Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Successful Travel Writer/Photographer?
Sometimes I think what our readers need isn’t more insider know-how or additional insights from the experts. I think what you really need is a little good-natured shove in the right direction.
Jen Stevens, author of our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program calls it “learning by example.” Train one person to do something right, and others will follow the lead. (It’s a bit like “show, don’t tell.”) Instead of just telling somebody what to do to get an article published or a photo sold, show them how somebody else has done it. Make a good example of somebody, in other words.
I do think there’s something to that. I know when I profile here in our e-letter a reader who’s just had some success, in the days and weeks that follow I receive even more good news than usual from other readers.
So, in the interest of starting a chain reaction here, I’ve got several success stories to share with you today.
Before I do, though, I want to tell you what I see as the most important message these stories offer, and that is: Just get started. Take a step — no matter how tiny. Create for yourself a little momentum.
Often, simply starting out small — getting a by-line in a local paper or on a non-paying website — is just the impetus you need to land bigger, better-paying assignments. And you may discover that trying your hand at a photo contest (you might just win) provides just the confidence you need to start selling your photos.
I’ve heard from a whole slew of successful folks this month. Here are just a few of their stories — I hope you’ll find in them a bit of inspiration.
Fellow reader Helen Quinn wrote to say that she entered a few of her photographs from a recent trip to the Netherlands in a contest at her local county fair. And she won first place. She writes…
“I’m not very far along in the photography program, but already I have learned a lot about composition and content. I have 400+ photos from this trip, and the program taught me how to select photos for specific purposes. I have a Sony Cybershot 5 megapixel camera, and until I enrolled in the course, had no idea what the camera could do – “of course” I hadn’t read the instructions!!! Hoping to do better in the future (i.e $$$$).” — Helen Quinn
Let that be inspiration to you if you’re armed with a simple point-and-shoot camera. You have no excuse not to get out there and start snapping salable photos. You don’t need a $1,000 piece of equipment to do it. Our workshop attendees and Turn Your Pictures Into Cash program members are proof positive of that.
Another reader, Kelly Schierman, also wrote this month to say that she got her first article published in a non-paying publication and then used that to land two paying assignments elsewhere.
She writes, “… 3 years (and 2 children) ago, I signed up for the Great Escape Publishing Travel Writer’s program. Two moves and 2 kids later, I’m still working through it, but I LOVE IT! It’s given me the confidence and organizational skills I need to pursue a long-time dream (which also dovetails nicely with my primary job as a stay-at-home mom and my secondary job as a wife following husband around the world). My thanks to Great Escape Publishing for doing what I’ve never seen done anywhere else: giving budding writers the toolkit and encouragement they need to get started.” — Kelly Schierman
Kelly’s first piece was published by Journeybeyondtravel.com – a non-paying web publication. If you’re just starting out, publications like this are a great foot in the door. Tomorrow I’ll send you details from another web publication looking for new material (it pays).
Sheila Fox Tanksley contacted us, too, to let us know about her first success…
“I’m a fairly new member of the Turn Your Pictures into Cash program and I’m very excited. At the end of last March and beginning of April, my 16- year-old daughter and I went to Romania with an outreach group to work with abandoned babies and toddlers at a state-run hospital in Bucharest. It was my first time outside the U.S.
“Not only did we encounter a whole new culture and people, we broadened our personal horizons. I took over 3,000 photographs! [What’s more]… my local newspaper has a travel column they call ‘Where I’ve Been’. They invite anyone who has a favorite vacation photo to send it in with a brief description of their visit and what made it memorable.
“I sent in mine and it is slated to be published August 20. This small accomplishment feels really big and fuels my enthusiasm.”
Congratulations to all three of these enthusiastic readers. I hope you’ll find in their stories the inspiration you need to get out there over the 4th of July holiday and snap some pictures or write an article (or both).
