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Creative thinkers doing work their way


Going solo in business is tough but for Lauren Bath it was simply a matter of her passion being greater than her fear of failure.

Four years ago she gave up her job as a chef to become Australia’s first professional Instagrammer. She had jumped onto Instagram early and quickly built a large audience, posting travel pictures from around the Gold Coast.

Travel innovators Liz Carlson, Lauren Bath and Georgia Rickard ignored conventional pathways to create their own success. Travel innovators Liz Carlson, Lauren Bath and Georgia Rickard ignored conventional pathways to create their own success. 

She is now seen as a leading “influencer” and has 463,000 followers; New Idea‘s audited circulation for March 2014 was 280,206.

“I wanted to use the tools I had to create a lifetime of travel, and my tools were my photography, my media reach and pure passion,” she says. “What I didn’t know was how to use that to make money.”

She knew nothing about marketing or tourism, and her first clients knew nothing about social media, but she believes her honesty helped build relationships, which she still sees as key.

“Clients took me under their wing – I could see they had a job to do and I wanted to help. I also learnt a lot from them. I remember one asking ‘What is my ROI on this?’ and I had to Google ‘what is ROI?’, but she was the first to buy a ticket for our Modern Travel Media Summit we’re organising.”

The “we” is her fellow media innovators, Georgia Rickard and Liz Carlson, who also ignored conventional pathways to create their own success.

Rickard worked in recruitment before moving to magazines, TV, then becoming editor of Australian Traveller; she now juggles a host of roles, including contributing editor to Tourism Australia.

Carlson started her blog the Young Adventuress in 2010 when trekking in Peru and, six months later, left the US for Spain, teaching English and writing about travel. She is now based in New Zealand (where her Instagram account is #1), and her blog is rated in the top 10 globally but, like Lauren and Georgia, a flood of secondary work has followed: TEDx speaking, writing and marketing.

Each of their journeys is a lesson in building a business – as well as how to earn through travel – and it is those core skills they share via their collaborative project, Travel Bootcamps.

Their first three day-long bootcamps have attracted 80-140 people, including some from Europe. They talk wannabe creatives through the basics of writing, Instagram and blogging, and converting passion into business.

In a world where content is king but pay is in decline, they are also refreshingly blunt about “monetising”.

“Far too many people do it for free,” Bath says. “I just had to make money because I no longer had a job.”

Despite that, 30 per cent of approaches still ask her to work for free.

“Everyone is guilty of doing unpaid work occasionally – I still do a bit: if a client is going to spend $10K for you to travel, that has real value.”

All have strict rules around integrity.

“I only endorse products I like and use; I always use my own content and captions, and I always disclose when it’s [paid],” Lauren says. “I say no a lot.”

Carlson agrees. “I only work with brands that match my blog. You have to be honest with your audience about disclosure.”

A skill they all share is the ability to adapt, renew and evolve.

Their next project aims to show travel professionals how to harness new media, to be held in Sydney this September.


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