How to Become a Travel Writer
Do you dream of traveling the world and getting paid for writing about your travels? Many travel writers enjoy all expenses paid trips to travel hot spots called press trips or media famils. They get to work from home and choose your own work hours. Those are the three main benefits of travel writing and they’re the reason why so many people keep asking me how to become a travel writer.
Why I Became a Copywriter and a Travel Writer
I’ve been writing about my travels in my diaries ever since I started traveling but it was many years later that I became a paid travel writer.
I don’t call myself a travel writer because being a copywriter and freelance writer allows me to write about a wide variety of topics as well as travel.
Full time travel writers spend a lot of time traveling on press trips and they don’t usually get to take their families with them. While I’m happy to travel away from my family from sometimes I don’t want to spend longer than 6 weeks a year away from home so it’s important that I write about things other than travel.
I’m lucky to be able to work from my hometown even though it’s a small holiday resort where jobs outside tourism are scarce.
There’s a lot of competition for freelance travel writers and the pay isn’t great with rates from $50 to $1,000 per article depending on who you write for and how long the piece is.
Copywriting pays better and you don’t have to spend a week or longer traveling to research your story.
But the travel writing is fun and has led to some great opportunities like one sweet job for my local tourism board where I did fun things like get a massage and wrote about it for their new blog.
Sounds good doesn’t it?
But before we get to the fun stuff let’s talk about the downsides of becoming a travel writer.
Do You Really Want to Become a Travel Writer?
These are the drawbacks to consider before you rush into your new travel writing career:
1. If you set up your own business and work for yourself it will take time to get your business started. You may be looking at a period of six to twelve months when you earn little. This is true of most businesses but if you can get through the initial setting up period and have either a financial cushion to keep you going, or a full or part-time job that you can maintain while you become a full time travel writer the long-term rewards are worth it.
2. Even once your writing business has been established a year of more when you’re self-employed you have to get used to having an irregular income. Some months you may earn only $2,000, the next month $10,000. That’s why I believe it’s better to diversify your writing and write about other topics as well as travel.
3. It can be lonely working from home. No more chats around the water cooler or after work drinks with your colleagues. Of course we have Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ to help fill that gap but social media can never replace face to face meets ups.
4. You need to be self-motivated, create your own deadlines and work on making new connections and getting your work published even when you don’t have any regular paid travel writing work.
5. Like any job there are hard parts to being a travel writer. Waiting around at airports and going on press trips where every minute of your day is scheduled by a PR company or tourism board and you don’t have any time to yourself or time to write.
Still up for becoming a travel writer? Then let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
How I Became a Travel Writer
It took me a while to get to the point where I get paid to have a massage and write about it but this is the route I followed to get to where I am today:
- I have a degree in French and English so have a strong background in writing, grammar and communication.
- I’ve worked as a journalist which helped improve my writing skills and taught me how to write faster and more accurately.
- I have an MA in Design for Interactive Media which helped me understand how people read online compared to in print. This allowed me to specialize in being a web copywriter and, after I set up this travel blog, a travel writer. I can and will write for print but the online environment is my specialty.
- I set up my own web design business and started writing copy for my tourism clients free of charge because all too often the copy they provided didn’t do justice to their company, services and products or their website.
- When demand picked up I was able to start charging for travel writing and now I also earn money through my travel blog by selling advertising and writing sponsored blog posts.
How Can You Become a Travel Writer?
1. Practice your writing skills regularly
My advice to everyone who wants to become a travel writer is to travel widely and start writing. You need to get writing to start practicing and improving your writing skills.
2. Consider getting formal qualifications and supportive mentors
Sometimes having a qualification, some training or a mentor can help give you the confidence and determination you need to succeed.
3. Get some travel writing experience under your belt
I love education, and having qualifications improved my confidence, but you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a great travel writer. You need travel writing experience.
4. Work for free
Getting your first paid travel writing job is always the hardest but the best way to get it is to work first for nothing.
Offer your writing skills to friends and ask if they’d like help writing or rewriting copy for their leaflets or website. Write guest posts for well known travel blogs.
5. Start a travel blog
Create a showcase of your skills by starting your own travel blog. Make sure it looks good and presents you as the professional, well paid travel writer you want to be. A sloppy looking blog or website will make you look sloppy.
Think about what static content you want to share and make sure your about, contact and services page are relevant and up to date.
