How We Made $63,750 in 3 Months: Q3 Travel Blog Income Report
Wow, summer just flew by! People always say that, but honestly, I think this was the fastest summer of our lives.
Over the last 3 months, we trained in new team members, traveled around Indonesia, explored Japan for 3 weeks, attended a 3-day festival, and spent quality time with friends and family. Considering we devoted the first half of 2019 mostly to work, summer was a crazy-fast-fun time. And also stressful. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since we were so busy, we didn’t have as much time to devote to Two Wandering Soles as we would have liked. And that made us anxious. But to our surprise, Two Wandering Soles continued to grow through our crazy summer and produced our three most profitable months to date! Like, whaaaat?!
We’ve had quite a few people reach out and ask if we were continuing our Income Report series. And since you’re already here, I think you know the answer is a resounding YES… But as we alluded in our last income report, they will start to look a little different from now on.
Instead of reporting out every month, we’ve decided to create quarterly travel blog income reports for a few reasons:
It helps us focus more on our travel-related content, which is the sole purpose of this website.
The travel industry tends to be quite seasonal, so it’s a better representation of our traffic and income to report seasonally.
Blogging takes time for big changes to be made. Since we plan our work on a quarterly basis, we will now be able to report on an entire project and not just the status of it.
Oh, and income reports are friggen’ time consuming. We realized that it just wouldn’t be a sustainable practice for us to continue doing them on a monthly basis.
So now onto a little recap of what we have been up to in Quarter 3 (Q3):
We spent most of July creating content from our place in Bali and training in our new editor, Amanda. We attempted to squeeze in as many last-minute $6 massages we could (I think we had four in a 10-day span!), before we traveled over to East Java, Bali’s neighboring island, for one-week.
We had been itching to explore Java for years and finally got the chance. Our days were filled with chasing waterfalls, climbing mountains, repelling into caves! And long, long travel days with weak WiFi…
In early August, we said goodbye to Bali, one of our homes away from home.
Next stop: Japan! This was our second time in Japan and we really wanted to explore some places we didn’t get to last time, like Osaka, as well as some lesser-known locations. We hiked an ancient pilgrimage trail, stayed in a temple, sampled sake, traveled over a mountain route, and sweated our butts off because the summer humidity in Japan is REAL BAD, folks.
We started the month by flying back to the U.S. and camping at a 3-day festival to see Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge. We’ve been huge Dave fans since high school (actually one of the first concerts Katie and I went to together!) and this venue has been on our bucket list for over a decade. It was our 6-year wedding anniversary too, so we splurged a bit on our week in Washington State.
After three magical days at the Gorge, we flew back home to Minnesota and spent the rest of September cranking out work, drinking craft beer, camping, celebrating birthdays and family weddings.
Oh, and then we packed up most of our belongings and moved across the country! More on that later…
Quarter 3 2019 Two Wandering Soles Earnings: $63,750.15
(aka Our Earnings from July, August, & September)
Important Note: As we explained in our first income report, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. Our goal in sharing this number is not to boast, but to share how we make money blogging in hopes of helping others on this journey (or to answer the question we are constantly getting asked: “So, like, how do bloggers even earn money anyway?!”) Reading other bloggers’ income reports have helped us a great deal as we have grown our website, and we hope to give back and be a resource for others.
Take a look below at our monthly earnings chart to see how it has been a slow growth, and it didn’t just happen overnight.
Check out our other Income Reports:
March 2019: $14,179 in 1 Month On Our Travel Blog
May 2019: $18,065 in 1 Month on our Travel Blog
June 2019: $17,811 in 1 Month on our Travel Blog
Q3 2019 Website Statistics
As bloggers, our income is directly related to how many people are visiting our website. So before we talk about money, let’s go over our traffic for the month.
Unique Visitors: 211,683
Email Subscribers: 11,987
Unique Visitors: 217,280
Email Subscribers: 12,978
Unique Visitors: 205,218
Email Subscribers: 14,078
Total Q3 Website Statistics:
Unique Visitors: 623,052
Email Subscribers: 14,078 (increase of 2,798 in Q3)
Note on Q3 Traffic:
We saw our monthly traffic reach its highest numbers of all time in Q3, which was SUPER exciting! But we predicted these months would be high because of the traffic patterns we saw in 2018.
