I started Practical Wanderlust in June 2016. I wanted to have a travel diary for our year-long honeymoon: a way to record our experiences for our family and friends, and perhaps share information with other travelers too. Always mindful of my budget, I hoped to perhaps grow Practical Wanderlust enough during our trip to help offset some of our travel expenses after we returned: maybe with the odd discounted hotel stay, here and there.
By the end of 2016, after 6 months of blogging, I had earned a grand total of $65.07, as well as one comped $80 tour in exchange for a blog post (this one, right here). Anyone who’s ever earned their very first dollar online knows the elation I felt at having earned this tiny sum of money. I was ECSTATIC, and I saw potential.
What if, I wondered, I might actually be able to make real money off of Practical Wanderlust? Like, what if I could earn $1,000 every month? That would nearly pay for our annual travel budget!
I’m not a big dreamer by nature. I’m practical, and I tend to set myself realistic, attainable goals. But even so, when I told Jeremy that I wanted to earn $1,000 per month off of the blog, he was incredulous. “Did you mean $1,000 in a year?”
“No, like, per month.”
“Every month, $1,000? Are you serious?”
I was. I’d heard that some people were able to LIVE off of their blogging income. Sure, in the travel blogging sphere it seemed like every full time blogger was also a digital nomad, permanently living out of a suitcase in somewhere that cost a lot less than the US, but still. It seemed reasonable. After all, it wasn’t like I was planning to live solely off the income from the blog. So why not shoot for the sky?
$1,000 a month it was. And so I set my crazy goal for 2017, my first full year of travel blogging, aiming high and fully preparing to fall flat on my face.
But quite the opposite happened: in 2017, I made over $22,000 – nearly DOUBLE the goal I’d set for myself – and I surprised myself completely. At the end of 2017, I decided to pursue travel blogging as my full-time job. You can read more about that decision in this post.
Table of Contents
Looking for more income reports? We’ve started doing monthly reports in 2018. View them all here or click below.
Psst: Are you a travel blogger who wants to monetize their blog? Figuring out where to start can be soooo overwhelming – I’ve been there (and it took me MONTHS to actually get started!) But the earlier you begin, the sooner you can start earning back cash to pay for your expensive travel addiction! Sign up for my FREE 5-day email course and I’ll walk you through taking the first steps to start finally start earning money from your travel blog.
When I made the decision to blog full-time, we weren’t planning to live somewhere cheap, like Colombia, where $1,000 paid for both us for for an entire month.
Instead, we were living in the San Francisco Bay Area, shackled to a rent that would get us a mansion in most parts of the USA, much less the rest of the world.
$22,000 didn’t even begin to cover our rent, much less anything else. It was a crazy idea – especially considering that my husband is a high school teacher, and I’m supposed to be the breadwinner (whoops, sorry babe).
But I had run the numbers. I made a financial plan (because I’m a nerd and I love spreadsheets, and also because my background is in corporate retail and planning is second nature at this point). And according to my financial plan, I should be able to almost double my $22,000 again in 2018.
Hey, I know: these are not crazy high numbers for a full-time gig. My cushy corporate salary was about double what I plan to earn next year from travel blogging. But look, lemme be real with you: blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It’s not even really a get rich ever scheme. You do it cuz you love it, and cuz you can’t imagine not doing it.
I’m acutely aware that my income is not going to buy us a luxurious lifestyle, but you know what? I’m going for it anyway. I’ve thought it through, and it’s worth the sacrifice. But that’s not what this post is about (I have a whole other post on this, actually: here’s how I decided to blog full time).
This post is about spelling out exactly how I earned every penny of that $22,000, plus how I plan to grow next year, and how I reached my estimated financial plan numbers to potentially even invest into the tesla coin app for long-term returns. Next year, we’ll see how I did compared to my plan!
Travel Blog Income Report for 2017
In mid-2017, when I’d made some money with my blog and was trying to figure out how to make more – and determine whether this could actually be a full time gig – I devoured income reports from successful travel bloggers. I wanted to know if this was economically feasible as a JOB. What does it look like to travel blog full time? How do you earn money as a travel blogger?
