Travel Writing 101
So, you want to be a travel writer – congratulations, it’s a fabulous job!
There are several things you can do that will really help you get a head start as a travel writer whether you are doing it for fun or as a serious job.
Here are my top ten tips:
1. Start a blog
It doesn’t cost anything to start a blog on one of the big blogging platforms like WordPress or Weebly but if you want to be taken seriously, it’s worth spending a bit to start your own blog with your own domain name. It can be your name or something to do with travel and can be a great way to get attention – it may even earn you some money.
2. Facebook is great
Update your friends on Facebook – think of them as test dummies for your writing and photos and remember that what you post there can and probably will be seen by future editors and it’s probably not a good idea to write things you wouldn’t want your boss to see.
3. Guest post for free on the web
Most “real” writers gripe about the fact that there are so many people who write for free – particularly on the internet. However, if you want to make a name for yourself, you have to start somewhere and writing gratis for websites is one way to do it. Just be a bit circumspect about who you write for, don’t waste that precious effort you’re making on websites that don’t have a reasonable reach or that don’t promote your work or give you feedback. Ask them what their audience is (although many will not tell you this as there is a fair bit of exaggerating that goes on with websites) and ask them to comment on your work.
4. Promote your own work
If you write about a place – tell them you’ve done it, send them a link or pdf copy of the article and post it to their Facebook page. This applies whether you’ve written for your own site, someone else’s or in a magazine or newspaper.
5.Travel Writing organisations
Join a travel writing organisation as and when you can, some will have caveats such as you need to have published a certain amount of articles. Travel Writer clubs are excellent venues for networking and learning. Don’t join just one, join several.
6. Travel Writing Contests
Enter as many as you can as often as you can. Newspapers, magazines, websites, travel companies, tourist offices – many of them hold writing competitions. It’s not just about the prizes, as a travel writer – it’s about the awards.
Contact your local newspaper, ask them if they would be interested in you writing a travel piece for them. Make sure your pitch has a great title and include a one paragraph summary of what you are proposing to write. Make it snappy – editors are very busy and receive dozens of pitches a day, make their life easier and it could go in your favour. If you don’t hear anything back, chase up a couple of weeks later. Use your contacts, if a friend of a friend’s dad is an editor – be bold and ask for an introduction, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know.
8. Become a photographer
Every successful travel writer I know is a competent photographer. Practice with your camera, take hundreds of digital images and review your work. There are hundreds of free courses online to help you. Images are almost as important as words for some websites and magazines – sad, but true! You don’t have to be a pro, you do have to be adept.
9. Learn copywriting
Copywriting is the art of promoting something through the skill of writing. As a travel writer you won’t just be writing about what you liked on holiday, you’ll often be promoting the country, area, hotel, restaurant etc. Copywriting is a skill that can be learned and I certainly feel it is a worthwhile investment.
10. Have fun but remember your audience
If you don’t enjoy something – you won’t be able to write well. Of course from time to time we all go somewhere we don’t enjoy. I was in Rome once when a bomb went off close to my hotel – that wasn’t much fun and I couldn’t even try to pretend it was. I’ve had enormous snakes draped round my neck, huge spiders in the bathroom and once fell off a camel in the desert and knocked myself out. Travel writers love to travel, love to experience new places and meet people.
Always remember who you are writing for and know your audience, identify with them and give them what they want. People like to feel they’ve been told something they wouldn’t know about unless they were local; they like to be able to feel like they can walk in your shoes and experience what you see, hear, smell, feel, touch and taste. Write great descriptions, be honest, find your own voice, wear comfy shoes – and have fun.
Meet our Guest Blogger!
Janine Marsh is the founder and editor of www.thegoodlifefrance.com, social media consultant, member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and the International Travel Writers Alliance.