By Dalene Heck and Catherine Reed
Most people know that influencers can earn money from their blogs or social media accounts. It isn’t just a hobby for them, but a way to bring in an income, and for some, it is a full-time job. Yet one of the most common questions we get is how do they earn money?
The truth is that the answer can vary substantially between influencers, and it’s not uncommon for each to have a variety of income streams. In fact, it is most prudent to do so – any influencer relying on only one source of income (say, sponsorships on Instagram) can have their livelihood threatened if a change in the algorithm encourages marketers to look to other channels. And thus influencers are casting their net wider, dabbling in anything from running their own tours to selling products to substantial affiliate marketing on their blogs.
If you want to peek behind the curtain to learn some of the ways they earn money (and how much!), then keep reading.
How Influencers Make Money
One of the simplest paths to start on, but a tricky one to master, is affiliate marketing. The premise is incredibly basic: an influencer recommends a product or service and is financially compensated when someone makes a purchase using the influencer’s link. Common affiliate partners are Amazon for basic products (like travel clothing, etc.) or specific brands will have their programs run by companies like CJ Affiliate.
How much the influencer earns depends on how much the customer spends. Many of the arrangements are percentage-based, and a typical affiliate commission falls between 5 and 30 percent. However, some may be higher or lower.
Precisely how much an influencer in the travel or lifestyle space makes through affiliate marketing varies. It can depend on the number of programs they are a part of, how much content they dedicate to promoting a partner, and the percentage they earn on eligible purchases. However, we’ve seen professional bloggers earn between $1,500 and $8,000 or more per month through affiliate marketing relationships.
Influencers also have the ability to earn money passively through display advertising. Typically, bloggers sign up with a third-party provider network (Mediavine or AdThrive are popular with travel bloggers). Then, all they have to do is place the code in the right areas of the site, and the provider does the rest.
Once in place, the influencer can earn money in one of two ways. First, they might get paid for each click. Known as cost per click (CPC) ads, the blogger gets a small amount of money every time a site visitor actually clicks on an ad that displays on their website.
Second, the influencer could join a cost per thousand (CPM) network. In those, they earn a set amount of money for every 1,000 ad impressions. It doesn’t matter whether a visitor clicks, as the blogger is paid merely for displaying the ad.
Third, influencers with a lot of traffic can forgo the ad networks entirely and make good money on advertising by selling ads directly. With this approach, they can essentially set their own rates and conditions and have more control on ad placement.
How much an influencer earns through advertising similarly varies. Starting on an ad network such as Mediavine requires a minimum of 25,000 website sessions per month, and generally nets over $500 per month (depending on how many ads they agree to place). It only goes up from there, meaning that a travel site with a decent amount of reach can bring in several thousand a month and more.
Sponsored Posts and Brand/Destination Campaigns
Beyond the display ad sits sponsored posts and brand campaigns. With these, brands ask the influencer to promote their product directly in exchange for compensation. Or, specifically in the travel industry, destinations bring in influencers to promote their location and will cover the costs of the trip plus pay an additional fee for a set amount of promotion and deliverables. In both cases, deliverables could include blog posts, videos, and social media posts that showcase the product or destination.
While celebrities can earn $100,000 or more for a single sponsored post, most travel and lifestyle influencers don’t command that price. However, many can make anywhere from a few hundred to $5,000 or more for each campaign, depending on their niche, reach, and the product or service involved.
If the arrangement extends beyond a single post, entering into the brand ambassadorship category, the compensation can be higher. Since these arrangements are long-term, companies have to compensate the influencer for the additional time and attention. The details of the partnership (including term length, level of promotion, etc.) greatly affect how much an influencer earns.
Courses, Subscriptions, Ebooks
Creating their own products are another way some influencers make money. With courses, the blogger usually provides the buyer with educational materials and (possibly) direct access to them or another person with expertise in that area. The person who purchases the course can then learn about the topic. For example, an influencer with a blog might offer a 30-day course on how to launch your own income-generating blog or how to make the most of affiliate marketing.
Subscriptions typically give the buyer access to additional content that isn’t available for free. This is the “paywall” approach, where “premium” services and materials are hidden from view unless you sign up and pay the fee. A system like Patreon is often used to support payments and release of content to the creator.
If influencers have specific expertise on any one topic – like these examples of housesitting, working on a cruise ship, or even basic travel guides – a well reputed ebook can also bring in significant income each month.
As with most income-generating options, the influencer’s reach and ability to market their products play a role. Additionally, the quality of the content that is sitting behind the paywall is also a factor.
Tours and Retreats
More and more commonly, travel influencers are also hosting their own events and tours. Many have followers who are eager to get to know them in real life and jump at the chance to visit a new destination and meet their favourite influencers in person.
If an influencer is running a day-long photo walk in a popular city, a sold-out tour can net them upwards of $500. Those running luxury tours to exotic locations can bring in more than $10,000 per tour. With such high margins, it is no wonder why this income stream is becoming more popular.
Photo and Video Sales
Travel is often sold on a single photo or video, and influencers know that. Thus, producing the highest quality content is (or should be!) a top priority. This means that many are becoming quite skilled with the camera, and are wielding it daily around the globe. With thousands of beautiful photos in their personal stock, why not sell them?
Brands and destinations are in constant need of fresh content and transactions with influencers are becoming more frequent, especially in less popular destinations where fewer photographers and videographers travel to. Budgets can, however, vary widely, and offers can range from nothing to thousands. (A good place to start is the Getty Images price calculator for an estimation.) This also tends to be a hit-or-miss situation, and often not a fairly reliable income.
Alternatively, some influencers are also earning by placing their images on stock websites (like Getty). They may not earn much per photo, but over time, with enough photos uploaded, a heavy volume of sales can mean hundreds (or thousands) of dollars each month.
How Much Influencers Earn Every Month
As mentioned above, most influencers don’t rely on a single income stream to earn money from their blog or social media account. Instead, they combine a few approaches to make a solid living.
For travel and lifestyle influencers, bringing in $4,000 to $50,000 or more a month isn’t out of the question (check this article out to see a recent income survey). But that kind of income doesn’t happen by accident or chance. These influencers work incredibly hard to maximizing their earnings potential, ensuring their blog, Youtube channel, or social media accounts are of the highest quality in order to keep interest (and hopefully, income) high.
You may also want to read: