Part of me felt that this was not a sensible blog post to write. “Professional Adventurers” are popping up across Britain like mushrooms in a moist autumn night. A week barely goes by without me discovering yet another thrusting young pup (mostly-white, mostly-male, mostly-middle class) throwing his hat into the ring to join the competition to try to get paid for their holidays. So surely it does not make sense for me to be giving any of them even the tiniest bits of help?
But one thing I have learned is that it is wiser (and certainly better for your sanity) to not worry about what your “competition” are up to, not to compare yourself with them, not to get jealous of their good fortune. Better to help other people whenever you can and trust that, in the long run, things will come round to work in your favour. Besides, none of the points below are particularly earth-shattering. And most of it really is stuff that I need to remind myself about from time to time and work harder on. I’ve written about this topic before, here and here and here.
How to Make a Living from your Travels.
- Travel. If you ain’t done nuffin, you ain’t got no story, bruv. Know what I mean? Don’t call yourself a Traveller / Adventurer / Explorer until you have travelled / adventured / explored. Promise low, deliver high.
- If you are writing don’t just write your story. Think about what are the key aspects of your story? What do you need to tell your audience for them to be on the journey with you? Don’t tell them anything else! I don’t care about your check-in experience at Heathrow. Chop out half the words of whatever you have written and it will become twice as good.
Trawl through this website and you’ll find very few maps or ‘useful’ information: that’s a conscious choice. You need to decide what tone you want to set. There is a niche for sensible trip reports with maps, distances and elevations. I’ve chosen a different angle: I try to convey how a trip felt. My Iceland write-up would be of no practical use to someone planning a trip across Iceland. But I hope it appeals to someone who just wants to enjoy a vicarious adventure.
- If you are speaking don’t just tell your story. What’s the essence of your talk? What’s the point of it? Don’t tell everything that happened. Less is more. Cut to the heart of it. Adapt your talk to your audience. Entertain them not yourself.
- My advice for talking in schools:
- Offer to do a talk at a few local schools for free. Use the ‘free’ and ‘local’ connection and they’ll definitely have you!
- Get references after each talk.
- Ask teachers if they will ‘pass you on’ to other teachers they know.
- Once you’ve done this enough to be good at speaking and have some good references then send spam emails / cold call lots of schools. Charge them a fee (start low, say £100, and creep upwards every few months).†Repeat†stage 2,3 and 4 and eventually you’ll make a living from it!
- Be an expert. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Become an expert in whatever tiny niche you choose to occupy. Don’t try to become famous; try to become an expert. On the other hand if you do become a famous celebrity you will be able to get along very well without being very good at anything.
- Sell yourself. This is the part that those of us who are not celebrities tend to hate, yet it is fundamental to making any money. Points 1 to 4 are all well and good, but you have to tell the world about it all if you want to get paid. You need to combine swallowing a little pride with working long and hard. SEO, networking, social media, gathering contacts, pitching stories, cold calling, doing stuff for free: it’s not fun, it’s not pretty, it’s not outdoors up a mountain. But, with time and effort, it starts to reap dividends. A cautionary word on this section: do all of this with decency, politeness and a sense of humour. Don’t be pushy or greedy or deceitful or ungrateful: it may work briefly and occasionally, but if you’re in it for the long haul this is not the way to go about building your brand.
- Try not to vomit at the phrase “building your brand”. And try not to forget why you began doing all this in the first place: in order to earn money to go do the things you love. Work hard but not too hard. It’s supposed to be fun.