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I have been meaning to write this post for a long time. Like many other bloggers, I frequently get asked about how I monetise my travel blog. Unlike others, though, this is not the first question people ask me because I do have a full time job at Google so the curiosity is never towards “How do you make a living from travel blogging” but more “Do you actually make money from it or is it just a hobby?”
And also, “What is your favorite country?”
I guess it is more interesting to hear that I have been to 92 countries than to understand whether I make money or not with my blog.
In any conversation, most people will ultimately ask how travel blogs generate income. I usually struggle to explain this in a structured manner so I end up saying things like sponsored posts and social media campaigns, which are what people can relate to the most (we can thank the Kardashians for that).
I am not writing this post just to tell the world my financial situation, I am doing it for my partner. He is a commodities trader and the world of online and digital media is something of a black box for him. He did not even have any social media account or knowledge of what a hashtag was when we met.
Refreshing, for someone who spends hours online everyday and for whom life is pretty much in the virtual world. Our online profiles could not be any more different. Naturally, it is not easy for him to understand how I make money from my blog.
This post is for him and all those other people who ultimately ask how travel bloggers maintain themselves without what is usually termed as a “regular job” but also for regular travel bloggers, because it is the most comprehensive and exhaustive post about ways travel bloggers make money I have found and it is full of tips and advice from peers succeeding at monetising their travel blog in a variety of ways. I hope you find one you didn’t think of.
- Can you make a full time living out of blogging?
- Misconceptions of a blogging career
- The time vs. payout fallacy
- Passive income
- Passive income generated directly from the blog
- Display advertising (USD200 – USD1,000+)
- Selling online (USD50 – USD10,000+)
- Affiliate marketing (USD100 – USD10,000+)
- Donations and tip jar
- Subscription services
- Passive Income not directly generated through the blog
- Passive income generated directly from the blog
- Active Income generation
- Active income directly generated through the blog
- Destination Marketing (USD500+)
- Marketing campaigns for brands
- Influencer Events
- Brand ambassadorship (The sky’s the limit!)
- Social media campaigns (USD150+)
- Advertorial posts (USD100 – USD1,000)
- Link building (USD100 – USD1,000)
- Email marketing (USD500+)
- Travel planning services (USD50+ per session)
- Active income not directly generated through the blog
- Freelance remote work
- Content Creation (USD120+)
- Mentoring of other bloggers (USD50 per hour)
- Blogging retreats (USD1,000+)
- Digital Marketing Agencies – Consulting to brands (USD1,000+)
- Speaking arrangements (USD500+)
- Leading or hosting tours (USD5,000+)
- Localised tour sales
- Online courses or webinars (USD100+)
- Host or presenter
- Influencer Marketing or Blogger outreach (USD20+ per link placed)
- Social media management (USD150 – USD1,000)
- Active income directly generated through the blog
- Transitioning out of the blogging life
Can you make a full time living out of blogging?
The digital nomad life
Before we get started, a word of advice. Making money online and with a blog of any kind is perfectly possible and lots of people do it successfully, some in the six digit range (that is a minimum of USD8,000 a month). But most people who do so have diversified and this is perhaps the most important thing to remember. Contrary to regular jobs where one employer will pay your salary, being in the digital world and trying to make a living off a digital property like a blog requires you to diversify tremendously because most of the revenue streams are unpredictable and constantly changing. For example, if your income is mostly coming from ads and, suddenly, the platform which serves ads on your website decides to change its policy your income could go down to zero. If you rely exclusively on selling Amazon products and suddenly Amazon stops working with the third party seller that you were advertising, your income could go down to zero. You get the gist. Depending on one revenue source in a world that is rapidly evolving is not a good idea. You need to hustle and you need to diversify. Most people will have their toes on at least 4-5 different areas to guarantee a minimum income.
The other element derived from the above is that most bloggers have very erratic revenue profiles. It is related to the fact that this is an ever changing landscape, but also to the effect of one-off types of work that come and go. This is perhaps the scariest part for most people: Not knowing how much you will make every month.
Misconceptions of a blogging career
Almost every single blogger will tell you this: Don’t be tricked into believing that bloggers are living a life of constant travel and no work. Working online is tough and it requires an incredible level of commitment and very long hours. Not because you see a photo a day from a blogger where he or she is having fun somewhere does it mean that this is how they spent the entire day. Heck, most times, the photo may have been taken at another point and when you see it posted the person is probably behind a laptop typing away.
Six different outfits, only 3 days, enough content produced for 2 weeks
This is something which happens to me all the time. My friends regularly ask me whether I have a job and how come I spend my days traveling, because my social media profiles seem to indicate so. They show me traveling and having fun every day, so they think that this is my daily life. Wrong. Let me reveal a dirty little secret from all travel bloggers. We may travel for 3 days then be home for two weeks just working non-stop, 15h days. In the 3 days, we collect enough material to last us the two weeks, so it appears, online, that we are in fact traveling for two weeks. This is the only way I, with a full time regular job, can “pretend” to be exploring a new destination every day. I do make the most of every trip but I am by no means traveling constantly.
I have written before about how I spend about 40% of my time on the road. But that does not mean that my days happen by the pool sipping a margarita, primarily because you cannot work on a laptop in the sun, it overheats in no time! The crude reality is that my days, like right this moment on a Friday night and Saturday morning, are spent working, two full time jobs: my job at Google and my job as a travel blogger, managing my two travel blogs (Yes, I do have another travel blog called Singapore n Beyond focused on Southeast Asia travel and lifestyle for residents of Singapore).
Another side effect of having a digital always-on life is that I rarely disconnect from it. Weekends are my most productive time. I am fresh and I can focus on the blog entirely. I almost never switch off from the many social media channels I have (two instagram (OIALJ, SGnB), two Facebook (OIALJ, SGnB), one Twitter, one Flipboard, one YouTube, one Pinterest) because everyone expects me to be online so I constantly check my phone.
The time vs. payout fallacy
Ever since I started to pay attention to monetizing my blog I have focused on “value for time” and on fostering the passive income streams as opposed to the active ones.
As digital marketers and content creators our maximum output produced is the one we can generate in the hours of the day we work. To make more money you have to increase your equivalent hourly rate.
For example, it takes me approximately 4h to create a blog post about a topic that requires minimal research, proof-read it and make sure it is uploaded and fine-tuned. If I spent 100% of my day doing that I would be able to produce 10 articles a week (assuming 40h weeks). At an average rate of USD300 per article that means my maximum possible income for a week would be USD3,000 or USD12,000 a month. And it also means an equivalent USD100 hourly rate. If I wanted to make more money I would have to increase my hourly rate by either charging more for an article or only taking articles that take less time to create.
Every time a new monetisation opportunity comes my way I think about it in terms of hourly rate and decide if it is a good revenue source or not based on that. As my time is limited by the space left after my full time job, I have to be even more brutally critical of any additional work I take so I focus on the highest return on investment opportunities, those with the highest hourly rate, and leave aside opportunities with low pay or too big an effort.
But your hourly rate is not the only revenue source. The best way to make a living online as a blogger is to set up passive income revenue streams. These have the highest hourly rate because they take no effort to generate and hence they can scale without the blogger’s involvement. These passive income streams are the ones people think of when they picture a blogger sipping margaritas poolside. Sadly, most bloggers cannot make a full time living this way and continue to work on active revenue sources.
Without further ado, as follows are 28 ways you can make money as a blogger, travel related or otherwise. Note that, in brackets, I have added some amount ranges generated by each revenue stream but, obviously, the variation is wide because the ultimate ability to monetise each revenue stream very much depends on focus, size and audience of each blog and on the skills of the blogger.
