As writers, we spend a good amount of time alone in front of our computers. It’s necessary if we’re going to meet those looming deadlines. But devoting time to your writing is just one part of the equation for successful travel writers.
We have to sell ourselves to be successful in this business. And selling yourself involves sending out query letters to editors or brands you want to work with and introducing yourself and your ideas. It requires follow-up—in a professional manner, of course. But selling yourself also requires networking.
Connecting on social media through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is one form of networking for travel writers. Once you’re a member of various writers’ groups there are opportunities to interact with other writers and sometimes editors online. But nothing beats a face-to-face meeting.
As one editor said to me recently, “I get so many e-mails I can’t possibly read them all. But, I always read the ones from people I’ve met.”
The travel writer’s life includes attending industry events and conferences. Follow (online and in print) the outlets you want to write for, subscribe to newsletters, and introduce yourself to destination marketing folks and public relations firms. The more you reach out, the more familiar your name will become, and soon you’ll begin to receive invitations to events in your area.
Over the years, I’ve attended a variety of workshops, conferences, and press events. Networking at those events paid off as I met several editors for whom I now write. Attending events like Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop provides an opportunity to network with editors. Also, groups like Travel Massive have events in various cities across the country.
Often marketplace events (a.k.a. speed dating for writers and destination representatives) provide opportunities for networking. I’ve met editors at all these type of events, as well as luncheons, cocktail parties, and even on press trips.
Let’s say you’ve done your research and found an event you want to attend. You managed to get an invitation, RSVP’d, and the time has arrived. You shut down your computer and are ready to go. Now what?
How are you going to make the most of this networking opportunity? Who are you going to seek out? What are you going to wear? All these questions are enough to make you put those sweatpants back on and go back to your computer!
To be honest, I LOVE networking. Of course, that’s probably due to my personality—I’m not shy. A personality profile I took a few years ago said this about me, “To Terri, strangers are just friends she hasn’t met yet.”
But what if networking isn’t your thing? Don’t fret: these tips will help you break the ice and begin to develop the relationships you need to further your travel-writing goals.
- Unless a dress code is specified on the invitation, business casual is usually a safe bet.
- For events where a cocktail hour is first, grab a beverage and mingle. I’ve attended events alone on several occasions, and there is almost always someone else standing alone. Approach that person and begin a conversation by asking questions. Usually they will open up, and then others will join the conversation.
- Always be courteous and listen when others are talking—no one likes to be interrupted!
- If the event is a luncheon or dinner, make it a point to sit with people you don’t know. Table conversations can lead to interesting discoveries about your dining partners. Early in my career, I found myself at a table between the German Ambassador to the U.S. and the publisher and editor-in-chief of a publication. Since that fateful meeting, I’ve been to Germany four times on individual press trips and have been writing for that editor for the last four years.
- For marketplace events, afternoon excursions are often the best time for networking. At a conference in California a few years ago, I spent the afternoon on a whale-watching boat tour. We only spotted one whale, but I had three hours of great conversation with an editor for a large print magazine—and now we’re working together.
- Although networking is a form of selling yourself, don’t spend your networking time pitching story ideas to the editors you meet. Give them an opportunity to get to know your personality, exchange business cards, then follow up with an e-mail saying, “It was nice to meet you at the luncheon.” You can follow that with a query.
- Finally, always seek out the host of the event and introduce yourself. This is especially important for events hosted by tourism boards. Use your manners and thank your host for the invitation and the “wonderful event” and follow-up with a thank-you e-mail.
Remember, the more you network, the easier it becomes. And when the event is over, you can go home, put those comfy sweatpants back on, and get back to work… until the next time!