Where do you currently live?
I’m currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. I’ve been here for a couple of years but before that I was in Amsterdam for quite some time.
What are some of your favorite countries so far?
Easy question. Everyone knows my favourite country is New Zealand – such breathtaking natural scenery, great food and friendly people. I also loved Cambodia – such a wonderful spirit and joie de vivre despite all they’ve been through. And rounding out my top three is Belgium – an often overlooked spot, but with the world’s best waffles, chocolate, beer, and medieval architecture – what’s not to like?
What have been your least favorite countries?
That’s hard to say as even in not-so-nice places I manage to find something to enjoy. I didn’t love Sydney – felt like it was an Australian-version of Los Angeles, another city I don’t love. But I do love their counterparts, Melbourne and San Francisco, so there are always options.
How long do you typically stay in one country?
It’s hard to say as I just became full-time in my entrepreneurship this year, hopefully the answer will be “as long as I can!” Especially in places like New Zealand where you need the time to get around. Plus when you’re keeping up with business details on the road you need that extra time to spend a day here or there working.
How do you earn an income?
Oh, let me count the ways! I have a number of different revenue streams, which I think is essential for reducing risk (and peace of mind) as an independent business:
- I earn royalties on my published books; I have one out now with a couple of others in the pipeline.
- I am paid to write travel articles for a number of travel publications.
- I earn advertising revenue from my travel website and next month we’re launching some products and services off of that platform.
- I earn money direct from clients for online business strategies and other social media / online tech work.
- I will also be selling a set of digital products quite soon that will be an eLearning curriculum for small businesses wanting to get into social media.
It’s a good mix from different types of work, which keeps it interesting for me and ensures if there are any problems with one area there are others to fall back on. It does make bookkeeping and organisation a bit trying at times!
How did you get started in travel consulting?
I started out as a travel writer, which was always a passion of mine. But I didn’t feel I could make the income I wanted doing this alone, and given that I’ve worked for many years in the technology industry, it only made sense to combine that passion and experience into a niche set of products and services.
Is that a field you recommend for others?
The travel industry is going through a lot of change and nobody’s sure where it will end up. But get in this business for the right reasons – that you enjoy traveling AND working hard. It’s not all free flights, press trips and champagne on the coast. Sometimes you have to go to places you don’t want to and sometimes it rains while you’re on your trip. Or, like now as I write this, you’ve had a wonderful day out and now you’re trying to catch up on a day’s work via an iPhone-enabled internet connection that is sluggish, at best.
What exactly do you do for the Matador Network?
I’m the man behind the Matador Twitter account @MatadorNetwork. While we use automation tools to feed out articles to the account as they’re published, I encourage and promote community discussion, launch our Twitter-based promotional contests, and help promote the work of other community members. We’ve tripled our followers in just over a few months so it’s a very exciting place to be, and we’re planning a few even more interesting projects in the future. Matador thinks big, so it’s a great place to be.
Can you give some advice for people wanting to get started in travel writing?
Start reading. A LOT. Read stuff you wouldn’t normally read – if you like short stories, read novels and vice versa. If you like easy to read fluff, get some tough literature. Go hang out at the best writing blogs.
Then write. A LOT. Find people to give you feedback. Take a course if you need it.
And you need to be tough. Lots of editors won’t bother to reply to your query. Only half of the ones who do reply will reply with a yes. And even then, your story can be canceled before it runs.
Oh, and one last point. Be yourself. Write like you’re telling me a story. Not telling a story to everybody – but just like you’re talking to me. Like to a friend over a drink in a café.
Is it realistic to expect to earn a living from travel writing?
If you expect to put up a blog over the weekend and start selling 60k a year worth of advertising, you’re having a laugh. Running a blog/website, travel or otherwise, requires having a more substantial business model. Consider what products and services you can offer to complement the subject, and don’t underestimate the amount of work a blog is. It’s a content engine that continuously needs feeding, at least once a week but more often if you can.
Don’t plan on any substantial revenue for at least six months to up to a year! It takes time. I can’t speak for every niche – if you find a very under-served market and really nail it, perhaps you could do better but given the number of blogs out there I suspect it might take you awhile to find such a niche!
The bottom line on blogging: be realistic, go in with low expectations and high aspirations, and constantly consider what your customer needs. Then give it to them.
Do you have any education or work experience that helped to establish you?
Yes, I have two university degrees –one in IT and one in organisational leadership. While I’m not necessarily working in those fields, just going to university teaches you about a lot of little things that come in useful as an entrepreneur – from accounting to project management to technology to marketing. I’ve also had quite a broad range of work experience since leaving university that comes in handy, especially since many of my jobs were client-facing so I’m always reminded to stay in tune with my customer’s needs.
To read more about Andy’s book, check out the Historical Walking Guide to Edinburgh
For information on how social media can help your small business, sign up for Andy’s newsletter
And if you want travel news and tips, visit his travel blog, Sharing Travel Experiences