My Secret Method for Getting Travel Writing JObs…
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Ready to learn some shit?
WHAT IS TRAVEL WRITING AND HOW DO I MAKE MONEY DOING IT?
Here’s how to become a travel writer… but first, ready for myth dispelling? Travel writing doesn’t exist! It’s actually not a real genre of literature, it simply means a writer that travels. If you’re writing about a trip, well that’s travel writing, but you MUST be writing about something that happened on your trip, right? Let’s get started on your first travel writing job.
If the story centers around food, then you’re really writing about food. Maybe you’re writing about Amsterdam, well then, you’re simply profiling the city of Amsterdam. It’s not like writing a thriller where you are writing about a murder suspect or whatever. Travel writing is like saying car driving. Maybe that’s a bad example but you get what I mean… do you?
For instance, if you write all about the luxury hotels of Iceland and you’re paid for the article then you’re getting paid to travel as a hotel critic. If you sell an article about the cuisine of JazzFest in New Orleans and want to go on an Anthony Bourdain type of adventure trying out the foods of South America, you can get paid to travel as a food critic.
You can write about sports or adventure, interview local business owners and break news… and if you do it while traveling, well, you’re a travel writer. Let’s break down everything you need to know about “travel writing.” From how to pick a topic to write about all the way down to pitching the editors and getting paid.
FIRST SELL THE ARTICLE… THEN, WRITE. THE ARTICLE COMES LAST
To your surprise, writing the actual article comes last. Sell the headline, then write the article.
Don’t ever write an article unless you’ve already been paid for it.
How can you write the article anyway unless you know the editor likes your idea? Furthermore, you don’t know how many words they would want or what style it should be in.
- Personal Essay?
- First person?
- Third person?
- Should it include interviews?
All these questions need to be hammered out before you begin write anything.
Pitching the idea and negotiating terms for payment comes first. So, while you won’t necessarily get paid to travel, you’ll be making your money back from the travel stories you write (that will be centered around a specific topic). The stories you are going to pitch are tales that coulda only been written if the trip had been taken. You can’t write about the beaches of Portugal if you’ve never been there. Whatever you choose to write about, you simply put a travel spin on it to entertain and educate the audience about that location and you’ve got yourself a travel article.
PICKING A “TRAVEL” TOPIC TO WRITE ABOUT
The first thing you want to do is decide what type of article you want to pitch. The best way to do this is to find a topic that is already selling well and just write it differently, or offer an opposing opinion on it. You want to come up with a catchy headline after that to grab the editor’s attention. Not clickbait. There are ways to do this in an un-annoying way once you’ve decided on what you’re going to pitch. We’ll talk about that a bit later, for now, we need 3 – 5 ideas we want to pitch.
FIRST DECIDE ON WHAT TYPE OF GENRE YOU WANT TO PITCH.
Travel, sex, food, adventure etc. Then you want to search that topic to see what has already been written about. First you can do a general search, and then you can search using Google’s timeframe tool to only bring up articles within a certain timeframe.
First put in your Google search…
Then click on Tools…
Click the “Any time” dropdown and select “past year.”
Now all you’ll see are recent articles about what you’re interested in writing about. If a topic is trending (but not totally drenched), it’s a good sign and means you can pitch a new idea on the same subject. Of course, if the subject has been extensively covered and is old news… find something else.
If it was very recently published, maybe you can add a follow-up piece to it, or an opposing viewpoint. If the topic was extensively covered a decade ago and there’s been NOTHING written about it since, maybe it’s not the best topic. It means that for some reason no editor is publishing any articles about it and has no interest.
For instance, if you wanted to write an article about the psychology of traveling solo, or even an article like this about how you can get paid to travel, you can see that there is not a tremendous amount on it and might be worth exploring.
ONCE YOU FIND A TOPIC THAT HASN’T BEEN TOO EXTENSIVELY COVERED…
You want to head over to some of the magazines’ websites that you’d like to write for to see what is currently being published and how they present their material. These will give you ideas on how to format your headlines when pitching editors.
- How are the headlines designed?
- What type of content are they pushing?
