Traveling and writing sounds like a great idea, especially for young writers looking for an extra income from their writing career. This is a guest post by Sam Ross with some tips on getting started. Sam runs the blog thehammockhombre.com – a travel blog focused around the digital nomad lifestyle. Over the past 3 years, he’s traveled to every continent, so writes on a broad range of countries, cities, and destinations.
How to Start the Career of a Travel Writer
For many aspiring writers, travel writing is the Holy Grail; the job that gives you the ultimate freedom to enjoy your work and everyday life as one. Starting a career as a travel writer can be a little daunting, as it’s very competitive – so many writers are doing it that you’ve got to put your all into this work to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t let that put you off, though. If you’ve got a passion for travel and a way with words, there is no reason you won’t attract the attention of your own crowd of loyal followers. Turning your travel writing into a reasonable income may not happen overnight, but if you don’t set the wheels in motion, it’s not going to happen at all. We’ve got some tips on how you can establish yourself in this much-coveted role:
1. Actually travel and write
If you’re not well traveled, you are not going to have a wealth of experience from which to write. A seasoned traveler knows what they’re looking for in each new destination, so they have a pretty good idea what others will want to read about. Even if you don’t have the cash for too many trips, start out by writing about local attractions or previous experiences to get some practice.
The more you write – and of course, read – the more your vocabulary expands and the more expressive your articles become. Your language needs to be ultra-descriptive to convey fine details and spike readers’ imaginations. When in a new destination, fine-tune your senses and pay attention to every detail of your environment. This helps you to describe your chosen destinations clearly and in turn inspire others to visit them.
One common mistake travel writers make is to ignore the local history, traditions and cultural factors that make the destinations what they are. This offers readers context – far more than a pleasant description of a piece of architecture might.
2. Build confidence with qualifications and feedback
It’s normal to feel nervous about the perceived quality of your work; artists of all kinds tend to be critical of their own work. If you’re unsure, join a writer’s group online, take a couple of writing courses, or do a journalism qualification. These will undoubtedly boost your confidence.
Publish work on Medium and read the others’ work to get insights into different writing styles. You may get a decent following here and you’ll also get lots of feedback in the comments, which can help you to improve your delivery.
You can also share blog posts and articles in student papers or free papers, which is another way to get yourself known. Don’t be afraid to work for free at first – nobody knows you’ve done that, and work published online can be used as a credible reference later. It’s really a case of speculate to accumulate, but with your time… and time is money, as they say.
3. Build a website and register on others
A website is a crucial tool for any serious travel writer. Not only is it a place to showcase your work; it’s also the perfect reference point for prospective employers. What’s more, when you share your travel articles on social media platforms, you’ll share them directly from your site, attracting more people to the site. This is how you’ll become better known.
When applying for work, it’s normal to feel apprehensive about sending the perfect examples. You could be tempted to remedy this by sending as many links as possible, but that isn’t a good idea. It’s better to select one or two favorite examples from your site – perhaps the ones about destinations you loved the most, or writing you did when you felt particularly inspired or passionate.
As you’re sending examples from your website, the rest of your work is immediately accessible if the employer wishes to see more. Don’t forget to register on travel writer websites too: www.travelwriters.com, www.freelancetravelwriter.com and www.thetravelwriterslife.com are good places to get yourself known.
4. Apply for work strategically
The first step before you start any applications is to carefully check over your claims. You never know when a prospective employer might do this and find that you’ve presented incorrect information. This is an instant deal-breaker. The same goes for spelling, grammar and compelling article structure. Go over everything with a fine-toothed-comb to make sure all is as it should be.
Once you’re happy with it, start sending it out to newspapers, travel and the travel sections of lifestyle magazines, guidebooks, travel websites etc. Phone ahead to find out who you should be sending your work to, otherwise it may never land in the right inbox at all. When submitting work to websites or guidebooks, don’t forget to check out their online guidelines first. If you don’t meet these, your work will be instantly rejected. This may mean tailoring your articles slightly differently for each publication, but it is worth the effort.
Follow-up calls a couple of weeks later don’t hurt either. Don’t worry about feeling like a pest; if you don’t ask, you may not get. It could be that your initial email was overlooked due to a busy inbox, and checking up also demonstrates that you’re dedicated to your work.
5. Sharpen your photography skills
Anyone who wants to publish your work is also likely to want decent photos to go with it. They may supply them for you, but it helps to be covered for this. Although you can find stock photos, these might appear all over the web in other people’s articles, which isn’t ideal.
Taking high-resolution photographs of the things you’re describing will lend a lot of credibility to your articles. 300dpi is print quality, so use the 2 megapixel setting or higher. Don’t forget to star in a couple of the photos yourself!
To conclude, it’s not always easy to get known as a travel writer, but with effort and perseverance, you have a good chance. Don’t let fear hold you back – if you have passion and ability, these will shine through in your work. If all else fails, find your niche and aim to become an expert in it. That might be adventure travel, culinary travel or budget travel, for example. Where there is a will – and a skill – there is likely to be a way.