Some of our Southern Hemisphere articles, like Best Campervan Rentals in New Zealand, started to rank higher and higher as more people are planning their New Zealand vacations for the summer season. (Like I said, travel blogging is a seasonal business and we seeing the benefits of our work often depends on popular travel times.)
And then came the dreaded “September Slump”. It wasn’t as bad as we had planned, but seeing lower traffic numbers in September is common in the travel blogging industry. Readers tend to have less travel planning time as summer winds down, fall begins, and kids and teachers go back to school. As Q4 comes around these numbers should bounce back to normal.
Here are a few snapshots of our Q3 2019 Google Analytics. Click on any image to view them in a larger size:
TOP TEN TRAFFIC SOURCES
MOBILE VS. DESKTOP VS. TABLET
TOP TRAFFIC CHANNELS
Let’s Break It Down!
Now that you know a little bit about why we’re sharing our income and how many people are visiting our site, let’s get to the good stuff and show you where that money came from…
Q3 Affiliates: $44,113.68
Have you heard of Affiliate Marketing? It can be a complicated thing to master, but at its core, Affiliate Marketing is simply recommending a product or service to others, and being compensated in return.
WHO ARE OUR AFFILIATES?
We work with more than 30 affiliate programs and this number is constantly growing. They range from large companies, like Amazon, to independent tour companies we have gone through and just LOVE to promote because we had a great experience.
Hold up, what are affiliates, anyway?! This article breaks down affiliate marking in simple terms.
We work with a lot of affiliate programs, but some that did well for us in Q3 were:
J-Rail Pass (train system in Japan)
12go.asia (Transportation in Asia)
Our affiliates really came through for us this summer! We reached record highs for monthly affiliates averaging a little over $14,700 per month.
As we enter the fall season, not as many people will be traveling and therefore a dip in affiliate income is expected. However, we have updated quite a few of our old articles, and now they are optimized not only for SEO, but also with affiliate partnerships in mind.
Q3 Advertising: $18,286.47
Advertising continues to be a major source of income for us. We work with Mediavine, a 3rd-party provider who basically does all the work for us.
We finally hit over $6,000 per month in ad revenue! In fact, we had over $6,400 in September! What!?! I still can’t really believe those numbers.
Advertisements tend to increase the further we get into each quarter (ie. September will always be better than July). But the best is yet to come… Q4 is what bloggers wait for all year when it comes to advertising. Advertisers pump up their budgets as the holiday shopping season approaches and they’re trying to hit their end of year goals.
We expect Q4 Advertising to be higher than Q3.
Q3 Sponsored Posts / Brand Partnerships: $1,350
If you were following along with social media during July and August, you may have noticed a few campaigns we ran. We tend to only team up with brands that we personally use or would actually use ourselves. We would never promote products or services we don’t trust, even though our inbox is filled with requests on a weekly basis.
Brand partnerships can be fun to do if it’s the right fit. But they do take quite a bit of energy, planning and coordination with the brand, so they definitely are not passive by any means.
If the right partnership comes into our inbox, we’re all about it: Chacos, Hydro Flask, Steripen, are you listening?! However, in the meantime, we prefer to focus our efforts on affiliate partnerships as they are more long-term and a bit more hands-off.
BONUS: Q3 Free Stuff (Exchanges): $3,125 value
This is the section where most people think bloggers get to “travel for free”, but actually we “travel for work”. In Q3, we traveled around East Java in Indonesia and then for 3 weeks in Japan.
In Java, we had one small partnership (value: $42 USD), and the rest was 100% our own money. In Japan, we secured a few partnerships with tour companies, hotels, and other services to test out the experience ourself and decide whether or not we recommend other travelers use them.
Just like brand partnerships, we would never promote a company we don’t trust or haven’t tried for ourselves. And if we work with a company and don’t have a good experience, we will write about why it wasn’t for us.
