I can’t really write the word “pivot” without thinking of Friends and the episode where they try and get a sofa up some very awkward cornered stairs. It’s the classic moving joke for sure!
However, since the pandemic took over our lives in early 2020 it’s taken on a new meaning. As a travel blogger, I found myself staring down the barrel of what was once a thriving business to one that had seemingly ground to a screeching halt. It was not good news.
Blogging and digital marketing can be a fickle industry to be in with constant changes, and it’s always good to have multiple ways of making money and be constantly thinking about how to improve and adapt your business to changes.
Added to this, travel is always changing as people discover different or new places to explore and change their travel style. However, no one could have predicted that international, and even domestic travel to an extent would be decimated in the way it was.
So what did those of us who run a travel blog as a full-time job (or even a side hustle we’ve worked countless hours to get off the ground) do when all this happened?
For myself and Phil, who had literally just quit his job to go full-time freelance on the website with me, it was a scramble to figure out what our next move would be. In the end, we set up an entirely new website in a niche that we had been considering but weren’t planning on really doing anything about until later in the year.
We’ve managed to make it work, and I’m so proud of what we achieved in our first year of business during a pandemic! You can read more about how it all went down over on this post about starting a business during COVID.
But when I was writing that it got me thinking about what other travel bloggers might have done in the last year to continue to earn income and make this lifestyle work.
So I asked! And so here we have 19 ways that travel bloggers have pivoted in the last year.
A bit of inspiration for those of you wondering if now is still a good time to start something new, or try and pursue a dream, plus see just how many ways there are to make money online!
They’re all a little different but there’s one reoccurring theme. Devastation at plummeting website traffic, and finding a way to make it work. And I’m so proud of us!
Starting a food blog
Discovering new foods is one of my favourite things about travelling, but I’d never considered writing solely about food, and although I love trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, a food blog wasn’t exactly on my radar.
In late 2019 I had an idea for a food website that I thought might work. I’d even chosen the name and done some research into whether it was a good niche (read more about finding a blog niche here) and while I believed in it we decided to shelve the idea for a late date.
Little did we know that date was just around the corner!
Setting up and running a food blog has been insanely different from travel blogging. It’s HARD.
Each post takes so long, by the time you account for recipe research and testing, making the final product, taking the photos, editing, writing the post and the recipe card, formatting and publishing it all and then sharing across social.
Travel blogging has all of the latter, but you get to enjoy the travel part rather than being stuck in the kitchen and being frustrated with a recipe like food blogging!
However, we actually love Scottish Scran and the community we’ve built around it too! So I guess the lesson is, starting something familiar but in a different niche can be challenging, but is completely possible and rewarding as well.
Running an online photography course
By Laurence from Finding the Universe
I have been running my online travel photography course for a few years now, but it was always a background income stream. With the shift away from travel, I decided to focus more on the course. I relaunched it on its own website (previously it was being sold with a suite of other courses) and did a complete overhaul of the content. I also added the feature that would allow people to buy it as a gift for others, which has been a popular option.
I knew that people would be at home looking for things to do, and I thought that lots of people might want to improve their photography skills. Whilst the course has a focus on travel photography, the underlying photography concepts are the same regardless of the type of photography. I spent a long time putting everything I know into the course, and I believe it’s one of the most comprehensive and best value online photography course out there.
It covers absolutely everything someone needs to know about photography, from the basics of how a camera works, how to compose a great photo, editing, and choosing camera gear. It also covers lots of advanced topics like HDR, long exposure and astrophotography. It even has a whole section on how to make an income as a photographer! In addition to the course content, which comes with lifetime access, members also get access to the course’s exclusive Facebook group as well as the option to email me any questions they have at any point.
2020 was definitely a challenging year, but I was happy with the progress with the course, and that I was able to help a lot more people improve their photography.
Buying an established blog in another niche
By Nadine from The Zero Waste Memoirs
When COVID spread worldwide, the income from my travel blog decreased by 80% almost overnight. I continued to publish articles on it, but my heart wasn’t in it given the current circumstances and uncertainty around future travel.
Something I’ve been interested in for a long time is sustainability – reducing our household waste and just living with less of a negative impact on the world.
I had entertained the idea of creating a new blog in this niche for a long time, but the thought of starting over again from scratch was always quite daunting.
That’s when I had the idea to look for an established blog to buy.
I started scouring the internet and it wasn’t long before I found the perfect candidate. The Zero Waste Memoirs had been started by someone passionate about sustainable living, but due to life changes, the 3-year-old blog had been abandoned for the last year or so. I reached out with an offer and it was mine shortly after!
