Dreaming of becoming a travel writer someday?
When I first started writing on the Internet back in 2013, I had no idea what I was doing and certainly wasn’t making any money.
Yet, over time, as I built my portfolio and refined my chops, I began to get paid travel writing gigs.
It was a slow burn, but I learned a lot about what it takes to be a freelance travel writer in the process.
Building a travel writer career is a dream job for many, one that is absolutely attainable if you have the right personality, a varied skillset, and a good deal of perseverance (and, no, you don’t need to start a travel blog to make money as a writer).
To help you avoid some of my mistakes, here’s what this guide will cover:
- Should you become a travel writer?
- How to become a travel writer as a beginner
- The 3 best places to find travel writing gigs
- 5 tips for getting started
- How much travel writers get paid
Whew that’s a lot! So maybe you should hit that bookmark button so you can come back here later.
Alright, let’s dig in …
If you’re looking for travel writing gigs, you might be a good candidate for a freelance gig with Travel Lemming. Check here to see if we’re hiring now.
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Should You Become a Travel Writer?
You love to travel, you find yourself getting the best deals abroad, and you dream of living a digital nomad lifestyle, but are you a good fit for having a freelance travel writer career?
Travel writing is so much more than spitting out a few sentences after you’ve visited a destination.
To be a great travel writer, you’ll need to possess a few key personality traits.
Travel Writer Trait #1 – A Keen Sense of Observation
You can travel your heart out, but unless you have the powers of observation to write about it later, then you’ll probably have a tough time as a travel writer.
To report on a destination, you’ll need to take a deep dive into what makes that place tick.
Depending on the type of content you produce, you’ll need to understand the culture of a destination, the top things to do, the history of a destination, and the logistics of getting around.
Travel Writer Trait #2 – Excellent Language Skills
Let’s get down to brass tacks here – in order to be a travel writer, you’ll need to have a pretty good grasp on how to write.
You’ll need to understand grammar, syntax, tenses, and how to be succinct and precise. You’ll want to show, not tell, the reader what they’re reading.
That said, in most forms of travel writing, it’s important to remember that you’re not writing a term paper.
Conversational language usually wins, whether it’s long-form essays, novels, website copy, travel guides, or blog posts.
No matter what you write, your goal is to keep the reader on the page. Leave the technical jargon and cliché’s at home and use as much common language as possible.
Travel Writer Trait #3 – Technically Minded (Somewhat)
In this day and age, if you plan on being a travel writer then an understanding of the Internet is essential.
Gone are the days (or quickly receding are the days) where you could expect to get published as a columnist in a physical magazine.
Today, most travel writing comes in the form of online work.
This means that you’ll need to understand search engines and search engine optimization, digital writing techniques, how to effectively use social media, and how to use popular website platforms.
Travel Writer Trait #4 – Self-Motivated
If you plan on having a travel writer career, then you’ll need to possess self-motivation in spades.
Especially in the early days of your writing, there will be nobody knocking on your door to make sure you meet your deadlines or that you regularly publish work.
My best tip for newbie travel writers is to write every single day.
It doesn’t matter how much you write, but as long as you get something on the page every day, you’ll always have content by the end of the week.
Later, if and when you start to get paid for your travel writing, being self-motivated is essential as you’ll rely on it for income, have due dates to honor, and have people to answer to.
Travel Writer Trait #5 – A Passion for Storytelling
Unless you hustle your butt off and win the publishing lottery, chances are you won’t be making much money for at least the first couple of years of content creation.
What’s going to make you stand out from the heaps of failed travel writers all around you is, you guessed it, passion and perseverance.
If you want to be a travel writer, you need to have a passion for travel writing. It’s as simple as that.
Ask yourself this: even if you didn’t get paid to be a freelance travel writer, would you still do it anyway?
If the answer is yes, then a travel writing career is for you. If not, then reassess your goals.
How to Get Started as a Travel Writer
So, now you’ve decided you want to have a travel writer career, how exactly do you go about getting started?
Step #1 – Build a Travel Writing Portfolio
The first step in getting started as a professional travel writer is to build a writing portfolio.
Your writing portfolio should be easily accessible online and will act a record of all of your travel writing work.
These days, portfolios usually come in the form of travel blogs, but as long as you have a place where you can put your work online, you’re off to a great start.
To build your portfolio, pick a niche (whether that’s luxury travel, adventure travel, long-form stories, budget travel, etc.) and publish them regularly.
It’s only with regularity and building your portfolio that people will want to tune into your work and follow you as a writer.
Additionally, make sure you have a page in your portfolio for any guest posting and additional travel writer gigs you do.
