I’m always surprised at just how many travel bloggers struggle to make any real money.
A lot of the times it’s not because their blogs aren’t good enough or they’re not trying hard enough. I know so many great bloggers who spend heaps of time working on their blogs, but to no avail. Or they’ll turn a small profit, but never come anywhere near their full earning potential.
The reality is that most travel bloggers leave heaps of money on the table.
And that’s usually because they just don’t know how best to monetise their audience.
So here’s my big long ultimate list of all the possible ways to make money from your travel blog.
Some of these are obvious and you might already be doing them. Others are more abstract. Either way, I guarantee that if you pick any one of these strategies (or a combination of them) and stick with it, you’re travel blog can start making money.
This is a very popular revenue stream for established blogs with a bit of clout behind them.
If you’ve been blogging for a little while and you’re starting to get a bit of a name for yourself, you’ve probably already had offers for sponsored content coming into your inbox.
Marketing guys are always on the lookout for ways to connect to new potential customers, and sponsored content gives them a great platform to do that.
Sponsored content is essentially a blog post or article posted on your site that promotes a particular company or campaign. Sometimes the client will leave the writing of the article up to you (although they may provide you with some rough guidelines of what they want) or sometimes they’ll write the article for you and all you’ll have to do is post it.
You get money, your blog gets content, your audience gets something cool and useful to read and your client gets exposure to your blogs audience. Everyone’s a winner.
Boost your chances of landing work by approaching digital agencies and marketing firms yourself. Trust me, they’re always only too happy to hear from bloggers who have an audience and are ready to help them connect.
Draft yourself a quick email explaining that you’re open to sponsored content opportunities if they have any relevant clients who might be keen to get involved. Include your website URL so they can check out your blog and some basic info about your audience – traffic numbers, user metrics like bounce rate, time on site, average comments, social shares etc to demonstrate engagement and audience profile details like a breakdown of geographical location, age ranges and sex can also be useful.
Larger digital agencies and marketing departments will run regular web searches looking for blogs who accept sponsored content. So if you want to boost your chances of being found and approached you can create a ‘Write For Us’ page, which will give your site a footprint and make you more likely to turn up in their searches.
Once you get on the radar of one or two agencies, you’ll have regular work coming in all the time.
Affiliate marketing is a great, ‘hands off’ way of making some truly passive income.
Next to creating and selling your own digital products (more on that below!) is the best and most scalable way to make money with your travel blog.
Affiliate marketing is when companies pay you a percentage of a sale that you help to generate for them.
So, for example…if write a post talking about what camera you like best for sunset shoots, you can insert affiliate links to the cameras you discuss in the post. These links are great for the user, as they can click right on through and see where to buy it from after reading your review. It also doesn’t cost them any extra money, and you get to make a small commission on the sale.
You’ll find a few affiliate links throughout this blog, and they will form another great income stream for the blog as it continues to grow.
Be warned though…it’s worth thinking about the long term value of your user before recommending products to them. Some products and services can provide great commissions for affiliates, but a really poor product or experience for the person buying them.
I have a strict rule of only affiliate linking products I genuinely believe in and trust. My readers are worth more to me than one quick commission, and they aren’t going to stick around if I recommend them something that doesn’t do what it says on the tin.
Guest Blogging / Sell Links
Similar to sponsored content, accepting guest blog posts on your site is a quick and easy way to get paid.
The only way it differs to sponsored content is that the client is usually looking for a backlink to their site, as they’ll get SEO benefits from it.
They will usually provide you with an article already written which you’ll just have to post.
But be careful.
Google are making moves to clamp down on this kind of thing, and they’ve been making a number of updates recently to devalue links acquired through paid guest blogging. Not too much of a biggie for you guys who are selling them, but I have heard of some cases where they are also penalising the sites who sell the links and host the content.
It’s still a very popular and highly effective SEO technique, but just know that the clock is ticking on it.
Become An Amazon Affiliate
So this is pretty much the same as affiliate marketing, which we talked about above, but being an Amazon Affiliate opens up so many possibilities in it’s own right that I thought it deserved it’s own section in the post.
I know people who’s entire monthly revenue comes from Amazons Affiliate Program.
They sell so many products and are so widely known, recognised and trusted that pushing their products is easy and has a very wide scope.
Remember that blog post you wrote about that hike you went on? Why not link to the tent you used on Amazon? Or the camping stove?
What about the awesome travel book you just read? Or the lonely planet travel guide to the place you just blogged about? It’s all over on Amazon!
You can even build an e-store of all your favourite travel gear and host it as part of your blog. Whenever your readers buy something from your store on Amazon, you’re in.
The best bit about being an Amazon Affiliate? The cookie stays active for 24 hours. So even if they don’t buy that thing you recommended straight away, there’s still a chance they’ll go back to Amazon within 24 hours to make a purchase. Whether it’s your product or something completely unrelated, you get the commission.
Their commission rates are also pretty good, and look out for the current special rates which change frequently. Last month for example, they were running a “$10 for every Amazon Music signup” promotion – Top Travel Songs Playlist For 2017 post anyone??
Amazon are the biggest ecommerce site in the world. And you can bet they’ve invested a serious amount of time and money testing, split testing and re-testing that funnel. They’re masters at getting people through the checkout. And when your income relies on completed sales, it’s always a good idea to bring the big boys in to bat for you.
Freelancing is another great way to make money from your travel blog. Especially if you have a skill that other people need and some spare time on your hands.
For example, I’m pretty good at writing and web marketing in general. So I offer those services to people in my spare time. I advertise those services here on my blog, so that people who like what I write can easily hire me to do the same for their sites.
In this way, the blog fuels the freelance work.
You could do the same with your travel blog.
Are you nailing social media? Picking up loads of followers on Twitter or crushing Instagram? Let people know you’re available for freelance social media management for other travel companies.
Is your blog doing really well on Google? Why not offer Search Engine Optimisation help and advice?
Are you the best at making videos? Hire yourself, your drone and your editing mastery out to resorts and tourist boards for promotional videos.
The sky is the limit. If you’re skilled at something, someone somewhere will pay you to do it.
This works best for very high traffic blogs, but it costs nothing to implement and could add an extra little revenue stream to your blog.
What’s more, it’s completely passive income. And we all love passive income, right?
The downside to display advertising is that it doesn’t really generate an awful lot of money.
Having said that, there’s no harm in setting it up and having it run away in the background. It might pay for the occasional hostel bed one night on your travels or a good coffee now and again.
There are heaps of display ad networks out there to choose from, and you should experiment with a few of them to see which works best for you. Some are better represented in certain industries, so finding the one with the most potential advertisers in your niche will drive up your impression or click prices and make you more money.
When you’re just starting out, Google’s DoubleClick is a good starting point or their AdSense program if you want to start with something even more basic.
Be A Brand Ambassador
This on’s a great one for those of you who have a good volume of loyal followers. Things like high numbers of returning visitors, lots of email subscribers, social media followers etc. Basically, people who know about your blog and choose to come back.
Part of the reason they do that, is because they trust what you have to say.
And that trust has a value.
Namely, to brands who want to connect with your typical audience.
Boggers and social media pros can find good money in long term partnership with the right brands by working as a brand ambassador.
Each agreement is usually different, and there’s no ‘typical’ scenario. It all just depends on what you and the brand agree.
Usually it can involve mentioning them a certain number of times on your blog, dedicating certain posts to them and their products (reviews and the like) and/or a certain number of social media mentions per month. Sometimes they may even ask you to write the occasional post for their own blog and promote that across your audience, or even run competitions with their products as prizes.
The right agreement, with the right brand, can help both you and the company you partner with.
But choose carefully. The wrong partnership can also turn off your audience. Just make sure you know your readers as well as you think you do before you enter any long term commitments which will effect them.
Write A Book/Guide
Creating your own digital product is the motherload.
It’s what most bloggers will ultimately aspire to doing, as it gives you complete control and 100% of the revenue.
One travel blogger who’s doing this really well right now is Indie Traveller, who wrote and sells his own ebook on how to plan your travels.
All of his blog is now a platform to push sales for his book. And it does that very well.
Creating your own product is hugely time consuming.
Because of that, it’s usually something most bloggers work toward as an end goal, and they’ll work with numerous other income streams before they get onto that.
But when you’ve got a good audience, owning your own product is the best possible revenue stream you can develop, because you get to keep 100% of the money.
Once your product is made, it’s done. You don’t have to spend any time or incur any costs every time someone buys it. It’s just pure profit, and the more you sell, the more you make.