Since buying the blog 10 months ago, I’ve optimised the site and added a lot more articles – learning more and more about the subject as I went. Through this, I’ve managed to gain back the income I lost on the travel blog, but more importantly, it’s given me the much-needed drive to keep blogging through these trying times.
Starting a domestic travel site
By Stephanie from Oklahoma Wonders
As the pandemic was starting, I was already planning to move back to the US to be near family. I also knew that running a local US blog for domestic travellers would be a good idea in case of future recessions…but I never expected people would need to find ways to escape close to home with no ability to travel internationally at all!
I started Oklahoma Wonders to give Oklahomans a way to access our own State with the grace and hype that international travel gets. Growing up in the State, I never thought of it as glamorous or exciting, but it is! We just need information and wanderlust-worthy pictures, video, and stories to inspire us!
Writing for a local audience has been so rewarding. I’m writing about places that people have access to, they just need inspiration and a little extra knowledge. Instead of helping people plan their trip-of-a-lifetime, I get to help people make their day to day life more invigorating.
It’s also helped me reconnect with my roots and pass on local info to people around me. Reassessing my home state as a travel destination has been both financially and personally rewarding in a way I couldn’t have predicted, and this has been even more important in a time when people need close-to-home inspiration more than ever.
Launching an online shop (and becoming a yoga teacher)
By Helen from Helen in Wonderlust and Rock My Adventure Tours
When COVID-19 struck the world in 2020, my business was just really starting to take off. My travel blog, Helen in Wonderlust was growing steadily and my tour company Rock My Adventure was doing really well and I was on track to have a sell-out year!
When the world shut down, my page views dropped and I had to postpone all of my tours. I effectively lost about 80% of my income.
But being a very glass half full kind of person, whilst things were ‘quiet’ I decided to channel my energies elsewhere. So in June 2020, I did something I’ve always wanted to do – I trained as a yoga teacher, children’s yoga teacher and Chakradance facilitator.
I began to run online yoga classes (as well as some in person when we were able to) whilst working quietly on my blog and tours in the background, getting ready for when travel returns.
Then in December 2020, I launched an online shop called Africa & Wild which sells ethical and earth-friendly clothing, accessories, homeware, and art prints inspired by Africa, travel, nature and the cosmos – all my favourite things!
Starting an affiliate website in a totally different niche
When Covid hit and we went into lockdown, I lost 80% of my visitors to my travel blog. I was devastated. I had worked so hard for every page view and in a blink of an eye, it was basically gone.
For three months, I did nothing – I couldn’t bring myself to do anything – and then one day, I heard about an online course about starting a niche website. I was intrigued. If I was going to start again, I wanted to do something totally different. So, I bought the course.
Over a few weeks, the course took me through a step-by-step process of helping me figure out what a viable niche might be for me, and also, how to quickly, easily, and cheaply start a new website.
It then described how you could turn this niche into a business through affiliate links and how to grow it from a new website into something that could (hopefully), one day, provide a monthly income or be sold.
I ended up with a new niche website about comfortable feet (something I had absolutely no interest until then) and started to learn and write about some very sexy topics like – what shoes you should buy to help with flat feet or what socks you should wear if you have sweaty feet.
However, there are literally hundreds of thousands of topics that could become your next niche website. If you have any interest, take a look at the website Exploding Topics that highlights topics that are starting to trend on the internet and are possible future niche topics.
Running an eBay Shop
By Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
Before we launched our first travel blog back in 2010, we’d made a pretty good side business out of selling things on Amazon and eBay. I’d spent 17 years as a pop culture critic, which meant I was sent a steady stream of CDs, DVDs, books, video games, etc.
At one point my collection included somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000 media titles, not to mention various T-shirts, autographed movie posters, and other collectables I’d accumulated over the years. In 2009, the first year we worked together to sell some of the stuff I no longer wanted or had room in storage for, we made enough money to buy a used pontoon boat (and paid in cash)!
We never stopped selling these types of items, but as the blog grew bigger we had a lot less time to focus on it. In recent years we’d been stashing proceeds from our sales, saving up for a down payment on our dream home in the North Georgia Mountains. But after losing two of our big agency clients to corporate takeover in September 2019, then Google’s algorithm change impacting our traffic and ad revenue in Nov/Dec 2019, we knew we needed to step up our online sales business if we were going to stay afloat.
We were lucky because this plan was already in place BEFORE the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, so it was merely a matter of ramping up rather than starting from scratch. We waded through boxes of old stuff from the ’90s I’d kept stored in the attic since my divorce in 2004, including old concert t-shirts that now sell for $100+ each and an old Madonna autograph from the Evita era that netted nearly $600.
We’re still not making what we were back in 2018-2019 when we cleared six figures. But selling on eBay has enabled us to pay our bills and even save a little extra while we build up a regionally focused blog (which thankfully began turning a profit in just 10 months).
By Bruna from I Heart Brazil
Alongside my general travel blog, I had a newborn Brazil travel site for two months only when COVID hit us hard.
At that moment, my business and monthly salary were basically gone. That was a difficult period. But “necessity makes the opportunity,” my mom used to say, so instead of sitting on the couch crying about my situation—which I did for about five days—I pivoted from “travel blogger writing about Brazil” to “Brazil blogger.”
That’s right. I decided to make it a country blog where I talk about Brazilian culture, food, politics, arts, sports, and travel, of course.
In the beginning, I was afraid my audience wouldn’t react well to the change. After all, going from travel to politics is quite a leap.
So what I did was create a solid website structure, and soon enough, my organic readers found their way seamlessly through my content. Now, I receive questions about all of those subjects, and nobody ever complained about it, on the contrary.
My readers send me grateful messages for providing such detailed and in-depth articles about something they couldn’t find anywhere else.
Granted, being a Brazilian myself makes life much easier because most of my country’s information is in Brazilian Portuguese.
Oh well, I guess coming from an underrated country has its benefits!
Starting a Membership side to the business
By Yvette Webster from Wayfaring Kiwi
After COVID-19 decimated my main sources of blog income (and made me realise just how fragile the tourism industry is during a pandemic)I knew I needed to restructure my business.
I asked myself, ideally, what do I want to do, and how do I want to get paid? I still wanted to get paid for my passion which was writing Scotland content, and I didn’t want to venture too far from my blog when travel did come back.
I also knew I needed to have reoccurring income. Launching a membership was one of the best ways to do that, and so Secrets of Scotland was born.
Each month members receive a new bundle of content, which includes a bonus blog post, podcast episode, and vlog episode.
I actually had the idea to launch my Secrets of Scotland membership before COVID-19, but I couldn’t figure out how to make a subscription model for travel work. Would anyone even pay for bonus content, when there was already so much on my blog for free? It turns out, yes they would!
When I launched Secrets of Scotland my goal was to have 20 people sign up; that way all my costs would be covered and I would also be able to pay some of my bills. I had 25 people sign up during the first week! At the moment I am just shy of 40 members, and I am planning another launch soon.
I love creating content for my membership because I feel so much more connected to my readers. I do online lives with them in the private Facebook group, and I’m always bouncing ideas off them about what I can add to the membership to make it even better.
Many of my members joined because they had to cancel trips to Scotland, but they still wanted to feel connected to Scotland. In a way, they feel like they are being taken on a virtual tour through my content.
One of the great things about starting a membership is that your earning potential is unlimited- it takes a while to grow, but once you hit the sweet spot you can make a lot of money.
Starting a podcast
By Kathi from Watch Me See
My blog is all about Scotland and like many destination websites, mine really suffered due to the pandemic – because no one could actually visit the country I write about.
I managed to increase my local traffic quite a bit over the summer with outdoorsy topics and hiking guides, but overall traffic was down and morale was low.
But I realised that even though people can’t visit Scotland right now, there is still a deep longing to connect with the country on some level. I started writing detailed enticing micro-blogs for my social media pages to give people a real sense of Scottish adventures.
Now I’m taking this one step further and am starting a narrative travel podcast with immersive short stories that allow my listeners to travel all over Scotland from the comfort of their homes.
I love my blog and it’s a great resource for anyone planning a trip to Scotland. But with the podcast, I am channelling my creativity to create content that is for everyone regardless of travel plans or restrictions.
While it’s still a new podcast, I am going to set up a Patreon page to monetise this new side of my business moving forward.
My podcast “Wild For Scotland” is launching in March 2021, but you can sign up for sneak peeks here.
Building a Digital Course
By Daria from The Discovery Nut
Since the pandemic started, many travel bloggers have been feeling the pain of plummeting page views and dropping revenues as people hunkered down at home and the entire travel industry came to a halt for a better part of the last year.
As someone who started my blog relatively recently, I wasn’t really affected by this problem as much as many big bloggers were, however, the situation made me rethink my entire content strategy.
I still kept working on my blog and developing its niche, but I also began to think about how to diversify my content and make it less dependent on travel. Over the last year, there has been a huge demand in digital learning, and as someone who believes that consistent learning is a key element of success, I decided to pivot on creating more content around marketing and blogging.
