I have previously covered whether you should start your own travel blog. In the post, I pointed out some of the challenges involved in blogging and addressed some misconceptions. Let’s be bold for a second and admit that the reason most people get into travel blogging (especially points and miles) is because it is seen as a lucrative niche. Not only can you get sponsored trips and other free stuff, but if you play it right, you can even generate income from it.
There is a whole new breed of bloggers who are advocating quitting your “9-5 corporate job” and going out to travel. That sounds terribly romantic, and who doesn’t want to travel all the time and live a life free of material goods? A lot of folks apparently. There are some “lifestyle bloggers” who pull this off nicely and there are others who don’t.
I love this quote, which I think sums up why so many folks try their hand at travel blogging as a means of earning a living: “Make work play and you’ll be playing all your life.” Unfortunately, travel blogging isn’t nearly as lucrative as some would imagine. You can still make a living as a blogger, but it takes a lot of effort and commitment.
Here are a few ways travel bloggers monetize their blogs, and roughly how much they can earn:
1. Ads. See those nifty columns on this page serving up ads catered especially to your tastes? They earn me roughly $5 per 1,000 impressions. There are folks who make WAY less than this and others who make much, much more. I’ll tell you, what I make from adsense barely covers my daily Starbucks habit, let alone any extravagant (or not so extravagant) vacations I might want to take in the future.
Some folks sell their ad space and make significantly more that way. I’m not savvy enough yet to go this route, plus I haven’t done the proper research to get this done. For now, I’m content getting a free cup of coffee and hosting out of this gig.
You’ll hear a lot of bloggers talk about hosting costs, which are really miniscule. Godaddy, for example, offers you a free domain (which costs about $13/year) when you sign up for hosting, which is just $3.99 per month. So, for around $50 per year, you’ve got a domain name and hosting covered. It really doesn’t cost anything to build a nice looking blog on WordPress, so ignore the chatter from bloggers asking readers to “help out” so they can cover their hosting expenses. If you want to fancy it up a bit, hire an artist on Fiverr for a cute graphic you can drop on the top of the page.
2. Affiliate Revenue. Of course there are the ubiquitous credit card affiliate links. If you’re in cahoots with one of the big banks, you can make a nice chunk of cash on this. It shouldn’t surprise you one bit if your favorite bloggers make six figures or more going this route. When I was part of Chase’s affiliate program (on a trial basis) late last year, I earned the equivalent of two weeks salary in a month, without writing a single post about credit cards. Since then, I’ve been part of Barclay’s program, though I don’t find it worthy to point out the virtues of the NFL card, so I’ve made just $89 off that program. My links are in the credit card tab, so if you want to use them (warning: there are better unofficial offers), that is where I hide them.
I don’t anticipate that I’ll hit the jackpot with credit cards, which is fine with me. I’ve got a great job that let’s me read and write about travel all day long (which is something I used to do for fun). I’m grateful that I can make a living this way and truly have the best of both worlds.
Affiliate income isn’t restricted to credit cards: Some bloggers have affiliate links from popular retailers, earning them either a flat fee or percentage based on sales. If you have a large and loyal audience, you may do well in this category.
3. Free Stuff. The only time I’ve accepted anything free was from LoungeBuddy. They wanted my feedback about their app, which I was happy to give. Afterwards, they offered free download codes to readers, which I was happy to provide. I’ve gotten lots of offers for free app downloads from developers, but have turned them down either because it was unrelated to the blog or wasn’t something I thought readers would find useful.
Some bloggers get free products in exchange for reviews on their blogs. They get free vacations (which was a hot topic on Twitter recently), they get paid to endorse products or run giveaways; some get paid to make videos endorsing a destination, hotel, activity – you name it. For some, this supports their lifestyle while for others it only saves them from having to pay for this stuff out of pocket.
4. E-books/Guides. Chris Guillebeau has mastered this. In addition to his blog (which he runs ad-free), he sells guidebooks that cover everything from travel hacking to starting your own business. He does well for himself and though he could earn more from the platform he’s built, he once revealed he earns just $75,000 per year from his blog. This sounds like a great living to some of us, but considering the huge platform he’s built, that number would be much higher if he sold ad space and threw in affiliate links.
Many other bloggers sell travel guides. While it’s possible to earn a nice income with guidebooks, I can’t imagine most bloggers will. Especially when the majority of travel information is free on the internet. It can certainly be done if you brand yourself correctly and build a large enough platform.
Some folks also land book deals or self-publish books. I imagine either can be lucrative with the right PR strategy.
5. Consulting Services. A popular way to generate income from a travel site is to run a consulting business. In the points and miles community, award booking services are a popular route. For about $100-$150 per person, bloggers will take the stress out of the award booking process for you.
I personally have tried to avoid customer-service related jobs since my stint working as a Macy’s sales associate in high school. So there won’t be a PointChaser award booking service any time soon. There goes another income stream…
Some bloggers kick it up a notch and offer themselves up as consultants. This can mean paid gigs at speaking engagements or to companies looking for expert advice. The more influential you are perceived and the bigger your platform (the two go hand in hand), the bigger your payday will be in this category. Most average travel bloggers will be lucky if they see any income from this source, as there are plenty of folks willing to do this just for the networking opportunities alone.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to generate income as a blogger. However, how much you earn from each source really depends on your platform and reach/influence. If you’re passionate about your niche and really want to make a living from it, you certainly can. However, focus on your content first and success will follow. If you monetize too soon, you may not see the profits you’re looking for and jeopardize future earnings.
I began blogging in September 2012. I focused on producing good content and somebody liked it so much they offered me a job managing travel blogs just a few months later. It’s not the mainstream way to earn a living off your blog, but I’m doing it nonetheless.
My advice to those wanting to make a living is take your time, write great content, and the rest will follow. And have a back-up plan in case your blog doesn’t do as well as you thought it would. That terrible corporate job will start looking mighty fun when the bills come in and your bank account balance displays a single zero.
Are you a travel blogger? How do you earn a living from your blog, and is it your only source of income?