How I (don’t) Make Money by Blogging

There’s something about self-help books and other motivational content that is both infuriating and magical. Even on my most cynical and unmotivated of days, all it takes is reading a quote by Elon Musk and suddenly I’ll be setting my alarm for 5 a.m., going to the gym, and writing lists of (ridiculous) business ideas. These books give me a feeling of elation and reckless optimism. I start to believe that I can achieve anything after consuming some motivational words and drinking a double shot latte.

And then reality sets in. I hit the snooze button. I opt to go for drinks with friends instead of slaving away on a “new business” idea all night. I turn on an episode of some dumb TV show (Archer or Family Guy, always) instead of speed reading another self-help book. It can sometimes feel like a failure, but most of the time I accept my reality and resume life as normal.

I try to remember that plenty of these motivational gurus and similar influencers who spout off about their success have failed just as much as I have, but they just lie about it better. Self-help writers and content creators have evolved from promoting real, actionable motivation, to pushing their repackaged product (themselves) and their grandiose (but general) wisdom down our throats. And it goes far beyond the self-help book industry. The notion of “starting your own business” and finding freedom from the 9-5 rat race is all over online content.

This topic has is nothing new to the blogging and YouTube community. There are countless articles and YouTube videos on how to start a blog and make a profit, all with varying levels of clickbait infused into their titles. Do some have some legitimate, actionable tips? Sure, anyone can sign up for an Amazon Associates account or Google Adsense and start “earning” money off their blog. But earning money and making a profit are two very different things.

I’ve had this blog since 2011. After a trip to New York to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a friend who lived there, I wanted to collect my memories in one place. It evolved from there, with sporadic entries throughout the first few years. I tried to pick it up more when I studied abroad, and then even more after moving to Spain. I’ve tried different things on it to grow and develop an audience, many of which I learned I was actually not that skilled at. Especially cooking appealing-looking dishes and then writing out recipes. That was a dumb idea. I decided from there on my best bet was to stick to what I enjoyed writing about, and what could actually help people. That’s why I now focus all my content on travel articles with advice and itineraries.

Fast-forward 7 years to now, and it’s safe to say a lot has changed since I first started blogging. My photography skills are still pretty sub-par but I like to think I’m improving. I’ve grown an audience of regular readers, done some sponsored content, and even made a little money through ads and affiliate links. I get a lot of questions about how I run my blog and a lot of them seem to focus on money. It’s only natural to be curious I suppose.

So, how much?

Definitely not enough for a plane ticket home from Australia. Not enough to fund traveling 365 days a year. If I had to guess, I’ve probably made less than $500 in 7 years. Say WHAT? Why do you even bother then? Well, money isn’t why I started my blog nor why I continue to write in it. I am not complaining about the $500 either, I’m grateful for the small financial returns I’ve gotten through my links, ads, and sponsorships. While I’d love to make a full-time income by being an influencer, doing what I want, and collaborating with brands, it’s not my reality.

So, how do you afford to travel so much? And how do you find the time?

I make most of my money while traveling by working remote freelancer jobs that have nothing to do with my blog. I love those jobs too, but they aren’t a part of my “online business” and I report to bosses and work in a normal 9-5 type schedule. For the past two years, I lived in Madrid, Spain as an English Teacher. Teaching English is FAR from something that I am passionate about, but it enabled me to live in a major European city, enjoy lots of public holidays (and 3-day weekends always), and have cheap access to dozens of cities across Europe.

Social media and the Internet are powerful, scary tools. It would be easy for me to lie and claim that I’m funding my travels through Australia with my online content. People do it all the time. But I don’t. And I don’t do a weird assortment of “digital nomad” jobs to make ends meet so I can “live the dream” in a country with a low cost of living. I still have no idea what drop-shipping is and there’s no way I’d do well as a virtual assistant. I’m doing something I enjoy, that I could do in an office in the United States, but I’m doing it remotely. I’ve found a way to fit my work into my travel, and believe it or not, this sort of lifestyle is only getting easier to achieve.

How many jobs consist of a team of people in a quiet office, not speaking but communicating over email and Slack channels? Why do we need to pay for office space for that? And think of all the commuting costs and environmental damage we could cut down on if a significant portion of the population could work from home? And to address the issue of trusting people to be honest about how much they work, I’ve found that by having to track your own hours, it keeps you focused and honest. If you can’t trust someone to work from home, can you really trust that they are working while they’re in the office? So much time in the office gets wasted without being noticed by managers, and many employees don’t think twice about it. They showed their face for 8 hours, so that’s what counts, right?

As a rule, I never trust anyone who uses the word “synergy” too much and promotes themselves as a consultant on something I didn’t need consulting on in the first place. Don’t buy into it. If you really want to make money online, look for legitimate jobs that you’re interested in and see what your options are. You may not be able to go fully remote at first, but building rapport with an employer can lead to more benefits like this flexibility.

I’m definitely not discouraging anyone from starting a travel blog and pursuing their dreams. There’s no doubt that you can find success on these online platforms and get paid to travel. It takes truckloads of work and dedication, but it can be done. I just want people to know there are other ways to earn a living and see the world. Society can’t afford for everyone to be an influencer, but you can find work abroad, or a job that will allow you to travel.

So anyway, that’s how I don’t make money while blogging! In fact, I spend a lot more on doing things to blog about! But it’s my special space of the internet, a creative outlet that has turned into a portfolio, and I gotta say, I’m pretty happy with where it has taken me.

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