Time to chart the evolution of Wanderlust Chloe the travel blog, to Wanderlust Chloe the business. And yep, I’ll be diving into a few of the all-important numbers, and giving you a few tips too!
It’s fair to say this blog has evolved over the last few years. For better, for worse, it’s gone from a lovely little passion project to errr, a full-time job. While I’ve never sat down and laid out any kind of business plan, I wanted to share a little of how I’ve transformed my travel blog into a business.
If you search for info on topics like this, you’ll find posts with titles like ‘make money travelling’ which, years ago, I would have thought were scams or get rich quick schemes! Surely you can’t enjoy one of life’s biggest perks (travelling) AND earn a decent living?
It turns out, you can.
There are other posts with steps on how to become a blogger, but very few reveal any of the numbers. I know it’s a bit of a taboo, but I’ve often thought that a little more transparency in this industry would be beneficial.
First up, a bit of background on how I ended up where I am today, then it’s onto some number crunching and tips!
The Passion Project: Starting A Travel Blog
Let me take you back to 2014 for a minute. That summer I quit my stressful job in the music industry and went backpacking around Central America, Mexico and Cuba. Three and a half months of ‘me time’. The clichéd ‘finding myself’ trip. Look what a happy traveller I was!
Before I left I also set up a blog. A predecessor to this site. It was hosted on the easy-to-use Blogger platform, and was a place for me to share stories and photos from my trip. I had no idea it would become any more than that.
At the start of 2015, when I returned home, I got the travel blues. Big time! I started planning more trips, reluctantly found some freelance work in order to earn some money, and wondered what I could do next. I guess that was when I started learning that there were people who made a living from what was essentially my passion project.
I redesigned my blog on WordPress, spent every spare minute writing posts and working on ideas, and started contacting brands I loved to see if they’d be interested in working with me. I searched the Internet for email addresses, stalked people on social media, and eventually a few came back sounding interested. I met travel PRs, went to events and started to realise there was a huge business world around my passion. My site then looked very different…
My blog was small, with only a fraction of the traffic I have today, so it was exciting to be offered my first press trips. I went on a big blogger trip to Greece where I met a few people who’d go on to be some of my best blogging pals today. I went on a foodie trip to Slovenia and ate more in four days than I usually eat over Christmas! I booked holidays to places I was dying to see for myself, like Istanbul and Cappadocia. I went sailing around Croatia with one of my best friends, in exchange for producing a video and a blog. I started to exchange my work for travel experiences.
The lifestyle was addictive. New experiences each month, seeing some of the world’s wonders, sharing special moments with friends. It felt a million miles from my previous world, and I felt a million times happier.
I continued to freelance for a production company, but as my excitement towards travel was ramping up, my enthusiasm towards that job was waning. We went our separate ways and I decided to ‘make a go’ of travel blogging.
Is It A Job When You’re Paid In Experiences?
But hang on a minute, is it a job when you’re paid in experiences rather than money? Ermm… well, it’s not a sustainable one!
I had dreams of being nomadic, going from sponsored trip to trip, and wondered if I could make something work with virtually no money coming in. I realised I had my head in the clouds, and while it may work for short periods of times, there’d be gaps. Gaps where I’d need to live at home as I couldn’t afford rent in London. There was a patch where I lived back home, dressed head-to-toe in Primark and couldn’t really afford to go out with friends. It was tough.
It was time to make some money.
Learning How To Make Money From Blogging
Over the last few years I’ve learned how to make money from travel blogging. I didn’t read a guide that taught me everything. It’s been a gradual process, figuring out what worked along the way. Oh and making plenty of mistakes and learning from them.
I’ve understood my value, what I can offer and where my skills lie. I’ve learned that reaching an audience like this one has a value. That my photography and videography (things I had no clue about when I started blogging!) are worth a few £, even if they’re not the polished works of many pros.
I was blind to all of this when I started, but looking at what I do more objectively gave me some core business sense.
A crucial part for me? That if Wanderlust Chloe was transforming into a business, I still wanted to keep my passion for travel. While some elements might feel like work, I still wanted to keep my wanderlust – the reason I started this whole thing!
