When I tell people I’m a travel blogger, I can pretty much guarantee one of two reactions. It’s either excitement, or total bafflement. Either way, it’s almost inevitable that I’ll be asked the same question: how do you make money travel blogging? I’ve been asked this so many times now that I’ve finally decided it would be easier just to write a blog post about it!
The answer is complicated. I make money in a lot of ways, some of them totally random. Other bloggers I know do things completely differently. The beauty of this industry is that it is so free – there are no right or wrong ways to do things, and no “one size fits all” structure for making money. It’s all about using your talents.
But first a word of warning. If your only goal with starting a travel blog is to make money – DON’T DO IT! If you don’t really love blogging or at least some aspect of blogging, this industry is not for you. Your blog is your baby, you have to put in so much time and devotion to it that it could just take over your life. There are far easier ways to make money online than blogging! I would only recommend travel blogging as a career if you already love blogging, writing, photography, or social media (or preferably all of the above) – and you want to turn that passion into a way of making money.
If you want to be a travel blogger full time, there are quite a few ways to cash in on your hobby. This is how I make money from travel blogging…
Some of the following links are affiliate links. I’ll make a small commission for referring you, without costing you anything extra! It all helps support this site.
Before you read on, watch this ad to donate some money to charity (and help my blog out). More info here.
Like I mentioned above, making money blogging is really all about finding ways to cash in on your talents. My strongest talent (I think) is writing, so that’s what I use to produce the majority of my income. I write on a freelance basis for a number of online publications, and they pay me nicely for my work.
How to Find Freelance Work as a Blogger
People often ask me how I found my freelance writing gigs. In almost all cases – they found me. Once I’d built up a successful little blog and a social media following, people began to notice me. People started getting in touch asking me to write for them, and slowly I built up a portfolio of work that I could use to show clients and negotiate better rates.
There are sites like Upwork, oDesk, and Fiverr which you can use to find freelance writing gigs. But I don’t think you should! For one thing, those sites usually take an unfair cut of your earnings – sometimes up to 20%. And for another, the pay is usually insulting low. $5 to write a 500 word article? Um… no thanks! People hiring freelancers to do a job do so because they can’t do that job themselves – you have a skill set they don’t have and for that reason you should be paid fairly. So say no to crappy pay – even when you’re starting out.
A better way to find freelance work is to simply pitch to editors. Joining communities of travel bloggers, like the Lonely Planet Pathfinders, can be a good way to get an “in”, or you can just do some research and find publications that would be a good fit for your writing style. Come up with a great idea, get some really solid examples of your best writing online, and pitch to editors. Then pitch again and again – and develop a thick skin, because this industry is full of rejection!
Advertising on My Blog
Quick word of advice. If you’re planning on advertising on your blog in any way, you need to be self hosted. If you’re running your blog through wordpress.com, the free version of WordPress that does everything for you, then you can’t advertise in any form except their internal Adwords system (which is ugly and doesn’t pay out much, in my experience). I learnt this the hard way and had my blog totally shut down a few years ago – nearly losing everything I’d ever written.
So go self hosted! You get more control anyway and you can monetise your blog however you want. These are the three things you’ll need:
One – Set up your blog through WordPress.org (rather than .com), but if you’re already on the free version you can switch pretty easily.
Two – You’ll need a host. These are basically companies that you can rent a little bit of the internet from for your site to be on.
Three – Get a domain name (the bit that comes after the www.) to have your blog on. I get mine through 123-Reg.co.uk and definitely recommend them; easy to use and pretty cheap.
These are a few of the different ways I advertise on my travel blog…
Sponsored posts and advertorials are the other main way I make money travel blogging. These are articles that a client has paid me to write on my blog, featuring a mention of their company and usually a link back to their website. There are pretty strict rules around sponsored posting so it’s important to be careful.
Ads in the side-bar or footer sections of my site. Usually, it’s a logo or some other graphic. I’m not really a fan of mess and clutter so I try not to have too many of these, but on occasion, if the brand is a good fit, I’ll add one in.
These are pretty straightforward. For a few brands, I have a special tracking link which I use whenever I’m recommending their products. If you buy something I’ve recommended by clicking that link, I’ll get a small commission. It’s usually around 5%, sometimes less, and I don’t make a lot of money this way, but once it’s set up there is zero work involved so it’s a nice bit of extra pocket money for me. Some bloggers make a killing through affiliate sales, so it is possible.
I’ve used a LOT of affiliate programmes over the years. These are the ones I still use and recommend:
Amazon Affiliate Programme – This is my top performer. Any time I recommend a product, I link to it on Amazon using my referral link.
Awin (previously Affiliate Window) – Lot’s of good travel brands, easy to use platform. I like it for booking.com and hotels.com.
Trade Doubler – Lot’s of good brands, but not as easy to use (in my opinion).
Hostelworld – Works really well because I can use it for things I genuinely recommend. Everytime I recommend a hostel, I use my Hostelworld referral code and if someone books it I’ll make a tiny bit of money.
Paid Press Trips
A lot of the trips I do are press trips organised by a travel brand or a tourism board. They’ll cover most/all travel expenses and create an itinerary of activities and sightseeing for me to see the best side of a destination. Sometimes the trips are themed, like when I worked with Visit Spain on a trip all about the Camino del Norte which had a hiking/outdoorsy theme. Other times they’re more vague, designed to give a broad overview of the destination.
