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“And Alex here is a professional travel blogger!

I cringe hearing the words come out of my travel companion’s mouth, and immediately starting looking for an escape route from the moving vehicle I’m currently riding in.

The questions start firing from all directions. So you’re able to support yourself with that? Who pays for that? Yes, I have hobbies too. Knitting is nice. The last one isn’t technically a question, but I do get a lot of “that’s so cute that you think blogging is job!” kind of comments, which bother me a lot less than they used to now that I’m more confident in my career path.

How To Make Money Blogging

I get it — the idea of earning money blogging is baffling, bizarre, or downright looney tunes to most people. It’s not that I’m opposed to talking about business, it’s just that, well, I’ve been doing it five years and it’s still hard even for me to explain. So basically if I met you on the road in the last half decade and I told you I was a graphic designer, an online translator, a virtual parakeet trainer or some other convoluted lie in attempt to avoid talking about how I make money online, I’m only vaguely sorry.

Well, here’s my 3,000 word attempt at lifting the curtain a bit on how I make blogging work for me. A lot of people have monetized their blogs better and faster than I did, but the only story I can tell is my own.

Read next: Ask Me Anything Blogging Edition

How To Make Money Blogging

I considered the first and second years of my blog a poorly paid internship with myself – and thankfully I had the hard-earned savings and frugal lifestyle to float it! The audience and influence needs to come before the money will.

In my third and fourth years of blogging I felt like I’d reached the point where I’d built an audience I was proud of and there was a community here that I adored and that trusted me, but I didn’t know how to leverage that in a way to really comfortably support myself. In my fifth year of blogging, I made huge strides in figuring that out.

I feel like I hit a really important moment in blogging that was pretty much luck – my blog reached a peak of audience and engagement right around a time big brands were waking up to the possibilities of working with bloggers. I’m starting to be proactive about pitching brands and being more selective than ever about those than pitch me, and getting every closer to my ultimate goal of working with a highly curated, very small number of sponsors that share my love of travel and storytelling.

How To Make Money Blogging

How Much I Make

I’m pretty much an open book on most topics, but I still feel a little wary of putting my line item income on the internet (though I admire and respect bloggers who do!), partially because I’m terrified of being audited and partially because money can cause weirdness in real life relationships, but I will tell you that in the past year, on my worst month I grossed a little over $2,000 and in my best month I grossed a little over $8,000. That wouldn’t be a bad paycheck for an employee to take home, though as a business owner I have a lot of expenses to pay off before I can write a check to my most dedicated employee — me!

Blogging IncomeThis past year was a breakout one for me in making money through blogging. While as usual my income varied greatly from month to month, I overall increased my income from year four by 61% and turned a tidy net profit even after paying off my numerous business expenses and taking a splurge-y trip to Brazil.

My income has increased every year since I started blogging (good thing, since I grossed just $5,680 in my fledgling first twelve months!) and I turned net profits in both year three and year five, and expect to do so in year six as well.

Originally I planned to do a breakdown of how I spend my working hours to go along with this post, since interestingly where the bulk of my times goes doesn’t always correspond to where I make the bulk of my money, but I’ve decided that topic is worthy of its own post someday. So stay tuned!

How I Make Money Blogging

It is wild to look back and see how things have changed over half a decade in terms of the pieces that make up this pie chart. For example, a similar chart for my first two years of blogging would have just had three slices: side gigs, paid links and affiliates. It wasn’t until year three that branded content opened up for me, and ambassadorships in year four. And it wasn’t until year five that I smartened up with display ads! It will be interesting to see how this continues to shift over time.

How I Make Money Blogging

Branded Content: Branded content makes up the bulk of my income. Why would a brand want to advertise on a travel blog? Great bloggers have a hard-earned rapport with their audiences, and there’s a mutual respect, relationship, loyalty and conversation between blogger and reader that doesn’t really exist when someone is flipping through a travel magazine or muting television commercials. The audience reach might be smaller but the level of trust is sky high — something I never forget or take advantage of.

I always disclose branded content, both because the FTC tells me to and because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Here’s what branded content consist of for me:

— Branded Blog Posts: This is content that I write, paid for and brought to you by a sponsor. Ideally it’s a product or service I’ve already been using and loving for years, though sometimes I’m introduced to new brands that I get excited about. Here are some examples of branded content I wrote in the last year with Capital One Venture card, KAYAK, Overnite, and Abbot Global.

— Paid Travel Campaigns: For a lot of people, this is the dream – not just traveling “for free” but also getting paid to do it (personally I don’t consider something I have to work in exchange for to be free, but I know that’s how a lot of casual observers might view unpaid press trips). Sometimes these campaigns are with a destination – like my trip with Visit Florida – and sometimes they are with a hotel brand or chain – like my trip in Thailand with Radisson Blu or my trip to Bermuda with the Hamilton Princess. These trips can be very fun but they are work; there’s definitely no room for spontaneity or sleeping in. You’re there to be a professional and promote the destination. They are not vacations, though they are spectacularly cool business trips.

— App and Product Reviews: I also take on a select number of travel related app and product reviews every year. Here’s an example of a product review and an app review I did this year. This is a relatively small category, making up just 4% of the 38% branded content represents.

— Sponsored Social Media Posts: Because my social media following is kind of the weakest link when it comes to my marketable audiences, standalone social media campaigns or posts that are not part of a larger project are incredibly rare for me. I do have a decent Instagram following and so get a lot of offers for collaborations there, but I’m super picky about what I post on that platform and so haven’t really been bothered with monetizing it.

Ambassadorships: If doing a branded content campaign is going steady, signing an ambassador deal is moving in together. These are long-term, next-level partnerships with brands I really love and really have great relationships with, in which I’m paid a flat annual fee in exchange for embodying the brand. At the moment I work as an ambassador for two brands, Viator and PADI — click the links to read my announcement post for each.

