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 to become full time adventurers and to get paid to travel.
At that time, we had already spent most of our winters traveling the world for extended amounts of time.
Friends and family were already asking for advice and information about the destinations we'd been to, so a natural progression was to start sharing that information online. 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.
How to Make Money Blogging
In 2007 we signed up for the 2008 Tour d'Afrique; the world's longest cycling race from Cairo to Cape Town.
We started ThePlanetD so that the organizers could link to our race profile, and to keep followers of that race up to date on our progress through the continent.
After returning from Africa, we went back to our jobs in the film business and worked for a year to save money and to make plans. During that year we focused on raising our profile.
Every spare moment we had, we sat at our computers talking with fellow travel bloggers, commenting on other people's blogs, interacting with others on twitter, and writing stories from our travels.
One year later we were back on the road with a dream and a plan. By the time we booked a flight to India 12 months later, we had made a small name for ourselves in the travel community.
We put away some cash to sustain us on the road for several months and we even sold our first ad on ThePlanetD before leaving. We were feeling confident.
If you want learn how to be a travel blogger now we recommend How to Start a Travel Blog in 10 Easy Steps
But Where Next?
As we travelled through India, Nepal and Sri Lanka our readership grew, but we didn’t know what steps to take next.
The problem was we were running out of money to sustain our travels, and we were still struggling with how to turn our travel blog in to a business.
“All we knew was that we were running out of money, we wanted to be able to keep on traveling,”
I remember sitting at a cheap guesthouse in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka having a bit of a breakdown. We only had about 2 months left in our travel budget before we’d have to start dipping in to our savings.
That was not an option.
A few days later, we sold an ad. A company had offered to buy four sponsored links in existing posts for an entire year.
They weren’t paying much, it was something like $40 a month, but multiply that by 4 at 12 months, and we suddenly had nearly $2000.
This was enough to help us achieve our dream to climbing to Everest Base Camp while giving us another month of travel. We were feeling good.
At that time, the bickering was starting in the travel community. People were arguing with each other and looking down on those who sold text links.
People were outraged with anyone that sold an ad and accusing them of “selling out.” In their eyes, blogs were supposed to be sacred places where nobody was allowed to make money.
We didn’t pay attention to the politics. All we knew was that we were running out of money, we wanted to be able to keep on traveling, and we didn't want to have to go back to our jobs in the film business yet again.
We already left once to travel and then had to return to work for a year. It would break us emotionally if we had to go back again and start all over.
So, we made some money with our blog and were able to continue our travels the only way we knew how…To sell ad space.
A New Strategy
We knew this wasn’t a sustainable way of making money.
A couple hundred bucks a month in advertising wasn't the way we wanted to build our business.
So when the TBEX travel blogging conference in New York in 2010, we made a point of going to learn how to make money with our travel blog.
Well the session was a bust. Either the people on the panel weren’t making any money yet, or they weren’t sharing how they were doing it.
We went away dejected and upset with the whole situation.
We vowed to share information if we were to ever speak at a TBEX or other travel blogging conferences one day.
We realized that we were going to have to figure things out for ourselves. We had a film and entertainment background, and had always seen movie stars and athletes act as spokespeople, so we decided to focus on becoming celebrity travel bloggers.
It was always our plan to raise our brand enough so that companies would take notice and hire us as travel experts.
We had visions of being just like Ian Wright: A travel personality from Lonely Planet travel show. (a program we used to watch religiously – later known as Pilot Guides).
At the time, he was advertising Canon Cameras and writing columns for magazines. We wanted that.
But we didn’t want to have to put all our time and energy in to pitching stories and being rejected.
“Once we stopped concentrating on how to make money, and instead focused on building our brand through storytelling the opportunities started coming in.”
We'd had enough rejection in our lives. So we decided to focus on writing great content for our own website to raise our profile enough that people would approach us.
We focused on marketing the personality behind The Planet D. We wanted our readers to not only connect with our tips and advice, but to connect with our personalities and life story.
We found that people were very interested in our story and wanted to hear more.
How We Now Make Money Travel Blogging
Our business has grown more than we could ever imagine. By thinking outside the box, we eventually figured out how to make money with our travel blog.
Once we stopped concentrating on how to make money, and instead focused on building our brand through storytelling, the opportunities started coming in.
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 needed to write great content. Everyone always focuses on how to make money, but you need to focus on creating content that is of value to your readers before you even begin to think of monetizing.
If you don't have a loyal and engaged readership you aren't going to have a brand that anyone is going to want to work with. For us, our readers come first.
“The key to a successful travel blog is putting your audience first.”
As our readership grew, people started to take notice. More people started to share our content and a snowball effect happened.
People began to know us. When people start to know about you, brands and companies will know about you too.
