Nomadic Matt Discusses How To Start a Travel Blog and Make Money
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When I decided to start a money-making travel blog, I had one big question: where do I even begin? Then there were smaller questions like: What is web hosting? What is SEO? What should I write about? How do I get traffic? How do travel bloggers make money?
While scouring the internet for help, I came across Nomadic Matt’s course, The Business of Travel Blogging. It was the first blogging course I signed up for, and I look at it as one of the smartest investments I’ve made in my blogging career! Matt started blogging in 2008. Since then, he has written a New York Times Best-Selling book and grown an audience of 1.3 million monthly visitors and almost 300,000 email subscribers.
I met Nomadic Matt, real name Matthew Kepnes, at his travel conference, Travel Con, in September 2018. While chatting with other bloggers, he came up to me and said something like, ‘Hey, you’re one of my students. I recognize that name.’ Well, I was flattered, to say the least. I recently reached out to Matt for a long overdue interview to talk about his journey, his travel blogging advice, and his course, The Business of Travel Blogging. In the end, you’ll get a peek inside The Business of Travel Blogging. Let’s jump right in!
Could you give us some background on yourself and how you became Nomadic Matt?
I became Nomadic Matt sort of accidentally. Over a decade ago, I went on a trip to Asia and ending up backpacking in Thailand. At that point, travel for me was just about vacations. You go somewhere, travel, and come back a couple weeks later. Long-term travel wasn’t even in the back of my mind.
That all changed when I met some budget backpackers in Chiang Mai. They were long-term travelers, spending months (and years) traveling the world on a budget. Right then, I knew I had to try and do the same thing.
After going home, I focused on saving money and I eventually quit my job to travel. I spent over a year on the road backpacking Southeast Asia and beyond.
I learned how to start a travel blog, but my plan was to just use the blog as a resume to get “real” travel writing jobs. I had hoped I could write for Lonely Planet, traveling the world and writing guidebooks, so my blog was created to showcase my writing and travel expertise.
Instead of getting a job for Lonely Planet, my blog actually started to become popular. As it grew, I realized that maybe I didn’t need to get a job for someone else. Maybe, just maybe, I could be my own boss.
With a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and a hefty dose of luck I was able to grow “Nomadic Matt” into a full-time business. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it’s been an incredibly rewarding journey!
You’ve been a travel blogger for more than 10 years now. How has the blogging landscape changed in that time?
Blogging today is completely different than it used to be! Back when I started, there were almost no other travel blogs. You had to figure everything out as you went but you also had much less competition. You could write genuine articles and not worry exclusively about making them SEO friendly.
These days, blogging has exploded. It’s become much more accessible so anyone can start a travel blog these days — which is great! We have much more diverse perspectives and travel has become much more inclusive. However, we’re also seeing some downsides. Everything is boiling down to dry SEO articles and clickbait titles; social media is just used for regurgitating the same edited photos while hawking affiliate links. Even I have to write the occasional listicle piece about the best hostels in Paris to keep up and compete!
So while I think a lot of great changes have occurred, there’s also the dark side to it all. But I’m optimistic about changes in the industry and I think we will continue to see more good progress made over the next decade!
What exactly is The Business of Travel Blogging? Can you explain the basics of the course for those who are unfamiliar with it?
The Business of Blogging course is everything I wish I had when I started out! It’s a 10-week course that walks students through starting a blog, step by step. We show you all the tech stuff you need to know while providing expert assistance whenever you get stuck (my own tech guy helps all our students — and he’s a pro!)
We show you how to build a brand, how to market yourself and grow your audience, how to create and monetize newsletters, and how to turn your blog into a successful business. We have monthly live Q&As as well as a private group just for students where you can ask questions and get feedback. Lastly, the course includes homework assignments that I personally review so you get direct feedback from me.
If you want to learn how to start a successful blog, this is the course for you. Sure, some of these resources can be found online for free. But what we offer is a community where you will find support and learn new skills, all while getting the mentorship you need to grow your blog into a thriving business.
Who is this course for and who is it NOT for?
If you want a get rich quick website and don’t want to invest in yourself for the long term, this course isn’t for you. No one is making a six-figure income overnight in my course. So, if you just want to make a quick buck, try another course.
If you are willing to put in the work and don’t mind taking the time to do something right, then this course is for you. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. So, if you want to invest in yourself and spend the time and energy it takes to succeed and do the job well we would love to have you in the community!
There are many blogging courses out there. What makes The Business of Travel Blogging different?
With our course, we don’t just hand you some lessons and send you on your way. We’re invested in your success. We have weekly assignments to keep you on track, and you can email me or our tech guy anytime to ask questions and get additional help. We also share weekly blog posts and interviews with bonus content, have expert case studies you can review, a job board where you can find paying gigs and collab opportunities, and have almost 20 bonus webinars recorded that are full of insightful content.
Plus, each month I host Office Hours, a Q&A session open to students where they can come by and ask me whatever they want. We hold two one-hour sessions each month and they are a great way to get more comprehensive answers to specific questions.
Lastly, we have a private Facebook group where you can network with other bloggers, get feedback, and share your content. We’ve built a whole support network for our students so they’ve always got someone to turn to for help.
When I started out, I broke my website countless times. I didn’t have a community. It was frustrating and isolating.
I don’t want my students to have to deal with that, which is why I built my course in a way that makes sure everyone gets the help they need when they need it.
What are some of the greatest successes your students have achieved to date?
I’ve had the privilege of getting to work with a ton of amazing, talented bloggers from all around the world. I have students who are now making a full-time income from their blog (and a ton who are making a part-time income), students who have published books, students who are leading tours, and students who are speaking at conferences.