Affiliates: This is one of my favorite income sources because it is passive, meaning I can earn it while I’m sleeping. When I’m writing a post and I include a product or service that I use, I often include an affiliate tracking link to that product. If you buy one, I receive a commission — at no cost to you! Considering I’m pretty much just adding a slightly longer link to a product I would have written about and linked to anyway, it’s low-hassle to both blogger and reader. The amounts I earn per product can be really low, but this blog received over three million pageviews last year — so it does add up.

Display Ads: This was a new category for me this year, and one I’m only beginning to tap the potential of. See the network ads in my sidebar and footer? I make money from those, another amazing source of passive income once they are set up and running. And see the Featured Blogger banners in my sidebar? I earn money from those, too — though they require a not insignificant outlay of time on my and my assistant’s part each month.

Paid Links: Once upon a time, selling SEO backlinks bankrolled many a travel blogger’s lifestyle. Basically, back in ye olden days of blogging, a company would contact you asking to add a link to an old post or to your sidebar or to publish a “guest post” that is hidden on the server of your site but that readers never actually see, with the goal of raising the search engine rankings of the site the paid link was pointing to. While I was never as successful or dependent on paid links as some bloggers were, it was my primary mode of monetization in my early years.

Have no idea what I’m talking about with this one? Me neither, but this is a good place to go to start understanding it. Or don’t bother, because honestly, this income category is risky — it can put you in the hot seat with Google — and also becoming more and more rare due to constant algorithm updates aimed at eradicating it. Many big bloggers pride themselves on no longer selling links, but I admit I occasionally still do. I don’t seek it out anymore and I assume it will naturally fade out over time, which I’m fine with. Google’s major algorithm change that rocked the boat in terms of this being a stable income category was the best thing that ever happened to me — it scared me senseless and forced me to get smart and throw eggs in other baskets pronto.

Side Gigs: Over the past year I continued to shed my side hustles in favor of turning my laser-like focus onto all things Wanderland. I used to spend a lot of time on graphic design projects, freelance writing, and photography work. These days my time is just so consumed by other more profitable ventures that I have let those go in all but the most enticing cases, like when I sold a photo to National Geographic last year! That said, side gigs — especially design and writing — really floated me through the early years when I wasn’t making much in Wanderland, so I’m ever grateful to them.

. . .

There are also a few categories that don’t currently exist in my chart but that I hope will someday.

My Own Products: I have an ebook that I’ve been wanting to publish for years. With WordPress as my witness, I will add this category to the income chart next year!

My Own Trips: Recently, some bloggers have begun running their own tours and trips. I’m not sure that’s the perfect fit for me, but I have started to fantasize about running retreats focused around my passions in some of my favorite destinations. This is very much in the daydream stage.

Speaking Gigs: I’ve recently shared my first forays into public speaking, all of which were unpaid gigs other than having my expenses covered. While it totally terrifies me, I’d love to continue pursuing this as a personal challenge and someday, a potential income source.

How I Spend Money Blogging

You absolutely can start a blog for free, and if you’re doing it as a hobby there’s no reason not to — but you have to spend money to make money and as my income has grown, so too have my expenses. Reinvesting in my business and outsourcing aspects of it that I’m not well suited for have been two major aspects of getting me to where I am today.

So how much do I spend? It varies wildly as some of these are monthly expenses, some are annual, and some are big occasional investments (like a major site redesign or signing up for a course). In general, my business expenses range from the mid three figures to the low four figures per month.

Blogging Expenses

Taxes: Self-employment taxes are brutal.

Travel Expenses: Someone has to pay for the travel that results in the content I produce here, and more often than not, that person is me! I do take the occasional press trip, but as I broke down by the numbers in this post, I turn down the majority of those I’m offered. I’m really passionate about maintaining my independence as a traveler and so this category will always remain high.

Education and Networking: This is a really crucial category and consists of courses, ebooks, and attending workshops and conferences. I’m lucky that my undergraduate degree in communication design from Pratt included classes in photography, coding, and writing, but I didn’t let my education stop there. I’ve also invested in a continuing education Travel Writing course at New York University, an enrollment in Travel Blog Success (which is on sale now, learn more at the bottom of this post!), and attending various travel shows and conferences. In the past year my expenses were covered as a speaker at the conferences I attended, but prior to that I frequently paid out of pocket to attend both diving and travel conferences.

Developer and Designer Services: I have a developer on call who handles all crisis of coding and an amazing design team who I regularly hire to spruce the place up around here.

Hosting, Domain Name, and Newsletter Services: I register my domain name with Bluehost, who I hosted my site with when I first started out as well — these days, I keep my site on a semi-private server. I also pay a monthly fee for a subscription service to send out weekly newsletters and automatic post emails.

Premium Plugins, Fonts, and Tools: I regularly invest in buying fonts, plugins and tools that help me create graphics, run this site and my social media channels more effectively. Before I invested in a custom site design with the designers listed above, I purchased premium site themes through Elegant Themes.

Data Backup and Equipment Upgrades: Hardware, software, and cloud services. Cameras, camera cleaning, a laptop, laptop repairs, lens upgrades, backup hard drives, data backup syncing services… the list goes on and the prices go up. You can find a full outline of my photography and electronics gear on my obsessions page.

Social Media Marketing: At the moment this mainly consists of boosting posts on Facebook, though I’ve also begun experimenting with promoted pins on Pinterest. I have also considered advertising in the sidebar of other prominent blogs like I offer myself with my Featured Blogger program.

Assistants: Currently I employ two part time assistants, my social media manager to whom I pay a flat monthly rate, and an administrative assistant who helps answer business emails and to whom I pay an hourly rate. I was all about outsourcing this year and had three other people I experimented with hiring for temporary administrative, site update, and writing projects.

I actually hope to look for a more full-time personal assistant when I return to Thailand, because it is a place where I can afford to be the best paying employer on the island and printing a document takes approximately 17 hours. I’ll keep you posted!

