How To Become a Travel Content Creator in 2023
10 years ago people would have found you crazy had you told them you are quitting your job to run a social media account full time, but in 2023 it’s a very viable and successful job. When I was at school, social media didn’t exist, instead we went home and spent hours chatting on MSN to the boys we fancied, nudging them when they didn’t reply.
I never had much direction as a teenager, I felt pressure to do well in exams, to go to university, to launch into a career but I didn’t know what. I felt lost, my friends started training to become teachers, accountants, I had many friends working in PR, others starting businesses. I went into travel, unsurprising to most. But I wasn’t fulfilled, I was selling the dream but never got to participate myself.
In 2015 all that changed when I noticed the rise of content creators. Every day people were shooting content on their iPhones and travelling the world, for FREE! I felt as though I could only dream of such a task, I knew I enjoyed taking photos but my skills were nothing compared to what I was seeing online.
Table of Contents
I won’t bore you too much with how I began my Instagram career because it is a whole different ball game these days. But what I will say is, content is king. If your content is good, it is only a matter of time before it gets picked up by the Instagram algorithm.
I created Postcardsbyhannah in 2016, I started out as a cottagecore account. I was working full time so could only really post England. Firstly, I couldn’t afford to travel to far away places, and secondly, I only had 21 days holiday a year.
The cottages proved popular, I then built on this niche and developed into country living. I grew up in the English countryside and it was always my dream to return so I built my Instagram based on my own dream. I utilised hashtags and always engaged with my followers. I have always been very aware from the beginning that an account’s success is based on its audience more than anything, I think some creators forget that, they owe a lot to the people who follow them.
However, Instagram in 2016 is nothing like Instagram in 2023….
The key to growing an audience
As I said above, the best way to grow your Instagram is to provide content that serves an audience. That content needs to come natural to you, if you force it, you will burn out and give up. For me personally, I set out to create aesthetically pleasing photos and videos that inspire people to travel and to follow their dreams.
Picking your niche
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could post whatever we wanted and it would do well? Instagram doesn’t work like that. If you want a super engaged and loyal audience you need to find a suitable niche. For me, my niche is general travel, I offer hotel recommendations and reviews, I share itineraries and I love giving hints and tips to those wanting to travel.
Other popular travel niches include budget travel, luxury travel, hotel reviews, off the beaten track travel, backpacking, hidden gems, unique locations, some are all about the view! A lot of people contact me and ask for advice on why their audience isn’t growing, more often than not I check their profile and they’re posting far too many things.
Did anyone used to watch Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares? One of his pet peeves was when there was 50 things on the menu… Well the same goes for Instagram. People don’t want to be overwhelmed, they also lack patience. If your niche isn’t apparent in the first 20 seconds of checking your account, you have lost their interest.
Niche chosen, what next?
Okay, so you have decided the direction you want to take your Instagram in, now it’s time to set up your profile. Your bio should tell prospective followers who you are and what your account is about.
For example, my bio states:
Hannah 📍 UK based travel content creator
Travel blogger/photographer/videographer Personal @snapshotsbyhannah
My bio tells my audience where I am from and what I do. It is also a signal to brands that I can blog, create videos and take photos. I also share my personal account in here as I am looking to grow it.
I have a link to my blog so visitors can find more resources, and also my email address for any brands who want to work with me.
Creating your content
All that’s left is the content, you can’t have an empty page. Whilst there is an important place for photographs on Instagram, reels are going to increase your reach much more.
Creating a successful reel
It seems easy doesn’t it? Taking a quick video and posting it with some music… But a successful reel is so much more than that.
How to take high quality videos for social media
The quality of your videos is what will set you apart form the rest and attract incoming work. I take all my video on an iPhone 14 pro (the iPhone 13 pro is also excellent), my camera is set to take video in 4k at 60 fps. The 4k is what gives you the sharpness and vibrancy to a video whilst the 60 fps (frames per second) is what keeps video smooth. I recommend iPhones because they have built in stabilisation, much better than a hand held camera.
Once you have configured your settings, you need to look at what other aspects will affect your video quality. Natural lighting will have a huge effect on how your reel turns out, I like to shoot in nice, bright natural lighting (not to mention the fact the iphones get a lot of light flicker from lamps and indoor lights).
Golden hour is another excellent time to shoot, the light is soft as the sun’s rays diffuse the light as they come in at an angle, rather than shining down directly. This creates a softer, more flattering light whilst giving a soothing atmosphere to your video.
Tips and tricks when shooting videos for Instagram reels
- Keep your hands and body as study as possible, try to move your whole body with the camera, not just your arms.
- Pan slowly, I see so many people getting shots of beautiful views but panning the camera so fast it makes the viewer dizzy.
- Use the rule of thirds like you would in a photograph, you want a centre focus with an even amount of top and bottom.
- Never take your videos within the Instagram app, only use your phone camera.
- Use an array of movement, take some still videos, some panning left to right, forwards and backwards, up and down.
- Always wipe your camera before shooting, you’ll be surprised at how many finger print marks they get on them throughout the day.
- Turn on the grid option in your camera settings so you can make sure your videos are straight and even, I use the horizon as a guide where possible.
- Keep the light behind you, don’t shoot into direct sunlight unless it is at sunset or sunrise, it will blow out your video.
How reels can grow your audience
Various accounts have seen huge growth over the last few years from their video content. Instagram brought in reels after seeing people become fed up with slow growth in comparison to those on Tik Tok.
If your Instagram account is public, Reels can be shared to the explore feed and reels tab, allowing those who don’t follow you to find your content.
Instagram will always prioritise newer features on their platform. They want to encourage users to create and consume video content to keep them away from their rival Tik Tok. In order to do this, they have designed them in a way to make an audience want to follow you when they see your reel, and the non-follower viewership on reels is currently much larger than on static images.
The most important aspect of a reel is the watch time, this is how long a viewer stays and consumes your video. If it is all the way through or multiple times, it is a signal to the algorithm to push the content out further. If people are flicking off your reel after a few seconds it will not be shown to any audience as it will not be seen as a useful reel. Remember, Instagram wants to keep people on their app, if your content does that, it will be a success to both you and Instagram.
This is another reason it is important to stick to your niche content, you don’t want a video of your make up to go viral if you are pushing travel content the rest of the time. Otherwise you will start growing an audience that isn’t interested in what you normally post.
Capturing your audience’s attention
The key to capturing your audience is to hook them in the first second. Whether it be through text, a stunning scene, or some amazing effects, you want to stop them scrolling. There are some easy ways to do this which I have shared below.
- Using clickbait in a text overlay such as ‘watch until the end…’, ‘you will not believe what I found’, ‘is this the BEST afternoon tea in London?’.
- Using text to create itineraries and guides, eg. ’10 things to do in Amsterdam’, ‘Must sees when in London’, ‘7-day Thailand itinerary’.
- Use a breathtaking scene to draw your audience in, always start your reel with the hero shot.
- Tell a story. Make it obvious that you are taking your audience on a journey by sharing your clips in chronological order.
Once you have your reels locked down, it’s time to focus on the rest. Reels might bring you a new audience, but you have to work hard to keep them engaged.
I do find it hard writing about followers in this way. I have always viewed mine as friends, I appreciate them. I am not entitled to anyone’s attention and I want to give back to my viewers by providing them with more than just content, but also talking to them when they have questions or need help.
Engage Engage Engage!
A like, a view, a follow and a save is invaluable to us, it’s what pushes our content further. But why would people continue to comment if we give nothing back?
I respond to every Instagram comment I get within a few days of posting. Not just that, but I engage with my fellow content creators, whether that be my following feed or the explore page.
As cliche as it sounds, consistency is key. You don’t need to post every day, but it is important to find a schedule that works for you. I see a lot of accounts posting constantly for a few weeks, then ghosting the platform for months at a time.
Putting together a content plan is super motivating and will really help you stay on track with your posting programme.
Consistency will help you avoid burnout, it means you can plan ahead for the week, create your posts and schedule them. Sometimes, when I am inundated with work and travelling, I fall behind my own schedule and end up editing/posting on the go which always ends in burnout.
Finding your best time to post
If you post in the middle of the night, don’t expect your followers to see it. Utilise the audience insights Instagram gives to you and work out when your followers will most likely be using the app.
I have a very regimented posting timetable on my travel account and it has paid off. I post at 7:30 in the morning, this means I catch the Europeans as they are making their way to work, the North Americans scrolling through Instagram before bed, and also my Aussie audience who are having dinner.
It is important to look at where your followers are based and create your schedule around this.
Maintain a consistent editing style
I love when I am scrolling my feed, I can identify who created what content before I have even seen their username. This is hugely important to your success, people are more comfortable with familiarity so are more likely to engage when they recognise a photo or a video as belonging to their favourite creators.
Tips to keep a consistent edit on your Instagram feed
- Use the same app to edit, ideally use the same filters/presets where possible.
- If you are going to add a text overlay, always use the same font
- Commit to your niche
- Keep your sounds consistent. The sound of a reel is almost as important as the video itself, I have three separate accounts that all sit with a certain type of sound. My personal account which is more for fun often uses up to date, trending audios that are fun, fast moving and exciting. I mix these in with talking sound bites. On my travel account, Postcardsbyhannah, I use gentle, aesthetic audios to create an atmosphere that hopefully stirs an emotional response in my followers.
Time to network
The clue is in the name, social media is a very social industry. Networking with other creators as well as brands and PRs is a great way to start building a successful travel Instagram account (or Tik Tok!).
Once a brand can put a face to a name, your inbound enquiries will sky rocket, and you will be far more successful when pitching.
- Reach out to other influencers and creators, engage with their content, reply to stories. Once you start building a raport, they will engage back, perhaps suggest shooting content with those you relate to most. Some of my greatest friends were met through Instagram.
- Find travel specific PRs and reach out to them for a coffee date. They are great to chat to and get some industry insight from, you can also build relationships with them which increases your travel opportunities as they start inviting you on press trips.
- Create a Linkedin and connect with everyone you can find in your industry, be active on their and engage with their content. Don’t be shy to post your own successes on Linkedin.
- Stay loyal. There are certain hotel brands that will be my first port of call when travelling. Not only does this sit well with my audience and increase brand awareness, but it puts you in a great place to build on outstanding relationships within the industry.
Working with brands
Once you have all the above locked down, it’s time to actually start working with brands. The below tips are priceless at helping you secure brand deals on Instagram (sorry, this will be a long amount of text, but bear with me).
Build a media kit
Before you do anything, you must create a media kit. A media kit is a document that explains exactly who you are, what you do, and what your aims are. You should always include the below.
- A short bio – introduce yourself, show your personality, but keep it short and sweet.
- Your skills – content creators all have different skills, what do you specialise in? My media kit discusses my photography, advertising, videography, and stock imagery and videos.
- Your audience insights – I share screenshots of my Instagram stats. Most important is your reach/inpressions over the last 30 days, your age categories, and the location of your audience.
- Who you have worked with – Don’t be afraid to show off! Add in all the incredible brands you have worked with in the past, show that you are in demand.
- Include case studies – Which campaigns are you really proud of? Include a few case studies showing your reach, engagement, and conversions where possible on specific campaigns.
- Your prices – So many content creators work for free, but giving up your time and skills for no money is not going to pay the bills. Make sure you have a clear list of your pricing to show brands your worth.
Creating the perfect pitch for an Instagram collaboration
When you first start out as a travel creator, you will more likely than not be pitching to brands. Pitches should be short, simple and to the point, it’s your media kit that will really sell your skills (please make sure you always remember to attach it!).
When pitching it is important to find the name of the person you are contacting, Linkedin is great for this. I don’t like receiving emails that don’t address me by nae so I try not to send ones like that either.
Start your pitch with a brief introduction, no more than two lines and make sure there is a clickable link to your social media accounts or portfolio. Up next, quickly get to the point of what you are looking for, why you want to work with them, and why your content or audience would benefit their brand. At the end of the email make yourself available for an online call to show you are serious about a potential campaign and to help build a relationship with the person you are emailing. Also remind them you have attached you media kit with your fees on.
Dealing with inbound requests
This sounds like an easy one doesn’t it? You get an enquiry, you respond to it? Well, yes and no.
The biggest issue I have in this industry is the amount of people who want you to work for free, or will push their luck and hope you will do it for free.
Sometimes you will get an enquiry that has no mention of budget, if you don’t respond with your rates, or asking what their budget is, they often getaway with not paying you.
The truth is, the majority of these jobs do have budget behind them, but they keep their cards close to their chest. No matter how tempting their pitch is, remember you have skills that are valuable to them, that’s why they are emailing you.
Your first reply should always ask if they have budget, along with sending your media kit with your rates in.
Collaborating with hotels
Collaborating with hotels through Instagram, this is often the most exciting part right? When starting out as a content creator you get a huge rush every time you get a ‘free’ hotel stay. But just remember, nothing comes for free. You are paying above and beyond with skills that are often far more valuable than the price of the room.
I have a rule… if I am reaching out to a hotel for a stay, I am happy to receive no payment. However, if a hotel reaches out to me, they absolutely should (and can!) pay me.
At the beginning of your content creation journey, it can be a huge compliment when hotels in places like Bali and Mykonos invite you to stay, but who is it really benefitting? If they are expecting you to cover your flights and transport costs, you are out of pocket whilst doing a job for them.
Whenever I am asked to go to a hotel, for no payment, I offer a gentle reminder that this is my full time job. If I start travelling to Greece for 4 days at my own cost, not only is that out of my pocket, but I could be missing out on other paid work during this time. Yes, the travelling is a perk of the job but the longer you do this, you realise what is of true value and what is not.
My last reminder… Stock imagery should never be given out for free. Hotels pay thousands of pounds for professional photographers, just because you started out on Instagram or Tik Tok, it doesn’t make you any less than someone who started out with a portfolio on a website. There are hundreds (thousands) or hotels taking advantage of content creators, so be aware and know your worth.
Do you need a manager?
Since influencer marketing and content creation has exploded, there are management agencies popping up all the time. These management agencies promise to deal with all your inbound enquiries as well as pitch you to brands and negotiate your fees. They should also be dealing with the legal side of your contracts.
Is management worth it?
Management is definitely worth it if you are struggling to stay organised, aren’t confident in negotiations, or feel as though you want more work.
However, there are a lot of people out there claiming to be managers but do not have the network of contacts needed to really benefit you.
If you want management, I would recommend going with a large, well-known agency. Before you sign up to anyone, check which creators they work with, look down their feeds, are they getting the level of work you would hope for yourself?
I am signed with Insanity Group, a large agency based in London. They have a huge amount of well-known creators on their books and an incredible network of brands who they work with regularly.
How management works
As stated above, managers take over all your admin, leaving you to spend all your time creating and editing. Not only should they negotiate your direct enquiries, but they should be getting you jobs from outside sources too. Too many manages take their cut from your inbounds, but fail to secure you more than this. I think a good balance is a 50/50 split, or at least 60/40.
Do managers cost money?
Management will usually take a 20% cut of all negotiated campaigns. However, a good manager will always negotiate a higher fee than you yourself could, so you never really feel out of pocket. This is why I think it is so important your management brings you extra campaigns, more than what comes direct to you. It doesn’t seem so fair if they are taking a cut of what is coming to you and don’t provide anything else on top of this.
Do managers have exclusivity?
Most agencies will sign you on an exclusive contract. This means ALL your content creation/influencer work must be negotiated and invoiced by them. You can’t take other jobs on the side.
It’s time to travel!
Firstly, apologies. This post ended up being double the length that I was planning, so congratulations if you made it this far!
Being a content creator truly is a fantastic job and way of living, I have spent the last 5 years feeling completely enriched and fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Creating a successful Instagram career takes hard work, dedication and consistency. So many give up before they’ve started, just because they don’t see results straight away. It takes time to build an audience and it takes time to build your skills. You will make mistakes along the way, you will look back and kick yourself for undercharging, you will have days you want to give it all up.
However, if you are looking for a career that you can build around your life and way of living, if you are creative and passionate about travel, you will never look back ♡
Hi Hannah, thanks for such a great detailed post! You mentioned you got followers from Europe, US and Australia- would you share the percentage – what’s your biggest countries in terms of audience?
Hey there, my largest percentage is the UK with over 40%, followed by the US at almost 30%