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My first thought upon walking into the conference that morning in 2014 was, “I’ve wasted my time.” The rest of the attendees—25 to 30 years older than me—were preparing to retire… or had already retired and were looking to occupy their newly-acquired free time with more travel and swanky perks. I was about to turn 30, had recently started a new career, and was looking for a way to make the most out of my very limited vacation days.

I didn’t have the luxury of leisurely figuring out how to get my name in print. Could I go from novice to accomplished part-time travel writer without spending precious time spinning my wheels?

Artist Auguste Rodin once said, “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Remembering this, I knew I needed to make the most of the knowledge I would acquire and the time given me.

I walked away that weekend with a mountain of information and an unquenchable desire to make my travel-writing dream happen—even as a part-timer.

I fully prepared myself to spend a significant amount of time writing for free just to get my name out there. So imagine my shock when, with only two bylines under my belt, I was invited to become a contributing writer for an immensely popular regional publication where I’d be paid for each and every story.

Almost overnight, I found myself covering a multitude of travel-related topics for both digital and print articles, communicating with CVBs/DMOs/individual business owners, and developing marketable blogging skills.

While it seemed like a fluke at the time, looking back I realize my ascent to successful travel writing came down to consistency and efficient time management.

While, at the start, most of these articles only brought in somewhere between $20 to $75, the comps I received to write the articles valued in the thousands. I spent a weekend in Austin sampling signature cocktails in downtown rooftop bars, attending a concert at Austin City Limits live with exclusive sound check access, and enjoying a private guided tour to the best of Austin with Austin Detours.

Chevrolet delivered a brand-new Duramax to my door for my personal use on a Hill Country BBQ road trip—complete with unfettered access to some of the best pit masters in the world. I’ve also been hosted by countless wineries, luxury vacation rentals with stellar views, boutique hotels with sensational histories, and gorgeous B&Bs owned and operated by gourmet chefs.

These assignments helped me to build my portfolio, hone my niches, and secure my reputation, leading to an invitation to write for my local CVB.

Now, much of my writing covers regional and cultural events, nature and adventure, food and wine, and photography. And I’m getting $100 apiece for my monthly 300- to 500-word articles that unlock all those perks. It’s the perfect complement to my existing career.

By writing locally, I don’t need to spend countless hours researching because I already know my topic and local area well. I’ve also established relationships with local businesses. This makes lining up visits, getting quotes for articles, and exchanging story ideas quick and seamless.

I’m now getting paid more to write less. What I initially feared would be a waste of my time turned into an immensely fulfilling side hustle. By wisely applying your time and energy, you can streamline your travel-writing success, even in your spare time.

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