Getting paid to travel the world! That’s the dream, isn’t it? And while this crazy goal may sound impossible, the fact that you’re reading this seems to indicate a glimmer of hope… right?
Well, my fellow dreamer, I’m happy to report that yes, travel blogging is one of those ways you can sustain your life of travel while not starving to death. I need to be clear though: it’s by no means a vacation life of constant Mai Tais and sandy beaches… on the contrary, it’s a lot of hard work, determination and hours crying at a computer. If the travel blogger life is for you though, here’s a handy list of ways you can start monetizing!
1. Sponsored posts
In short, sponsored posts are when you create content for brands about their offerings in exchange for compensation (sometimes monetary, sometimes product-based). This includes both blog and social media posts, though it’s not uncommon to charge less for a bundle. How much can you earn from sponsored posts? Well, in December I created about $600 worth of sponsored content on my blog/social media, and that was only for a few small posts. The potential for monetization here is huge!
How can you get started with sponsored posts?
- Build up your traffic and social media numbers. Without these, most brands won’t approach you for sponsored content. If you’re stuck on how to this, check out my guide on how I quadrupled my traffic in 9 months here, and read my 7000 word social media guide for detailed tips.
- Know the audience that you can “sell to”. Without a clear audience for your blog that marketers can tap into, brands won’t touch you with a 10ft pole. What’s important in sponsored content is that brands can see a good fit between their audience and yours. So, make sure you have a specific “main” audience, and make sure that information is explicit on your website (either in your About Me or Work With Me page).
- Join some influencer networks. There are a variety of influencer networks that you can sign up for. These are platforms that connect influencers with brands who are creating marketing campaigns. Typically, you link up your social media accounts/numbers so that brands can look at your profile and then offer you sponsored work if they identify a good fit. There are countless networks out there (FameBit, Tribe, TapInfluence and Activate being a few), that all cater to different niches, geographical regions, platforms, etc. I’d suggest doing some research to find one that’s a good fit for you! These networks haven’t landed me many gigs, but I recently worked with Buzzoole and they were great!
Ads aren’t my favourite because they don’t actually bring in much money. Advertisers will typically pay you per click (some per impression, but this is less common) and sadly, the pay is not very lucrative unless your traffic is sky high. That said, it’s 100% passive and quite easy to implement, so I like to keep them around. I currently make enough off ads to pay for my website expenses (just over $60 last month on Google Adsense) so that’s not a bad start.
How can you get started with advertising?
- Make sure your site is allowed to have ads. If you’re a self-hosted blog, this won’t be an issue but I’ve heard of many restrictions with ads if you’re hosted on WordPress.com for instance. Double check that you’re able to implement ads first!
- Sign up for an ad network. The most common is Google Adsense. (Here’s a guide on how to set it up). This is the only network I’ve had experience with, so I can’t advise as to which other ad networks might be better, though I hear that many others pay more. This article featuring the 24 best ad networks for publishers might help you out though. Note that some require minimum traffic numbers before you can be accepted to the network.
- Begin placing ads on your site. There are a lot of factors to consider here: above all else – don’t compromise your reader experience for a few cents a day!! (literally, that’s how little the pay can be sometimes). While most readers nowadays are accustomed to ads, I personally limit any ad placements to sidebars and the bottom of posts, just to ensure the site doesn’t look spammy.
3. Affiliate marketing
In short, affiliate marketing is when publishers (aka bloggers like you and I) earn a commission from products that they recommend to their readers. (E.g. when you book a hotel based off my recommendation, I earn a percentage of the hotel’s revenue, based on an affiliate agreement).
The best part about it though is that after you set everything up, it’s largely passive income, which means you could be making money while you travel and even while you sleep… and come on, isn’t that the dream? Since starting affiliate marketing in late October, I’ve been able to consistently net at least $500 a month from affiliate income (with my best being $1500 in 30 days!)
How can you get started with affiliate marketing?
- Populate your blog with quality content! You won’t get accepted into many affiliate networks if your blog is empty, plus you need to establish some authority and reader trust before people will reasonably believe in your recommendations.
- Apply for some affiliate programs and networks. Amazon Associates is probably the most popular due to its massive catalogue of goods, but note that they have a rule where you must make a sale within the first 90 days or your account gets shut down. Other great networks include CJ Affiliate, ShareASale and Affiliate Window. As a travel blogger, you might also want to look into hotel affiliates like Booking.com or Hotels.com (but you can actually join these through some of the networks mentioned above).
- Begin inserting affiliate links into your blog posts. If you’ve been recommending products to your readers all this time, you might as well turn some of those recommendations into affiliate links! This would be great for things like packing lists, “my travel essentials”, that kind of thing. You can also fit affiliate links into posts where you mention hotels and tours! The world’s your oyster, friend.
- Work at directing traffic to those posts with affiliate links. This is a step people commonly overlook, but of course, it makes sense that the more traffic you get to a post with affiliate links, the higher chance you have of succeeding and making a sale. Ensure that these posts get ample social media love in the form of Pinterest Pinnable graphics, scheduled posts and more.
- Ensure that you’re properly disclosing your affiliate links. Don’t forget – any time you use affiliate links on your blog, you’re required to let your readers know that you’re earning a commission from their purchases! Some people opt for a simple “This post contains affiliate links”, but I often elaborate a bit further and say “This post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small commission to keep this site running. Thanks for your support!”
