Many of you have been wondering how a person can live off a travel blog. I don’t blame you. It’s a surreal thought, as not that long ago blogs were considered a private diary. Until these days many people often make fun of bloggers, and every time I introduce myself as a blogger the automatic response is: “Ok, but what do you actually do for work?”. People don’t believe you can make money blogging.
The fun fact is, that some bloggers are making way more money than top executives. The most obvious examples: Zoella – with her MONTHLY income exceeding $70,000; or Michelle who publicly announces her income every month – $150,000+. But don’t get too excited – travel blogging isn’t as simple as “getting paid to travel the world”.
When I started my blog in March 2014, after 7 years of traveling already, I had no idea that I could make any money out of it. In fact, when the first client approached me I thought he was joking. However, not researching what to do and what not to do, was one of the mistakes I made when I started my travel blog.
LAST UPDATED: July 29th 2017
How to Make Money Blogging? (updated in 2018)
I’m sorry to tell you this first, but in order to make any money from your blog, you need to invest a lot in it first. I don’t mean the money, but a lot of time and effort. A successful blog doesn’t happen overnight. Building your brand might take some a few months, others a few years and some never make it.
Becoming a professional travel blogger is more difficult than most people think. There’s a reason why most bloggers quit after 6 months and that’s because most people don’t realize how much work goes into blogging. But it’s not impossible.
Questions to answer before making a choice of blogging for money:
Are you sure you’re not looking for just a fun outlet?
Are you willing to sacrifice free time on your travels to answer emails, write, edit photos, etc?
Do you really want to be a public person?
How long does it take to start making money travel blogging?
There’s no rule or answer to this question.
You don’t need millions of page views per month to make money blogging. I personally know a few travel bloggers who make a decent amount of money with not the highest traffic or numbers of social media followers. It all depends on how do you want to make your money and what to focus on.
One thing you should understand is that traveling full-time as a blogger isn’t going to make you rich and quite often you’ll have to stop traveling in order to work. Ironically, in order to transform your blog into a decent money making business, you need to stop moving all the time.
Most bloggers who run a successful website create temporary bases. A few months here, a few months there. There’s no other way to make money blogging – and I’m talking good money here. Recent popular places to stop for digital nomads are Chiang Mai or Bangkok in Thailand, Canggu in Bali, Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
Blogging courses for new bloggers
There are some courses that could explain everything more in-depth than I can in a single post. Unfortunately, there are way too many courses out there that simply can’t teach you much. Why? Always check who’s written the course. Always google their profiles to see if it’s worth your money as there are way too many scams out there.
For instance, why would you trust someone with SEO if their own blog doesn’t even show up in Google if you search for their name? Would you trust someone with branding on Twitter when they follow as many people as they’re followed by? Or an Instagrammer who kept using follow/unfollow method to grow their account? You shouldn’t.
My recommendations for courses:
- Travel Blog Success – Why? It’s a great course for beginners as it focuses on pitching, networking, setting up a solid blog. It also has a secret Facebook group where you can ask your questions and more advanced bloggers will always help you.
- Superstar Blogging – Why? It’s founded by Nomadic Matt – whether you like it or not, is the author of the most popular travel blog on the planet. He focuses on turning a blog into a business, optimizing SEO, and doing the more advanced pitching.
- Making Sense of Cents – Why? Because you could definitely learn from someone who makes over $100,000 per month only from affiliates. Their Facebook group is also quite useful.
- Smart Passive Income – Not a course, but many e-books. Why? Because you can definitely trust Pat Flynn. And his e-books are free if you subscribe to his email list.
- My own Instagram E-Book on how to grow and monetize your Instagram account. Why? Because my account grew from 0 to over 100,000 followers in a year and to 180,000 in two years.
First things first: How to get noticed in the world of travel bloggers?
You could think that with so many great travel blogs out there, you’ll never get noticed. You’re wrong. I’ve worked as a travel blogger and also with bloggers as a project manager matching influencers with clients, so I’ve experienced both perspectives.
