If you’re contemplating taking up freelance travel writing as a career, and hoping to make a regular and stable income right from the start…
… understand that it could take you a long time to make your dream come true.
As advanced sentient beings, we crave stability and consistency. I get this. This is a normal reaction to the ever-changing and rapidly changing world around us.
But, if you enter freelance travel writing expecting it to be neatly and uniformly standardized, you’re setting yourself up for disillusionment.
If you enter the freelance writing world expecting it will all go your own way and that you’ll immediately bring in a regular and stable income, you’ll quickly become disheartened.
If you’re expecting your queries to be snapped up as soon as you fire them out, you’re in for a shock. Even elite travel writers operate at about a 40% acceptance rate.
And, if you expect every magazine editor to adhere to the same rules of engagement with writers, you’ll soon be frustrated.
A mantra you’ll often see me repeat in my PitchTravelWrite posts and hear at my Travel Writing & Marketing Master Class is, “The only consistent thing about freelance travel writing is its complete lack of consistency.”
By this, I mean there are no gold standards in freelance travel writing.
- There’s no set pay rate for our articles.
- Some magazines don’t even pay for articles while others pay $1/word.
- There’s no standardization or consensus of how editors assess our queries.
- No two magazine’s writer’s guidelines are the same.
- Some editors prefer articles written in the first person, while other editors will not accept first person stories.
- Some editors prefer to work with a “stable” of established writers, while other editors like to work with beginners.
- Some editors issue contracts to their writers, and many do not.
- Destination Marketing Organizations often require different criteria to qualify writers for complimentary travel assistance.
And these are just a few of travel writing’s wondrous inconsistencies.
It’s no wonder novice travel writers are so bewildered about what they “should” be doing! There are no rules!
To add to this confusing milieu, contemporary travel writers are faced with a turbulent ever-changing field, much like rafting on whitewater rapids. We can be floating gently along on calm waters one day, with lots of regular gigs, and the next moment, our regular magazine clients have disappeared in chaos. Editors move on, magazines fold, and the Internet continues to test print travel magazine publishers.
So how, then, do you overcome these inherent inconsistencies and earn a crust in one of the world’s most glamorous occupations?
First, be prepared for inconsistency. Understand that you’re on a learning curve that could take you several years to ascend.
Also, know that breaking into paying print media is not as easy as the slick “Be a published travel writer a lot faster than you can imagine” marketing copy portrays. There is no fast track or shortcut to travel writing success, whether you’re a print writer or travel blogger.
If you enter the mysterious world of freelance travel writing with your eyes wide open, and deal with the problems rationally and professionally as you encounter them, and expect the unexpected, you’ll be fine. That’s assuming you’re a halfway decent writer and that you have the marketing savvy to pitch and sell your travel stories to paying print magazine editors!
If you have the patience to persevere and ride it out with a healthy dose of flexibility and creativity, you’ll find a whole universe of mind-blowing travel opening up to you.
In my new book, “Rock Star Travel Writers” I profile ten elite travel journalists. Interestingly, these top flight writers ALL have secondary streams of income in addition to their travel writing — and these are well published professionals that regularly get their travel stories published in top shelf glossies that pay $1/word!
But there’s plenty of good news. Breaking into travel writing is hard, but it is attainable. I’ve worked with plenty of aspiring writers that have broken into the field and are scoring paying assignments in respectable print magazines and reaping some marvelous press trips and complimentary travel.
I’ve been on more than 90 press trips and Fam Tours to hundreds of wonderful destinations in several dozen countries spread around the world, and not for one moment have I regretted my decision to become a travel writer!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been standing at an exotic or exciting destination or resort, or attended a special festival, and had to pinch myself to believe that I had free entry and personal guided tours—with VIP treatment—and that I’m getting paid to write about this event!
Getting to this level has not been easy. But I’m sure glad I stuck with it!
I urge you to stick with it too. Don’t be impatient. Work at it like you would any other job. Give it a chance.