One year as a full-time travel blogger

July marks one full year since I decided to be a full-time travel blogger. I can’t believe it! The time has flown by, but it also seems like a lifetime ago when I was still working my traditional job in an office building.

I get a lot of questions about what it’s like to be a travel blogger and the questions seem to become a bit more prying once you go full-time. I want to take this moment and this post to reflect on the last year and answer some questions you might have. this post is about what went wrong, what went right, the many emotions, how I feel about it now, and how I’m moving forward. This post isn’t about how I make money (but I might put a post together soon about that, too, if you’re curious).

Jessica lakeside in Vilnius

Total Stats for one year:

Blog posts published: 60 | Videos created: 30 | Days traveling: 122

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Amsterdam famous Marco Polo

The decision to be a full-time blogger

I made the announcement at the end of June in 2018 that I would be going full-time (read it here), but I never really told you exactly how I got to that point.

Some of the reasons are personal, some professional, some selfish, and some are because of dreams. I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss. I wanted to be in charge of my own future. I wanted the outcome of my work to be directly affected by what I put in. I know when I do something right or something wrong and I want to make all the decisions based on knowing those things.

One of the great things about blogging, and also about working for yourself, is that there’s no ceiling to potential income! In my old job, I could work my butt off and do amazing things, but my salary was set. In the end, I was no longer passionate about what I was doing because my job responsibilities shifted so much throughout my time there. It was time to leave and focus on myself, my mental health, my business, my body, and my home.

sunset in Marken

The hardest part of being a full-time blogger

Nobody is there to tell you the next steps. From start to finish, it’s all on me to decide where to put my energy. Do I create new content? Update old content? But, photos need to be edited. Videos need to be created. Don’t forget about social media and creating pins. I have to pitch to brands in order to get any work, so that email needs to be perfected. Before I send the email, I have to update your media kit and before that, I need to update my stats in the spreadsheet.

There is so much to do in a million different directions and I’m never quite sure where to look. Talking things through with Sean really helps because he seems to always ask the right questions. Then, I can prioritize and do my best to not get distracted when my affiliate program switches and I have to change all the links, or anything else that pops up out of the blue.

Hong Kong street with phone

The first six months

Pretty much immediately, Sean had to travel to the U.S.A. for work for a week and a half. I started working from home and all the sudden I was completely alone for a week and a half. The quiet was nice for about 2 days, and then I just got lonely. Not long after Sean got back home, we were off to a conference and a bit of travel, for 2 weeks. Not much work got done during that time.

Then, I got a whole month to work! I was cranking out content but not really thinking ahead. I didn’t have any real content plan and my numbers weren’t growing as fast as I hoped. In September, I flew back to the U.S.A. to visit friends and family. I ordered a Skyroam wifi device so I could keep working, but, it rarely worked. Didn’t matter much anyway. After about 4 days, my grandfather had a horrible accident and the rest of the week was spent in the hospital and hospice with my family. I learned a tough lesson through all of that. You can read about it here.

I wasn’t okay after this. The whole ordeal was a bit too much and I couldn’t focus for a couple of weeks. I got some work done, but it was never enough and my heart just wasn’t in it.

By the time I started feeling a bit normal again, we flew to Hong Kong for 2.5 weeks, then home for 2 weeks, then London for a week, home for a day, Marrakech for just over a week, 3 days at home, and Singapore for 2.5 weeks. We traveled more than we were home and I wasn’t in a good head space. I was constantly “on” at conferences, or severely jetlagged in Asia for most of the time. That might have something to do with it.

Spending December at home really helped to clear my head. I had time to think about how it was going, what I needed to do and how I needed to work. I relaxed a bit over Christmas with Sean and by the new year, I feel like I had a new drive, a new plan, and a new work mind-set.

