Travel blogger honesty survey

David Whitley 34

Theories of monetising travel blogs

For all the blog posts about how to monetise a travel blog (and I think 500 new ones get written every day), the subject keeps coming up. Everyone’s elaborated on their theory of how to make money from travel blogging and most of the usual suspects (including myself) have had a go giving a speech about it at some conference or other.

The one thing we’re all quiet about

And the cycle goes on, despite everyone saying it’s beginning to sound like a stuck record. Well it’s a stuck record because the problem still remains – not many people are making good money from their blogging activity. Or, at least, we think they aren’t. Because in this maelstrom of monetisation talk, one key piece of the jigsaw is consistently missing. Whether through embarrassment, modesty or simply not knowing, nobody seems willing to come out with figures.

So, with nobody putting out in the open how much money they make from blogging and what other sources of income they have, it’s impossible to get a reasonable snapshot of what I suppose is now an industry.

For all we know, the people giving speeches as experts may be earning virtually nothing, addressing a crowd of quieter types who are pulling in a fortune. What someone may regard as a good living is completely inadequate for someone else.

Let’s get some data

So, I figured, it’s time to be a bit more open and honest. Instead of going round in circles talking about theories, let’s get some data. Below, I’ve put seven questions that – if enough people answer truthfully – should shed some much-needed light on the travel blog monetisation merry-go-round.

I’ve answered in the comments below – I hope other travel writers, bloggers and journalists (or whatever label you give yourselves) are prepared to join in.

Travel blogger honesty survey questions

1. What is your name and main blog URL?

2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?

3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?

4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?

5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?

6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?

7. What are your other major sources of income?

If you enjoyed this post, please share via Twitter or Facebook so others can too:

    All content copyright .

    34 Comments »

    1. David August 29, 2011 at 09:43 -

      1. David Whitley, http://www.grumpytraveller.com.
      2. £59,000.
      3. 17%.
      4. 57%.
      5. 100%.
      6. 100%.
      7. Not applicable.

    2. Stuart August 29, 2011 at 11:01 -

      II’m going to cop out and give you a half answer. Here’s the (rough) split according to income stream. The point is to reinforce the common refrain that multiple sourced of cash are very important. Plus while we have nine writers, travelfish.org isn’t really a blog under the most conventional definition and I certainly wouldn’t suggest a blogger do some of the things we have.

      Direct ads 30%
      Adsense 15%
      Commissions 40%
      Apps 10%
      Other affiliates 5%

    3. Karen Bryan August 29, 2011 at 11:17 -

      David I’m a bit of a cop out too. I too am fed up of “how to make money travel blogging” posts/schemes. There’s no easy way but as ever is there more money to be made selling shovels than digging for gold?

      1 Karen Bryan
      http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog

      3 Income from sites I own – 80%

      4 Income from writing about travel online – 95%

      6 Income from writing – 95%

      7 Other income – consultancy – 5%

    4. David August 29, 2011 at 11:21 -

      Thanks for taking the time to add what you have Stuart and Karen. Before devising the questions, I did think about I should ask for absolute figures, and I came to the conclusion that I should. Unfortunately 50% of nothing is still nothing – and that’s what I’m trying to get out into the open. Is anyone actually making a good living from travel blogging/ writing?

    5. Kevin May August 29, 2011 at 11:35 -

      @David – for fear of copping out, too, here is a little bit from me.

      As a co-founder of a media startup which as yet has not published its financial statements, this – without approval from our BoD – will be tricky to answer.

      I also think your drive here primarily is to discover what “travel writers” are earning, those that earn at least part of their living from destination and product content, and is consumer-facing editorial.

      Anyway, here is best I can do.

      1) Tnooz.com
      2) £45K+
      3) 95%
      4) 85%
      5) 90%
      6) 90%
      7) Private contract work, moderating events, training.

    6. Karen Bryan August 29, 2011 at 12:58 -

      David, given the number of hours I work, I reckon at least 60 a week, I’d earn more, net after expenses, if I were an employee on around the minimum wage. However for me it’s not just about the money (although that’s a crucial part of it), it’s about the lifestyle of being able to work from home. I also live in hope, and work towards, that at some point my blog(s) will earn more.

      I do think that low earnings from travel blogging is a question of supply/demand. It sometimes seems that everyone and their Granny thinks they can be travel bloggers (music to ears of those peddling make money travel blogging products/services). Naturally the copious supply (leaving quality aside) drives down prices paid for all but the most highly regarded and sought after bloggers/writers.

      Then there is the issue of highly competitive travel market where it’s hard for the independent blogger to come high in searches to get readers to their blogs at the buying stage of the process, so they have the chance to earn commissions on hotel/flight/car hire bookings.

      Advertisers are able to reduce rates offered to travel bloggers if some “hobby bloggers” are happy be earning a bit of money.

      On top of all this, is the lure of “free” travel which, in theory, gives you more content that will lead to more traffic, so you can command higher advertising rates and earn more from your affiliate links.

    7. Nikki Bayley August 29, 2011 at 13:02 -

      1. Nikki Bayley: freelance journalist & copywriter
      2. Oh, so much less than Mr Whitley… But enough to pay the rent, bills & keep me in a ready supply of gin & ham.
      3. I don’t have a site – so 0%.
      4. 50%
      5. 60%
      6. 100%
      7. N/A

    8. Stuart August 29, 2011 at 15:16 -

      Think the “bloggers can’t rank in google” argument is a bit of a myth. Sure they won’t rank for “best hotels in London” but blogs can easily rank very highly for long tail terms. These can be used to churn traffic over onto the cash register pages. The problem with this approach though is it’s a traffic game. You need an absolute bucket load of pages on long tail searches. Many bloggers (a) don’t have this and (b) are not focused enough around a particular topic/destination to get sufficient density.

    9. pam August 29, 2011 at 15:59 -

      1. Pam Mandel || http://www.nerdseyeview.com
      2. Annual income: 32-48K USD (varies annually)
      3. Income from sites I own: 10%
      4. Income from writing travel online: 20%
      5. Total income from writing travel: 20%
      6. Income from writing (any topic): 100%
      7. Other sources: One other part time income at our house makes up about 20% of our household total income.

    10. pam August 29, 2011 at 16:11 -

      Oh, hey, there’s another data point missing. That money I earn blogging, I make a tiny bit selling ads and from affiliate sales, and then the bulk of it is writing for others. You can see what kind of ads I sell by looking at my site, they’re ALL on the side bar save for a very few legacy text links I tried when I was experimenting in college.:)

      I’ve heard tell of bloggers making as much as 4000USD monthly selling inline text links, popups, sponsored posts, advertorial, etc. I’m quite sure I could make a lot more dough were I willing to go that route. I’m not willing, and because of that, I’m leaving money on the table.

      So the data point, which adds color to those numbers is IF you make money on your own blog, HOW, exactly, do you make it?

      P.

    11. Tim L. August 29, 2011 at 19:12 -

      I’m about to speak on this subject at a convention for travel writers in two weeks, so I’ll fess up. I’ve got a survey I did for my Travel Writing 2.0 book too (52 writers) that’s in there with income levels. Send me a note and I’ll e-mail it. No names in there, which is how there are 52 answers. If you compiled this as an anonymous survey, you’d get more responses I’m sure.

      1. Tim Leffel. Several blogs, but the Cheapest Destinations blog is all me.
      2. About what Mr. Whitley makes after deducting $15,000 paid to freelancers and assistants. No single site I run makes more than $25K a year by itself. It’s a mix.
      3. 90%
      4. 95%
      5. 95%
      6. Counting editing for my sites, 100%
      7. “Writing” income is healthy mix of ad revenue, book royalties, freelance income, affiliate sales. Used to do a fair bit of corporate writing and ghostwriting of biz books, but don’t need to anymore.

    12. Leif Pettersen August 29, 2011 at 19:21 -

      David,

      As always, I admire your guts.

      Caveats: 2010 was the first full calendar year I sold blog ads (started in fall 2009), so only one year of stats isn’t a lot to go on, particularly as I don’t post very often and also because, cumulative income-wise, 2010 was my best year overall since I started freelancing. Due to factors both within and beyond my control, barring a miracle, my 2011 income will not be nearly as impressive.

      Also, my accounting and math skills are admittedly awful and I don’t have the strength to cook up precise figures here and now. So, several numbers here are merely my best guesstimate.

