There’s not one established way to make money blogging.
Whenever people ask me what I do for a living, I say I have a travel blog. The following question is more precise, just in case I didn’t realize that they were actually asking about my profession: “what do you actually do for work?” That’s when I say that I am a professional travel blogger, by which I mean that this actually is my job.
Yes, I really do make money blogging and no, working as a travel blogger is not nearly as easy and as glamorous as one may think. I did mention that in a post I wrote last August, in which I stressed that travel blogging is indeed a full time job if one wants to make a living out of it, and that professional travel bloggers have a rather strict work routine (or at least, I certainly do).
Building an audience is the key to make money blogging
Once people learn that it is actually possible to make money blogging, they then ask me to teach them how to do that. Some even become quite persistent with their questions, like that girl that sent me email after email demanding that I tutor her.
At the beginning, I was flattered that she thought of me as an inspiration, and did my best to help her. But then I realized that in her attempt to do things right, she had (badly) copied the name and logo of my blog. By that point, I wasn’t flattered anymore, but terribly annoyed and concerned.
Anyways, the whole point I was trying to make to this girl – and to anyone who out of nowhere decides to open a travel blog thinking that in no time they will be loaded with cash – is that it takes years of hard work before one can really make a steady income through blogging.
Justin, my ex, who is an incredibly successful travel blogger and who mentored me (and actually still does) was clear about it, and he didn’t even mention money at all at the beginning. For the longest time, I concentrated on writing good, compelling, useful posts to build a loyal audience of people who trusted me and my blog.
Two and a half years on, my blog receives a decent amount of traffic, I have a good readership, and my readers trust my tips, my opinions and enjoy reading about my adventures. I do make money blogging, as Justin said I would, eventually. But my income isn’t nearly as steady as I’d like it to be (again, it takes years of hard work for that, and I am working on it!).
To be fair, I hardly think of myself as someone who’s made it – my income isn’t nearly as steady as I would hope. But whenever I look back at where I was 2 and a half years ago, when I had just gotten started and made absolutely zero out of this blog, I feel proud of myself for the enormous steps forward I have taken.
How I Make Money Blogging
Provided that there is an established audience, how do travel bloggers make money blogging at all? To be fair, I can’t really answer this question in full – because there is no set way to make money blogging and each one of us has a different approach. I can only talk of myself.
What I can say, however, is that the key to make money blogging is finding what one is good at and enjoys. A blogger that writes great travel stories is more likely to be hired as a ghost writer for other sites than a blogger who, on the other hand, is a great photographer (who may on the other hand be able to sell his or her pictures).
Indeed, strictly speaking a blog is a platform for services that are more or less openly publicized, either throughout the blog in general (i.e. with posts that show amazing writing or photography skills), or more specifically in what bloggers refer to as a Media Kit (which pretty much equates to a curriculum vitae).
Having clarified that there are different ways to make money blogging, the following are 9 ways in which I make money blogging.
9 Ways In Which I Make Money Blogging
The main way I make money blogging actually is by writing for other websites. I get regularly contacted by a variety of companies – they can be tour operators, travel apps, etc – to write for them. I write posts as well as long and short guides. I get paid either by project, by number of guides submitted, by word. The key here is to have good writing and content creation skills to get noticed (and portray them on the blog), and to be able to write fast as the deadlines are often very tight.
Sponsored Posts and Gear Reviews
Another way I (and a lot of other bloggers) make money blogging is by placing sponsored posts or gear reviews on the blog. Readers are generally informed that a post is sponsored as there is a legal disclaimer at the end of the post – though the requirements to place a disclaimer are not exactly clear across the world.
Sponsored posts usually include a link to the website of the client, and they can be about a variety of topics – i.e. about travel hacks, about a specific destination, about a specific service, tour operator or travel app.
Gear reviews are similar to sponsored posts, but they generally involve trying out a product or a service for a while before writing about it to recommend it to the readers.
To read an example of a gear review, check my post “Why I travel with my own Tep Wireless Hotspot.”
Making money blogging via sponsored posts and gear reviews generally involve lots of back and forth emails with the client or the PR that is representing them. It is a bargaining game where they try to pay as little as possible and bloggers have to stand their ground to be paid what they think is fair. I have often refused to write posts because I felt the money I was going to be paid for them was too little.
One of the ways I make money blogging, and certainly the one I would like to concentrate on a bit more, is affiliate marketing. I place affiliate links on my blog to accommodation booking services; tourist services of various sorts (i.e. travel search sites that sell flights or even tours); and even online retail services for various gear. I normally link to services and hotels I have used myself and hence recommend.
