Travel writing is just one of the get-paid-to-travel skills we’re focusing on here at our Lucrative Traveler’s Conference in Fort Lauderdale this weekend.
But, as it happens, it’s something you don’t have to get on a plane to practice.
In fact, in today’s Free Special Report, below, freelance writer Jennifer Stevens makes the compelling argument that you’d be wise to start right there where you are — at home.
Credibility is key, she says, when you’re fishing for by-lines. And by writing articles about your own hometown you’ll gain credibility in spades (and maybe even pick up a few extra travel-writer perks along the way).
Read on below for her secrets.
Wishing you good (and profitable) travels,
Director, Great Escape Publishing
P.S. When you combine travel writing with photography and import-export, you’ll find that you’re exponentially expanding your income potential — but not your workload.
You see, the skills you employ to practice one endeavor overlap (often a lot) with the skills you need for the other two.
And so you can easily turn what might have been a one-paycheck trip into a three-paycheck bonanza. And it won’t take you three-times the work.
THE RIGHT WAY TO TRAVEL: SPECIAL REPORT
PINK RESTAURANTS, NEW TEA HOUSES, AND OTHER OFFERINGS VISITORS MISS: WHY — AND HOW — YOU SHOULD CAPITALIZE ON YOUR INSIDER STATUS
As a travel writer, you’re trained to: perfect the skills of observation and research you need to arrive in a destination… do your best to experience it fully… and formulate a story (or maybe two or three or four stories) from every trip.
Yet you know, no matter how thorough your research ahead of time, no matter how many locals you speak with, no matter how much time you spend on the ground… you’re probably not going to experience everything there is to see and do in that place.
And that’s fine.
You’re not writing stories for every reader of every travel publication. You’re writing for a specific audience. And your experience and perspective, in any event, is going to be different than that of another writer passing through.
That’s the way it works. That’s why magazines can publish so many stories about Paris each year — because every writer finds something new and different to say (or strives to at any rate).
Nevertheless, editors like stories from writers based in the place they’re writing about. Because no matter how good a job you do when you’re visiting a destination, when you’re a local, you just know more.
For instance, you know that the bright-pink Mexican restaurant out on North Nevada Ave. looks like one of those places you’d do best to steer clear of, but that, in fact, the food is authentic, excellent, and nearly free. You know that because you live there.
The likelihood of a travel writer, on the other hand, mentioning this place in an article is pretty much nil. They’d probably drive right by. Nothing about the place’s exterior would lead a visitor to think the food would be good, let alone good enough to include in a travel article.
So this puts you — as a writer writing about where you live (and places close to you) — in a powerful position. You have insider information. That gives you at least a veneer of credibility that a “passing-through” writer can’t really claim.
You should capitalize on that fact.
You’ll sell more articles. And with more articles under your belt, you’ll be in a stronger position to land more of those great perks available to established writers, like all-expenses-paid press trips.
Think about it: When you read a travel article about Granada, Nicaragua, say, which recommends a certain restaurant or a certain hotel, and it’s written by somebody whose bio at the end reads: “Jane Smith has spent the last five summers living and teaching in Granada, Nicaragua.” Well, then, you figure the woman knows what she’s talking about. As a reader, you give the recommendations in that story a little extra weight. You may do so subconsciously, but I’m willing to bet you do it.
And the thing is: Before you, the reader, awarded a couple of extra credibility points to that story… the editor did. In other words, the editor picked that story — in part, anyway — for its credibility. The editor knows her readers will have that positive reaction. And credibility helps sell publications.
I know in the years when I sat behind the editor’s desk at International Living, I was thrilled to have Steenie Harvey writing for me from Ireland about Ireland. It’s not that I couldn’t have sent a competent writer there to cover stories. It’s just that I had the sense that with a local doing the job, the articles I’d get would have more depth and, thus, more credibility.
And I knew that my readers relied on my publication for cutting-edge, credible reporting of opportunities they’d never read about anyplace else. So Steenie’s “local” stature was important to me.
And your “local” stature will be important to editors, too.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT. HOW?
When you’re pitching a story to an editor, you should say in your query that you’ve lived in your town for the past 15 years (if that’s the case). Stress the credibility that gives you. If you know of three great restaurants rarely featured in travel articles (all neighborhood joints with character), then say as much.
What’s more, if you can make your article timely or particularly current (by writing about the next, up-and-coming neighborhood or by recommending new shops, activities, museums, restaurants, festivals, and so on) you’ll give your story a few more bonus points in an editor’s eyes as well. That’s because editors are always looking for what’s hot and what’s new and love to profile it before other publications do.
And, of course, knowing what’s new is always easier for a local. As one, you’re in a position to learn about new offerings even before they happen. So when you see that somebody’s sprucing up that long-abandoned storefront, stop and ask what’s going in.
When three of your friends tell you that the new tea house over on Colorado Ave. is definitely worth a visit, then swing by one afternoon and check it out for yourself. As a local, you can have your ear to the ground constantly. As a passing-through travel writer, you just can’t.
By actively capitalizing on your insider status, you can create for yourself not just a veneer of credibility, but a position as a real authority on your own hometown.
That has its benefits as well. There’s a certain “quasi-celebrity” status that sticks to a local writer. That’s sort of fun.
Plus, when you write often enough about your hometown, you’ll find that editors take notice.
More than once when I was at the helm of International Living I had editors of other publications call me and ask, for instance, “Do you have an Ireland freelancer you’d recommend?” Or “I see from your past issues that you use this Steenie Harvey person for your Ireland coverage. I’m looking for somebody to do a guidebook for me. Do you think I should talk to her?”
Of course, without hesitation, I’d recommend Steenie. I knew she knew the country inside and out. (And, of course, it didn’t hurt a bit that she was easy to work with, always met her deadlines, and wrote like a dream.)
But my point here is that by writing about your own hometown, by becoming a go-to writer in your community, you position yourself for all sorts of other opportunities you may never have even dreamed about.
[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.]