You want to make a living as an explorer and call yourself a professional adventurer….who doesn’t?! But how do adventurers make money?
Most professional adventurers I know have what is called a portfolio career (just like I do as this chart of my career path to adventurer shows). This means trying different income streams and then sticking and growing to what works.
To give you an idea of what those income streams might look like here’s every way I can think of to make money as an explorer.
If you are wondering how I personally make money as a professional adventurer, you might find my blog on how I make money as an adventurer helpful.
Expedition and Outdoor Leading
Most of this blog is geared towards those that are looking to make a career off the back of adventures that they have done ie, a public figure adventurer. Have a think about what your reasons for this are and what you are hoping to get out of your career. There are a lot of downsides to being an ‘adventurer’. Some of those include:
- It is not guaranteed and takes a lot of ‘free’ work initially. You can spend years working towards this career and it never picks up
- You will likely earn very little. Unless you become one of the few big players, this will offer you a modest income.
- There is a lot of uncertainty. The same as running any business, you will have the pressure of not knowing when work will dry up, as well as all the usual managing accounts and your time stresses.
- You actually don’t have that much time to do adventures! Almost all your time will be spent on trying to earn money.
- Lots of people will think you are a big-headed show-off.
If your motive is that you want to have more adventure in your life, then there could be a better career path in Expedition and Outdoor Leading. This route also doesn’t pay great for the most part but is quicker, simpler and more stable.
It really is a case of getting some qualifications under your belt in the adventure areas you enjoy and then getting a job in that field or setting yourself up as a freelancer. A good place to start is with Mountain Leader Assessment.
Not for you? Keep reading…
Go on the ‘right’ adventure
Before we start, I just want to reiterate that you do actually have to go on an adventure first! In fact, unless you do something really massive, you are probably going to have a handful of expeditions behind you.
I see there being 2 paths as an adventurer. What I like to call the ‘hardcore adventurer’…think close up pictures with icicles hanging off your nostrils and rugged action shots of you hanging off the side of the Eiger. Adventures that are fit to an athletic level, breaking records and going after huge feats that cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Then there’s what I call the ‘modern-day adventurers’. These are the Joe Bloggs who decided to jump on a bike with a tenner in their pocket to see if they could get all the way to Istanbul. Or the ones who pick a place that they can fly to in the Ryan Air sale for £20 to walk the coastline or the length of the country.
Traditionally adventuring was about superhuman powers, but there’s a shift. People want to follow adventurers that are doing challenges that are not out of their reach. That don’t involve rubbing shoulders with wealthy backers and quitting your job to spend 5 hours a day in the gym. And with that movement opens up a whole world of opportunity for anyone to step in to become a leading example…just take a look at 100+ adventure ideas if you need any more convincing!
So start with an adventure, but if you are serious about making a living off it (and the ‘hardcore adventurer’ route isn’t for you), then be tactful. You will want something that will stand out and be different, without being gimmicky or a joke. You need to be taking seriously. And make it big enough that it will be a challenge and sound impressive.
Building a brand
Whatever the avenue you choose to make money as an adventurer, it will all stem back your online presence. This is where building a brand comes into the equation. Before setting off, set yourself up with a decent professional looking website and start writing blogs and sharing on social media from day 1.
Be realistic though! Followings don’t happen overnight, they take a solid year or two to build up.
There are no quick fix solutions to building a brand, but there are ways you can speed the process up. By learning about search engine optimisation (SEO). Getting good at social media and engaging audiences. And searching out opportunities that gain you exposure and new readers.
NOTE: I’ve learnt about SEO from lots of different resources but the absolute best one was the book 3 Months to SEO!! It really does break down the process in simple steps. Nothing is left out. If you want to get more traffic to your site and you want to have a blog, go buy it now…it’s a no brainer!
