How healthy competition can help you make the switch to travel writing

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One of the first things we’re told when we start freelance travel writing is “start local.” Find local stories, cut down on your travel expenses, and hopefully develop relationships with local or regional publishing outlets where you can sell your articles. Some writers are blessed with an abundance of riches. Others not so much. You may have articles but no publishers, at least no publishers willing to pay for content.

Veteran writers can tap into travel perks with Convention and Visitors Bureaus, hotels, and tourist destinations. They’ve built up a following and have doors open to them with publishing outlets. For the rest of us those opportunities are rarely available until we develop a portfolio of bylines. We’re paying our dues, and paying our own travel expenses.

As a career television journalist and editor, but novice travel writer, I gravitate toward good stories regardless of whether they are local or otherwise. I want topics and story pegs that will grab an editor’s attention. I’m less concerned about how much an outlet will pay and, within reason, how much it will cost me to get the story. I want the byline. I want to own the story.

If I’m going to travel at my own expense, I want multiple stories that can result from the trip. I want to build up contacts for future trips, future articles, future bylines.

In my short experience I’ve found most destination people are eager to work with writers, experienced or not. They want to get the word out about their communities and attractions, especially those off the beaten path. The more you can show them you can deliver a quality article with a print or online audience, preferably both, the more likely they will extend travel perks in the future.

What about print versus online publications? I shoot for both. Nearly all print magazines have a robust online presence with websites, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. They need to feed the beast every day. They need content. Generally online doesn’t pay as much as print, but there are so many online outlets that you can sell variations of one story to multiple sites.

In the early part of a travel writing career I believe it’s important to develop content and contacts. Become an expert on something…a particular writing niche, a locale, a subject area. I lived in Florida for many years, and now live in Texas, two big states with lots of stories. They are my locales. My niche is adventure travel. My favorite subject area is eco-friendly travel. Building up content in those areas will help build up expertise, and hopefully attract interest from editors, leading to publishing opportunities.

So if you can afford it, go beyond starting local, go where the good stories are. It may mean a little travel but result in unique, interesting articles that open up publishing markets for you. A good story will always find a home.

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