Well well. For the longest time ever, I’ve always wondered if I would be authoritative enough as a blogger to deserve writing about blogging tips and how-tos.

After poring through countless of websites and learning about building a website and brand from scratch for myself, as well as wiggling myself through the travel blogging world, I can finally say…

I am a full-fledged travel blogger.

That is to say, I make a full-time income from the online world, blogging about travel. Do you know how liberating that is?

It’s been a long journey, starting from zero, not paying for any courses that I can learn on my own through the web FOR FREE, trying and testing various methods, shamelessly asking for advice, tips and constructive feedback on my brand along the way and speaking with people from this field. Working in a PR and a social media agency also gave me the insight to what bigger brands are looking for.

I’ve grown from a nameless blog shamelessly getting friends and family to click and support me, been smacked in the face by millions of rejections, to finally being interviewed by newspapers and magazines, invited to all-expense-paid trips, get paid for running a blog and actually having real people who get excited about meeting me in person.

traditional Khmu costume, trekking-Luang-Namtha-Laos-Homestay-Nam-Ha

Getting all cultural at a press trip in Laos with Nam

Deep down, I know I’m just a small town girl, living in a lonely world~ (cues Don’t Stop Believin’), and I would never in the life of me thought I would be able to be where I am now. But yes, don’t stop believing in yourself!

I’m seeing more and more people are now finally plucking the courage to build a business out of our own interests, be it in calligraphy, designing earrings, arranging flower bouquets or like me, blogging. I’m so proud of you for wanting to do that! Yet, so many don’t know where to start.

Recently, I’ve been asked to run workshops on branding and digital marketing and budding bloggers have also sought my help on growing their blog. I’ve now learned a thing or two (or a hundred) about navigating a brand in the online world, and so here I am today sharing some of my tried and tested ways of building a brand for yourself.

I’ll be releasing a series of blogging how-tos in the next couple of weeks. Sign up here if you don’t want to miss it!

digital noamd laptop work japan

Me typing furiously from Japan!

What does it take to build a solid brand for yourself if you are starting from scratch? Well let’s find out below.

How to build a brand for your business

1. Have a niche.

Sure anyone can build a brand. To build a STRONG one that stands out, is to be ahead of the clutter. The most obvious way to stand out is to thus have a specific niche! Yes I like travel and my blog is all about travel, but what is it that makes me stand out from the rest? I know some people who are into food travel, others into vegan travel, and also sustainability. They have thrived with some solid, loyal group of audience. 

For me, I like a different types of travel. I don’t want to limit my blog to only talking about adventure or nature. Sure I like being in nature, but so do I enjoy an island, or a little city tour. It has allowed me to experience rural Laos, historical Dresden, in the same way I have bragged about going to Maldives on a budget and my New Zealand road trip

taj-exotica-maldives-overwater-jettyWhile I may appear to be going against my own advice, it is after all, my own personal blog, and I write what I enjoy writing! Things like why it’s good to go without WiFi, my scary Couchsurfing experience, or even comparing the best hardside carry on luggage for travels. Hearing personal experiences is what relates to readers and what attracts them to learning about your adventures. It’s essential for every good storyteller!

If you’re running a business though, it’s worth thinking about having a niche.

2. Your brand name.

Brainstorm a name that makes sense. Make it related to what you are selling so that more easily found by your audience.

Keep in mind your long-term plan as you brand your name as you’ll be stuck with it for as long as you’re running your business. It’s one thing to be specialised, but another to limit yourself.

You also want to pick something that is easy to spell when you read it to others, and not ambiguous. Case in point: cooltraveller.com vs cooltraveler.com

3. Make your website look professional.

Have your own website domain. This means you want it called cutecookies.com instead of cutecookies.blogspot.com or cutecookies.wordpress.com. This is the most fundamental step if you’re going to be serious about your business/ brand.

This is where you go to hosting providers to get everything sorted for you. They are the ones who act as your site’s primary caregivers. They deal with everything technical, store your website’s data, etc. You’ll hear varying reviews on the different options out there e.g. BlueHost, HostGater, but the one I’ve started with and have been sticking to over the past few years is SiteGround.

Siteground

If you already have a WordPress site, they offer free migration to your new website for free.

If you are starting from scratch, their team will help build and support you from start to end. I was won over by their 24/7 customer support and INCREDIBLY cheap first year offer. Since then, they got me hooked.

Try it out now!

4. Make your email look professional.

Consider this:

[email protected]
vs
[email protected]
vs
[email protected]

Which looks the most professional?

It’s a no-brainer that [email protected] looks the most legit. Not all hosting providers provide this service, but SiteGround can help you configure your email with your own domain. See instructions here.

5. Don’t forget your email signature!

Darling, you should know you’re in for a lot of email writing – to sponsors, collaborators, potential customers, etc. Utilise this chance to share a bit about who you are, even if it’s putting a face to the email, sharing easy links to your social media pages or promoting your latest post. 

Here’s what my email signature is about:

6. Have a solid branding guideline you adhere to.

You want to have a theme you like and a branding guideline that you stick to and remain consistent throughout your different mediums. This is to build familiarity and association to your brand. You want readers to chance upon creatives you’ve produced and be like –

Hey this looks familiar, I’ve read her blog before!