As discussed, passive income is the ideal revenue source. You want to have as much weight in your overall income coming from passive income as possible. Sadly, this is also the hardest to master and to grow. If it was so easy, everyone would do it. Let me show you a few ways in which you can make money in a passive way, either directly from a blog or not.
Passive income generated directly from the blog
These are types of income sources that do not require your involvement and which are directly related to your blog. Without it, you would not have the revenue stream. I call them passive, but the reality is that if you truly left your blog untouched, these revenue streams would eventually die out too so they are passive because you do not have to do anything to make them happen but they do rely on a successful and updated blog.
Display advertising (USD200 – USD1,000+)
Example of a display ad on my homepage, there’s a real one just above the title too
This is the most obvious revenue source for almost everyone. Display ads are those banner images that you find everywhere online which advertise a given brand, product or offer.
A lot of bloggers will proudly say that they do not like ads and that they have decided not to “clutter” their side bars with ads. However, I would argue that we are all so used to ads being everywhere that we are not bothered by it. As long as you do not overdo it, you should be fine.
When setting up ads on your site you need to consider a few things:
- Will you use an ad serving platform or get in touch with direct advertisers?
- What ad serving platform you will sign up for?
- How many ads would you want to show?
- Do you show them on desktop or also on mobile?
Let me answer them all one by one.
Some people decide to have ads they have directly negotiated themselves with the advertiser. For example, if they are running a sponsored post for a hotel chain, they may also include a banner ad for that hotel for a month after the article is up. These are not really passive income streams per se as you need to constantly find new advertisers and renegotiate contracts, but they may generate higher income than if you just use a third party ad serving platform. Talking of which. Ad serving platforms are those which broker the relationship between advertisers willing to advertise their product or service and publishers (aka the bloggers) who are willing to take ads and show them to their readers. The most commonly known platform is AdSense, from Google.
AdSense is easy to set up and you get approved almost immediately after applying it if your blog is at least six months old. After you are approved, you need to include the ads on your site by copying and pasting a small piece of code on your articles or side bars. A very easy thing to do, even I can do it. After that, Google will show ads to your visitors depending on who they are and their preferences. AdSense shares a percentage of their revenue from advertisers with you, usually based on the amount of people who click on the ads shown on your site. For every click, you will get a commission. In my case, with about 60,000 page views I generate about USD150-200 from Adsense every month.
If your blog is large enough there are higher end ad serving platforms that will offer more commission and which may work on impressions (number of people who see the ads) as opposed to clicks. MediaVine is a well-established one which a lot of people use and are happy with. They claim to offer higher commissions and returns because they are more targeted but some people are happier with AdSense.
Selling online (USD50 – USD10,000+)
A major revenue stream for some people are online product sales. You may have seen that a lot of blogs have online stores. In most cases the blogger is not sitting at home packing and shipping your orders but rather a third party company is. There are also some hybrid models. These are some of the types of things you can sell on your blog.
1. Own products
Selling your own products online is a good strategy if you have a specific skill or product that is unique. Doing it through your blog is a means to monetise the traffic that you are already generating.
If you decide to setup an online store page on your blog, you have three options:
- Do the end-to-end fulfilment yourself
- Outsource it to companies like Amazon who would receive your stock, keep it in consignment and then shipping it every time there is an order
- Or use third party fulfillment companies without any stock
If you do the end to end fulfillment yourself then you would have to keep stock at home, setup all the shipping and customer care functions and take the order. This is unpractical if you are a travel blogger. It would also not make it a passive income stream because you would be tied to the business 24/7.
If you do not do that yourself, you can either create the product and have Amazon do the selling for you – this is how all sellers on Amazon do it, or you could use a third party to manufacture the items every time there is a sale.
If you sell via Amazon, you need to make sure you take care of the manufacturing and give Amazon enough inventory at all times but they do all the end-to-end fulfilment of each other and even handle customer service.
Jodi’s food inspired goodies
If you use a third party fulfillment company then you don’t hold stock anywhere.
For example, Jodi from Legal Nomads, generates most of her income this way. She has been selling her own designs on t-shirts, bags and posters through her Shopify store. She designed the prints and got a friend to hand draw them beautifully. Her designs are related to food and travel, her niche, so they perfectly align with her audience and she is able to monetise the visitors to her blog this way. What is more, Jodi draws additional income from her Gluten-free cards which she sells on Gumroad because Shopify does not let you sell digital products. She designed the cards herself and got them properly translated into other languages to help Celiacs on the road eat safely.
To replicate Jody’s model, you can use Shopify to create the online front store (they charge USD20 per month) and then use third party companies like Printful, Merchify or CafePress to manufacture the item with your artwork every time a customer places an order. These third party companies fulfill your sales and print to order so there is not stock maintained and you do not have to worry about shipping or handling orders. This formula allows you to sell standard products like phone covers, t-shirts, posters, mugs, etc. with your own artworks so they are unique and aligned to your niche. The downside here is that you will have to manage the customer service part and if there are issues with the address or returns, the printing company will only take responsibility for faulty products and not for wrong orders, etc. so you need to make sure your T&Cs are specific.
2. Third party products
Mapping Megan’s store
A lot of people have gone the Amazon way. The difference between selling third party products and having your own store is that when you resell third party products you are basically only getting a commission whereas with your store you get the margin you decide based on what the printer gets and your selling price.
Setting up a third party store is possible through Amazon and similar companies because they give you the tools to create an entire store on your blog that looks like yours but is in fact powered by Amazon in the back end and sells Amazon products. Your job here would be to curate a selection of products that you would recommend to your visitors and then place them on your online store following Amazon’s guidelines. Every time someone orders from your Amazon store you get a 4-6% commission. The effort is much lower but so is the return. You don’t do anything else here so, once the store is setup, you just need to ensure your Amazon sellers and products are not discontinued and let Amazon do the rest.
A good example is Mapping Megan. She set up her Amazon store selling adventure gear and products. This is directly aligned to her Adventure Travel Blog motto and helps her visitors locate products she likes. Even though the store is new, she is already able to make USD50 a month this way, totally passively, except for keeping an eye on broken links if a product she is promoting is discontinued on Amazon. Despite having a full blown store, Megan is more successful at monetising the contextual links because her articles are heavily promoted and rank high on Google Search results, as opposed to her Store page which is visited by her regular loyal audience.
Doug the Pug merchandising
This is a bit like Jodi above in the sense that you can use the same channels and tools to make it happen but, instead of promoting a destination or artwork, you promote your brand. It is a common revenue stream for celebrities.
Take Doug the Pug. Not a travel blogger. For one, he is a dog, but I completely love him and since the girl who owns the dog must have struggled to find ways to monetise her close to 10 million followers across Instagram and Facebook, and the dog is such a personality, merchandising makes sense for her. If your brand is such that you can monetise it, then this can be a great revenue stream that also builds free advertising for you.
Affiliate marketing (USD100 – USD10,000+)
Affiliate marketing is basically the same as referral marketing. When someone comes to your blog and clicks on an affiliate link to a website you are referring, you will get a commission on the purchase of that reader when they buy something. This is perhaps the panacea for most bloggers, the true passive income.
