Three years ago, I started my freelance travel writing career by writing for any magazine that would take my work. It didn’t matter if it paid well or not—I just wanted bylines.
I was thrilled to write a piece for Mid-Columbian Magazine, a quality, glossy Central Washington Travel/Lifestyle magazine with a circulation of 42,000 throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada. The first story I submitted paid $145.
Some time later, I got a call from the editor, desperately seeking a writer to do a piece about a wedding destination resort on San Juan Island for the upcoming wedding issue. He only had a few days before the magazine went to press, so I had three days to visit the resort, take the photos, and write the story. Because of the rush, the editor agreed to pay $500 for the short turnaround.
I also told the editor that I could do a nice destination story about Three Days in Champagne that would tie in well with the wedding theme. He went for it, and I cranked it out overnight, so I ended up with two stories in the wedding issue. Bonus!
I then went on to do seven more travel articles for this magazine, including one issue that had four of my stories in it.
The total income from my Mid-Columbian stories was over $3,000, a nice windfall that got started by helping an editor out of a tight spot.
I learned several lessons from this.
First, when an editor calls and asks you to do a story, always say “yes.”
Second, I’d say the most important thing you can do to get repeat business is to establish a solid relationship with the editor. You need to prove yourself to him by submitting quality copy on time, with little editing required.
If you do this, you’ll soon become one of the “chosen ones.”
After that, keep hitting him with story ideas.
I’ve worked these relationships to the hilt, to the stage where, with some editors, I simply send lists of story titles with a sentence or two about the topic—no more standard query letters needed!
This is every freelance writer’s dream. I’ve even pitched stories that an editor has previously rejected, and had them accepted, after I’ve established a rapport with the editor.
Of course, there are a few other tricks to working with travel editors that you should know…
When I took the wedding resort assignment with the editor, I demonstrated flexibility to him. Likewise, if an editor asks you to chop your story down a few hundred words or to add sidebars, do it immediately, and do it well. If you’re behind schedule with a story, let the editor know. I once scored a cover feature story because another writer had not bothered to tell the editor that his story would be late.
Most editors like to have a regular stable of writers that they can count on when they are desperate for stories and trying to meet deadlines. Become one of them. That’s my advice.
[Ed. Note: “Sure,” you say. “That’s easy enough for Roy to say he turned a $145 assignment into $3,000 worth of work by being responsible and flexible. But how do I get my first $145 assignment?”
Have no fear. I’ll send you another reader’s story tomorrow on how to do just that.
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.]