How do travel bloggers make money? Well, it’s not by spending hours on Facebook or Instagram just to receive two new followers.
10 successful travel bloggers were asked to give advice to newbies. (Thanks again, everyone!) Their answers will reveal to you how to save time and make money sooner; which activities to focus on and which ones would be a waste of time.
I myself have found that social media is the least helpful activity on the face of the planet. In contrast, I have found that investing money in the right things, such as advertising or training, can go a long way. But let’s see if the travel bloggers I asked agree…
Here’s a list of quick links to highlights on different topics.
- Social media
- Niche marketing
- General tips
1. “Start with a business model and identify an audience.”
Shannon O’Donnell of A Little Adrift
Tinkering with the design is a huge time-waster and a lot of bloggers get mired in this step. We all want a gorgeous blog with everything perfect, but there comes a point (and it happens fast) where you absolutely have diminishing returns on your time. Get something up that looks good enough, has some sharing buttons and a logo, and then start building out your content. Write until you find your voice. Content and marketing are arguably more important at first than having an website that has widgets and tons of features.
Start with a business model and identify an audience. Blogging without an end-goal in mind makes for a meandering journey. This is the approach I took—build an audience and then figure out how to monetize—and it’s not a wrong approach, but it is certainly one that delays your ability to build your income from blogging.
2. “Invest in a pretty theme. It is worth the investment.”
Noni of Bondi To Basic
I think my biggest time waster was worrying about stats and followers. When you first start out as a blogger, you can get pretty de-motivated by the lack of page views. But, you need to build up a portfolio with good quality content (Extensive blog posts which are well researched, preferably 1000+ words) before you can start promoting the heck out of it. So, in the first couple of months, the views will not be amazing. You have to make sure that you don’t get de-motivated by that and continue to do your thing.
Also, please don’t compare yourself to those success stories you see everywhere on Pinterest. Often these bloggers were either super lucky (eg. went viral or got picked up by a company or other large blogger) or it is nonsense and they didn’t get those views; [it’s] fake news/clickbait.
You do your thing and you will find your audience soon enough. Give your blog time to grow and get a loyal following. I don’t think you should constantly think about making money, but more about how you can grow your following and build up a trusting relationship.
If you have this, then you can do sponsored posts or sell items on your blog. In my opinion, these products should fit with your brand and you need to like/use them in real life.
The best way to grow your followers is by blogging consistently, using Tailwind and Pinterest and having a well-designed blog. (Invest in a pretty theme, it is worth the investment.)
3. “Stop concentrating on social media.”
Rebecca Sharp of Almost Ginger
Honestly, all the blog posts I wrote…weren’t optimised for search or were nothing to do with what people were searching for. You can see in my archives I have about 24 posts called ‘In-Flight Movies to… New Zealand!’ for example, and every month would feature a different country and I would list films I liked from each country. Good topic for my niche in theory but the execution was awful. It was a terrible title because how could people find it? I have lots of posts like that which, in hindsight, were pointless to write because nobody reads them. 24 posts out of 300 total posts on my site is quite a lot, and there are so many others.
If you want to make money purely from your blog and not through social media channels, as I do, then stop concentrating on social media (keep it ticking over but don’t pour your energy into it)…Focus on writing helpful, useful, searchable, SEO-friendly blog posts that cement you as an expert in your chosen niche. Ultimately, this is what will bring people to your site, get your pageviews up, establish your authority, and make you a passive income through ads and affiliate links. For example, the top ten blog posts on my site are all filming location posts because they are useful, aren’t over-saturated on the internet, are optimised for search, and I have cemented my authority in filming locations because I constantly write about them.
4. “Find a niche market where you can provide real value.”
Bruno B. of Geeky Explorer
[One time-waster was] definitely growing my social media. It was hard, and now with a hyper-competitive market is even harder. That said, if you have good engaging content and provide value to people, they will naturally find ways to follow you.
There are no magic recipes. In blogging, an easy way to make money is not sustainable in the long run. I would say a smart approach these days is to find a niche market where you can provide REAL value and run away with it. It will take an awful amount of time, sweat, and tears, but if you remain true to yourself it will pay off in the end.
5. “Create great, useful content.”
Vessy Smith of Feel Good and Travel
For me, the biggest time-wasters in blogging to this day are technology-related: trying to figure out different plugins, how to optimize for SEO, how to create social media links to my blog and how to place them where I want, how to create attractive pins and link them to Pinterest…and so much more. The technology challenges go on and on…Seems like every day, there is some new problem to resolve.
CREATE GREAT, USEFUL CONTENT….There is definitely no fast way to start making money from blogging. Some people put a lot of ads on their blogs, but I find this quite annoying, so I stay away from it. There are many other ways to make money on a blog: through affiliate links, paid guest posts, offering your own products for sale (including e-books)…but none of them are fast or easy to achieve.
6. “When planning a trip…chalk out a format of the story.”
Kanika Sharma of Trav Etc.
Formatting and editing pictures were the biggest time wasters. Given the current technology, there are various modes in cameras (DSLRs and phone), that allow very little room for correction, which saves a lot of time. All you have to do is resize the image and not even pay too much attention to colour correction.
Also, when planning a trip, that you want to write about, it is important to chalk out a format of the story. It allows you to gather information in a much more organized manner. Heading out and improvising on the go wastes a lot of time when you sit down to write.
It is extremely essential to continue to do freelance projects. Not only does it assure you some regular income, but being able to stay connected with the travel industry and allowing yourself to stay glued in with the trends is a big asset. It gives you a better insight into what is working and what is not. You can plan your posts accordingly, which will then open avenues for them to be sponsored and also get a chance to collaborate with projects and tourism boards.
The best way to save time is to work a little harder. If you make one trip, try to take out as many blog posts out of it as possible. The aim must be to be able to pitch it to magazines (online and print) to be able to generate some income out of it. The next step should categorize your journey into different formats like a photo essay, a long-form article or a listicle.
7. “Start placing affiliate links in your posts from day one.”
Lauren Juliff of Neverending Footsteps
I spent so much time replying to emails and answering comments that I’d often end up prioritizing these tasks over actually writing blog posts. It took several years for me to learn to work on the things that would actually make me money above all else. I wanted to be helpful and approachable [to] the people who read my site, of course, but spending four hours a day answering email questions from people who were likely to never return to my site again was not smart. I learned to concentrate on writing and updating blog posts first and then allowed myself to worry about the comments and emails once I had hit publish.
It’s true when people say that 80% of your income comes from 20% of the work you do. I wish I’d learned to prioritize that 20% sooner. Focus on SEO over building a huge audience on social media. Every time you write a new post, research which search term you want it to rank for on Google, and look at which sites are currently in the top positions for these keywords. When you then come to write your post, do everything you can to make sure that your article is the best, most helpful, and most detailed blog post on that particular subject. It’s time-consuming and annoying to write such long guides, for sure, but these articles are the ones that’ll bring people to your site and, if you’re running ads or using affiliate links, make you money.
Oh, and start placing affiliate links in your posts from day one — it’s never too soon to start optimizing them.
8. “Hone your creativity and your voice first.”
Lia & Jeremy Garcia of Practical Wanderlust
For me, the biggest waste of my time was on Instagram. 2 years ago when I started blogging, I would do all the things I could to artificially grow my account: like-for-like threads, comment pods, all of that. It took HOURS, and it was such a waste of my time. I’ve since learned that artificial engagement is completely useless, and comment pods and threads can actually hurt more than they help. They didn’t grow my Instagram much, and they wasted a ton of my time. Eventually, I just gave up entirely. My account sat totally stagnant with a paltry 2,000 followers while I grew my blog traffic to over 100,000 monthly page views and monetized until my income could sustain me full-time – all in my first year-and-a-half of blogging! I’ve since learned how to use Instagram in a way that grows my engagement and followers organically while not spending much of my time on it. My following is still pretty small at 12,500 but my engagement is completely organic, and because it’s not a big focus for me, I spend very little time on it these days. Instagram is not my strong suit, and probably never will be – and I’ve learned that that’s totally OK! You don’t have to excel at everything. Find your strength and focus on it, and let the rest [will] come later.
Focus on creating good content before you start trying to practice any of the games, tricks, or strategies that you’ll find online to grow your traffic or monetize your blog. I know it’s odd advice, but hear me out. Without good content, your blog won’t get very far. When I say good content I mean both rich, beautiful, and informative but also unique – there are a million bloggers out there, but none of them are you. What can you do that ONLY you can do? Identify that, and hone it. Create some truly excellent content before you start trying to monetize it, and get in the practice of writing creatively before you learn how to do things like keyword research. Good SEO and keyword research – while powerful and completely necessary for long-term growth and traffic – change the way you write. You don’t want to learn how to write for SEO and then forget how to write for your readers or for fun or just because you have something you want to write about. So hone your creativity and your voice first, and then learn the “tricks” a little bit later on.
9. Don’t give up!
Haley Guidry of Voyages of Mine
In the beginning, the biggest time waster…was spending too much time considering what others would think. Of course, you want others to read your blog, but if it is something that you are passionate about and something that you want to get out there–go for it! You cannot spend your life constantly trying to please others. What you have to say is important, and people will listen!
The biggest piece of advice that I would give to a new blogger…is to not get discouraged. It takes people different amounts of time to monetize blogs, but if you get discouraged and stop writing, then you will never make an income from your blog! Keep at it, be consistent, and things will all fall into place!
10. “You cannot expect to succeed alone.”
Sveva Marcangeli of Svadore
I don’t think any aspect of running a business is particularly a time-waster, but I do think that many aspects are time-consuming. Before you can create content, you have to take a lot [of] pictures, edit them all, and select which ones to run across your social media platforms vs. blog. Once that is done, you can finally start creating content. The most time-consuming part as a new blogger has to be marketing your brand. Once your content is out there, the odds of someone finding it are very slim, so a lot of effort goes into marketing your content to the appropriate target markets. As a travel blogger, I find that a lot of my traffic comes from Pinterest, so I spend the majority of my time designing and creating rich pins. I also promote on Facebook, Twitter and of course, Instagram on a daily basis. All this combined is very time-consuming! But if you put in the time and effort, you see results, and that’s what matters.
I have 2 pieces of advice for new bloggers. The one most important piece of advice I can give is that you cannot expect to succeed ALONE. Your brand will be at its strongest when you surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate your content and are there to offer advice. Once you’ve established this community, you will find that they will help you just as you will help them, succeed in growing your brand.
The second piece of advice is more technical and helps save time in the long run. I am a huge fan of the app Tailwind, an app that schedules Pinterest posts and Instagram posts in advance. Rather than schedule them day-of, I plan all my posts months in advance so that I can visualize my feed and not waste 30 minutes of my day looking for the perfect picture, caption, hashtags and so on. It’s saved me so much time and I highly recommend it to any new blogger who is looking to market and push out their content at a steady and fast pace!