Many times, I’ve heard people say, “It’s a dream of mine to someday become a travel writer.” Unfortunately, that’s where it ends—with only the dream. But it doesn’t have to.
Successful travel writers are living that dream. We no longer punch a time clock, can work from anywhere, visit amazing destinations, and yes, get paid to tell our stories.
So, what is it that divides the dreamers from the doers? I can assure you it’s not waving a magic wand, clicking our heels, and wishing it so, or by just being lucky.
I’ve managed to have over 600 stories published in a variety of online and print publications. And I’m blessed to be invited on more press trips than I can accept. But I’m far from alone in living the dream. The common denominator among us all is having a good map and a good plan.
You can do it too.
Build a Firm Foundation
I spent almost 35 years as a registered nurse. But I didn’t become a nurse overnight. I studied, prepared, and passed my nursing boards.
When I started my transition to travel writer 6 ½ years ago, I began by building a firm foundation. I attended GEP’s Ultimate Travel Writers Workshop. It was there I learned how to break into the world of freelance writing. And it worked!
No matter how good a story you think you have, if you never send it to an editor, it will reside only in your head. We all remember the trepidation of hitting that “send” button for the first time. But you know the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”? It’s true. You have to start somewhere. Nothing happens until you prove you can do the job. And it begins with getting your name in print.
Before submitting, however, make sure you’ve carefully read writer guidelines and familiarized yourself with the publication’s voice and readership. Once that first story gets accepted, the endorphins kick in, and you’ll want to do it again…and again.
Research New Publications
It’s so important for writers to not drink consistently from the same well. It’s easy and convenient once you get to know an editor and a publication, but there’s a downside.
Publications come and go, and editors change. And freelancer opportunities in some publications may dwindle down the road.
I also find that by writing for different publications, it opens doors to more travel opportunities. Though some writers are comfortable sticking to one niche, I find that diversifying makes it much easier to land invitations to places I’m hankering to visit.
Network, Network, Network
A mistake of many new writers is trying to go it alone. This can be frustrating and self-defeating. I can assure you I wouldn’t be here today without my network of writer colleagues, editors, and other travel professionals.
When you join a professional writer organization, you have access to a litany of like-minded people who are willing to share information about publications, destinations, and the “what’s what” of the travel writing world.
I’ve been so fortunate in my ITWPA (International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance), IFWTWA (International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association), and other organization memberships to meet editors who’ve asked me to write for their magazines and tourism board reps who’ve hosted me for visits. No one needs to operate solo these days with the many writer organizations out there.
Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
If you want to stand out from the crowd, this concept is golden.
It works with editors by meeting (or beating) deadlines, writing a top-notch story, and being easy to work with. Trust me, they’ll come back time and again asking for more stories.
With destinations, I always promise to deliver a story or two upfront. Then, I find a way to sell additional stories by exploring other angles like a museum, winery, unique restaurant, or fascinating chef.
Tourism reps work hard to sell their destination, and as a writer you are a tremendous asset in that process. When you over-deliver, you’ve set the bar high for other writers to compete. It’s one reason I was initially invited on an all-inclusive trip to the Dominican Republic, followed later by a hosted visit to the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos. I over-delivered, and it was appreciated.
I won’t kid anyone that finding success in travel writing doesn’t take a lot of work. But every time I’m packing for my next adventure, I know it’s all been worth it…and then some!