Imagine that… travelling the world, writing about your experiences, and getting paid enough to keep on doing it. Sounds like a glorious way of life, doesn’t it? Or is it too good to be true?
Some say the opportunity is long gone, especially citing the maturity of the industry and the benefits of getting in early. But I think it just takes smart and hard work, like it always did. So let me dispel the myths and misconceptions and give it to you straight.
Two Sides to Any Equation
Making enough money by blogging isn’t just about making money. It’s about spending money too. In fact, I think expenditure is more important because we’re so used to spending indiscriminately. Supporting an $80,000 per year travel budget is infinitely more difficult than supporting a $20,000 budget. So setting up to blog for a living starts with a budget.
If you’re from a developed country, even if you’ve travelled extensively before, you’ll be surprised how cheap it can be to support long-term travel. But there’s a decision you’ll have to make early on: how long will you stay in each location? Staying longer can drive significant savings. Even in the cheapest countries, you can save more than 50% on accommodation if you stay in one place for a full month. This follows through to other expenses as you learn the tricks of locals.
Case in point: where i’m now staying in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I’m paying about $5 per night based on a monthly rate. If I stayed for only a few nights, the cost would be $10-12 at the same place.
I’d suggest that less discerning travellers can travel long-term in certain parts of the world for as little as $10,000 per year. But this would limit you to Asia and maybe South America. Anywhere else and the budget must go up.
Saving Money Through Blogging
For the right bloggers, there are plenty of opportunities to save money blogging with respect to free travel and free travel gear. While that sounds a little sleazy, it’s just another form of payment for services.
You have to remember, you are offering a professional service. Make sure you keep this attitude when doing deals with companies. Forget the idea that people are doing you favours and you should be eternally grateful. You’re trying to making a living like everyone else.
So back to saving money… free travel and gear is rarely equal to making actual money. What I mean is that a free trip is rarely worth its retail value, unless you planned to take that exact same trip and planned to pay in full. Free trips cost time and money. Same with free gear; unless you planned to buy the exact same item, it’s not worth its retail value.
Don’t get me wrong, trips and gear still have monetary value, and they’re still a valid form of payment, but be honest with yourself when considering them in lieu of cash payment.
Show Me the Money
So let’s talk about blogging for real cash. Again, there are a couple of options. You can write for others or write for yourself.
Personally, I think it’s more sustainable to write for yourself. You can sell advertising against your own writing well into the future. Whereas writing for someone else, once you hand it over, that’s the end of it. There are a few exceptions, such as platforms where you can paid ongoing ad commissions and writing for others to market your own blog, but let’s stick to blogging for yourself.
If it’s not clear yet, I’m talking about making money blogging by selling advertising. The theory is that people who visit your blog may also be interested in buying other products and services. So by advertising those products and services, you are delivering a valuable service to advertisers.
This is where some people start to squirm and shuffle. Again, it seems a little sleazy to sell advertising on a well meaning blog. But you need to decide now whether you’re in it to make a quid or just to feel warm and fuzzy. You can certainly do both, but if you’re in it for any money at all, you need to start adopting a commercial mindset.
The Not-So-Sad Truth
The sooner you learn this, the faster you’ll reach profitability:
In travel blogging, there is less correlation than you think between the quality of your writing and the amount of money you make.
Sure, there’s an argument that the best writers make money blogging because they write well. But then we’d be talking about a career in creative writing, not blogging to support travel.
I’m not for a minute suggesting that you write crap. Quite the opposite, you need to be proud of what you write in order to maintain frequency and enjoy life on the road.
If it’s any consolation, even career writers have to sell their soul in some respect, make no mistake. They have to write for their audience, not just themselves. And they too often write for money. In some ways, it’s much more nobel to write for others than to write for yourself.
The Backdrop to Profitable Blogging
Firstly, don’t expect to make money blogging from the first day, week or month. If you keep surgically focussed, you can start making money in 6-12 months, but otherwise, 12-18 months. (I suspect with that statement, I’ve lost a handful of you.)
Secondly, keep in mind why an advertiser will want space on your blog. It’s because your content drives readers who make up their target market. The more readers of that target market that visit your blog, the more valuable your advertising space becomes.
Lastly, if anything, your amount of traffic is mostly correlated to the algorithms of search engines and your ability to get serious press coverage. You have a lot to learn about search engine optimization and marketing. But don’t fret, these are transferable skills to most businesses.
Getting Started With Profitable Blogging
This is the simple process of how to make money blogging:
- You write blog posts on specific topics
- Your writing is propagated around the Internet through various channels
- The more you write, the better you write and the more your posts propagate, the more that people visit
- The greater your popularity, the more advertisers become interested in paying for space
From this very simple breakdown, you can see a few focus areas:
- Propagation of content
- Amount of content
- Quality of content
In simple-speak, to become a successful (profitable) travel blogger, you need to write a lot of quality content and make sure it reaches as much of your target market as possible. We’re talking good ol’ smart and hard work.
So how does all of this convert to a step-by-step plan for setting up a profitable blog? Here are the broad steps:
- Learn about all major methods of content propagation (search engines, social media, etc)
- Write very frequently in deep detail about topics that will interest large groups of target readers
- Establish a ‘voice’ to attract return readers and also to enjoy your writing
I know what you might be thinking, this ‘Guide to Making Money Blogging’ is too high level. You’re right, to go into fine detail would require an entire book. But I wish I knew some of this before I started blogging and travelling. These fundamental concepts will help guide your more detailed research. Research? Yes, there’s much to learn about oh-so-many blogging topics.
That said, I’d like to cap this off with a few examples. Have a look at each and think about the following questions:
- Who am I writing for? Myself, my audience or search engines. Balance is key.
- Which generates the most traffic? Which generates the best traffic? Which generates revisits?
- Which is most conducive to advertising and making money?
- When Adventure Turns to Expedition: An Epic Discovery of Peru
- HOW TO: Get In (and Back Out) of San Pedro, Bolivia’s Most Notorious Prison
- The Science Behind Mountain Sickness
- The Science Behind Venomous Snake Bites
- Why Can’t We Drink Sea Water?
How-To (Informative) Writing
I can tell you that the post with the best balance (traffic, relevance, ad potential) is the one about solar powering a MacBook. It is a very focussed topic, it interests a significant market, it interests people who travel to remote locations, I thoroughly enjoyed writing the post, and it’s conducive to targeted advertising.
On the other hand, my personal favourite by far is the one about San Pedro prison, because it’s about my favourite travel experiences. But it fails in terms of everything else. It doesn’t drive much traffic or have much advertising potential.
Finally, the post about sea water drives lots and lots of traffic, but the wrong type of traffic. And there’s not much potential for advertising. I hope those examples help put some of my previous comments in context.