At the bare minimum, this includes your logo, colours and font types.

As a rule of thumb, have no more than 4 colour palettes, and 3 font types on your website. An advice would be to pick one light colour for backgrounds, a darker colour for text, a neutral hue and also one that pops.

Some of my favourite blogs that have got their colour harmony right are https://www.melyssagriffin.com and my dear friend from https://nohurrytogethome.com/.

It can help to have a mood board where you collect inspiration from various sources and analyse what makes them work, why you like the look of it, etc.

Here’s an example of a branding guide.

I’ve used a free theme for the longest time before finally feeling justified to invest in a website designer to design a customised theme that you see now, based on a compilation of different blogs that have wow-ed me. I’m loving all the new features, which I believe will leave an impression on you, the reader too. I mean, just look at my Destinations page, or the Countries I’ve Been!

7. The most important page on your website.

The About page. Your About page is going to be one of the first pages people who land on your site go to, so make it count! This is your chance to let your personality shine, show what you have to offer to your audience, and hook them in.

You want to achieve 2 outcomes:

  1. For your readers to determine if you have what they are looking for
  2. Find themselves relatable with you.

It is the make or break page.

Check out my About page.

8. Social media

Branding is important on social media platforms. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and even LinkedIn. Treat your blog like a business and flaunt it, hard!

Tips for rocking social media:

  • You want to have the same social media handles throughout all platforms if possible. This not only looks professional and builds brand recognition, but makes it easy for your fans to look for you.
  • Be active! Don’t just share about your own content; share about others who has the same topics you cover about too!
  • Respond to comments.
  • Don’t miss out the importance of your bio that is your only chance to connect with potential fans!
  • Cross-promote. Talk about your latest blog post on your social media. Use Facebook to promote Instagram. Use YouTube to promote Facebook and Instagram. You get the idea. Make it easy for your fans to become die-hard fans! You might think this is a no-brainer but you’ll be surprised at how many people forget to do it.
  • If you have a personal social media page e.g. Facebook, update your profile with your business page so your personal connections know about it too!

I know it can get overwhelming to be dealing with so many social media platforms. I switch my social media hat all day long and it’s hard to split time between all of them. As a travel blogger, I focus mostly on Pinterest and Instagram, because Pinterest brings traffic and Instagram is what brands are looking at.

Eventually when you’ve found your own pace, interest and audience behaviour, you can naturally lean out to the more important platforms that do better for your business, and then hone in on it!

9. Guest post.

Write topics revolving your business across other relevant platforms. Build your authority about a certain subject by sharing knowledge about it. Start riding on bigger players who have a similar audience as who you want to target to build your portfolio.

Or, if there are collaboration posts or people looking to interview brands like yours, take the chance and be visible on their platforms! There are Facebook groups where you can find such opportunities. 

Click here for a list of Facebook groups for travel-related collaborations.

That way, you can leverage on their readers and drive traffic from them to your site and earn yourself a new set of readers. In return, they get quality content on their site too. It’s a win-win situation.

And don’t just write for any Tom, Dick or Harry. Do your research and look for:

  1. Sites relevant to your niche
  2. Sites that are open to contributors
  3. The direct contact of the editor in charge
  4. A personalised and relevant guest post pitch

When you get your brand out there to the right audience, soon you’ll be busy being sought after and interviewed for your awesome brand and vision.

Female Solo Traveller - Interview with Millennials of Singapore Isabel Leong

Video Interview on Millennials of Singapore.

hoi an travel massive panel discussion travel blogger 4

Speaking at Hoi An Travel Massive’s event.

10. Physical marketing collateral.

Be physically visible. Print them on name cards and on apparels such as a tote bag, shirt, cap so you can show off your brand easily! Be creative. Also, name cards are essential if you’re in a networking event and want to exchange contacts.

I love what my friend Yishyene has done on her name cards:

11. Be PR-friendly!

Join PR platforms and connect with PR professionals. Travel-related PR platforms that are free to join include TravMedia and Travel Massive.

Ask to be added to their media list and be up to date with your favourite brands when they send you press releases, as there might be a chance they will require your help for a new opening of restaurant/ hotel/ tour/ activity. In your opening email, give them a brief intro about you and let them know you’re available to work together.

12. Network virtually and in real life.

hoi an travel massive panel discussion travel blogger 5 copy

Making friends at the Hoi An Travel Massive event where I was invited as a speaker!

Join relevant communities and attend networking events so you can get your name out there!
Connect with other like-minded brands as you. If you want to be a travel blogger, connect with other travel bloggers. The best way I’ve found is through Facebook groups and to a lesser extent, Instagram.

Get a list of travel blogging Facebook groups I personally interact with here!

13. Start small.

My last piece of advice if you’re going to start somewhere – start small. If you’re looking at brand collaborations or sponsorship, start by working with homegrown/ smaller brands. Maybe offer a free service for your potential customers to try out. I started working with hostels before working with local hotels before getting the chance to work with hotel chains.


So there, these are points that I’ve personally used and found effective. I hope I haven’t missed any points out. If you have more questions about this topic, let me know in the comments below!

I’ll be releasing a series of blogging how-tos in the next couple of weeks. Sign up here if you don’t want to miss it!

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.