The variety of people using affiliate referrals is far and wide and they apply to almost all online blogging niches and industries. In some of them, the amount of money you can make is astonishing. This is the case in the online and digital marketing world where the topic you write about is a service that is online. For example, I have been following Matthew Woodward ever since he started and it has been impressive to see him go for USD2,000 a month to over USD20,000, a month. His blog is a great example of how an open-affiliate-links and honest approach can work well. He reviews digital services and tools for hosting, email marketing, outreach, etc. extensively, tells you all the goods and the bads and then clearly explains how he makes money if you buy it through his referral link. Then every month he publishes his income reports with a breakdown of his income sources. His reviews are honest and have all been fully tried, many with A/B tests over several months, so he adds real value. Therefore, you are happy to use his referral code. In fact, I have learned so much from him that I always go to his site to find his referral codes when I am buying a tool I know he must have reviewed, it is my way of paying him for sharing his knowledge for free.
On the flipside, there are plenty of people who will recommend a product just because of the affiliate revenue they get, even if it’s a product they do not use and would never recommend to a friend. I have seen this happen with some web hosting companies who have a really bad reputation online yet keep getting referred over and over again by bloggers because they pay a great commission. I have never recommended a service I have not experienced and can’t vouch for myself. My rule is simple: If I wouldn’t tell my best friend to use it, I am not going to tell my readers. Ultimately, your audience is your biggest asset and if they stop trusting you, your engagement and, finally, your value, will drop.
These are few affiliate programs to consider.
1. Accommodation booking
Hotel booking engines are one of the easiest and most convenient affiliate programs there are. All you need to do is take the code they provide on their portals and paste it as either text links, banners or booking boxes on your site. They pay little commission, but if you have the volume of traffic and the right articles optimised for it, they can generate nice income.
I use Hotels Combined throughout the site. I use them myself for bookings and I like them because they have one of the largest and most comprehensive portfolio of properties. If a hotel is not on Hotels Combined then it most likely can only be booked through that hotel’s site. What I also like about them is that their cookie is 365 days so I get a higher chance of getting a commission because they consider any booking my reader made in the 365 days after at that hotel if I am the referrer.
Nomadic Boys’ Misterbnb promotion
Other accommodation providers like Airbnb or the gay version, MisterBnB, are also used by several bloggers but they do not pay cash and only give vouchers which can be used towards bookings. Since a lot of bloggers are nomadic, this credit helps save on accommodation cost, but will not pay the bills. This is the case for the Nomadic Boys who promote MisterBnB in their destination guides and get credit they can use while they are on the road.
2. Amazon affiliates
Similar to the stores I mentioned in the previous point but instead of setting up a separate front end store, you just sell products in your posts. There are two strategies here: contextual links, adding them when talking about a product in an article, or full-blown stores.
Contextual links are the most common. A good example is packing guides where you can include links to products on Amazon you are recommending to take on a trip. This may work well if you have an engaged audience and a specific niche. For example, a lot of blogs make significant revenue streams from having very optimised sites that review products. If you have a gear review site and people come to your site to read your opinions test-driving each item, your likelihood of making a sale through Amazon affiliate links or alike is higher because your readers are on your site with the intention to purchase and so are further down on the purchase funnel. It is very common for people to set up Niche Sites that are primarily optimised just for affiliate sales of Amazon products. They draw readers to the site looking to buy a specific product and then tell you all about its greatness and give you the chance to immediately buy it on Amazon. Amazon will give you a 4-6% commission on every sale.
The advantage I found with Amazon, also highlighted by Megan, is that they will give you a commission on anything your reader purchases after arriving at the store through your link, whether that was a product you recommended or not. It is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole on Amazon because the site is so optimised to make a sale that you get bombarded with other things you didn’t know you needed and end up making a purchase. At which point, kaching! You will get a commission.
However, bear in mind that Amazon has a few downsides too. If you do not have your audience in one of the main Amazon countries you may experience issues with the products you want to recommend not being shipped there. This happens to me in Singapore where there is no local Amazon store and a lot of the sellers on Amazon do not ship to Singapore. Even though Amazon is global, you will need to set up a different account in each of the countries you want to advertise from. In my case, I have UK, US and Spain because these are three countries where Amazon and my audience coincide. Amazon is only in Spain, UK, US, Mexico, India, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, China and Brazil. Lastly, Amazon only makes payment via bank wire if you have a bank account in the country where the store is. So if your audience is from the US but you do not have a bank account there, the only way for you to get paid is with a cheque which you will have to pay a fortune to cash in your local bank, further eating into your commission.
There are other sites that work similarly to Amazon like Lazada in Asia or eBay.
3. Travel Insurance
Another great affiliate program for travel bloggers or nomadic people in general is World Nomads. They have a great rapport and customer reviews and I personally know a lot of bloggers who use them and have successfully and painlessly submitted and received claims. They are highly recommended and have a very generous affiliate program. The good thing is that, if you are nomadic, it is very likely you will have travel insurance and so writing a post explaining your experience with World Nomads is a good way to endorse them. Alternatively, it is easy to crowdsource experiences from others, and this is how I know they are highly regarded and professional.
4. Affiliate portals and aggregators
Although I usually prefer to sign up directly with the affiliate program of the company I want to promote, there are aggregator portals for affiliate programs. Some of the most popular ones are Share a Sale, Affiliate Window and Commission Junction (CJ).
In there, you can find a host of brands and their affiliate programs. They work like Amazon in the sense that they will provide you with the links to be added as contextual links and you can also include banner ads to go with it. They will then manage the payment with the brands.
The advantage of using an aggregator is that a lot of individual programs will have either geographical constraints or require minimum commission thresholds to make payment. With an aggregator you can achieve the minimum payment amount faster because you can accumulate sales from several companies and they may offer a wider range of payment methods like Paypal or international bank transfers. Additionally, their reports are usually much more detailed as this is their bread and butter, and focused on helping you optimise your links. Lastly, a lot of brands do not have individual affiliate programs and rely on third parties like the above to provide affiliate sales.
The downside? Some of these programs are constantly removing and adding new companies so you may have added all the links from CJ in your article only for the company to leave CJ. This has happened to me and it is incredibly frustrating so make sure that the links you add are from long standing companies. Also, if you do not reach a minimum number of sales they may drop you from the program which is even more frustrating. Lastly, make sure that the geographical reach of the program matches that of your audience’s (going back to my previous comment on the Amazon stores) so that you don’t waste your audience’s time by referring them to a site where they cannot buy what you told them was so great.
5. Teaching English abroad
Teaching English as a foreign language is a great career choice if you want a job that also allows you to travel and experience a new culture and a lot of travel bloggers make a full time living this way, combining a full time job for a few months with a long break to travel before the next assignment. A good way to leverage this experience and create a passive revenue stream is through affiliate sales of the companies who offer courses to become a certified English teacher abroad. Alice from Teacake Travels, has several articles on her blog about teaching English abroad including five articles on each of the countries she has taught English in and also a comprehensive guide to getting started. She also helps people who email her directly with tips and advise. Every time somebody decides to purchase the course from MyTEFL she used and recommends, she earns a $35 commission. The commission is usually higher than what you will get from other affiliate programs and once the guides are set up correctly and rank with the right keywords, they should convert better as well.
Donations and tip jar
This may sounds either obvious or strange but you are providing a value to your audience, for free, and you are trying to make a living of all the possible ways except from the people who get value from your site. Why not ask them to contribute?
For example, The Guardian does that at the end of each and every article and with a pop-up.
If what you are providing is unique, not easily and freely available elsewhere and you offer a genuine value your audience appreciates, implementing such donation boxes may help with paying the bills. Like The Guardian, you may choose to appeal to people’s honesty and integrity and simply ask them to support you with or without a stipulated fee or recurrence in payment.
A lot of people think this is begging, tacky or cheap but you could also see it as a way to let people who enjoy your content support you. I have never seen a problem in asking for what you are worth.
