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Money, money, money: it's not funny | Giveaway
It's time to rethink the way we earn and spend as travel writers...
Happy New Year, travel writers! We’re not really into the whole “new year, new me” thing, but we are using this new year to launch our first ever in-person, London-based event! Tickets went out to paid subscribers last month and all bar one were snapped up. That means we’ve got one more space left and we’re giving it away to you! Here’s the details of the event and how to enter to get that last spot.
Become a paid subscriber so you don’t miss the announcement for our next networking event:
We’re also running our first ever webinar in the next couple of months with Women Travel Leaders, too, so keep an eye out for an announcement soon. Finally, fancy winning a lifetime subscription to TTW? Take our reader survey here and you’ll be entered into the draw.
And now, here’s Lottie with some musings on money…
Last year was a weird one for me. I began the year by finishing my book and re-entering the world of features and news stories after many months of dedicating life to writing about travelling with dogs. I had grand plans: a road trip through Spain, a big adventure in the USA, a weekend away in Porto to write about wine. But then my mum got sick. I had to step back from travel writing for a significant period of time, and by June I was a full-time carer for a dying parent. Bereavement came, and work continued to take a back seat until autumn.
When I finally felt ready to look at the laptop properly again, I wanted to throw myself back into work with a vengeance. I needed it, badly. I wanted to re-establish my identity as a travel writer — something that’s so deeply ingrained in my sense of self worth. And so when October and November rolled around and World Travel Market dangled its many events and press conferences at me, I couldn’t resist. I went to all the drinks. I networked with PRs and editors in the halls of Australia House (AKA Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter). I splashed out on hotels so I could stay over after the BGTW annual gala event. I went to a TravMedia drinks in Fitzrovia and, of course, spent a day at WTM meeting tourist boards and colleagues. I dined out with old travel writing friends and met new ones throughout the month.
By the end of it, I was knackered but satisfied. I had reinvigorated many of the relationships with colleagues that had languished during my time off, and I had found a side of my personality again that had been squashed under the weight of an enormous loss and personal crisis. I felt good for the first time in a long time. I was back. But I was also skint.
Bad business decisions
During the six weeks I spent travelling to and from London for events and dinners and conferences, I shelled out over £280 on travel costs alone. Add to that, £125 spent on food and drink throughout the same period and the cost of all my hotels at well over £300 and I had spent more than I’d get paid for an average travel feature. Whoops.
Personally, I feel it was worth it. Not because I’ve got new work from it, and not even because I have made good contacts with new editors or PRs (though there were a few). It was worth every penny for me because I needed that boost. It was not, by any means, a sensible business decision.
In this line of work — the line of going on largely free trips to experience incredible things and return with wild stories of adventure or luxury — it’s incredibly easy to make bad business decisions.
Is the best financial decision to not travel at all?
I have been guilty of it for years. See above, for starters. But it’s even easier to do when we’re actually travelling. I am guilty of spending £80 on airport parking and £30 on a taxi at the other end to get to Porto for a wine story, like I did last year before the proverbial shit hit the fan, all for a feature that’s going to earn me £280. Did I have a great time? Yes. Did I make profit? No. Did I make significant loss on that trip? Absolutely. Was it a good financial decision? Definitely not.
But as travel writers, when we’re faced with so many expenses — trains, airport breakfasts, room service after a long day, visa fees, tips for hotel staff — how can we possibly make financially savvy decisions all the time? All of those small expenses add up, often to more than we’re being paid for a single piece. Does that mean the ultimate financially sensible decision is to not go on the trip at all? Surely not. Without the travel, we have no work. Does it mean we shouldn’t go to networking events? Of course not. Networking is often the key to our success (it certainly is for mine, anyway).
Ultimately, we just have to be clever about it. I won’t be spending upwards of £500 on a few trips to London for networking again anytime soon, but I will drop the odd £30 on my parking and train fare so I can keep my connections fresh — connections which, if left to go stale, could lose me significant money through potential commissions or potential trips. I won’t spend over £100 on facilitating a trip for a meagre £280, but I will spend that much on a trip with a couple of extra commissions and the promise of new knowledge I can leverage when I’m back.
It’s easy to bat away concerns about expenses when we are having a good time (“I’m on a £10k safari for free, so what’s a mere £30 on a taxi, really?”), but as fun as this job is — and long-time readers will recognise this phrase — it is a job. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we are each running our own individual businesses, here, and we need to think more like a business in order to keep that bottom line looking healthy.
In a bitter sweet turn of events, since November I’ve been struck down by illness after illness so my bottom line is looking much better these days, as travelling and networking have taken a backseat again. But this month we’re going to explore how to actively make good decisions about money — even when it involves making a loss (see next week’s newsletter for paid subscribers) — and how to conduct a financial audit on yourself to make this year your best-earning year yet.
Let’s get rich, people! (Or just a little bit richer, yeah?)
Tweet of the week
We love the honesty in this thread. More of this for 2023, please!
Who to follow
Alan Cleaver’s Twitter feed is bound to be fascinating this year…
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