Last week was a very full travel week for me. I spoke at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Tourism and then hopped on a plane after my presentation to attend BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas. I organized the travel portion of the conference and also moderated a panel. It was a productive week and I was excited to make new relationships, both personal and business.
Two things happened that made me pause and think about how one goes about making money from a travel blog. First, one of the travel panelists made a comment that one CANNOT make money from travel blogging. I wasn’t sure if I agreed with this statement and I think it all depends on how one interprets what constitutes making money from a travel blog. The second thing that happened was a major news corporation had gone through a list of blogs to determine which ones they wanted to feature for a business story on blogging. When they asked to interview me, I was both flattered and shocked. I didn’t know if I truly wanted people knowing what I earned from my writings. In fact, one of my mom bloggy friends declined the interview for this reason alone (which I appreciate her honesty in why she declined.)
Back to the big question: How does one make money from a travel blog?
My answer is: Think outside the blog.
Here’s how I make money from travel blogging:
Advertising – I do sell sidebar advertising in the form of graphics and text phrases. I do not sell text links inside of my posts as I made a personal decision not to do this. If I mention a link somewhere in my content, it’s because I really think it’s a useful link for readers.
Sponsorships – Similar to advertising, I have recently accepted site sponsorships. What this usually includes is acting as an ambassador for products I already use and purchase. I make it very clear before with potential sponsors that I have a responsibility to my readers, not the sponsors, to write honest opinions. I have yet to have a sponsor walk away from this personal rule.
Books – I have written books and make money from advances, royalties and/or direct sales.
Consulting – Many brands and businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry have contracted me for consulting projects. I try to be very tactful in my comments, but I’m always honest when I think something is a bad idea or if a project can be handled in a cost effective way. I don’t get paid to fluff them up with glowing praise. I’m brought in to help them improve their product or customer service relations. Again, my loyalty is to my readers who are consumers. Helping companies make the consumers happy is a win-win situation in my book. I also help companies understand the culture of the blogging community versus the old school traditional media.
Speaking Engagements – I didn’t plan on going into the speaking business. It just seemed to happen. I do speak to conferences and groups for a fee plus all travel expenses. If I’m speaking to a tourism organization, I do like to tack on a day before or after to explore the destination I’m visiting so that I can still get a story for my blogs. I like to make the most of my time in an area.
Writing Paid Content for Other Sites – I do write content for other sites that have a freelance budget. While I could place this content on my own site and leave it at that, the branding opportunity and chance for incoming links isn’t lost on me.
Other Ways to Make Money from Travel Blogging
Affiliate Sales – I don’t like this method of generating revenue, but others claim it can be very lucrative. Personally I haven’t had much success with affiliate ads and find them a waste of my time and graphic space.
Selling Ebooks on How to Make Money with a Travel Blog – The books I write are travel guides and offer practical information on destinations and such. Some travel bloggers have been able to make a living from selling ebooks on how to make a living blogging. It’s kind of ironic and humorous. Maybe I should try my hand in that instead of offering this all in a blog post. But then again, I like to keep my content free for readers.
Donation Buttons – I’ve seen a number of travel bloggers place a PayPal donation button on their sites. I don’t know if they are actually making money, but it’s free to put on your site and you just never know what kind a financial giving mood a reader might be in.
Premium Content Subscriptions – Some travel blogs and sites offer basic information for free and premium content for a fee. The fee may include a forum or other perks to the site. It sounds good in theory.
Google Adsense – I do have Google ads in my sidebars, but I can promise you it takes up way more real estate and generates less money than selling direct ads on my sites. There are some successful travel bloggers who claim they are making thousands of dollars from Google Adsense. I applaud them and wish them well, but realize it just doesn’t work for my sites as the sole source of generating revenue.
The Bottom Line
This post ended up being much longer than I anticipated, but I hope you’ll look at the various options to make money from travel blogging. It doesn’t happen overnight and you have to be willing to invest long hours, develop a thick skin, and remember to have fun with it. Once you stop enjoying the experience, it’s time to re-evaluate why you started travel blogging in the first place. It can be done, but as it was stated in the BlogWorld travel track – Don’t quit your day job just yet. The secret to all successful blogger is this: If you write good content, they will come.
Are you a blogger making money? What are some suggestions or issues you’ve come across in running your blog as business instead of a hobby?