Another interesting idea in this realm is what Jean from Traveling Honeybird does just that on her Patreon page. Patreon allows her to set different levels of contribution and she offers to send the subscribers her posts first and also to send postcards from her travels. She makes around USD100 a month this way.
Nowadays we are not used to paying for anything that comes from the online world but the word Freemium or Paywall still rings a bell for many companies who offer a range of online services for free and then have a subscription-based area only for members who may pay a small fee.
This is usually the case for newspapers and online magazines like The New York Times but may also include members-only reviews, offers, in-depth content or value that cannot be found elsewhere for free. This is not an easy revenue model to master because we are all used to getting things for free online, but there are some successful cases.
Here are the variants of this model:
- Membership – Where access to a reserved area is only accessible to monthly paying customers but the rest is free
- Freemium – Where a part of the content is free and part is paid for
- Micro-payments – Where you pay per piece
Passive Income not directly generated through the blog
Having a blog has a lot of side benefits and produces a lot of collateral assets which can be monetised on their own regardless of the blog. I am referring mostly to the writing, the photographs and the video footage. These are all items that can be sold and which hold value in themselves beyond the role they play in the blog.
A lot of travel writers started off with strong photography backgrounds. Others, had to learn the hard way. Travel writing is closely linked to appealing visual images and videos. If you are not strong in that realm you need to either find someone who is and partner with them (this is how a lot of blogging couples are split) or focus on the quirkiness, personality and entertainment angle of your blog (like the lovely Nomadic Boys) instead of relying on sharing stunning images. It is possible to make relevant income from selling your photography online.
You may be surprised to know that the photos that often do best in stock photography sites are not the most amazing landscapes or the heavily edited images but the ones that are in demand and that can simply be an apple tree or a person sitting in front of a laptop. The brand’s needs for stock photography are varied.
A popular site is Shutterstock which is a database of photos which brands can purchase for a fee. As a photographer, you get a commission every time someone downloads your image. The amounts are low, USD0.25 per photo downloaded, but this is basically a long-term passive income stream that will survive whether your blog is active or not. Good news is that the more you sell the higher the individual payout per photo you will earn.
To join Shutterstock you will first need to apply by submitting your first 10 images and then wait for them to be approved before you can upload an unlimited amount. Every photo uploaded is approved by their staff so it may take some time but their tagging capabilities are intelligent and allow you to tag away quite quickly. Bear in mind that photos need to be a minimum of 20 MG and that models in the shots need to sign release forms for the photo to be on sale – without the release form the photo will be rejected. Shutterstock also has a referral program (<- this is my link) where you earn USD0.04 per photo your referral sells for the first two years.
Another good site for selling photography is ImageBrief. As opposed to Shutterstock, ImageBrief also works on an “on demand” basis where brands submit briefs and photographers pitch with their best images. You save the hassle of uploading and if you have unique photos you may have an advantage. You can receive daily emails with the newly added briefs and see if any fits your portfolio. The photos sold via ImageBrief are paid much better (USD1,000 per photo is not rare) because they are much more specific (e.g. Sydney People) but are not passive income per se unless you submit your photos to your portfolio in line with Shutterstock.
Publish a book
Most bloggers are good at one thing: writing. Unless you are a social media maverick or a photographer/videographer, words are still the strongest weapon for most of us. Communicating a thought, conveying a message or telling a story is what we do best so it comes as no surprise that a lot of us have decided to put pen to paper in a real book in order to monetise our writing skills.
When it comes to writing a book there are two types of topics: related to the blog or unrelated to the blog. There are also two ways of selling it: on the blog or on third party stores. If you are writing about a topic that is directly related to your blog, you will most likely consider marketing it to your audience through your channels. But if you are writing about a topic that is not directly related to your blog audience’s interests, you may choose to sell it primarily via third party stores. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Amber’s Emilia Romagna Food Guide
Writing about a topic that is in your domain makes it easier to market it and it gives you an additional revenue stream to monetise the eyeballs on your site. However, when you write about a topic that is not related to your blog you are opening doors to new audiences.
Most bloggers will use a combination of own channels and third party distributors, harnessing the power of Amazon and other publishing networks’ reach with the engaged audience and higher profit of a direct sale.
What needs to be considered is that your publishing and marketing strategies will be different depending on the channel.
If you are thinking of self-publishing on Amazon, CreateSpace will be a useful resource to help you edit the book, design the cover, convert to a kindle-friendly version and create the paperback. What is more, CreateSpace will also print the paperback version on demand so you do not need the budget to make a print run and pay for storage, a copy will be printed every time someone orders the book.
To illustrate, I wanted to share two different approaches to self-publishing books: a food travel guide series and a prolific, bite-sized writer.
Amber, from With Husband in Tow, wrote and published a book on Emilia Romagna’s food which she sees sales of every day. As her blog is primarily aimed at food and travel, this is a topic that is very much on point. To publish and review the book, she used PressBooks. She had used them before for her guide to Myanmar and is happy enough that she will use them again. Her book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.
On the other hand, Ryan from Blogging from Paradise, has published over 120 books on blogging life and coaching on three storefronts: Amazon, Selz and iTunes. His books are also available in audible version and are concise and specific. Instead of publishing in-depth books, Ryan focuses on getting out short, topic-based ebooks with a specific objective in mind, like helping you write your first ebook or overcoming writer’s block. He uses ACX to create and distribute the audibles for iTunes and Amazon.
They shared their experience writing and publishing ebooks with me. For Amber, the process was not easy as it required an in-depth understanding of the region and detailed research on the ground. Her and her husband Eric spent six weeks in Emilia Romagna in an 18 month period, talking to local producers, restaurants and business owners, which they complemented with talks with the tourism board. Ryan has taken the opposite approach. He focuses on creating short, 6,000-word ebooks that can be written and published quickly, even within the day. Over the years, Ryan has focused on honing his writing skills and is able to produce thousands of words per day. Depending on which type of book you are looking to write, your approach may be more like that of Amber or like Ryan’s.
But regardless of how you get to the final product, the promotion is what will determine whether you succeed or fail at creating a passive revenue stream. Amber and Eric agree that publishing an ebook is not a fully passive income stream as promotion is a time-consuming always-on effort. They leverage their social media reach as well as the local and national tourism boards looking to promote the area to reach relevant audiences. And are constantly promoting the book.
Ryan believes that the secret is to build the relationship with your readers through valuable free content on the blog so they keep coming back and are ready to buy your product when you have one. He uses his mailing list and social media channels to promote the ebooks.
I also decided to embark on publishing a book: 100 trips of a Lifetime. My first ebook is a compilation of my best trips of a lifetime most of which I have never taken as this is my curated travel wishlist. I decided to self-publish it as a PDF sold on Gumroad on my website and I am in the process of adding it to Amazon. My biggest learning is that writing a book is going to take much longer than expected. I also learned that books which contain formatting (tables, lists, etc.) as well as high quality images, are not suitable for Kindle so if you plan to sell mostly books through that channel, make sure your ebook is text based.
Podcast or audio books
Like with books, podcasts are a good revenue stream you can monetise by selling them online or through your blog.
Although there are lots of free audiobooks and podcasts available, creating something engaging and unique could warrant a revenue stream. The advantage of a podcast is that the editing is minimal, significantly lower than with a book or a video so they are low cost to produce and distribute as they are light.
You can sell your podcasts on iTunes as well as on Amazon. Who knows, you may create the next Serial.
Active Income generation
This section includes the bread and butter of a blogger, the 9-5 part of the blogging job, even if that is only a couple of hours a day in the case of part-time bloggers. This is the part that does not get done if you are on holidays because it requires active involvement and effort.
