I’ll be honest. When I launched Bohemian Trails back in May 2011 I had high hopes. While I wanted my site to resonate well with readers, I was also aware that the odds were stacked against me.

Every year there are thousands of bloggers with the same hope and only a few come out on top. Another tricky thing was that I wasn’t actually going on a Round The World trip as many new bloggers do, which meant that I needed to be creative with the content I did publish and think of a long term goal. Here are 5 things I wish I knew from the start.

1) Anonymity is not always the best policy
When I first came up with the idea behind Bohemian Trails, I wanted to find a photograph of mine that didn’t really look like me at all. Instead, I wanted to create a brand image that could be “any bohemian traveler“. While this certainly has helped get me get noticed, I realized weeks after launching that readers want to have the personal connection with the writer. While I structure my content as more of an online travel magazine, there are benefits of writing blog-style posts and I’m still figuring out the best way to leverage these two tactics. I’m naturally shy but am making a conscious effort to make my recent posts more personal to better connect with readers.

2) Welcome criticism with open arms
While I try my best to put up a tough front in business matters, I can be pretty sensitive when hearing criticism. However, going into travel writing with no real knowledge of the industry, I put all that aside and actually welcome feedback, regardless of whether it is good, bad or indifferent. I am the only one running the site, which makes feedback incredibly essential to its overall growth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to have someone insult you and welcome it with a warm smile.

A few months back, I met with a start-up who wanted to include me in their company launch. After them pitching their product to me, sending me screenshots of what the product will look like and receiving emails about their excitement about having me on board, I was confident as I came into an official meeting. Once there, they essentially insulted my website for nearly two hours. I was clearly confused by their change of heart but I took their feedback regardless.

3) Stick to your vision but allow it to evolve
Receiving criticism leads me to my next step. While you should evolve as a writer, it’s integral that you stick to what you believe is right for your brand. At the end of the day, nobody is going to fight for the success of your blog or company more than you so it’s important that you remain confident in your vision.

I’ve definitely made a few changes since launching Bohemian Trails, but my overall vision remains the same. I write for readers who view travel as I do – with open eyes and with an appreciation for global art and off the beaten path destinations. My biggest challenge has been finding a way to further target that audience. Finding your specific niche and speaking directly to that market plays a huge role in building loyal readership.

4) Put your readers first
This is something that I have to remind myself of quite often. While I know a solid number of amazing travel bloggers that regularly read my posts and make insightful comments, the majority of people who come to my site are not bloggers but rather regular travelers looking for travel tips and inspiration.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other blogs from time to time but you must remember that you are not them and that finding your own voice and using it should be a top priority. If you simply follow what other sites are doing, you will always be one step behind and competing for their readers. By creating your own path, readers come to you first because they know you are providing tips that are relevant to their next trip.

5) Realize you will never know it all
I learn something new every single day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. While it’s frustrating to feel like you are in the dark, this ultimately gives you the extra push you need to find out the necessary information and apply the knowledge to your site. I try to stay updated on forums and make a point to read other travel blogs daily. I’ve found that the travel community is one of the most encouraging communities out there. I’m continually shocked by the extend travel bloggers and publishers help each other and this comradery keeps me trudging along.

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