Before I got my first story published, travel writers seemed like a special, elite club that I would never belong to. I didn’t have a degree in journalism, or ANY experience getting published.
But then I went to the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, where I met Lori and freelance travel writer and editor Jennifer Stevens. And they set me straight.
It’s easy when you know where to start they said. And they were right. I did it. And a few weeks later my first story was published in an online travel guide. (This was all before I started working here.)
Getting your first paycheck as a travel writer can be tricky if you don’t have the budget to whisk off to exotic destinations every third weekend.
So I’ll tell you what they told me when it came to landing my first byline because this advice still works for our members today…
The easiest, fastest, and most cost-effective way to begin is to start writing for local publications.
Most states and a lot of cities put out local tourism publications. They’re a great place to break into travel writing, build clips for your portfolio, and make money. I did it by writing for Oregon.com… a travel guide for anyone visiting my state. The site is full of links to hotels, attractions, travel resources, and recreation, but they also have a section called “Oregon.com presents,” with articles written by locals on things to see and do.
Here’s how I got my foot in the door — and how you can, too:
First, check to see if your state or city has a tourism site. If so, read the stories on the site to see what kind of style the editors prefer… whether or not they use sidebars… and what kinds of topics they haven’t covered, yet.
Next, find the editor’s contact information and send him or her an email introducing yourself as a travel writer and asking for writer’s guidelines. Remember, you are a travel writer — even if you’re not yet published. (Unless they ask, there’s no need to mention you’re new to the game.)
In my case, the editor wrote back with a list of topics he had in mind and asked that I write a story on a trial basis — on spec, essentially.
From his list, I picked a local market in Portland.
It was fun exploring the market — a place I’ve known since I was a kid — with writer’s eyes. I got to see and experience it anew. I also took plenty of photos — portrait and landscape. (It’s always smart to take lots of pictures so you can cull through them and offer the best ones with your story.)
Before you send in your article, check the writer’s guidelines to find out whether to attach the photos with your submission or if, instead, you should advise the editor that you have photos available.
Chances are, if you followed all the guidelines, you’re already ahead of the competition. When I included a sidebar with my article and offered photos to accompany the story, the editor was overjoyed and immediately asked me to write another piece.
With that, I got my first paid byline, and I was off and running!
[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. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]