It’s been a while (5 years in fact) since I shared how exactly I make a living from travel blogging. The industry and my personal circumstances have changed a lot since then, so I thought it was time to write an update on how I monetize my blog in 2020, with a little look back on what’s changed and why.
If anyone has ever wondered how travel bloggers makes money, or is keen to make money as a travel blogger in 2020, hopefully this post might shed a little light on the subject.
(Note: This post contains some affiliate links which means I may make a small commission if you purchase something after clicking my link. Find more information in this disclosure.)
8 ways I make money from blogging in 2020 (and how it’s changed since 2015)
As with all posts that are very personal to me, I want to start with a little disclaimer to say this is how I make money, not necessary how every other travel blogger does or should do it.
My blog is where my biggest audience and (I think!) strongest skills sit, which is why I derive most of my income directly from it.
Many content creators, however, are also strong videographers, photographers, public speakers, consultants etc and they may have additional revenue streams from these various skills and additional channels.
With that being said, let’s get stuck into how I, as a travel blogger of 10+ years, make money from travel blogging. These income streams are loosely ordered according to how much I make from them, starting with the biggest.
How to make money blogging
The biggest difference since I wrote this post on making a living from travel blogging in 2015 is that I didn’t run any advertising then. I drew the bulk of my income from other (more active) sources so preferred to keep my site uncluttered.
My opinion on advertising soon changed, however, when I realised that I could sign up with an ad management service like Mediavine and make money while I sleep. (Sorta!)
(There are a couple of different companies that offer this service but I went with Mediavine as it has a good reputation among travel websites.)
I think that since I began blogging in 2010 it’s become a lot more normal for consumers to see adverts within content (even within our social media feeds) and personally it became more important for me to have passive forms of income while on maternity leave.
Mediavine require a minimum of 25,000 sessions per month and once you sign up they take care of getting everything installed and running smoothly for you. You have some control over the placement of and type of advertisements shown, but the beauty for me is that I don’t have to worry about the details – I just check my dashboard regularly to see what I’m earning.
In terms of what I earn, I would have said a few months ago that Mediavine is my biggest and most consistent form of income. However, along came Coronavirus and the latest Google update and as my page views dropped so did my income. My RPM (Revenue Per 1,000 Impressions) is also fluctuating a little at the moment, so I struggle to predict what I’ll earn at the end of the month. But, as long as I’m getting traffic, I will still be earning something, even if I don’t get around to writing something new every week.
2. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another form of income I wasn’t taking advantage of back in 2015. I think at that stage I had popped a few affiliate links into destination posts but I hadn’t got to the stage of thinking strategically about how to write posts that could generate sales.
(Very quickly for the non-bloggers among you – affiliate marketing is when a blogger uses a trackable link to recommend a product and if the reader goes on to make a purchase the blogger receives a small commission. There is no extra cost to the reader. These type of links can be used in blog content and on social media – such as in Instagram Stories.)
Again, as I approached parenthood and realised a lot of my income from blog trips and content writing would be put on hold, I made it a priority to focus on affiliate marketing and I found Sharon Gourlay’s Build Blog Freedom training a massive help with building this income stream. (Not an affiliate link – I just think Sharon is awesome!)
One of the key changes for me was making sure I write posts that answer specific reader questions rather than just recommending products willy nilly in different articles.
Today, affiliate marketing is one of my main sources of income and that income largely comes from 3 main sources, which I’ll touch on now.
Being an Amazon Associate can be lucrative for many bloggers just because it sells so many products you can naturally recommend in content. I guess the beauty of it is that the shopper doesn’t have to buy the exact product you recommend in order for you make money, as you may earn an advertising fee for anything they buy within a 24-hour window. (There are lots of complicated exclusions to this – find out more here.) But readers, if you ever want to help a blogger friend out, just get shopping on Amazon via one of their affiliate links and you’ll make them very happy!
I also set up an Amazon shop recently so that all the products I recommend can be found in handy lists – such as this one on flying with a baby or best products for sleeping on a plane. As it’s new I’m not sure how worthwhile this has been yet – particularly as it only pays for UK purchases and my readership is spread across UK, US and AU.
One thing I need to rectify in 2020 is getting myself back into the Amazon Australia affiliate programme. I got kicked out as I didn’t realise you couldn’t use a third-party link management programme (I use genius link for localisation) during the approval process, so now I miss out on any revenue from clicks in this region.
Skimlinks, for those that haven’t heard of it, is one of the laziest ways you can make money from posts that already exists. It basically turns normal outbound links in your content automatically into affiliate links.
I’ve had some posts that I didn’t expect to generate income do surprisingly well on Skimlinks and when that’s happened I’ve gone back to improve the post further or write more on the same topic.
