Making Money Working as a Freelance Travel Blogger
Is Being a Full-Time Digital Nomad a Dream or a Reality?
At one time or another every travel junky has dreamed of finding the perfect travel job. Such a mystical occupation would be wildly fulfilling. It would require only a laptop and an Internet connection. It would empower him/her to create, explore, and affect others’ lives. Of course, it would pay six figures. Such a job would be easy, even enjoyable, to do day in and day out from bungalow porches and café patios around the world. If that is the job that you are looking for, then I would like to direct your attention to the work from home advertisements in your local newspaper’s classifieds section.
Many of us have read travel blogs like The Professional Hobo and Nomadic Matt’s and imagined that the lives of the author were simple and fulfilling and that they were being paid to travel the world. The truth is, that is not always the case. Blogging is hard work and does not usually pay well. But, if you are interested in devoting your personal time to a project that is fulfilling, that you can take with you on your travels, and that can bring in a few bucks on the side while raising your professional profile, then you may want to consider writing a blog. If you hit the right niche and work hard, you may well be able to sustain yourself as a digital nomad, a freelance mode of living that is more and more common.
Travel Blogging Work and Pay
Blogging is hard work. In the beginning you
will spend a lot of your spare time working for free to gain "exposure" or for payments that will pay only for your coffee. First you
have to learn how to conceive a unique purpose, design and customize your blog, then you
need to promote your blog, and all the while you should be writing
blog posts to gather a following on a (nearly) daily basis. Being your own boss may
sound great in theory, but the truth is that it’s extremely
hard to sit down every day and work for four, six, or eight hours,
for free, without a boss forcing you to do so. Consider this:
how many times have you resolved to go to the gym everyday? How
successful were you? How
long did you keep it up? Now, think about how hard it would be
to sit in front of the computer for hours on end, in face of endless
distractions like email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,
You will need to wrestle with technical problems in your blog’s
software, research and write keywords and tags for your posts, and send emails
asking others to exchange links with you so that your site develops what is known as "authority." Authority on a subject is recognized by fellow travelers as well as the search bots that can make your blog more visible. Marketing your blog presents a dilemma: spend too much time on social media and you lose time writing; spend too little time and you miss opportunities to network and have your posts go viral such that you can concentrate on building your brand.
Most travel bloggers make little or no money, have short moments of glory, and eventually need a full-time job to sustain them. Although a few of the best-known bloggers do actually make six figures, it is unrealistic to think that you will too. They are usually people with specialized expertise on a topic in great demand who stumbled into an exceptionally profitable niche. You or I expecting do the same would be like taking up tennis with the expectation of competing at Wimbledon—that would be ridiculous. OK, I exaggerate. More and more digital nomads are succeeding to live off their writing, often with other creative activities such as doing guest posts, leading tours, making speeches at conferences, writing ebooks, teaching English abroad, designing and programming remotely, and all the other options discussed on Transitions Abroad.
But to continue the metaphor, if you did take up tennis, learned to play properly, and practiced every day, you could reasonably expect to work your way up in the local tennis league. The same is true of blogging. If you are willing to put in the time, then you can reasonably expect, over time, to make a decent side-income or even income.
By now you are probably wondering, “How much will I make?” This question has been asked many times and no one has ever definitively answered it. Blogging is simply web publishing with a 1-person staff. How much money can you make from a website? That simply depends how successful you are. One rather unscientific poll taken by a leading blog about blogging, ProBlogger, suggests that about 70% of bloggers who make any money at all, make less than US$500 per month from their blogs. On the flip side, the bloggers at GoatsOnTheRoad describe their monetary success, as has The Professional Hobo. Keep in mind that your income is relative to your requirements and the cost of living of the countries you favor to visit, with some countries being incredibly cheap, as Tim Leffel points out in his great Cheapest Destinations blog (Tim Leffel is also author of a fine blog and book on Travel Writing which discusses these issues and more).
More Benefits in Being a
Many (travel) bloggers are not interested in money. Most of the bloggers who actually do earn money make less than you could make working at convenience store. Some dedicated bloggers generate a decent side income, or even a full-time living, while a small handful of bloggers make really, really good money. So, if there generally is no great money in the activity, with few becoming as rich as those who luck out on start-ups in tech, why blog at all?
Blogging has several side benefits. Blogging can be very fulfilling because it often leads you to research a subject that you find of passionate interest. Whether you are enjoy beaded jewelery or high-end yachts, you will learn things you never expected, and receive feedback and comments from others who, as odd as it may seem, also travel from port to port taking pictures of other people’s boats, or spend hours on end trying to create the perfect spiral hemp weave.
Blogging also offers you exposure as an enthusiast, or expert, in your field and so helps you to meet others who share your interests. People who like your blog will post comments and send you emails. One of those people may own a yacht the size of St. Louis and, after reading about your passion for the sport, invite you to work as crew on a trip. Perhaps a reader of your blog will run a boutique and want to sell your jewelery. You never know what might happen with the connections you make in the digital form of networking.
So, while you may or may not immediately realize your dreams of working your way around the world from a laptop, blogging may well get you part of the way there. And hey, you never know, maybe your blog will hit the right niche at the right time and you will end up giving interviews about the aesthetic pros and cons of glass versus stone beads on a morning TV talk show. But, if you do not turn out to be the prodigious blogger that you had hoped, do not worry; your effort will be likely be at least moderately rewarded. My neighbor, who only started taking lessons last summer, is now cleaning up on the tennis courts down at the YMCA, and I, who only started blogging part-time eight months ago, just sold my first US$150 advertisement.