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I knew from a very young age that when I grew up, I wanted to do something that was writing-heavy. I loved to read and write – creative writing, assignment writing, journaling — all of it! I frequently get e-mails from people asking about freelance writing in the travel industry and, more or less, how I got started or tips I am willing to share. I wanted to create a post for anyone else who might be reading and wondering the same! Today I’ll be sharing my top 7 tips for travel writers including the motto I always whisper to myself (hint: it’s #1!) and why investing in quality tech gear is important. So, let’s get started!
7 Tips For Travel Writers
1. Just keep writing.
I had a college professor who started every single class with – you need to know how to write. At the time, I found it kind of annoying, but now – it’s something that I carry with me all the time, especially considering how many articles I read daily with grammar errors! Even when I’m not working on an assignment or project, I find myself free writing or writing for fun. Getting in the habit of writing each day (I like the mornings!) is a great way to practice your craft. Also, being able to continue writing after outlets have rejected your work is SUPER important. I remember the first time someone told me no – I was devastated. I felt like I had done all that writing for nothing and also a little bit like…what did I do wrong?! The reality is that travel outlets get so many pitches, queries and drafts to review, there’s no logical way for them to accept everyone, regardless of how good the writing is. My best advice is to persevere!
2. Research which outlets are accepting freelance pieces.
When I first started pitching outlets, I was just willy-nilly writing what I wanted and sending pitch letters. If I could rewind time, I would land on the shoulder of my former self and whisper: STOP! 1. Not all outlets accept submissions from freelancers 2. Even outlets that do accept submissions aren’t accepting them all the time and 3. Said outlets have editorial calendars just like a blog, magazine, newspaper, etc. So, with all of that said, it’s important to know who is accepting pitches and when. I love sites like The Write Life, because they share which outlets are accepting submissions, what they’re looking for, etc. For bigger outlets (like Travel + Leisure, CN Traveler, etc.) you’ll need to check their “Contact” pages for information of if and when they’ll have a call for submissions. Even after you’ve determined where you’ll submit, don’t dive headfirst into your story idea. You’ll need to pitch it first and work with editors to determine if your style is a good fit for the publication. Only after you have talked with an editorial should you begin work on a full writing piece, photography, etc.
3. Invest in quality tech gear.
This point might be just as important as #1, because when you’re on-the-go, you don’t have time for slow computers or faulty cameras. You also don’t have time to lug around a big machine that is going to make your bags any heavier! You need technology that is going to keep up with you, is lightweight and can be flexible. Let me get ready to shock you – I had been using the same laptop for FIFTEEN YEARS. I had grown accustomed to the slow speed at which it operated and I knew which keys I had to press extra hard so that they would work, so it was definitely time for an upgrade and a refresh! I wanted a machine that would be fast and versatile, so I narrowed it down to a Lenovo or an Acer. After a trip to Best Buy to “test run” the machines in person, I decided on a Lenovo Yoga 720.
It has an 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor, which kind of blew my mind with how fast it worked initially. It allows me to get things done fast and easy (the Adobe Suite is practically warp speed) and not worry about glitching or slowing down when I stream in-flight entertainment. It is Intel’s most powerful processor and designed to be flexible with a long lasting battery (this was a major selling point for me, because I am FOREVER losing cords and chargers…whoops!).
One things it has that my previous machine didn’t is a touch screen that allows me to physically arrange, draw and organize as I see fit. I’ve only used the sticky notes feature so far, but I think it will be great for taking notes, drawing diagrams and honestly – just doodling! I also shoot photos on a Nikon (the 50 mm lens is my go-t0!), a GoPro Hero 5 and (after a ton of research!) just invested in a DJI Mavic Pro drone. I have learned that the more I can offer visually the better off I am in terms of selling not only copy, but my stories as a package.
4. Fact check + proofread!
There is nothing worse than submitting an article and an editor sending back a proof with very obvious grammatical errors or glaring inaccuracies highlighted. Mistakes happen – but double and triple check your work! If it’s a particularly big assignment, I’ll usually have Dane look it over to see if he catches anything. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes, especially after you’ve probably been staring at it for awhile!
5. Become familiar with photo editing software.
This point goes along with investing in quality gear – becoming familiar with editing software can really change the way you are able to package your writing. I am, by no means, a professional photographer, so it helps that when I’m shooting content for this blog or for an assignment, that I’ve got some photo editing knowledge in my back pocket. The reality is that the lighting isn’t always going to be perfect and the weather won’t always cooperate. Being comfortable being able to adjust (even minimally) photos can be a huge advantage and it helps when you’re operating on a fast computer like my Lenovo Yoga 720. Heck, it’s even great to know how to do this if you aren’t a travel writer – you’ll become the new favorite when it comes to snapping family vacation photos 😉
6. Ask yourself – would I read this?
Ask yourself – if I were flipping through a blog or magazine….would I stop to read this article? Typically I stop and gaze when 1. the article is visually appealing or 2. when it has a catchy title that grabs my attention right away (ex: 6 Ways To Avoid Travel Costs) or 3. Solves a common problem (ex: Tips For Getting The Cheapest Flights To Hawaii). Chances are, an editor scanning pitch queries will be more interested in “8 Ways To Save $1,000 This Holiday Season On Travel” than “Holiday Travel On A Budget”. While you might want to recap your latest trip to Europe, that might not be a best-seller for readers. Getting creative with titles and thinking about what other people might want to dive into is key!
7. Build your portfolio.
I’m going to be brutally honest – you’re not going to break into the freelance travel writing industry penning for Travel + Leisure on Day 1. Okay, maybe .001% of you will, but for the vast majority of us — building our portfolio is an important first step. I know – it’s devastating. But once you get over that initial blow, you’ll realize that there are so, so many amazing outlets you can start with! Don’t be afraid to start small (local tourism bureaus can be fantastic!) and work your way up.
I hope these 7 tips for travel writing are helpful! Knowing what outlets are accepting content (and when!), investing in quality equipment (the more lightweight, the better!) and persevering are my three best tips. Oh and of course – practice, practice, practice! 😉
So let’s chat – are you a travel writer? Or a writer in general? What are your best tips for success? Any equipment you swear by?