You’ve seen those ads:
Make up to $75 an hour writing from home! (Unless you can write 1,000 words in an hour, this is will.not. happen)
Become a published author & tell your friends you don’t SUCK Afterall.
Travel, write, and get paid for it (in change).
Getting paid for writing and travel is like getting paid to gobble down chocolate and watch TV. Everyone enjoys it, therefore, it’s super hard to get into and even harder to make a living. Be prepared.
lucked into worked my tail off for four or five years and moved to Canada before any exciting travel writing work came my way. I am not going to tell you it’s impossible; I will let you figure out what’s possible. I don’t know where you’ve been. I don’t know your talent level or whether your palate has a G.E.D. or Ph.D.
I am here to tell you what I’ve learned so far.
Myth 1: Travel Writing is Easy
It is fun. Sampling fois gras and salmon tartar and writing it up is the most fun I’ve ever had, career-wise. But it came with pages and pages of work in a short time.
Describing food is well…awesome. But you better get used to eating alone.
You should also probably buy bigger jeans right now because that gut is gonna get huge.
And if you’re writing a guide, there’s a lot of fact-checking, and other things that aren’t writing. The majority of it isn’t writing. It’s interviews, preparation, research. You will have to call a hundred or so restaurants and hotels in your non-native language. Not easy. You also may have to update maps. If you didn’t complete that minor in map-making, I feel sorry for you.
Myth 2: Travel Writing Pays in Travel
I am anti fois gras for the most part. But being a travel writer means I had to try it.
In my albeit, limited experience – travel writing doesn’t mean hopping on a jet and being whisked off to Italy on the company’s dime. Start out small. If you want to break in, cover areas no one covers.
I am pretty sure there’s a bank of writers for Paris, ones for Italy too. Say Cheerio to London because I am pretty sure everything travel-wise that needs to be said about Great Britain has been said. (No? Someone has covered mythical experiences at Stonehedge. Trust me.)
There’s the ghost guy, the food freak, the hotel “guru” who can detect a bedbug infestation by pressing his ear at the door. These personas have been taken.
Consider becoming a local expert. Where are you now? It matters. No one will pay you to write the Gary, Indiana guide. You’ll have to move to someplace cool, but not so cool that there will be swarms of other writers there. Prague is out. You should probably hop on that Argentina train now because it’s moving fast.
Or you’ll have to work for free.
I know this sounds awful. I cringed when writing it.
If you’re entry-level, writing something for free is one of the only ways to get those required published clips. There’s a reason published clips are required and there’s a reason the words are capitalized in every legitimate writing job description. Your 20-page academic essay on Denmark’s Mermaids and Mermen does not count as “published” nor a travel-writing “clip.” Save time and heart-ache. If you’re getting rejected from writing jobs, you simply might be sending in the wrong material. Erotic fiction is not appropriate unless you’ll be writing erotic fiction.
Write a few really good posts for free. I use myblogguest as a resource for when I want to guest post on another blog.
Myth 3: Once You’re In, It’s Easy to Get Work
While I do travel writing for a few travel clients, I cannot make a liveable wage doing it. It is a wonderful side-project, one I am happy to do (call me!) but does not pay enough for me to do fulltime. Remember: travel writing involves traveling. And yeah, a lot of restaurants comp your meals and treat you like a queen, which is super exciting. But unless you’re living in the area, you’ll probably have to fly to wherever you want to go to. And that’s costly.
From college student to travel writer, one baby step at a time:
(Tell stories about yourself in third person. It’s a good way to get some perspective. My life doesn’t sound so bad, eh?).
The author gets her first gig by answering a call to submissions. Then she gets a column that pays $10 an article. Being vain and quite sure this will be her first-and-last writing job, she makes a photocopy of her first $10 check.
Two years and several secretarial stints later, she gets her first office job as a copywriter writing thousands of descriptions of lamps and even (shudder) lightbulbs. All of this lamp catalog writing makes her fingers bloody and her mind numb. She leaves for a part-time position at a small, start-up agency. Working there, she sidelines unpaid as a blogger for a major Seattle newspaper.
Another, smaller newspaper reads and actually likes her writing and tells her that they’ll pay her for these sarcastic write-ups. Done and done.
She pitches to jazz up their publication with restaurant reviews and capture the hearts of the young, who seem to be allergic to print.
Meanwhile, she gets laid-off at the small agency because they can’t afford to pay their wonderful wordsmiths anymore.
And then she finds an amazing copywriting job, one she loved for three years. But the opportunity comes to move to the little pocket of Europe in Canada and she takes it because she’s never believed in the word no, can barely say it. And she’s always wanted to learn French.
Almost as soon as she arrives, she finds work at another neighborhood paper, the only English one in Quebec. And because it’s so teensy tiny, she gets to do the most coveted work.
And then she gets an amazing opportunity to work on a travel writing guide because she sent in the restaurant reviews for the newspaper. She spends the next five weeks hunched over her desk and falling asleep in French class. When they project is complete, they refer her to another publication. She becomes the voice of Anglophones in Quebec City.
Issues arise. Life forces her at gunpoint to move back to Seattle. So she creates her own agency and applies to hundreds of area jobs. And Expedia rejects her four times for unknown reasons. But the travel writing keeps trickling in, little by little.
She’s still waiting patiently for that call from Anthony Bourdain.