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Ten Tips for Getting Started as a Travel Writer

Seeing the world and getting paid to do it sounds like a ripper career choice, but the reality for many freelance travel writers is that it’s hard graft just to make enough money to get by. Here are ten tips for starting out in the business and maximising your chance for success.
Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer
Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer

If you want to be a travel writer, the good news is there’s nothing stopping you.

You travel and you can write, right? However, if you want to make money as a travel writer (and not be living with your parents at 45) it’s going to take hard work, patience, and a lot of persistence.

Here are ten tips for getting started as a travel writer.

1. Set yourself up online

Setting up your own website/travel blog is a good first step, and in doing so you can instantly brand yourself as a travel writer. Whether anyone (apart from your mother) reads what you post is another matter, but if you publish stories regularly you’ll start to build a following. Sign up to a blogging platform like WordPress, choose a theme, personalise your site, and start writing/posting. Your blog can also serve as a portfolio of published work down the track.

2. Do a writing course

Not only will an industry-led travel writing course hone your skills and get you ‘work ready’ (so you won’t crumble if an editor asks you to include a ‘break out box’ or ‘sub head’), it will also provide the opportunity to network with industry professionals and established writers. The Australian Writers’ Centre runs an excellent online course for budding travel scribes.

Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer
Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer: Do a writing course.

3. Be an expert

You can wedge a very helpful foot in the door if you have an area of expertise. For instance, if you’ve been to Southeast Asia every year for the past decade, you’ll be able to position yourself as an expert on that particular region.

4. Pitch perfect

Before you even put finger to keyboard to ‘pitch’ a story (present a story idea to an editor), research your target publication thoroughly. Find out what kinds of stories they publish, who their readers are, if they accept completed features or just pitches, and whether they actually use freelancers. While this can be time consuming, it’s a vital part of the process — and will give you a far stronger chance of success.

5. Find an angle

The quickest way to an editor’s trash file is sending a pitch without a clear angle — and finding a unique, compelling angle is your primary job as a travel writer. ‘A story on New York’ is not an angle; ‘Exploring New York’s underground music scene’ is. Master this step and you’ll stand out from the pack.

Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer
Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer: Find an angle.

6. Avoid clichés

Who wants to read something that’s been written a million times before? ‘Hidden gem’, ‘bustling market place’ — you could probably roll a hundred off your tongue. But don’t! Top travel writer and editor Susan Kurosawa was once quoted as saying that any story that comes over her desk with the words ‘such-and-such is a land of contrasts’ is immediately consigned to the trash file.

7. Look for stories everywhere

You don’t always have to go to the other side of the world to find an interesting travel story. Remember, your hometown is the other side of the world to half the world’s population! Look for stories close to home, because who knows more about your town or city than you?

8. Approach a variety of publications

Being a travel writer isn’t just about getting the cover story of National Geographic (but congrats in advance!). Get yourself published as widely as possible, even if it means working for nix (or close to it!) to begin with. Try online travel forums, independent travel websites, small-run magazines, and industry publications. They may not be as sexy as National Geo, but will get you a byline to add to your portfolio.

Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer
Ten tips for getting started as a travel writer: Approach a variety of publications.

9. If it’s perfect, it’s good enough

Before you even dream of submitting a commission (finished story), make sure you’ve fact-checked, quote-checked, spell-checked, and grammar-checked it to the nth degree. Never ever send anything off to an editor that isn’t your best werk wrk work!

10. Keep going

Travel writing isn’t a job where you can get one lucky break and expect editors to flood your inbox with offers to fly you to the Maldives. Unless you’re Bill Bryson, for every pitch that’s accepted there’ll be ten that aren’t. While the odds might sound depressing, if you find great angles, pitch to the right publications, and write from the heart, you’ll get there.

Are you an up-and-coming travel writer? We’re looking for contributions to our ‘Traveller’s Tale’ series. Contact us to pitch your story. We pay a modest expenses fee.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of tips for getting started as a travel writer? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Depositphotos, Bigstock, and Envato

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind, and an open-ended ticket. Her first two novels — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and Sincerely, Me — are now available in bookstores.

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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  1. Great post and I agree entirely with everything written here. It takes hard work and determination but pitch right, have your own unique voice and you’ll get there. I wrote for years before finally having travel pieces accepted by major Australian travel magazines. Now, as well as having regular articles published, I also have my own blog which is even more exciting as it exposes me to many other wonderful like minded bloggers all over the world.

    1. Hey Miriam. Thank you for the comment. You have it exactly right. Love your blog too. I had a read of the Limestone Coast piece. Excellent work. Regards, Adam Ford (Editor)

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