Finally here is the blog post that most of you have been waiting for. Because every single day I get the same questions about how I afford to travel and how I make money from my travel blog. Here is the answer! In this blog I will exactly tell you how it works to get paid and travel and how to be a full time travel blogger. This is an honest inside into my life as a professional travel blogger, also including the not so glamorous financial side of it!
Is Traveltomtom a professional travel blogger?
I get often asked if I am a professional travel blogger, but what is a professional travel blogger actually? This title is totally made up, and everyone who travels and has a blog names themselves a travel blogger nowadays. There is nothing wrong with that but the title professional blogger is debatable.
I don’t even like to call myself a professional travel blogger! What I can tell you is that at least I am a professional traveler. If you have read my article How I afford to travel, you know that I am already traveling the world continuously since I quitted my job in December 2012. That is already more than 5,5 years ago now, so yes I do call myself a professional traveler.
I have been to 5 of the 7 world wonders so far, but more than half of them I already saw twice. Why only go once! ;)
Besides travel blogging I don’t have a job and I don’t do any freelance work either. Apart from 5 months in Australia in 2016, when I worked in Sydney as part of my Australian Working Holiday Visa I did not have a proper job ever since 2012. Travel blogging is the only thing I do.
Very important is that I always preach that traveling is my biggest passion, not blogging! I might have become a professional travel blogger, but it never was my intention! I travel the world because I love to do so, not because I want to earn money.
Making money from a travel blog seems like the best thing in the world, but in fact there are only very few people in the world that really do. Those are the travelers that are in the blogging business for such a long time already that they built imperiums around their brand. Most of the people calling themselves professional bloggers are actually either pretending to make money or make money from completely different sources, like: fashion, sponsorships and online marketing not from traveling itself!
In all honesty if making money from your travel blog is what you are looking for, then I suggest you to find another job! But more about that later…
How I became a full time travel blogger
After I traveled for 1 year around the world in 2008 I knew that I wanted go on another big trip, but then one without a plan. So when I quitted my job again in 2012 I randomly traveled around the world using my savings. After 3 years I knew this trip would come to an end when I would not figure out a way to make many while traveling. Click on the link to get a list of 12 jobs that make money on the road.
Traveling for free
At that same time (Feb 2016) I got invited by The Place Koh Tao, a luxury private villa resort. They wanted me to take photos and put them on my rapidly growing Instagram account Traveltomtom. A week later I got another invitation and the ball started rolling. From April 2016 onwards I basically stayed for free in the most amazing hotels around Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Getting free hotels was obviously amazing but I of course also had to deliver something so I was always looking for the perfect photo and travel wise it was damn exhausting!
I went on a free trip to Raja Ampat in West Papua, any scuba divers dream destination. Trip worth most probably about $15,000!
World Tourism Forum Istanbul
In February 2017 I got invited to the World Tourism Forum and with me a bunch of other travel blogger, successful ones, those that know how to make money travel blogging. A lot of them recognized me from social media but I had no clue who they were. It felt awkward! I realized I was just an Instagrammer, not a travel blogger! My website at that time had not even 5,000 monthly pageviews and I was making $200 a month if I was lucky. Yes I was already traveling for more than 4 years at that time wherefrom the last year was mostly sponsored, but that was about it. When I heard that most successful travel bloggers were making between $3,000 and $15,000 a month I knew it was time for a change! I wanted to become a full time travel blogger!
More than 110,000 monthly pageviews
It took me another month to figure things out but then I started to slowly divert my attention from social media towards my travel blog. At first I had no clue what I was doing, but I learned fast. Now exactly 1 year later I grew my travel blog from 5,000 monthly pageviews to almost 110,000 monthly pageviews. That means per day I have around 3,000 unique visitors on my website (April 2018) and it is rapidly growing day by day. My secret? Know what you are doing, invest many hours, sacrifice a lot and work around the clock!
Get paid to travel the world
When introducing myself to the people I work with I always claim to be a traveler not a blogger. Of course blogging has my interest, but traveling has simply more priority and as I said before it is my number one passion. I also already mentioned that if making money from your travel blog is your main goal I am probably not the best inspiration.
I told you I would give you an honest insight in making money as a full time travel blogger and there are many ways to get paid to travel the world, but I don’t master them at all.
So am I making a lot of money from my travel blog at the moment? NO, not really that much!