You also get full control over the entire sales funnel, so you’re not leaving the fate of a sale up to the marketing-savviness of a third party who will give you a commission.
You can even go one further and open up your own affiliate program, to entice other bloggers into pushing sales of your product.
Create A Paid “Members” Forum/Area
Ever thought about making a forum on your blog/site?
You should. Forums give your readers a chance to get involved directly with the blog. They generate heaps of new content for you by making threads jam packed full of useful user generated info.
They also make people feel like they are a part of your site and can help strengthen their loyalty as a reader, since they’re now invested in it with you.
I already know what you’re thinking. How the hell am I going to create a forum when I’m still getting to grips with WordPress? Well…don’t worry. Luckily, as is usually the way with WordPress, if you can think of something you want to do, the chances are someone out there has already developed a plugin to help you do it.
Whenever I’ve done this before, I’ve always used bbPress, and this tutorial will walk you through the easy way to get it up and running.
You can then use another plugin like Paid Memberships Pro to set viewing privileges on each membership level. So you can have some areas of the forum which are open to all to view and contribute to, but some areas which are restricted to only paid members. The plugin also works with most of the major payment gateways (Stripe still being my favourite).
You’ll obviously need to think about how your paid areas would add value and provide reason enough for people to pay to subscribe, but that bit’s just really up to you and what your audience values. If your blog is mainly about teaching English abroad, you might have a paid members area with all the topics relating to finding work as an English teacher, with the rest of your boards and general chat an open forum.
Be creative and experiment. You know your audience best.
Offer Paid Subscriptions (for your best travel writing)
Similar to a paid members area in your forum, you could also create a paid members area on your actual blog.
If you’re a great writer and are particularly knowledgeable on certain aspects of travel, your help and advice in your blog posts has a value to the people who search the internet looking for your help.
This would also work well for story focused travel writers, who have an audience who specifically follow their travel writing.
Starting with a small monthly subscription model, you could charge users a few bucks each to read what you have to say.
This revenue model is really nice too, as it gives you a predictable, recurring monthly income.
My top tip for anyone thinking of giving this a try would be to keep the fee small. The ‘for less than a cup of coffee each week’ price point seems to work well for some of the major tabloids who use this.
Sell Your Blog
This one’s a bit of a hail Mary move, but if you need to make some quick cash there are always plenty of people out there looking to buy up established sites with traffic and an income potential.
Good sites to check out if you’re keen to look into this are Flippa and Empire Flippers who are the two main auctioneers when it comes to websites and domains.
It’s obviously a one off earner, and you’ll most likely end up worse off in the long run compared to if you implement any of these other strategies. But if you need a quick win, it’s an option.
One point worth noting though is that most often, sites are valued at a X of their monthly income. Usually something like 10X, although I’ve seen people selling for up to 20X or even 25X if the site has real potential.
Personally, I probably wouldn’t bother with this option. I’d much prefer to hold out and play the long game.
As an alternative, you could maybe flip that all on its head and buy yourself a 2nd website. That would give you twice the earning potential you’d have from 1 blog, and with a few quick adjustments and implementation of some of the above techniques, you could soon find yourself in profit.
Lead Your Own Tours
Have you travelled extensively in one particular area or region? Feel like you know a country inside and out?
Start your own in-country tours!
You can promote and sell them through your blog, and start earning money leading small tour groups around the place you temporarily call home.
I’ve seen a few bloggers starting to do this recently, and it seems to be working great for them.
Selling it in to your audience is relatively easy – you know they’re already interested in the place since they’re visiting your blog to read your posts on it. And the ones that keep coming back or are signed up to your email list are clearly fans who value what you have to say.
Start off small with one small group while you find your feet, and see where you go from there.
If it works out and you enjoy it, there are heaps of ways to build on this and add other revenue streams in as you go. You could work out deals with accommodation providers and activity companies to cut you a commission on the sales you bring them or cut them out altogether and up-sell directly to your guests with your own commission already built in.
Run A Blogging Bootcamp For Other Travel Bloggers
Building your audience and getting your travel blog off the ground in the first place is tough work.
Do you know how many new travel blogs are started every day?
It’s a lot.
And all of those who are just starting out, are looking to established and successful bloggers like you for guidance.
Making money with your blog is all about playing to your strengths. If you’re strengths are creating and promoting great content and building an audience, use it. That’s a strength that a lot of people want, but not many have.
