On the fateful summer’s day that we launched Twins That Travel, we hadn’t really considered how to make money from a travel blog. In fact, we had no idea that people even enjoyed an income from blogging, let alone forged a career in it. Fast forward five years, however, and our travel blog is now a (small) but thriving business; our income derived entirely from Twins That Travel. No, we’re not sure how that happened either.
Having previously recorded a podcast on Blogging Business Models, we’ve come to realise that there are a seemingly endless number of ways to make money from a travel blog. From traditional blog advertising, through to launching your own book or travel tours, a travel blog (if built correctly) is no different to any other business. The revenue possibilities are limitless.
However, for those initially starting a travel blog, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with possible income streams. When there are so many ways to make money from blogging, where do you begin? To help you on your way, we’ve put together five key ways to make money from a travel blog – aimed at those in the early to intermediate stages of blogging.
These five possibilities are divided into passive and active income streams. By definition, we class ‘passive income’ as money that is made through your blog without any effort. It’s that income that’s mounting slowly in the background, via advertising or affiliate schemes. ‘Active income’ is what we define as work that must be completed in order to be paid. For example, this might be attending a press trip or creating Instagram imagery for a client.
Whilst we have found ourselves concentrating far more on ‘active income’ over the last few years – our Instagram account providing us with most of our paid opportunities – passive income is something we’re working hard to improve on in 2019, both via our blog and our podcast.
As any blogger will know, social media platforms are transient and unstable, therefore it’s incredibly important to nurture your own channels – those that you have complete control over – to protect against any social media crashes.
So, and without further ado, below is our list of five ways to make money from travel blogging.
Affiliate schemes offer an incredibly easy way to make money from a travel blog.
Affiliate marketing is essentially when a brand or business provides their affiliates (that’s you) with a percentage of any sales that have come via your audience. There are a mind-boggling amount of affiliate schemes out there, from Amazon Associates through to Reward Style, which can make deciding which programme to join a little daunting.
For a few years, we manually – and entirely unsystematically – added affiliate links to our own blog posts, before realising that there were platforms that would provide affiliate links to multiple retailers – and automatically. We now use Skimlinks, who automatically turn our active hyperlinks into affiliate links, if the brand or business are on their books. We also use Awin, which is particularly handy for travel specific links, such as Eurostar and Booking.com. Occasionally, we will also use Reward Style for Instagram swipe up links, if we’re discussing fashion.
Although (initially) offering perhaps only a small income stream, affiliate linking can prove incredibly lucrative – particularly when your blog traffic builds. Our wonderful friend, Monica, from The Travel Hack, once gave an example of a pair of slippers that she happened to review a few years ago, which continue to make her a healthy sum each and every month.
Paying your Council Tax bill with money earned from a slipper review you once wrote four years ago? Surely that’s the blogging dream.
Note: affiliate links come at no extra cost to your blog readers, but you must provide a disclaimer that you are using them. Furthermore, we did notice that Skimlinks caused some speed problems with our site, so it’s worth testing it first before committing entirely.
Blog advertising is one of the more traditional ways to make money from a travel blog. An immediate and early option for those who have recently begun blogging, advertising can be an easy way to secure passive income. For those who don’t have the time to commit to active income streams such as trips or brand work, advertising is an obvious option.
When starting out in travel blogging, I presumed that any advert I saw on a website must have been manually placed there. For example, an advert for British Airways on the sidebar of a blog must have been the result of a direct request from the blogger. This form of blog advertising, however, is actually incredibly rare.
Instead, bloggers will place adverts on their site via advertising agencies, such as those listed below. Auto-populated, these ads will magically appear on your site once the correct code has been added to the backend of your blog (a very straightforward process). Money is then earned when readers click on these adverts as they scroll through your site (this is why it’s also important to ensure that the ads are relevant to your audience).
Below are just a few options of advertising programmes open to bloggers, ranked in order of requirements as set by the ad agency:
Google Adsense is the ideal place to start with blog advertising. With no readership requirements, you can add Google Adsense to your blog once it hits six months old. Although commission is lower than other sites, Google Adsense can still provide you with a little pocket money when starting out in travel blogging.
An intermediary advertising platform – sat somewhere between Google Adsense and Mediavine – Ezoic is available to those who have 10,000 monthly sessions or more on their blog.
An option for the more established travel site, Mediavine is the preferred choice for most bloggers. With a requirement of 25,000 monthly sessions per month, you’ll require a strong readership before you can apply to join this programme.
It’s important to remember that making money from blog advertising is a slow burn and noticeable revenue inevitably comes with a much more established readership.
A word of warning: it can be easy to oversaturate your blog with ads when you’re looking to increase your blog income. With most programmes allowing you to place ads in between paragraphs, or sticky ads that you have to click on to delete, there’s a risk of both distracting and deterring your readers.
Our humble advice? Place enough ads on your website to generate an income, but remain mindful of your reader’s overall experience.
Having built a travel blog or social media following, it shouldn’t be long before you’re approached to work on a sponsored blog or social media post.
In the early stages of travel blogging, this is likely to be offered on a ‘gifted’ basis, meaning that you’re paid ‘in kind’ rather than receiving any monetary reward. For example, this could be in creating a sponsored blog post on a suitcase review, in return for the product itself.
We did this for many years when growing our blog; working hard to prove our worth by creating sponsored content for brands that we hoped to build future relationships with. Despite the argument that people should be paid for their time, we believe this is a necessary stage for any travel blogger, and should be viewed as something of an apprenticeship or job interview. Alternatively, think of it as an online portfolio, showcasing examples of your work to future clients.
