Six years ago I quit my job to live a more adventurous life and help other people do the same. My website and profile have grown in that time but I may have given the impression that I make a living from being an “adventurer”. I do not, have not and never will.
Everything I do on this website is aimed at getting people to do more adventurous stuff. But there is a risk that people read my website and get the idea that the only way to do that is to quit your job and “be an adventurer”. It is not.
Almost all of the expeditions I’ve been on could have been done whilst holding down a proper job (and if you don’t believe me then ask my wife who is a solicitor and has accompanied me on most of them). Plus, they’d have been a lot easier to fund if I’d had a regular salary.
If you want to give up your job and work full time as an adventurer then I wish you the best of luck. Hopefully the information below will be useful and I would be delighted to get an email from you if you think I can help you further. But the real reason I have written this is to demonstrate that trying to be an “adventurer” is not the best way to have an adventure, any more than becoming a chef is the best way to deal with the fact that you’re hungry.
As such, I am today publishing a detailed break down of how I have made money from this website, my book and other adventure-related activities so that you can see for yourself how much (or little) I have earned from being an “adventurer”. It is all quoted before tax and National Insurance for which I now remove 30% of my earnings.
How I Make Money
I have made money through the following five areas:
- Advertising and affiliate links on this website
- Selling my book(s)
- Writing articles for magazines
- Giving talks
- Working for clients
Some pages on my website have Google Ads which give me a few pence every time someone clicks them. I also use ‘affiliate links‘ which means that I when I write about outdoors equipment, if you click one of the links then buying something, I get a percentage of the sale (it doesn’t cost you anything).
I pay about £150/year to host my website. This is how much I have earned directly from the website over the last five years, before costs:
- 2009: £0
- 2010: £0
- 2011: £0
- 2012: £0
- 2013: £250
- 2014: £1,500
- 2015: £3,600 (forecast)
I now anticipate this being the main source of income from my “adventurer” persona. The adverts only generate about £1/day. The bulk of the money comes from my affiliate links and that is almost entirely driven by my comparison articles (so keep reading and sharing them please)!
I published a book in 2012. If you buy it from a shop I get about 60p, if you buy it on Amazon through my website I get about £1 and if you buy it directly from me I get about £3.50.
This is how much book sales have earned me:
- 2009: £0
- 2010: £0
- 2011: £0
- 2012: £1,000
- 2013: £200
- 2014: £100
- 2015: £1,200 (forecast)
I now sell individual ebooks. For each one of those I sell, I get about £4.50. I only started selling them this year but anticipate that they will outstrip my paperback earnings within a year. If sales continue (and that’s a big question mark) then they will be the second best source of income after my affiliate links.
I have written quite a lot of articles for magazines and other websites. They were usually unpaid when I started out and just a means of promotion. However, they do pay sometimes.
The list below probably misses off a few pieces I’ve written but gives a rough idea:
- 2009: £0
- 2010: £200
- 2011: £150
- 2012: £250
- 2013: £550
- 2014: £600
- 2015: £150 (forecast)
Getting paid articles requires pitching to editors who receive lots of pitches. I don’t particularly enjoy this process. Part of the reason is that if I have a good idea for something to write then I’d prefer to put it on this blog. I don’t get much pleasure out of writing stuff other people want me to write so I don’t often try to pitch any more.
I have given a number of talks over the years. The only ones that have ever paid have been at schools.
- 2009: £150
- 2010: £600
- 2011: £550
- 2012: £150
- 2013: £0
- 2014: £0
- 2015: £0 (forecast)*
To get the talks above I compiled a huge spreadsheet of every single school within a 100 mile radius and worked my way through the list, cold calling and emailing each one in turn.
I enjoyed the talks (and making the spreadsheet) but hated having to sell myself and never really got comfortable taking money from schools so I stopped trying to get any more talks.
*However, if you’re the CEO of a massive company and want to book me then feel free to get in touch.
I reckon I’ve helped a little shy of 200 different expeditions and individuals, and had email conversations with many, many more people. Of these, five have paid and one of them was more than a few hundred pounds.
I’ve not included these numbers in my breakdown because the only occasion on which they made a significant contribution to my earnings was when I worked for a client full time or close to. Specifically, I organised the logistics for someone else’s expeditions: buying equipment, booking travel, arranging visas, shipping kit and battling red tape. This does not constitute “being an adventurer” in my book. Indeed, it is very close to the job that I quit to start this website.
It was the only viable way for me to make a living but I concluded from my experiences that what I enjoy is the buzz of helping people get started on an adventure rather than anything about the actual practicalities of organising an expedition (particularly someone else’s). As such, I no longer offer to provide logistics for other people, I just offer free advice.
How Much Money I’ve Made
Here’s a summary of how much I’ve made over the last six years:
Why Have I Made So Little?
Some of you may be wondering why I’ve made so little money from my efforts. I would suggest the following reasons:
1. Adverts don’t make much money
I should get over a million hits on my website this year but that’ll only make about £1/day in advertising. Maybe you’ll do better than me but don’t assume that just having a website with an advert on it will make you rich.
