How to Get Paid to Travel …and Write About It!

Hope everybody is having a productive start to 2016!

I know lots of people like to use January (you know, the post-holiday, winter blahs period) to put a little bright spot on the horizon, by planning a fun trip in the year ahead.

But you're more than just “lots of people” – you're budding freelance writers, and for you, travel is just another opportunity to write . . . and get paid for it!

I've been lucky enough to make a living out of travel writing for the last 15 years, and for those of you interested, I'd love to share a bit of advice on getting started.

Here are 5 simple beginner's tips for aspiring freelance travel writers:

1. Read Travel Magazines.

The best writers read—a lot. Skim through travel magazines, guidebooks, websites, and blogs to keep up-to-date on travel news and trends and to get familiarized with the style and tone of individual travel publications.

Now's the time of year when travel magazines love rolling out their “best for 2016” travel pieces, so consider planning a trip to a place that's generating a lot of buzz, where on-the-ground reporting is sure to be in high demand.

2. Start Off in Your Own Backyard. 

While it may be home to you, your hometown is an exciting new travel destination for somebody else that's planning a visit!

I'm based in NYC, and while I can't possibly be traveling all year long to generate new angles for coverage, I'm perfectly situated to write about travel news and trends right here in the New York area.

Start out by pitching stories about your own city/environs, where you're already an expert (yes, indeed: “write what you know!”). Once you've proved yourself there, it'll be easier to have editors trust you to tackle more travel assignments in faraway locales.

3. Learn Photography. 

If you're already a photography buff, great! If you're not, consider taking a course to hone your shutterbug skills.

Perhaps more so than any other writing genre, travel storytelling demands accompanying photography to help illustrate and inspire.

Magazines rarely have budgets to send both photographers and writers on assignment, so if you can do both, you'll really position yourself as having an advantage in the marketplace.

4. Nurture a Travel Writing Niche. 

Become an expert on a few choice subject matters that fall under the travel writing umbrella. Editors will accordingly begin to see you as an authority, and begin to hire you to write on those topics again and again.

For instance, my specialty travel writing topics are cruising, New York City, and ‘top 10/best of' roundup lists.

Editors know that I've delivered in these departments time and time again, and that they can count on me to cover them with an expert voice. Of course, you'll always be free to be a travel writing generalist, too, but having a few areas of expertise on a specific destination, activity, or other travel subject (history, art, food, etc.) will really help separate you from the competition.

5. Network. 

Like many things in life, who you know can make all the difference. As a travel writer, you'll want to start making connections in your industry, both online and offline.

Reach out to public relations experts within your niche target markets – if you want to write about museums, for instance, make an e-mail introduction to the publicists at the world's top museums, and asked to be added to their media distribution lists to stay-up-to-date on news and events.

Attend related conferences and press events and diligently make the rounds.

Sign up to follow relevant contacts on social media and join in as an expert voice in online conversations.

And make lots of friends! Having an in-the-know friend on the ground in a destination is a great starting point for some insider tips and advice.}

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