This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through affiliate links may provide a commission for us, at no extra cost to you.
In March of 2021, I left a stable 9-5 office job in the wonderful world of data development to run my own business in the travel industry full time. I’d worked in my data development job for 6 years, so it was a scary decision but I’ve never looked back.
I started creating content in the cruise world back in 2016 and worked on my blog, and later YouTube channel in every spare minute that I had outside of work. I never thought for a second that it would become a ‘proper’ business, but here we are!
I built up my business for about 5 years before finally making the leap.
The cruise industry shutdown of 2020/2021 certainly did put a spanner in the works, but I didn’t let it put me off. If anything it made me more determined.
How Does my Business Make Money?
As a travel content creator, I make money through course sales, membership programs, consultation services, ad revenue, cruise sales, affiliate sales, sponsorships, and other product sales.
I describe myself as a travel content creator for lack of a better word.
I haven’t given myself a ‘proper’ job title as I’m the only person working in my business, I’m in charge of all areas of my business from content creation to bookkeeping.
Income Stream #1 – Course Sales
For those interested in cruising on a budget, I created a cruise course called How to Cruise For Less.
A considerable part of my income and my time is spent within the course working with my course students. Course students have direct access to me through an inbox.
How is The Course Run?
My course is run through a website called Podia*. I pay for access to their website and tools on which I host my course. The Podia plan that I am on costs $890 (£700) a year.
I initially launched the course on Teachable but found that I had quite a few issues with Teachable, particularly with affiliate payouts.
When my Teachable subscription ran out I decided to invest in Podia. It is more expensive, but so far it’s been well worth it.
If you want to create an online course, I’d definitely recommend checking out Podia here: Podia (affiliate link). Podia is straightforward to use, looks good from the customer’s side and they’re always available in a live chat box if you have any questions.
How is Podia Linked to SendInBlue?
Podia doesn’t have direct integration with SendInBlue which is the email management software that I use, so I pay for a third party tool called Zapier.
I use Zapier in lots of areas of my business and it’s almost like a virtual assistant.
In this situation Zapier takes the emails of people who buy my course within Podia and adds it to an email automation within SendinBlue.
I pay around $450 (£360) per year for Zapier and this is based on the 1500 tasks per month plan.
For SendinBlue I pay around $620 (£500) per year on the silver plan.
It isn’t the cheapest email software available but I’ve found that it works well for me with all of the email automation sequences that I need.
Before using SendinBlue I used the free version of MailChimp which did work well.
I use Google’s GSuite to manage my emails.
What is in The Course?
The course is a video course that goes through everything somebody needs to know to cruise as cheaply as I do, without any other ‘fluff’.
The course is very information-heavy with lots of guides and checklists.
I first launched the course in early 2020 which in hindsight wasn’t the best timing, still, the course performed well, so I relaunched How to Cruise For Less 2.0 in early 2022.
Income Stream #2 – Membership Services
Patreon is a website where people are able to pay monthly for access to exclusive content not available anywhere else.
Joining Patreon was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business. Not just for the financial support but for the community that we’ve created.
The internet can often be quite overwhelming but I’m always able to ask my Patreons for advice and that’s been amazing.
I have multiple tiers on my Patreon and the benefits that a person gets is linked to their tier. On the lowest tier ($5 a month) Patreons get:
- Access to me Through a Direct Inbox.
- A Weekly Podcast Where I Answer Member’s Questions.
- Behind the Scenes Photos
- Access to our Discord Community
- & More
Higher tiers include extra benefits like a monthly Zoom call, course access, early access to YouTube videos, and handwritten postcards from my cruises.
To learn more about Patreon, check out my page here: Emma Cruises Patreon.
I also have a very similar membership program on YouTube called YouTube Memberships. The perks are the same but I do find Patreon to be easier to use from a customer point of view.
Income Stream #3 – Consultation Services
I used to do a lot of 1 on 1 consultations, mostly with other people wanting to grow their YouTube channel or build a business similar to the one that I have.
I recently decided to close intake on new consultations as I’m working on a couple of longer-term projects that are taking up more of my time.
