Finding sponsorships for your travel blog and thus travel the world for free isn’t a tough thing to do. You just need to work for it!
When people come across my blog and find out that I’ve been travelling the world for years without having any permanent source of income (no, my dad isn’t supporting my travels anymore!) first thing they ask me is how I fund myself. Those familiar with the business of travel blogging, more closely, rather ask: how I find sponsors for my travels.
So first things first: unlike as a fashion or a tech-blogger, surviving as a travel blogger requires a combination of two things: one, making money from blogging, and two, finding sponsors and travelling the world for free. Because unlike with other forms of blogging (take tech-blogging, again, for instance) in travel blogging, every story requires a bit of money invested. For example, a blog post on the latest Android version may not require you to pay for anything to get the content but just an update in your phone, whereas a blog post on travelling requires you to travel to a destination (and thus, buying flight or train tickets) book a hotel, and pay for food and other activities you wanted to try — bringing the cost of investment per blog much higher to that of blogging on any other subject.
Now you either need to be one of the top bloggers in the world and earn more than what an average person around you does in a full-time job (which is definitely not happening during your initial years of blogging) in order to survive, or you need to find sponsors and travel for free, and at the same time, make money different ways and sustain — which you do by selling pictures, working as a freelance writer, placing ads on your blog, generating affiliate leads etc. (Read: How I Make Money Travel Blogging)
Finding Sponsors For Your Blog And Travelling For Free
Tourism boards and independent travel companies constantly look for influencers that are capable of influencing people for travelling to a particular destination. And travel bloggers are just a perfect (and moreover a very economical) way for them to reaching out to their targeted audience.
During my 2+ year of travel blogging stint so far, I’ve worked with over 50+ travel companies and nearly 20 tourism boards — with at least one invitation from a country or a state tourism board (outside of India) every month, since March 2017. This helped me travel more than 10 countries (since March) without having to pay for a penny — not even for the flight tickets.
So sponsored trips help me travel for free and continue exploring places and writing about them, whereas different ways of monetizing from my blog (as well as working as a freelance writer) help maintain the cash flow. Though finding sponsors isn’t as easy as it may sound, it at least isn’t unread. So read ahead if you still want to work hard, and learn the art of finding sponsors for travel-blogging.
First Step: Building Your Portfolio By Finding Independent Sponsors
Blogging takes time to gain followers. And lesser followers in the initial phase of blogging means no sponsors, at least no big sponsors. So rather look for small sponsors — a hotel located in the city you’re next visiting, or a tour company locally operating there.
During my first six to eight months of full-time travel blogging, I didn’t get an opportunity to work with a tourism board (tourism boards are the government boards representing a city, state or a country at large). Searching for emails from people working with tourism boards and writing them emails was moreover only wasting time. So I changed focus, as a few other travel bloggers suggested, and tried partnering with local businesses instead.
Get a list of hotels in the city you’re next visiting on booking.com, and shoot them an email. Or look for a tour company on Tripadvisor and see if they can offer you a free tour.
Next, Contacting Tourism Boards
Once you reach a minimum traction and have built some portfolio to show-off, start pitching emails to tourism boards. Start with local tourism boards. Eg Ahmedabad tourism board (if we have one) rather than Gujarat tourism board, and it’s for simple reason — country tourism boards are hard to impress initially. The first three tourism boards that sponsored me were all local too — Goa, Zurich (in Switzerland) and Stuttgart (in Germany).
The best thing about working with tourism boards is that they look after everything you may think of — from flight tickets to your morning bed-tea. For example, my previous press trip (also known as FAM trip or a Familiarization trip) with Germany tourism board that happened last month in October 2017 not only included a 5-day all-inclusive itinerary in Germany but transfer from the airport, flight tickets from India as well as the Schengen Visa. All that was needed from my side was my availability.
But that doesn’t mean you need to wait for too long to even start approaching tourism boards. Having a 6-month-old travel blog with good traffic inflow and a decent presence on social media networks is enough. [Read: How To Approach Tourism Boards For Travel Blogging Sponsorships]
Getting In Touch With Other Bloggers
Getting sponsorships in the digital industry is as much a game of having good content as it is of having relevant email addresses. And fellow bloggers are a great source of correct emails addresses of people working with various tourism boards. They may moreover have an idea (based out of their experiences) about which tourism boards are currently working with bloggers in your country, and which are not. So talk to other bloggers and get some useful tips.
A Useful Tip — Increase your chances of getting sponsored trip by increasing your reach
An ideal way of improving your chances of getting sponsors for travel is by believing in the expression of ‘the power of unity’. How? Imagine it this way…
If 1000 people read your blog every month you have a readership of 1000 people in a month. Now if you start writing for a travel magazine from tomorrow that has a readership of 100,000 a month, what do you become? A travel blogger and a freelance writer (let’s call you a travel influencer) who can offer a possible readership of 100,000+1000 people a month. Now that’s a good looking figure for motivating a travel company for sponsoring your trip.
Remember… Professional travel blogging isn’t only about having an impressive blog, but about having an impressive personal portfolio.
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