So you want to travel but also need a way to afford the costs that come along with it. We’ve shared some of our tips on How to Save Money While Road Tripping and How to Save Money on Hotels with a Hotel Credit Card but there is another way you can save money (at tax time) and that’s by starting your own travel vlog/blog business. We’ll walk you through the process of starting your own travel business showing you that anybody can do it in a way that won’t take anything away from the experience of traveling, exploring and being on the road.
1. Before You Start
Before starting a travel business you need to ask yourself if running a business while you travel is what you want. It does take additional time/work but over time this will get much easier.
- Takes work and extra time: Managing a website, posting updates, taking video, posting pictures, editing video, all takes time that must be done regularly as you build your audience. Over time you’ll get better at it and it will become easier but don’t expect that in the first year.
- Need a plan on how you’ll make money: As a business you need to have a plan on how you’ll make money and you must be active in becoming profitable. Ads on a YouTube channel will probably not be enough. You’ll need to spread your brand across many channels (website, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon) to increase your revenue opportunities.
- You’re not just traveling, you’re building a brand: Your website, name, social channels and YouTube channel are all part of your brand. It’s how you differentiate yourself from others. Its what you offer your followers. Its how you present yourself. Building a brand will be part of your thoughts as you take pictures, shoot video, post updates and interact with your audience.
- It takes work to build an audience: How will you engage your followers? What makes you different from others? How will you share your passion for travel? What’s the voice of your brand? You may not have all the answers but you should have some ideas that can be developed over time.
2. Choose a Name / Brand
Choosing a name is the first step in defining your brand. It may sound simple but you’ll find that choosing the perfect name is not that easy. You want to make sure it’s a reflection of you, what you’re all about and most importantly not taken by someone else.
Naming Your Brand:
- Keep your name memorable: Choose a name that others will find memorable, easy to spell and has some meaning to you. I recommend choosing a name that doesn’t back you into a corner – the more you travel, the more likely you are to expand out – a name like “Georgia Explorer” wouldn’t make sense if you’re looking to explore beyond Georgia.
- Keep the name relatively short: Shorter names are easier to remember, create shorter custom URLs and don’t have to be changed when grabbing a social handle that has a character limit. 24 characters or less let’s you get the handle across major social sites.
- Don’t infringe on someone else’s copyright: Make sure the name isn’t taken and you can get the custom handles across the major social sites (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok), YouTube and a website domain.
- Don’t change your name once selected: Put the time in to get it right the first time. Changing your name confuses your audience and resets any word-of-mouth referrals.
- Protect your name with a trademark: Registering your business name for a trademark isn’t required in order for you to have trademark rights. However, a registered trademark can provide greater protection for your brand.
Completing Your Brand:
Once you have that perfect name selected it’s time to complete your brand. This will give you the complete package for creating your online presence, a platform for which you will create content and define how you want others to recognize you.
- Select brand colors: Pick up to 4 colors that will be used when building your online presence, your content, your website and your logo. Make sure they complement each other. Color Palettes from Canva is a great tool for generating a color palette.
- Define your voice: How do you present yourself, how do others see you and expect from you? This includes the things you say, write and type of content you put out. Your audience should be able to recognize something from you without your name attached.
- Design a logo: With logos, keeping it simple goes a long way. Don’t over-design. Use 1-3 colors in the logo – not only does this simplify your logo but it will also make branded merchandise cheaper. If you need help designing a logo we offer Travel Graphics that you can freely use (just send us a link when you’re done).
A well defined brand shows you’re operating as a real business and creates legitimacy.
3. Establish a Business
You have an idea of what you want to create, you have a perfect name picked out and you even have a brand, now it’s time to pick your legal business structure. There are many options but we’re only going to discuss the two I would recommend for this type of business; sole proprietorships and limited liability company.
- Sole Proprietorships
- Easiest to setup and operate. Usually you just declare it and no paperwork is needed to be filed*.
- File a “schedule C” (income/expense) with your yearly tax return. Pay taxes on your profit and self employment tax on your income. Must pay Estimated Taxes 4x per year through a 1040ES.
- Can use your personal bank account with a doing business as (DBA) attached to it.
- No liability protection against personal assets.
- You can hire employees.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- A little more work to setup as paperwork (Articles of Incorporation) must be filed with the state – there will be a filing fee. Additional yearly filings may be required by your state. Check out LegalZoom for starting an LLC.
- File a “schedule C” with your yearly tax return. Taxes are pass-through to owners. Must pay Estimated Taxes 4x per year through a 1040-ES form.
