There’s something so attractive about being able to travel to insanely beautiful locations, writing about your experiences, and getting paid for it.
It’s the dream of the travel blogger: to attract readers, sponsors, and advertisers so you can do what you love while wandering the globe. But let me give you a reality check: it’s hard work. Hard work that will likely take you years to achieve any kind of monetary success without a clear plan and focus.
For example, it took Matthew Karsten of Expert Vagabond 2-3 years to develop enough of a following (outside of his ebook sales) to generate a livable income making money from his blog. But now? He’s basically a professional traveler. So what does a guy or gal like you gotta do to make money blogging? Let’s get into it.
5 Secrets to Making Money From Your Blog
While it may be a lot of hard work, building a successful blog that makes money is not impossible. And the good news is, I’ve learned all the lessons the hard way so you don’t have to. Here are the four real secrets to making money from your blog.
1. You’ll need to think of your blog as a business. Think of your blog as a business. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard. Consider this — businesses don’t just open whenever they feel like it. They can’t exist without a reasonable amount of growth year over year, quarter over quarter, or even month over month. A business wants to expand, be seen, service more people, and create a profit. A business needs a plan to meet goals. If you’re not planning for success, you won’t find success. Get into the mindset that your blog is here to serve a purpose, establish goals (traffic and revenue), and work backwards from there to figure out what to do to hit those goals.
2. You’ll need a successful blog. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many bloggers make the mistake of not planning and assuming that they’ll attract an audience worthy of advertiser’s dollars within a few months. Success won’t happen overnight, and keep in mind that your effort will directly effect your results. The thing is, you don’t have to spend every waking hour in front of your computer writing blog posts or developing an SEO strategy. You just have to write smart ones that drive traffic, and there’s no one better to learn from than Darren Murph, who holds the Guinness World Record for the “Most Prolific Professional Blogger” so if you have a few spare hours and $39, I’d highly recommend taking his class on blogging in order to know exactly what it takes to create successful blog posts.
3. A healthy social media following. Here’s the thing — there’s no real shortcut to growing a social following; It simply takes research, time, and a commitment to engaging with your people. But once you get into a rhythm of posing on a regular basis, responding to comments and using the right hashtags to be found, your growth will accelerate.
4. An email list. If you haven’t started an email list, you’re leaving money on the table. Full stop.
If you think that email subscriptions are only for those that sell things online, you couldn’t be more wrong (sorry). Think about this from a potential advertiser’s perspective:
Blogger B gets 50,000 unique visitors a month but has no email list to speak of.
Blogger A is far more likely to get a payday from advertising. Why? Because Blogger A can prove that his audience is engaged and wants to receive his content based on his list size and open rates. Think about it: publishing to your blog and social media feeds is passive. Your audience may or may not see it on a given day. But if you have an email list, you will get data to support exactly how many people are consuming your content. All the SEO, guest blogging, and Tweeting in the world can’t prove that for Blogger B.
So what do you need to do? Start, and start growing your email list. Sign up for ConvertKit (my absolute favorite email service provider), plop a sign-up form into your site, and start sending weekly emails full of valuable content. Link them to your blog, link them to your podcasts and videos, link them to some awesome posts you saw from around the internet that week. Give your readers bonus content they can’t find anywhere else, and tell people to sign up on other platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Your wallet (and traffic) will thank you later.
5. Willing to accept money in exchange for your work. If you don’t then you’re reading the wrong blog post. I’m serious. I’ve encountered many a blogger that got a little snobby once they started getting traffic and building an audience — that accepting payment for sponsored posts or advertising space would compromise their integrity or compromise their work. Let me tell you something: you’re doing something right if advertisers or affiliate offers start rolling in. You are the only one that can “cheapen” your work by taking money in exchange for it if you don’t believe in the brand or love the products.
Always think to ADD VALUE to your audience first, and you’ll never go wrong.
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Ways to Make Money From Your Online Blog
These days, bloggers don’t have to submit to being slaves to banner ads or their Amazon Affiliate account as the only ways to make an income. Working with brands is an increasingly popular way to make money, especially if you have a well-trafficked blog or plump email list (see above), and creating your own digital products allows you to create a passive stream of income (make money while you sleep — who wouldn’t want that!?). I’ll go into each style below.
Truth be told I’m not the biggest fan of display advertising, and it’s becoming a dying practice that will make you less money as the months tick on. But in the spirit of giving you all the options, I put it first so we can get it out of the way and move on to the more juicy stuff.
- Banner ads. The banners at at the top and sides of your blog used to be valuable real estate, but now that research shows people don’t even look over there anymore, demand for banner ads have become less common than a double rainbow. If you’re still considering offering these, the ideal would to create the ads in your own style (verses accepting whatever the advertiser hands you), but that practice is usually reserved for large publishing and media companies.
