1046
9 min 34 sec

Belgian Blogger Gets Paid to Wander Through Europe

A Belgian travel blogger gets paid by tourism boards to visit their destinations and report back to her readers.
Blog Low Startup Potential SEO Travel Writing

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What It's About

Want to get recruited and paid to travel? This blogger maps out a way.

Business Model
Blog
Skills Required
Writing & SEO
Complexity
Low
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

Is it too late to start your own website/blog? Here's what Sofie says about the topic, "There is SO much great info out there nowadays on how to set up any kind of blog, how to run it, how to outsource things, how to do SEO... All of it. Do your research. Spend a few weeks or even longer mapping everything out."

Fun Fact

Dutch is the mother tongue in northern Belgium, being spoken natively by three-fifths of the population of Belgium. It is one of the three national languages in the country, together with French and German, and is the only official language of the Flemish Region.

Notes from Chris

Episode 1046

Sofie Couwenergh, a native of Belgium, knew she wanted to do "something with writing.” After graduating with a Master’s Degree, she landed a job as a copywriter for a publishing house, and then with a Belgian press agency.

It seemed as if everything was going according to plan … except she wasn't very happy with either of those jobs. In fact, she was bored. Sofie realized she needed more creative freedom and a greater sense of responsibility for her work.

It was actually Sofie’s parents who suggested she start a website about travel. With earnings from her job, Sofie had already begun traveling around Europe in her spare time. And having traveled together as a family growing up, her parents saw a way for Sofie to combine her love for writing with her passion for travel.

The idea sounded good to her, so Sofie got to work building out a free blog. It started purely as a hobby with a diary-like collection of stories from her trips—but she figured out pretty quickly that it could also be a business opportunity.

The site was called Wonderful Wanderings. Not being someone who follows blogs to know about the people behind them, Sofie instead focuses on practical advice: what to see, where to eat, and what area to stay in. She meticulously plans her trips around Europe, rarely even entering a restaurant without first analyzing its reviews.

In less than a year, someone offered to sponsor a blog post on her site. That was the first way she monetized her content, but it wasn’t the last—or the most effective.

Sofie’s thorough research on destinations was useful. She wouldn’t just provide an objective collection of “things to do” but a whole, ready-to-use itinerary that people could print out and take with them.

In the second year of the blog, it turned a profit of about €15,000, or a bit more than $16,000. In the third year, it reached a little over €21,000, or more than $23,000. Last year, Sofie re-invested some of her earnings into improving the site, getting contractors on board to help with research and translations (since she runs the site both in Dutch and in English).

The most effective way Sofie earns money is through destination marketing campaigns. Let’s talk about that!

In a nutshell: countries, regions, and city tourism boards hire Sofie to visit their destination and create promotions for them. They ask for a certain number of deliverables (usually social media and blog posts) so they can get in front of the Wonderful Wanderings audience.

Sofie prefers destination campaigns over going on a trip with a specific tour operator. If something on the tour goes wrong, you might be stuck getting paid to write about an experience you don’t recommend. (You also might be stuck on the tour.) Working with destinations, on the other hand, allows Sofie to always be honest and travel as she would naturally.

Now, those travel boards tend to find her instead of the other way around, either through her previous work or from a referral.

In reflecting on her success in turning a hobby into a side hustle and onward into a full-time business, Sofie puts a lot of weight on the intangible benefits.

She has freedom to visit her grandparents more often. The comfort of wearing sweatpants to work. A growing confidence. A newfound network of friends. And the ability to invest in her future while seeing the world.



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Quote of the Day
"My biggest struggle during this entire adventure: finding out what worked for me and then just sticking to it."
—Sofie Couwenergh #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau