It’s actually funny how often I am asked whether and how I make money. Apparently, a lot of people have the same question: how do bloggers get paid. Personally, I can get so annoyed when I get questions such as “are you working at the moment?”, “is it possible to make money as a blogger?” (seconds after we have established that this is, in fact, my job), and “are you going to get a job?”. In the same week as I was interviewed and featured in two local newspapers in Norway (see my whole press page here), I was asked twice whether I was currently working.. So it seems it’s quite challenging to understand how bloggers make money and get paid.
Side note: read my friend Taylor’s hilarious open letter to people asking if she’s going to get a real job.
When I get these questions, I tend to get quite annoyed. A friend has pointed out (again and again) that I shouldn’t get annoyed, as these questions don’t stem from people wanting to offend, but genuine curiosity. So, I decided it was time to write this post for anyone curious about how I can make a living from travel blogging. Hopefully, this will answer the whole “how do bloggers get paid” question once and for all.
Of course, 2020 has changed how bloggers get paid in many ways, with lots of bloggers looking to new outlets and income streams. Some have doubled down on making digital courses, whilst others have started using Patreon and other membership-style ways to connect with their audiences and still make money. With Patreon, valued followers pay a fee each month in exchange for exclusive content from the blogger (and even direct contact with them in the form of private Instagram lives and Zoom sessions). I have not written about this in detail below, as it is not something I have started with myself, but thought I’d mention it.
How do bloggers get paid?
Let me start by telling you the first thing you need to know. Bloggers do not get paid once a month like with normal jobs, and we definitely do not get paid in just one specific way. Most bloggers have at least 5 income streams, and full-time bloggers can have as much as 20 or more! I’ll let that sink in a little.
Several income streams is a must for bloggers who do this full time, and it is the best way to ensure job (and income) safety. If one of your income streams fail, you’ll have a handful of others to focus on, and your business won’t take a huge hit from it. Below, I break down some common income streams for bloggers, that just happen to be my biggest ones.
Side note: if you are curious as to what life is like for a full-time blogger, how about reading my monthly recaps?
Sponsored content (blog and social media)
This could easily be split into two sections, one for sponsored blog posts and one for sponsored social media. But, since the gist of it is the same, I thought I’d put them both together. Basically, brands look for bloggers that fit their values and whose audience may be interested in their products and services. When they have found a great fit, they can team up with said blogger for a sponsored post, and/or sponsored posts on social media.
What is a sponsored post? It’s literally when a brand pays you actual money to write about their product or service. Whether it’s a review, or a how-to guide, the gist of the post is still sponsored. This should be made clear by a marking of “sponsored” at the top of the post (or in some cases, “in collaboration with”).
Most bloggers will have a rate kit where they specify how much they charge for a sponsored blog post or a sponsored post on Instagram, for example. From there, the negotiations begin, and it is not uncommon to give a package price to a brand who wants more than one post from you (often called a “campaign”).
If you want to know how much to charge for sponsored Instagram posts, you’ll want to have a look at my Influencer Magic Kit.
Here’s an example of a sponsored Instagram post I did a while back, with a brand I absolutely love; PADI.
This is one of my favourites, but also not my strongest suit. Affiliate links can be a tough cookie to break, but those that do it well can make thousands of dollars (yep, thousands) from it. Basically, an affiliate link is a special type of link that will allow the company you link to (such as Amazon or Booking.com) to track where the customer came from. If I share a link to my favourite hotel and someone chooses to book it after clicking my link to get to the booking page, Booking.com will pay me a commission for driving that sale.
This doesn’t cost the customer/buyer anything at all, and so it is a great way to support your favourite bloggers! So, whenever you see a tour, hotel, or other links from my blog (or someone else’s), book it using their link! It means the world. Alternatively, if you know you’ll be looking for a hotel in that area later on, bookmark it and revisit when you are ready to book. Again, this doesn’t cost you a dime.
My biggest affiliate earners are Booking.com, GetYourGuide (for tours) and Amazon (for everything, mainly travel gadgets). If you are planning on booking a hotel, tour or need something new soon; please use those links (they are affiliates).
Alternatively, here are some of my favourite blogging tools (all affiliate links) that I recommend you sign up to if you are planning on starting a travel blog (if you are, this guide takes you through choosing the best travel blog name).
Blogging tools you need (in order):
- ConvertKit: seriously, my biggest regret in blogging is not signing up to ConvertKit right away. I didn’t want to spend too much money when I started (it’s $29 a month), but I soon learned that in order to start making money, I had to invest in my blog. This should be your first investment (after hosting and your domain, of course). My link gives you a free trial to see if it’s for you (hint: it is).
- BlueHost: here’s that hosting and domain I mentioned. Use that link to get some $$$ off.
- Tailwind: once you get started with Pinterest (and realise how important it is to drive traffic to your blog), Tailwind will help you automate that. It’s the only service of its kind that is 100% affiliated with and approved by Pinterest.
- MeetEdgar: my go-to for scheduling social media (seriously, nobody has time to post 10 times a day to 3 different channels, every day of the year. A good scheduler is the way to go.
Once you get a bit of traction and some traffic, you can (and should) join an Ad Program. These programs put ads around your site, and you earn money based on the number of people who see those ads. So, know that you support your blogger friends simply by clicking onto their blog posts and reading their posts. I know bloggers who earn over $5000 a month from ads, and this is simply a result of producing kick-ass, high-quality content making people visit their blog to read again and again.
The two most common programs are Ezoic and Mediavine. The latter requires 50’000 sessions a month to join (previously it was 25’000, but they changed this in 2020), so I definitely recommend newer bloggers apply to join Ezoic as soon as they can. Ezoic requires only 10’000 sessions a month, but they have been known to accept bloggers with 6’000 monthly sessions too. Apply to join Ezoic here!
Paid press trips
Getting free trips is one of the absolute best perks of being a travel blogger (in addition to the whole “having my dream job” thing). But often these trips are not only free, they are also paid. In short, bloggers can charge a day rate (or a total retainer) for the trip, which covers all the work that goes into it. On a press trip, you are constantly present, posting on stories and social media live throughout the day, and always thinking about content and what photos/articles you can get out of it. Not all trips are paid, and many destinations don’t have a budget to pay bloggers in addition to providing a free trip, but it is becoming more common.
Personally, I find it to be very fair, as when you are on a press trip you don’t have time to focus on any other work (or income stream). So, if all your income streams depend on you producing content (such as freelance writing, for example), taking a free trip could mean days of revenue lost. But, when you are paid, you can justify giving 120% of your energy and focus to the destination in question.
Of course, when it comes to how bloggers are paid, going on amazing trips and getting money for it is one of the best income streams there is.
Freelance writing is quite common amongst bloggers, as we all have quite a lot of experience in writing. It might not be a source of income deriving directly from blogging, but at the same time, I wouldn’t have been able to start freelance writing if it wasn’t for my blog and the experience it gave me. Many bloggers take freelance writing gigs throughout their careers, and it is a great way to get paid.
In addition to writing freelance (for brands such as PADI, which is completely separate from the sponsored post I shared above), I am lucky enough to speak two languages fluently. So; I can not only write in both Norwegian and English, but I also offer freelance translation services. If you are a travel blogger, make sure you offer up your (ever-improving) writing skills as a service!
Selling digital products
Many bloggers offer digital products such as eBooks, courses and PDF downloads for their readers. Personally, I have created a bunch of custom-made Norway itineraries for my readers, as I get so many questions from travellers planning a trip to Norway. This is not a huge source of income (my itineraries are only $2.99), but it’s a great way to provide my readers with added value, whilst they get a chance to support me at the same time. Some bloggers sell eBooks on learning a language (such as Michele’s Italian in 8 Hours eBook), and others sell courses of different kinds. There are plenty of ways to create and sell digital products, and every blogger could potentially offer something different.
So, how do bloggers get paid?
Now you should have gotten a bit of an overview of how bloggers get paid and how the whole industry works. Of course, these are just a few income streams, but they are my biggest ones. As mentioned, it is not uncommon for bloggers to have 20 different income streams, and most will have over 10. So, the next time you meet a blogger, you may not have to ask them how they make money or get paid. I hope you found this post a little insightful, and that you enjoy learning about the ins and outs of travel blogging!
If you want to read more, head this way to see what some full-time travel bloggers wish they knew before they quit their job!