After all, that’s the question I’m asked most frequently when I say that I’m a travel blogger: “but do you actually earn money doing that?” And yes, it’s awkward EVERY time.
But happily, my answer is YES. I want to share how I earned $22,000 in my first full year of blogging, and hopefully help you to monetize your blog, too!
Here’s a breakdown of my travel blogging income this year:
- Advertising: $6,720.14
- Affiliate Income (Excluding Amazon): $1,658.91
- Amazon Affiliate Income: $2,764.49
- Paid Press/FAM Trips: $6,135
- Sponsored Posts: $2,725
- Social Media Consulting & Courses: $2,450.75
- Grand Total: $22,454.49
And here are those same numbers, but in VISUAL GRAPHIC form (please cue the oooh’s and ahhh’s):
As you can see, I earned money in a variety of ways. Like a good stock portfolio, a healthy blogging income is diversified.
That way, if you have a bad month in one area – or experience a seasonal dip – hopefully you can make it up elsewhere and keep the panicking to a minimum. Like when my Amazon sales tanked in September and I spent every day refreshing my affiliate dashboard and holding back tears. Ahem.
Also, because it’s important to have some context (and also because I have spreadsheets full of data and need an excuse to use it for something) here’s my traffic/follower summary for this year:
- In January of 2017, I received 34,500 page views and had about 3,500 subscribers + Social Media followers
- In December of 2017, I received 83,500 page views and had about 25,000 subscribers + Social Media followers
- On average, my Social Media followers & subscribers grew 11% per month and growth was fairly steady
- On average, my page views grew 21% per month, with sort of a wobbly roller-coaster of growth
- Most of my traffic in 2017 came from Pinterest. The 2nd largest traffic source was from Google.
Anyway, back to talking about money. Let’s break down each of my revenue streams!
- 2017 Earnings: $6,900.14
- 2018 Plan: $13,890
- % Increase: 107%
I didn’t start earning real money from advertising until May. I say “real” advertising because until May, I was with Google Adsense, which earned me a grand total of around $50 over the course of nearly a year.
I’ll never see that money, because their payout minimum is $100, and it’s not even worth it to keep ads on my site just to cash out my $100. I’m filing “Google Adsense” away with “Selling detox teas” on my list of income streams that just aren’t freakin’ worth it.
But in May, all of that changed. In May, was able to join Mediavine because I hit 25,000 visitors to my site – for the 2nd time ever. The first time was in January, but I hadn’t actually heard of Mediavine in January, and one of their application requirements is 25,000 sessions in the last 30 days. I didn’t hit that number again until May, and I’m still kicking myself over the income I lost out on in the 5 months I wasn’t signed up.
Anyway, in May, I signed up with Mediavine. Mediavine is what’s plastering the ads you see all over my site. And while you may find them irritating – they’re certainly not invisible – unfortunately, they’re not going anywhere because they pay the bills better than anything else!
I’m going to be honest: I wouldn’t be able to blog full time if it wasn’t for Mediavine. I think of my Mediavine ad revenue as my base salary: it’s reliable, steady income that I get paid on time every single month.
I rely on it. It’s the backbone of this whole operation. If you want one piece of advice for monetizing your blog, it’s this: get to 50,000 visitors ASAP and then apply to Mediavine.
Mediavine is one of the best ad networks around, with a fantastic network of bloggers and a super helpful team of employees. They’re a pleasure to work with and they make me happy every single day (first thing I do when I wake up each morning is to check my advertising income from the day before).
The company was started by bloggers, for bloggers. Oh, and if you’re wondering: no, there’s no affiliate scheme. I don’t get a penny if you join (except in the sense that having a more robust membership gives them better leverage to negotiate higher ad revenues on my behalf). I just genuinely love them!
How I’ll Grow Ad Revenue Income Next Year
Because I only earned income from Mediavine for half of the year last year, this is a big area that I’ve targeted for monetary growth in 2018. I’ve planned a growth of 107%, which is huge.
Not only am I doubling the months I actually earned income from Mediavine, but I’m anticipating a modest traffic growth, too. I’m planning to average about 95,000 page views per month over the course of the year, topping off in December of 2018 with around 120,000 page views thanks to an average monthly growth of around 4%. More traffic = more ad revenue.
So 108% SOUNDS steep, but it seemed reasonable when I wrote out my plan, so we’re going with it. Psst: that averages out to over $1,000 per month, which was my initial goal! And it’s totally passive income, so I earn it while I’m like, asleep. Amazing.
- 2017 Earnings: $4,423.40
- 2018 Plan: $11,133.00
- % Increase: 118%
The vast majority of my affiliate income comes from Amazon. Like, 60% of it. Otherwise, it’s kind of a mixed bag.
Affiliate income is such a sore spot for me – I haven’t quite figured it out, honestly (outside of Amazon). I haven’t yet nailed a strategy that works for me, and I’m not entirely sure which sites my readers are most comfortable using to book hotels, tours, and other travel accommodations. For example, a lot of travel bloggers swear by Booking.com, but I’ve gotten no traction at all – and the few hotel bookings I’ve had paid out so poorly it was barely even worth it.
That said, I’ve built in a fairly aggressive improvement for next year. It takes a LOT of trial and error to nail an affiliate income strategy, and I’m not there yet. But by the end of 2018, I should be in a much better position. I’m really eager to grow affiliate income to be a nice passive income stream, like my ad revenue.
Amazon is the one source of affiliate income that really DOES work for me. My readers are almost all American millennials living in areas served by Amazon, and they buy all their stuff on Amazon. Which I totally get, because I’m the same way. Going to a store is a lot more effort than waiting 2 days for delivery, somehow. Plus, one of them doesn’t require pants.
Many travel bloggers have found success with affiliate networks like ShareaSale and AWIN. I’ve had mixed results – but I also find them really overwhelming. These are affiliate networks with like, a ZILLION programs to choose from, and frankly I haven’t tackled it like I really should.
That said, I’ve had decent luck with AWIN in recent months and I’ve been averaging about $50 per month, so hopefully that trend continues!
Here’s are the affiliate programs that have been working best for me thus far (with links for you to apply, if you like!):
How I’ll Grow Affiliate Income Next Year
Some of the things I’ll be doing to dial in my strategy in 2018 are sending out a survey to my readers and then running hideously specific analysis on the data I collect to figure out WTF they like. I’ll also be doing some major deep dives into my Amazon sales, which are FULL of juicy information I haven’t even begun to analyze.
Thus far, my Amazon affiliate revenue has risen steadily along with my traffic. So because I’m anticipating a steady traffic increase next year, I’m also anticipating steady Amazon growth.
I’ve also factored in seasonal changes because I actually have a fairly reliable year of history to track, unlike Mediavine whose seasonal data I just made up for half the year, or Affiliate Income which I didn’t earn much from until recently and thus have nothing to base my plan off of at all.
I’ve got a few posts that convert really well for me when it comes to Amazon, and I’ll be relying on proven strategies to double my Amazon income for 2018. I plan to write more packing posts, and include Amazon links in every post I can.
Other than Amazon, I’ll continue my journey of trial & error to figure out how I can capture an audience that is actually ready to buy stuff, and commit to the massive task of putting affiliate links in all of my older posts. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but oh my goodness, it is so tedius.
My growth is spread out over my favorite affiliate partner programs and networks. Most everything else I’ve planned flat to 2017.
I’d also like to expand my portfolio of private affiliate partnerships with brands that I absolutely adore. I was lucky enough to score some awesome affiliate relationships this year, and they tend to pay a better commission rate than most big affiliate networks.
