This post contains affiliate links
Telling people I’m a travel blogger is always interesting. People react in so many different ways! Some get a confused look on their face but don’t ask any further questions, other people tell me how cool that sounds, and, very often, people ask me how I make money.
I know that they are curious, given that something that started out as people writing about their thoughts and travels for friends and family back home has now turned into a legitimate way to make a living. But it’s also a little weird to suddenly be discussing how I make money blogging exactly, and sometimes, how much I make, in an introductory conversation!
Partly that’s because it’s a bit complicated and changes all the time, but also just because I don’t go around asking other people how they make their money and what they earn when they first tell me what they do! So in the interest of shedding a little light on this subject, I decided to write this post. Then I can just refer people to my blog to answer those awkward questions and give me more page views. I’m joking… or am I?
You may have seen this post on other blogs, and if you’re reading it chances are you’re curious because you’re wondering if getting into blogging and making money from it could be something for you. I mean, how hard can it be right?!
The beauty of blogging is that there are lots of different ways that you can make money. But that doesn’t mean that every way is going to work for you. That might be because of your subject matter, or your readers, or it’s just not a strategy that’s right for you. But I wouldn’t exactly say that any of those ways are easy. And unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. There are strategies and things you can do to try and make money from your blog faster, but at the end of the day, it takes hard work and dedication.
So how did I get into blogging?
Almost four years ago I was on a train to York with my friend who is an author. Like she legit writes books and makes money from them for a living. I was lamenting about how I was sick of admin style jobs. That was all I seemed to be able to get since I moved countries all the time and didn’t give myself an opportunity to establish an actual career, so I wasn’t exactly blameless in the matter.
I wished I could have the freedom to travel more without worrying and finding work and doing something I actually enjoyed (sound familiar…?). She mentioned that I should check out digital nomad groups on Facebook because there are people who work online on their own blog or website and travel at the same time, doing what they please.
Digital Nomad? I had never heard the term and I had no idea what it was. I had a Blogger blog at the time that I had used to keep my family and friends updated on my exploits while living abroad in Europe (no, you can’t have the link, that stays buried!) but I had absolutely no concept of how someone could write a blog and ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY.
However, I went home from that trip with the idea in my head that it was a possibility, and promptly bought a domain name, proceeded to experiment (read: fail) with WordPress and then put it on the back burner as I got caught up in leaving the UK to move to Australia.
Fast forward to now and I’m working full-time on my own website. Not the one I originally bought a domain name for that day, but one I finally started around 6 months later, after a university website design course and a travel blogging course.
You can read the story of my path to full time blogging in this other post, but since you’re here you probably want to know, how do I actually make money from this job? I mean, after all, I created it myself and it does actually let me be location independent (another online buzzword, effectively meaning a digital nomad of sorts, but with a home base). Sounds like a dream, right, but what’s the reality?
Read More: How I Became a Full-Time Travel Blogger
How travel bloggers make money
This isn’t an exhaustive list since the internet is an ever-changing place and so is the tourism industry, but it’s at least a start of the ways that running a travel website can bring home the bacon (or fakeon, should that be your preference).
I don’t use all of these myself, and some I do but with limited success. Unfortunately making money from blogging is often experimental and something has to be tested to see if it works, and things are always changing. But for those who are curious, here we go.
This is one of the biggest ways that bloggers make money. You might notice that some of my posts say “this post contains affiliate links” at the top, but what does that mean exactly? Basically, if a blogger is an affiliate for a company then they have a special link to their website, and if they mention or recommend their product or service then they can link to it, and if someone buys that then you receive a small commission. There is no extra cost passed on to the customer, instead, the company is essentially paying a small amount to say thanks for the referral.
There are a few different ways to set up affiliates. Companies like Amazon and Booking.com have their own well-established programs. Other brands sign up to an advertising company like Awin or CJ who act as a go-between for all the setup and payments. In other cases, a blogger may establish their own relationship with a company and set up a bespoke affiliate program just for them.
I’m a member of several affiliate programs and so it is one of my income streams, but I always like to have personal experience or thoroughly research anything that I would recommend because I wouldn’t feel right not doing so.
See the ads on my website? They are display advertising and they are what really enabled me to go full-time as a blogger. I will admit having ads on my website isn’t my favourite thing, but it does allow me to do what I do and provide information for free to readers because I’m paid in other ways. You don’t need to pay a subscription to get travel information, tips, and stories from my site, or actually buy anything through it, just put up with a few ads!
