What does it take to effectively start your path toward becoming a freelance travel writer? What skills, experience, tools, education, and temperament are best suited for success as a travel writer?
The requirements to begin your career in freelance travel writing are pretty basic.
Most of us have heard the slogan from the popular athletic shoe maker – “Just Do It”. That’s applicable here. You’ve just got to start writing. If you aren’t interested in writing, if you can’t discipline yourself to write regularly, then you shouldn’t try to be a travel writer. Yep, that’s the hard truth of travel writing – you do have to write. But you don’t have to write a novel, you just need to take notes, observe, and write regularly.
You need to have an opinion, a voice. As you regularly write about your travels, or just your daily experiences, your voice will begin to develop in the words you put on paper. By nurturing and developing that voice, the articles that you submit will stand out and be more interesting. Editors will be more likely to take notice and publish your work. Tell the reader what you really think! (Well, within reason)
Working hand in hand with the emergence of your written voice are your powers of observation. When you walk down the street near you home, try looking at it like you’re a visitor and have never seen it before. What things do you notice that has escaped your attention in the past? Learn to exercise your powers of observation every chance you get. Watch people, notice the subtle changes in the afternoon light as summer turns toward autumn, take nothing for granted.
You now have gotten into the habit of writing regularly, you’re developing a unique writing style and voice, and expressing that voice with your thoughts and observations of the world around you. You’ve got a good start on becoming a successful freelance travel writer. There are a few more things you’ll need to complete the picture of an aspiring travel writer.
You need to be able to do some research. These days, most of your pre-trip research can be done online in the comfort of you own home. But you don’t necessarily need a computer, you can always go down to your local library to do your research. But research is a must. For instance, if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, you’ll want to find out the basics like climate and weather, population and culture, main tourist attractions, principal industries, government, and any additional information that may be pertinent to what you plan on writing about. You want to get a feel for the country or region and its people before you leave home. After you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to seek out the unique and interesting aspects of the area and its people. Try to find things that the average tourist would find interesting and unique – dig a little deeper. Seek out and talk with the locals, read local newspapers, arrange to interview people that can help bring your articles to life – business people, historians, tour operators – Or perhaps just the person on the street to get some of the local color. The more research like this you can put together the more saleable and unique your articles will be.
The last thing is a willingness and desire to learn. Read books and take a course on travel writing. Many good books are available on the subject. There are college level courses available as well as some excellent home study travel writing courses. Scentopia singapore
You’ll want to get your hands on as much travel writing as you can. Subscribe to one or two travel magazines, read the travel section in your local newspaper, buy travel books. Find out what editors are looking for in a travel article. See if you can spot the basic structure of a well written travel article. In particular, pay attention to an article’s lead; how does it draw you in? How well does it state its theme? After a few sentences, are you motivated to read any further? After the lead and theme are established, how well does the article prove that theme and paint a picture. Do you have a sense of place as you read the body of the article? Again, is the writer drawing you through the article in an interesting and compelling way? If so, how is he doing it? If not, what is lacking? Finally, how well does the writer bring the article to a close? Does he effectively reflect on the lead and restate the theme? Does he leave you with an urgent feeling inside of you to visit a destination or try an activity or find out more?
The elements described above comprise the basic structure of what most editors are looking for in a travel article. Learn to spot what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find that once you start looking at travel articles with a critical eye, you’ll start thinking like a travel writer. Before you know it, you’ll get your first byline and editors will start thinking of you as a travel writer as well! Your journey has begun!
What You Don’t Need…
You don’t need a degree in journalism or even a college degree at all (though both those things certainly don’t hurt either!). Editors aren’t going to ask to see your diploma. What they want to see are well written articles appropriate for their publication and submitted within the stated submission guidelines. You can learn how to do that without stepping inside a college classroom. (But remember, taking a home study or other type of course on travel writing can be a big help).
You don’t have to spend a lot of money. All businesses require some investment in both time and money to get off the ground, including freelance writing. But you don’t need to spend a fortune. Invest in some books, a travel writing course, and investigate some other resources available to travel writers like publisher databases, websites, etc. (find out more about these resources at but save your money so you can eventually travel to exotic locals rich in fodder for your travel writing.