The biggest myth I hear about travel writing is that it’s impossible to make a living with it. Before I took the nerve-wracking leap from news journalist to freelance food and travel writer, I devoured every book and blog I could find on the subject. They all told me the same thing: that it was going to be a struggle; that I’d need either another income stream or a very rich husband if I wanted to make ends meet as a travel writer.
I had neither of those things. But I did have plenty of determination, so I decided to give it a shot anyway.
But the idea that I was going to struggle was lodged in my mind. And, for the first few months, I did find it hard.
The struggle became real when I returned from an incredible, all-expenses-paid press trip to the Seychelles to find the electricity in my apartment had been switched off, because there was no money to pay the bill. There I was, tanned and smelling of coconut oil, sitting in the dark. Crazy or what? Obviously, it was time to start thinking laterally.
A year later, I’m making a good living. While I’m not drinking champagne with dinner (well, except on press trips) the lights are on when I come home.
Most importantly, I’m living the life I used to dream about…
So, if you’re thinking of making the leap into travel writing yourself, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be a financial struggle. Here are a few tips on how travel writers can make more money—to cover both travel AND the bills.
1. Write more than one article per trip.
Pro travel writers know that every trip you take should produce more than just one story. For example, a three-day trip to Turin could be an opportunity for at least three or four articles: a weekend city break guide for a newspaper’s travel section… a short “front of book” piece for a magazine listing five great restaurants in Turin… an interview with a local winemaker for a food and drink magazine… and even a hotel review.
2. Get travel expenses paid.
Some travel writers pay for their own trips. I did, too, at first. I used to rationalize that the money I got from my articles would cover my travel expenses which it did. But it didn’t always stretch to paying the bills, too! That’s where press trips come in…
If you want to make a decent income as a travel writer, start getting yourself onto paid-for press trips, with accommodation, meals, and travel expenses paid for courtesy of tourism boards and travel companies.
If that sounds like an impossible dream, it’s not—I’m writing this article on the high-speed train from Florence to Turin, on my way to join a three-day food and wine tour. It’s one of several press trips I’ve been on this year.
When I decided to get serious about travel writing full-time, I took an online travel writing course which gave me lots of insider tips. That’s how I found Trav Media, a website connecting travel PRs with writers, through which I landed my first press trip. And when I travel independently, websites like this can help me arrange to review hotels, food tours, or attractions during my trip. In those cases, my husband usually gets to come, too!
Also, if you write great articles based on the press trips you attend, you might have PRs contact you with more invitations in future. I know some established travel writers who get so many invitations, they have to turn most of them down.
3. Sell your photos.
If you’re a writer who also enjoys taking photos, you might be able to turn them into added income.
You don’t actually need to be a trained, professional photographer—you just need a decent camera and an eye for a good photo. I’ve always taken photos on trips, which I’d sometimes use to illustrate articles or blog posts. Plus, I was amazed to find that I could also sell them to stock photo websites like Alamy.
4. Become a go-to writer.
Being professional, pleasant, and reliable will set you apart from the crowd and get you plenty of repeat work. Editors need good, reliable writers, and when they find one, they’ll want to work with him or her again and again.
So when you get an assignment, make sure you over-deliver. Turn it in word-perfect, and ahead of deadline. Don’t be demanding—remember editors are busy people! In short, just be someone who’s easy to work with, and the work will keep coming your way.