This interview with Renee Roaming is part of our “How I get paid to travel the world” series with your favourite travel bloggers, photographers, writers and influencers. If you’d like to see someone you love be profiled, leave a comment below!
Renee Roaming is one of our favourite travel photographers to follow on Instagram.
Not only are her photos a form of escapism, but her humble personality and warmth shine through to the point of me thinking, before conducting this interview, that we’re already friends.
But in some ways, we kind of are.
Renee and I have been following each other on instagram for years it seems, occasionally commenting on each other’s photos and sometimes sending a DM with love heart eyes. It’s an internet friendship that began out of a mutual love for travel, adventure, and exploration.
When I log on for the call it is early in the morning in Australia, where I’m living, and later in the day for Renee who is based in Seattle, Washington.
However Renee hasn’t always been half a world away, for Australia is also her home. Or at least it was until she migrated over to the United States on a green card with her husband, who Renee travels with on her adventures.
Her husband Matt is a professional photographer, which can explain how she manages to capture destinations in such a whimsical manner, all the while standing in frame.
The two of them together are a powerhouse couple – a term I’d use to describe any couple who share the same passions and work together toward a common goal.
So, how did it all begin? And how does Renee Roaming get paid to travel? We’re here to answer all your burning questions and hopefully inspire you to also live a life you love.
Our Interview with Renee Roaming
After a good ten minutes of catching up for the first time over a computer screen, I take a deep dive into the basics. I know most of the answers already, for Renee Hahnel is one of the world’s most celebrated adventure travel bloggers. Her story is not new to me, but I’m eager to dig a little deeper and uncover how her journey began.
Firstly, I’m interested to know – what do you define yourself as professionally?
That’s always a hard question to answer – but I find I associate myself with photography most. I would describe myself as a travel/adventure photographer. I also feel like when you say you are a blogger, there is some sort of association with blogging as a hobby rather than a career. But as you know, blogging is a full-time job and certainly a career choice in the times we live in.
Speaking of blogging as a hobby vs a career, at what point did you start to feel legitimate?
There have been a few times over the years where I’ve really felt like I’ve made my passion my career. A few times that come to mind include magazine covers, seeing myself and my photos in print media, and certainly publishing a book has been a huge highlight for me. To be on Amazon as an author, a published author, was a pretty big moment in my life and career.
How did your blogging journey begin? Do you remember where you were when you decided you were going to start a blog/Instagram?
I started my first blog in 2012 when I went on a holiday to the United States. It was a way for myself and Matt to keep our friends and family updated on our travels. In fact, I bought your first World of Wanderlust Ebook about how to become a blogger! And even when I read that book, I remember thinking “wow, good for her, but I could never do that”.
Then it was much later, in 2016, when I started the blog as it is today. It was a year after Matt and I moved to the United States on our green card and we were already sharing all of our hiking adventures on Instagram. At that time I would have had around 30,000-50,000 followers, so I was starting to receive a lot of questions regarding hiking, photography and traveling in the United States. I didn’t have any intentions to ever make money from blogging at that point, but my blog quickly evolved into that. In July of that year, I decided to take a risk and start blogging as Renee Roaming full time. But even then, I thought I would just be doing it for a short period of time and eventually go back to my full-time job as a speech pathologist. And then in October of the same year, I landed my first paid campaign with Kathmandu – a brand I already admired and was so excited to work with.
There’s a turning point in any creative’s career where you suddently realise this is not just a passion, you’re discovering a viable business plan and career. Do you remember the moment you realised this could be your full time job?
Even when I landed my first paid campaign with Kathmandu, I wasn’t aware this could become my full time job. I was cautiously optimistic and still thinking I would need another job to supplement my income as a blogger.
There was certainly a turning point, however. When Matt and I were back in Australia for Christmas in 2016, we were offered a lifechanging proposition. It was an opportunity to explore all of the United States’ National Parks, working with a brand who would cover all of our living and traveling expenses, plus additional income we would be able to save on top of that. Suddenly we were faced with a decision to leave our home for 7-8 months on the road and from that moment, we never looked back.
Instagram is still in many ways considered the premier platform for the travel blogging/influencer industry, why do you think that is?
From all of the reports i have read, Instagram is still the platform where people are most influenced and spend the most time. For me, my highest following demographic are millennial females, who are one of the brands I work with most sought after audiences because they buy things from the app. Brands know the return on investment is greater on Instagram than other platforms and I think that is why it is still the most popular app. For creators, it is certainly the easiest and most lucrative way to make money in this industry.
Now for the big one:
How do you make money? Break it down for our readers who are interested to know the nitty gritty.
The most lucrative way for me to make money has always been Instagram and it still is. This is where I work on brand sponsorships the most.
Secondly, I make money through ads on my blog. I was always cautious in the beginning to use ads on my site for fear of how they would look aesthetically, but it is a great way for creators to earn a steady income for their free content they offer readers. I sue the platform Adthrive for my ads.
Thirdly and maybe equal to blog ads is photo licensing for brands. I sell my images to catalogues, print magazines, and companies like American Airlines. They typically license a photo for two years and use it for their own marketing campaigns or in this instance, an in-flight magazine.
Finally, I make a small income from my book royalties.
P.S. Buy Renee and Matthew’s book, Roaming America, here.
How did your book deal come about? For me it kind of came out of noweher when I was approached by Penguin Random House to publish a book. Was it similar for you?
It was quite the same for us. We were approached by a publisher after the National Parks trip, where we explored all of the United States’ parks. The book is a reflection of that journey.
Readers often see a beautiful end product in a book, but not all the hard work that goes into it. There’s also quite a misconception that you get paid a lot for publishing a book, when in reality there isn’t a lot of money in publishing. Would you say publishing a book is worth it?
100% I think publishing is worth it from business perspective. It enabled us to get more work from being published authors and photographers. Then there is also the clout that comes from being a published author, which also led for us to be verified on every platform.
Publishing a book is quite a highlight of any person’s career, is there anything else you have on your career bucket list?
At the moment I am working on creating own products, i.e. merchandise, for readers and followers to purchase. This type of thing is much more popular in the United States and after so many people asking for it, I’m finally working on my own line of products!
Lastly, for our Book Club readers, what are you reading right now?
At the moment I am reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Well, if I’m honest, I’m listening to the audiobook (ha!) And on my Kindle, I am reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
Follow up question (and I promise the last!) What are your favourite books of all time?
The first book that springs to mind is The 7 husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
Another great book in the non-fiction category is On writing by Stephen King.