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).
To find out more about travel blogging, read my post “13 things I have learned about travel blogging.” And here’s how to start a travel blog.
Think it’s easy to make money blogging? Read on!
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.
The key to make money blogging is – first of all – to have a proper readership
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.
There’s lots of ways to make money blogging – photography is one of them
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.
Writing gear reviews is one of the ways I make money blogging
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!
I make money blogging out of paid press trips – Indonesia was my first one, and it was memorable
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).
I make money blogging from doing Instagram takeovers for various companies
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 good ways to make money blogging
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.
Has travel blogging changed the way I travel?
I opened my blog, My Adventures Across the World, less than two years ago – in September 2014. Actually, that’s when I finally bought my own domain. In fact, I first started travel blogging on a free platform in March 2013, after a very eventful trip to Cuba. Back then, I wasn’t focusing on turning my blog into a career. I just wanted to rant about Cuba and perhaps write about my other travels. I had no intentions of abandoning my academic career yet.
Read more about my academic career in my post “How I went from being an academic to a travel blogger.”
I eventually bought my own domain because I had heard from someone that it would be easier to install Google Ads to get a passive income. Who doesn’t want an effortless, passive income? I surely did! I thought it would be an easy way to earn a little extra money to increase my meager tour leader paycheck and to add to my future travel consultant income.
Less than two years after buying my domain and less than 18 months after deciding to ditch my tour leading career (or any other career, for that matter) and start blogging full time, I haven’t installed Google Ads or any other affiliates yet, and I have come to the conclusion that travel blogging is not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong: I love it and wouldn’t do anything else for a living, but this isn’t nearly as easy-peasy as I thought it would be.
Here are 13 things I have learned in my first 15 months of full time travel blogging.
Do I look at things differently since I have started travel blogging?
13 things I have learned about travel blogging in the last 15 months
Travel blogging is a real job
Just because I don’t walk into an office every day and I don’t have fixed hours, that doesn’t mean blogging is not a real job. Sure, I am free to work whenever and wherever I want, but for most bloggers (including myself) this translates into anywhere and at any time (and all the time).
I actually have a strict working routine, where I average 10 hours per day (with peaks of up to 12 hours), sometimes even during weekends. I work much more now than I did in my previous jobs. What’s different now is that I actually really enjoy what I am doing, for as hard as it is.
Travel blogging? It ain’t all beach and games
Travel blogging is much more work than I thought
Before starting to blog full time I was under the impression that managing a travel blog would be fairly easy. I thought it was just a matter of writing something, placing some nice photos here and there, and hit the publish button.
I wish it were that easy. I know that a post doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, but I still like the idea of writing to the best of my abilities. Putting together a post takes me anything between a day and even a couple of weeks, depending on the topic and on how inspired I am. Once I have an idea in mind, I have to build the post in an appealing way, one that makes people want to read it. The language I use, the phrasing, and even seemingly silly things as the length of a paragraph all make a difference.
Once the post is written, I have to find the right pictures to go with it, edit them at least a little bit (I am no photographer), caption them and place them along the relevant text.
This is why I find it very frustrating when I get contacted by people who ask all sort of questions the answers to which can be easily found on my blog. It is rather annoying when they tell me that they don’t have time 10 minutes to read that post that took me well over two weeks to write!
There’s more to travel blogging than just exploring amazing places
In travel blogging, SEO is a must…
Search Engine Optimization (which bloggers refer to as SEO) is the most efficient way to make sure that traffic is driven to a post and to the blog. When I wrote my first post, I had not even heard of these words. I just thought that because I had written and published something, people would magically find it and read it. How naïve of me!
Eventually, a travel blogger who took pity on me explained the basic tricks of SEO so that I could optimize my posts and make them stand out in google searches. Using keywords, people may be able to find a post I have written and hopefully if they like it, they will come back for more.
This doesn’t mean that all my posts are optimized. Indeed, I still appreciate the act of writing in a more spontaneous way. And I think that readers do too.
…as well as social media
Travel blogging and social media go pretty much hand in hand. Most travel bloggers have accounts across the best known social media. Using social media smartly means showing the world that I am out there, driving traffic to the blog and growing an audience, something which isn’t necessarily easy thanks to the constant changes in the way social media work – posts aren’t necessarily shown to all followers.
I admit that I can hardly keep on top of things. I use social media persistently but I have no real strategy. I post regularly, I try to keep my audience engaged, I reply to comments and hope for the best.
Gone are the days in which I used Facebook to see what my friends around the world were doing, and Instagram to post selfies and pictures of my cats (ok, I still post the occasional picture of my cats, but I have never really posted any selfie!).
Travel blogging isn’t nearly as solitary as I thought
Although I am travel blogging, I still have to deal with people…
… and they are not necessarily nice.
One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy my previous jobs was that I had to deal with other people, which wasn’t always fun. In my previous working life I have had a number of backstabbing colleagues, who went as far as stealing my research. I’ve also had to work hard to please difficult customers – and often didn’t succeed.
Read more about the kind of people I dealt with as a tour leader on my post “11 persons I have met during a guided tour.”
Travel bloggers may not work in an office building, but that’s about the only difference with the rest of the job market: I still have colleagues (other bloggers) and anybody who requires my services – whether it is for a consultancy, for a writing job, or for a marketing campaign – is a customer.
The job environment isn’t different from any other: there’s gossip, there’s envy, there’s a good dose of competition, there’s some who aren’t nearly as professionals as they try to show and others who act as rockstars. And there is a lot of networking to do.
A few bloggers have become really good friends: I respect them, I admire them and they are a constant source of inspiration. The others are colleagues with whom I prefer to keep a strictly professional relationship. And there are some that I would rather not deal with.
Finding a travel blogging niche is harder than I thought
I blog about travel. But that is too wide a topic and I have been told many times by very successful bloggers that I need to find my own niche, become my own brand (whatever that means) and concentrate my efforts on that. They also said it wouldn’t be easy. How right they were!
The process of finding a travel blogging niche and of establishing myself as an authority in that is actually really hard and requires a lot of trial and effort. At the beginning, I thought I’d want to concentrate on budget backpacking. But I regularly blow my budget any time I travel, to the point that I concluded I am an unsuccessful backpacker. I need my niche to be something I am actually good at.
Find out why I think I am an unsuccessful backpacker on my post “How to be an unsuccessful backpacker.”
Truth be told, I am still looking for my niche and I am still thinking of the best ways to brand myself. I have a few ideas in mind. Only time will tell if these ideas work, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Travel blogging press trips are actually tiring!
Travel blogging press trips are hard work…
One of the perks of travel blogging is traveling for free. Or so I thought until I was invited on my first press trip to Indonesia. I concluded that there is not such thing as traveling for free – where by free I mean that I don’t have to do anything in exchange.
Participating in a press trip indeed means being employed to visit places and promote them on my blog and social media.
A typical press trip involves visiting a huge amount of places in a very limited time, as tourism boards generally try to maximize their budget. It means days of up to 16 hours, when I have to be concentrated on what I see all the time and can’t just opt out if I don’t feel like doing something. It implies traveling at an imposed rhythm, where I don’t get to just do what I want and like – I don’t even get to pick where I want to eat, or what I want to eat for that matter.
During press trips, as blogger I have to take notes, take (and edit) pictures and I am expected to post on social media, which means being constantly online. Once back, I must produce a minimum amount of posts within a specific time period. There is a contract, instructions, deadlines.
It is better (and definitely sounds more glamorous) than most jobs, but it is still a job. And a very tiring one too.
…but a lot of fun too
I would lie if I said that travel blogging press trips are boring. They are tiring, they are hard work and whenever I get back home after one I am so exhausted that I have to rest and do nothing for at least a day. But they are a lot of fun too. After all, I have always said that organized group tours don’t necessarily have to be bad, and press trips are a bit like group tours of like minded individuals.