Building my own digital course has become a top priority, as I would like to educate more people on how to create their own enterprise and become more marketable during these times. For the last couple of months, I’ve been focused on creating a great learning experience for my students, and I truly hope that they find it beneficial.
Starting a YouTube channel
By Sundeep and Bedabrata of Delhi-Fun-Dos.com
Our COVID-19 resolution was to remain positive. We tried to utilize this forced break in unique ways that would keep us mentally engaged, at home, and somewhat distracted from a bewilderingly hapless situation.
We started telling our stories through videos during lockdown. During the course of our travel over the years, we had collected tons of video content. However, in a bid to balance our professional as well as blogging lives, we could not make time to edit these.
If there was anything that the lockdown gave us, that was time. So, we collated our videos, scanned and edited the footage, recorded voice-over narrations where necessary and started creating narratives through video.
We already had a YouTube channel, but it was only during the lockdown that we started taking this platform seriously. For example, we made a schedule and started uploading vlogs on YouTube just like we post blogs on our website Delhi-Fun-Dos.com
The grass is greener where you water it, they say. Given our regular posts on YouTube, we recently got monetised on this channel as well. Moreover, most of our travels were already covered as blogs on our website. After we started creating videos, we managed to embed new videos in existing posts. This way our blog posts also got updated and upgraded.
To us, that was what “pandemic positive” meant!
Writing a book
By Talek from Travels with Talek
For months I had a slow but steady growth of readers visiting my travel blog. Then in March 2020…BANG!… a 90% drop in visitors as people cancelled travel plans and focused on avoiding COVID and staying alive.
What to do? I wrote a bit about things to do at home, virtual trips, virtual classes, and such. I started a Facebook group to keep interest in travel up while we waited out the virus, with the intention of offering small group tours to women over 50 who love to travel when things calmed down. Cuba will probably be the first group tour.
I had an idea for a book knocking about in my head for years, so I figured this was a good time to get it out, create a book and put it out there. I did, and on January 28, 2020, about a year after the pandemic was first announced, I published my labour of love, Cuban Exile Memories.
My new book is for sale on Amazon, has received multiple 5-star reviews and was a #1 New Release on Amazon. As soon as it is available in bookstores, I plan to pitch a book signing tour.
Meanwhile, I continue to grow my blog with new posts, guest posts, collaborations, and optimized posts.
I believe there will be pent up demand for travel in the months and years to come.
Writing for expats instead of travellers
By Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting
Like many travel bloggers, this year threw up off-track, but we made some moves that have helped us to maintain a normal level of traffic in a chaotic year.
As restrictions and preferences changed, we adapted by focusing more on local travel destinations for us and our readers. We live in Copenhagen but are American, so we focused on content that would be of interest to the expat community.
The heavy focus on local travel for expats living in Copenhagen broadened our audience and attracted new readers. This also helped us to grow our email list and social media.
We even began a YouTube channel to highlight places in our new home city from a unique perspective of foreigners who are also locals and not tourists.
Since we still have a large American audience, we also created content on local travel within the United States. We created many city guides and day trip content while also highlighting glamping, camping, road trip, and cabin travel.
While we weren’t immune to the disappointment of cancelled travel and travel writing plans, we made the most of the opportunities we did have. Best of all, we developed a new authority to draw in a slightly different audience that we hope to keep engaged as travel returns to normal.
We added an expat life section to our blog and fully intend to keep creating evergreen content for expats in Copenhagen and around the world. It’s a part of our content plan for future blog posts and YouTube videos along with travel content when the world reopens.
By Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips
Since COVID-19 took the world by storm, I have made many changes to my blog content.
Before the world pandemic, I spent most of my time developing content on cruising. I initially saw a slight bump in traffic to my general cruising posts with the cruise industry received criticism and concern from news anchors and politicians alike. However, once that initial shock and hype subsided, the views on my blog significantly dropped.
Thankfully, cruising is not the only form of vacation I go on. I swiftly shifted towards covering responsible road trips in the United States that many were searching for as their scheduled International vacations were no longer realistic.
While many (including myself) were wary about travelling in the early days of COVID-19, many turned to road trips and off-the-beaten-path destinations to let go of stress safely.
My posts about outdoor activities since the summer of 2019 have been the most successful, with National Parks and more remote destinations receiving the most love.
While I previously focused on exciting International travel destinations, I knew the majority of my audience came from the United States. Thus, I carefully reflected on the thoughts of the average wanderlust soul and tailored my content to their new reality.
I plan on focusing on secluded destinations until the cruising industry starts back up (which may be a while). Once more travel resumes, I will shift to cruising content and dream destinations for eager travellers.
