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Your 2021 travel writing action plan
A few savvy ideas for starting 2021 as you mean to go on...
Remember when we wrote about our love of the listicle? Well, today we’ve actually written you a listicle. Our final TTW for 2020 offers 21 ways you can make a little difference to your travel writing game in the next 12 months.
Whether you choose to do just a few of these, or enact every single one, we hope it’s helpful for making 2021 a prosperous year. We’ll be back next week with the first in January’s series, which focuses on goal setting for the year ahead, how to work efficiently as a travel writer and the importance of treating your travel writing work as a profitable business.
In the meantime, there are just two things left to say. Firstly, thank you for sticking with us in 2020. It has been a weird old year for us travel writers and we’re honoured to be given space in your inbox every month to talk about what matters in our industry. We are astonished by and utterly grateful for your support. Secondly, we want to keep that loyalty going, so we’d love to hear what you want from us in 2021. Fill out this brief feedback form if there are topics or questions you’d like us to cover in the coming months.
21 things you can do in 2021 to up your travel writing game
Raise your rates. Whether you quote per word or per day, if you’ve got clients for whom you dictate your rates, let them know they’re going up in the coming months. With each year you gain more experience and expertise, so that needs to be reflected in your pay.
Explore other avenues. Travel writing doesn’t just have to be writing for the media. Consider copywriting, editing or even blogging or newslettering (yep, coining a new phrase here) to add income streams.
Build your network. We’ve extolled the virtues of networking both offline and online. Delve into our series on networking in the archive for tips on how to do it and why it’s important.
Make your hit list. If you’ve always wanted to write for a particular magazine, or dreamt of seeing your name in print in the nationals, make yourself a hit list of places to pitch and editors to reach out to. Learn what they commission from freelancers, find out their email addresses and get forming ideas.
Add something to your skillset. Freelancers that offer a full(er) package may be more likely to get the commissions. Consider a photography course or take some social media classes to up your Instagram/Twitter game.
Do a digital spring clean. Update your professional website. Ensure your specialisms are accurate, and add examples of previous work and – if you’ve got them – testimonials from editors or other professionals you’ve worked with. Testimonials go a long way towards building trust, particularly if you’re pitching travel copywriting work to brands.
Optimize. Make sure your website is SEO-friendly so that Google can send some delicious organic traffic your way. If you’re clueless about SEO and you’re using Wordpress, download the Yoast plugin for an easy way of optimising your site. If you’re beyond that stage (or a keen bean!), check out Steph’s webinar on using Google to land you commissions.
Pay for the journalism you read. We all like to get paid, right? So practice what you preach and actually stump up for a subscription to a media outlet you love. Not only will supporting a magazine or newspaper you like help them, it’ll also mean you have access to more stories and can read more widely. The more you read, the better you’ll write.
Join a Facebook group. There are tonnes of Facebook groups out there for journalists and travel writers. JournoAnswers is a solid start for general journalism discussion and tips, The Travel Writers’ Collective is more industry specific, and the Press Trip Club often has some interesting opportunities.
Make some pie. If you’ve not already, work out your #FreelancePie (courtesy of the wonderful Sian Meades-Williams – and check out those already shared on Twitter). You’ll see exactly where you earned your money and what that could mean for your goal setting and planning for 2021.
Make a Twitter list. Want to see what your fellow freelancers are doing in one simple timeline? Or perhaps you want to be able to follow updates from all the important editors on your radar? Build a list on Twitter, or follow a few useful ones like this by 101 Holidays. Level up even more by using an app like Tweetdeck to view each list, topic or hashtag in its own timeline side-by-side.
Plan a trip. It might seem futile, what with the pandemic and all, but even if you don’t book anything, you could start planning a trip to take in 2021. Think about the topics you could write about, how you could spin different stories from the same trip, and which PRs might be able to help you once travel is in a better position again.
Subscribe to FWJ. Queen of the newsletter Sian Meades-Williams publishes Freelance Writing Jobs, a weekly newsletter with all the best paying writing gigs in the UK, which often includes calls for pitches from travel editors and interesting copywriting positions.
Read/edit your past work. The best way to become a better writer is to be an editor, and becoming your own editor can be hugely helpful. Reflect on your writing from 2020 by reading past pieces and critiquing them with a discerning eye. Now you’ve had some distance from them, you might find you’ve got better ideas about how you could have brought the story to life.
Write regularly. It goes without saying that the more you write the better you get, so resolve to write regularly in 2021. Whether it’s in published articles, or just in a journal, on a blog or simply in a Google Doc for your own reference, write a little bit every day or once a week and you’ll keep flexing and strengthening those linguistic muscles.
Scour our archive. We’ve been publishing Talking Travel Writing since 30 June, which means there are 19 editions to read through on everything from how the commissioning process works to exclusive pitching tips from key editors.
Read a new-to-you publication. Broaden your horizons and mind by reading something different. It doesn’t even have to be a travel publication. I (Lottie) recently came across CS Monitor, a somewhat obscure (in the UK) political news website with a mission to provide journalism that “uplifts and empowers.” They run some pretty interesting stories from correspondents around the world and within 10 minutes of browsing I found a bunch of stories I could riff off for travel angles. Seek out some different media to help your creative juices flow.
Subscribe to UMB. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Unpacking Media Bias is a must-read for any travel journalist. It’s essential we understand the implications of the language we use, the sources we quote and the stories we tell about people and places around the world, and check ourselves for bias and prejudice. Written by Meera Dattani and Shivani Ashoka, this free newsletter will help you do just that.
Generate an idea a day. Coming up with ideas can be difficult when you don’t do it often. Set aside 20-30 minutes a day to read around the media and brainstorm a few ideas. They don’t have to be fully formed stories, or even ideas you’ll eventually pitch, but exercising those creative muscles is essential to keep ideas flowing, so coming up with a headline or two each day will help you find the diamonds in the rough that are actually worth sending to editors.
Become a paid subscriber. This edition of Talking Travel Writing is free for all today, but there are three editions every month, packed with editors’ tips and invaluable industry insights (if we say so ourselves) that only go out to paid subscribers. Don’t miss out in 2021 and grab a subscription at a discounted price here.
Send this to a friend, or buy them a gift subscription. It’s your last chance for our 20% discount and if we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that we are better when we stick together and support one another, so go get yourself some freelance karma points.