When I was 25 years old, I decided to trust in the kindness of strangers and undertake a hitchhiking trip with no end date. I had saved around £2,000 (GBP) from my time teaching English in South Korea and I expected the trip to last as long as my funds did – it was one of those trips that you do once, then go back to ‘real life’. Whatever that is. As it was to be a once in a lifetime event, I decided to start a website – Great Big Scary World – and share the stories and photos with my family. I came across WordPress, a platform I was unfamiliar with, and I muddled through making a website (learn how to make a website very easily here). My funds depleted over the next six months, but during that time I learnt how to make money from a website and that funded many parts of my travels (as well as regular stints of work) which kept me on the road for the following half a decade. And during that time, a lot of people have asked me, how do you make money from a travel blog?
Firstly, I don’t make a lot of money from this site – I use it largely for my own enjoyment, only when I feel like sharing. However, I do make some money for something I enjoy and I know how a travel blog (or any other information based website) could be used to make a decent income. One of the best things about this income is that much of it is residual, meaning that it comes in even when you are not working if you have set up things correctly – on the downside, you might put in many, many hours before seeing any return, but that’s what passion is about, right?! In this post, I’m going to share different ways that you can make money from a travel blog.
How Serious Are You About Making Money From Your Travel Blog?
Ask yourself this question. Everyone (a lot of people) would love to travel the world whilst sharing their thoughts and photos, then get paid for it – making a decent income from a travel blog isn’t a financially lucrative or reliable income for most people. And if you want to make it work, you really have to put in some serious time and effort to get it going. That being said, if it starts working for you, you might find yourself living a life that you love – I found a balance between blogs, seasonal work, and travel over the past few years that made my life a hugely exciting adventure (for me). If the hard work element doesn’t put you off and you are still serious about making money from your blog, I highly recommend you take The Business of Travel Blogging course by Nomadic Matt. After fumbling around on the internet for useful information and struggling to find anything useful, Matt presented all of the information I needed in one concise place and there is no better resource for learning about how to make money from a website.
A Word of Warning Before You Start
Making money on the internet is not particularly easy to do if you don’t know what you are doing… and it may take hundreds of hours before you see any return. I stumbled into it quite by accident after reading one of Nomadic Matt’s books (no longer available as he has replaced it with the course mentioned above). And if you do start making money, there will always be haters. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have told me not to ‘sell out’ by making money from my site. They want me to make content, lots of it, and still have a job to support myself. Many people have emailed me to ask me to give them my $2 book to them for free because they ‘can’t afford it’, yet it took me many, many weeks of full time work to create. I think everyone should aim to make a living doing what they love, so I don’t have a problem with people doing so, but for the integrity of my own site and general aesthetics, I don’t have ad banners or ad widgets installed on my site.
With that out the way, here are some ways you can make some money travel blogging….
Ways You Can Make Money From Your Travel Blog
- Affiliate Sales: An affiliate sale is when you sell someone else’s product and get paid a percentage of the final sale price as a referrer. If you use good products / services that you genuinely believe in, sending more traffic their way and getting a reward is a great option. I use World Nomads travel insurance and recommend it on my travel insurance page – if someone buys their insurance after clicking my link, I get 10% of the sale price and that person gets great insurance without being charged any extra. It’s a win-win situation, but requires certain levels of traffic and trust before you make money in this way.
- Selling Your Own Products: Digital products (courses, ebooks, etc) are extremely easy to produce and put up for sale. However, they take an awful lot of time to produce, require good marketing, and leave you open to criticism. Physical products are another option, but obviously this entails all the difficulties and limitations of a ‘real world’ business. Fortunately physical products can also be sold using a drop shipping service where customers order your product and it is shipped to them without you ever having to do anything. I do this with my books – someone orders a physical copy of my book and it is printed then shipped to them without me having to do anything. Marketing the books (or any other product for that matter) can be very difficult and time consuming. How do you persuade someone to buy your product over an author / brand they know and trust?
- Diversify: The world of blogging is very undefined and allows room for movement into other areas. I know people who now make living from Instagram or Youtube, and I even made some money on my Youtube channel when I was posting videos more regularly. Be open to new revenue incomes that may arise. For example, my site ranks quite well in certain countries for terms related to teaching English and when I was approached by a recruitment company, I checked them out, had a three hour Skype conversation with the founder, and made a relationship where I refer teachers to them for a fee. You can see the page here (and also apply to teach English in South Korea if that’s your thing).
- Accept Offers: The more exposure you get, the more you will be approached by brands offering you the opportunity to try their products or services, or to do other forms of work for them. At first they will offer you free stuff, then they will offer to pay you for testing their products. It is hard to find these opportunities if you go looking for them, but they will come to you if you grow a natural audience that is interested in your content. Do what you love and be willing to listen to new ideas from people who may approach you.
- Produce Content For Other People: Producing content for other people is generally quite low paid and competitive, but when your audience grows you may find yourself approached by brands who will pay you to produce content in whatever medium it is that you choose to focus on. I spent ages looking for sites to write for (rather unsuccessfully) when I first started sharing online, but when I focused on my own content, people came to me to write for them.
- Sponsored Posts: Once you have grown a platform, you may have the opportunity to promote products or websites. When doing this, you need to disclose that you are producing sponsored content and the amount you can charge depends on the size of your audience. Don’t mess with the internet rules about sponsored content when doing this or you will disappear!
- Ads / Banner: I think these are only worthwhile when you have very large volumes of traffic and I choose not to use them because the returns are low, and the algorithms may choose to promote products or brands that I don’t believe in. I also think they don’t look that great, but that’s largely because I want to keep my site about my experiences and my recommendations.
These are just a few ideas, but ultimately they are dependent upon growing a natural and interested audience. Focus on producing what you enjoy (and employ good SEO practice to really grow) and hopefully opportunities will present themselves.
How Can You Start Making Money From A Travel Blog?
Firstly you need to make a website (step by step instructions here) and then focus on producing relevant content. If you’re serious about making money from your travel blog or website, you should then take the The Business of Travel Blogging course by Nomadic Matt. It’s an investment that will pay back many times over if you follow the advice of the course and I would have probably never made a penny if I hadn’t read Matt’s book all those years ago.
My final piece of advice is don’t try to cover everything – you can’t compete with Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet, and the other big players in the field. Choose your niche and go with it. It will also make for a much more enjoyable process of enjoying content. And when you’re enjoying what you doing, it doesn’t even feel like work.
If you have any further questions or thoughts about making money from a travel blog, please post them in the comments below.