“How do you make money blogging?” is the #1 most common question I’m asked when I tell someone what I do.
It’s not a normal question to ask when someone tells you what they do for a living – whether you tell someone you’re a barista or a veterinarian, “do you actually earn money from that?” isn’t usually the first thing that people ask. But say “I’m a full-time blogger” out loud, and everyone’s so curious they forget that talking about money is supposed to be a taboo.
For me, the question has become a running joke.
I recently spent a couple weeks in Italy with my mom and her BFF who lives there (news flash to my friends: you can move literally anywhere in the world and I’ll still show up and crash on your couch. And I might bring my mom, too). We were invited to dinner with some of her expat friends from the UK and I told my mom and her friend about The Question. “Of course they won’t ask you that,” my mom exclaimed, scandalized. “They’re British! Brits are always polite about money. It’s only Americans that talk about that sort of thing.”
10 minutes after meeting these polite Brits, they asked me whether my job actually earned me any money. I stared straight at my mom and downed my Prosecco. I told you so.
Luckily, I don’t mind. I think the taboo surrounding transparent, open discussion of money is silly and, when it comes to the wage gap and the glass ceiling, damaging to women in particular – that’s why I publicly post my travel blog income reports every month for all the world to see.
So let’s go ahead and explore the question in full – and I give you full permission to be incredibly nosy!
Psst: Are you a blogger, or hoping to make blogging your full-time job? Take a look at some of our other posts:
How do bloggers make money?
Here’s the beauty of this weird, confusing job: there are, like, a zillion different and valid ways to earn money. If you’re looking to earn money with your blog, I want to make one thing clear: you do NOT have to do everything in this post.
Also, if you’re interested in exploring blogging monetization streams, I recommend starting slowly. Diving in and trying everything all at once is a recipe for failure: unless you’re a superhuman or have a team of minions to help you (in which case … can I hire them too?) you’ll end up half-a**ing everything and you won’t allow yourself the full time and effort needed to truly test the waters.
Because that’s the thing about blog monetization: there’s a LOT of testing, trial, failure, error, re-trial, and more testing. It’s a lot like Portal, but with less jumpy space boots and more 2am nights on the couch crying over a jar of nutella.
A post this long can feel overwhelming, so I want to give some of you an out: if you’re currently at a point in your blogging journey where your primary goal is driving more traffic or creating great content, go ahead and breath a sigh of relief, click that little X in the corner, and focus on that goal instead.
Seriously, don’t try to do it all at once. Hone your writing skills, develop your voice, figure out your unique value proposition, and come back later. This post will still be here when you’re ready for it.
I also want to temper your expectations with some raw honesty: blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. In fact, it’s not really even a get rich at all scheme. The majority of bloggers never earn enough money to quit their day jobs. And in fact, many blogs don’t make any money at all.
For those of us who have figured out how to make money blogging, it took years of trial and error, throwing things at the wall to see what might stick, and a lot of influence from external factors that we had no control over (like, waiting around for PR firms to acknowledge content marketing as a viable source of ad spend, for instance.)
I know, I know: it’s not what you want to hear. You want me to tell you all the answers and the secrets, right? After all, one scroll through Pinterest will tell you that there are plenty of bloggers out there promising 6-figure incomes just by buying their course, or paying for their mastermind group, or joining their cults and wearing a matching sweatshirt/sock combo, or whatever. But I’m not one of those folks – I have no snake oil to sell you (and I have no time to develop a snake-oil-esque product; that’s like, a whole thing, and I’d really rather just write blog posts about cool destinations).
So the honest truth is that blogging is a long, slow slog and it takes ages to earn money from it. But, yes, you CAN earn money from blogging. Personally, I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now, and my business has been earning multi-six figures worth of annual revenue for most of those years.
So, is that money all just like, my salary?! Am I rich??! Erm, well, no. But I also live in the Bay Area where rent and cost of living is insane, plus, I have team of 10 people working with me on the blog because it’s more important to me to work less than 40 hours a week than to pocket a bunch of money I don’t really need.
But if I wanted to live somewhere cheaper – or live that digital nomad dream, which actually wasn’t a great fit for me – and I didn’t mind doing most of the work myself, it would be a pretty sweet gig. Truth be told, blogging requires very few expenses, and the profit margins are pretty sweet. (Unless, of course, you’re a travel blogger: we spent tens of thousands of dollars more than the average blogger just on travel, because, ya know, you gotta travel to write content about traveling.)
So: if your dream is to become a full-time blogger and my doom and gloom honesty doesn’t make you want to run for the hills, keep reading, because I’m gonna tell you exactly what it takes to make money blogging.
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS: What ways to make money blogging have you tested so far? Which ones are you hoping to explore next? We’d love to hear from you!
So: ready to dive into the specifics? We are about to get INTO THIS. This is a massive post and we are just getting started, y’all.
Let’s do this!
How to Make Money Blogging: Revenue Streams & Strategies
Alright y’all, get your pens and papers ready (if you’re the kind of person to take notes while they’re reading a blog post, that is *raises hand*) and let’s dive into the good stuff.
What is affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing essentially means that you recommend products through your blog and earn a small % commission from every sale. Those products can be anything from clothing to hotels to services – whatever makes the most sense for your blog’s niche!
