Before we can do the very important and difficult work of planning the steps you need to take to reach your big, beautiful, well-paid travel writing goals next year, we need to know where you are now and how you got there.

For some of you, it may feel like a reckoning of sorts. For others, it may be pleasantly surprising.

Facts and Figures To Compile to Begin Your Annual Travel Writing Review

  1. Total number of assignments completed – by the term assignment here, pay is implied. You can measure these in blog posts, copy pages, articles or a mix of these and whatever other formats make sense for you.
  2. Total number of PAID words written – this (and also the above, but that one a bit less so) are more vanity and self-assurance for most people than a number we want to look ago actively change. But if you think that you have been writing frequently for pay and you’ve actually been writing frequently for free—on your own blog or those of others—this can also be eye opening. If you’re not travel writing full-time yet, I recommend you also total up the number of UNPAID words you’ve written for publication this year in order to see the contrast
  3. Total income – across all writing formats and clients before any expenses
  4. Average income per piece by format – the number number of assignments of each type from number one Divide the total income from the assignments in each format type you identified in number one and divide by the total number of assignments completed of that type.
  5. Average income per piece per client – divide the total income from each client by the number of assignments completed for that client (I would suggest only using recurring ones or ones that are new that you plan to or at least hope to continue working with)

The task of collecting this information is onerous if you leave it all to the end of the year. I should know. I have done it (many times) with my expenses by also with my earnings (once, and I still don’t know why).

To make these reviews easier and make sure I’m always getting paid, I keep a very simple spreadsheet that lists every piece of paid work I am going to be (or expecting to if it’s quite far out) completing each month, in the month the item will be turned in. I list:

  • the client’s name
  • a shorthand name for the assignment (Southern guide, Smokies feature, etc.)
  • the pay
  • the deadline
  • the invoice date
  • whether the invoice has been paid

This allows me, at the end of the year, to easily add up my total income, the income per client, and the income by work type. I can also use this at the end of January to compare my numbers to clients’ 1099s to make sure our taxes line up.

But there is also a deeper beauty to having all these numbers at a glance and taking advantage of that utility to glance at them often. In fact, regularly (multiple times throughout the month) looking at this Excel sheet and tweaking my time spent pursuing new work or adjusting the types of work I’m pursuing—quick wins vs. a slow build up to an on-going gig that will pay well and regularly but not at the moment—is one of the simplest things I can point to that really made a difference in my income as a travel writer.

In order for these incremental reviews to be useful, however, you need to be honest with yourself about why the numbers look the way they do. And we’ll get to the heart of that on Thursday.

In the meantime, pull together your numbers and set up that spreadsheet if you don’t already have them easily accessible. You’ll thank yourself at tax time.

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