“So what do you do?”
“I’m a blogger,” I respond with dread. I know what’s coming next. A confused look. A pause. And then, some form of the question, “how do you make money from a blog?”
It’s often hard to explain to someone who doesn’t know how blogging works. It seems like a platform for telling stories or providing information, but many people still don’t know that it can be a way to make a little pocket change or even a full living. For years, even knowing that some people did make money from blogging, I didn’t even believe it was a realistic goal for myself.
If you have a blog but you’re confused about how to make money from it, here are some of the ways bloggers make money from their websites.
Many bloggers shun advertising, yet many others make good money by showing ads on their sites. It’s a personal decision, and a lot of it depends on the type of site you have.
I have lots of ads on my other site because it’s informational. I mostly get search traffic there, and once the reader has their information, they leave. I’m ok with that. It’s not a personal site or one that is set up to cultivate a community of loyal fans. I’m trying to help and provide useful information. Because of that, I’m comfortable having ads on that site, and so far, it hasn’t affected my traffic.
But I only have a few ads on Ali’s Adventures. It’s a much more personal site, I’d love to have more loyal readers, and I don’t want to turn people off by having too many ads on the site.
I’ve earned about $25 in the past 30 days from advertising on this site and another $10 from Andy’s site. Exciting, I know. On the other hand, my other site earns anywhere from $1,300 to $2,000 a month from advertising. A big part of that is the difference in traffic and the type of traffic, but also the amount of advertising on each site.
Some bloggers also directly from an advertiser to display an ad on their site, but I’ve never done that. My ads all come from AdThrive (an ad network that requires at least 100,000 pageview per month), Google Adsense, and Amazon CPM ads.
Many bloggers, myself included, make money through affiliate marketing. It’s a way of recommending products or services that I trust and earning money when someone clicks a special link and buys that item. Or often when they buy anything from that company.
So if I recommend this backpack on Amazon or this tour through Viator, and someone clicks the link and buys anything from Amazon or books anything through Viator, I earn a small commission. And it doesn’t cost the buyer anything extra.
This type of income stream takes a lot of time and effort to set up because you need a good amount of traffic and the right type of traffic to make it work. You can’t just throw affiliate links into posts and expect them to suddenly turn into thousands of dollars. You have to research what your readers need and what problems they have that you can solve.
If you write a travel blog that is basically a journal of your trips, you probably won’t get a lot of traction with it. But if you show others how they can have the amazing experiences you are, it might work a little better. Better yet, focus your blog on certain types of travel or certain destinations. That way you can establish yourself as an expert in that area and rank higher in search engines. This would make it easier to earn money through affiliates.
Amazon is a great place to start with affiliate marketing. Some companies run their own programs, while others are compiled in one place. Check out CJ.com and Shareasale have hundreds of companies to sift through to find ones that fit your niche. There are others, but these are the ones I’ve had the best luck with. (Note: I make one whole dollar if you sign up for a Shareasale account after clicking that link.)
Free travel is a great perk of travel blogging. If you have a big enough blog and social media following to go on lots of free trips, you could get to a point where you’re doing well enough to earn money on top of free travel.
Some bloggers charge for their services because it’s not just a free vacation. You are actually working when you’re on one of these trips. Sometimes there’s a set itinerary so you might be doing activities you wouldn’t do on a normal vacation. You’re constantly taking pictures, writing down notes, making videos, being on social media, and making sure you have plenty of information to work with after the trip. When you’re home, you have to write posts, edit photos and/or videos, do more social media promotion, and anything else that was agreed to.
The idea is to provide a lot of value to the tourism board or tour company or resort or whoever it is you’re working with. Not only are these bloggers spending a couple of hours writing a post, they’re often spending dozens of hours working on a full blow project.
I don’t do this type of work. I do occasionally get a comped tour in exchange for writing about it and doing some social media promotion, but never to the extent of the bloggers who get paid for it. The introvert in me cringes at this type of thing, but for some people, it’s perfect.
Products or services
Coming up with a way to make money that involves your own creation is often a way to make more money with less volume. It also gives you a little more control since you’re not relying on other companies’ rules for things like affiliate commission or advertising restrictions.
Books and other physical products
Another way to make money from a blog is by writing books or coming up with your own product. I wrote a packing guide a few years ago, which did ok for a year or two, but now it barely makes me any money. (If you’re looking for a great packing book, check out this guide another blogger wrote.) My friend Gigi wrote a series of unconventional guidebooks with tips from locals, and she makes a good chunk of her monthly income from those. Jodi from Legal Nomads sells hand-drawn maps as pictures, t-shirts, and more.
Do you know a topic so well you could teach a course on it? This could be another way for you to make money from your blog.
I took this affiliate marketing course from another blogger who developed the course after learning how to make money with affiliates. Gigi is currently offering a course to help people launch a professional website in 7 weeks. Pinch of Yum, a popular food blog, offers photography courses.
It seems like a natural progression for some travel bloggers – offering their own tours. They have the travel experience and they’ve been to lots of places. Traveling with a known blogger is a way to see a destination you might be nervous about without having to be on a typical 50 person fully organized tour. If you can grow your following and earn enough trust from your readers, this could be a worthwhile goal for monetizing your travel blog.
Wandering Earl started Wandering Earl Tours a few years ago. He takes travelers on tours to places like India, Mexico, Morocco, Romania, and more. Nate from Yomadic offers tours (or the Untour as he calls it) to Iran.
Offering travel planning services is another option many bloggers turn to as a way to earn money. Typically this seems to work best for bloggers who are experts in one country or region.
As a platform for other work
For many people, a blog is a place to write and share simply for the love of blogging. Either their skills or their desires are in other areas, and they use their blog as a way to get work in other ways. In these cases, the blogger can use good writing to rank for the topics that relate to their profession.
A professional photographer might blog about travel and photography and get hired to take photos for a tourism board. Some blogging photographers sell stock photos. Some bloggers, like Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market, make money from speaking engagements. Blogging can be a way to get hired for marketing and branding services.
Many people use their blog as a portfolio to show examples of their writing skills and get contracts doing freelance writing. Blogging can also be a way of proving certain skills needed to be a VA (virtual assistant) for other bloggers. I got my first freelance writing assignment from my blog, and I started doing VA work because of my blogging experience.
This is really a category of endless possibilities and relates to almost any area, not just travel blogging.
How to figure out what works for you
The good thing is you don’t have to pick just one way to make money from your blog. In fact, it’s preferable to have multiple sources of income in case something changes with one of them and it tanks.
So how do you figure out which ways of monetizing a blog are right for you? Take a look through this list (and know that it’s not even all-inclusive) and think about your own skills and desires. Make a list of things your good at and topics you can write about endlessly.
Are you a people person? Travel planning, leading your own tours, or working with brands might be a good fit.
Do you love to write? Try freelance writing or self-publishing a book on a topic you know inside and out.
Do you place a high value on flexibility? Advertising and/or affiliate marketing could work well.
And after all that, it’s still all trial and error to see which ways of earning money are a good fit for you.
Finding my balance
I tried freelance writing and had some good luck for a few years. It used to be 75-80% of my income. But when my biggest client stopped sending work, I decided to shift my focus. I wasn’t enjoying freelance writing, and the idea of pitching ideas to publications and chasing payments sounded exhausting.
I also chose not to pursue press trips because, even though the free travel is a nice perk, I never enjoyed the ones I did. I like to travel my way, and just one piece of that is not being on social media 24/7.
My blog was making money a couple years ago, but not enough to live on. With a few tweaks, things that were doing well on the site started resulting in income. Depending on the month, blogging accounts for 70-90% of my income. This is through advertising and affiliate marketing.
I started doing VA work two years ago with one client, and last year when the workload decreased, I started looking for new clients to add. Now I have three, and I enjoy the work. I like helping people, so knowing I’m doing work that saves them time and improves their sites feels good to me. It’s also hourly work, so it balances out some of the risk involved with earning money through blogging.
Flexibility is important to me. If the sun ever decides to show itself in Berlin, I can take the day off and I’ll still earn about the same amount of money. I can do my VA work first thing in the morning or in the middle of the afternoon. I can travel pretty much whenever I want. I can take a long lunch or sleep late and work on my blog after dinner.
I choose how to use my time. And that, to me, is the ultimate goal of making money from blogging.
It takes time
Don’t get into blogging thinking it’s a path to quick money. It isn’t.
If you already have a blog and you want to make money from it, keep working at it. Read as much as you can on SEO and learn how to make your site rank for certain keywords. Learn about social media and promoting your blog in various ways. Talk to other bloggers – they can be great friends and helpful teachers.
Most of all, be patient. There is no exact time frame on this. But you will almost certainly not be making money from your blog in just a few months, probably not even in the first year. Anyone telling you making money from blogging is easy is lying. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work.
But once you get there, it’s totally worth it. And then maybe other people will be asking you how you make money from a blog!
You might also enjoy:
- 5 Reasons I Love Affiliate Marketing (and 2 Reasons I Don’t)
- How I Make Money Online and Travel Up to 4 Months a Year
- On Living a Non-Traditional Life
- Check out my income reports & see how much I earn from blogging