It was a great pleasure to interview Carly Nogawski this week. Carly has a very unique story and boasts over 50,000 followers on Instagram. She’s a fast-growing travel influencer in the US, who’s page @Light.Travels has gone through quite the evolution over the years! Initially, it was a place where she shared travel hacks and budget guides, in hopes to educate others on how affordable travel can actually be. During her year-long trip around the world, she ended up spending LESS money than I would have spent living in LA. After coming to this realization, that’s when she knew she needed to share all her money hacks and findings with the world- especially with her friends and family grew more and more mystified by my travel lifestyle.
When it comes to the different types of social media influencers, some are undoubtedly cooler than others. Would I prefer to be getting free clothes or free protein powder? No contest. With that being said, certain types of influencers require more work than others.
Travel influencers rank up there as needing to dedicate the most time to their craft. Unlike beauty or health influencers who can run their social media feeds from the comfort of their own home (or at least city), travel influencers need to, you guessed it, travel. A lot. Even so, the phrase “how to become a travel blogger” was one of the highest searched on the entire web according to a 2017 Google survey. Imagine that.
So how do you become a travel influencer? Well, it’s not easy. But if you really, really want to, here are 8 tips from Carly to get you started.
1. Understand that being a successful travel influencer is a full-time gig
If you think becoming a travel influencer is something you can do on the side, you’re very, very wrong. Being this type of influencer is one of the only ones that require you to quit your 9-5 job. This is a pretty scary thing. Initially, most travel influencers need to self-fund in order to grow a solid following. The challenge with that is that travelling the world isn’t cheap and it certainly isn’t easy to do on 2 weeks vacation per year.
For many successful travel influencers, their journey started with a dash of passion and a whole lot of guts. It usually took them quitting their “adult” jobs and taking a huge leap of faith. Travel influencers typically spend quite a bit of money before making any of it back. If this is what you really want though, look at it as an investment. If you look at this endeavor as a business (which is exactly what it is), every swipe of the credit card will hurt a tiny bit less
2. Get into it for the right reasons
Because being a travel influencer isn’t some weekend hobby you can just pick up, you really have to do it for the right reasons. You need to love it before you’re making money from it.
Since it takes a lot of time and effort to make it to the point where you’re making money and getting free trips and stays in hotels, you need to get into it because you have a passion for exploring the world and sharing your adventures.
3. Don’t be afraid to invest in your craft
Besides needing to invest in your own travel to start off, you should invest in tools that add value to your personal brand. This can include photo equipment (cameras, drones, GoPro’s), instructional classes (Photoshop, photography, video editing), and travel to blogger/influencer conferences. These will all contribute to invaluable skills that will help you to succeed in this profession.
A good tip to grow your audience is to invest in building real relationships with other users interested in your same niche. By continuously connecting with these users, over time you’ll build a strong community with engaged followers that truly care about you. The more time you spend on Instagram making genuine connections, the bigger you will grow.
4. Find your voice
Deciding to be a travel influencer isn’t enough. It’s just too general. You need to find a niche. If you take a look at all of the successful travel influencers, you’ll notice that they have a distinct voice. They’re either outdoorsy, adventurous, glam, etc… They often also have a very particular aesthetic. Their feeds are typically very consistent in terms of color, style, and vibe.
Many travel influencers actually create their own photoshop presets that they not only apply to all their photos but sell for supplemental income.
For Carly, her niche has consciously evolved over time and I’m currently now beginning to shift my focus to volunteer travel as I truly want to help give back to the beautiful communities I have been so lucky to visit over the years.
5. Do your research
Research is extremely important to building a brand on Instagram. Spend some time studying what your favorite (successful) influencers are doing. Check out what is working for them and what isn’t. By doing this, you’re skipping a few steps by learning from their successes and from their failures.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
When you’re travelling, make sure you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Many times when traveling, your faced with situations that feel uncomfortable. However, these challenges are exactly what make traveling so special. Don’t be afraid to tell your audience all about these experiences. I have found that being relatable is key to connecting with your following.
7. Be a tourist in your own city
Though being a travel influencer requires travel, you can provide awesome content from your own city. In the time between trips to awesome and exotic places, show some hometown pride and give your followers a glimpse of your own town.
You can be adventurous in your own backyard and it’s certainly a lot easier on your wallet. When you’re not off exploring the world, link up with local businesses (i.e. restaurants, lodging, activities, and tourism offices) to not only provide awesome content to your followers but to explore your own home on the cheap.