Let’s talk about money.
If you’re going to be a successful travel blogger, you’ll need some to pay your Internet service provider and web designer. You’ll have to pony up cold, hard cash for the equipment I recommended in the second part of this series.
It would be nice to have a little left over to pay the rent, too.
People think you have to take the vow of poverty when you become a travel blogger, or that your “payment” is press trips. Not necessarily.
The “P” word
But let’s stay with press trips for a second. If you reach a certain level of travel blogging success, you’ll be invited on one. Press trips, which are all-expenses paid trips to see a destination, are not compensation. They are work. And something is required of you: You’ll have to cover the trip on your site. (If you don’t, you might have difficulty securing another press trip invitation.)
There are some old-media outlets in this world — and even some new-media organizations — that forbid press trips. I think that’s terrific, as long as they’re also willing to shoulder the expense of sending one of their reporters on assignment.
If you ban press trips but refuse to cover the costs of traveling, you’re just asking for trouble. It’s better to acknowledge the reality that good reporting can come from subsidized travel, just as it can come from automotive reporters who drive loaner cars and theater critics who get comped tickets, and to move on.
If your blog is ever so successful that you can afford to pay for your own travel, then you’ve truly arrived. You’re an unqualified travel blogging success. Here are a few ways you can get there:
Donations. If you’re writing about a topic that people find interesting and useful, they will support it financially. It may even be enough to pay a few bills, but it’s probably not going to cover all of your expenses. I do fundraisers twice a year à la PBS and give away premiums. The fundraisers help cover some of my expenses, but most of all, they allow readers to feel as if they’ve supported your cause in a tangible way.
Sponsorships. Companies will also step up to the plate when they see you have a real travel blog. They are interested in three things: conversions, SEO and branding. I’ve found that conversions are the most difficult. When you sell a sponsorship, conversions can depend on having the right copy, and when it fails, the company inevitably blames you. But SEO, or search engine optimization, and “branding” (being associated with your blog) are achievable. I’ve had some corporate underwriters that have stayed with me for years because they believe in my mission of helping travelers, and they get good SEO karma from it. And I love them for it!