An aspiring writer may envision that travel writing is all about visiting exotic islands, staying in lavish hotels, dining at the most expensive restaurants, and sitting in VIP seats at award-winning concerts, and then being compensated by a magazine to share his or her memories and experiences. Travel writing sounds extravagant with limitless perks. The reality is this: travel writing is backbreaking work with not as many perks as one would believe.
An experienced travel writer will tell you that most of your travel will be funded by your own out-of-pocket expenses (without reimbursement) and that this is a very competitive industry. Not only are you fighting your way to convince editors to publish your articles, but you are also competing with established travel writers who already have a loyal following of readers. Many aspiring writers who are avid travelers think, “Hey, I’ll write an article about my vacation to…” or “I’ll write about my experience staying at the so-and-so hotel.” These are threadbare topics; besides, many travelers don’t make good writers. Which are you? A traveler, a writer, or both? You’ll need to figure out ways to brand yourself as a unique and amazing travel writer if you expect to command decent pay rates from editors and publishers.
Insights into Travel Writing
The foremost perk about travel writing is—no eureka moment here—the experiences of “travel” or however you want to define it. Maybe you envision travel writing as writing about your next vacation, or writing about the culture of a city that you had visited last year, or writing about the tastes of different exotic foods in a foreign country. If you shake with excitement whenever you think about visiting a destination, either locally or globally, then travel writing may seem like a dream job for you.
First you should know that travel magazines do not use their budgets to send you to places or to pay for cruises. This is a myth stirred up by desperate writers who sell eBooks or online courses as a ploy to convince you to pay too much money for their hyperbolic information. If an editor does pay for all travel expenses, consider yourself one of the very few lucky writers.
Travel writing usually translates to “working while traveling.” The fact that you must remain attentive to what you are experiencing during your travels can dispel most of the fun and relaxation from your adventures. A deadline is always looming in your head, and you are constantly battling back and forth with your own thoughts and ideas as to what will make your article interesting and enticing to an editor.
Editorial Markets for Travel Writers
As you may have already guessed, travel magazines and websites constantly use freelance writers. They provide most of the feature articles, how-to articles, product reviews, and first-person accounts. Many of the large book publishers hire freelance writers to create or update travel guides. A few of the publishers include Lonely Planet, Fromer’s, and Fodor’s.
If you think you still need to develop your skills in this niche, then you may want to join one of the popular job outsourcing marketplaces, like Freelancer.com or Upwork.com, where you can find simple jobs to write travel articles for individuals, blogs, and editors.
You can also join an online writing agency, such as Write.com, Textbroker.com, or WriteAccess.com where clients post writing assignments for freelance writers to complete. These gigs often don’t pay that much, but you will be able to gain experience and sharpen your writing skills.
If you desire to pitch a travel article to a magazine or trade publication, you can find writer’s guidelines to many travel and regional magazines at FreelanceWriting.com. The website has its own “Writer’s Guidelines Database,” which lists hundreds of publications and links to their submission guidelines.
[ Search for Freelance Travel Writing Jobs | Online-Writing-Jobs.com ]
How Much Can You Earn?
Set realistic goals for yourself. Study this industry to determine average pay rates. You will realize that you won’t be able to live off of your writing for a while—perhaps years, especially if you are new to this industry. On average, aspiring writers earn less than $150 per travel article, which seems petty when you include the out-of-pocket expenses to cover airfare, meals, and accommodations. Not all writing gigs will require you to travel. For example, a company may hire you to write travel niche or SEO articles in which you can write from experience or write based on research via the Internet.
Seasoned travel writers who sell feature articles can expect editors to compensate them up to $1,500 per article, or $10,000 to $30,000 to compose an entire travel guide. You’ll need to invest in time to learn this industry, so be patient while you build up your portfolio.
A practical way to start writing topics on travel is to write about places you’ve visited. Perhaps you live in the suburbs and visit the city for shopping sprees. Or you visit friends in a different state every Christmas. Or you recently attended your daughter’s wedding in Greece. These topics all have the travel element in them, and you can plot out each of your travels into a timely and engaging story that readers will enjoy reading.
Approaching Publishers and Editors for Work
You can contact potential publishers and editors in a couple of ways:
(1) Write an engaging query letter about your topic and submit it to one or more editors. Editors at travel publications and websites would rather receive a one-page query letter than a completed article. A query letter helps an editor evaluate your writing skills and judge the interest level of both your topic and what you intend to write. To compose a query letter, you must know the writing style of the publication, in addition to knowing its demographics, what the editors want right now, and what has already been published. Write a concise query letter that touches on the topic that you’d like to write. Explain why you are qualified to write on this topic and why readers will love to read it. Mention any publishing accolades that you have. If you have samples online, include a link or links.
(2) The second option is to submit the full article, especially if this is what the editor prefers. You may decide to write a full article because it is under 500 words long, or it showcases your topic better, or because it is a timely or seasonal topic. If you know you’ve written an excellent article that fits a publication’s editorial guidelines, then submit it and wait for a reply. You may also want to include a one-page or less letter, explaining the importance of your article, why you are qualified to write on the topic, and why it will interest readers.
In either situation, the secret is research. Learn all about the publication and the editor before you submit any material. If you are unsure, email the editor with your questions. Remember: you need to impress upon the editor that you’ve written a unique article that would look great in the magazine.
Examine this job ad and determine how you’d impress the editor:
We have an immediate need for how-to articles for our spin-off hiking magazine, Backpackers Monthly. Articles should detail the experiences of hiking and traveling in the U.S. and abroad, particularly hiking in Alaska for our winter issue. Articles should be no more than 1,200 words long. We pay .25 cents/word.
The editor has revealed the theme of the magazine, its readership (hikers), and what she is currently seeking. Obviously, you don’t want to submit an article that deals with swimming in Lake Tahoe. Think about travel topics as they relate to hiking. The editor mentioned a specific need of hers: she’d like topics on “hiking in Alaska.” If you’ve visited Alaska before or can interview hikers who’ve hiked in Alaska, then you can develop an engaging topic into an interesting article. The goal is to fulfill the editor’s immediate needs so you have a better chance at selling your article.