Welcome to another post where I try to answer all your questions! How do you make money? How can you afford to travel full-time? What's a professional travel blogger? Are you kidding me? Sounds amazing, how can I do it? Seriously can you tell me exactly how?
Most pro travel bloggers have written articles answering this question so there are lots more guides online that cover multiple ways to get started and make money. It's all pretty personal and ultimately up to you, how much work you want to put in, and what you're comfortable with.
I've been a successful travel blogger for a little over a year now, so I'm going to tell you how I got started. It would take forever for me to get into every detail, so let's go with the basic steps on how to get started, or the things I wish someone had told me!
Heads up, this post contains affiliate links to recommended companies.
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." Walt Disney
so you wanna be a travel blogger
My first piece of advice? Get ready for a whole lot of work. Running a travel blog can easily suck up all your time, everything from staying on top of social media to keeping track of earnings to writing the actual blog itself. There's a lot going on behind the scenes.
When you first start, you'll be putting in lots of work to build your brand and attract readers. You'll have to write some decent content and then take the time to promote it, reply to comments, interact with other travel bloggers, and so on. I'm talking 12 hour days, folks.
You are creating and building something completely from scratch, and you're the only one there to put in all the work to do it. So, yeah, it's a lot of work in the beginning. If anyone tells you any different, then watch out, because their pants are probably on fire.
"Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster." Theodore Roosevelt
These days, travel blogging is over-saturated field. Everyone and their grandma has a travel blog. So, I'd say figure out the one (or several) things that set you apart from the rest and dive into that niche! What makes you a unique snowflake? What skills or knowledge do you have that would be interesting to others? That's what's going to set you apart.
For example, I am a solo, vegan, minimalist, full-time traveler, and housesitter. (And, I think i’m the only one.) So I use my skills, knowledge, and experience to my advantage by giving my advice on all these unique lifestyle choices and engaging with people that are similar to or interested in learning about any these things.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
choose a name
Choose a unique name (that's not already taken!). This may be one of the hardest initial steps. Some people go with a short phrase, some go with an adjective or adverb and their front or last name. You want it to be unique, catchy, easy to remember, and easy to spell. Take the time to check and make sure the domain name is open and that the handle is free on all social media accounts.
I chose Burger Abroad because my last name is Burger and I travel abroad. Easy to say, spell and remember. It's also funny because I'm a vegan and my last name is Burger (that's just the universe being funny right there), but I'm also a huge foodie, so I write a lot about both food and travel, and Burger Abroad implies food and travel. Veganburgers are also my favorite. So meta, you guys.
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Jack London
get a website
I chose a website provider that does everything. And it’s not wordpress. It’s Jimdo. It gives you everything you need: a domain name, custom email addresses, storage, customer support, and you get a huge assortment of themes that you can change anytime you want (for free) and also completely customize. All in one. You can even do it all from an app! I love Jimdo for being user-friendly, beautiful, intuitive and awesome.
I thought I needed wordpress when I first started, so I tried it out. I tried, and tried, and tried. And I hated it. I found it difficult, annoying and tedious. It wasn't for me. I was pretty stoked when I discovered Jimdo and realized life didn't have to suck so much.
What's the difference? The huge difference between the two is that in wordpress you do all your work in a detached, separate screen with additional boxes for all the settings, and it can be confusing, complicated and redundant. Don't even get me started on the plug-ins you have to install and update. Or the themes you have to purchase, install and manage, not to mention that they are so over-used and transparent that you can identify them on sight, because so many bloggers are using the exact same ones. Ugh. How unoriginal.
In Jimdo you get to do everything exactly where it natively is. I get to write this blog post right here on this page and see exactly how it looks in real time as I type it. Maybe it's the minimalist in me, but I really love the ease and simplicity of that. No updating, installing, managing, or costs. Ever. Change settings, styles or themes whenever you want. Easy breezy. Unlimited creativity. Can't beat that.
Another noteworthy difference: support. Wordpress, you're on your own. Jimdo, you have live chat assistance. They personally respond to your questions and requests. 'Nuff said right there. And, and, and: Jimdo is continually upgrading and improving their design element functions so that users are constantly and pleasantly surprised by the user platform. (Not so much with wordpress.)
Also, (do you really even need more things at this point?)... you can constantly change and customize your website to your hearts content. Mine is ultra minimalist because that's me, but the sky is the limit with what you can do, design and style wise. Check out these other awesomely successful travel bloggers all using Jimdo: Just One Way Ticket, I Dreamed of This, Dante Harker, and Coffee with a Slice of Life. Like me, they all travel the world full-time and have profitable Jimdo websites. Coincidence? I think not.