2. You don’t get much money from publishing a book
As mentioned, I get about 60p for every £13 copy of my book that gets sold in Waterstones. You can do your own maths but you’d have to sell a lot to make much money from that. Self-publishing is a much better way to get more money from your sales (I’ve written a detailed breakdown of the different publishing options here).
3. I don’t like selling myself
Invitations to paid talks don’t usually fall on your lap, you have to work for them. That means phoning someone up and telling them how great you are and why they should pay to hear your voice. I hate doing that so stopped trying.
The same rule applies to most other areas of business. You need to actively sell yourself and that’s not something I really enjoy.
4. Money wasn’t my motivation for starting
You may have gathered by now that making money was never really part of my plan when I started this website (although it probably should have been since it involved quitting my job). If I’d set out with a clearer business plan then I am sure I could have been more productive financially.
I’ve realised over the years that I’d prefer to make my money in a day job and do this website largely for fun. As a financial return on the time invested, it has been terrible. But as a labour of love, I have no regrets and a lot of pride.
5. There are a lot of adventurers out there
I wasn’t the first person who thought that being an “adventurer” sounded like a good idea and I won’t be the last. There are lots of us out there and that means competition. It’s all indirect and friendly, of course, but it does mean that I wasn’t unique; there were plenty of other people trying to give talks, sell books and pitch articles.
So, How Have I Actually Made a Living?
With the exception of working full time as a logistics provider for clients in 2011/12 (which counted as a job in my book), I have never made enough from this website and being an “adventurer” to live off. However, I am indeed still alive and have managed that through the following:
- Starting the website whilst working a full time job then tapering off my hours by using all of my remaining holiday and days in lieu (2009).
- Moving back in with my parents and counting every penny (2009-2011).
- Working part-time in non-adventure jobs (2009-2011).
- Working full time (2012-13 and now).
Will I Ever Make a Living from Adventure?
No. I don’t ever expect to make a living from this website or adventure-related activities. However, I have a full time job
Due to the rising popularity of my kit articles and selling a few ebooks, I do expect to earn a up to four or five thousand pounds from my website this year. Given that I didn’t really set out to make money from this website and that I don’t need that money (I get a salary from my normal job), I’ve decided to give part of it away.
Specifically, I am starting what I hope will be an annual expedition grant. The reason I started this website was to help other people have adventures and now I am in a position to put my money where my mouth is. More details will follow later in the year.
What Advice Would I Give Budding Adventurers?
The one key piece of advice I would give – which I hope the above spells out loud and clear – is that trying to be a full time “adventurer” is not the best way to have an adventure. Far better just to plan an adventure in your holidays or between jobs/study. But if you’re dead set on it for whatever reasons, I would advise:
- Think carefully about whether you actually need to do it full time and couldn’t manage it in your holidays, evenings or with a short career break.
- Have a plan. How are you actually going to make money?
- Recognise that you need to be a business man/woman as well as an adventurer.
- Recognise that you need to be a sales man/woman as well as an adventurer.
- If you’re writing a book and want to make money from it, publish it yourself.
- If you’re hoping to earn through your website, read some blogs about SEO and how best to approach “monetising”.
- Have fun and send me an email if I can help and/or you’re really successful and want to rub my nose in it.
I second that mention
No need to mention which is your current full-time job but do you think your adventurer role has had an influence in the relevant job you do?
Good question Viajarapie. I think the experiences of my adventures have taught me so much and “improved me as a person” immeasurably so in that sense, I would absolutely say they have influence in my “normal jobs”.
Very honest – what a great piece!
Thank you George.
What an honest appraisal of being an adventurer. To find such satisfaction in helping others over material gain is inspiring, thanks for sharing it.
Great article, really good read and great advice!
I get similar traffic on CyclingAbout.com and have decided it’s just not worth trying to eek money out of every nook and cranny. I personally get more out the product I am given to use and review than anything else. That said, I’ve just put six months into my new bicycle touring book and am looking forward to covering my hosting/server costs for once!
Thank you for this article. I too am an adventurer. I just started this year (5 months in) and so far I am LOVING it! I was hoping to make money off of my website, and your article has opened my eyes some. I am a photographer as well. Do you have any tips on how I can sell photos? Or could you point me in any directions I can go to learn what I can do to sell them?
Hi, glad to hear you’re enjoying adventurous life so far. Do share your website so everyone can see what you’re up to.
I don’t know anything about photography or selling photos I’m afraid. If you’re just asking about the practicality of selling a photograph then you could easily take payments via PayPal then email/post images yourself, just as I do with my ebooks and paperbacks.
However, my *hunch* is that there is very little money in selling photos as an adventurer.
I say that because all adventurers get great photographs from their expeditions (see e.g. Al Humphreys, Tom Allen, Alex Hibbert). But I suspect that there are very few people who see a nice picture on one of their websites and decide they want to pay £100 or £500 for the image, or whatever it would be to make the effort worthwhile.
I have friends who make a living from being freelance photographers but it is, as you’d expect, absolutely a full time job in itself.
But, like I said, I don’t know anything about selling photos so take the above with a large dose of salt!
Great article, Tim, and very honest, too!