These last 6 months

We have made a conscious effort to travel too much because it drains my energy, work time, and wallet. Instead, I made the decision to focus on why people read this blog and, in turn, create the content they want to see. We are now focusing on 4 main points: Amsterdam, travel & expat life, food, and experiences. Our destinations generally cities that aren’t the biggest cities in Europe, but rather smaller ones that you’ll be delighted to discover.

People also come to this blog for Amsterdam content. For a long time, we felt like everything Amsterdam had already been covered by other blogs. Recently, we’ve come to the realization that because we live in Amsterdam, we have a unique perspective, and our experience is generally deeper than that of a visitor of 3 days. We want you to see our version of Amsterdam, not only the center of the city where all the tourists go. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we want to offer something different for those who want to see the real city.

In the first half of this year, we’ve been to London, Sardinia for our anniversary, discovered a couple of new spots in the Netherlands (Laag Holland and Woerden), fell in love with Vilnius, and went to a conference in the Trentino region of Italy (and we are now convinced we must move there).

There are still so many places to experience and there is still so much content to create for this website and I’m so excited to for it all. My renewed love for blogging is back because I know that alongside the posts focused on getting eyeballs on my website, I can write more personal posts as well. I think I’ve found a balance and that makes all the difference in the world.

I forgot to mention that we’ve also relaunched our YouTube channel and post once a week! Please subscribe and watch some of our videos and let us know in the YouTube comments that you came from the blog. We love your feedback!

kneading dough

Lessons learned

You should never stop growing and learning. There are a ton of courses for bloggers out there, and yes, you can be successful very quickly with some of the techniques. I’m determined to stay true to myself and our values with this blog and that means focusing on our community and what makes sense to share with you. With that in mind, I took The Blogger Course and I found it to be super real, very actionable, and the Facebook group to be incredibly supportive. It’s not a get-big-quick scheme. It’s about how to make your blog a business…whatever that means to you.

Networking is key. Going to the World Travel Market, Traverse conferences, TBEX, and the Trablin International Summit have been so important to grow my network. I’ve made the most amazing group of friends and colleagues. In this business, I see fellow bloggers as colleagues and not competitors. Unless they are mean, rude, or snobby. Then I might see them as a competitor!

Pitching to brands is so important. You have to put yourself out there. Know what you want and learn how to say it. I’ve been to many conference sessions on pitching and learned that there is no one perfect way. Some say to not give too much detail because the brand might steal your ideas and some say to lay everything out there. Some say to put stats as text in the email, some say to create a beautiful visual pitch. Testing to see what works for me has been the best way to go.

Jessica in Trentino field

Personal well-being is above all else. Staying healthy — mentally and physically — is the most important thing. When I’m super sick, I can’t think straight. That means I don’t work and I lose time. But I’ve also learned that if I work when I’m sick, I make mistakes. That’s no good. Know your limits and your body. Take breaks.

I really need someone to bounce ideas off of — preferably someone in the blogging world and some outside the blogging world. This is why, for me, networking is key. Finding your tribe will make everything easier. You don’t have to be weird about asking for advice. Just ask your people because there’s definitely no judgment there!

Patience and perseverance are key. I am so unfairly lucky that I get to try to make this a career. I never thought that would be the case. But with an incredibly supportive husband, I’m doing my best to push through the frustrations and make this a well-paying gig. I know it will take time and hard work. Knowing that is half the battle.

Jessica in Vilnius

What does the future hold?

I’m taking time in July to focus on optimizing my systems, social media, and the website. This is important to make sure that I’m making the most of all channels and putting relevant information where it needs to be.

If the question is, “Will she still be blogging full-time?” The answer is “Yes!” I’m excited to see how my work in July catapults my business and hopefully more people who are looking for the topics I’m writing about and creating videos for will find them!

As far as travel goes, we have quick trips to Poland and Norway coming up this summer, then a bit over a week in Italy because we are going to discover an island that many people haven’t discovered yet, and share everything with you!

Thank you for sticking with me on this journey. It’s so wonderful to have you along.

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

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