When I first started my niche travel blog website, I never dreamed that I would be traveling the world for free and making money off my blog. Mostly because the thought never occurred to me. I didn’t start this blog to make money– I started it because I was driven to write about and share my passion with others.
But somehow, despite having no intentions of the sort, here I am, travel blogging full-time and yes, living my dream.
Before I delve into the specifics of how you can do the same, I want to give you my best piece of advice– ignore the naysayers and follow your passion. Along the way, many people– other bloggers, friends, even family– may try to to talk you out of your dreams and tell you to “get back to reality” and to “get a regular job.” Entrepreneurship might be a less likely path, but I promise you it is a rewarding one. So smile and thank others for their advice then do your own thing. Period.
At times it was hard, but ignoring the advice of others and believing in my passion, I was able to build my hyper specific niche travel blog, Souvenir Finder into a high traffic travel blog. I also mostly travel for free these days and derive a nice income from my blog. How do I do it?
- What is a niche anyway and how do you choose one?
- Everything you need to know to get your blog up and running.
- Set Up Web hosting
- Download WordPress.org and get a theme
- Learn your craft, get support and join the travel blogger community
- Get some business cards
- How to make money from your travel blog and live the dream of location independence.
- Make money by saving money
- Most common ways to monetize your blog
- Use your blog as stepping stone to bigger opportunities
Quick Content Guide
- Is it Too Late to Start a Travel Blog?
- Part I: How to Pick a Niche Travel Blog Idea
- Stop Procrastinating and Get Started Now on Your Niche Travel Blog
- Part II: The Nitty Gritty Details– My Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Niche Travel Blog Website
- 1. First, Sign Up for Inexpensive Website Hosting Bluehost
- 2. Download WordPress.org
- 3. Use a WordPress.org Theme
- 4. Join me (along with other Successful Bloggers) in Travel Blog Success
- 5. Get Some Business Cards
- 6. Start Writing Your Travel Blog Niche Site
- 7. Focus on one or two social media channels
- 8. Optional: Consider Video Content for your Travel Blog Niche Website
- Part III: How to Make Money from Your Niche Travel Blog
Is it Too Late to Start a Travel Blog?
One of the first things people will tell you (especially other travel bloggers) is that it’s “too late” to start a travel blog, that the “market” is saturated and you’ll never succeed.
But while the market might be saturated with many dime a dozen travel blogs, I can assure you it’s not saturated with interesting, high quality, unique travel blogs. It really is true that the cream rises to the top. If you’re a great writer, storyteller or photographer and you have an idea or angle no one else has, then you won’t be competing against all those mediocre blogs out there. You’ll be your own voice and the sky’s the limit on how far you can go.
An easy way to separate yourself from the pack of other travel blogs is what this post is about– start a niche blog and stick to it.
Part I: How to Pick a Niche Travel Blog Idea
In a world where many travel blogs are indistinguishable from the next, it helps to have a niche. This isn’t just true for travel bloggers– niche fashion bloggers, niche tech bloggers and niche lifestyle bloggers all benefit from the simple fact that they’re different from everyone else.
How do you pick a niche to write about? It helps if you have a passion that you could never get tired of writing about. I could think of a million niches that combine hobbies and passion with travel. If a specific niche doesn’t immediately come to mind, start thinking about the main more “generalist” niche travel blogs and then delve deeper and narrow it to an even more specific subtopic.
For example, while there are a number of excellent food travel bloggers out there, how many focus only on dessert? Or breakfast? Or instead of being just another solo female travel blogger, why not be one who does yoga at every destination? Or extreme adventures? The possibilities are really endless. And despite what you might think, that having too narrow a niche will give you less to write about, the opposite is actually true– you will always have your niche to act as a framework for every post, which actually makes it easier to always have a ready-made topic to write about.
Also, the narrower your niche, the easier it will be to develop expertise in your field. While you might not know everything about every kind of adventure travel around the world, if you stick to just diving or kayaking, you’ll find your expertise will build pretty quickly.
Once you settle on your niche, it’s time to pick a domain name. Because a lot of travel related names are taken at this point, you might be tempted to combine a few travel words together (e.g., travelingwanderingvagabond). Don’t do it. Your name doesn’t even have to have a travel related word in it (think of other successful websites like fashion driven Man Repeller or lifestyle blogger Cup of Joe).
