I get paid to go on adventures and to share my learnings through talks, blogs and films. There are not many people that can say that, although I’m sure that’s many that would love to have this as their career. But I know what you are all thinking – how do you actually make money as an explorer…..what does a professional adventurer salary look like?
In this blog, I want to spell out the first 3 years of building myself as an adventurer. To show how it took time but also being smart with my spending as much as worrying about my income. I’ll share exactly how I did it and exactly how much I earnt.
This might seem like an odd blog to share with the world. Most people don’t feel comfortable sharing how much they earn online. But I want to be transparent in all areas of building my career as an adventurer because it’s such an unusual one.
There are no how-to or adventurer classes you can sign up for. So the only way others can follow is to learn from those who are already doing it. I know the more information I can give the more others can learn from my journey. So there you have it!
Before diving into this blog, make sure you also check out:
- Step by step: how I became an adventurer
- My spending report: how much do you need to be a nomadic adventurer?
- How I saved £8,000 in a year
A few things I know about adventurers and money:
I’ve been building a career for myself as an adventurer since late 2016 when I went on my first adventure….hiking the length of Israel. I’ve learnt a lot in that time about the industry, about making money and how other adventurers are doing it.
Here’s what I know….
- Your success as an adventurer often comes down to 2 things.
1……The adventures you do and how much attention you get for doing these (ie, a record-breaking round the world cycle is bound to get you a lot of attention that is going to boost your career)
2…..How effective you are as a business person. Being good at networking, smart with social media, understanding how to get traffic to your website, being driven to keep searching out new opportunities to get your name ‘out there’. (I fit into this category!)
- Most adventurers are living modestly. Earning enough to do what they love. And most of them fit into category number 1 above rather than category number 2.
- You can earn a huge salary as an adventurer. Your earning potential is not capped. Kenton Cool is a good example. His speaker agency advertises that a 1-hour talk from Kenton will cost £10,000-£20,000. To have the luxury of Kenton leading you up Everest it’ll set you back a six-figure sum.
- You aren’t really an ‘explorer’ or ‘adventurer’. This is just the industry you work in. You are actually a writer, a guide, a motivational speaker…..or most likely you are a combination of a lot of things that make you money as a public figure.
This blog is obviously very personal – based on my own experience building an adventurer salary. Each adventurer would have a very different story to tell. I built a brand from scratch. I had no network, no experience in blogging or running a business, no public speaking experience and didn’t know any adventurers or public figures. If these were on my side I have no doubt I could’ve earnt more money in less time!
What was my goal?
I wanted a career that combined the things I love to do most – going on adventures, blogging, organising adventures for other people and inspiring people to make a positive change (for the planet and themselves) through my words.
I very much set out on this journey to just be sustainable. You’ll see from my earnings below that the first year or 2 I barely earnt anything, which was fine as I was living so cheaply.
But my goals changed. After 3 years on the road, I was tired and decided to quit being a digital nomad. I wanted a base in the UK that would allow me to have a better work/life balance. That also meant earning more money.
I also started to realise that with more money I could reach more people, change more lives, help the environment more. I don’t just want to survive anymore. My goal is to earn enough that, on top of having a comfortable personal life, I can afford to do other great things. Like buy a bit of land to re-wild and offer out to others to enjoy. Or contribute significant amounts to charities helping children in developing countries. Or to help other women go on adventures and with getting their outdoor qualifications.
My messy road to success
Although I set out to make a living in a certain way (my initial plan was to make a living from blogging focusing just on affiliate marketing and advertising), the road to success has been far from linear. For me, it has been a case of trying lots of different things and then sticking with what works. Laura Try gives some great advice in this interview when she says ‘throw everything at the wall, see what sticks and do more of that’.
This has actually been true for my career path since day 1 which I demonstrate in this blog…..My messy career path to adventurer.
Having lots of income sources on the go takes certain skills – like being a good organiser and a solution-based thinker – but it reduces the risk. If one area of my income fails, I have others to fall back on.
This approach takes a lot of hard work and it can be tiring juggling lots of projects. As well as not having a stable, secure income. But it paid off.
Here are the 6 different ways I make money as an adventurer:
#1 Love Her Wild Expeditions
While my initial focus was all on my blog, when I launched Love Her Wild and it boomed in popularity I began to give it all my attention. It was really exciting being part of such a fast-moving and amazing community of women!