Just like with passive income, you may generate active income from the blog or from other sources.
Active income directly generated through the blog
These are the revenues that come directly from the blog. Often times, these are the hardest to bring because blogs are at a time and place today where readers expect them to offer high value at no cost and brands have yet to see us as legitimate 21st century alternatives to the paying traditional media outlets. Also, there is a lot of competition so staying on top of the game and carving a niche is increasingly difficult.
Destination Marketing (USD500+)
Directly promoting a destination, instead of a property or hotel, is called destination marketing. A destination can be promoted via:
- Group set trips: These can also be called Press Trip and are usually organised by either the Tourism Board or a Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) who represents them. They tend to come on set dates and with listed deliverables and include a group of influencers, sometimes both from online and traditional print media
- Individual trips: Where the campaign is tailored-made for the blogger
Although most trips organised by tourism boards and the DMOs who represent them tend to be free, they rarely include daily fees or payment for the services. However, if you pitch your idea and are a good fit, you might be able to command a marketing fee for the work.
The Crowded Planet Stopover Finland campaign
The Crowded Planet draws most of their income from destination marketing campaigns charging anything from USD1,000 for a weekend trip to USD5,000 with photography and videography deliverables. A good example is their Stopover Finland campaign with Finnair and Visit Finland. These campaigns are usually integrated and cross-channel and may include photography, videography and articles as well as social media.
Marketing campaigns for brands
As opposed to a destination, when a campaign is made for a specific brand, they are the focus. A destination may also be included as part of the campaign, but the main promotional effort is devoted to the brand.
Marketing campaigns for brands are specific to the blog’s audience, focus and the brand’s objectives. They may include anything from articles reviewing the property to social media campaigns or even the sale of photography or videography services. In this case, bloggers will define their fees based on either daily rates or detailed rack rates per service. The preference is entirely personal. I prefer to charge daily rates including a type of coverage because I will price the inclusions per day depending on my equivalent daily rate. My rates can be anything from USD300 to USD700 depending on what is included in the package. I may then price additional services like photography or video editing on top as additional costs.
My friend Scott Eddy makes a full time living with this. He promotes luxury hotels, airlines, wineries and destinations on fully comped extended trips including a daily rate. Most of his coverage will be on social media where he has a combined 1,4 million followers with the biggest portion coming from Twitter where he has 1,1 million. He has been named one of the most influential people on travel on the platform and so he can command high daily rates reaching up to USD1,500. Looking through his feed you can easily see the campaigns he works on. I particularly like the Star Alliance Round the World campaign where he went on a wine and luxury themed round the world trip with the Star Alliance airline partners.
Like celebrities, bloggers also make money from making appearances at events. Although this is not a very common revenue stream, it is possible in cases of people who promote specific destinations and are based there. For nomadic travelers with global audiences, this is more difficult. I have been invited to numerous events in Singapore because of my Singapore-focused blog, Singapore n Beyond.
If you are a highly regarded and very engaged influencer with an audience that truly listens to your opinions you may be able to command a fee to attend certain events. I have been told that Lady Iron Chef, from Singapore, will do so. He (it is actually a man) has one of the most highly engaged audiences I have ever seen and so when they promote a place the business feels it straightaway and people come queueing.
Brand ambassadorship (The sky’s the limit!)
Brand ambassadorships are a more comprehensive form of influencer marketing. The ambassador represents the brand in several fronts and may also provide content for the brand to reuse. Each ambassadorship is different and will include some elements or other.
Cacinda, from Points and Travel, has acted as ambassador to several brands such as Travelocity, Yahoo Travel, Delsey Luggage, Rocky Mountaineer, TripAdvisor, Club Carlson or FlipBoard. You can click on the links for an example of the work she does. She tells me that each contract varies significantly based on what the brand wants. Sometimes, she provides content for the brand including photography or write-ups for their sites. Other times, she has represented them at events. Because the conditions and the work varies significantly, so does the pay. From some she gets free products whereas others can pay up to USD40,000 annually and include other perks.
Another example is Scott Eddy. He has been the brand ambassador for Zipkick since it was established as a company, well before it was a reality. The founder, Will, contacted him via Twitter and they met up in person. Scott was interested in the idea and decided to sign up for it. Scott represents Zipkick at events, promotes the brand on social media and has helped Zipkick create the social media network of influencers that the brand has leverage since the beginning. Scott’s reach served as a hook for many influencers to join in Zipkick, something which the brand may not have been able to do on its own. What’s in it for Scott? Will offered him a share in the company.
Brand ambassadorships are a relatively new income stream for bloggers and a very nascent strategy for brands looking to tap into the potential of influencer marketing without the hefty tag of a celebrity. Finding them is not easy as there aren’t established channels for this. Cacinda has found hers though Facebook forums, Craigslist, and Classified Ads but the largest source is word of mouth. Once her status started to become more visible, it was easier to find and successfully win the contracts.
Social media campaigns (USD150+)
Social media campaigns are the most widely spread of all the online marketing campaigns. They have existed for some time and even the social media platforms have finally added tools and ways to make these collaborations smooth (even if that often means that you will have to advertise a campaign to get any reach). Once your presence and vanity numbers reach a certain level, you will start receiving offers from brands. The certain level may vary depending on the niche you are in and the fit with the brand. If you are a perfect fit, have a small but engaged audience and a very specific segment, you may be able to monetise your channel early. Lots of large social media celebrities make a full time living of this even without any other online presence. There are several tools to calculate your approximate fees based on reach and engagement but, ultimately, it will come down to your ability to negotiate.
If you are looking to proactively reach out to brands or to expand your outreach efforts beyond the offers you receive, there are dozens of influencer marketing platforms which aim to do just that: connecting brands with influencers. There, brands are able to post offers and get influencers to apply or directly shortlist influencers they are interested to work with and send them a personalised offer. I have made the most money from these platforms.
1. Social media sponsored posts (USD100+)
Social media sponsored posts are the most basic of them all. A brand wants you to promote them with a video or a photo on your channels and will pay you to do so. Some brands will also include a budget for advertising so they reach more of your audience. The post may be provided by the brands (like this campaign I did with Avoya) or they may give you the chance to come up with the post yourself in keeping with your personality, brand and tone.
2. Twitter chats (USD250+)
Some bloggers with large Twitter reach make money hosting twitter chats. If you have a good following and you co-host it with another Twitter user you could be making it a weekly or monthly activity that you get a new sponsor to pay for. Twitter chats are usually themed, they have a maximum of 10 questions which are numbered (and so are the answers) and a hashtag you can follow.
Some of the longest running and largest Twitter chats you can have a look at for reference are:
- #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter) which uses the hashtag #ttot hosted by Travel Dudes (270k+ followers) and Roni Weiss (founder of TravFest and other travel companies) on Tuesday at 9:30am/pm GMT
- #RTWChat hosted by BootsnAll on Tuesday at 3:30pm PST
- #TL_Chat hosted by Travel + Leisure on Tuesday at 2pm ET
3. Product placements (USD150+)
Mostly common for platforms like Instagram or Pinterest, which are more visual, product placements are the online world version of the TV product placement of your childhood. Some Instagram influencers can charge up to USD1,000 just for one photo (celebrities like the Kardashians charge more than USD200k for a photo!) where the product in question is mentioned. The fees vary vastly depending on your reach but someone with 20,000 followers could easily command USD150-250 per photo and much more if it is a video.
Barbara, from Jet-Settera, has 71k followers on Instagram and occasionally posts photos for brand collaborations. She started to work with brands when she reached 25k followers and the work has kept coming. In order to determine her prices she uses Influencer Marketing Hub’s Instagram calculator. To find opportunities she signed up to influencer marketing sites.
