“Let’s go. Drive me to the grocery.”
“Mom, I’m working!”
From where I was standing, my mom thinks I work for myself and I can stop anytime I want. Nobody’s going to sack me because I don’t have a boss. This happened when I visited home last year, December 2015. I was living with my parents so technically, I am a squatter. I needed to contribute something to the household. Which is by all means, correct. But the thing is, nobody in my family has an idea how being a full-time blogger is like.
It’s a curse to be my mom’s second most obedient child. In fairness, my siblings and I are equally obedient but in many different levels. I still find my brother, Jethro, the most obedient because he is the youngest. He doesn’t have a choice. It has been a feature of my childhood to pass all the tasks to him because he will take the bullying as per familial hierarchy.
My sister who is also in the house that time is not very skilled with driving cars so I didn’t have a choice. Even if the article I was writing will pay a week of my life, I had to drive mom to the grocery. I grabbed the car keys and vowed to myself: Tomorrow, I will answer back. She has to understand that my occupation is actually a full-time blogger. Fine. I look like I don’t do anything but eat, drink, sleep, read, write, and travel intensely. But I have a job! This is the job! This lifestyle actually needs financial support, please! Arrrgghhh.
I swear to God. Nobody has respect for my time, my work and my circumstances. Everytime I’m on the laptop, people think I am writing a “dear diary” thing. Not actually making a living.
Full-time blogging as a job
It has taken me a year to get used to this lifestyle. I never thought that this blog, the fruit of my writing habits will convert to $$$. When the opportunity presented itself and the possibilities were obvious, I spent a lot of time learning how I will be able to pull this off while traveling the world. It did pay off. However, I faced many adversaries along the way before getting here. Like many other start-ups, it will take all your time, energy and also money in order to achieve the goal.
And so, I did it. I am blogging and social media influence-ing full time. Oh, no. I am not complaining if that’s how you perceived it. I just want people to know that what I do is really hard. I have so much respect for other travel bloggers who are able to pull off this lifestyle. I am continuously inspired by them.
For every time a man would come up to me and say, “do you need help?” i would step back, keep my guard up and respond, “no, thank you. I’m okay.” Even if I am really struggling to read the map in Arabic. “Where you from? Japan? China? Thailand?” Everyone wanted to engage into a small talk. “They want to help, you know. Jordanians are like this. It may seem like they are bugging you but really, they just want to help. Don’t be scared. They are good people,” said an expat whom I met at the bus station. It feels ridiculous that I would always respond and lean on to foreigners when lost. But when I am offered help by a ‘stranger’, I always hold back. (Wait, the expat was also a stranger, no?) I don’t know where this is coming from. Is it from the current mad state of the world? Or the society I grew up in? The good is good. I promised myself I won’t put any other meaning to the good. It’s okay to be cautious. But the reason why we are continuously divided by race, gender and religion is because we are not open to learn and understand something that is different from ours. I am (again) slowly journeying into a deeper meaning of my values, of my beliefs, on how I look at the world. And this is good. Tonight, I just started learning a beautiful language — Arabic. When I reach my maximum fluency, I hope the world wouldn’t look at me differently. #WorldCitizenPassport
I was never employed in a real office. I did not quit my job to travel the world because I never had a real job in the first place. I have no idea about the workforce dynamics. The only thing I know is that you have to go to the office from 9:00 – 17:00. It sounds ridiculous to me (no offense, to each his own) to sit down in a boxed environment and be on the computer all day.
When I first had the taste of working wherever I want, I thought it was pretty cool. I can be in the sands of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro and work as long as there is Internet. From cruise ships to 5-star hotel pools, I was free. I can even wake up midday and yeah, nobody will sack me if I start working at 13:00. My work life was indeed amazing. Living the life, I was!
The blog grew and grew and grew. In just 2 years of being a full-time blogger, I was able to live from the income of the blog. It’s a very rapid growth and it doesn’t happen to all blogs. I was really one of the lucky ones. Though I must say, I owe it to all the readers of this blog. I wouldn’t have made it without them.
You want success, Trisha? There, you got it. The definition of location independence never faded. I could still work wherever I am but not whenever I want. As the blog grew, I received sponsorships, small projects, consultations left and right. I couldn’t keep up because I was used to waking up midday. These brands and companies are paying so I have to submit on time.
I bought my freedom
I didn’t want $7,000 USD a month. As long as I can live wherever I am in the world, I’ll be fine. Tel Aviv has been quite different because it is fecking expensive here. Imagine, if I was targeting $600 USD projects per month when I was in South Americ. In Israel, I have to do 5 times that. Even more.
So that means more hours. Oh no, it doesn’t mean I work 8 hours straight. In fact, I am not capable of that. Three hours straight is already very stressful for me. I’m a writer. How do you expect me to write anything of substance if I am facing the computer all day? I need to be out there. I need human interactions. I need to feel the air slap my face. I need to smell the saltiness of the sea. I need to interact because I just self-diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder.
