Looking for something to supliment your income or looking for a change of pace for 2021? Times are uncertain, and having an online business is looking more appealing to people worried about their futures. Our step by step guide on how to make money blogging shares the route we took to earning a substantial income from the comfort of our home.
This article follows the journey we took to become successful bloggers. We started from scratch with no online or web background and within 7 years were named one of the top influencers in travel by Forbes Magazine. If we can do it, you can too! .
How to Make Money Blogging
Table of Contents
When we first decided to make travel a career we had now idea how to be a travel blogger. We didn’t have the slightest clue how people made money on the Internet. All we knew was that we had a dream. I daydreamed about writing from a coffee shop with my laptop in tow and Dave dreamed of taking photos for a living. We had no idea how we could actually get paid to travel but we knew that is what we wanted to do.
Our Story – The Early Days
When we started The Planet D, we had already spent most of our winters traveling the world for extended amounts of time. We knew in our hearts that one day we wanted to be a voice in travel, we just didn’t know how to turn that dream into a sustainable business.
But we knew we needed to do something epic to stand out and get attention, so we signed up for the Tour d’Afrique; the world’s longest cycling race from Cairo to Cape Town. We hired a publicist to get us media attention, we pitched articles to the Toronto Star (a large newspaper in Canada) and we started our blog writing about our planning and then writing about life on the road in Africa.
After returning from Africa, we weren’t suddenly a huge success. In fact, we were broke, confused and unsure of our future. So we went back to our jobs in the Toronto film business to save money. We worked for a year to save money and to make plans. During that year we focused on raising our online profile on our blog and building our readership and following.
Every spare moment we had, we learned as much as we could about the business of blogging, we got to know fellow bloggers in our niche of travel, we absorbed stories about how others achieved success. One year later we were back on the road with a dream and a plan.
It is important to build expertise in your niche so people can feel confident that they are getting honest information and top notch advice. You can’t start giving advice, if you don’t have any way to prove it.
We built our expertise in our niche – travel – by traveling intensively on our own dime for years. Before starting The Planet D, we had already travelled to 40 countries. We had done adventures around the world and we had learned how to budget for travels, save for long term travels, and we had been to the countries that we were writing about.
By the time we launched The Planet D, we had already built expertise in our field, and people were already seeking our advice.
Because we cycled Africa and did something epic, people took notice and approached us for radio interviews and TV appearances. We stood out from other bloggers in our field because we did something different and people wanted to hear about it. That experience helped us built a presence online.
Perseverance and Patience
But it didn’t happen overnight. Even though we had done something epic we weren’t millionaires with unlimited amounts of money to advertise. It took another year of building our brand.
We saved a good chunk of money by living frugally for a year after Africa. We got rid of our apartment and lived in a trailer outside Toronto while working full time to save on rent. We worked full time during the day while working on our blog at night. It was then time to take the plunge.
We quit our jobs and set off for India to travel and share our experiences in South Asia. For another year, we blogged every single day telling stories. It was exhausting and we weren’t sure if it would pay off. But we were determined to make that happen no matter what.
About 8 months into our travels, I remember sitting at a cheap guesthouse Sri Lanka having a bit of a breakdown. We only had about 2 months left o our travel budget.
So we stopped doing excursions and focused on writing and networking online to make our presence known. It was then that we sold our first ad. They weren’t paying much, it was something like $40 a month, but multiply that by 4 at 12 months, and we suddenly had $1920 USD.
This was enough to fund another month of travel in South Asia! We were feeling good. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to boost our confidence and open our minds to new possibilities. We could make money at this travel blogging thing.
Do What is Right For You
At that time, we didn’t know the first thing about selling text links on our blog. But we soon learned that it was frowned upon. People were outraged by anyone that sold ads accusing them of “selling out.” This is how it was in the early days. I’m glad we didn’t know better because we would have never made our first thousand dollars blogging, and probably would have had to fly home instead of continuing on.
After that, we had a small revenue stream that sustained us for a few more months of travel. Once we sold one ad others followed. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to give us a few more months turned into a year.
Give Your Readers Value
“The key to a successful blog is putting your audience first.”
I remember going to conferences and reading articles where people kept preaching, “write good content.” Whenever people asked, “How can I make money travel blogging?” the answer would always be “Write Great Content.” This answer frustrated me because “Of course I was going to work at creating great content!”
What they didn’t explain was the reason you need to write great content. Everyone always focuses on how to make money blogging, but you need to focus on creating content that is of value to your readers before you even begin to think of monetizing.
People came to our blog to seek out travel advice. They came for inspiration and they came to see Dave’s beautiful photos. As our readership grew, people started to take notice. More people started to share our content and a snowball effect happened.
When people start to know about you, brands and companies will know about you too. By creating great content and building our audience, we eventually had opportunities come to us. Doors opened and people wanted to work with us.