If you look at the majority of big name news websites these days then you’ll notice they have ads, and blogs have gone the same way because it’s a simple way to pass the cost of keeping a website up and running and providing content to readers for free on to companies who want to reach through readers through advertisements. I mean, the idea has been around since newspapers!
I’m a member of the Mediavine network, who work really hard to provide a good display ad experience for me and my readers. They do have a minimum visitor count per month that a blogger must have to join the network, as well as a few other criteria, but once you’re in it’s an amazing way to make some money from all your hard work.
Branded and Sponsored Posts
This is actually a slight grey area because there are a couple of different ways of making money through “sponsored” posts, and they’re also often confused with selling links.
A genuine branded or sponsored post is where a company would pay a blogger to write a post that mentions their product (it doesn’t necessarily have to endorse it). It would be declared that the post is sponsored by that brand, for example, this post I wrote about using Rosetta Stone to help me learn French before a holiday. This is a way for the brand to reach the blogger’s audience and it means I get to try something new or have an experience that I can write about so is a content win for me.
I get multiple emails a day in my inbox asking me if I will accept a “sponsored” or “guest” post from companies. In this case, they do not want me to declare that the post is sponsored but instead are looking for a link back to a company or brand website to help improve their SEO (that means Search Engine Optimisation, or, how well your site does when people search on Google). No endorsement is needed, it’s purely a link placed somewhere within the post and the company may not even be expressly mentioned.
This is actually a “paid link” and is against Google guidelines, as having more links back to a website can improve ranking in Google, and Google want a fair playing field, not just people with the most money to get ahead by paying for lots of links.
However, this is how many bloggers make money, because if the post idea/link is a natural fit for their website then it may fly under the radar of Google as we naturally link out to several websites within a post. It is definitely a risk though because Google can sometimes find out and blacklist a site, which means bye-bye income.
Unfortunately, many new bloggers don’t know this and accept very low rates for a paid link, when they should be asking for a lot more money to help them mitigate the risk, and should be very wary about what websites they choose to allow this practice with. There are bloggers who make a LOT of money from paid links and have never had any problems. Some bloggers outright refuse to ever accept paid links, which is also their prerogative.
Pictures can say a thousand words, and in the travel bloggers sphere, that is especially true. While some blogging niches, like finance, for example, don’t require the use of great images, I find that with a travel blog they are really important, and surprise, they can be another way for a blogger to make money.
Early on I used my old iPhone 4 for photos because that’s all I had. I then moved on to an iPhone 6, before finally investing in my beloved Sony a6000 mirrorless camera. Without bragging, I do genuinely think my photography has greatly improved over the years and is continuing to do so. I’m far from a professional, but there are bloggers whose camera skills are so good they can make money from them. Either by selling photos, or teaching others how to take great travel photos too.
For the past few years, I’ve consistently heard that “video is the next big thing and you have to get on it”, and it is somewhat true. Platforms like Facebook push video content more than plain text or text and photos, and some people love watching travel videos to help them plan rather than reading a post.
I’m not the world’s most amazing videographer, but I do enjoy shooting and editing video and I have made money by partnering with brands to make videos for them, for example, like the one in this Fort William post.
It’s a work in progress and you can check out my videos section for a few examples!
Making money from reviews is similar to sponsored posts, although it could also be in video form. Reviewing products on a blog has always been popular and although it’s not something I’ve ever done it is a common practice. Sometimes brands will offer to send products for free in return for a review. While this is nice, the amount of work put into a review may not reflect the price of the product, and so some bloggers also ask for money.
One problem with this is that money in exchange for a review could mean it is not as genuine as someone who just went out and got the product themselves, but this really comes down to the individual blogger and finding someone you trust to be honest!
Paid Press & Destination Trips
There is a common misconception that travel bloggers get all of their travel and activities paid for (comped) and it has become a reason why some people start a travel blog. They think they’ll be able to travel the world for free! While working with a tourism board, destination, or brand and them paying for the travel and activities there is a thing, it’s exactly that – working. Unfortunately, nothing is really “free”.
A press or FAM trip is generally where you and several other bloggers would be invited along to experience a destination, in return for producing content about it. The exact terms and conditions of what that content will be are down to what is negotiated between the brand and the blogger, but it’s unlikely they would be happy if you produced nothing!
