In Cappadocia, Turkey, the setting sun paints the landscape in golden amber and elongated shadows. Above the city’s subterranean churches and homes hewn into limestone cliffs floats a formation of a hundred colorful hot air balloons. All around, onlookers watch in awe and appreciation. Among them, one is taking notes — capturing the sights, sounds, and feelings of the moment — so they may later write an article they hope will convey the wondrous appeal of the scene before them.
The note taker is a freelance travel writer.
In the era of social media, there’s no shortage of people who have carved out careers as adventuring travel bloggers, indulging in the freedom and luxury of working in different locales across the globe. Whether in pursuit of exotic glamour or nature’s most beautiful vistas, these specialized writers are able to make this work their living. A worldwide office, with no set business hours.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of such a career. Pursuing a degree that focuses on writing and literary skills, such as an online Bachelor of Arts in English, can help aspiring freelance travel writers achieve their career goals.
What Is a Freelance Travel Writer?
A freelance travel writer is someone who travels from place to place, writing articles, blogs, reviews, video scripts, or other digital or print content about the culture, food, music, art, environment, and other interesting aspects of a particular locale. Because travel writers aren’t anchored to any one location, they don’t need to adhere to normal expectations for work hours or settings. They can complete an assignment at 3 a.m. from the lobby of a London hostel, or while sipping their morning coffee on the coast of Maine.
Freelance travel writing is an occupation that balances freedom with the need to take personal responsibility. While freelance travel writers can create their own schedules, without the self-discipline to meet deadlines, they risk forfeiting future assignments. Though some travel writers may be staff members of a certain publication, travel writers are often their own bosses, and they need to be strict ones.
A freelance travel writer’s work can take many forms. They typically either write their own blog, or work with an agency or directly with editors to publish their work online or in a magazine. In both cases, they must produce consistent quality content to build and maintain an audience.
Steps to Become a Freelance Travel Writer
Ask any two freelance travel writers how they got started in their career, and you’ll probably get two different answers. However, they are likely to have shared milestone achievements along the way. Those common points are where any aspiring freelance travel writer should start.
Develop Solid Writing Skills
To be a successful professional writer requires a solid understanding of logical and rhetorical writing. Even if the writer’s style is informal, knowing the foundations of language allows them to bend the rules more effectively to create interesting, engaging prose. One of the common ways that professional writers develop their writing skills is through education. Earning a bachelor’s degree in English or the social sciences can help aspiring writers learn the research, critical thinking, and composition skills necessary to succeed.
Build a Portfolio
As a writer advances in their career, they build a portfolio of work to show potential clients. Novice travel writers typically start small, writing a personal travel blog or contracting with an online job platform (Writerbay, Freelancer, Upwork, etc.) for small-dollar assignments while building their portfolio. Blogs and freelance assignments are good practice for writing in different styles and developing a work routine while amassing proof that the writer can get a job done. These assignments, along with writing for a local or college newspaper, can help students pursuing a degree amass experience in the field.
Find an Audience
At some point in their career, a travel writer will need to identify a niche audience to focus on. If they cast too wide a net, they risk not appealing to a target audience, or losing focus and expertise. While aspiring travel writers don’t need to settle on a niche early in their careers, they should follow their passions and interests. Examples of travel writing niches might include adventure trips in the Rocky Mountains, cruise lines, or South America’s historical landmarks. Options for niches are virtually unlimited.
Search for Clients
Assuming a freelance travel writer doesn’t earn all of their income by monetizing their own blog, they’ll need to find clients to write for. Potential sources of income include travel websites and magazines, guidebooks, or other blogs. Building a client list involves internet research to find email contacts, attending industry networking events, or establishing and maintaining relationships with people through job platforms, among other strategies.
Skills a Freelance Travel Writer Needs
Whether an individual is new to the craft of travel writing, or simply the freelance aspect of it, there are generally a few skills that a writer needs to make a name in the industry.
Willingness to Read
A writer who wants to excel in their craft must be willing to learn from those who’ve gone before them. This entails reading content similar to the material they want to write, as well as other writing genres. Reading provides writers with a sense of what makes good writing.
As a writer develops their skills, their creativity will blossom. Writers who are creative differentiate themselves from their peers and can capture ideas or experiences in unconventional ways.
Writing with a Distinct Voice
Writers must practice writing in a “voice,” that is, the use of certain words, styles, or phrases to convey their personality. Some freelance assignments might require the writer to adapt to an existing brand voice, such as that of a company, or to create an original voice for their own material.
Because they have no boss or fixed schedule, freelance travel writers must rely on themselves to complete work on time. They also are responsible for communicating any changes, questions, or other necessary information needed to perform their tasks. Missed deadlines can have a disastrous effect on a freelance writer’s career.
Find Confidence in a Thorough Education
A successful career as a travel writer begins with a vision: you, going to intriguing places, doing awesome things, on your schedule. However, making your vision a reality can require a long journey, made easier with a carefully designed education that develops your strengths as a writer. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in English is designed to prepare students to conduct research, analyze cultural context, and expand their understanding of the world, all useful skills for aspiring writers.
Maryville’s program promotes insight and growth through courses such as Advanced Creative Writing, History of Literary Criticism, and Writing Across the Disciplines: Research and Argument.
Take hold of your bright future as a freelance travel writer today.