Management Firm: One of my big shifts this year was to working with a management firm who decided to experiment with representing bloggers. They both handle inquiries I receive and proactively pitch on my behalf, and take a percentage off the top of whatever deals they negotiate on my behalf. As talking money has always made me stammer, it’s been a huge weight off me to hand off the business handling to someone else. I’m excited about the work they’ve found me so far and can’t wait to continue working together going forward.

. . .

And some categories I need to add as soon as possible. All three are on my to-do list to complete by the end of next month:

Health Insurance: As of January 1st, I don’t have it! Considering I spend the bulk of the year out of the country I’m tempted to just get travel insurance and pay the penalty on my taxes, but considering how financially ruinous it would be to fall seriously ill or injured inside the US I should probably invest in at least a basic plan.

Business Registration: Small business licensing, here I come.

Retirement: As I don’t have an employer to set up a 401K for me, I need to take my retirement savings into my own hands.

Timeline

I get a lot of questions about when I hit certain milestones in blogging, especially in traffic and income. Hence this timeline. A few things to note — while my income has overall steadily increased over the years, it hasn’t been a straight upward path to financial stability. Just because I hit the $3,000 mark in income for the first time doesn’t mean that I made that much the following month (in fact, I made half!) But here’s a little peek at how I got where I am today.

Blogging Timeline

The Bottom Line

The bottom line? I make enough to live the life I want to live. As of this year, I could even support moving back to a modest life in New York if I so wished. It hasn’t been easy to reach this point of relative financial stability and I’m sure my future will toss me many more adventures in staring down a quickly draining bank account at some point, so I’m doing my best to live simplistically and be as financially responsible as I’ve always been.

Read next: Ten Ways I Afford to Travel The World

I’ve traded the stability and safety net of following a more traditional career path for the freedom and adventure of forging my own, and in spite of the wrong turns and the bad business choices and the sleepless nights fretting over funds, overall it has been an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see where the next five years take me.

Any questions? Fire away in the comments!

Alex in Wanderland

Ready to Start Earning?

Great news for all you fellow aspiring bloggers out there! This week is Travel Blog Success’s Summer Sale!

I rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that’s kept me on the road for five years. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice, and was instrumental in getting me to where I am now! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now!

Click here to receive 35% off all TBS memberships — potentially saving hundreds of dollars — no code needed! Specialty courses like Videography for Travel Bloggers, which I reviewed here, are also discounted. Sale ends Friday at 11:59 PM EST. Please note that I’m a proud affiliate of the program and thus will earn a percentage of your purchase at no extra cost to you. See you in the forums!

And one more thing — spots are still available for August slots of my Featured Blogger. Come hang out in my sidebar (plus other perks!) Get in touch for more details.

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139 Comments...
  • Tempesst
    June 23 2016

    You have accomplished so much, Alex! You should be so very proud of yourself. I blog purely as a hobby and to keep my friends and family in the loop with my travel stories since I don’t use social media, but I would like buy my own domain soon and make the blog prettier. I’ll definitely need to find someone online to help me out with that because I have ZERO technology knowledge! If you have any recommendations, let me know 🙂
    Tempesst recently posted..Scenes from Mostar

    • Alex
      June 23 2016

      Hey there! Thanks for the kind words. I’d definitely recommend a premium theme with Elegant Themes for sprucing up your site without too much tech knowledge. That’s how I got started until I was ready to pay for a real redesign!

  • Wesley
    June 23 2016

    Hi Alex
    Firstly I find your website and blogs great and a huge well done for the hard work you have put in to make it this.
    I commend you on your openness of this blog. I have always wondering about this and have always wanted to try it myself.

    The problem I have is that I do not feel I have the best writing skills to put it into paper and I do not have the exciting life you lead.

    All the best in the future and if you ever need some help with photography or websites it would be great to help.

    Well done and keep up the good work.
    Wes

    • Alex
      June 23 2016

      Hey Wesley, thank you! Well you know what they say: practice makes perfect. If you want to get better at writing, there’s no better way than to do it every day for a blog! 🙂

  • Dominique
    June 23 2016

    Great and comprehensive post about the ups (and downs) of the blogging business. Sometimes I feel people idealize it without realizing it’s really hard work too!
    Dominique recently posted..Warsaw – Wine and Dine

    • Alex
      June 23 2016

      That’s definitely why I wanted to include the expenses as well as the sources of income 🙂 Thanks Dominique!

  • Tammyonthemove
    June 23 2016

    Congrats on your 5th anniversary. You have achieved so much and should be really proud of yourself. There are so many big bloggers whose content gets dictated by too many press trips and sponsored content, but on your blog it is just the right split. And even when I read your sponsored content, it is always interesting actually as you always manage to bring your own experience into it. So keep on doing what you are doing.

    Although I have actually earned a decent amount of money from my blog over the years, my blog will always be a hobby, as I love my career in international development which allows me to travel the world. But nonetheless you have been a huge inspiration for me and to this date you are my favourite travel blogger out there.
    Tammyonthemove recently posted..The Ultimate Ghana Travel Guide – All the things to know before you go

    • Alex
      June 23 2016

      Lots of love right back at you Tammy! You have such an interesting and rewarding career in development, I love that you manage to maintain blogging as a profitable hobby alongside it (although I’d classify it more as a second career than a hobby if you’re earning money 🙂 ) Kudos to you!

  • Steph
    June 23 2016

    As an aspiring blogger, this has to be my all time favourite informative post of yours! Thank you for sharing all the numbers, it’s seriously encouraging and oh-my-god-that-could-be-me-one-day exciting!

    Looking forward to seeing just where your blog will take you in the coming years. Happy blogging!

    • Alex
      June 23 2016

      Thanks Steph! And yay, I’m glad to hear this post was well received. Dream big, girl!

  • Kudos Alex, both for being so organized that you can break this stuff down, and for being so transparent. So many writers dance around this subject so I loved seeing you grab the bull by the horns on this.

    Also, big props on recognizing the value of your time and outsourcing some littler tasks so you can focus on the big picture. If you need a part time VA in an Asian time zone you know who to call 😊 (I legit actually do work as a VA though, ha! That’s what funds my site and travels so there you have it, internet.)
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..PSA: Kayaking in Roatan

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Well I figure if I’m going to write about something, I might as well go all in! And I TOTALLY forgot that you work as a VA. I might just be taking you up on that, girl.

  • Erica
    June 23 2016

    Great post Alex! Your thorough breakdown is eye opening, to say the least. Good for you! It seems like you’ve built something to be really proud of. Now you just have to distill this whole entire blog post down to 3 sentences for people who ask you why you’re working when they meet you in a coffeeshop or hostel lobby 😉

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Ha! Or I can just send them the link 😉 Thanks for all your support over the years, girlfriend!

  • Erika
    June 23 2016

    I enjoy posts like these; it’s always fun to see a little behind-the-scenes. I think so many people don’t realize how much work it takes to make money from blogging! I do hope you’ll do a behind-the-scenes about how you break down your work sessions; I’d love to hear about how you do that while you’re always on the go!

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      I’m hoping to do a general breakdown alongside a “day in the life” type posts, one of these days!

  • Michelle
    June 23 2016

    I’ll be your assistant on Koh Tao!
    Michelle recently posted..Goodbye to Baltimore Plus the One Thing I’m Gonna Miss the Most

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      I’ll let you know when I’m hiring 🙂

      • Michelle
        June 25 2016

        Please do! I’m pretty sure Koh Tao is my spirit island and your blog is literally my favorite travel blog so I think it could work out pretty well.

  • Thuc
    June 23 2016

    I love these posts.

    Would you be able to give me more details please on how you sold a photo to Nat Geo?? That is literally my dream haha. And which photo was it? 🙂
    Thuc recently posted..Topping Out and Letting Go: Kosciuszko National Park

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      They just contacted me out of the blue with a specific photo in mind — one from a stand up paddling trip I took in Florida, randomly! It didn’t go to print, just web… but still exciting!

  • Francesca
    June 23 2016

    Wow, 5 years is a crazy long time! Even crazier to think how long I’ve been following your adventures for. Congratulations. That’s a damn lot of work you’ve put into growing your business.

    And if you were to host a yoga/hiking/writing retreat on Koh Tao/island hopping nearby I’d be there in a heartbeat? Just saying…
    Francesca recently posted..Unexpected places? They’re the best kind!

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Pretty exciting to daydream about these kinds of things! Who knows if it will be in the next year or the next five but it’s fun to dream.

  • I LOVE this breakdown – thank you so much for showing us this! It really puts into perspective just how possible it is to turn blogging from a passion to something that can help you earn money! Ugh, exactly the post I’ve been looking for (and needed!) Thanks Alex!
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..Escaping to the English Countryside: Day Trip with Premium Tours

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Yay, so glad to hear that Amanda! You are so welcome — and thank YOU as ever for reading!

  • Kassie
    June 23 2016

    This is so informative. I think its great you shared a post like this because you should be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and let people know that you’re not just “lucky” to live your lifestyle!

    I just started my blog as more of a hobby but it never hurts to know what the possibilities are!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      No joke — a huge reason I wrote this post was to share with my real life friends who still don’t really get what I do 🙂 I definitely understand the confusion!

  • Kristin Addis
    June 23 2016

    Oh man I cant stand it when people belittle me for making blogging my living! They just don’t want to and can’t believe that there was another choice than the less attractive one they made, that’s what I have to tell myself. I’m with you, though, I dread when someone asks me what I do for a living.

    Also, “with wordpress as my witness” <— Golden.
    Kristin Addis recently posted..How I Plan My Travels in 19 Easy Steps

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Ha ha, thanks for appreciating that wordplay, Kristin (I think it’s a blogger thing…) 😛 There is a lot of truth to what you said, and especially with people I know and love who are unhappy with their jobs or life choices I feel almost apologetic about how happy I am with mine, which is a strange feeling. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends and family crushing their dreams, too!

  • Lindsay
    June 23 2016

    So proud of you, girl – killingggg it!

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Thanks girl! You’re the best!

  • Lauren
    June 23 2016

    Great post Alex!

    Thanks for including such an awesome graphic detailing when you hit your major milestones. I’ve found that some bloggers tend to be quite vague about this.

    I’ve just started my own travel blog (2-months in!). My sole goal is to blog about my travels and get myself in a position to become location independent.

    It’s refreshing to see some realistic goals I can work towards and hopefully achieve.

    P.S. I’m in Thailand for the next few months – please say you are hosting a meet-up so I can fan girl? :p

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Aw, wish I could Lauren! I’m not in Thailand at the moment… sadly! Let me know if you stick around until winter!

      • Lauren
        June 25 2016

        Oh! I’ll still be around by winter 🙂 Basing myself out of Thailand for a while to earn some money teaching and to explore SE.

  • Cindy
    June 24 2016

    Congrats on your success, not to mention your excellent record-keeping and graph production. There is a lot of good blogging advice out there. But, for a newbie just 6 months into blogging, this kind of practical, nitty gritty information is a cut above. Thank you!

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Thanks Cindy! That’s an honor to hear 🙂 Appreciate you following along!

  • Sumit Sharma
    June 24 2016

    Aww.. amazing story.

    Really loved your struggle in first 2 years and the way you carried yourself afterwards.

    Really Inspiring.
    Sumit Sharma recently posted..Review : Kitchen District – Hyatt Regency, Gurgaon

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Thanks Sumit! I kept the faith things would only go up, and they did 🙂

  • LisaLDN
    June 24 2016

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I love the transparency, and am always curious to see how professional travel bloggers balance their income/spendings 🙂
    LisaLDN recently posted..How to live a Pura Vida Life

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      It’s the kind of info I love to read from others, so I try to share it as well!

  • Kate
    June 24 2016

    Great post and so interesting! Thank you for sharing so much about the other side of blogging!

