The ultimate #goals: to get paid for travel. But is it actually possible? Here’s a mediocre’s take on how travel bloggers earn.
Lots of people wonder how travel bloggers earn while globetrotting. After all, there are backpackers out there who do not see travel as a mere weekend affair, but a lifestyle. Just check out their blogs and admire their clever hacking guides. But for most of us who have commitments in our career or family, let’s take the earning expectations down a notch.
Enter me: I’m a travel blogger, but I do not do it full-time or extensively. I also did not start blogging with the goal of earning money or even to get invited to PR events! Most Filipino travel bloggers we know now started this way — with something they truly loved and wanted to share.
In my three years of travel blogging, not once did I regret keeping a once-a-week, self-appointed editorial calendar about the topics that don’t always pay me financially. Truth is, if you want to get rich, there are better roads to take. But for me, it’s profoundly rewarding to see travel writing loving me back when I didn’t expect it. That is, in the form sponsorship, freelance gigs, and network.
So I’m sharing to you the personal experience of a how an average, self-proclaimed “mediocre” travel blogger earns:
How Travel Bloggers Earn #1 Volunteering and internships
- Pros: Free accommodations or discounts, deeper immersion with the local community.
- Cons: Unpaid or with meager pay.
- How you do it: Offer help to organizations, join volunteer groups.
Volunteering and internships can be a win-win for travel bloggers. If you have the skills, you can lend them to organizations and companies who can let you travel all-expense paid in exchange for your service.
This is how I started traveling as a college student, by doing a mission trip in Indonesia. My next trip was a foreign internship where I spent six weeks in Penang, Malaysia. In both cases, I had free accommodations and food in exchange for going to the community or the office five days a week.
When I graduated and entered the workforce, I still did a lot of volunteering. Notably, I was sent to Tacloban, Leyte twice to write the newsletter of an NGO. I had a small pay per article, but to be honest, I can go for free because it was a mix of two things I loved: travel and social work.
Lastly, because of the skills I developed as a mountain climber, I started being a tour guide for two travel groups. Simply, I help out their clients conquer trails during weekends. Even though these are unpaid, being a volunteer guide has allowed me to go on trips for free or at a discounted price.
How Travel Bloggers Earn #2 Sponsorships
- Pros: Free accommodations, food, products and tours.
- Cons: Time- and energy-consuming.
- How you can do it: Network and generate good blog following.
Technically, you don’t earn in cash. But who doesn’t like free stuff? This is the most common way how travel bloggers earn — in the form of a table of food, a weekend in the islands, gears to review or even a staycation at a hotel.
The key to achieving these is to choose the travel niche. You can vary the topics up, as travel is an huge niche where you can talk about attractions, accommodations, itineraries, gears, tour packages and more. This also means that you also try to provide helpful information to your readers. The more helpful you are, the higher chances that you’ll be sought after.
Of course, who you know also matters. It was bloggers stumbling upon my website who invited me to my first PR gig. Later on, I get myself invited by being referred, pitching my blog by myself, or attending meetups. Make sure to promote your travel blog to your friends and to the world. Being familiar with SEO and joining blog communities also help.
However, you might want to choose the PR events you attend. As much as you want free stuff, too much may do a disservice to your niche. It lowers your credibility, authenticity, and authority when your blog is filled with publicity events you attended left and right! If you’re in it for the long run, maintain your voice and your direction. When you do get invited to the right events, though, make friends.
How Travel Bloggers Earn #3 Freelancing
- Pros: Increase site traffic, wider influence using another platform, getting paid.
- Cons: Working extra hard for another platform, bylines not guaranteed.
- How you can do it: Pitch your stories, send proposals, join freelancing groups and websites, volunteer.
When you’re a travel blogger, it helps that you’re also a talented digital nomad and side hustler. As such, those of us with full-time jobs can reap the benefits of additional income streams and blog exposure!
I’ve been a freelance writer even before I started to travel. So as I evolved in the travel niche, I started to choose freelance writing gigs that are geared towards travel writing. For example, I’ve written about international red light districts (!), travel insurance comparisons and at Thought Catalog. Although these are not your usual blog topics, they are still part of the travel niche. However, some freelance gigs don’t let you keep the byline.
Even better are contributing gigs where I get to keep the byline. This year I started writing for other platforms such as Manila Bulletin and looloo. What’s not to love? My travel writing portfolio grows, I get paid monetarily, and I also expand my influence to their readers!
The downside of writing about travel for a living is that travel itself suffers. When you’ve got strict editorial calendars and deadlines, you will hardly have time to actually travel. You can get caught up writing about imaginary trips, and lose your relevance to your own blog’s readers.
So if you want to get started, do so by joining freelancing communities and freelancing websites where you can land your first gig. You can write articles, sell your photos, or design visuals. Build your portfolio, good client relations, and of course, good output. Most of all, be proactive in seeking clients.
Know that for every story pitched and proposal sent, there is a great chance of being ignored, rejected or later on, fired. Don’t get disheartened. Improve your craft and soon it will pay off — literally.
How Travel Bloggers Earn #4 Advertisements and commissions
- Pros: Passive income.
- Cons: Very few clicks.
- How you do it: Put ads and join affiliate programs.
This part is something I am yet to learn. Sure, I have explored Google AdWords, Nuffnang and Lazada affiliate programs. But my personal philosophy has always been to keep advertisements to a minimum. Call me old-fashioned!
Still, there is a possibility of income for advertisements and affiliate programs joined. What’s great is that you don’t need to churn out words or devote time going on trips just to earn money. You simply have to set up systems and really compelling content, and the earnings can come in a sustainable pace. The real talk though: It takes a lot of work, and sometimes, it doesn’t even work.
What I’m exploring recently is a travel affiliate program from TravelBook PH and Siteground. Simply stated, affiliate programs allow you earn a commission for every sale made from your site. I agreed to this as a way to learn about affiliate programs, and also because it’s in the travel niche!
Honestly, I’m a newbie when it comes to affiliate programs. Not sure if it will work with me yet. If you have tried affiliate programs before, please comment below about your experience!
There you go, my honest take on how travel bloggers earn — by volunteering, sponsorships, freelancing, and joining advertising and affiliate programs. I am by no means an expert! But if you’re like me who has a full-time job but is a very good side hustler, this might give you leads on how to earn using your travel blog.