We never include free travel or products in our income because even though it’s a nice bonus, it doesn’t pay the bills. This total of $3,125 is not included in our Q3 totals.
Q3 Blogging Expenses: $10,372.15
Our monthly costs have increased significantly as we’ve diversified our workflow, given more hours to our staff and put more money into tools that help us work smarter. And believe me when I say it has been money well spent. This 3-month total includes our staff member’s pay and our typical expenses that you can check out in our previous monthly income reports.
As for new costs we added this quarter, here ya go:
Tailwind Tribes Max PowerUp: $19.98/ month*
Tailwind is our life-saving Pinterest tool that helps us get thousands of viewers each month. We love the Tribes feature where we share other bloggers’ pins and in return they share ours. We boosted our package which gives us unlimited Tribes we can join, so we’re super excited to see the results of this in the near future.
MailerLite: $65/ month
Increased because we reached the next threshold of 15,000 subscribers, Yahoo!
Courses and e-Books: $317
We love to constantly keep learning about this whole blogging thing and by taking courses we continue to learn new strategies.
*monthly cost of annual payment
Our Net Earnings for Q3 2019: $53,378
After you subtract our website/blog expenses, we netted a total of $53,378 for Quarter 3 in 2019.
These past three months have been some of our most profitable months yet. The crazy part is we probably only had 5 or 6 solid work weeks during this time too because we were traveling so much. This is one reason why we love investing our efforts into passive income sources, like advertising and affiliates, over sponsorships, as they allow us to still earn money even when we’re not behind a laptop.
Q3 Travel Expenses: $6,878.34
We know that travel expenses are how travel bloggers are able to create content, so in a way, they are an essential expense. For this reason, we share how much we spend on travel, so you can get a well-rounded breakdown of the finances of a travel blogger.
We traveled to East Java and Japan, mostly on our own dime. It’s nice working with quality companies when traveling sometimes; but a lot of times we prefer to do things on our own since partnerships can be quite time consuming.
When we plan our own trips, we get to do what we want, when we want, and we don’t have to work while doing it. Well, at least not all the time.
We also traveled to Washington State to update some of our Washington articles (oh, and it was our 6-year wedding anniversary, so we splurged a little bit)
Costs of traveling in East Java (2 people for 1 week): $659.80 (yeah, a super budget-friendly destination!
Cost of traveling in Japan* (2 people for 3 weeks): $3,095.15
*This is what we personally paid, MINUS the partnerships we explained in the section above.
Cost of Traveling in Washington State (2 people for 1 week): $1,576.89
Airfare: $2374.12 for 4 flights MINUS $827.62 value of points used = $1,546.50
Our Goals for Next Quarter
We have some exciting plans in store for Q4 and we can’t wait to share them with you!
If you follow us on Instagram or subscribe to our newsletters, you probably already know our biggest news of the year… we MOVED to the U.S.! We gathered up most of our things and at the beginning of October we moved out west to Oregon!
We are super stoked to explore this part of the country again!
The rest of October and November are pretty full of workdays and weekend adventures. We already picked up America the Beautiful National Park Pass, so we’re itching to get to Crater Lake and explore a few other state parks around.
Our biggest end-of-2019 travel plans come in December when Katie is taking her mom to Christmas markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Be sure to follow us on Instagram so you can see what she’s up to on Instagram Stories!
Quarter 4 Traffic Goals
It is always our goal to increase traffic (and consequently our income) for the following quarter. Well, duh, right?! It’s not as simple as just throwing out a number though, and there are some parts of the year that we know are going to be harder to grow than others.
At the end of each quarter, we sit down and make traffic and income goals for the next quarter. Here’s how we create those goals:
1) We take into consideration how we performed during the same quarter the previous year; because like I said, the travel industry is cyclical and some trends are an annual occurrence.
In Q4 of 2018, we increased our sessions by 40% and our pageviews by 30%. That was HUGE, and as we’ve alluded to, Q4 is generally a great time of year for bloggers across the board.
