So how do travel bloggers make money?
Whether we are traveling or not, there’s one question that always comes up when we meet new people.
So, what do you guys do?
Gulp, I knew that one was coming. If Cameron’s with me I generally wait for him to answer because I hate where this conversation goes.
“We’re travel bloggers,” he’ll say in his general enthusiastic tone.
I know what they are thinking now. How privileged we are and how nice it must be to write down some words and say we are bloggers. No “real” money can be made out of blogging – our parents must be funding our adventures around the world. Nine times out of 10. No. 9.5 times out of 10 the next question is now in regards to our money making skills.
“Wow, that’s really interesting, and you make money that way? How do travel bloggers make money?”
Would You Ask a Stranger?
It’s such an interesting conversation to me. Personally, I would never walk around asking construction workers, doctors, artists, sewer cleaners or strippers how they make money. But I try to imagine if I wasn’t a technology driven millennial who first got online at age 10. With that I totally get the questions and curiosity. I mean, travel blogging isn’t your typical way to earn money.
Heck, I don’t think anyone knows exactly how travel bloggers make money besides bloggers/YouTubers themselves. Even half of them have no idea how the others are making a real income. My parents and friends certainly don’t, they just know I make money on the internet “somehow” from the internet gods.
Sometimes, I actually like the internet god theory better than explaining all the revenue streams not just for travel bloggers, but all bloggers/vloggers/”influencers” in general. I just received another email in my inbox today asking how we fund our travels, how we make money, and how to follow in our footsteps. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to address these questions for readers once and for all!
Can travel bloggers make real money?
Absolutely. Some of the top travel bloggers make excellent money, but many make almost nothing. That’s because a travel blog is easy to set up, but hard to stick with and stay motivated enough to turn it into a full-time job. Many travel bloggers start their blog with the intention to make money, but it quickly fades to a hobby once they realize the workload. Travel bloggers can make anything from $100-$30,000 a month, some of the very top can make more. Don’t think that 30,000 number comes easy though – numbers like that take years of hard work and dedication.
It’s not just travel bloggers that make money though. There are bloggers for everything nowadays. Lifestyle, food, beauty, airline, political, health, mommy, construction bloggers, car bloggers – seriously pick a passion and blog about it. In fact, I find that travel bloggers make the least amount of money compared to their food and lifestyle counterparts. Top bloggers are mini celebrities and can bring in millions of dollars a year, but those are few and far and between.
If you are a travel blogger, you have to travel, and travel costs a lot more money than kitchenware or makeup. Not everyone wants to travel either, but most women wear makeup and want to dress up night. So, we’re limited to a smaller potential audience – you see where I’m going? Travel bloggers may spend the most on their job, but may find it harder to build an audience than most other niches.
Is it Easy to Get Started Travel Blogging?
We’ve gotten many emails from first-time travelers asking us how they can start a blog and get hotel stays and it always makes my head spin. Would you want to be a chef without any cooking experience or get sent to the ER without ever stepping foot in a hospital? Blogging should be something that you are passionate about and build up experience.
I traveled for well over a year before ever thinking about starting a blog. I loved traveling, seeing new places, eating new food, and making new friends well before I had ever even looked at a travel blog. It was later when Cameron and I were living in New York City that I convinced him to drop everything and start a blog together. We wanted to see the world together, take better photos, share our experiences, and make enough money to support our travels.
What I’m trying to say is it’s not a great idea to start something you don’t have experience with first. Find a passion and try to turn it into a job otherwise, you’ll go crazy. If your goal is to make a quick buck travel blogging you’re going to have a tough time. It a huge time investment, self-determination, and commitment like any new business. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
How Long Will it Take to Start Making Money Blogging?
We always tell people that our first-year travel blogging was more like an internship. We made almost no money, worked long hours, and completely relied on our savings to travel and produce content. Our travel blog began with the intention to make money, so I believe we made money quicker than many other bloggers who don’t get into business mode as fast as we did.
