Moving on to “free” travel. This is the golden goose egg that every travel blogger is searching for: the ability to travel the world on someone else’s dime, thus avoiding expenses on your end and being able to see far more than you ever would on your own budget.
The reason sponsored travel is so lucrative for many travel bloggers is going back to the very beginning when I was talking about the difference between hobby bloggers and professional bloggers. The vast majority of travel bloggers are not making a livable income with their blog; it’s a hobby, nothing more. Which means they are paying for their travels out of their own pocket.
Which makes landing sponsored gigs or doing housesitting assignments so ideal, because it eliminates cost. Or at least reduces it considerably, which helps those bloggers who are only making 1,000 or 1,500 a month float by because they can cushion their costs.
Out of the two, sponsored travel is the more difficult to land, but also the more “credible” in terms of resume padding. Sponsored travel revolves around finding sponsors: people who are willing to foot the bill for you to go somewhere, or in the case of hotels and hostels or adventure tour agencies, are willing to trade you service for service: that is, you stay for X days and in return you publicize the business with your blog, YouTube and social media outlets.
Housesitting is different because there is no publicity going on. It’s a trade of a different kind. You are basically taking care of the home for a period of weeks to months while the owners are out of town on business or vacation. In exchange for free rent you keep the home in the state it was upon their leave-taking: clean, with all the sundries intact, and theft-free.
90% of the time, housesitting gigs have pets attached. A homeowner needs to leave town for three months on a work assignment but can’t take their pet with them, so they find someone to live in the house for those three months who can feed and water Fluffy and provide them with companionship.
You might also find yourself doing small yard work in exchange for the house-sit. Mow the lawn, weed the garden and the like. Or you might need to dust the house, vacuum the floor once a week, sweep the driveway, water the flowers. Bottom line, you are trading some manual labor + time spent watching the house in exchange for free rent.
While it’s rare, you will sometimes find owners who want you to foot the utility bill while you are there, but to be honest, the vast majority of homeowners are content to know you are taking care of Fluffy and the home and will trade you fairly. In my opinion, anyone who wants you to cover the light bill on top of everything else is a tightwad and cheapskate and I would urge you to look elsewhere.
Out of the two, housesitting gigs are far easier to land because they don’t have any publicity attached, which means it’s more about your social reputation and trustworthiness via personal recommendations than it is about numbers and traffic and ROI and conversion rates and spreadsheets.
Sponsored travel is far harder to earn. As a general rule, unless you’ve been on the road for a year or two and have at least 10,000 a month views at your website with a good 250,000+ a month views at your social media platforms, you are going to have a hard time landing any sponsored gigs. Sponsors want traffic, views and exposure, and if you don’t have those things you won’t be able to find anyone who wants to trade you “free” things for your publicity services.
That being said, sponsored travel can be very lucrative, but landing sponsored gigs is a full time job in and of itself. I’d say that 60 percent of my time these days is spent sending out proposals so that we can get accommodations, tours, food and other services in trade for the publicity we offer with the blog. That is a direct opposite when compared to my first couple of years running the blog when it was 100% about writing and building up the social media platforms.
If you are just getting started and you want to keep your costs to a minimum, I highly recommend getting started with housesitting. There’s a ton of information out there on the ‘net about it, and it’s not hard to get into. You just need a few references. From there you can travel on the cheap and build up your blog + following until you get to the point where you can ask the big dogs for free gear and comped travel: from there, the sky’s the limit.
T.W. Anderson has been traveling the world full-time since January of 2008. He is the author of books which detail how to build a blog, brand and income and travel the world without a budget. His website is Marginal Boundaries.com
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