The life of a travel blogger sounds brilliant, but how does someone turn their travels into cash? XCity Plus spoke to successful travel bloggers to find out.
How much money do travel bloggers earn?
Travel bloggers don’t make a stable income; earnings vary each month. Megan Starr, a travel blogger from Virginia, who writes practical advice and narrative stories about her experiences in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, explains: “I make a little over $1,000 a month (£726), but it varies. Sometimes I make a tonne, other times I hit a bit of a dry spell.”
Jessica Festa, a New Yorker who focuses on solo female travel and writes how-to guides for wannabe bloggers, adds: “My income ranges from $4,000-10,000 a month (£2,906 – £7,264), but it depends on the month.” For others, it’s a more lucrative occupation. Julianna Barnaby, a Londoner who focuses on offbeat destinations and practical guides to countries all over the world, says: “I make over £20k per year.”
How do travel bloggers make money?
Affiliate marketing (links to products where the blogger gets a percentage if someone buys the product) are a big source of revenue for bloggers, but they only work if the reader buys something.
Festa has learned to be strategic with her affiliate links. For example, in January she wrote a post titled: “How to avoid pickpockets while travelling (for good)”. The post included affiliate links to products like Clever Travel Companion’s pickpocket proof underwear.
The post generated a few hundred dollars in one week. Festa makes $300-$1,000 (£218-£726) a month from affiliate marketing alone.
Tourist boards often send established bloggers on press trips, where they create content for specific clients.
The trips are sometimes free (with activities and accommodation included), but bloggers do go on paid trips. Starr is running a press trip in May and her team will be paying the bloggers $1,000 (£726) for 12 days, with all expenses covered.
Festa is not a fan of free trips. “I try not to go on free trips because they’re a lot of work,” she says. “You’ll be creating stories, videos, social shares, and not getting a day rate. It’s not that it’s not worth it, but you’ll probably lose out on money you could be making at home.”
Mike Clegg, a photographer who writes travel guides, agrees: “A free trip isn’t a free holiday,” he says. “The itinerary will likely be non-stop.”
Other ways of making money
Sponsored Instagram posts are a popular choice. Victoria Brewood, who has been writing about budget solo travel since 2008 and has 12.5k Instagram followers, says: “[Pay for sponsored] Instagram posts are based on the number of followers – you can obviously charge huge amounts if you have 1m followers. An Instagram post is usually £100-£120 for me.”
Bloggers can promote themselves and earn cash by writing guest posts for other websites. Starr charges $400-500 (£291-363) per guest post.
Many bloggers also make money by running display adverts (through, for example, Google AdSense and Mediavine), hosting sponsored posts, appearing in campaign videos, teaching online photography courses, and speaking at press conferences.
It’s not all free
Festa explains: “You have to remember that this is a small business, so you will have expenses too. I pay an accountant to do my taxes because it becomes so convoluted, with all these people paying you and keeping on track of everything.”
Costs could include extra Google Drive space, Adobe Lightroom or other photo editing software, Adobe Premiere, Gmail business (G Suite), filming crews, website hosting, website redesign, and professional equipment such as cameras.
These costs grow with time and many will not apply to new bloggers.
Is travel blogging a viable career path?
“Yeah, for sure,” Festa says. “I’ve been doing it since 2011 and I know tonnes of people who do this as a full-time job. People just have to be willing to be patient, and create a brand for themselves.”
Brewood thinks bloggers need to be realistic: ” It was easier when there were only a handful of people blogging. Now everyone wants to be a travel blogger. Think carefully about your niche. There’s a lot more money to be made writing about other topics, like finance, fitness or fashion. It’s totally possible but you have to keep going with it.”
Starr adds: “Travel bloggers are currently getting into the industry for very self-involved reasons. They think they can make money and they want free travel. But what I want is to build tourism for the places that really need it.”