Travel bloggers turned business owners Caroline and Craig Makepeace have been announced as panellists at the upcoming Social Media Tourism Symposium in Wollongong this July.
The symposium is the first to be run outside of the US, and will explore how the tourism industry can engage with bloggers and share their brands on social media effectively.
The Makepeaces launched their family travel blog, Ytravel, in April 2010. Caroline was a primary school teacher and Craig was working in construction at the time.
Craig Makepeace told StartupSmart aspiring full-time bloggers need to approach their blog as a business from the beginning if they want to make it their full-time job.
“We always had the business mindset. It’s like a business, and a lot of businesses take that long to turn a profit,” Makepeace says. “We didn’t really have any set plan for when we’d both be full times, but we decided we’d stick with it and got through eventually.”
Caroline has been working on the blog full-time for 12 months, and Craig for six. Craig says while they planned the blog as a business, they didn’t try to monetise the site for the first two years.
“We spent the first two years building something worth backing. You don’t monetise the blog, you monetise the readership via the content,” Makepeace says. “We spent the first two years building our brand credibility by working with businesses and tourism bureaus, and our readership.”
Their Ytravel blog now receives 140,000 unique visitors a month.
“The success is due to hard work, and being personable and open. What you see is what you get, online and off,” Makepeace says, adding that doing their own photography has been key as travel is such a visual topic.
The couple share the photography and have defined roles. Caroline looks after most of the writing, the accounting and operating the website. Craig looks after most of the social media and editing photographs.
Their income comes from sponsored posts, partnerships with destinations and eBooks.
“It’s not quite two full-time wages, and there are multiple different revenue streams and invoices coming in each month,” Makepeace says.
The Makepeaces are about to embark on a round-Australia trip in September, and are liaising with a range of possible partners. They’ve recently started working with a blogger agent, who helps partner them to appropriate brands.
Makepeace says being clear on what they’re willing to do is critical to keeping money coming in and their readers’ trust.
“The main thing with us is we get asked to go and do the family angle but without the kids, because of budget concerns. But we can’t do that because we’ve got to keep it real and respect our readers,” Makepeace says. “People follow people, not your blog. We’re really open and our kids (who are two and six) are part of our story as well.”
Makepeace says their top tips for people hoping to launch a start-up business from their blog is content is king, and understand it’s going to be a lot of work.
“We publish a lot of content, hopefully good content. Good content is important and the amount doesn’t really matter, although at first it’s important to publish a fair bit to build up your audience and presence,” Makepeace says.
“It was never just a hobby for us. It takes too much time to do it properly. It’s a lot more hours than people expect. A lot of people drop off in six weeks or six months, because they think they’ll be travelling the world, but that’s just not the case,” Makepeace says.
“Promise yourself two years later, you’ll still be doing this. If you can, go for it.”