Travel writing is a tough game to break into. With newspapers and magazines crumbling the world over due to the changing nature of journalism, it’s harder than ever to get traditional writing jobs. But it’s not impossible! Here are some tips that can help you land the travel gig of your dreams:
1. Diversify your skill set
Having excellent writing skills is, of course, an essential part of being a writer. But in today’s competitive writing world, it’s those writers who have a solid knowledge of how to take their own photos, how to work in WordPress to upload their own articles, how to promote their writing on social media, and who have their own sites featuring their writing portfolios who are most marketable. Gain some new skills that will make you more attractive to employers and you’ll have a one-up on the other 30 writers who apply for the same position.
Add some travel photography to your skill set! (Photo by Dave Tanner)
2. Learn how to pitch
Having been an editor, I’ve found it almost astonishing how many writers don’t even know what a pitch is. If you want to write for a certain magazine, do not… I repeat DO NOT… write to the editor and say something along the lines of ‘Hey I would love to write for your magazine. Going to be on Koh Phi Phi soon – want anything reviewed?’ You are almost guaranteed not to receive a reply. Instead, read a few of the magazine’s past issues, figure out their style and which sections might suit you best, and then come up with a few topic ideas for those sections. When you write to the editor (tip: find out his or her name and address them as such), tell them what specifically you love about their magazine, why you’d be an excellent fit to write for them, and then send them a couple specific topic ideas with a few sentences of detail for each, specifying which section you think it would be ideal for. You may find you hear back much quicker. But just in case, don’t forget to always follow up, as editors are busy people. Tip: Airline magazines often pay very well!
Which type of magazine are you interested in writing for?
3. Go out on the town
It might sound crazy, but I made some of my most important writing connections at bars and clubs. Many of these led to long-time writing gigs that happened only because I shared a bit of chit chat with an editor over a glass of wine. It’s important to network, even as you’re traveling, and it might be worth spending a bit of your travel cash on a bit more of an upmarket place to meet the type of people you are looking for. If you know any locals, ask them where the professional-types tend to hang out, get a friend or two (not too many as groups tend to be intimidating for meeting others), put on your swankiest attire, and go get your networking on!
Grab a cocktail and get networking!
4. Be observant
Sometimes as a traveler, you get so wrapped up in getting from one place to the next and crossing each attraction off on your list, that you forget to notice the incredible details, and unique features that make each destination special. These tiny details are what travel editors are looking for. That batmobile tuk-tuk driver at Angkor Wat? Ask him a few questions. That random food stand in Chiang Mai that serves up exquisite duck curry? Jot down some notes on the atmosphere and dining experience. Editors often get pitched the same stuff over and over again, so they’ll love your unique ideas.
Find the quirky places and take note of all the little details!
5. Be persistent
I once got a job just because the boss was so sick of having to answer my emails and calls that he hired me just to shut me up. As an editor, I really learned why editors rarely get back to you on your first email – they just don’t have time. They have a million things to do, not to mention around 200 emails coming through every day – most of them pitches and press releases – and they just don’t have time to do everything. I always did, however, make an attempt to answer someone if I remembered they’d emailed before and I hadn’t gotten back to them. I can’t say for sure, but I think that’s what most editors do. So be sure to follow up, and be sure to remind them what you’re following up about. I would even go so far as to say follow up twice – but no more than twice, as after that, you’re just pestering, but hey – I can’t say that’s never worked for me!
Be persistent – never give up!
These are just a few tips, but I really think they are the keys to getting your foot in the door. And the cool thing with writing is that there a snowball effect, so once you get one job, the others will come much more easily.
It’s a challenging career, but when you see your name in print in a glossy magazine for the first time, oh how worth it it is. Best of luck, my traveling friends!
Written by Kaila Krayewski