    Kate
    Kate recently posted..The Top 10 Things to Do in Finland

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Glad you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain 🙂

  • Janice
    June 24 2016

    Hi Alex,
    What an interesting and informative post, as I always say – these are my favourite because I learn so much from you.
    It must feel really good to see how the ups and downs of your experiences and learning, have helped you develop and grow as a Business Woman. Building a life you want to live. Congratulations.

    It comes across strongly as well, the importance you place on building links with both readers and companies, to enable you in the long-term to create strong and stable relationships.

    I love to write, I love to experientially research resorts, destinations and locations. Learn about the history of the people,the place and its background. Share that with others so they can too can make choices about what to do, where to go and what they can see. But my first attempts have resulted in failure in connecting in a widespread manner with an audience. Mine is 40+. So I’ve fallen at the first hurdle, if I’ve learnt properly from your post above.
    See, told you I learn from you. 🙂
    Thank you again for showing us what it means to be a professional within this industry.
    Janice recently posted..Living & Working in Gran Canaria

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      I know how you feel Janice, building an audience isn’t easy — I think it’s generally every blogger’s first and biggest struggle! There’s no secret to it that I’ve found… just time, talent and luck (like most things!)

  • Amanda
    June 24 2016

    Congrats on the continued success, lady! I know how annoying it is to have people give you the side-eye when you say you’re a blogger and then immediate follow up with the “So you actually make money from that?” question. But you’re obviously doing something right! 🙂
    Amanda recently posted..Stuff You Should Know About: June 2016

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Ha, yeah, I prefer to avoid the conversation altogether when possible! It’s just so overwhelming to try to distill into an easy explanation. Would be really curious to hear how other bloggers do it, actually…

  • Gemma
    June 24 2016

    Love the transparency. Craig refers to travel blogging like being in a band – slow progress while building and gaining exposure before you hit the big time. Of course, not everyone will be The Beatles!
    Gemma recently posted..Top 10 Things to do in La Paz, Bolivia Today

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Good analogy and so true! But there are plenty working musicians out there making a living for themselves without having to deal with the downsides of fame — maybe that’s an even greater goal than being The Beatles?

  • Michelle H
    June 24 2016

    Hey Alex! I always enjoy reading your posts for your honesty and I’m also really impressed at your graph-creating skills, haha. I don’t plan to monetise my blog anytime soon but it’s always very interesting to get a “behind the scenes” look at how others do it! 🙂 Congrats on reaching your 5th blogaversary and here’s to many more!
    Michelle H recently posted..The Coastal Towns of Gran Canaria

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Thanks Michelle! I LOVE breaking out the graphs and charts 😛 I might have to figure out ways to do more of them around here!

  • Julie
    June 24 2016

    Alex,
    It’s great to hear about your business, and I appreciate your candidness about life and your work. Cheers to the next year of business! ~julie
    Julie recently posted..Going Home

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Thanks Julie! Onwards and upwards, I hope.

  • Eva Casey
    June 24 2016

    Thanks so much for this post, Alex!! It’s great to read about your journey, and see that the first two years were your “poorly paid internship” hahah. I’m in the first year of taking my blog seriously, and it gives me hope to read that! Although, there are SO many travel blogs now that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with making mine stand out. Right now I’m in the ‘side hustle’ part of my journey, but struggling to find the balance of actually making money and working hard on ‘my business.’

    If you ever decide to lead a trip/retreat you should check out the travel website I’m the blog editor for, WeTravel.com! It’s a free platform to organize trips and makes everything really easy! Also, I for one am super excited about the prospect of your E-Book! No pressure though 😛
    Eva Casey recently posted..Can You Be Healthy While Traveling – When You REALLY Love To Eat?

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      The pressure is needed — crank it up! Ha. No but seriously, I’m trying to be publicly accountable to that goal, because it’s a big one!

  • Pamela Maddox
    June 24 2016

    This was so excellent how you broke everything down!!! I appreciate your openness and explanations!!!

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Glad you enjoyed, Pamela! Thanks for reading <3

  • Michelle
    June 24 2016

    Such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing all of your insight! I’m in year one and it’s so helpful to see how things progress, the channels, and the amount of work you put into it. Thanks for sharing!
    Michelle recently posted..The Coney Island Mermaid Parade: The Good, The Bad, and The Absolutely WILD

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      You are so welcome Michelle! It’s a different person for every person and every year but I always find it helpful to hear about other bloggers’ behind-the-scenes. Glad this one was helpful for you!

  • Kate
    June 24 2016

    What a fascinating post, especially to blogging infants (okay, not even an infant, more like a zygote) such as myself.

    Love the detail you put into the post–I’ll probably refer back to it in the future.

    Also–is that Antelope Canyon in the upper photos? Looks like a Utah slot canyon to me!
    Kate recently posted..Why and How You Should Visit the Sahara Desert in Morocco

    • Alex
      June 24 2016

      Not quite Antelope Canyon, but it’s neighbor Rattlesnake Canyon! Good eye 😉

  • Kate
    June 24 2016

    This is so fascinating. My life couldn’t be more different but I’m always so interested in other people’s careers.

    Do you think that the travel blogging market is saturated, or do you think there’s still room for others to be as successful if they’re just starting out? As someone who works crazy hours, I find blogs to be a source of a quick escape for me and a way to mark places for future vacations because I love and need them. But it’s amazing how there are so few bloggers I find myself wanting to go back to over and over, and yet at the same time how there are just so.many.travel.blogs. It’s crazy how with so many I still feel like I have nothing interesting to read! (maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places). Anyway, thanks for the fascinating look!