- Are they publishing listicles?
- Personal essays?
ONCE YOU HAVE THREE IDEAS FOR AN ARTICLE…
You need to make it a catchy pitch. The way to do this is to create a fun headline to pitch to editors so that—at least if they don’t like it—they see you understand how to capture the attention of an audience. The good news is this part of the process is very easy to do because it’s already been done for you algorithmically.
You can use these websites to jazz up your headline:
PORTENT’S CONTENT IDEA GENERATOR
You can use Portent’s Content Idea Generator and mess around with it till you get some inspo… just put in what you want to write about, then let it do its magic. You can go as long as your fingers will sustain.
Sometimes the algorithm isn’t your final result, but it’ll give you something that sparks an idea. For instance, maybe below it could be “How to Build an Empire While Traveling Solo” and then you can interview some “digital nomad” that has gotten rich while traveling solo and maybe pitch it to Wired Magazine or whatever.
FINDING THE RIGHT EDITORS TO PITCH
There are two ways to find editors:
- With software
- Without software
WITH PUBLIC RELATIONS/ JOURNALISM SOFTWARE
Software is quite expensive, and it can be counterproductive when you are seeking to get paid to travel… the last thing you want are expenses! However, there are media databases out there that have the contact information of every journalist, editor, TV producers, and all the other media professionals in the world, which make this job MUCH easier. However, they cost thousands of dollars per year. I did find one company I quite like called Prowly. They don’t require an annual contract and I believe they have plans that start somewhere around $150/ month, which is as cheap as you will find.
WITHOUT PUBLIC RELATIONS/ JOURNALISM SOFTWARE
Or you can search for the right editors online. This takes a awhile but it’s doable. You need to know what type of editors to find. If you’re writing about food, you can contact the lifestyle or food editor. If you’re writing about travel destinations, you can contact the travel or hotel editor. Whichever editor most closely resembles the topic you want to write about, that’s who you want to pitch.
So, if you’re looking for food editors, you can search for Food Editors on Google, or better yet, on Twitter. Every editor is on Twitter. Just type in the word editor and you’re sure to find thousands of results. Some of these people will have their contact email in their bio, and others you can contact via twitter and ask if it’s okay if you send them a pitch. Most editors won’t respond, but you only need one.
Once you have your editors and your headlines picked out, it’s time to pitch your article.
THE RIGHT WAY TO PITCH BLOGGERS AND EDITORS
The best way to get started is to introduce yourself. Then cut right to chase. These are the headlines you want to pitch, and here are three bullet points as to what I will cover in each of these articles. Here’s a screenshot of an editor writing about how well I pitched him:
MEDIA PITCHING – HOW TO CONTACT EDITORS
IN THE SUBJECT OF YOUR EMAIL:
Write your headline. The idea is that the editor should know exactly what you want to write about before opening up the email, but make sure you let them know it’s a pitch inside the email. I like to label the subject “Article Idea” or “Pitch” and then follow that with the headline.
SUBJECT TITLE: Article Idea: How To Calm Your Nerves Before A Long Flight
or maybe I will let them know that there are multiple ideas in the email for an article… for instance:
SUBJECT TITLE: 3 Pitches about Traveling with Pets
IN THE BODY OF YOUR EMAIL:
Introduce yourself with one sentence, let them know the general idea, what sparked the idea, and then break down what you want to write about.
How To Calm Your Nerves Before A Long Flight
- What to do the night before the flight – (then write a brief description of what you plan to go over).
- How to prepare the morning of your flight– (then write a brief description of what you plan to go over).
- Finally, what to do at the airport– (then write a brief description of what you plan to go over).
Then sign off with your credentials and a call to action.
URGENCY AND CALL TO ACTION
Make sure you let them know if they are not interested to let you know as soon as possible and that their response is greatly appreciated. This has always increased the likelihood of getting a response in my experience (that and having a well-crafted pitch). That way even if you get a “no,” you’re still building relationships for the next idea.
So, something like this:
Let me know as soon as possible whether or not you are interested and I can send over a draft for your review, or if I should pitch elsewhere.
