“Money money money in a rich man’s world” – Abba
Working Wednesdays today touches on some of the ways I have earned money and products in the last few years which can hopefully get some of you thinking outside the box. Anyone that thinks travel blogging is just a hobby or just a few people making money from sponsored posts is very much mistaken. Travel is big business and travel blogs are more real than any any travel agent or tour websites (who let’s be honest are just trying to sell you holidays). The coffee market in the world is making millions of dollars every day but it’s a small market compared with travel, so just think how much the travel market must be making. So get in on the act and start a REAL travel blog from your REAL travel lifestyle and work hard and you’ll be earning off your own back and you’ll not have work for anyone else again.
“Money for nothing, chicks for free” – Mark Knopfler
Since December 2012 I have been earning as a professional travel blogger all through the platform that dontstopliving.net provided me with. I have touched on my online earnings before a few times on my tips on becoming a professional travel blogger and how to travel for 12 years, here I’ll go through what are probably my top 10 earnings currently. Work hard and you will see the rewards, as with anything in life.
“Money, that’s what I want” – The Beatles
It should be noted that I run a total of 15 websites now and work for a few online travel companies as a writer and a tour designer. I’m also a sports writer and I run a local community website. Some of my extra websites are in the sports, lifestyle and local community niche so my earnings are an accumulation of these websites on top of the extra work I do as an author, writer, affiliate marketer and tour designer for apps. I’m a busy person, but I’m also almost always on the move so I get to see the world as I work. All earnings listed are in US Dollars and are more or less accurate up until August 2015.
“Put yer money where yer mouth is” – Noel Gallagher
1. Direct Advertising
Direct advertising is blatant and the most sought after type of advertising. You might see me from time to time that I’m promoting a post extra hard on Facebook and Twitter as well as this website – direct advertising gets a lot of promotion including a full post normally. This is direct advertising where companies have paid me for an advertising campaign. I normally agree a fee and exactly what promotion I will give them. It might be blatant to other bloggers or marketers but to my readers may not be so blatant. Standing at the bus stop you see a Coca Cola advert. Reading a travel blog you see an Aeroplane company advert. Subliminal message.
Some of these adverts are in posts and sidebar/footer adverts. However I hate websites that have too many adverts and if your website starts off with an annoying “pop up” then I click “x” and never visit the site again. Goodnight Irene to you. So be sure not to overdo the advertising as readers are quickly turned off. I personally contact over 300 companies per week asking if they need advertising – you might remember that I outsource a lot of my work so it doesn’t consume much time, in fact sometimes I don’t even work on it at all but the work gets done.
I’ve built up a list of over 5,000 advertising and business contacts down the years and yes I sometimes thank my time working in Public Relations for that as media lists were my forte back in the days when I was a London burn out boy without a backpack. Also – these contacts are not solely in the travel market. I branch out a lot. I don’t have limits. Remember – there is big money in online gambling, alcohol and sports too.
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $877
2. Affiliate Marketing
I basically signed up to about 40 or 50 different affiliate schemes. And while signing up to a few will not change your life or increase your bank balance, over a period of time, the money totals up. Amazon and Agoda are the two obvious ones you’ll see me promote. If you click on either of these links and book a hotel or buy a book, then I get some of the earnings from it. I wish these companies would pay out more as even if someone doesn’t buy the book, the company are getting free advertising on countless sites. But Amazon is the leader in its field, so I stick with it. Agoda try to deny sales so stay vigilant and make sure you tell your friends and family to buy things through your sites to test they are paying you correctly.
“I’ve got £87 million in the bank and a Rolls Royce. Am I happy with that? No, I want more. ” – Noel Gallagher
Book Jonny’s favourite Hotel on Agoda The Lady Hamilton
Buy Jonny’s favourite digital nomad book The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich
But don’t avoid your own travel blog niche – sell books relevant to your readers, I normally focus on Solitudinal Spheres and Books relating to my personal journey.
Minimum earned per month – $22.50
Maximum earned per month – $180
3. Sponsored Posts
Sponsored posts are much less blatant than direct advertising and they are not easy to spot on my site as I write once a day, sometimes it is sponsored, sometimes it is not. I don’t over promote them and in most instances the companies just want the post to be live on my sites so I won’t even Tweet or Facebook them. I’m approached daily by companies wanting sponsored posts and I’m the yes man. I rarely say no. I think it’s rude and arrogant to ignore people so I try and reply to every e-mail I get. Some arrogant bloggers take great superiority by refusing to reply to e-mails as they think they’re above all that. Same goes for “Gordon Guru Gods“. Shame on them. Be the yes man and you’ll open up more doors for yourself.
These days I am not only running travel websites. I have a total of 15 sites, including sites/blogs on fishing, football and aviation. I keep most of these sites separate from my main travel blog and most do not know I run these sites, but I run them, I get my freelancers to post articles on them and I make money on them.
* My main tip about sponsored posts is to agree a fee per year as that way you are not stuck with unwanted posts or links forever, or if you are, at least they are paying for it regularly.
Minimum earned per month – $65 (my first ever payment)
Maximum earned per month – $2,850 ** (I hope to smash $10,000 on this some month)
** This is quite a low figure as I have met travel bloggers earning in the tens of thousands on Sponsored Posts, but sometimes their posts are easy to spot as sponsored and not always relevant to their niches. It’s a fine line between selling out your market and making a sh*tload of cash and no doubt, I could have earned more than this if I had stopped typing up real travel stories every day. In fact somedays I think just give me the money and f*ck being a real travel blogger but passion rises above money. I’d rather backpack through Gibraltar on my own money than have someone pay me to write about pretending to backpack through Gibraltar.
4. Designing and Writing Content for Apps
I have worked on about three or four apps now, all for Smart Phones. The companies paid me for my contribution each time for a set period and that was that. This is slow contract work but I’ve earned over $1,500 the last few years doing it and I’m always on the Look out for new Apps. I e-mail develops to check for work opportunities. You can see my biggest contributions on the VadoVia app – please download it – it’s a FREE app but also on Plansify, GPS MyCity and Trivago! The biggest irony is that until this year I didn’t know how to use a SmartPhone (and I still don’t like them).
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $600
5. Working as a Travel Adviser
People pay for my expertise from time to time and like the app work, this is hit and miss. It’s infrequent work but remember, I sell myself as the “Yes” man and I rarely say no to things, which means I’ve had extra opportunities in the online Travel Adviser capacity including for Think Places, two new secret travel platforms that I can’t mention and being a member of Plansify.
“Girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money” – Good Charlotte
One thing about this is that it may not bring in lots of cash on its own, but you should try and be at least represented on all these new sites and apps that come out. PR reps and travel companies often find travel bloggers through these sites. In the end it’s extra publicity.
6. My Own Books and e-Books
You might be aware that I am a Published Author, having written 2 e-books, a chapter on Belarus for Shaun Schofield’s book “Albania for America” in 2010. I have also featured in another Northern Ireland football book in 2008.
Some of those were unpaid contributions that I did out of passion and pleasure, however if bought through Amazon I obviously earn a cut of them through my affiliate links. But in the past year I have written chapters for a number of e-Books that are now on Amazon, including my popular Inca Trail Guide e-Book which brings in sales for those heading to Peru.
These are not huge earners of course but I’m saving my book promotion for my long awaited Backpacking Centurion book, completed in 2016 but still to be released.
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $95
7. Travel Writing
Most people assume that being a professional travel blogger means that I earn most of my money from writing. In most cases this is a myth and is not true of travel bloggers – if we were earning that much through travel writing, we would stop our individual travel blogs and concentrate on books and paid articles. When I look back on the money I’m earning each month, I realise that only some of it is from actual writing. Yes, I built my reputation and made a name for myself through my travel writing and my stories but it’s not my main source of income. If you want to become an online travel writer, you should be aware of this – you need to branch out and earn from other income streams. If you write for sites like Huffington Post, Culture Trip, Boots n All and Hipmunk, you can get paid for your contributions.
“We are not allowed to spend, as we are told that this is the end” – Nicky Wire
Of course these are only a few sites- keep your eyes open for all paid writing activities like I do. I’ve been paid for my articles on over 20 websites to date and continue to write articles every week for some of them but like I say I’m not earning bucketloads as a writer, ironically.
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $1420
8. Other Writing – Football and Music
My first ever published work wasn’t in travel writing, it was in football – a fanzine with my mates Michael and Gavin back in 1990 called One Saturday Afternoon at the Oval. Obviously I was only 10 at the time, but it started a hobby as a travel writer and eventually I was able to get paid for some of my football stories. I’m a regular contributor to UFWC these days. In the past I was co-editor of Here We Go…Again fanzine and I have written voluntarily for my local team Glentoran FC. I get offers for a few other football and music magazines these days and usually I don’t have time to do them unless they’re paying over $50 US, it’s not worth my time otherwise as travel has taken over.
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $150
9. Sign up For Everything and Reply to Every e-mail
This is probably the best advice on this list – by being nice and replying to people I’ve earned a bucketload of cash. As a travel blogger you will get hundreds of e-mails from PRs, Marketers and generic companies month after month. While some arrogant travel bloggers ignore these and refuse to reply, I don’t. And you shouldn’t either – you’re throwing away free money. Reply to all e-mails that are not spam. I’d still get out of bed for 10pence. I have a passionate work ethic. Work hard to play hard. Always want it and push it to the limit.
I have registered on no less than 300 websites through this, and am earning money on pay per click, sponsored posts and affiliate marketing through these opportunities. I treat every business related e-mail as money and I usually send a generic response to the potential spammers to ensure I gain money out of it, or at minimum, exposure:
Hello PERSON’S NAME.
Thanks for the e-mail and offer. I run 15 travel, sports and lifestyle websites while backpacking full time, studying and running a business so I simply don’t have time for this unless you’re going to pay me.
Please let me know how we can work together in this way.
It takes 10 seconds for me to copy and paste this and send it and at least I’ve replied. If I don’t hear back, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ve signed up to all of the following programs and a whole lot more, which I won’t reveal on here – you can do your own hard work and find them:
– Publishers Network
– Link Vehicle
– Digital Mint
– Get Monthly Pay.com
– Link Lift
– Sponsored Reviews
(I won’t name them all but you can find them online and if you work hard enough, you’ll be able to earn a bucketload of cash by signing up for sites like these).
I’ve earned thousands of dollars through what started as a business e-mail to my inbox.
Minimum earned per month – $0
Maximum earned per month – $3,000 (but realistically – it’s limitless depending on how much work you put into it)
“I borrowed $20 to ring you. To tell you, everything is alright” – The Seahorses
10. Reviewing Tours
While the first 9 on this list were all about earning physical money – hard cash, I also earn a lot from reviews. But once again, a reputation needs to be built before you become a trusted source for potential tour companies and hotel groups.
Most professional travel bloggers will be offered a load of tours but you need to build up to it and do some free work. Don’t Stop Living was 5 years old before I got a “freebie” so don’t think it’s an overnight thing! I built up features on professional travel apps, got onto the BBC website, Boots’n’All and got into the lists of top travel blogs in the world etc. as this is what companies want to see. Two of the recent tours I was offered I had to turn them down (a week in Corsica and two weeks in Kerala, India). It’s amazing what a bit of hard work brings. I pick and choose my tours wisely and normally like to avoid other tourists, backpackers and bloggers. Here are some recent tours I reviewed:
– Sloth Island Tour, Guyana
– Vatican City Tour with Walks of Italy, Vatican City State
– Devour Barcelona Tour in Gracia Village, Catalonia
– Tower of London Tour, England
– Touring Tayto Castle, Tandragee, Northern Ireland
– Tour of Rabatt Masaai Vilage, Tanzania
– Trip to Fireball Festival, El Salvador
Tours Reviewed – In the past 3 years I have reviewed over 100 tours, just to give you an idea of what you can do with your travel blog and I’m emailing new companies every day to arrange more tours and sponsored trips. The thing I want to stress though is that some travel bloggers seem to be in it for the free tours and they plan their travels around a free tour. This attitude, I don’t like. The love of travel should come first. You should plan your travel first and then look for a tour in those regions, not the other way around. I plan my own travels to wherever I want to go, and if I’m offered a free tour, I take it. Personally I contact the companies I want to in each town or city a few weeks in advance and then meet them for a coffee and arrange a review of their tours. And best of all, I don’t wear a f**king suit. I turn up in a football shirt but with more passion than a shirt and tie dude just off the tube at Bank. Remember passion comes first in this game. It’s the love of travel that ultimately allows me to earn money working for myself.
Tours Reviewed – 100+
Money Saved – $15,000 (at least)
Fun Had – Lots
Those are the top 10 at the moment, I also get paid to test products and apps and I’m occasionally paid for my opinions on Skype calls. I also earn by getting provided with products, transport and accommodation along the way.
The most important thing is to diversify my income streams. You might remember before how I told you that I am the “YES MAN”. I don’t turn down opportunities and I don’t say no. Even if this means working for free at the start. The way I look at it, if I work for free for some companies, I’ll get free publicity, the good karma will come back to me in life, and it has done.
If you are keen to become a professional backpacker and travel blogger here are three resources that can help you plan your life this way and lead to more freedom. Two of these are by friends of mine who I have met on my journey, Matt and Earl:
1. Make Money from your Travel Blog by Nomadic Matt
I personally bought this and it’s a book that changed my life. It explains the process of starting your travel blog, developing it to making money from it. I didn’t believe it at first but hard work pays dividends. It works and Matt’s a cool blogger – I met up with him in New York City in 2014.
2. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Again, I’ve bought this book myself and for my best mate Millwall Neil. I’m a big believer in the lifestyle it brings. Realistically I currently “work” more than 4 hours a week, but when I’m out exploring the world and writing about it, it doesn’t often feel like work!
The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich
3. How to Live a Life of Travel by Wandering Earl
This book is not so much about earning the money online but it is about starting a lifestyle on the road. Once you hit the road, you’ll need a job. Wandering Earl has been through it all. Wandering Earl’s How to Live a Lifestyle of Travel
(and yes – these are all affiliate links)
Remember, Don’t Stop Living was a spontaneous idea that I decided to start in a hostel in Toronto, Canada 8 years ago. I didn’t mean to earn money out of it or own 15 websites, or move to Poland. Honestly. In fact it’s ridiculous that this is my business.
I now earn a living online, but I always want more. I’m taking on new projects all the time to help pay off my debts and hopefully at one point, I can buy my own place to be based in. I was recently named as the editor of Southbourne on Sea magazine, so I have plenty of work on my hands these days It’s a busy but rewarding lifestyle and I’m on top of it now.
If you have managed to read this much of my article, I thought I’d share with you that I’m off to Singapore, Bangladesh and the Faroe Islands all within the next 4 weeks plus a few more surprises! Expect to see me down at Dean Court to watch the Top Flight Cherries too! Exciting times.
Good luck in whatever you do and safe travels.
“If you really want more, shout it out louder” – Usher