Affiliate marketing is my biggest revenue stream, and it’s also one of the most flexible. Just about any blog niche can experience success with affiliate marketing, including travel blogs like mine.
However, that isn’t to say it’s easy: it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what products are a good fit for your audience – and how to actually get your audience to purchase them!
How much can I earn?
Your earning potential from affiliate marketing depends on a few factors, most of which are in your control – traffic, the types of posts you write, etc.
But some factors are unchangeable, like commission rates, for instance. To give you an idea, for travel products, commission rates are typically under 10%. And the pricier the products you sell are, the lower your commission will be. Flights, for example, payout next to nothing. I earn about the same amount recommending this $1 packet of itch cream as I do recommending a flight to Hawaii.
If you’re looking to promote digital products, you can typically net more – 40% is standard. But there are few high-quality digital travel products out there – in fact, most of them are created by other bloggers (more on that below).
Here’s another example: Amazon – one of my best converting affiliate partners – earns about $20,000 per month off of my blog. Wow! So cool! You’re welcome, Jeff Bezos! Enjoy that island my blog bought you this year.
How much do I earn from Amazon every month? Mayyyybe $1,000; less than 5%. It used to be more, but then Amazon slashed commissions up to 70% with no warning and for no reason, as they’ve done many times over the years.
So, not only do I have little to no control over how much I’m earning as I’m at the whim of the corporate entities whose products of retail platforms I’m promoting (and, to get even more doom-and-gloom, the whim of the all-mighty tech overlords who control the tech I’m using to earn that money) I’m also earning a LOT more money for the companies I’m partnering with than I get to actually keep for making the sale.
Is that worth it? For me, yes. But I’m also not putting all my eggs into the affiliate marketing basket – and I recommend that you don’t, either.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, volume is the key: you’ll need to sell a LOT of stuff – or target high-value, high-commission products – in order to make decent money yourself.
That said, your readers are going to book hotels and buy clothes and stuff anyway, so you might as well help them out – and get to keep a little bit of the money, too.
BOTTOM LINE: Affiliate marketing can earn a typical blog anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand bucks a month. How much you can earn depends on the volume of sales you’re able to drive and the commission rates of the products you’re selling.
When should I start?
There are two schools of thought about when you should start integrating affiliate links into your blog content:
- You should start as soon as possible, because it will take a lot of effort to go back into your old posts and add affiliate links later.
- You should wait until you have a solid foundation of content, regular traffic, and a solid understanding of your audience before you start integrating affiliate links into your content.
So which camp am I in? I’m in camp #2, which I’m imagining to look something like this:
What I mean to say is: Do your own thing! Like wearing snuggies with your extremely white family, I guess?
Focus on creating high-quality content just for the sake of creating awesome content – just cuz it’s fun for you to do – before you ever start worrying about affiliate links – or monetization in general, for that matter.
“But won’t it take a lot of work to integrate affiliate links in later?” You ask. Sure, yeah, it will – but it will take just as much to go back and fix all of the weird links you added into your first few posts, trust me. Nobody is clicking on a link for snuggies in a post about monetization, guys. See what I did there? Eyyyyy!
If you’re at a point where you’ve got great content that’s receiving regular traffic, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what your audience is into – like, who are they? What’s important to them? What kinds of products do they buy, and what do they consider when purchasing those products? – then it’s time to get started with affiliate marketing.
PRO TIP: If you have no idea what your audience is into or how they typically make purchasing decisions, create a survey and beg them to fill it out! Consider doing a giveaway to incentivize your readers to actually complete it.
How do I get started?
Getting started with affiliate marketing is as easy as signing up for a bunch of affiliate networks and programs. A quick vocab lesson:
- An affiliate program refers to a specific brand’s affiliate marketing program, IE “Booking.com pays 3.5% for every hotel stay booked through your link” or whatever (please don’t quote me on that number).
- An affiliate network is like a marketplace where you can apply for a bunch of different programs. They’re nice because instead of getting paid by 19576 different companies individually, they’ll all get added together into a nice tidy lump sum. They can also be overwhelming because there are a zillion programs to choose from – I suggest seeking out specific brands you want to recommend and joining only their programs (just Google “Affiliate program [Brand]”) rather than applying to everything willy-nilly.
My Favorite Affiliate Networks & Programs
Here are my favorite affiliate marketing networks:
- SkimLinks: The first affiliate program you should join! It has the widest range of high-quality programs of any of the other networks, it’s the easiest to use, has fantastic reporting, competitive commission rates, and you won’t need to”apply” to join any specific brand’s programs.
- AWIN: AWIN is one of the biggest affiliate networks out there, with brands in just about every niche. Note: You’ll be asked for a $5 join fee, which you’ll get back once you earn your first paycheck from AWIN.
- ShareaSale: Also part of AWIN, ShareASale has a prettier interface and a wide variety of brands.
- CJ: I tend to find CJ more difficult to use than the other networks just in terms of their interface, but it has a HUGE amount of brands! Over the years, I’ve also worked on a few paid sponsored campaigns through CJ.
- AvantLink: The best network for outdoor brands like REI. But they’ve also got some challenging application criteria to weed out low-quality affiliate partners (which, frankly, I appreciate). I’ve also worked on some paid campaigns through AvantLink.
- RewardStyle: RewardStyle is the best affiliate network for fashion brands and clothing, complete with “shop the post” widgets you can create featuring products of your choosing. I use RewardStyle for most clothes retailers.
