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I Get Paid to Drink and Travel: Confessions of a Craft Beer Blogger

make money online travel

How to Make Money Blogging Online (Part 1? Maybe?)

So if you’re reading this post, you’re probably here to get the scoop on what it’s like to make money blogging about travel and craft beer.

Or maybe you came over from Instagram and want the answers to my AMA last week.

Whatever you did to get here, I’m happy you’re here now!

But before we get into the goods, let me share a little bit about my experience blogging and and making money as a craft beer influencer. It’s been a long road with Big World, Small Girl.

How and Why I Started Big World Small Girl

I bought the domain for this blog six years ago with the intention of using it to journal my international travels. I eventually made up my mind that I would be moving from my hometown in Virginia to Austin. Not for a job, but because I loved the city and wanted to live somewhere new.

I did less international travel so I could save for the big cross country move. But I still craved travel and adventures…

So I started doing small weekend and day trips around Virginia and North Carolina. I started visiting a lot of wineries on these trips which eventually led to visiting breweries, which then lead to a love for craft beer.

I have always love writing and the process of creating blogs, so my international travel posts changed into travel posts for trips in Virginia. Or even full on featured posts for a brewery that I drove three hours just to visit.

Once I landed in Austin, about four years ago, I quickly got a job in digital marketing. I was only there for a few months before switching to a new company, but I learned SO MUCH.

Naturally I decided to start marketing my blog and grow my social media accounts.

Overtime, I identified and established the Big World Small Girl brand and become more intentional and focused about my mission and content: Help people find new adventures inspired the beauty that is craft beer.

So those times were a lot of fun. I got to discover Austin and make new friends through my craft beer blog. I have done many sponsored trips and made a good chunk of money from working with brands.

But I always told myself to keep it fun! I never wanted it to feel like a job or a chore.

At the time I was working a job in social media that had me stressed out and mentally exhausted all day, every day. It was a toxic job and after three years I finally left.

I didn’t have another job lined up. I just planned on taking some time off for my mental health and to look for a new career path.

I put in my two weeks notice February 15th, 2020. My last day was March 1st.

And then in mid-March Covid-19 happened. Talk about timing!

It was hard. I struggled a lot with a lot of stuff. We all did and a lot still are struggling. My hearts go out to you.

I struggled with thinking I was an idiot for leaving this high-paying job with nothing else lined up. I struggled with being at home all day every day and having no inspiration to create content about travel and beer when so much pain was in the world.

I struggled with losing a lot of my partnerships, and the rest being paused.

I struggled with seeing so many breweries and local Austin businesses struggling. Don’t forget lock down happened and SXSW was canceled which is a huge time of year for the city.

That came with the realization that I should take Big World, Small Girl full time. That I should make this brand my job.

And you know what, I can still have fun doing it.

So things are brighter now. I feel confident and inspired to create content and to find new ways to travel that are safe. I even started the 512 Brewed Craft Beer Podcast with a good friend and it’s really taking off. And this month I’ll begin training for my Level 2 Certified Cicerone!

FAQ’s About Blogging and Making Money on Instagram

Now that you know my story, I’m excited to share a bit about my success and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

If you have any more questions about what it’s like making money online with craft beer, drop them down at the bottom. I’m always happy to help!

When you first started, did you actively pursue partnerships with brands? Or did you wait?

When first starting out, I reach out to a lot of brands, but not for paid content.

I wanted products, experiences, and interviews to create content around. Creating that consistent, relevant, and high-quality content is what helped me grow to the point where brands started reaching out to me to pay me for this!

I also reached out to a bunch of PR agencies and connected with other bloggers when I first moved to Austin. Both of those things are what I contribute to my overall success with Big World, Small Girl.

Also, if you’re an influencer, join influencer networks!!! 

All of them! A lot of paid opportunities for me as a new blogger came from these platforms. There are dozens of them, but quick tip: NEVER EVER EVER join one that you, as an influencer, has to pay for!!

For me, Aspire and IZEA are two that have been the most successful as a food/beverage/travel content creator.

Do you actively seek out opportunities to earn money by being an influencer?

Yes. Not all my money comes from Instagram. In fact, part of being a “good” full time blogger is diversifying your incomes.

Think about it… Instagram could disappear tomorrow, and then what? Or I don’t know… A global pandemic could happen that pauses or ends all of your Instagram partnerships overnight!