Like Barbara, you should remember to indicate when a post is sponsored – i.e. someone paid you do it. If it is something you genuinely love and recommend, studies prove that you will get the reach and engagement anyway so play fair.
4. Social media take overs (USD150+)
My take over of the Capella Singapore
Another way of monetising your online influence is by taking over social media channels of other brands. As a brand, it is difficult to keep generating new and original content. Some brands resort to reporting the content from their customers and some of them have started to engage with influencers to let them take over their online social media channels and publish their own content. Usually, the take overs will also include cross-promotion on their personal channels so the brand gets both the content, the endorsement and the reach out to the blogger’s social media followers.
Social media take overs usually involve little extra effort on top of the regular coverage you would provide on a given campaign so they are a great added revenue. On the downside, the administrative part of it may require defining the details as the brand is unlikely going to give the login details to their social media channels so you either get a phone they provide that is logged in already or send your posts and hashtags to a contact person who posts them as if he or she was you, in the case of Instagram or Twitter.
Social media take overs are usually charged on a daily fee based on deliverables specifying the number and angle of each post. If you include sharing on your own channels as well then you should adjust your fee based on your social media promotion rates as well.
Another way in which you can monetise your reach is by hosting a giveaway with a brand willing to reach your audience. Giveaways differ from direct promotion in that there is something in it for the audience too. People are very used to giveaways and the noise makes it hard to get traction unless what you are giving away is of very high value, very relevant to your audience and they have a high chance of winning. Giveaways are usually charged in bulk with a list of services which detail the number of posts for promotion, the costs of running the giveaway (I always use WooBox) and whether there are any associated articles on the blog linked to it.
Advertorial posts (USD100 – USD1,000)
This is perhaps the most traditional way of advertising. Advertorial posts are the online version of the print magazines and newspapers’ ads. Typically, advertorials will include a write up about a brand along with a review and relevant information. Most bloggers provide advertorial services that can start at USD50 depending on the size, reach and audience of the blog. For example, Isabel from Bel Around The World, makes most of her income from these types of posts.
Advertorial posts help brands with awareness. As a blogger, you should not be expected to endorse the service or product and can openly describe it, or you can test the product or service and provide an honest and open review of its pros and cons. I do a lot of these and charge USD350 per post.
As these are sponsored posts that a brand paid for, the links must be marked “No follow” in the HTML code. This is so that it aligns with Google’s guidelines for SEO and Search results. By marking them “No Follow” you are telling Google that you have been paid to write the post. This is important, as Expedia found out when Google penalised it and it disappeared from the search results. However, brands will insist that they want “Do follow” links because this is one of the main reasons they are paying for a sponsored post. This is an ongoing battle in the online publishing world. If you decide to leave the links “Do follow” and take the risk because it is the prerequisite for the brand, do so understanding the risks.
Link building (USD100 – USD1,000)
I prefer to differentiate the sponsored posts from the pure link building strategy because the brand’s objectives are different. Link building is perhaps the most talked about concept in online marketing, together with SEO, which is closely related.
Everything in the digital world starts with driving traffic to your blog. Once you have the traffic, it is easier to monetise a blog. The best way to grow the traffic to your site is through organic ways. That is, by appearing top on the Google search results page when somebody is looking for information. As Google is very customer oriented, it shows search results based on what it believes will give you the best answer to your question. And this accuracy and relevance is determined by millions of aspects in Google’s algorithm among which is how knowledgeable you are on the topic, something which we call Authority.
For example, if your website talks exclusively about how to boil an egg in New York City it will likely have a lot of people linking to it when they talk about boiling eggs. Because it is exclusively devoted to the subject and a lot of external websites have linked to it, every time somebody living in NYC searches “How to boil an egg” the chances of the egg boiling site appearing at the top of the search results page are high because Google will consider you an authority on egg boiling. In order to tell Google that you are an authority on your subject, your site needs to be about the topic being searched for and you need to have a lot of inbound links (links to other articles on your site) because that is considered an endorsement by Google. A lot of endorsements means higher authority.
By now you realised why brands would pay to have links pointing to their websites and this is what they are paying for when they are buying a link. Sometimes they do not really care where the link is and they might be happy to include it in an existing post, but they will be keen to decide the text where the link is placed. In this case, the only value of a link is in the endorsement hence the link will be “Do follow”. A “No Follow” link is of no value, so wanting to disclose this is probably a deal-breaker for them.
Email marketing (USD500+)
Email marketing is making a comeback. After years of near-death, email marketing seems to be reviving into one of the higher return rates there is. However, building a marketing list is tough, takes time and a lot of consistency and perseverance. Once you have it, if it is an engaged and targeted audience, it can be a source of income both as an advertising channel, like social media, or as a way to upsell and promote your products or services further.
Those with a valuable audience will be able to monetise this in very high figures given the low return that other social media channels produce as a result of their algorithms. But be careful not to alienate your audience with newsletters filled with ads or irrelevant content or they may unsubscribe.
Some good examples of monetisation of this channel can be found in the traditional media publications which had a relevant base of subscribers and are now monetising it by sending them email offers. Conde Nast will send you daily emails where they promote new and old content and regularly send sponsored newsletters. So will DestinAsian.
Travel planning services (USD50+ per session)
I have decided to include this in the section that is related to a blog, but you could also offer this service standalone. However, having a front store that shows your knowledge on a destination is the best business card you can have.
One of the most common things travel bloggers get asked for (after how do you make money!) is help with organising a trip. As a result, some bloggers have started offering trip planning services for the destinations they know well or live in. There have also been a number of startups that focused on brokering this service.
Backpacker Banter set up two travel booking services: Epic Gap Year focused on surf, dive, snow and adventure and RTW Backpackers, focused on travel in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Southeast Asia.
Active income not directly generated through the blog
Blogging is a tough world to make a full time living. Because of this most of the travel bloggers leverage other channels to pay the bills, especially if they are nomadic and are starting out. Remote work in an ever connected world could fill pages but these are some of the ways in which you can generate active income.
Freelance remote work
Most bloggers will utilise their skills in a variety of ways freelancing, these are some of the most common freelance opportunities.
1. Article writing (USD50 – USD800)
Article writing can take the shape of a ghostwriting assignment or a submission as a contributing author to well-established sites who pay writers for their work.
I have written for BBC Travel before and they pay anything from USD400 to USD800 per piece and you do get authorship. They are very strict in their editing though, so for the first few times you will spend a lot of time revisiting the piece.
There are a number of sites that provide writing opportunities. The most common ones are:
- Upwork – a freelancing website with all manners of jobs not just writing. The issue here is that competition is fierce so price becomes the decision factor as there are people willing to do it for less and the jobs are assigned based on bidding
- Fiverr – everything for USD5 but you can also list jobs for more than that, the rates are set by you and you can choose to list a 100 word post for USD5
- CopyPress – a well known and used writing site which will send you jobs after you have been approved. To be approved you must pass a test. They are known to pay late
- ProBlogger – its job board is full of remote jobs including writing and other
- BloggerPro Jobs – which is a job board, also has other opportunities beyond writing
- Freelance writing jobs – consolidates job opportunities from other sites like Indeed and Craigslist plus adds its own
- Guru – specializes in, well, gurus, so you need to pass a test and interviews on the skill you want to offer services in then you get paid better rates
- Matador network Marketplace is always open to submissions that are short and listicle format so they are quick to write. However, they pay a flat fee of SGD50 so unless you can write one an hour it is not such good pay. You need to be a student of one of their programs to have access to these opportunities. This is also a great place to find other writing opportunities for travel media companies that pay well
Some bloggers make several thousands of dollars a month from writing. It is all about having the right content and contacts with the publishers who pay the best and then making sure to minimise the editing loops after that. If you are able to score writing opportunities at USD250 for a 1,000 word post (that is USD0.25 per word), then you need to produce one a day to make USD5,000 a month.
2. Translation work
Some bilingual bloggers have sites on two languages and sell their translation services online. Some of the sites listed above also advertise translation jobs. Guru, for example, will offer good rates for experienced translators. Alternatively, try a translation-exclusive site: TranslatorsTown but beware that it works like Upwork so the bidding process will bring prices down. Also, you need to pay to bid, the free version does not allow you to do so, companies must invite you to bid first.
3. Copyediting and proofreading (USD15+ for 500 words)
The same as above. Most of the writing sites also offer copywriting services as this is a very similar skill. Copywriting is usually low priced quick work, unless the writing is terrible, in which case you might have to get very involved in correcting it. Before I hired a full time content manager for the site I used a company to do the copywriting for me and I paid a monthly fee to review all the articles that I was publishing. The best way to find such opportunities is to go directly to the publishers because intermediaries are a sure way to reduce prices. Most companies needing copywriting will need it on an ongoing basis (like me) so aiming for that ensures a regular revenue stream with the added flexibility of being able to do your work whenever and wherever.
4. Video and Photo editing (USD1-10 per photo)
Many of the freelancer sites will also sell photo and video editing services. I have in the past used Fiverr for photo editing. The good thing in this case is that you can showcase your skill easily if you already have a blog with a photography portfolio.
If you are a videographer you can easily charge anything upwards of USD250 for a 1min video editing job. Your contact list is a better way of selling this service as the skill is even more relevant than with photography so referrals and business colleagues (or other bloggers) who may be looking for such services will be more inclined to go with someone whose work they like and follow. Freelancing sites are a good place to list your services.
5. Graphic design (USD500+ for a logo)
A lot of bloggers were graphic designers in a past life and still make a living from offering this service to others. Although there are a lot of sites (namely the ones in point 1 above) who also list graphic design jobs, the best way to get opportunities is to network in the Blogosphere as a lot of bloggers will eventually need this service and referrals are the best way to grow in these circles. If you go to Fiverr there are hundreds of them offering anything for SGD5 so it is not a good place to make a decent living.
Content Creation (USD120+)
Another way of utilizing your skills is to create content for destination marketing organization (DMOs) and companies. This goes beyond just the written word and may include image and video. To maintain a travel blog, you always need fresh content which means you are creating material all the time. You can then use these enhanced content creation skills to generate material for other people. Inma from A World to Travel says that once you have developed your own style, understand the workflow and are ready to keep learning and in the know; you might as well create content for others. As you are traveling to a destination or using some products already, it could be beneficial to pitch some content to be published through other companies.
There are a variety of factors determining what you can charge for these services, such as your experience, the hours you will be putting in, the equipment you might need to make it happen, the deadline and the actual value you are providing. Inma charges upward of USD120 per day, but this will grow depending on the factors mentioned above. The most important part of content creation is the quality that you provide. As the content will be broadcast somewhere else than your website and social media networks, your quality needs to be top notch if you’d like to generate content frequently. If the content you produce has good quality, no matter how big your blog is, you can make a significant amount of money if you put yourself out there.
Here’s a video A World to Travel did for Aptece in 2014 for a great example.
Mentoring of other bloggers (USD50 per hour)
Some bloggers get asked for help planning trips. Others, like me, get asked for coaching on the business of blogging. Consulting services in the wide sense of the word, are a great revenue stream, especially once you have developed the base materials and knowledge from where to pick and choose the areas that each client needs the most help on. It will take time to set it up the first time around, but then the additional production cost with every new client will be marginally lower and you will learn and improve the materials with every consultation.
If you are good at what you do and you have done it successfully you are the best banner sales ad for yourself. A lot of people ask me about tips for success and I offer such support on an hourly fee basis. There are weeks when I spend 2-3h with different people sharing things that worked for me, other weeks I spend no time as I am traveling and have no time. I do not proactively market this so people approach me in an organic manner. Many are interested in juggling a corporate job with a profitable blog. I have a full time job and have had my blogs for 3,5 years so I have a lot of experience in trial and error.
Some bloggers have formalised this, like Trisha from PS I’m On My Way who offers travel coaching services. She covers areas like digital nomad life, volunteering, itinerary planning and professional blogging and charges hourly rates between USD50 and USD175. Her services are so popular that all the slots she makes available every week are quickly filled up. Her success is the result of building a strong relationship with her readers, who she interacts with on a regular basis and constantly offers value for free. When they need her, she is there.
Ryan, from Blogging from Paradise, has also branched into live blogging coaching. He offers one-on-one hour-long sessions for USD200 or an 8-week package including eight sessions of one hour and unlimited email support. If you are only interested in the advice part but already know your way around, Ryan offers a comprehensive report to help customers build their blog successfully for USD1,000.
Your hourly rates can be anything you set it up for, going back to my initial statement, so be sure to charge what makes sense to you. Something to consider is the local timezone of your audience and that of your own, as these coaching sessions tend to be in real-time.
Blogging retreats (USD1,000+)
For those looking to offer this coaching in a more structured manner, the idea of a blogging retreat may be appealing. Here, the teaching happens in a group environment in a physical location and for a duration so learning is more intense and concentrated. There are lots of retreats that are educationally focused and some have sprung up to offer blogging coaching either to those looking to start up or to those looking to take their businesses to the next level.
Digital Marketing Agencies – Consulting to brands (USD1,000+)
The same way you can coach bloggers you can consult companies in digital marketing. The type of consulting is different because their objectives are different but a lot of hospitality brands have not yet fully landed in the digital world and need a lot of help, sometimes just to start up.
Consulting to brands tends to be focused on social media where a blogger is strongest and has proven success but it can also be more integrated and look into online or influencer marketing and its various aspects. At the core, a consulting project will answer a problem that a brand has so you just need to decide where your expertise is and where you can help.
Some topics that I have engaged with brands on which will hopefully stir your imagination:
- Startups looking to launch their social media presence and needing help to set off
- Brands looking to work with influencers and not knowing where to start
- Improving social media presence and driving more traffic
- Content strategy: how to generate, promote and convert content
- Designing and implementing marketing campaigns
- Strategies to target a specific audience (i.e. Millennials)
- Improving visibility and SEO
I consult to brands on a regular basis. Sometimes, this is as a follow up to a campaign, sometimes it is the starter for a campaign. After you have showed you know what social media and influencer marketing is, a brand will be keen to test out your knowledge and expertise with your audience, if you fall in their segment.
Consulting services can be charged at varying prices because they are normally tailor-made for the client. Usually, the project is scoped for focus and duration, then priced based on team and daily rates.
I was a management consultant for eight years (this is how I got to travel the world on a weekly basis) so I have extensive experience in consulting. Consulting fees are usually charged either by the day or by the hour. More senior people or experts who may only come for the project at certain times are charged by the hour whereas the core project team is charged by the day. The more senior a consultant, the higher the daily rate he/she commands.
As projects bloggers work on are sometimes part-time and with a very narrow scope, the price can be set based on deliverables instead, although you will be calculating your effective hourly rate in the background to make sure it is a profitable project for you without a high opportunity cost – i.e. you could not be using your time to do something with a higher hourly rate instead. Either way, your consulting proposal should have a problem statement and a suggested approach and end with credentials and fees.
