It’s been a struggle at times but there was still some money to be made in 2020.
This pandemic has been tough for all of us in the blogosphere. From travel blogging to fashion, lifestyle and beauty, we’ve all had to adapt how we create content and diversify our incomes.
It’s not all been doom and gloom though. Some niches have excelled during this weird old time of being told to stay indoors. For example, I found myself visiting more food blogs in 2020 than ever before. Cooking new dishes and eating lots of treats have been the main ways I’ve stayed sane!
Travel blogging took a pretty direct hit in March 2020. As the world started to grind to a halt, I watched as my traffic dropped to lows I’d only witnessed at the start of my blogging career. It was devastating to see. This screenshot from my blog analytics is hard to ignore. The orange was 2019, blue was 2020.
The detailed travel guides I’d spent hours putting together were no longer being searched for. Why would anyone need travel information for destinations they couldn’t travel to? I wasn’t booking any trips… in fact, I barely left the south of England for the entire year.
Well, breaking news… my earnings have taken a big old hit. I’ve always been honest and upfront about the business side of blogging. I find posts like this really useful, and they’ve helped me a lot along the way. Writing this has forced me to face facts, and also to appreciate what did work in 2020.
I’ve been busy going through my 2020 – 2021 business accounts, and it’s been crazy to see the difference in earnings to the previous year. Ready for a little overview?
Ballpark fees: From £1K – £5K
In an average year, the majority of my income comes through travel campaigns for tourist boards. These usually involve travelling to a destination to create a mix of video, blog and social media content.
For example, last February I spent a few days in Nuremberg showcasing why the city is a great option for couples looking for a romantic getaway. In the summer, I went to the Ribble Valley to shine a light on a beautiful yet underrated part of the UK.
These kind of travel campaigns are what I LOVE most about my job! I adore travelling to new places, working with a tourist board to spread their message as well as my own personal opinion, and in turn encouraging my readers to literally follow in my footsteps.
So, let’s look back at 2020. How many travel campaigns (involving actual travel!) did I work on?
It turns out there were 8 in total, and most were in the UK. Whereas in 2019 I worked on 14 and many of those involved weeks away in far flung destinations like Canada, Japan and Dominica.
However, while travel campaigns dropped in number and fees, they didn’t disappear altogether. A few took place pre-COVID and the rest in August / September when rules relaxed. To be honest, I’m quite pleased that there were as many as 8 last year. It’s pretty surprising considering it felt like the year was a bit of a write off!
You can read more juicy details about this side of the business in my blogging appraisal of 2020.
Ballpark fees: From £200 – £1500
Despite a lot of the bread and butter campaigns I love working on being put on hold in 2020, several tourist boards and brands chose to adapt and find interesting ways to share their messages. Once the pandemic hit, these messages were primarily of inspiration, and reminding people that there are some amazing places to ‘visit later’.
I was impressed that so many tourist boards came up with creative ways to share their messaging, while we were unable to travel to the destination to create new content. For example, I really enjoyed working with the Icelandic Tourist Board on their #Joyscrolling Instagram campaign. They wanted to remind people that while the internet is full of negative news right now, the cheeky Icelandics have always got a way to make you smile, whether that’s through food, comedy or music. They set up a special Joyscrolling microsite which was full of escapist fun!
I also really enjoyed repurposing content from places I’d visited before. For example, Germany Tourism invited me to host an Instagram takeover, sharing highlights from some of my previous trips to the country.
It’s encouraging to see tourist boards continuing to invest in influencer marketing to share their messages. It doesn’t look like it’ll be stopping anytime soon either. I’ve got a few fun sponsored campaigns launching in the next few weeks (watch this space!) Until we can travel safely again, it’s the next best way to share stories, inspiration and give people tangible options of where they can visit once travel kicks off again.
Ballpark fees: From £145 – £2,000 per month
My second biggest revenue stream is on-site advertising on my blog. I joined ad network Mediavine 4 years ago and haven’t looked back. A lot of the posts I write are unsponsored, just things I want to share (like this one!) I spend a lot of my year crafting posts that I hope will be useful for travellers, but they won’t necessarily bring in any real money.
When I joined Mediavine I was so happy to finally have a little bit of passive income trickling in each month. Flash forward 4 years and it now makes up a considerable chunk of my monthly income.
However, as the pandemic spread from Asia to Europe and the US, I watched as traffic to my blog posts plummeted. This directly impacted my ad revenue. I watched as the payments that once covered my monthly rent, barely covered a weekly shop.
I’ve always tried to ‘not put all my eggs in one basket’ and split my earnings across multiple sources. My hope was that if one stream nosedived I’d have a bit of backup… but to be honest nothing really prepared me for a pandemic that ground the world to a halt.