- Should obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for filings, banking and taxes.
- Owner(s) are protected against losing personal assets due to litigation (limited liability).
- Can have business bank account in the businesses’ name. This will help to keep your business and personal assets separate.
- You can hire employees.
reference: Business Structures on the IRS
* Check with your state or Country
4. Setup Your Online Presence
Now that we have all the boring stuff out of the way it’s time to start showing the world who you are and what your brand is all about by setting up your online presence. It’s important that you center your social media around your website. Connect everything back to a place that you fully control without worrying about algorithms.
- Website: I strongly recommend getting a website and a domain matching your brand’s name. Follow these three steps and you’ll have a website in no time:
- YouTube: If you’re vlogging the you need a place to put your videos. There is no better, and more popular, place than YouTube. Create a channel in your brand’s name, go through the customization adding all your information and upload your first video when you’re ready. Make sure to upload on a regular schedule.
- Facebook | Instagram | TikTok**: This is a must for any travel business (vlog or blog) as having a strong social presence greatly increases your brands reach and monetization options.
- Sign up with a handle that is your brands name and secure the vanity/custom URL, too.
- Go through each sites’ set up adding descriptions, logo and banner images and make sure it’s complete before making it public.
- Add content often. The algorithms need to learn your content and make sure you’ll stay active on their site before they serve you out to a wider audience. Even then you’ll always be tested so posting good content often is important.
- Patreon: Patreon is a website where people can support content creators with small monthly donations in exchange for something like early access to videos, ad free videos, community discussions or a simple monthly postcard. As you’re starting out you may not want to publish a Patreon page until you get enough followers, have solidified your brand and understand the videos you want to make. What you will want to do is secure your name for free on Patreon.
- Email Address: You have two options: 1) Get a Gmail address through Google or 2) Get an email address from GoDaddy or WordPress using your domain. Personally we like Gmail because its free, never goes down, has great spam filters and has plenty of space for all our emails.
** Twitter is not included because the platform doesn’t provide the value it once added. Even though we have an account no additional work is being put into it and we keep it to secure our brand name on the platform.
5. Operate Like a Business
The travel, planning, exploring and hiking won’t change but there are a couple things that should be done to operate like a business. This will make end of the year taxes easier and also provides records to the IRS if needed.
- Keep records of travel: We use our Road Trip dailies for tracking every day we’re on the road. This not only gives us a record of everywhere we’ve been but also provides a travel log if needed.
- Track expenses & income: This is a must and shouldn’t be overlooked. All of your travel expenses and income needs to be tracked. From tracking expenses and income to saving receipts, Quickbooks Mobile on the Simple Plan is an easy way to manage everything.
What deductions§ can I take?
- Start-up costs
- Website and hosting expenses
- Your home office
- Marketing costs
- Computer equipment
- Camera and video equipment
- Online product and services
- Travel expenses which may include; accommodations, meals, fuel, plane tickets, park entry fees, parking & tolls, vehicle repairs.
§ Deduction must be “Ordinary and Necessary’”. The advice of an accountant should be sought and the deductions listed above is just a sample and may not reflect what your specific business could deduct.
6. Making a Profit
It might sound obvious but you need to have a plan on how you’ll make a profit and you must actively work towards that. Things the IRS may ask: 1) Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit? 2) Do you depend on income from the activity? 3) Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? 4) Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business? 5) Does the activity make a profit‡ in some years?
- Ad Revenue from YouTube
- Sell images on ShutterStock – it’s so easy.
- Place Google Ads on your website using Google Adsense
- Get sponsors for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok content
- Product review videos and posts
- Sell branded merchandise
- Let your audience support you through a small monthly donation on Patreon
- Work with Travel Boards to promote locations
Earning income will take time, require work and realistically may not happen in the first year or longer. Spend your first years building your followers, subscribers and audience.
‡ An activity is presumed for profit if it makes a profit in at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year.
7. End of the Year Taxes
Using a software package like TurboTax, which walks you through each question, you can file your own taxes. As long as you’ve kept expense/income records using something like Quickbooks you’ll have everything you need (export a report and import directly into TurboTax). Take your time, plan for it to take a couple hours, answer all questions honestly and look up questions if you’re unsure (don’t guess).
tip: Get the Audit Insurance that’s offered when submitting your taxes through TurboTax.
disclaimer: information contained within this post is being offered as our opinions and does not constitute legal or financial advice. It is recommended to seek the advice of a lawyer and account to ensure you’re following the proper laws for your country and state.