- Pepperjam: I’m not on as many programs through Pepperjam, but they’ve got a few brands that I really like.
- Amazon: Amazon has shady business practices and long history of screwing over bloggers and publishers – but their conversion rates are still some of the best in the business, which helps to makes up for its awful commissions. What makes Amazon’s program so effective, aside from its status as the largest online retailer in the world, is the way it credits sales: your readers don’t have to buy the EXACT item you link to from Amazon. If they make a purchase on Amazon within a day of clicking your link, ANY purchase on Amazon, you will get a commission for everything that they buy. That’s pretty huge.
Although all of the affiliate networks listed above have their pros and cons, and I’m not terribly picky about who I use – I go wherever the longest cookie and highest commission is for the brand I want to recommend – I have to say that SkimLinks is my favorite affiliate network!
SkimLinks is the first affiliate network you should sign up for, because it requires the least amount of work. You just install a code onto your site, and SkimLinks will automatically change all of the links on your site that have affiliate programs (even if you haven’t joined them) into affiliate links that will earn you money.
If you choose not to install the SkimLinks code, you can also create links manually for products you recommend. This is better for site speed, so after several years, I chose to go this route and manually created all of my best converting links.
Another thing I love about SkimLinks is that they pay some of the highest commissions of any affiliate network for some of my favorite brands. If you only sign up for ONE affiliate program from this post, make it SkimLinks.
That said, down the road when your blog has grown into an affiliate marketing powerhouse, you may find – as we have – that you prefer to partner directly with brands whenever possible. Smaller or in-house programs often offer a direct contact and an opportunity to build a relationship with a rep that you can rely on over the years for commission increases, custom codes for your readers, and sponsored campaigns.
PRO TIP: Only apply for programs with brands you already use and for products you’re personally familiar with. Not only will your recommendations be more authentic and trustworthy – which results in better conversions – but you’ll be a lot less overwhelmed by choice!
Affiliate Marketing Tools
There are two crucial tools I’d recommend to anyone looking to grow their affiliate marketing revenue.
The first one is a link-cloaking plugin, like Pretty Links or ThirstyAffiliates. On the surface, these tools allow you to create clean links that hide and redirect to ugly affiliate URLs.
But more importantly, they also allow you to create a single link which you can easily manage from within the plugin, even if you’ve inserted it into a whole bunch of blog posts.
Starting out with a link cloaking tool like these will save you a lot of time later on, when you inevitably need to switch a link or update a product.
The second tool is Affilimate. Affilimate is a powerful affiliate marketing dashboard. At a glance, you’ll be able to combine reporting from multiple different affiliate platforms – something we used to have to do manually on Excel (ugh).
You’ll also get vastly improved analytics and insights into which blog posts, programs, and products perform the best. They even have heat maps!
We also love Affilimate’s Amazon broken link checker tool, which we have set to run automatically every week to let us know which Amazon products are sold out, out of stock, or have mysteriously vanished. Although Affilimate is a paid tool, you can test their Amazon broken link checker for free!
Affilimate was created by a travel blogger who deeply understands how frustrating affiliate marketing can be. As someone who loves data (in my pre-blogging life, I was a business systems analyst, so I like … really nerdy analytics stuff), I’m a huge fan!
Sponsorships are one of those glamorous monetization streams that we all dream about when we first start our blogs. But a lot of folks mistakenly lump “influencing” and “blogging” together, and assume that sponsorships are the main way to make money blogging. But that’s actually not true at all. When you don’t own your own website or platform, you’ll need to look for sponsors to pay you to create content; that rule doesn’t apply to bloggers.
That said, yes: sponsored content can be a good way to make money blogging. And no, you don’t have to go on The Bachelor to land sponsored brand partnerships.
But sponsorships aren’t an easy or passive revenue stream. In fact, sponsored work is one of the most challenging and exhausting ways to make money blogging. Sure, it can be glamorous and fun, but it’s also a LOT of work.
How much work, though? Well, here’s a rundown of what goes into a sponsored campaign:
- Landing a sponsored campaign can take months or even years. It takes along time to build your reputation to the point that brands will just reach out and offer you money (but if you’re already at that point, you can go ahead and skip to the next section). You’ll be building brand relationships from scratch, and you’ll need to hustle your way through networking at conferences, cold pitches, and underpaid – or unpaid – campaigns to prove yourself before you’ll land anything decent.
- Negotiating takes a while. There’s lots of paperwork, phone calls, management of expectations, outlining scopes of work, discussing deliverables, setting deadlines, reading fine print contracts, realizing you’re getting screwed, and then going back to re-negotiate. It takes a lot of back and forth.
- Then there’s the actual content creation. It varies by niche and by blogger, but for me, creating a single sponsored blog post takes at least a month. There’s usually travel involved, plus thousands of photos taken on location, culling those photos down to a few hundred, and editing all of those photos. Then there’s the actual writing – our posts are always long and chunky, so that takes about a week. There’s researching, fact-checking, SEO optimization, and adding in links… And then more back and forth. Many brands want to approve your content before you publish it, so there’s some more back and forth while you wait for the advertiser’s approval, which is never as fast as you’d like it to be. They might want reshoots or rewrites, which I personally charge extra for because it’s a ton of extra work and frankly, cramps my creative process.
- Next comes the marketing campaign. I spend about a month on an initial marketing push very every single sponsored post, plus another 3-6 months continuing to ensure that my post is circulating. Luckily for me, my team helps me out with this bit!
- Finally, you’ll need to report your campaign results. You’ll spend a few days pulling together a zillion numbers and metrics and calculations and throwing them all into a fancy report that showcases to the brand how much work you did and what their ROI is from hiring you.
All told, it typically takes me about 6 months from an initial conversation with a brand to the final campaign report, with around 2-3 full weeks set aside just to focus on the campaign.
I haven’t sat down and tracked my hourly rate – because that sounds depressing – but it’s rare that brands are willing to pay me rates that fairly compensate the time that both I and my team spend on sponsored campaigns. And that’s not even taking into account the time and money I spend going to conferences, which is the best way to meet and network with potential brand partners – those expenses are all on me.
Creating sponsored content can be exhausting and demanding: tight deadlines, lots of deliverables, rigorous brand expectations, etc.
So, personally, I’m much more of a passive income girl. I really value my time and creative freedom (read: the ability to procrastinate without disappointing anyone but me). These days, I’m incredibly picky about taking on sponsored work.
That said, many of my blogger friends monetize almost entirely through sponsored content! (But many more – too many – do most of their sponsored content on. a”comp” basis, meaning they aren’t getting paid at all)
BOTTOM LINE: Sponsored campaigns can be fun and exciting, but they’re a LOT more work than you might expect. As with every other monetization stream in this post, I recommend giving it a try, seeing how it feels, and evaluating whether you want to to move forward with it or focus your energy elsewhere.
Let’s talk about creating sponsored content for your blog.
How much can I earn?
When it comes to sponsored content, your earning potential will depend on a few factors: social media followers, total social media reach, engagement, blog traffic, and so on.
It also depends on how well your niche fits with a brand’s target audience and campaign goals: so even if you have a teeny tiny blog about an extremely niche topic, your influence in that niche community means you can charge more.
It’s really hard to give price ranges here, because there are SO many variables and honestly, sometimes it just comes down to your negotiating skills and how you’re able to package and sell your brand.
A good starting point is to follow the 1 cent rule: 1 follower = 1 cent.
That means if you have 10,000 Instagram followers, you might use $100 as a starting point for a sponsored post.
This also works for blog readers: if you’ve got 200,000 monthly readers, $2,000 is a pretty fair rate to charge for a sponsored blog post.
Once you get some experience and hear a few “no’s” and “yes’s”, you’ll be able to re-evaluate your prices. I tend to update my rates as I continue to evaluate and improve upon what I’m able to offer my brand sponsors.
- By the way, to clear up any confusion: when I’m talking about sponsored blog posts here, I’m talking about a blog post written by me, with no-follow links to my sponsor and a clear disclaimer that my post was sponsored. I do not publish paid do-follow sponsored posts on my site, although I get emails asking me to every single day. Please consider the value of your brand when you get these kinds of offers: you’re not just selling a backlink, you’re selling access to your audience and their trust. I don’t judge anyone who does accept those kinds of sponsored posts, but I’ve personally made the decision not to.
When should I start?
If you’re ready to start landing brand sponsorships, you can actually test the waters with this revenue stream earlier than you’d think.
I know everyone likes specifics, so here’s my story: I started creating sponsored content really early in my blogging journey – partnering with hotels, food tours, and so on – but payment didn’t come until later. When I first started getting paid to create sponsored posts and content, I was receiving about 30,000 monthly page views and had 10,000 total social media followers.
If you’ve got a highly engaged audience or a specific niche, you’ll likely be able to get started much sooner than that. I’d say 15K+ monthly traffic is a healthy time to start looking for paying sponsors.
In fact, now that I charge premium rates for my sponsored content it’s actually harder for me to get campaigns, despite the fact that my traffic, reach, followers and proven ROI have literally quintupled. When I was willing to accept $300 for a sponsored blog post, there were a LOT more takers.
Now that my prices are in the thousands rather than the hundreds, brands are a lot more hesitant to partner with me – even though my rates are, I think, quite fair and I have the results and numbers to back them up.
PRO TIP: If you’re hovering around the 10k or less traffic mark, I’d recommend focusing on creating content that highlights the brands that you’re currently using and loving. Write honest, unbiased reviews, take photos wearing your favorite brands and recommend them to your audience, and incorporate affiliate links into your content. This will show potential brand sponsors that you’re able to create content that fits their needs and showcases their brand, and you’ll be building a foundation which could pay off much later. The brands I was writing about 2 years ago – just because I really loved them – are the brands I’m partnering with on paying campaigns today.
How do I get started?
If you feel ready to start creating sponsored content, you should know that cold pitching brands is Hard Mode – and we’ll have a post out later this month dedicated to this incredibly difficult task. A much, much easier way to get started – and the source of my first ever paid partnerships – is via Influencer Networks.
If you’ve never heard of them before, you’re probably wondering: what is an influencer network? Essentially, influencer networks act as a go-between for brands and bloggers. Brands who want to promote a campaign using content creators hire an influencer network to find the influencers/bloggers for their campaign. The network does most of the legwork for you.