So start your own real world blogging bootcamp or online based blogging course, and spend your time teaching others all you’ve learnt along the way.
For really passive income, creating the course online with video and written content is the best answer. But real world bootcamps or hangouts will work too.
Be A Travel Planner/Consultant
Help people organise their trips.
If talking about travel and planning exciting new trips is what gets you excited, then maybe personalised travel planning is for you.
Often you can hash out deals with tour operators, activity providers and accommodation managers that will give you a commission on each booking you help them secure. This means you’ll get a double payday, since you’ll be paid by the person your organising the trip for, and the company your booking the trip with! Winner!
If you’re into travel gadgets or know everything there is to know about the latest must have travel accessories, ecommerce is suprisingly simple to get into.
You can open up an etsey store and sell stuff there, or checkout plugins like WooCommerce which will bolt onto your wordpress installation so you can host your store directly on your blog.
As for getting hold of the products to sell, there are plenty of wholesale gadget companies online and you’ll find them easily enough with a few simple Google searches. Worst case scenario, you can head over to one of the big online retailers like Amazon or eBay and start contacting suppliers for bulk deals.
Something that works great when you’re getting started with ecommerce is designing your own tshirts.
Anyone with some basic graphic design skills can hash out a few decent looking tshirt designs given a couple of days and a bit of creativity. Do you blog about travelling Canada? Make yourself some Canada travel themed shirts. Your audience will love them.
And getting them printed is super easy.
Start out with small scale print runs and see how each design sells before you invest too much money. Direct To Garment printing is best for smaller orders as there is no setup fee for the frames. Good companies to look into would be Shirt Monkey and garmentprinting.co.uk
Most DTG companies can also supply the blank t-shirt if you need to, or you can head over to Amazon and grab some cheaper blanks from there and have them shipped directly to the printers to use on your order.
Whether you create your own unique products or simply just repackage and re-sell existing stuff, ecommerce is fun and has heaps of potential. And if you have a successful blog then you already have potential buyers lined up. You just need to find the stuff your audience wants and you’re halfway there.
Dropshipping is like ecommerce but without the risk.
If you haven’t heard the term before, it’s essentially white labelling products produced by another company and selling them as your own.
Customers place the order on your site, you place the order with your supplier, your supplier ships to the customer and invoices you for the cost – which is hopefully less than what you charged the customer.
So if you’re interested in giving ecommerce a go on your blog, but you’re worried about the costs involved in getting started or you just don’t have the funds to invest in buying the initial stock, take a look into dropshipping as it might just be the answer you’re looking for.
You’ll have to approach your suppliers beforehand obviously, to work out the details and logistics, so there’s some ground work to be done there. But once the agreements are in place, you’re instantly ready to start selling. And the up side is that if you don’t sell anything at all, it doesn’t cost you anything. You’re only paying for each thing you sell after it’s already been sold.
While you’ll struggle to make any significant money from it, you can save yourself a bunch of expenditure by snagging free accommodation on your travels in exchange for a review of the hotel.
No hotels really make a song and dance about offering this, but if you ask, you’ll quite often get.
At the very worst, once they know you’re a blogger with a good audience, you’ll certainly get them at their best.
So it’s always worth posing the question when you’re checking in.
Or you can even ask ahead of time. Just email a bunch of hotels in the area you’re travelling into next. Explain that you run travel blog XYZ and you’re going to be blogging about the area over the next few weeks/days and would they like to be featured.
While you’re at it, you might as well write to a few restaurants or experience companies (sky dives, tours, adventures etc) and ask them the same thing.
If you’re smart about it and you get enough companies in one area to get onboard, you can get pretty much a free trip once you’ve paid for your transport to there.
Pro tip – leverage what you already have. Once one or two companies sign on, let other companies you approach know. They’re much more likely to get involved if you have some of their friends/competition onboard already.
So hopefully by now you’ll be all fired up and ready to go, with a head full of ideas.
Starting a travel blog is tough.
Making money from your travel blog is even tougher!
When you’re first getting started, the learning curve is steep.
The thing to bear in mind is that, no matter what your skill set or personality, there are plenty of ways to make money from your travel blog. But you need to think about what makes sense for you. Be creative, and play to your strengths.
I really hope that the above info helps you get started. And I’d love to hear how you get on, so don’t be a stranger. If you’ve got anything to add or any questions, let me know in the comments below.
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