What does it really take to become a successful travel blogger generating an income? By Income I mean enough money for the basic living expenses: rent, bills, food on the table and more travel. Some people actually do that, which makes it even more tempting to make it as a successful blogger. The longer I am in the travel blogging field, the more I realise how difficult it really is. I have been a travel blogger seriously since 2015 and I am still not living off my blog. I did however get very rewarding opportunities that I wouldn't have if it wasn't for travel blogging, such as, the collaboration with Skyscanner and Philadelphia Arabia (yup the cheese company). I also got to work with small, local business in the countries I travelled to. These perks are very encouraging and keep me going. However, it is still really difficult to make a consistent income to fully support myself. Travel blogging in general is very difficult and have many sides to it that are not apparent to most people who are not blogging themselves.
In this post, I want to tell you about the reality of travel blogging.
There are two parts to this: the visible part that you can see on this blog and the invisible part that you probably don't know much about unless you blog professionally yourself. Don't get me wrong, this post is not a rant about travel blogging, it's about the reality of travel blogging that people might not fully be aware of. In fact, I myself as a travel blogger was not aware of all these points and considerations until I made the decision that I want my blog to generate an income! I thought it was just a matter of going on a trip and writing about it, but it's much bigger than that.
Part One: Visible Blogging Work
The visible side of travel blogging is what we get envied for. People see this side: a blogger on a trip, laughing in their photos, exploring gorgeous destinations and having lots of fun. This is true. This happens. This is the whole point of this new field that emerged in the past ten years. There are three main visible parts in a blogger's life: their fun trip, the blog post they have written and all the social media sharing.
Going on a Trip
The best part about being a travel blogger is going on a trip! After going on a few international trips and living abroad for years, I decided to blog about my travels to share stories, advice and inspire. Exploring the world is truly magical and my only regret is not travelling enough previously and not taking all travel chances I had. Being away "on holiday" is what people notice the most and that's the most visible.
Writing a Post
This is what people expect from you as a travel blogger and rightly so. This is also what people get to see. This written documentation is the evidence. The spoken writing style of my blog make people think that it is very easily done.
Promoting on Social Media
It feels like this is the only thing people see from travel bloggers. The pretty photos we post on Facebook and Instagram. Some bloggers actually make their income by being visual ambassadors for companies, but that's only a very small percentage of travel bloggers.
Part Two: Invisible Blogging Work
This is the part that most people are not aware of. The part that really exhusts me. This is why I am busy all the time and why I stay home when I am not travelling. When I tell people that I have a lot of work to do, they are always puzzled and I get comments like: "what do you mean? Didn't you just write about your last trip?"
Take a look at my humble Travel Blogging Posts Checklist to see what I mean by all the invisable blogging work. All the details are below the photo!
Emailing companies is the first thing I do while I am planning a trip. As a full time student and a part time blogger/vlogger, the finances are usually very limited. So, I contact companies, accommodations and tour operators in the destination I intend to visit to provide them with services and marketing options. This takes a lot of prior planning and can be soul sucking! I don't do it as much now because it requires a huge amount of work and sometimes all of that work is not appreciated. It also turns the holiday into a work venture because you will be required to record everything, promote it on social media instantly and later on and photograph everything. It gets really intense and I end up with only a little time for myself. This is also dependent on the company. Sometimes they are such a joy to work with, but other times they get too much.
Documenting The Trip
This could be part of the visible part of blogging because people see some of the documentation on social media. For example, I usually post one or two photos on instagram daily during my trip with some highlights and a location. Off the social, I document everything there is to know about that location and place because when I write about it later I want to have every possible info to help my readers. This is basically travel journalism and since this was not what I studied in university (I studied/studying design hence the Designer Esra name), I have to really prove myself even more.
Photos are a huge part of blogging. They are just more enticing. Imagine a post with photos verses one without. Personally I am put off by websites that hardly have any pictures. I like to see the place I am going to! I use the photos I take in the cover for the post, in the content and on social media.
I usually take lots of photos to edit after every trip! Let me give you an example, on my two-week trip to Iran, I took over five thousand photos! I am not even exaggerating. Editing all of them was not an easy task. I ended up reducing that number to 100 because my blog would have exploded if I uploaded all of the photos I took. That 100 was divided on various travel posts though.
Ps. I use Adobe Lightroom CC to edit all my video. Check out their packages.
I also do vlogs, which means double the work! I don't make it easy for myself now do I? Editing video can be a lot of fun, but it is the longest process ever especially that I am teaching myself as I go along! I can easily spend 16hours on a 4minute video. Shocking, but 100% true! I use Adobe Premier Pro, which is really helpful. I love Adobe products because I use them all the time for my design work, so trying the Premier Pro was an good transition. I watch a lot of Youtube videos to help me figure out the settings and edits. I feel like I am improving slowly. I think even if you go to film school, you will take a while to get the hang of it and develop your style.
Ps1. I use Adobe Premiere Pro CC to edit all my video. Check out their packages.
Ps2. If you are interested in becoming a travel vlogger, you might find the how to become a travel vlogger online course useful. It is run by two of my favourite travel Youtuber: Hey Nadine and Kristin Sarah. I would only recommend the course for beginners. If you have previous video experience and you have done so much research then you would have most likely already come across most of the content.
Creating Social Media Content
With every blog I write, I have to have at least one pin-able photo (like the one at the start of this post), which means creating something like a poster that has an attractive photo related to the subject plus a written title for Pinterest, which is considered a really good visual search engine. I use Canva for that. It's a free website that requires signing up. It's really good because they have the exact sizes for everything and it's super easy to use. Alternatively you can use Photoshop or Illustrator.
There are also the other social media outlets like twitter, instagram and Facebook. Each is slightly different, which means creating something for each is not the same. Not to mention all the engagement you have to do with others to notice you as well!
Blog post Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Now that I have followed the list above and prepared everything: the information, the photos, the poster and the video in some cases, I am ready to write the post. For years I have been writing useful travel advice posts with high quality photos, but I have only realised recently that my website traffic is so low! I thought that was because I was still new to the game, but it turns out, my blog lacked good keywords that optimise search engines! I even did a little test for a post I wrote about clothing in Iran. The previous title was "Outfits I wore in Iran" and had zero search. Literally, no one looked up that term. So, I spent three hours revamping that post using the suggested and searched terms. I changed it to "Iran Women's Clothing + What to wear when visiting Iran" and that is preforming much better. I find the SEO to be the hardest thing about blogging. SEO is crucial for travel blogs and anything written online. This is basically what makes strangers on the internet find you! Otherwise your blog will only be visited by family and friends forever.
The tool I currently use to help me find searched-for keywords is called Key Search and I pay for it monthly. It is kind of easy compared to other tools, but learning it is still hard and needs lots of focus! Here's a very useful blog post from Digital Nomad Wannabe that tell you about everything you need to know when it comes to Keywords.
Adding Affiliate links
One of the way to make an income from blogging is to share affiliate links meaning links to products or services that you endorse resulting in a very small percentage. For example, I am an affiliate to a number of companies like Amazon, Adobe, ShopStyle and a few others. Although, I want people to use my links so I make that tiny percentage, I am always aware of what I am telling people. I am very honest in my reviews and opinions. When I usually hate something I don't even mention it on my website unless I am warning people against it. So, after I write my post or during writing, I find ways to add these links in a "natural way".
An extra step must be considered if adding affiliate links: the nofollow link. Again something I only recently learnt about and it's causing me a lot of pain to go back to all my previous posts to fix. There are many tips about this subject, so a quick search online will tell you all you need to know. This is very important otherwise Google gets annoyed with me and my site gets blocked.
Ps1. If you want add a nofollow link on SquareSpace (the platform I use for this website), then use the markdown block and this: <a href="the affiliate link" rel="nofollow">Name/Sponsor/title </a>
Ps2. To avoid adding nofollow links on SquareSpace, use the Amazon block instead, but make sure you enter your Amazon ID in the external links in the settings, so you can get the rewards.
I also add Google AdSense inside the posts and other types of affiliates in the side bar and within posts in the hopes of generating an income. The money I made so far using every possible affiliate is below $25 -before you start thinking I am making a crazy amount of cash-.
Working really hard and getting such a little financial return is not too fun and sometimes very discouraging. I have to remind myself that I am blogging to share my tips and routes rather than to make money. Although, some money is always nice because we need it to stay alive!
Sharing on the web
After following all the checklist above, you now have some content. As Sharon says (the lady behind Digital Nomad Wannabe) says: Content is king, but market is queen. So, marketing the post is a MUST! It's not as simple as tweeting a link or posting it on Facebook and Instagram, but this also means finding Facebook groups and communities that care about your content or want to exchange shares. For example, I am part of Blogtacular and everyone shares a new blog post every Monday. I am also part of Female Travel Bloggers and participate in their #BlogPostSaturday. These are the two specific FB groups designed for bloggers that I use. I am also part of three other female travel groups -that are not for bloggers- for any female traveller. I frequently check them and respond to other members who are looking for advice and posts about certain destinations such as Muslimahs Who Travel, Girls vs Globe and Girls Love Travel.
Why am I still a travel blogger even with all of these difficulties?
The short answer is I really enjoy all the aspects of travel blogging and the travel blogging community and TRAVELLING!
Yes some parts can be tedious and difficult, but I don't mind doing them as long as I see the result and impact of that. Every time I get a positive comment from a fellow female traveller who was inspired, I get a kick of happiness and a sense of purpose. I love it more when people use my practical tips and find them really helpful! I find travel blogging rewarding and enjoyable.
Useful resources to make your blogging journey easier:
- Digital Nomad Wannabe
This website and Facebook group have been really helpful
- Video Influencers
I have learnt so much from this Youtube channel. Their advice and useful tip are wonderful not to mention FREE!
They really helped me and started me on the right path of blogging.
Another amazing resource is other bloggers. Make sure you go to blogging events and make blogging friends. I learnt so much from my friends plus they make blogging an even more fun field to work in!
Over to you: Are you a travel blogger? What are the hardest things you face while blogging? Do you have any tips to make the process easier? Even if you aren't a travel blogger, feel free to leave some feedback in the comments below!
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to make posts like this. Thank you for the support!