Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the Zero to Travel podcast to share my tips on getting paid to travel as a freelance writer (if you missed it, you can take a listen here). Talking travel with Zero to Travel host and founder, Jason Moore, was a real treat because in the three years since I’ve launched The Pin the Map Project, I hadn’t sat down and discussed in detail with anyone the whirlwind adventure of going from launching a blog to traveling on assignment and earning money from my writing.
Since the podcast aired, I have been flooded with supportive notes, compliments and, of course, questions. They are questions I receive often from readers: How did you become a travel writer? How can I become a travel writer? How do I earn a living off of travel writing? All questions I have asked other bloggers many times as I waded through the waters of the blog-o-sphere, determined to carve a name for myself and The Pin the Map Project.
When I began this site, it was with the promise of being utterly candid with my readers about how I would get from a 9-5 job to becoming a travel writer & blogger. Knowing the feeling of wistfully scrolling through wanderlust inducing imagery while at work on a Monday morning, I remember the mix of frustration and admiration for people who had managed to become full-time travel bloggers and writers. How did they do it? I would ask myself the question repeatedly, would scour blogs and travel sites for the secret formula on how to turn a passionate side hobby into a career. As I embarked on the greatest journey of all–turning The Pin the Map Project into a reality–I learned from many bloggers how to be successful in my travel blogging; as well as learned from my own trials and errors. When asked how I earn money as a travel writer/blogger, I explain that my income comes from three different buckets:
- Website advertising
- Freelance Writing & Temp Work
- Brand Partnerships & Sponsorship
Below I share an honest guide on how I earn money, in hopes of answering some of the questions I’ve received.
It’s no secret that advertising generates money for a website. With my career background in digital advertising, I am all too familiar with website advertising and putting together media recommendations for global brands with budgets of over a million dollars. So, when it came to The Pin the Map Project, I knew that banners were necessary to make money off my website. As of this year, The Pin the Map Project is part of the Mode Media Lifestyle Network (a network of top bloggers around the world), so many of the ads you see on my website are placed by MODE and the clients they represent. To break it down, when an advertiser wants to work with bloggers they will rarely approach a blogger directly but rather will approach companies, such as MODE, that represent a network of bloggers. Joining MODE has allowed me to not only run quality advertising on site but also connect me to advertiser campaigns and other money making opportunities.
In addition to MODE, I use Passionfruit Ads to sell direct advertising to any brands or bloggers interested in promoting their site. In short, Passionfruit Ads allows you to create an ad store where you can create ad spots for advertisers or sponsors to purchase directly from your page. The beauty of this is you:
- Have complete control over who runs advertising on your site.
- Enjoy a seamless payout process with a price that you set.
- You can include additional opportunities for advertisers to purchase, such as blog consultation, social media mentions, sponsored posts, etc.
Freelance Writing & Temp Work
On the Zero to Travel podcast I was asked what is the difference between a travel writer and travel blogger. I often introduce myself as both and sometimes people question whether there is a distinction between the two; the answer is yes. In my opinion, to say I am a freelance travel writer means I create content on behalf of another publication. Usually my stories and photography are paid for and always subject to the approval and changes of the editorial staff at whatever website the article is contributed to.
On the other hand, travel blogging means I am a blogger for my own online property where I am essentially editor-in-chief. I have the creative freedom to write what I want, when I want as well as manage the social media promotion. When I approach brands for potential partnerships, I always say I am both a travel blogger and freelance travel writer because this tells them that I can secure editorial coverage on other publications with larger followings (although ultimately up to that editor’s discretion) as well as coverage on The Pin the Map Project.
Payment for freelance writing varies from publication to publication–some pay $25 per story, others $1000, others $500; some pay their writers immediately while others will mail a check five months after publishing. The ugly truth is that to land paid writing gigs, you need to have been published on other sites, which means you’ll likely be writing for free right off the bat. When I first started, I wrote for Thought Catalog (for free), Elite Daily (for free), Vagabondish (for free) and other sites that really helped me build my following and portfolio. Eventually, those unpaid stories led me to paying assignments with FOOD & WINE, Matador, The Daily Meal, VICE and more. For tips on pitching editors, check out my guide to Breaking into Travel Writing.
Freelance Temp Work
Freelance is a renegade world where paychecks can be inconsistent, work can prove sporadic and sometimes the pressure of not having enough money can weigh down on you. Despite best efforts and good intentions, sometimes you need to take up a temp job to pay those pesky student loans and other bills. When I first went freelance, I had felt disheartened when a month later I had to trudge back into an office for a temporary job to help make ends meet; but there is absolutely no shame in hustling for your dream. In a city like New York, I am always coming across artists, photographers, comedians, writers and other creatives who hold a day job, temp job or side job to support their blossoming craft. I am no different. With a background in advertising, I will often pick up brief advertising gigs to earn money while in between travels. I going freelance, check out my post: The Mistakes I Made When Going Freelance (and How I Fixed Them).
Brand Partnerships & Sponsorship
The third bucket from where my income comes from is partnerships between brands and The Pin the Map Project. Sometimes these partnerships are paid, sometimes they allow me to host giveaways to increase readership and other times they are in exchange for free travel, a hotel stay, etc. In my experience, I secure brand partnerships and sponsorship by either approaching a brand that I admire directly, having a brand or brand’s PR agency reach out to me or being connected to brand campaign opportunities via MODE.
I recommend creating a page on your blog that outlines how your site and a brand can work together and the capabilities you can offer. As your website grows, you’ll notice that brands will reach out to you more and more in hopes of working together, securing sponsored content on your site or seeking advertising space. When selecting a brand to work with, just make sure that you are maintaining the integrity of your website by choosing a brand that resonates with your content (for example, I wouldn’t work with an auto brand as this would be left field for a site focused on food and travel).
When it comes to my freelance writing and blog, I make a living from a mix of advertising, freelance/temp work and brand partnerships. There are a slew of other creative ways to make money from a blog, such as e-commerce, video channels, affiliate networks and more but these three buckets are how I am currently making money. Unfortunately there is no “magic formula” to living off your blog other than hard work, perseverance and patience. Money will come once you grow your blog following and engagement , which does take time but CAN happen!
It’s your turn! Have you found creative ways to earn money from your blog and writing? Share your comments, thoughts and questions below!