“How much money do you earn?” This is a question I get asked time and time again. Part of me feels weird when people ask me, because I was always taught it’s impolite to ask people how much money they earn. But the other part of me understands why people ask; because it’s intriguing as all hell!
I mean, from the outside looking in, you’re seeing travel bloggers living this fairytale life where they get to travel all the time and, as we all know, travel ain’t cheap. Not only that, but it’s their job, so they must be getting paid to do it. It’s natural to wonder how much money they get paid to live the dream life! So, I get it. It’s a question people really want the answer to and I’m going to do my best to answer it and explain how I earn money as a full-time travel blogger.
How do you earn an income from your travel blog?
I earn my income a number of different ways. Sometimes I am paid to write a review of a hotel or resort, other times I may be paid to review a travel company or product, like a tour company or a new travel gadget. Sometimes I’m invited to attend a trip and the company pays me for my time attending the trip and coverage through my website, YouTube and social media channels. From time to time I work with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies and charge them to place a link on my site. I also make income through Blog Coaching Sessions I offer.
I have set packages I offer brands, which outline how we can work together and what I offer. These packages include things like creating a video of my trip, writing a blog post about it and social media coverage. Depending on the coverage they want and their budget, the brand chooses the package that suits them best.
While it’s possible for bloggers to earn an income through advertising and affiliate programs, I’ve made the decision not to place those things on LGB. I really don’t like ads on websites (because they are SO frustrating!) and I feel weird making an income through affiliate programs. It just doesn’t feel ‘right’.
I don’t earn my entire income from Little Grey Box, though. I also work as a freelance travel writer, writing pieces for Brisbane’s Bmag, Cover More Travel Insurance Blog, Visit Gold Coast and other publications. I LOVE to write, it has always been my dream, so doing freelance work makes me really happy.
Doesn’t that mean you’re paid by these brands to just say good stuff?
Nah! When a hotel or travel brand approach me to work together, they’re paying me for my time and opinion. They’re actually the ones taking the big risk, because they’re saying they believe in what they have to offer and are inviting me to experience it to share with the world. You wouldn’t do that if you weren’t certain you were offering something great.
Before I agree to anything, I always let the brand know that what I write will be totally and completely honest. I’ve never had a hotel or brand disagree to these terms.
Yeah, but what if you did have a bad experience?
If I did have a bad experience at a hotel I wouldn’t jump straight on social media and put them on blast, because that’s not how I’d like to be treated. If I’d done something wrong, as a professional, I’d like a chance to correct it. So, I’d work with the hotel, for example, to get the problem fixed. After all, the best customer service you can receive is when someone takes care of you after a mishap.
How much money do you make as a travel blogger?
My income varies day to day, month to month. I don’t have a set payday and I have absolutely no guaranteed income whatsoever. It’s a big risk! Some months I make a few hundred dollars and other months I make a few thousand. I don’t keep track of how much money I make, I just make sure all my invoices are paid and then I pay my bills with whatever money is in my bank account and push the rest into savings, for those months where I earn less.
How do you afford to travel then?
Let me put it this way; If I earned a regular income, I would spend all my money on travel. Being a travel blogger and travel writer, I’m very fortunate to have a lot of my travel paid for by brands, tourism boards and travel businesses who would like to work with me. So, the thing I would spend all my money on is now part of my job. All I need to do is earn enough money to pay my basic bills and fund the trips I pay for myself. I have no desire to be rich, I just want to be able to do all the things I want with my life, like TRAVEL and BUY CATS!
I think it’s also important to note I don’t spend money on expensive shoes and handbags, fancy meals out, get my hair done every 6 weeks, get regular beauty treatments or buy expensive clothes. I prioritise travel in my life, above pretty much everything else.
So you travel for free?
No. Getting something for free usually means it’s given to you and you don’t have to give anything in return. In my case, I exchange my time and services for travel. I make a point of saying that because if I were to say, “Yeah, I get it free,” that immediately devalues what I do and all I’ve worked hard to achieve. Brands give me travel and I give them access to Little Grey Box through my writing, photography and videography. It’s a fair exchange.
Do you get paid for every trip you take?
Nope! I may have brands approach me with an offer to travel but they may not have the budget to pay me. In those instances I have to weigh it all up. A brand may offer me an amazing trip overseas, paying for my flights, accommodation, food and activities, in exchange for coverage through LGB. If it feels like it’s a fair exchange, then I’ll usually say yes. But, if it feels like the brand is getting more from me than I am from them, I’d probably say no. It’s really important to value yourself appropriately and not under-sell your services.
Do you write to brands and ask them to work with you?
Yeah, sometimes I do. If I’m planning a trip I will reach out to local businesses and hotel groups to see if they’d like to work with me. If I were to write to a hotel, for instance, I would ask them if I could arrange a media stay with them and outline really clearly what it is they could expect to get from me and why it’s a benefit to them to work with me. I wouldn’t ask them to pay me, because they’re helping me out and I’d feel a bit rude writing to them and saying, “Hey, I’m coming to Mexico. You should pay me to stay at your hotel.”
Wow, travel blogging sounds so glamorous!
I love, love, LOVE what I do. It has been my dream for a long time and there isn’t a single thing I’d rather do with my life. It’s important to note that while life as a travel blogger may look perfect, it isn’t all cocktails and sunsets! You have to work really, really hard to be a travel blogger.
It’s a heavily saturated industry and a dream career for many, so to stand out you have to work your ass off. You have to keep everything up to date, take lots of trips to capture content and, while you’re there, not chill out and enjoy it, but work your ass off to get loads of photos, images and written content to put on your website and social media channels. You have to keep content rolling out, build your brand, chase over-due invoices, network with others, collaborate, keep your accountant happy, do your taxes, pay your bills, worry about strangers on the internet thinking you’re fat and ugly, all the while getting trolled and sent sexually explicit messages and images by men.
If you don’t love it, you’ll burn out and all the real work that goes into it will overwhelm you. Travel blogging isn’t solely about loving to travel, it’s also about having a very real passion for photography, videography and writing that consumes you, to the point you have to do it, no matter what. This isn’t a whinge, remember, I LOVE what I do and wouldn’t do anything else with my life. I just want to make it clear that becoming a travel blogger doesn’t magically mean your life is perfect, you just get a different set of challenges that teach you a LOT, which I’m really grateful for.
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger who believes life should be full of fun and adventure. Phoebe shares practical inspiration to help others enrich their lives through travel. Her fun Vlogs, useful travel guides and beautiful photographs are all aimed at inspiring others to live a life they love and never settle for less.