Giving away the secret for free…
I quite often get emails asking me how to make a living as a travel writer.
So there you are, you’ve been around the world, people love to hear your crazy stories, you’re good with words and you don’t see anything on the book shelf half as wild as what you’ve been through, so surely there must be a place for you to become a successful author/journalist/blogger?
Then you look online and there are travel writing communities, sites dedicated to writing tips (we even have a travel writing guide), lists of paying markets, self-publishing schemes to put your book for sale on Amazon, the possibilities seem endless and all it costs is an internet connection and a cheap laptop.
So you submit endless articles, some of them even pay $25 or so, you publish your book and all your family buys a copy, your blog gets traffic running into the hundreds each day and paying ads come up next to each of your glowing articles.
And yet at the end of the month you can barely buy yourself lunch with what you’ve made.
Supply and Demand – Everyone’s a Writer
10 years almost no one could type. Now the sound of chattering keyboards is ubiquitous as emails, text messages, comments and blog posts are churned out by the thousand each second. The web is awash with words, tips, opinions, prejudices and provocation – with so many people ready to write for free, what’s your content really worth?
You might still get a following, people might still like your work – but almost no one’s going to pay to read it. There’s just too much free stuff to read – 2500+ pages on Roadjunky.com alone!
It pains me to admit it, but almost no one makes money out of writing what they want. Sure, Bill Bryson does, J.K Rowling does, but for most of us we write because we have to, simple as that.
But all is not lost…
The Secret of Making Money Online With Your Travel Writing
There is a way, actually.
But it involves more than just writing. See, the readers that you eventually get to your blog/site/article don’t want to buy your words but they do want to buy other things. And no, I’m not talking about affiliate sales where you get a tiny % when someone buys a flight or a book from Amazon via your article. I’m talking about where you get all the money for what they buy.
You’re a travel writer, right? The people reading you also travel, right? Well, when they go to a specific destination they’re going to need things – a cheap hotel, maybe an apartment, a car, local business advice – or more probably (and easiest for you), a guide to show them around town and the local nightlife.
When I was living in Rio de Janeiro I set up http://www.anythinginrio.com and sent traffic from the Road Junky section on Brazil there. I wrote some articles about Brazilian culture and then offered my services making custom made tours. The business didn’t start coming in until after I’d left Rio but I got my ex-girlfriend to do the tours and I just made commission. Usually a couple hundred bucks for just answering a few emails.
I’d get a query like:
The dates we planned on staying were December 29th- Jan. 3rd. Could you quote me some reasonable accomodation prices for this time (if there is any still available)?
Also…what is the price of your day tours to such places like Corcovado, etc.? We also are interested in experiencing the local night life of Rio and wanted to know how much it costs to use a guide at night?
Then I’d ask my ex how much she wanted to do it, add 25% on as my commission and it was the easiest money I’d ever made.
So How to Do It
You’re basically making money as a fixer and using your writing to establish your credibility as expert in the country/city you’re writing about. So if you write the ultimate blog about New York City with funny cultural analysis, sharp political posts, thoughtful pieces on the nature of living in the big city – you’ll get traffic and some of that will be from future clients.
As your site gets more incoming links to your great content, it will generally start to score well in Google and then when someone searches for ‘guided tour New York’ then your site stands a fighting chance of coming up. You only need a few clients a month coming in to make a very useful income.
You can set up a site easy peesy these days using WordPress or find someone on elance.com to do it for you. Check out our slightly outdated guide to making your own site, learn to use Facebook and Twitter for promotion and you’re in business.
And if all that sounds like too much hard work for you and you’d rather concentrate on writing that best-selling travelogue – well, as they say, don’t quit the day job.
[by the way, if anyone is planning to live and work in Rio de Janeiro, http://www.anythinginrio.com is for sale and is nicely established in Google now]