So, I don’t want to jinx it, but it seems like $10k and I are getting real cozy. This is the 4th time this year that I’ve earned over $10,000 in a single month, and it blows my mind. I’m actually in spitting distance of a 6-figure year, and like … let’s just say I don’t spit like a llama. More like Mulan.
But hey, before we pop open a celebratory box of Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s (lol jk I literally have a half-eaten box in my pantry right now), let’s talk about why I’m being so openly about something so taboo. No, I don’t mean unapologetically stuffing my face with cookies. I mean money!
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! You can check them all out here:
- Travel Blog Income Report, August 2018: $10,441.63
- Travel Blog Income Report, July 2018: $6,699.90
- 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 (almost) 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? Be sure to read my MASSIVE guide to monetizing your travel blog. Or, just 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 September?
September 2018 Travel Blog Earnings
In September of 2018 my travel blog earned me $10,029.90. Yay!!!
I travelled for 3 weeks during the month of September. First I went to TBEX in the Finger Lakes, NY to speak about Pinterest – my first ever speaking engagement! It was SO much fun, I met some of my blogging IDOLS and made some fantastic connections, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go!
From TBEX I took a hellacious 40-hour flight (there were so many long layovers and connections) to Italy. I spent 10 days road tripping around Southern Italy with my mom and her BFF, living the pasta life and honestly not working all that much, which was really nice.
Then I hopped to LA for a few day to see family, because if we don’t go to LA every couple of months my credit card crawls out of my pocket and books us a plane ticket, like clockwork. Both my family & my husband’s family lives in LA, and we can’t see everyone in one weekend, so we just go to LA a lot. And then double that for good measure!
From there I came back to the Bay Area and immediately left on another trip. But that trip happened in October, so you’ll just have to wait on those details 😉
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 have limited time to spend on your blog. You’re doing GREAT on your journey! You’re killin’ it. Set your own goals and celebrate your own mile-markers.
But still, context is important. So for reference, my travel blog has been in existence now for 2 years and 3 months! It’s a fussy toddler blog and if it were a real person it would probably just be starting to say NO to everything. It would probably be easily tricked by reverse psychology, though, just like I was at that age.
- September Page Views: 177,290
- Uniques: 110,040
- Sessions: 134,269
- Social Media Followers: 33,923
- Email Subscribers: 7,619
My page views slid a little in September compared to August, but they’re still insanely higher than I ever thought they would be this year and I’m still kinda close-ish to 200k monthly page views (AHH) so I’m happy! I think it’s a seasonal thing – in August, folks are still cramming in summer vacations, but in September it’s time to go back to school (although can we be honest? If you don’t have kids, September is a GREAT month to travel – everything is so cheap!).
My social media followers grew by 4% this month, was mostly concentrated on Instagram and Pinterest. Twitter and Facebook continue to be
giant wastes of my time not very significant for my growth *ahem*.
I cleared out 2k email subscribers because I was too cheap to pay for the next pricing tier with my email host, which starts at 8k, but I’ve already gotten them all back.
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!
- Affiliate Income (Excluding Amazon): $2,870.17
- Amazon Affiliate Income: $1,236.51
- Paid Press/FAM Trips/Sponsored Posts: $1,000
- Freelance Writing: $0
- Social Media Consulting & Courses: $517.50
- Product Sales: $57.94
- Content Licensing: $250
- Grand Total: $10,029.90
Let’s break down what worked and what didn’t.
What Worked This Month
Let’s start with Ad income. My ad income slid a little bit from last month because my traffic decreased slightly even though my RPM was up (thanks a LOT, seasonality).
I had a pick-up in several affiliate programs (not you, Amazon) because like I mentioned last month, I’m moving many of my Amazon links over to other affiliate programs. So I’m kind of re-shuffling my affiliate income. I guess you could say diversifying, because it makes me sound smarter.
I’ve got a breakdown on all of the Affiliate programs I use and recommend over on my Travel Blog Monetization guide, but I can tell you that by far my best performing affiliate network this month was SkimLinks!
I had some non-passive income this month which was exciting! I made the decision in recent months to significantly cut back on sponsored partnerships because they eat up so much of my time. That’s worked out well for me in that I no longer feel guilty turning down unpaid press trips AND I have more time to actually, yanno, grow my business. Less glamorous? Maybe. But also I took my a$$ to Italy for 2 weeks and ate a bunch of pasta and didn’t have to write about any of it, so … I’m good.
I’m not cutting out ALL brand partnerships, though – I’m still accepting them when I feel a strong brand overlap and when my limited time is valued (read: paid). And so in the spirit of getting pickier with my brand partners, I’ve been working on leveraging my affiliate partnerships (because driving sales and conversions is one of my strengths) and turning some of the brands that my audience loves into more established relationships.
So I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline for Q4 that are both sponsored by brands AND revenue driving affiliate posts – a double whammy for income! This is a model I’ve had some success with already this year, so I’m excited to pursue it more. It also means I sometimes get to frolick around taking photos of myself in cute outfits like a fashion blogger, whee!
I also love that these kinds of sponsored posts don’t require taking 15 pictures of my food before I can eat it – I can write them from the comfort of my couch, in my pajamas. Ahhh, this is the dream.
One other unusual source of income this month was content licensing. Someone actually reached out to me and asked to buy some of my content. I was like “lol okay” and drew up a contract. Y’all, it was the fastest money I’ve ever earned, honestly. Can more opportunities like that fall into my lap, please? Anyone want to buy this paragraph? How about a signed picture of me??
Oh! And one more exciting source of income this month: our COURSE LAUNCH! In September, we launched TWO Pinterest courses: Slaying Pinterest 101 for travel bloggers who are just starting out on Pinterest, and Slaying Pinterest Traffic for intermediate/advanced Pinners looking to supersize their results from Pinterest. Soon we’ll be launching Slaying Pinterest Design which will teach our new Pinterest pros how to improve their designs and create stunning, clickable, beautiful pins.
Then I’ll go hide in a hole for the rest of my life and never write another course again ever.
Misses This Month
So you might remember last month that I started selling Disney Parks Scavenger Hunts on Gumroad. I was hoping to see sales increase steadily every month, but instead September was my lowest income month since launch. Maybe people just aren’t going to Disney parks this month? Or maybe it’s because I suck at writing sales funnels (slash have no idea how)? I don’t know, but it’s kind of a bummer.
Psst: Do you have content about Disneyland or Disney World? I’m sharing 40% of every sale of my scavenger hunts to my affiliate partners. Drop me a note if you’re interested!
Travel Blog Expense Breakdown
How much money did I throw away this month? A fair amount!
- Google Apps: $21.99
- ConvertKit: $128.20
- Virtual Assistant(s): $405
- Adobe Creative Suite: $32.84
- Slaying Social Services: $39.00
- Keysearch: $8.45
- Social Media Management Tools: $29
- Hosting: $125
- Business Cards: $64.71
- Shipping: $88.74
- Travel Expenses: $1,274.31
- Total September Blog Expenses: $2,645.78
All told, we’re pocketing $8,892.62 this month.
I spent quite a bit on travel in September, thanks to traveling for 3 weeks straight. I’m not ashamed to say that a good half of those expenses were just pasta. I also had some added expenses for the conference:
- Business Cards: I’m so salty about this. I waited until the last possible minute to order business cards for TBEX, so I had to pay extra to ship them overnight. I went with the most obvious choice: OvernightPrints.com. I mean, overnight – it’s in their name, right? Well, they arrived A WEEK LATE. Someone at the front desk literally handed me my business cards as I was walking out the door with all of my bags to head to the airport. I was SO MAD. Instead of handing out business cards all week, I handed out little folded up slips of paper I printed out in the hotel lobby. I’m still fighting them for a refund. Lesson learned: don’t procrastinate, but ALSO OvernightPrints is a f**king LIE.
- Shipping: After TBEX, I had a whole bunch of schwag from brands I’d met with and our generous hosts, and no room to fit it into my 2 carry-on bags (don’t think just cuz I have some income every month it means I’m not livin’ that budget airlines economy flight life, you guys. I live in the Bay Area. My rent is $3k a month, OK?!). I walked over to UPS with a giant box of like, branded beer cozies and 3 bottles of wine. AND THEY WOULDN’T LET ME SHIP THE WINE. Apparently it’s illegal! I still somehow ended up paying $88 to ship the rest of the stuff I didn’t need, and ended up tearfully leaving the wine with a note to the hotel staff in my room. RIP, delicious Finger Lakes wine, I’m sorry our time together was so short.
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 with cloud hosting for both Practical Wanderlust and Slaying Social.
- 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 and sanity.
- Adobe Creative Suite: I pay for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere. I should really stop paying for Premiere. I’m never going to use it.
- Slaying Social Services: We are currently paying for a course hosting platform for our courses 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 thanks to a Black Friday deal I snagged last year – be on the lookout for that again soon!
- Social Media Management Tools: I am currently paying for Tailwind for Pinterest and a tool 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? We’ve got a massive guide that breaks down exactly how travel bloggers make money. Or, just 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, or head over to the Slaying Social Facebook Group to start a discussion!