Well, my $10,000 per month streak has ended. We all knew it was coming. I’ve been collecting cans and picking up pennies on the streets in preparation for this solemn return to hard times. It’s back to bottom-shelf champagne and no extra guac at Chipotle for me. Ah, well. Let’s all shed a single tear and then wrap this pity party up so I can give you the spiel about why I’m posting this income report in the first place!
I LOVE income reports. 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 levels. 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.
I find income reports empowering. 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. You can check them all out here:
- Travel Blog Income Report, June 2018: $10,676.44
- Travel Blog Income Report, May 2018: $10,000.66
- Travel Blog Income Report, April 2018: $5,882.77
- Travel Blog Income Report, March 2018: $5,421.36
- Travel Blog Income Report, February 2018: $4,305.96
- Travel Blog Income Report, January 2018: $4,145.99
- Travel Blogging Income Report: How I Made $22,000 in my First Full Year
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.
Hey, are you a travel blogger too? Subscribe below and I’ll send you a FREE email course to help you monetize your own blog in just 5 days! Subscribe below. Yes, in that giant box. With the big button. Go on, now, don’t be shy.
All righty. Let’s do this! How much did I earn in July?
July 2018 Travel Blog Earnings
In July of 2018 my travel blog earned me $6,699.90. Does it bother anyone else how close I was to having a nice, clean number like $6,700? Anyone? Just me?
That is a very good level of income. I MEAN, IT’S NOT $10,000. But I’ll gladly take it!
This month my income was 100% passive. No sponsorships for me. Nada. All good, clean, easy passive income. I love passive income because it makes me feel like if I took a month off of work, I’d still earn money. Except I’m way too terrified to test that theory. Still, IN THEORY, it’s money that I’ve already done the work for which should continue to accrue even if, in some alternate universe, I put away my laptop and decided to live the life of a person who does not obsessively work 70 hours a week.
So why didn’t I do any sponsored campaigns this month? The thing is that I’m still incredibly backed up from my busy June, because some genius decided to pile 3 separate FAMs into one 2-week trip (spoilers: it was me). So I knew I needed to keep my plate relatively cleared to accommodate those upcoming deliverables.
Also, we spent the first half of July frolicking around in Bali (and by frolicking I mean slaving away over my laptop in coffee shops, running away from aggressive monkeys, and stuffing my face with tempeh everything). It was a totally self-funded trip and about 1/2 of a vacation (Jeremy and I both put in a solid 40 hours of work each week during our trip. But, we were working from Bali, and we usually work a lot more than 40 hours a week, so it still felt vacation-esque). So, I didn’t want to burden my .5 of a vacation with additional work.
Thanks to my passive income, during this trip we were able to travel on our own dime and on our own schedule. We did absolutely no sponsorships, no comped hotels, and no tours – we didn’t even bother to pitch the fancy luxury villas that everyone else stays in when they go to Bali. It actually felt really great to be back to our backpacking roots, free to write about (or not write about) whatever we want with no obligation. Free to do as we please without thinking about the blog, or feeling like we had to take photos, etc. So of course, I’ll be writing all about our trip and I took about 700 photos.
Anyway, you’ll have to wait for the details on our travel blog 😉 I should be able to post about Bali before … oh, say, October? 🙁
In the meantime, you guys are the first ones to see a photo from our trip. Yep, I’m talking about our feature image! Hayyyy, that was me, working by the pool in Bali. Look at me, I’m a glamorous travel blogger~~~
My real focus for July was to take a breather, re-assess my rapidly declining mental health and rapidly increasing stress levels, and set myself a game plan for the rest of the year. And I … mostly achieved that.
One thing I did achieve was finding some help. I’ve currently got 3 wonderful folks working in various assistant roles across the globe, which is like, a tiny team! If you add up all of their hours, they almost make 1 full-time person. I’m already SO excited about what I’ll be able to achieve with a tiny team of very part-time people helping me out. I can like, feel myself breathing a little more easily.
I also raised my prices and started saying “No” a LOT more often. I want to focus on only accepting FAM trips that I’m genuinely excited about, and limiting myself to 1 per month maximum. Any more than that and I start to feel overwhelmed and like I can see my long-term goals slipping away from me into non-existence. Like, hey, anyone remember that podcast I said I was going to finally do this year? … No?