- Booking. com
My other main source of affiliate sales is booking.com. I use this website to book all my hotel stays and hence recommend them in content when I’m writing up my trips.
(Read more about why I’m a fan of booking.com here.)
3. Sponsored Posts
My next biggest source of income is sponsored posts or, as I like to think of them, ‘advertorials’.
Sponsored posts get a bad rep because, if done poorly, they can feel really disingenuous, but that’s why I (and a lot of blogs I follow) don’t tend to do too many of them.
I tend to accept a sponsored post if it comes from a brand I know and love and writing about them would fit seamlessly into the rest of my content. I write all the content myself and charge a rate that takes into account the workmanship, readership and exclusivity due to not running them very often.
I get many more requests for sponsored posts than I can answer. You quickly get a feel for the more legitimate ones and my fee puts off anyone that’s not serious.
4. Blog Trips
In the past, taking part in a paid blog trip would have been one of my biggest sources of income. While blog trips can be well paid, they are also very labour intensive.
Click here to find out what goes into securing a sponsored blog trip
Prior to any blog trip I negotiate a list of content deliverables and set an expectation of the kind and type of content I’ll produce afterwards.
The work often starts before the trip, when you begin researching article angles and drumming up interest for the campaign online. During the travel stage, which can last from anything to 2 to 10 days, I’ll work on the deliverables. This often includes live social media coverage during the trip and multiple blog posts to follow afterwards. I could be working on content from a 7-day trip for many weeks afterwards and providing reports on the coverage months later.
For this reason, I haven’t done any of these type of campaigns since I was pregnant and cruised Russia and Scandinavia with Princess Cruises. I’d certainly be up for more campaigns like this in future, they are definitely the most exciting way of making a living, but it would have to be the right fit to manage it around my other commitments. (Namely, a kid!)
In all honesty though, compared to when I began blogging full time in 2012, there is a lot more competition to be part of a paid blog trip. The number of professional bloggers has risen, as have marketing agencies and in-house content teams, all of whom offer the kind of services bloggers used to.
A lot of successful travel bloggers have formed long-term partnerships and brand ambassadorships with tourism boards and travel companies and I think this is a very smart move for the industry. But it does mean there are less opportunities going around for small to mid-size bloggers, and that’s why having other sources of income is so important.
5. Content Writing
Although not an income that is derived directly from the blog, content writing is a freelance gig I’ve done for many years off the back of blogging.
I tend to contribute to 1 or 2 publications on a regular basis at any one time and I’ll write for them as and when I have ideas to pitch or they come to me with commissions.
In the past I’ve contributed to Lonely Planet, Skyscanner Australia, Ovolo Hotels and Flight Centre and I’d say never underestimate the power of social media. Last month I had a new client commission come through via Instagram.
6. Social Media Promotion/Campaigns
Because my niche is travel I don’t personally tend to do one-off social media ads like you see lifestyle bloggers doing on Instagram, for example. (Not because I don’t want to but because they don’t tend to come up to be honest! Not many people swipe up to buy a holiday :p)
What I have been commissioned for, however, is amplification of a travel social media campaign run by other brands or bloggers. I’ve also run the odd sponsored post on Instagram, but that’s not where my biggest audience sits so it’s not the biggest earner for me.
7. Social Media Content
Every now and then I am commissioned to provide social media content – such as images and captions – for brands to use on their social media channels. I’ve done this in the form of takeovers (I did one years ago for Cathay Pacific) but more recently it’s been managed via an agency who I submit the content too.
One of the last examples of these was a campaign I worked on in association with Incredible India and Time Magazine.
8. Co-hosting a Twitter chat
I’ve included this last one in here as I’ve been paid to co-host a few Twitter chats since 2015, although the last one was in November 2018, so I can’t be sure if this will be a form of income for me in 2020.
So that’s my main income streams from blogging at the moment. I definitely have more passive income streams since 2015 but reading that old post has encouraged me to think about being more proactive and creative about the way I work with brands in 2020.
(I can hardly believe I hosted an Insta-walk in Sydney – I’d have way too much imposter syndrome to pitch that now!)
Every blogger is different and there are some forms of monetisation that other bloggers do which I’ve never considered for various reasons – e-books and e-courses being two big ones.
If you’d like to know more about starting a blog check out the articles listed below. And if you’d like to learn more about monetising a blog, then I recommend you check out The Blogger Course by The Travel Hack – an excellent online course run by a very knowledgable and successful blogger, who also happens to be a friend!
13 ways I’ve made money from blogging & how much I was paid (2015 edition)
Photos (not featuring me) thanks to Sincerely Media on Unsplash
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