There’s typically a marketplace where you can sort through campaigns to find ones you want to apply for, so all you have to do is log in and browse active campaigns. Applying is as easy as filling out a form – no anxiety-inducing cold pitch or Media Kit required. Influencer Networks are a fantastic way to monetize your blog, get paid to write and create content, and build up a portfolio of sponsored work for when you DO start cold pitching for paid sponsorships.
Each campaign is looking for something different – so whether you have huge numbers or are just starting out, it never hurts to sign up and see what’s out there. You just might have the PERFECT audience that a brand is looking for!
My Favorite Influencer Networks
There are a ton of options out there, but not all of them are suited for the travel niche. So I’m gonna make it easy on you: here are 3 influencer networks that you can sign up for RIGHT NOW. I often see travel opportunities on these and I’ve worked with each of them personally.
- IZEA: In 2017, I earned $625 and worked with Daytona Beach & a Caribbean beach resort giveaway.
- Cooperatize: In 2017, I earned $600 and worked with Czech Tourism.
- Blog Meets Brand: In 2017, I earned $850 and worked with 3 USA-based travel brands & tourism boards.
- Activate: In 2017, I earned $350 and worked with Trivago.
If you REALLY want to supersize your influencer network earnings, I highly recommend investing in this list of 150+ networks that pay content creators created by one of my favorite travel bloggers, who earned $37,000 from influencer networks in 2017 – with less than 25,000 unique views per month. She is living proof that it can be done!
Ad revenue is a HUGE part of my current monetization strategy. But it took me months to get to a point where I felt comfortable covering my site with ads – and here at Slaying Social, we’re over a year into this crazy project (happy anniversary to us!) and we’ve chosen not to utilize this monetization strategy (yet – never say never).
How much can I earn?
This varies quite a bit. Some of the things that impact your earning potential are: your traffic, which ad partner/network you’ve joined, and RPM’s – that’s the amount of money you’re paid per thousand sessions. RPM’s vary throughout the year depending on seasonality and various other things, but they’re a good way to evaluate your earnings.
To give you an idea, when I first started monetizing my site with ads on Mediavine, my RPM was about $11 – that’s $11 for every 1,000 sessions. At the time, that meant I was earning about $11 per day. Not too shabby, but not enough to roll around in a pile of money, either.
These days, I earn about $30 RPM and I’m getting 4-5,000 sessions per day, which means I earn around $120-150 per day just from ad revenue. That’s a BIG change in just a year and a half, and it’s mostly thanks to Mediavine’s tireless efforts to put more money in the pockets of their content creators (because they’re absolutely incredible and regularly surprise and delight me with their ability to earn me more money).
Bottom line: depending on your traffic quality, the length of your posts, and lots of other factors, you could be earning anywhere from $10-30 per thousand sessions with a good ad network.
When should I start?
This isn’t a great monetization stream for a brand new blogger. Ad revenue requires traffic, so if you’re currently under 10k monthly sessions, it’s probably too early in your journey to start thinking about monetizing with ads.
Instead, focus on creating rich, in-depth, long-form content to build your site, and spend your energy on traffic-driving strategies like SEO and Pinterest (psst: we’ve got a few Pinterest courses that can help with that).
If you’ve got over 10k sessions, it’s probably time to start thinking about installing ads on your site.
One last thing: remember that ads will impact your user experience. I’ve found that the impact is minimal – my readers may be irritated by my ads, but not enough to turn around and leave. You want to make sure that the content you’re creating is worth it – because essentially, you’re offering free content that’s being paid for by ad views.
So again: create really good content first and foremost. I know, I know, I’m a broken record.
How do I get started?
My beloved ad network, Mediavine, only accepts blogs that have received at least 25k sessions in the past 30 days. A strong ad network like Mediavine is well worth the wait, but it can also be tough to get accepted: Mediavine has high expectations for its blog partners.
If you’re not quite hitting 25k sessions and still feel ready to install ads, try starting with Ezoic. They’ve got a reasonable 10K minimum monthly sessions requirement and they’re highly recommended across a variety of blogging niches. Ezoic is high tech, and their service works by basically testing hundreds of different ad combinations on your site until they find your optimal performance – and then they continue testing just to be sure. It’s like Portal, but ads. The customer service is great, they work with you to optimize your site for SEO, and all in all they seem to be a pretty solid option.
If you’re not at 10k sessions per month just yet, consider Chikita, which is one of the best alternatives to Google Adsense. It has with NO minimum traffic requirements and pays out at just $10 via Paypal. But … honestly? I wouldn’t recommend monetizing with ads this early on in your blogging journey.
For what it’s worth, in my experience Google Adsense barely earns enough to pay for the real estate it takes up on your site. It earned me about $10 per month when my traffic was hovering around 20k monthly sessions, and I never even managed hit their minimum payout of $100. I don’t recommend it – instead, focus on creating quality content and growing your traffic, and wait until you qualify for a better network.
This is a slightly controversial topic to include here because not all freelance writing opportunities actually tie into to your blog.
Not all bloggers are suited for freelance travel writing; not all freelance writers are suited for blogging. And yes, they are two very different things – this article does a great job of laying out the differences (with the pleasant side effect of absolutely crushing misconceptions I had that freelance travel writing is fun).
That said: for me, freelance writing is directly related to and overlaps with my travel blog because I only pitch and accept freelance writing assignments that will benefit my blog and brand.
Here’s what I mean: I don’t accept any writing opportunities that don’t feature me front and center as the writer. I’m not talking about being paid to write content for someone else’s blog as a guest writer or copywriter. If there’s not a byline, I’m not interested.
