Finding Gold Mines
in Low Paying Magazines

By Roy Stevenson

Writing about gold mines around the world is one of my special niches.  I love the history, the legends, and doing a little bit of recreational gold panning when I visit these places.

In a similar way, I like to look for gold in my writing assignments.  If I’m going to put my time and effort into writing articles, how can they provide me with tangible benefits?

Getting paid a fair wage ($1/word or more) for writing is the most common and preferred result for freelancers.  My ideal assignment as a travel writer also includes a press trip to and interesting or exotic place. Nirvana!

However, getting high-paying assignments are highly competitive.  Not every assignment pays top dollar.  They are the exception, not the rule. 

I’ve certainly scored with my fair share of $1/word magazines. But editors of these magazines are very picky and take more time.  And it’s difficult to land these assignments consistently enough to make a living.

Some smaller magazines can only afford to pay writers a modest fee. Some magazines don’t pay anything at all!

  You might wonder, why would we write for magazines that don’t pay well?  

the gold mines in any article exist depending upon why you write

Why Do You Write?

Many of us write for reasons other than money.  I’ve often seen articles by well-known travel writers published in ‘small time’ magazines that pay little or nothing for an article.  Is there something else to gain from this?

If you’re just getting started, maybe you want to write to get bylines.  Every new writer needs to build his or her bylines and writing for any magazine to get a byline is one way to do that.  When you’re building your bylines you’re not usually picky about the pay.

Or, maybe you want to communicate a message, educate readers, or talk about something important to you.  One way to get your message out is by writing an article.  Your message is more important than being paid.

Maybe you have a product or service to sell and want to lead readers to your website for more information.  Writing an article is a good way to get the word out to people who are interested, and lead them to your website. I frequently write articles for freelance writing magazines and websites to generate interest and bring them to Pitch Travel Write.

Travel writers often write to travel.  They use their assignment in exchange for free or low cost travel.

It’s a simple process: 

  1. A magazine gives you an assignment to write an article. 
  2. You travel to do your research. 
  3. You request assistance from tourist agencies in planning your press trip or Fam tour.
  4. You use your assignment as collateral and write the article after the trip.

You can use your assignments to get free entry into attractions, free lodging and meals, free tour guides, free ground transportation, and perhaps even airfare. I typically use my travel assignments as collateral for all, or most, of these perks.

Panning for Press Trips

Let’s look at this from the perspective of the editor of a low-paying magazine.  These magazines have a problem finding and keeping good writers because they can’t afford to pay much, if at all.

Good travel writers move up the food chain in this competitive business. Eventually they tend to cast the low paying magazines aside and get their stories into higher paying magazines. 

Editors of low paying magazines know they’re onto a good thing with established, professional writers who deliver well-written articles before deadline.  

And for the writer, magazine assignments are your ‘currency’ for being eligible for press trips and Fam Tours. 

If the readership of the magazine or website satisfies the tourist agency criteria, they might agree to send you on a nice, all expenses paid trip where you’re treated like a VIP.  I’ve been on plenty of all-expenses press trips in my 15 years in the travel writing game. 

What do you need to provide in return for this generosity?  Quid pro quo.  This means, after the trip, you deliver a story about their destination.  They get the exposure in the media.  You get the press trip.

The Gold Mines In Small, Niche Magazines

panning for gold at a mine in Alaska

I’ve used numerous low paying, and even non-paying magazines and travel websites to land press trips.  The editors of these magazines and websites are always happy to supply me with Letters Of Assignment for the tourism and PR agencies that organize these press trips.

Sure, the editors get my articles for bargain prices.  But if it’s a place I want to visit, the arrangement works for both of us.  

For example, I have a productive relationship with Lost Treasure magazine.  This modest, but popular magazine shows treasure hunters how and where to find gold, metals, coins, and lost artifacts with gold panning and metal detectors.  

I’ve written twenty-one articles for Lost Treasure magazine since January 2011.  Because of the low pay, the editor probably wonders why I still write for her magazine after all this time! 

But I’ve managed to parlay my assignments with Lost Treasure into some world-class press trips and Fam tours, so the assignments are literally gold mines for me. 

Early on, my assignments with Lost Treasure took me to ghost towns around Washington and Oregon, and several places in Arizona.  These early gigs helped me build my bylines and gain confidence.  They also helped me hone my writing skills.

More recently, Lost Treasure assignments have landed me some great self-guided Fam tours in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Fairbanks, Alaska.  They’ve taken me to Sacramento, California, to Arrowtown, New Zealand, and even to some ancient Roman gold mines in Wales.

In short, this modest, niche magazine has been a gold mine!  (Pun intended.)

Here are a few more gold mines I've found in low paying magazines to visit exciting places around the U.S. and overseas:

Renaissance magazine has published 23 of my articles since 2008.  This magazine is for lovers of all things medieval, living history re-enactors, and others who enjoy getting dressed up in period costumes and attending medieval faires. You’d be surprised at how many people enjoy doing this! 

My assignments with Renaissance magazine have taken me to some amazing events around England, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Paris, and Prague. 

Writing for military magazines in the U.S. and U.K. has led to free museum tours in England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Scotland, Spain, Budapest, and several destinations in the U.S.

Writing for a regional sailing magazine in the Pacific Northwest has led to free tours of small towns and marinas all around Washington State’s Puget Sound. 

 For me and my wife, this was a gold mine because we spent many pleasurable weekends exploring places we never would have otherwise visited.

Writing for a website about European travel has led to numerous tours of destinations in England, Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland, Wales, Germany, and Budapest and Prague


Writing for a regional wine magazine has led to dozens of wine-tasting adventures to boutique wineries and hotels all around Washington State wine country.

Everyone Gets Some Gold

Learning how to pan for gold

Writing for low paying magazines can be gold mines for you, too. Think about all of your interests and get familiar with the magazines and websites that focus on those niches. 

To break into these genre magazines, pitch a few story ideas about places you’ve been to, and build up a relationship with the editors. 

When you’re hosted on complimentary press trips, remember that everyone benefits: 

  • The editor gets your well-written article to publish in their magazine for their readers. 
  • The tourist agency gets media exposure for their destination. 
  • You get to visit a place that interests you, along with some nice side benefits and another byline for your portfolio.

When everyone wins, your writing turns to gold, no matter what your topic. 

So before you walk away from the lower paying magazines, think about the reasons why you write and consider the gold mines that might be hidden there for you.

How to Land Press Trips and Fam tours book cover

Special Report:

How to Land Press Trips and Fam Tours

I've written a guide about how to land press trips.  It will tell you everything you want to know about how to get into the inner circle and get invited on regional, national and international press trips. 

Learn more here...

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Roy Stevenson sitting in front of his computer.

Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of  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.