      1. Leif Pettersen: primary website http://killingbatteries.com/
      2. 2010 pre-tax income (and pre-rather hefty travel expenses) ~US$53,000
      3. Percentage of my income that comes from all my sites ~15%
      4. Percentage of income from all online writing gigs (my sites and everything else combined) ~50%
      5. Percentage of income from writing about travel (online, print, ads, everything) ~98%
      6. Percentage of income from writing 100%
      7. Not applicable

    13. Linda Jones August 29, 2011 at 23:35 -

      Hello, I think you could say I am relatively new to attempting to build an income from a travel blog but I hope my answers may be interesting/helpful in some way.

      What is your name and main blog URL?

      Linda Jones

      http://www.havealovelytime.com

      2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?

      I’m one of the directors of an agency based in the Midlands, UK, the turnover of which I hate to discuss and as its based on other people’s labours (though grown out of mine!) it’s possibly not relevant. My partner also works with me and we draw a working wage from the company.

      However, what I hope is helpful to say (at the start of such a journey) is that when we were approached a couple of months back with offers of ads for this site that totted up to £800 for that month, we thought perhaps we should have a closer look.

      3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?

      Need to work this out – for the company, it’s less than 10 per cent. I write, train and edit for various clients, some are publishers and others are commercial clients seeking copywriting, media relations/social media support. Increasingly, showing them our family travel blog is helping them decide we are the people to go with.

      4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?

      A small percentage, I think so far – but also need to take into consideration that I became the editor of a site, for which I am paid a decent daily fee, for up to three days a week, based much more on my experience with this blog and contacts built through it, and another, than for more traditional journalism, which I have a much longer history in. So while I can’t say income is much from the blog itself, it leads to and underpins other work.

      5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?

      It’s early days – but blogging about travel has also helped me land some of the ‘commercial’ clients mentioned above – these may appear on the blog but the professional relationship is clearly signposted if that happens. I don’t pitch print publications. I’ve just got two paid commissions from a website at £100 each.

      6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?
      80 per cent with 20 per cent on training. Included in the 80 per cent is writing done for commercial clients, which may also include consultancy.

      7. What are your other major sources of income?

      Consultancy (media relations and social media)
      Training (journalism, media relations, social media)
      Journalism
      Book writing – okay not a major source of writing but on some days the most enjoyed/valued.

    14. David August 30, 2011 at 09:05 -

      Massive thanks to you all for contributing. There’s some really illuminating stuff in here. As for your point about where the blog income comes from, Pam, that’s probably for another post/ survey. I was trying to keep this is as simple as possible – the basic aim is to see whether there’s genuine money in writing about travel/ blogging.

      Most of these responses are encouraging – it’s clear that good writers are making a healthy living from writing. I hope a few more chime in – particularly those who run personality rather than topic-led blogs/ sites.

    15. Cathy August 30, 2011 at 09:35 -

      1. Cathy Winston (no blog… yet)

      2. Varies year to year – last year, around £42k. This year I suspect not so much unless it picks up dramatically. So if I can find a way of making a blog pay…

      3. 0%

      4. 18%

      5. 20% (surprised it’s not higher. It’s 55% so far this year…)

      6. 99%

      7. Consultancy (very small fraction). The rest is writing on other topics

    16. Matthew Teller August 30, 2011 at 10:45 -

      1. What is your name and main blog URL?
      Matthew Teller http://quitealone.com

      2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?
      Don’t want to say exactly (and it varies, of course), but £45/50K+ is honest.

      3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?
      Directly: 0%
      Indirectly (raised profile, searches by commissioning eds, etc): Priceless.

      4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?
      5%

      5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?
      90%

      6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?
      90%

      7. What are your other major sources of income?
      Editing, proofreading, fact-checking, speaking, broadcasting, consulting etc

      *all percentages are total guesswork

    17. Claire Walter August 30, 2011 at 16:41 -

      I too prefer not to broadcast my total income. I am a long-time magazine writer and book author who has migrated to the web in the last decade. I partner in one blog (www.milehighonthecheap.com about freebies, bargains, sales and deals in metro Denver). It is monetizing nicely via direct ad sales, Google AdSense and affiliate programs. Also, because I have a partner, I do half of the work but receive just half of the revenues. MHOTC would be doing better if amazon.com had not cut Colorado out of its affiliate program. I have three of my own blogs (www.travel-babel.com, http://www.culinary-colorado.com, http://www.nordic-walking-usa.com) which I could monetize more effectively if I weren’t so busy with MHOTC and the few print assignments that I can still get.

    18. Mary Jo Manzanares August 30, 2011 at 17:04 -

      1. Mary Jo Manzanares, http://www.travelingwithmj.com

      2. >$75k (based on 2010 figures, will be substantially different in 2011 as a result of a new business launch).

      3. 10%

      4. 30%

      5. 30%

      6. 30%

      7. Flight Attendant, speaking gigs, consulting.

    19. Dave August 30, 2011 at 18:05 -

      I’ve been open with my blogging income from the start (2007) so here you go:

      1. What is your name and main blog URL?

      David Lee, http://www.gobackpacking.com

      2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?

      $35,000 USD

      3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?

      100%

      4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?

      ~ 80% (other 20% is from consulting and a membership site I created to help teach other travelers how to blog)

      5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?

      ~ 80% (not sure I understand the question)

      6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?

      ~ 80% (again, this is everything except the consulting work/membership site)

      7. What are your other major sources of income?

      None — fully supporting myself from travel blogging as of July 2010.

    20. Heather on her travels August 30, 2011 at 19:04 -

      1. Heather Cowper http://www.heatheronhertravels.com/ and http://www.mybloggingjourney.com/
      2. Total income all from Heather on her travels c.£8K (but I work full time on my day job so I’m not complaining)
      3. 100% from Heather on her travels
      4. 99% from advertising/sponsored posts on Heather on her travels which is practically the only place I write apart from My Blogging Journey + 1% perhaps from the occasional writing for others
      5. 99% from advertising on my travel site on which I write, 1% from writing for other people
      6. Blogging is probably 10% of my total – rest from my non-blogging day job
      7. Normal 8 hr day job in Project management

    21. Nomadic Matt August 30, 2011 at 21:37 -

      Wow, everyone in the UK makes a good amount of money from this blogging thing!

      1. nomadicmatt.com
      2. 120,000 USD
      3. 100%
      4. 0
      5. 0
      6. 100 – it all comes from my blog, which I write.
      7. All my money is from my blog.

    22. Amanda Kendle August 31, 2011 at 13:40 -

      Interesting survey. My two cents – all really rough as my record-keeping’s been shocking lately and my tax isn’t done.
      1. Amanda Kendle, http://www.notaballerina.com
      2. A$25,000 (I work part-time as I’ve got a small son)
      3. 5% mostly Adsense; although most of my consulting/training clients come via sites I own (that income’s not counted here)
      4. 40%
      5. 40%
      6. 45%
      7. Consulting and training (blogging and social media)

    23. Linda Jones September 1, 2011 at 20:30 -

      Hi David, this is totally unrelated but being as I have just included a poll on an aspect of ‘honesty’ I thought I had better come back and say thank you in part for the inspiration:

      http://havealovelytime.com/2011/09/hotel-breakfast-honesty-poll-is-petty-pilfering-on-your-menu.html

      Best wishes and thanks

      Linda

    24. Kash Bhattacharya September 2, 2011 at 00:07 -

      1. What is your name and main blog URL?

      Kash Bhattacharya , http://www.europebudgetguide.com
      http://budgettraveller.org

      2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?

      £18000

      3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?

      30%

      4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?

      40%

      5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?

      ~50%

      6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?

      ~50%

      7. What are your other major sources of income?

      I work 2 days a week helping charities and social enterprises with their social media strategy. I am also acting as a social media consultant for number of travel companies

    25. Andy Jarosz September 4, 2011 at 13:38 -

      1. Andy Jarosz || http://www.501places.com
      2. Annual income: £30-35k (just finished my second year of freelancing; income increasing each quarter)
      3. Income from sites I own: 0%
      4. Income from writing travel online: 90%
      5. Total income from writing travel: 90%
      6. Income from writing (any topic): 100%
      7. Other sources: None

    26. David September 6, 2011 at 19:00 -

      Immense thanks to all of you who had the guts to take part in this. Reading through should give hope to anyone wanting a career in writing – it’s clear that some of us are doing so.

      But what I find most interesting running through the stats is that there are no obvious conclusions to be made. Everyone, it seems, is going about things slightly differently. And we should probably bear that in mind with future “how to” preaching. There is no one right way.

    27. A. Wannabe Travelwriter September 8, 2011 at 20:32 -

      1. Sand Dollar Adventures http://sanddollaradventures.com
      2. As a retired fire fighter I have a pension that is (pick one or more: generous, well-deserved, a rip-off of public taxes, more than justifiable, explains the answers to Items 3-6.)
      3. Zero, nil, none.
      4. Ditto
      5. Ditto
      6. Ditto
      7. See Item 2.

      As a footnote, while my goal is to get published, hence paid, I have been blogging for three years, as my blog mentor put it, to exercise my writing muscles. Any lack of published work is entirely due to a) being too lazy to do “real writing” and send out the queries, and b)having too much fun traveling.

      (I just got off a travel writing “seminar”/white-water raft trip in Idaho with Tim Cahill.)

      Truth be told, I do enjoy the blogging as a Global Adventure Humor Writer as long as at least one hit in 10,000 yields a comment that I wrote something that made the reader laugh.

    28. Kirsty September 15, 2011 at 10:25 -

      1. What is your name and main blog URL?

      Kirsty – http://www.nerdynomad.com

      2. Roughly, what was your income from all work last year (before taxes and expenses – use whichever currency you usually work with)?

      Just under US$52,000

      3. Approximately what percentage of that income was from site(s) that you own?

      100%

      4. Approximately what percentage of your income was from writing about travel online (ie. both your sites and other sites you have been paid to write for)?

      -?

      5. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing about travel full stop (ie. print as well as online)?

      ~?

      6. Approximately what percentage of your income is from writing?

      ~?

      7. What are your other major sources of income?

      None

      I don’t really do much writing anymore, I tend to get other people to do it for me these days. While I obviously write for my blog and do some writing for my other travel-related sites, I’ve been outsourcing most of my content. Plus most of my sites are static and not really in a blog style so I can get away with not updating them for… well, years! I’ve really got to get on that…

      I also wouldn’t really consider myself a travel blogger. My blog has the occasional bits of travel thrown in there, but it’s mostly just about the making money online and reporting on what sorts of things I’m doing.

      Nice idea for a post! Some interesting answers.

    29. Todd @ Todd's Wanderings September 15, 2011 at 13:00 -

      I’ll jump into the mix as I recently posted an income and debt breakdown for the past 12 years of traveling.

      1.http://www.toddswandeirngs.com

      2. About 75,000

      3. 8%

      4. 10%

      5. 10%

      6. Difficult to say as my “other” job working for the UN involves a lot of writing. But pure travel writing etc is still 10% I did a lot of free writing last year

      7. I’m a peacebuilding and human rights worker. So it mixes with my travel. in 2011 this is changing quite a bit and a large portion of my income is coming from tourism consulting/writing that comes from through my (roughly 32,000 in 2011) as well as the average 1,000 + revenue from my blog each month.

      The trouble with these types of surveys is that they only capture a moment in time. I’m really interested to see what the new group of travel bloggers/site owners do over the next few years. There has been a huge increase in the number of us and it will be interesting to see what new methods each of us develop to put exotic food on our plates.

    30. Nathan - As We Travel September 15, 2011 at 14:15 -

      quite a few interesting comments up there!

      1. http://www.aswetravel.com

      2. 36,000 USD

      3. 100%

      4. 0

      5. 0

      6. 0

      7. only from blogging on http://www.aswetravel.com

    31. Jenna September 15, 2011 at 14:54 -

      1. Jenna Harrison, http://followbenandjenna.com
      2. 0
      3. –
      4. –
      5. –
      6. –
      7. N/A

      My site’s about a year old, and I haven’t begun to monetize it. First priority has been increasing visitation, and even that is tricky.

      Thanks all for your candor, though must say the results look discouraging. Seems revenue is still skewed towards products and print and other contracted writing, rather than through advertising driven by people seeking independent content. Fingers crossed that we’ll be seeing a shift.

    32. Durant Imboden September 15, 2011 at 22:50 -

      1. http://europeforvisitors.com
      2. A decent living.
      3. 100%
      4. 100%
      5. 100%
      6. 100%
      7. I sometimes find coins on the street. (I even found a banknote a few weeks ago.)

    33. John Webster May 27, 2013 at 07:05 -

      Nice article and i found it interesting as I am the Affiliate channel manager for an online travel aggregator. I have recently decided to try contacting travel writers/ bloggers to see if what we do is relevant to this area of online. I would actually be interested in finding out what it is that you the writers would like to see form us the advertisers/ affiliate program providers. We have our program and its options based on what we believe publishers would like but after reading a few comments this evening I thought i might be worth while asking the question. what do you want for your sites?