Studying Journalism vs Grass-Roots Travel Blogging
In the world of travel writing you meet many different people….
…Who all entered the industry in their own way.
Traditionally, people wanting to become travel writers had to study their craft and work their way up in the industry, but with the advent of the internet, many people have become blogging stars without prior experience.
But which is the best option? Here’s a guide to help you work out the best route to start your career in travel writing.
Teaching vs doing
Firstly, you need to look at whether you prefer to learn the basics by being taught by someone experienced or working it out for yourself. Travel writing can be a confusing world and some people just don’t know where to start. Having a guide to help you learn how to improve your writing and how to get it out there can be extremely helpful. You also learn the rules and laws to stop yourself getting into trouble.
Converse to this, some people like to take the hands on approach, making mistakes as they go along and learning from this. These people hone their writing skills by doing, and this approach can get you far if you have talent.
Qualifications vs experience
We all know qualifications can open doors, and you need to decide where you want to be in the future to know if having qualifications will open the right ones for you. Certain qualifications, such as university degrees, are an asset to you in any field, should you change your mind about going into writing.
You may wish to work on newspapers or magazines, in which case, employers will usually want proof that you have the background knowledge required for the job. However, if you’re happy going your own way by writing for your own website or doing freelance work then this will make little difference. Everything you need to learn to be a travel blogger you can find online, as long as you have the time and commitment to wade through the rubbish.
Studying to become a travel writer is all well and good, but journalism requires contacts. Every job I have done I have got through a contact and having the right ones can make more of a difference to your chances of success than your ability to write. If you want to work for a travel magazine your tutor may know someone in the industry who could give you some experience. Despite blogging growing worldwide for decades, there are still very few bloggers who teach professional courses. If you want to get into blogging and the online side of travel writing, you’d be better to comment on articles and do some guest posts to build up your contacts.
The obvious benefit to going it alone is the fact that it’s free. Journalism courses are extremely expensive, especially the ones offering professional qualifications, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get work at the end of it. As well as this, you may end up having to work for free for a while before being paid. If you start your own website you can update it in your own time and have a full or part-time job alongside to earn some money. Whilst it will take a while, if you build your readership you can start making a living from your blog.
Be warned though, if you’re after a high salary, then professional journalism isn’t for you. There are a few high earners, such as editors, but the majority of journalists will never reach this position.
So you’ve decided what route you’d like to take, what next?
If you’re taking the study-based route, make sure you do your research and pick an industry accredited course. This will give you the best chance of getting a job in a climate that is currently terrible for journalism. In the UK where I live, most local newspapers will not even consider applicants without the specific accredited qualifications. Decide whether you want to do a short course or a full degree and pick the institution based on reputation.
If you’ve decided not to study, the first thing you need to do is set up your own blog. Use a recognised host such as WordPress or Blogger to begin with, and there’s nothing wrong with using the free version until you get used to how it works. Add travel articles you have written and comment on other people’s sites too. A good way of getting your name out there is to write for other people’s sites. Make sure there is a link to your own on there so that people can click through to your blog if they like what you have to say.
Travel writing can be an amazing job and allow you to see and do things you never thought you would, but starting out is extremely hard and requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. It may be a long time before you are recognised or offered anything to review.
Whatever you choose to do, the best advice I can offer to you is to stay positive, passionate and be confident in your own ability.
Which route did you take? Share your experience!