Below I have included some samples of my writing, and my socials for your review (if interested).
Thank you so much! Look forward to hearing from you,
(this is where you would add your credentials–if any, and socials–if they make you look good).
CASE STUDY: MY TRAVEL WRITING PITCH THAT WAS ACCEPTED AND PUBLISHED BY PLAYBOY
Here’s the ENTIRE PITCH that I had with Playboy… most people would never show you this, but I am. So remember this. This pitch resulted in an article I published for them called The Secrets to Finding Great Sex While Traveling Solo. I blacked out the name of the editor and also–this is not the greatest pitch. I hopped on the phone with him afterwards to seal the deal.
MY INITIAL PITCH TO PLAYBOY
THEN I INCLUDED MY CREDENTIALS – USE WHATEVER YOU HAVE
THE TRUTH ABOUT PITCHING THE MEDIA ARTICLES YOU WANT TO WRITE
Most editors will say no–and that’s a chance to begin building a relationship with those editors so that they remember you from here on out and so that your pitches can be more geared to their liking in the future. On the flip side, other editors will say yes and ask for further information. Maybe they say yes but don’t bring up money, or they ask for you to write it on spec (meaning they only pay you if it gets published). In any case, it’s time to ask the right questions so that you can negotiate properly.
NEGOTIATING WITH EDITORS
You better know what questions to ask after they say, “YES! WE WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO WRITE FOR US!”, or else you’ll end up writing for free or very little. Start off strong with the right questions.
How many words are you looking for?
What style would you like it in? First-person? Second person? Third person? Listicle? (it’s okay to ask for a reference).
What is your normal rate for first-time contributing writers?
That last question is the one I was terrified of when I got started because I didn’t wanna scare away any potential jobs–even if they wouldn’t pay! I was desperate to publish something; anything! But don’t fall into that trap, magazines do have money and they will try to screw you if you don’t negotiate for yourself. The point here is to travel for free cashing in on your travel adventure to recoup the money you spent on your trip! This is how you become a travel writer. There are far too many writers willing to work for free for them to simply offer you money on the spot (which does happen from time to time).
CASE STUDY: NEGOTIATING WITH PLAYBOY
I did a phone call with the editor after the pitch and we agreed that I would submit the piece on spec. Here’s the email exchange…
Then I submitted my piece to him on spec… he asked for about 1,500 words.
WHAT IF THEY SAY THEY DON’T PAY WRITERS?
WELL, YOU NEED TO BE PAID FOR REPORTING ON YOUR TRIP, THAT’S HOW YOU BECOME A TRAVEL WRITER… SO, NO MONEY? THAT JUST WON’T WORK!
If they say they won’t pay, try approaching it from another angle. Ask if you can write it on spec for a low fee. This means you write the piece and they only pay you if they like it and once it’s published–if ever, as opposed to negotiating a fee of say… $200. Generally, the flat fees you settle on with editors will generally be paid out the next billing cycle, even if you haven’t finished writing your article.
WHAT IF THEY MAKE YOU A LOW-BALL OFFER?
A LITTLE MONEY IS BETTER THAN NO MONEY, BUT LET’S TRY AND GET THE MOST WE CAN!
If they offer you something small like $25 or $50 (PopSugar does this, and many others… I wrote this entire article for them about millennials and sex for like $100), ask if they would be willing to do an extra $____, (and add an additional $50). If they offer $50, ask if they can do $100. If they offer $200, ask for $250. Always negotiate even if you think it’s reasonable because usually–if it’s a bigger publication–they absolutely have the money to pay you, even if you think they don’t.
If they don’t have the money to pay you, then don’t write for them unless they can provide you something of value. Don’t spend an entire year “building up your portfolio.” That shit doesn’t matter. I didn’t have a portfolio when I got my first writing job, and it paid me $1,000!
That’s only ONE travel job that will help you travel the world and make money doing it, but there are other ways. More on that later…
For now, I’ll be doing a Travel Writing Workshop soon, so if you’d like to be notified when it’s up and running, just add your name to the waitlist below. Adios!