It’s not easy to make money as a travel writer—some of the biggest travel publications (print and online) are paying less and less these days, and more of them also want you to provide your own photos.
You could become that travel writer who also has the talent to take fantastic, hi res photos. But just remember that it means one more heavy, clunky, and very expensive item to lug around on your digital nomad adventures and make you stand out more from the locals. For some online publications, however, you can send in photos from a good smartphone camera, like an iPhone or Google Pixel.
All this to say that it’s best to have a main source of income while you grow your travel writing clients on the side.
Travel writing is just one part of the freelance writing game for me. Because I travel, I decided to write about it–write what you know, right? But for me, travel writing doesn’t add up to much pay, so I write mostly about other topics that I am also interested in (and have expert knowledge in) for publications that do pay well and don’t ask me to provide photos. I do the travel writing for fun, to share information and tips about places I love and that I feel deserve more attention.
So if you want to start writing about travel on the side of a full time job (that’s how I started, writing when I had time, while teaching English in Prague), that is my recommended route. You won’t have to depend on your travel writing for money in the beginning, which makes it less stressful and less of a drag. Support your writing until it can support you, as someone famous once said.
It helps also to read a lot of good travel writing, especially the publications in which you hope to be published. In any case, as a writer, you should be reading all the time, whether it’s on your Kindle, online magazines, or an old fashioned paperback—remember those? Good writers are good readers. Fact.
Here’s a quick and basic overview of how to get your start in travel writing right now:
- Pick the destination you want to write about.
- Study the target publication’s article style. See if they have recently written about your destination or not.
- Look up the target publication’s writer’s guidelines, if there are any.
- Write up your article pitch, which is like a sales pitch to convince the editor to commission your article. As you write the pitch, try to imitate the style (is it more formal or conversational, etc?) of the articles you see in your target magazine. You want to offer up a short but detailed enough intro to entice the editor. If you do have hi res, high quality photos, mention that. If you do have any writing credits, a website or a blog that is relevant, mention this.
- Email your pitch in the body of the email (never as an attachment!) to the correct editor. Check the website or a print copy of the publication for the “deputy editor” or “managing editor” or “features editor”. FYI, it is often easier to get published as a new writer in the online edition of a print magazine, so if you are aiming there, send your pitch to the digital or web editor. Do NOT send in a completed article, which you never should write up anyhow until your pitch is accepted by an editor. In your email subject line, be sure to say “Article Query: (Attention-grabbing article title goes here)” to make sure the editor knows it’s a query from a writer, not a PR person.
- You can also write up a pitch without any one target publication in mind, and then send it out to several places, making sure to tweak each pitch according to the publication’s style.
- Now….you wait. Sometimes you’ll get a nice rejection in a day or a week, sometimes you’ll never hear a word. You can send a quick, polite follow-up email after one or two weeks, unless the guidelines tell you to just be patient and leave the editors alone. Sometimes, you’ll get a positive response–and those are the ones that make this game worthwhile.
That’s it really. Hope you enjoyed my bare bones introduction to travel writing.
Like anything else in this world, getting into travel writing takes practice, it takes time. But the best things are worth waiting for. So if travel writing is what you dream about, give it a solid try and then go from there.