I don’t expect to reopen 1 on 1 consultations anytime soon but I did enjoy doing them.
All consultations are run using Zoom. I have a premium Zoom subscription costing around $150 (£120) per year. There is a free plan with Zoom but I needed to be able to host longer meetings for my consultations and also as a Patreon perk.
The projects that I am working on are usually with companies outside of the cruise industry who are looking for advice and guidance.
I either charge by the hour or am on retainer as an advisor, depending on the project.
The consultations are scheduled using a company called Calendly. Calendly links with my Zoom account and lets people book a time slot that is available when they purchase a consultation.
Income Stream #4 – Ad Revenue
If you have watched any of the videos on my YouTube channel or read any articles on my website (like you are right now) you’ll have noticed that both have ads on them.
These adverts generate income for me based on how many times they are seen.
Ad Revenue on YouTube
The adverts on YouTube videos are all controlled by Google. Google gets paid by companies to show adverts on their videos.
YouTube keeps 45% of the revenue and gives the creators of the videos 55%.
I don’t have control over the adverts that are shown on my YouTube videos, I can decide if I want a certain type of ad to not show up, for example, mid-roll ads, but this has to be changed in the settings on each video.
I usually just leave the ad settings as the default as I figure YouTube knows what it’s doing.
The amount of money received by ad view varies based on a few factors. The audiences of some countries is worth more than other countries and the type of content the advert is shown on affects how much it is worth.
When the 2020 pandemic hit my ‘RPM’ (Revenue Per Mille) dropped dramatically. Usually, I have companies like cruise lines advertising on my videos but they all pulled their advertising budgets, for obvious reasons so the amount of money I would get for an ad view was 1/3rd of normal. It wasn’t great!
I often get asked if it matters if somebody skips the ads on my videos, I honestly don’t know but the amount paid per ad definitely isn’t worth your time watching the ads. Skip away! I want you to watch my content, not the ads.
My YouTube Tech Specifications (affiliate links)
I film my YouTube videos on:
- Canon M50 (UK*) (USA*) with a 22mm EFM lens (UK*) (USA*)
- DJ Osmo Pocket 2 (UK*) (USA*)
- iPhone 11 (UK*) (USA*)
At the moment I edit on Final Cut Pro for Mac but I started by editing on iMovie. I did this for years before I decided to upgrade.
Final Cut Pro isn’t cheap, but in my opinion it’s definitely worth it.
You’ll find the tech I use on my Amazon Storefront here: Emma Cruises Storefront.
Stock Footage and Thumbnail Editing
I edit all of my thumbnails on Canva (affiliate link).
For years I used the free version of Canva but now I use the plan that costs $156 (£125) per year.
There are a few features on the paid version that I use a lot and Canva has LOTS of stock videos and photos that I often use.
Canva is by far the easiest way I’ve found to edit thumbnails and I can’t fault it at all.
Check out Canva here (affiliate link).
My stock footage comes from a website called Envato Elements*.
They have all kinds of really niche videos. There aren’t lots of cruise related videos, but that’s not really what I use it for. I mostly use stock videos when I need something generic like somebody packing a suitcase or eating an apple.
Envato Elements costs roughly $260 (£174) per year.
To run my live streams I use Streamyard. Streamyard is pretty basic in what it does but it allows me to add comments to the screen, invite guests and play videos. That’s really all that I need so I like how simple it is. I’ve been using Streamyard since March 2020.
I have the professional Streamyard plan, so that I can broadcast in HD. It costs $480 (£380) per year.
Ad Revenue on my Website
The ads on my website work in a similar way.
My website is a self hosted WordPress website hosted through Siteground*. My theme is Mediavine’s Trellis.
The ads are personalised and controlled by the viewing habits of the person looking at the page. If you’re somebody who’s been looking at lots of hats recently, you might see adverts for hats. For me, it’s mostly cruises, surprise surprise!
The ads also depend on the content of the page. Occasionally the ads will be something funny. I wrote a post recently about shaving my head for a cancer support charity and the ads were all for electric razors.
The ads on my website are currently run by the ad network Mediavine.