- In-stream ads. You could offer up some real estate in your blog’s content stream in the form of an in-stream ad. It’ll look just like a blog post, but it’s actually an image linking directly to an advertiser.
- Post-page ads. If you don’t like the look of banner ads on the top and sides of your site, consider dropping one into the blog post itself. If you’re doing distribution and outreach right, traffic should be coming to a single post anyway (verses your homepage), so having an ad inside a post is actually more valuable.
Working with brands
I have worked with some major brands in my day (Target, Hilton, Oreo, Neiman Marcus, Nike to name a few), and this method of revenue is very much on the rise for smaller and niche bloggers.
- Sponsored posts or native advertising. In this situation, a brand would pay you to create content on their behalf. Some examples of this might be that they send you a product to review, provide you with goods in exchange for a story or two, or you would produce something that aligns with their brand thematically (think: Peak Design wants a story about planning a night photography shoot). A pro tip here would to be to make sure you review the contract and establish how many rounds of reviews the brand gets before you publish (and they will want to see it before you publish), when payment is due, what would cause them not to pay you, and what exactly you’re required to produce in order to protect yourself. If these elements aren’t in the contract, ask them to be added in before you sign.
- Sponsored social posts. Similar to a sponsored post on your blog, you could offer sponsored posts in your social feeds. Instagram #sponsored posts are so hot right now, especially for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Ambassadorships. Becoming a brand ambassador is cool because you’ll get invited to events, trips, and will usually get some kind of payment for producing content. If you really love a brand, this is a pretty awesome title to hold.
- Sponsored emails. If you’ve built up a meaty email list that has a pretty good open rate (anything over 20% is considered awesome), then you can charge even more than a sponsored post for a sponsored email. How can you charge more? Because you pretty much have a guarantee for how many people will see it based on your list size and open rate. Starting to see why an email list is so important? Word of warning: I wouldn’t overdo these. You want to nurture your list instead of bombarding them with sales pitches, so I’d recommend a 10:1 ratio on sponsored emails (or more). Make sure it’s really worth it and something you REALLY love.
- Blog networks and agencies. Sometimes, you just don’t want to do the heavy lifting to seek out brands, field requests, work out contracts, or negotiate. This is where blog networks and agencies come in. These companies act as the middle man between blogger and brand and make it stupid simple for a blogger to start accepting sponsored posts. Triberr and Blog Meets Brand are two examples of these kinds of networks.
- Press trips. You won’t get any money, but you’ll get to travel on a brand’s dime for a good time. I’ve been to Sedona with Sony for a new camera release, and some of my pro blogger friends have been sent to Amsterdam, Brazil, and France for press trips. Talk about a fun (and free) way to travel the world.
If you love a brand or product like a fat kid loves cake, you probably want to tell everyone about it. Why not get paid for it? That’s what affiliate programs are for. Sign up for affiliate programs (via programs like ShareASale) with brands you’d recommend to your closest friends (not just any product or service, ok?), and drop the custom links into your blog posts or other correspondence. Whenever someone clicks the link and buys, you’ll get a cut of that purchase. Pretty sweet.
You should be a good internet citizen and have a note somewhere on your blog letting your readers know that your site has affiliate links to be completely transparent with your community. We’d recommend in the About section or somewhere on the footer of your site.
There are certain cases where bloggers can parlay their blogging success into a digital product of some kind. This might include an ebook (Tara Gentile is the queen of ebooks and her killer course can teach you how to write your ebook in five days), a course, tutorial, or other digital download. These can be created and hidden behind a paywall (or sold on Amazon) as can’t-miss content for your readers. It’s gotta be juicy, and it’s gotta be worthy of the price.
Coaching, consulting, or membership groups
I know, you’re like — I’m a travel blogger. What the heck would I coach someone on? Here’s the thing: if you’re the best at what you do, people want to learn from you. You could offer a (paid) private Facebook group where you do a weekly Q&A session on how to get the best deals on travel, how to get started in the travel writing space, critiques on essays or photographs, or pretty much anything else you’d consider yourself to be an “expert” on. You could also take on 1:1 coaching to personally help someone get their travel blog off the ground. Way to give back.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make money from your blog that don’t have you slaving away on your keyboard hunting for traffic, or making pennies off of Amazon Affiliate sales. You don’t even have to have a million visits to your site to draw the attention of brands. You do, however, need to think of your blog as a business, have a plan, be consistent, and nurture your email list in order to generate income that’s worthy of a blog-from-anywhere mobile life.
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