Ever since 2008, which is when I decided to stop working on board cruise ships, something I had been doing on and off for several years prior, I’ve known no other work but the kind that can be done on the internet. But at the same time, I understand that saying “I work online” doesn’t really give others much insight into how I actually earn my money and consequently, how I fund my travels these days.
The question that a lot of people want to know is: “What does ‘working online’ really mean?”
First, let me give you a quick background about how I got started. After saving up a decent amount of money during my time on cruise ships, as soon as I ended that stage of life I immediately decided to put all of that money into a savings account that was not to be touched for a long time. This forced me to start looking for new income opportunities right away because it was as if I had almost no money at all. This really put the pressure on and so I started reading a few books about other people who managed to earn money while traveling.
And it was the books about those people who were able to make money online that really caught my attention and so, I decided to give it a try myself. I chose a couple of options that appealed to me (there are thousands of ways to earn money online) and got to work.
For the first 4 months I failed miserably. I earned a grand total of $0.00 during that period of time, something that certainly made me doubt my decision. I was working/learning every day for at least 8-10 hours but my efforts yielded no results. However, it has always been my belief that those who fail at something are those who give up and that if you can push through the obstacles and continue to learn as much as possible, success will eventually be achieved.
Fast forward a few years and here I am, earning all of my income online, an income that allows me to continue traveling around the world as much as I want.
And now I’m going to try and explain exactly where that money comes from as best I can in the hopes of giving you a clearer picture of how ‘working online’ works for me.
It Starts With The Blog
This blog is actually my main online project and as a result, the main source of my income these days. I work on my blog almost every day and I could easily spend 50+ hours per week on this one website alone, writing posts, promoting posts, being active on all social media channels, answering emails and comments, updating my eBooks, adding new pages of information and on and on. Blogging is a ton of work, far more work than most aspiring bloggers ever imagine, especially if you want your blog to earn you some money.
Through the blog, I earn my income in a few ways…
To begin with, there are the eBooks/Travel Resources that I have written. These books are designed to help others achieve their travel goals using the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, and they also help me earn an income. I spent months working on each one, pouring a ton of energy and effort into the content, and I am constantly updating the material as well in order to make sure that each product is always as relevant and useful as possible.
But despite this setup, every now and then I receive an email from a reader who is disgusted that my eBooks need to be purchased. Usually their argument is that this is just a travel blog and as a result, all of the information should be free. In addition, they claim that if I really wanted to help others achieve their travel goals, then I would release all information openly, at no cost whatsoever. Fair enough, I certainly understand their point.
However, here’s how it really works. If I didn’t charge money for my eBooks, there would be no WanderingEarl.com, and as a result, I wouldn’t be helping anyone at all achieve their travel goals. As I stated above, maintaining this website is no joke, it takes up the majority of my time and I work mighty hard to keep this site going. If I didn’t earn any money from the blog, it, and I, wouldn’t survive. Everyone needs some sort of income to live. It’s as simple as that.
Also, one thing I’ve always tried to do on this site is to keep advertising to a minimum. While I will promote certain companies that I truly believe in, I actually turn away approximately 95% of the advertising offers that I do receive in my inbox. Recently I decided to estimate how much money I have given up by not putting much advertising on my site over the past 4 years. The figure I came to was $40,000 USD.
But since I’m a firm believer that a site flooded with advertising is a site that isn’t going to last very long at all, I plan to continue giving up this income. I’ll take a little here and there but that’s it.
So, that’s why I charge some money for my eBooks, in order to maintain and grow this site (which also involves me being able to travel). And if the feedback I receive every week is any indication, the amount I do charge for these products is well worth what you receive in return, which is the balance I have always worked hard to achieve.
Wandering Earl Tours
While Wandering Earl Tours is a relatively new project of mine, something I started only towards the end of last year, I’m quite blown away by the success so far. I have already led three tours and I have three more planned for this year, all of which are sold out at this point. I absolutely love organizing and running these tours and I can’t wait to start choosing destinations for next year’s trips as well.
Of course, at the same time, organizing these tours involves a great deal of work, not only during the actual tour as I travel around with the group, but in the months leading up to the tours when I am extremely busy with the preparations, bookings and overall organization. Tack this work on top of my normal blogging workload, as well as trying to travel to new places in between, and I barely have a free moment these days.
