Want to get paid to travel and have what is generally known as ‘The Best Job in the World’? Check out our 10 tips on how to become a travel writer and land that dream job…
It may seem like a strange first tip, but if you don’t travel you can’t write. This doesn’t mean you need to be embarking on any round-the-world adventures or inter-railing trips through Europe to give you inspiration for your articles. You could travel to your nearest tourist attraction and write about that. And if you haven’t been away in a while, simply write about past experiences.
This also may seem a bit obvious, but if this is the trade you want to get into you need to be writing all the time. You don’t need to be writing novels – just write accounts of your travels. It may be a visit to a restaurant, or it may be a diary of your month in Thailand. But whatever it is, make sure to write about it.
3. Make sure your work is free of mistakes
Before you send in your work to places, read through it extremely carefully. This means making sure that there are no spelling mistakes and that all the information is correct such as telephone numbers, website addresses etc. If you send work that isn’t accurate, or has punctuation and/or spelling mistakes, you will be remembered for that – not the quality of the writing.
4. Start knocking on doors
Once an article or feature is finished, and once you have read and re-read it to make sure you’re happy with it (that means a spell check too) start sending it everywhere. This means local newspapers, national newspapers, specialist travel magazines, lifestyle magazines (they usually have travel sections)…the list goes on. Make sure you send it to the right person, so when you ring ask for the travel section or travel desk and ask who’s the right person to send it to. Then if you don’t hear anything back follow it up with a call a week or so later. Also, if people reply saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ don’t look at it as a negative thing – you’ve just made a new contact. It’s not easy to become a travel writer, but it’s worth the effort!
5. Create your own website
When sending in your work to guidebooks, magazines, newspapers and everywhere else, you don’t want to bombard them with pieces. But at the same time, if they like your work, it’s good to let them know where they can see more of your work. This is where your own website comes in as they are online portfolios. Register your own name, i.e. www.yourname.com, and put your work there. These days it doesn’t cost much and it looks professional. And don’t stop there. Get yourself a Twitter account while you are at it, making sure to say in your profile that you are a travel writer.
6. Take high resolution photographs
If you pitch a story to a travel editor and he or she comes back to you telling you they love it and they want to print it, chances are they will want a picture (or pictures) to accompany it. While they may well be able to source the images themselves, they may require them from you. Better still, they may want you in one of them. Make sure to take high resolution images everywhere you go. The reason they need to be high-resolution is so they are 300dpi, or print quality. In layman’s terms, pictures taken at 2 megapixel setting or higher will be high enough quality.
7. Register on travel writer websites
To help you in your quest to become a travel writer, there are numerous travel writer websites that you should register to and visit regularly. These include:
And a good book to read is Lonely Planet’s book called Travel Writing.
8. Know what’s going on in the travel industry
If you’re serious about starting a career in travel writing, you really should know what’s going on in the travel industry. To do this sign up to different industry newsletters that will keep you in the know. Some newsletters you should sign up to are:
9. Pick a niche
A good way to get into travel writing is to pick a niche and specialise in it. This can be a city or country, or a particular type of travel such as adventure travel, culinary travel or budget travel. Then the more articles you get printed focusing on this subject, the better a name you’ll get yourself and, all going well, in no time you’ll be seen as an expert on the subject.
If you get knocked back time after time don’t give up. Keep on sending your stuff to people. And don’t be afraid to pitch different stories to the same people. But keep on trying and eventually you’ll get that break!
Tips from the experts
Colm Hanratty, Hostelworld.com Editor Getting into travel writing isn’t easy by any means but if you try hard enough you’ll get there in the end. When sending in work to travel editors for the first time, make sure to have more than what you’re only sending in. This is where it’s good to have your own website. I’d a website called Oztrek.com before I started here and that really stood to me when I applied for the job of in-house travel writer.
Tom Hall, Lonely Planet Travel Editor Travel writing may not be the glamourous lifestyle most people would imagine but not many jobs combine visiting great places with seeing your name in print. If you do fancy having a go at being a travel writer you’ll need two things. A love of travel is obvious, but the word ‘writer’ is even more important. If you’re going to be any good you’ve got to demonstrate that you can write well. A journalism qualification is a big help, as is evidence that you can string a sentence together for an audience rather than yourself: blog posts and articles in student or free papers are a good place to start. Then it’s a case of knocking on doors. For guidebooks, the main publishers all have guidelines on their websites. If you’re keen on writing features, punchy pitches to travel editors followed up by a phone call is the way to go. It’s a tough line of work to get into, so persistence, good ideas and enthusiasm will be needed in huge amounts. But it is possible.
Pauline Frommer, Author/Editor, The Pauline Frommer Guidebooks Travel writing is not about travelling well, but about writing well. Would-be authors, therefore, need to develop their chops as journalists first. My advice for anyone hoping to get into travel writing would be:
- Read widely
- Figure out what the travel writing cliches are and strive to avoid them
- Practice using all your senses when you’re in a new destination so you can better describe it later.
- Learn about the business of travel, about history and art history, about the local culture. Too many young writers make the mistake of simply describing what’s in front of them and don’t do the background work that helps give their articles context.
- Consider taking a class or joining a writer’s group, so you’re not always writing in a vacuum.
- Build up a store of clips to show editors. This may mean working for free at first, simply to get published.
- Sharpen your skills as a photographer. Many editors are more likely to buy your work if you can accompany it with photos.
Nick Ames Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 10:51am
Well said everyone, there is lots of effort involved in becoming a travel writer, but what an amazing prospect. If you could write for your own website then that would take away the pressure of finding a publisher and if people were to buy travel deals from you, based on your amazing write ups. Now that would be an easier way to make it. Check out my blog, for a new angle on a career in travel writing http://primovacationsresorts.com
Alexandria Tuesday, September 15th, 2009, 7:32pm
Thank you so much for this! As an aspiring travel writer this was perfect to read. Keep posting things like this, it’s great content! Thanks again! -My Alexandriar (Happy traveler)