Travel

Davidsbeenhere

Hitting The Road For More Than A Decade And Making Me The Face of Independent Travel.

Full-Time Creator
July 27, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

So, my name is David Hoffmann and I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I’m a full-time travel content creator. I’ve been creating video travel guides and written travel guides that focus on food, culture, history, and attractions of destinations around the world full-time for twelve years now. 



It has always been my full-time job, but it was a struggle at the very beginning. I had to raise money myself and the travel influencer industry didn’t even exist back then. I was ahead of the curve in that sense, but those early days were tough!



I work remotely with a small team. In terms of organizing my trips, I guess I am a one-person army because I research, book, and schedule everything myself. I also host, shoot, direct, and produce every episode myself. But I couldn’t do these without my team. I have a full-time assistant who takes care of the administrative side of David’s Been Here, an editor, and part-time team members who design things for me. My dad also helps me out a lot. You may have seen him in some of my videos, and he’s also my co-host in my upcoming Miami Street Food series!



I came up with my brand name by traveling and seeing how other travel bloggers would tag locations like “so-and-so was here.” Seeing tags like that all over the world, then one day, “David’s Been Here” popped into my head. It fits exactly the message I wanted to convey.

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

I was born to Venezuelan parents from Italy and Hungary, and I live in Miami, which is a hub for Latin American cultures. I was a hard worker growing up because I knew things wouldn’t just be handed to me. I’ve always been a hustler. I  sold mangoes on street corners, and muffins and candy to my classmates and teachers.


 

That hustle mentality served me well in the early days of David’s Been Here, which were tough. This was 2008-2010. Because YouTube was a new platform at the time, the idea of monetizing your content, generating revenue from ads and the influencer industry didn’t exist yet.


 

I raised a ton of money—a quarter of a million dollars—from sponsors to fund my first David’s Been Here adventure, which was a two-year road trip through Europe with a film crew. It was a ton of fun, but I made very little money during that time and eventually ran out. I had to go back home and regroup for a whole year. All I wanted to do was travel, but I had no money. So I sold stock footage and travel products in my Amazon store until I could hit the road again.

I’m very fortunate to have never worked a 9-to-5 in my life. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, though. I got my real estate license when I was 18 and started doing rentals and sold a few properties. But when I was 21, I realized I wanted to make travel a big part of my life. I was traveling during that time anyway, so I wanted to find a way to make it a career. I didn’t know I could make money off content, but I just had a feeling I would be able to make it work. My goal was to make a living by traveling, and to become the face of independent travel.



In the beginning I had content on YouTube, Trip Films, Vimeo, and a few others, but it became clear very quickly that YouTube was the platform people were really flocking to.



A big quote for me is “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” by Saint Augustine of Hippo. In terms of motivation, Gary Vaynerchuk is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to success in content creation. He influenced me to put out as much content as possible. Mark Wiens is another inspiration. He really paved the way for travel/food vloggers. His success is proof that other people can make it in the travel/food space, too. Casey Neistat showed me that you can be a one-man film crew and do it all yourself.



I just have ambition. I have a big goal and I fight for it. Plus, I have a family, so I’m fighting for them and their future. The alternative is to find a 9-to-5 and live a regular life. But I don’t want that. I’d rather grind for five decades straight than have a “regular” or “normal” life.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

When I travel, once I know where I’m going, I look up what’s popular in those places, from sites, to attractions, to food, or anything unique or interesting that jumps out at me. I often reach out to my subscribers and followers for suggestions and my assistant helps me as well. I’m always brainstorming and studying, and looking at what I want to do and also at what’s popular or trending. 



I have a rhythm when it comes to filming that works well for me. I film on the way to different locations and I film b-roll of everything, whether it’s a temple,, or a historical site, or even cooks working in the kitchens of restaurants I’m visiting which helps me tell the story I have in my mind. 



Then, if I’m shooting food, I get interesting shots of it and then describe the food as I’m trying it. After I’ve told the story I want, I shoot my outro. So I have a specific way of doing it.




And as far as getting the creative juices flowing, think about the content you want to see and the content your audience wants to see from you. I know my audience like to see food, so when I travel, I base most of my videos around a meal. I like to show them an array of food to see what they respond to the most.



I don’t really have a lot of mental blocks. The main issue is frustrations I run into when dealing with family, clients, or co-workers. I have to really manage my emotions and remember that everything will get done, even if it takes longer than I want it to.


What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

For video editing, I use Adobe Premiere Pro and for photos, I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. The main platforms I use are YouTube, obviously, as well as Instagram and Facebook. I also have Twitter, but I’m not super active there, so YouTube and Instagram are the best ways to reach me.



I’m very social, so I always reach out to my audience on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I connect with my audience and reach out to potential audiences as well. I post a lot, but I also ask my audience questions to generate interaction. I also respond to comments and DMs. 



Anyone who has suggestions of places I should visit or things to see, do, and eat in their countries are more than welcome to DM me. I love to have those kinds of conversations.


What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

Yeah, there was plenty of fear. But I was also scared of not doing it. When you start something new, you’re always going to be nervous. But you can’t let the fear of what people might say, or the fear of failure, or fear of whatever, stop you from taking the first step forward.



In the beginning, I definitely worried too much about what other people thought. I changed my entire demeanor on-camera in a lot of my early videos and tried to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be. But that doesn’t read as authentic, and people pick up on that. I had to let all of that go and just be myself and not care what others thought or said.



When it comes to negative comments, I usually respond with something like “Thank you for your opinion” or “Thanks for watching.” You have to realize that people who troll in comments sections and say negative things about people are in a bad place themselves, so you can’t take it to heart.


