In this series on blogging tips, we look at how do travel bloggers make money and more blogging tips for beginners. Rule no 1 to be a pro blogger, do not build your portfolio and credibility on every free deal that comes your way. Barter deals dont always pay your bills if you are wondering how to get paid for travel blogging.
The first time I heard the word barter was when my grandmother used it. As kids we stayed in a huge joint family, with uncles, aunts and cousins all in tow under the watchful eyes of my late grandparents. My grandmother was a strong believer in the barter system. “It kept the harmony going, ” she used to say. Perhaps it was one of the best strategies ; to use my grandmother’s logic,”Everyone gets what he/she wants and is happy and satisfied.”
Perhaps she was right; which is why in our blogging professions, barters have become the way of life. From condoms to sanitary pads, sachets of shampoos to cooking oil, flight tickets to spa treatments – everything is available for a deal. And frankly why not ? Everyone loves a free meal. The lure of a new destination cannot be ignored. And the deal is packaged with a lot of pampering and special treatment besides the value proposition that you are special and chosen to be one of the few to get this deal.
I am not going to be a hypocrite and say that I have never accepted barters. I do even now. But then I realized that over a period of time that I was falling a prey to the barter system. Contrary to what my grandmother said I was neither happy nor satisfied. But I was in a dilemma and I could not say no. Finally I decided that I needed to create some terms and conditions for myself and some checks and balances in place. Money is as important as passion .
After all, I realized that barters may take me places but they dont pay my bills at home. How do travel bloggers make money if every trip is based on a barter deal ? So if you are facing a similar dilemma, here are my suggestions on how to work around barters and most important, which ones to accept and which ones to refuse. And some tips to be a pro blogger as well.
Can I convert the barter deal into a paid deal ?
Every professional offers his/her services for a fee. And if you are a smart negotiator (which i am not unfortunately), you can try and convert the barter deal into a paid one. Recently I was offered a trip in lieu of several deliverables and I was not comfortable accepting it . Another blogger encouraged me to tell the client about the value of the deliverables that I was offering, so that they would consider paying me. It did not work out but I know that the client is not going to take me for granted the next time. Very often we do not realize that the agencies involved make a killing although they put on a helpless face in front of us. Try asking them the next time if they will accept the deal on barter
There is no such thing as exposure
This is the biggest joke that is going around. This is the first in the list of many blogging tips for beginners. There is no such thing as a free meal and similarly, there is no such thing called exposure. One of the top travel magazines asked me to promote their new edition so that my readers will buy the magazine. When I asked them what is it in for me, they said, association. This, I thought was worse than exposure. I just laughed and told them that I was not born yesterday. If you want to be a pro blogger, then learn to say no.
Everything boils down to numbers
My favourite sentence from George Orwell’s Animal Farm is ” All animals are born equal, but some animals are more equal than the others.” I am of course using it in a different context here. No deals are equal, especially if it is barter. So it is important to always quantify it. I have rejected quite a few deals if the numbers do not add up. For instance, I have said no to several deals where one has to do a review of a five star meal or a fancy spa treatment. At the end of the day, it is just sheer mathematics and if the deal is not working for you in terms of what you are offering then it is not worth it.
Value yourself as a pro blogger
I mean, literally in numbers. Barter deals do make us feel special and important but let us look at it in a tangible context. For me it begins with a rate card. My deliverables are always quantified, irrespective of whether it is a sponsored post or a social media campaign. The value of a barter deal in my opinion should be at least twice or thrice the value, in terms of what I am offering them. And I can do this only if I value myself, my blog, my social assets first. There is no point in giving away everything. How do travel bloggers make money if they just keep doing work for free ?
Look at what you give and not what you get
The tendency is often to see what we are getting. Step back and see what you are giving. This is one of the first things i learnt when I started looking at myself as a pro blogger. Put yourself first and then see the deal in perspective. Is it really that exciting then ? For instance, I was speaking to a few automobile clients for a partnership and they offered me the vehicle for a ten day road trip on barter. “We will pay for the petrol,” they said. I realized that it is going to cost me Rs 5000 while the value I was offering them would be at least ten times more. I politely refused.
Time is Money
Sometimes it is not just the deliverables but it is your time that matters. Many times, a trip takes you away for a long time and you lose other opportunities as well. My rate card also includes a value for the time spent on a campaign or client. This is of course sometimes factored in when I evaluate a deal. How will travel bloggers make money if they cant value their own time or effort ?
The value on the table
As travel bloggers, we are often invited to exotic and fancy destinations. This is where, a lot of us, including Yours Truly bites the bullet and says a humble yes. I am not saying that we should not say yes. Travel is expensive and several genuine partners offer you fascinating experiences, do go out of the way to accommodate your requests besides taking care of your travel and stay. All these count as well. I would pay more importance to these details than platitudes like exposure while evaluating and accepting a deal.
Some deals are strategic
As a pro blogger, there are always decisions that have to be made at a strategic level. This is purely personal and only you can decide on the strategic value on the deal . Is it the partnership,the relationship, the competitive edge, the content or just the experience ? Most of the deals that I accept falls into one or more of these categories.
Dont set a precedent
Many times you realize after accepting a barter deal that another blogger has been paid or the client did have a budget. And then you realize that you have been not been paid because you simply did not ask for it. You had probably set a precedent earlier and the clients just assumed that you will take every deal that is offered. This is one of the first blogging tips for beginners – even if you are starting afresh, position yourself as a pro blogger, not as a hobbyist.
And finally dont spoil the market for other professionals
You may be desperate to get the deal but you may just be ruining the market for the entire industry and other professionals. No industry can grow on just barter deals and blogging, being a fledgling industry will suffer if its just a bundle of deals. We might as well go back to the old traditional way of barter deals than calling ourselves an industry then .
Having said this, how do you feel about barter deals ? Are there any suggestions that you can offer on how do travel bloggers make money ? And what blogging tips for beginners would you like to share ?