Part 1: How did it all start?
That’s a tough one. When I first quit my job back in 2016 all I knew was that I needed to finish my Masters degree dissertation and that I wanted to travel somewhere in Central America, basing myself in a place where I could spend a decent few months really learning to surf. It’s only after I’d begun to organise the skate crowdfunding campaign for the kids at Mision Mexico that my girlfriend happened to mention that maybe I could write about it and start a blog. After that initial spark it was an organic process over many months that lead to the creation of the Action Sports Nomad website and accompanying social media accounts.
I’d been a big fan of well-known names in the travel blogger/vlogger world like The Life of Jord, One Step 4Ward and The Bucket List Family but they seemed to know what they were doing (compared to me at any rate), so I had no expectations that I’d ever become as popular as them (and I’m still an astronomically long way off their follower numbers at this point in May 2018), but you’ve gotta start somewhere right? I knew I needed a niche and so I was stoked to find after some basic research that there weren’t too many people concentrating their blogs/social media on my combination of sports and travel insurance knowledge. There are the obvious professional athletes and super famous skaters, snowboarders, surfers and mountain bikers, but not a whole host of peeps who were into all 5 sports (skate/snow/surf/scuba/MTB), and especially no one who’d had a career in the travel insurance industry.
So I’d found my niche, just the right combination of alluring action sports shots for Instagram but also the nerdy practical advice side of travel insurance to make me a bit different from the rest. Now I just needed to get out there in the world and do stuff.
Getting out there in the world and doing stuff; buying new skateboards for the kids at Mision Mexico in Tapachula
Part 2: What was the overall plan?
The basic plan initially was to write blogs about my experiences travelling and volunteering in Mexico, but trying to focus on the sports side of things as often as possible to make sure I was staying true to the name ‘Action Sports Nomad’. In my idealistic little world I hoped to gradually build a following and maybe make some money through advertising across the website and social media platforms, in addition to maybe getting sent free stuff to test out and if I got really lucky then to be offered free accommodation/trips/excursions in exchange for me blogging about that place.
I knew realistically however that it would take at least 6 months to get enough relevant content on the site before I might be taken seriously as an advertising channel, and that since the travel blogging/vlogging sphere was already so massively over-saturated that I’d be competing against a whole host of others. I was fully prepared that I wouldn’t be making any proper income for a good year or two.
The initial plan involved learning to surf properly and writing about it, even though I still seem to learn something new about surfing and the ocean every time I paddle out
Part 3: Writing the first blog posts
I’d never been much of a writer at school, never excelled in English class or creative writing, but during my years of travel around the world in my 20’s I’d come to enjoy writing a long email or two to let family and friends know what I was up to; and apparently these emails could be quite engaging and dare I say it, even funny at times (or so I’m told at any rate). So, with no expectations of how it would all work out, but with plenty of fear about putting myself out there to be judged by random nutters on the internet, I stepped up to my laptop to get something written.
I can look back on my first post now and almost feel lucky that I had a snowboard accident in Bulgaria which required me to use my travel insurance, because it gave me the perfect topic to write about as the Action Sports Nomad; how to use travel insurance if you break yourself whilst snowboarding abroad. I say ‘almost feel lucky’ but it’s hard to feel lucky about having a 10cm long titanium plate holding my collarbone together, although I did enjoy showing off the surgical scar for quite a long time post-recovery.
I didn’t consider myself to be ‘a writer’ when I first started either, but I decided it was all about ‘fake it til you make it’ and just trying to live up to the title as best I could. I’d learnt a lot about ‘fake it til you make it’ in the extremely stressful final years of my previous employment which had left me psychologically battered, emotionally bruised and thinking of myself as a failure. The truth was that after my colleagues and I were promoted to middle/senior management in the midst of a last-minute-merger, we were left to wing-it as best we could whilst it slowly dawned on us that the folks in charge were basically doing the same. It wasn’t a pretty sight and within 6 months of my departure from the company there had been at least 5 major sackings…including the CEO and other big-wigs.
Anyway, I digress.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog/website/YouTube channel then my advice is to just get on with it right now, of course your first few posts aren’t going to be spot on, you’re learning, and getting good at something takes time. Believe me, I can be the absolute king of procrastinators and I am by far my own worst critic; some days I think my work is half decent and other days I wonder if anyone reads my blog at all apart from my Mum and my Girlfriend, but in the end all you can do is put yourself out there and see what happens.
Getting started on the first blog post in Guadalajara
Part 4: Affiliate partnerships: How do they work?
Affiliate partnerships are basically when you work with big name brands to advertise their stuff on your website/blog/Facebook/Instagram, and when someone clicks on their links through your site and makes a purchase you get a small commission. Some brands even offer ‘pay-per-click’ so you get a tiny commission for each click through to their site from yours even if there is no final purchase, but you’ll need hundreds if not thousands of clicks to make any decent income this way.
Most of the big brands operate their affiliate partnership programs via 3rd party platforms which specialise in connecting ‘merchants’ (the brands) with ‘advertisers’ (your site). So for starters here are the 3rd party platforms that I currently have accounts with:
Due to the sports I love being the major focus of my site/blog I was of course looking to get some of my favourite brands involved, finding which 3rd party platform they’re on can be tricky though. Generally it only takes a few minutes of research on Google but to begin with you’ll find yourself having to sign up and create accounts on various different platforms as I had to do with the above list. You might find it tough going to get your first affiliate partnership but once you’ve got one the rest tend to come more quickly; the first affiliate is like a stamp of credibility so that other brands can see your site is worth advertising on.
Make sure you’re picky and keep to your niche though, I had plenty of random offers ranging from sites about women’s fashion to travel agents to just plain weird and kinky stuff. I declined those offers and held out for the brands that are directly related to my chosen sports.
To help you out here’s a current list of which action sports brands you can find on which platform.
(*note that brand names without a link to their site have not yet agreed to work with www.actionsportsnomad.com as an affiliate partner)
This platform is slightly different in that all you do is allow its algorithm access to the source code of your site, the fancy 1’s and 0’s then get to work hunting down any brand names that you have written about but have not yet linked with an affiliate partnership. I’m still not 100% sure how it works but apparently I’ve made $0.33 USD recently because a few people clicked through to Trip Advisor and Amazon via my site?
Having said that, there are some brands which you can approach directly, World Nomads Travel Insurance is a great example.
Part 5: Are you making any money from all this?
To be brutally honest, no, not really…not yet anyway (fingers crossed).
I’ve made very small chunks of commission here and there (not enough for HMRC to be concerned about that’s for sure), but as my friend in the know keeps telling me, it’s all about ‘driving traffic‘ to the website so that the more people who visit, the more likely someone is to click on an affiliate link and buy something. So not only do you need to ‘get out there and do stuff’ then be able to write about it in a dynamic and engaging way, but you also need to teach yourself about affiliate partnerships, digital marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); then it’s just about persistence and publishing content with some level of consistency. Easy then right? Ha Ha.
Well, I’ve made it through the first year relatively unscathed…let’s see what year two has to offer!
If you’re thinking of making the leap into the world of blogging/travel/sports then please give me a shout if you have any questions whatsoever, we all have to start somewhere!