How do travel bloggers make money?
It's the number one question asked immediately after the words "I'm a travel blogger" are spoken. Sometimes we just say we are writers, because the truth is travel blogging can be difficult to explain, and the income earned is completely unique for everyone.
Forbes says people trust people, so fundamentally, we are influencers. We are content creators, writers, photographers, and in my case, eaters of lots of food.
I've called it a game before, and it really kindof is - except there's no rulebook and you're only rewarded when you play well. The name of the game is "Mastering Multiple Streams of Income", so get comfortable with being uncomfortable and you'll be golden. Some months you'll earn less, some you'll earn more, and you'll never really be able to accurately predict your income, but that risk of uncertainty is the price you pay for the reward of freedom.
Since this is the most common question I get asked, here's an explanation of some of the top ways that work for myself and other successful travel bloggers.
Heads up, this post contains affiliate links to recommended companies. (One of the ways travel bloggers make money!)
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As website owners, travel bloggers can charge for advertising in many different forms, from text links to banner ads to newsletter features. These partnerships are directly negotiated with brands. Fees are usually charged per link, ad or mention, and can range anywhere from several hundred to several thousand USD, depending on where it goes and for how long.
Bloggers can also use monetizing platforms that have comprehensive advertising networks already established, like Adthrive or Adsense, which serve ads automatically adjusted to a content or audience. Just like this...
These passive income money makers earn according to views and/or clicks so it's fairly easy to generate a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars a month without any work at all.
2. sponsored content
Sponsored content on the bloggers's website can be an original article that a blogger is commissioned to write about a brand or a topic wherein a company's link is placed, or it can be entirely pre-written articles, submitted by the brand's staff writers, that the blogger simply posts on their website.
Often, publishers will contact the bloggers directly to commission them to produce and publish the content. There's also a more proactive approach - by joining an influencer marketing platform, such as Cooperatize, FameBit, or Blog Meets Brand, bloggers can pick and choose which brand to work with, and what content to create, whenever they want.
The prices for sponsored content are usually based on the amount of work required from the blogger, as well as the page views and/or reach of the account, and can easily soar into the high hundreds or thousands.
It's important to know your worth and choose a fair price that reflects the value of the service you are providing. Social Bluebook is an excellent resource to help determine the current value of both a blog post and social media sharing.
"If you don't value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents - start charging for it."
3. social media
Sponsored content can also be done solely though a social media profile, such as instagram or twitter. Bloggers can receive payments for a post to advertise the brand's product or service to their own followers. This can be quite lucrative on instagram, where influencers often earn several hundred, and sometimes up to $9K!, per post.
4. brand ambassadorships
Bloggers can enter into brand ambassadorships, bespoke contracts, with certain brands that can last from a few months to a year. The blogger agrees to advertise the brand for a set amount of time, most often in the absence of major competitors, and with a specified amount of advertising, social media exposure, and dedicated content. These are several thousand dollar deals, with top influencers earning up to a cool $20K.
"Fortune sides with him who dares."
5. affiliate programs
Bloggers can earn commission through affiliate links placed on their website. These work when purchases are made through the links, and at no additional cost to the buyer. Affiliate programs work best for bloggers if they're consistent with the blogger's niche, so they make sense to refer to readers, and likewise provide a relevant, and worthy, product or service.
Affiliate programs generally work two ways. You can sign up directly through the companies' own affiliate program and manage everything on a dedicated dashboard. A great example is my website provider, Jimdo, who also have their own affiliate program that I use to refer you to so that you can also create your own travel blog.
Alternatively, you can use a marketplace, which matches influencers with brands to make connections. A good example of one I use is Awin. They have a massive database, user-friendly dashboard and good programs for Lonely Planet, Trusted Housesitters, and more. Affiliates can easily provide a passive monthly income of several hundred bucks or more.
"If plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters."
6. referral credits
Referral credits or rewards can be as valuable as money if they are from companies that you already use, since they can save you from paying out of pocket.
I use referral programs of sites that I use and like. I'm happy to recommend them, and the credit earned saves me money, so it's a no brainer.
For example, with Trusted Housesitters, you get 20% for signing up, and I get a 2 month credit. With Booking.com, you get $20 off for booking, and I get a $20 credit. And with Airbnb, you get $40 off for booking, and I get a $20 credit. These credits earn me free housesitting accommodation, free bookings in private homes, and free hotel rooms.
Don't underestimate the value of credit. It's just as good as money if it saves you yours. They may be small potatoes, but they're free potatoes, and who doesn't like free potatoes? They're where fries come from.
“I’d rather hustle 24/7 than slave 9 to 5.”
Bloggers can earn income from writing review articles about their personal experience with products or services. These can be paid, or can be simply in exchange for said product or service, or both.
I tend to do quite a lot of food reviews, since I love to eat, and I also like sharing just how darn easy it is to eat vegan anywhere in the world (because it's really ridiculously easy).
I also do reviews for other travel-related brands such as gear, hotels, apparel, transportation, and attractions. Reviews can earn anywhere from several hundred to several thousand in product, value, and payment. Plus, they can be fun, like when I rode the i360!
8. press trips
Press trips, and destination marketing, are where a brand partners with a blogger by sending them to a particular location or event to provide a comprehensive review of their experience, and provide exposure and promotion for tourism purposes.
These trips sound great because they often provide airfare, activities, and accommodation, but keep in mind you will be working nonstop and trying to create content around the clock, so many bloggers ask for additional compensation for their time and value, sometimes upwards of several thousand. Afterall, time is money. Some say it's the only real currency we have.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch."
Bloggers can crowdsource their income by receiving donations directly through their websites. More common than you'd think, this explains why there are so many 'donate' or 'buy me lunch' buttons in bloggers' navigation and sidebars, but this may be more frequent for housesitters like myself who often receive money for expenses and tips.
A slightly more reliable option to crowdfund is to use Patreon, where fans (called patrons) choose to pledge monthly amounts, and the income is collected by Patreon and paid out to the creator. If you can generate enough patrons to support you, then this can potentially be a helpful step to a more sustainable income.
Additional opportunities often pop up in freelance writing, photography, or social media, for other blogs or websites, from exposure of one's own blog. These can be one time deals or multiples negotiated into one payment, and usually go for a few hundred or more per piece.
Ultimately, freelancing usually serves the dual purpose of getting paid work as well as getting additional exposure for the blogger on another, usually more influential, website.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Thomas A. Edison
11. selling products
Some people earn money by selling their own digital products that they're created, usually instructional e-books and e-courses. Photographers sell prints, artists sell hand-drawn maps, and business-savvy folk sell branded merchandise with their logos.
Popular e-book sales can earn some authors several thousand a month. Other bloggers, like myself, who don't feel like writing entire books, can piggy-back onto this by recommending their books and earning affiliate sales, like in my top 10 travel books article.
“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.”
Nathan W Morris minimalist travel quotes
12. live events
People persons can earn from participating in live events. These can be things like fan meet ups, speaking engagements at conferences, tours, retreats, or private classes in writing or cooking or yoga or any other established niche of the blogger.
Some influencers offer a reward tier on Patreon that offers a one on one meet up that can go for a few hundred bucks. Speaking engagements and hosting local classes can earn a few thousand per event. And custom guided tours and retreats can bring in several thousand, both per person and per event, so these can be pretty darn lucrative gigs.
The moral of the story is that the sky's the limit with how and what you can earn travel blogging. There are a myriad of ways you can create your own unique income streams that work just for you. Dive in, don't be afraid of change, and most importantly - don't stop!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that may me earn compensation if you purchase through them.
"Never stop never stopping."