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 them 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 you are looking for, 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 author's lives were simple and fulfilling and that they were being paid to travel the world. The truth is, that is only sometimes the case. Blogging is hard work and does not usually pay well, and it requires a variety of skills to make it big. 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. Suppose you hit the right niche and work hard. In that case, if you grow your brand, you may well be able to sustain yourself as a digital nomad — a freelance mode of living that is increasingly common as the post-pandemic work phenomenon has grown in popularity. Many many attractive countries now offer digital nomad visas.
Travel Blogging Work and Pay
Blogging is hard work. Initially, you will spend much of your spare time working for free to gain "exposure," while you build your own brand for payments that will pay only for your coffee. First, you must learn how to conceive a unique purpose and design and customize your blog. Then, it would help if you promoted 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 tough 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 often have you resolved to go to the gym every day? 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 the face of endless distractions like email, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, TikTok, etc.—that were formerly mere distractions that you must learn to master over time to grow your audience.
You will need to to have the patience to wrestle with technical problems in your blog's software, research and write keywords and tags for your posts, and the motivation to 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 and 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 so 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 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 or supplement their income. You or I expecting to 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 in living 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 many of the other options discussed and with stories told on TransitionsAbroad.com.
But to continue the metaphor, if you did take up tennis, learned to play correctly, 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 expect, over time, to make a decent side income or even income.
The Bottom Line
By now, you are probably wondering, "How much will I make?" This question has been asked many times, and no one has definitively answered it. Blogging is simply web publishing with a 1-person staff. How much money can you make from a website? That depends on how successful you are. One rather unscientific poll taken by a leading blogger about blogging, ProBlogger, suggests that about 70% of bloggers who make any money 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 for many years. Tim Leffel, in a very fine post, introduces and elaborates on data compiled from a survey of the range of income of travel bloggers and writers, and the results were surprisingly substantial — not Wall Street C-suite incomes or that of data scientists — but significant.
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). He is very transparent and honest about how making a living often requires several income streams to sustain your life as a travel blogger. He also describes the cycles you will likely experience as a (travel) blogger.
More Benefits of Being a
Many (travel) bloggers are interested in something other than money. Most bloggers who earn cash make less than you could make working at a convenience store. Some dedicated bloggers generate a decent side income or even a full-time living. In contrast, a small handful of bloggers make 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 you find of passionate interest. Those who have traveled or lived abroad extensively are notorious for wishing to share their explorations and experiences — during and after their trips or life as expats. Whether you enjoy beaded jewelry 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 exposure as an enthusiast or expert in your field. It helps you 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 invite you to work as crew on a trip after reading about your passion for the sport. A blog reader may run a boutique and want to sell your jewelry. 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 around the world from a laptop, blogging may get you part of the way there. And hey, you never know, 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 you hoped for, do not worry; your effort will likely be at least moderately rewarded. My neighbor, who only started taking lessons last summer, is now cleaning up on the tennis courts at the YMCA. After only starting to blog part-time, I sold my first US$150 advertisement after eight months.