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It's okay to write for free starting out, but you owe it to yourself to go after paying publicationsOK. I’ll admit it. 

When I started out on my travel-writing journey, I wrote for free. 

I can’t even tell you how many articles I submitted to non-paying publications—there were that many. 

I was thrilled to land some bylines. I loved seeing my name attached to a story so much that I felt it was reward enough to write and then share my thoughts with the world around me.

And honestly, there’s nothing wrong in writing for free. Many colleagues started out doing the exact same thing. 

One day, though, someone made a comment on social media that stopped me in my tracks. They’d just finished reading one of my articles. They wrote: “Why are you still writing for free, Theresa? You are good enough—you should be paid for these!”

That was my “Eureka!” moment.

I realized I’d been using non-paying publications as a security blanket. 

And I had to admit I’d really been struggling with that “You’ll never be good enough!” monster from the moment I’d picked up my travel writer’s pen.

Sound familiar?

It was time to take action—and I did. 

Here are a few reasons why you should go after paying publications if you haven’t already.

#1: Paying publications don’t mind paying for good writing.

As soon as I started sending my queries to editors of paying publications, they were excited to hear from me and were eager to give me assignments. 

The fact that I had so many bylines helped, of course. They didn’t need to know how many articles I’d written for free. 

I pitched my story ideas the same exact way—this time, though, to magazine and online editors who were willing to pay their writers for good writing.

#2: Paying publications help pay the bills.

I decided to become a travel writer for a few reasons—one of which was to help me get out of debt. 

My divorce had left me in a precarious situation, and I had to claw my way out from under a mountain of bills.

Once I concentrated my energies on paying publications, I was able to eliminate some of my debt, a little at a time. 

Having a paycheck attached to my travel-writing stories has certainly helped me get a better handle on life and my future.

#3: Paying publications help slay the monster of self-doubt

There really is something to be said for cashing a paycheck at the end of the day. 

I would never work at a retail store or hospitality job for free, would I? When managing a jewelry store in the mall, I worked hard—more often than not, 70 hours a week. Come payday, I expected a check.

And when I was a hostess and waitress at an upscale restaurant, it was the same. I worked hard, I got paid.

Same thing with travel writing. I work hard as a writer. 

I travel and have a blast experiencing things I probably wouldn’t otherwise. 

I spend a good deal of time researching, fact-checking, interviewing, and putting my story together. 

Why on earth wouldn’t I want to—expect to—be paid for it?

I’ll tell you why: self-doubt. And it’s a killer. (Here’s how to break through that self-doubt.)

Seeing a paycheck at the end of the day helps slay that monster.

I still write for a few non-paying publications. But I can count them on one hand. And I write for them for a reason. We’ve built a relationship that is beneficial to both of us. 

Travel writing is a job, folks. Look at your own writing and maybe do some soul searching.

You are good enough. I want to encourage you: Make this your year to transition from free to paying publications. 

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