My name is Cee, I am the Editor, Founder and Creative Director behind the brand, Ceeces Travel. This is my story on how I started Cecces travel as a blog and grew it into a travel and lifestyle brand that you see today!
How Ceeces Travel started
When I first got into blogging, I was doing it purely for myself. I had just come out of therapy for a tragic and traumatic life-changing event. Writing has always been in my blood, it has always been my form of self-expression, in joy, happiness, and all emotions. One of my fathers was a well-known journalist and I think some of it rubbed off. After I healed somewhat, a year or so later, I started getting emails and offers from brands and companies, asking me to host their press releases, and so on.
I had a decade of career experience in hotel, event, and hospitality management, both locally and abroad so I was quick to spot the opportunity. Instead of marketing their brands for free and just using my site as some kind of free advertising platform, I contacted them back and asked how we could possibly work together in a way that benefitted both parties. We started with trade exchanges, which allowed me to grow as a writer, build some brand relationships, and showcase my work and platform to other brands. After a while, I was able to start charging a small fee, and from there, as I grew, so did my brand, my rates, and my adventures.
How to start, and the challenges you are likely to face.
Firstly you need to decide if your blog is something you’re doing purely as a hobby, or if it is something you’re starting as a professional career and investment. If the latter, then by knowing what you’re trying to create, you’ll make better choices for you and your brand. This will help you with the growth and molding of your brand in the early stages.
Of course, you will face challenges. Some of the challenges I faced ranged from clients and individuals not acknowledging that I had become a business, that they had to pay. I also struggled with managing my own time. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how will help you achieve the best outcome for yourself and your client. Another challenge was not having the right tech or access to resources and finance. This isn’t a cheap industry to get into, and starting up can be incredibly tough.
Challenges can be noticing things about the industry that affect you, but not knowing whether speaking up or will harbor your chances of being hired by certain brands/PR’s/companies or whether it will get you hired. It’s a thin line. Challenging can be, always having to stay on top, or at least feeling that way. Something I have learned is it’s better to focus on the quality of what you’re producing than the quantity.
Managing the travel and budget
Travel smart, I hardly ever just book a hotel, book a flight on the go. I often spend weeks or days, depending on how much time I have, researching various modes of transport, various packages. I always make contact with the brand in advance to let them know who I am and what I do. Often the hotel or transportation brand will get back to me, and ask if there is a way we can work together, either on a slight discount on my stay, or paying me for a social media package, images,, or sponsored articles. These I usually try and post with the tags, #hosted #ad #sponsored, etc.
If you’re just looking at traveling and having a proper holiday, no work attached, then definitely take your time and search the internet, there are so so so so many ways, to find travel deals, and discounts that will save you hundreds of rands, by just taking a little longer to look around. The queen of this fellow travel and lifestyle writer – Lipgloss Girl, is not only great at traveling but her humor in her writing is brilliant.
Its not an easy walk in the park…
Honestly, I used to burn out all the time. It’s not just the radio, tv, writing, traveling, it is also, admin, marketing, pitching, financial management, debt consolidating, making time for family, friends, animals, and life outside of the brand. At the end of the day, I am also just a human being, someone who has survived a helluva lot in my lifetime, someone who still manages her anxiety, someone who used to suffer from suicidal depression, and someone who is finally building the life she wants for herself. It is a lot, and I don’t think there is anyone kind of management tool one get’s in life to deal with it all.
My life didn’t just fall into my hands, I have spent years, building this, and some days I feel like I am on top of the world and some days, I want to throw it all in the bin and give up.
I feel like getting a 9-5 and never touching my site again, that is the reality. And then one person comes along and says something like ” I really love what you do, or your article made me smile, or we went to that place you suggested” and I get reminded why I love what I do and why I love this industry, world, and life. As my business grows, and I can afford to actually hire other people full time, to manage and handle a lot of the things that I really shouldn’t be carrying on my shoulders, then I will. Right now though, I am just still a young, female, black entrepreneur, trying to get through each day, day by day.
The creative process
Blogging processes vary. Is it a campaign that I have conceptualized? Is it a campaign brief from a brand? Is it travel-related? Is it still imagery only? There is so much that goes into creating something. An article, a video, imagery, copy, whatever it is, I find my process varies. It’s affected by the brand, the product, the location, the client’s requirements, my requirements. Am I working with a team, I have put together? Am I working within a team, a client has created? Is it 21h00 at night or 03h00am in the morning? Seriously?
Depending on my mood, often I write my best pieces at 03h00 am when I can’t sleep and the article or brand pitch, just flow’s out of me. Everyone is different in their process and I think it is vital for each individual to find what works for them, before looking at everyone else’s process.
In regards to creating the images, and a story with my images, both my fathers have always said that I have “an eye for photography”. I see things, others don’t. I see visuals and put things together and then I find a way to create that image, photographically. I try not to plan too intensely when it comes to the imagery on a trip, I need things to be as authentic as possible. I might go so far as saying, I need some ocean visuals, some greenery, some interior, etc. And I will go online and research the area, visit the websites of the places I am going, seeing what imagery they already have and things like that, and then when I am on-site, I know what to avoid, and I start seeing through my own “eyes”.
On how to make money blogging…
Don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you’re new on the scene don’t feel entitled to it, having said that, don’t undervalue or undersell yourself either. The trick is to find, where you fit in and charge for that. No one should be expected to work for free, if a brand and or client, likes your work and even go so far as telling you they do, then they need to compensate you for it. The compliments are nice but saying yes, to every free opportunity sets a precedent not only for your brand but for all of us, who have worked our asses off to get to a professionally blogging/writing platform, and have brands, devalue us and our time, and work.
Secondly, if you want to make money, from your blogging, again, make sure you’re doing something you’re passionate about. I don’t actually believe you have to have ONE niche’ we’re human, we have many interests, but you should have some kind of theme, or concept around your brand, that people can identify. Do that and you’ll always be passionate about what you’re doing, and passion attracts people, people, attract clients, and so on and so forth.
The benefits of it all
The most rewarding thing that has come from my blog, my brand, and my writings are the travel-related adventures. The opportunities to explore new places, travel around the country, and hopefully soon the world. The opportunities to share places, activities, gadgets, and all sorts with my readers, followers, fans, and myself. I LIVE and LOVE travel. It’s what I have chosen in my life above all else. I am hoping to actually have my own travel tv show within the next few years, something else to add to my little empire that I am building. I don’t want to share too many details yet, but it’s something I am looking into, quite seriously. There is an entire world out there, and after doing the recent TV stuff, I know I am meant to be in front of the camera as much as I love being behind it.