One Of The Most Important Lessons I Learned When Starting My Travel Writing Business Was:

Even though it may seem daunting, these are the steps to make your side hustle profitable.

Like many 30-somethings, I spent at least half my life in a classroom. Yet, at no stage have I learned more than starting my writing business.

I started travel writing as an extra income to supplement my 9-to-5 communications job. In 2022, I leaped full-time writing and photography (opens in a new tab). As they say, the rest is history. But I look back on it often because I’ve learned many lessons along the way.

Stephanie Vermillion a travel writer and photographer. Credit: Stephanie Vermillion

It can be daunting to start a new business, especially in a saturated industry like travel writing—competition’s high. Rejection is the norm. The media landscape is constantly changing. Despite this, I am proof that even someone with little journalism experience and few industry connections can make a living and make a living. This living is more than my senior-level nine-to-5 job.

These are the top lessons I have learned since starting my side-hustle business. These tips can be used for any industry, even though my focus is on photography and travel writing.

Hire a coach

Over the past six years, my business has grown tremendously. The most critical moves I make in my business are when I invest time and money in coaching. In 2022, Rebecca L. Weber was my first coach. I established a business strategy, and she helped me hone my craft in ways that podcasts and webinars could not. Jenni Gritters, my second coach(opens in new tab), was my second choice when I needed help navigating an exciting new phase of my business. This was something that I needed more resources to support.

Coaching is important. Coaches bring a third-party view. Many business owners get too involved in the day-to-day. The right coaches can help you think differently and offer new perspectives. I recommend that you read their online content before hiring a coach. Before I hired my coaches, I listened to their podcasts. This helped me confirm that they were the right match.

I took on a few freelance projects to offset the cost of this coaching. Although I knew it was a significant investment, I also knew I would continue to be where I was without expert guidance. Both coaching investments paid off in six months.

While following her goal of starting her own business, Vermillion was able to travel and capture incredible photos like this one. Credit: Stephanie Vermillion

Locate your expanders

When you start a side hustle or new business, you need three types of people: those who are ambivalent about it, those who think it won’t work, and those who support and encourage you. The latter are the ones you should seek out.

These “expanders,” or friends who pump up your energy, will help you to grow exponentially. It’s my handful of writing and creative friends. One group meets almost monthly to discuss wins, losses, and career goals. We help each other through it all, leaving each call prepared to tackle the world.

Your business will grow.

Every piece of advice I received in the early years of my business was invaluable. Scale up? Yes! Outsource? Let’s do it! These buzzwords became my guideposts to success. Then, something was off. This was not my definition of success. I built my business to be successful in the eyes of industry thought leaders, not mine.

After much reflection, I realized that success is living an adventurous, fun life and a career where I can tell stories I love. Money is a part of this, but it’s more of a support pillar for the life I want, not just money to make ends meet. I don’t desire to “scale up” to achieve the “10x growth” I crave. I want to travel, meet new people and create action-packed memories.

That goal is the basis of my business decisions. Outsourcing is only done when it’s in my best interest, not because a podcaster or well-known blogger told me so. If and when I feel the need, I will push for 10x growth. But at this point, I am perfectly content with my version. I prefer to pursue bigger adventures that challenge me beyond my comfort zone.

Do you need harsh feedback? It’s okay to sleep on it.

Although feedback has been essential to my business’s evolution, I still love receiving it. When I see Word documents with tracked changes, I cringe. I know that constructive criticism and edits will improve me; they almost always do.

This is why I take a break to review and read the notes. Then, I close the document and make some space before moving on to the next step. I wait to start the next day if time is not an issue. I always do this because I feel refreshed every morning and see the editing or update as an opportunity to learn. It helps me see things from a different perspective when I have the space to accept criticism. Even if I don’t have the time to go to bed, I will walk for at least an hour to enjoy the growth process instead of hating it.

Follow your intuition and find your inner voice.

Intuition is the one thing that has helped me sustain my business. Almost all of my decisions are based on intuition. My intuition is correct every time. (I suffer if I don’t trust my intuition. This point of intuition following took me many years. It wasn’t because I didn’t trust it. It was something I needed to find.

It’s easy to lose intuition when there are many distractions and content. Your intuition usually speaks up when you stop listening to music or texting. My notebook is where my intuition can speak out. That’s why I journal daily. It helps me make decisions and determine the best move for me.

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