Should you be writing free content for travel blogs?
Writing articles for free has been a contentious issue for a long time, and is a much-debated part of the travel journalism culture. Writing for travel blogs and websites has expanded that discussion.
Should we write free content for travel blogs and websites?
Some freelance writers are adamant that we should never write anything unless we're paid. After all, we don’t call a dentist, a plumber or a computer technician and expect them to provide their services free of charge. So, why should travel writers do that?
This is a gray area for travel writers. It’s gray because we can use our print and blog assignments to request complimentary travel perks. And, this can open up travel opportunities to exotic destinations around the world.
Veteran travel writers regularly use assignments with travel magazines, websites, and blogs as collateral for comps. In exchange for an article or blog, it’s possible to have our airfare covered, score complimentary accommodations, meals in restaurants, entry to tourist attractions, free travel guides and more.
A travel writing couple that I coached was approached by a cruise magazine to write free content for their high traffic website. Their blogs could be about cruises - or about any destination they wanted to write about. The editor of the blog was willing to provide them with a letter of assignment for any destination that interested them.
But there was a catch. They wouldn’t be paid for their work.
They asked what I thought. Should they do it or should they pass? So I helped them weigh the advantages and disadvantages:
There were a number of advantages for writing free content if they approached it professionally and strategically. Here are my thoughts:
In contemporary travel writing, blogging for a magazine’s website is similar to having front-of-book articles published in the print magazine. In this case, well-written blogs could lead to paying print assignments.
The big disadvantage is they aren't being paid. This could be a deal-breaker if you’re depending on your writing income to pay the bills. In this case the other benefits are secondary.
That wasn’t the case for this couple. They were very interested in the travel benefits and not so concerned about income. They decided to do it.
Please note: not all blogs and websites come with the benefits suggested above. You'll need to look carefully at each opportunity.
writing advice to this couple was to go with it and accept this invitation for writing free content. The
advantages far outweighed the disadvantage of not being paid.
Interestingly, I’m also coaching two other travel writers that have ongoing writing assignments with travel websites and blogs. They've used them successfully in similar ways. One travel writer uses her blogs to secure comped trips. She has also broken into a sister print publication.
Here's my best travel writing advice for writing free content for blogs and websites:
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.