"If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much." Jim Rohn
Set up all your social media accounts under the same handle. Be consistent in this. You don't want your handles to be different, abbreviated, changed, or worse, be completely different words or phrases. This could be confusing for people that want to connect with and follow you. Once you get all your accounts set up, then start to use them. Like, share, retweet, etc. Get involved. Get noticed. And be mindful of what you share.
When you start writing posts and are ready to share them, this is how you're going to be doing it. I mainly share my posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. You need a personal page before you can set up your website's page on Facebook and Google+, so make sure to set up both on each because it makes things easier. And you want to join as many Facebook groups as you can stand because this is not only how most travel bloggers connect and share, it's also a great way to advertise your posts to interested people that want to read them.
Then, save yourself countless hours plugging away by simplifying and streamlining your social media. Unless you really love spending all your waking hours watching a gazillion social media feeds (and hey if you do, then more power to ya!) but I don't, and you don't have to, either. There are tools that will do it for you. Personally I use Buffer, where you can pop in all your content you want to share and it will do it for you. It even calculates the best times, so that’s a lot better than I can, or even want to, get involved. And sites like Crowdfire can generate all kinds of reports to help you keep track of your social media happenings.
Also, start a newsletter asap. Some send out a newsletter at every new post, some weekly, some monthly. I don't like to spam people, so I do one a month. In mine, I share current blog posts, what I'm up to, what I've been doing, along with some relevant affiliate links. It's pretty much just a quick cliffsnotes summary of the entire blog's activity in the past month. For this I use Mailchimp.
“I’d rather hustle 24/7 than slave 9 to 5.” Unknown
When to monetize is up to you. And how. There's a variety of ways to monetize and make money with a blog. There's affiliates, advertisements, paid links, sponsored posts, brand partnerships, paid and/or comped reviews, press trips and more. It's quite different from a normal job where you do the work and get a paycheck. This type of income is more like playing a game and then getting paid randomly and sporadically if you play well enough. If you like that kind of risk and reward, then this is definitely your game.
There are multiple tools you can use to monetize, such as affiliate window, the midgame, social publi. These basically do all the work for you, acting as the middle man, and connecting bloggers to brands. Create a profile with all your info, and then connect with companies on anything from advertising to sponsored posts. Or you can skip this, because once you get to a certain point, companies will start contacting you directly to work with you. And then, use discretion in who you work with.
You can also choose to be an affiliate for specific companies by working directly with them through their own affiliate programs, which you will then earn a percentage from any clicks or sales generated by your website, or sometimes receive a discount on the service if you use it. You can refer people to an entire website or to specific pages or products of a website.
What does that all mean? An example of a referral to a website is World Nomads, where I would earn if you click through my link and purchase something. I use them for travel insurance myself so I'm happy to promote it because I personally think it's great.
"If you don't value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents - start charging for it." Kim Garst
Amazon is a great example of a referral that can even be to a specific product. My packing list post is full of amazon links to specific items so that you can purchase anything off of my list. And an example of a referral that gives you a service discount is Trusted Housesitters. I use the site and pay the yearly membership fee. But for everyone that uses my referral link and signs up, then they extend my own membership by adding on extra months. This doesn't make me money per se, it just saves me from spending money.
Monetization strategies often change and evolve over time. You can try out one way, see what works, try out another one, etc. You just have to see what's best for you. I've seen income reports of people making anywhere from $1000 to $10,000+ a month travel blogging, and although I'm not going to tell you exactly how much I make on that scale, but it's definitely enough to keep me going! It definitely helps to be smart about your income as well, because there are ways to automatically make more money from your blog.
I recommend trying a combination of affiliates, ads, sponsored content and more. Having multiple income streams is beneficial so that if any one of them bites the dust, it's no big deal, you can just add on another. You can also do return on investment deals, such as reviews and endorsements that give you sponsored products/services for free, like food, products, tours, transportation and hotels.
I prefer to recommend things that I know and love. If it's a good product or service and I think that it would be valuable to share, then that's great. And if I can make money while doing so, at no additional cost, then well, that's even better. I currently am affiliated with a handful of brands, which I change out periodically if they're not performing.
The most vital piece of advice to getting started is to just do it. Do it now. Figure it out. Create. Mess up. Make mistakes. Read. Explore. Learn. Keep going. Keep going even further. Have fun. Make it work. Create what you want because it's your choice, your decision, your life and you can do whatever you want!
"Do not wait; the time will never be 'just right.' Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along." George Herbert
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that may me earn compensation if you purchase through them.