A few weeks ago I attended a college reunion. The night was like one big flashback: from being at the cafe where I used to dance until the early hours to seeing people again I used to share everything with on a daily basis. Five years have flown by, and it was so much fun to see where everyone ended up after these years. Something I realised quite quickly is that many people don’t really understand what I do to pay the bills. I always (and therefore also at the reunion) get questions about how I manage to travel so much, how I can afford it, what kind of work I do and if I actually make a living from my travel blog. I guess I understand why people ask: last year I went on 19 trips. That’s an insane amount by any standard, so I completely get the questions about it.
That’s why I decided to share with you what it is I do exactly. Plus: you’ll get to know me a bit better too :) How do I earn money, how can I travel this much and how does a travel blog work exactly? Grab yourself a cup of tea, because this is going to be a long and personal blog post! :-)
Let’s dive in: What kind of work do I do?
Actually the answer to all other questions lies in this explanation: I’m an entrepreneur! Because I’m my own boss, I can make my own decisions on how I want to earn my money and spend my time, and from where in the world I want to work. There’s no office I have to sit in every day, because I’m the boss :-). I’ll tell you a little bit more about that later, because that has obviously been a very conscious choice. But what do I actually do for a living? There’s a few things: I run two blogs and my own company: a digital marketing agency.
You can probably guess the two websites: it’s my Dutch one (Explorista.nl) and this one (Explorista.net). I’ve had the Dutch website since November 2013 and I happily work on that one every week. Not as much as I’d like, but that’s because my company takes up a lot of time. With close to 25.000 monthly readers you can compare the Dutch blog to an average travel magazine. To me it’s a great outlet to write about everything I like in terms of travel. Because I thought it would be nice to start an English version so all my international friends could follow my adventures too, I started this website – Explorista.net in January 2016. Nowadays, this website gets about as much monthly visitors as the Dutch version, mainly from the US, Canada and the UK. Hi everyone! :-) The blogs take up a lot of time (at least as much as a part time job!) and most of it is unpaid. Nevertheless I love running them and it offers me a lot of great chances to travel.
My “real” job is my company: a digital marketing agency for travel brands called Explorista Media. I’m the founder of the company, or in other words the CEO (sounds cool, doesn’t it?!). By now I manage about fifteen people working for my company (all parttime). These are all freelancers, some of which live in The Netherlands, but others for instance in Canada or travel around the world like digital nomads. Totally cool, and I can only encourage them to do so. All the work in my company is digital, so it can be done from anywhere. As long as we’ve got internet, we can work!
So you’re probably wondering: what kind of work do we do as a digital marketing agency for travel brands? Well, we help them to get more customers and brand awareness online. We do this by creating SEO friendly content (writing articles and blogposts that get them higher up in the search engines), manage social media campaigns and channels, creating and editing videos (for hotels or destinations for example) and setting up influencer campaigns where we connect brands and destinations to bloggers or vloggers who can create brand awareness among their followers by posting and talking about the brand. This last bit is quite like PR. My company gets me most of my income (my salary, so to speak) and I spend most of my time doing this. Because my company is completely digital, I can work from anywhere. I don’t have to sit in an office and my freelancers don’t have to either. My work for Explorista Media takes up a lot of time: as a CEO I have to manage everyone, find new clients, promote my company, pitch new proposals, send out invoices and reminders, pay my freelancers and other bills, set up contracts and work for clients. In other words: I’m busy! But it’s a lot of fun and I wouldn’t want it any other way, even though it’s a bit scary sometimes! I love working on and building something that’s mine, where no one can fire me, and I only invest my time in things I actually like to do.
How do I earn money?
Most of my income comes from my company. A smaller part comes from my blogs. To me these are two separate companies. With my company I collaborate with other partners than with my blog, and vice versa. Some clients don’t even know I have a blog, and some collaboration partners for my blog have no idea I’m also the CEO for a marketing agency.
Because most companies who want to collaborate with my website don’t match my blog, don’t have enough budget, or want me to do things that are bad for my website or credibility, I only say yes to a fraction of the collaborations I get offered for my blog. Only the ones I think will actually benefit my readers I’ll go through with. What a lot of people don’t know is that you have to pay to keep a website online, which is why it’s nice to earn at least a little bit of money with your blog. Of course you have to pay for things as your domain (the name of the website) and the design, but also for hosting your website (so that people can reach it). This ranges from a few euros per month to a couple of hundred euros per month if your website is very popular. There’s many ways to earn money with a blog (more than the ones I’m going to mention right now!) but below are the ways my blog earns me a bit of money.
Now that I have over 40.000 monthly readers on my websites, companies would like to get mentioned in my articles to increase awareness among my readers. That’s why every now and then I write an article where I mention a company I think you’d like. I always mention the fact that the article is a collaboration, and I only work with companies who I think have an added value in your lives and travels. I always try to make the article as inspiring as possible for you. An example is this article about the Canary Islands.
A while ago I had a banner ad on the side of my blog. This is an easy way for companies to get the attention of my readers. You can use a service like Google Adsense to maintain it, but for now I’ve decided to maintain it myself and only offer ad space to companies I really like. I don’t do this a lot though, because I don’t have a lot of time to actively approach advertisers :-).
Every now and then you’ll see so-called affiliate links in my articles. These are often links to, for instance, hotels where I stayed at. If you click the link and actually book it, it won’t cost you anything extra, but I get a small percentage over it. You could see it as a finder’s fee, because I get the company an extra customer. For me this is a nice way of earning a little bit extra, because I recommend things I’m using anyway, you get a good tip, everybody wins! I would never promote something I don’t support, because you’d know immediately. So if you want to support my website without spending a dime? Book your hostels through this link! Thanks!