So, I’m doubling down my focuses. Focus 1: finish my outstanding sponsored posts & deliverables. Focus 2: Finish the 4 freaking Pinterest posts that I’ve been working on for, I don’t know, A YEAR. Focus 3: Prepare for my first EVER speaking engagement.
OH YEAH, DID I NOT MENTION THAT?! I’ll be speaking at TBEX USA in September in the Finger Lakes! About Pinterest! WHEEE! *cue excitement and panic*
I haven’t really started planning it or talking about it because I don’t have my plane tickets booked yet, which for me is like tempting fate to somehow pull the rug out from under me. So, barring fate’s intervention, I’ll be there. Anyone else?
This Month’s Stats & Traffic
Let’s talk traffic! 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, especially if your blog is newer or you’re not doing this full time. You’re doing GREAT on your journey! You’re killin’ it. Set your own goals and celebrate your own milemarkers.
But still, context is important. So for reference, my travel blog has been in existence now for 2 years and 1 month! It’s just reached the Terrible Two’s and if it was a baby it would have just learned how to say NO. Which, incidentally, is what I’ve been doing a lot of lately, too.
- July Page Views: 158,972
- Uniques: 96,688
- Sessions: 117,874
- Social Media Followers: 31,219
- Email Subscribers: 7,856
So, good news: that random 20k page view spike from June stuck around, at least for July. Doesn’t surprise me, because summer is generally great for travel, but I’m planning a pretty big decrease for August and September which are almost universally travel off-seasons.
My social media followers grew about 5.5% in July, which is a little higher than average. Most of that came from Pinterest (aka my social media bae) which also blessed me with an extra 10,000 session referrals this month (thanks, boo!). I’ve been testing some new Pinterest stuff ever since Boardbooster disappeared (RIP) and I’m thrilled to see that it’s working great so far! I’ll be writing all about my new strategy in one of my 4 upcoming Pinterest courses (kill me).
Email subscribers are still growing fast, despite losing a few hundred of them every time I send out a newsletter. Maybe I should just start sending out multiple monthly newsletters, just to really piss everyone off. Is that … like a good strategy? Ugh. I guess I’ll just suck it up and pay for the 8k level, since it’s gonna happen VERY soon at this rate.
Travel Blog Income Breakdown
Alright, 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!
- Advertising: $3,278.76
- Affiliate Income (Excluding Amazon): $2,116.74
- Amazon Affiliate Income: $1,194.94
- Paid Press/FAM Trips/Sponsored Posts: $0
- Freelance Writing: $0
- Social Media Consulting & Courses: $0
- Product Sales: $91.56
- Grand Total: $6,699.90
Let’s break down what worked and what didn’t.
What Worked This Month
Let’s start with Ad income. I knew that my RPM (that’s the amount I get paid per session) would be down this month, because my beloved ad manager Mediavine prepares us all for the inevitable heartbreak of the Q3 earnings slump. But even though my page views stayed about the same, my sessions this month were way up – like, 15k up. So even though my RPM dropped significantly, my sessions (and the extra day in July – 31 days versus 30) helped me earn ALMOST the same amount in July that I did in June (we’re talking like, a $12 difference here). Magic! I can’t wait for my RPM to come back up, and I know it will, but in the meantime things are steady and I’m happy.
Here’s what’s weird about my affiliate income this month: Amazon was down. Like, way down. Like $400 down. The lowest it’s been since March, actually. What’s the deal? Is July not a month people buy stuff in? Is that why Amazon planned Prime day in July? Or is the bad press surrounding Amazon’s shitty treatment of their own employees influencing people’s purchasing decisions?
As a consumer, I’m personally shopping less at Amazon these days because of their shady practices as the world’s largest retail behemoth, run by the richest man in the world. I’ve boycotted Wal-Mart since high school, and these days there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between Amazon and Wal-Mart.