I’m incredibly proud of the work my students do. They’ve really taken the lessons from the course and incorporated them into their blog. And, as I think you can see, it works!
What is the biggest challenge for those new to travel blogging? How can The Business of Travel Blogging help them overcome it?
I think this depends on the person. Some people struggle with the technical aspect of blogging but thrive on marketing and networking. Others might have the tech skills but struggle to find a way to break from the crowd to stand out on their own.
No matter what your struggle, we’re ready to help! I’ve been teaching this course for a few years now so I’ve made sure to include lessons on every potential struggle or hiccup so each student has the tools they need to succeed. We’re always adding new lessons and updating old ones so the course stays helpful and insightful for every student, no matter their skill level.
What are some of the most common myths about travel blogging?
I think the most common myth is that travel bloggers just get to spend all their time lounging by the pool.
I wish that were the case!
When you start a travel blog, you’ll spend much more time hunched over your laptop than you will on the beach or by the pool. That being said, you will definitely have the flexibility to enjoy your time when you want — it just requires a lot of hard work first!
Most bloggers quit within the first 6 months. What kind of support do your students get to help them keep going?
I think the main reason for this is that bloggers have unrealistic expectations. Social media makes blogging seem like a perpetual vacation. It’s not (sorry!).
Starting a blog is like starting a business, and if you start a business without the right mindset (and without the right help) you’ll go nowhere fast.
That’s why I make sure everyone knows what to expect when they get started. This is a long, slow process. It requires consistent effort — just like any other business.
But that’s why we’re here to help. While our course is 10 weeks long, even after that initial 10 weeks you can still take part in our Facebook group, attend our monthly Q&As, and email me questions. You get our support for as long as you need it because blogging is an ongoing process. There is always something new to learn, which is why we stick around to make sure you get to the finish line!
Could you share some early mistakes you made as a travel blogger and what they taught you?
I made a ton of mistakes when I first started out! From having an ugly design (or, several ugly designs) to not learning SEO, to breaking my website because I didn’t spend enough time learning code. I also waited to start my mailing list, which likely lost me a lot of potential readers and customers. Each of those experiences caused me an untold amount of headaches, but they also taught me valuable lessons — lessons I share in the course so that you don’t have the same frustrations that I did.
There are so many things that can go wrong when you start a blog that the whole process can seem daunting. But with a community and a mentor, you’ll be able to overcome all the blogging obstacles that will come your way and get on the path to success!
What piece of advice would you give someone on the fence about investing in The Business of Travel Blogging?
I know that buying a course and investing your time can seem daunting. I’ve purchased courses in the past that were duds, so I understand your apprehension. That’s why I have a 30-day refund period. You can sign up, start a travel blog, use the course for 30 days, and then decide if you want to keep it.
After 30 days if you decide it’s not for you, we’ll refund your money. That’s it. Easy peasy!
But if you decide that the course is for you, we will continue to help you grow your blog into the business you want it to be.
Hopefully, I’ll see you in class!
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A Look Inside The Business of Travel Blogging
The Business of Travel Blogging is a 10-week course for beginner travel bloggers who want a roadmap for success. Each week covers one important aspect of running a successful blog. You’ll start with the very basics -like web hosting and WordPress – and move on to more advanced topics like affiliate marketing. Take a look at the complete 10-week syllabus:
Here’s the truth: there’s a ton to learn when you start a blog, from SEO to writing great content to branding to email list building. Remember that you’re building a business – a blog-based business, to be exact. As with any business, you need to invest in learning and tools to be successful. That’s where courses come in. There are tons of blogging courses out there, and I’ve taken at least half of them. Seriously, I’ve taken 23+ blogging courses (free and paid) so far. I can confidently say that The Business of Travel Blogging is by far the best course for beginner travel bloggers. It’s as if someone’s holding your hand, walking you each step of creating your blog.
Here’s what I liked most about the course:
- Free technical support – there’s a WordPress technical support staff available 24/7 to help with you with any issues that come up. Technical problems are bound to happen.
- Personalized feedback on my writing – I submitted some of my early posts and got some invaluable feedback on my writing.
- Four blogger case studies – you get insight into the journeys of successful bloggers, like The Blonde Abroad. These case studies are so inspiring because they all start from scratch, just like you.
- Big picture, long-term approach – blogging is a journey, and this course emphasizes that at each step.
- SEO tutorial – search engine optimization is one of the hardest subjects for bloggers, but the lessons simplify it.
- Matt’s honesty – I always appreciate realness. There are just too many bloggers out there who brag about how much money they make and how easy it is. Matt lays out the reality of blogging so that you have reasonable expectations.
- Content updates are regular – Matt listens to the feedback from the private Facebook group and updates the course accordingly. Since I signed up, lessons have updated with new and improved information.
Is this course worth the money?
The Business of Travel Blogging is definitely worth the money if you’re a brand new travel blogger who wants a one-stop resource to help you kickstart your blog. You get a lot of information, tips, and support Matt and his team. In addition, you’ll learn invaluable tips from successful bloggers and establish a solid foundation to grow your blogging empire. If you’ve already set up your blog and have been blogging for 6 months+, then this course might now be as helpful.
The course costs $249, which I think is reasonable considering the amount of information and support you get. There are $500+ courses out there that aren’t nearly as in depth. The technical support alone is worth that. But the most powerful thing I gained from this course was confidence! I finally had a roadmap to succeed so I no longer second-guessed myself. Almost 2 years later, I’m still going strong because I had the right foundation to succeed.