Why You Don’t Need To Start with $20 Articles and Work Your Way Up
People often ask me how I ended up writing The Six-Figure Travel Writing Road Map, and the answer actually relates to one of my favorite journalists and writing bloggers.
She has an insanely information-packed course called 30 Days, 30 Queries, that I have long pointed people to when they come to me asking for travel advice. Each day, for 30 days, you get a lengthy email with a lesson on pitching, how magazines work, and how to organize your writing and pitching time, along with a prompt for an exercise to do that day, either doing research to support future pitches or getting pitches out.
People used to sort of freak out when I used to go to travel writing conferences and they heard that I:
(a) travel write full-time for a living
(b) do the majority of my work for print magazines
(c) make really good money writing about travel
They would ask me for advice, but at the time, I had just started going to travel writing conferences myself and didn’t feel like I knew any better than anyone else, so I tried to point them to the resources I used, like 30 Days, 30 Queries, the Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, but it was always a mixture of, “well, I like this for this thing, but for that, you should use this other thing,” and so on.
I finally got sick of not being able to point people to one resource that truly taught them how to earn money travel writing, so I wrote my book. But that doesn’t mean that the other resources I used to recommend aren’t valuable, they simply fill different needs.
Chief among my favorite resources for writers are the two blogs of Mridu Khullar Relph, The International Freelancer and her personal insights. She also has quite a few courses and e-books, but I’ve seen people struggle with those as they can at times tend more toward info-dumping than guiding people through issues holding them back in their writing careers.
When people ask me for my single biggest piece of advice for new travel writers, I always say to read about freelancing and travel writing until you feel like you already know everything you’re reading. And Mridu’s blogs are one of the best places to get that foundational education, because of her attitude toward pitching.
Mridu has worked all over the world thanks to writing fellowships and multiple transoceanic moves, and written for the likes of ELLE, Marie Claire and The New York Times all without doing any in-person networking, working in any newsrooms before going freelance, or having any personal connections to editors.
She has achieved the publishing heights that most new writers dream about and experienced writers still wish they could reach entirely on the strength of her pitches. She’s combatted publications trying to offer her less money because she was based in India or flat out assuming she doesn’t have the chops to write for them based on the same type of discrimination. She’s landed articles in TIME entirely based on her pitches, and even often gets editors to double their rates just through her negotiating skills.
She is the living proof that as writers, our words—not in our published articles or fancy websites, but in simple emails—are our most powerful tool. The difference between incredible, enviable success, and remaining behind the people we think are our peers.
So the next time you feel like you need to take some low-paying piece of writing work that doesn’t interest you, that makes you feel less about yourself, the value of your time, and your writing abilities, go back to your pitches. Hone them, polish them, bulk them up, nourish them, and let them be the envoys out into the world that create new possibilities for your best future.