I’ve actually only written a total of 5 freelance articles ever (although numbers 6 and 7 are currently in the works). This is NOT a major monetization stream for me, but it is a paying opportunity to grow my brand and demonstrate authority and expertise. If you’re curious about what I’ve written, you can check out a few Freelance Writing credits on Practical Wanderlust’s Press Page.
Some of the ways that freelance writing benefits my blog are by having a fancy byline in a reputable traditional media outlet, which makes me more credible as a writer and dangles the opportunity of “earned media” in front of my destination partners; strengthening a relationship with a brand partner (or a brand who I WANT to partner with) by giving them even more coverage; or by accepting an invitation to write an article about a topic that I specialize in as a subject matter expert, which further positions me as an expert and opens up even more opportunities down the road.
My freelance writing is strategic. Not only do I only pitch or accept assignments that will benefit my blog and brand, but I also DON’T pitch or accept writing assignments that will compete with my blog. If there’s a topic that fits on my blog, I don’t pitch it – that topic is mine and mine alone.
But sometimes there’s an article tied to a subject I want to write about that I know doesn’t really have a good place on my blog – perhaps it’s not meant for the right audience, perhaps it’s not “evergreen” enough for me, perhaps it’s a keyword that I’ll never have a chance of hell of ranking for.
When I have a story idea that falls into one of those categories, it’s a good opportunity for me to pitch to major media outlets and news media, which gets me 1 step closer to my personal goal of getting a mildly humorous article published in the New Yorker.
How much can I earn?
Here’s another bummer about freelance writing: it doesn’t pay very well. I’ve learned that 50 cents per word is a GOOD rate – and most publications offer quite a lot less than that. Maybe more established freelance journalists earn more. I sure don’t.
Oh, and a major catch 22? Many publications don’t accept pitches from Press Trips, meaning you’ll have to pay for your own travel out of pocket. Ouch.
Much like pitching sponsorships, pitching an editor your story will typically result in lower pay than being specifically asked to write a story for a publication. The articles I’ve pitched have never earned me more than about $200 for 800 or so words; the articles I’ve been ASKED to write have been much more lucrative, fetching as much as $3,000 for 5,000 or so words.
But the chances of you being asked to write an article are small until you’ve established yourself as a leading expert in a niche topic, whereas any decent writer with a good pitch can make a couple hundred bucks and get featured in a major publication.
BOTTOM LINE: Freelance writing typically doesn’t pay well, which is why I treat it more like a strategic way to build my blog and brand rather than a true monetization stream.
When should I start?
If you still have dreams of becoming a fabulous freelance writer, there is a glimmer of good news: you don’t need a blog at all to start freelance writing, so this is a great opportunity for beginners looking to hone and practice their travel writing skills.
If you can develop relationships with publications and editors, you may also find yourself able to snag invites to (unpaid) FAM and Press Trips well before your blog is able to open those doors for you. Chances are you’ll be producing your best content for someone else (and getting paid very little for it), but you’ll still get the opportunity to travel, which means you’ll have new material to use to produce content for your own platform.
Just be careful: you don’t want to get sucked so deep into freelance writing that your blog falls behind and gets lost in the shuffle – unless that’s your goal, of course. Keep your goals front and center in your mind, and if freelance writing is a tool you’re looking to use to build your blog, don’t neglect your blog while you’re chasing after prestigious bylines!
- Psst: If you’re a travel blogger or looking for travel writing gigs, there’s an EXCELLENT resource to help you with this task: Dream of Travel Writing. I can’t emphasize how incredibly helpful this site and their weekly emails are if you’re looking to get into freelance travel writing. Not only are they chock full of free guides and helpful resources (like these), but they run an incredible Travel Magazine Database.
Creating and selling travel products is a monetization stream I’ve just started exploring recently! When I say “travel products,” by the way, I’m not talking about like … suitcases and sh*t (although, anyone who wants to make some cool travel gear with me, what’s up). Travel products can be absolutely anything that ties into your blogs: e-books, guides, tours, retreats, t-shirts, or in my case, Disney parks Scavenger Hunts and a book on quitting your job to travel.
There are a lot of benefits to creating and selling your own products. Here’s the biggest and best one: you get to keep and roll in ALL OF THE MONEY. Er, like, minus transaction fees and printing fees and all that, but still – it’s (almost all) all yours to keep! What a great feeling!
Here’s another one: depending on the platform you sell through, you can actually have YOUR OWN AFFILIATES. Imagine: other people selling your products FOR YOU. That’s like passive income on top of passive income with a passive income cherry on top. And it feels REALLY GOOD to have other people making YOU money!
Many bloggers – including me, obviously – have also gone down the “blogging about blogging” rabbit hole and created courses to sell to other bloggers. I actually wouldn’t recommend going that route.
Why? Not only is the market saturated as all heck, but you won’t be selling to your existing audience – meaning you’ll have to establish a whole new audience of other bloggers from scratch. It’s a LOT more work than just creating and selling products that are relevant to the audience you already have, and I speak from a lot of experience here. Going that route isn’t really a passive income stream – but selling travel products on your travel blog totally is.
How much can I earn?
The sky is the limit, honestly. You get to set your own prices! And keep all the profits!
