Freelance travel writing as a career
A career in freelance travel writing might lead you into writing copy for travel-related websites, contributing to destination guides, producing features for magazines or newspapers, reviewing tourist attractions or hotels or even creating a whole book about your experiences. In short, it’s a career that’s as varied as you want to make it.
Most writers start by generating online content, as there is so much more demand. However, as you build up your portfolio over time, you may be able to move into the more lucrative print market.
But can you really make a career out of freelance travel writing, and what will it involve? Well, let’s see.
Going it alone
There’s no doubt about it, working as a freelancer in travel journalism can be as tough as it is rewarding. You’ll need confidence in your writing ability and plenty of perseverance to get through the first few months but, over time, you’ll build up a network of contacts and long-term sources of work that will make you feel more secure. If you have to pin motivational quotes above your desk then so be it!
A career break spent abroad or long term travel plans can be a great springboard into careers in travel writing. Doing it this way can feel much less scary than just quitting your job and starting to look for freelance work. You can spend time researching and writing articles while you travel, and start to build up a portfolio before you return – if you plan to come home, that is.
Finding freelance writing jobs
Your freelance travel writing career is what you choose to make of it. Spend time looking online to get an idea of all the types of jobs out there. Think about what you’d most like to do and where you’d really love to see your writing published. Your dream might be to get a full length feature on a subject of your choice published in Conde Nast Traveller, so keep that in the back of your mind as you go. You might not be able to achieve it straightaway but there’s no reason why you can’t make it happen. It’s important to be ambitious and have a goal in mind for your freelance travel writing.
Across all the different sorts of travel journalism, you’ll get to work with lots of different people including editors, other copywriters, public relations staff, as well as all the interesting people you’ll interview for your articles. You might even end up with your own literary agent and publisher.
Read more about the nuts and bolts of finding work in our other article, The five rules of finding travel writing jobs.
Choosing the right path
There is no set path into becoming a freelance travel writer. Some people work their way up in a magazine, others start their own travel blog and get scouted by a publisher and others publish articles in lots of different places throughout their careers. So the good news is that as long as you’re writing, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to career progression.
And there are anough challenges to keep you going over the years. Keep setting yourself ever-evolving goals and you’ll always be achieving new things.
Funding your next adventure
Aspiring travel writers often ask how much money they’re likely to earn. Unsurprisingly, the answer is that potential salary varies…
If you want a freelance travel writing career, we’ll hazard a guess that you’re probably more keen to see the world than living the good life at home. You might dream of spending years travelling through India, writing as you go, in which case you’ll hardly need any cash to live comfortably. If you plan to work from home however, you’ll have to think about how much you’ll need to pay your living costs and fund the lifestyle that makes you happy.
Careers in travel writing can certainly earn you a good living, and travel journalism can be quite lucrative, but it’s worth realising up front that it’s unlikely to buy you a luxury sports car or a countryside mansion.
You’ll have to set your own rates, usually by the hour or per word. Work out how much you can write in an hour – including research and editing time – and decide what you think would be a reasonable rate. If you’re just starting out, your fee will have to reflect your experience, but as time goes on and you win more work, you’ll be able to start charging more.
A little bit on the side
If you’re savvy, there can be perks. Many travel writers manage to get holidays, weekend breaks and meals out at some of the best restaurants for free in exchange for a bit of PR. If you’re clever, you can then make money on top by then selling articles about your experience. However, such work trips are relatively unusual these days and should not be your sole motivation for a career in freelance travel writing.
So, before you declare your passion for travel writing and throw in the towel at your existing job, think carefully about whether it will allow you to live the life you truly want.