Tim. You may not have made any money but what you have done is amazing. What memories to be proud of! And I’m pretty sure if you’d been a 9-5 office boy next door you wouldn’t have bagged your adventurous wife so I say all in all pretty good earnings! X
Thanks Helen! The girls are just as important as the money, right?
Love this – thank you.
Pleasure. Thanks Elsa.
I went through a similar mental exercise many years ago. I really wanted to paddle the Inside Passage from Olympia, Washington to Skagway, Alaska. I realized that I couldn’t do that as a one-time trip and make a living, so I decided to break it up into bite-sized pieces. I have done most of the route over the last 20 years in one to 17 day trips. It has given me fun trips to do every summer, and I have been able to do variations to the route that I might not have done as a one-time continuous route. I have also been able to bring many of my friends along. They would not have joined me on a longer trip. I have also been able to pick the best weather windows and the best tide and current windows for crux trips. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Thanks for that Bill. Breaking trips down is a really good approach I think. 20 years is some commitment though! My friends and I have slowly been working our way around the South West Coastal Path here in the UK. It’s taken over a decade so far!
Great article Tim. I was always under the impression you made a lot more from this website. It’s cool to see that you really are just doing it for the love of it.
On top of that the fact you are going to give some of that money away….inspiring!
Hope you and Laura are good
Thanks Josh. Perhaps I would have been better maintaining the pretense that The Next Challenge was a highly profitable business!
Fantastic bit of word stuff as always Tim.
I didn’t escape the city to become rich, (that ain’t going to happen teaching first aid), I escaped the city to live a little. Seems to be working so far, for the both of us.
Since giving up 9-5, I think I’m actually a better, richer, person, but do I have lots of money? Nope!
Keep up the good work mate.
Thanks Steve. Glad to hear you’re still keeping at it.
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Great article Tim, as always!Some good links too, so thanks for that also! A fab true insight into full time adventurer!
I am so with you regarding,” you need a plan! ” along with the need to be a salesperson, oh and logistic provider, researcher, advisor etc.
I didn’t have a plan for may years! Downside! you pay for that financially! year after year I promised myself I would throw it all in if I didn’t make enough.I was so close to changing careers many times and actually went and spent thousands in courses for offshore oil and gas, then bang! out of the blue, a trip would come along, and yet again your passion wins over the sensible head option.
….Once more your fully inserted into the planning, prepping , training. Then pre and post expedition comes and goes, by then your fully emerged back in that magnetised field of adventure! and you seek out the next one !
It’s a love/hate relationship for sure, but would I change ? …….not a chance :)
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super honest, love it x
Thanks very much!
Really Good Tim
Great piece Timbo, well written and some good honest advice!
Excellent Article Tim, the reality of your situation is inspiraytional in itself. We set up Exploring Magazine as a platform for explorers and adventurers to tell everyone about their adventures, and then we decided to give it away to readers for free, enabling the inspirational messages/stories to get out there! As you can imagine this has cost us a lot of money and all our time spent on it has been upaid, but this is our labour of love.
Thank you for sharing!
Tim, an excellent piece about your experiences. I think what you have gained here is I) visited less travelled countries and having adventures that others can only dream of doing II) discovered how much you enjoy writing backed up with huge journalistic talent
III) picked up new skills along the way, namely digital marketing (SEO, social media guru)
IV) proved yourself as a very capable photographer.
My view is that there is a good market out there for selling some of your photos, especially the landscape ones from far away places. Worth some further investigation- there are photography sites out there where you can get a good income.
Agree whole heartedly that can fit adventures into a regular job- teachers and lecturers work hard but have opportunity for extended travel during summer period. Secondly need to produce a realistic business plan about how to make money when leave a regular 9-5 job
Keep up the great writing ?
Absolute respect to you Tim. Such honest and humbling reading
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Thank you for the frank discussion!
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That’s what I love about your blog. So much info and you are never trying to sell yourself or a brand or a product etc. Very humbling article and great advice. Thanks Tim for posting, a lot of wisdom in this post.
Thanks Chris. “If you enjoyed this blog post then you’ll definitely love my popular range of reasonably priced ebooks“.
Thank you very much, Tim, for these honest words. Since I spontaneaously took 2 months of from work to travel through the UK earlier this year, I am a bit unhappy with my job. I always thought, wow, how do the real adventurer manage it to make enough money for living? I want to do the same. But in fact, this job is very well paid and I only work 4 days in a week to have more time for my little adventures. Now I read your blog I am a bit relieved, because I think different about earning money with a non-adventurer job and still be able to be an adventurer. It sounds childish, but I really thought “when I want to become a real adventurer, I have to earn money as an adventuerer”. Thanks for open my eyes. I needed that.
You are great.
Best wishes from Germany,
Thanks Maria. I left it open for others to interpret as they wished but what you’ve taken from it is pretty much what I hoped people would. Good luck with your next adventure!
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Paving the way for more openness Tim – only a good thing in my eyes. Very inspiring.
Thanks Andy. I’ll need to do another article on this topic soon to update some of the figures. Ebooks and affiliate links have started to generate more income now.
inspired writing Tim. Life fill your days… regards Keith
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