When I was in college, a local businessman who had sold his business for over $200 million ran a class where he taught us how to be entrepreneurs. He invited other successful people, of which there were many in Santa Barbara, to talk to us about how to think outside the box, how to ask questions, and how to challenge the status quo.
I had never considered working for myself before this class. But it planted a seed that 5 years later, would sprout as I embarked on this blogging career. Be My Travel Muse started about 10 years ago and has grown into one of the most read women’s travel blogs in the world, with 2 full-time employees and a mid-six-figure income. 10 years later, these are the things I’ve learned from 10 years of being an entrepreneur.
10. Overnight success is a sham
Over the past decade, I’ve noticed many new players seem to shoot up out of nowhere and burn out just as quickly. If someone in the blogging world has experienced “overnight success”, especially if they highlight how quickly they did it, it’s usually bullshit.
You’ll find numerous opportunities to cut corners, buy followers, manufacture influence, and you may even be absorbed by brilliant courses that promise overnight success. But building a dedicated audience, which requires trust and presenting consistently, takes time. There is no way around it. It’s worth it, though, because it’s sustainable. This is how you last 10 years instead of just a couple.
9. The most important quality is the grain
I’m not the smartest person to get into this industry. I’m used to being a B+/A- kind of student: well, maybe even the honor roll, but never the top of the class.
But the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that it’s not school anymore. There is no standardized test that we are all taking at the end. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’m sassy and will keep looking for ways to make something work. It took me 3 years to be cash positive on my blog and I had a lot of 11th hour moments.
Your tastes and skills will take time to hone. For 99% of successful people, it took many years of unseen and uncelebrated hard work. One of the most important commonalities among successful people is that they simply do not give up.
8. Success leaves breadcrumbs
One of my secret weapons has been to occasionally research other successful bloggers, sometimes in my industry and sometimes completely different. What I mean is go back to the beginning, search their archives and go through their evolution to see when they make it big and how. Sometimes they’ll even leave comments or interviews about how they’ve done things on other people’s blogs or podcasts. If you take the time and dig deep, you can often find out how someone made something happen.
While I wouldn’t use this information to copy anyone, I’ve taken what I’ve learned from many different places and put it together to make my own formula.
7. You must commit to being a lifelong learner
Throughout my career, on nearly every long bus, car, and train ride, you could find me listening to a podcast or audiobook about building as an online entrepreneur. Personal development and continuous learning have always been an important part of my growth strategy.
You can find a book or podcast for any topic you’re curious about, whether it’s a specific social network, SEO, or just getting inspired by other people’s stories. Sometimes listening to a podcast would plant an idea in my head that was unrelated, but somehow got me thinking in the right direction. Even now as I prepare to be a mother, you better believe I’m doing the same to be a father. Having all the information at your disposal helps you make decisions about what’s right for you. Commit to being a lifelong learner and you will be fine.
6. Network, network, network
I couldn’t have gotten here without networking. It was the friends I made in the travel blogging industry that gave me the first paid opportunities I had. From joining paid tourism board projects to recommending me for projects I didn’t have time to do, it’s been my connections with others that have greatly accelerated this process.
Sometimes it’s the big things, like writing the solo female travel column on nomadicmatt.com, or the little things, like the sage advice someone gives you because you’ve made friends, you trust each other, and it’s a symbiotic relationship. Whether it’s just online or even better, in person, build strong connections and friendships. The more meaningful the better.
Most fellow bloggers I’ve met at conferences, or when we were both in the same place at the same time after months of online interactions. It’s always been more about building a friendship than getting anything out of it.
5. Embrace failure
I went through a four-year period where I was constantly launching new projects, and while some of them were quite successful, like BMTM Adventures, others, like my short-lived clothing line, took a long time to time and money, but they did not give great results. results
Other ventures included writing books (very successful), launching courses (mildly successful), a short-lived travel planning service (not a great reward for my time), and many more that I’m probably forgetting.
