How Much Can You Really Earn As a Travel Writer/Photographer?
By freelance travel writer, guidebook author, and photographer, B. Howard in Cleveland, TN.
“How much can you really earn as a travel writer/photographer?”
You know, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I wouldn’t have to work at all…
To tell the truth, however, I have no straightforward answer. How much you can earn as either a travel writer or a photographer (or both) depends on several things…
First, you have to decide what it is you want to be: a travel writer, a photographer, or someone who combines the two.
I, for instance, write travel articles and travel guidebooks (that makes me a travel writer). I shoot photographs for a major New York stock agency, only a fraction of which are travel-related (that makes me a photographer). And I shoot travel photographs to accompany my articles and guidebooks (that makes me a travel-writing photographer).
As a travel writer, I have more than 600 magazine and newspaper articles to my credit. I also have 13 travel guidebooks under my belt, 29 editions, in fact. This year I’m updating my Adventure Guide to the Bahamas (you might remember that we took twenty some readers down to the Bahamas this past November to help me tackle the task). And in 2006 we’ll do the same for my Adventure Guide to Bermuda.
When it comes to compensation, I get paid for every article or book that I write. And I get royalties (or resell fees) every time I update or resell my writing. As a stock photographer, I receive royalties each time my New York agency sells one of my photos.
And as a travel-writing photographer, I shoot the images that illustrate my books and articles. The photographs I shoot while traveling have more than tripled my writing income — because without them I would not have sold the numbers of books and articles that I have. You might remember that I got the cover photograph and cover story for the December 2005 issue of PHOTOgraphic Magazine, for instance. I never would have landed that article were it not for the photos, which really defined it.
All that said, back to the question at hand: How much can you make as a travel writer or a photographer? Let me answer it this way:
As a straight travel writer, I would guess that it’d be difficult to make a six-figure income. I’m sure there are people out there that do it, but the odds against it are probably like that of winning the lottery.
People don’t become travel writers for the paychecks. They become travel writers for the perks and the ability to turn their travels into a second income stream. Some just love to travel and this gives them a way to do it for next to nothing in terms of expenses. As a travel writer alone, a dedicated individual can, without doubt, earn $30,000 to $50,000 a year.
As a photographer – stock or travel – again, the odds of bringing home six figures a year are slim. I’m sure there are people out there only too willing to prove me wrong. But to build a stock-photo library that would bring you a steady $100,000 annual income, you’d need at least 100,000 photographs, and that would take you at least a decade to amass.
Now, with our photography program and workshops (see our website: www.thephotographerslife.com), we teach you how to turn your pictures into cash, fast. We show you how to create a second income with your photos, even how to use your photos to turn a profit on your vacations. I think it’s safe to say, you could certainly earn $40,000 to $60,000 a year doing photography alone.
The good news is: If you marry the two careers — writing and photography — it really is quite possible to make a six-figure income.
Take, for instance, my much-vaunted trip to England. In less than 10 days I made more than $12,600. Now, you only have to do that once every two months — six times a year — and you have an income in excess of $75,000. And you’d still have plenty of time to write other articles and sell other pictures — certainly enough to bring in an additional $25,000 — which would land you in the six-figure income bracket.
That said, I should offer a quick reality-check.
Keep in mind that working as a freelance writer and photographer means being self-employed. And that means that if you want to ensure yourself a steady living, you have to be a self-starter. You must be able to work on your own without supervision. You have to be self-disciplined and work even when you don’t feel like it. And you have to understand that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid at all.
Now, in my view, the plusses far outweigh those caveats. You get to work for yourself. You make your own hours. You can live anywhere in the world you want. You gain a measure of freedom you’d probably never achieve in the “working world.”
To be sure, the amount you earn will depend entirely on how badly you want to succeed and on your ability to persevere, year in and year out. I acknowledge: In the early days, it can be tough to land assignments and to build up a library of excellent photos.
But face it: all high-paying jobs are tough in the beginning. Nobody walks into a six-figure income without paying some dues. And in most cases, it would take a college degree, 10 years on the job, and half-a-dozen promotions before you’d earn that kind of cash.
Not so in this field. As a full-time freelance writer and photographer, you can certainly earn a six-figure income working for yourself. And you benefit from all the perks that go along with the job, too.
[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.]