But yeah, I found myself 5 straight hours working since I came to Tel Aviv. I’ve gone nuts! The only difference is that the Tel Avivians have this creative energy that makes me want to do better. Everyone here seems to be doing something different. Something life-changing. Again, I am not complaining because I am still happy. If I am not happy anymore, then that’s when I have to re-evaluate this ‘bought freedom.’
A fact that everyone needs to know: full-time bloggers don’t have a stable income. We can have $5,000 USD this month and then $200 the following month. We are on a project-based partnership and nothing is permanent. Our transactions always come in a flash. Do one Instagram post, advertiser pays $400 USD and that’s it. We wouldn’t know when the next Instagram post offer will come so we really put our best foot forward in everything that we do.
Free trips = hard work
When I get an e-mail from Tourism Boards and independent organisations from all over the world inviting me to visit their country, I don’t say yes right away. First, I need to know if the destination is relevant to my niche. Okay, fine, it’s for free. Media trips are always paid for (and on top of that, I am paid an appearance fee) but I will not say no to a destination that I won’t know how to market. There are only a few of us who do this and those are the full-time bloggers. Almost 80% of influencers all over the world have other jobs so when invited, they say yes because it’s a vacation for them.
For me, it’s work. The hardest I’ve done is the 12-day trip in Indonesia. They agreed to my rates, terms and contract so I can’t say no to that. When an organisation is willing to sign my agreement, I never say no because there aren’t a lot of them. It was also my second time working with Indonesia so they always have the VIP card in my contact list. They are labeled high priority in my inbox — any time of the day, no matter where I am in the world.
Imagine this: Let’s say one day of a media trip will start from 5:30 and end 22:30. I have to follow the itinerary, move my muscles in order to participate in seeing these places, take pictures, take videos, snapchat, edit pictures and videos, think of a caption, arrange the Instagram grid preview, do a graphic material, write an article, create a Pinterest board, schedule tweets, think of a compelling Facebook post, etc. Can you do all those in one day? To think that you will have to do all these while moving, is that something realistic to you?
More often, I can’t help but look at my fellow travel bloggers and influencers as superheroes. They are very good at what they do in press trips. And me? It tires me to death. The only energy and effort I put into is my Facebook page. You think I am just posting whatever. It looks easy. But seriously, I put all my greatest powers to that page.
There comes the companies and brands who ask me to work for free…
Today’s conversation: “Why the Middle East?” “Because I want to see the good. I want to write something good. Everything on the Internet about Iran, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, etc are all bad news. My goal is to write about the good. I am a strong believer there is always something good, most especially in people. I am looking forward to that goodness.” Photo by: ? @jelitodeleon Shot in: #Indonesia #WonderfulIndonesia #TripofWonders #Sulawesi ?? #TrishaVxIndonesia
The lack of consideration from advertisers is pretty staggering to me. I receive over 40 e-mails per day from brands and companies and 60% of them are asking for free work. No. Thank you. I am definitely not Craigslist. Again, you think the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, blog post, grow following, search engine optimisation (SEO) are jobs we do in minutes? Nope. If this is easy, advertisers shouldn’t be contacting us in the first place.
What advertisers should know
The nature of working with bloggers and online influencers is evolving rapidly. A lot of us have feckloads of following and we did not do that overnight. It took us a lot of time, effort and money to be able to reach that goal. The results we deliver have been proven with documented return on investment. Therefore, it is only right to demand payment for what we do. Magazines, newspapers and any form of traditional media are out of the picture — bloggers are the most credible people because experiences are tangible and firsthand. Audiences are now programmed to believe real people than read a damn spread with a byline that doesn’t have a face. Here are some of my articles about working with full-time bloggers and online influencers:
- On working with online influencers: what Tourism Boards all over the world can learn from Indonesia
- You won’t actually like how Israel responds to media people, journalists, bloggers and influencers
- An open letter to advertisers who don’t appreciate our hard work
- Maximise Your Advertising Budget: It’s Time To Work With Travel Bloggers
And there come the readers who think this life is very easy…
Sometimes, I think it’s our fault that not all of us showcase the real life of being a full-time travel blogger. It results to the “celebrity” worship syndrome that we started as a revolution. I call my fellow bloggers to please tell everyone the truth about what we do. Don’t make them see only our photos on the white sands of Seychelles. Don’t just post your one-year itinerary the length of the Dead Sea. Remember, a lot of people out there are looking up to us.
And to the readers and followers, I will try to say this without being emotional but THANK YOU for supporting my work, for believing in what I do. Everything I have not won’t be possible without you. If you want to be a full-time blogger and online influencer, again, it’s not easy. We are all unique individuals with different lives so please bear in mind that we are just like normal people: without an office, but still working our arse off.
Are you a full-time blogger? How does your day look like? Would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts on the comment box below!