I’m glad I tried so many different things. It helped me realize that my greatest asset was what I love to do the most: not creating products, but creating content. I wouldn’t have known without being willing to try things.
You have to be willing to be disappointed. You have to be willing for a project to fall short of expectations. But you also have to set high goals so you wake up excited every day. There is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences. If you approach every project this way, the outcome doesn’t matter.
4. Be willing to kill your loved ones
One of the other biggest mistakes I think bloggers make is keeping things the same and not innovating.
Has Instagram become a platform for short videos? Then make the video. Google just rolled out a new core update and your rankings have dropped? Then make Google happy. When I started, Twitter was the biggest social platform. Then Pinterest came along and shook up the industry, along with Instagram and the rise of the influencer. Those who did not constantly innovate tended to be left in the dust.
Throughout this journey, I have noticed that bloggers love complain when there’s a major change in a platform they’ve put their heart and soul into growing. I agree, it sucks, but don’t waste your time crying over spilled milk. You have to be willing to break away from what worked before because if one thing is true in this industry, it’s constantly changing and you have to change with it.
3. Put real life into the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, states that for many outcomes, approximately 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. As an entrepreneur, I understand that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your efforts.
From 2016 to 2020, I easily worked 80 hours a week. I felt that I had to do everything to be competitive, then I realized that I was a cog in the machine in many cases. I was creating a lot of work for myself when what I really needed to do was look at where I was most successful and duplicate those things. I decided that 2021 and 2022 would be years where I wouldn’t release anything new, but rather focus on what I love to do: creating content. Turns out these have been a couple of the most profitable years I’ve ever had, pandemic and all.
2. As soon as you can, hire people
At first, of course, you’ll have to do it all by yourself. But a common mistake I see bloggers make is not being willing to hire someone when the time is right.
I’m a big fan of outsourcing absolutely everything I don’t want to do/don’t have to do myself. I didn’t bother learning anything technical with my site, I have someone you frantically email when something breaks (thanks Andrew). Once dealing with my email inbox started taking hours every day, I hired a full-time assistant who has been with me for eight years. I don’t clean my house either, because my time is much better spent doing other things, and I hate cleaning anyway.
Many people fear giving up control by hiring new people. I take the opposite approach and hire new people a little before I’m really ready/can fully afford it. They contribute enough to make it worthwhile very quickly. I don’t think of hiring new people as giving up control, I think of it as inviting a new, bright person into the mix who will have ideas to contribute. Expanding my team has only made Be My Travel Muse better.
1. Overdeliver whenever possible
Be My Travel Muse’s writing and photography are what made it stand out in an otherwise saturated market. Travel is a visual medium, and I knew I had to excel in photography to be competitive. So I put in the time. For the best lighting, I resist the tempting snooze button early in the morning, or at the top of a mountain at dusk, meaning I’m back down, almost always alone, in the dark with a headlamp. Sometimes it takes me days to get to the location I’m shooting, and you better believe I’ve done tons of research beforehand to figure out the best timing and angles. This is what is needed.
When I am hired by a client, if possible, I exceed our agreement. Some people argue that if you do that, you’ll never get paid what you’re worth, but I haven’t found that to be true. The same clients often hire me again, and for a higher salary. I want them to be so happy that they work with me multiple times. I want them to be so happy that they tell others how great it is to work with me. In such a competitive industry, the bare minimum won’t get you very far. So overdeliver whenever possible and make sure your customers get back the money they spend with you. That’s why I’ve never liked black hat techniques like feedback or anything that fakes influence. It leads to disappointed customers.
As I write this list, it occurs to me that I could fill a book with all the things I’ve learned, all the things I got wrong, which were numerous, and all the things I honestly still have no idea about. .
But these ten things I know for sure. Thank you all for being here and reading this. It wouldn’t be 10 years without you, and I love you all to the moon and back in 1 millimeter zigzags.