This year, we have higher traffic numbers, so it’s difficult to have as big of a growth leap as we did with lower numbers. So it wouldn’t necessarily make sense for us to have a goal of the same percentage increase.
2) We also look at our previous months to see our current growth trend.
During 2019, from Q2 to Q3, our website sessions saw an increase of 14%, and our pageviews grew by 10%.
Q2 and Q3 are generally harder months to see big growth in the travel industry, so we will be setting our Q4 goals a bit higher.
3) Lastly, we take our upcoming travel/life plans into consideration. For instance, if we’re planning to travel a lot in the upcoming months, we’re not going to be able to work as consistently, thus, affecting our growth. And on the opposite hand, if we are planning to have a lot of time devoted to working, we know we can be a little more ambitious with our goals.
Since we will be doing a fair share of traveling and spending time with family and friends in Q4, we know we will have less time for work, and thus need to be a little more conservative with our goals.
Traffic Goals for Q4 of 2019:
Sessions increase by 20%= 936,000 in Q4 // 312,000 monthly average
Pageviews increase by 15% = 1,109,000 in Q4 // 369,000 monthly average
These are just numbers for us to shoot for and to keep as motivation. Sometimes we vastly surpass our goals and other times we fall short.
Blogging is uncertain in some ways, and unforeseen obstacles can pop up, like changes with Google’s algorithm (although these typically affect us in a positive way!), changes to Pinterest, or unexpected travels or life events that switch around our priorities.
When setting goals: We tend to focus our main goals on traffic rather than income. Income is directly correlated to traffic for us, so as our traffic increases, so do our monthly and quarterly earnings. To put it simply: Traffic brings income. This way of thinking about it works better for us rather than focusing on a dollar amount. But some people like to set their goals the opposite way: Set an income goal, then figure out how much traffic is needed to get there (though there isn’t an exact formula for this, so it can be flawed).
Quarter 4 Blogging Goals
Content, content, content! We have many articles in the works for destinations we visited recently, like Japan, Bali, Java, and Thailand. We focus on writing in-depth, super helpful guides to places, which takes time. A lot of TIME. We are working our butts off to try to catch up!
Work on improving Email Marketing. This is an area where we know we have lots of room for improvement, and we could use a little… or actually, a LOT… more consistency.
Release some travel videos we have been working on! Keep a look out for this, because we have some in the works and we’re excited to share them. And in this same vein, we are working to grow our YouTube channel from its baby stage (we currently have a little more than 1,000 subscribers).
Update old articles to get them ready for next year. Updating content with new information keeps it fresh and relevant, and is a constant on our to do list. Thankfully, our editor, Amanda is amazing at helping us with this task!
And a few more exciting surprises we’ll share soon… ;)
We’ve been guilty of getting way too caught up in our business goals, and therefore put our personal life on the back-burner. Life is about balance, and it’s just as important for us to set personal growth goals as it is for us to set business/blogging goals. So here it goes…
Next Quarter Goals:
Get involved in the local community here in Bend, Oregon. Anyone else live here and wanna be friends?!
Meditate and exercise consistently. We feel so much better when we start our day out with mindfulness and movement.
Read for fun. We both really enjoy reading, but lately we’ve found ourselves only reading for the purpose of business and growing as bloggers. And we have seriously slacked on reading for the pure pleasure of it. So next quarter our goal is to read one “fun” book each. With no other goal than for pure enjoyment. I know that’s a small goal, but one fun book is better than none.
Enjoy the holidays! We have missed so many holidays over the past 6 years, so we are especially thankful to be able to spend this year with friends and family. (Also, is it too early to start playing Christmas music?!)
Lessons from this month
We cannot tell you how amazing it has been to hire more help and spread out the workload. Our team has been amazing while we were traveling for what seemed like the last two months. They truly kept us afloat.
If you are starting to make money from your blog, we would highly recommend reinvesting back into your site with:
Tailwind (it’s game-changing)
Hiring a VA or an editor. Spreading out your workload allows you to scale your business and focus on the biggest picture.
We truly hope this income report has been informative (and/or interesting!). We’d love to hear any thoughts or questions you may have. Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!