Think you know the truth about travel blogging for money? Here are 10 myths…and the reality.
Working as a digital nomad and travelling the world is the modern-day dream job for those with wanderlust particularly if your vision of a travel blogger is someone who spends all day sitting on the beach, interspersing their tanning with a few tweets and sipping piña coladas as the millions roll in.
As someone who has been travel blogging for the past four years and has turned her hobby blog into a (small) money-making entity, let me start by dispelling a few myths. If you’re about to embark on the quest of travel blogging for money, I hope this post will help by sharing some possibly harsh but very essential truths.
Myth 1: you get to work from the beach
If you have dreams of spending your days working on the beach – actually on the beach – you should probably give it up right now. Trust me, I’ve tried it and it and can confirm that it: Does. Not. Work.
Not only do you lack wi-fi and power – two vital ingredients for cooking up cool blog posts, you’ll give yourself a headache as you try to battle the sun’s glare on your screen and, worse, run the risk of ruining your most essential work tool by getting sand in your keyboard.
Sure, you’ll get to work from much more exotic locations than the same office cubicle every day but those exotic locations are most likely going to be hotel lobbies, hostel common rooms and cafes.
Travel Blogging Reality: You need to replicate an office quality environment (with fast wi-fi and a power connection in cafes and hotel lobbies) to get any real work done.
Myth 2: work and travel is easy
I recently read an article that included a very true statement: “entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week in order to avoid working 40 hours a week.” (The article is a good read if you’re interested: How quitting my corporate job for my startup f*cked up my life).
Unless you’re Tim Ferriss, author of the Digital Nomad Bible, The Four Hour Work Week, the work and travel lifestyle is a lot more time intensive than most people think.
Why? Very simply travel and travel blogging are both full-time jobs.
Pitching, writing, marketing, tweeting, chasing payments, balancing accounts, managing a website, planning travel routes, booking flights, spending 12 hours on a bus, finding accommodation, finding food, finding wi-fi, finding power, searching for a/c, taking a day tour, spending an afternoon at a museum, spending half a day searching for contact lens solution, getting sick, needing an afternoon nap because you had a bad night’s sleep on a night bus through the Andes, and occasionally…very, very occasionally, sampling the nightlife and taking a break to visit a beach.
If you think the life of a digital nomad and travel blogger is going to be an easy ride, give up now.
Travel Blogging Reality: You’ll work as hard if not harder than any corporate job you’ve ever done (unless you’re a genius, in which case you’re excused as an exception).
Myth 3: A travel blog will fund your Around the World trip
I saw the most ridiculous recommendation in an article last year – the writer made a passing suggestion that you should set up a blog to fund your trip. Sure, travel blogging for money has become a real job but for the vast majority of people it’s not something you can dip into and out of for a one year trip. Even if you are able to build a successful travel blog fast, you’re highly unlikely to be monetising for the first 6 to 9 months and definitely not from day one.
Travel Blogging Reality: Most blogs take at least a year before they start to make any money.
Myth 4: All you need to do to make money is slap some Google ads on your blog
A lot of people assume that the main way to make money from a blog is through Google ads. But consider this: how often do you click on a Google ad on a website? The common answer is not very often. And that fact is important because Google ads don’t pay out based on the number of people who click on your page containing the ad. They mainly pay based on the number of people who click on the ad itself.
Travel Blogging Reality: Google Ads is not the most profitable way of making money on your blog…unless you have a shi!t tonne of readers who are very click-happy.
Myth 5: You can watch the passive income roll in while do other things
Speaking of ads…
Considering the reality that most travel bloggers give up within a year and that it usually takes a minimum of one year to start making any money from a blog, and you’ll see that the stats are stacked against you – unless you’re in it for the long haul.
Passive income (the kind that rolls in from the likes of advertising and affiliate links) only comes when you have a decent amount of traffic – at least 30,000 page views a month as a rough guide and that’s only going to generate enough traffic to buy a bunch of hamburgers…if you’re lucky. And even then, building that traffic and establishing a consistent readership requires a lot of hard work. If you’re expecting to get very rich, very quickly from minimal work, give up now. You’ll make more money working for McDonalds – you can find their application form here.
Travel Blogging Reality: passive income requires a decent level of traffic which usually takes time to build (commonly more than a year – often two or three).
Myth 6: You get tonnes of “free stuff”…and that’s enough
If you’ve reached the stage where you have enough readers that brands and destinations want to work with you, there are definitely great opportunities for “free stuff” – tours, hotel stays, restaurant visits, press trips.
But lets dispel the “free” part because you’re not really getting stuff for free. The companies you work with want something in return. They want an article on your blog. They want access to your social media following. They want your time. Those things you provide in return for a “free” tour have a value to them so you’re not really getting anything for free.
Travel Blogging Reality: As a business you are trading your time and expertise for trips and travel perks so don’t forget to place a value on your time. Is it really worth spending 12 hours writing a post and promoting it in social media for a “free” $50 stay in a hotel for one night? Breaking it down, that’s $4.16 an hour.
And let’s not forget that doing a work trade will not pay for your food. Unless you have another form of income, you’ll need to monetise your blog in an additional (cash-generating) way.
Myth 7: You can do what you want when you want because you’re the boss
I accept that travel blogging is a way more flexible job compared to a cubicle dwelling position but be under no illusion – you can’t dip in and out of it when you want. Building a website is like building a snowball. If you want it to grow and grow, you have to roll it in snow every day. Take a pause for a month or two and it’s going to melt as your readers drift off to another blog.
Travel Blogging Reality: treat your blog like a proper job and you stand a chance of getting a proper income. Treat your blog like a part-time hobby and you’ll get the same reward as you expect from a hobby – little more than personal gratification and the odd travel perk.
Myth 8: It’s the perfect job if you love travelling
There’s no denying that travel blogging is the perfect job for people who love to travel but running a blog as a business often means you spend more time working than travelling. And, when you do travel, if you are taking press trips or working with a brand, your travel days become work days. Instead of deciding how you’ll spend your time in a city you’ll probably have activities mapped out for you, including some activities that may not excite you (basket weaving anyone?). And don’t even think about sitting back and enjoying your meal – there are notes to be taken, photos to be snapped and the chef to be interviewed.
Travel Blogging Reality: when you become a professional blogger travel becomes a job rather than a leisure activity. And for many people that can suck the pleasure out of travelling.
Myth 9: You need to be a good writer…and that’s all you need
Writing is my favourite part of blogging but the fortunate reality if you’re not much into writing is that photography and videography are equally successful (often more successful) ways of present the world to your readers. If words aren’t your thing, don’t worry.
But even if words are your thing, you’re going to need a host of additional skills because running a successful travel blog involves so much more – website design, photography, marketing, PR and social media to name a few.
Travel Blogging Reality: You can create a successful website even if writing isn’t your strong point but good writing alone (or photography or videography for that matter) isn’t enough – you need to develop a broad set of skills to help you maintain your website and promote your work.
Myth 10: The travel blogging space is too crowded, so it’s not worth trying
The fact that there are practically zero barriers to entering the travel blogging market means that new travel blogs are popping up every day. In fact, four years ago it was very rare to bump into another person on the road who was travel blogging (for a hobby or money). Four years on and every tenth person I meet seems to have a blog in one form or another.
So, yes, travel blogging absolutely is a crowded space. But, if you have a good niche, a determination to commit to your blog professionally and over the long-term, you should absolutely give it a try. It may not be a get rich quick scheme, the pay is terrible and the hours are even worse, but it’s absolutely and totally worth it.
Travel Blogging Reality: the travel blogging market is saturated but with the right niche and effort, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.
Do you have a travel blog? If so, share a link in the comments below – I love discovering new sites to follow. Any other myths to add to the list?
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