Most of the time, the exchange is just a “free” trip in exchange for blog coverage. I say free in quote marks because when it comes to blogging – nothing is free! 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. I’m trading my time, my skills, and my services for a trip… so it’s not a free holiday by any stretch of the imagination!
Because of this, I sometimes charge a fee when I take part in a press trip or influencer event. Particularly when the client wants to guarantee a certain amount of coverage after the trip. If they are looking for lots of content – be it blog posts or social media – then I will charge a fee based on the amount they’re requesting.
How much do I charge for a press trip?
Well, that really varies hugely depending on what the client wants. For me it’s been anything from £400 – £1500! I don’t charge a daily rate, but put together a bespoke quotation based on what my client is asking for. Other bloggers have fixed daily rates, others don’t charge at all and do it all for the free travel.
Another of my strengths is photography. I have a degree in the subject so I’m actually qualified, and I’ve definitely gotten a lot better over the years. Lately, I’ve started selling some of my photos online as an extra source of income.
How to Sell Your Travel Photos
The simplest way is to sign up to an online network, upload your best photos, and then wait for the money to come in! Otherwise, you could consider creating a shop through your website and making all your images purchasable – but it might be harder for people to find you. These are the two networks I’m using right now…
Shutterstock – This is a stock image database, so you upload as many photos as you like. You make about $0.25 per download on Shutterstock, but there’s no limit to the amount of times one of your pics might be downloaded. If you have some really strong images, especially if they’re of places/things that there aren’t already lots of photos of, then you could see some really good profit. 1000 downloads a month is an extra $250 a month, and once you have everything set up you don’t have to do any work at all – so it’s completely passive income! Sign up here.
Image Brief – The rates on here vary depending on the job. Rather than a stock image database, Image Brief is a site that hooks up photographers with people needing photos. People post what they need a photo of, and if you have the perfect image you can submit it. Some jobs pay out $1500 per photo, and the least I’ve seen is $250. The site sends out an email every day to list the latest job postings, so I just give it a quick check and see if anything matches. Sign up here.
How to Start Making Money Through Your Blog
None of the opportunities I’ve outlined above came to me by mistake or good luck. I worked my butt off for years to get to where I am today! If you’re serious about making money from travel blogging you’re going to need to put in a lot of work. There are exceptions, but in most cases to start making money from a travel blog you need to be getting good traffic, have a decent amount of followers, and/or very strong engagement*. Which means you need to be creating really good content!
There are cheats to get your traffic and followers up quickly, but brands won’t want to work with you if your blog and content isn’t also really good. There are tons of travel blogs out there, so why would someone pay to advertise on a sub-par blog if they can pay the same rate to a really good blogger?
If your blog is good, your engagement strong, and you have an audience, you’re ready to go. But how are people going to find you? Below are a few steps get to started making money through your blog.
*You don’t need to have a huge audience (although it helps!). If you are writing within a particularly small niche, especially one that doesn’t have a lot being written about it, you might be reaching a highly targeted and very engaged audience and that can also be attractive to brands.
Network, network, network!
They say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. But in blogging, it’s more “who knows you” – so make sure all the important people do! Go to events. Go to blogging conferences like TBEX and Traverse. Email PR companies with your media kit. Engage with brands on social media. Do anything and everything you can to get your name out there and meet people.
Create a banging media kit
Want to work with brands as a travel blogger? Make a media kit and make sure it can be easily found on your site. A really good media kit should be simple, professional looking, and full of all your blog’s stats. Feel free to check out mine for some inspiration!
Be easy to contact
Get a professional looking email address (NOT firstname.lastname@example.org) and make it clear on your site. Have a dedicated “Work with Me” landing page and link to it from your homepage or menu. Make it easy for people to find you and get in touch. And always reply, even if it’s to turn an offer down.
Go Self Hosted
I’ve already mentioned this above but thought I’d just reiterate here. You can’t advertise on your blog if it’s a free, hosted site through wordpress.com. You need to go through wordpress.org, own your own domain name, and go self-hosted so you can do what you like with your site.
Join Blogger Networks
There are a few online networks that help brands find bloggers to work with, so it’s worth creating a profile on some. The ones I like best are Famebit (mostly US opportunities but there are some worldwide ones), Bloggers Required (there’s a huge range of opportunities and lots of travel related stuff), The Blogger Programme (a lot of fashion brands, also lots of festivals), and SocialPubli (good for social media campaigns). And while I don’t love their sponsored post payment strategy, I’ve noticed that Cooperatize have started sending out press trips and freelance writing campaigns to their network of influencers so it’s worth signing up to that one and checking the newsletter often.
I used to work in customer services before I became a travel blogger. It’s given me a surprisingly handy set of skills that some other bloggers I know seem to lack! When you’re working with a brand, even if it seems like quite a casual arrangement or they’re just sending you a £10 gift, treat it like a serious business engagement. Whether they’re giving you free products, or paying up in cold hard cash, that brand is your customer. Give good customer service and they’ll come back – maybe with more money next time!
I reply to every single email I get as quickly as possible. I’m always polite and friendly – even when someone’s being rude to me. I always deliver whatever was agreed, by the agreed-upon deadline – and if something goes wrong to prevent me then I let the client know as soon as possible. These things feel obvious to me, but they really do make the world of difference.
Got a question about starting a travel blog or making money as a blogger? Leave me a comment below or shoot me an email. I’m working on a Q&A post so I would love to help out!