FEATURE, Interviews

Afroblogger Spotlight: Interview with Ceeces Travel

  • My life didn’t just fall into my hands, I have spent years, building this!
  • If I can help one child, one woman, one human from my life stories, that is what I will do.
  • To make money blogging, Don’t expect it to happen overnight

Afrobloggers had a chance to get one on one with Cee : the Editor, Founder and Creative Director behind the brand, Ceeces Travel. Cee is a South African blogger who spent a career decade in hotel, event, and hospitality management, before changing careers, after going through something life-changing six years ago. Her biggest passion is travel and that is what has built the foundations of her awesome brand. She also dabbles in radio and TV. As an award-winning travel writer, blogger, and influencer, read on to learn from her experience building an amazing brand and blog : Ceeces Travel

  1. What has been the most challenging moment in your blogging career?

As a freelancer, every moment can be challenging if I let it. Honestly, there is so much about this industry that people are not aware of, and so much work, time and investment that goes into it at first, with no real promise of reward or fruition.

Firstly you need to decide if your blog is something you’re doing purely as a hobby, or if it is something you’re starting as a professional career and investment. If its for the latter, knowing your aim will help you make better choices in the earlier development of your brand, which will help you with sustainable growth. Challenges, may arise from clients and individuals who do not acknowledge that you’re a business. These are people who are not willing to pay you or if they do it sometimes comes as late payments.

Challenges also come from managing your own time. Knowing what you can do, when you can do it and how you will achieve the best outcome for yourself and your clients is something you must learn quickly. Resources such as not always having the right tech or access to finance can hinder your progress. This isn’t a cheap industry to get into, and starting up can be incredibly tough.

Expertise is also required in noticing things that can affect you in the industry itself. Its not easy to balance when to speak up or hold your words for fear of blowing your chances of being hired by certain brands/PR’s/companies. It’s a thin line. Another Challenge can be, always having to stay on top, or at least feeling that way. Something I have learned is it’s better to focus on the quality of what you’re producing than the quantity. 

2. Tell us your experience working with brands. How did you get the opportunity to work with so many brands?

When I first got into blogging, I was doing it purely for myself. I had just come out of therapy and a tragic and traumatic life-changing event. Writing has always been in my blood, it has always been my form of self-expression, in joy, happiness, and all emotions.

One of my fathers was a well-known journalist and I think some of it rubbed off. After I healed somewhat, a year or so later, I started getting emails and offers from brands and companies, asking me to host their press releases and so on. Having worked in hospitality for so long and worked with people, and brands, I knew there was more to the story.

Instead of marketing their brands for free and just using my site as some kind of free advertising platform, I contacted them back and asked how we could possibly work together in a way that benefited both parties. We started with trade exchanges, which allowed me to grow as a writer, build some brand relationships, and to showcase my work and platform to other brands. After a while, I was able to start charging a small fee, and from there, as I grew, so did my brand, my rates, and my adventures. 

3. What is your financial tip to those who want to travel to so many places like you?

Travel smart, I hardly ever just book a hotel, book a flight and go. I often spend weeks or days, depending on how much time I have, researching various modes of transport, various packages, and always make contact with the brand to let them know I am coming through. Even just to let them know, I will be staying with them, and who I am, and what I do. Often the hotel, or transportation brand etc will come back to me, and ask if there is a way we can work together, either by a slight discount on my stay, or hosting me, or paying me for a social media package, images or sponsored article. These I usually try and post with the tags, #hosted #ad #sponsored, etc. Followers, friends, fans, and family are always welcome to just ask me as well.

Cee: creative director and editor of Ceeces Travel

If you’re just looking at traveling and having a proper holiday, no work attached, then definitely take your time and search the internet, there are so so so so many ways, to find travel deals, and discounts that will save you money, by just taking a little longer to look around. The queen of this fellow travel and lifestyle writer –  Lipgloss Girl, who is not only great at traveling but her humor in her writing is brilliant. 