Also check out:
- Build your website in 10 minutes
- 11 smart things I did when building my adventure brand
- Everything I know about becoming a successful blogger
- Ultimate guide to social media & how I got 20k followers in a year
Advertising on your site
Once you have got regular traffic to your site you can start considering advertising. It’s hard to put a figure on how much traffic you need but I would say you are looking at 6,000 -10,000 viewers a month at least before making this a worthwhile pursuit. (If this figure freaks you out, it shouldn’t… you’d be amazed how quickly you can drive traffic to your site).
If you are wondering how to work towards reaching the figure I have one suggestion….good quality, decent, honest content. With a bit of SEO knowledge thrown into the mix.
Different advertising options:
- GoogleAdWords is easy to set up. You decide where you want the adverts on your site. Google will then control those by putting in user specific ads. For everyone who sees the advert, you get a set amount (we’re talking pennies, i.e. 1000 people = 3p). For anyone who clicks on the advert you get a set amount (around 6p) and if they go on to buy something from that site, you get a percentage.
- You can sell banners to specific brands or companies that you like and think fit your brand. This takes more work but has the potential to earn more. You will need to approach companies with a media pack and offer an advertising space on your for a set price – for example, a banner on your homepage for a month for £300.
- Referral blogs are blogs that you put on your site that sells or recommend a particular company or brand, with links, who will pay you to put it there. Usually, you can decide whether they write the content or you do. I did this a couple of times before and got paid about £80-100 per blog. I now get endless offers like this but decided not to pursue them anymore…
With all the above I think you need to tread carefully, specifically getting paid to post specific blogs or links. Readers know when they are being sold to and you don’t want to undervalue yourself or your content. For now, I also haven’t added adverts. When people visit my website I want it to look professional and I think ads look cheap.
It is also worth noting that if you are particularly successful with your social media avenues, you can build an advertising revenue through these alone. There are travel Instagrammers who make a living solely through advertising on their Instagram account. I’ve yet to find an adventurer but maybe there’s a gap in the market!
Affiliate links on your site
Similar to advertising, this is only a viable option once you have consistent traffic to your site. Every time I recommend a product or company I like, I include an affiliate link. If someone clicks on that and makes a purchase, I get a small percentage for recommending them, at no extra cost to my readers.
There are lots of different affiliate programs but my main one is Amazon. It’s free to set up an account. Each time I want an affiliate link, I search the product in my account and use the unique link they give me…this is so they can track my recommendations.
What’s great about affiliate links is you get a percentage of anything they buy while they are on that site, not just the specific product you recommended. I once had someone go on a massive shopping spree after I recommended a book and I got a huge chunk of money in one go!!
Always be honest with your readers. I can’t emphasise this enough! Only recommend products that you really believe in and give genuine reviews. I also have a note at the bottom of my blog explaining that the links are affiliate and how this works for the sake of transparency.
Affiliate links via social media
Another way you can make money with affiliate links is via social media. A lot of brands are looking to work with influencers in this way. Usually, you get a unique discount code to share with your followers. In return, you will then receive a discount for everyone that uses it.
The percentage tends to be much higher than affiliate marketing on a website, usually in the region of 10-20%. It also tends to be time-specific – like over a 1 week period.
This is only effective if you have a big following and are trusted enough that people will buy things you recommend. Especially as this is such a salesy way to advertise a product!
This is a big money earner for lots of adventurers. I’d suggest starting off by giving free talks at some low key events. Check out events like YesStories or Tales of Adventure. Once you’ve got a few under your belt you can then start to search out opportunities. Don’t be shy to put yourself forward if you see something suitable. Also, set a profile up with a relevant public speaking agency.
Most speakers start with schools and then build up to corporate keynote speaking. Like most things, this is a competitive market, but I really believe that if you are good and work hard to improve your style and engagement then you can make this work. Almost all my talks so far have come from someone seeing me give a talk and then booking me for their event…that wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t good in the first place!
You can also put yourself forward as a speaker for TED talks. So once you’re ready, put your details in their database.
The ‘adventure movement’, or whatever you want to call it, is growing. More than ever before, people are getting interested in adventure. Signing up to do their own adventures from cycling to Paris to climbing Kilimanjaro. And people want to share that with others which are why there has been a growth in groups like Love Her Wild and Tough Girl Tribe.