Sarah, from Deep Blue Digital Marketing, quit her job to travel the world and shared her experiences at Gluten-free Travellers while continuing to freelance as a digital marketing expert through sites like Upwork. She realised there was a large opportunity to offer these services in a structured manner so she set up her digital marketing agency to offer copywriting, web design and development, SEO, social media, content creation, influencer marketing, email marketing, Facebook ads/lead gen and Google Adwords among other.
Sarah charges a monthly fee starting at AUD1,000 and including some of the services above which she delivers through a roster of freelancers who are experts in their domain. She takes care of content writing for Rad Season, Instagram marketing for Go Real Escapes, SEO work for Scuba Shane Diving and digital marketing strategy for One Life Adventures. She has found her clients via SEO, Facebook ads, email marketing, networking, word of mouth, referrals and LinkedIn.
Some bloggers have used their blog’s presence to expand the brand’s ethos into digital marketing services as is the case for Green Global Travel through Green Travel Media focused on helping sustainable brands and organisations in their digital marketing efforts.
Speaking arrangements (USD500+)
Some bloggers have made a name for themselves in a specific area and are able to command a speaking fee at conferences. In the travel world, most conferences are unpaid. But there are opportunities to speak about your niche if you have managed to create a public persona who has a unique skill others will be interested to hear about. The best way to get these opportunities is to start practising at conferences which may be free. Once you have a few under your belt choose a topic that you can be an expert in and pitch to get paid for conferences.
A good example is Scott Eddy who has built a strong social media brand, especially on Twitter, and is regularly speaking about this. Here is a sample of his speaking. For those looking to offer this coaching in a more structured manner, the idea of a blogging retreat may be appealing. Here, the teaching happens in a group environment in a physical location and for a duration so learning is more intense and concentrated. There are lots of retreats that are educationally focused and some have sprung up to offer blogging coaching either to those looking to start up or to those looking to take their businesses to the next level.
Leading or hosting tours (USD5,000+)
A few of the large travel bloggers have moved to the real world by leading tours to some of their favorite places. One that I love is Wandering Earl, one of the best known and longest traveling bloggers. He has been offering tours since 2013 as a response to his audience asking for it. In 2017 he will offer 10 trips. He also offers private planning, though I’m not sure he would be leading those. Although his travel style is that of budget, his trips are not cheap, they start at USD 2,100 and above for places like India or Romania.
Shane from The Travel Camel, has also started to lead tours with the help of local travel agencies. He would design the itinerary in conjunction with a tour company and market it via his channels. Traveling with him means exploring a country he has been to before with the extra knowledge and anecdotes of someone as well-traveled as he is.
I have been approached by several brands to lead tours as well. If you have the right audience and niche, this can be a very successful revenue stream. You get to travel to a destination for free, all expenses paid, make additional revenue from the commission on each customer and the brand gets your endorsement and your marketing power.
Localised tour sales
Some travel bloggers are static. They have chosen a locale and have specialised in that destination. As a result, they are able to forge close ties with local travel companies and broker bookings of their tours or services. My Tan Feet is a good example of that. They have a discount page where you can book a lot of the local Costa Rican tours and they get a commission from that. Their readers also get a discount so it is win-win for everyone.
This is only possible if you know a place so well that you can develop these relationships as a lot of them might require manual booking in the back end rather than directly connecting to the booking sites of the local tour companies. On the flip side, your commission on these tends to be higher than with any other passive income stream like Amazon or affiliate marketing because you are able to negotiate them directly with companies who don’t have access to affiliates.
Online courses or webinars (USD100+)
I talked about the fact that passive income is the ultimate objective to most. The second most important objective is that of scalable revenue. That is, revenue that you can make with low additional marginal cost. Webinars and online courses are some of those. Once you have created the materials, you only need to tweak them minimally to re-sell them again. There are different types of online courses:
- On demand
The best ones are those on demand because you do not need to be there for them to happen. Revenues come in passively. However, live courses tend to be the most successful ones because the audience has the chance to ask questions. Having social reach and a mailing list is the starting point to marketing these courses. But you can also promote these courses without any reach if you are good at getting the word out there and you have enough referrals and endorsements. Some of the largest online marketers will have such courses. In the travel blogging world, some of the most popular courses are related to starting a travel blogging business or taking yours to the next level. Nomadic Matt, the internet’s largest travel blog, started the Super Star Blogging online school for bloggers. He has courses on starting a blog, photography, videography and taking your blog to the next level.
But you don’t have to be the largest travel blog to make a living out of this revenue stream. Lots of smaller bloggers have done so with niche and segmented approaches. If you are good at a specific skill, you can create webinars or courses on that one specifically. If you want some experience and also practice, you can offer a free webinar on Travel Massive’s platform and test the waters for your content then move it in-house and sell it to your audience.
There are also bloggers who have created online conferences. Meg and Tom from Food, Fun, Travel did that with their Travel Blog Summit where they aired the summit over two days with speakers from all domains and then put the course online for anyone to buy it. In their case, the content wasn’t even their own but created by the speakers they hired, in a true conference style.
Host or presenter
Some bloggers make a full time living out of hosting travel shows for brands. On a campaign with Accor and Scoot I met Boy Eats World mum and kid. Raffles, the boy, is a TV host for Accor hotels in-room TV travel channel and has a crew following him on his trips and recording the episodes. Talk about being a celebrity. Of course, he has a personality that is incredible for a kid his age, but there are other bloggers like Fly with Maggie who have also done it. She hosts her own Chinese travel show and is a bilingual vlogger having also hosted programs on other channels.
Similar to consulting services, some bloggers have started offering outreach and influencer marketing services to brands. It probably started with a conversation with a brand they approached who was keen to getting more bloggers come stay with them. Thanks to the connections and the tight knit community of bloggers, sourcing others for brand campaigns is easy. A blogger may not have the tools and data that an influencer marketing company has, but the accumulated knowledge based on experience, pedigree and professionalism observed through hours reading threads and seeing people behave are hard to codify in an algorithm.
In this case, outreach campaigns can be for sponsored posts or contextual links where the blogger takes a cut for sourcing other sites willing to host the links. You may wonder “Why don’t brands do that themselves?” From years of interacting with brands you realise that most don’t even know where to start and that, what may seem trivial and obvious to a blogger, is an opaque world to brands.
This revenue stream can be unofficial and informal or it can evolve into a full fledged social media management company.
Social media management (USD150 – USD1,000)
If the blogger outreach efforts work and you start to devote more and more time to this you may find yourself getting wider scope requests from clients and offering social media management services may make sense. This is the case for many bloggers who take care of social media accounts of other brands formally or informally, and may or may not couple this with integrated online marketing companies.
For example, Love and Road have been managing social media accounts of hotels and brands for a few years. The work here may come from previous campaigns with brands or from directly pitching to those who may benefit the most from professional help. They change monthly fees including a certain number of posts and social media channels and get the content from the brands themselves.
Transitioning out of the blogging life
Although many bloggers go from regular jobs to a digital nomadic life, a few are also making a comeback. This is the case for Mark Anthony and Camille, both from the Philippines, who embarked on an 18-month honeymoon they documented at 365 Travel Dates only to return to the Philippines and put all their experience to work by building a tented glamping camp in Palawan. The Birdhouse El Nido is where they set up shop and settled down. However, the learnings and experiences they gathered traveling across the world and talking to hoteliers has helped them make sure their beautiful home is permanently fully booked with happy guests.
Because a life on the road is not always a permanent solution but an adventure we embark on to finally find ourselves.
Are you a digital nomad or blogger? Do you have experience on any of the above revenue streams or perhaps a different one? Share it with us!
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