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Margot Bigg advises finding your first travel writing assignment in your local area

One of the most important things writers and photographers can do for their careers is to master the art of self-marketing—especially during these times of great change in the publishing industry. 

While it’s certainly important to nurture current client relationships, it’s equally crucial to make a point of seeking out new clients—and this holds true whether you are just starting out (and seeking that first travel writing assignment) or a seasoned pro. 

Here are a few tips on how to go about using the contacts and resources you already have.

Leverage your current network

It’s never a bad idea to reach out to members of your community and let them know you’re a writer and you’re looking for work. Few people do this, but it actually works.

Good places to start include alumni networks, churches or other religious groups with which you’re affiliated, or even Facebook friends and groups. You never know who (or whose friends) might need your writing services, either immediately or at some point down the line.

You can say something fun like…

  • Facebook friends: A reinvention is in order. I’ve been a dentist for 25 years, but I’ve always loved to write. If you or someone you know needs a writer, please think of me and pass along my contact details. Thanks. Or…
  • Hi Susan. My family and I have been members of the Anthem Church for nearly a decade. I’m not sure you know this about me, but I’m a travel writer and photographer. If the church is ever looking to hire someone with my skills, please keep me in mind. I have a full-time job but I’m looking to transition into more part-time work. My contact details are below if something comes up. 

Cold call email

While it always helps to have an “in” with a new client, there’s no harm in approaching someone you’ve never worked with. Check out local magazines, travel publications, and newspapers to find editors to pitch your story to. 

Cold calls are largely a thing of the past but cold emails are acceptable, so long as they’re short and sweet.

Most publications have something called Writers’ Guidelines posted on their website. If they don’t, you can email and ask for them.

NEVER approach a publication without first looking online to see if these guidelines are posted there. If the editors have taken the time to write and post them, you’ll only show your laziness in not looking for them online first. 

Once you have a potential client in mind, look for their Writers’ Guidelines, read through the back issues of their publication, then send them an email following the guidelines. This will help you get the best response.

Make a caffeine offering

If you do make contact with someone you’d like to work with at a local church, tourism bureau, alumni magazine, or other organization… and you’d like to find out a bit more about whether you’d be a good match, invite them to coffee! 

While not everyone’s a fan of chai lattes or cappuccinos, a lot of potential clients will respond well to coffee invitations. This takes some of the pressure off of both parties and gives you the opportunity to meet face to face, so you can get to know each other in a low-pressure environment. 

You may not think you have a lot of contacts or opportunity in your current network but give these tips a try! I think you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

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