So yes, I’m constantly seeking out new ways to make money using my passion for travel, knowledge about craft beer and marketing, along with my social media influence.

Do you approach brands, or do they all approach you?

90% of my current partnerships have come from companies reaching out to me. I say no to a lot of them too. As my brand gets bigger, I have to be more picky about the companies I promote and the products I recommend to my audience, my most valuable ‘asset’. 

However, I do reach out to companies when:

  1. I see a natural fit that I’m excited about,
  2. I have a very cool content idea that I know I could nail,
  3. Or I’m working on a big project and need actual funding. (Like my Texas Brewery Road Trip!)

Ok, so controversial opinion ahead… this is a subject of debate and a personal opinion, but I hope it can be eye-opening to new bloggers, established bloggers, and my audience that is curious about this very interesting way to make money. I don’t know, maybe someone might change my mind about it… SO

Let me preface by saying I grew up poor. I never had anything handed to me… And I always felt weird asking for help and money.

If you have to reach out to brands, hotels, breweries, whatever, to get them to send you free stuff and pay you, you’re not a true influencer.

To me an influencer is one that brands are dying to work with. An influencer is not one who is begging for free stuff.

Not to mention, there are a lot of not-business-savvy brands who see someone with a ‘high following’ and think partnering with them will save the company. *insert dead face here*

I also probably look like a failure as a blogger for not being aggressive reaching out to brands! But my days aren’t spent begging brands for free stuff and money. Or stalking people who are actually working with brands…

My days are spent enjoying life, creating content I’m excited about, and helping my audience learn about craft beer and plan their perfect beercation!

How do you get people to follow you that are into the same things?

I engage in meaningful ways with people posting to my target hashtags. Long gone are the days of bots. I’m talking real comments and likes, follow the accounts you actually like, and read the dang caption! 

It’s tedious but to me it’s worth it. And for a few reasons too… 

First, you’re engaging with your target audience, and that will help your engagement… Most valuable though is it keeps you engaged with what is happening and being talked about in your target audience. 

I have a full blog post on my tips to grow as a food and beverage Instagrammer, so make sure to click here and check it out!

How do you get partnerships with local breweries?

I don’t.

I’ve never had a paid partnership with a local brewery (YET).

And I should clarify that I haven’t done a paid partnership with a craft brewery (I have) or that I wouldn’t accept money from a local brewery (I would). 

Still, the money isn’t in craft beer. Ask many people who brew beer and start breweries. It’s not always about the money either!!

Instead, it’s more about the friendships I’ve formed with breweries, whether it’s local or ones I’ve visited while traveling. And yes, sometimes those friendships come with free beer or industry discounts.

And most of the time, I’m on a brewery’s press/media list and I get samples of new releases from time to time. This is not a new concept either! 

Journalists, reporters, and major publication writers have been getting samples, invites, and ‘press kits’ for decades. It’s a standard practice in any industry.

Getting on these lists is crucial to any new blogger or influencer’s success, and it’s pretty easy too. 

So how do you do it?

  1. Google search and find your area’s PR agencies.
  2. Find their contact email and send them a message introducing yourself and asking to be put on their media lists for so and so clients.
  3. Or at least send them a message to put you on their radar. In this first initial contact, don’t ask for anything…. Unless you have a cool project in mind and can show real numbers that promise results!

The job of a PR person is to get their client as much press and media as possible. By reaching out to them and introducing yourself, look at it as doing them a favor!

If a beer is not good or has problems, does it still end up in your feed?

No. I try to keep things positive on my feed. And I know that my taste buds aren’t everyone’s taste buds. But, if it’s an interesting beer that I know others will like I might still share it to my Instagram feed. Even then, I’ll avoid a super harsh review.

I love craft breweries and I would hate to hurt them just because of one bad beer. Especially if it was only because I didn’t like it.

If the beer has problems, I’ll privately bring that up with the brewery or PR team. They do appreciate the feedback.

If it’s a crap business meaning they’re not following safety protocols, basic beer serving standards, or employee sexist/racists thinking people, well… I never hold back from sharing that!

How do you approach a brand or business if you want to work with them (for ads, sponsors, codes, etc.)?

Similar to mentioned above. I reach out to them through email or Instagram. I’ll float a question asking if they are working with bloggers. And let them know I have a few cool ideas.

