How to pay for travel is the eternal question for student travelers and backpackers. A job that travels with you, like travel blogging, is one of the easiest ways to do so. While it takes some serious time to set up a good blog, though, and you won't make a ton of money blogging unless you really work it like a job, it's definitely worth it.
Let's take a look at what you should consider before you start travel blogging.
How Much Money Can Be Made
First things first: how much money do people make blogging? Will it come anywhere close to covering your travel budget?
Absolutely! When I first started travel blogging, it took six months for me to start earning an income, and after a year of doing so, I was earning enough to live in Southeast Asia full-time. After two years of that, I was earning enough to live in most major cities around the world. And now, after six years of travel, I am able to put away a decent chunk of my income into my savings while living in Western Europe.
In short, you can expect to earn $1,000-2,000 a month for the first few years, and then over $5,000 a month once you've been doing it for five years or so.
Blogging for Yourself or Someone Else
If you love writing and think the idea of managing a blog sounds bad, you may want to try freelance travel writing instead. Running your own blog requires you to not just write blog posts, but also edit them, edit photos, moderate comments, liaise with bloggers, network with advertisers, promote your site, manage social media, and so much more. Being a freelance writer means only having to worry about writing.
If writing for someone else sounds unappealing and you want greater opportunity to make money and stay in control, it's worth starting your own travel blog instead.
There are pros and cons of both. Freelancing means more money in the early stages, but less in the later. Freelancing means constantly pitching for jobs and never really knowing how much money you're going to pull in. Travel blogging means spending more time in front of a laptop than on a beach. Both are worthwhile pursuing and experimenting with if you're determined to fund your travels. As an example, for the first few years of running my travel blog, I also wrote articles for other websites on a freelance basis to help me make more money, so you can definitely dabble in both.
How to Decide on a Travel Blog Niche
You're going to find it easier to make money if you have a blogging niche that sets you apart from the hundreds of thousands of travel blogs that are on the internet today. If you're planning on hanging out in Southeast Asia for six months and writing about it, you'll struggle to find much of an audience, because practically every travel blogger does this at some point.
Instead, you should look at the most popular bloggers in travel and attempt to fill a gap that hasn't yet been filled. For me, that was how not to travel, but for you, it might be Central America on a budget, or how to travel in luxury for less money, or how to use points and miles if you're outside of the U.S.
How Much Time Bloggers Spend Online
You'd be surprised to hear that travel blogger spend far more time online than they do traveling. There have been times where I've been pulling 90-hour weeks for months on end, but there have also been times where I have spent three months offline and not lost any income.
They key here is to work on building passive income. An example of this is affiliate marketing, if you wrote a blog post about a place you visited, you could also mention the hotel you stayed in and link to it using a Booking.com affiliate link. In that case, if somebody reads the post, decides they want to recreate your trip and therefore stay in the same hotel, clicks that link, and books a stay, you'll make a percentage commission of that sale. If you have thousands of these links on your site, you can see how easy it is to build up your income.
The beauty of this time of monetization strategy is that it's passive earning. You'll earn money on these links whether you spend time online working or not. Once you've been running your blog for several years, you may then be able to work far less than you did in the earlier stages of your blog.
How Else Can You Monetize a Travel Blog?
If affiliate earning doesn't sound like your kind of thing, there are plenty of other ways to make money.
Advertising is an easy one, as it's simple to set up on your site and you'll make more and more money as your site grows. You can also make money through freelancing for other companies, whether it's writing blog posts, consulting with them on how they can work with bloggers, or managing their social media strategy. Some travel bloggers work with brands to promote their services on their blog or social media channels, and some bloggers are paid to take press trips to destinations to promote them to their audience.
You could sell your photos online, or offer a travel planning service to your readers. The possibilities are endless.