Some of the most successful bloggers I know earn the vast majority of their income from selling products. It can be very lucrative. I mean like, you can just wake up one day and decide to slap a $99,999 price tag on whatever the heck you want and sell it on your blog. The world is your oyster! You just have to like .. convince someone to buy it.
So sit down and think HARD and come up with a good idea for a product. You know, something that gets your reader’s blood pumping. Something titiliating. Something sexy.
When should I start?
The great thing about creating your own products is that you have complete and total control over how you sell your product – there are no traffic requirements, no Amazon rules and regulations, nada. You can start whenever you like.
That said, you’re unlikely to sell anything until you actually have an audience. After all, they’re your buyers, remember? So I’d suggest establishing a solid foundation of quality content before you explore this route. If you’re wondering how many times I’ll say that in this post, we’re currently on #2957287628762.
How do I get started?
If you feel ready to create your first travel product, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about what you want to create. Start by asking yourself this question: what problems do my readers face – and how can I solve those problems?
The next question to ask yourself is: what are my areas of expertise? In my opinion, if you want to charge for an e-book, you really need to be an expert on the topic you’re writing about.
For my products, I started with the Disney parks because I’m a former Walt Disney World Cast Member, which makes me a certified expert in all things Disney (Read: I know where the bodies are buried. Muahahaha! No, there are no bodies in my scavenger hunts.) I’m also REALLY good at creating scavenger hunts.
The problem I wanted to solve for my audience was that most Disney Scavenger Hunts are created for kids, and not overly competitive grown-ups who get really into games and also really obsessed with Disney. And thus,
a great excuse for going to the Disney Theme parks several times my Scavenger Hunts were born!
Because I have such limited experience in this area, I’m going to refer you to someone who knows her sh*t: Sharon from Digital Nomad Wannabe. She’s a queen at creating and marketing ebooks, and she has an entire course that will teach you exactly how to do it. Note: we are in no way affiliated with Sharon, that’s not an affiliate link, and please note that I haven’t taken her course myself. That said, Sharon is a marketing genius and creates truly incredible resources.
Content licensing as a monetization stream is really an umbrella that basically means selling anyone the right to use your content for anything. That includes selling your photography, syndicating your blog posts, creating ghost-written content for brands and DMO’s, and so on.
Anytime you tell someone “yes, you can use this photo on a billboard” or “yes, you can copy and paste this chunk of text to use in your textbook,” you are licensing your content and you should charge a fee.
How much can I earn?
This depends on what you’re licensing and what use you’re licensing it for. Commercial rights -IE, using your content to sell a product or promote a brand – come with a much steeper fee than, say, limited social media use – IE, reposting your image on Instagram. In order to come up with a price for your license, you’ll need to get a clear understanding of what the content will be used for and set limits so that you’re legally protected in the case of misuse.
To give you some numbers: I charge $200 to license a photo and roughly 50 cents per word (my target freelance writing fee) for licensed text content.
When should I start?
You can, in theory, start licensing your content as soon as you have content to license. But the tricky bit is finding someone to purchase that content. Chances are you won’t be ready to start licensing your content until you’re ready to start getting paid to produce that content.
How do I get started?
Most of my licensed content sales have been to DMO’s, and my content was a negotiated deliverable for a paid FAM trip. I’ve had a few requests to license my content too – but that’s purely chance (although SEO and viral content certainly helped).
My suggestion would be to keep this in your back pocket as a value-added deliverable when you’re ready to start pitching to DMO’s for paid FAM and Press Trips. And we’ve got a whole post coming out about that next week!
Consulting & Other Services
You guys, we’re almost through this massive behemoth of a post. We’ve come to the very last monetization stream (that I personally know about, at least): consulting and other services. And boy, is that vague or WHAT?
“Consulting and other services” covers a LOT of ground. It can cover things like trip planning services for your readers.
But it also extends to using your expertise and skills in other ways, like being a Virtual Assistant for other bloggers, social media management, speaking engagements, web development, running marketing or influencer campaigns, and so on and so forth.
Basically: if you’ve got skills, you can leverage those skills – and charge for them.
How much can I earn?
You’re in charge of your own prices, so you get to set your own rates. I prefer to charge by the hour, and my preferred hourly rate is $100. So no, you can’t buy me a coffee and “pick my brain,” unless we are drinking $100 lattes flecked with gold and topped with shaved truffles while someone massages my feet. In which case, pick away.
The standard going rate for Virtual Assistants seems to be right around $15-$25 per hour, depending on the complexity and skillset required for tasks.You can also package your services and price them as a bundle – just make sure you’re thinking about your time and setting yourself a worthwhile hourly rate!
As for the really fancy stuff – speaking gigs, consulting with brands on their influencer marketing and so on – that’s gonna earn you quite a bit more, because you’ll be charging for highly valued and highly specialized skills.
Personally, consultations are not a primary monetization stream for me, and I charge a fairly high hourly rate because my expertise is valuable and my time is precious. Speaking of: if you want to book a consultation or coaching session with me, here’s how.
When should I start?
You’ll want to wait until you have expertise and experience to start charging for your time and your skills. But will you know you’re ready?
Well, here are a few of the key indicators that tipped ME off:
- People keep asking if they can hire you to do stuff
- You’re helping so many people for free that you’re losing the time you need to work on your own stuff
- People keep telling you “wow, you’re really good at this. You should be charging for it.”
