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10 Tips for Being a Successful Freelance Travel Writer (in 2021)

Undoubtedly, the last eighteen months have been a struggle for the travel industry and travel writers of all niches. Travel content, in general, has pivoted towards things we can do at home, outdoor activity guides, or global bucket list pieces. 

ten steps to being a great travel writer

Many companies have tightened the belt, only commissioned in-house, and pay rates have declined making it harder to be a successful freelance travel writer.

As dire as this sounds, there’s been a marked improvement in the last six months as things have started to settle, people have started to dream again, and publications have sussed out what travel content works for readers right now.

Being a travel writer, or any sort of writer, is an ideal online job for living a location-independent lifestyle and is well worth pursuing if you love the craft and the chase.

It’s also easy to get started. Once you have a few examples of work under your belt which you can get from creating a blog, writing for someone else’s blog, or submitting an article on Medium (amongst other routes), you can get pitching.

Getting Started With Travel Writing: Everything You Need to Know

As someone who has been a travel writer since leaving the teaching industry three years ago, has managed a successful travel blog (paid my own travel writers), and, thankfully, gotten consistent travel writing work throughout the last challenging eighteen months, I wanted to share some steps and tips for finding travel writing jobs, pitching, content ideas, and some travel websites you can pitch to.

freelance travel writer

This is information that I practice myself, learned from other industry experts during online classes, and from friends in the industry. I hope it helps you on your way.

1) Get your own branding sorted

Before you start pitching, you need to get your branding sorted and have some kind of online platform displaying your work.

Branding can be as little as a couple of social media platforms (ideally Twitter and LinkedIn) and a website of your own or portfolio platform like Journo Portfolio or Underpinned (where you can also apply for jobs).

Some people choose to also start a blog. This can be a great way of showcasing your writing as a beginner and you can write about whatever you care about. 

Blogging, of course, can be lucrative in itself and, as someone who earns passive income from a blog, it puts me in a great position of only pursuing the writing work I genuinely want to do. Not that starting a blog isn’t hard work in itself, and largely unpaid for a good while.

I would also recommend niching down in some respect. For example, picking a country or region or specific type of travel such as luxury or culinary travel.

That’s not to say you will never write outside these categories but it will help you market yourself and also make you easier to find, so opportunities will come to you. 

It also helps you become an expert in a certain area and narrows down how much travel industry information you need to follow.

2) Get to know travel editors and how they work 

Part of your strategy for becoming a freelance travel writer should definitely be following and connecting with editors on social media.

They often put out calls for articles that they need on Twitter and by the time these come through on newsletters (explored more below) they will have been inundated with pitches.

This leads me to the point — editors are absolutely inundated with pitches. We’re talking hundreds of pitches a day, in some cases, so don’t take it personally if you don’t hear anything.

Create a list on Twitter (or search for ready-made ones that you can follow) of travel editors and publications that you’re interested in writing for and check it daily to spark ideas and get in quickly with exactly what they need.

Bear in mind that editors are busy and their job involves everything from editorial meetings, managing freelance budgets and invoices to dealing with PR emails as well as pitches, working with copyeditors, and editing articles themselves. 

It’s absolutely ok to follow up with an editor – just give them a couple of weeks or indicate in the subject line if your article is time-sensitive.

3) Get to know the types of travel article you can write

Knowing the different styles of travel article can help you frame your idea in a way thats’ interesting to editors. Maybe your idea works better as a list, an opinion piece, or a list.

If you’re stuck try making your content idea work in each of these frames and pick out which one sounds the most interesting to you. Or ask a friend!

Think pieces/reflection pieces:

Best for articles that have a strong opinion or theory behind them, perhaps you’re exploring a concept or want to discuss an issue.

Can be more difficult to get an article like this commissioned so make sure your pitch is clear and clearly demonstrates you know the full structure of your article.

These are some of the most rewarding articles to write as you can really go in-depth on a topic and have more room to flex your writing skills.

Evergreen round-ups:

These are some of the easiest types of articles to get commissioned for as lists bring year-round traffic and are good for SEO as they’re exploring multiple topics so can rank for many keywords at once.

These articles will usually involve writing something like: Top Things to Do In X Country/City

In-depth guides:

My favourite kind of article to write, this involves writing about a place or topic you know a lot about so you get to share your passion and insight as well any personal tips you have. If you know a city, district, national park, particular scene well then you’ll want to write an in-depth guide.

Interviews & profiles:

It was actually harder to get these commissioned in the past but as people aren’t travelling as much, there’s been more room for pieces like this.

If you know someone doing something amazing and it’s related to travel in some way then this a great structure.

For example: ‘Meet X, Tokyo’s Only Female Sushi Chef’. Just make sure the magazine/website you’re pitching to has some history of doing this kind of content.

4) Use social media to find work

You’d be surprised how much work you can find by utilizing social media. However, you also have to be careful not to sink too much time into this and search for work efficiently rather than mindlessly scrolling.

Twitter, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn are the most useful places to find work but each requires a different approach:

Twitter:

You made a list of editors so you’re already on the right foot for finding work on Twitter. Make sure your profile clearly states you’re a writer and has a link to your portfolio,

Keep an eye on your lists, a check once or twice a day will do, and also type in relevant hashtags related to your work, for example, #freelancewriter #journorequest  #callforpitches #writerneeded #travelwriter.

Following job-related accounts is also useful, such as @freelancerfeed, @journoresources, @sianysianysiany, @thefreelancebeat, and @writersofcolor, (if applicable to you).

 If you only have time to follow one social media, I’d recommend Twitter. 

LinkedIn:

Good for connecting with editors and also typing in industry hashtags, work isn’t as readily available on here but having a presence, sharing your work, and connecting with the right people can really work in your favour.

Make sure to have a complete Linkedin profile with samples of your work. My best-paid and most exciting work has come through connections made on LinkedIn.

Facebook Groups:

There are groups for every industry and niche, make sure you’re in some job groups related to your work and also any support groups related to your niche.

If anyone is asking for help, you can easily offer your services. Groups like Female Digital Nomads on Facebook, for example often have interesting work-related posts.

Guides for helping you find writing work:

5) Get signed up with travel PRs

Getting on the radar of travel PRs is important to keep up with the latest news, get leads, and keep an eye out for opportunities. If you post a profile on sites such as CISON and MUCKRACK, they may even find you.

You can follow many of the big PR companies on Instagram and Twitter and also follow them on Travmedia which is a site for journalists, travel PRs, and tourism boards to share the latest news. It’s very easy to find contacts on there.

Some of the big companies to get you started include:

USA: Eleven Six, Finn Partners, Bread & Butter, Laura Davidson PR, Wagstaff

UK: Hills Balfour, Hume Whitehead, Bacall & Associates, Sauce Communications, Riva Global.

Once you have an email contact, you can reach out with a simple and polite email introducing yourself and ask if you could be added to their press list. You can also ask for an up-to-date client list.

6) Subscribe to freelance job websites and industry newsletters

Subscribing to freelance writing newsletters is a big part of keeping up with the latest opportunities.

Specifically for travel writers, you will want to sign up to Talking Travel Writing which offers industry insight, tips, and writing opportunities.

These newsletters also offer many travel opportunities:

Journo Resources Website and Newsletter

Freelance Writing Jobs by Sian Meades

If you’re looking for the best websites for freelance writers then here are our helpful guides:

7) Perfect your pitch

Nailing your pitch is very important, it’s often why new freelance travel writers don’t get any traction with their stories at first. Luckily there is a simple formula to follow which I have outlined thoroughly in the article below with examples.

Make sure to track down the editor’s email rather than the generic email for the publication. You can usually do this by following them on social media or LinkedIn, or using hunter.io.

A basic formula for pitching:

  1. Subject Line: PITCH: Story Title (if this is time sensitive, indicate that here)
  2. Briefly introduce yourself.
  3. Briefly introduce your story idea with a hook sentence.
  4. Go into more detail about your pitch with an outline of the story. If you can provide images then state that here too.
  5. Mention why you should be writing this story and link to relevant work/your portfolio.

You should avoid pitching by DM on social media or harassing editors with more than two follow-up emails.

Read More: Freelance Writer Pitching Guide (+ Mistakes to Avoid)

8) Make a list of websites you can pitch to and keep on top of your pitches

Keeping track of where you send your pitches is very important. You should only send your story to one publication at a time (lest you end up in the terribly embarrassing situation where two publications accept your pitch)

Having a spreadsheet going where you write down the pitch and what date you sent it will be very handy. You can also track editor’s email addresses on this spreadsheet so you don’t have to hunt them down twice.

9) Get your travel writing rates sorted

Rates are always difficult, my experience has been underselling myself until realising how much other people were getting paid.

That’s not to say accepting lower-paid work, especially if you’re passionate about the project is a no-go but generally speaking, getting enough money to live on and pay your bills should be your absolute priority.

Here’s a rough guide of what you should be expecting as a beginner and intermediate freelance travel writer. You can absolutely try negotiating with editors, especially once you have an established relationship.

Websites: Minimum of 20 cents/word

Newspapers: Minimum of 25 cents/word

Magazines: Minimum of 30 cents/word

Content Marketing: Minimum of 40 cents/word

Make sure you keep an eye on this amazing resource put together by other freelance writers: #FreelancerPayGap. This is real people’s experience with magazines and how much they are paid.

Read More: Freelancer Tips: What To Do When A Client Won’t Pay You

10) Keep improving your travel writing craft and avoid cliches

This is easier said than done because falling into cliches is incredibly easy to do. Many publications will even provide a list of words to avoid in their pitching guidelines.

One of the best ways to improve your travel writing is by reading other travel writers. Read and enjoy other people’s articles and try and think about what worked and, in your opinion, what didn’t.

This is a great way to absorb new language to use to try and avoid those common cliches.

A few common cliché examples include:

Charming, East meets West, land of contrasts, vibrant, breathtaking, eatery, off the beaten track, hidden gem, a must-see.

There are also problematic words such as: exotic and expat which most editors will ask you to change.

Tip: A general rule is that if the word isn’t actually telling you anything and is an empty sentiment like ‘beautiful, great, amazing’ then avoid.

Additionally, the simple rule of ‘show don’t tell’ will help whatever kind of writer you are. Instead of saying a city is ‘bustling’, why is it bustling? What exactly is happening around you? Avoid repeating yourself and make sure there’s a logical flow to your piece.

Note: Always fact-check your work and don’t lift from other people’s articles. You will always get found out for this and it can damage your reputation and, at least, will stop you from working with that publication again.

One of my favourite high-quality travel writing books, full of helpful tips and examples is: The Travel Writer’s Way by Jonathan Lorie.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their craft.

Good luck on your journey to becoming a successful travel writer, if you find this article helpful then please consider sharing.

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