The first couple months of this blog we were rather lazy about it. We posted random articles, worked every so often, and took sub-par photos, but we were learning how it all worked. We received our first $400 check eight months after launching “The World Pursuit” and scored our first comped hotel stay seven months after launch. It was a long haul just to get there. Since then, we have continued to build our brand, audience, and channels. Along the way we have developed professional relationships in the travel industry and developed credible names in the industry.
Every month since that first $400 has been better and better. The general consensus I get after talking to fellow travel bloggers is it takes one to two years before you can make a buck from travel blogging. With blogging it takes a long time to learn what you are doing and how to do it correctly. The learning never stops either, we’re still constantly working to better our site and brand.
How Do Travel Bloggers Make Money?
Now here is what you came here for – how travel bloggers make money! These are some of the models we use to support ourselves, but keep in mind this is the internet and digital nomads now have an endless amount of ways to make money online. We make money directly from our travel blog, but we also make money from the opportunities our blog presents us.
Affiliate marketing can be one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to make money with a blog. Affiliate Marketing is when we market a product through our site and when a reader goes on to buy that product we get a small commission of that sale. Essentially we are the middle man that helps readers and consumers discover new things they may not have known about.
This costs nothing extra to the consumer and we only recommend products and companies that we personally love. I say that affiliate marketing is the easiest because once you set it up on your site you are done. It’s referred to as “passive income” because we don’t have to do anything extra to make commissions.
Of course, it takes time to properly set up and requires readers that trust your recommendations so it’s not completely effortless. It took at least a year to build a reputation and relationship with our audience online. Also, every blog post we write on here takes us anywhere between five to 10 hours (sometimes more) from start to finish. It also takes a lot of time to learn SEO (search engine optimization), so we can ensure our content ranks on Google. It is a massive part of blogging that almost all successful bloggers must tackle to be successful. Social media will only bring so much traffic to your website. (Unless you’re a Pinterest Ninja – which I conveniently am ).
We make between $10,000-$20,000 a month through affiliate marketing, but every month depends on search trends and seasons. Some places you may notice affiliate links on this website are through Amazon, World Nomads Skyscanner, Patagonia, and REI.
You may have noticed a few ads throughout our site. I am sincerely sorry about those. There’s nothing I hate more than a ton of ads and popups when I browse around online. However, it does help us keep this site up and running. Those ads allow us to travel and produce unbiased information, thank you for understanding! In today’s age, almost every website I visit has ads. Facebook has ads, CNN has obnoxious ads, YouTube has ads, and Instagram has ads – I believe people are very used to it now.
Display ads are another form of passive income. Once you set up display ads on a website there isn’t much more work involved. However, you do need readers and eyeballs on a page to actually make money from ads. It took a year and a half for us to implement ads on our site because we didn’t want to burden it. We’ve partnered with an exclusive ad site called Mediavine to dish these out (another good one is Adthrive). Mediavine requires a certain number of visitors before they’ll consider working with you and we have loved the experience thus far. Through display ads we typically make between $4000-$10,000 a month.
Brand partnerships/sponsored posts
A sponsored post is pretty much a post on a blog that is sponsored by a company in a bloggers niche. Typically a brand will reach out hoping to get their company or website in front of an audience on a blog. We pick up maybe one or two of these a month but turn a lot down as our prices are high and we like to write on our own topics.
If the said product fits in well with our current travel plans we can more easily fit them into a post, which is ideal. We make anywhere from $1000-$3000 per sponsored post, but keep in mind it took our blog a long time to get to those prices and they will likely increase the more our website grows. Here’s an example of a sponsored post.
A product review is essentially the same thing as a sponsored post, but normally it will revolve around one product and generally, they are newer products. Product reviews involve us receiving a product, testing it out, and analyzing if we think it’s helpful for travelers or not. These take a bit more time as it involves going through the whole testing phase, but sometimes you find yourself with some really unique products. We make anywhere from $750-$1500 on these posts in addition to the commission we make through each product sold. Here’s an example of a product review.