Yeah … sounds kinda obvious, right? But it took me a while to realize: hey, you’re really good at this thing. You should charge for it.
Honestly, the biggest barrier to entry for this monetization stream is a lack of confidence and self-worth. So many of us – particularly women – don’t believe in our own value. We have imposter syndrome. We assume everyone else knows what they’re doing and we’re the only ones making it up as we go along. We assume everyone else has their sh*t together and we’re the only ones screaming on the inside.
Well, here’s the thing: we’re ALL screaming on the inside, and we’re all totally f**king clueless and making it up as we go along. I mean, how can we not? Blogging is a brand new industry and it’s kind of the wild west out here. We’re exploring uncharted territory. We’re like John Muir, or the Donner Party. Er, maybe not that last one.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is for goodness’ sake, realize your own worth. Own your own value. Put on your Grown A$$ Business Person pants, and ASK FOR THE MONEY YOU ARE WORTH. You can do it. I believe in you!
How do I get started?
When you’re ready to start charging for your Skillz, you’ll need to think about how to package and sell those skills. You’ll want to create some materials: worksheets? Courses? Presentations?
You’ll also want to get some practice – and start collecting testimonials. I recommend offering your services for free or at a reduced price to a select few “test subjects.” That will give you a chance to hone your services, evaluate what you need to tweak or change or upgrade (and what materials you’ll need to create, if you skipped that step). It will also let you test whether you’re capable of delivering results. And if you are, you’ll want to collect testimonials.
Once you’ve got a few testimonials in hand, you’ll probably want to make a landing page for your site highlighting the value you bring to your potential clients – or perhaps you need a whole new site. FWIW, I started out with a landing page … and it eventually gave birth to Slaying Social.
And you might want to spend some time looking up things like sales funnels and learn how to market your services – and identify the target audience you’ll be pitching them to.
If you’re already getting overwhelmed, you’re not totally off-base here – this can be a lucrative revenue stream, but it’s also sort of another full-time job. It’s not passive income at all. Not even a little bit. It’s a LOT of work.
But if you can position yourself as an expert in your field, you’ll be able to leverage your blog and brand … and eventually you just might find yourself doing things like keynoting conferences or getting flown out to corporate headquarters to run training sessions – you know, baller sh*t.
That kind of cache can open some serious doors for you, so if this is one of your goals, clear your schedule and focus on honing your skills, analyzing your value proposition, and collecting your first few testimonials!
How Much do Bloggers Make?
Because blogging is a self-made career, typical earnings vary wildly from blogger to blogger.
It’s hard to make sweeping generalizations, so instead, I’ll share my personal experience.
If you want more details about exactly how much I earn (and exactly how much I spend on travel and business expenses every month, and how many page views I have, and other very specific details) you can always go browse my travel blogging income reports.
Want to read more of my income reports? You can find them all here.
Now that we’ve gone through the myriad ways you can make money travel blogging, I want to show you my monetizaton progression from 2017 to 2018. I started my blog in July 2016 and my only goal was to create really awesome content and start driving some traffic to my blog.
By 2017, I had a solid base of content, so I pivoted and set a goal for myself to figure out how to earn some money. I began focusing less on driving traffic and more on monetization, because in my experience, trying to both is a recipe for getting incredibly overwhelmed. Fun fact: being a full-time blogger is ALSO a recipe for getting incredibly overwhelmed. Overwhelmedness is actually just part of the job, turns out. Fun!
My journey to making a living from my travel blog wasn’t immediate. It took a couple of years and a LOT of learning, trial, and error. But … I did it!
I’d like to share my journey with you in the most exciting way possible: COLORFUL PIE CHARTS. *cue exciting, upbeat business music*
In 2017, I decided that I wanted to try and earn some money from my 6-month old little travel blog. My first goal was to get to a point where I was regularly earning $1,000 per month. But by the end of the year, I’d nearly doubled that – I earned about $22,000 (here’s my first income report).
In 2018, I set myself a new monetization goal: I wanted to double that $22k. It was wild, WILD! But also barely enough to live on here in the Bay Area.
So I also set myself a stretch goal: I wanted to earn my old corporate salary. If I couldn’t earn enough to live on comfortably, I told myself (and my husband), I’d return to corporate life, knowing I tried my best.
So, how did I do?
In 2018, my second full year of blogging, I earned over 6 figures for the first time. Like, in my life. So long, corporate life! I never looked back.
Since then, Practical Wanderlust has become a multi-six-figure earning blog with a growing team. And beyond any of my wildest dreams when I first started blogging, I’m actually aiming for 7 figures.
But listen: I’ve been doing this since 2016. And when I started, I had no idea what I was doing!
So no matter where you are in your blogging journey, it’s OK if you don’t feel like you’ve got things figured out yet. Cuz hey, me neither – we’re in this together.
And, hopefully, you’ve gotten this message loud and clear already – but just in case: if you’re just starting out as a blogger, write what you want to write regardless of whether it will earn you money or not – allllll this complicated monetization stuff can come later.
Woah – you just made it through a really long post! Future you will thank current you for your attentiveness while you’re fanning yourself with all that sweet, sweet blogging money.
So: what questions can I answer for you about how to make money blogging? Drop me a comment below!
Psst: Are you a blogger, or hoping to make blogging your full-time job? Take a look at some of our other posts:
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