4. Your hands are often in many plates, from radio and Television shows to finding time to travel and blog. What’s your secret to managing all this?

Honestly, I used to burn out all the time. It’s not just the radio, TV, writing, traveling, it is also, admin, marketing, pitching, financial management, debt consolidating, making time for family, friends, animals, and life outside of the brand. At the end of the day, I am also just a human being, someone who has survived a helluva lot in my lifetime, someone who still manages her anxiety, someone who used to suffer from suicidal depression, and someone who is finally building the life she wants for herself. It is a lot, and I don’t think there is any one kind of management tool one get’s in life to deal with it all.

My life didn’t just fall into my hands, I have spent years, building this, and some days I feel like I am on top of the world and some days, I want to throw it all in the bin and give up. Go get a 9-5 and never touch my site again, that is the reality. And then one person comes along and says something like ” I really love what you do, or your article made me smile, or we went to that place you suggested” and I get reminded why I love what I do and why I love this industry, world, and life.

As my business grows,I hope I will afford to actually hire more people full time, to manage and handle a lot of the things that I really shouldn’t be carrying on my shoulders. Right now though, I am just still a young, female, black entrepreneur, trying to get through each day at as it comes. 

5. Describe your blogging process, from concept to publishing.

Blogging processes vary. Is it a campaign that I have conceptualized? Is it a campaign brief from a brand? Is it travel related? Is it still imagery only? There is so much that goes into creating something. An article, a video, imagery, copy, whatever it is, I find my process varies. It’s affected by the brand, the product, the location, the client’s requirements, my requirements. Am I working with a team, I have put together? Am I working within a team, a client has created? Is it 2100hrs at night or 0300hrs in the morning?

“…some days I feel like I am on top of the world and some days, I want to throw it all in the bin and give up. Go get a 9-5 and never touch my site again, that is the reality”

Cee – Ceeces Travel founder

Depending on my mood, often I write my best pieces at 3 a.m when I can’t sleep and the article or brand pitch, just flow’s out me. Everyone is different in their process and I think it is vital for each individual to find what works for them, before looking at everyone else’s process. 

6. What tips can you share on what makes a good blog post?

Passion. Seriously, you can have all the professionally imagery, the beautiful wording, and so on. If you are not passionate about what you have written, readers can pick it up immediately. I can pick up on my own articles when I go back and look, which articles I wrote out of passion, excitement, eagerness and which I wrote because I had too, or they were overdue, etc. The latter are horrible pieces for your audience to have to read and you should never put those out, rather let your client and or audience know your concerns and see if you can work through it. 

7. What’s your advice to someone who wants to make money blogging?

To make money blogging? Don’t expect it to happen overnight. If you’re new on the scene don’t feel entitled to it, having said that, don’t undervalue or undersell yourself either. The trick is to find, where you fit in and charge for that. No one should be expected to work for free, if a brand and or client, like your work and even go so far as telling you they do, then they need to compensate you for it. I know the compliments are nice and you don’t wanna potentially not have work offered again, but by saying yes, to every free opportunity sets a precedent not only for your brand but for all of us, who have worked our ourselves off to get to a professionally blogging/writing platform, and have brands, devalue us and our time, and work.

No one should be expected to work for free, if a brand or client, likes your work they need to compensate you for it.

Secondly, if you want to make money, from your blogging, again, make sure you’re doing something you’re passionate about. I don’t actually believe you have to have ONE niche’ we’re human, we have many interests, but you should have some kind of theme, or concept around your brand, that people can identify. Do that’ and you’ll always be passionate about what you’re doing, and passion attracts people, people, attract clients and so on and so forth. 

8. On your blog posts “No means No or does it” you shared deeply from a vulnerable space, how easy was it to become so personal with your blog audience?

