State of the Blog Address

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State of the Blog Address

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

This isn’t a blog about blogging, and thus we refrain from talking about it as much as possible, save for this annual post where we give a behind-the-scenes look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. (Previous posts are here: 2010, 2011 and 2012.)

As we pass our third blog anniversary this week (!!), we have some things to say about what’s going on with Hecktic Travels, including some changes that are coming up. (If you are interested, please read on, but if you think this is boring and would rather just read about some travel adventures, check out these two favourite posts from 2013: reflections on four years of travel, and what the world thinks about Canadians.)

But before we go on, we do have one favour to ask. While we have many thoughts on the future of Hecktic Travels, we want to check in with you. What do you like? What do you want to see us improve? We’d also love to learn a little more about you, dear readers. If you would take a few minutes to answer a short ten question survey, we’d forever appreciate your honesty and candour!

The survey is now closed. Thanks for all your responses!

 

*****

About a year and a half ago, at the first travel blogging conference either of us ever attended, I had an extended conversation with a prominent travel blogger about seeing blogging as a profession. He stared at me incredulously when I said that I wasn’t committed to it at that point, that I didn’t even see how it was possible.I couldn’t see the end game. I couldn’t fathom the point at which we would be financially sustaining ourselves based on what we do with this little labour of love. Sure, some people are able to live well solely off of their blog (very few in comparison to the thousands out there), and others are happy to just bounce from one press trip to another (which has never been our goal). Even though we already consider ourselves successful via the definition of simply and happily doing what we love, I couldn’t see how we could continue with it indefinitely given the large amount of effort and little financial return. Last year, if you remember, we estimated that we made ~$7.00/hour and just $3.25/hour the year before that. Hardly a viable business model.

Whether we knew it or not when the year started out, 2013 became transformational for us. Spurred on by the fact that our life savings were inching closer to the point at which we both agreed we would say “stop”, we tried our hand at many different things to see what we liked to do, and what would best help us keep our feet in motion. What could we do, with the skills that we have, in order to meet our only goal of sustaining a nomadic lifestyle?

What could we do, with the skills that we have, in order to meet our only goal of sustaining a nomadic lifestyle?

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I started doing more freelance writing (hated it), and we began to focus on creating video (loved it). We started to set up additional sites to create passive income (hated it, never completed), and even did some small business social media consulting (medium liked it). We organized social media marketing campaigns (loved it), and mentored new bloggers (now THAT was fun).

And come fall, something *clicked*. Our inbox started to fill up with opportunities. People were saying *yes* more often, and to things, we were really excited about it. That old saying, do-what-you-love-and-the-rest-will-follow appeared to actually becoming true.

Corner: turned.

I don’t think it was exclusive to just us, though. I think it is due to the travel industry truly recognizing that we (collectively, as bloggers) can provide real value. That those of us who work our tails off and treat this as an actual career is dead serious about what we do, and with the right partnerships in place to maintain our livelihood, we’re not going away any time soon.

And we are no longer questioning our future. Now, as we sit at the beginning of a new calendar and blogging year, some realizations have been made about our blog, our business, and ourselves. 2014 will be the year of precise focus. Our behind-the-scenes strategies will sharpen, and while we renew our efforts to provide more value to our readers, we’ll also be further developing the means to keep going.

Here’s what you can expect…

Less, but more. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve cut back on our posting. It used to be three times a week like clockwork, but this fall we cut back to two (and sometimes only once). And it was the best decision we could have made, both for us (allowing us more time to focus on outside work), and for you (posts since then have become more detailed, and with more juicy photos). It started out as an experiment but is now our new standard.

— Some of our “outside” work is not just good for our own pocketbook, but for travel bloggers in general. We’ve got exciting multi-blogger social media marketing campaigns currently in the works and more on the horizon. Not only do we find this work incredibly satisfying because it calls on the business skills we built in our past lives, but the fact that we can play a small part in making blogging a viable solution for our peers is also highly rewarding.

— Our mission to change the English language IS STILL GOING STRONG. To be continued…

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Lights! Camera! Action! In all honesty, sometimes I wish I could just dump writing and present everything in video. It’s a lot more work, but I find it a lot more fun. And we’ve had some early success with it – being pleasantly surprised by two companies purchasing our videos, and we are now currently in negotiations with another to produce even more. Expect more action shots on our website as we focus on increasing our skills.

Camera Gear— Pete’s got new toys! So he had better start producing some better photos soon or he’s fired. πŸ™‚

More value. We’ve recently hired someone to help with administrative duties which means we can better organize this site and also offer more of the information that we know you love. First up: house-sitting just got hotter. We have been scouring the web to bring you the hottest house-sits once a month, and now we are going to bring them to you weekly. Bookmark this page and come back (every Monday starting soon!) to see where in the world you can find free accommodations.

— Refined focus on social media. It didn’t take us long in this biz to recognize that we have different audiences on different platforms. There are some people who have probably never looked at our site but only follow our Facebook pageΒ and others that prefer to just catch-up with us via our monthly newsletter. Whereas we used to see each avenue as just a way to push out our blog posts, in this last year we have realized that nurturing each of these with specific strategies is the best way to go. Expect a more tailored approach to our Twitter stream, continuing with our current Facebook and Instagram strategies which we believe work well, and ramping up efforts on that ugly beast Google +.

office— Early results on our survey indicate that while you do appreciate that this is largely a storytelling website, readers want some travel tips to go along with it. Haven’t y’all learned that we are kinda bad at this travel thing? Our goal has always been to just tell pretty stories from the road, but we understand that we should be more helpful too. We’ll give this some thought and see what we can do. *grumble grumble*

— Regarding our own travel. While we are still massive advocates for house-sitting, we did less of it in 2013 than in previous years, partly because of one particular heart-breaking incident that left us reeling, and the fact that we find we need more flexibility in our schedule (it’s much easier to leave an apartment rental than a house-sit if we need to for work)! We do hope to house-sit more in the new year, but they will likely only be shorter stays.

The first half of 2013 will keep us in North America, partly for family commitments, and also to be closer to clients (working on projects based here while we were in Cambodia and Thailand was a sleepless nightmare for us). The deeper we get into the business, the more we find it dictating where we can travel. That isn’t ideal and not the goal of this nomadic lifestyle we originally embarked on, but if we do things right, then solid work through the first half of the year will entirely free us up for the rest of it.

THAT…we can happily live with.

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I feel like with each occasion that we take to reflect on the past year and project to our future, I can’t help but proclaim: “Our future couldn’t be brighter!” And this year I say it again, and of course, I mean it more than ever.

We’ve been travelling for nearly five years, blogging for three, and we can finally, FINALLY, see the end game – where we can keep our feet moving, put food on our table, and really love what we do.

And that is all we’ve ever wanted.

*****

One last reminder for you to complete our annual survey! Many thanks in advance.

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46 Comments

  1. Yay, congrats on your 3 year anniversary! These are all great tips and ideas for travel bloggers…I myself have decided to cut back posting this year to focus on other avenues, too. Best of luck in 2014, happy travels!

  2. Wow, this was an awesome post, and very inspiring. Great to see where you’ve come from and now where you are going!

    Also glad to see Bloghouse in the ‘now THAT was fun’ category! πŸ™‚

    Keep on loving it all!

  3. As one of the lucky few that you guys mentored this year, am honoured πŸ™‚

    But anyway your plans sound pretty damn awesome, and I love how candid you are with what you loved and hated about trying to make your blog work. I would personally love to learn more about how you organize some of these social media blogger campaigns, it’s something I’m interested in exploring.

    Good luck with everything, and hope we cross paths some day! If you guys head down to Asia you know where to find me πŸ™‚

  4. It’s so encouraging to see your success and know that not only have you experienced the same doubts and pitfalls as I have in this business, but that you’ve turned a corner and things are clicking for you. It was such a delight to meet you guys this year. Thanks so much for your support and I hope our paths cross just as often in 2014.

  5. Happy 3 year anniversary! It seems like there are great things in store for 2014 and I cannot wait to keep following your adventures! πŸ™‚

  6. Congratulations you two! It’s not easy to turn blogging into a successful business that can sustain you. You’re both an inspiration to those of us working toward that goal.

    *hangs head and heads back off to my communications job I want to leave SO badly*

  7. Congrats on three years!
    I feel so behind. I’m quickly approaching 3 years as well but in 2013 year have I really had a breakthrough thanks to the BlogHouse Ireland.

    I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings for you two. Thanks so much for all you’ve taught me! It’s paying off but there is so more to do and further to push.

    Happy new year!

  8. I find it so interesting to see how people like you take your skills and passion and make something sustainable out of it, even if it has taken time. Great job, and I look forward to seeing what 2014 has in store for you! I also am not going to try to post more than once a week and hope that that I will have more time for other projects.

  9. Awesome! You guys are so inspirational. I love this kind of thing and wish you the best of luck! Off to do the survey now…

  10. I’ve decided that my word for 2014 is Focus. It’s nice to see that you guys have things laid out so you can focus on just the right things this year. Happy three years!

  11. Congrats on the 3 years! Sounds like last year was great and 2014 will be even better, can’t wait! I hope our paths cross again soon πŸ˜€

  12. Good job guys. Like you, I continue to seek a balance between focusing on the things I like (and medium-like) and the things I don’t like at all and sustaining ourselves on the road. Onward!

  13. Interesting piece guys. Very happy for you both that you’re in a position you can pick and choose the projects you want to work on and drop the rest. Please don’t give up the writing though, you can do that and video πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Vicky! I’m not sure we are at the point we can be picky (just yet), but the way this last six months has been, we are in really good shape. πŸ™‚

  14. Turning a corner. I am SO proud of both of you and so very happy your successes!! I am so happy to have you both in my life and expect BIG things from you in 2014. Love you both!

  15. Let the good times roll! Kudos galore on your impressive achievements, and wishes of continued success. Looking forward to whatever you guys have got up your sleeves (and what happens when you’re wearing a t-shirt, you ask? No idea, English expressions still confuse the hell out of me). Good luck and safe travels!

  16. Congrats on finding your muse, so to speak, and chasing her with all you’ve got. I enjoy the writing and the photos, and glad to see it all coming together for you two.

  17. I’m happy to hear you guys are figuring out what works for you and your blog! 2013 was the first year I made enough from the blog to survive and pay rent in an expensive beach town, so I really can’t complain either. I agree that 2014 is looking bright. Happy New Year!

  18. Congratulations!!!
    I’m halfway where you guys are time-wise. Wonderful Wanderings is turning 1,5 this month and I’m only now starting to figure out where I want to go. The ‘how’ part is still a bit blurry, though:-)

    I do have to say it’s motivating to read that it took you three years to get to this point. I know you might wish that you’d gotten there sooner, but these days all new bloggers seem to move up so fast, while I still have SO much to figure out.

    Kuddos!

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