I’m also shopping there less because the amount of environmental waste that goes into the cardboard box shipped across the world to me containing like, 1 tube of toothpaste offsets all of the other environmentally friendly efforts I make at home. Refusing straws does nothing when I’m buying stuff online that I could walk down the street to buy without extra packaging or gas-guzzling, instead. So I wonder if my feelings are reflecting some kind of greater cultural awakening around Amazon.
As a seller, I’m continually irritated with the fact that I sell $20,000 worth of Amazon crap per month and only get to keep $1,000 of that revenue myself. By the way, those aren’t inflated numbers that I made up. Those are actually the numbers. Look at this, I’m so salty I even used one of those rage faces from like, 2007.
5% feels insulting when I’m sending them that much business, you know? I’m actively seeking out ways I can cut out the middleman (aka Amazon) and instead develop affiliate relationships with the actual companies making the products I recommend the most. It’s going to be a long process, but I’m hedging my bets early and backing away slowly. If I had Amazon stock, I would sell it. Please don’t actually take my stock advice, you guys, I’m the literal opposite of an informed professional.
OK, here’s the good news: even though Amazon sucked this month, my other affiliate income was way, way up! It was up more than Amazon was down, so suck it, Amazon.
Where did all this lift come from? To my surprise, it was actually pretty evenly spread – lots of little earnings spread out over all of my various sources of affiliate income, from affiliate networks to individual sites.
I earned $180 with SkimLinks this month, so again, the tedious process of changing over my links from CJ and AWIN to my favorite excellent, low-stress affiliate network continues to pay off! I’ve had a lot of folks asking me about SkimLinks lately, and I can’t emphasize how much I recommend them enough. They are SO easy to get started with, super reliable, and the tracking is way better than my other affiliate networks. Sign up!!!!
One other extremely exciting NEW income source you may have noticed? Product sales! WTF is that? What product am I selling? Who am I?!!?! Am I a vacuum-cleaner salesman? Do I have a line of exotic detox teas I developed/appropriated after my extensive, 2-weeks worth of travels through Bali?
Y’all … no. I am not shilling vacuums or detox teas. Nor am I selling t-shirts or onesies with my logo on them, although this idea just occurred to me and now I want one real bad.
I made travel products, you guys! Virtual, digital travel products! They’re sort of like e-books, except they’re not books, they’re games. WTF am I talking about? Well, I’ll tell you.
On our last trips to Disney World and Disneyland, Jeremy and I created these epic, ridiculously complex, overly detailed Scavenger Hunts. We didn’t do much with them for a long time – it was always one of my long-term goals to have them made into like, a book or something and sell them. But that involves a lot of work and effort and figuring out how to use Amazon’s book-making tool and it’s like, a whole thing.
So they sat around for a YEAR until … last month, I finally got my sh*t together in Bali and made them into beautiful, downloadable PDFs. I realized – these are supposed to be printable, so why wouldn’t a PDF download work? They don’t NEED to be hardcover books, right? … Sure, I’m losing out on some of that organic Amazon traffic, but whatever. That’s a project for future me. For now, I’m selling my Disney Parks Scavenger Hunts on Gumroad, one of my FAVORITE easy-to-use product sales platforms. They take a small cut, but the fees are reasonable and more importantly, they pay out on schedule every Friday with no minimum. Love it!
What’s even more exciting than the fact that I’ve already sold a bunch of these babies (and got to keep ALL OF THE MONEY because I INVENTED THEM, which is a wild new concept to me)? The fact that I can actually have my OWN affiliates to help sell them for me! I’ve already found some folks with Disney content who are interested in partnering with me to sell the Scavenger Hunts, and I’m looking for me. Do you have content about Disneyland or Disney World? I’ll throw 40% of every sale your way (DID YOU HEAR THAT AMAZON?!?!?!). Drop me a note if you’re interested!
I’ll be testing out all kinds of stuff on these bad boys and plan to eventually turn my findings into some kind of educational material here on Slaying Social. Because after all, outside of selling courses or blogging-about-blogging meta information, not a lot of travel bloggers actually sell products. But why not? We’re travel experts. Why not take our expertise and turn it into a product, and then sell that product and KEEP ALL OF THE MONEY FOR OURSELVES? You guys, I am beyond salty about Amazon. I’m so excited to see how far this brand new revenue stream can go!
