*Note this post was written in 2015 so some figures need updating. I’ll get round to writing an updated version soon – I promise.*
‘How do you make a living?’ must be the most often asked question of a travel blogger. And I get it. If I wasn’t one I’d want to know too! It all looks so easy or, in some cases, a little (dare I say it) suspicious. So I thought it was time I opened up on this topic of conversation.
I’ve covered many blogging tips over the last couple of months but this is first time I’ve touched on the golden topic of monetization. So before we begin, let’s start with a few disclaimers.
Firstly, the amounts mentioned in this post are just a guide. Every blogger will charge differently for their services depending on a number of factors such as their reach, influence, expertise and experience. Sometimes I may not be paid a fee at all but will be paid in kind for the work i.e. my travel and expenses were covered or I was given a massive amount of exposure. The fees vary for each and every project depending on the different variables.
Secondly, bear in mind it’s taken me 5 years of blogging graft and 4 years of working in the corporate world of travel and social media to get to this stage. My experience as a social media consultant has helped massively with building my blogging business, and vice versa.
This ties into my third point, which is I make the bulk of my income from consulting, community management and copywriting work that is not directly related to this site (although clients often find me through it and are encouraged to work with me on the basis of what they see here). To keep matters simple I’ve just focused on work directly related to Girl Tweets World in this post.
And finally, these are examples of some projects I’ve been involved in during the last 5 years. They are by no means an indication of what I earn each month. (If only, my friends, if only!)
Right, now all that guff is out of the way – let’s get stuck in.
- Blog Trips (Rate £250 – £500 per day)
Some people find the notion of bloggers being paid for blog trips offensive or baffling so this topic needs a little explanation.
When I’ve been paid for blog trips it’s because there has been a lot of work involved. For example, I might be producing content for the host’s blog, taking over their Facebook page, providing a collection of royalty-free images or using a sponsored hashtag. Depending on what the project involves I will itemise all these services and we’ll come to a flat fee or day rate for the project depending on how and when the content is due.
I’ve also been invited on blog trips (and press trips) where there are no fees involved and I therefore set the expectation of what I will produce in return for the travel offered. (If it happens to be somewhere I really, really want to go or is somewhere I would have paid to go myself anyway.)
Whether paid or not I always ask what is the expectation of me for participating in the trip and make sure all parties are clear about the way I work. I never compromise my right to publish what I please and try to work with the host to make sure I am able to explore a destination as I normally would and can therefore deliver the content I know my readers want to see. The best projects are when I’ve worked with the likes of Tippett PR to create bespoke blog trips (or blogathons!) that are a win-win for all parties.
- Facebook Takeovers (Rate £200 – £300)
As mentioned above, I’ve been hired by tourism boards (such as Tourism Taiwan) and travel companies in the past to takeover their Facebook page for a period of time. This is something that I’ve done both as a one off or as part of a blog trip.
Often when I am offered a blog trip I go back to the sponsor with a list of services they can pick and choose from to build up a package that is both more engaging and far reaching than just producing blog content.
- Co-Host A Twitter Chat (£300)
I’ve co-hosted Twitter chats in the past for the likes of KLM Air France. The fee will depend on how much time I am needed for and whether blog posts will also need to be written in association with the event. I have 16k followers on Twitter at the moment, I’m not sure if those with more followers command a higher fee. (Anyone want to chip in?)
- Create A Twitter Chat (£0 – £600)
I also co-host my own Twitter chat with Monica from The Travel Hack. I’ve been running #TravelBookChat for a number of years and there’s a lovely group of regular followers who join us. Monica recently came on board with me as a co-host and by combining with her followers we now regularly reach over 1 million twitter followers and have 130k page views of the posts between us. We open this post up to sponsors, where relevant, who can tap into this audience, but only when it’s a good fit.
For this month’s chat Penguin have come on board and kindly offered free copies of the book we are reading to participants so this was a great fit. (Find out more about this month’s TravelBookChat here.)
- Sponsored Posts (£300 – £500)
I hate the negative connotation of a sponsored post as there are many ways that you can write them that are both beneficial for the reader and pay the bills! In my case I write everything you see on this site, always have, so I never accept any sponsored guest content. But every now and then a brand might approach me to talk about a particular subject, in the way I usually would, and they pay me to take the time to do this.
For example, I recently wrote this post about New York Shopping Secrets which had been commissioned by Hayes and Jarvis. I shared my New York shopping tips and reviewed their new app. All opinions were mine, the content (I think!) is useful, so the reader wins and client gets coverage. I always disclose who the partner was on the post so no one feels they were getting duped!
More recently brands have been looking for purely social media coverage and may offer a set fee for me to talk about their destination or campaign across different social platforms. I am always careful to make sure I genuinely like/agree with the topic involved and will use my own words or images to create engagement on the subject. I mark these type of campaigns as #sp or #sponsored so everybody is clear.