    • Alex
      June 26 2016

      I get where you are coming from, it takes a lot for a blog to stand out these days and a lot don’t really rise to the occasion. Which can be a bummer for readers hungry for great content but great for a blogger who wants to stand out — they still can do so by providing top notch, unique content! You’ve inspired me to think about putting together a post on my own favorite blogs 🙂

  • Heather
    June 25 2016

    YES! thankyou so much for the breakdown of how it has taken you a long & hard working period of time to grow a readership & make these amazing achievements-I have started a few different blogs before and given up because I didn’t get the results I expected within the month haha…this time I am determined! Reading this was such a good reminder that big & wonderful things TAKE TIME! Thankyou Alex :):)
    Heather recently posted..What is Self Love Dancing? + playlist

    • Alex
      June 26 2016

      Absolutely… to play off the name of your new blog, it’s a slow burn 😉 At least it has been for me!

  • Indy
    June 25 2016

    Wow, this is a super inspiring post! Thank you for breaking everything down and explaining it!
    Indy recently posted..the wind longs to play in your (pit) hair

    • Alex
      June 26 2016

      You’re so welcome, Indy. Going for the open book thing, over here 🙂

  • becky hutner
    June 25 2016

    Alex, you are such a rare combo of shrewd & savvy business woman & fun loving traveler, it makes the head spin! Question — I love the graphics in this post. Are they yours or a collab with your design team?
    becky hutner recently posted..Canadian in…London??

    • Alex
      June 26 2016

      These were mine all mine! I made the charts and graphs out of data in Excel and then dragged them into Illustrator to trace and style as desired. It was so fun it kind of inspired me to make more moving forward!

  • Xplorato
    June 26 2016

    Thank you for sharing, many people are looking to learn and this is worth the read and share 🙂

    • Alex
      June 26 2016

      Appreciate you sharing — thanks!

  • Monica
    June 26 2016

    Really interesting breakdown! I was surprised at the % for paid links, affiliates programs, and display ads — that it’s actually all pretty similar. Have you noticed a chance in display ad revenue with the rising popularity of ad blockers? Anyways, very cool transparency and all the best going forward!
    Monica recently posted..Plitvice Lakes: Croatia’s most fantastical national park

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Hey Monica! I actually haven’t been using display ads long enough to track differences like that — I only added them to my site less than a year ago! But interesting question… I’ll keep my eyes peeled!

  • Mike
    June 26 2016

    Wow! Thanks for sharing all this useful info. I’ve just started online blogging and would love to one day make the kind of income you have been earning. All the success to you!

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Thanks Mike! I’ll have a post with some travel blogging tips coming up, so stay tuned!

  • Anne
    June 26 2016

    If you ever did offer your own trip I would definitely want to go, your blog is by far my favorite travel blog!! Though I am starting my PhD in the fall so I guess my openings for a trip will be much more limited, but if it lined up with a break I definitely would 🙂

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Aw, thanks Anne! Picking the right timing would definitely be key — I’d have to juggle a lot of factors. We’ll see how that moves forward!

  • Carrie Lyman
    June 26 2016

    I love these posts! It’s great to hear exactly how other bloggers work!
    Carrie Lyman recently posted..Tiny Surfers in Lima Series

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Thanks Carrie! Fun to share a little peek behind the curtains at Wanderland HQ 🙂

  • Eva
    June 26 2016

    Hi Alex, you are such an inspiration. I’m so happy for your accomplishments. Keep up the good work!

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Cheers Eva! Much appreciated <3

  • Katelyn
    June 27 2016

    Girl, if you ran a diving and yoga retreat/tour… I would so be on that!

    Love reading posts like this. Keep up the good work. I don’t always comment because I often read via email on my phone, but love reading about your adventures!
    Katelyn recently posted..Snorkeling the Silfra in Iceland with Arctic Adventures

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Thanks Katelyn! I know, I’m guilty of the same when I read on my phone! If only comments could be left telepathically!

  • JennFlo Taylor
    June 27 2016

    Congrats Alexs – five years! What an amazing milestone! Have loved reading along to your adventures. Thanks for sharing this breakdown- it’s so interesting to see how travel bloggers got to where they are, and gives the little guys (like me) the confidence that one day we might get there too!! It’s really inspiring. Thank you! Keep up the great work!

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      That’s awesome to hear, thank you! More behind-the-scenes blogging posts coming up next week, so stay tuned!

  • Thank you for sharing this! At this point, I don’t think anyone could call you a small fish (or plankton) anymore. It’s encouraging to read a general timeline and see how long it took you to generate income, hit viewership milestones, etc. I love these behind the scenes posts; keep them coming! 🙂
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere recently posted..Girls Weekend in Victoria: Part Two

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      I’ve got a couple more lined up for next week but decided to sprinkle in some travel stuff first so no one gets too blogged out 🙂

  • Kati from Ms B Travels
    June 27 2016

    Talk about perseverance! I love that you included a timeline of your travels and when things occurred over your career. Your work and effort is very inspirational.
    Kati from Ms B Travels recently posted..4 Southeastern Small Town Restaurants You Shouldn’t Miss

    • Alex
      June 27 2016

      Thank you Kati! I loved geeking out over graphs and timelines 😛

  • Julia Nix
    June 27 2016

    congrats alex. love your wanderland. i look forward to one day, you will have your own coffee table book (not a novel because you have so many amazing photographs) you deserve it. hope some good publisher sign you up. I WILL BUY YOUR BOOK 🙂

  • Sarah
    June 27 2016

    This is such a great post Alex! I love the timeline of earnings, page views and achievements as well 🙂
    Sarah recently posted..Unexpected things which happen when you’re travelling

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      Thanks Sarah! It was fun to make!

  • Tiffany
    June 27 2016

    Hey Alex, great article! I will have to reread this again later. I love how honest this post is and also realistic as you worked so hard over all the years to keep building up your site. Thank you for that!

    Also, I am a western New Yorker who spends most of the time living abroad. I’m not sure if you know of IMG Global Health Insurance? It’s what me and my husband use. See what you think, but I think they have some pretty good health insurance plans. As US citizen, as long as you spend at least 6 months out of country and you buy the worldwide coverage, you are still covered if you go back to states to visit. That is one of the main reasons I like it. I also have filed a claim before and it went super smooth. I know so many folks use Global Nomads, etc, but I really like IMG. Also, they cover scuba and a lot of adventure activities (just check the plan as there are several, etc) Anyway, don’t know if that is beneficial to you, but I have been really thankful to have found out about them. Best, Tiff
    Tiffany recently posted..Blissful Living on Gili Trawangan Island, Lombok

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      I am SO grateful for this tip, Tiffany! I decided to tackle the retirement plan this week but health insurance is definitely coming up next. Thank you so much for the advice… nothing is better than a first hand recommendation.

  • Sofie
    June 28 2016

    I’ve always loved your “summary” posts and I loved this one too. Thanks for the look behind the screens! It strikes me how much the blog grew between 2012 and 2013. Any idea what lead to that? I was sitting at about 10K pageviews after one year and grew after that, but definitely not that fast.
    Then again, you are an amazing writer living quite a remarkable life of travel 🙂
    All the best for the rest of 2016!
    Sofie recently posted..6 great restaurants in Prague that serve light food

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      Hey Sofie, that’s a good question and I’m not sure if there’s any one factor that I could point to — I don’t REALLY remember anything super notable happening around that time other than I broke up with my very long term boyfriend? Ha who knows, maybe people loved following the drama 😛

  • Mary B
    June 28 2016

    Congrats on putting in a lot of hard work and turning something you love into a business – you even employ people now, so that’s pretty legit! Just keeping a blog of my travels for family and friends has been a ton of work, and I didn’t even attempt to post the quantity or quality of content that you produce. Much respect!
    Mary B recently posted..A Different Kind of Travel

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      Thanks Mary, that means a lot! I’d love to employ someone full time someday with a legit salary, but I’m definitely not quite there yet (even for myself!) On my way though, I’d like to think!

  • Bethaney
    June 28 2016

    Thank you for sharing this Alex! Your transparency is refreshing. I feel like people who earn a living through blogging often keep their cards close to their chest with regard to how they make a living. Maybe because of the fear of competition? Your avenues for making money are inspiring. I need to explore some of these other options. I’ve been concentrated on affiliates this year and am about to about $700 USD a month but would ideally like about 4 times that. 😉 I haven’t looked into display ads but it’s definitely an option for me. And I need to get onto the product creation that I’ve been talking about for years! Thanks for being inspiring. 🙂
    Bethaney recently posted..The Most Comfortable Sandals for Travel

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      I think that’s a really impressive monthly earn for affiliates, Bethany, so your efforts must be paying off! Nice work and yes, I agree that some bloggers can be private about how they make money. Which is totally their right, though it makes sense that so many people are curious, too!

  • The Dame International
    June 28 2016

    Hey Alex, thanks so much for writing this detailed blog post. I started my “lifestyle” blog back in 2011 and fell off the wagon with it so many times and again, stopped blogging around January this year. I do miss it, but the need to make a steady living eats up my focus. Im so glad you have come so far and that Ive found you recently, as I love every post you write. Best wishes for the future! xo

    • Alex
      June 29 2016

      Thank you so much for those kind words! I don’t know how I’d make blogging work if it wasn’t my full time job… there just aren’t enough hours for anything else! So I totally understand how you’d be on and off the wagon, as you say 🙂

  • Amy
    June 29 2016

    Thanks for sharing such a detailed breakdown, it was a really interesting read. I had no idea how complicated your whole website operation was! I’d love to read more posts like this in the future.
    Amy recently posted..Settling in Split

    • Alex
      June 30 2016

      That’s great to hear! I’ll try to sprinkle some of these in from time to time, even when blogaversary week is over 🙂

  • Mags
    June 29 2016

    Another great post Alex! As a self-employed person these are the exact posts I need to encourage my disorganised mind to pull itself together a bit more. I’d love to see your day in the life work schedule breakdown.
    Mags recently posted..Wild Atlantic Way to Galway Theatre Festival

    • Alex
      June 30 2016

      Yeah, I’ve been meaning to write one of those for years! Maybe this will be the one in which I finally get to it, ha.

  • cynthia
    June 29 2016

    This is so inspiring! This is my first year (and first month) of blogging and I’m hoping to at least monetize my blog along the way. Breaking down your ways in this post is so helpful for a beginner like me. 🙂 Wish me luck! 🙂
    cynthia recently posted..Comfort over style

    • Alex
      June 30 2016

      So glad to hear that Cynthia! Best of luck in your blogging journey!

  • Venessa
    June 29 2016

    It is so refreshing to read something as honest and truthful as this! After starting our travel blog last year we have decided to go ahead and try to make it a small passive income, at this point basically just try and make enough to cover the costs of running our blog. Even getting to this point has been a lot of work, so it’s nice reading something that expresses how much work it actually is and how much we possibly have to look forward to!

    Thanks for all the tips! Keep up the good work!
    Venessa recently posted..The Reality of Returning Home From Long Term Travel

    • Alex
      June 30 2016

      It is definitely always fun to look down the road and see what the possibilities are for what might be ahead! Glad I could give you a little peek — good luck!

  • Morgan
    June 30 2016

    This is really interesting and a great insight to the financial aspects of blogging! It’s really cool to see how everything is allocated, and you did an awesome job displaying this information! Thanks so much for sharing this! Nice job!

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Thanks Morgan! I had fun geeking out over the graphs!

  • Rachel
    July 3 2016

    Wow, you go girl! So cool to see how your blog has grown over the years. I haven’t heard much about blog management firms. I’d love to learn more about that, it sounds like it’d be quite helpful with time management!
    Rachel recently posted..Life Lately: Summer Check-in

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      I think it’s a pretty new phenomenon! I know the team I’m working with has just recently branched out to work with bloggers. But yes, I’m loving it!

  • Emma
    July 5 2016

    Thanks for being so honest, it’s always super interesting to read the real side of travel blogging from those who do it full time – for most it’s not going to be a path to riches but it’s attainable to think of it as a way to sustain travel.