Am I earning a fortune from these tours? No way. That’s not my goal. Besides, I told myself that for the first year of Wandering Earl Tours, I just wanted to break even and maybe enjoy a tiny bit extra for my efforts if possible. And as the tours hopefully continue to grow, which will involve another increase in workload, I do plan to try and compensate myself fairly for all of the effort that I do put into each and every trip. Again, the plan is not to become rich from this project, but to offer affordable trips to various countries in exchange for a modest income.
When it comes to blogging, you will find an endless debate about whether or not there should be any advertising on such a site. I’ll tell you this. When you start a new blog and suddenly an advertiser is offering you $50 to place a link on your site somewhere or $100 to place a banner ad, it’s hard to turn that cash away. You now have a chance to make money online and of course you’re going to be excited!
Every blogger needs to tackle this topic on their own and decide how much advertising, if any, works for them. Yes, the money is tempting, but I’ve seen far too many bloggers who begin accepting as many advertising deals as they can only to lose their audience completely, simply because readers don’t want to see a site loaded with ads. Then, once your readers are gone, the advertising offers will stop coming and any other chance you have of earning money through your site most often goes out the window with them.
On this site, I made a decision when I first started to not accept any advertising for the first two years and I stuck to that.
These days, I’ve decided to accept minimal advertising here on the blog, usually in the form a small banner ad in the sidebar for a company/service/website that I have used or tested out myself and that I believe is indeed useful for travelers. I don’t place any sponsored posts on this site at all but I might, on occasion, add a short blurb at the end of a post promoting something that, again, I truly believe is really worth checking out.
The reality is that if I accepted all of the advertising offers that come into my inbox each day at the moment, I could probably earn $3000+ per month in advertising alone. But I don’t. As I said, I turn away 95% of those offers and as a result, I usually earn just a small amount of ‘pocket cash’ instead. The thing is that I really want all of you to stick around this site and to continue being a part of this community, so there’s no way I’m going to plaster ads all over the place and try to squeeze out as much advertising income as I can. I’m sure that’s not what you want to see and therefore, it won’t happen.
On occasion, I have an opportunity to create a sponsorship deal, something that typically nets more money that a simple advertisement. I enter into such deals only when it’s a product/service that I absolutely support and love, something that I really want to share with all of you, such as the XShot Camera Extender. Should I be taking money for promoting these products/services? There’s certainly a debate in that as well but again, the way I see it is that given the amount of effort it takes to maintain the site, the odd sponsorship deal here and there doesn’t hurt, especially if I believe in what I’m promoting.
As you see though, I don’t do these deals often so it’s not a huge money maker either, just some another small stream of income in the end.
Affiliate links are links on this site that, if you click on them and purchase a product/service on the other end, provide me with a small commission. The biggest, and almost exclusive example of affiliate links on WanderingEarl.com, can be found on my Travel Gear page where I link to the Amazon.com sales page for all of the gear that I actually travel with and that I think are great items. If you were to click on any of the links and then purchase something on Amazon (doesn’t have to be the item you clicked on, it can be anything on the entire site), I receive about a 6% commission. It’s not much but as you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s another source of income that, when combined with all of the other small sources of income, eventually adds up to an income that helps keep me traveling around the world.
Apart from the blog, I also work on many other online projects from time to time. But to tell you the truth, most of these projects fail or they don’t lead to any income. That’s just a part of working online. You need to experiment all the time in the hopes of finding something that works, and eventually, some do pan out.
For me, some of my more successful projects have included freelance work as a writer, some basic website building, writing/selling a couple of non-travel related eBooks on other websites, affiliate marketing and some blog consulting. Almost all of these opportunities resulted from networking with other travelers or people in the travel industry and up until this year, when I decided to stop some of these projects in order to concentrate more fully on the blog, they kept me busy most of the time.
Each of the above also offered another stream of income to add to the pile.
And trying to grow that pile is what it takes to make money online.
Do I receive a fixed income every month? Nope. In fact, I never know how much I’ll earn each month at all. I have great months, terrible months and average months and I also never know if the extra effort I put into anything will actually yield better results. But, I am earning an income in the end and somehow, over the past few years, this income has allowed me to continue traveling around without having to tap into my savings. It has also allowed me to continue working on this blog and to try my best to highlight the benefits of travel while proving that long-term travel is more posible to achieve than most people think. And after all, this is the core reason this blog even exists.
Everything I do is intertwined…without travel there would be no blog, without the blog there would be no travel. And luckily, earning my income online, which hopefully I’ve managed to explain somewhat clearly above, allows me to keep it all flowing together.
Any questions about how I work online or about working online in general? Let me know below and I’ll be happy to answer!