Creating a strong brand out of your blog is one of the first lessons everyone learns when starting out. And, of course, it’s very important. Being different, specific and unique will definitely help you stand out in an oversaturated travel blogging world.
However, sometimes even with a strong niche, it can be quite challenging to stand out and grow your blog. Since starting my travel blog three years ago, I’ve taken a bit of a different approach and created services and products on it. And that helped me to (although having a small stats), become a full time blogger very quickly.
Find your niche
Before even starting to think about adding services and products to your blog, think about your niche. Or, if you want, about your strengths.
What is that unique thing you know a lot about? What’s your formal education in? What are your expertise in so you can create services around that? What are your talents?
Well, I’m a travel blogger who’s focusing on art and culture of European destinations. I have an Art History degree and that’s something that differentiate me from many other travel bloggers. Of course, I’m also completely passionate about it. So, when planning my trip I usually already know a lot about history or culture of that destination. That’s my strength and this is where my knowledge is. And it was logical to me to create services and products related to that.
‘What is that unique thing you know a lot about? What’s your formal education in? What are your expertise in so you can create services around that? What are your talents?’
Approach your blog as a business
The other thing which was really important for me, was approaching my blog as a business from the very beginning. I have registered it at a Chamber of Commerce, created a logo and promoted it as a business, and not a hobby I had on the side.
I also became active in many local business associations and Facebook groups. I’ve joined many networking events and became a speaker at some conferences.
Connecting with local businesses really made a difference for me. I was taking my blog seriously and people I wanted to work with took it seriously, as well. It also helped me to get into contact with the right people who were interested in working with me and selling my services and products.
The services I started selling as a part of my blog, were private art tours in museums in Amsterdam. It was really niche with what I was writing about on my blog. It gave it a much bigger credibility, as well. From a business point of view, even more importantly, it gave me an income from the very beginning. And although my blog was still quite small, I started earning from it and it became my full time job very quickly.
To be successful with affiliate marketing and advertising you need bigger audience on your blog. But, it’s not the case with services you can offer. And that’s the best part about it.
Using platforms for advertising your services
A great thing with services is that you can also get your name out there much easier. I started using tours platforms like Viator and Get your Guide and advertised my art tours there under the name of my blog. It’s also one of the reasons why you don’t need a big blog audience at the beginning. Nowadays, I don’t need to use them any more and I’m getting all the bookings for my tours through my blog. But, it was definitely easier to start because of them.
Collaborating with other (travel) companies
The other important thing when growing a business for me was collaborating with some bigger companies. It’s so much easier to grow your business when you’re collaborating with other businesses. When I started to work with two big travel agencies who sent me their clients, my tours really took off.
Your clients are your future readers
And that leads us to the next thing. Working in the online world is great, but from my experience the real connections are made offline. Just think of the conferences as a great example. Many people that came on my tours, became dedicated readers of my blog. But, not only that. Many companies I started to work with on my art tours hired me to work with them as a travel blogger. Showing your credibility will definitely help you to stand out and to get noticed.
‘Working in the online world is great, but from my experience the real connections are made offline’
After I realised how services benefited my blog, I decided to take another step and create physical products that I could sell there.
Once again, I thought about what could go well with my niche. And since I’m writing about cultural tourism and art a lot, I decided to create art related travel products – colouring postcards from different European destinations.
Test your products first
Of course, with any kind of product, it’s always good to test them a bit at the beginning. First, I created a ‘test product’, wrote a blog post and waited to see how interested people would be in it. Then, I tested different products, packages, pricing etc. It’s really all about testing it, adjusting it a bit and doing that all over again in that first phase.
Although, I thought I would have the same audience where I had at my art tours, I was completely wrong. A very different audience was interested in them. It wasn’t the people visiting that destination, but the people actually living there that were interested. When I realised that, I promoted it differently. It’s definitely important to be flexible and test your products all the time.
How can you sell your physical products online?
My only advice here would be – automatize it!
I worked first with email orders and that really didn’t work well for me. First of all, people are used to having a quick and easy way of purchasing products. Sending an email and then waiting for a reply is something no one wants to do. Having a list of ordered items and updating it daily with payments, isn’t something you want to waste your time on. So the best thing would be to use some of the services that will help you sell them.
Here are some of the services you can use:
Etsy – It’s mostly dedicated to art and craft and super easy to set up. You can create your shop and start selling your products immediately. They charge a small commission for completed sales. I’ve been using it for a year now and am quite happy with it.
Amazon – It’s bigger, you can reach more people, but it’s also a bit more expensive to use it. You have to pay a monthly fee for it, so it’s suitable for when you have already established business.
Shopify – Similar as above, there is a monthly plan for using it. However, you can sell a bigger range of products. It could work well for someone who would like to sell travel equipment or similar products.
Web shop on your blog – It’s probably the best option, but it does require some technical knowledge to set up your web shop. It’s definitely something I’m planning to do in the following months.
How can you sell your physical products offline?
This is something I wasn’t planning at all at the beginning. But, you know how it is with your blog and business in general. Often it takes its own way…
A great thing with selling your products offline is that anyone purchasing them could be a potential new reader for your blog. I put my blog name on each of my postcards. So, anyone buying them offline is a new potential visitor to my blog.
Soon after I’d launched my products, they got a lot of interest from some local bookstores and museums – one of the biggest bookstores in Amsterdam started selling them. And then, after that, some other museums and bookstores followed.
I also contacted some stores that could be interested in my products, myself. Here is what did or did not work for me:
Networking – Something that always works the best for me is networking! Networking with other bloggers, small business owners and travel brands representatives. I get 90% of my work through networking. That’s also how I got into contact with some shops that wanted to sell my products. Once again, treating your blog as a business means that other people see it like that, too.
Social media – Social media was a great source of information about the potential stores and partners. When posting a photo of my colouring postcards on Instagram, many bookstores (selling similar products) would like or comment on my posts. I would send them a private message then asking if they would be interested in working together. In majority of cases the answer would be yes. I believe it felt more personal, and that’s why it’s working better than email for me.
Pop up shops & Fairs – I’ve just started with testing this out, but it looks like a great way to get yourself out there and tell people about what you’re doing. Pop up shops are quite popular recently and when they have a travel theme, my products fit in well.
Giving your blog more credibility with services and products
Creating services and products definitely gave my travel blog more credibility. When writing about museums in Amsterdam I would include parts from my art tours. When collaborating with tourist boards or doing press trips, I would include a set of colouring postcards dedicated to that destination as a part of my content packages.
It also gave a better feel of having an art and culture theme to my blog. Itt helped me to stand out with a specific niche in the travel blogging world. And, in the end, that helped me to become a full time travel blogger very quickly despite my quite small stats.
I hope this post will give you some ideas of what can you do to create a stronger brand for your blog with services and products!
Tea is an Amsterdam based travel blogger behind the www.culturetourist.com. Originally from Croatia, she writes about art and culture in European destinations. When travelling she likes to visit museums, local art and design shops and chat with local people. She also organises private art tours in some museums in Amsterdam (https://culturetourist.com/tours/), and creates colouring postcards within her project ‘Drawing the art of Europe’ (https://www.etsy.com/shop/CultureTourist).