May was a landmark month for my income. I barely cleared $10k by the absolute skin of my teeth (ew, what a gross phrase) and I could NOT BE MORE EXCITED ABOUT IT!!!!! But before I start this post-long bragfest, let me 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, 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.
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All righty. Let’s dive in! How much did I earn in May?
May 2018 Travel Blog Earnings
In May of 2018 my travel blog earned me $10,000.66.
Like, can we just freak out over this for a minute?!
In January, when I first went full-time, I was worried about paying for groceries. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I could reliably clear $3k in a month after the holiday bubble burst. But I did.
In March, I flipped my sh** over earning $5k in one month for the first time ever – that was my 2018 monthly income GOAL, and I hit it 9 months early.
And now I’ve earned $10,000 in one month. Like, $10k wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t even think it was a possibility.
And yet … here we are.
This is me right now:
But let’s be down-to-earth, because after all, being practical is on-brand or whatever. Other than patting myself on the back so hard that it actually leaves a hand-shaped mark, I’m not doing much differently.
I’m not doubling my annual projected income (er … well, ok, if we’re being technical, I’ve already doubled it compared to what I thought I was going to earn this year way back when.) But I’m not crossing everything out and writing in $10k a month for the rest of the year.
For reasons that you’ll find out below, I don’t think this is a trend that’s here to stay. $10k in a month is likely to only happen twice this year – in May and in June.
But still. Ten. Thousand. In one month.
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 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 travel blog has been in existence now for 23 months. I’ll be celebrating my 2-year blogiversary next month!
- May Page Views:134,532
- Uniques: 83,239
- Social Media Followers: 28,755
- Email Subscribers: 6,501
Even though my earnings have been blowing my monthly plan out of the water, my views are increasing steadily and pretty much doing exactly what I thought they would. I expected May to be a good month thanks to the seasonality that I experienced last year: folks are planning out their summer travels right now, researching hikes and road trips, and generally excited about getting outside. It’s a good month for travel!
My social media followers grew nearly 6% in May. I also FINALLY hit 10k followers on Instagram, so it’s been a 10k kinda month!
My email subscribers are growing again after I removed a few thousand of them back in April. If you recall, I wanted to reduce the number of cold subscribers – people who signed up for an opt-in but weren’t reading or opening my newsletters and other email blasts. I also wanted to reduce my costs, since I pay per subscriber. I’m pretty happy with the list right now, but as I get closer to the next income tier (which is 8k) I may do another purge.
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: $3,084.28
- Affiliate Income (Excluding Amazon): $1,707.52
- Amazon Affiliate Income: $1,510.36
- Paid Press/FAM Trips/Sponsored Posts: $500
- Freelance Writing: $3,150
- Social Media Consulting & Courses: $48.50
- Grand Total: $10,000.66
Let’s break down what worked and what didn’t.
What Worked This Month
So, as you probably already know, I love Mediavine to pieces. My ad revenue rose this month by a solid $600 more than last month, even though my traffic only increased by 10k sessions. This is the kind of magic that makes me rabidly obsessed with Mediavine to the point of fangirling, y’all.
So, how did I pull that off? Or rather, how did Mediavine pull it off for me? Well, it all has to do with the RPM they wrangle from their advertisers – read more about Mediavine and RPM here.
Essentially, I get paid a certain amount per 1,000 sessions on my blog. But it’s not a steady, fixed amount: it changes based on a bunch of stuff, mostly the supply & demand of advertisers, seasonality, and where budgets are scheduled to end and begin. Sexy stuff.
Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the details as long as it keeps going up, and it does. Mediavine handles all of that stuff for me, and I love them for it.
In May, my RPM was about $30. In April, it was about $27. That $3 more per thousand views is why I earned a hefty chunk of change with only a relatively small increase in sessions.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: for those of you seeking to monetize your own blogs: hit 25k monthly sessions ASAP and apply to Mediavine. I can’t praise them enough.
And again – I’m in no way affiliated, and I get nothing if you sign up with them. I just genuinely love the cr*p out of them. So much.
OK, so other than Mediavine making all of my dreams come true (again) what else worked this month?
Both Amazon and my other affiliate income didn’t increase that much – just a little bit, which makes sense because my traffic increased just a little bit, too. In fact, my passive income generally was about on par with the month before, with a little bit of growth, all topping out at about $6,350.
SkimLinks continued to be my favorite excellent, low-stress affiliate network. I’m currently in the process of changing over as many links as I can from CJ & AWIN to SkimLinks.
But for the very first time this year, non-passive income streams played a GIANT role in my overall income this month. In fact, they’re the sole reason I was able to top $10k!
You’ll recall from previous income reports that I’ve avoided putting too much focus on non-passive income streams, such as freelance writing and sponsored posts. The reason for that is because I like earning money in my sleep, and I love the idea that I can take a day off and still earn money. I mean, I rarely do, but it’s a nice idea.
Active income, on the other hand, takes a LOT more work. There’s the months of emails and phone calls and awkward negotiations. Then there’s the actual work. Then there’s the follow up and chasing after invoices and, in some cases, never actually getting paid (yup, I’m still chasing after that $3k from a sponsored trip last year).
It’s a lot of effort, and I prefer to be picky about the jobs I do accept so that I’m happy to do all of that work. I say no to offers that don’t make the time I’ll spend to produce high quality work worthwhile, and to destinations that don’t fit my brand. I say YES! to offers that pay me an amount I feel is equivalent to the value I offer, and to destinations that I know my readers would love to visit.
Sometimes, I do accept lower offers just because I know that the content I can create from that trip will truly provide value to my audience – they’re the ones who really pay my bills, not my sponsors. Staying true to my brand and to my audience’s preferences is my top priority.
… Even though that means that because my brand is budget/mid-range, I won’t be taking any fancy luxury train rides through India like some fabulous bloggers I know. *Sobs over her weathered backpack in a hostel somewhere reasonably priced*
But no matter. This month, that pickiness paid off!
I was approached by an awesome company that I adore (and which aligns with my brand 100%) to write a giant travel guide for them. I also pitched to the same company for another freelance article. And, Jeremy and I were approached by a destination near & dear to our hearts to write a sponsored post for Practical Wanderlust.
All of that added up to the $3,650 I earned from non-passive income, and I’m absolutely thrilled about it. I LOVE when I’m approached for these kinds of projects – it’s way less stress for me than when I seek them out myself, and it means there’s already an understanding & appreciation for the style of work that I do on the part of my sponsor. Which means I don’t have to feel guilty about like, cussing a f***ton in my Instagram Stories or making sassy comments in my freelance article, because that’s exactly what they expect me to do. It’s a great feeling!
Misses This Month
I mean, look: this month was fantastic in terms of income. I really don’t have anything to complain about here.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make some mistakes. I definitely did.
For one thing, I spent most of my month in a state of absolute panic. I attended my first EVER conference this month (IPW in Denver), which was incredibly exciting and also terrifying. I spent a good 2 weeks panic-prepping for it. It was actually REALLY fun and I’m so glad I went – we’ll see if anything actually comes of it, or not, but it was an awesome experience either way.
I did manage to publish 5 posts despite traveling for over 2 weeks of the month (fun fact: I spent 2 weeks of May in Colorado, on 2 separate trips). But like… it almost killed me?
I was absolutely mad this month with stress, and I didn’t enjoy it. I love my work and I don’t mind the hustle, but I didn’t actually have much time to focus on hustling this month at all, because I was struggling just to stay afloat. I was pulled in way too many directions, working on way too many things, and stuff started to fall behind.
Like for example: Slaying Social earned very little this month, and it’s because I was supposed to have already published the 5 Pinterest courses I’ve been working on for MONTHS. But I haven’t yet.
There’s no excuse I can give: I’ve just been overwhelmed and exhausted and tired and haven’t prioritized it. And it sucks, because I’ve let down my business partner and the handful of people who have been asking me about it. People who want to give me money (!!!) to listen to my advice (!!!!!). I shut down my Pinterest Consultations months ago because I simply don’t have time to do them, and I feel like a jerk telling people no (or worse, making vague promises that I don’t end up keeping).
I’ve been letting down a lot of people. And it feels terrible.
So, I’ve come to the realization that I can’t do this alone anymore. I need help.
My husband has his own 60+ per hour teaching job that he absolutely loves and 100+ students (not to mention his fellow teachers) that rely on him. So asking him for help, although he has many of the skills I’m looking for, is not an option. I know *I* really enjoyed having him work with me on my travel blog during our year-long honeymoon, but the blog is my passion, not his. He helps and writes posts for me when he can – and he’s still my photographer on our trips – but he’s not an employee. And I NEED an employee.
What I really need is an assistant. Like an old fashioned, come to my house and sit down and watch me work and take notes and maybe come with me on a trip once in a while and learn how to do the things I need help with kind of assistant. Someone with a blossoming blog, or a hobby blog, or maybe a few baby social media accounts, but with big dreams. Someone who’s eager to learn the ropes in this crazy industry.
I have no idea how to go about finding someone who is capable of working for me part-time, earning what’s likely to be minimum wage in the Bay Area, but I’m going to be working on figuring it out this summer. If you have any leads or tips or advice, please drop me a comment or send me a message! I’d love to chat.
Travel Blog Expense Breakdown
How much money did I throw away this month? So much! Something about earning more money just like … makes you want to spend more.
But in all seriousness, I did actually make some good, important purchases this month which will benefit me in the long term. Let’s break it down:
- Google Apps: $20
- ConvertKit: $128.20
- Virtual Assistant: $10
- Adobe Creative Suite: $31.78
- Slaying Social Services: $39.00
- Keysearch: $8.45
- Social Media Management Tools: $35
- Hosting: $125
- Fancy Equipment: $3,575.38
- Graphic Design: $350
- Business Cards: $118.06
- Contracted Help: $30
- Website Services: $28.20
- Travel Expenses: $3,142.59
- Total May Blog Expenses: $ 7,270.15
So, yeah. I know earning $10k sounds REALLY COOL but … ahem. I took a whopping $2,730 to the bank this month. Which, spoilers, is less than what we pay for rent each month.
Again, I thank my lucky stars for my gainfully employed husband.
But hey, I spent that extra cash on some cool stuff this month! Let’s break it down.
Unusual Expenses this month
My travel expenses were sky high this month, but most of that is just because we bought expensive international plane tickets to Bali for a trip in July (like, a real, non-sponsored vacation trip – the luxury)! The rest of those travel expenses, about $1k, are from the 3 trips I took in May: one week with friends in Colorado, 2 sponsored weekend trips, and the trip to Denver for the IPW conference.
I spent $350 for a new shnazzy logo for Practical Wanderlust from Court Marie, which I then stuck onto a metric f**k-ton of fancy business cards from Moo. I had to pay extra to get them shipped overnight because ya girl loves to get so overwhelmed she literally cannot even (major shout-out to my beloved husband for designing the business cards & ordering them for me while I spent most of my time at home curled in a fetal position, sobbing).
Anyway, they ended up costing like $2 PER CARD, so it physically hurt when I handed them out. And I handed ALL of them out at the IPW conference. OUCH. So, the minute I got home I ordered a bulk buy of way cheaper Vista Print cards. Now I can hand them out without crying!
There were a few unusual little expenses here and there … like, I renewed a couple of WordPress plugins that I pay for. But the other big, hefty expenses this month were all fancy equipment!
Guess who finally upgraded from an inexpensive Chromebook to a nearly-new Macbook Pro (13″ screen, Retina display)?!!? That’s right, this girl.
Yes, I created my blog and ran it for nearly 2 years on this Chromebook. Y’all, it feels SO GOOD to actually be able to use Photoshop and Lightroom on my laptop while I travel instead of having to wait to use Jeremy’s desktop computer at home.
In addition to buying a fancy schmancy new laptop, I also bought a fancy schmancy new camera! Specifically, this one. And THEN we bought a couple of lenses (this one and this one) and oh wow now I have a zillion dollars of camera that I can barely operate without Jeremy’s supervision. Our old DSLR was a mere $500, which now seems laughably cheap. Are all photographers just billionaires?! Who decided decent photography was important for a travel blog, anyway?!
Other than the extra expenses we balled out for this month, 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 expensive items 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. I recently did a massive clean-up to remove non-active subscribers from my list to help slow this rapidly rising cost. But I firmly believe that email subscribers are a worthwhile investment!
- Virtual Assistant: I pay a 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! I’ll be increasing the amount I spend on this each month as I’ve been totally desperate for help.
- 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. And I’ve been learning to use Lightroom! It’s been saving me a LOT of time photo editing.
- 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. 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 both Tailwind and Boardbooster for Pinterest and an auto-scheduler for Instagram.
- Hosting: My (new!) 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!
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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