These are just partnerships I’ve really stumbled into, though – one is with Disney for a campaign they reached out to me to join, one is with a friend of mine whose product I think is awesome, and one is with a company selling travel products that I’m obsessed with – so I’m not entirely sure whether I’ll have any luck actually seeking those relationships out. Still, it’s worth a try!
I’d love some pointers or even helpful courses that could assist me with growing my passive affiliate income, so drop me a comment if you’ve got something in mind!
Paid Press/Fam Trips
- 2017 Earnings: $6,135
- 2018 Plan: $3,000
- % Increase: -53%
Paid Press/FAM trips are bittersweet. On the one hand, they pay well, and they’re SO MUCH FUN – nothing is more glamorous and exciting than getting paid to travel! That’s like, what we all DREAM of when we decide to become travel bloggers, right?
But on the other hand, they’re really unreliable. They require a LOT of effort to pitch & arrange, particularly for newer bloggers like me. Which is incredibly difficult and truly, quite emotionally taxing – I get a zillion “no’s” for every “hmm, we don’t have a budget for that right now, but let’s touch base next spring” which is frankly, a pretty good response.
It is really, really hard & intimidating to email a company out of the blue and ask them to pay for you to go somewhere. It’s not impossible – I did it successfully a few times, after all – but it is SO hard, and it’s an exhausting and nerve-wracking revenue stream to rely on.
Plus, through a massive stroke of bad luck, one of my biggest 2017 invoices has not yet been paid. Which means that even though I technically earned $6,135 last year, only $3,385 of it has actually landed in my pocket.
Huge flashing warning about that: don’t allow any 3rd parties to involve themselves in your paid FAM/Press Trips when you are capable of pitching them on your own.
I allowed a company to act as an intermediary for me, which meant that I signed their contract rather than my own. The kicker? They created that contract AFTER they had quietly filed for bankruptcy the week before.
I don’t even know whether the contract was legally binding. But they’ve since ceased responding to my emails, leaving me on the hook for not only my deliverables but hundreds of dollars in expenses that were supposed to be reimbursed after my stay.
I’m involving a lawyer. It sucks, but it’s a HUGE amount of money for me, and I can’t afford to just let it go. Besides, this company has also f**ked over a bunch of other bloggers, and I want them to be held accountable for their dishonesty.
Why I’m Decreasing My Paid Press Trip Income Next Year
I haven’t planned an increase in this area for 2018. In fact, I’ve planned a decrease. This isn’t a revenue stream I want to rely on, and I’m not counting on it to be a huge piece of my income in 2018 – or any other year, for that matter.
If I’m able to score a few paid trips, GREAT! But I may only be able to land 1 or 2 of these types of trips, and that’s OK. They are a rare privilege and an exciting opportunity, but I’m not planning to rely on things that are mostly out of my control. My 2018 financial growth is more dependent on actionable strategies I can implement on my own.
If you’re reading this with the feeling of crushing disappointment (or maybe pleased Schadenfreude) that the most glamorous aspect of travel blogging isn’t as feasible as you thought it was, don’t worry: I’ll still be getting PLENTY of comped trips. I received thousands of dollars worth of complimentary hotels, hostels, tours, etc last year and I’ll get plenty more next year. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it’s still really, really cool 😉
- 2017 Earnings: $2,725
- 2018 Plan: $3,600
- % Increase: 32%
Sponsored Posts are awesome. Unlike paid Press/FAM trips, they don’t necessarily involve actual travel. But they’re more reliable and can be much easier to find if you use influencer networks such as IZEA and Cooperatize. I’ve had some luck with sponsored posts from travel brands that I pitched out to independently, as well.
You might be wondering: what is an influencer network? Essentially, influencer networks act as a go-between for brands and bloggers. Brands who want to promote a campaign using influencers/bloggers hire an influencer network to find the influencers they’ll pay for the campaign.
The network does most of the legwork: they have all of your stats and info, kept up to date for the brands to search and sort through (so sometimes you’ll be asked to apply for a campaign without having to even seek it out, which is absolutely the best feeling ever).