Writing about “workcations”
By Alex from Career Gappers
The pandemic has created a twofold challenge for our blog Career Gappers, which we created to encourage people to take extended breaks from work to travel. Not only have we faced the obvious logistical challenges surrounding long-term travel, but at the same time, the resulting recession means that people are being far more cautious about the perceived risk of taking a career break.
As the situation unfolded, however, we noticed there may be an opportunity to harness one of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic: the huge sudden rise in remote working.
Organisations everywhere have invested huge sums to be able to operate remotely, and lots have found that their employees have been more productive than before. Evidence suggests that many will keep their offices closed well beyond the pandemic.
With so many people enjoying new flexibility to work remotely, it opens the door to combine professional life with travel experiences by taking a ‘workcation’. The concept has a natural appeal to the audience we have already built – people who are ambitious and career-driven but also want to have a healthy work-life balance and explore new places.
Our guide to workcations is our first step in this exciting new direction, tapping into a phenomenon we believe will be here to stay.
Freelance writing & writing about blogging
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Writing about travel isn’t easy when the whole world stopped travelling for more than a year. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was devastated to see my traffic drop and all my travel plans go out the window. I needed to come up with a completely new plan and took some time to sit down and re-evaluate my business strategy.
I was struggling to come up with content and noticed my destination based posts were getting next to no traffic at all. So instead I began creating content about blogging and how to become a blogger yourself.
Since many people had a lot of free time on their hands suddenly there was a lot of demand for content related to starting your own blog. I really enjoyed teaching others what I had taught myself over the years so I managed to still come up with content even though I wasn’t travelling.
I had always been creating content for other websites on a freelance basis but the lockdown gave me an opportunity to expand this side of my business considerably. I began taking on more clients and expanding my services.
After only a few months I had completely pivoted my strategy and focused my energy in different places. I still blog about travel but have now added in posts about becoming a blogger which are doing far better than my travel content even pre-pandemic.
By writing for other blogs I get to create content that I would have never written for my own blog which has taken a lot of pressure off and let me focus on what I love. I’m seeing a recovery in traffic numbers and can’t wait for international travel to be available again so I can get back to exploring new destinations.
Becoming a product photographer
By Debbie from World Adventurists
When the world started asking “please do not come here”, we were concerned about how to keep our travel blog, and ourselves, afloat.
We found that working closely with more product companies, by offering photography services, was a great way to close the gap that COVID-19 tried to leave.
Working with products, and finding many of the opportunities through influencer platforms, turned out to be an excellent source of income. It has also since become a passion of ours and will continue to have a part in our everyday work as we can fit it in. This was also a great option because, with restrictions in place, we could still creatively take these photos at (or close to) home.
Some companies ask for a photo to be posted on your social accounts, and for those photos, we would make sure we had a travel-spin to them, so they still fit into our feed.
Other times, the companies just want the photos to use for their socials or promotions, and there is nothing required of you other than submitting your creations.
We feel that finding this opportunity has also allowed us to improve our creativity and will help us in the long run with our photographic eye when taking photos during our travels.
Starting online coaching
By Ciara from Wellness Travel Diaries
A couple of years ago, I sustained a terrible traumatic brain injury, TBI,
and had to rewire neural pathways (with the help of doctors) to fire and wire together in a way that helped me thrive.
Wellness travel blogging was that avenue to share various tips and tricks for travelling with pain, boosting brain health and overall wellness, all while travelling around the globe.
Once COVID began and travel wasn’t an option, I began shifting the
content on my blog, Wellness Travel Diaries, to focus more on wellness
resources, outdoor hiking adventures, self-care regiments, and fitness
— all while sprinkling in some travel for the wanderlust readers.
Because this part of the blog was expanding rapidly, I added fitness and wellness coaching. As a wellness and fitness enthusiast, it seemed like
the perfect time to bring coaching into the picture.
The fitness and wellness travel coaching is all about helping clients feel — confident and empowered in their bodies, to embrace their intuition, how to create a happy and healthy relationship with their body, and when travel permits how to save and craft their dream vacay.
All the coaching sessions are tailored to the client’s specific wellness and fitness goals (with possible travel goals for those planning trips later in the year). In addition, it’s all online and can be done from anywhere around the world. It’s been a joy working with my clients, and sharing the message that health and wellness is for everybody.
So as you can see there are SO many ways for travel bloggers to continue to make a living while we’re in the midst of a pandemic. Many of us have benefitted from a re-evaluation and taking a new direction!
And while we all miss travel, we’ll be able to continue much of this when travel returns and reap the benefits.
Hopefully it might inspire you with your own business ideas too!