When I first started out as a freelance writer, in the fall of 2007, I never would have thought I’d get more than 1,000 articles published in my first decade. Ninety percent of my work is published in paying print media. And the concept that I would see my stories published in more than 200 different regional, national, and international magazines, specialty magazines, custom publications, newspapers, trade journals, in-flights, on-boards—plus a few online travel magazines and blogs—would have been beyond my belief.
A lot of this success is because I had the sense to write in multiple genres, instead of being a “one-note” writer. My specialty is getting travel stories published in non-travel magazines—something that doesn’t seem to have occurred to most other travel writers. My “alternative travel” genres include communications, military history, art & sculpture, and classic cars.
But, I also had articles published in running, triathlon, and fitness and health magazines (I was an exercise physiologist before I switched to freelancing). I believe in diversification in this fluid age of freelance writing, so that if one genre takes a hit, you still have plenty of other options and topics to write about. As it turns out, I’m now regarded as one of the most prolific and diverse travel writers in North America. Who’d a thunk it?
How did I achieve these successes?
Fortunately, I cottoned on to the importance of selling and marketing, pretty quickly. I discovered that selling and marketing freelance articles is just as important as my writing skills. In fact, it’s all about selling! After all, if you can’t sell your stories, you don’t get to write them.
Here are a few other things I’ve learned along my freelance writing journey that have helped boost my writing career:
I Created a Writer’s Website
Once my website was online, towards the end of my second year, I noticed a surge in interest from magazine editors. Some editors even found me through my writer’s website and gave me paying assignments! Get your writer’s website online in your first year, once you’ve built up a few bylines!
I Focused More on Better Paying Magazines
It turns out that I had good enough writing skills to eventually get my stories published in some top-shelfers. I, somehow, got my work in the Open Skies in-flight, Scotland Magazine, Men’s Fitness, American Cowboy, Australia & New Zealand Magazine, Britain Magazine, and a bunch of other $1/word glossies. In freelance writing, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. I lacked confidence in my early writing days to pitch the biggies—but I got over it. All I had to do was try! I got some rejections from the top shelf magazines, but scored enough premier assignments to encourage me to stay with it.
I Got Rid of Deadbeat Editors
I got stiffed by a couple of editors in my first few years. Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize telltale signs of sleazy editors. The best advice I can give you is to ditch the dodgy editors the moment those alarm bells start ringing in your head. Don’t bother giving them the benefit of the doubt, hoping things will get better. They won’t. You’ll save a lot of time and emotional energy if you just kiss them off and move on.
Get on Social Media Sooner
Why did I resist the awesome power of the social media gods for so long? I was a complete unbeliever in utilizing social media as part of my marketing platform. I didn’t even start Facebooking until December 2014! However, my view of social media turned about 180 degrees, as I recognized the exposure it gave me—and it’s free! Get with your social media program! It may not bring you in many writing assignments, but it will sure help your credibility. And while you’re at it, get more stuff on Pinterest, Google Plus, and Instagram. There’s a whole social media world out there, just waiting for you to exploit.
My Final Advice
Don’t expect overnight success. It can take a few years to build your bylines and break into travel writing. But once you’re there—in the rarefied atmosphere of exotic resorts, international travel, press trips, personal guided tours, spa treatments, and over-the-top cuisine and dining—it’s a sweet number!
I still find it staggering how far I’ve come in freelance travel writing. But I’ve worked hard for my successes. Freelance writing is portable, so I can do it from anywhere. We’ve just spent 9 months living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I’ve been learning from some of the world’s top digital nomads. I write this from Da Nang, Vietnam, where I currently live. After this, next stop Bali!
Today, I’m invited to speak on marketing at travel writing conferences and workshops, and have published seven eBooks on selling and marketing your freelance travel articles. I operate a personalized coaching business for novice travel writers, and so far, every one of my 60+ novice writers has been published in print or online media, and many have scored cool press trips using their assignments as collateral.
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Roy Stevenson offers Travel Writing & Marketing Master Classes in S.E. Asia (Siem Reap, Cambodia—October 2017) and in Seattle (April, 2018). Roy produces a free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers. It’s considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business. Subscribe HERE.
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The Complete Guide to Query Letters for Travel Writers by Roy Stevenson