Like most of you, I love travelling. When we travel, we are presented with a lot of stimulations. Great things to see, hear the vibrant noise of city life, enjoy the calming waters by the beach, see the awesome Northern lights, taste superb cuisine, the list is endless. And in this digital age, we would like to store them. Some for our personal use, and some to share with others.
You are most likely doing social media as a hobby beside a full-time job. You get caught in the bug and find yourself wanting to go from just Instagram, to other social networks and eventually, blogging. Sounds like my own story on how I got started with blogging. You really have to love it to stay with it. There are some overnight stories, but the reality for most of us is, it takes a while to build your audience. I still have a long way to go and I still have a lot to learn. I am sharing some digital tools for new travel bloggers like me. They made it possible to blog beside my full-time job.
Since you are in a full-time job, you probably do not have all the time to take pictures all the time, post updates every day, send e-mails once a week, create great graphics, and the like.
Thankfully, travel bloggers are a very gracious bunch. All of those I have met have just been supportive and generous sharing some tips. So here is a compilation of some tools you may want to use as you embark on your journey to becoming a travel blogger. You can also use them for doing freelance digital media marketing work. The great thing about these tools is that they all have a free subscription which you can eventually upgrade as the need arises. Eventually, you put up your own tools in your toolbox and I hope you can share it with others as well.
I have divided these digital tools into:
- Project Management
- E-mail Marketing
When I travel, I use my iPhone to take pictures because it is the easiest thing to do. My hubby has a fancy camera and he takes pictures with it. When you write your blogpost and you see that the pictures you took were not good, then you can turn to these tools for pictures. For the following photo sources on the web, there are no copyright restrictions. However, I feel it is best practice to do credit the photographer or the company where the photo was taken from. It’s one’s personal choice.
Over 850,000 photos, vectors and art illustrations. It is shown clearly for most of the picture that there are no copyright restrictions even for commercial purposes. When you download, you can choose between small, medium, large or its original size.
Pictures come from select photographers and from curated sources on the internet. No copyright restrictions. It is not possible to choose the size of the picture, but it tells you the picture’s dimensions and size.
What I like about Pexels is that you can download a photo as small, medium, large, original size, or your own customised size. No copyright restrictions either.
You can download the picture as JPEG or in its raw file which you can edit, copy, distribute. No attribution needed also for commercial purposes.
2 GRAPHICS AND VECTORS
Perhaps you want to illustrate something or make an infographic. Or sometimes graphics are what you need for a particular blog article. You cannot do graphics and it is expensive to hire a graphic designer for those few graphics you need in the beginning. For some of the following graphics, you can download them free as long as you attribute the designer. A small price to pay, if you ask me. Some, however, are totally free.
A lot of wonderful graphics which can be used free with attribution. When you download, you are given a code which you paste on your blog to attribute the designer. There are some free graphics and vectors that do not require attribution. You can download as JPEG or PDF.
Yes, the same tool that provides you with free photos can also provide vectors and graphics. You can also choose which size you want to download it.
I had a really major operation in October last year. While I was at the operation table, my social media profiles were continuously updated. This confused some people when they found out I was under anaesthesia then under intensive care for a week. Of course my priority was my health and I did not use my time to publish photos on Instagram or write a tweet. Thanks to automation, I was able to do that before I was wheeled into the operating room. I use automation, but I mostly publish on a whim. Use automation only as a supplement and not as your overall tool for social media publication.
Buffer lets you queue your posts when you want to. You can have posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. After posting for a period of time, they then suggest which are the best times to post based on the performance history of your previous posts. There is a free version which limits queued posts to just 10, and this is a great way to start. When you get the hang of it, or when you get to get some freelance working managing other social media profiles for other companies, then you may want to upgrade to the paid version.
I have mixed feelings about Hootsuite, but it is one of the most popular social media management and automation tools out there. I would probably recommend this to one who will be working as a social media manager, and not to someone who will be doing social media as a hobby.
4. PROJECT MANAGEMENT
When you love what you do, you wait as long as it takes to get some freelance projects. Sometimes, it happens accidentally, like in my case. I was asked by someone if I could make their new website. It was a travel website which is a great advantage for me and for them because I have been in this industry for a long time so I can speak its language. So we did not have to use a lot of time explaining the project, what they want, how they want it, and the like.
Hubspot is mainly not for project management. But they have such great tools for inbound marketing so I am putting them on this list. They have a lot of template which you can use for a lot of things like:
- Editorial Calendar
- Blog Theme Generator
- Inbound Marketing
- And tons of other stuff
I use their editorial calendar template to teach my travel and tourism students how to plan content for their company’s travel blog or their own personal travel blog. So in this way, Hubspot is a project management tool.
I use Google Drive in my Travel and Tourism classes, personally to organise my files, and for blogging to help me have an overview of what I have in drafts, contacts, pictures, calendar, excel sheets, etc. The nice thing is, you can adjust it anyway you want to when you have projects. It can be an easy class project, or a huge event. Everyone involved can be updated in real-time when you make changes. You may give access to just one or everyone in your team, you can synchronise it with your calendar, and you can have it on the go by downloading the app version on your smart phone. You get a lot of space and it is free. For travel blogging, I use it to create raw files of my posts.
It is like Evernote, except that it is a Google product. You can organise your thoughts and it is in synch with your Google Calendar, Google Drive, and you can also have it on your phone. You can doodle, or just write about anything. Ideas, shopping list, things to do, reminders. For project management, you can create tabs for a certain team, or for a certain task or for a particular participant. For travel blogging, you can write down ideas and create drafts here with pictures, give someone access for comments, etc.
As a travel blogger, it takes time to build your audience. So you might ask, why track? For me, it is to get the hang of it in the beginning. And after a while when you get enough page views, to see which post got a lot of views, where did your visitors come from geographically, where did they come from digitally (did the come from social media or was it organic, etc), how long did they stay, your bounce rate, and a lot of other stuff. It also helps see some demographics.
If it seems like I use a lot of Google, it’s because I do. As a new travel blogger, we do not have the financial resources to use some of the paid ones. And for us new travel bloggers, these Google products works just fine. Google Analytics can give you everything you need to track your site. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier.
Jetpack for WordPress
If you made your website in WordPress like I did, chances are, your theme supports Jetpack. It may have been pre-installed by the theme designer. And because it is made by WordPress, it is seamlessly connected to your travel blog. Easy-to-read numbers if you think Google Analytics is too daunting.
6. E-MAIL MARKETING
It is true that a lot of people do not read e-mails from companies who sell, or if they feel that you are “out to get them”. But e-mail marketing does work and generates a lot of conversions. Your social media generates awareness of your brand, but for travel blogs, conversions come mostly from e-mail marketing. This I still need a lot of help from, but I have two tools which I have tried and I think is easy for any new travel blogger out there.
I tried this because everyone seems to be using it. But when I tried it, I realised why. Very easy to use. Even if you have no experience making a newsletter before, they have templates that help you. Be very careful when building your list. Make sure everyone has confirmed that they want to get newsletters from you. Mail Chimp have very strict policies when it comes to that. After my first newsletter, I was banned because I added one e-mail manually. It was a friend I added and I thought it was ok. It took a loooooong while to reinstate my account. They have a free version which the next one doesn’t.
As I mentioned above, Active Campaign does not have a free version. At least when I tried it. Perhaps they will have sometime. But the wonderful thing is, there are no set up fees and their pricing is friendly.
So there. My startup tool box as a travel blogger. Build your own tool box and I hope you share it with others as well.
Any questions? Drop me a line.