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My Pitch For The 2015 Coupofy Award For Entrepreneurs And Bloggers

It pays big time to have presence to every Facebook travel groups and always make sure to interact with them.  I just discovered another opportunity from this same group where I learned about my sponsored trip to Cambodia. The Annual Coupofy Award for Entrepreneurs and Bloggers is the search for the most interesting and talented entrepreneur in the world to join them for a month in Bali, Indonesia. All expenses are paid for the winner as he/she works on his/her project while Coupofy provides guidance and support.

Since I am on my way for a freelance life slash digital nomad that involves online work with a mix of travel, this is exactly what I am praying for. Below is my pitch about my “current work or project and the reason why I want to see Bali.”


My name is Maria Rona Beltran from Manila, Philippines. I am a travel blogger for 6 years. I have been featured on a local tv show, women’s magazine and a radio station all because of my passion for travelling and entrepreneurship.  I started in 2009 using the blog to scribble my online thoughts  and anything under the sun. I don’t know about travel , I don’t even have a passport  then. I have not even explored my own country though we have 7, 000+ islands and have not gone abroad. This is such a shame!

Come 2011, I met backpackers from North America & Europe visiting the country through Couchsurfing. They came here for a month or so travelling to different beautiful places like El Nido Palawan, Cebu, Davao, Siargao et cetera. Then after that they will hop to nearby countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore… the list goes on as they travel the world.

This idea really blew me away, like how the heck they can do that? Are they millionaires or heirs from a wealthy family? I have learned later that they are actually ordinary people who are passionate about travelling but what sets them apart is that they run an online business  or work online so they are able to go wherever they want and still make money. 

Meeting them is life – changing. They just literally influenced how I speak, move, decide and how I have come to like the idea of a location – independent lifestyle. They changed my world upside down  and for good. At the same time, my work for  8 years  is slowly killing me because I do the same crap (excuse me for the word) every day. 

Through blogging I have learned about the many jobs related to online depending on the skill of an individual. Then in 2012, I started backpacking my own country and going  back to where they have been. So strange that I have to explore my country from the words of foreigners first! 

I began to embrace social media that almost every meetups regarding startups (even joined a startup competition with my brother who is a software programmer) I make sure to join in Manila.  I was reading Mashable, Technocrunch and a lot more than the usual Hollywood websites I use to waste my time. There's no travel meetup that I pass for ordinary travelers. I have been meeting like tons and tons of travelers here and there. I also joined all free workshops about how to build a career via digital marketing from Manila's noted online personalities.  I may have been to eight out of ten coworking spaces and coffee shops because of this.

I have also started reading travel bloggers and digital nomad's voraciously like Tropical Mba of Dan Andrews, Legal Nomads of Jodi Ettenberg, Tim  Ferris and Nomadic Matt of Matt Kepner. I can spend hours to give you the complete list! I followed those who are not just travel bloggers but those who run a business online at the same time.

In 2013, I decided to give it a try.  I left my 8 – year old job  to go freelance. What I did entirely is sell local tour packages by partnering with different accredited travel agencies in the country. I just used my blog and my only marketing strategy is Google Adwords. Most of them I have not met personally but for almost a year we were practically doing business. I did pretty well in the summer season, as a matter of fact one of them was able to buy a brand new van  and sales have quadrupled. I also enjoyed a lot of free tours from them as a compliment for the many revenue I have brought to them.

Then darkness came. I didn’t realize that the tour business is so bad during rainy season. I also mismanaged my Adwords account. Instead of generating genuine leads, I have not found any conversion and the worse is that I went way over my budget. I have discovered that the reason why my leads are going so good that time in 2013 because we are only few users of Adwords but now the competition is so big.  I knew the best way to use Adwords is how to optimize it.   This is where I  messed up even though I am Google Adwords Certified and paid $230 for that.

One of my travel business partners did not pay me and it costs pretty big.  She ran away after her own clients did not pay her too. That amount is all I need to keep my cash and online business rolling.  We did not have a contract so I have nothing to run after her. Also the commission is really small because there are a lot of travel agencies here in Manila, the only way to get more customers is to have the cheapest rate. The reason why I am getting a huge chunk of commission is because I get a lot of sales per person. 

I went broke. I hated myself after that. I was thinking I have been working nice but I just got duped.  I panicked after. I worried what my life will be next so I went back to the corporate world in October 2014.  When I came back, I am not really the same person when I left. I am not performing good anymore. I am hating every single second I spend in a traditional office. Also a lot of opportunities to travel because of blogging came so usually I am absent or late.

The only way to get over is go back to freelance life because I know the more that I stay in a traditional office I will just be a burden to my team.  

What is my current project or business?

I just found an online full time job as a Content Marketing Manager for a few travel websites and that includes a bit of travel in SE Asia. I am just rendering a few weeks before I resign from my current job. I cannot wait to finally start doing this because this is what my heart desires. I have found a very awesome coworking space and can't wait to do my stuff here. I am also excited to meet like – minded individuals especially those who are startup founders, digital nomads and especially to those who are just starting a big leap to the freelance world. I want share a word or two.

I believe being in the company of Coupofy which is composed of startup enthusiasts and travel savvy individuals in Bali, Indonesia is a great help that I wont forget in my whole life if I get chosen.  Coming from a third – world country, our opportunities abroad are very limited from our passport, to our currency to everything.  The tribe of digital nomads in the Philippines is very few, right now I think just a dozen or so. I would like to set an example to my fellow Filipinos who are dreaming for this kind of lifestyle. We got a lot of travel addicts  in my country who have valuable skills and are itching to live a location independent lifestyle like me who are too afraid to jump off the boat. 

I am still contemplating whether I will revive this online travel shop for local tours or will devote my online life solely for content marketing and social media duties. I found out that I am way more happy to work with established travel brands by providing content and anything related to this. I hope this trip to Bali and the people behind Coupofy help me figure this out.

Here are the details of assistance I need:

1.  Guide me to create an ebook for my post How to Start a Home or Office-based Travel Agency. It already has 23k views and continually receiving  inquiries for those who are ready to buy this

1. To build  (or not?) a separate website for the online tours, experiment any related service or products to add, get a staff (my sister is ready) to manage it.

2. Learn more of the current online marketing tools aside from Adwords related to selling as I really want to run an an online shop.

3. I am still open to use Adwords - want to know how to use it the right way

4.  Grow my network of connections for possible collaboration and opportunities related to this

5. Mentorship, guidance, support and also teach me the right mindset of an entrepreneur . In return once I find myself stable I would like also to give back by supporting related causes of Coupofy and when I return in my country, I will establish groups that will encourage the many hopefuls to live their dream of becoming a digital nomad

6. To be exposed to travel brands and companies I may need to have tie ups or just to be inspired how they do their thing

7. Since freelance life seems to have stages, I would like to be learn any new skills so that I have a backup 

And of course, I know this sounds so flat but I really loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s movie Eat, Pray and Love. I watched it ten times or so. I am a fan of Julia Roberts. Who knows my own version of this movie will unfold when I get there as well? 

To fellow entrepreneurs and bloggers who would like to join, you can read full details here. Deadline of submission is Oct 10, 2015. May the best one wins!

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