This is definitely my absolute favorite way of earning money. Being paid to travel? Yes! Sometimes I get invited to visit a destination and the agreement for the trip includes me writing a number of articles about it, or publish about it on social media. In return I get paid to do so. Often there’s a certain theme that the destination wants to create awareness about, but I’m always allowed to decide on the content of the article or post myself. Don’t be mistaken though: these trips are a lot of work, I’ve once made an (unpaid) workday of 32 hours. Besides, you can’t just do what you feel like: if the destination wants you to visit a glass factory, you visit a glass factory. Lying by the pool or sleeping in is not an option. Obviously it’s expected that you deliver results, so relaxing like you’re on a holiday won’t be appreciated. So it’s definitely work, although it’s super fun work! Every now and then I go on unpaid press trips too. With press trips I don’t get paid, but I also don’t have to pay for my travel. This definitely makes it easier for me to travel for my website. When I go on press trips I’m usually stuck to a certain schedule as well. The goal of these trips is to bring a certain destination to the attention of my readers and to raise awareness. However, most of my trips I pay for myself, so I get to decide exactly what to write about.
This is actually a new way of earning money for me. This year I already did two public speaking engagements. One time it was about budget travel, and the other time I spoke about how I went from travel blogger to entrepreneur with my own company. I really like public speaking! I always liked giving presentations, and I love helping and inspiring people, so I really hope I get to do more of this in the future.
What choices do I make?
“You’re abroad four months a year, while we only have two weeks of holiday a year. That’s so unfair!” Of course my old classmate who I saw at the reunion was joking. But I know deep down there’s a shred of truth to it, because I get this ‘joke’ quite often. I actually get it: everyone wants to travel more. How good is it to be abroad more? It’s great! But I have to be honest guys: most people actually can travel more (barring any sickness or difficult family situations) but just don’t do it. I’m not particularly smart, bright or charming and I wasn’t born into a rich family either. But I do know what I want in life and will do anything to achieve this. I have a lot of perseverance and won’t let anything stop me.
For me, it’s been a very conscious choice to make traveling a number one priority in life. A few years ago, after a quite unhappy period in my life, I decided that I wanted to travel more. I decided to build my life around it and make traveling a priority. I wanted to build a career that made it possible for me to work while traveling. Of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s almost impossible while working for a boss: there’s not a lot of employers who are okay with you being abroad one week a month. Therefore (and for a few more reasons) I’m my own boss. This does mean I’m always working when traveling. Personally, I prefer working with a view of a tropical beach instead of a grey and rainy industrial area. But make no mistake: work is work. When I don’t feel like doing work, I still have to do it. Even when I’m Spain or Indonesia.
Being an entrepreneur is a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to do anything else: I can make all my ideas come true, I’m in control of my own destiny and it gives me a lot of room to travel as much as I want. But running my own business is definitely not the easiest path in life. It’s insecure, scary and at times really tough. For instance, I have no idea how I’ll be earning my money in a few months from now, and how much. It’s my own responsibility, and that’s both an advantage as a disadvantage. The downside is that all responsibility is with me, and that’s kinda scary. I can’t just lean back: I have to arrange everything myself. The upside of this responsibility is that I know for sure that I’ll give 100% to work on my own future. Can you say the same for your boss? Job security isn’t what it used to be.
Before you get the wrong idea: I’m not saying which of the two is better, a job or being self employed. Having a fixed contract definitely has its benefits. It’s great for when you have kids and your own house. Or if you just don’t like insecurity, or don’t feel like running your own company. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for everyone. I can definitely see the benefits of having a stable job. You know how much you’ll earn every month, you’re building up a pension, you have fun colleagues. And hopefully you’ll like your job too. But there’s downsides too: you’re building something for someone else, and you don’t own your time during working hours, but your boss owns that time. You can’t decide 100% what to do with your life, because you only have a certain number of holiday days. On the other side, I have to save up for my own pension, I don’t know what I’ll earn exactly, my work never ends and I don’t have an office with fun colleagues. Long story short: everything has its ups and downs. I haven’t bought a house, I don’t have kids, I love to travel, I’m an adventurous person and find it very important to have the freedom to do what I want. Three weeks of holiday wouldn’t be enough for me. So to me personally, being an entrepreneur is definitely the best option. But for someone else it can be something totally different. Each to their own! Live and let live :-).
What do I spend money on?
Lastly, this story wouldn’t be complete without sharing that I prioritise travel in all aspects of my life, including my finances. There’s only a few things I spend money on, and traveling is one of them. Rent, food and insurance are the other ones. I hardly shop… I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought shoes, makeup or jewellery I didn’t actually need. I don’t smoke, I hardly drink. I hardly have any expensive subscriptions or memberships, apart from my phone and one Dutch magazine I like to read. I work a lot from home, so I don’t spend a lot of money on transport. I don’t have a car and I’ve never spent any money on massages, tanning beds or a gym membership. I consciously choose what I find important. I rather have a plane ticket every two months, then a takeaway coffee every day. That’s really personal – if shopping, going out every night or having a gym membership make you happy, you definitely should spend money on that! Everyone should do what makes them happy. As long as you know for sure that whatever you do makes you really happy and it’s not just feeling some emptiness in your life :-).
I hope this gave you an idea about how I can travel this much! It was quite a long story, but I notice it’s quite a multifaceted answer. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me!
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