In the early days, I began organising a few expeditions. Although some didn’t work, I found that most of them were selling out and I saw real potential here to provide unique opportunities to get women out adventuring while also making money as either an expedition leader and/or organiser. There are 2 ways I do this:
Collaborations: This is where I work with another company who I know and trust to deliver a great expedition. They do the expedition leading and logistics. I then market the expedition, take the bookings and help with some of the logistics. I take a cut for the work I put into getting the people booked on.
Leading my own expeditions: I also organise my own expeditions. The Whale Shark retreat for example. As well as managing the bookings I also do all the logistics and will be on the expedition leading it myself. I earn more (as I am taking on both roles) but it also takes a LOT of my time so I think it’s only realistic that I can do 3 or 4 trips like this a year maximum.
Occasionally I earn a bit of money doing expedition leading for a school group overseas. The advantage of doing it for yourself is that you cut out the middle man so can earn more, although you have to weigh this up with the fact there is much more responsibility on your shoulders (to give you an idea I think I was paid about £75 a day for my last Expedition Leading job which considering it is 24/7 isn’t a huge amount!). Generally, I prefer doing my own trips as it gives me far more creativity and I can ensure they are to a good standard. Plus Love Her Wild expeditions are always a LOT of fun!!
It’s important for me to note that in keeping with the Love Her Wild ethos I also use some of the money made on trips to support the Deserving Women’s Scheme so that women who otherwise couldn’t afford it or who deserve a break can access Love Her Wild expeditions and events. Outside of paying myself a wage as an event organiser or expedition leader, anything left over goes into this scheme.
#2 Events and workshops
While I love organising and leading expeditions and adventures, I also saw that there was an opportunity to expand into events and also workshop delivery. It’s a great way to promote the outdoors, inspire others and to bring women together.
I organised the first Love Her Wild Weekend in 2018 which was a huge success (I now run 2 a year – South and North). I pay myself a fee as the organiser and host, the same as I pay those who deliver workshops at the weekend.
I also really enjoy delivering workshops and sharing the business side of what I do. I’ve run Build your Brand workshops and also ran a Writers Retreat in collaboration with Emma Rosen.
I noticed 2 things with Love Her Wild as the community grew. The first was that running costs were really creeping up – insurance, admin fees, hosting and domain, newsletter send-outs, etc. The other was that running community initiatives, ie things that support women but don’t make any money was taking more of my time. To keep this sustainable I’d need to think about bringing on people to help at some point.
In other words, Love Her Wild needed to bring in another source of income to cover the running costs.
For some time I’d toyed with the idea of setting up a membership but I just didn’t want Love Her Wild to become exclusive or to exclude those who couldn’t afford it. So I set up a Patreon page instead!
It is sort of like a membership only people choose whether or not they want to support you. I honestly didn’t think this would work but I reached over 100 Patreons. This income It’s a huge breather to have this regular income!
If you are thinking of setting up a Patreon page, check out my blogs on:
#4 Sponsorship from Brands
Once I’d established myself a bit more as an adventurer – grown my following and got my name ‘out there’ – I began to work with brands as sponsorship. I’ve had plenty of sponsorship in kind previously (i.e. gear or free nights stay or tours in exchange for exposure on my blog or social media platforms) but then moved into financial sponsorship.
One example is the Hiking Jordan expedition (sponsored by Tiso and Merrel) and the second was Kicking the States ( sponsored by VivoLife). In both cases, the sponsorship covered the costs involved in making these happen including all accommodation, travel and food. So while I didn’t earn anything as such, it meant for those time frames (a total of 3 and a half months) I also wasn’t spending a penny.
I’ve written lots about sponsorship including:
- How to get sponsorship for your adventure
- Writing a sponsorship proposal
- My top tips for securing financial sponsorship
#5 Talks, Panels and Appearances
Occasionally I give talks, appear on panels or get paid to give interviews. I don’t pursue this avenue as much as I could (ie, I rarely actively put myself forward for talks anymore, I just respond to opportunities that come my way). It brings in a bit of income though and I could definitely increase this area if I needed to.
To give you a rough idea, I usually get paid between £100 – 500 for a talk.
Most of the links on my website for products that I recommend are affiliate. That means that if you click on the link and decide to buy the item I get a small percentage because I recommended them (at no extra cost to the buyer).
This doesn’t bring in loads – at the moment around £50-100 a month. It’s not much but as my gran would’ve said…..it’s better than a kick in the teeth!
This is an area I’m really going to focus on in the coming years though as it would really free up more of my time to produce more content!
