Many hopeful travel writers have tried to get started by doing their own blogs, pleading with their Facebook friends and Twitter followers to read, like, share and follow.
But what if they could post to a platform which already has an audience of seasoned travellers ready for their next trip… and they can get paid for it?
IQPlanner is a site where you can post about itineraries based on your trips, earning some money if you can inspire people to experience what you did.
Is it really that easy to crack a hugely saturated market? I take on the challenge to find out.
How does IQPlanner work?
You generate cash by posting ‘adventures’ – a series of photos, videos and captions that encapsulate a holiday that you’ve been on.
The idea is that people look at your adventures and use them as a base to make their own plan which is then compiled by third party booking sites like Skyscanner and HotelsCombined.
Authors who write up these adventures make their money through commissions from said third party sites.
An IQPlanner spokesperson tells me that the payment model rewards its authors in two ways:
Acquisition – for each legitimate click through to their itinerary and out to one of IQPlanner’s partner booking sites – provided by Skyscanner and Hotelscombined;
Engagement – an author’s account receives small credits for views and social interactions such as shares and likes. Authors are encouraged to actively share their travel adventures as widely as possible.
It has a partner programme much like YouTube does.
At the moment there are two levels of partner: Gold and Silver.
Gold partners get $10 once their published adventure reaches 100 unique page views ($5 for silver and $1 if you’re not a partner). They don’t half make you work for it though – to retain Silver status past your first year you’ll need to post 15 adventures but to stay on Gold you need to post 25.
Once you reach $100USD you can get your hands on some cash. Payments are made through PayPal on request.
You can keep up-to-date with how much your adventures are being viewed and how much you’re earning over at the My Stats page.
It’s a restrictive format, yes, but it’s also a good place to attract an engaged, like-minded audience.
I went away to Japan and Krakow (Poland) last year, so I thought I would focus on those two trips.
The building of adventures is a blocky but straightforward process. Just click on the day you want to make an entry on, then press the ‘+’ button to add a geographical location, photo, video or headline with caption text.
Moving photos and captions to different parts of the page was rather laborious though. If you’re not known for your patience I’d limit your creations to short trips.
There was a change between me doing my first and second adventure: IQPlanner now has to review adventures before they can be published.
‘Your adventure has been rejected’
Well I never!
It took 11 days and a follow-up email to find out why my adventure hadn’t been published: it wasn’t long enough.
To lure in the Google crawlers the adventure needs to be at least 400 words (preferably over 1000). Nobody said travel blogging was easy.
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How does the final product look?
Quite polished, actually. The layout is clean and the picture quality is clear.
That said, the photo framing is a bit weird and you can’t adjust images within the space so I found that the tops of them were chopped off, which does this picture of Osaka Castle a major injustice.
The ‘Take Me There’ bar for people planning trips is also annoying and intrusive, moving with you through the text rather than staying at the top or bottom of the page.
Speaking of which, how about planning trips?
As for booking a trip, IQPlanner works much like a comparison centre such as Skyscanner and Kayak. It gets commission from third parties for directing travellers to their site.
You’re probably having the same concern I had: that because there are multiple third parties in play, surely the traveller will be getting ripped-off with a more expensive deal to cover the various channels.
Here’s what IQPlanner had to say:
“IQPlanner’s deal partners scrape the web for best deals which are then presented directly to their users.
“An agreement is in place between IQPlanner and its partners that their commission goes directly to IQPlanner in return for the traffic, so the booker is getting the same deals as they would be if they went directly to the deals site itself,” she said.
“Only in this instance, they are arriving at the deals by being inspired by IQPlanner authors first”.
IQPlanner can be useful if you want to boost your travel writing. But like the ‘old-fashioned’ blogging route, you’ll have to work hard to see it going anywhere. And at just over $10USD, I’m way off the $100USD mark.
Posting on social media does give you a bit of a boost. I put my IQPlanner profile onto my Facebook feed once and I got a few extra pence out of the engagements over the course of four days.
I reckon that the people using this site probably won’t be able to travel enough to cover the numbers needed to retain Gold or Silver status.
Either that or one location would be split into several sub-topics in order to make that work. For example, one user has split her current home of Vilnius, Lithuania into seven different adventures.
There are a wide variety of destinations, all with original photography. Despite being reviewed, adventures don’t seem to be thoroughly proofread so some posts are littered with exclamation marks along with a few typos.
If the site was looking to make improvements, it’d be great to see a comments section on adventures to get some more interaction going.
The planner is easy to use and the results are detailed, but prices are only listed in USD, creating more work for users outside of the US to see what kind of deal they’re getting.
Overall, I think that IQPlanner is a very interesting platform with some potential.
It’s worth a try now as you’ll be a Gold partner for your first year, but if you want to see long-term results you’ll really have to work for it – unless you have a substantial following already, that is.