If a reader clicks on that link and subsequently makes a booking, I receive a percentage of that booking – with no additional price whatsoever for the reader.
I have several posts with affiliate marketing links. Good examples can be “My Ultimate Packing list” or “All The Places To Visit In Jordan For The Ultimate Adventure.”
Funny enough, before I started blogging I had heard somewhere that affiliate marketing creates some sort of passive income – making it seem as if all I have to do is sit and wait and money will flow into my bank account.
Let me tell you, there is no such thing as a passive income in blogging, and certainly not through affiliate marketing. In order to make money through affiliate marketing, a blog needs to receive a steady amount of page views (which implies lots of work) and the posts need to be well written and useful to readers, and also built in a visually convincing way (which again requires lots of work and effort). And it is not easy to pick the right travel affiliate program. I surely have to learn how to better monetize my posts!
Paid Press Trips
Ideally, bloggers want to get paid to travel. Paid press trips are indeed a great way to make money blogging. I have occasionally been paid to visit a specific destination and then write about it (without this ever influencing my opinion – rest assured on that).
To read an example of a post I have written after taking part in a paid press trip, check my post “I Did Visit Chernobyl.”
However, paid press trips are extremely hard to get, especially in a world where there’s a lot of competition, and lots of bloggers sell themselves cheap accepting very low or no payment at all for their services. This sets the expectations of tourism boards and tour operators, who then feel it is legit not to pay bloggers for their services.
I am guilty of having taken part to unpaid press trips, especially to countries that I really wanted to visit – Nepal was my last one. For as much fun as they are, press trips are incredibly tiring and demanding; they are indeed work, since bloggers have obligations to produce content during and after the trip.
This is why I have recently started refusing any trip where not only all my travel expenses are paid, but I am also compensated for my work. All I can say is that I am hoping to make more money blogging via press trips.
Social Media Marketing Campaigns
There is a strong relationship between a blog and social media, whereby blogs are connected to pretty much any social media existing and each blog post is shared on social media channels. My blog is no different in this sense.
Needless to say, the bigger the following, the higher the chances that a company may want to hire a blogger (or social media influencer) to promote its products. That’s why bloggers invest a lot time and effort in growing their social media following (some get to the point that they do buy followers, but I strongly advice against that).
This is to say that one way in which I make money blogging is via social media marketing campaigns, by which I publicize a product or service I am using on my channels via a shout-out. I also participate in Twitter chats, for which I am hired to ask questions to my followers, answer the questions, send out tweets and re-tweet using a specific hashtag. The idea is to drive traffic to the account of the company that hires me (and thus increase their visibility and possibility to sell).
Instagram is a great platform to showcase one’s photography skills. I am not a professional photographer, but I do enjoy photography and I put a lot of effort in curating my Instagram account. I guess my efforts pay off when I get contacted by companies who want me to take over their Instagram account to share my pictures, and reply to the comments. It’s just one more way in which I make money blogging.
Facebook Live Streaming for Travel Companies
One more way in which I make money blogging is by doing Facebook live streaming on the page of travel companies. A lot of them are indeed keen to show the destinations for which they are trying to push sales, and Facebook live streaming, showing the places, raising an interest and talking about the many attractions of the said destinations can be a good way to attract new customers.
Brand ambassadorships are a cool way to make money blogging. Typically, a brand ambassadorship implies using the product of a specific brand – it can be some tech product like a phone or camera, clothing or any other gear that may be relevant to the blog and audience – and mentioning it on the blog and social media.
I am an ambassador for Kuhl, a fabulous outdoors clothing company.
Travel Coaching and Travel Design
One of the reasons I opened my blog was to inspire others to travel and show them how to do it. I know that many would like to travel independently (whether solo or with friends), but for a number of reasons they are reluctant to do so, or they don’t have enough time to properly research and plan a trip.
Through my blog, I offer travel coaching and travel designing services, by which people can hire me to help them plan their trip, research itineraries and activities for specific destinations, and even draft a packing list for them – all of this based on their travel style and tastes.
To be fair, this is not an easy way to make money blogging, as a lot of people don’t value the time and effort one may put into researching and planning a trip. Yet, I’d like to push this services more as I am highly convinced of their added value.
Needless to say, I am still fine tuning the way I make money blogging and with time I am understanding what works best for me, and what I actually like doing. So, the ways in which I make money blogging may change in the future.