It wasn’t until two years into our travel blogging venture that we were approached for a paid sponsored blog post. For a fee of £200 (if I remember correctly), we wrote a blog post on a ‘Guide to the South of France‘, including links to a villa company. Our first sponsored Instagram post was for the watch brand Fossil, for the slightly higher fee of £250.
In our podcast on Business Blogging Models, we touched upon the fact that stand alone sponsored blog posts are becoming increasingly less sought after. Indeed, the travel PR industry are now rapidly reallocating their budgets to social media posts, thanks to the recent uptake of ‘influencer marketing’.
In many ways, we can understand why – Instagram likes, comments and reach are an easily quantifiable way to measure ROI. We now tend to find that any requests for sponsored blog posts therefore come as part of a much larger package, e.g. also containing requests for five Instagram posts, ten Instagram stories, Twitter and Facebook posts, and a podcast.
A recent positive trend has also seen brands look to develop long term ambassadorships with bloggers, rather than one-off pieces of content. This is a far more authentic way to work on sponsored content (provided that the brand is the right fit for you), and is a win win situation for both the blogger and the client. Providing you with a long-term source of income, six month to year long ambassadorships are the ideal way to secure better income stability.
Thinking about how to earn money through your travel blog requires a certain degree of creativity and tenacity.
Indeed, it’s important to remember that you are not just limited to your own channels and can create content for other platforms too. For example, this might be copy writing for travel websites, creating video content for a travel brand, or providing a tourism board with photography that they can then utilise.
To make this income stream a success, it’s important to know where your strengths lie, which will allow you to effectively ‘pitch’ yourself as an experienced freelancer when approaching a client.
Over the last two years, the request for (our own) bulk imagery from brands has become increasingly common. This means, aside from creating our own usual deliverables, we are now often asked to provide a specific amount of images, which the brand will enjoy full ownership of.
In short, this means the brand will own our photography and can distribute it (as they wish) both online and offline. This move to recognise bloggers as photographers (or writers or videographers), has certainly allowed us to increase our fees.
As we knew little about the cost of imagery, particularly when a brand asked to secure all rights to our photographs, this area has been one of our biggest learning curves. Although we initially used to agree to £50 per photo, we would now charge £500-1,000 per photograph, dependent on usage rights.
Our highest earning photograph secured us just over £3,000.
We’ve also recently been invited to do more video campaigns for brand channels. This has included an advert with Very.co.uk and filming a GoPro advert. Here our fee is simply for the ‘talent’ angle (not that we can act), with no requirements for us to create or promote content.
The holy grail of travel blogging, the paid travel campaign is – for many – the ultimate way to make money from a travel blog.
Paid by a tourism board, airline, hotel or brand to create content whilst visiting a destination, the paid travel campaign comes (for most) after years of blog building. Indeed, I purposely left this income stream to last, due to the fact that a paid travel campaign isn’t an offer you’ll likely receive in the early stages of travel blogging (however frustrating that is to hear).
For most, there will be many years of participating in unpaid press trips before this point. Still a brilliant way to see the world, unpaid press trips will usually cover all your travel expenses (including meals and accommodation), in return for content. Unpaid press trips are a key way to build your blog’s content, whilst proving your worth in terms of ROI to tourism boards.
Our first paid travel campaign came two and half years after launching Twins That Travel, and was a week-long trip to Universal Studios. Jumping up and down in my small study, I remember reading the invitation with a mixture of delight and terror. We were being paid to spend a week in one of the world’s best theme parks in Florida. What was the catch?
Having secured our first paid trip, the last two years have been a learning curve in understanding the typical fees that you can expect from such a project. Ranging from £500 to (most recently) just over £8,000, our fees for travel campaigns vary – the fee entirely dependent on the client and their budget. Our recent paid campaigns with Air New Zealand, P&O Cruises, Vienna Tourism, Atout France and Visit Germany have all varied in both deliverables and therefore budget.
To combat varying fees for paid travel campaigns, we have begun to tie paid brand collaborations into smaller paid or unpaid trips. In terms of money, it is fashion and lifestyle brands who will (usually) have the larger budgets, particularly if you’re comparing it to a state-funded tourism board. By shooting brand work whilst away, we’ve found a handy way to maintain our higher fees without having to turn down some of our bucket list destinations.
Most recently, we have earned £9,000 from three small brand collaborations (Instagram only), which enabled us to therefore accept a few lower paid trips. In many ways, this takes the pressure off travel again and we can enjoy a destination at a slower pace, whilst still paying the bills.
Above are just five ways to make money from a travel blog – and really are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities.
Build a successful brand and your much loved travel blog can quickly turn into a business that exists far beyond its static URL. For us, this has meant launching Twins That Travel Tours and a podcast. Be it an online course, or a product such as a suitcase (as designed by Monica from The Travel Hack), how you choose to branch out is entirely up to you.
Our most valuable piece of advice, however? Earning money through a travel blog isn’t easy: it’s likely to be years of work before you receive your first pay cheque. Therefore, perhaps the biggest requirement for building a successful travel blog is passion and perseverance. In a world where a teenager’s career aspiration is to become an ‘influencer,’ it can be all too easy to enter into travel blogging for all the wrong reasons. With little results in terms of monetary value from our blog for at least two years, we have run Twins That Travel out of a pure love for travel and storytelling.
The income, and subsequent career, has largely been an unexpected (but brilliant) result of our much loved hobby.