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Location independent lifestyle. With the rise of the internet and now social media, this kind of lifestyle is becoming more and more popular.

An avid traveler, Leah Davis is a big proponent of the location independent lifestyle. The face behind the blog, The Sweetest Way, Leah has lived in four countries and traveled in dozens more, all the while working from the road. She is now based in the Pacific Northwest but still finds plenty of time for adventure.

Read on to find out how Leah got her start, and how you, too, can follow in her footsteps.

You run the travel blog, The Sweetest Way. Based on your experience, what is the key to gaining an audience of loyal readers? How do you keep them enthralled?

Santorini | Leah Davis

In my experience, there are three major components to building (and keeping) a loyal audience of readers. The first is to provide value. Find out what questions your readers have (based on your chosen blogging niche) and cater to those questions. Research the answers if you don’t know them yourself, or talk to people who are experts. Go the extra mile to deliver blog posts that will give people information they can apply directly to their lives. Help your readers solve their problems and they will continue to look to you as a trusted resource.
The second component is authenticity. To me, this means allowing myself to be honest and vulnerable in my writing–to let people see the real me and understand my personal struggles, without sugarcoating anything. People really connect with this type of writing and it also serves to build trust. I share my opinions, I tell them how I’m feeling, and I bond with my readers through our common experiences. They see me as a real person and as one of their peers; not just a stranger on the Internet with a life that seems perfect or unattainable.

Lastly, it is important to publish new content consistently. If your readers never know when to expect new blog posts, they may lose interest and find a new place to get their questions answered. For this reason, it is important to decide how frequently you can commit to publishing new posts. There is no right answer here, it only depends on what you can realistically adhere to–for some people, this will be multiple times per week, and for others, it will be once per week or even less. If you can only write one high-quality post per week, that is a better strategy than writing several per week that provide little or no value at all.

You have worked with brands like Costa Brava Tourism, Hawaii Paddle Sports and Visit Stockholm, among others. What exactly do you do for these brands?

Monte Albán | Leah Davis

When I work with tourism boards or travel brands, the main goal is to help them market their destination or service to a new audience through written and visual content, usually on both my blog and social media channels. I will participate in a tour or visit a destination and create content about the experience. It is a way to increase awareness of both the brand and destination, and hopefully generate future business.
For example, in Costa Brava, I participated in a tour of bungalow campsites throughout the region to introduce people to this style of travel. Each campsite had its own unique set of activities to participate in, distinctive and surprisingly luxurious accommodations, and exquisite on-site restaurants. This campaign also served to introduce my readers to the Costa Brava region as a travel destination they may never have considered otherwise.
And since this content lives permanently on my site, it is constantly being discovered by new readers and potential customers through ongoing social media promotion.

How can aspiring bloggers reach out to these kinds of brands?

I would encourage any new blogger to make sure they are able to provide real value before pitching themselves to brands. Once you can provide evidence of your influence and that you’ve established trust with your readers, then you can feel confident reaching out to brands like these.
Networking events and conferences are a great place for travel bloggers to connect with brands and make face-to-face connections with the people you’ll potentially be working with.
If you need to pitch someone you’ve never met before, just make sure you do your research beforehand. Does your audience consist of their target demographic? Are your values in alignment with theirs?

It’s also important to showcase the value that you can provide to them and how you can complement their marketing efforts. Spell out exactly which services you can offer them and be clear about what you are looking for in return. 

How much can aspiring bloggers expect to get paid from brands?

If you’re still thinking of visiting Leavenworth this winter, now is the PERFECT time to do it! | Leah Davis

New bloggers with limited reach should not expect to be paid for collaborations at first. Only once you have established yourself as an authority and built a large audience should you expect to be paid for collaborations. This takes time and a lot of work up-front. Most travel bloggers pay for their travels entirely out-of-pocket in the beginning and don’t get paid for their efforts until they’ve been blogging for several years.
Once you have a sizeable audience, however, it is possible to offset some of your travel costs by participating in exchanges where you create content in exchange for a comped tour or service.
This is a great way to generate exciting new content for your audience and reduce some of your expenses, allowing you to travel more regularly. This still requires considerable work, however, and should never be regarded as a “freebie.”

You have 20.1K followers on Instagram, and 9.8K on Pinterest. What apps do you recommend for editing photos, especially for Instagram?

I personally use Adobe Lightroom for all of my photo editing, and I absolutely love it. It’s less intimidating than Photoshop but still produces beautiful results. I can also use it on my mobile device so I can edit photos on the go if I need to.

How did you manage to get featured on BuzzFeed?

I think providing high-quality, valuable content is what helps my blog stand out in a sea of travel blogs. I focus on helping others achieve a location independent lifestyle so they can travel the world and work from anywhere–there is a growing movement toward this flexible way of living and so I think my content appeals to a lot of people for that reason.
Follow Leah on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.