In light of all of the recent Instagram conversations swirling about travel bloggers and online course scams, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Brace yourselves, because this is a long one.
I have a lot of opinions about travel blogging/the “influencer” space in general that I don’t share here enough for fear of being confrontational, but I’m putting that aside for today because I think it’s important to talk about real shit. So here goes…
Stop trying to become an “overnight success”
The first thing on my mind? How overrated speeding your way to the top or becoming an “overnight success” really is and how we need to stop the trend on Instagram or we’ll all take each other down together.
Spoiler alert: I’ve gotten swept up in it too in the past, but I am officially SO over it. How much cooler would it be if we could all commit to supporting each other in our hard work rather than racing others to the finish line? Anyone with me?
Everything that I’ve learned from entrepreneurs, business leaders, and writers (people whom I most respect like Elizabeth Gilbert, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Cheryl Strayed, and Gary Vee just to name a few) who have shown integrity for years and years — from reading their books and listening to hundreds of hours of podcasts — has taught me that life is about PUTTING IN THE WORK. This means both in your personal and professional life.
I’m pretty sure that no matter what anyone tells you, you don’t get good at your craft by bypassing the hours of hard work and navigating obstacles (physically and emotionally) that it takes to build something real.
You learn and become good at something by doing it over and over and over again until you’re hitting your head against a wall, meanwhile failing, then getting back up and doing it for the millionth time even when it seems like all the cards are stacked against you. You do it because you believe in your mission.
You gain nothing by misleading and lying your way up the ladder to keep up appearances or in an attempt to reap the rewards of a position that maybe you haven’t deserved quite yet. If that seems harsh, listen I’m right there with you (I KNOW there are things I don’t deserve yet, that’s why I’m still hustling). But sadly there will always be people out there willing to buy or scam their way to the top in order to profit on something they were too lazy to build over time.
At the end of the day, there is no “top” anyway right? It’s just an illusion, and you’ll always move that bar higher and higher. So why not focus on just doing your personal best and have honor in that?
I’m so ready to see more faces on social media platforms (particularly Instagram) who are putting in that work and trying to build things of longevity and value, no matter how long it might take them, rather than rushing to become the “next influencer of the year.”
There is patience, humility, diligence, persistence, and empathy for those that have built things before you, to be learned in this process. Be one of those people that’s willing to learn. By doing so, you will be a small step in the right direction for the whole community at large and maybe just maybe things will course correct with your help.
There’s no shame in seeking help and guidance
But here’s the thing. While you have to put in the work — it’s ok to seek mentors to help speed up your learning curve. The recent incident that has come to light in the travel blogging world reflects so poorly — and unfairly so — on the world of online courses and services — and I completely understand why in this case. But I think it’s important to note that not all courses are created equal.
We are SO lucky to be living in an incredible age where more information than we could ever imagine is right at our fingertips, and the best part? You can actually learn directly from the people you admire most. How cool is that?!
I’ll be honest and tell you that I have spent thousands of dollars on online courses over the last 5 years and I don’t regret a cent of it because I got so much VALUE from them.
Yes there are a LOT of free resources out there (that’s why I have a blog in the first place, to give people free information about something I love) and if you can’t afford courses, then free resources are an awesome way to learn and further your knowledge.
BUT I’ve chosen to take courses as an investment in my business because I care immensely about my time. Sometimes what courses offer are not necessarily “secret” tricks and strategies, but information packaged in such a way that saves you time trying to sift through the overwhelming amount of content out there. And the amount out there can be truly paralyzing to navigate at times.
A course can simply give you back some of your time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere in your business.
Seek help in the right mentors
There should be no shame in selling something you have honestly put time, love and dedication into sharing with your audience. So if that’s been in your plan, don’t feel fear because someone damaged an industry reputation. It’s unfortunate that there was not enough integrity in this incident to justify the price, but that doesn’t mean that every other pricey course out there is worthless or trying to take advantage of you.