The business aspect of this job is surely a weakness and something I can work on, but I like traveling too much! Traveling is my number one passion, not blogging or making money online! I live a nomadic lifestyle and I am always on the run, therefore my fixed bills are reduced to a minimum and that is one of the reasons I can afford to keep on traveling. Because the more I travel, the less money I spend (I will explain this later). Most bloggers have a base and therefore a lot of fixed costs, a problem I don't have to deal with. These bloggers need to make money and traveling the world may be their passion, but making money surely has as much priority.
Now the answer to the most ask question: How do you afford to always travel the world? I don't have those issues of making money from a travel blog and therefore I am able to constantly travel the world without even making a lot of money.
To me it still feels like a dream that I get paid to travel the world. It took me a while to know how to be a full time travel blogger though. For example I got invited for a trip to Bangladesh, all expenses paid for of course. My journey (train, bus, flights) to and from Bangladesh took me more than 80 hours. Other bloggers would say that means at least 7 working days, that is unacceptable. I did not care too much! I really wanted to travel to Bangladesh. Someone was realizing my dream and I did not have to pay a single dollar. Why would I complain about the long journey and why would I ask a salary!?
I have to admit though that things are changing slowly and I can't accept all of the offered trips nowadays. I unfortunately can’t do all of them myself anymore, plus I have seen a lot of parts of the world already. If someone is inviting me to one of my dream destination I still feel weird about asking for a salary. If I get invited to somewhere I have been already or something I think that is not that interesting I do ask for a daily fee and try to make some money out of it.
How does a full time travel blogger make money?
1. Paid presstrips
I already gave you an example of a press trip when I was talking about Bangladesh. Like this I have done many more. Working with Tourism Boards is the best thing for a travel blogger:
- They organize the whole trip
- They arrange cool activities
- They pay for everything
- They pay a daily fee on top (sometimes)
Not all press trips are paid, some offer to cover all the cost but claim to have no budget for a daily fee/salary. Then it is up to the travel blogger whether to accept the terms or not. That is why a travel blogger should aim for many different income sources. If you are relying on paid press trips only it will be though. Sometimes I get offered to go to the same destination over and over, like for example Maldives.
I can’t afford to spend my own money on business trips that expect me to deliver a product. All costs have to be completely covered! I know this sounds weird to someone who is not a full time travel blogger, but at the end of the day it is ALSO work. When I get invited to travel to Maldives I make sure everything is paid for otherwise I obviously can’t afford to go.
There is a very thin line between work and travel being a professional travel blogger, but I am NOT on a holiday. For a more detailed insight on the difference between traveling and a holiday read my article about How I afford to travel and I will explain how I traveled the world for more almost 3,5 years without working a single day!
2. Affiliate marketing
This stream of income has my highest priority and I am working hard to realize a decent income from this. Affiliate marketing is passive income and a goal for every professional travel blogger.
How does affiliate marketing work?
Everywhere on my blog you see banners and links for Booking, Agoda, Skyscanner, Qatar, Emirates, Expedia, etc. Every time someone clicks on it and makes a purchase from that website, these multi million dollar companies have to pay me a small fee.
For you there is no difference in using my affiliate links or booking directly, apart from the 10 seconds that it takes to find them on my website! :)
An established passive income would mean more freedom for me. This way I would be able to choose my own travel destinations rather than wait for sponsored trips. Making people use my affiliate links is a challenge.
So when you are booking your next holiday or your flights think about me please!
I constantly remind my family and friends to use them, but even they forget about it so now and then! Massive thanks though to all my readers who do use them! You are the best!
3. Sponsored posts on my blog
There are also agencies or products that are seeking exposure through my blog and therefore inquire for a sponsored post on my blog. With more than 100,000 pageviews my blog has guarantees more exposure than some printed magazines. As I want to keep my blog free from too much advertisement I am picky in what I publish.
4. Sponsored posts on social media
You have most probably seen it more often on my Instagram account. Photos like this:
My posts get seen by a ton of people, sometimes even more than 200,000 impressions as you can see from my Instagram insights and that is what brands pay for. But I am really picky in who I work with and on top of that I am not pretending to get paid. Most of the times you blogger promoting products through Instagram they are just in it for the free product or a fee of $50. I don't want to sell myself that cheap and if brands are not paying the right price, I pass it on. Honestly speaking though I wish I could do way more sponsored posts (for the right price of course) through Instagram as it is fairly easy money and most of the times I am able to create the content myself anyway. But I can only blame myself as I am not proactively searching for brands to work with me.
5. Advertisement on my blog
With over 100,000 monthly pageviews I should be able to make decent money from advertisement at least up to $1,000 a month. Until now I refused to use the advertisement space on my travel blog, but I am not sure how long I can keep up with this as I hear what other travel bloggers are making from ad services. But so far I am still keeping it free of ads for you...
6. Social media management
There are a lot of brands, hotels chains and tourism boards that work with social media agencies, but in my opinion these agencies often ask a lot of money for things they are not even qualified for! There is no study on how to become a social media specialist. In my opinion you can only claim you are a social media expert if you have proven to be one! My social media stats speak for itself and therefore I also offer social media management and I exactly know I have the knowledge the help a brand reach their social media goals.
7. Travel blogging coaching
I constantly get asked how I grew my blog to 100,000 monthly pageviews. Am I an SEO expert? No! Am I an expert in webdesign? No, not at all! Have I proven to know what I am doing? Yes! Besides that I have an inspiring story to tell and I know how to motivate people the right way to reach their goals. Honesty is something I really value and I am not selling you any courses or anything. Helping other bloggers to grow into this world is actually an inspiring thing to do.
8. Trip planning services
I love to talk about traveling so much that I am happy to help people planning their trips. I have helped a ton of people over the last years. I get about 10-20 requests average a week from random people if I can help them planning their trip and it is getting fairly impossible to keep on answering everyone. I have invested hundreds of hours helping others for free until I got to a point where I felt I had to charge for my travel expertise. So you know where to find me if you want professional trip planning.
Always been dreaming of going to Bali? I get you the perfect Bali itinerary!
9. Public speaking
A nervewrecking thing to do at first, but after a couple times on stage this is something I now really like to do. My first time last year at the World Travel Writers' Conference in Maldives was such a great experience that I even offered to do so a couple times after. Public speaking is not for everyone, but if you know what you are talking about it is not that difficult. You are basically just talking about your passion!
Full time travel blogger salary
So with all these 9 income sources you must now think that having a travel blog is making me a rich man! Think again, I am not. As I said earlier in this blog, I am not mastering the skill of making money from a travel blog. I know how to grow a successful travel blog, but monetizing a travel blog is a totally different skill.
Honestly said most of the people you follow on social media are all pretending they make a lot of money being a ‘blogger’, but as we all know social media is not a reflection of the real world and the same counts for me personally.
I have been traveling the world for more than 6 years in total, I have been to almost 100 countries and to more than 40 countries I have been at least twice. I still would love to explore more of the world, but my life is not just one big holiday as social media makes it look like!
I wish I could go on a roadtrip through the US, explore Central Asia and travel through Africa. Yes these things are on my bucketlist, but I can’t! The little money I at the moment earn from travel blogging is not enough to realize my own dream trips. I a not complaining I am still going on amazing trips, but because of this I choose my trips based on what I get offered from clients. Paid trips have priority, then free trips and then my own trips.
Hope that did not disappoint you! My life is amazing, but not so simple as it may look like on Social Media.
How to start a travel blog
Yes I have a dream job I realize that more than anything, but it is not that it all comes to me. Bloggers that claim to be working their ass off kind of makes me laugh! But we do work a lot! In some interviews I gave I used to say, that if I was not sleeping I was working. Running a travel blog is like running your own company and you have to do everything yourself: creating content, marketing, finance, webdesign, sales, planning, etc.
Unless you are outsourcing things or investing money work will never be done! Especially in the first year(s) you will have to be prepared to invest hundreds of hours building your travel blog and the worst thing about it: probably not even earning money from your blog at all.
But if you really want to start a travel blog, the best advice I can give you is to start right now. Don’t waste time dreaming about what you can achieve but invest time in realizing your dream!
Find a cool name, start creating a website, find a host and throw it online!
Best job in the world
Again I know I have the most awesome job in the world, but with this blog post I also wanted to give you an honest insight in my life as a full time travel blogger. Just looking at my photos on social media and reading my blog posts does give such a wrong impression of what a professional travel blogger really does.
Most important thing is to be happy in life and I can honestly tell you I am! My life is like a dream. I don’t earn a fixed monthly salary, I don’t own a house or a car, I don’t have a place to live and some people even think I don’t have a proper job, but I have lived in luxury resorts in Maldives worth more than $100,000 USD, I got 37 flights sponsored in 2017 and had incredible experiences in more than 20 different countries in 2017.
Click on the picture below to see how I did in my first year as a full time professional travel blogger!
The last two years I traveled the world the world for less than $3,000. I am living my dream and that is worth more than anything!
Also have a look at one of my first blog posts from 2016: How I Afford To Travel. It is a great to read how I was able to travel all those years without working a single day. Find out my secret and everything you have to sacrifice... do you have what it takes to become a world traveler?
I am happy to help wherever I can, shoot me a message or leave me a comment.