I SAY NON-EXISTENT) PUBLIC RELATIONS SKILLS WITH MY COLLEAGUES
What I did about it:
Given the premises, I did what someone with terrible PR skill does. Nothing. Most of the bloggers out there are meeting, creating events, partnerships, reunions and congratulating each other for their achievements.
The best I could do so far was hanging out with a few fellow bloggers at a restaurant in Chiang Mai where I was re-named “the antisocial blogger”, for obvious and rightly reasons, no offense taken 😉 I also went to the World Travel Market event twice, which was nothing less than a great experience but still feeling slightly out of place.
What I think about it now:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the female version of Jack Nicholson character in the movie “As good as it gets”. Some of my blogger colleagues are also very good friends, but they are the rare exception, not the rule.
I suck when it comes to skype conventions, brainstorming meetings, bloggers meet ups, conferences and what not. I suck because I hate these things. I am a blogger 24 hrs per day, even when I don’t want to be, so no, I don’t need to talk about blogging when I hang out with a friend.
Am I ruining my career by “isolating” myself from the blogging community? Possibly, possibly not. But the more I am inside this world, the more I see that from the outside we might seem like a bunch of good friends hanging out, exchanging tips and being kind to each other (most of the times).
That is, until we stab each other on the back, for the sake of our own interests, if necessary. And I don’t like it. At all.
I don’t even count the times when someone I used to talk very frequently in the past, after months of silence pops up in my chat with a “Hey How are you”?. This usually happens when something good is going on in my blogging career, being a new contract, a great sponsored trip or a feature in a magazine. I’m tempted to say ….
Am I been mean? Not at all, I just want to keep it real. It’s not THAT BAD, I can understand people asking me favors and when I can, I’m genuinely happy to help, but since professional bloggers are “professional”, the same “slightly fake” human interactions that you might find in your regular office environment, also apply to our world.
That said, I somehow admire the people who have impressive PR abilities, they swim with the sharks (sometimes becoming sharks themselves) so effortlessly and smoothly. No sarcasm in here. I truly admire them. But I don’t want to BE them. I am the solitary goldfish in a small glass ball, and I’m perfectly fine in there.
When I started out I was so obsessed comparing myself to the others. Then I finally grasped a very simple concept: we are all unique, and if we truly love what we do, and we do it with integrity, the right occasions for us to shine will come.
Most importantly, I realized that the only person we can compare ourselves to is… ourselves. From the moment I started to use this approach I’m so much happier and relaxed (still stressed out by millions of things to do, but at least I am not wasting my time checking out other people’s success or failures).
5 | IF I DIDN’T POST PICTURES INTERACTING WITH THE LOCALS I WAS NOT A REAL TRAVELER AND BLOGGER:
What I did about it:
I obviously felt guilty, what else! Four years ago I would be like: Oh damn, I went to Africa and I only have 1% of my pictures with the locals. People will think I was there on holiday (heaven forbid that a blogger does something touristic) not living with them or experiencing their culture. They will think that I’m a total fraud!
At least I only had one week out of 2 months in Africa where I posted pictures in a bikini. Phewwww, disaster avoided at least on that front!
What I think about it now:
Can anyone show me the ultimate blogging guide including this rule?People like to take pictures of different subjects, I happen to love landscape photography, hence I post a lot of it. Does this mean that I didn’t have a genuine experience?
No, I have amazing memories of all the wonderful local people I met during my trips and actually, in my case at least, since I was able to truly establish a connection with some of them I felt like intruding our friendship by posting our pictures, so I rarely did. They will remain in my heart, that’s for sure.
That’s who I am, and I’m not going to change it anytime soon.
This post could go on and on as the list of compromises to be taken seriously in this word is endless but I think I’ve given you a pretty good picture.
It doesn’t matter how many readers I have, or how my colleagues consider me. I am Clelia, the same girl I was on the 22ns of August 2012 when, all excited, I decided to create my baby blog (click to read one of the first articles ever written on my blog, quite embarrassing) and nothing will change that.
If one day I found myself out of the “travel bloggers circus” I will figure something else out, something that reflects the way I see life: pursuing my passions with integrity. Always.
If you went this far, congratulations for your patience and thank you for reading my honest rant and always remember:
Absolutely loved this post and your blog! Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Hi there Clelia!
I totally get the problem of changing yourself to fit a certain “blogging standard”. I often look at the blogs of other travel bloggers and always get a little stressed out because I tend to compare. I know, you’re not supposed to do that, but I do sometimes. It makes me feel bad about myself and that I’m not as far as I’d like to be and I notice that if I post something on social media afterwards, it feels much less authentic and I feel much more blocked writing texts, because my brain is still so occupied with the question “what am I doing wrong?”. It’s kind of hard to distance yourself sometimes.
Thanks for your comment! I know… sometimes it might be hard to stop comparing but trust me on this, with a little exercise, you can truly manage to just say “You know what?, I have my pace, my voice and my style… and I don’t give a damn what the others are doing”. As soon as you truly believe that, your content will become more authentic as you will be confident in your own ability and unique voice, don’t lose that for the fear of being left behind! Your voice is what will truly make a lot of difference!
Seriously Clelia! Be yourself! This is why people follow you. Anyone can tell the story of best hotels this, or how to get here or there and in this world of information overload, the reason people follow you is because of you. It’s your personality not your bikinis or affiliates you promote.