If they’re interested, we usually schedule a call and I send over my media kit. My media kit has more information about my audience demographics, previous collaborations I’ve worked on, and press mentions.

In the call, I share with them my ideas and why I think their brand or service or hotel is something my audience is interested in.

I use affiliate links for high-ticket items from time-to-time. A lot of those partnerships come from content I’ve created organically that does really well with my audience.

So I’m approaching the brands with results and numbers that show sales. There are also affiliate programs out there that many bloggers use and it’s pretty hands off in terms of working with a specific brand.

That being said, don’t forget to support the brands that support your favorite creators. It really makes a difference! <3

How much do you spend on beer vs what gets gifted?

It’s hard to say how much I spend exactly because I’m just personally bad at tracking expenses. I do get several beer mail packages a month. However, I definitely buy way more than I gifted because I am proud to support craft beer!

Especially because these beer mail packages usually contain special and unique brews. Think, triple barrel-aged pickle stout infused with blueberries!

Ok, that was just an example but still… They’re always interesting beers. And to be honest, your girl likes to have a fridge full of local beer, especially clean lagers and reliable American IPAS.

How much investing (coaching/courses/etc) have you done to get you to this point?

ZERO! (Unless you count my Communications degree)… But seriously, I have not paid/invested in any courses, coaching, or masterminds. I feel a lot of those are scams– just content posted from other courses or free blog articles. Not all, but a lot.

And I’m saying this as someone, where my last job of almost four years was managing the content for the top eCommerce course in the world.

Every month we were having to send out a DMCA order to take down another copycat course. People would take our content, copy it with their own voice (emails, testimonials, and sales pages included), and sell it at a much lower price. UGH, very frustrating.

That being said, I know a few people who have had success with blogging courses or coaching.

My advice to you, if you’re thinking of investing in these things is to do your research. Read testimonials– make sure there are testimonials, ask for proof of member success, and finally go for the ones that have active communities.

I think the community parts of some of these courses are worth the price alone. (Because networking and learning with other like-minded folks is hella valuable!!)

So what do I invest in?

I invest in tools, apps, programs, and themes that make my content better and have me spending less time working. Below are some of my favorites, along with trials to get you started!

PS, many of the above tools have free trials to get you started. If you sign up through these links, I’ll also get account credits for the service. So thanks for helping your girl save a bit of money!

Can you touch on your Pinterest strategy?

Not in a way that does it justice here. That deserves its own blog post. And I honestly don’t think I’m qualified to write it.

That being said, Pinterest is a unique platform, but I love it! (Also, give your girl a follow on Pinterest, if you’re not already!)

It’s like Google and Instagram had a baby. After organic search, it’s my top referral of organic traffic. So here are a few tips:

  1. Learn, and use Tailwind Automation. (Start a free trial with this link)
  2. Don’t focus on vanity metrics such as views. Focus on improving link clicks and engagement. Views don’t mean very much on Pinterest! For example, I have nearly half a million monthly views on Pinterest… But I don’t get anywhere near that number in referral traffic from the platform. (Currently, improving that ratio is a huge focus for me!)
  3. Pin frequently– like 10-15 times a day frequently. Sound crazy? See Pinterest Tip #1.

Ok, so I think that about does it! Again, if you have any questions, please drop them below. If you found this blog helpful, be a friend and share it with a friend!

Cheers ya’ll

3 Comments

  • Amanda September 14, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    I love everything except that you think influencers who reach out to brands aren’t true influencers. A lot of times brands are looking at follower number so smaller influencers are overlooked. Part of being someone who brands want to work with is putting yourself in front of brands and showing them what you can do. I don’t think it’s fair to belittle someone for reaching out to brands or “asking for partnerships” because that might be what they can do at the moment.

  • Travis September 15, 2020 at 11:58 am

    How is reaching out to brands differnent than joining an influencer network? That’s just plain hypocrytical

    • Caitlin J September 15, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      A lot of influencer networks also offer influencer databases. By signing up for the networks you get into these databases that brands use to search for influencers to reach out to for campaigns. In influencer networks, I have options of either applying for campaigns tailored for me in the network, usually those are low pay, or I can accept proposals sent to me from brands who found me through the network, those are usually higher pay and come through email. Hope that clears things up! Cheers!

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