Right now, I’m champing at the bit to travel somewhere. I have over 100,000 points in AA miles and all of the cash I need to book sleeping arrangements. The problem is, I have the glorious honor of jury duty in 10 days, and so the longer trips I’ve been planning are grounded until that’s over with. So, while I may book a short domestic trip in the next few days before then, I figured i might as well add some new entries to the blog; even if I stay home. For today’s topic, I am going to go over some ways that you can generate passive (or somewhat passive, once you’ve done upfront work) income streams while traveling around the US or abroad. It seems like there’s a ton of folks who want to go road tripping, vlog, take Instagram photos, and get paid for it…but they haven’t a clue where to start.
I’m going to broadly cover YouTube, blogs, and Instagram. Essentially, how to make money off of each individually, and how to utilize all of them together to create a reinforcing cycle of income.
YouTube Vlogs, Blogs, and Instagram Photos: The Wall of Content
YouTube Vlogging and Content Creation
My personal YouTube channel is still very much in its infancy. In fact, it’s pretty much just a massive dump of footage that I had on my GoPro micro SD cards, up to this point.
Some may be wondering how ‘passive’ a YouTube channel is. Again, it can be a full-time job, but it could also be a few hours of upfront work in exchange for revenue streams that stem from these videos. Meaning, it can be as passive or as active as you want to make it…which also means that you probably won’t make as much by being super passive.
The main drive for travel focused channels on YouTube seems to be vlogging and content creation built on certain aspects of a particular destination’s appeal (food, things to do, etc). This can be super time intensive, so, going this route would probably best for those looking to create an overarching brand and business with the channel as the base.
That being said, I do have a huge scale up plan for the channel (once, I can travel again 🙁 ) , so it will have more of a focus in the near future. YouTube is still probably the quickest way to build up an audience online.
You can have a hit video within hours of uploading and start building a subscriber base. I’ll get into a YouTube growth plan in an upcoming post, but in this one I want to focus on the monetization of YouTube content.
The most obvious source of income that people tend to associate with YouTube is advertising. YouTube’s advertising platform is administered through Google’s own Adsense program. Also, there is revenue sharing with YouTube Red.
Is the money good? It can be. Generally, one can expect to make between $1-4 per 1,000 channel views. On an old channel that I used to experiment with, I was getting about $1.50 per 1,000 views. I grossed somewhere around $700, just messing about with creating short 2-4 minute videos.
Then, however, came the Adpocalypse, in which many videos were demonetized and ad rates seemed to drop. Now that same channel, is pulling in $3.80 over the last month.
On top of that, Google, now changed the program, and you need 1,000 subscribers and some minimum minutes watched on your videos in order to get ad revenue. That means, the channel that was making money for me, won’t be bringing in anything because it only has 683 subscribers…there goes my $3.80.
The major lesson here, is that the rules of the game can change at any time. Hence, it’s not a good idea to rely on one source of income, for either your YouTube channel or other website. I have well over a half million views and I can no longer make Adsense money, until I get another 300+ subs.
It’s not a sob story for me, at the channel’s peak it was bringing in about $60 per month. Other channels, lost thousands because of the changing ad policies. They put all of their eggs in one basket, instead of diversifying their income streams, and using their massive audiences to their advantage.
How to Make Money on YouTube Without Ads?
With any effort to make money online, whether it be running an e-business or something much more passive, the key to making it sustainable in the long haul is to create a sort of web of different revenue streams.
What are some of the options available to protect against losing or not ever having advertising revenue?
- Sponserships (Adverts outside of Google’s control)
- ebooks (creating your own Kindle content)
- digital products (courses, apps, etc. that you create)
- Affiliate products (selling other people’s products and getting commission)
- Physical Products (you create or source from manufacturers. For example, a clothing line or other channel specific merchandising)
- Services (Using a YouTube channel to get customers for a service based business that you run. Ex: YouTube fitness channels running tailored programs for their clients)
This is just some of the things that the major YouTube channels do in order to make money. The thing is, once you have an audience, this will make way more money than you would through running ads on your channel. It’d be great to have all of these options available, including ads, but if your channel gets demonitzed…it won’t be the end of the world.
Plus, just the ability to link your videos to your website, blog, store, social media, and the like makes this an incredible opportunity for those who put in the time.
From Vlog to Blog
There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years that blogging is ‘dead’. “Nobody reads”, they say, and “People would rather watch YouTube videos.” Fair enough.
However, it’s not entirely true. Yes, creating a blog or some other kind of stand alone website dedicated to a topic is time consuming. No, it’s not as easy to get traffic BUT that doesn’t mean that it is not worthwhile.
For instance, one website I own, is probably as profitable if not more profitable than most of the top YouTubers in that niche. It doesn’t get nearly the same level of traffic from search engines than they get viewers on YouTube, but it can still bring in the money.
Why? People do actually still read content (Hi, there.) and it can actually be easier at times to rank on the main Google search engine than it is on YouTube’s search. Also, their monetization strategy is essentially non-existent, whereas mine has been honed over the years to maximize each visitor.
The great thing about having your own website, is that you run the show. You don’t have Google deleting your videos or channel for YouTube community violations. Even if they were to effect your website’s search ranking, you could still pull traffic from other places.
This also means that if you renew your domain name and web hosting, your content can generate cash flows for years in the future. Just in the last week, I got a $25 affiliate commission for something I haven’t dealt with in years, and a check from Amazon’s Europe office for affiliate commissions.