In time you can add a portfolio or testimonials page.
Start adding blog posts to your blog and stick to a niche.
Write guest posts for other blogs to grow your own blog and boost your portfolio.
6. Get your first paid job
There are plenty of places you can look for work like Elance but I recommend getting a book like The Australian Writer’s Marketplace or borrowing it from your library.
This book has lists of all newspapers and magazines as well as the editors you need to get touch with. Make sure you read the publication before you pitch them with a travel article.
In my experience that’s how to become a travel writer. I love travel writing and am proud to be a professional travel writer.
The main key is to stick with it because no business is built overnight but in time you will gain the experience you need to truly get paid to travel the world and write about it.
Resources to Help You Become a Travel Writer
Successful Blogging – For online marketing tips for writers and small business owners.
Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps is a timeless resource that will help you set up your own business and market it effectively. I wrote it specially to help small business owners and writers tap into the power of blogging.
The book demystifies blogging and is designed as a self-study course with checklists and activities so you don’t miss anything. It covers everything from blog planning and design to content writing and blog promotion.
There’s also a chapter on guest posting and a bonus chapter on motivation to make sure you stick with blogging long enough to reap the benefits. Click here to find out more here.
Got Questions About How to Become a Travel Writer
Fire away in the comments below. I’ll try to answer all questions.
I followed up on a tweet about your article, which is how I came to your site.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but I think you have a typo in the first paragraph of section 3 – the one headed ‘How Can You Become a Copywriter?’
“I’m fanatical about education and having qualifications improved my confidence but you need any formal qualifications to be a great copywriter. You need copywriting experience.”
and I think there should be a “don’t” in there so that it reads:
I’m fanatical about education and having qualifications improved my confidence but you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a great copywriter. You need copywriting experience.
Hi David, great to see you there and thanks for your eagle eye and reading so carefully. I’ve fixed it now:)
David, writing and editing are two distinctly different activities, proof positive of which you have pointed out right here!
I do a better job for my clients;)
… I’m back with a vengence! ;-)
These are really practical tips (as usual).
I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a copywriter, but I’m putt off because it seems such a crowded field nowadays. I guess the key to success is spotting a gap in the market, working out your usp – and then going after that market – and then putting your tips into action.
Scott, I suspect part of the reason it’s crowded is because the economy is bad, the startup costs are low, and the perception of fast money is high.
If you’re dead set on it, you’re looking at a few years to get your chops, and for waiting out the posers. This is what I’m doing with programming. I already have some good skills, but “easy money,” down economy and low startup put me in a similar position. The difference being when the economy picks up I’ll be in a much better position than the people just chasing the money.
Hi Dave and Scott, ah is that why everyone wants to do it – the perception of easy money! Hope I’m not perpetuating this here as there’s no such thing:)
I think it always helps to choose a niche. I was probably the only web copy writer in NZ when I started out so that set me apart from the crowd!
I’ve worked as a journalism which helped improve my writing skills and taught me how to write faster and more accurately.
What’s a journalism and how do you work as one? :)
Maybe I should be a copy*editor* ;)
Feel free to not publish that comment. Or this one. I was trying to be amusing, not publicly ridicule you or anything. Rereading it, it comes across that way.
Sorry about that.
Hi JBB, not at all, I deserve it! Fortunately, when I’m working for someone else more rigorous checking procedures are in place and thanks heavens for my kind blog readers who let me know about typos!
I dream of having a proof reader for my blog! I’m aiming to get posts out fast in between other (paid) jobs and luckily my readers are kind, forgiving people. I think people will forgive anything if you’re genuinely helpful:)
I admire the way you handled JBB’s and my mention of the typos.
I was thinking about getting work as a copywriter – that is what led me to your article.
Now I am resolved to get work as a copywriter.
Wish me luck :-)
Hi David, I do!
Very nice coverage and getting started kit.
I like the fact you covered the ups and downs, and speak from experience.
Hi JD, thank you. It was quite an evolution for me. Taking a copywriting course from the beginning would have been faster but I didn’t really know that’s what I wanted to do. I still love all types of writing but for anyone who wants to earn a living from writing copywriting is a great option.
