The most common question that I am asked here on my blog is “how the heck do you make money?” Whenever I meet someone on the road and introduce myself as a travel blogger, they usually look at me like I have two heads and then promptly inquire about how I make a living in this gig.
I really like to be completely transparent with my readers, so today I’d like to give you guys some behind the scenes insight into how I am able to make a living and travel so much through my blog.
For anyone reading this in hopes of getting some tips on how to earn income off their own travel blog, first off props to you, but second, don’t let that be your only motivation. If you’re starting a travel blog solely in hopes of making money, it’s not going to work. You should be starting a travel blog because you love travelling, writing, photography, and creating content – the paycheck should be nothing but a sweet bonus.
It’s Not Easy to Make Money Travel Blogging
Like I said, if you’re starting a blog with the sole intention of making money it is going to fail. Do you know which blogs make the most money? Blogs with great content. Do you know who produces great content? People who are passionate about what they do. Not people looking for a quick buck. There truly is no quick way to make a “quick buck” travel blogging. I was blogging for over a year before I saw my first big paycheck of $100 come in. Making money blogging is no easy feat; it requires a lot of time, hard work, and commitment to your craft. It also requires a lot of resiliency and passion. You can’t get discouraged if you’re not making any money of your blog and your mom is your only email subscriber. Pushing past the “start-up” phase of your blog is key to seeing long term success. If I had given up after 9 months when I was certain no one besides my family was reading my blog, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
It Doesn’t All Come from One Source
There are a lot of different ways I make money travel blogging. It’s important to note that my income is not based off of one source; my income comes from multiple sources. You’ll hear the same thing from anyone currently travel blogging full-time: you need multiple sources of income in order to earn a living from blogging. That means you need to master different trades and utilize a handful of strategies in order to generate the kind of income you want. It’s certainly a lot more work than a basic 9-5 job where you just have to show up and a guaranteed a paycheque, but it’s well worth it in the long run.
My Income Isn’t Always the Same
It’s also good to note that online income from blogging is not necessarily steady or recurring. Especially when you first start out, you may go through periods where you earn thousands of dollars a month, and periods where you’re barely scraping $100 from your website. As you continue to blog and earn income you’ll be able to see when your income fluctuates; for example, it’s easier to earn more money in the summer because more people are travelling, and in the winter you take a pay cut. You can either plan your expenses around this and spend less in the winter, or look into mastering different trades during those winter months to try and stabilize your income.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how I actually make money of this thing!
This is my most recent stream of income: in April 2017 I launched the A&A Shop where I’m currently selling prints and shirts that promote my brands message of sustainable travel. This is one of the most stable ways I earn income from my blog and I love being able to include my readers in the A&A mission to see the world and save it at the same time.
Paid Marketing Campaigns
90% of the time when I am traveling I am working on a paid marketing campaign, meaning I’ve been hired by a destination, airline, hotel, or even tour company to produce content for them. So while it looks like I’m always off having fun in all corners of the globe (which I certainly am!), I am also still doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes to produce content for these companies.
A blog post takes several hours to put together: writing, editing, editing and uploading photos, creating a custom-made shareable image for Pinterest, promoting the post across social media. Plus, the time I need to spend in the destination researching, talking to locals, and participating in any tours or activities I’ve been invited to. Social media posts on these trips can also be tedious as you want to make sure you’re sharing the best quality images that truly promote the experience in a positive light.
I also do video content for some of the companies I work with which is another beast in itself. I’m still fairly new to working with iMovie and video editing, so these projects take me way longer than anything else. This is usually what I’m doing in the evenings when I travel, editing my photos, going through my notes from the day to write blog posts, and editing video footage.
I sometimes do sponsored posts on my blog when I am contacted by a company with a great product that relates to my brand and I think would benefit my readers. I turn down almost 90% of sponsored content requests I get because they simply don’t make sense to promote on my blog (ie. teeth whiteners and detox tea). However, I have done sponsored posts in the past for amazing companies such as Schwinn Bikes, THINX, and Norton Point.
Sometimes sponsored posts are paid, in which I am given the product to try for free and compensated on top of that for the content, and other times I am just given the product for free in exchange for a post. Depending on how much content the client is asking for I may or may not charge a fee on top of the free product.
Affiliate marketing is a passive way to generate income because you set it up once and basically just forget about it until your paycheck comes in. This is essentially where I receive commission from promoting a brands products or services. I partner with few affiliates because I want to stick with brands who fit my message the best and don’t want to be weighing down my content with coupon codes or links all the time. I really do only promote brands and services that I personally use and trust. For example, I currently have an affiliate partnership with Cape Clasp, AirBnb, and Serengetee.
Freelance Writing for Other Publications
I originally started my blog because I loved to write and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. I recently decided to explore this talent of mine further and pitch my writing ideas to other online publications and print magazines. Sometimes I have so many ideas to write about one destination that I don’t want to oversaturate my blog, or I have a post idea that doesn’t really fit with my blog and so I pitch these ideas elsewhere. Freelance writing has been a lot of fun for me as I like sharing my work with as many people as possible and reaching as large of an audience as I can. I recently landed a recurring gig as a freelance travel writer with On the Go Magazine in Toronto, which has helped to stabilize my income a little bit.
If you’re going to be a freelance writer, you need to develop a tough skin, similar to how you did in the start-up phase of your blog. This industry is full of rejection and you may spend hours perfecting a pitch for what you think is a great article, just to have it shut down by an editor in a one-line email. Freelance writing is a lot of fun though, and there’s nothing like landed a byline in a magazine – just prepared to hear no a lot and push through that until you land your perfect gig.
Another thing I’d like to mention before we end off here, is that sometimes I’m not paid at all. Occasionally my trips, or certain aspects of my trips, are “sponsored” so I don’t have to pay for them. Sometimes I’m contacted by a specific airline, hotel, or company that would like to host me on a free trip in exchange for different types of promotion across my blog and social media. This is actually how a lot of my first trips were structured – I had one company reach out to me wanting to offer me either a free hotel stay, free flight, or free guided tour. I’d then build my trip around that – reaching out to other companies nearby to see if I could get the rest of my trip sponsored. At the end of the day, whatever aspects couldn’t be sponsored same straight out of my pocket. When you look at it, although I was able to receive some incredible freebies that I am eternally grateful for, I actually lose money on these trips.
Nonetheless, I think it’s important to mention, as this was a big part of how I got “my foot in the door” and had my brand recognized by tourism boards and big travel companies. Now a day, I still travel like this when I have extra income and time to do so and it’s something I think myself and my readers would enjoy.
That’s all for today guys! I hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes look into my life as a travel blogger. Let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this about the realities of blogging!