One of the frequently asked questions that travel bloggers come across is how do they make money from blogging, and it is only natural for someone to ask so. I mean travelling is an expensive hobby. You spend a week-long holiday in Goa and you end up bleeding a couple of thousand Rupees, at the very least.
So how do full-time travel bloggers keep travelling eternally, without having a permanent source of income, or a day job, rather?
Well, the answer is, they make money from their travel blog.
If you dedicatedly work on your blog, you eventually start making money out of it. Most bloggers who blog full-time start making money during the first year of their blogging-stint. Though of course, the money generated is often never enough, and most bloggers have to rely on other sources of income (for example, I initially relied on freelancing to make money, and now I have a travel business established in the mountains that contributes to my travel needs — Read: How I Make Money Travel Blogging) there are still enough ways of generating revenues from your blog.
Different bloggers moreover use different ways of making money. And before I disclose all the ways I know of (or have tried in the past) let me put a word of warning first. If your goal of starting a travel blog is making money, don’t even bother starting! Because there are far easier ways of making money online than blogging. I would only recommend travel blogging if your goal is to travel and you enjoy writing about your journeys. Travel blogging is more about following your passion for travel than seeking ways of making money.
So if you still want to be a full-time travel blogger, these are the different ways to cash in on your hobby.
Placing banner ads on your blog is perhaps the most traditional and ineffective way of monetizing. Ineffective because you need the website traffic of at least a few thousand readers every day to be making any money at all.
There are quite a few ad-networks that pay on Cost Per Click & Cost Per Impression basis (meaning everytime someone clicks or sees an ad on your website you earn money) but I’ve personally been using Google Adsense and recommend it — if you still decided to go for banner ads — because of its easy usability and the trust factor that no matter what, Google isn’t going to shut down tomorrow.
But as I said earlier, if the daily traffic on your website is less than a few thousand visitors don’t even bother playing ads, because, you’re not going to make much money and placing ads will only end up spoiling the user experience.
Affiliate marketing is wherein you place a special affiliate tracking link on your website to a merchant’s website, and when someone buys a product after getting redirected from your website, you receive a commission. Again, the success of affiliate marketing depends on the traffic you’re getting on articles including an affiliate link. But how smartly have you embedded the link is also likely to play a role.
For travel bloggers, websites including Amazon.com, Booking.com, WorldNomads.com, Skyscanner.com, are most useful, but please read the terms and conditions before you apply for their affiliate program. I’ve been currently using and getting most of my affiliate revenue from Amazon and Booking.com. Here’s a good example of one of my pages full of affiliate links: Travel Gear I Use.
Also known as text-link advertising, link selling is when companies would pay just for giving a do-follow backlink to their website in one of your already published posts, or provide a full pre-written “guest post” with one or two do-follow backlinks. Why? Because it helps their website increase its search engine results, sending more people to their website from search engines and thus growing their business. (Tip: Google to know more about a no-follow and a do-follow backlink).
The practice is however frowned upon and is strictly against Google’s guidelines. And if you’re caught by Google, it can backfire, so I don’t recommend it. Yet many bloggers still make money this way.
Once you gain some readership and a good social media follower base, you are no longer a story-teller, but an influencer whom people would want to follow, with brands wanting to hire you to endorse their products and services. And in the process, you make a little money.
Read this other article I’ve written on How People Get Paid To Travel As Influencers to learn about the entire aspect of making money as an influencer, in detail!
Instagram is the most popular influencer platform, with most companies wanting travel influencers to do a marketing campaign for them on Instagram and Instagram alone. So if you’re new in the blogging industry (or in other terms, new in the influencer industry) start investing your time on Instagram from day 1.
There are several Influencer Networks out there that help influencers in different niches (say fashion, or adventure, or travel) find influencer campaigns. Just sign up on them and wait for some work to come your way. To name a few, influencer.in, Socialbeat, Blogmint, Buzzoole, Glambassador are a few popular influencer networks that I use, among others.
Getting Commissions From Hotels & Tour Operators
Some bloggers also work as an intermediate for connecting travellers with hotels and tour operators and earn a commission in between. The idea is simple — you write an article about an offbeat destination and mention where you stayed. Now people read your article and come to you asking for contact details about the property (provided they are not smart enough to find it online). Now, you connect the two parties and earn a commission in between.
I tried making money this way during the initial six months of blogging, but the problem is it takes a lot of time converting leads and you only end up making a little money — usually less than 20% of the total sellout. I no longer use this way to make money and support my travels, but as I said, initially I did.
Now that I own a camping business of my own, in the mountains, I work on the other side of the spectrum. I now give travel bloggers and tour leaders a chance to make money by bringing people to my campsite. For example, I charge 1500 Rupees per night per person for my full board plan. If someone brings me a person on their behalf (as a travel agent), I give 200 Rupees to them as an agent commission. Check the Instagram page of my business: instagram.com/footloosecamps, and contact me if you’re planning to bring a group for camping!
Selling Pictures On Stock-Image Websites
If you’re a good photographer, consider investing some time and building a portfolio on various stock-image websites. Websites like 500px, Shutterstock, Alamy and Getty Images (there are over a dozen others) allow photographers to list their pictures, place a bid and monetize per sale.
Paid Media/Fam Trips
Though most of the FAM trips (or familiarization/media trips) only bear your cost of travelling, experiences and stay, some of them pay as well — depending upon your market credibility as a travel journalist, or of the publications, you write for.
I’ve attended nearly 20 FAM trips so far since I’ve started travel blogging and was paid only twice, and it happened recently after my blog was featured in two leading national newspapers in India The Economic Times & The Statesman in August 2017. Moreover, other than increasing blog readership, I now offer 70,000+ fan base on my different social media networks — which certainly act as another driving factor for sponsors taking me on a paid Fam trip.
FAM trips are mostly organised by the tourism boards.
Blogging Workshops or Online Courses
Teaching your fans about the art of travel blog and charging for it is another way of monetizing — and many successful travel bloggers do it, though some do it by organising events and in-person (as I do) whereas others create online courses and sell them.
Last but not the least, freelancing is another (common) way many bloggers rely on for an additional source of income — including me. And I believe this is because of the fact that once you start blogging and gain a bit of experience in writing, it becomes fairly easier to write for other publications, and moreover gain their trust as a freelance writer at first place.
During my initial days of blogging, I relied on freelancing platforms like Upwork and Freelancer for finding any travel writing or photography related work. With increasing credibility as a travel blogger, I now write for a couple of print magazines and an in-flight magazine.