Stop Procrastinating and Get Started Now on Your Niche Travel Blog
My next best piece of advice is just to do it. Stop spinning your wheels and start your blog today. Get your domain name, theme and web hosting set up. Worry about everything else later.
The sooner you set up your blog, the sooner you can start writing– and making money if that’s one of your goals. Fortunately, the start-up costs are pretty minimal, so you really have no excuse to delay. I can’t tell you how many times friends tell me about a great idea they have and how they wish they could start a blog. It’s really not that hard! Just follow my guide to setting up your niche travel blog and you’ll be ready for the fun stuff (and hopefully independent living).
Part II: The Nitty Gritty Details– My Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Niche Travel Blog Website
As I mentioned, while it’s not completely free to set up a travel blog, the start up costs are really pretty low. There is no need to hire a web designer or know a thing about coding– I started from zero and figured it all out myself pretty easily (google is the best way to get virtually any blog related question answered).
1. First, Sign Up for Inexpensive Website Hosting Bluehost
There is absolutely no need to sign up for expensive web hosting as a beginner blogger. Using a shared hosting service is both economical and hassle-free.
How to do it:
I recommend using Bluehost— they can get your website up and running in just 15 minutes (and give you a free domain name!). It’s easy, cheap and most travel bloggers use them.
Follow this link for Bluehost quick 15 minute blog set up and click on “get started now.” I always used the cheapest plans and never experienced problems– so go for the “basic” plan for the most economical option (usually around 5.95/month or less). You can always upgrade at a later date, the goal is to get started and get that blog up and running.
2. Download WordPress.org
Once you have web hosting taking care of, you are ready to get your site started. Every blogger I know uses wordpress.org, there really is no reason to choose anything else. For a free download, go directly to their website here.
3. Use a WordPress.org Theme
Want your site to look professional with the least amount of hassle? Get a theme. Themes are dummy proof and let you set up and make changes to your blog without outside help. You can choose a free theme or for more flexibility and ease of use, I recommend a paid theme, because well, you get what you pay for. Studiopress and themeforest are recommended theme providers.
4. Join me (along with other Successful Bloggers) in Travel Blog Success
Travel blogging can be lonely without coworkers to turn to. You might also want to learn the basics through reliable course material. I recommend the travel blogger group that I belong to, Travel Blog Success. Most of the “big” travel bloggers you know not only belong, but also actively participate in their secret Facebook group– where you can ask any question and feel supported, even as a newbie.
While I haven’t used the course materials (which get excellent feedback) I often pop in to see what kinds of discussions are going on and what others are up to. You can join Travel Blog Success here.
5. Get Some Business Cards
To look like a legit travel blogger (and to always have your contact info handy) get some business cards made up as soon as possible. Aren’t sure what title to use on your cards? You can always go with the obvious– travel blogger– but some opt for other titles. I’ve seen travel writer, travel photographer, managing editor, founder, owner and just plain writer, the choice is really up to you. Keep in mind that business cards do leave an impression, so don’t cheap out with flimsy cards. Nearly every travel blogger I know (myself included) uses Moo cards– super high quality and lots of template options.
6. Start Writing Your Travel Blog Niche Site
Once your start up is done, you can start writing your blog posts! The excitement of hitting publish for the first time cannot be overstated. If you don’t feel “ready” to share your blog posts right away, then keep it under wraps for the first month until you find your groove and get more content up,
While you should reserve a place on all social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest), figure out which channels interest you the most and pour all your attention into them. It’s much more effective to focus your attention than to spread yourself too thin and get nowhere. I put most of my attention on Pinterest and it’s worked out well for me.
8. Optional: Consider Video Content for your Travel Blog Niche Website
The dramatic rise of gopros, drones, snapchat, Facebook live and instagram stories all point to one thing– the increasing importance of video in travel storytelling. You don’t have to be a dedicated video blogger (aka vlogger) to incorporate video into your website. Play around with instagram stories to get comfortable speaking on camera before you take the plunge to you tube videos. While this is by no means a prerequisite to run a successful travel blog, it can only help.
Part III: How to Make Money from Your Niche Travel Blog
Now that you’ve got up and running you’re wondering when the day will come that you can quit that corporate 9-5 job and travel into the sunset.
1. Remember that Saving Money is the Same as Making Money
If you can figure out how to save money each month by changing your habits, lifestyle or even location, it’s really the same as making money.
Location– Figure out how important it is to you
I’m not a terribly good example of the “saving money” concept. I live in one of the most expensive parts of Manhattan, right across the street from Central Park. My rent is astronomical.
But I know many, many bloggers who make compromises that work for them. Some are completely nomadic and have no rent to pay while they travel. Others set up shop in certain cheap hubs around the world where travel bloggers base (Chiang Mai and Playa del Carmen are popular options). And others do in fact live in their dream cities but have figured out how to make it work by living with roommates and choosing the outer reaches of Brooklyn over Manhattan.
Consider the Right Time (if any) to Leave your Full-Time Job
If you can handle working full-time and using nights and weekends to write, and have ample vacation time, there is no need to quit your day job just yet. You’ll feel far less pressure to both write and looks for ways to stay afloat financially if you can do both, at least in the beginning.
2. After You’ve Built an Audience, Start Monetizing that Niche Travel Blog
Once you have built up your content, have strong website traffic, a dedicated audience and can demonstrate that you have can deliver results, it’s time to consider monetizing your niche travel blog.
Travel for Free on All-Expense Paid Press Trips
As a travel blogger, you are going to need to travel. Flights, hotels and activities can get expensive. Once you join the ranks of successful travel bloggers who can demonstrate return on investment, you’ll be invited on press trips where these costs are taken care of by the host– whether that’s a tourism board, pr company, airline, hotel or tour provider. In exchange, you’ll provide content and/or social media promotion, each situation will vary.
Use Affiliate Links (Carefully) to Make Money from your Blog
As you write, you’ll naturally come across products and services you love and want to recommend. Sign up for affiliate programs (Commission Junction and Amazon are two of the biggies) and earn money every time a reader clicks on one of your links and purchases the item or service. There is no cost to the reader, and as long as you are honest about the link and demonstrate that you truly believe in the product, readers not only don’t mind using your links but will in fact try to support you if possible (especially if they enjoy your non-affiliate content). One thing to note that I hope doesn’t need saying– never ever sacrifice your integrity or recommend products you don’t believe in– it will read false and you’ll lose the trust of your readers.
Partner with Clients to Create Ongoing Campaigns
While press trips can be fun and a great way to build content, to command day rates and other payments you need to offer something more. Campaign packages are a great way to help your clients reach their marketing goals while establishing an ongoing relationship. As long as you can deliver what you pitch, successful campaigns will keep coming (and bring in more clients– word of mouth and reputation is how the travel world operates).
Run Ads on Your Niche Travel Blog to Generate Income
You can use services like Google adsense, but a better route for bigger payouts is to work directly with potential advertisers. They might contact you, but don’t be afraid to contact them and let them know what you can offer.
Consider Sponsored Posts to Make Money for your Blog
Clients will contact you for all different kinds of what are called “sponsored posts.” They might have a ready to go article they want to pay you to run on your site or they may want you to write one. Any sponsored post request will always involve placing one or more links to the client’s site. Rates will vary depending on your traffic or other information clients use to assess sites (including less reliable factors like domain authority).
Make Money from Instagram Posts
If you are influential enough on Instagram, you don’t even need a blog at all. Instagram is so hot right now that influencers with large and dedicated followings are getting premium rates to add a post to their instagram feed.
3. Take Advantage of the Opportunities your Niche Travel Blog will Present
Not all your income needs to directly come from your blog itself. Just having a blog and being an expert influencer in your niche will likely score you other opportunities you may never have thought of. My list is far from exhaustive because to be honest, the sky is the limit– bloggers think of creative ways to leverage their blogs for new opportunities and careers everyday.
- Some travel bloggers (though I admit I am not among them) enjoy freelance work, whether that’s writing or photography, and use their blog primarily as a showcase of their work.
- Travel bloggers have been offered opportunities to work with production companies on possible television programs for some of the big networks
- Travel bloggers who enjoy public speaking can seek out paid speaking engagements (this is especially true of niche bloggers who can more easily present themselves as experts on a given topic).
- Travel bloggers have been featured in paid commercials and advertising campaigns
- Travel bloggers have created their own courses to sell to other bloggers
- Travel bloggers have sold e-books, some to great success
While it’s definitely going to take some work to build a successful and profitable niche travel blog, if you truly love what you are doing, it won’t feel like it. Afterall, the work you pour in will be for you– your brand and your business. Entrepreneurship is a gamble, but one everyone should make if they have the passion and dedication to give it a real chance.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links (duh!) which are of no cost to you and may even score you a deal.
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