Three Ways to Earn Six Figures as a Travel Writer (With Full Income Breakdowns)
Over dinner the other day, a friend asked me how someone would make, say, $10,000 a month as a travel writer.
It didn’t even take me a minute to think of a comfortable income breakdown to meet that.
First I had to ask some questions about this hypothetical person:
- Does he or she have kids?
- Want to work full-time?
- Prefer to write for magazines and have a byline?
- Or is writing byline-free for companies okay?
- What is his or her background?
When people start doing travel writing coaching with me, I ask them very similar questions, because the way to make great money travel writing—or, doing anything, to be honest—is to find the point where what you love to do, what gets you out of bed in the morning, meets what people are willing to pay you well for.
This is not a revelation, generally.
But for new or flailing travel writers, it often seems to be.
Why Do You Want to Be a Travel Writer?
This has a huge impact on how you can make money travel writing.
I’ve talked before about three primary motivations for becoming a travel writer:
- free trips
(A love of travel and exploring new things is common to all of us, of course.)
But these motivations are also important to how you make money. In fact, this may be the best reason to take the time to examine why you are in this game.
I’ve seen countless aspiring travel writers spin their wheels for years because they “can’t find work.” But there’s tons of work. The real problem is that they can’t find the right work for them. The work that they actually want to do.
For years, a popular maxim has spread through the freelance and small business communities:
To be successful, to make money, and to fulfill your freelance dreams, all you need to do is find the intersection of what you are good at and what people will pay for.
The problem is, that’s a great way to be just as unhappy as you were in your cubicle.
To deal with the uncertainties, long hours, and other hiccups of the freelance life, you have to be somehow getting what you want. Otherwise it’s hard to talk yourself into doing the work every day. And to succeed, you need to be jumping out of bed excited to do the work. Not dragging yourself.
Once you figure out which kind of travel writer you are, you can start positioning yourself for the right kind of travel writing work for you . . . and earning the big bucks for it.
Six Figure Travel Writing Income Breakdowns
To earn $100,000 per year, you need to earn $8333.33 per month on average. So we’re going to make it a round $8500.
These income breakdowns are hypothetical in that I did not take three real people, ask them exactly what they earn each month and how, and report that here for two reasons:
- freelancers hate to tell other freelancers how much they are actually earning (seriously, it’s a huge elephant in the room, and I think it has something to do with this), which is a huge part of why I try to be so transparent here
- travel writers’ incomes vary hugely each month depending on demand—there are key months when various clients and editors have a lot of needs and you write and earn a lot and other months when you travel a lot and do less immediate income generating work
But that doesn’t mean the the income potential listed below is hypothetical. I have earned these rates for all of these types of work in the past personally.
Six Figure Income for Travel Writers Who Value Freedom
- freedom (from annoying clients, lots of check in emails, and social media updates)
- ability to do work from anywhere (preferably on own timeline)
- part-time work as much as possible
- digital nomads
- folks with their own travel blogs
- cubicle escapees who want to keep traveling but replace prior income
- Copywriting project creating web content for a destination or travel company: $4,000 (conservatively; I’ve been approached for ones that pay $6,500 for a month’s work, and it can go much higher)
- Content management and blog creation for travel-related businesses: $1,500 x 3 (conservatively)
Explanation and Notes:
I’ve focused this mix very strongly on jobs that you can do on your own time schedule without the need for regular check-ins, reporting or deadlines. Blogs can be filed in bulk once a month whenever you have internet, and copywriting assignments usually only need back and forth in the beginning and then you can ship in sections or all at once.
Six Figure Income for Travel Writers Who Value Free Trips
- ways for free travel and paid work to go hand-in-hand
- portable income opportunities
- high-paying work that leaves time to travel
- folks with their own travel blogs or social media profiles
- digital nomads
- Content creation tour for a destination or travel company: $3,000 (these jobs are usually spread over a couple months as you spend time traveling and then writing up posts based on your trips, so it can be much higher if you’re fast and work well on the road)
- Articles in regional, niche or web publications covering places you’ve taken press trips to: $500 x 7
- Creating and populating social media content for destinations or travel companies based on your trips: $1,000 per client x 2
Explanation and Notes:
There are a lot of ways to travel for free, but you can easily end up making very little money in the process. If you want to travel for free and get paid well for it, you have to be focused about who you’re working with. This is the type of travel writing that requires the most hustle, however, as you need to pitch constantly both to get yourself free travel as well as to place stories resulting from it.
Six Figure Income for Travel Writers Who Value Bylines
- big name publications
- bylines (a.k.a. your name on the published article)
- long-form assignments where you can flex your writing muscles
- career writers or journalists switching to travel with big bylines in other verticals
- book authors
- part-time writing professors or teachers
- Feature/article in glossy newsstand magazine (with photos typically): $3,000 x 1 (conservative)
- Department in glossy newsstand magazine: $1,500 each x 2
- Newspaper article or travel essay for mainstream pub online: $500 each x 3
- Short front-of-book piece in glossy newsstand magazine: $250 each x 4
Explanation and Notes:
Features are hard to time so that you conveniently have one and only one every month, but shorter things like recurring departments or columns are things that you can get an annual contract for, so it’s easier to predict and stack those. Landing these huge features, which actually often pay more like $5,000 or more on average, takes a lot of groundwork and networking, however.