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A Non-Experts Advice On How To Be A Freelance Travel Writer

As you’d expect working in the travel industry many people will have questions to why, what and how. As a full time freelance travel writer, a blogger and having such a social media reach and presence as mine, there maybe even more questions than normal. Without sounding patronising, or obnoxious as some travel ‘idols’ can sound like, I thought I’d write to you, the reader, the audience and the wannabe travel extraordinaire, about some non-expert tips of how to become a freelancer.

Now, freelancer means working for yourself essentially, but gaining work from a variety of different companies. In my book, I freelance write for publications regularly and is the main source of my income. I also help prominent travel related companies market online, as well as the odd sponsored blog post. I also have a clothing sponsor, I’m an Ambassador for three different organisations and I’ve recently acquired a monthly travel radio feature through one of my regional radio stations.

I’ve travelled for 5 years, around Asia, Europe, Latin + South America and Oceania. I’ve lived in Bangkok, Melbourne, and Auckland. I daily manage 150,000 people online through Facebook groups; I’ve worked with some of the biggest hostel chains in the world and written for many travel publications. My advice is based on eating, breathing and living travel for the enjoyment and the responsibility of being a travel advocate. I see travel everyday online and face-to-face. I listen and engage in conversations, I read, write and discuss. I’ve networked and argued too. This is what my advice is based on for you take with you. Let me make it clear. This doesn’t mean I’m an expert, but I would like to think I’ve seen a lot and know a little throughout my travel years. My journey isn’t stopping anytime soon, in fact, I think I’m just getting started!

Travel writing at Melbourne Library, Melbourne, Australia.

Enough about me, travel writers tend to like to talk about themselves. This article is about advice to you. I don’t want to complicate things, or you to compare yourself with what others are doing. If you want to get into the industry, for part time or full time work, or just want a kick-starter to some points then take a read of what I’ve got to say below. This can relate to being a blogger, but mostly freelance writing, the basics of getting into the game.

First Of All, Travel Far & Wide

This is key. Travel and travel more. You’re only going to be interested in this industry, and get working as a freelancer or blogger if you’ve travelled. I recommend focusing your life on travel, and see at least two continents for variety before you get started. Travel is the #1 key thing here. Anything can be well researched as a freelance travel writer, but selling yourself and writing fluently as a job has to come from within your own experiences on the road.

Travel Some More, Off The Beaten Track

Going off the beaten track, to places where you may think are sketchy, dirty, difficult and secluded will give you some of the best experiences to date. Travelling is becoming easier because of a variety of applications and online access, but going off the beaten track is makes it harder for you. Be scared, and have that fear of the unknown. It’s healthy for you, and to be honest, that’s what travelling was originally for. Seeing and escaping to the unknown, freedom that is untied to nothing.

Pulling the boats in at Shell Beach, Guyana, South America.

Start A Blog And Just Write

If you have experiences to write about, write about them! However interesting or mundane they are, write something down. They are the first lessons of your travel-writing journey. Share them to your friends and family; get the experience and most of all the confidence. If you read other travellers articles, learn about the different formats and styles. Think about how you can modify their styles with something unique of your own. That’s a good way to begin as a freelance travel writer. 

Ask Yourself, Why Do You Want This?

I should have included this at the beginning but you do have to ask yourself, why do you want to be a freelance travel writer, a blogger or work within travel? Is it for social media? Many people only travel because of social media nowadays. It’s a shame because it’s all for ego. If you love the art of travel, the fact travel has no conclusions and no end, the curiosity to go further and seek destinations new, then this might be for you. Ask yourself whether you want to be seen as an explorer or actually be one. Do you want to be a writer or for something to boast to your friends and other travellers about?

Create A Following

If you’re travelling frequently and active online through social media, its bound to happen you’ll be getting a lot of attention from friends and family back home. Posting photos, statuses and even articles about your travels will create an interest. If this gets to a stage where you feel you should segregate this from your personal profiles, create a page specifically for your travels! Instagram is a great way to document your travel photos too!

Delhi, India.

