A few years ago we profiled David Hoffmann who had started David's Been Here, a popular travel blog which helps travelers discover the less well known gems a city has to offer and plan their trips.
I recently caught up with David to find out more and see what progress he's made. Check out the full interview below:
It's been a while since we last talked, tell me how has David’s Been Here progressed in the last few years?
David’s Been Here has changed a lot in the last four years. We’ve recently re-launched the newest version of our website and added several new services. We now have 50 self-published travel e-books, which include guidebooks by other travel writers. We have also partnered with many of the tour agencies I have worked with in the past to create tailor-made tours to some of my favourite destinations. I am still producing travel videos and helping others plan their trips.
At what point did you realise you had a business here? And one that you could make a living from?
I knew when I started David’s Been Here that I wanted to help people travel independently. At the time I began the company in 2007, I did not have a clear idea about how to monetize my expertise, so I turned to other people in my industry to see what they were doing. In 2009, I decided to stick with my original idea of providing practical advice and first-hand knowledge on different destinations. From there, the guidebooks were a natural choice. Our blog has really changed as well. We now post free city guides and “top” lists to help people create their own travel itineraries.
What has been key to your growth?
A few things have helped my business expand. The first is staying current with travel trends and seeing what the big players are up to. Nowadays, many people want their travel guides at the touch of a button rather than having to lug around a heavy guidebook. Rick Steves, Frommers, and Lonely Planet have all turned to e-books as a way to satisfying more customers.
Another key to the growth of David’s Been Here is focusing on lesser-known destinations to minimize the competition for my work. While everyone is creating their own Paris and London guides, I decided to promote places like Rwanda, Moldova, and Bulgaria. By working closely with the tourism boards of these countries, I was able to produce wonderful footage and informative articles. Sometimes it’s better to carve your own path, become an expert in something specific, and forget about what others are doing.
Lastly, guest posts have helped my SEO tremendously. When I re-launched my website I became focused on getting more traffic through guest posts on other bloggers’ sites. By reaching out to some of my colleagues and offering an exchange of articles, I was able to spread my expertise and free travel tips to different audiences. The SEO building process is especially important for any small business without a PR team. Having your website linked in different websites and having the articles shared through social medias can really boost anyone’s SEO.
With so much competition and a wealth of information out there when it comes to travel, how do you differentiate yourself? What’s your biggest advantage?
I know I am not the only travel professional focused on helping others become informed, practical travellers. What sets David’s Been Here guides apart from the rest is the video content. Many of our e-books have text and video to give readers a “taste” of where they are going. Words alone don’t do a destination any justice, which is where the videos come in.
Another way I differentiate myself is by practicing what I preach. If I want to help others travel independently, I have to do the same. I have turned down several offers for group press trips because they don’t allow me to explore in depth. There are many travel bloggers attend group trips, then they all have the same experiences to write about. That’s great for the businesses they promote, but not so much for travellers in search of new experiences. Most tourism boards understand that I like to mix it up when it comes to restaurants, attractions, and hotels. I want to see the main sights but also discover a few on my own that perhaps other travellers haven’t covered.
I don’t know if I have a special advantage over everyone else, but I definitely like to plan ahead. Like a year ahead. Travel plans can change, but I try to set up my schedule and goals one year in advance. This leaves plenty of time for changes and gives tourism boards advanced notice to budget for my trip, which I find they really appreciate.
What’s next for David’s Been Here?
David’s Been Here will continue to be a resource for people who love travel. We will keep publishing useful articles and have plans to expand our branded product line to include more travel gear. We are currently in full-blown post-production mode for our 2013 trips. In this time we plan to release several new guidebooks, episodes, and articles. My next scheduled trip is in August 2014 to South Africa.
It seems social media is a big part of your business, what advice would you give to maintain and grow those networks?
Social media is essential for any internet business. There are many ways to grow a following, whether it is by way of organic or sponsored reach. My best piece of advice is to stay consistent. Incorporate social media into your daily routine, and be authentic about it. Don’t just push your products, comment back, and post things you are interested in. This is perhaps the most honest way to connect with others who have shared interests. Your brand is an extension of you. If they get to know you, then they are likely to be attracted to your brand.
Where’s the favourite place you’ve visited?
Spain continues to be my favourite country in all aspects – culture, cuisine, history, and landscapes. I love it so much I moved to Barcelona last year!
What’s the number one tip you’d give any independent traveller?
Invest in a good map! It’s not always good to rely on the cheap, free maps handed out at hotels and tourist information centres. Go to a bookstore or newspaper stand and invest in a detailed map of the city you’re in. It will likely save you a lot of time and having to ask for directions from strangers.
And what’s the number one tip you’d give any aspiring entrepreneur?
Every business, no matter the industry, goes through phases. Turn your failures into lessons for the future by letting them fuel your creativity and help you to reconceptualise the things that are not working.