By creating great content and building your audience, you will eventually have opportunities come to you. Doors will open and people will be wanting to work with you.
Our first travel blog opportunities
Our first real contract came with American Express Canada.
They approached us to work with them on a year-long contract basis to test drive their American Express Gold Rewards Card.
They had done their research and found our brand to be the perfect fit for their campaign. We would travel the world using our American Express Gold Rewards and discover all the travel benefits of the card, utilize the travel insurance, and find out if it actually is accepted everywhere. (which, by the way it is)
We worked with them for five years and even became American Express Brand Ambassadors.
Our next Partnership came with Intrepid Travel.
We knew the folks at Intrepid Toronto really well, and just loved Katy and Katie in the office.
We pitched them an idea to be their “Global Bloggers” and for the next year we experienced their tours and shared our experience with our readers.
We had been working with them in a non-monetary capacity for a year earlier, so the partnership made sense when it was time to take it to the next level.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a plan for a second year and the partnership dissolved, but we still have an amazing relationship with Intrepid and who knows, maybe another opportunity will come up in the future.
Once we had a couple of Ambassadorships under our belt, things really started to roll.
Expedia.com was where we started to understand our value.
They invited us to their head office to discuss working with bloggers.
Dave and I seized the moment after that first meeting and sent them a pitch for the following year. They liked the idea, and for the next 12 months we went around the world as their adventure travel experts.
Readers enjoyed it and it helped humanize the Expedia brand by putting a face to their company.
Unlike Intrepid Travel, there was a plan for year two and that relationship evolved into us to being a part of their Expedia Viewfinders Program.
We ended up writing for the Expedia Viewfinder Blog as one of their travel experts and stayed with them for four years.
We now work regularly with partners as ambassadors. We don't work on yearly contracts as much now, but we do extended campaigns and in-depth partnerships. We found it difficult to keep content fresh on a yearly basis and prefer to do a project for a few months or revisit yearly. We work with many companies again and again.
Today Ambassadorships and long term partnerships are a large part of our income.
Our first year as an destination ambassador was one of our most fulfilling years of travel. We worked with Ontario Tourism as their Travel Ambassadors.
This was a very in depth partnership where we spent a year showcasing our travels and adventures in Ontario.
We did media appearances, social media chats and take overs, travel videos, we wrote for their blog, spoke at events and supplied photos for them to use.
This was the ultimate Ambassadorship that we always dreamed of and it has opened the door to other Ambassadorship programs.
It also helped us really understand our worth. Ontario Tourism was fair with their prices and paid us accordingly. We used that initial ambassadorship as a benchmark for working with other destinations.
As we grew, our rates grew, but by working with Ontario early on, we knew where to start.
We are always in talks with destinations but now that we've been doing this for awhile, we are quite picky with who we work with and where we travel to.
When we do choose a destination to work with, we usually go back to a destination again and again.
We also communicate very closely before each trip planning itineraries and content creation strategies. We discuss what the destination wants out of the campaign and what we feel will resonate with our readers.
We have now worked with many tourism boards and rarely do just one trip to a place. We prefer to do long term, or multiple trips to really delve into the destination.
Dave and I are constantly working to add more dimensions to our travel blogging. When Housetrip offered us a place in their diplomats program as videographers in 2014, we were very excited to show people that we do more than writing and photography.
We have never looked back and for the past couple of years we've been focusing on creating videos.
By taking on the challenge of being their video bloggers, we had the chance to show off our video talents and reach a new audience.
Video we produced for Nova Scotia Tourism
We started out in video when we first travelled and this brought us back to making more travel videos – our first love.
We promote destinations visually and while our following on YouTube still has plenty of room to grow, our videos on Facebook receive up to 1.5 million views and when we SEO well (and have a bit of luck with YouTube, we can be #1 in search like our video above for Nova Scotia.)
We now make videos for companies based on our trip experience.
We’ve found that having the voice of a blogger tell the story in the video makes it a more real experience for the brand that hires us.
They could easily sink tens of thousands of dollars in to a slick video, but that isn’t as relatable as showing Dave and I having a blast showing off their destination, using their product or experiencing their trip.
Dave and I now treat The Planet D as a mini media company.
Social Media Makes us money
We put just as much time into our social media strategy as we do into our blogging, photography and video.
We are now hired to run and take part in social media chats on Twitter, stream facebook and Instagram lives, we are hired for Instagram campaigns, and run contests on our social media.
We work hard to keep a well-rounded brand.
While others concentrate on one social media account, we spread our love around. It works for us, we're not saying it works for everyone.
We take our social media very serious and work hard at interacting with our fans. We work hard to build our following and interact with all our fans and followers.
We may not be number one in any one social media stream, but we are strong in all and use that to our advantage.
We can offer companies and brands a package of channels to showcase their product, and it works.
Not all our work is on a year-long contract basis.
We now work on a project-by-project basis with companies like Transitions, Go Ahead Tours and the World Travel Tourism Council just to name a few of our current partners.
People hire us to promote their products through our social media channels and website because we have grown a following over the years. Mashable, Martha Stewart and Redbull have reached out to us to feature our work and we were recently named one of the top 10 travel influencers in the world by Forbes Magazine.
We’ve been judges in photography competitions, hosts of contests and done short one off campaigns promoting a trip or product. Like all freelancers in different businesses, the possibilities are endless.
If it fits with our demographic and adds value for readers, we can work and thrive with a company.
We didn’t put much stock in to affiliate sales early on in our blog. We didn’t have the traffic or the interest, but once we started seeing Amazon cheques come in on a monthly basis from old posts that we wrote a couple of years ago, we started to re-think Affiliate links.
We now make thousands of dollars a month on affiliate and CPM income. After nearly 10 years of travel blogging, we have earned that magical passive income status. We signed with Mediavine a few months ago and that has been a nice regular income
But affiliates for us took time. We built our readership and following before even thinking about putting in links and advertising.
Once we had that solid base, the money came easily because we had the page views.
When it comes to affiliates, we've used the products, companies and booking platforms we recommend and we did our research.
We are still growing and learning about affiliates. We only just started this year, but by making a few tweaks, we are already farther along than we expected to be.
We finally did get that speaking gig at TBEX and have shared as much of the knowledge as we could.
While certain conferences like TBEX don't pay us to speak, they do raise our profile and status in the travel blogging world and offer post and pre tours including flights and accommodation. Plus we love brainstorming and interacting with our peers.
However, we have started to branch out from the Travel Blogging conferences and speak in other realms.
We now normally charge a fee to tell our story and make appearances. We really enjoy public speaking and it is already becoming a major part of our business strategy.
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 done full-blown media tours to talk about travel health and safety, we've done appearances all over the world and we are currently developing a travel show. (more on that in the future)
Not one penny yet
Writing 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.
Instead of having to pitch people, they are approaching us to contribute. It's not that we ever thought we were above pitching articles, we just decided that we needed to focus our energy on writing for our own blog and building our own brand.
Pitching takes a lot of time and effort and we didn't want to have to be bound to writing for others. Besides in the early days we wanted to keep the best content for ourselves.
Now we have a lot of experience and content to draw from and we love writing for other publications. It keeps our writing chops sharp and helps us to hone our skills and we can play around and write a bit differently for them.
We find it to be an excellent challenge and keeps things fresh.
Less than 5k per year
Dave's photography has really taken off and tourism boards and companies are starting to buy his photos from previous trips.
He has won competition money and sells his photographs for advertising and magazines.
He even receives regular cheques from SmugMug sales. While photography isn't a large part of our income it is a large part of our blog.
Dave's photography is what keeps people coming back and it is a huge part of our brand. When companies hire us, you can guarantee photography is part of the package.
10k – 15k per year
We rarely accept sponsored posts these days.
We would rather give exposure to our fellow travel bloggers in our Inspirational travel Series, but when the content fits and it is to a relevant website, we will accept them.
But we write them ourselves and they are always based on our experience.
We charge a high fee because our policy is to not clutter our website with dozens of sponsored posts.
We are now making more money than we made in the film business just a few short years ago.
We spend money on advertising, website audits and other tasks to invest in making our business grow.
We aren't where we want to be yet, but we are living a comfortable life after nearly 10 years of hard work and living frugally.
Achieving our Dreams – You Can too!
We cannot believe that we achieved 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.
When it all comes down to it, we will always love to travel. It's not about the money. If we lived our lives only chasing money, we would have stayed in the movie industry.
Resources for you
There are courses to help people today. Something we didn't have when starting.
TRAVEL BLOG SUCCESS
Superstar Blogging Course
4 Different tracks:
- Business of Travel Blogging: $267
- How to be a Travel Writer: $439 (5 Monthly Payments of 97.00)
- How to Become a Videographer $269 one time fee.
- How to become a Travel Photographer $89 one time fee.
But you don't have to buy a course to start off, we have many references in our links below in our Read More section.
Our goal has always been to be able to do what we love for the rest of our lives.
We also knew that if we found careers that we loved, the money would come anyway, and it has.
We love being able to explore the world, share it with our readers and push our boundaries. But most of all, we love doing it together.
This is the driving force for us to continue to search for new and creative ways to make money travel blogging.
The industry is constantly evolving and we know that we have to stay one step ahead of the game to have the privilege of having a career traveling the world. We never take one day for granted.
For more on the business of travel blogging, visit our Travel Blogging Advice Page
PS. Thanks GirlGoneTravel for the above photo with attitude. This was taken by our friend Carol while in Mexico.
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.