For this reason, travel that is comped can be one of the least relaxing experiences ever! Sure you may get to experience awesome things you wouldn’t have otherwise, but you also need to work your butt off in return. Think constant social media updates, taking photos and making notes for later posts, plus all the work done on blog posts and/or videos are returning home. Sometimes, it’s actually not worth it and just paying for a trip yourself is much more enjoyable!
All of this work is why many bloggers will ask for a fee in addition to the costs of the trip being covered. However this usually also comes with higher expectations for content. I could write an entire post about whether or not bloggers should ask to be paid for these trips or at what point in their career they should ask!
Personally, in the past I have accepted a comped trip if it’s somewhere I really wanted to go and the deliverables (things I had to do in return) weren’t too high, but it’s something I would be more reluctant to do now as I feel more established in my blogging career and what I have to offer, and some payment for time spent producing high-quality content can be justified.
Some trips I’ve done include one to Luleå in the north of Sweden, to the Costa Brava in Spain and to Glasgow on a Mackintosh trip.
Another way to look at this is whether a blogger can upsell themselves by offering video for an additional fee, or can sell a story to another publication to help make some money from the trip. Which brings me to the next point…
Technically, this isn’t a way that bloggers make money from their own blog, but instead how they can make money with the skills they’ve developed through blogging. Freelancing basically means working for another company, but in a way that isn’t linked at all to the blog. For example, for a year I was a blog editor for a San Francisco startup company called WeTravel, who run a platform where you can organise group trips and retreats. This wasn’t linked to my blog in any way but I did get the job by showing my experience in blogging.
Freelancing could be long term or short term, and essentially means you’re still working for someone else at least part of the time. I see it as different to a short campaign or project where you might do some work for someone that you could also publish on your own social channels or link to from your blog.
Although freelancing is a great way to get into blogging “full time” since you are actually making money from another source, I’m so happy that I’ve been able to step away from it to work on my own projects!
Social Media Campaigns
This is kind of a self-explanatory way to make money from travel blogging and is often lumped into one of the other categories. Basically, a brand can pay a blogger to post on their social media about their product or service. There are even tools on platforms like Facebook that now indicate if a post is in partnership with a brand.
Often posting on social media will be included as part of a wider campaign.
Brand Ambassador Programs
Being a Brand Ambassador for a company is similar to posting sponsored content for them, except usually the relationship is more long-term. For example, a brand and a blogger could have an ambassadorship agreement to promote certain tours in a country, and the blogger would be obligated to do a certain amount of posts a month about that, or whatever they negotiate.
Brand Ambassadorships are hard to get and can often come from a blogger actually using and promoting a product or service they love without any kind of partnership, just because they genuinely recommend it, and the company notices and offers a more official relationship.
Travel Planning Services
Some bloggers make money from their blog by offering a paid travel planning service. This works well if you are well known for a specific area or have lots of local knowledge, like my friend Kathi from Watch Me See who has a Scotland travel blog and helps people plan their trips to Scotland.
I regularly receive emails for travel advice, particularly for Spain or Scotland, and I’m happy to spend some time responding to those or refer someone to my own blog posts, or another blogger I trust. However, if someone is looking for a bespoke itinerary with very specific recommendations that would take some research and a bit of time to put together then a blogger could consider offering this as a paid service.
Selling Self-Made Products
Making money from blogging can be active or passive. Active in that a blogger either works on something and then gets paid for it, like a campaign, or passive in that they put in the work and then continue to reap the benefits for long afterward, like writing a post and earning ad and affiliate income from it. It’s the dream to make money while you sleep right?!
Selling self-made products is a great form of passive income for bloggers. Although one which I have never quite got around to doing myself! The most obvious form is e-books, where a blogger might expand on their most popular post or destination and write a full guide that costs a small amount and is promoted throughout their website.
Another way might be by creating a physical product, like Jodi from Legal Nomads who had these awesome food maps made and put on different things like posters and tote bags.
Once the initial work is done and if the sales funnel is good, they can continue to make money from this product long after producing it.
Other things might be courses, either for things for photography, how to blog, or whatever else you can think of! Some of these may require a little ongoing work but will also still be a good passive income source.
As an expansion on the above, there are several bloggers I know of who now organise whole tours for their readers, inviting them to come along and experience a destination with them. If done right, these can be really popular and a great way for a travel blogger to make money.
For example, my friend Helen from Helen in Wonderlust has travelled and written extensively about Africa and has now started her own tours in different African destinations, called Rock My Adventure. She takes small groups along on epic adventures across the continent. I’m hoping I get to go myself one day!
Other bloggers run regular trips to off the beaten track places, or even to destinations like Iceland, where solo travellers might want to find some like-minded people to travel with.
How much can travel bloggers really make?
The answer to this is somewhere on a scale between nothing and six figures. Honestly.
It all comes down to the individual blogger, how they choose to try and make money from it and how successful they are at it, a bit of luck, and a lot of hard work and determination. This is true for bloggers in all areas. Food, health, beauty, political, lifestyle, family etc. Many of us are making money, and many of us aren’t.
In some ways choosing to be a travel blogger is counterproductive because travel is not a commodity everyone can afford and we also have a lot of outgoing costs (read: travel costs) to keep gathering content, unlike some of the other blogging areas.
For me, making a regular income has been about developing passive income like affiliates and display ads that should give me a base income, and then working with brands on different projects to supplement that.
How easy is it to make money travel blogging?
There is no barrier of entry in this job. Anyone can start a travel blog for relatively little cost and it’s actually a really over-saturated market. Funnily enough, that’s what gave me the push in the end. I figured if ALL these people could do it so could I!
It’s what you do with the website that makes the difference. Travel blogging definitely isn’t easy money and free travel hotel stays. If that’s your goal then I wouldn’t bother. It’s a ton of hard work and a lot of sitting in front of a laptop writing, editing photography and videos, having your phone permanently attached to you for social media, and lots of tech stuff.
If you love travelling, it may not even be a great idea to start a travel blog with the intention to make money since it totally changes how you travel!
Blogging is a constant learning curve, and if you’re interested you can see here what I learnt in my first year, and then the second year (third to come!).
How soon do you earn money from a blog?
It can also take a considerable amount of time to start to earn an income from blogging, or if you know what you’re doing and have a bit of luck, it could be much sooner. There’s no one answer, unfortunately. That’s why it can be tough and it’s not for everyone. What other job do you start where you don’t actually know when you’ll get your first paycheck, or how much it will be, or if they’ll be another one coming after that?
I spent at least 6 months on this website unpaid before I even saw a cent, working as much as I could in my spare time. It was another year before I started to see steady money trickling in. Since I’ve gone full-time I’ve actually been able to earn more because I’ve also dedicated more time to it, but not everyone has that luxury, especially in the beginning. Even now some months are amazing and others I’m frantically checking stats and numbers to see what my income level might be.
If you even out the hours of unpaid work it’s not exactly been the most lucrative job! I definitely would have made more if I actually used the Law Degree I spent thousands getting and am still paying off… But I also wouldn’t be where I am right now, loving my job (most days) and with the opportunities it has given me and I hope it continues to in the future.
My best tips if you want to start your own blog
I have a guide to starting a travel blog for beginners, where I go into a lot more detail about actually getting up and running, so check that out if it’s something you’re seriously contemplating. But before you even do that, you might want to read this post about the realities of travel blogging and why it may or may not be for you. If you’re still up for it, here are some more tips/realities…
- It’s a war between passion and monetisation. Make sure before you start that blogging is something you can become passionate about, because it’s going to be a lot of work, but also have a monetisation strategy from the get-go. That doesn’t mean slapping ads and affiliate links on your site from day one, it means you know what to do to get to a point where you’ll do that. If that makes sense…
- Read as much as you can about blogging and join Facebook groups where you can ask questions and get help. You’re learning a whole new job and industry.
- Expect to spend A LOT of time working for free initially.
- Diversify your income as much as possible when you do start earning.
- Nothing (except the work you do for yourself!) is really free, including press trips, hotel stays, and products. At the end of the day, you’re working for it.
- Get yourself out there and let people know who you are. Become an authority on something and work to that strength.
And finally, not every blog has to make money. Maybe you just want a creative outlet and somewhere to record your travels, and that’s totally ok. But if you do want to start a business, because that’s what making money from blogging is, then it is possible!
So whether you came here just because you were curious about this weird job, or because it’s something you’re interested in doing yourself, I hope that satisfies you!
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