There is an audience looking for inspiration and activities to get them motivated. That’s why we have events like…
Evening talks – for example, Night of Adventure
Festivals – for example, Base Camp Festival
Film festivals – for example, Adventure Film Festival
Adventure exhibitions – for example, Women’s Adventure Expo
Activity days and weekends – for example, Explorers Connect
Most of these are founded and organised by adventurers.
Be a sponsorship ambassador
It didn’t take me long before I was set up enough to get sponsorship in kind. Brands were keen for me to use their stuff so that their name would appear on my blog and social media. Getting paid to wear gear though is a different ball game. This is basically a form of advertising. A company will pay someone who has an appeal to a certain target audience to wear or use their stuff.
This might sound like a deal to good to be true but it isn’t quite that simple. Any form of sponsorship is a partnership and that needs to be managed. There will usually be certain expectations that need to be met such as taking regular pictures of you using their gear or tagging them in posts.
For the really big players, sponsorship will sometimes involve financing adventures, or even paying a salary to do an adventure. To get to that level you need to have built something that is of real value to the brand. So a big following or event expertise in your field (for example being at athlete level and able to break records)
If you feel you have something to offer brands, don’t be afraid to approach them. I’ve written lots about sponsorship:
- How to fund your adventure
- How to get sponsorship for your adventure
- Top tips for securing financial sponsorship
If you enjoy writing, this could be a good avenue to pursue. There are plenty of explorers who have written a book about their journey. If sales go well, this can provide a steady income, although most likely small. With the rise of self-publishing, you don’t even need to be reliant on securing a publishing deal to put your book out.
E-books can also make you money. Tim Moss from The Next Challenge and Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Tribe have both written advice books on adventuring that you can download for a fee. These work well on blogs where readers know that the writer offers good content and advice. Before putting in lots of effort compiling an E-book, do your research to see if there is something similar already available. Ideally, you will be covering something specific that is hard to get information on.
Another option is to write for magazines. You can usually pitch your ideas for an article via magazine websites. An established writer might also be asked to write a regular column.
Make adventure films
To start with you are going to need some good equipment and filmmaking skills. One option is to film your adventure and to charge per download for anyone who wants to watch it. Janapar is a great example of this. It sometimes helps if your film has some credentials so start by entering adventure film festivals.
Vlogging is a great social media tool and can even be a big moneymaker, although I have yet to find a real big adventure vlogger. You can really tap into advertising easily if your films become popular.
Produce a podcast
Podcasts are again another platform that can lead to money being made by sponsorship (brands paying to sponsors an episode) or advertising (companies paying to get a mention on your podcast).
Set up Patreon
Regardless of how you create content – films, blogging or podcast – Patreon is a great way to earn an income without needing to rely on advertising or backing from brands.
I decided to set up Patreon to support the work I do with Love Her Wild getting more women outdoors. I was sceptical at first but in the space of a year reached almost 100 Patreons (you can check out my Patreon page here). This is a fantastic income source as it is monthly, fairly reliable and also means you don’t have to sell your soul to the commercial world!
I’ve written a few guides on Patreon which might be of interest if you are considering this as an option:
Deliver courses, mentoring and coaching
There are lots of people who want to be where you are, so why not help them on their way? Teaching and coaching don’t have to just be about adventuring. It could be about sharing your inspirations on making any dream come true. Or teaching what you learnt about building a brand or a website….like what I’m doing now! I get just as many questions from people asking about my blog and how I set up Love Her Wild as I do about my actual adventures.
Coaching can be done either face to face or via an online platform. You could offer one to one coaching, workshops or group events. I’ve seen paid webinars work. And also online courses that are over a set number of weeks. Each week you have a ‘class’ with information to read, assignments to work through and live feedback and discussions.
How do explorers make money
I hope this post has helped you better understand the world of professional adventurers. If you found it helpful, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. I give all my advice out for free on my website. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee!
And any questions at all…..just ask in the comments box below!