- Host A Contest (£250 – £500)
I love being able to give free things away to readers so often if a brand approaches me looking for coverage I point them in this direction. I tend to create, host and promote the contest and for this they pay me a management fee.
Sometimes the cost of the prize is deducted from the fee – so the better the prize the less I get as a host but the better it is for readers! I don’t tend to promote contests that are hosted on other sites as I prefer to be able to offer something that is unique to my readership.
- Provide Social Media/Blog Content (£250 – £1000)
This one is often tied into blog trips but is not always. Many of the brands I’ve worked with (in both a blogger and consultant capacity) are always looking for unique content they can share on their own social media channels. This is basically what I do all day so I pitch to them a number of content ideas I can produce for them to use on their own websites and pages as they wish.
- Brand Ambassadorship (£1500 – £2000)
These are the nice, meaty projects where a brand basically wants to be associated with my own. Often there are a number of elements involved – I might be asked to judge a contest (Three mobile), review products, film a video (Visa) or feature in their newsletter (Muji).
The fees for this type of campaign factor in both the coverage and content required as well as the way the brand wants to use my name in association with their own. Sometimes these projects are one off (like the Muji travel campaign last spring) and sometimes they are of an on-going nature where I’ll work with the brand in a number of different capacities over a couple of months.
I believe your personal brand is one of your most valuable assets so I don’t go around hooking up with just anybody. (I was a genuine customer of all brands mentioned above before we discussed partnership.)
- Speaking At Events (£300 – £500)
I used to speak at quite a lot of blogging events in the UK. At first I was terrified but then slowly began to realise that it’s not so hard to just talk about what you love. Sometimes a speaking gig might be unpaid (such as Traverse Events) but your travel and expenses are covered and you get to attend a great event for free.
- Advertising (£25 – £30 per month)
Advertising is (clearly!) not a big earner for me. I prefer to keep my sidebars uncluttered and focused on content so I very rarely allow it. In some circumstances a brand might want to buy a banner ad in association with a review I did for them. For example, I worked with Cathay Pacific on a project where I reviewed a Premium Economy flight for their website and then I hosted a banner ad on my site which linked to that review.
I am a member of the Nuffnang community here in Australia so I host their widget and sometimes this displays ads I’ve approved. I don’t make much money from this but being a member of Nuffnang has other perks like events and campaigns that make it worthwhile joining.
- Affiliate Sales (£10 – £20 per month)
Again, not another big earner for me. Mainly because I suck at it! I often forget to add affiliate links to posts and am aware that I don’t have pages optimised for this type of thing. Some bloggers, for example, have a page of travel resources which link to affiliate companies they recommend and they make a small percent off any sale. I’ve never got around to doing that because the sites I would recommend are so diverse and constantly changing. I am, however, an affiliate for Amazon so if I’ve reviewed a book I include an affiliate link and make a very small (5-6) % per sale.
- Blogger One-on-Ones (£30 per hour)
I started getting approached by bloggers a few years ago who would like an objective assessment of their site and content and advice for improvement so I began offering blogger consulting in person or via Skype for a nominal fee (just to cover my expenses). I really enjoy this type of work and often it reminds me to go back and fix things on my site, which I had overlooked or not improved for some time. A big part of my ‘day job’ is doing social media audits and strategies for companies so this work also helps me with ways to approach that.
- EBook Sales (who knows!)
I finally released my first eBook this week! I know quite a few bloggers who have released eBooks or eProducts as part of their monetization strategy but I was waiting until I had something I could write about with passion and authority before venturing into that arena myself.
After 9 months of research (read: dedicated cake-eating and coffee-drinking) I released the Girl Tweets World Guide To Sydney this week. This wasn’t a money-making endeavour for me, I really wanted to learn about self-publishing and share my love of Sydney at the same time. At the moment I’m out of pocket for the expenses of having it formatted and promoted but it might make some money over time. I’ve published on Amazon Kindle who pay you 70% royalty (after delivery – yes they cheekily charge you to deliver an eBook!) and as I’m an Amazon Associate I am allowed to earn a commission on sales I send through to them from my site.
I’ll be writing a post about my first experience of self-publishing in a few weeks so let me know if you have any questions for then.
So that’s the end of my massive post on this tough topic. I think I’ve covered off all the main monetization threads, although it can and does change every week. Is this pretty much what you imagined a travel blogger does for a living or have I mentioned anything you hadn’t considered?
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Next week I’ll be sharing my tips for pitching to PR and brands along with some great insight from the PR and brands I’ve previously worked with about what they do/don’t like to see in a travel blogger pitch. Sign up via email or bloglovin to make sure you don’t miss it!