Don’t Over Do It

Posting too much is a habit of many travellers; I have to admit I post a lot due to work commitments. That being said, you’ll likely get more engagement and curiosity for posting every other day. Posting too much will annoy some, but posting now and then will let the interest naturally grow from others. Take your time, post good photos and share meaningful status’s. Start an Instagram account and document your photos there, too!

Write For Someone For Free 

If you feel you’ve exhausted writing about yourself in your blog, why not pitch publications to initially write for free or a little amount? This is the beginning of your portfolio. Once you have something written, edited and published, you can now start gaining a reputation. Even if you write content for one or two publications regularly, you’re work is at the beginning in one place. This shows people want to read your work, and hear about your experiences. This gives you the platform for what’s next as a freelance travel writer. 

Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

We’re learning all the time. The craft of writing has no limit, but if you feel your good enough to pitch someone who will pay more or a company with a good stand in the industry, pitch! Go through the pitching process, network, connect online, email! It’s essentially business development, but for yourself. It’s part and parcel of being a freelance travel writer. Don’t be shy to reach out we all have to. I give myself one day a week where all I do is reach out and market. I actually enjoy it!

Los Roques, Venezuela, South America.

Make Yourself Known

Do more! Learn how to take good photos, engage with others, network, tag in companies if you’re on tour or staying in a hostel, take videos of your trip. Work in other aspects of travel for example as a tour guide or in a hostel! Even just asking others for advice, for contact information, posting advice in groups, anything to get a little reputation for yourself. There are names out there online, that when I see I know exactly what they do. Why? Because they created a name for themselves!

Me and an editor from Matador Network.

Keep At It

It should be automatic. Really, you should love what you’re doing. It won’t feel like work, it’ll feel like a hobby. It took me with a reach of 100,000 people online and 4 years of writing part time to realise that I could manage this myself now. Before all that, I was doing it because of one thing, I LOVE TRAVEL Keep at it and you could be travelling for work and for yourself for a living! 

Did You Know?

 

Melbourne, Australia.

Many Travel Bloggers/Vloggers Aren’t Full Time.

Their work might be amazing online, but a lot of bloggers are part timers. Whether it’s an interesting and informative article or an excellent drone video of the Philippines, a lot of these guys aren’t in the freelance game full time. Some are just for fun, some are side projects it really depends on the individual.

And Some Want The Fame 

From what I’ve experienced, some travel guru’s, whether that’s bloggers, vloggers, writers, advocates, photographers etc – have an obvious want to be famous. Each to their own, but I don’t get it, for me travel is the opposite to the celebrity life. You may see behaviour and self-importance such as publicly announcing they are ‘addressing their fans’ or their want to be on TV for the attention.

How many people would WANT be travel writers if social media didn’t exist? How many people would travel without social media?

Features And Articles Are Good Publicity

Featuring in newspapers or national business magazines are great for a travel writer and blogger to get some attention. Whether that attention turns into work remains to be seen but it certainly can help. Sometimes , these sort of features and work don’t pay.

Blogging Is I, I, I

Remember, when you’re writing a blog, it can be, I, I, I or me, me, me. Like I mentioned in the intro, travel writers like to share their experiences and essentially talk about themselves. Blogging is one persons experience and opinion it doesn’t necessarily mean fact. Just like my blog. Take from it what you want, base the trust on what the blogger has achieved. I now prefer to freelance and to write with honest elements rather than sugar-coating matters or talk about how the world is great for me. However, you will find some blogs which are honest, informative and hugely insightful!

Writing Might Be Paid Badly

Travel writing and travel itself isn’t historically the best-paid job in the world. It really depends what you put into it. I see work as work; the more I freelance the more I get paid. Have a good work ethic and it’ll be worth it. But don’t expect your articles to be worth a fortune; editors have many choices to choose from, which may depend on a variety of factors such as budget and time. That’s the life of a freelance travel writer!

Take Photos Properly

Although everyone is taking photos nowadays, especially with smart phones, taking photos is key. You’ll see tourists randomly and aimlessly taking selfies or of something of interest, but I’m talking about photos with a good width and dimension. It’s good to shoot something that a reader can look into and instantly feel the vibe of the place, or at least relate to it. Don’t take too many though, or your own moment with the situation is gone, unless of course you’re getting into freelance professional photography, which is a completely different ball game.

 

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Tommy Walker

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