I find income reports empowering. And it’s not just because I’m nosy and like to know exactly how much everyone else makes and brag shamelessly about my own income. I feel strongly that income reports, and the transparency that comes along with writing them, are important for 2 reasons:
- Knowing what fellow travel content creators are earning (and charging) helps to set realistic benchmarks for your own success. They’re both motivating AND educational!
- Speaking openly about the money side of this industry reduces the taboo surrounding asking for and discussing payment. That taboo hurts travel content creators by making it harder to ask brands and sponsors for the payment that your work deserves, particularly for women who are socially trained to be accommodating and self-sacrificing.
And so, at the beginning of 2018, I wrote an income report for 2017 explaining how I earned $22,000 in my first full year of blogging on my travel blog, Practical Wanderlust. I got such fantastic feedback from readers who were inspired to monetize their own travel blogs that I decided to continue posting income reports for the entirety of 2018! I originally posted them on my travel blog, but Christina and I decided to move them over to Slaying Social where they’ve now found their forever home.
January marked my first month as a full-time travel blogger, and my goal this year – my second full year of blogging – is to see if this is a viable career path (or if I have to suck it up and get a real job again). I’m so excited to see where this crazy path takes me and I have no idea what I’m doing (yet), so come along for the ride! We can figure sh*t out together. It’ll be fun. And I’ll only panic about health insurance like, sometimes.
Psst: Be sure to follow me on Instagram and watch my daily Stories – I share my travel blogging task list every day and take you behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a full time travel blogger! (Spoilers: it’s way less glamorous than you’re imagining.)
Here’s what you’ll find in this post.
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All righty. Let’s dive in! How much did I earn in February?
February 2018 Travel Blog Earnings
In February of 2018 my travel blog earned me $4,305.96. That’s more than January, which is nuts since February is a short month with less traffic, and because January is always a great month thanks to seasonality. Cuz people wake up on January 1st and are like “I’m going to TRAVEL~~” and then forget about it by March, I guess.
What’s even MORE nuts is that I didn’t have a single sponsored post this month – and yet I nearly had my best month ever. That record, which is from last year, is only $75 more than my February 2018 income, and it was entirely due to a juicy paid press trip I landed.
My jaw is still on the floor, and it feels GREAT to have earned all of this income passively. I mean, I say passively, but I’m working my a$$ off over here. But you know what I mean, right?
Speaking of working my a$$ off, I’ve been documenting my daily tasks as a full time travel blogger on my Instagram Story. If you want to see me wake up at 7am, drink too much coffee, say silly words in funny accents for several hours, and then work until 10pm on a Friday night like a loser, go follow me on Instagram and watch my stories.
This Month’s Stats & Traffic
Let’s talk traffic, y’all! Context is important, and tracking my stats is just as crucial to understanding my earning potential and growth as tracking my income. Also, this is important: don’t go comparing yourself to me if you’ve got a baby blog. You’re doing GREAT on your journey! You’re killin’ it. But here’s what it might look like for you in the future.
For reference, my blog has been in existence now for 20 months, so it’s like a fussy toddler blog.
- February Page Views: 102,552
- Unique Sessions: 63,000
- Sessions: 76,393
- Social Media Followers: 25,435
- Email Subscribers: 6,314
Nothing to write home about here. I’m happy my page views stayed over 100k – I expected a traffic dip in February because it’s a short month, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
My social media following growth slowed a LOT though – I was growing by 15% in December and January and slowed down to 7% in February. LAME. Although, my annual plan actually has me averaging around 7% per month for the rest of the year, so I guess Dec/Jan were just particularly good months for getting new followers. Weird.
Travel Blog Income Breakdown
Ok, enough chit-chat. Let’s get to the good stuff. I know this is why you’re here, and I”m gonna give you the goods. Here we go!
- Affiliate Income (Excluding Amazon): $1,024.92
- Amazon Affiliate Income: $952.40
- Paid Press/FAM Trips/Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing: $200
- Social Media Consulting & Courses: $520
- Grand Total: $4,305.96
Not too shabby! I mean, I’m still not a bazillionaire and I’m still flying budget airlines and staying in hostels and buying all of my food on clearance BUT HEY I’m not drowning in debt and panic so I’m happy with it.
Let’s break down what worked and what didn’t.
What Worked This Month
So, everything was great last month and I’m thrilled about it. Mediavine continues to pay all of my bills and make my dreams come true. So I’m still shouting from the rooftop: EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET TO 25k MONTHLY SESSIONS AND APPLY FOR MEDIAVINE ASAP.
I mean, I nearly earned as much ad revenue as I did in January, with only 28 days instead of 31, and over 20k fewer page views. Like, wtf?! How is that even possible?!! Mediavine is magical.
Also completely surprising? My Amazon earnings! This was my best month of Amazon affiliate income, EVER. You’d think that would have been November or December, right? Nope. February. What gives? No idea, don’t care, but I’ll take it. And I didn’t even write a Valentine’s Day gift guide, either! Were some people shopping for travel gear for treat yo’self day, maybe?
I’m also FINALLY seeing some traction on some of my other affiliate networks. This actually makes sense to me – I think a lot of folks are planning their Spring Break trips right now, and I’m thrilled about it. I’m so happy for them. Enjoy your spring breaks, everyone! Spring breaks for all!
I will say, however, that I’m still doing WAY better with individual affiliate partnerships than I am with mass affiliate networks like CJ and ShareASale … maybe it’s just the sites I’m linking to, maybe they’re too commonly linked to/advertised and my cookies are getting overwritten. Still trying to figure that out.
AWIN continues to be my best Affiliate Network by far. Especially since I’ve realized that if I wait like, a month, and then go back and check how much I earned, it tends to double. It takes a while for things to get approved in AWIN and I definitely haven’t been accounting for that.
I’m SO stoked to have another great month. 2 months in a row! Why, that’s enough to revise my entire annual financial plan. Eek!
So, I did. I revised my entire annual financial plan. I adjusted my affiliate income up, especially Amazon. I practically doubled my planned Amazon revenue. Which terrifies me.
I also took out nearly all of the paid press and FAM trips – I’ve got a few already lined up for the year, and frankly, that may just be it. But even after removing ALL of my paid press and FAM trips, I’m coming out way ahead of my initial goal for the year.
But really, all that matters is that I out-earn my husband and return to my rightful place as the breadwinner. And according to my financial plan, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. SUCK IT, loving husband! I WIN!!!
Which … I mean, that’s great and all, but it still puts me a good 20k under my old annual salary, which is my next goal. I’m coming for you, corporate stooge former self!
Misses This Month
You know how sometimes you sign up for like 82867287626 affiliate networks and influencer networks and other networks and whoever else sends you an email offering you a 10% rate or whatever, and then you just like, forget about it?
That happened to me last month, except it turned out I’d already set everything up and then just …. forgot that I’d set it up. And then logged in and realized, SURPRISE! I’ve been earning money there this whole time! It’s like finding several hundred dollars in your pants pocket, or something.
Anyway, I’m referring to SkimLinks. SkimLinks is like affiliate networking for lazy people: it automatically turns all of your links into affiliate links, even if you haven’t joined a program for that company or bothered to make a fancy tracked link. I set up SkimLinks in like, September, installed a code, and promptly forgot all about it.
Then I logged in yesterday, and to my complete shock, I’d earned several hundred dollars. Um, what?
The weirdest part of it? Some of the links SkimLinks converted for me were from other affiliate programs I’d joined – SkimLinks was crediting me, even though they were affiliate links, and my actual affiliate wasn’t. I’m still trying to figure out WTF is going on there, but in the meantime, I’m pretty stoked about this newfound source of income I didn’t realize I had. It also means my January income total was inaccurate. But like, in a good way? Anyway, if your curious how much I ACTUALLY earned in January, I’ve revised my January income report.
