The Truth About Freelance Travel Writing

Free journeys! Exotic vacations! Everything is paid for, and it’s first-class travel! Oh, what a writer’s life is like! All you have to do is write a few words about it, and you’ll be part of the group of spoiled travel writers who love their jobs.

Oh, yeah. First, you have to pay for a course that will teach you how to get all the free trips that travel companies are dying to give you.


This was the main point of a pitch I recently got to sign up for a course on how to become a travel writer. I didn’t pay the $300 to find out if the course was good or not, but the pitch bothers me.


I’ve been a freelance writer for a long time, and most of what I write is about travel. I feel like I have to bust some travel writing myths or explain them.


Questions and Answers About Freelance Travel Writing


Do people offer you all kinds of trips for free? Yes. But keep in mind that I’ve been writing well for more than 30 years. Public relations people for travel destinations, outfitters, and adventure-travel companies know me and know that if I go on a trip, it’s likely to be written up in a major national magazine.


Can anyone join the party? No. “Writers on assignment” get to go on most trips. The people in charge of public relations who set up the trip want to know who you write for and often ask for proof. Most of the time, they want firm newspaper or magazine jobs, not jobs from blogs or websites. They want to know what you’ve done in the past, and they try to avoid writers who are known as “trip grubbers.”


Do any of these free trips interest you? Occasionally.


Dirty little secret: There aren’t many magazines or newspapers that can pay writers’ costs. You’re all by yourself. Most of the time, the only way to write about a great place is if someone else pays for the trip.


Because Dirty Little Secret No. 2 is that the money you get for writing won’t pay for the trip. You won’t even break even.


So you get to go on cool paid trips? These are nothing like time off! I work, but I get to go to some amazing places. I’m making notes, taking pictures, doing interviews, and moving three times as fast as a normal traveler so I can see as much as possible and get a full picture of the place in a short amount of time.


And then the magazines pay you? Yes. If I tell a good story, that is. It’s wonderful.


But here’s Dirty Little Secret No. 3: My fee doesn’t always cover my time on the road, even if my expenses are covered.


So how does a freelance writer make money? That’s what my book, Write Where the Money Is, is all about. It is certainly possible. But it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and knowing a lot of tricks of the trade.


It’s easier if you don’t depend on your writing income as your main source of income. And, to be honest, it’s easier almost everywhere else but travel writing.


Be wary of programs that say you can become a travel writer and live a cool life. Don’t think that the beach is all mai tais. You should become a travel writer to make money as a freelance writer, not to get free trips.




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