My No Means No Article, makes me so frustrated, especially in today’s time, with all the gender-based violence we have going on in South Africa right now. As a multiple rape survivor and a survivor of other physical, verbal, mental and emotional abuse’s, I am actually horrified and scared right now. I am also scared as the xenophobia violence increases, I fear for my own life. I am a South African, but I have never been “black enough” in many peoples eyes, and that in itself is a whole other discussion. As a young, female woman, who often travels alone and whose work requires me to real-time post often, I am scared to travel right now. And that’s the truth in that.

I am so fortunate to have had my partner with me on a few of my last travel trips, not that it helped with the mental toll of what is going on in this world and country right now. Am I safe? Simply answer? No. To answer your question, is it safe to share? How do I share from a vulnerable place? I don’t know? All I know if that I have too. The day my 3 Part Autobiography comes out, is the day the world looks at Ceeces Travel, the brand very differently. If I can help one child, one woman, one human from my life stories though, then it is what I will do. 

9. Your blog has nice visuals, the photos are so professional, how much effort does it take you to come up with these pictures?

Thank you so much for the compliment. Photography has been a passion of mine since I was a very young child. I used to play with my dad’s old Canon camera’s when he was a journalist, I loved watching him, fiddle with all the toggles and buttons. And then when he had to have them developed as well, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Strangely enough, I have never and don’t own a DSLR. Pretty much 90% of the images and video you will see on my website, and all social media have been taken with a cellphone. I have my eye on a Canon DSLR now, however, as with the growth of my brand, I do need to upgrade desperately, but finances are always a bit of an issue, so who knows when I will get that DSLR. Does anyone have R6500.00 for me? lol.

In regards to creating the images, and a story with my images, both my fathers have always said that I have “an eye for photography”. I see things, other’s don’t. I see visuals and put things together and then I find a way to create that image, photographically. I try not to plan to intensely when it comes to the imagery on a trip, I need things to be as authentic as possible.

I might go so far as saying, I need some ocean visuals, some greenery, some interior etc. And I will go online and research the area, visit the websites of the places I am going, seeing what imagery they already have and things like that, and then when I am on-site, I know what to avoid, and I start seeing through my own “eyes”. 

10. What can you say has been the most rewarding thing to come from your blogging?

The most rewarding thing that has come from my blog, my brand, and my writings? Are travel related adventures. The opportunities to explore new places, travel around the country and hopefully soon the world. The opportunities to share places, activities, gadgets, and all sorts with my readers, followers, fans, and myself. I LIVE and LOVE travel. It’s what I have chosen in my life above all else. I am hoping to actually have my own travel TV show within the next few years, something else to add to my little empire that I am building. I don’t want to share too many details yet, but it’s something I am looking into, quite seriously. There is an entire world out there, and after doing the recent TV stuff, I know I am meant to be in front of the camera as much as I love being behind it. 

11. What has been the most popular of your post? Share what you think made it so great.

Oh gosh! There have been various popular posts, for various reasons. Some were on my old site. but on my newer site, I would say, my article on Travel Diversity was definitely one of the biggest in 2019. And I think it was because it is a topic that so many are afraid to talk about, but that is so desperately needed to be spoken about. I mean some of us are losing work and job opportunities because we don’t have the right skin color, and because brands are tone-deaf in their visual advertising and marketing in that regards. Media trips where no one on the trip looks like me. C’mon world, we can do better. It is an article I would like to see re-featured in magazines across the country, discussed on radio stations and I would even like to talk about it on TV. The world of travel is changing, it has changed in so many aspects not just race, but many other aspects, as mentioned in my article. Let’s talk about it. 

12. Share some advice with wannabe lifestyle bloggers

I’m not sure I have much more advice, be supportive of those in the industry, share each others content, communicate with those around you and those that follow you. Be kind when given the opportunity, create quality content, and just go with the flow. 

Ceeces Travel Blog

To work, interview or feature Cee, Contact her: ceecestravel@gmail.com. She can also be found on social media, in order of most active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, and Facebook.

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