Seriously, around $100 total, shows up just randomly for stuff I did a long time ago. This is added to the total that I’ve already made off of these writings, over the years…which has been much more.
$100 may not seem impressive but it’s an extra couple days out on the road, if you play your cards right. And who’s complaining about getting surprise checks?
With a blog, you are creating new content upfront, that can then last for years and years. Yes, it took you an hour to write something, but five or six years later a check (or direct deposit, in most cases) shows up.
I think the reason most people quit blogging is because they don’t see the financial benefits for a long stretch of time. They expect financial independence or some form of a full-time income, after writing for a while, and putting ads on their pages.
Nope, you need to plant the seeds continually, and then it becomes ‘passive’. Maintenance work will always need to be done, but in most cases once you’ve developed a significant amount of archival content, you can relax (assuming you’ve done your monetization correctly).
How This Relates Specifically to Travel Blogging
It’s 2018, if you’re contemplating starting a travel blog, you’ve already been beaten to the punch. There are those who have more than a decade at this, under their belts. They have a massive advantage as first adopters in this niche and you won’t be able to catch up to them by trying to compete head to head.
That doesn’t mean you cannot still make money in the travel industry, it just means that one will need to be much more creative, in how they go about things.
The truth of the matter is, most travel bloggers are making money in the following ways:
- Sponsored travel
- Adsense revenue
- Affiliate Sales
- Freelance work
- Kindle Books of Travel Writing (maybe and not a huge source of revenue for most)
What’s funny is most of the affiliate sales come from selling travel courses that other travel bloggers have written. So, getting paid commissions for selling: ‘Travel Hacking’ Guides or programs that teach others how to become a successful travel blogger.
To me, travel blogging in itself isn’t the money maker. Writing about your visit to Ethiopia probably isn’t going to be paying the bills. This is why I think that travel blogs need to be one part of a grand strategy, that can include building a brand and even running other blogs or companies that have nothing to do with travel (but can be more easily monetized).
Don’t view your blogging as the main source of your future income, but as a pillar that can be used to support the overall structure of cash flow.
Setting Up a Blog/Website
If you’re a complete newbie, I know it can be easy to imagine that it takes a lot of work to set up a blog, or that it’s expensive to get a domain and host.
This is not the case at all.
You can get it done in under an hour and for cheap too. The technical work isn’t really technical anymore, as most website platforms like WordPress, are extremely easy to use.
All you need to do is:
- Register the domain name
- Buy hosting package (can be done at the exact same time as the domain name)
- Upload WordPress to your newly hosted domain
- Start writing
Yes, all of these steps have clear instructions available online. Don’t procrastinate, just because you think it might be difficult to get started. It’s super easy.
I use these hosting companies for my sites:
- Go Daddy
Looking through all of the pictures on Instagram from travelers who get hundreds of thousands of likes, it’s easy to get a little jealous and wonder how they make money off of this?
The monetization sources aren’t really that different from YouTube and blogging. But once again, there are those who are doing it well, and those who aren’t maximizing the huge followings that they have.
I think that IG models are the most interesting bunch, to see how they make money, as they can have millions of followers for just posting sexy photos. Some of them are smart as hell and killing it with the branding and business creation.
Others, are pushing whatever crappy products people pay them to promote. Then there are also those who use Instagram to essentially prostitute themselves to wealthy clients around the world.
In lieu of us, promoting terrible products and/or selling our bodies, how can IG make us money?
Getting paid directly would mostly come down to a sponsorship type of arrangement, you know, for products/services that don’t suck.
An indirect payment method would involve driving your Instagram traffic to your YouTube channel or blog. Then, having those visitors follow through by clicking on ads or buying from one of your other sources of passive income.
It can also be used for paid advertisement or just promoting your branded products/services directly through your feed. You can have it set up so that anyone who follows your IG, Facebook page, or visits your blog will see an ad for whatever your selling.
Seeing as they follow you and are a fan of yours, the trust has been built and the likelihood that they would purchase from you is that much greater. The real money is made from entrepreneurial ventures and not just ad clicks that most people rely on.
If you can get people into your ‘ecosystem’ of vlogging, blogging, and photography; a business will build itself, so long as you supply a product or service. It’s hard to fail when you have thousands of pretty hardcore supporters behind you.
Just ask yourself, “What’s going to set me apart?”. You can go on YouTube and type in, ‘(destination name) travel vlog’, and you’ll likely get dozens of results from people who have done vlogs but didn’t really enjoy success. Why?
Some just never produced that many travel videos or other YouTube content. Some were just bad at promoting their content correctly. While others, were just never that interesting in what they did produce.
Why is someone going to continually watch your content if it’s not either informative or entertaining? There’s so many vids that are just randomly assembled events without a clear point or reason to spend time watching.
The same thing goes for Instagram, if it’s not interesting, it’s not going to get engaged with; no matter how many pictures you take while road tripping.
Wrapping it All Up
In summary, the key to making money online from traveling or simply while you’re traveling is to leverage multiple platforms in order to grow a steady stream of viewers/readers and translate that into income through a variety of sources.
Not everything has to be related to travel, there simply needs to be income generated either somewhat or completely in a passive manor. Content creation and marketing online, allows you to become more and more location independent, and simply have money deposited in your accounts 24 hours a day.
As long as there is traffic and engagement with the things that you create, they can be used to pay you. The more that you create, the more opportunities you will have to get paid. Plant seeds and reap rewards over the long haul.