Okay, so you love travel. And you want to do it all the time — maybe even full time.
You’re not alone.
One quick internet search will show you that thousands of people, if not more, share your dream.
Many have even started travel blogs as businesses to help fund their wanderlust.
Which makes you wonder if it’s too late to actually earn any kind of real living in this risky, saturated market.
The short answer: no!
Below, I’m going to jump into six simple yet highly effective tips for creating a profitable travel blog (with free blogging business plan workbook available here!).
First, though, I want to bust a major myth: you do not have to quit your job to start a travel blog.
In fact, I waitressed for about a year to earn money while I built up my blogging business.
Today, I make a full-time income from Jessie on a Journey.
Moreover, while there are myriad of travel blogs, there aren’t many that are operating purposefully and profitably.
Psst, don’t forget to pin this post for later!
Here’s the deal. I teach an array of travel blogging classes.
When researching the other classes out there, I noticed that most focus on how to grow a following.
And while this is important, what I want for you is to understand how to turn that following into a sustainable, profitable blogging business.
What I’m about to share is really the heart of what I teach in most of my classes.
Knowing these six steps is really going to put you in a position to grow a profitable blogging business that runs on autopilot; that makes money when you’re sick, when you’re sleeping or when you need a break from traveling.
So, let’s dive in.
Recommendation: Watch the video version of this post above before reading!
Step 1: Start With A Narrow Niche
Now, I know what you’re thinking: But everyone says this! I thought this was going to be a unique class!
I’m going to add a step for you. I want you to find a narrow niche, that also has a mission that helps people. Think about this statement:
“I help ___ [group of people] do ____ [how you help them].”
Consider what topics people often seek your expertise in. Or, if you don’t know, call up five friends and say, hey, what do you see me as an expert in? What kinds of questions would you come to me for help on?
Actually write down the answers they give you. Once you have your list, consider what topic you could write about indefinitely. You could also consider taking a personality quiz for inspiration.
If you studied abroad in China for a summer, that’s great, but having a blog called Jenny’s Summer Abroad in China has an ending.
It’s a finite timed experience, when what you want is something timeless. You want something that you can write about for the foreseeable future, because this is going to be a business for you.
Once you have your “I help ___ do ____ statement,” it can act as your blog’s mission, your tagline and what you use in your social media bios.
Feel free to jazz it up a little bit, but it’s a very helpful statement that will direct the course of your blogging brand.
Additionally, once you know this you can pin down your domain name and buy your hosting if you haven’t yet.
Bluehost is highly recommended if you want reliability on a budget.
Plus, you can click “Domains” on their homepage to research available URLs for your blog.
Step 2: Do A Niche Audit
Now that you have your niche, identify the popular blogs in that niche, and create a pro/con list.
- What do you love about these blogs in terms of the content, user experience and design?
- What don’t you like?
- Consider if there is a medium — like video — or a point of view being left out.
- Is there a demographic that’s not included in this niche?
Really pinpoint where there’s a gap.
Let me give you some examples.
These companies aren’t blogs, but consider businesses like Lemonade for renter’s insurance, or Oscar for health insurance.
These companies have taken boring, cut and dried niches and made them fun.
Additionally, one of my past blogging students was a female Baby Boomer who loved yoga.
When she was doing her niche audit, she realized, hey… nobody’s really giving Baby Boomers challenging yoga routines, they’re kind of just doing chair pose and child’s pose.
She identified that gap and then filled it.
This is exactly how you are going to be different and stand out from all of the other travel blogs already out there.
Step 3: Get VERY Specific About Who You Can Help
Just knowing that you want to target female travelers, or male travelers on gap year, isn’t enough to make your audience really feel like your content was written just for them.
You want to ask some questions about your audience.
- What are their demographics?
- What values and beliefs do they hold?
- What brands do they love?
- What does their day look like?
- What do they love about their day?
- What don’t they love so much about their day?
- Where do they work?
- What would they change about their job?
- What do they enjoy about their job?
And one of the most important questions, what are their problems and pain points?
Pain points refer to the feelings and emotions surrounding a problem.
If you can ease these pain points for your audience, this is what’s going to get them coming back, subscribing to your email list and becoming a true community member.
How do you define these problems and pain points?