Our blog is really a huge work in progress as are all blogs, and one thing I said, is no matter what level I get to, I will write my posts for me, not for my audience. I will write because I love it. My audience will either like my views or hate it, but it will be me.
You are your greatest asset and changing anything about yourself and how you show yourself to the world is actually, in my opinion, detrimental to your “business”. The fact is, blogging is and isn’t a business. Sure it’s work, it’s networking, and research blah blah blah… but it’s really your life you are documenting and to be anything else but YOU, would be a disservice to you and your fans!
Keep on keepin on Clelia! Love your attitude!
Thanks guys! Oh, I definitely won’t change who I am, not even if I tried!! 🙂 What you said is so true. People follow our websites mainly for our personality. Even if I write a detailed guide, I always make sure to put some of myself in there, it’s something that comes natural to me and I’m glad you are doing the same. We are not travel agents after all!
Like Dr. Seuss says “be who you are and say what you feel, because those that mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Thank god I’m not a travel agent!!! LOL
Excellent work. Keep it up.Truly motivating and worth getting a lot of fame. Good luck.
Thanks a lot!
Thanks for this post. I’d dabbled in blogging before definitely not in a professional sense but I could see how monetizing and moving forward with it in a more professional way would change the voice of the articles. I appreciate your ohnesty in this post. I’m glad you’ve stuck with your brand and don’t worry about what others feel about it. You’d get a lot of flack regardless of what way you move as people always have options. Cheers to you!
Thanks Wallace, being honest and care less about what the others are doing is very important!
i think you are a whore.
At least you can think, it’s a start! 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I enjoyed every bit of it, awesome and honest read for a change! Bravo
Grazie Ken! 🙂
Haha , great read and style=) Thanks for sharing the story!
Brilliantly shared quotes!! The video in the water is amusing, looks very genuine, just like the post.
Great to hear from you, thank you very much for your kind words regarding travel blogging, it’s inspiring to see the world through your eyes and posts. Very honest! Thanks
Uhmm sometimes my words were actually not very nice but.. thanks! 🙂
What a wonderful and informative post. I really like your article and post. I appreciate your work and efforts. Thank you so much for sharing it.
Wow, Wonderful Post. . . Traveling is really a good thing in life,infact it’s everything
Thank you Zinayla!
I Really liked it. Thanks, it was very nice and honest, you shouldn’t care about what people say and keep doing what you’re doing. Very inspiring!
Such an inspirational blog. Really enjoyed reading your article, especially when you talk about the travel bloggers community. I’m not in the travel industry but it’s the same in other fields of course. Not everything is bad but you were brave for pointing out the “sharks”, they are everywhere unfortunately.
Such a good post! loved the motivational quotes you shared.
Thanks Alea,what can I say? I love quotes. Not very original but…who cares 😉
This post is lovely and down-to-earth. We like you just the way you are, Celia.
Thanks sweety! Same goes for you 🙂
An inspirational blog… Cheers from another blogger out there, struggling with similar issues. Aren’t we all?
Be yourself … screw peer pressure! The ones that you attract will be your tribe … don’t worry about mass appeal!
Thanks Bill, That’s exactly what I’m doing….this was just a statement of it 🙂
Hello, I loved your blog, it’s beautiful and we felt like we were in the wonderful places too. I love traveling, and if it were possible I would live like that too. But we can travel with your posts. Your blog is charming!
Thanks Sami, keep traveling with me 🙂
Nice Blog you have here Clelia. Looking forward for more updates! Keep it up! ^_^
I definitely get the post press trip guilt! I hate owing people things! I find it helps to make a point before the trip that some content might be delayed, but that is only because I’m making sure I give it the attention it deserves 🙂
Tell me about it! I have some block when it comes to that, and I only accept a few complimentary trips, from companies that are truly amazing, hence the guilt for taking me so long sometimes.
Great post. The thing to remember is that there are no real rules in travel blogging. It is such a new profession we are all to some extent making it up as we go. But there is no reason why you can’t be yourself and be professional at the same time! Be both! Do whatever you want! And as another generally antisocial blogger you are much better off outside of the blogging community anyway. There are of course individual bloggers who are awesome, but the community as a whole, not so much. I’m rubbish at the whole PR game as well and I try and maintain a distance too. Just do your own thing, build your own business on your terms and stand out from the crowd! Oh, and there is nothing wrong with bikini shots either! Who the hell complains about that! Haha!
Thanks Mike, yes I agree that there are no rules but for some people like me, I was starting to feel the pressure. No good!
This article was actually inspired by a conversation I had with a blogger and friend (she knows who she is) 😉 about a few pictures I recently postes on FB and from there we had a conversation about pleasing brands and what not, and I got my inspiration for this. Oh and for the bikini pictures, no one ever complained of course but I’m sick and tired of being on the fence for the “fear” of not being taken seriously. It’s not like that so… whatever. Thanks for stopping by!
I really enjoyed reading your article! And sharing your point of view about being oneself…whatever it could happen…and , by the way, very well written! Congrats!!
Thank you! 🙂 By the way, just a clarification in here: Anna was my English teacher in high school (the best I could have!) and when I mention that I have learned English very late in life, it isn’t because she wasn’t a great teacher but because after more than 10 years not practicing the language AT ALL, I totally forgot it and I had to start from scratch again! I’m sure that if it weren’t for my super cool teacher It would have been impossible to re-learn it again so fast at 30 years old 😉
A very brilliant write up! As well as cool and funny as always! Bravo!