When I first got into travel blogging, the way to make money was by selling links and having 40-50 niche websites with Google adwords ads. Press trips didn’t exist for bloggers and getting paid for our work was tough.
There was no such thing as an instagrammer or ‘influencer.’ Ads didn’t pay much, and the idea of getting paid to travel was laughable to most of the industry.
Thankfully it is much easier to monetize these days. It’s also a more competitive market. There are ways to jump ahead, though. I discuss them in this post if you want to step back, take a read, and come back to see this follow up.
In the video below I talk about the top ten things that you can do to make money from a blog, and this post includes all of the resources and links mentioned in the video. Have a look and by the time we’re done, you’ll be ready to make some scrylla:
As mentioned in the video, these steps are listed in a logical order based on how established you are. Again this is a long game rather than a quick overnight money-maker. However if you do it right, your blog can become a real job, and a resource that helps others at the same time:
1. Use your blog as a resume to get freelance writing work
My biggest source of income during the first couple years of my blog was freelance writing roles. At first they won’t pay all that well but you’ll be establishing yourself and in time you can charge more commensurate with your experience (and influence).
At first I was getting $50-$75 per article, which was enough to keep me going in cheap countries, and eventually I was able to charge more.
It helps a lot when a publication can see that you have some reach yourself to help share the article and get more views, and the more that you grow the easier it will be to get opportunities that pay better.
Writing articles not only helps with your bank account, but it gets you back links as well which is great for SEO! You can find a listing of resources here:
2. Work as a virtual assistant for other blogs
Working for a more established blogger will help you understand how to become more effective with your own blog. These jobs mostly come from in-person networking.
At first, I think it’s great to attend industry events like Travel Massive, and even TBEX, if for no other reason than to network with other bloggers, to market your VA services, and to become aware of opportunities.
Or, try to just offer your services to a blogger you love. My full-time assistant reached out several years ago and asked if she could intern for me. Over the years, she’s become an essential part of my team. You would be surprised how many bloggers need help but don’t know where to look. Also consider the Facebook groups and industry events:
- The Business of Blogging
- Superstar Blogging’s Facebook Group (Requires Course purchase)
- Traverse Mingle events
3. Get into affiliate marketing
It’s never too early to start with affiliate marketing. The reason why I suggest getting into this early is because the pages that you put on your blog earlier will have more time to be indexed by Google. This is a long game, and you may not see the results from the fruits of your labor for a year or two, but this can become incredibly worthwhile.
For example, I wrote about what to pack for Southeast Asia four months into my blogging career and now it’s one of my most successful affiliate pages. It took a bit of time but it paid off. This is always true for me. I never really know how a post I write will do until much later, so I just keep trying!
You can become an affiliate for almost anything these days, so think outside the box. Here are a few great networks that I use:
- Whichever hotel booking and clothing sites you regularly use.
- Whichever travel insurance you use.
The key is to only promote products that you truly love and use yourself. To successfully market products to your audience, their trust always has to come first. Check out this post for info on how to write a good affiliate post.
4. Place ads
Ad revenue is based on traffic so in the beginning, there’s not much point. However this will eventually be worthwhile and it’s something I really wish I had done about a year sooner!
At first it was hard to see my site with ads on it. I was so used to it looking the way it had for years, ad-free. However I believe that most readers don’t mind them (I haven’t had any complaints) and that your loyal fans will be happy to see you making money. I personally use Mediavine.
5. Sell your photos
Photography is a big part of travel blogging. I spent quite a while learning my way around the camera and practicing with editing. These days, photography is a huge priority when I travel. Having a visually appealing website is important, and since Instagram is such a huge marketing tool, it’s a great way to get paid work. Most of my paid work actually comes to me through my Instagram!
You can also sell stock photos online. Some people make a pretty good passive income this way. The rules are somewhat strict about what you can have in your photo, but if you are traveling and have a backlog anyway, it could be worth it. I can’t personally recommend it as I haven’t tried it, but if you have please let me know in the comments below if it works for you (or if not, tell us why!)
6. Monetize videos
Plenty of bloggers make videos here and there but I don’t see much crossover between blogs and YouTube. People seem to be very dedicated to one or the other but not both.
If you make great videos and are consistent, building up an audience on YouTube and putting ads on them is a great way to develop an income stream. This is also a long-game approach, like most of what I suggest on here, but if you build up a strong and consistent audience then you’ll have yet another passive income stream.
For more on how to get started on the right foot, check out my review of the YouTube course that I used.
7. Work on paid campaigns
Eventually, when you have built up your audience and social media channels, you may have paid opportunities come your way. It might include product partnerships (like mine with ZAGG) or destinations (like mine with Kyrgyzstan), wherein you agree to a certain amount of deliverables in exchange for an all expenses paid trip and some cash.
This sounds like the dream, and it is, but it only makes sense if the destination and the campaign really make sense with your brand, and if you are capable of delivering everything that you promise.
As for how to get these opportunities, there’s no secret formula other than to, as Steve Martin famously said, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”
I rarely pitch, and I never really did. These opportunities tend to come directly to me. Once you get to a certain level, you’ll have more opportunities coming to you than you can accept, and if you have to be out cold pitching, it’s probably not quite time to be seeking these types of opportunities yet. Work on building your audience, building historical data to prove that you are worth spending money on, and putting out amazing content, and the work will follow, trust me!
8. Develop your own products
The most successful entrepreneurs in this industry have their own products for sale.
It’s important to have a minimum viable audience before jumping in and creating a product, because otherwise there is the danger that you will spend all this time on product creation and not have any buyers. Your time is better spent building up an audience first, and marketing products to them later. Besides, without really being an authority on any particular subject, which requires time and establishing yourself, it’s kind of hard to sell products anyway!
There are not many travel bloggers who have a podcast, but this is another great way to make money and contribute something meaningful that is not already incredibly saturated.
I believe this is actually a huge opportunity and if you can come up with something of quality that has not already been thought of, you can strike while the iron is hot. While I haven’t reviewed it, I fully trust Pat Flynn and would take his course on podcasting if I were to start one myself.
10. Become a public speaker
Public speaking is a great way to make money while also spreading awareness and establishing yourself as an authority. Like the previous few suggestions, this is something that will make sense to pursue after you have established yourself.
This is something I have not done a lot of, although I would love to get into it more. It’s a great way to add credibility to your brand.
Those are the best ways that I’m aware of to make cash from a travel blog. None of what I listed will get you rich quickly, but it is sustainable, based on providing something to people that is honest and of real value, and can help you build a lasting business that survives the test of time.
Most of all, innovate. Stay on top of the curve, keep working hard, and come up with new and exciting ideas. Put your energy into the things that you can do better than anyone else, and the money will follow.