Let me know if you do. As I said earlier, success seems to breed success. Not only does one by-line lead to another, but just hearing about other people’s good news tends to inspire copy-cats.
That said, is enthusiasm enough? Do you really have what it takes to make it in this business? I’m willing to bet you do. But you can find out for sure, below. You’ll find there a quiz that tests your suitability as a travel writer or photographer.
As always… keep me up-to-speed on your travel-writing or photography success. If you have a story to share, send me a quick note at email@example.com.
Have a great week,
Director, Great Escape Publishing
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]
REALITY CHECK: DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL TRAVEL WRITER/PHOTOGRAPHER
By freelance writer Jennifer Stevens in Colorado Springs, CO
You don’t need the literary flair of Frances Mayes to be a successful travel writer. (I’m not saying it wouldn’t help — I’m just saying it isn’t necessary.)
And you don’t need a degree in photography to take beautiful pictures and sell them. (Again, it won’t hurt your chances, but it’s no prescription for success.)
What you do need to make it in this business, however, are a few important traits and a handful of proven techniques — all of which you can learn with a little effort.
Do you have what it takes? Let’s find out. Answer “yes” or “no” to each of the questions below:
1. Are you interested in exploring new places and discovering the ways they’re different from your home? You’ll have more success — and, indeed, a more enjoyable travel experience — if you don’t always try to get things done “The Texas Way.” Instead, are you ready to take pleasure (and find humor) in discovering what makes every place unique?
2. Do you enjoy meeting new people?
3. Are you opinionated? In other words, are you able to articulate why, specifically, you think one place or experience is superior or inferior to another?
4. Are you persuasive? You’ll need to sell yourself, your ideas, your articles, your photos. You need to be able to line up in your own mind — and in the mind of your buyers — the reasons why they will benefit from what you’re offering.
5. Are you observant? Do you pay attention as you travel to what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste around you? (Or are you willing to learn and hone this skill?)
6. Are you willing — indeed, even eager — to travel on your own (or with friends and family) without relying on a pre-packaged trip or tour? Are you willing to make your own travel arrangements and even play some of your travel “by ear,” perhaps forgoing reservations occasionally so you stumble upon lesser-known villages, cities, hotels, restaurants, shops, markets and such as you discover a destination?
7. Are you polite? Believe it or not, a certain measure of success as a travel writer or photographer is due to common courtesy. The more pleasant and easy you are to work with, the faster and more regularly you’ll land by-lines and perks, the more welcoming people will be when you get your camera out.
8. Are you willing to read and do research? You needn’t learn everything there is to know about a destination before you write about it or photograph it, but you do need to give yourself some context in which to place your own observations. And you’ll want to make sure your time on the ground in a place is well-spent. So a bit of research ahead of time — online, in the library, and through personal contacts — can help enormously.
9. Are you willing to carve out some time each day — or every few days — to focus on this endeavor? If you want to be a travel writer, you need to make the time to write. If you want to be a photographer, you need to go out and take pictures.
10. Are you able to follow directions? For example, the writers who do what a publication’s Writer’s Guidelines suggest find more success, faster, than those who do not. So even though you might have a full-length article in mind, if the guidelines say, “Start by submitting a short piece for our ‘Postcards’ section,” are you ready and willing to do that? The same holds true when it comes to selling photos — are you ready to follow the submission guidelines?
11. Do you have a computer and Internet access? You don’t necessarily need a laptop. Nor do you need the fastest, most high-powered machine out there. But in this day and age, you do need a computer, and you need to be connected online.
12. Do you subscribe to at least three travel-related publications and read at least one travel article a week? Do you study the photos in those publications to notice what traits they include — does a particular publication like people in their photos, or is there always a food shot, etc.,
How many “yes” answers do you have?
How many “no” answers do you have?
The more yes’s you have, the more success you’re likely to enjoy as a travel writer or photographer.
That said, any “no” you may have listed certainly indicates an obstacle you can overcome if you’re willing to try.