Misses This Month
I know it’s not necessarily the most exciting thing to say “getting paid to travel is cool and all, but I think I’ll do less of that and spend more time doing things like sitting at home, going to the gym, and buying groceries” but you guys, that’s kinda where I’m at right now.
After last month’s constant feeling of stress, overwhelm, and falling-behind-ness (that’s a word, I just made it up, so it’s a word now) I intentionally stepped back a lot from actively seeking out sponsored travel opportunities. Unfortunately, I also stepped back from following up on opportunities. And what I mean by that is that I have a lot of un-answered emails in my inbox that I’m probably going to kick myself for not responding to later.
I STILL haven’t sent out all of my emails from IPW in May, and I’m not sure if at this point it’s just too awkward to do the rest. The ones I did manage to send out, I was too overwhelmed to negotiate trips with, so there are a lot of pending offers in my inbox that I’ve been too scared/overwhelmed to respond to. So that’s not great. That’s like … REAL unprofesh, actually.
But it’s part of why I’m going to be placing as much emphasis as I can this year on growing my passive income. I’m just not good at this stuff. The back and forth emails, the negotiations, the sending and responding to things in a timely manner … I love creating content, and I love that piece of my sponsored work. But the lead-up is just … it’s like a mental drain.
I’m an introvert, and the feelings I get when I need to send an email to a potential sponsor or PR contact are the same feelings I have about, like, talking to total strangers or acquaintances at a social event. It’s like, this immediate feeling of exhaustion, like a wave of tiredness crashes over me. My body literally starts to sag and yawn, like the feeling of social interaction has sucked the energy out of me just by thinking about it. I put it off and put it off and keep waiting for the moment when I’ll have the energy to respond to their email with a nice, professional email pitch. But that moment never comes.
I need to face facts: this is a weak point for me. I am not good at it. So until I can get someone who does all that stuff FOR me, I’m stepping back. I’ll do less sponsored campaigns. I’ll pitch infrequently. I’ll field the occasional opportunity that drops into my inbox. But juggling 30+ potential partnerships all at once like I have been since my conference? … I just suck at it. I just do. And it’s not a lack of skills – I’m GOOD at it, when I bother to do it – I just hate it.
So, I’m learning to outsource. I’m learning to find talented help that specializes in the areas that I suck at, or at least is eager to learn about all the things I hate doing and then do them for me. I’m hiring someone to help me with Instagram (grrr) and photo editing (ughhhh). I’m hiring someone to help me send out basic emails and do inane, mindless tasks that I can’t stand doing, like re-pin threads.
And as my income continues to grow, I’ll invest in more and more help. Because investing in help and delegating is an investment in my own time. Clearing out the tasks I hate and don’t enjoy leaves me more room to grow my skills in the areas that I am passionate about. Like writing. Content creation. Actual travel. Speaking engagements. Marketing, believe it or not. And at some point, perhaps, mentoring.
And maybe, just maybe, I can finally create that damn podcast and write my damn book.
Travel Blog Expense Breakdown
How much money did I throw away this month? A reasonable amount, actually!
- Google Apps: $20
- ConvertKit: $128.20
- Virtual Assistant: $655
- Adobe Creative Suite: $31.78
- Slaying Social Services: $39.00
- Keysearch: $8.45
- Social Media Management Tools: $29
- Hosting: $125
- Travel Expenses: $1,102.46
- Total May Blog Expenses: $2,138.89
Our expenses weren’t terrible this month. All told, we’re pocketing $4,718.51. Which I’ve already spent a chunk of on plane tickets for Thanksgiving to see family (wait, what? Travel that isn’t work?! Yup, those aren’t on here because I won’t be writing about it. At least, that’s the plan).
But the good news? It’s more than our rent! Woohoo! It’s … uh, less than our total budgeted household expenses, but hey, that’s why I have Jeremy. For that sweet, sweet high school teacher income. His income is what enables me to keep drinking my fancy morning coffee, y’all. We’re talking like, $20 bags of single origin good-good imported from places I want to travel to. Plus? He also brews it for me. In a Chemex. Because he’s a former barista. Sorry, I just swooned. Did I mention how dreamy my husband is? … I’m getting off subject.