4. Selling your expertise
As a travel blogger, it’s likely that you’ll be an expert in many things, travel being one of them. One of the best ways to earn some extra money off your blog is by selling your expertise to those who need it (e.g. travel planning, writing, photography, social media management), etc. I’ve personally done some social media consulting/coaching, in addition to creating my own eBook about affiliate marketing. I love these income streams because you’re in more control than with ads or affiliates.
How can you sell your expertise?
- Decide what you’re good at – the more niche the better. Some pro blogger skills include excellent writing/photography, strong understanding of social media, video editing, etc.
- Decide who you will sell your skills to. You could try catering to your readers, other bloggers (e.g. set up coaching services, sell courses/eBooks, etc.), or you could reach out to companies (e.g. do social media consulting for a small business).
- Get out there! After you know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to, it’s time to get to work. If you’re planning on creating a knowledge product (e.g. eBook or course), make an action plan to create that content. If you’re planning on doing consulting work, start networking (often Facebook blogging groups will be filled with people looking for help!). Alternatively, you can become a freelancer and apply for gigs through websites like UpWork and Freelancer.
5. Brand ambassadorships
When it comes to partnering with brands, the spectrum is huge. On one end, you can be writing reviews in exchange for products, whereas on the other, there’s longer-term partnerships that involve things like social media takeovers. I like to distinguish between sponsored posts and brand ambassadorships, because the latter has more to do with a long-term relationship, rather than a one-off post.
These long-term partnerships are great because 1) they offer more reliable income and 2) they allow you to cement a strong relationship with a brand that you genuinely love. Think of yourself as becoming a spokesperson for them (yes, like celebrities are!)
I’ve recently taken on a brand ambassadorship with a cool company that I think is awesome. This has included taking over their Facebook Live and Snapchat once a week, which has been a lot of fun and an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone! The amount you get paid for this varies a great deal, but websites like Social Blue Book can help you ballpark what to charge.
How can you get started with brand partnerships?
- Create an awesome media kit. A media kit is essentially a document that tells brands everything they need to know about you, including who you are, what you blog about, your target audience, etc. Having one that summarizes your statistics, strengths and previous collaborations can work wonders for your professionalism and help you stand out. I personally design my own on Adobe InDesign, but many bloggers have had great success using the resume templates on Canva. Remember to highlight your best stats!
- Pitch to brands you love! If you never try, you never know. I’ve written a guide to pitching here.
- Optimize your blog for brands to approach you! I know, easier said than done, but work at establishing a clear, marketable audience for your blog and growing your audience numbers. This will make you much more attractive to work with.
6. Freelancing for other publications
As a blogger, there’s no doubt one of your strongest skills is writing, so why not turn that into another stream of income by spinning that word magic for other publications? (Aka, what I’m doing right now… hey DOKO readers!) In addition to my blog, I contribute to a few different sites, and in total I net between $400-$600 a month from just a few articles submitted.
How can you get started with freelancing for other publications?
- Build up a portfolio. Your blog is a great start, but if you’ve written for other publications, websites or blogs, it’s nice to assemble a portfolio that you can showcase to potential “clients”. That way, you can demonstrate your versatility.
- Pitch to publications that pay for travel writer content. To help you out, here’s a list of publications that pay newbie travel writers.
- Network! Get to know people in the industry, whether that’s by connecting on Twitter, or reaching out via email. One of my recurring writing gigs was through me simply sending an email of a blog post I wrote that mentioned that company. They liked my writing so decided to hire me for posts on their blog! Opportunities are everywhere.
- Scope out freelance sites like UpWork and Freelancer. There’s always postings on here for writing gigs, but the trouble is that it’s a highly competitive and saturated marketplace… which often means it’s a) tougher to land a job and b) you won’t be getting paid very much. I would recommend finding writing jobs elsewhere if possible. Get creative with it – I’ve even landed writing work from Twitter (which is how I found DOKO!)
7. Paid press trips
When you really make it, believe it or not – people will begin to pay you to attend trips. No, this is not a drill!
Of course, for many, this may be the holy grail of travel blog monetization. Don’t ever mistake a paid press trip for a vacation though – it’s anything but. You’ll likely be exhausted after staging photo shoots, writing content, posting on social media, etc. But, it’s a pretty phenomenal reason to be exhausted, no? Full disclosure, I’ve never been paid to go on a press trip (#Goals hey?) but many big name bloggers command a day rate in addition to having their travel expenses covered. How can this be you? Well, the principles are largely the same as what was mentioned before… in summary:
How can you land a paid press trip?
- Work on all other aspects of your blog first! This method of monetization comes last because it’s kind of… the dream. And it’s not at all easy to achieve. Before tourism boards or companies will pay you to attend a press trip, you need to make sure you have something to offer them, whether that’s a highly engaged social media audience, an active readership, a niche audience that suits their needs, etc. Don’t go into travel blogging with this press trips as a goal – focus instead on creating amazing content and a badass blog that will have brands approaching you.
- Network and keep your eyes/ears open. You never know when an opportunity will pop up. Sometimes these will be advertised in blogging Facebook groups, or exchanged between bloggers who are friends. Sometimes even, bloggers who are selected can’t make it, and choose to pass the offer to others they think are a good fit. The point is: get to know other bloggers – they’re fun people and great opportunities can spawn from it.
I know that was a lot of info, but hopefully you now feel prepared and ready to tackle the big bad world of monetized travel blogging! Best of luck, friends and remember… I believe in you!
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Written and photographed by Christina Guan from Happytowander.com. Christina is a Canadian travel blogger on the prowl for the world’s best in fun, food and beautiful places. You can follow more of her misadventures on her blog and Instagram.