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Absolutely! For me, a big lesson has been realizing that there are a LOT of better and more attainable ways to sustain travel than blogging (part of why I launched Earning Abroad) but I have loved seeing where this road has taken me — even when it’s been a windy one 🙂

  • sasha
    July 6 2016

    I have stumbled upon several travel blogs in search of inspiration, advice and simply an example of the most similar style to what I would like to create. I have found myself always returning to yours. Although I have yet to begin even the slightest step toward my own blog short of day dreaming, idea lists and the saving and planning to leave the United states in a little over a year from now to travel solo with an undetermined end date.
    I’m in love with foreign cultures, photography and feel like I have a voice that can hopefully be portrayed through half decent writing.

    I just want to congratulate you on your own journey making this happen for yourself in order to live the kind of life that fuels your passions, and I would love any advice on the very beginnings- how you wish you would have approached it in the very start.
    thank you so much- I truly admire your honesty and consistency.

    • Alex
      July 7 2016

      Wow, thank you Sasha! I can very much relate to your passions and wish you luck getting started! I’ll definitely add your question to my upcoming Q+A post.

  • Ashley
    July 9 2016

    Thanks for this post, Alex! There’s so much fantastic information here, and it’s so detailed and comprehensive. Congrats on your continued successes!
    Ashley recently posted..Pints & Pierogi: A Weekend in Wroclaw

    • Alex
      July 10 2016

      Thanks Ashley! Much appreciated xo

  • That is such a great infographic showing your progress! Congrats to you on carving out the life that works for you, and thanks for sharing so much with the rest of us!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Solo in SouthEast Asia

    • Alex
      July 11 2016

      Thanks Leigh! Like I always say, it wouldn’t be half as fun if I couldn’t relive it all again here 🙂

  • Maddy
    July 18 2016

    This is such a helpful article — actually, this entire blogaversary series is super helpful. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share the name of management firm that you found? It would be much appreciated. 🙂

    Also, congratulations on all your success and creating such an incredible life for yourself! I love following along on your adventures.
    Maddy recently posted..20 Photos That Prove You Must Visit Cinque Terre Now!

    • Alex
      July 21 2016

      Hey Maddy! At this point they are only accepting bloggers that they personally invite though I will let you know if that changes! You might want to look into Archipelago Communications, based in Thailand. I have not personally used their services but I’ve chatted to the owner about their management services for bloggers and they might be able to help you. Best of luck — and let me know how it goes!

      • Maddy
        August 17 2016

        Thanks so much for your response! 🙂

  • Lavina
    July 18 2016

    Congrats on the Blogaversary Alex!

    It does take many years and a lot of work to build what you have! (which many don’t get 😛 )
    And when you’re a blogger yourself, you appreciate the details and dedication that goes into building a successful one!
    You’re constantly making this amazing space better Alex and while you’re doing it, you’re being honest about it and sharing helpful stuff about it too!

    One of the many reasons I keep returning!
    You rock! 🙂
    Lavina recently posted..Why It’s Actually A Privilege To Be Born In A Developing Country!

    • Alex
      July 21 2016

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment! Honored to have you here <3

  • Juliette
    July 25 2016

    Hi Alex! I’ve read this article probably about half a dozen times! I keep coming back to it because it is such a detailed and brilliant breakdown. I’ve just launched my own travel blog so it is really helpful to see how others are making it work! Thanks and keep up the awesome work – love your blog xx
    Juliette recently posted..HOW TO GET FIT FOR THE SNOW

  • Somehow I missed this post, but funny enough I have had a very similar one sitting in my drafts for months, pie charts and all, that will go live if ever—I mean whenever—my ebook finally does, ha. 😉

    Love the geeky type of finance posts like this!
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..City Dog Gets Outdoors

    • Alex
      August 8 2016

      Kristin don’t you know my blood pressure goes through the roof when I read the word ebook?! You’re killing me! Ha. Ugh, can we just lock ourselves in the gingerbread house for a month and finish ours?

  • Yes, please! Both of mine have been sitting at 25,000 words on my desktop for 8 months now. #embarrassing
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..City Dog Gets Outdoors

  • Viki
    October 4 2016

    Alex, this was GREAT. I appreciate this post so much and have it bookmarked. This moment is when I decided to get that WHV to Australia and focus solely on creating a monetized blog. You’re living the ideal that I envision myself in 5 years!

    In terms of your retirement, I hope you look into Charles Schwab’s Roth IRA. HIGHLY recommend.

    Keep it up! Maybe we’ll meet on the road
    Viki recently posted..8 U.S. Cities That Make Your Roadtrip Way More Interesting | Pt. 1 |

    • Alex
      October 14 2016

      Hey Viki, yes, I’m looking at the Charles Schwab small business owner plans. Can’t wait to have it sorted!

  • Katie
    April 1 2017

    I’m bookmarking this, this post is chalk full of useful info. Thank you so much for pulling this info together!

    You’re not the first to rave about TBS. I’ve seen a few other blogs do it, and managed to join them a few days ago while the sale was still going. I’ll see you on there 🙂
    Katie recently posted..That Time I Got a Tattoo in Nicaragua

    • Alex
      April 3 2017

      Nice! I hope you enjoy the course! I’ve reviewed two of their side-courses (brand partnerships and videography for travel bloggers) too if you get hooked 🙂

  • Tiana Shea
    April 6 2017

    Hi Alex,

    I see you posted this a while, but I just came across it, and I must say, thank you for all the information! I am at the very beginning of my blogging journey, so your information is extremely helpful to me.

    Thank you again!
    Tiana Shea recently posted..4 Items to Buy Used

    • Alex
      April 8 2017

      So glad to hear that Tiana! Best of luck in blogging!

  • Julia
    May 19 2017

    It’s so great to see a breakdown from another blogger’s perspective. And you seem to be rocking the diversified income thing really well, too. I agree about filing taxes being a pain – it’s definitely the worst part of being self-employed. That, and having to save into your own pension rather than have a company do it for you!
    Julia recently posted..Editing Photos with Lightroom Presets, Brushes and Filters

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