Our next opportunities came from networking. We built an online community through social media and every time we heard of a travel gathering or conference, we attended.
We joined Toronto Travel Massive, we Attended the TBEX Travel Conference and we joined communities to meet fellow travelers. When we were in New Zealand, we met up with other bloggers, when we were in London, we went to gatherings where bloggers and PR mingled. We had our ears to the ground and made ourselves noticed.
The more people we met, the more contacts we had and the more we exchanged ideas and success stories. Soon, everyone in our industry knew our names, and we knew the other key players in our blogging niche.
Seize the Moment
As we attended more conferences and meet ups, we took advantage of opportunities. We came with ideas and looked for the people who could help us.
I’ll never forget going to a G Adventures meet up in Toronto. G never wanted to work with us, but we attended the event to mix and mingle. It was there that we met their competitors from Intrepid Travel. We hit it off talking with them all night and the next morning, while we were still fresh in their minds, we sent a pitch idea. We ended up working with Intrepid Travel for two years!
This happened several times over the years. We’d see the same bloggers at events enjoying the free food and drinks, but we seemed to be the only ones getting contracts out of these meet ups. That is because we always had an innovative idea to share with the people in power.
We ended up working as brand ambassadors for companies like Expedia and American Express for years. All because we kept offering fresh ideas to work together.
Create Multiple Revenue Streams
But these partnerships weren’t the only way we made money blogging. Our business has grown more than we could ever imagine. By thinking outside the box, we eventually figured out how to create all kinds of different revenue streams with our blog. When one income stream dried up, we had others to fall back on.
Soon, we found that the possibilities to make money blogging were endless.
This was our biggest money maker in the early years of our blog.
Since we didn’t have a huge readership or social following at the time we leveraged making money from companies that looked to us to help humanize their brand. The paid us to share ad campaigns with our targetted audience. As the Intrepid Travel people once said, “I’d rather have 6000 targetted readers at The Planet D than 100k readers of the Toronto Star who may or may not be interested in travel.
For 5 years we worked as brand Ambassadors for several companies. They paid us a monthly retainer, and we shared how we used their products with our readers and followers. We made thousands of dollars a month. At one time we had 5 full time brand ambassadorship on the go.
During that time, we also had short partnerships where we’d get paid per project. It could be a destination contract, a social media chat, or simply writing an article about a place that we had travelled to.
The possibilities were endless. But these could all easily come to an end. Ambassadors only in demand if you are popular. The next “big thing” will always come next. So we looked for ways to make money blogging that would give us more control.
In the early days of blogging, we didn’t look into affiliate marketing because we thought you had to have millions of readers to make money. But we learned that having a handful of targetted articles, can make you thousands of dollars a month.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a process where we recommend a hotel, piece of travel gear, or even an idea for travel gifts and send people to a website to buy the product we recommend. If they make a purchase, we earn a commission.
We promote their product, they make a sale, and give us a percentage of the profit. We now make thousands of dollars a month on affiliate income. But affiliates for us took time. We built our readership and following before even thinking about putting in links and advertising. By writing articles that rank well on Google, we can reach a targetted audience who comes to our blog post looking for a specific product. Chances are they will make a purchase.
There is no extra cost to the consumer, they would have bought the product regardless, we now just get a slice of that pie. When it comes to affiliates, we’ve used the products, companies and booking platforms we recommend and we did our research.
Once your blog has enough traffic, you can join something called an ad network. Ad Networks pays money you per thousand views of your blog.
Mediavine is a popular ad network for travel bloggers as you only need 50k readers a month to your blog to qualify. We started with them and loved them. We are now with AdThrive and I honestly cannot say which one is better. AdThrive focuses more on food blogging, but require 100k views per month to qualify.
There are many other ad networks out there, and I wish I knew about these sooner. We had 50k readers at The Planet D for several years before signing with an ad network and could have been making money blogging this way much sooner.
Ad Networks have become our main source of income. After 10 years of travel blogging full time, we have finally achieved that “passive income” dream that so many people yearn for.
Other ways to Make Money Blogging
As bloggers, you can leverage your expertise to earn money outside of your blog. We have always diversified in our lives. Our investments are diversified, so why wouldn’t we diversify the way we make money with our blog.
If we lose traffic we still have other ways to earn a living. And here are some ideas for earning money outside your blog, by leveraging your expertise.
Dave and I are constantly working to add more dimensions to our blogging. Video has become a large part of our revenue stream when blogging. We make money monthly on YouTube. We don’t have 100k subscribers, but we make a solid monthly income because our videos rank in search engines and we earn money through advertising. Because our videos appeal to an appealing demographic, our videos earn a good commission.
But we also make money from companies hiring us to create videos specific to their brand, product or destination. We create videos for YouTube, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. We have also created videos for companies to use on their own channels.
We even sell video footage to be used in ad campaigns.
Because we have always focused on diversifying, we also have social media followers in all aspects. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are big for us and we are often hired for social media campaigns.
We are hired to share hot deals or seasonal sales on Instagram. And we are hired to repurpose content to create buzz or interest in a destination. We are hired for Twitter and Instagram campaigns such as giveaways and contests. And we have helped leverage announcements through Facebook.
Sponsored Posts and Articles
When the content fits and it is to a relevant website, we will accept sponsored posts. Companies approached us to write about a specific brand or destination and they pay us a fee. We usually write them ourselves and they are always based on our experience.
We charge quite a high fee because our policy is to not clutter our website with dozens of sponsored posts. But many people we know put several sponsored articles out on their website monthly.
TV Can be a great way to make money. You can leverage your fame on your website and parley it into TV appearances. We’ve been lucky enough to have an interesting story that people want to hear about. We have made TV appearances to not only talk about travel, but to inspire others, talk about relationships, and motivate people to change their lives.
We’ve been paid to go on media tours to talk about travel health and safety, Certain programs pay a daily ACTRA fee (SAG in the US) to appear whereas others don’t pay anything, but the brand we are working with pays us for a mention.
Get Paid to Write for Other People
We sometimes write for companies outside ThePlanetD blog and we are doing it in the exact way that we wanted to in the first place. Since we have built a strong brand, people approach us to write for them and pay us. If you grow your blog enough, leaders in your industry will want your voice on their page.
You can leverage your successful blog to write for others. But while you are building your blog, you can write for people as well. Contrary to popular belief, people stay pay people to write.
Even we have paid people to write for The Planet D. This can be a great suplemental income. So search for magazines and websites in your field and pitch them ideas.
Nearly every niche of blogging has a conference. If you are a thought leader in your field or an expert in a certain aspect of your field, you can get paid well to speak.
When you are first starting you may not get paid, but as you gain more popularity you will. For example: In our field, Certain big conferences like TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) don’t pay us to speak but they do raise our profile and status in the travel blogging world and offer post and pre tours including flights and accommodation. Plus, because we are speakers at the conference, the brands that attend want to work with us. So, it is worth it for us to attend.
But we do charge a fee for other conferences. Public speaking takes a lot of preparation and we have valuable information to share, so it is only natural to require a fee.
If you are in a blogging niche that is visual, you can sell photography. This works especially well for travel blogging. We earn money from selling photos and for sharing photos on Instagram. Photography is also a large part of our packages when we are hired for a campaign. The fee may include a few photos that they can use for advertising purposes or on their social media. When companies hire us, you can guarantee photography is part of the package.
Contest Judges and Contest Hosts
We’ve been paid to be judges in photography competitions, to host contests on our social media and website and we’ve done short one off campaigns promoting a trip or product. Like all freelancers in different businesses, the possibilities are endless.
Final Word- Invest in Your Business
Treat your blog as a business. Like any other business, it needs to be nurtured and you need to put money into it. Hire professionals to help you with what you can’t do. Hire assistants to help with menial tasks. If it can be done by someone else, have them do it so you can concentrate on larger ideas.
We spend money on:
- Social media advertising.
- We hire people to audit our website to find ways to make it more efficient.
- We hire people to help with social media
- We hire writers to write about topics that we don’t have expertise in.
- We hire people to take care of our back end and technical problems with our website.
By hiring people to take care of what we can’t or what. we don’t want to do, we are free to focus on what is important to us.
Achieving our Dreams – You Can too!
We cannot believe that we achieved our goal and are still going strong. We love this business and when people ask us what’s next. Our answer is it will always be The Planet D.
It will just evolve into something different. We love the challenge, we love the industry and we love to travel. Even though 2021 has been a huge challenge and we lost 95% of our income, we are okay. We love what we do and we know we can rebuild. Our goal has always been to be able to do what we love for the rest of our lives. And when you love what you do, you’ll always find a way.
Read More Inspiration about how to live your dream
- How to Travel the World – The Ultimate Travel Resource
- 21 Ways to Get Paid to Travel
- Our best travel tips from years on the road
- How to Start a Travel Blog in 11 Easy Steps
- How to Be a Professional Travel Blogger – 12 Steps to Financial Freedom
- Travel Resources
- How to Make Money Blogging
- How to Teach English Online Without a Degree
- 7 Common Travel Mistakes First Time Travelers Make
For more on the business of travel blogging, visit our Travel Blogging Advice Page
Disclaimer: We do receive affiliate commission from the books and courses mentioned, but like everything here on ThePlanetD, we wouldn’t recommend them if they weren’t great. We get affiliate offers all the time that we never accept and these people that we mention are at the top of their game.
PS. Thanks GirlGoneTravel for the above photo with attitude. This was taken by our friend Carol while in Mexico.