We definitely spent more on VA services this month, and will soon spend even more, since we’re now employing 3 different freelance contractors.
Jeremy and I sat down and worked out a household budget that accommodates for freelance contractors, lots of travel, and throwing money
directly into the trash at our student loans. Mostly, we’re paying for it all by cutting into our “eating pizza every night” and “drinking coffee every morning” budgets. Kidding. I wish.
Honestly, we ended up accounting for almost every dollar of income we can safely rely on, which means it now feels like we’re back to living paycheck to paycheck and pinching pennies. Which like … we’re definitely not, because I could just go back to not hiring help and doing sponsored trips to save money on travel, and I’d have a lot more money to keep in my pocket. But that’s what I’ve been doing, and it feels like sh*t.
Still, it’s weird seeing every dollar we’re earning go right back into planned, budgeted spending. Maybe next time I read another article about some sad white dude complaining that he’s earning over $100k salary and still living paycheck to paycheck in the Bay Area, I guess I won’t judge so hard. LOL what am I talking about? Yes I will!
All things considered, our travel expenses weren’t that crazy. Pretty much all of it was our spending in Bali. Other than accommodations, we paid for just about everything in cash.
All told, this trip cost us about $4,000. Which is a decent chunk of change. I could have offset a lot of that if I’d pitched for accommodations and tours – I’ve done so in the past with our international trips, particularly in Europe where NOTHING is cheap.
But honestly, I feel like it was worth it. I feel so much more relaxed about my Bali content and I’m excited to write about it. We had fun and didn’t feel pressured to work the entire time.
And that’s really what I want to get to with this whole passive income thing. I want to work less hard, for fewer hours, and still earn money. That’s the dream, right? The 4-hour work-week? Not the 70+ hour hustle marathon that I’ve been living for the past several months?
In terms of our expenses, we spend roughly the same amount on our usual blog services each month. Here’s a quick rundown of what we spend money on every month:
- Google Apps: I use Google for all of our website services, including email and a shared drive for both Practical Wanderlust and Slaying Social. I’m actually only supposed to be paying $10 each month, but I set something up wrong and now it’s a lot of work to fix, sooooooooooooooo….
- ConvertKit, my email host, is one of the most priciest business services I pay for each month, because I’m paying for both Practical Wanderlust and Slaying Social’s email lists. As our email subscribers have grown, the expenses associated with it have, too. However, I firmly believe that email subscribers are a worthwhile investment!
- Virtual Assistant: I now employ multiple freelance contractors! I expect to be spending a lot more on assistance for the rest of the year as I seek some work/life balance. I’m thrilled to have some help and I’m excited to throw a LOT more money into this category. I’m seeing it as an investment in my own time/sanity.
- 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 (she says, for the 7th month in a row). Lightroom has been great, but honestly, I haven’t taken the time I really should have to learn how to use it. And I don’t really want to. … So I hired someone to do it for me. WOOHOO! *throws money at all of her problems*
- Slaying Social Services: We are currently paying for a course hosting platform for our courses and a webinar platform, which we are sorely under-utilizing.
- Keysearch is my SEO tool and I love it. It’s worth it’s weight in gold, but it’s actually pretty cheap each month!
- Social Media Management Tools: I am currently paying for Tailwind for Pinterest (RIP, Boardbooster) and an auto-scheduler for Instagram.
- Hosting: My host is Performance Foundry. They provide fully managed hosting, which is like having a team of tech experts at your fingertips. In addition to hosting, they handle things like site speed optimization, plugin updates and fixing broken plugins, making sure my site is never down (and getting it back up when it is, without needing to be called and yelled at), and even basic, minor coding fixes. If you have a larger blog, I highly recommend them!
Hey, are you a travel blogger too? Subscribe below and I’ll send you a FREE email course to help you monetize your own blog in just 5 days! Subscribe below. Yes, in that giant box. With the big button. Go on, now, don’t be shy.
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!
Hey, did you find this post informative? Save it for later on Pinterest!