How to Become a Travel Writer
and Get Paid to See the World
The job description "Travel Writer" was once reserved for a very small group of people who either wrote guidebooks professionally or were famous authors. It's not particularly difficult to become a one these days but the hard part is getting paid for it. Not long after I was a producer for Runaway with the Rich & Famous, I dreamed of becoming a full-time travel writer, but things were different two decades ago. The internet has changed everything. Now you have more options than ever before to turn your travel bugs and wonder lust into a part-time or even full-time income.
Growing numbers of people are discovering that travel writing is a career with literally no boundaries. One day you might be snowboarding in the Andes, then three days later you're in New York City. Your paid assignments can range from profiling an NGO in the Amazon to writing about your experiences on the Appalachian Trail. Making the leap to becoming a professional travel writer gives you freedom and flexibility to move and work around the world that most people can't even imagine. Your first goal is to learn how to write for the travel market.
But what makes a good travel article and how do you effectively write about your travel adventures and write reviews? For some, the writing muse strikes and words flow effortlessly, but if you’re like me, it’s an acquired skill and some times painful process. There are definitely the mechanics to travel writing that include research, interviews, structure, and finally writing as you put "pen to paper" or "fingers to keyboard." But that's only half of it as today's travel writer has two jobs - the writing part and the marketing that allows your piece to be published and shared with your travel audience.
Travel writing, like any writing, is a skill that can be learned either on your own or by taking travel writing courses. As much fun as travel writing can be, understand that not many travel writers find actual writing jobs or make a full-time living at it (although some certainly do and the internet provides more ways than ever to do that now). What you can expect if you pursue your dream to be a travel writer is to make enough money on the road or after your trip to either travel better or travel longer and to even cash in on occasional complimentary freebies like a flight or hotel room along the way.
Travel Blogs and Travel Web Sites
If you feel like you're ready to get started immediately as a travel writer and want to try your shot at winging it, then you can jump right in with a free blog. It's easy to set up at sites like travelpod.com; travelblog.org; blogger.com and many more. But here's the thing, while you're setting it up for free, the company providing the site will be making money off of the traffic you generate to that blog. They make their money with their google ads and other advertising you may find pop up on your blog almost like magic. Now they're providing the site for free so this isn't a bad exchange, but this ad revenue can be significant and if you do it right, the extra revenue can mean extra hundreds, even thousands of dollars a month once you start building traffic. Wouldn't you rather have google ad income for yourself? Me, too.
If you're interested in setting up your own travel blog or travel website as a travel writer, then I recommend using a company like SBI. They'll walk you through the entire process step by step for an incredibly low price. Are their upfront costs? Sure, but the cost of SBI is incredibly reasonable for all you get and if you follow their system, you'll not just make your money back, but you'll be generating income as well.
SBI helps you set up your passion for travel, and travel writing, as a business even if you don't know a thing about how to build a website. I had a very limited knowledge when I started and used SBI's online video class to build my website. As with any business, there are costs but SBI's are the most reasonable I've found which is why I chose them for creating my website. SBI helps you set up an online business based on your travel writing and passion for for travel, not like a free blog where someone makes money off your efforts.
Travel Writing Courses:
Learning to Write All Over Again
Your first goal in becoming a travel writer is to learn how to write for the travel market. You can do that on your own, by working on your writing or reading a book or two. For many people, being a writer may seem almost visceral as though it was something you were born to do. For others, like me, it was something I wanted to do so I studied the craft. I believe there are very talented people who are born with the talent and those who also develop the talent. So if you've never written before, don't worry, you can learn this craft just like any craft.
What I like about writing is that in many ways it is like wine – very subjective – even in non-fiction or travel writing. Not everyone likes the same wine and not everyone likes the same writers or the same style of writing. Having written for television for almost 20 years, I like to write in a very informal, informative but friendly style. I have learned my craft by reading many books on writing, studying the format of the programs or publication I’m writing for and then using that format as a guideline, spending time writing and perfecting my craft (often under deadline pressure) and by taking writing classes. Writing courses have helped immeasurably in honing my own skills as a travel writer. There are many courses out there and while I certainly haven't taken them all, I'm familiar with many of them and have identified one that I would place at the top the list, MatadorU Travel Writing Course.
MatadorU Travel Writing Course
MatadorU’s Travel Writing Program will teach you a solid foundation in writing, how to pitch a query or story to an editor, how to build an online presence and audience, and, in general, how to work as a new-media professional, whether a freelance writer, blogger, or unique mix of jobs that allows one to live off of travel and writing.
What I like about MatadorU, is that it teaches you how to market your piece and compete in a wildly crowded web environment. If you're headed for a big-name travel writing reputation that starts with the Internet and spreads outward, this course is made for you. It's also ideal if you have a good grounding in writing and don't feel you need to know how to build a story or tighten your prose. This course is entirely online so it's for those who feel comfortable doing everything on the web. Also, you might want to also investigate taking the MatadorU Travel Photography Course as you will need photos to go with your travel articles. All of the photos you see on this page I took myself on trips to Italy, China, and the Caribbean.
Benefits of A Travel Writing Course
There are several benefits to taking a travel writing course. Whether students are just beginning and need extra guidance and assistance, or they’re already experienced writers seeking information on social media and branding, MatadorU’s community of students and teachers is responsive, with dedicated staff offering specific feedback both individually and in group workshops.
The Travel Writing Program at MatadorU lasts 12 weeks, however, once you graduate, as an alumnus you’ll have lifelong access to the forums and community, as well as our Market Blog and all future Continuing Education Modules (supplemental courses that explore the latest in branding, SEO, and new media / writing).
You'll learn to avoid mistakes and write articles that sell far faster if you're systematically being trained as a travel writer so that you know what it takes to get published in the 15 Paying Travel Magazines.
Simple Writing Tips
If you'd still rather go it alone, you'll need plenty of practice and patience. What you'll have to do is write, write, write. And then publish. In today's web-based society, article submission directories and websites are hungry for content so you have lots of opportunities to practice your craft as a travel writer. Unfortunately, you won't know whether you're any good, because many websites will take anything that fills up their pages. Nor will you know if you're getting any better.
These few simple rules of good writing should help you submit copy that looks professional. These rules apply as much to the travel writer as they do any other kind of writer: Write like you speak. Reread your written copy out loud if you're not sure if your copy makes sense. Always use the active or present tense when writing to give your article energy. Use descriptive action verbs. Spelling, punctuation and grammar should be perfect. One fact, one sentence. Vary your sentence length alternating short and long. Paint pictures with your words and tell stories – facts tell, stories sell. There are two styles of writing, one is to leave yourself out of the story completely and the other is to personalize and tell your story. I believe in most cases, it’s best to “salt and pepper” your travel story with some personal experiences and give your writing personality (especially if you’re building a website), not to mention credibility if you're writing from actual travel experience. You want to let the reader know who you are, but you also don’t want you to be the center of the story unless it adds credibility to your writing.
For me, writing is more re-writing than writing. Once I get my first draft down on paper, I'm constantly re-editing and polishing my writing. If you manage to use these rules I've susggested, your writing will already be in the top 10% and the rest will just be polish.Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer
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