“Every year I return to my alma mater, the University of Miami, to speak at an entrepreneurship class taught by an old professor. I love to engage with the students, answer their questions honestly and hopefully inspire them to pursue their business goals, no matter how far-fetched they sound. I have a lot of respect for anyone going the self-made route because it’s hard! If I can make their journey a little bit easier by teaching some strategies and giving some suggestions, I feel I’ve done my part. Having your own business is the most rewarding, infuriating and amazing experience all in one (sort of like raising a child). Davidsbeenhere is my first baby.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing David Hoffmann, Founder of Davidsbeenhere.com, a platform dedicated to all things travel. David is an award-winning vlogger and social media influencer whose passion for documenting his travels preceded what we now know as the “travel blogger community.” In a world where now it seems everyone is a self-declared foodie or social media star, David’s one of the originals — he’s been filming and writing about his travels before travel blogging became a trend, much less a viable industry, and way before the birth of Instagram. Named as one of the Top 10 Best Travel Videographers by USA Today and Top 10 Travel Video Sites by OOAworld, Davidsbeenhere was started in 2007 to inspire eager world travelers. To date, David has hosted over 1,000 travel episodes across six continents, encouraging his viewers to ditch the group tours and experience independent travel instead. In addition to his YouTube show, David collaborates with exciting travel and lifestyle brands to bring new angles and ideas to his content.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I studied entrepreneurship at the University of Miami and was a full-time real estate agent before I decided I was going to hire a cinematographer and have him film me traveling the world in 2007. That’s quite literally how it all began, except I had no formal hosting experience or public speaking skills. What I did have was one bad case of wanderlust and the courage (balls, if you will) to ask hotels, restaurants and tourism offices in other countries to barter with me — to let me experience the food, hotel or attraction for free in exchange for promotion in my videos. It worked out great and I traveled for years this way, except I didn’t make a dollar! I eventually had built a big enough audience that brands began approaching me and not the other way around.
Two years ago I signed with God & Beauty, an influencer agency that has greatly helped to connect me with brands on various projects. It’s taken over 10 years to build my brand and I’m proud of the ups as well as the downs. YouTube wasn’t what it is today. Now the potential reach is huge compared to when I began. Some of my vlogs have gone viral and have 2 million+ views.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?
One of the first lessons they teach you in business school is that it’s important to build a list of contacts, but I’m an impatient person! Anyone who knows me understands that I’ll stop at nothing to get a trip planned once I decide where I’m going, even if it means staying up all night to make calls to different time zones. But I outdid myself back in 2008 when I got booted off a travel networking site for trying to build up my contacts. Back then the site had 6,000 members worldwide. Apart from family members in Italy, I had no international contacts so I messaged each member of the site directly to see if they would be willing to help me organize a trip to their country. I was ultimately booted off the site for having more “connections” on my profile than the founding members — but not before I had a virtual treasure trove of phone numbers and emails. The people I met through there were invaluable in helping me get to Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Panama, Switzerland and a host of other countries. I’m still friends with many of them to this day. When you’re starting out in any industry, persistence is crucial. And when you mix it with consistency, I think that’s the key to long-term success. Sorry, not sorry.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I had to learn how to engage my audiences while navigating social media platforms (and their ever-changing formats and algorithms) throughout the years. There are certain methods that work and others that don’t. I try to be as transparent as possible when people ask me how they can grow their YouTube channel or build their personal brand. It’s important to me to be able to help other entrepreneurs avoid some common pitfalls that I’ve experienced.
Every year I return to my alma mater, the University of Miami, to speak at an entrepreneurship class taught by an old professor. I love to engage with the students, answer their questions honestly and hopefully inspire them to pursue their business goals, no matter how far-fetched they sound. I have a lot of respect for anyone going the self-made route because it’s hard! If I can make their journey a little bit easier by teaching some strategies and giving some suggestions, I feel I’ve done my part. Having your own business is the most rewarding, infuriating and amazing experience all in one (sort of like raising a child). Davidsbeenhere is my first baby.
If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?
If someone is interested in becoming a full-time travel content creator, I would suggest investing in a camera or a smartphone that shoots in 4K, start a YouTube channel, start a Wordpress website, and book a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. Nowadays, you can learn how to build a website and edit on programs like Premiere Pro or iMovie just by watching YouTube tutorials. By moving to a cheaper country like Vietnam or Thailand, you’re cutting your living expenses by more than half! Southeast Asia is a cultural gem, plus the food is out of control delicious (and cheap).