Also, if you want people to recognize you, talk about you, and recommend you, you need to stand out. ‘Travel & Stories’, or ‘Full-time Couple Travelers’ isn’t a niche. These days even ‘solo female travel’ isn’t the ultimate niche, especially when everyone claims they’re an ‘adventure’ or ‘off the path’ blog, which isn’t always the case. You need to narrow it down even more.
It’s not enough to just sell all your stuff and move to Southeast Asia. There are too many others already doing that. It’s a cliche, so try to be original.
Once you chose your focus, stick to it. If you’re a very budget blogger don’t suddenly go review luxury hotels (even if it’s sponsored) and vice versa. It’ll hurt your audience as if I started following you for budget travel tips and hostels I had a reason for it, I’m probably not going to be interested in a 5* hotel suggestions.
Also, don’t write articles on things you really don’t know much about and be careful with wording. I’ve read way too many articles from bloggers who, for instance, came to my past home base Playa del Carmen in Mexico and wrote posts on best things to do and ‘ultimate guides’ to the spot. Most of these articles suck. Spending 2 days, or even a week, in one country will not make you an authority. What should you do instead? Stick to telling a good story, share your thoughts on a place or simply post gorgeous photos. Don’t pretend you’re something you’re not – be yourself.
I narrowed down my own tagline to: Travel with Purpose – Chic Adventure Travel. Do you see what I mean by narrowing your niche now? Now my new readers know that I blog about adventure travel that’s chic (so not backpacking and neither just luxury spas without adventure aspects), and on top of that I want to tell people how to travel with a purpose – learn something on the way, either by studying abroad, learning about the history and languages, and interacting with local.
No matter what your niche is, don’t be scared that some bloggers have more followers than you. Numbers aren’t everything! When brands or tourism boards look for bloggers to work with, they try to fit their audience and yours. If you don’t have a clear focus it’s hard for anyone to work with you, which means no sponsored deals.
This was actually one of the mistakes I had been making for a long time – focusing too much on the number of followers, without an actual focus of the blog. Many brands out there would rather have smaller bloggers with clear audience working with them, than those with huge numbers, if they don’t fit the focus. Make sure that information is explicit on your website (either in your About Me or Work With Me page).
You don’t need to be from the US, Canada or UK to be a successful blogger
While the majority of established and successful bloggers are from English speaking countries, you don’t need to be a native speaker to succeed. You can always get a proofreader. While the market is usually catered for the English speaking market, there are many great bloggers who either aren’t from privileged countries (myself included) or simply decided to write in their own language. There are many ways to make things work, no matter what do you feel comfortable with.
Network & Ask for Advice
In order to build up your traffic, you need to do REALLY interesting stuff. Fun, sensational, meaningful, original. What do I mean by that? If I started my blog by writing ONLY about let’s say: best things to do in Paris, Thai beaches, or living in Chiang Mai, it would not set me apart from hundreds of other bloggers. Almost every blogger has written about these popular things.
These articles aren’t wrong. In the end, people do want to know about these popular travel spots. But it’s also important to cover destinations and ideas that aren’t covered by many out there. Or simply get popular by doing something original or/and funny. Good examples: Janet’s flying GoPro story or Matt’s stolen computer story.
Networking is another important key to success. Too many bloggers see other travel bloggers as competition. While it has some truth to it, it doesn’t change the fact that that they can also be helpful colleagues.
You obviously won’t be bonding with every blogger out there – like in a normal life, not everyone likes each other. You’ll build your own network of people you get along with. This means you may want to interact with them on social media, via email, or attend conferences.
Here are a few travel conferences:
- TBEX (worldwide) – The biggest travel blogging conference. If you’re new you’ll learn a lot, if you’re an advanced blogger not every lecture will be helpful though.
- WTM (London) – It’s the best place for networking not only with fellow bloggers but also with brands. PR agencies are there, airlines, tour companies, airlines and many others.
