So…..you want to be make a living as an expolrer and call yourself a professional adventurer….who doesn’t?! But firstly you need to know how do adventurers make money? How do you become an explorer and actually get paid?!
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. Trying lots of things, seeing what works and doing more of that.
To give you an idea of what those income streams might look like, here are all the different ways you can make money as as adventurer!
If you are interested in making a career as an adventurer you’ll also want to check out these blogs:
- How did I become an adventurer
- My income report: how much does an adventurer make?
- My spending report: how much do you need to be a nomadic adventurer?
- How I saved £8,000 in a year
Have you thought about teaching and leading?
Most of this blog is geared towards those that are looking to make a career off the back of adventures or expeditions that they have been on….. ie, being 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 you’ll be successful and takes a lot of ‘free’ work initially to build your portfolio and name. You can spend years working towards this career and it may never pick up
- You will likely earn very little. Although there are lots of adventurers making a lot of money, most explorers are only getting paid 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 admin, taxes and your time.
- Although adventuring is the fun part, you actually don’t have that much time to do adventures! Most of your time will be spent on trying to earn an income.
- In the public eye you get a lot of judgements and critisisms (in my opinion/observations more so if you are female)
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 areas you enjoy – kayaking, hiking, climbing, etc – and then getting a job in that field. Or setting yourself up as a freelancer. If you are UK based, a good qualification to get is your Mountain Leader Assessment (ML). Since getting my ML I’m now able to lead people on trips all over the world.
However, if you are drawn to the thrill of being your own boss, having the potential to inspire thousands and being known as an adventurer…..keep reading!
Before we start, go on the ‘right’ adventure
Just in case it’s not obvious…..I just want to reiterate that you do actually have to go on an adventure first before building a career as an explorer! In fact, unless you do something really massive, you are probably going to have a handful of expeditions under your belt.
I see there being 2 paths as an adventurer.
What I like to call the ‘hardcore adventurer’…think close up pictures with icicles hanging down 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 usually cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Then there’s what I call the ‘modern day adventurers’…..these are the Average Joes who decided to jump on a bike with a tenner in their pocket to see if they can get all the way to Istanbul. The ones who hike long distances, but maybe not at a record pace. Or even just look for smaller adventures close to home.
Traditionally adventuring was about superhuman powers, but there’s a shift in the marekt now. People want to follow adventurers that are doing challenges not out of their reach. That don’t involve rubbing shoulders with wealthy bankers 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 and all the adventurers on this list 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 an advneture that will stand out. Think about what makes you different and why people will want to follow you and your expeditions.
Then begins the fun part: 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. Check out my Facebook page and Instagram account to see how I’ve done this.
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. My tips would be…..learn about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), just get a book and get your head around it early on. Get the basics of social media right – be engaging, reply to every comment and understand algorithms and when the best time is to post. And search out opportunities that gain you exposure and new readers (like appearing on podcasts or writing guest blogs).
For more of my building a brand tips, check out:
- Build an adventure blog in 10 minutes
- How to write a killer blog
- All my top social media tips!
- 11 smart things I did when building my adventure brand
We’ve got the basics covered. Now lets start covering the different ways you can start brining money into the bank as an explorer.
Start off by watching this introduction to adventureing as a career on my YouTube channel:
Now lets look at all the avenues in more detail:
#1 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 5,000 -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. I reached 10,000 monthly vistors in a little over a year).
If you are wondering how to work towards reaching the figure I have one suggestion….good quality, long, 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.
- Advertising 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 I feel like a sell-out posting them on my sight…
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.
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!
#2 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 outdoor 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.
#3 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!
#4 Give motivational or informative talks
This is a big money earner for lots of adventurers! Even if it’s not your main income, giving talks is a great way to grow your brand.
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.
Most speakers start with schools and then build up to corporate keynote speaking. Like most things, this is a competitive market. 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 – this looks great on your profile. So once you’re ready, put your details in their database.
#5 Organising events & adventures
The ‘adventure movement’, or whatever you want to call it, is growing. More than ever before, people are getting interested in adventure and getting outdoors. Signing up to do their own challenges 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 the one I set up – Love Her Wild.
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.
#6 Be a sponsorship ambassador
It didn’t take me long before I was set up enough to get sponsorship in kind (free product or services in exchange for exposure on my website/socials).
Getting paid to promote 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 established or big adventurers, 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. Something that they want to tap into.
If you feel you have something to offer brands, don’t be afraid to approach them. I’ve written lots about sponsorship:
#7 Freelance writing
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 it will be 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.
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.
#8 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 money maker, although I have yet to find a really big adventure vlogger. There are plenty of examples though of explorers who get lots of YouTube views and make money from adverts on this. You can really tap into advertising if your films become popular.
I can see there’s a lot of money to be made in the world of films. That’s why I launched a YouTube channel. Go check it out and subscribe!
#9 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).
#10 Set up a Patreon account
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:
If you focus on building a loyal following early on Patreon really is a great avenue that you should consider.
#11 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 with this blog! 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
Hopefully that’s given you a bit of an insight into being a professional adventurer. If you’re launching a career in this field, post your blog or social handle in the comments below. I’d love to follow!
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