My Featured Writer Friday guest is Melissa from Idyllic Destinations.

My Featured Writer Friday guest is Melissa from Idyllic Destinations.

Hi, my name is Melissa Webb and I’m what my husband likes to call ‘Head of Inspiration’ at Idyllic Destination. My one-woman travel blog. With hindsight, a shorter name would have been easier.

Thank you, Dan, for inviting me to feature in this series. I feel privileged to share my story.

I’m an Australian native now living permanently in the UK. The Cotswolds to be precise. Life gave us a kick in the pants about six years ago when my husband was diagnosed with a type of cancer that has a very low survival rate. Like most people who have survived a life-threatening illness, it changed our outlook on life. Following his treatment and surgery, we started working towards our dream of moving to Europe. And now here we are!

As well as travel, I have a passion for photography. Fancy that, a blogger who loves photography! I travel with my husband and together we mainly enjoy a long weekend and short breaks locally and abroad. Idyllic Destination is my platform to bring our travel stories, tips, and advice together with my favorite photographs.

1. How long have you been blogging?

I am very much a newbie when it comes to blogging. I’ve only been at it for a couple of months, since June 2018. I’ve always enjoyed writing and I’m really enjoying sharing my stories and travel adventures. Though I wish I’d kept a journal of our previous travels to call upon.

2. Are you a full-time blogger or do you also have another job/career?

In what I now refer to as my past life, I worked in senior executive production roles across marketing and advertising. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to leave that behind and dive head-first into full time blogging.

3. What got you started into blogging?

For more than two decades I loved my job but when my husband fell ill I suffered from terrible anxiety which sometimes still plagues me. I continued to work for a few years afterward but when we relocated to the UK I decided that change was in order. This is when I started to reflect on what I was truly passionate about. From early on in life I had watched travel presenters on TV and thought that would be my dream job. If only I could do it from behind the camera! Turns out that I can, well sort of. I somehow have the ability to string a few words together without too many issues, so why not combine that with my love of travel and photography?

4. What is your blog about and how does it help others?

It’s very early days with my blog and it doesn’t fit into any tight little niche. What a rebel! I’d like to think that I inspire people to experience a destination rather than just visit it. To take the path less traveled, or in some cases, trampled.

I have recently realized that through my own personal struggles with anxiety I can help people with similar issues cope with the stress of independent traveling. It’s difficult to write about but I’m looking forward to sharing more articles on this topic on my blog.

A view from Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds.

A view from Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds.

5. What is working for you and your blog? Why?

Throughout my life, I’ve always put up a façade. Not to get too deep but I think this probably stems from having a lack of confidence. I’ve discovered through my blogging that the posts that are personal and expose my vulnerability are the ones that resonate the most. Being authentic has been my biggest lesson learned.

In addition to this, getting back into photography has been a great creative outlet. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed but has fallen by the wayside in recent years. I’m very much a novice but I get a great deal of satisfaction from taking and sharing some beautiful photography. They also make my blog look far more professional!

6. What did not work out so well for your blog? Why?

For so many years I have intentionally avoided social media. As a result, I’ve entered a world that is completely foreign to me. Getting to grips with platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram has been a massive learning curve. In many ways, it’s like regressing 30 years and being thrust back into schoolyard politics. Who wants to be friends with the new girl? Some days it feels like rejection on a global scale but it’s a great way to meet new people who share similar interests.

Setting up a website from scratch has also been quite a challenge. From my marketing/advertising background I have managed many high-profile digital projects but never quite so hands-on. What I expected to take a day or two ended up taking over a month. I was itching to get writing but was bogged down with the technical aspects of website building. I spent more time searching and watching YouTube tutorials than I’d care to admit!

Something that’s not working well for me right now is scheduling. There’s a lot more involved in running a blog than I initially thought and I’m working hard to find a balance between all of these competing priorities.

7. What tools, programs, apps do you use to create your blog/website (tools that you can’t live without)?

I run a self-hosted WordPress site through Bluehost. I have a few WordPress plugins installed which I find helpful, but I try to keep these to the essentials. Experience has taught me that the more elements you add the more difficult it is to identify where the problem is when things go wrong.

Coming from a creative background I have been using software from what is now known as Adobe Creative Cloud since the mid-90s. Sadly, I remember using InDesign 1.0 when it launched in 2000. Now I’m showing my age! I would be completely lost without Photoshop and InDesign, particularly Photoshop. Unlike a lot of other photographers, I do not retouch, or color correct my images. In fact, I pride myself on being able to give people a realistic representation of what they will be able to see and photograph themselves at any given location. I do spend a lot of time resizing, cropping, rotating etc. though.

I’m not using any social media scheduling tools at the moment, but I do use MailChimp for email marketing and WooCommerce for my online store.

8. What piece of advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a blog?

I wouldn’t be a former marketer with a few Ps so my best advice to new bloggers (like myself) is to follow my four Ps.

Planning. Take the time to plan your website. Who is your target audience and based on that create a ‘look and feel’ that will resonate? Consider the features that you’d like to include. If you’re not sure, take a look at other blogs for inspiration. The more you plan your website layout and functionality the more longevity it will have.

Patience. It’s a virtue that I, unfortunately, don’t possess but one that’s needed when you’re starting a new blog. You may expect to build an immediate following but you probably won’t. Some days it might feel like you’re writing for nobody, but you need patience. Enjoy your writing and plug away at marketing yourself and in time it will come together.

Perseverance. Like anything in life, you will have setbacks. Life will get in the way, as it almost always does, but persevere and be strong. It can be intimidating when you see bloggers with over 500k followers, their own merchandise, and awesome brand partnerships. But remember, that doesn’t happen overnight, it takes perseverance. Stick with it and you’ll achieve your dreams.

Promotion. It can be daunting at first but don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Build your network amongst the wonderful blogging community and put yourself out there. Attend events and conferences and pitch guest post ideas to more established bloggers. The more exposure you get the more your voice will be heard.

9. What do you have planned for the future of your website?

First and foremost, my plan is to concentrate on content. Right now, I’m still finding my voice and developing a writing style that works for me.

Following that my goals are to increase my following (across my blog and social media), and to collaborate with and guest post for some of the leading influencers and bloggers. I’d also like to venture into the world of video. I’ve just started to purchase some equipment so that I can incorporate videos into my posts, as well as compliment my blog with some vlogging.

Lastly, one of the many things I love about travel is taking great photographs. I’ve recently launched an online store with some photography-based printable products which I’m hoping to expand upon with time. Being able to draw an income from my blogging activities is definitely a long-term goal.

10. Where can everyone find you?

I’d love to connect with like-minded bloggers via the following channels. Building my email list is important to me so head to my opt-in page to get monthly updates directly to your email.

Blog https://idyllicdestination.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/IdyllicDestina1
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/idyllicdest
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/idyllic_destination/
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/idyllicdestination


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To your success.

Dan