So, you’ve heard my back story… now you want to know how I earn a living? Well, after a few days of number crunching as I tackled the annual arduous job of submitting my tax return, I think I have a pretty good idea!
How Do I Make Money Travel Blogging
Sponsored travel campaigns
The main way I earn money is through sponsored travel campaigns. I scored my first big campaigns in the summer of 2015 (six months after returning from backpacking) with Busabout and Travel Talk Tours – tour companies I felt were a great fit with my blog. I made video content, wrote blogs and shared my experiences on social media.
Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to work on sponsored travel campaigns with Visit England, Visit Florida, Trek America, Visit London, German National Tourism Organisation, Travel Alberta and Visit The USA, to name a few.
There has also been some great brand work, for example producing video and photo content for Lonely Planet about Seville and Turin. Just over a year ago I was named a Lonely Planet Trailblazer (one of their top-tier ambassadors). If you haven’t joined their Pathfinders program, it’s a great way to get on the team’s radar.
Over the last few years, fees for sponsored travel campaigns have ranged from £400 to over £5,000.
Sponsored Blog Posts And Social Media Posts
My blog has a scattering of sponsored posts, which you might spot from time to time. This is basically a post that has been commissioned by a client, to raise awareness of their brand. I’ve worked with clients such as Flight Centre, Intrepid Travel, Tempur and Monzo on content like this.
Occasionally I’ll be asked to do a sponsored social media post, usually on Instagram or Instagram Stories, where I’ll feature a brand in the photo. For example, I recently worked with House Of Marley, an ethical brand, which makes cool headphones and speakers on this post.
View this post on Instagram
M U S I C 🎵 Listening to jungle music in the jungle? Nopeeee, it’s Despacito on repeat obvs!! I’m so happy I packed my new @houseofmarleyuk Positive Vibration 2 wireless headphones for my trip to Costa Rica. Great sound quality, super cute and I 😍 the earth-friendly vibe of the brand too. Definitely the perfect travel buddies for this week’s rainforest adventures! 🌴🐒 AD #LiveMarley
Apps like Tribe and Takumi give you access to a range of sponsored post opportunities. I’ve found a few things on there, but I haven’t looked in about 6 months!
Over the last few years, fees for sponsored posts have ranged from £30 to over £1000.
One thing I feel is SO important, is that any sponsored content I create fits with my brand. I did one post on Instagram last year which I still feel a bit sad about. I saw dollar signs rather than judging whether the campaign would be a good fit for me. It was a really hard post to get right, as a result it flopped and I felt angry at myself for not listening to my gut and turning it down. As I said earlier – I’m learning as I go!
This has been a relatively new revenue stream for me. In brief, I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to the user) when someone clicks through from my blog to certain sites I have a relationship with e.g. Amazon, Booking.com and Get Your Guide.
For example, if you read my post on hiking Mount Batur, you might want to book a tour to follow in my footsteps. If you do, I earn a small commission.
In terms of money, this changes month to month, but I’m finding it really adds up, and is something I’m hoping to increase this year. On Booking.com alone, I average 30 hotel bookings per month, with my commission per booking ranging from 1.25 EUR to 46 EUR. Meanwhile, one of my top blogs brings in over 200 USD alone, all from one tour recommendation (it was a realllly good tour!)
When I started blogging, I quickly installed Google Adsense. I used to earn pennies each day. It was painfully slow to build, and not much of a money earner.
If you’re a blogger, you might have heard of Mediavine – an ad management company that can apply ads to your site. You need to have a minimum of 25,000 monthly sessions in order to apply, but after that it’s very straightforward. I joined over a year and a half ago and earned 77 USD in my first month.
The more traffic you have, the more you’ll earn, so it’s certainly spurred me on to improve my SEO and increase my traffic.
I know bloggers earning in excess of 5,000 USD per month on Mediavine! WOW!
Travel Video Presenting
Some of my favourite and most memorable jobs have been at a little tangent from blogging. I’ve done two video presenting jobs. One was for Royal Caribbean’s tour company GoBe, and involved 10 days in Hawaii. I presented a few videos, showing some of the adventure activities you can go on in Hawaii. It was an incredible experience.
I also presented a video for Lonely Planet all about the food scene in New Orleans. This was another fab experience, and a chance to work with really talented creative people from around the world.