For more information on my income avenues and the ones that I haven’t tapped into that I see other adventurers using, check out my vlog:
My income for 2016-2017
This was my first proper year trying to make it as a professional explorer. I’d been on my first big adventure (hiking the length of Israel). Built a website, learnt how to use it and started putting blogs out.
I started consciously pursuing blogging, talks and my social media channels to build a career as an adventurer.
The figures below are a rough projection to give you an idea of what I spent and earnt in this first year. I started on this journey with a chunk of savings as a safety net (read how I saved £8000 in a year).
This year, I was about £1,400 short of breaking even. This was partly out of choice! Growing a brand is a bit of a balance and I put more effort and time aside to pursue things that don’t make money but that should grow my blog and business or adds value to my readers…..basically things that will benefit me down the line.
Earnings: £6,300 (before tax)
My income for 2017-2018
My spending this year was much higher. Partly because my adventures and comfort of travel increased. But also because business expenses increased….things from website fees to paying for cups of teas so I could work in a coffee shop.
My goal this year was to break even – smashed it!
Earnings: £16,100 (before tax)
(Expedition Coll = expedition collaborations and Expedition Lead = expedition leading)
My income for 2018-2019
The year that I became an adult again and earnt a decent salary! It was also the year that I relaxed on my spending in a lot of ways.
I decided 3 years on the move was enough. For my mental health, I needed a base so quit being a digital nomad. For work, friends, and family, the UK was the obvious place to go. This obviously increased my monthly outgoings considerably. I invested in Love Her Wild, paying for some much-needed updates. I got a new outdoor qualification under my belt (Divemaster) and also renewed my outdoor first aid qualification.
Investing in yourself and your business is the only way to grow. That was very evident with my earnings this year.
Earnings: £23,200 (before tax)
Becoming an adventurer means building a business. And building a business is never easy. It took time – a couple of years – before I felt properly established and was able to make a decent living.
An important part of this process was very much thinking about my spending and living within my means. If you haven’t already, you should also check out My spending report: how much does it cost to be a nomadic adventurer.
I’ve only pursued a handful of income avenues available to adventurers. You can read all of the ways adventurers can make money here.
My hard work paid off. My professional adventurer salary isn’t huge (yet!) but I now feel in a very luxurious position where I can choose the balance I want between earning and giving up my time to work on charitable projects. I don’t feel pressured to say yes to opportunities just because I need the money (I turned down £2000 the other day for a day’s work because I didn’t like the company running the project). And I feel like I have space to continue to be creative and pursue things I really enjoy – like blogging – without needing to think about the return all the time.
Got a question? Ask in the comments box below.
If you found this blog helpful, please do follow my blog and adventures 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!
Any women reading this? I set up Love Her WIld – a women’s adventure community….we organise exciting adventures all over the world for you to join. Find out more – check out our private Facebook page.
I really appreciate this insight, thanks Becks! Keep up the good work, very inspirational!
Really appreciate the break down. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading!
Nice blog 🙂 sorry if I’ve missed this but – how do you pay for living expenses on £16k? Do you rent, live with family? Is this your only income?
I wrote a blog which explains my spending habits and outgoings which you can read here: https://www.theordinaryadventurer.com/advice/digital-nomad-spending-report/
My circumstances now are different – I earn more so can afford to rent in the UK now. But for years I found a way to live cheaply while I built my career.
Thanks Bex, this is useful information – it’s not the done thing to talk about money so I appreciate your openness. Gives me some ideas about realistically what can be possible.
I’ve struggled for some time wondering why I seemed to be doing so poorly in life in comparison to flashy Instagram-y lifestyle adventurers. It sounds naive to type it now but I hadn’t quite understood how much of a leg up having family that you can fall back on -even if it’s having somewhere to stay in between travels, or someone to call if something goes wrong – can be, and how quickly things can unravel if you don’t have such a safety net. I’m talking in generalities but there’s definitely a “you could do this too if you tried hard enough” vibe in the adventuring lifestyle media that’s hard to completely tune out. I suppose it’s not the job of the professional traveller to fix social inequality – it’s not a crime to come from money – but there’s something about acknowledging it in your posts that’s not obvious elsewhere. Appreciated, thanks 🙂
Thanks Anna! I remember also starting out and being confused with the message but then lack of honesty when it came to money and how much influencers make. I’ll be updating this post soon with my most recent yearly income so check in again soon!
I think it’s very important to be honest and to give a more well-rounded view of my life online as social media really does gloss it up!
Thanks for this Bex, this is such a useful insight! Really got me thinking about different ways I can earn pennies!
Thanks Iona 🙂