If you’re looking for amazing teachers that share real, valuable business strategies, content and tips, I would recommend checking out people like Jenna Kutcher, Marie Forleo, Melyssa Griffin, and Nomadic Matt. These are people who have put in the real work. These are people who I respect and who have real profitable businesses built around offering their communities incredible value.
But they’re successful because their communities come first. They give so much away for free. They don’t make money at the expense of the people who are the reason their businesses exist. The things they charge for are just a fraction of the overall value they provide. So I hope this negative conversation the past few days doesn’t bring down your faith in this space as whole, because I know there are people out there who are willing to help, bring immense value and care about their customers and communities.
Since I know there are a lot of people currently frustrated with certain online course investments they’ve made, I wanted to provide a list of resources that I’ve personally used and loved and that have helped me tremendously. If you’re thinking about buying any of the below, feel free to contact me and I’m happy to share more in depth thoughts.
Resources that have helped me
- Nomadic Matt’s Business of Travel Blogging (I also attended his first ever Travel Con conference this past September and plan on going to the 2nd installment in Boston next summer)
- Marie Forleo’s B School (basically an online business school for creatives who want to build a profitable heart centered business)
- Jenna Kutcher (This lady gives SO MUCH free value on her podcast every single week and it’s all tangible, actionable advice to implement in any online business. She also has paid resources that I have yet to dive into, but honestly I can guarantee they’re good without taking them because I have that much faith in the content she puts out there).
- Melyssa Griffin’s Blog to Biz Hive and Pinfinite Growth courses
- Maarten Schrader has a super interesting YouTube channel where he shares the edits behind a lot of Instagram creators’ photos. You can watch the video he created with one of my photos from Mexico a year ago here.
In addition to all of the above, I’ve watched endless amounts of YouTube tutorials, taken Skillshare classes and have bought several courses on CreativeLive in the early days when I was just getting started out in photography. These helped me tremendously in getting more comfortable with my camera settings, learning different tricks in photography, and diving into the world of photo editing with Lightroom and Photoshop.
Questions to Ask Yourself before investing in a Course
What is my “why” behind wanting this information and is it in alignment with my greater goals?
Is the person teaching this course someone with values I admire/agree with and do I relate to their approach to business? (PS- I don’t think you need to have the exact same business model or be in the same industry as the person, as long as you can get value out of the information and rework it for your needs)
Is the person teaching this course someone who has honestly put in the work and has proof to show it?
Are there testimonials you can look to and are they positive?
If this is the first time this person is running the course, that doesn’t mean you should discount it, but read the refund policy carefully and again ask yourself if this person is one who exudes character, follows through on their promises and puts in the real work?
Find out what you’re getting out of the course other than the materials alone — ie. is there a Facebook group where you can network with other members, will you be paired with an accountability partner, is there any one-on-one time to ask the instructor specific questions, are there bonus materials that will save you time? etc. If there’s a chance you’re unsure of the general course material, would you feel excited enough about the added value in the course to purchase it for that reason alone?
Are you prepared to actually take the time to complete the course and take action on it?
Will the tips given in the course help you make back your investment within a few months? Within a year?
Is the amount this course costs within my budget and if not, is the stretch something that will cause me added stress?
The answer doesn’t have to be a green light for all of the above, but these are a few good things to think about before purchasing a course you might be considering.
So in conclusion…
If you have felt disillusioned, discouraged or confused by all of the recent news in the world of IG and travel blogging, I hope that this will give you some positive resources to look to and shed some light on entrepreneurs that are adding value in the informational space.
I promise there are real people out there who want to help, who are building amazing, profitable businesses while still serving their communities first and living up to their promises.
Curious to hear what you guys think or if you have any questions, so feel free to leave a comment below! And if you have any suggestions for valuable resources you’ve found in the past, please share the love in the comments with the rest of the community. Thanks for keeping this space positive!