[…] How to Become a Copywriter – for all my aspiring copywriters […]
This is an excellent overview. You know your stuff. I worked as a part-time freelance copywriter for several years. It was the perfect job for me. I used one of Bob Bly’s books as my bible. I think it used to be called How to Make $85,000 a Year as a Freelance Writer, but the title may have been changed.
One additional tip I can add is to let all your friends know that you are available. That’s how I got some of my first jobs. One of the other drawbacks is having to market yourself, but that’s become easier now with social media.
Thanks for the encouraging article. I’m sure it will be appreciated by many. It’s a good reminder for me should I ever wish to get back into copywriting.
Hi Sandra, ah, that’s how you got so good at writing. The skills you learn are really transferable to all types of writing and you can really tell people who’ve been practicing their writing for years.
I could never become a copy writer. Speaking three languages and sometimes wondering if my word choice is correct in English, I have to ask my husband to correct me, I would find this profession very difficult. I agree that blogging has helped me come up with improved writing skills though.
Hi Sonia, you can do anything if you want to. Looks like travel writing is more your thing;)
I’m a little late to the party, but I do have a question.
A bit of background: I have a B.A. in English and I’m currently a television captioner. The pay is bad, the work is sucking the life out of me, and I’m trying to find ways to have a creative outlet and, you know, make enough money so that I’m not living off of instant noodles the rest of my life.
I want to start copywriting, but I have absolutely nothing for my portfolio and I don’t know how to find work without being able to show samples of it. I wrote a little (very little — I was mainly a photographer) for my campus newspaper, but I don’t feel like any of it was good enough to show a client.
What do you recommend in order to build a portfolio? I’ve had my blog for some time, but it’s just personal stuff about my weight loss. I’ve read a million and five things that say, “Offer to do work for free!” “Don’t do any free work!” “Write fake copy until you have real things!” “Are you kidding? Just tell clients you have no portfolio yet!” It’s all a bit maddening.
I’d love any advice you could give me!
I recommend making your blog more professional so it’s a good example of your work and writing copy of any type for friends who have businesses or are setting them up. That way you have examples of your work to show people and you can also ask for testimonials if your friends like your work:)
Hope that makes sense!
That does. Thanks! I started another blog that’s more about grammar and writing. I’m a television captioner and helping people speak and write better is one of my favorite things, especially since I do a lot of reality shows and no one can construct a correct sentence. (Hey, run-on. I’m a hypocrite. haha.)
Your whole blog is really helpful, by the way. I read a bunch of it the other night.
Ordered the AWAI Course.Spent 24 yrs as a surveyor(BS/Journalism);translating that experience,through B2B copywriting,should be a natural fit,Yes?
Fabulous and timely post for me. I started a BA in Communications last year which has been temporarily put on hold since I’ve just had my second child.
A friend works in web design and has asked me to do some copy work. Whilst happy to do the first few free of charge I am a little unsure of my worth when it comes to charging further down the line. It is all experience which can be included in a portfolio so I would hate to take advantage of the friendship however time is precious for me too. Would love your thoughts.
Hi Mrs. S,
Anything from $35/hour upwards. Of course you can’t do it free forever and this is a commercial enterprise. Ie you’re not writing free for a friend, it’s for a client of hers which she will be paid for. Slightly different. Good luck with it!
Great article! I’m considering buying the AWAI course as a Christmas present to myself, and had one question – will it prepare you for all types of copywriting, or just direct response sales letters? I would like to explore other avenues, but don’t feel confident that this course will allow that.
Firstly, thank you for the informative blog post.
I have been stepping in the direction of becoming a copywriter, although I have started out by learning web design. I have had a look at the AWAI website for the next step.
However I was wondering if it is predominantly for the American market? I am working in Europe and often writing is quite different here.
Thank yoz for any advice!
I already have a M.A. degree in English, and have taught English/Reading at the elementary, secondary and community college level. I have a published journal article (TETYC) and multiple published book reviews. I’m wondering if the course you recommend would be a bit redundant for me? I’d really like to get into web-writing as I near retirement; I am a fairly handy and creative writer, but have been reallly intimadated by the online sources for whom I have attempted to submit articles. I’ve only ever had one published, and then got no further! I am in the process of setting up a blog for college freshman, but that is it so far. Any suggestions on how to connect to businesses who might hire me? I don’t have any significant business contacts as I’ve been working in academia for the last 25 years! In my environment, everyone writes well and is trying to publish what they write, so they are no help!