This resources page is built with digital nomads, travel bloggers, and freelancers in mind. While one of my businesses is this travel blog, I have also freelanced and run an online SEO and marketing business since 2005. Most of that time was spent on the road juggling clients and commitments. This is a mind-dump and resource-dump of everything I have used for both my travel site, and my freelance work. A few of these products contain affiliate links, but every single thing on this page I have used and recommend. It’s a long list so you can jump to the section you need.
Running My Travel Site
If you’re looking to build out a travel blog, or an online site, these are the products, books, and services I have found and love, and a few even saved my sanity over the years as I juggled the long travel days with all the time needed to upkeep this blog.
Let’s start with what I use here on A Little Adrift and on Grassroots Volunteering. The next section contains a more general list of tools for starting and running and online business.
- Website designer: Hannah from Further Bound did the logo and design work on this site. She is very talented and comes highly recommended.
- Website theme: I use WooThemes (the Canvas theme) and it was chosen for good reason: clean code, responsive designs and great customer service. I do SEO for a living, so I knew I needed an affordable premium theme with clean, responsive code.
- Hosting company: I started out with a low-cost hosting company when I first started out to save money and for the ease. Once my site was larger, I switched to Media Temple. I host most of my sites there, but it’s pricier than other options. Then, in spring 2015 I moved A Little Adrift to Web Synthesis because I had too much traffic for my MediaTemple plan. Grassroots Volunteering is still on MediaTemple. For new bloggers, something like Bluehost is likely the best option, it’s a long road before you need to upgrade to the big hosting companies that charge more.
- Newsletters: The first step for any business; I love MailChimp heaps and heaps.
How to Specifically Start a Travel Blog
I created an entire post to walk you through this process, step-by-step, that post: How to Start a Blog in 5 Easy Steps. The quick overview of it is this:
- WordPress: Right now the best option for a self-hosted site (if you want to own your domain name). If you’re not sure if you want to own your own blog, or rather just share some photos and tales from your travels consider these other options.
- Hosting: Blue Host is a good bet for general sites and is a cheap and fairly reliable option and has a very simple backend if you just want an easy WordPress installation and no fuss. They also allow you to register a domain name for free, so that’s an extra bonus. Some people hate Bluehost, however, and that’s mostly because they are a low-end host and have some issues. But they are affordable and usually the best bet for new bloggers just getting started. If you know a bit more about servers, or if you have a bigger site, consider other options. I used to use MediaTemple, which I switched to from a low-cost provider once my site was larger and when I needed to host several sites. Now I use WebSynthesis, which is a huge price difference. If you are first starting out, Bluehost will likely work at about $4 per month, I currently pay $50+ per month for WebSynthesis to keep this site running.
- SmugMug: I love this site for hosting and storing all of the photos for my blog. I used to use Flickr, but I like the SmugMug interface heaps better and that you can integrate it into your site URL. Other viable options include Picasa. If you’re running a travel blog, host your photos off-site or you will massively slow your site down. This is an affiliate link to SM because I love it so much and have used for 5+ years now.
- Woothemes: This company generally has very on-trend, clean, and reasonably priced WordPress themes that take very little techie knowledge to make look good. Paying a bit for something that is well coded is a good start for your site and a wise investment. Genesis is a solid option too, and a one-time fee.
- SEO Resources: Over the years I have spoken about SEO for bloggers and I pay my bills through SEO/Web marketing consulting. So, here are some thoughts and resources I have gathered over the years to act as an SEO boot-camp for you.
- Start a Newsletter: Right away, do this straight off and start building up people who want to hear from you every month. I use MailChimp and love the site (and the first 2000 subscribers are free); Aweber is also a very standard choice.
- Learn Social Media: To get your blog off the ground you should network with other bloggers and join the social media networks where your future readers are active. Every online brand needs to be on Google+, then consider: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, as well as any related to your very niche interests. Each of those links goes to a great tutorial page on how you should use and get started on those networks.
- DIY Graphics. There are a number of free tools now to generate a logo and lay out information beautifully. You don’t have to pay a graphics designer — and you shouldn’t in the early days. I use Canva for all of the blog graphics on ALA now. I paid for the logo after five years, but for all of the blog images, eguide covers, Pinterest images, etc, I use Canva.
- Build a Community: Building a business and a blog are two totally different, but both benefit by looking at the long-term goals and always building a community around your shared ideas. I wrote a bit here with tips and ideas about how I started and grew this site. In addition to my community building post, read Seth Godin’s blog and if you’re building a brand and a fresh way to look at marketing, read his book Tribes, you’ll never look back.
How to Become a Freelancer & Find Work
Whenever a new freelancer is thinking of heading out on the road, I encourage them to find one or many ongoing projects that cover the baseline costs for the first six months on the road. Working while traveling is harder than many anticipate, and you might not have the solid internet or time you need to constantly pitch for new projects and clients. If you’re looking for freelance work, there are a ton of options for finding remote-based work.
For the specific links to job boards, start with my How Find Freelance & Remote Work post.
Tools for Travel Bloggers & Staying Organized as a Freelancer
Tool and Software for Travel Bloggers
- Photo Editing: I use Lightroom to edit and process all the photos on this site (since 2010) and couldn’t live without it.
- Cameras & Gear: I use the Lumix GX7 Camera, it’s a micro-four-thirds camera. Buying this took my photography and this site to a whole new level. I only wish I had used it for all of my travels since there is a noticeable difference in quality when I upgraded from a point-and-shoot. I also have a Macbook Air, which handles Lightroom beautifully and is convenient on my travels.
- SmartPhone: An unlocked iPhone can be used anywhere in the world with different SIM cards. Very nearly essential for running a digital business overseas—consider getting an older phone version unlocked for cheaper than buying new.
- Resources for Everything Else: This is a great list of tools for starting up a freelance career, website, or new business, as well as this one and this one. Each resource page has heaps of solutions to common problems you face when you’re just starting out.
- Snapseed is the best photo editing app for smartphones. I use this on-the-go for my Instagram shots.
Staying Organized as a Freelancer
Have a Single Place You Store Information.
I use Evernote: This tool makes me a more effective human being. I could not imagine life without it. It organizes bookmarks, blog post research, clients sites, future project ideas, information I want to access in the future. Everything. I also use Google Docs and folders for complicated client folders. I find that 95% of my clients use one (or both) of these systems for information, so I have them both integrated into my workflow.
Use a Task Management System.
I use and love Trello: I work as a freelance writer, SEO consultant, and I run social media feeds for startups. That’s a lot to keep track of on the road, so I use Trello to manage all client work, blogs, and some of assistants I have working with me. The Trello system is like a blank canvas, you can organize it how best suits your work flow. Watch YouTube tutorials to find ideas. I use a Getting Things Done Trello system, but if I had more client writing work I would use this system. There are endless tutorials online. Paired with Google Calendar and Evernote, these three things house all my personal and client information and workflow. Other task management systems include: Asana, Slack, Basecamp, and Solo (among many others).
Understand How You Will Be Paid.
Paypal is how I get paid by many of my online clients; it’s a standard across the internets so open an account if you plan to start working and accepting money remotely. If you have a long-term client, consider having them sign up for Google Wallet. If you both use direct bank transfers then neither party incurs transfer fees. To organize your banking, I wrote this post for U.S. freelancers (hint: sign up for Schwab and you’ll never look back), this post for UK digital nomads is fantastic, and read this Medium post for good measure. I use Nutcache for all client invoicing and tracking everything — it makes my taxes a cinch. InvoiceNinja also looks like a good option. Both have very robust free plans.
You’ll Need Online Storage.
Dropbox and Google Drive: A quick and easy way to sync some folders across computers, or to share documents, images, and such with others. I use this to hold files others might need to download from me. It’s free for a basic amount of storage though this link gives me an extra boost of storage if you use it. :)
I use Moo Business Cards and I love this company heaps and have used them for more than seven years now. They are high quality and you can add your travel photos to every card, with up to 50 images per pack. I use my favorite 25 photos from these last years on the road and they are always conversation starters when I hand them out.
Find a Tool Not Listed Here. This page is a massive and well-organized list of resources for freelancers that has a recommendation for any and every aspect of your business possible.