Travel writers are notoriously cheap. Anyone who works with us knows this. Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) PR media reps and tourism agency professionals have witnessed our freeloading first hand, on press trips.
We’re professional moochers and we’re definitely not shy about it.
But I’m still constantly surprised when travel writers won’t spend relatively small amounts of money for a product or service that will help them get published more frequently, and dramatically increase their future incomes. It’s like we’ve come to expect everything for free.
Maybe it’s because we don’t get paid a lot for our efforts—especially when we’re first starting out. Spending your hard earned freelancing money hurts if you’re struggling to pay the bills.
But there’s something I’ve noticed about the most successful people: they don’t hesitate to invest in themselves. They’re willing to spend a little money in order to make a lot more.
Corporate businesses know this. They invest in courses, tools, and reference materials and education for their employees. And they don’t do this out of the goodness of their heart! They do it to help their employees gain important knowledge, do their job better, and become more productive. They do it so employees can stay informed about current trends and meet people that will help them become more successful.
Your one-person travel writing business reaps the same kinds of benefits when you invest in yourself.
There are plenty of ways to learn about travel writing, whether you're a do-it-yourself kind of person or you prefer to be guided through the process. No matter which way you choose, you’ll gain new insights, become more productive, and earn more money.
Here are six ways to invest in yourself that are sure to help you earn more in your freelance travel writing business.
My favorite U.S. writer’s magazine is Writer’s Digest. I’ve also found Writer’s Forum and Writing Magazine—both U.K. publications—have valuable gems of practical information that I have implemented.
These are by far the most “freelance friendly” periodicals. They publish articles that will enhance your productivity and give you new ideas and new approaches to freelance writing.
Here’s a great example of how I earned more as a result of reading an article in a writer’s magazine:
A few years ago, I learned a sales technique from an article in a writer’s magazine. The article explained how to resell evergreen stories by periodically sending out query letters to groups of editors.
I tried the technique and it earned me $2,000 in the first couple of weeks! It helped me earn more because I wouldn't have made any of that $2000 without it!
This sales technique is now part of my standard practice and I continue to earn more money because I use it. If I hadn’t subscribed to the magazine, I wouldn’t have learned about the technique and I don't think I would have thought it up on my own.
Another tip I picked up from a writer’s magazine is the practice of creating templates for query letters, invoices, and other forms I use regularly.
Using templates has saved me hundreds and probably thousands of hours. Considering that time is money in the freelance writing business, this practice has freed me up for more productive activities like pitching and writing.
Maybe I would have figured this out eventually, but reading about it put the idea in my head and into practice much faster.
One of the best ways to improve your travel writing is by reading other (good) travel writing!
By reading the travel books, you will see how a mundane tourist attraction can be transformed into a fascinating story. You’ll learn that virtually any destination can be turned into something interesting and enticing.
Travel books and travel magazines can give you many new ideas on the art of travel writing. For example, when I read travel articles in top level magazines I don’t just read the story. I always look for tips and techniques about how the writer turned this destination into an exciting story.
I have several editions of “The Best Travel Writing” series on my bookshelf, plus many other iconic or bestselling travel books that have opened my eyes to a variety of possibilities in the craft of travel writing.
Lacking inspiration when you’re writing an article? Pick up one of your books and find some inspiration to help you get started.
Easy access to reference books that provide lots of good information will make your stories interesting and more accurate. This is especially important if you specialize in certain genres.
Here’s an example:
A few years ago I started writing about classic cars and vintage automobiles. I was definitely not an expert on classic cars, but I was willing to learn about them because they interested me.
I purchased two huge encyclopedia-type books on these topics that cost me less than $50 at a used bookstore. These well-thumbed, dog-eared encyclopedias have been gold mines of reference information over the years. In fact, I’d have been sunk without them.
That tiny investment helped me earn more than $15,000 in published articles so far, and will continue to help me earn more as I write new articles about classic cars. That’s a great return on a small investment!
My bookshelves also have a sizeable collection of books about ghost towns, and gold mining history. I’ve written dozens of stories about these topics. They’re easy to sell – and I have references to help me come up with story ideas and facts about the places.
I’m always amazed to learn how freelance writers skimp on finding sources of magazines to pitch their stories to. How can you expect to be successful if you can’t locate large numbers of magazines to query?
Every couple of years I purchase the Deluxe Edition of Writer's Market—the ultimate source of U.S. magazine leads. This reference book costs about $40.
I also purchase its U.K. equivalents: Writer’s Market UK, Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook, and The Writer’s Handbook.
These valuable references provided numerous magazine leads over the years.
And, I’ve been rewarded many times over by selling my stories to U.S. and U.K. magazines with these references. In fact, my stories have sold to more than 200 different magazines around the world. About 34% of these magazine leads came from these books.
If you find yourself fretting over forking out $40 each for a few reference books, you might consider that selling one article to a new editor will pay for your reference books, with plenty of money left over. You'll earn more because every sale after that is pure profit!
If you’re a novice or intermediate level freelance travel writer or blogger, you should seriously consider purchasing a few books on how to break into the trade. My “Secrets Of A Successful Freelance Travel Writer” series is designed to help you do exactly that.
Whether you need to learn how to write a compelling query letter or sell and market your stories to magazine editors, and go on those cool press trips you hear about, or sell your articles to luxury outlets, my books and reference manuals will accelerate your entry into travel writing market.
I’ve also reviewed the best books on the freelance and travel writing markets to save you time. You can find links to my book reviews at the end of this article.
Many aspiring writers do better working one-on-one with a coach when they want to break into travel writing or take their work to the next level. It's not surprising that novice travel writers I coach progress far more rapidly than the people who prefer to figure things out for themselves.
Unfortunately, many who try to do it alone never get their stories published. They never get to go on those glamorous press trips. Why? Something stops them in their tracks and they don’t know what to do to move forward. Lacking the experience, they simply give up.
Hiring an experienced coach moves you past this barrier. It provides a person on-call to answer your questions. A coach is there to look over your shoulder and mentor you on the next steps and what you need to do to make progress. It helps you proceed with confidence.
Hiring a mentor initially costs more than simply buying a few reference books. But if you’re in the game for the long haul and if you want to succeed at a rapid pace, you’ll earn more and recoup your money very quickly with a coach. The learning curve steep and fast. And it’s a lot more fun than doing it alone.
If you’ve been trying to do it yourself and find that you’re getting nowhere, hiring a coach and mentor could be just what you need to break into freelance writing and start earning money with your writing.
Working with a coach moves you through the process of getting your articles published more quickly than any other alternative. Coaches won’t do the work for you but they’ll guide you in the right direction. They’ll give you feedback when they know you’re digging yourself into a hole. They’ll mentor you through the entire writing process and advise you on the best steps to take at each stage of the pitching and writing cycle.
Coaches will answer all those questions that nag at you when you can’t figure things out for yourself. They’ll provide structure so you know how to do things, and they mentor you forward with confidence so you’ll be motivated to do the work.
Every May and November I open up my coaching program for a new intake of five travel writers. You can get on the waiting list here ...
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past ten years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.