In my post on three ways to earn six figures as a travel writer, I looked at three different paths for earning six figures as a travel writer based on your interests (workwise, not travel-wise) and the type of work that best fits your schedule, motivations and work talents.
But I know the idea of earning $100,000 a year from travel writing seems both far away and a bit preposterous to many folks who are just starting out and trying to figure out how to even earn their first $1 from something they’ve written.
So let’s step back and look at how much you can really expect to earn—and when—from three different avenues of travel writing.
Magazines Pay More; It’s a Fact
For quite small magazines, and we’re talking 5,000-25,000 readers here, $300-400 is a very normal rate. Magazines from major companies (that come with corresponding major headaches), even if you haven’t heard of them, typically pay $1 a word, so that say 1500-word piece the small magazine gave you $400 for would become $1500.
When you’re just starting out, it’s very easy to land a lot of these $300-400 articles. From larger magazines, you can definitely get shorter, whether that’s a very brief 100-to-300-word piece in the short, newsy “front of book” section of the magazine or a recurring column or “department” that ranges from 500 to 1500 words.
But Since Magazines Are “Scary,” How About Blogs?
I am delighted to say that now, in 2016, blog pay rates have finally started to get reasonable, even in random online ads.
It used to be that people would post ads for or email writers out of the blue about large jobs for which the pay was something like $10 or $20 for a 1000-word post and not understand why people were indignant about these rates.
One old client of mine originally posted an ad for blog posts looking to pay $35 for a relatively easy 500-word post. We got that up to $50, removing some responsibilities. Then, when she was having trouble attracting writers with the background she needed, she got clearance from the company’s founders to go up to $100, and she told me recently that the rate is up to $150 because they need people who are highly specialized and understand that’s the lowest they can go.
Even companies I talk to who only have a budget of $25 per post or so understand that this is causing them to miss out on skilled and specialized writers these days.
By and large $100-150 has become more of a standard baseline for blog posts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get more. I had a client even four years ago that, right out of the gate in our first contract negotiation, was happy to pay $250-350 for 800-to-1200-word posts that didn’t require tons of research on my part.
If you’re just starting out in travel writing, but have written for a previous job and have a very specialized expertise in the travel industry from a destination level, you can easily command these $150-250 rates early on. If you are fresh to writing and to travel, it’s best to start with some gigs around $50 to get you footing though, rather than work with a client who offers a good rate and is expecting experience and let them down because you are not familiar with:
- how blog writing style is different than copywriting and print
- how to work with content strategy and blog calendars
- how to work with WordPress plug-ins and source photos
The Best of All is Copywriting
Travel copywriting assignments—when you write descriptions of products like tours or hotels—can often be both the fastest and most lucrative type of work to get.
I once had a client come to me and offer $6500 for just one month’s work…that was not even going to take up all my time that month. Many people that I know who specialized in travel copywriting command much more. This an area where we are looking at five-figure projects that you complete yourself. Rates are typically per project rather than per piece—or the per-piece rate is a function of the overall budget.
These projects are more likely to come in chunks than in on-going situations, though that can also happen. I’ve worked with villa rental companies who needed a certain number of listings each month for a flat rate per listing, which I believe was something like $50 (it was in British sterling, so I’m not 100% sure in dollar value at that time) per 150-to-200-word listing.
I you have a destination or region that you specialize in, this type of work can translate into writing itineraries, which is a great type of work to get because you can liberally recycle things you’ve written up before, since it’s going to a different traveler every time. These gigs can pay $75-150 per itinerary but have an incredibly high hourly rate as you can easily do at least three or four, if not more, an hour.
You’ll Earn the Most By Double or Triple Dipping Though
Once you’re doing one type of work consistently for a client or editor, it’s easy to slide into another—especially a more specialized (read: higher-paying) one:
- If you’re writing blog posts and their Twitter consists of once-a-week missives akin to “Read my latest post here www.omganakedlink.com/wtf…,” talk to your client about the importance of promotion to boost the reach of the work they’re already paying you for.
- If you’re writing for one magazine in a publishing house that produces several, ask your editor who edits another title and if they can put you in touch or pass on a pitch for you; it may even be the same person.
- If you’re writing blog posts for a small or start-up travel company, offer to ghostwrite posts “written by” the owner/CEO on other sites to boost the company’s profile.
And when you get several clients lined up in a similar or related area, you can recycle research and relevant ideas to save an insane amount of time (I’ve found at least half if not two thirds).
Let’s say you live in NYC and write about travel in the city in round-ups for a local magazine, on the blog of a tour company, and as the NYC correspondent for an international site like About.com or Viator.
When researching your round-up for the magazine, you may find three places that would make great blog posts for the tour company, which then spawn two how-to articles and two more round-ups for the website. When researching your round-up for the magazine, you may find three places that would make great blog posts for the tour company, which then spawn two how-to articles and two more round-ups for the website.
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