When I said above that “We make money directly from our travel blog, but we also make money from the opportunities our blog presents us,” photography and videography are a good example. We’ve been contacted by tourism boards, hotels, and lodges that are in need of images and videos for their website or social channels. Typically these companies find us through our social media channels and website. It definitely pays to build up your presence everywhere online. We’ve sold images and videos for anywhere between $150-$2500.
Although we both have film backgrounds and have enjoyed taking photographs for a long time, it took us years to get those “travel shots.” Photography is an art and every day we travel we are thinking about how we can take better photos. Thankfully, it’s easy to learn but I wouldn’t expect to start selling photography without some nice shots under your belt first.
Like the photography, a freelance writing gig technically isn’t making money off your blog, but because a blog is essentially a portfolio of your work. We don’t do much freelance writing anymore, but when we were starting out we would write stories and tips about our travels for websites that weren’t our own for some extra income. We’ve charged anywhere from $100 an article to $1.50 per word. Here’s an example of an article we wrote for Spotahome.
Sometimes tourism board will reach out to us to help promote travel to their destination. Typically all expenses will be covered – flights, food, accommodation, and activities in exchange for blog posts and social media shares. This is an example of an unpaid campaign. Most of these are unpaid, but the holy grail for travel bloggers is to get paid in addition to the trip costs. This is a paid campaign, and of course is ideal but doesn’t always happen.
We don’t mind taking unpaid trips if it’s somewhere we are dying to go. (Like a few of our recent trips to Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, and Northern Italy). If it’s somewhere that we really were not planning to travel to we charge a packaged rate for deliverables.
Many people like to think destination marketing is just a free trip. Let any blogger tell you there is nothing free about the trip. When we are hosted we are constantly staging photos, creating live social media updates, meeting local representatives, learning about the destinations, and packing in every activity possible. Not to mention that the blog post afterward takes a lot of work. It’s not just sitting back drinking piña colodas all day. For paid destination marketing we can bring in $2500 – $10,000 per project, but it all depends on deliverables.
Social Media Campaigns
Sometimes brands want to focus solely on their social media presence whether it be Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. The goal is to reach your followers through a tweet, photo, or article on Facebook. We don’t have a massive following on any of our channels, but we are happy with our modest travel community we have built relationships with over the years and we do charge to access that community. We are pretty selective with what we promote and only want to push products and companies we love so we don’t do many of these.
Here’s an example of a recent social media campaign. We’ll charge anything from $0-$1000 a post. $0 is for something that we pitched because we’re happy with just getting a nice product or hotel in exchange.
Social Media Takeovers
Occasionally brands will hire out travelers, photographers, and bloggers to take over their social account. I see this is as a win-win opportunity for both parties. As a blogger, you can easily reach a new audience when you take over a big brands account. From a brand standpoint having a real person behind your social media can give your channel a much more real and personal feeling, and also gain you new followers. We’ve only done a few of these like for Skyscanner and this hotel in Zanzibar, but I know a few people that do social media takeovers full time. For weeklong social takeovers we charge between $300-$1000.
Brand Ambassadorship is when a blogger has a more long-term relationship with a brand. Sometimes it can be a campaign that spreads across a few months, or it can be on a more monthly or quarterly basis. Every contract is different with longer-term partnerships. Sometimes it can be a lump sum for a set number of deliverables while others are a monthly retainer and prices can be between $1000-$20,000.
Other ways travel bloggers make money
- Instagram: Some travel bloggers focus solely on their social channels. For the past couple of years Instagram has been king leading many people to abandon other outlets and make money just on Instagram. I’m sure if you’re on the platform you’ve seen your favorite Instagrammer promoting a product, more often than not they are getting paid to post that photo. Instagrammers can charge anywhere from $50-$8000 a photo.