While I still ended up writing blogs and posting social media, I was being paid to host the videos – a very different kind of project to my usual sponsored travel campaigns. In some ways, it was refreshing to take the pressure off capturing so much myself, and let the pros do their thing instead!
Occasionally I write for other people. Over the last few years I’ve written several articles for Metro, a few for Skyscanner, a piece for The Telegraph and a mammoth feature for an in-flight magazine. It’s been great experience, and good for my portfolio too. However, this is not where the big bucks are!
Over the last few years, payments have ranged from £20 to £300. I told you it wasn’t where the money was!
Other Random Money Earners
I’ve done a bit of public speaking, including a presentation to the Chile Tourist Board all about my travels there. It was super nerve wracking standing up in front of a room of 100 travel professionals, but a great achievement!
I have around 100 photos available on Shutterstock. It’s not particularly lucrative (often just a few dollars per month) but now they’re on the system, I don’t have to do anything.
Tips To Help You Move From Blog To Business
Build Your Blog Traffic
Instagram numbers might be great for getting a sponsored post on that platform. Your Facebook page might spark great conversations. But, in order to truly move your blog to a business, you’ll need to reach people constantly and develop a passive income stream.
Start learning about SEO, how to get your posts seen on the first page of Google, understand backlinks and why they’re important. If you write about a destination, find the PR contact and see if they can share your post on social media. Improve your presence on Pinterest (one of my top referrers).
More traffic will help increase your value for sponsored travel campaigns, sponsored posts and hopefully up your affiliate and advertising revenues. Not sure where to start? I’ve found the Make Traffic Happen and DNW – Making Money From Blogging groups on Facebook particularly helpful.
Sign Up To Affiliate Programs
Most programs are easy to sign up to. These are the ones I use regularly:
Booking.com – I used Hotels.com to start with but I’ve found Booking.com a lot more lucrative. It’s also the one I use to book my hotels when I’m away, so I prefer to recommend what I trust!
Get Your Guide – Only joined GYG last year but it’s a great affiliate earner if you blog about tours and activities. Along with links, there are interactive widgets you can embed in your posts.
Affiliate Window – My main revenue through AWIN comes from Viator, but I used to use it for Hotels.com too. Once you’re registered, select the companies you’re interested in recommending, wait for them to accept you, then start accessing the links and ads.
CJ Affiliate – I barely use this one, but I link to a few Contiki tours on some old posts and that brings in a random lump sum a few times a year. In fact, I checked yesterday and someone booked a £2,000 tour last week, earning me just over £100.
RewardStyle and Shopstyle – If you feature fashion on your blog, then definitely look into these two. With RewardStyle you earn per sale, while Shopstyle is per click. I’ve dabbled in both, but ultimately I don’t feature enough fashion to really spend much time on them. Be aware that RewardStyle can be a bit fussy when you apply. I was accepted on my second attempt.
Shutterstock – Not an affiliate program, but if you want to earn some passive income by selling photos that are sat on your hard drive doing nothing, definitely look into signing up to Shutterstock.
It’s also worthwhile seeing if any brands you partner with have their own affiliate programs.
Shout About Your Strengths
What are you really good at? Can you make a great video? Are you a great writer? Do you get lots of replies to your Instagram Stories? Are you an expert in one area of the world? Don’t be afraid to shout about it! The blogging community is very supportive, and there’s room for everyone to do their own thing!
Take this to the next level and make a media kit to send to clients. I started doing this around 8 months after setting up my blog. I didn’t have much to ‘shout about’ at that point, but I still found things! It reminds me of the time I wrote my first CV at school and said I was an excellent babysitter! My media kit is quite long as I show lots of examples, but I’ve also got a snappy one-pager available on my work with me page.
Learn From Others
Finally, if you’re reading this post, then you must be keen learn more about developing your blog. I’m the same and find myself constantly learning from my fellow bloggers and content creators. We have Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups and catch up at blogging events, sharing ideas, contacts and discussing dilemmas. It’s really helped! Connect with other bloggers, join some blogging groups on Facebook and build a community.
A few other posts that you might find useful:
12 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Travel Blog
How I Increased My Pinterest Referral Traffic By 224% And 5 Easy Ways To Do The Same
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