- ITB (Germany) – Another trade show, so a perfect opportunity to network with many tourism boards, brands, airlines and more.
- Traverse (UK) – It’s a great travel blogging conference, but mostly UK oriented. I found their lectures quite good
- Women in Travel Summit (USA) – Only travel blogging summit by and for women.
- Travel Massive – Not a conference, but a great meet-ups base for anyone interested in travel.
Different ways of making money blogging
Here are the most common ways of making money blogging. However, this doesn’t mean that these are the only ways. I’m obviously no blogging guru. The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what to do, but show you different ways of doing things.
Paid blog posts are those where you place a link, or give a mention, to someone who paid for it. This might be in the form of a sponsored review, a guest blog post, a sidebar link, an advertisement in a newsletter. It’s a very popular strategy for less experienced bloggers, as many SEO companies just want to add a link for $30-$275 or give you a guest post including a link.
It may seem that including a link to your post (I was selling links for a while when I started), or receiving some free content, might be an easy way to make money. But I don’t recommend doing it long-term. It makes your blog spammy and your readers will turn off (since crappy guest posts aren’t what anyone really wants to read).
And it can also give you a penalty from Google. As a result, your blog will have lower DA, lower Trust Flow, and you’ll never rank high in Google.
Social Media Promotion
There are many ways of earning money on social media. One of them is takeovers. Companies pay ‘big influencers’ to take over their Instagram and Twitter to gain more followers. It’s a fun and easy way to get money. I say easy once you actually build your social media channels (what isn’t easy).
There are also opportunities to get paid to place an appropriate hashtag or product in your feed. Quite often you can even use an affiliate link.
In the past, I’ve also got paid for hosting Twitter chats, but personally, I’m not a big fan of them. On social media your possibilities of collaborations are endless.
I put Instagram separately since there are many people out there who make a full-time income JUST from Instagram. I always look at Instagram sort of separately from other social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. Instagram is very visual, therefore the most popular travel accounts won’t be those with great stories of off the path adventures. Many users don’t even read the captions.
In my case, I treat my Instagram differently than my blog. On my blog, I talk more about history, politics, culture, or give travel tips. On Instagram, I try to post photos that look aesthetically good and including a lot of fashion.
This is my example of a branded Instagram photo: here
Affiliate income is where you place an affiliate link in a blog post and try to make a commission when people buy the product through your link. This can be a good way to make money, because you can recommend something you love, without counting on sponsors. In order to make money from affiliates, you should focus on good, useful posts that will always be useful.
Here’s my example of a post that does well with affiliates: How to Plan a Budget Trip to Fiji
There are many different affiliate programs out there. Instead of signing up for a different program with every advertiser you want to promote, it’s better to join affiliate networks. Among the others: Awin, Commission Junction, Share A Sale, Amazon, Impact Radius, eBay Enterprise, or Commission Factory.
In my opinion, it’s the best source of income, as it’s passive if you optimize your content correctly. You don’t have to depend on new clients or constantly chase new projects. Both the content and your income are out there working for you.
Ad networks allow website owners to place advertisements on their websites. In my opinion, unless you have a pretty decent traffic (60k+ Unique Visitors (not views) per month) it won’t bring you much money. You also need to remember to place the adds in a subtle way, not to make your blog look spammy.
I currently use Mediavine network for my ads, as it pays out way more than AdSense.
Destination Campaigns (Paid Press Trips)
There’s a huge difference between sponsored travel and making money from traveling.
Destination marketing campaigns are based on invitations from tourism board, hotels, or tour companies. At the beginning of anyone’s blogging career, those projects will be unpaid – with flights, accommodation, food, and activities covered. But the longer you blog for, you will be compensated for the time spent on such trips.
Depending on the size of your audience you can ask tourism boards for either a day rate or a trip rate for projects.
