You can make money writing about your travels with your own travel blog – if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort required to not only keep your blog updated but also make it stand out from the crowd
Digital Nomad © stevenzwerink
It’s every backpacker’s dream – a regular stream of money arriving in their bank account while they’re travelling, which lets them keep on travelling rather than worrying about their ever-dwindling funds. Many people still think travel writing is one way of living out this dream, but ask any travel writer and they’ll tell you payment rates for writing travel articles are shrinking every year, not to mention how fierce the competition is for even the most low paying assignments. (Have a read of my interviews with Lonely Planet guidebook writer Simon Sellars and Travelfish writer Don Morgan for an insight into the life of a travel writer).
But there is another way: If you’re fond of writing and think travelling will fuel your urge to write even more, you should consider setting up a travel blog, because it could become a good way for you to make some useful pocket money while you’re travelling. That is, of course, if you are happy to write for the love of it, because it will take quite a long time before the money shows up. Here’s a quick rundown of what it takes to write a great travel blog that might bring you some cash.
Travel Blogs Are Easy To Do In Theory…
The theory is pretty simple. Set up the blog, write a whole bunch of pithy, witty and insightful entries on every aspect of your travels, start attracting interested readers to your website, and then start making money from your site. Once your site has some content on it, you can begin applying to online advertising companies to make money from your blog. You make money by displaying advertising of different products and services that are related to the content of your blog. Here are some of the major advertising companies – you need to visit the website of each company and sign up for their advertising program. These are just a few of the many advertising companies out there.
These companies display ads on your site and, in different ways, pay you for the privilege – if you have people visiting your blog, that is.
…And Hard To Do In Practice
The practice of writing a travel blog is, of course, somewhat more difficult. Making money from a travel blog is certainly not easy money, but it’s feasible if you enjoy writing and think the idea of writing a travel blog is fun, irrespective of whether you make any money from it. Writing a blog will certainly hone your writing skills and provide a valuable memoir of your trip if nothing else, but if you stick with it, it may well lead onto other, indirect opportunities that you never even considered before.
You’ve Got To Make A Commitment Before You Start
Sticking power is usually what trips people up when writing a travel blog. For a travel blog to work, it has to update regularly – a couple of times a week is fine, but it has to be a couple of times every week. And when you’re travelling, that can be a big committment, especially if you’re in out of the way places with bad internet connections.
Discipline and No Fun
However, the discipline of making sure you do write regularly and capture the moment of what you’re doing from week to week while on the road can make for compelling reading, and while it might not be fun at some points, it also make you feel quite proud when you look back on your work. Plus, the more you write, the easier it gets to write more. It’s like flexing a muscle.
Keep It Short And Sweet
You don’t have to write a lot – a couple of hundred words each time is best – but it should be interesting and, even better, remarkable. Try to write about stuff, however seemingly trivial, maybe even obvious, that you haven’t seen mentioned or talked about elsewhere. My A Very Short Walk Around A Tokyo Apartment is a good example of this – it is so obvious, but it works well because it gives the reader a view into someone else’s life and how they live in a very digestible, easy to scan and understand fashion. Though I say it myself.
Give It A Go And Don’t Give Up
Once you’ve written 20 posts or so, you’ll have worked out if you can really be bothered to carry on blogging or if it’s too much effort. If you decide that you enjoy it, you’ve won half the battle. A regularly updated, well-written blog takes around six months to a year to get noticed and attract people to read it – and the more people that visit your blog, the more money you will earn from your ads. This can be just a few dollars a month but can also quietly grow into hundreds of dollars a month – it really depends how much effort you’re prepared to put into your blog. Check out A Year In The Life and DavesAdventures.com as examples of one year travel blogs – they both finished travelling a couple of years ago but their sites live on, still creating some income from text ads.
Not Easy Money
It should be apparent that making money from a travel blog is definitely not easy money – it involves as much hard work and persistence as any other paying job, maybe more, as you have no real certainity that however hard you work, you will be rewarded. You’ll almost certainly find that picking fruit in Australia or a similar temporary job would generate more cash for less effort in a similar timeframe. But writing a blog is letting loose a creative part of you, rather than just menial work, so it’s worth the extra effort. If you enjoy writing and have the patience and tenacity to keep working at it for a year or more, it could generate some decent income for you and also make you a very good writer, as well as creating a unique record of your travels and opening up new opportunities too.
If you’re already convinced you enjoy writing and would want to make travel blogging a long term commitment, it’s a good idea to start up a travel blog before you go travelling – as early as you can really. There is plenty to write about before you even get anywhere near the airport – all the preparation, your itinerary, your different options, the stuff that scares you – there are scores of topics you can write about. Starting early means you can also get used to the blog software and, if you feel ambitious, twiddle with the blog layout to customise your design. Usually that involves learning a bit of web design knowledge, but don’t get hung up on that if it doesn’t appeal to you – it’s the writing that is the main thing.
A great example of this is Go Backpacking, written by Dave. Dave has not even left home yet but is documenting the build up to his journey beginning. He’s already got a clear voice and purpose going on with his blog, and he’s got quite a few ads on his blog from Text Link Ads, so that must be providing some nice pocket money to help with his travel preparations. Indeed, Dave’s written a whole post explaining how TLA has worked for him. UPDATE: Dave has now been around the world and kept his blog updated during the entire trip – and continued to make good income from it too.
4) Keep writing content and tweaking the appearance of the ads. If you really get into writing your blog and earning a little money from it, you’ll find a wealth of information about optimising AdSense on forums like WebmasterWorld.com and DigitalPoint.
This is obviously a pretty basic outline but I hope it gives a good idea of what’s involved and the importance of thinking long term if you really want to do something with your travel blog. I invite other travel bloggers to comment on what they think and if they have any tips. And if you’re thinking of starting a travel blog, let me know if I can help – maybe I can write some follow up posts to this if there’s any interest.