List all the publications you’ve written for, and link directly to your articles.
Struggling to choose the perfect blog or portfolio name? Then check out this guide to picking the best travel blog name!
Step #2 – Define Your Voice
When you start to write, chances are you’ll start off kind of shaky and without direction.
However, over time you’ll realize that you’ll begin to define your writing voice.
Your voice includes your tone, the subjects you write about, how you write, and the style of your posts.
Voice is something that will come in time as you learn more about your writing style and habits.
That said, your voice will eventually become your brand and your readers will expect that voice with every post.
Step #3 – Read Everything
I believe it was Stephen King who said that if you want to be a writer, then read as much as you can.
I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s true – if you want to be the best travel writer you can be, then get a lay of the land.
Start reading articles of all kinds, whether that be editorials, long-form storytelling, guides, hotel reviews, or short copy. Read about travel, and read about other things.
As you read, take note of the writing style, how the author crafted their story, how they relayed information, and what outline they used.
Basically, in order to become the best travel writer you can be, subject yourself to as much writing as possible.
Step #4 – Build an Online Presence as a Travel Writer
Now that you’ve got a few articles under your belt, it’s time to start building an online presence.
Your online presence is essentially free marketing that will help get your name out there and build a network.
To do this, register for social media accounts under your name or brand, and routinely showcase your work on them.
Engage with other people in the travel sphere as well as those who travel regularly.
Reply to the comments you get, ask questions of your followers, and use the same voice on your social media that you do in your writing.
Step #5 – Invest in Travel Writer Tools
I find that one of the most common misconceptions of travel writing is that all you need is an Internet connection to be a paid travel writer.
While this is partly true (you definitely do need an Internet connection!), you’ll also need to invest in yourself and your business. A travel writing course is a great place to start.
You’ll also need some equipment.
I recommend investing in a good quality camera so you can start to refine your photography skills. The Canon Powershot is a solid but super-affordable option if you’re on a budget.
Smaller publications that hire you will be looking for a writer/photographer package deal.
Not to mention, so much of travel blogging is inherently visual.
Step #6 – Build a Network
While so much of writing is a solitary activity, don’t underestimate the power of networking early on in your travel writing career.
To do this, go to conferences that are both inside and outside the travel industry.
Some of the most popular travel blogging conferences today are TravelCon, Traverse, WITS (Women in Travel Summit), TBEX, and Travel Media Showcase.
Get to meet people, give them your business card, and follow and engage with them online.
Eventually, once you build up your portfolio, you’re going to turn to this network to find gigs or ask for advice.
Where to Find Travel Writing Gigs
So now that you’ve built up a portfolio and social media presence, where do you go to find full-time travel writer gigs?
Lucky for you, there are a few places:
Travel Writing Job Site #1 – Flexjobs
Flexjobs is an excellent resource for digital nomads.
Using a paid subscription service, Flexjobs will match you with jobs that you’re qualified for – all of which exist online as virtual positions.
To be honest, when I first signed up to Flexjobs, I wasn’t sure it was worth the money.
Then, when I saw their job matching model, their courses, and their resume tips and tricks, I knew that the website would be a good investment.
For a small fee, you get access to all kinds of virtual gigs, and you can cancel anytime.
Click here to sign up for Flexjobs and enter code SAVE30 to get a discount!
Travel Writing Job Site #2 – Social Media Groups
Social media groups, specifically on Facebook, are awesome places to find full-time travel writer jobs.
I recommend joining a few freelancer groups, blogging groups, and travel groups.
Post relevant questions, observations, and advice in these groups and, if the group rules allow, let the group know that you’re looking for travel writing opportunities.
Additionally, keep an eye on people posting ads for travel writers, or for writers in an adjacent field.
Apply to as many wanted ads as you can — you never know when you’ll get a yes.
Travel Writer Job Site #3 – Opportunity Boards
When you join travel blogging or travel writing courses, chances are you’ll have access to an opportunity board as part of the fee. Check these opportunity boards often, as people will often post ads looking for guest posts or paid writing gigs.
5 Tips for Becoming a Travel Writer
Tip #1 – Start Your Own Travel Blog
As mentioned above, starting a travel blog isn’t required to land a freelance travel writing job. But it definitely is an excellent way to build a portfolio.
Not only do travel blogs help your content get views through search engine optimization, writing on your own platform will hone your chops as a travel writer.
If you stick with your blog long enough, it will show that you are self-motivated, passionate, skilled, and are serious about a long-term travel writing career.
If you’re interested in starting a travel blog, then read these crucial travel blogging for beginners tips and tricks to help you succeed in the current blogging climate.
Tip #2 – Be Original in Your Travel Writing
In addition to developing your own voice, create content that is original to you.
In the content you create for yourself, find a niche and write articles that fit that niche.
It’s also important to find unique angles for your content.
Chances are, your article on the top things to do in Paris isn’t going to make the first page of Google, but if you write about a specific subject in Paris, or find a new angle, you could attract readers that wouldn’t have found you otherwise.
Tip #3 – Travel Often!
It seems obvious, but if you truly want to get a travel writer job, then you gotta travel!
While you do this, don’t just sit on a beach and work on your tan — get outside of your comfort zone, experience things you know would make great content, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes or get a little messy.
And keep in mind, if you want a travel writing career, then it’s also important to not only travel to the world’s most popular destinations.
As travel writers, our goal is to influence people to travel, and it’s essential that we help them to do that ethically and sustainably.
If you’re wondering where you can travel that is still mostly under the radar, then check out this list of 30 emerging destinations!
Tip #4 – Learn How to Pitch Editors
If you want to get the best travel writing jobs, then knowing how to pitch editors is essential.
The act of pitching is when you think of an original topic, craft an awesome e-mail detailing the topic, and explain why you’re the best person to write that article.
Some key components to a great pitch include:
- A Strong Introduction – Start out by introducing yourself. Tell the publication who you are and how much you’ve traveled, but keep the tone conversational. Be sure to include why you’re a great fit for their publication (and do your research!)
- Your Idea – Place your idea near the top of the e-mail — keep it succinct and explanatory.
- Your Accolades – In this section, include any notable publications that have previously published your work, how many years you’ve been writing for, and any awards you’ve won.
- Writing Samples – Near the bottom, include links that will take the publication straight to your writing portfolio and to some key writing samples. If you prefer, you can also attach your writing samples to the email via a word document.
Tip #5 – Say Yes to Every Opportunity
When you’re first starting out as a travel writer, there is no travel writing gig too small.
Maybe you get an offer to publish your work on someone else’s fledgling blog, or someone asks you to contribute to a compilation piece.
Do yourself a favor and seize every opportunity to get your name out there.
A track record of your writing will be essential in building your travel writing career.
Types of Travel Writing Gigs
When you begin the search for travel writing jobs, you’ll notice that there are endless types of gigs.
To help categorize them, here are some of the main travel writer job types:
- Destination Articles – The bulk of many a travel blog, destination articles detail everything about a destination – from the logistics of getting there to the best places to stay. Examples include this article on The 33 Best Things to Do in Budapest and this one on Where to Stay in Penang, Malaysia.
- Feature Articles – The king of the crop, landing a feature article in a major travel publication is a major goal for any travel writer. This is the lead story of a magazine issue and generally focuses on an event or destination in detail.
- Website Copy – Have you ever looked at a travel website and wonder who comes up with the short lines of copy beneath the destination headings? Well, if you’re hired as a travel website copywriter, that would be you.
- Story-Based Blog Posts – Not all articles detail where to go and what to do, but rather use literary techniques to explain the feeling or zeitgeist of a destination or event. If you’re at all interested in creative writing, then this could be a path for you.
- Press Releases – While not always available to the public, major travel companies send out press releases to the media every time they have a bit of news. These press releases detail the who, what, where, when, why, and how of an event.
- Social Media – It seems like everyone and their dog is a “social media guru” these days. However, if you know how to craft a short blog post in the form of an Instagram or Facebook caption, then a job as a social media manager at a travel company may be for you.
How much do travel writers make?
Ah, the mother of all travel writing questions.
How much money will you make as a freelance travel writer?
And, just like all of life’s big questions, there is really no clear-cut answer.
It’s more or less a sliding scale.
How much you’ll make as a freelance travel writer will depend on how many years of experience you have under your belt, the quality of your work, who you’re pitching to, and your reputation in the travel writing industry.
Because let’s face it, if someone recognizes your name as a travel writer, chances are they’re going to pay you more than they would a nobody. This goes for full-time travel writing jobs too.
If you’re just starting out as a freelance travel writer, then my advice is to pick a price that values your work, but won’t scare off potential publishers.
Chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to drastically undervalue your work until you learn not to.
But, in time, I started making more money as I learned what my work was worth, and you will too.
If anything, aim high in your price and negotiate down.
That’s it for our guide on how to build a travel writer career!
Travel writing is an incredibly rewarding field that offers endless opportunities for growth and adventure.
For more ideas on how to carve out a career as a digital nomad, check out these other articles on the subject: