Why Travel Blogging is a Lousy Way to Earn Money Online

Travel Blogging

Making a full-time income from a travel blog is a goal of many new bloggers, but is it realistic? More importantly, are there easier and better ways to earn an income to fund a travel lifestyle?

Blogging is a great way to keep a personal diary of your trip and keep family and friends updated, however if your primary goal is to earn a full-time income to fund your travels indefinitely, a travel blog is probably not the way to go.

Making money from a travel blog is definitely possible. On this site, I’ve interviewed many people who have created very successful lifestyles for themselves. However, they are definitely the exception. That’s not to say that you can’t duplicate their business models, however, it is important that you have a business model to begin with.

Rather than starting with the idea, “I want to make money with my blog,” it’s much better to begin with, “I’m going to use my blog to drive traffic and generate sales leads for my business.”

Content marketing (quality, informative, niche targeted articles) is a great way to generate targeted leads and convert those leads to sales. Virtually every business should have a blog, but not every blog is a business.

A Blog is Not a Business

If you’ve been researching blogging or internet marketing, you’ll likely have heard that “a blog is not a business,” but what exactly does that mean?

For many blogging newbies, there is the expectation that you can start writing about whatever you want, then put some Google Adsense on your website and the cash will start pouring in. With opportunities to market affiliate programs, sell ebooks and directly sell advertisements to companies, there will definitely be a way to make money online, right? Unfortunately, the answer is probably “not, really.”

That is precisely what the statement ‘a blog is not a business,” is about. A blog is a fantastic way to generate targeted search engine traffic for a product or service you have to sell. The problem is that most bloggers don’t have anything unique or valuable to sell.

It’s possible to be a general travel site and earn a livable income from advertising, sponsored guest posts and promotional tours, however, you need a sizable audience first. As competition intensifies in every industry, including travel, getting enough eye balls to your site is not a trivial task. It takes a lot of work, and very few will put in the effort over the long haul.

Making Money with Google Adsense

For many travel related search terms, you might only make pennies per click. Some higher value keywords might pay a dollar or more, but those are rare in my experience and are more likely on targeted niche sites where your readers come through organic search traffic.

Let’s consider a best case scenario. Imagine that you managed to build a phenomenally successful blog that gets 10,000 page views per day. (By the way, 10,000 daily page views is a massive amount of traffic for most bloggers.) Assuming a 1% click through rate (CTR) and an average 30 cent per click payout, 10,000 daily page views would generate about $30 per day. $900 per month is a decent amount of money for frugal travelers, but I want to emphasize that you would have to be a top blogger to get that amount of traffic on a consistent basis. It’s not impossible, but it would be a massive amount of work and probably take a couple of years to get to that stage with a full-time effort, and even then you would only be making a part-time income.

The worst part is that every time you make money, you are driving people away from your site. Every click means your readers are going somewhere else, rather than staying on your site.

eBooks

Many bloggers hope to earn an income from selling their own ebooks. If you make $20 profit on an ebook and sell only 50 per month, you could be making an extra $1000 per month. The math sounds good, but reality is rarely so kind.

The problem is that half of all self-published books make less than $500 in total, never mind on a monthly basis. As with anything you are going to sell, a large readership on your blog is a necessity. Even then, most travel related topics have been written about extensively by other bloggers, so the market is very saturated. What are you going to write about? “How to travel the world?” “Teaching English Overseas?” “Overcoming Fears?” “Essential travel gear?”

It is not impossible to make thousands of dollars from a single ebook, but for the vast majority of travel bloggers, it’s very improbable.

Author’s from sites like WanderingEarl.com, FoxNomad.com, NomadMatt.com, Fluentin3Months.com and, of course, ChrisGuillebeau.com have had very successful ebooks. However, even these authors, have multiple sources of income, with the exception of Benny Lewis from Fluentin3Months.com. His single, language learning product has become his sole income source. However, I do think he is unique because of the language learning focus on his site and the large audience he has built over the years.

Affiliate Programs

You can promote and sell products and services from other companies on your blog and make some decent money from it. Your success will largely depend on your total readership and how targeted your market is.

A superstar make money online blogger like Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com makes tens of thousands of dollars from affiliate programs every month, but again he is the exception. He has built a massive audience and promotes products directly related to making money online. In the travel niche, your choice of products and services to promote is more limited and you will still need large numbers of visitors to generate any decent income.

Many travel bloggers promote products by bloggers such as Derek Baron, Chris Guillebeau, Matt Kepnes and Anil Polat. If your site is generating hundreds of thousands of page views every month, you might be able to make several hundreds of dollars through these affiliate sales. Remember, that out of the thousands and thousands of travel blogs out there, only a small fraction will have enough traffic to make any meaningful income.

Advertising

The most profitable way for more established bloggers to make money is through selling guest post advertisements or text links. While this is technically against Google’s policies and can lead to your site being punished in search engines, selling text links is still a very common practice and is difficult for Google to prove.

On this site, I get many inquiries every week about placing a text link on my site in some way or another. Some want it for free, others are willing to pay a one time fee of a couple hundred dollars, while some companies are willing to pay a monthly rate. You could earn more if your site is really popular and has a high page rank.

The problem with these paid links, is that the intermediate companies brokering these links don’t really care about your site or your content. They just want the link as cheaply as possible, so they have outsourced writers that will write a generic post that is of little value to your readers.

Even dealing with emails and negotiating with these companies can be very time consuming, and often not worth the effort. I don’t post those text link posts because I don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of my site and risk losing readership, just to make a few extra hundred dollars per month.

If you are going to go this route, then make it a focus. Create lots of content, build a strong social media presence and market products your readers will care about. Many travel bloggers are pro-active and approach companies directly. This can lead to free gear or hotel stays, sponsored trips and other great opportunities.

Advertising is not going to disappear in the travel industry. Websites that can provide a good return on advertising dollars will get business, but most general travel blogs are not a good vehicle for advertising.

A luxury New York City hotel is not going to get much value from advertising on a backpacker travel blog. At the other extreme, a discount hostel is not going to have the budget to do much advertising on general travel blogs.

In order to make advertising a key income generator on your site, think about it from your advertisers point of view. If a company is going to spend $100 advertising on your site, they need to make more than that back in net-profits. How can you deliver those results?

Specialization is key. Hotels and tour companies in Bali are much more likely to advertise on a Bali focused website. It would be even better to focus on a particular city and create a comprehensive resource for everything a tourist might be interested in there.

 

Stages of Travel Blogging

Planning for Travel

Consider how most travel bloggers start. When planning for long-term travel or to move abroad, most people will do a lot of online research about the destinations they hope to visit, how to book transportation online, where to stay and what to see. With all this time spent reading about the adventures of other bloggers, this is typically where the impetus to start blogging comes from.

At this stage, the novice travel blogger typically has little travel experience so they talk about where they hope to go, the gear they are going to buy and other general information about their preparations. The content is all very aspirational, as they do not have any real experience.

For a personal diary, this information is great. It can be very rewarding to document your thought processes and progress for future reference, however the value to your readers is very limited. At the pre-travel stage, you don’t have the experience or knowledge to solve any real problems that a travel audience would likely have.

Also, a new blog will have limited traffic, so it’s unlikely that you are going to earn much revenue from any source. In fact, virtually all sites will make close to zero in revenues in their first year. You just won’t have the audience or page rank to make money from a general interest travel site.

Starting Travel

Once the new travel blogger begins their journey, a whole new world opens up. Everything is exciting. Everything is new. They want to get all their experiences written on their blog. The type of content that typically gets added includes first experiences with new food, architecture, transportation, sight-seeing destinations, etc.. This country is really clean. That city is really crowded. This bus trip was so uncomfortable. That temple was so beautiful. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Again, that content is great to keep a running diary of experiences and to keep family and friends updated, but how much value is it to a general travel audience? What are you going to sell on your site? What problems are you solving for your readers?

When I go to a travel blog, I generally want information on a specific destination I’m going to. I want to know where to stay and eat, what to see and do, which scams to be on the look out for and what to avoid. Most of all, I want it to be a comprehensive travel guide focused around a specific issue I need answers to. Some of those examples will be:

  • directory of apartments with photos and costs
  • accurate cost of living information
  • museums and art galleries
  • what restaurants offer the best value
  • tour options and prices
  • travel to and from the destination
  • volunteer opportunities in the area
  • online groups or meetups for travelers and expats

If you had a comprehensive site with this type of information, travelers would visit often. Local businesses would see the value in advertising and you might earn commissions for hotels or tour sales.

Unfortunately, a new travel blogger typically doesn’t have enough experience to answer any of these questions in a meaningful way. Also, focusing on a single city or topic is boring to write about over the longer term, so most travel bloggers tend to write about new experiences in different locations.

On the other hand, there is a market for a general travel audience. For every real traveler, there are probably a hundred armchair travelers that will likely never do much traveling and hope to vicariously experience your adventures through your writing. If that is your focus, you’ll have to be a great storyteller.

These readers don’t want to hear about how beautiful the architecture is, how cheap your breakfast was or how the trains are so comfortable. They want insights into your feelings and motivations. They want to read content that makes them laugh or cry. They want to be entertained. The best travel bloggers are those who have extensive travel experience AND can tell a great story. Unfortunately, those bloggers are rare. I admit that I don’t tell stories very well, although it is something I hope to improve.

The problem with focusing on general travel stories, is that you really need a massive audience to earn much income because there is little to sell. You are not going to get targeted organic search traffic, so you’ll have to rely on selling text links and the promotion of mass market products and services. Some bloggers do this very profitably, but I personally get turned off from advertising focused general travel sites.

The Experienced Traveler

After a few years of travelling under their belt, the long-term nomad really understands the day-to-day issues of travelers and how to solve them. They know what information deficiencies there are online and start seeing marketing opportunities.

Veteran travellers know which websites are the most and least helpful. They know the best accommodations, restaurants and wi-fi spots for many cities around the world. They know what sight-seeing destinations are most and least worthy of your time. They know exactly what to pack and how to take care of finances on the road. They have learned how to deal with virtually any problem on the road.

By this time, the experienced traveler will likely have a great deal of blogging experience and will probably have diversified to multiple blogs and/or revenue sources. Better yet, they will have developed specific skills or services to sell to paying customers. These services are typically not related to travel and are more focused on blogging skills like search engine optimization, WordPress development or graphic design. Once you start traveling for a while, you’ll see that the vast majority of digital nomads don’t have a blog at all and instead focus 0n freelancing a particular skill they have or operate some other business.

Know What to Expect

I don’t want to discourage aspiring travel bloggers from starting. There are will always be new ways to make money online, however, competition will also continue to increase, so it is not going to get easier over time.

Having a popular and successful travel blog requires a massive amount of effort. Many of the popular sites like YTravelBlog.com, UncorneredMarket.com, NeverendingVoyage.com, MarriedWithLuggage.com and GlobeTrotterGirls.com are run by couples because it is generally more than a full-time effort for an individual.

Writing posts is only a small fraction of the work involved, you’ll also need to master:

  • Taking, sorting and uploading photographs
  • WordPress development and design
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Online and offline networking
  • Social media – Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest

If you are travelling full-time, it can be very difficult to keep up with all of this work. That is why many long-term travellers will stay in a single location for weeks or months to make time for the business of blogging. Blogging can also get in the way of enjoying your travel. It’s hard to really experience foreign destinations if you are always in a café working on a computer.

It’s somewhat of a catch 22. Earning enough income from blogging requires a full-time effort, yet, the lack of immediate income requires bloggers to do other work to pay the bills, so they don’t have enough time to get their blog popular enough.

What a Travel Blogger Should Do

I’ve read that 95% of blogs are abandoned. That statistic doesn’t surprise me at all. Blogging is a lot of hard work with very little returns. If you calculated the hourly income received from all the hours travel bloggers have put in, they most certainly could find better ways to earn a living.

Freelancing

If your primary goal is to make an income online, I would first look to selling your services online. You’ll have to work by the hour or by project, but the work is reliable and the income is generally immediate. Some examples of these types of services are WordPress development, smart phone app development, search engine optimization services, content writing, graphic design, etc.

Visit a site like oDesk.com or Elance.com to see the types of work that companies are hiring for to get a better idea. What areas do you have expertise in?

It’s best to attract customers and sales leads in your home city before you leave. If you only market your services online, you will be competing with the entire world.

Instead of spending your time blogging with some vague hope of generating advertising revenues or selling ebooks, focus on servicing the needs of  paying clients now.

Niche Websites

Instead of writing a general blog, focus on a keyword focused niche that is going to maximize your chances of ranking highly in search results. If you can’t get on the first page of Google for a profitable search term, you won’t make much money.

Some examples of good niches would be comprehensive city guides, where you could sell advertising for local hotels, short term apartments, tour companies and restaurants. Kirsty Henderson of NerdyNomad.com is an expert on this and also openly publishes her revenues and expenses. She often makes ten thousand dollars a month or more.

Travel as a Business

If you really want to make money in the travel sector, start a real business serving a particular market. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What problems can you solve for a niche?
  • What information or services do tourists want for a particular city?
  • What would attract hotels, tour companies or restaurants to advertise?
  • What information and services would be helpful for longer-term travelers?
  • Is there a product or service for a travel audience that you could develop?
  • What problems do you encounter on your own travels? Is there a business in solving that problem?

TravelFish.org is an excellent example of a travel business. High quality travel guides for South East Asia are something that travelers are willing to pay for. WanderingEarl.com has recently started selling personally guided tours. That is a great example of using a blog to generate interest for a real world service.

I also love the entrepreneurial retreats from TropicalMBA.com and  ProjectGetaway.com. TropicalMBA.com also has a great business with their Dynamite Circle private forum, however, you need to have other successes to be able to attract people to a paid discussion forum.

Some other potentially lucrative travel business opportunities might be:

  • a directory of short-term apartment rentals around the world
  • selling travel gear
  • marketing adventure tours for a fee
  • running your own adventure tours
  • directory of luxury spas around the world with reviews, prices and photos
  • art, music and culture travel guides for cities around the world

Travel Blogging as a Business

Blogging about your adventures can be very personally rewarding and offer great opportunities to connect with other travelers and expats. If you just want to document your experiences, than I highly recommend blogging about any subject you are interested in.

If you are willing to invest hundreds, probably thousands, of hours of time with little return, you can build an audience and start making money, but it is a monumental effort with minimal returns, so make sure you know what you are getting into. Statistically speaking, almost all bloggers will never make any decent return on their time invested. The vast majority will give up long before any substantial success.

If you do decide that you are going to try to make your travel blog your sole source of income, it helps to start with a great story. Chris Guillebeau is travelling to every country in the world. Pat Flynn  made a quarter million dollars per year on only a few hours a day of work. Brandon Pearce‘s hugely profitable Music Teacher’s Helper, allows his family to travel the world, working only a few hours a week. Dan and Ian from TropicalMBA.com built a million dollar business selling real products. Justin and Joe from AdsenseFlippers.com make tens of thousands of dollars a month selling micro-niche websites and they tell the world how they do it for free. Those are all unique stories that attract attention.

After the general blogging advice applies:

  • Get a good blog design that makes your site look professional.
  • Regularly publish search engine optimized content with catchy titles.
  • Write great content that people want to share. Tell meaningful stories. Don’t just document your positive and negative experiences.
  • Include lots of images with properly labeled tags and descriptions.
  • Write dozens of guest posts for popular travel blogs.
  • Spend many hours every week building a social media following on popular sites.
  • Share the content of other travel bloggers ten to one.
  • Comment on the blogs of others in your niche.
  • Network with other travel bloggers online.
  • Attend conferences and meetups with travel bloggers whenever you can.
  • Create a podcast and/or videos to reach a broader audience.

Do all of that on a regular basis and you may likely become a top travel blogger. The reason most bloggers give up is because it’s a lot of work. If you are willing to put in the hours, you can achieve good results. Just don’t expect it to be fast or easy. It definitely is not going to be passive income either.

In my view, it makes much more sense to start a business that solves real problems for people. Sell a real product or freelance your services. That type of business scales and offers the potential for much greater profits. Even the top travel bloggers in the world will have trouble making a six figure salary. That income is much easier to achieve from a well run small business.

Bloggers Mentioned in this Post

(Subscribe to all their sites and follow what they do. They are the experts. Remember that their main travel blog is not their only, or even primary source of income.)

WanderingEarl.com
FoxNomad.com
NomadicMatt.com
Fluentin3Months.com

ChrisGuillebeau.com
SmartPassiveIncome.com
YTravelBlog.com
UncorneredMarket.com
NeverendingVoyage.com

MarriedWithLuggage.com
GlobeTrotterGirls.com
NerdyNomad.com
ProjectGetaway.com
TropicalMBA.com 

PearceonEarth.com

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

55 Responses to Why Travel Blogging is a Lousy Way to Earn Money Online

  1. diamantis says:

    Your post is a reality check and most of your points apply to all the blogs out there.

    I am so sick and tired to hear how easy this make-money-on-line is . So posts like this are extremely useful , because they keep our feet on the ground.

    be healthy and smile !

    • John says:

      Thanks Diamantis,

      I appreciate the comment. I agree there is far too much make money online hype. Blogging and ebooks are pretty terrible ways of earning a living.

  2. Great post John! Thanks so much for including a link to our blog. Making money from your blog requires so much work. You really have to look at ways your blog can help open other doors- that is where the real money comes in, but to get to this point will require a couple of years of hard work, without pay, building your platform

  3. Nice write up. I have chuckled a few times when I met other backpackers during my round-the-world trip who were running out/out of money and were going to start a blog tomorrow. Just to have some fun, I would ask them if they would use WordPress to get a very confused look back from them…

    • John says:

      Hey Dima,

      Long time no talk! Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, there definitely is a misconception that it is easy to make money online. There are far too many make money with your blog or ebook programs that make it sound fast and simple. I guess everyone is looking for quick short cuts, unfortunately, they don’t exist.

  4. Stuart McD says:

    Thanks for the mention. You’ve presented a tonne of practical and realistic advice up top — people should have to read it as a part of the WordPress set-up process 😉

  5. Adam says:

    Making money online definitely isn’t as easy as bloggers would like to lead you to believe. But it is possible. Definitely agree with a lot of your points in here—especially about being a part of a couple to create a successful blog. Certainly not a defining feature but I can only imagine how immensely helpful it would be!

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Adam.

      I agree it definitely isn’t impossible. However, I think most people go about it the wrong way. I would also say that if your primary goal is to make money, blogging isn’t the best choice.

  6. joe says:

    You should’ve kept your school.

    • John says:

      Hey Joe,

      Thanks for reading. We definitely don’t regret selling our school. Our lives are fantastic now, so we have absolutely no complaints.
      I don’t regret blogging either. However that doesn’t mean that blogging is a good or easy way to make money online. If you’re goal is to fund a travel lifestyle, I believe there are much better ways to do it.

  7. Dani says:

    Hi John, great post – super comprehensive and so many great points! I hate that many people think that you can just start a blog and start to make money – and not many people are aware how much work it actually is. You are right that being part of a couple definitely makes it easier (thanks for the shout-out) but on the other hand, we need to make double as much money as a solo blogger needs to make in order to feed two people 🙂 Some months it’s possible to live off advertising money, some months it isn’t – and because it is such an unreliable income, we always make sure to have enough other income streams (freelance work).

    • John says:

      Thanks Dani,

      Yes, a couple definitely needs more money than a solo blogger, but it probably isn’t twice as much.

      Also, I find that with all businesses, blogging including, the more effort you put in up front, the easier it is to make money later. That’s where the extra person helps a lot. My wife handles all the photos and some of our side projects. I couldn’t do it alone.

  8. Greg Goodman says:

    Great post. I love that the lead photo is in Ristr8o!

    As for the content, it’s all so true. I think the best thing for a travel blogger to do is just be passionate about their work, not to worry about how many followers they have, and remind themselves every day that the reason to travel blog is out of love, not out of a desire to make money. Because if we wanted to make money, we never would have left home 🙂

    • John says:

      Greetings Greg,

      Good eye on Ristr8tto. We’ll definitely be spending a lot of time there again starting next month.

      Good point on the leaving home part, as well. Blogging is hugely rewarding, so I hope I don’t discourage anyone from starting. However, motivations have to come from somewhere other than money.

      Hope to see you in Chiang Mai very soon.

  9. Arnuld says:

    Well, in reality its not the blog ‘per se’ that’s making the profits… but the ads that are ingeniously placed within the blog itself.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Arnuld.

      There are many ways to profit from a blog; direct advertising, Google Adsense, affiliate sales, promoting your own services, selling products like ebooks or membership programs, etc.

      The problem in my view, is that many new bloggers think they can write about anything and it will start making them some decent income, quickly. That is far from true.

  10. Nathan says:

    Great site, subscribed. I was just wondering about the half of all ebooks only make $500 total comment. Where did you get that from? That is unbelievable to me. I have been fortunate enough to have had far more success than this with hardly any traffic. I am based out of Chiang Mai right now, I am Canadian also, and in a totally unrelated field to travel. If you think your readers might be interested in hearing about how I have gone about this, I would be happy to discuss it with you. Just drop me an email.

  11. Johnny R says:

    Hi John,

    I think you forgot the number 1 reason why trying to make money with a travel blog is a bad idea: It forces you into having to spend most of your waking hours online trying to work the social media to drive traffic to your site. Really, who wants to spend their whole lives Tweeting like a little bird? Or endlessly liking things and trying to convince others to like you on FB? And the thing about social media is that you have to work harder just to keep from falling behind. It’s sort of the opposite of travel: One travels to experience the real world. But spending most of one’s life in the digital world – you could do that anywhere! Really, who wants to spend all their time on self promotion?

    • John says:

      Hey Johnny,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, social media does take a lot of time. I would also agree that the return on that time invested is often very low and definitely gets in the way of enjoying the travel experience.

      However, I would add a couple caveats. Every business needs to gain the attention of potential customers. It can be done through advertising, press releases, trade shows and countless other marketing tactics, or it can be done through social media. The good part about social media is that it doesn’t cost anything except time and it allows you to build real relationships with peers and customers in a way that advertising can’t. Those real relationships are a competitive advantage that large corporations can’t match.

      For travellers, social media can also be a great way to connect with other travellers and even locals. Building those relationships is important to me and I don’t consider it a waste of time. Although, I put minimum effort into social media.

  12. Ebriel says:

    Wonderful summary, John. What a thorough post!

    What it boils down to is having the motivations for your blog sorted out. This helps you make decisions down the line. I never thought it viable to make money directly from my blog, but considered it an online, frequently updated portfolio.

    • John says:

      Greetings Elizabeth,

      Long time, no talk.

      It is possible to make money with a blog, but income has to be a focus. The content has to be targeted to a niche that you can monetize. Just writing what you feel like, doesn’t cut it. In your case, a blog to update your portfolio is essential. That is the perfect reason to blog. (Although your site wasn’t loading for me.)

      All the best!

  13. Phenomenally thorough John! You get a Google+ 1 from me for sure!

    It’s funny you should mention the 10,000 pageviews a day mark. I finally got up to that level this past summer of 2012 and it was great. CPC ad revenue was coming in, and your math is pretty spot on about $900-$1,000 a month. Just months before the summer and before my eBook on How To Engineer Your Layoff, my traffic was much lower.

    So, another benefit of writing/creating your own product is probably increased traffic as it gets sold and pirated around the web!

    I do wonder a lot about text link ads nowadays. Traffic is key, and people don’t want to mess around!

    Sam

  14. Tara says:

    John, I am a brand new travel blogger with a niche-ecotourism and birding. I have been Googling and researching for the last several days on how to earn money by blogging. I found this article linked on another blog and it has been a real eye-opener. I am not expecting to get rich, would be nice to cover the hosting bills! Thanks for writing this!

    • John says:

      Hi Tara,

      Making money from a generic travel blog can be very difficult. There are much smarter ways earn an income online. Few, if any, travel focused bloggers are getting rich. Most just get by, but enjoy the lifestyle. If your goal is to make money, I would suggest focusing on where people spend money. Ecotourism, might be a good choice. Find a way to connect travellers with tours and you could have a good business on your hand. Blogging itself is not a business.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    So happy to have found your site and LOVE this good dose of reality. I am a travel blogger and do make an income from my blog, but I can say that it’s hard to do ( you need to rely on other bloggers to refer you to their connections) and it’s hit or miss ( some months are great, most are meh). Instead we decided to basically do what you suggested in this post: branch out. We got serious about starting a business, and feel that that will be much more stable for us.

    • John says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s not impossible to make money from a blog, but I think that most bloggers will agree that the return on time invested is very low and that there are better ways to earn income online. However, a blog is a great way to generate leads for a real business. A blog in itself is very rarely a business, unless your willing to turn it into the equivalent of an online shopping channel.

      It’s great to hear that you started a business. I give that advice to most new bloggers, but the dream of being a famous blogging personality is too much of a draw for most. It’s only after a few months of no income that they start to realize for themselves. 🙂

  16. Kris says:

    Thanks so much for your tips. I recently started a travel blog, and my niche is volunteer travel. I’ve traveled and lived abroad for almost 10 years, but since volunteer travel is something new to me, I’ll spend time understanding the needs of my audience. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to leverage my living abroad experience in this market. You provided some very questions for me to think about, and answer. Keep up the great work!

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Kris. Good luck with your site. Blogging can be very rewarding, but it’s tough to make a living at it. Make sure you have a good income source as well.

  17. Zafer says:

    Hello John,
    I am glad that I have met your article. It is a great and insightful article indeed.
    I have launched a travel blog in Turkish language 4 months ago and I can already say that blogging is a really hard work.

  18. It’s easy to set up a blog, but it is more difficult to attract visitors.

    I’m looking for a way to travel the world kitesurfing. I set up a few sites about kitesurfing, but I’m having anough visitors, yet.

    • John says:

      Hi Marco,
      Yes, attracting visitors is much more difficult than setting up a blog. Most people miss the most important step and that is what they are selling. If you are not selling anything, you don’t have a business.

  19. Wow, I wish I had read this when I was just starting out! This comprehensive advice should be required reading for all bloggers starting out. I don’t make much money from my blog but it did get me a job as a copy editor for another major website, so I can’t really complain!

  20. […] Set Citizen spells out why travel blogging is a lousy way to earn money online, which is more motivational than that title might suggest, and interviews successful bloggers who […]

  21. MD Online says:

    This is a needed reality check. If you go into blogging hoping to leave your job, without a system and planning you need to think again.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment. I definitely agree!

      Blogging can be a good way to drive organic search traffic and it can also be very personally rewarding, but it’s definitely not an easy path to riches. The vast majority of bloggers quit well within the first year.

  22. Pascal says:

    I applaud you for this post John!
    There are lots of people wondering how they can make some money online to finance their travels and I see this advice all the time: “Just start a blog”.

    Now there are certainly bloggers who are doing well for themselves but I think we really have to acknowledge that MOST BLOGS FAIL and even the blogs that are successfull, most of them dont make much money.

    Its really not as simple as starting a blog and slapping some adsense banners and affiliate links on it. And believe me I tried!

    I love the realistic alternatives you present in this post. Im making money myself by online freelancing and think there should be more talk about this instead of blogging as its a great way to make money fast (Instead of blogging for months and hoping one day your blog might become profitable).

    I would like to add the option of telecommuting to your choices, which is a GREAT way to get a stable online income. If you have a job where you sit in front of the computer all day anyway, you might as well talk your boss into letting you work online.

    It worked for me and it will certainly work for others too.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Pascal!

      Yes, telecommuting or remote working is a great way to ease into a travel lifestyle. Employers seem to be getting more flexible as long as the work gets done, however, it doesn’t seem to be very widespread yet. Hopefully, remote working will continue to become more acceptable.

      • Pascal says:

        That is true I got lucky as I work in a young startup and my bosses were very understanding. I believe it could be done in other companies too though. I actually got the idea from Tim Ferris 4 Hour Workweek and he has some techniques to convince your employer to let you work from home.

        In my case it was as simple as asking haha.

  23. Aaron says:

    I was listening to one of pat flynn’s podcasts, he had a guest in that dropped a pretty good zinger- it was something like “there IS such a thing as getting rich quick but there ISN’T such a thing as get rich easy”

    His 100+ podcasts is just the tip of the iceberg for how much effort you need to put in before you start to make money. Like anything, the most important thing is that you enjoy it.

    • John says:

      Thanks Aaron. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

      There definitely are no simple shortcuts to riches and fame. I don’t think there is a path to ‘quick’ riches either. 100+ podcasts doesn’t sound so quick. 🙂

      However, I do agree that we live in a world of abundant opportunities. It’s definitely possible to make money online, but I don’t think travel blogging is a particularly good way.

      • Aaron says:

        True, I think the travel blogging market is well and truly saturated. You’ll see that most people that do make money are making money from other people who wish to make money travel blogging, if you get my drift.
        Most successful bloggers have ebooks or travel companies or run seminars. There’s no money in it but there’s money in trying to get people to believe there’s money in it…

  24. Thanks this is really useful, I think the blogsphere is very saturated so I’m excited to see how bloggers evolve to deal with this.

  25. Craig says:

    Wow what an incredibly in depth article. It’s refreshing to hear the actual truth about travel blogging instead of everyone blowing smoke up your butt about how easy it is (and usually trying to get you to buy their blogging product). I have to agree, it is not easy, it is a full time job and the profits are minimal.

  26. Mark says:

    Find myself returning to this article again John. I wanted to cross reference with how things are changing for travel vloggers on youtube, as advertising determines more and more what is promoted http://www.overlander.tv/how-to-set-up-a-successful-youtube-channel/

    • John says:

      Hi Mark,

      Video is interesting. There are a few vloggers that seem to be doing well on YouTube, including yourself.

      From what I see, vlogging is very similar to blogging. There is money to be made if you work really hard and publish a lot of ongoing content over the long haul.

      It has to be something you love because there’s not much money in the early years and even then, the income relative to the time invested is usually not that great.

      From my own experiences and what I’ve seen from others, I think that time would generate much higher returns, faster if it were spent building a business that solves a real problem for a paying customer.

      What do you think Mark? Do you do all your video work because you love it or because it’s an easy way to make money? 🙂

  27. Mike says:

    Hi there,

    Just found this article, thanks for posting this. I think the advice here is applicable to any type of blog, not just travel. The internet is crowded and the days of crummy adsense sites are behind us.

    It is only the top few in any niche that are going to be successful. It takes a lot of planning, investment and a huge time commitment to make a blog a long-term success and frankly, few have what it takes.

  28. Nee says:

    Ristr8tto.. I miss their coffee. Definitely one of the best I’ve tried and the very reason for me to return to Chiang Mai.

  29. Amen. And that’s coming from someone who started a new travel blog this month 😉
    However, I do have over 15 years of experience in the field of online publishing, and I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I have a fairly successful local traveling blog (in Hebrew) so I can also attest to the difficulty of keeping a quality blog up to date on the road. We’ll see how this new venture goes, hopefully my angle is just different enough to make my blog interesting for readers. I don’t expect *any* revenue for at least a year and there’s no way I would rely on a travel blog as a way to fund traveling.

  30. Man, though the post is long i read it completely without getting distracted. Goood piece of writing, and really helpful for new bloggers like me.
    Thanks John

  31. Trish says:

    Thank you – was very informative and helpful for a newbie blogger

  32. Karin says:

    This is a helpful article! I just started my own travel blog with the theme of horseback riding adventures around the world (traveling on horseback)I’m not expecting to make money on it, but if I do I will be lucky to earn a little pocket change, but even that will take a long time. If it were that easy to make money starting a blog, then EVERYBODY would be doing it. I already have two income sources- my office job and my vacation rental business. Of course a 3rd income source is useful but I’m not getting my hopes up, however I enjoy writing about my travel adventures!

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