There’s typically a marketplace where you can sort through campaigns to find ones you want to apply for, so all you have to do is log in and browse active campaigns.
When it comes to applying for campaigns through an influencer network, it’s typically just a form that takes under 10 minutes to fill out. The brand will describe the campaign and exactly the niche/audience they’re looking for, and you may or may not have a chance to sell yourself or make a pitch – sometimes it just comes down to your numbers and demographics. Once you apply for a campaign, the brand will decide if you’re a fit for them or not.
If the brand accepts your application, you’ll get all the details you need to create your content: expectations, requirements, deliverables, photos to use, links to include, everything you need.
You’ll also be able to contact the influencer network if you have questions, and they’ll get what you need from the brand. You’ll have a deadline and you’ll need to follow the instructions to create your content, post it, submit it on the influencer network’s site, and complete any required social media support.
You’ll get paid once you’ve completed all of the requirements for the campaign. Each site’s payment schedule varies, some pay every month, some are immediate, some pay out when you hit a targeted traffic amount that you set yourself.
Compared to cold pitching to sponsors that have never heard of me and may or may not be running any marketing campaigns (or may not have ever worked with a blogger before), influencer networks are a walk in the park. I LOVE them. I earned $2,800 last year through about 4 influencer networks, landing a sponsored post every few months.
I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll continue to land steady work through influencer networks in 2018, and also that somehow, magically, sponsors will begin contacting me and wanting to give me money out of nowhere. It’s happened to me a total of 1 time, but whatever, let’s dream big. I’d also like a free Tesla and to be able to buy a house, while we’re dreaming big. Oooh, and no more student loan debt. And a government that cares about climate change and people who aren’t in the 1%. OK, now I’m just being unrealistic.
How I’ll Grow Sponsored Post Revenue in 2018
My primary strategy for growing my Sponsored Posts income is by relying on this fantastic guide to 150+ influencer networks that pay bloggers, created by my friend Meg from Dopes on the Road. She earned $37,000 last year through these networks alone – she’s living proof that you can earn a living from being a full-time travel blogger!
My plan is to sign up for every influencer network on her list, which should theoretically increase my potential for landing sponsored posts significantly – but just in case, I’m conservatively planning only a 32% increase.
Another way I plan to grow my Sponsored Posts blogging income is by reaching out to brands that I know my audience likes already to cold pitch for paid partnerships. I’ll find those companies by doing analysis, like digging into my selling reports from Amazon. Which, if I’m being real, is my idea of a fun Saturday night. Nothing says “I’m a fun, 20-something travel blogger” like analyzing sales reports! God, I’m such a nerd.
Ideally, I’ll be able to line up some paid opportunities for places that I’m going or have already been – like this recent campaign for Prague which I found through Cooperatize, for which I conveniently had a trip planned already.
There is actually huge potential next year in this category, but it’s hard to quantify exactly how much more I can make in Sponsored Posts because again, it depends on availability and other factors I don’t have any control over.
Much like paid FAM/Press Trips, cold pitching for sponsored posts takes a LOT of time & emotional energy. Unless you use an influencer network, in which case it’s as easy as filling out a form.
Although I’m definitely planning to pursue more sponsored posts in 2018, I’m not jumping in head first. After all, I don’t want the majority of posts on Practical Wanderlust to be sponsored posts about places I’ve never been. Too many sponsored posts could lead to a negative perception of me by my readers, and there is nothing more valuable than my relationship with my readers (I love y’all. You’re perfect, you’re beautiful, you look like Linda Evangelista, etc)
I’ve held myself to a limit of sponsored posts (I average around 25% sponsored and 75% unsponsored content) and I’ll continue to honor that. Still, sponsored posts pay, so … I’m going to sell out like, a little bit. Just a touch. I’ll only accept opportunities that truly fit my site and which I fully stand behind – places I actually want to visit and products I’ve actually tried, tested, loved and now can’t shut up about.
Social Media Consulting & Courses
- 2017 Earnings: $2,450.75
- 2018 Plan: $9,400
- % Growth: 283%
This is a HUGE area of growth for me that I’m really excited about. A lot of bloggers credit courses & consulting with the majority of their annual income, and while that isn’t my plan (I like actually blogging more than I like talking about blogging, but let’s be honest… I’ll still talk your ear off about blogging cuz I LOVE IT) I’m definitely planning to dip my toe in that pool in a big way.
Last year I launched a Consultation service, which is where the majority of this income came from. Sharing my knowledge and strategy with other bloggers was something I hadn’t considered until other bloggers started asking me to offer this service. And to my delight, I was able to coach some incredible clients and help them grow & drive traffic to their blogs!
Speaking of which, I’d love to help you reach your blogging goals! You can book a consultation with me here.
How I’ll Grow My Consulting Income Next Year
Most of my income last year came from my Pinterest Consultation service. But sadly, I had to discontinue taking on new clients when I ran out of free time between juggling 2 blogs and a full time (temporary) job. Now that I’m going back to working on the blog full-time, I’m going to be accepting clients again! (Book an hour with me here.)
But what I’m most excited about in 2018 are courses. I’ve got big plans for this year, including producing several juicy courses that dive deep into my areas of expertise. Stay tuned for more information on those!
My Planned Blogging Income for 2018
I earned over $22,000 from my travel blog in 2017. So just how much do I think I can earn in 2018?
Drumroll, please! I’m planning an income next year of over $41,000. That’s a 186% increase to last year.
Also, my not-so-secret stretch goal next year is to surpass my husband’s teaching salary so that I can claim the status of breadwinner again (I’ve been the breadwinner for the entire duration of our relationship up until now, and let’s just say I’m slightly competitive. Ahem).
Jeremy is a high school teacher here in Oakland and earns … well, more than $41,000. Like, not a LOT more (don’t get me started on how unfair this is and how hard teachers work and how backwards our society is, I digress) but enough that that’s my real stretch goal for 2018. Jeremy is also eager to resume his role as a pampered trophy husband.
By the way, if you were reading this hoping to hear that travel blogging can earn you 6 figures in like, a year or whatever, sorry to disappoint. Blogging is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. Frankly, it may not even be a get-rich-at-all scheme. We’ll see, I guess.
But I knew that when I decided to quit a job that paid me well over double what the blog MIGHT earn me in 2018 and make blogging my full time job. It was not an easy decision – walking away from money is never easy – but I’ve made my peace with it.
And by that I mean I made a spreadsheet, because that is how I make major life decisions. See, and you thought I was joking about analyzing some selling reports being my idea of a good time. I’m a nerd and a half, y’all. Read this post if you want to know more about how I made the difficult decision to cut my income in half, and why I ended up using a spreadsheet as a magic 8-ball.
Here’s the thing, though: sure, I’m not going to become a zillionaire off of this blog (although there is a tiny part of me that is dreaming big, and those big dreams look like me and Bill Bryson hanging out in some pedestrian little town making droll, sassy commentary and sipping tea together).
But I know that if I earn that $41,000 I will have worked my butt off to earn EVERY dollar, and my income will be due to my resourcefulness and drive to succeed. Or, in the wise words of RuPaul, my creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent!
I created Practical Wanderlust completely from scratch. And that’s a really, really incredible feeling.
I can’t wait to see how far this new career can take me this year. After all, if I can nearly double my $1,000 per month goal of 2016, who knows what kind of surprises 2018 might bring?
I hope this post gave you some ideas for monetizing your own blog! What are you doing to supersize your earnings this year? Tell me your goals for 2018 in the comments!
Psst: Are you a travel blogger who wants to monetize their blog? Figuring out where to start is the hardest part – it took me MONTHS to actually get started! But the sooner you begin, the sooner you can start earning back cash to cover that expensive travel addiction 😉 Sign up for my FREE 5-day email course and I’ll walk you through taking the first steps to start finally start earning money from your travel blog.
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