Get a piece of paper and a pen and head over to forum sites like Quora, Reddit or Yahoo and find a forum that relates to your niche.
You can also persue Facebook for niche groups.
Say we go to the solo travel forum on Reddit.
We can look at the questions that people are asking and start to identify some of the problems that they have.
Solo female travelers in the group are asking questions like:
“Is it okay to travel Colombia solo?”
With this, the problem might be a lack of knowledge about Colombia, but the pain point is whether this lack of knowledge will put them in danger.
Step 4: Turn Readers Into Subscribers With A Juicy Opt-In Freebie
This is also known as a Content Upgrade and, basically, it’s a free gift for people when they subscribe to your email list.
You’ve got your amazing free blog content and social media shares, which should also be fulfilling that mission of helping your target audience.
Now, you want to further help them through this freebie.
Think of what will enhance the content you’re creating and also help the audience in an easily digestible way.
Some things that work well include the following.
Hint: I’ve got a helpful Pinterest pin here you can save full of great Content Upgrade ideas.
- Cheat sheets
- Free 5 day email-mail courses
- Case studies
- White papers
- Resource guides
- Free trial of a product
Now, a lot of people ask, “But what about e-books?”
In my opinion, in most cases they’re too long.
I’m not saying they never work; but after testing it myself — as well as considering how I personally feel when I opt into something — e-books work better as paid upsells to more valuable products.
In terms of a freebie, I’d much rather have a checklist or cheat sheet, where I can get what I need quickly, or even a free five-day email course, where I’m going to get what I need in daily, digestible chunks of information.
You can test this out yourself, but personally, I would experiment first with the easy printables that help people quickly and see how that works.
The other question I get is, “What if I want to create multiple content upgrades for different pieces of content?”
I have two solutions for you.
1. Consider a resource library.
A resource library can hold all of your checklists and cheat sheets.
Maybe your niche is travel photography, and you have a post on how to take landscape photos.
Your opt-in freebie might be a cheat sheet on camera settings for outdoor lighting.
Then maybe you have a post on how to take great portraits, with a checklist on how to step up the light to take a great portrait of a person.
You would create these different opt-ins for the specific pieces of content they relate to, promoting a certain checklist or cheat sheet in relevant content to ensure you’re targeting the right person.
All of these checklists and cheat sheets would go in to one resource library, allowing you to have one email list and giving subscribers access to all opt ins.
If you’d like a visual, click here for my free travel blogging resource library.
2. Break up your niche in to two-to-four categories and create a Content Upgrade for each.
Let me start by saying I recommend breaking up your niche into sub-categories anyway, simply to keep your content on track.
This is also helpful for list-building using Content Upgrades. If your niche is solo female travel, maybe one sub-category is safety and another sub-category is female travel carry on essentials.
This will keep your content really focused. You can create a different opt in incentive for each of those categories, and target people based on what they’re reading.
To do this, I use a plugin called ConvertPlus, which costs $23. It allows you to create different pop-ups advertising various freebies, based on what people are reading. It allows you to target people based on post categories, post tags or specific URLs.
Here’s an example: I have a free solo female travel email course I offer to people to people who read posts with the category solo travel.
I also have a free travel blogging resource library. This will show to people reading posts tagged ‘blogging.’
It’s easy to set up, intuitive and really powerful, letting you truly target readers based on their interests.
Right now, I want you to start thinking about what you’ll create for your Content Upgrade; though don’t create it yet. First, you’ll need to consider Step #5.
Step 5: Come Up With An Extra Juicy Product
Paid press trips, affiliate marketing and paid influencer campaigns are a lot of fun.
But to really be sustainable and diversify your income streams, you’re going to want to have a product or service that further helps your audience beyond that awesome free content and email opt-in.
A few products and services that I’ve seen other travel bloggers offer:
- Courses. Like my How To Work With Brands (& Make Money) course and my Travel Blog Prosperity community membership.
- Tours. Like my NYC Photo Journeys (which grew from so many of you asking me to show you around my home of New York!) as well as Wandering Earl’s Wandering Earl Tours.
- Travel Gear. Like Beers and Beans’ travel scarves with hidden pockets to keep your passport and valuables as well as Legal Nomads’ hand-drawn food maps.
- Photography/Video Tools. Like The Blonde Abroad’s Lightroom Presets.
This all being said, I do want to make an argument for courses.
As a travel blogger — or a blogger in any niche — you’re setting yourself up to be known as an expert on a certain topic.
Therefore, it makes sense to create a course to further help your audience. You already have a group of people in your community that you know want your guidance on a certain topic. There’s your course idea right there.
The other great thing is it’s super easy to create a course on a platform like Teachable.
Actually, it’s no harder than writing a blog post in WordPress. I use Teachable and you can easily add PDFs, videos, pictures, surveys, quizzes and more.
Now, let’s go back to Step #4 really quick.
Your Content Upgrade should be a natural segue to your product or service.
If your product is a travel hacking course, maybe your opt-in incentive is a travel hacking checklist.
You know that someone that opted in to that checklist will have the interest, even if they don’t buy right away because you know that they are your target audience; they’ve proven they’re interested in learning more about travel hacking.
This gets us to our final step.
Step 6: Nurture Your Community (Especially Your Subscribers!)
In short, this involves wowing your readers with amazing content, getting them to join your email list through awesome content upgrades, nurturing them on your email list and eventually pitching them your product.
What I recommend is sending out an incredibly helpful, valuable email once per week to your community.
This is so you stay at the front of their mind and they’re always thinking about you.
Beyond that, you also want to nurture your community immediately when they join your email list.
You do this by creating an automated email funnel.
The goal of this automated email funnel — and the reason it’s called an “automated email funnel” — is that you create the funnel and set it up to send out at specific times depending on when someone opts in.
Maybe you trigger the welcome email to send to them as soon as they opt in, followed by the sharing of your story the day after, and helpful strategies the next two days after that.
You set these triggers up, and your email client, like MailerLite, will automatically do the work for you.
The point of this funnel is to welcome your community member and educate them on your topic; to empower them and to break down any objections they might have to the sale, because the final email in this funnel should be a pitch.
Here’s how mine looks.
Once someone opts in to my email list, they immediately get a welcome email that just lets them know, hey, thanks for joining the community, here’s what you can expect from me.
The second email they get the next day, of me sharing my story in a relatable way.
The subject is “You Can Start A Profitable Travel Blog. Here’s How I Did It.”
I want to show them that, hey, yes, I am a profitable travel blogger.
I am able to make a full time income on this.
But, that wasn’t always the case.
I started from scratch too, and worked my way up and learned strategies to help me get to where I am.
You can do it too.
I want to empower them and see that this is possible for them.
I spread the remaining emails out, every other day or so.
The third email is educational, meant to empower with knowledge.
Mine is titled “Six Things Not TO Do When Start A Travel Blog.”
In the fourth email, I eliminate doubts on the topic with “Three Common Fears of New Travel Bloggers and How to Overcome Them.”
I want subscribers to realize these fears are totally normal and it’s possible to overcome them.
The next email will be overcoming the objection to the sale.
I touch on the fact that a lot of people want to become travel bloggers, but are a bit hesitant because they think they have to quit their job and start traveling.
This isn’t true.
So this email has the subject “Why You Don’t Need To Quit Your Job To Become A Travel Blogger.”
This is followed by another teaching email, titled “A Simple Formula For Travel Blogging Success.”
I want them to see me as a true expert on the topic.
Here I do a bit of a pitch primer; I don’t hard pitch, but I do mention my product.
Finally, the hard pitch email where I pitch them my course.
This one’s titled, “What If You Always Wonder What If?”
I say that because, for a lot of people, we have these dreams, but we keep waiting until the time is right to make them a reality.
And then the perfect time never comes because, well, there is no perfect time.
If you want to make a change, you’ve got to change something in your life and take action.
That’s what this email compels them to do.
I hope that after being nurtured and empowered by my content, emails and Content Upgrade, that they feel like I am the right person to take them on the journey through achieving their dreams.
I know that was a lot.
Thank you so much for sticking with it.
And look, you don’t have to complete all of these steps in one day — or even in one month.
You don’t even have to complete them in order.
Think about what you already know about your business and profitable blogging.
Maybe you already know what product you want, or you already know your niche.
Then build out from there. Whenever you need to refer back to this post and included video, feel free to do so.
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Watch the video version of this post above!
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