I did use Ezoic for ads for a while but I find Mediavine to be so so much better. I can’t recommend Mediavine enough if you’re at the 50,000 sessions per month level that Mediavine requires I’d definitely encourage you to apply.
Mediavine also controls the ‘subscribe’ boxes you’ll see popping up on my website, I used these so that I can send my readers weekly update emails.
If you’re not already getting our emails, sign up here: Emma Cruises.
Income Stream #5 – Cruise Sales
For the last couple of years, I’ve worked with Travel Counsellors, a UK travel agency to book cruises for my audience. I work with an agent, also called Emma, we make two halves of Team Emma.
I was reluctant to work with a travel agency for many years because I used to use lots of different agencies and didn’t really see any benefit of one agency above the other. I think I’ve tried most of the major agencies in the UK.
After I found Emma, and booked multiple cruises with her I realised that Travel Counsellors were always going to be my recommendation and agent of choice.
I love having Emma there to talk to the cruise lines for me, she’s always sorting out any problems that I have and Travel Counsellors have a really cool app where I can pay on my phone.
2020 and 2021 were very tricky for travel agencies but now this is one of my favourite parts of my business. Talking to people when they’ve come back from a great cruise that we’ve booked, is amazing.
If you’re from the UK and would like to book through us, please fill in our cruise quote form here: Book a Cruise.
Income Stream #6 – Affiliate Sales
I am a member of multiple affiliate programs and you’ll often see on my website links that say (affiliate link) beside them.
Affiliate links are links where I receive a commission if a person buys through the link, the commission comes from the company, not from the customer, so they don’t cost any more for a person to use.
An example of this is the map that I have in the background of my YouTube videos. The company that creates these maps has an affiliate program where anybody can make a commission on the sales made.
When I’m asked on YouTube about the map, I share the affiliate link which is then tracked.
You’ll find affiliate links in quite a few of my posts. If I am linking to a company I’ll usually see if they have an affiliate program set up, if they don’t, I’ll often work with the company to create one.
Amazon and one of the biggest affiliate programs and I have an influencer storefront here, this is basically a collection of my recommended products: Emma Cruises Storefront.
Income Stream #7 – Sponsored Content
I don’t accept sponsorships very often but I do occasionally if the product is already a product that I use or if the content required is something that fits well with the content I usually make.
Sponsorships are where a company will pay, usually, a fixed amount, to have some time within a YouTube video or some space on a post.
An example of a sponsored post would be like this post, sponsored by Ambassador Cruise Line: Everything We Know About The UK’s Newest Cruise Line – Ambassador Cruise Line.
All sponsored blog content has to be disclosed in the first sentence of any post and with the ‘paid promotion’ button on YouTube.
Social Media Sponsorship
The same idea works with social media sponsorships. A company will pay for exposure via posts made on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. It’s rare that I do these, but I have done in the past.
If you are interested in working together and would like my rate card, please email email@example.com.
Income Stream #8 – Personalised Content
I have recently joined the website Cameo where people are able to buy personalised video messages.
Cameo accepted me to their platform when I hit 100,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. This may be just a coincidence or this may be the number around which Cameo accepts creators.
On Cameo I’ve created content for all kinds of occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, and even cruise announcements which is lots of fun.
I’ve quite new to the platform but am enjoying it.
Check out my Cameo here: Emma Cruises Cameo.
Income Stream #9 – Merchandise and Product Sales
I currently have two websites where I sell Emma Cruises merchandise.
I started creating merchandise on Teespring which has great integration with YouTube. I decided to move over to Teemill because I preferred the quality of their T-shirts but Teemill doesn’t have YouTube integration which is a shame.
I’m hoping that YouTube/Teemill will sort this out soon, but for now, both websites still exist. I use the free version of Teespring and the $15 (£10) a month plan on Teemill.
It isn’t a great idea to start selling merchandise if your main aim is just to make money with it, I only make a couple of dollars on each sale but for me it’s just good fun. I enjoy wearing the t-shirts I’ve created.
If you’d like to know more about me, check out the about me page here. Here I talk about why I started this website and share some very cool media mentions.