- Ebooks: Many bloggers are self-publishing their adventures or producing short travel guides. Having your own product like this is a key way to make money as a blogger.
- Youtube: This is technically not blogging, but more of “vlogging.” It seems trivial, but an entirely different set of rules applies here. It’s even tougher to make it as a vlogger as you need a serious following to generate an income. However, those that do make it to the top carry massive amounts of influence and can land top dollar ad campaigns in addition to the ad revenue they receive. We’re starting to focus more on our YouTube videos this year.
- Travel planning: I’ve always wanted to help people plan their travels on a more one on one basis, but the truth is between the blog, traveling, and hobbies I don’t have much time. Nor are we much interested in becoming travel agents. Some bloggers charge an hourly fee to plan a custom trip for their readers.
- Group tours: This has become a common way for bloggers to meet their readers and diversify their income in the past year. Cameron and I are hoping to lead a group tour sometime in the next year as we would love to meet some of you! We have our sights set on leading a tour around Namibia or Mozambique – what do you think?
- Anything and everything: In today’s day and age of the internet there really is no hard set rules to making money online. I meet people all the time sharing new and innovative ways they are making money while being location dependent. Just have to think outside the box and have the willpower to do it!
I’ve never been one for discussing numbers, but I can say that 2018 is the year we will clear six figures (Update: We cleared well over six figures, and in 2019 we doubled that) with our website. It feels like we went from operating at a loss to padding our bank accounts in an instant. It has taken a lot of traveling, hard work, and sleepless nights to get to get to that point but we are very happy with the continued growth of our adventure blog.
Unfortunately, there are two of us that have to live off the income from the website, but the power of two has also been the reason we’ve been able to have over 300,000 people read our blog every month. 2019 is the year we hope to hit $400,000 and then each year after that we would like to increase that number by at least $200,000.
How to Make it as a Travel Blogger?
- There’s really no set answer to this besides patience, perseverance, and self-determination. Many people think we travel around the world living a completely carefree lifestyle, but the truth is we spend more time in front of the computer than I ever did at my old “real job” in New York. The difference is I can do it from anywhere in the world at any time of the day.
- If you decide to start any type of blog, not just travel, do so because it is your passion first. Your blog is your baby so it’s best you truly care about it.
- Become an authority on travel and other subjects. In an oversaturated market it’s important to differentiate yourself and your voice.
- Diversify your income streams in case one fails (and it will).
- Get on social media, YouTube, and become friends with Google!
- Don’t get into travel blogging for the free trips. They aren’t worth all the work you will be putting into making your blog reputable. And nothing is free in life. You will be expected to work for any sort of comp.
- Have a personality and don’t hide behind the keyboard. This means showing your face, getting on video, and sharing what you are doing.
- Know that you will fail more than once.
- Know that you will waste time and resources. We have tried so many (and will try more) different things and angles with this blog and online venture. Sometimes it’s all worthwhile, but sometimes our efforts go nowhere. Accept and move on.
Is it Too Late to Start a Travel Blog?
Before we started this travel blog I only followed a handful of other travelers. When we got into this in 2015, I didn’t realize that there were hundreds…if not thousands of travel blogs out there. It’s an oversaturated market that we got into very late in the game. I wish I had started a blog after my first trip abroad in 2011, but woulda shoulda coulda right?
While it certainly helps to be one of the first in anything, I still don’t think it is too late to start a blog. The internet isn’t going anywhere, social media isn’t going anywhere, YouTube isn’t going anywhere and brands are only becoming more and more aware of the power of bloggers and social marketing.
Your goal doesn’t have to be the top travel blogger, or to make a lot of money blogging. If you want to start a travel blog because you love traveling and storytelling then go for it! If you do want to be well known and make money then go for that – just be aware of the workload and competition! Either way, blogging can teach you so much about marketing, traveling, SEO, and a whole rabbit hole of internet savviness that we are constantly unraveling. Now if you’re ready to give it a go and start your own blog read on!