This spring, I attended, back-to-back-to-back in a period of about five weeks, a number of writing conferences either as a speaker, a sponsor, or a normal attendee.
With that kind of pace, it can be hard to reflect, to pull out the big picture that emerges when the puzzle pieces of many sessions, conversations, and observations are assembled into a view of what is going on with the industry.
One thing has been exceeding clear to me throughout this whole calendar year, even before getting out there and doing all of this mingling.
The redux version: in terms of opportunities, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be a travel writer.
But there was something deeper that I noticed, a thread underpinning so many conversations I’ve seen and conference sessions I’ve attended.
It is so easy to be held back by the ceiling you are told exists on the number of types of opportunities for travel writers.
Even though I’m hearing incredibly exciting things from the people who pay for travel writing–from brands and destinations to publications–there are a lot of “established” or “successful” people who are not business-minded about their travel writing that are out there spreading a gospel of negativity about the process of becoming a paid (forget about well-paid) travel writer.
Now, I want to make it 100% clear that this is not happening everywhere.
I am also seeing some resplendent positivity, such as one particularly bada$$ content marketing writing in one of our Freelance Travel Writing Master Classes who ran some numbers on her income goals and saw her hourly rate needed to be in excess of $350 and didn’t even blink. Or the skilled university fundraiser who has recently dug deep into travel blogging who left the Women in Travel Summit this year so confident that her skills could easily replace her current six-figure income that she put plans in place to quit her job the very next month.
But there are some really unnecessary things being said, even by people who are “big” or speaking on a panel that unfortunately can only seed negativity about how writers with less innate confidence in their skills can fare.
I’ve seen someone with one of the biggest travel blogs in the entire world say that he doesn’t have the same opportunities for income and partnerships just because he doesn’t live in New York “where all the people in the industry are.”
I’ve seen an entire panel on travel writing at a conference for working, professional, regularly-published journalists wink and nod about how their travel writing is never going to pay the bills…and had the most experienced among them come and ask me for coaching afterward.
I’ve seen editors of minor publications get up on stage to present mainstage talks to rooms full of travel writers and say things like, “I honestly don’t really see how anyone could make a living as a freelance writer.”
And these things are both terrible and sad.
(For one thing, because editors tend not to realize until they leave their jobs that freelancers earn way more money than in-house folks!)
But the real fact of the matter is that the entire travel industry is up right now. There is not a single sector of it that is having anything but growth. And the same goes for travel media.
New airline magazines paying $1/word pop up every month.
New editorial websites backed by established businesses with healthy finance continue to jump on the scene offering writers opportunities for regular, repeatable work so you can be 100% sure you will have plenty of money at the end of the month–not just for rent, but for vacations, moves, and whatever else you need.
And, even in the biggest publications, editors are moving into new roles–and needing to rebuild their stable of writers from scratch–all the time.
My biggest take away from these conversations (all over North America and across the pond) of introspection into the state of the industry was that, thankfully, there is one single, powerful step you can easily take to have an enormous impact on your travel writing income and business mindset: Adjust who is in your ear.
Are the travel folks you know all struggling? Complaining there are no editors responding to their pitches? Wondering when their blogs will take off?
Or are they happy, forward-looking, and excited about both their future and the path that will take them there?
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with any part of your writing or business, find ways to adjust your travel socializing to surround yourself with people in the place you want to be in rather than the one you’re trying to figure out how to leave.
- go on more press trips to spend time with these writers
- reach out to some people a step or two beyond you and suggest a meet-up or mastermind group
- volunteer at a conference so that you get to attend for free and always garner time to connect with the organizers
- go “old school” and ask if you can take someone more experienced (but don’t go too far past where you are; two steps ahead is good) for coffee or a Skype chat to pick their brain. Note: if you go this route, DO NOT do it with someone who offers paid classes or trainings answering the kinds of questions you’re looking to ask. It’s a faux pas to ask for something for free that someone clearly is charging for.
The only question is: do you want to create more situations for you to stay where you already are OR create automatic ways to force your mindset (and income!) to move forward?
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