Should You Take a Second Look at Guidebook Writing…For the Paycheck?
Like any profession, travel writing has its trends of what’s “cool” that flow in multi-year segments.
In the past few decades, those ebbs and flows of popular taste have elevated enthusiasm and then relaxed it around many different types of travel writing work:
- blogging on a personal travel blog
- freelance travel blogging
- earning money as a social media influencer
Most of us are aware of the rise of these temporary stars of the field—the things that people all teach and everyone wants to do all at the same time, creating a huge flood in the market so that the tactics those first pioneers use don’t work anymore, and clients become weary of quality and consistency and skittish about investing.
But while these “new media” media have gotten a lot of press and attention, in the background, the more traditional ways of earning a living as a travel writer also have their own mini vogues among those that are focused on the work of earning a full-time living as a travel writer.
You could, in fact, say that the periodic rises in popularity of these “old school” ways of getting paid for your travel writing are actually primarily embraced by those looking for the easiest ways to make a living from their travels.
Those with their nose to the ground for where the demand (for travel writers in the global marketplace) outstrips the supply (the travel writers who know about these opportunities and put themselves in their path.
These different types of travel writing become more prevalent in waves after years of neglected interest precisely because people aren’t looking at them.
They’ve become passe, “too hard,” “extinct,” or, in the case of what I want to talk to you about today, painted as abhorrent.
This picture was painted most famously by a frequently-link-to blog post by a writer I have become friends with over the years, Leif Pettersen.
He paints a harried pictured of just how many hotels and restaurants a guidebook writer must visit in a day and the fact that they tend to work all evening when they’re on the road (writing up notes if not partaking in the local nightlife).
But the interesting thing that this post, and the picture that it paints, misses out on is that scenario is one of basically any well-paid working travel writer when they’re on the road, whether they’re traveling for magazine assignments and taking in tightly-packed tours during the day and hitting article deadlines at night or are on the road producing content for their own blog and juggling contractually obligated posts for the trip they’re on with setting up future contracts and future trips from their phone on a bus or the spotty hotel wi-fi at night.
Most importantly though, guidebook writing–like all types of writing–is not for everyone because it prizes speed, organization, and project management skills.
If you have those in spades, you’ll come out of your $35,000 book contract with an excellent hourly rate. If not, you’ll wind up making a few dollars an hour.
But, we have to compare that hourly rate with what I know that many of your are unfortunately taking right now when you write only. I hear far too often that people are writing for sites that pay $20 or perhaps $50 a post and are spending 20 to 50 hours on all of the research, writing, and tweaking involved for those pieces.
Now, I’m not saying all online travel writing pays that. I’ve personally received or been offered everything from $350 for a sub-1,000-word blog post to $6,500 for one month of copywriting work.
And I’ve heard from people that I coach that these living wages are not only still out there, but often come from an unexpected place, such as tourism boards that pay no less than $150 per blog post no matter the length or banality.
Editors have also told me that some online outlets are paying fifty cents per word for magazine-style stories!
So, I’m not saying that writing guidebooks is for everyone, or the best way to make a living writing about travel today.
But rather, that you should be informed about your options—especially when they involved mid-five-figure contracts paying for research that will fuel innumerable stories you can sell elsewhere with no qualms about who has paid for your trip.
Join us today, Thursday, May 17, at 3:30pm EST / 12:30pm PST for the first webinar in our new series on breaking into guidebook writing, The Guidebook Guide Series: The Players and The Game to learn about the guidebook landscape for professional travel writers.
Not all guidebook companies are equal–for the writer, which is very different than in the public perception of the brand–when it comes to pay, treatment, and the writing process. Register here to join us as we explore the guidebook brands you need to know and what to expect from each.
Don’t forget: the replay is only available for same day viewing, and then we get to work adding the video, audio, slides, and transcript to our On-Demand Webinar Library and private resource pages for Dream Buffet members.
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