Read what I think about group tours on my post “10 reasons to take a guided tour.”
On a recent press trip to the North of Spain, not only did I get to visit some amazing places, but a spirit of camaraderie developed, jokes were thrown all the time, and I feel like I have learned a lot from the other bloggers who took part in the trip.
Read more about the North of Spain on my post “Amazing places to visit in Spain.”
In travel blogging, I feel a duty to report about the not-so-great experiences too
In travel blogging, integrity is everything – at least to me.
As a blogger, I am constantly thorn between my duty towards my readers and the need to keep the brands and tourism boards I work with happy, and to establish a reputation as a good blogger to work with.
What should I do if I am invited to use some services or to visit a place and my experience isn’t as good as I had hoped for? Should I write about it and be honest to my audience, or should I just omit this information and avoid any confrontation with the sponsors?
I thought really hard whether to write about a really bad experience I had on Mount Bromo, in Indonesia. I decided I should, because I felt I should warn other people who may be visiting and I did’t want to give a sugar coated version of my experience. I thought it would be a good way to give some constructive criticism too.
Read more about my experience on Mount Bromo on my post “Ring of Fire or Circle of Hell?”
Luckily enough, bad experiences are actually not so frequent and more often than not I find myself writing glowing reviews.
Travel blogging changed the way I travel
Traveling was way more spontaneous and definitely more relaxing before I started blogging. It was about enjoying my time at a destination and telling my friends and family about my experiences.
The “telling my friends and family” is now done on a different scale, where I actually write posts for the world (ok, perhaps not the world, but you get my point) to read. It makes me look at places in a different way. I ask more questions to the guides and I often take notes, as perhaps a good blog post will come from it. I even put much more efforts in taking good pictures – sometimes I actually feel like I am seeing a place from behind the lenses of a camera.
Before starting a blog and having multiple social media accounts connected to it, I didn’t care so much if I didn’t have internet when I traveled. In fact, it was refreshing to have a break from it. Now, I end up spending at least an hour every day posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And although I am not meant to really work, I end up checking my email, just in case some good business opportunity comes through.
No easy money in travel blogging
There’s no such thing as easy money with travel blogging…
Whoever said that it is easy to make money blogging said a blatant lie, and I realized that fairly quickly. Friends who have been blogging for various years warned me that money would take a while to come and predicted that I wouldn’t be making a dime for at least a year or a year and a half.
It took me months of hard work to make my first $100 USD through my blog. 15 months after having started taking this seriously, I still struggle but little by little it is getting better. Some months I get little or no interesting offers; others I am overwhelmed with requests and I accept them all, knowing that the following months business may be slow.
…and there is not just one, established way to make money with travel blogging
Different travel bloggers find different ways to make money. Some have established their own tour companies whereas other offer their consultancies; some work with sponsors and others make money through a variety of writing jobs.
Most bloggers also place affiliate links on their blogs, something which requires a careful study of the audience’ interests. Funny enough, placing affiliate links was the main reason I had for buying my own domain and I haven’t had time to consider doing that yet.
What I have learnt in these 15 months of full time blogging is that a blog is generally just a platform, a way to showcase a number of services. It just takes a while to decide which is the most viable way to earn a living through a blog, and this is something completely personal: what works for one, may not work for the other.
In case anybody is wondering, I am still exploring the various ways I have to earn money though my blog.
I have haters since I have started travel blogging
When travel blogging, it’s good to have haters
I know some (usually female) very successful bloggers who are swamped with hateful comments which are full of disturbing messages, and that can be really hurtful. I was actually happy when I got my first hate comment. I figured hatred comes from envy, and if someone envies me it is because I am slowly becoming more successful. Something to celebrate!
Sure enough, I didn’t expect travel blogging to be such hard work. Yet, I love what I am doing and every day I wake up with a big smile on my face, looking forward to a long day at work.
What are your thoughts on travel blogging?