Australian-born Michele Frolla runs the Intrepid Guide, a travel and language learning website. Learning languages and travelling are two of Michele’s favourite pastimes. Over the years, she’s found tremendous benefits in speaking the local language while travelling around Italy, France, Spain, and Norway.
Her business inspires and encourages others to broaden their travelling experience by learning a language through her courses and offers documentary-style videos and articles on things to do and see, accommodation, transport, and more.
What you’ll learn in this interview:
Tips for building a successful blog
How travel bloggers earn money
The importance of design
Learn and network
Have a business mindset
Don’t try to do it all
Michele’s tips for Langpreneurs
When Michele moved to Italy, she was fascinated by the language and culture. Living in Rome and learning to speak Italian was her dream come true. When her visa ran out, she wasn’t nearly ready to return to Australia, so she moved to London — a great European travel base.
Of course, her full-time job as an interaction designer (websites and user experience) didn’t leave much room for extended travel. And Michele sorely missed the vibrance of Rome and the challenge of speaking Italian every day. So she started the Intrepid Guide as a mini passion project. Blogging gave her a way to keep the feeling going.
The Intrepid Guide gained a loyal following, and Michele was run off her feet with travelling, blogging, vlogging and web-designing. So, in 2020, she made a bold call and decided to become a full-time Langpreneur.
Building a successful blog
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to building a successful blog. A small site with dedicated followers can be just as profitable as one with a huge audience. But, there are some basics to get right if you want your blog to become a business.
Set up a great website
You don’t have to be a web designer; there are plenty of easy-to-use platforms that will guide you through the process.
Search Engine Optimisation helps your content to rank on Google, Bing and other search engines. For many blogs, organic search is their number one source of readers.
Open social media accounts
Even if you don’t use them right away, it pays to start your accounts early to keep your blog and business name consistent on all channels.
Be part of communities
Michele spent a year puddling along by herself before a chance meeting with a group of travel bloggers opened her eyes to the world of travel conferences.
“You learn as you go. We’re not all born writers, photographers or born SEO experts. You learn on the job – like an apprenticeship.”
How do travel bloggers earn money?
Travel blogging and vlogging have become a big business in the last decade. But, they are not for the faint-hearted, because travelling for pleasure and travelling as a business is not the same thing.
Travel bloggers work hard for their money and have many ways to earn an income. Michele makes money from ad revenue and affiliate income, where she receives a commission every time people purchase a product, experience or accommodation through her website.
Tourism boards and companies often pay travel bloggers to promote their destinations, and these trips are gruelling. Michele says it can be particularly tough if there are a group of bloggers because they all have different priorities, and it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s needs.
Brand collaborations and sponsorship can be good earners for travel bloggers and often extends across their social media channels.
Finally, some bloggers with huge audiences run tours under their own brand, with participants paying a premium for the bloggers to travel with them.
It was all great fun and a huge learning curve for Michele, but working so hard on the travel side pulled her away from her blog’s language focus.
“I didn’t want to exchange my time for money (anymore.) Those press trips are really tiring. You’re up at sunrise and in bed just before sunrise, it feels like, because you’re planning for the next day, you’re photo editing, thinking about where the sun will be, what the weather will be, what you’re going to say to camera.”
Learn and Network
There’s no doubt that learning from and networking with others has played an enormous part in growing Michele’s business. Those initial travel conferences put her in touch with a whole new world of opportunities and gave her the chance to learn from others.
It can be intimidating to talk to strangers, especially if you know that they’re big in their industry. But Michele says, be bold and you’ll soon discover that they’re ordinary people just like you.
Attend conferences, and be personable, she advises. Even if your blog or business is small, if you keep yourself in the front of their minds, people will think of you when they need a blogger.
“People can be really friendly and open and willing to help; it’s more just making connections with people because those conversations you have give you really good insight about the potential your business can have.”
Have a business mindset
Michele’s key focus in the past twelve months has been her mindset. The Intrepid Guide isn’t a blog anymore; it’s a business, and that entails a whole new way of thinking:
Words influence your thoughts; call it a business, not a blog or a YouTube Channel.
Diversify your revenue streams.
Focus on your priorities – will emptying your inbox every day really grow your business?
Do the tasks that count.
Manage your time wisely.
Take opportunities when they arise.
Don’t put people on a pedestal. Everyone is figuring it out, too; they are just on a different journey to you.
Discover what’s working and do more of the same.
Get out of your “bubble” and talk to entrepreneurs from different niches.
“I started reaching out to people in the language community and attending Langpreneur events. I felt challenged in that environment and it was a different mindset.”
Don’t try to do it all
When Covid hit in 2020, it gave Michele time to realise that she was facing burnout. When her blog became her business, she initially focused on creating more travel-related content. Her videos were longer, photography shoots more intense, and instead of writing one article about a destination, she wrote a cluster of guides. It was exhausting work.
“When Covid hit (I thought) I’ve always wanted to create language courses and language products and this would be a great way and a great time for me to start.”
So she started small, with courses that didn’t take months to make or complete. First came the Intrepid Language Course series; leading up to a trip travellers learn local language basics through the course instead of relying on a phrasebook.
These courses in French, Italian, Spanish and Norwegian are selling well.
Michele’s next goal is to write more targeted content to attract her ideal avatar, a traveller interested in learning to speak with locals in the countries they visit.
Michele’s tips for Langpreneurs
Enjoy the variety
Michele loves the variety of tasks in her business. From creating content, editing videos, uploading images, working on SEO, and taking courses, to being part of masterminds… variety is the spice of life in the Intrepid Guide.
Know your issues and deal with them
Being a business owner forces you to take a hard look at yourself. It highlights your strengths and weaknesses and makes you dig deep.
Michele’s been battling imposter syndrome for years, but now she’s leaning into that fear and bravely stepping into the unknown.
Jan agrees that’s a key step because, as he says:
“Once you have confidence, you take action. And when you take action, you learn from things that work and don’t work. The more you know, the more confident you become and the more action you take.”
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. You have to be bold to ask those questions of people who are a little bit further ahead in the journey than you are.”