Planepack takes off

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My blog is a baby - only six months old. But it's standing on firm, chubby legs, ready to launch itself into the world.

I blog about light travel: how to fly and travel with carry on luggage only. Yes, that's 7 kgs only and I've travelled this way since 2010. ‘How do you do that?’ My friends would ask. ‘You’ll have to teach me how!’ These comments inspired me to think about light travel: how to plan, prepare, pack and fly with one carry on bag only.

The are many benefits of light travel. My luggage never gets lost. It's easy to carry my own bag into planes, trains, taxis and over cobblestones. I never have the problem of ‘What shall I wear?’ - my limited wardrobe is curated to suit my personal style. But best of all: I cruise through customs and no longer wait anxiously at baggage carousels. Leave your heavy baggage at home, I say - and arrive like a rock star.

My whole life I've worked as a publisher, but this is the first time I'm putting into practice what I advise writers to do: blog your stuff. I initially thought of writing a book - and even spoke to an interested publisher - but the immediacy of blogging appealed to me. I’m a digital publisher and I want to use my skills to produce my own digital content. I want to use all that the internet and digital publishing has to offer to write, promote and sell my own services and products.

So what have I achieved in six months?

  • I’ve created a blogging website and populated it with a significant amount of content: posts, thumbnail images, post photos, and print and audio interviews.
  • I’ve launched a Planepack iTunes podcast.
  • I’ve linked Planepack to Amazon Affiliates.
  • I’ve reviewed two travel products: Airpocket and Samsonite Spinner.
  • I’ve guest blogged with a travel site for seniors - Well Travelled.
  • I’ve reached out to other travel and light bloggers and interviewed them for Planepack.
  • I’ve run advertising campaigns on Facebook using a custom landing page to encourage visitors to sign up for the Planepack newsletter.
  • I’ve linked the blog ecommerce facility to Stripe and Paypal, and produced my first ebook for sale, which I’ve published at Amazon Kindle as well.
  • I’ve linked with MailChimp RSS feeds so that my contacts receive weekly email blog post updates.
  • I’m working hard to grow my list of followers through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. This is where Missinglettr can help: they provide scheduled regular posts to my social media channels, relieving me of the burden of doing that.

As a new blogger, these are some of the things I've learnt:

1. Choose a name wisely:

I've read that single-word website or blog names are good. It was lucky then that I thought of Planepack, which resonates with my readers. It's simple to say, spell and I even use it as a verb: 'Have you tried planepacking yet?’

2. Love your blogging software:

At different times, I've used WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger, but this time I chose Squarespace. I love this tool. I set up Planepack over a weekend and I manage everything myself. Squarespace has excellent help videos and the designs and templates are beautiful. Running a blog or small business with Squarespace is easy as Squarespace integrates with other online services.

3. Get to know your audience:

I run promotional campaigns through my Facebook Planepack page where I found my demographic quickly: Planepack appeals to 45-65+ women so my advertising focus is entirely aimed at them. This is essential as I grow the relevance of Planepack by providing product reviews, fashion advice and more interviews. As a 60+ blogger myself, I feel comfortable in this environment.

4. Link up with MailChimp:

Blogging is a lonely business: none of your friends or colleagues will praise your writing or blogging skills. You might hear from them when you've done something bad - so it's important to stay in touch. I use an RSS feed from Planepack to my MailChimp account. Every week my contacts get an update on my latests posts. That's helpful as Squarespace doesn't have the notion of 'followers'. You use your social media channels to gain attention and grow your numbers.

5. Bang your own drum:

Original, fresh and interesting content appeals to readers so don't follow the pack: be proud of your identity and voice. I decided to use my own digital drawings rather than photographs as thumbnail images - and my readers respond positively to these. I'm still finding my feet writing content and have discovered that my in-depth posts get the larger number of comments as readers value informative articles.

6. Content calendars are essential:

I set a target of three blog posts per week before my recent short holiday to Japan. I wanted to boost the blog content so that upon my return I could focus on growing my readership. Using a calendar to plan my posts was invaluable - I doubt I would have achieved my target without that focus. While I deviated a little on the content, I think I provided enough variety not to bore my readers.

7. Cut back on the noise:

My plan is to grow Planepack into a valuable reference site for anyone wanting to travel light. I aim to write a series of learning modules - either as standalone ebooks or membership deals. To this end, I’m researching other bloggers and sites. What I’ve discovered is that there’s a great deal of content, direction and ranges of methodologies out there, each offering their own quick fix to get rich online. I think it’s important to reflect on what I want to achieve - and not dive headfirst into someone else’s content pool.

8. Stay in touch with your readers:

I have surveyed my readers to get a better understanding of what they want to read or listen to. I found it gratifying to receive their feedback - both positive, negative or constructive. It’s humbling to learn from others. I’d like to involve them more in my writing choices - perhaps by running a competition, or encouraging their own contributions.

So like the baby blogger that I am, I intend to learn and grow rapidly - just like a baby - in the first year of my life. I’ve learnt to crawl; my next milestone may be walking.

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