Create and upload as many vlogs as you can to get your channel going. Blog about your travels and upload photos to your site. Content is key! It bugs me when people claim to be world travelers, but have barely seen anything at all. It’s one thing to get on a cruise ship a few times a year and an entirely different endeavor to immerse yourself in the local culture for a few weeks, months or even years. Go for as long as you can. Once you’ve made up your mind up that you want to travel the world and make a career out of it, you have to start producing content.
Also, share your travels on as many social media platforms as you can handle. If you can’t be consistent on it, drop it and focus on one or two. Since travel content is so visual, Instagram is #1 and Pinterest is also a good one (and a great way to drive traffic to your site).
Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?
My father is and has been a great inspiration to me as a businessman. He made the decision a long time ago to work for himself, which meant taking on all the risk with three kids to raise. He’s been a real estate broker for over 35 years and has showed me what hard work really is and how to evolve as a businessman even in tough times. The real estate market has had ups and downs, and he’s weathered them all by staying focused and building trusting relationships with clients from around the world. I am eternally grateful to both my parents for instilling a strong work ethic in me and leading by example, not just with words.
So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m taking off to Puerto Rico in a couple of weeks to produce content about the local cuisine and culture. The island’s tourism took a big hit last year with the hurricane, but I want to show how resilient it is and to encourage people to visit! I’m also planning to return to India soon to keep exploring, vlogging and building my Indian audience. They’ve proved to be my most interactive and loyal fan base. I have more exciting street food vlogs planned for this second trip, which I hope to go as viral as my previous ones. People just love to watch how street food is prepared and India has some of the most colorful and spiciest street food in the world.
What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)
Sponsored Content — This is an influencer’s bread and butter. I was hired by Guinness in January 2017 to explore Ireland for five days while at the same time incorporating the beer into my content. Most the content wasn’t hard selling the actual beer, but rather showcasing the Irish culture. Other types of sponsored content include blog articles and Instagram posts.
Licensing Footage — Depending on the quality of your footage and the type of equipment you use to shoot, companies are always looking for footage to use in different productions. I once licensed several clips I filmed in Spain for a T-Mobile commercial. This is a very lucrative business if you have enough footage and team up with a reputable stock footage provider like BBC Motion.
Branded Gear — I had heard about a few influencers making six figures selling merchandise so I decided to partner with Bonfire, a company that designs, prints and ships t-shirts with a limited edition design. My viewers see me wearing the shirt in my vlogs and they order straight from Bonfire. I make a percentage off each sale and I don’t have to invest in inventory.
Hosting Gigs– Another fantastic way to make money is with hosting gigs. I was hired back in September 2017 to host two videos for the Case for Change campaign. The campaign focuses on showing how technology is changing the way people live and how it helps them navigate through life.
Speaking Engagements — I’ve been hired to speak at travel conferences around the world. I spoke at NBE (Nordic Blogger Experience) in Helsinki about how to grow on YouTube.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
One person whose career I have been following for almost a decade is @GaryVee (Gary Vaynerchuk). I like how approachable he is with his audiences and how effortless he makes public speaking seem. I would love to have lunch with Gary because I’ve learned a lot by watching him speak. I’ve learned to block out all the dumb shit around me and focus on what matters — my business, my family and erasing the “I can’t” mentality that we all get caught up in sometimes. Being myself on and off camera is the best way to get ahead. It’s something that oddly enough I had to learn how to do. Being natural on film is harder than I initially imagined. I feel I wasn’t being myself in the early days of my videos, more of a personality I was building instead of just being me and letting my words flow.
Gary’s always saying to stop comparing ourselves to others because it’s a trap. I would love to sit and have a regular conversation about life in general and perhaps pick his brain about where he sees this industry headed. He’s seems like a very authentic and hardworking person with a never-ending steam of ideas for his businesses. I’m constantly brainstorming about where I want to take the travel blogging/vlogging community and I think a collaboration with Gary would be amazing!
Amazon millionaire, author and business coach, Akemi Sue Fisher, has helped thousands of Amazon sellers scale and grow their businesses to six, seven and eight figures. She has quickly become one of the most trusted and sought after E-commerce consultants in the world. In only three years, her agency, Love & Launch, has helped her clients achieve over one billion dollars in sales through Amazon, Ebay and other e-commerce platforms. Her entrepreneurial spirit and direct approach continues to help elevate not only her success, but the success of her clients which range from startups to fortune 500 companies.