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There’s nothing wrong writing for free, especially when you first start out in your travel writing career.

You gain some clips and credibility, which shows editors you’re the real thing – a writer with interesting ideas to share with their readers.

Man, was I excited to get by-lines, land covers on travel magazines, and media passes to different attractions! It was incredibly awesome, just seeing my name attached to an article in a magazine. I even got to stay in swanky hotels and eat at 5-star restaurants. A win-win situation, right? 

But no, not really.

It’s not that I didn’t want to be paid for my articles… of course I did!

It was just that something inside me whispered I wasn’t good enough for the pay-checks other colleagues were cashing. I didn’t feel ready.  

Theresa St John

And that’s when I realized something had to change, ASAP. My self-confidence needed a boost, so I went online for help.

I discovered I’m not alone. Many people, from all walks of life, struggle with this issue. It was encouraging to realize I could learn how to build my self-confidence, if I was willing. And I certainly was!

Here’s what I did next and what I think you should do TODAY to ensure you start to get paid for your travel stories like you deserve:

1. Make two lists: One of your free articles and one of your paid.

If your free list is longer than your paid list, you need to make the decision, right away, that you want the paid list to be the winner. Seeing my list in black and white helped.

2. Stop researching publications that don’t pay. Just STOP.

Publications that don’t pay are a dime a dozen. In the beginning of your travel writing career, they’re a great way to land your first by-lines. You have to start somewhere, but you’ll want to move from the “free” list to the “pay” list as soon as you can.

3. Take action

Use those free by-lines to query paying publications. Editors don’t need to know that there was no pay-check attached.  They just want to see that you can write and that another editor found good in you.

4. Keep good track

Get in the habit of using a spreadsheet. It’ll keep your work organized. You’re going to get busy, so you NEED to be organized as your travel-writing career takes off and moves forward. Are your paying articles starting to add up now? Is your free list shrinking? Hint: Both answers should be YES.  

5. Act the part

Introduce yourself as a travel writer/photographer. You deserve to be paid! When self-doubt creeps in, and it will, tell yourself to shut up. I do, all the time. Self-confidence is a muscle. Used every single day, the muscle grows stronger.

6. Write for free only when you get something awesome out of it

I landed three life-changing trips to Ireland, Fiji, and Paris. I spent a week at each location in exchange for PR. Once home, I wrote more articles, then pitched them to magazines that were happy to pay.

Before long, my list tipped the other way, highlighting more paid articles and amazing experiences than ever before. And it sure feels amazing!

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