How much money do you need?

19 Aug

I think one of the biggest questions when it comes to making money with a travel blog is, how much money do you need?

This questions governs how much time you spend looking for ways to make money, how many sales “pitches” or pieces you need each month, and even what kind of content you create.

The hobby blogger

The hobby blogger has a day job or independent wealth. Making money on this travel blog might be nice, but there’s no pressing need. It’d be nice to cover domain costs (let’s say US$15 a year, which is a little high) plus hosting on Bluehost or Hostgator, two very fine options for a small- to medium- sized blog. (Both also have auto-installers for WordPress, which is great!)

This blogger needs to make less than US$10 a month to happily cover all his or her costs. It doesn’t matter how quickly this blogger gets paid; there’s no pressing need to cover the bills.

Strategy one: Use a few, highly targeted and commission-based affiliate networks liberally throughout the blog. Build in Amazon text links, for example, into every blog post. People needn’t be “sold” by your posts, but the cookies dropped when they click through will keep you ticking over.

Strategy two: Find one high-commission product that fits perfectly with your site and advertise it enough to make five sales a year. That’s all; five sales on a $25 commission will have you home and hosed without any hard selling or big advertising campaigns. Sell two copies of Art of Solo Travel a month and you’re covered too. How do you do this?

  • 1. Buy the product! You could also ask for a review copy if you have an existing audience.
  • 2. Write an honest review. If you’ve chosen your product well, it’ll be a good fit for your readers — but tell them what’s bad about it too.
  • 3. Include affiliate links in your review; one near the start, one in the middle, one near the end. Vary the wording of the links.
  • 4. Promote your review through links in future articles, a sidebar panel (“Popular posts” for example), and your social media channels.

Once you have your sales, you’ve covered your costs and you can stop promoting it or keep promoting it as you wish.

The budget traveller

The budget traveller is in need of some more cash, probably around $30 a day in order to cover all her costs — that’s taking into account some time in Vietnam and a week in Stockholm over the year. Around US$1,000 a month? That’s a fair chunk of money and needs some much more sophisticated and consistent sales.

Strategy one: Start with the two ideas above, then rinse and repeat. Affiliate promotions are scalable and, when the products match your audience, amazingly powerful. Sign up to affiliate programmes for your favourite online stores — ensure they’re ones your audience can or does use too — then start linking to one or two in every post.

Use both the small- and big- commission items in tandem. Run a major affiliate push — review and promotion — around once a month and ensure you’re linking back to and promoting older affiliate pushes during the year.

Strategy two: If you don’t like affiliate advertising, then try selling ad space. This might be in the form of banner ads, text links or paid-for content. Whatever you do here, never sell space forever: it’s like a newspaper — people pay for every “issue” of a paper; they can pay regularly to be a part of your site content too.

What to charge for travel blog advertising? Watch the video.

Strategy three: Where appropriate, add in other advertising income sources, like Image Space Media, Google Adwords, Kontera. Consider only showing these to “drive-by” search engine visitors using a WordPress plugin like Ozh Who Sees Ads.

Strategy four: Ask your audience for donations, through a Paypal button or subscription service. Depending on your site’s audience, you might make it lucky with this one. Some sites exist primarily on the donations from their readership … something like an NPR model with gifts for big donors keeps people thinking high.

With a reasonably sized audience, this combination of strategies to make money travel blogging can add up. The trick is balancing every money-making opportunity with your reader’s expectations of the site, and their experience.

If you keep your readership coming back, you’ll be able to find a way to stay on the road through them.

It all comes back to how much you need to make. If you do nothing else, figure out how much that is today. And if you do something else, it’s to tell us your strategies in the comments.

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