I know this article is a little off topic for my readers but it is necessary.
If I had a penny for every time someone sent me a message asking about my trust fund or my sugar daddy I could retire today. If you think about the magnitude of how many pennies it would take to allow someone to retire comfortably, its excessive. That being said, just picture me drowning in all this copper, bronze and zinc.
It hit me the other day when I posted on my personal (non business) Facebook account about needing a vacation, that most people do not understand what I do for a living, even my personal friends. The majority of replies were:
- “aren’t you always on vacation?”
- “you just got back from 3 trips”
- “are you EVER home?”
Now I can understand from the outside looking in that social media is truly a highlight reel of someones life. Few of us share all the dirty details and inner workings because we fear judgement or just don’t feel compelled to have the world know every move we make. That is completely fair. Share only what you are comfortable with.
Moving beyond that – I think it is unclear what I do for a living. I will clear the air right now and let everyone know that 1. I do not have a trust fund or sugar daddy 2. I did go to college for 10 or so years, including graduate school with no help from my family and 3. I come from a single family household where I grew up in Detroit. The notion that I am rich we can go ahead and squash now.
So what do I do for a living? In summary, I like to say I am a freelance photographer and travel blogger. A lot of people in this industry use the term “social media influencer” and that may be what it is, but I am going to stick with travel and food photographer. However, my job description does not stop at that title. I do consulting for brands and other bloggers, social media management for companies, write for other outlets, brand ambassador for brands, content creation, travel planning, etc.
A lot of people in this industry work differently. Some people house sit and stay in places long term and write about them, some people are digital nomads and live in other countries and work where they are and write about it, but I have a home base in Washington, D.C. and a husband – so my business model doesn’t allow me to work like that.
Now you are probably wondering how I got this career. Well the easy answer is that I didn’t really chase it, it just kind of happened. In August of 2015 I was at a job I hated – it was sucking the soul out of me, and so I left. It was in that moment I said I would start a blog. The blog has had many faces since – it started as a blog to visit all the wineries in Virginia (over 250+) and quickly turned into sharing my travels, wherever those took me. If you are a personal friend or long time follower on Instagram, then you know already that I have always been fiercely passionate about travel and have always shared my travel photos on my social media channels (if you scroll back far enough in my Instagram account you will find the overly edited photos I took with a camera phone on my trips around the world – and no, I will not delete them because in those moments I was proud to share those photos and it’s nice to look back and see how much I have grown). For the next 11 months I worked in a career I liked and had a boss who gave me very generous time off, that allowed me to travel. In these moments I noticed my channels start to grow and I was being contacted by brands to work with them. I honestly did not realize this was a thing .. who was I? Did I have an influence on anyone? Ultimately I left my job to pursue this full-time. It wasn’t always easy (still isn’t) but everyday I wake up and look for work that will fit my audience that will allow me to keep traveling, and ultimately allowing me to share the world through my lens.
A lot of people say I have the best job in the world, and I am inclined to agree. No day feels like a Monday. Every single day that I wake up I know that I am doing something I am fiercely passionate about and I also realize I am very fortunate to be doing this. Travel is a privilege and I will never deny that. I never in a million years thought that I would have a job that I am completely in love with. In the same breath, I want to keep focus of this article and be completely honest about the fact that I am not on vacation, this is my career.
Just to give you an idea of what a typical travel week looks like for me, I think this will better help those who are confused or wanting to know more about getting into the industry.
Almost every flight I take out is very early in the morning, which means 3-4:00 am wake up calls. I don’t mind it because I prefer 1 way flights. I spend some time in the airport, try to sleep on a flight which never happens, and then I arrive in my destination and hit the ground running. For the next 4-7 days of a standard trip, here is what a typical schedule looks like (I used a short trip versus 3-4 weeks because that can get crazy):
- Wake-up between 5-6:00 am – this is the time I have to myself to get ready for the day, edit photos, answer emails, respond to DM’s across my social media channels, respond to comments, pitch brands for new work, work on articles, schedule social media posts for my accounts and the businesses that I run their accounts, make sure everything is charged, back up photos from the day before, paper work, look over the days schedule and weather to make sure there are no issues, etc.
- The day usually starts between 8-9:00 am meeting with brands, tourism boards, public relations coordinators, or whomever I am working with.
- From morning until about 8-10:00 pm I am photographing all the places I visit, meeting with amazing people in the destinations, learning about the culture and what makes a city tick, answering emails on my phone, staying current on 6 social media channels, updating in real time on Instagram stories, and creating content for brands.
- At the end of the day I go back to my hotel and immediately go through my photos to make sure I have “the shot” of each of the places I visited and enough content to share, because if I don’t, I need to find time to go back and re-shoot. After I go through hundreds of photos, I pitch brands again, answer emails, do billing, squeeze in a call to my husband (who almost never travels with me), take a shower, and then lay in bed on Instagram and Twitter until I can’t keep my eyes open because I want to talk to you guys and answer as many people as I can.
- Then repeat.
Some days are shorter, but in general, I work about 14-18 hours a day everyday, even on the days I am not traveling. But like I have said – I LOVE it. I feel like I am doing exactly what I was destined to do.
When I am not traveling, I am almost always sitting in front of my computer the entire day editing photos, writing, being active on my social channels and engaging the community, finding new work, keeping up on industry trends (I need to learn video, everyone has YouTube, I need to learn more about my camera, read more books, etc) taking classes, teaching classes, consulting, and so on.
When I look at most of my friends who work in some office capacity, when they leave their 9-5 job, it ends there. They get their 2-6 weeks of annual leave and don’t work weekends. They put in their 40 or so hours a week and call it a day – and that’s ok, that is all your job requires from you. My job on the other hand requires double the amount of work and its hard for me to completely shut down. Not having that steady paycheck requires me to daily look for work because if I don’t, where does the money come from? I cannot skip days or weeks of not looking for work, that is not an option. And sure, I get emails all day from brands wanting to collaborate – but of the 10 or so emails I get a day, 50% of them do not align with my brand (here is looking at you teeth whitening), 50% of the remaining want me to do a lot of work for free (which makes no sense because why should I lose valuable time and money to make your brand money), and the remainder I have to negotiate with to get a fair pay and maybe, just maybe 1 brand a week will work out.
Well if you have made it this far, I hope that I have done a good job of clearing the air on what my career is and its inner workings. I don’t blog about blogging. I blog about destinations, food, and of course, hotels – because that is my career. My goal is to hopefully inspire you through vivid imagery and experiences to book a ticket somewhere you have never been and to never let those vacation days go to waste. I know I am extremely fortunate to live this life and to have been to the places I have been – but I need you to know, it wasn’t from being rich, luck had nothing to do with it, and no one handed me this career. I built it from the bottom up and everyday I have to keep growing as a person and as a creator in the food and travel industry.