In other news about things I screw up, I talked to an accountant and he told me that I’m doing this whole “how much I earned” thing all wrong. I should be tallying up the money I actually EARN when people PAY me, not the money I THOUGHT I earned that won’t be paid out for like another 30-90 days. Uh, oops. But don’t worry: I still have a month to re-do everything before my taxes are due, so that’s super fun. Soooo fun.
Travel Blog Expense Breakdown
How much money did I throw away this month? So much! This much:
- Google Apps: $20
- ConvertKit: $128
- Virtual Assistant: $40
- Adobe Creative Suite: $31.78
- Hosting: $48.62
- Slaying Social Services: $39.50
- Keysearch: $8.45
- Social Media Management Tools: $55.15
- Professional Development: $25
- Travel: $1,843.65
My blog expenses for the month were $396.50 all together, and I don’t even want to add my blog expenses and travel together because it makes me want to cry. But as you can see, even though I’m earning a decent amount from the blog, it’s still not netting me a huge amount once you subtract our expenses (especially travel expenses) and we aren’t exactly raking it in and taking baths in $100 bills (also because that’s so gross, money is disgusting and covered in germs).
Net this month we’re taking about $2k to the bank, which like … great, that pays for like, food and stuff, but thank god I’m married to someone with an actual salary or I’d be screwed because that’s LESS THAN OUR MONTHLY RENT. For reference: my husband is a teacher, and we live in Oakland, California. At this rate, we’ll be able to afford to buy a house in roughly 1329528752 years.
This month my travel expenses were so high because we took a trip to Colombia, so that number includes everything except for airfare for both Jeremy and I. But then I also bought plane tickets to Italy for September. Whoo! The moral of the story here is that I’m still pretty much broke and travel is probably the most expensive blog subject I could have picked ever.
Here’s a quick rundown of what I spent money on each month:
- Google Apps: I use Google for all of our website services, including email, a shared drive, etc for both Practical Wanderlust and Slaying Social. I actually don’t know why it increased this month from $16 to $20. I should probably look into that.
- ConvertKit, my email host, is by far the most expensive item I pay for each month, and I’m paying for both Practical Wanderlust and Slaying Social. As my email list has grown, the expenses associated with it have grown, too. I’m currently evaluating whether I can switch to a cheaper email marketing provider and save some cash, so this may (hopefully) decrease soon.
- Virtual Assistant: I pay my VA to help me with Pinterest tasks and other time-saving things. I no longer have time for these sorts of tasks, and she does a great job. It’s worth it for the time it saves me!
- Adobe Creative Suite: I pay for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere. I use Photoshop all the time for my pins. I’m learning how to use video, so hopefully I’ll use Premiere SOON. Lightroom … well, it was free and it came with Photoshop. Maybe I’ll use it one of these days.
- Hosting: My hosting expenses unexpectedly shot up this month, and I’m actually considering switching hosts after a few extremely irritating instances of my site going down for bandwidth overuse. Turns out I need more bandwidth than I realized. But then again, I’ve been paying $4 for hosting for the past 20 months so I probably should have seen that one coming. Anyway, this cost may vastly increase again next month if I decide to switch.
- Slaying Social Services: We are currently paying for a course hosting platform and a webinar platform.
- Keysearch is my SEO tool and I love it.
- Social Media Management Tools: I am currently paying for both Tailwind and Boardbooster for Pinterest and an auto-scheduler for Instagram. I’m considering paying for something more comprehensive, like Hootsuite or Buffer, so this will probably increase at some point too.
- Professional Development: Conferences, courses, and other things that I pay for to improve my own skills and further my career go in this category. This month, I purchased a little course. I have yet to read it. I’ll let you know if it ends up being helpful.
Well, that’s all, folks! What questions do you have about travel blogging, monetizing a blog, or starting a blog? Drop me a comment below!
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