How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

So, to start, I used a combination of my own money and money I raised. I raised $250,000 from sponsors for our two-year road trip through Europe. It took about a month for me to release my first piece of content after I started. The trip was fun, but then I ran out of money and was stuck at home for a year. That was rough, because I had to regroup and I questioned what I was doing. I had to do things I didn’t enjoy, like selling travel products and stock footage, to stay afloat.



Something a lot of people don’t know is that you need to post content every single day, multiple times per day to keep your audience interested. For me, that includes new Instagram posts and stories daily, and YouTube videos daily or every other day at the very least. And also 1-3 new blog posts per week. The day you don’t post is the day your audience might go somewhere else. 



For me, the first 100 followers wasn’t the hardest thing to get. I think getting the first 1,000 or 10,000 is where it gets really difficult. But each milestone is a big deal.



My operation goes like this: I decide what I want to film, I film it, offload it and make a backup in the cloud, and then I send it to my editor, who I just hired. Then, once he sends me the final product, I review it, make sure it’s how I like it, and schedule it for release.



I’ve had quite a few videos that have done big numbers, but there are a few videos from my first trip to India that really turned things around for me. They do big numbers even years later and still get me a lot of new subscribers.



For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

First, you have to realize that it may be awhile before you even make a penny. It might take you three hard years of creating and releasing content regularly before you see a cent. But you can’t think about the money. Look at it in terms of growth. The more growth you have, the more eyeballs you’ll get on your content, and the more opportunities you’ll get. 



Be your own critic. Watch your own content with a critical eye and take note of things you can do to get better.

If you did something you didn’t like in your last video, take steps to correct it in future videos. But don’t compare yourself to other content creators. You are your own competition, not anyone else. Just focus on being better than you were yesterday.



Knowing what I know now, I would have studied my competition more to see what they do and what works for them. Honestly, I think I got into travel content creation about seven years too early. Travel influencers didn’t really become a thing until around the early or mid-2010s. 



In hindsight, I wish I had jumped into more off-the-beaten-path locations when I was starting out. I did a lot of Eastern Europe, but I think I should have focused on Asia first. There are more people there than anywhere else on Earth, which equals more opportunities to be seen.


How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

Outside of being a real estate agent when I was 18, I’ve never had a real “day job.” I jumped all-in into content creation on YouTube when I was in my early 20s and haven’t looked back since. 



I always knew I didn’t want a conventional job that kept me behind a counter, or a desk, or in a cubicle, so making the choice to go full-out with travel content was a no-brainer for me.


Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

For me, the biggest milestone regarding my following was reaching 100,000 subscribers and getting my YouTube Silver Play Button. The next one I’m looking forward to is a million! 



And one of the biggest highlights was getting to a point over the past year or two where I could travel to places I had been dying to visit like Suriname, Japan, Armenia, India, and Bhutan. They had all been on my bucket list for a long time, so finally crossing them off and immersing myself in their cultures was huge for me. 



The milestones are great, but numbers aren’t my main focus. For me, it’s more about name recognition. I mean, I get excited when I get a million viewers on a video because I worked hard on it, but it’s not the main thing I look forward to.



And being able to pay off debt was a big personal accomplishment for me, too. I went deep into debt to start David’s Been Here and to keep it going, and recently, I was able to finally pay all that off. 


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

My marketing strategy is about dropping nonstop content that I believe works to grow my brand, which is different from advertising. In the beginning, I didn’t really know what worked. 



Now I know what works for me and what people want to see. I drop more of that, but I also test things to see how my audience reacts to them. I never did anything unethical, because that’s just not who I am, and I never hired anyone for marketing purposes. As far as marketing is concerned, it has been all me for 12 years.



I’ve done a few collaborations with other prominent travel personalities in those 12 years, but none of them really helped me grow. I did a few recently that I think may help me grow, but were not released yet.



I have also done guest posts on other travel blogs and have had big outlets use footage of mine in their content. Every single piece of content you release helps because it has the potential to reach someone new and affect them in a positive way.


How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

So, most of the time, brands and sponsors reach out to me. That’s the case probably 90% of the time. Usually they hit up my agent and already have a budget. For tourism boards, I usually send them a pitch via my agent or my assistant and explain who I am and what I want to do with them. When I reach out, I’m not looking for payment, just support. With brands, we do the same, and just let them know that I would be a great fit to help them further their business.



I only really accept brands that I’m interested in working with. For example, I recently worked with a few companies that sell products for regrowing hair because I suffer from hair loss and I want to help others like me find products that can help them. I’m also interested in working with luggage, shoe, and apparel companies, just to name a few.



When it comes to shady companies, you have to look at a lot of things. You have to look at their production values and experience. It’s not just about their number of followers. I only deal with people who are from an agency or someone directly from a company. Sometimes you’ll get people who reach out via GMail or Yahoo or Live/Hotmail accounts. I highly suggest ignoring them, as they’re usually people trying to resell and don’t have any affiliation with the company and can’t bring you the deal.



Also, know your worth. If you know you’re worth $5,000 per video, don’t accept something like $200. Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re worth $5,000 and they offer $200, then you go down to $4,000, maybe $3,500, but no lower than that. I don’t believe in undercutting myself. I know how much my time is worth. That’s something every content creator needs to know. 



As far as negotiating pay, I always say net 30, which basically means you either get paid 30 days after signing the deal or 30 days after delivering the content. That’s really important, because no one ever wants to pay up front, and sometimes they won’t pay you until months afterward otherwise.

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