I field emails every week from aspiring travel writers who want to do what I’m doing; travel freely, write about it, and get paid for it—and get cool press trips to exciting, exotic, luxury destinations.
This is where initiative enters the picture.
It’s defined as the “ability to assess things and initiate actions independently“. I can tell you that if you don’t have a healthy dose of initiative, you’re going to find it very difficult breaking into this highly competitive arena.
Well, how do travel writers use initiative?
- We should be watching the freelance writing market, researching destinations, and preparing magazine distribution lists.
- We show initiative by reading new travel writing books, studying the tools and techniques used in our field and keeping abreast of what’s working.
- We should attend workshops and conferences.
- We should constantly be deciding which new ideas we’ll incorporate into our strategies.
One of the writers who attended my Seattle Travel Writing & Marketing Master Class posted this on my Master Class Facebook site the day after the class finished:
“Stayed in Downtown Seattle last night and planned a day of magazine hunting for my distribution list. Googled libraries near me and found that the Seattle Central library was 1.5 blocks away. When I got there, I asked where the magazines were and was told ‘the sixth FLOOR!’
Five and a half hours later, I emerged with a list of 77 new magazines. I’m guessing 50 are solid – others are ones I’ll need to dig into more to see if they are a good fit. For the ones I didn’t know much about, I photographed the table of contents and editor’s letter to get a better feel for the mag, and will drill down later. This was on top of the 9 mags I added yesterday at the local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
My total travel magazine distribution list is now up to 251 and I’m going out again tomorrow because a lot of the mags I saw at Barnes and Noble were not at the library.”
This hunt for potential magazines to pitch showed commendable initiative. After reading this, I have absolutely no doubt this writer will eventually be published in magazines she cannot even dream of today. This willingness to get things done and take charge is one of the most important attributes that we freelancers need to succeed.
Here’s another praiseworthy example of initiative from Pam & Gary Baker, a couple that I coached for a couple of years. It’s from an email they sent me.
“Hi Roy. We’ve been following your advice to pitch trade journals for travel articles. We pitched Meeting News Northwest before we went on the Schooner Zodiac (they are available for one day team building events) but they already had a recent piece on it. But, the editor was friendly and said he was open to more pitches. So when we got back home we pitched him short pieces on Semiahmoo, Lynden Inn, Janzten Art Center, Fairhaven Village Inn, and Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
We just got commissioned for a 500 word piece on Fairhaven Village Inn, Bellingham Cruise Terminal, and things to do in Bellingham. Pays 25 cents a word.
So far, that’s four articles we’ve lined up from our recent trip to Whatcom County. We are still working on more from that trip as you can see from the five story ideas we just sent you.”
This couple showed awesome initiative in wringing out as many stories they could from their recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. They didn’t sit back on their single assignment—they pushed for multiple assignments to make their trip to Bellingham worthwhile and profitable.
Successful travel writers have certain characteristics in common. Check out these vital traits of successful travel writers and see how you measure up:
How can you amp up your travel writing initiative?
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