To them, I just simply started a website, wrote a few diary entries on my trips and started getting paid to travel the world. Of course, if you’ve read Gary Arndt and Matthew Kepnes’ open letters to travel bloggers, you’ll know this is really never the case.
Anybody can start a travel blog; however, if you’re looking to be able to quit your desk job and live full-time off your writing, you’ll need to be strategic. To help you, here are 10 tips for making travel writing your career.
1. Create a Strategy
Before starting your site, you’re going to need to make some decisions. As you’ve probably heard countless times, sticking to your brand is vital. Spend time perusing other travel blogs, and make a list of what you do and don’t like. For the ones that aren’t memorable, what are they lacking? For example, I hate when articles tell me a vague account of a trip without giving any details as to how I can reenact their experience.
You’ll also want to think about what you’re good at and what interests you, and use that to set yourself apart. For example, The Points Guy has set himself apart by focusing on something not everyone writes about, branding himself as an expert in his niche. Vague posts saying “I went to Thailand and it was fun” aren’t going to cut it anymore. Before starting your site ask yourself this question: “Why should I read this site over another travel writer’s?”
Once you’ve pinpointed all this, you’ll need to decide what direction you’d like to take and come up with a name. Are you looking to create an online magazine, or would you rather be an expert in your niche? Do you want to write the content, or are you interested in hiring writers to help with that? These things will dictate your branding and how you word communications with readers. Your title should also reflect this. For instance, if you’re looking to start an online magazine, a travel-related word without your name may be best, like Vagabondish or Downtown Traveler. However, if you’re looking to give readers insight into your own experiences as a travel expert, a name like Nomadic Matt or Johnny Jet could be a better option. There are other options, like choosing something peculiar such as Bacon is Magic, niche-focused like Solo Traveler, location-based like NYCxplorer or a spin on where you’re from like Traveling Canucks. Just make sure to think hard about how these names will affect the content you plan to product and your brand.
2. Build an Online Presence
An extension of your brand will be your social media outlets, which will help build your online presence. These platforms also allow for collaborative opportunities between you and other travel writers. Additionally, if you’re looking to go on press trips, many PR companies and tourism boards will require you be influential on social media.
Choose which platforms you’re going to use, and make sure your brand is aligned on each. Use the same logo, tagline and bio, and share the same or similar information. However, because each social network focuses on a separate medium, you’re going to share in different ways. For example, while you may share a video of a Parisian making a crepe from scratch on YouTube, Twitter is text-based, so you can utilize this with blog posts, crepe-making tips or information on a Paris-focused contest. With Instagram you have the ability to share fun teasers of your trip with followers through photography, although your high-resolution shots will be better suited for Pinterest. Facebook works best with media, however, make sure you’re aware of Edgerank and how it affects your reach.
Throughout all platforms, ensure you’re engaging with followers and sharing pertinent content from both you and other travel writers. Don’t be shy about outwardly asking others to share your content, and then reciprocating in some way. Later on, you can also use Google Analytics to learn where your traffic is coming from, and which social media channels you should focus on most.
3. Be Aggressive About Pitching
You shouldn’t expect editors to come knocking on your door if you’re being lazy. You need to set a schedule for yourself to be constantly pitching. Never be intimidated to pitch a big publication, because you never know what can happen. I pitched Gadling when I was first starting out, during a rare time when they were looking for writers. Now I’ve been on the team for a year. Moreover, while you should be aggressive, you shouldn’t rush. Take the time to carefully research each publication and craft a well-thought out pitch. Develop a publication mindset, and begin to think like the editor. What would he/she want to see?
4. Make Investments to Enhance Your Skills
When it comes to advancing in your field, especially in a sector as competitive as travel writing, spend some money. When I started out, I signed up for the MatadorU travel writing course. It was a few hundred dollars, and well worth every penny for the knowledge and skills I got out of it. Take writing classes, learn photography and video and invest in quality programs and equipment to help you get ahead.
5. Over-Analyze When Editing
You can spend hours creating a worthwhile post or crafting a great pitch, but if your writing contains spelling and grammar errors, you’re going to kill your credibility. It doesn’t matter how much you know, these types of errors lead readers and editors to question your authority. Don’t think it’s a waste of time to edit posts and emails three or more times to ensure there are no mistakes.
6. Learn How to Make Your Writing Style More Interesting
The way you go about this will depend on what type of writing you’ll be doing, but remember that you want to stand out. Play with transitions and introductions. Try starting from the end of the story and then filling in the rest. Test out how a piece sounds from different perspectives. Add flashbacks, dialogue, foreshadowing, conflicts, mysteries and anything else that could make the story more interesting, and edit until you figure out what works. And remember, one thing many blogs lack is the details that allow readers to imitate the author’s experience. Phone numbers, directions, addresses, prices and travel tips in each post will help give readers valuable information. Even if you’re writing a narrative, consider putting this information in a sidebar or box on the bottom of the post.
7. Be Picky With Ads
While it may be tempting when a luxury hotel offers to pay you a few hundred dollars to post an ad on your backpacking site, don’t do it. You’ll confuse your readers, potentially turn them away and hurt your reputation. Stick to reputable companies that fit your niche. Moreover, keep in mind what you’re worth. Don’t fall for emails from companies offering “quality posts, FREE OF CHARGE, for just one little link placement.” Choose a set of rates and only lower them if you feel it’s advantageous. When I first started, I was charging an embarrassingly low amount for ads, until I talked to other bloggers and found out what most people actually charged. You don’t want to clog your site with ads anyway, so make sure if you’re putting one up it’s worthwhile.
8. Attend as Many Networking Events as Possible
Networking, both online and off, is extremely important for getting ahead. Always have business cards on hand, and mingle with as many people as possible. That being said, don’t be rude and only chat with each person for two minutes. Get to know the people you meet, understand their business and think about whether there is a way you can work together. I’ve gotten writing assignments for various travel blogs just by talking to them at networking events. Even better, host a networking event yourself to help get your name out there.
9. Be Diligent About Time Management
While most people think travel writing is lying on the beach all day with a laptop or banging out a quick post every morning before exploring a new city, this isn’t the reality. One, there isn’t Wi-Fi on the beach, and two, you should never be banging out a quick anything. You won’t have a boss telling you what to do, so you’ll need to be on top of yourself. Additionally, if you know you’re going to be busy during a certain week, work extra the week before, setup a mobile hotspot on your smartphone and use tools like Hootsuite to help you stay active online while away.
10. Learn How to Handle Rejection
Not every pitch you send out will be accepted, and not every post you publish on your site is going to go viral. Don’t take it personally. With each rejection or setback, analyze why the situation may have played out like it did, and learn from it. The more you pitch, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, the more you’ll learn and grow.
- How To Choose a Name For Your Travel Blog
- How To Create Insanely Engaging Facebook Posts
- 7 Simple Improvements That You Can Make to Your Travel Blog Right Now
- A Guide to Better Travel Writing (Part 2): 20 Time-Tested Techniques and Essential Exercises
- How to Develop a Personal Brand as a Writer
- 25 September, 2012 @ 17:14 [Current Revision] by Jessica Festa
- 21 September, 2012 @ 11:21 by Alastair McKenzie