I said projects, as a LOT of bloggers and people confuse FAM Trips (group press trips) with destination campaigns. Some people are put off by these, claiming they don’t always like group tours. Don’t worry – destination campaigns don’t always mean press trips with other bloggers. Once you’re more established, there are many projects out there where you have a total freedom as long as you deliver what you promised (eg. photos, articles, videos, etc.).
Brand marketing is slightly different than traditional advertising. They’re either short or longer-term projects with bigger brands, who’re willing to invest some proper money in exchange for valuable content. In contrary to link-building marketing agencies who don’t really care about bloggers as long as they get a link on their site.
Brand marketing involves (usually) big, always respectful brands. These companies have decent budgets, so what’s not to like about earning good money to work with a company you love? I don’t think it’s good to take every single comp, press trip or campaign that lands in your inbox. It’ll make you look like a sell-out to your readers.
My recent example of branded content: here
Many bloggers are paid to write travel-related articles for other websites. It’s easy to get a copywriting job once your name is known from your blog. They need content, you have experience and stories. Who would you be writing for? Smaller websites who’re willing to offer payment, other bloggers who need writers, or bigger publications such as BBC, News.au, Daily Mail, etc.
Standard payment for this type of freelance work can range from $50 to $1000, depending on the length of the article, publication, how much research or photos are needed, etc.
There’s constantly a discussion of whether you should be writing for free or not, as many big publications – Huffington Post included, don’t pay their writers. It’s your call. Being published in a bigger publication might help to boost your blog, but I’d not recommend doing it long term.
Public Speaking & TV appearances
Once your blog is established and you become a specialist in your niche, you can be hired to talk about it. There are plenty of conferences out there willing to invite travel bloggers & destination specialists to speak at their event. Again, not for free.
Same goes for the TV. You can be invited to talk about your travel experiences, and/or share photos. I personally spoke at the conference in Orlando and appeared on Polish and Mexican TV.
I don’t sell my photos online, but I know many people who do. How do you sell your photos and to whom? I think one of the actual photographers out there, Brendan van Son can tell you how to sell your photography and videos.
Last but not least: my first (and only ever) approximate income report
Why am I sharing it? Simply because I want to give an example of how travel blogging earnings could look like. Also, because everyone’s definition of success and full-time income is different. I had funny situations when my blogging friend and I had a chat about an affiliate income – one of us said she’s making next to nothing from it, the other one said she was making a lot of money from it. In the end, it turned out that we’re both making the same exact amount of money.
AVERAGE INCOME BASED ON THE LAST FEW MONTHS (2018):
- Freelance writing
I’m lucky to have long-term partners, so the amount depends on how many articles I submit and where to. Personally, I don’t focus on it though and as of mid-2017 I don’t take up new clients.
- Social media promotion – $650 – $4000
Some months are good, some months are bad. Some clients want shares on all channels, some only want a Tweet, others want an Instagram photo
- Advertising on the blog – $2000 – $3000
Banners, other adds, etc. The amount of money you make depends on your traffic, that’s why SEO is important.
- Destination campaigns – $0 – depends
$0 if I don’t take up any campaigns and work at home, everything else depends on the campaign. For instance, some bloggers take $100 per day, some charge up to $20,000 per project. I currently charge 4 digit numbers per day.
- Affiliate income (from Amazon, Booking.com, Bluehost, etc.) – $500 – 3000
I’ve had some horrible months and some really good months. As you can see 🙂
- Branded content: $1000 – 4000
Some months are good, some months are bad.
- Freelance VA work (Upwork, coaching, private clients, etc.)
Depends on how much time do I have, how any clients do I have, etc. As of mid-2017 I stopped accepting any extra freelance work.
As you can see I definitely don’t make millions from blogging. The income isn’t guaranteed for the next month and it could double, triple, or bring me very little money instead. I’m not planning on publishing my income reports all the time – this is just an example.
I hope I managed to answer your question about how to make money blogging and how you can earn money from a travel blog. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!