Garrett Gee is the dad behind The Bucket List Family. He earned $54 million when he sold an app to Snapchat, and has been traveling around the world with wife Jessica and two young kids for 16 months —and counting — using none of that money.
It was August 2015 when we decided to sell all of our belongings and leave for an adventure around the world. We left our small apartment, sold one car, and everything else, and earned about $45,000. We agreed to stop traveling if that money ran out so that we wouldn't touch any of our savings account; we budgeted that $45,000 budgeted to last six months. So in my mind, if I wanted to continue traveling, I had a six-month runway to figure out how to make money traveling.
My plan was to work as a family travel journalist, using social media. So I created a website, a YouTube, and an Instagram account called The Bucket List Family and I just started calling all four of us "family travel journalists." I know that doesn't sound legit or professional — but as soon as you make even $1, then technically you are a professional!
Our growth was very slow in the beginning and it was a ton of hard work teaching myself photography, videography, and the best practices of social media. But, about four months into our journey we got our first sponsored deal with a company. We began getting more and more jobs and sponsored gigs until right at our six-month mark, we began making enough money to break even. So we continued to travel and eventually, around our one-year mark, we began making enough money to really be profitable and even make more money than our past salaries!
Here's what I've learned about how to make money traveling.
1. Find your niche.
If you want to start getting paid to travel as a journalist or a social media influencer, then it is very important that set yourself apart and be unique. There are countless YouTube channels and Instagram accounts about travel, so it's crucial to stand out. Why are you unique? Why is your content worth following? What is your story? Maybe you have a unique angle focused on food or fitness or budget?
2. Content is king.
There are a lot of best practices and tricks to social media, but most important of all is good-quality content. One of our firs- ever paid jobs was with a beautiful palace in Thailand. For paying customers it was about $5,000 a night! At the time, our following was only about 10,000 on Instagram so there really was no reason why they should have worked with us. However, they checked out our page and loved our content. Because our content was high quality and fit their brand and image, they decided to work with us.
3. Develop your skills.
If content is king, then developing the necessary skills to create good content should be your first focus. I have spent endless hours learning and practicing my photography, videography, and writing skills. The Internet has made this easier and easier. In today's world, you can learn just about any skill for free just by Googling it. Also, you don't need to prove your skills by being part of a large established publication like National Geographic. Social media has made it possible for anyone to become their own publisher and share their skills with the world.
4. Just ask.
We proactively reach out to hotels and resorts all the time. Sometimes they say "yes," and sometimes they say "no." But, even if they simply offer a press rate or a slight discount, every little bit can help. It doesn't hurt to ask!
5. Grow your audience.
Most companies and brands will look at your numbers and engagement before they even consider working with you. So naturally, it is important to grow your audience. First, create content so good it markets itself. Nothing is better than seeing a friend tag others because they love your content and want to share the goodness. My favorite is when I see someone on our Instagram tag their friend and say, "This is that cool full-time traveling family I was telling you about last night."
Second, know the best practices of each social media. Do you know how to use hashtags? Do you know the best time to post for your demographic? Do you have different strategies for different social medias? Because you should!
Do not ever pay or buy fake followers. Instagram and other social media companies are very good at detecting this. They won't always deactivate your account, but they have a system to red flag it and forever stunt your natural growth. Don't do it.
Last, engage with your audience. It is better to have 10 people that you interact and actively engage with than to have 1,000 people that you're just shouting at with no response. Brands love to see engagement. That's the difference between a large so-called "following" and a community. To have a community means questions and answers and trust and real connection.
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