One positive in 2020 was that our second site, the Great British Bucket List (launched at the start of the year) was accepted onto Mediavine, and has started to earn a little money each month.
Travel Print Store
Ballpark fees: From £10 – £300 per month
I’ve written a little about setting up our Etsy business, the Travel Print Store, and the process we went through to get it live. This is a business 100% born out of the pandemic. Macca and I had talked about setting something up in 2019, but we would never have had time if we’d been on our usual hectic travel schedule. All of a sudden, we had weeks stuck at home, no work coming in, and a desire to create something new.
We also wanted to future-proof our income, and figured an online shop would be something that we could continue to run whether we were travelling or not.
It’s not bringing in big money yet, but it’s growing month by month. I’m looking forward to seeing where it gets to in 2021!
Ballpark fees: From £100 – £1200
I earn small amounts when people book hotels and tours, or purchase products via ‘affiliate’ links. These fees can be anything from 1p to a few hundred pounds (although that kind of amount is rare!) I still remember checking my booking.com account in April (usually my top affiliate) and discovering that 90% of the upcoming bookings had been cancelled. Pages and pages of red cancellations. There were hundreds of them.
However, while I spent most of 2020 stuck at home, rigidly following government guidelines, some people were still able to travel a bit. A few countries had fewer restrictions or less severe lockdowns. This still equated to some small affiliate pay outs, but nothing compared to a standard year.
Ballpark fees: From £40 – £1500
This is quite an interesting area for me, as photo sales are totally unpredictable. I’ve sold several images over the last few years to tourist boards (for use in marketing and social media) as well as to publications for print e.g. magazines.
It’s always fun to get an email from someone saying they’d like to buy a photo. I still struggle to work out the worth of a photo that’s been sitting on my hard drive for ages, but it’s nice to show the images some love!
Ok, so I’ve covered the obvious parts of my life, now it’s time to move onto a few random ways I earned money in 2020.
I am wholly self-taught when it comes to designing websites. To be honest, anyone with time on their hands could build something that looks ok! In March 2020, just as things were starting to go pear-shaped, I was commissioned to create a website for a musician.
I absolutely loved this project! It came just as the s*** hit the fan, and it was fun to focus on something for someone else. It also reminded me that I have learned a lot over my 5 or so years of travel blogging. My web design, social media and writing skills are all transferable skills that might come in handy in a future life!
Ballpark fees: From £200 per job
Another money earner that might come as a surprise is my time moonlighting as a voiceover artist. If you know anything about my former careers, you might know that I worked as a radio producer for Heart FM for years. During that time, I also dabbled in voiceovers.
In 2020, when the pandemic hit I decided to get back into it again. I still had my Blue Yeti microphone (still one of the top-rated, years after I bought it) which plugs directly into my Macbook. I borrowed a voiceover stand from a friend to help with the sound quality. Then I signed up to voices.com – one of the best sites for voiceover jobs.
Several jobs are posted every single day. Voice over artists then record short auditions and the client hires their favourite. To create a decent sound I’d cocoon myself under towels or duvets, to try to eliminate echos and background noise. I’ve been a bit lax with auditioning lately, but I did get a bit of work from it in 2020, and I’m intending to get back to it while I’m still stuck at home.
Ebay & Facebook Marketplace
Ballpark fees: From £30
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure… right?! Well, yes, it turns out it is! Over the summer, I sold quite a few things on eBay. Old phones, cameras, gadgets, books and more. It was a revelation!
The most bizarre things I sold were two completely broken cameras. One didn’t turn on and had a lens that fell out if you flipped it over. It turns out camera dealers and menders buy items like this and break them down into parts.
Ok, I didn’t earn huge amounts, but it was all junk that was cluttering up our flat. If you’re stuck at home right now and could do with a few extra pennies, I definitely recommend doing a big sort out and seeing if you have any items that might be worth something.
As well as eBay, I’ve sold a few items on Facebook Marketplace. The bonus with Facebook is there are no selling fees deducted.
I’m not saying 2020 was a great year for business, but I’ve realised that it wasn’t all bad. I’ve got a lot of faith that once the vaccine has been distributed more widely, 2021 could turn out to be a great year, not only for work but for travel in general.
In all honesty, it’s not the money or the jobs that I miss. It’s the travel. The excitement of boarding a plane and flying somewhere new. The culture shocks, the new cuisines, the people. 2020 was tough for many reasons, but not being able to do something I love was one of the biggest challenges.. Fingers crossed things return to normal in the next 12 months.
If you’re interested in learning more about the business side of blogging, I’d recommend checking out these posts:
From Travel Blog To Business: Tips, How I Earn A Living (And How Much Are We Talking?)
My Blogging Appraisal Of 2020
12 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Travel Blog
Blogger Press Trips – The Lowdown
An Ode To Being A Travel Blogger