How I Make Money as a Blogger

Amanda in Cleveland

I’m going to be completely honest here: I sometimes avoid telling people that I’m a travel blogger when I first meet them.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of what I do, or because I try to keep it a secret. I just hate the inevitable follow-up question that always comes whenever I tell someone that I blog as a career.

It’s the number one question I get as a travel blogger:

“How do you make money doing that?”

Sometimes it’s phrased more delicately. Like, “Sooo… you, like, make a living doing that?”

Sometimes it’s much more blunt, like, “How much do you make doing that?”

To be honest, I sometimes want to tell people that it’s none of their business. I don’t go around asking my accountant or nurse or teacher friends how THEY make money, or what their paychecks look like.

But I get it. My “job” is an unconventional one, and people are curious.

So my short answer is, yes, I make a living doing what I do. But as for the larger question of HOW I make that living, the answer is not so short or simple.

Up until a year ago, I almost always had some sort of steady income coming in along with what I was making from my blog and other related side-gigs. When I started blogging, I was working full-time at a newspaper as a copy/layout editor. Then I was in grad school working as a grad assistant. And up until November 2015, I was working part-time for a social media startup.

Amanda in Solitaire, Namibia

Just another day at the office.

It wasn’t until late last year that I decided I was comfortable enough to leave behind the safety net of a steady paycheck and fully work for myself.

Though even that is a bit misleading. When I say “work for myself,” I mean that I am fully in charge of how I make money. I get to choose which projects to say yes to, and in many cases get to set my own prices. But I often work for other companies doing freelance writing, or on social media campaigns.

To fully answer the question of how I make money as a travel blogger, I have to write you a list. The thing I’ve learned from building this sort of career is that it’s important to make money from a variety of sources, in case one of them suddenly dries up.

How I Make Money as a Travel Blogger

Here are all the ways I’ve made money this year:

Affiliate sales

I’ve worked hard in 2016 to increase the amount of money I make passively each month. And the best way to earn passive income is through affiliate sales. Over the past few months, I’ve been growing the amount of affiliate links on my site, and have happily seen an increase in sales, too. I have Amazon affiliate links in some key posts on my site (including all my packing posts), recommending products that I use and love. I also make a bit each month from other affiliates, too, selling things like hotel stays, city attraction cards, specific tours, and select courses (for example, this travel photography course and Travel Blog Success membership).

I only recommend things when they are relevant and fit in naturally with the content I’m writing.

Iceland packing

I often put something like this into posts where I talk about gear I pack/use.

How much? The amount of passive affiliate income I make varies depending on the time of year, but is usually between $900 and $1200 per month.

Advertising

When people learn that I make money from a website, they usually assume that most of it comes from advertising. And it IS true that a large chunk of my monthly income comes from the blog itself – usually from branded content (i.e. what we used to refer to as sponsored posts) and good old advertising. I’m really picky about what branded content I will agree to run these days (my audience always comes first!!), and therefore usually only publish about one branded post per month – two if I get some really interesting offers that I’m excited to write about. (Examples of branded posts can be found here and here.)

I also sell other types of advertising on my site – everything from mini reviews of products and apps to the “Featured Blog” ads I sell to fellow travel bloggers.

I used to run banner ads on my site, too, but these days mostly rely on both Amazon CPM ads and Google Adsense instead. “CPM” basically means you earn a set amount of money for every 1,000 visitors to your site who see the ad. This is great for a blog that gets a decent amount of traffic, since it’s basically like free money for people visiting your site. I could make more by adding more ad slots in my posts, but I don’t want to hit you guys TOO hard with all of that. I try to make any ads on my site as unobtrusive (and as relevant) as possible.

Amazon earnings

I check my Amazon Associates earnings frequently!

How much? This one varies a lot, since it totally depends on what kind of offers I get each month (and which of those offers I accept – which isn’t many. I purposefully set my prices really high). Generally speaking, though, I make anywhere from $500 to $2000 per month from advertising.

Freelance writing

I do freelance writing on the side, too, which usually means writing travel pieces for other websites. This isn’t directly related to my blog, but I often get offers/am able to pitch for jobs thanks to my site. I currently freelance regularly for Ohio.org and the Barclaycard travel blog, with a few additional one-off posts each month.

How much? I don’t make a ton from freelance writing – usually $300-$500 per month.

Course sales

In November of last year, I launched a travel blogging course in conjunction with Travel Blog Success. The course teaches travel bloggers how to pitch and work with travel brands and tourism boards. I make the most money from this course when TBS has its quarterly sales (there’s one on right now!), with a handful of courses being sold in between.

How much? The course has been out for less than a year and sells the best during sale periods, so it’s hard to quote a monthly figure. In the first 9 months, though, I’ve made just shy of $7000 total.

Social campaigns

Another way I’ve been making money this year is by participating in social media campaigns for specific brands. This usually consists of me sharing a specific amount of posts on networks like Facebook and Twitter (and sometimes Instagram), often promoting a contest. I love this sort of work because I never say yes to it unless I really like the brand and would promote it anyway. This means it’s a win-win, since it means I have new content to share with my followers that I’m also getting paid for!

Social campaign

An example of a social campaign post

How much? I’ve only done a handful so far (and the majority have been in the second half of this year), but I hope to make a more regular earning from campaigns like this in 2017.

Paid travel

Lastly, I’ve done a few paid press trips this year, too, though it’s probably my smallest source of income right now. (Again, I hope to change this in 2017!)

And there are of course the unpaid partnerships I strike up with brands and tourism boards, too, that allow me to travel slightly cheaper than normal thanks to things like free tours, activities, transport, etc. I set up most of these partnerships myself, which means I never accept anything free if it’s not something I was planning to pay for anyway. (And these sorts of relationships are always disclosed to you, too!)

So how much DO I make as a blogger? Well, in my best month (so far) in 2016, I made nearly $6,000 before subtracting taxes and expenses. In my worst month, I made about $2,700. I’m by no means rich and I’m always looking for new income streams, but I’m making enough to pay my bills each month and still travel frequently. (Though part of my ability to do that is thanks to me living in very budget-friendly Ohio!)

So now you know.

How I make money as a blogger

I do want to point out, though, that the ways I’ve decided to monetize my site and make more income are not necessarily the ways that all other bloggers go about it. Blogging is a relatively new field as far as careers go, so there’s no “one size fits all” way to go about making money.

There’s also no guarantee that another blogger who tried to make money in the exact same ways would have the same amount of success. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to turn what started out as a hobby into my career, but it’s taken a lot of time and patience – and I STILL don’t know if it’s sustainable in the long term.

Long story short: Don’t start a blog if you just want to make money. It’s not as easy as you might think!

Travel Blog Success Fall Sale

If you’ve been reading my site for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Travel Blog Success. Travel Blog Success is one of the most comprehensive travel blogger membership programs I’ve come across online, and its currently having its fall sale! Membership to TBS gets you two different full-length courses (one on travel writing, and one on travel blogging), as well as access to a kickass secret Facebook group, perks and discounts on conferences and blogging tools, free webinars, and more.

TBS also has some more specialized courses, too, such as ones on freelance writingvideography, and how to work with travel brands/tourism boards – and these are all on sale this week, too.

If you’re interested in upping your blogging game (or perhaps learning more about freelancing or brokering your own partnerships), this is the time to take the leap. Check out the sale!

(And yes, if you buy through my affiliate link I’ll get a commission from your sign-up at no extra cost to you. But I legit think TBS is awesome – and I’ll see you around in the Facebook group!)

Did I cover all your burning questions? What else do you want to know about what I do?

 

 

31 Comments

  • Brian says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Amanda! I’ve seen some of these online from a few other bloggers, but it’s always good to see how it works for specific people, individually (particularly since yours is one of my favorites!). Appreciate the transparency, as I know this isn’t something your obligated to share with us but I imagine you hear questions about it quite often!

    • Amanda says:

      It’s definitely the most frequent question I’m asked, and I have nothing to hide from anyone, so I figured why not break it down? I, too, think it’s interesting to see how different bloggers make this job work for them – there are so many different ways to approach it!

  • Thank you for the inspiration and especially for sharing as most people probably try to hide it. We are currently not having any income from our blog and are considering the options, so it is nice to see some of the alternatives and how they actually work for you. 🙂
    Jesper, The Biveros Effect recently posted..Exploring Sweden – Vadstena, Östergötland

  • Amanda I love how you’ve built your blog from the ground up. Thanks for giving us a little peak into your income streams and being transparent. I know not everyone is comfortable sharing what they make on monthly basis nor is it a requirement. Like you said income and what you do for work is all so personal. No two people in the same field are completely alike. Love it girl!

  • Stacey says:

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. It is crazy how many different angles bloggers have to go in order to get a little bit coming in from each one.

    For what it’s worth I honestly don’t really notice ads on your site so you have nailed not making them too obtrusive. And I love the course you wrote for TBS. Very informative and I have pages and pages of notes and a long to do list from things you recommend. I’m on a mission to spend the next year putting all (or at least most!) of those suggestions into place.

  • Kate says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips and experiences.

    Kate

  • Juliann says:

    It’s so nice of you to share all this information with readers. Especially because some people and beginning bloggers don’t understand how much work goes into making this more than a hobby. (Though mine is more hobby than job.) I’ve admired your blog for years and all the avenues through which you continue to expand.

  • Ali says:

    Great post, Amanda! And thanks for sharing some actual numbers. I know some people really don’t like sharing what they earn (and I totally get it) but it is helpful to see what’s realistic for someone with as big of a following as you have. At the beginning of 2015, my site Travel Made Simple earned maybe $200 a month from ads and Amazon affiliate commissions, but after a few tweaks here and there, the site is now my main source of income…though still not even what you earn in a bad month! I’m really impressed with what you’ve been able to build with your site over the years.
    Ali recently posted..Can you take a food tour with allergies or dietary restrictions?

    • Amanda says:

      Money is always such a touchy subject, but SO many people ask me about it that I figured why not just break it down? That’s awesome that you’ve cracked the affiliate/ad puzzle, too – it’s such an important one for me!

  • Ella says:

    Thank you for sharing this! This kind of information is always valuable and appreciated by other bloggers including myself. I’m not anywhere near ready yet to start making money off my blog, either directly or indirectly, but it is a path that I know exists and that I’m interested in maybe taking in the future. Receiving this kind of information definitely helps to imagine when/whether or not I’m ready to attempt the same 🙂
    Ella recently posted..The Courage To Travel Again After A Traumatic Trip

    • Amanda says:

      Glad to hear it, Ella! I didn’t really make money from my blog for the first couple of years – and it’s only in the last 2 years that I’ve made any substantial amount. It takes time and work, but I hope to show people that it IS possible!

  • Manazir says:

    Thanks so much Amanda for sharing this valuable post with us all! As a newbie in the travel blogging world, I definitely got some useful information which may help me sometime in the future. But of course, to get to the level as you are right now, you need to as first step, grow your blog first and gain audience right? So, I’m not sure if you have a post on how to gain audience but I’d love to have some tips from you! 🙂 I’m three months into blogging and my main readers are just few of my friends haha, so I’d love to ‘expand’ more in the next few months.
    Cheers and thanks again!

    Mani from Thousand Miles to Touchdown

    • Amanda says:

      For audience-building, you really just need time! There’s no secret road to success, really – it’s just a mixture of writing good content, having decent SEO, being active on social, and sticking with it for a while. Best of luck to you! (Check out Travel Blog Success if you haven’t already, too – it might be a good fit for you!)

  • Ediakaran says:

    Hi Amanda! Thanks for your post, this may be an out of the way question but, I’ll ask anyways: does a job reviewing hotels really exists? Do you have any insights?

  • Rehana says:

    Awee…you are such a sweet heart Amanda…..you shared your secrete ..like i have never seen any one so willing to help others….lets connect on instagram…@sparkelforever…:)

    I will read all the blog post you have..i love to travel…

  • Thanks for sharing Amanda!

    I’ve always liked your blog because you’ve never been afraid to put yourself out there, and share information. I remember that you did the same with your press kit which I really appreciated, ‘cos when I first start blogging I didn’t even know what Twitter was all about, or what a press kit was either! Two years later, I’ve got things fine-tuned down to an art that fits my brand.

    I also like the way that you make your income responsibly and without bombarding people with links and chain letters, but enough, to create soft interest. There’s another blogger called Michelle from Making Sense of Cents – she’s great, humble, and open-minded. She’s just published her monthly income for September – $102,911! And she deserves it as like you, she’s generous with information on how she “made it.” And how? affiliate income and her new marketing course.

    Keep up the good work!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..51 reasons to go to the seaside. In Germany!

    • Amanda says:

      Wow, I can’t even fathom making six figures a month – but maybe I just need to think bigger! 😉 The great thing about what we do is that there’s always something new to try. Hopefully I can update this post next year and be making even more money!

  • Anne says:

    Although I’ve blogged for years I’m only just starting out with thinking about making it more ‘professional’ so posts like this are really useful. Thanks. I think a lot of people have no idea of how money can be made through a blog. Also I think people think it’s easy – you go out and have fun and then spend half an hour typing a bit and uploading a few photos and Bingo! you’re done. I’m learning now just how time-consuming it is and how much there is that goes on behind the scenes. Well done on making a success out of your blog. If I can be even half as good I’ll be one very happy blogger indeed!
    Anne recently posted..Friday Flickr – Dubai

    • Amanda says:

      It’s always the first thing people ask me when I tell them I’m a blogger, and they’re definitely surprised when I say that I make money in so many different ways. But that’s kind of the awesome part – you can get really creative and try so many different things!

  • JB says:

    Thanks for sharing this Amanda. This is very inspiring. I’m knocking on the door of making our blog a full-time gig as well but it’s frightening to let go of stability. You summed up my fears with this statement: “I STILL don’t know if it’s sustainable in the long term.” Next year will be pivotal for us. Thanks again. 🙂
    JB recently posted..The Food-Lover’s Travel Guide to Hong Kong

    • Amanda says:

      Best of luck, JB! I know it’s definitely scary to take that leap, just hoping that you’ll find a soft place to land. But I also think it’s worth it. 😉

  • Persia says:

    Thanks Amanda for being generous sharing not some experiences but your
    Professional life and being honest in writing.
    Honest in dividing your income in parts and describing them one by one and honest in replying all comments.
    Such rare articles are very useful and time saving for a newbie like me.
    excuse me for broken english.

  • Natalie says:

    Thank you for laying it all out there! So many people ask this question and probably many more don’t, but wish they could!!! Like most things…..there is more hard work beneath the surface that you might guess!!

    • Amanda says:

      Yup, this job is so much more involved than most people realize! And turning it into a job certainly hasn’t been easy – but I’m getting there, and am always happy to share what I’ve learned with others.

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