501 Places is 2 years old; so what next?

At Evora Cathedral, PortugalTwo years ago I published my first post on 501 Places. Since that day I’ve posted another 463 posts and enjoyed many online conversations and face to face meetings that have come as a result. I look back and see that I wrote a post on a similar theme 12 months ago, so perhaps it’s appropriate this time to ask myself what has changed in the last year.

In the first year I wrote over 300 posts on 501 Places; this year it’s only 150. What has happened in the meantime is that I have written nearly 100 posts for three clients’ sites. These have provided a steady and slowly growing income and have meant that quite naturally I have reduced the time I can dedicate to this site. From posting every day initially I dropped to four times a week and then to the current three; soon I expect to settle my 501 Places output at two new posts a week.

Making Music in LisbonHow did I make the connections that led to these contracts? While I meet my clients regularly in person, in each case the initial contact was made either directly or indirectly via online conversations that have stemmed from my blog. To that end, my blog has reaped worthy rewards. I’ve been invited to speak on the subject of blogging as a marketing tool for small businesses, both in a paid and a speculative capacity. In short, building 501 Places into an established travel blog has opened many doors for me that I wouldn’t have predicted two years ago.

In the two years since I became freelance my business cards have gone through several makeovers. My job title has changed with almost every design. Am I a travel blogger? I don’t think so. My accounts show that last year I made more money from writing information booklets and website copy than from blogs; I also made more writing about healthcare and oil and gas than I did about travel.  I’ve settled on writer: it’s a broad title but no less vague than the spread of my work.

Tirana, AlbaniaBesides, travel blogging in my mind is more about working as a publisher than a writer. A good travel blogger manages relationships with advertisers, becomes an SEO expert, negotiates press trips and learns the art of good photography, using video, and podcasts. I claim none of these skills and I admire those who have jumped into the world of blogging and embraced the know-how needed to make a decent living from their efforts. I’ve never hosted an ad on my site, never received a penny for a link and I have almost no designing ability. On that topic I am currently investing in its first professional makeover; I figure if it serves as my shop window to potential clients it should nice to look at and easy to use.

In the last year I have taken part in a couple of press trips and politely declined at least ten more. Some have had the most lavish and thrill-packed itineraries, and I’ve had to take a step back and ask myself ‘how will this trip help my business?’ and ‘where will I see a return on this, short or long-term?’. When I’ve done this I haven’t found a good answer. As a result I have concluded in most cases that I would rather spend the time writing at home and earning the money that allows me to travel with my wife on our own terms.

Zip lining in BelizeA recent project with a national tourist board represented a very interesting departure from the traditional model and one that I hope I can build on elsewhere. I travelled for several days alone, with no fixed itinerary and staying in modest hotels/guest houses (the type I would normally book if travelling on holiday). My task was to report back in the form of material for the tourist board’s website and in time, my own. For this I was paid a viable daily project fee. At last, I found a type of press trip that ticks my boxes.

So what’s coming up in year 3 of 501 Places, apart from the imminent new design? Well, a couple more clients who want to outsource their regular blog content would be good, along with a steady stream of ad-hoc projects to keep me in coffee and cakes. A month in Japan beckons later in the year and I’ll be looking at ways to sell the resulting content from that trip. Beyond that, as has been the pattern so far, I wouldn’t be able to guess the opportunities that come along at this point; and that’s just fine with me.

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

18 Responses to “501 Places is 2 years old; so what next?”

  1. Sounds great! I think some Asti and cake are in order for the celebration and then an exciting year ahead is waiting for you :-)

    May 29, 2011 at 10:51 am
  2. Congrats on your 2-year anniversary. I enjoyed reading about the unexpected directions your travel site has taken you. I see year 3 will be no different in that you are simply looking for the right opportunities.

    May 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm
  3. Congratulations! Here’s to many more adventures in the year to come!

    May 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm
  4. Congrats, Andy! Here’s to many more! : )

    May 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm
  5. ..for he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny! Congrats on the first 24 months Andy, and more power to yer elbow re those travel writing gigs. :)
    ‘I’ll have two kitkats and a jar of marmite, two kitkats and a jar of marmite, what sandwiches have yer got?’

    May 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm
  6. Congrats Andy! :)

    May 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm
  7. Congratulations Andy! You’re one of my fave travel bloggers – it’s always a joy to read your beautiful, often thought-provoking posts. I’m really proud that you contributed posts to my blog on various occasions (you know you’re welcome any time!).
    I wish you all the best and I look forward to reading about your new adventures.

    Cheers & big hugs,
    Keith

    May 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm
  8. Just came across your blog today very interesting concept and congratulations on your 2 year anniversary on this blog. Happy travels

    Cheers

    May 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm
  9. Congratulations on the anniversary. I have enjoyed your posts and your points of view.

    May 30, 2011 at 9:08 pm
  10. Congrats on two years Andy. Love reading your blog as it’s always full of very well written and subjective travel experiences. You are kind of like my “travel oracle” when it comes to good, solid writing. Cheers for all the top content and inspiration.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:50 am
  11. Thank you to all for the very kind words. The interactions with folks both on this blog and via Twitter have been one of the most rewarding parts of managing this site; not to mention the chance to find so many great sites that I now enjoy reading as well.

    May 31, 2011 at 9:51 am
  12. Abi #

    Happy birthday @1002 places! Been a real pleasure to read your work, meet you in person and discuss the ins and outs of this new way of working. Look forward to reading @2004places as long as it still makes you happy ;) Congrats!

    June 1, 2011 at 10:47 am
  13. Likewise Abi – and it’s good to see that you know your 501 times tables. I’ll keep going just to test you on the bigger numbers :-)

    June 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm
  14. Congrats Andy! When I first began my blog, I used to post daily as well. I’ve now dropped down to 3 posts a week, (a Travel Tuesday Post, Fantasy Friday post and a Sunday post). I’ve noticed that it’s so much easier for my readers to keep up with what I have to say when I don’t post as often.

    June 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm
  15. Congratulations on your blog-anniversary. I enjoy reading your thoughtful and interesting posts.

    June 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    • Thanks Sophie – appreciate it and hope to meet up at one of these gatherings soon.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm
  16. A very belated congratulations Andy (you can’t tell I’m doing a big reading catch-up on a wet Sunday afternoon, can you?).

    It’s tough maintaining a post a day pace – and almost certainly unrealistic. Far better to post one thing that’s good every week or two than try and force things out for the sake of it, I’d say.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm
  17. Andy Jarosz #

    Cheers David. Have come to same conclusion and have accepted is as good news that I don’t have time to write on here more than once or twice a week.

    July 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm