Travel writers' FAQs | Pitch call-outs | Job opportunities

You asked, we've answered...

We launched this newsletter in the summer of 2020 to create a space for honesty, transparency and collaboration. It was born out of our own insecure positions during the pandemic, and our aim was to create a space where we could demystify this closed-book industry.

We reckon we’ve done OK so far, asking editors about their stance on press trips, delving into the messy business of pitching and exploring the ethics of our corner of journalism. But there are still lots of questions to answer. In fact, when we ran a survey of our 2,000+ readers, you asked us some pretty specific things — things that we’ve all probably wondered about. So, this month, instead of our usual structure, we’re going to spend each week answering your FAQs, starting with a triple whammy in this edition.

As usual, our next three newsletters will be for paid subscribers only. Here’s what they’ve got to look forward to, and what you could be reading over the next three weeks if you sign up from just £5 a month…

  • 7 September — Professional ghosting: what to do about it and how to cope

  • 14 September — How can we be more climate-friendly with our work?

  • 21 September — How do you structure features differently to vary your work?

Here’s Lottie with three of our most-asked questions…

FAQ #1: How much should I be pitching?

This is, annoyingly, one of those “how long is a piece of string” questions. There is no set amount to how many pitches you should send out in a week, a month or a year. I’ve probably sent around ten pitches this year but had plenty of work coming to me, while others will have pitched ten times a day. Essentially, it’s all relative and it’s quite personal — you should pitch as much as you need to.

But how do you know how much you need to pitch? Well, the best way to work that out is to figure out how much you want to earn from travel writing, then work backwards from there. Want to know the specifics? Let’s do some maths…

I need to earn at least £2,500 per month in order to cover my mortgage, bills, groceries and taxes. Looking at my last five months of work, my average earning from one travel feature sits at around £242.29. To make this simple, let’s round that up to £250.

So, theoretically, I need write ten travel features in a month in order to make enough money to survive. At first glance, that doesn’t look so bad. But writing them is the easy part — landing the commissions is the hardest bit. If I want to land ten commissions a month, how much do I need to pitch?

Well, I can be a little bit scientific about this: in January I took part in Anna Codrea-Rado’s 5x5 pitching challenge, where I sent five pitches a week for five weeks and logged all the outcomes. At the end of it, I worked out I’d had a 30% success rate — eight of my 25 pitches were commissioned.

So, assuming I can keep that success rate up and I want to land ten commissions, I’ll need to pitch around 33 stories each month. Yikes.

Of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule. Some features pay more than others — write a piece for BBC Travel and you’ll most likely see far more than the £250 I get for a 1,000-word Telegraph online story. Land a commission for the Daily Mail and you could get upwards of £400 for it. You have to adjust your expectations based on what you know you’ve already got in the bag.

For me, my minimum £2,500 per month is usually largely covered by anchor clients — the publications or organisations that have me on a retainer or a contract for work every month, something we’ve written about in previous editions. Want to access the archive? Become a paid subscriber:

FAQ #2: How do I combat professional jealousy?

Let’s get real. We’ve all felt envious of a colleague before. Whether it’s because they landed a commission to get on an amazing press trip, or they’ve got in with a highly respected or well-paying publication, you’ve likely felt a little pang of jealousy — even if it lasted for just a few seconds before you were rightly delighted for them.

When I’ve felt jealousy, it’s not because I don’t want the person to have their success — it’s because I’m annoyed I don’t have that level of success or opportunity in that moment. Really, it all comes down to a potent combination of imposter syndrome and “comparisonitis” (a term I first saw used by Lizzie Pook).

To a certain extent, it was that pesky comparisonitis that led to the launching of this newsletter. It was painful to sit back and watch some of my colleagues still writing travel features for the papers and magazines when most of my work had dropped off a cliff and I was rapidly approaching a £0 bank balance. I’d see someone tweeting their #JournoRequest and wonder how they are getting work and I’m not.

This mindset can be toxic and certainly won’t help you reach those same milestones, but how can you combat it? We asked Twitter and a few excellent writers had some good advice. One of the most helpful, though, was from India-based writer Mariellen Ward:

Heather Richardson, a South Africa-based travel writer, mentioned the “abundance mindset” — the idea that there is enough to go around for everybody. While your colleague might have landed that dream commission, it doesn’t mean you can’t, too. There are plenty of commissions to go around — all you need to do is put in the work like they did. Rather than resenting their success, create a plan for how you can have it, too.

#FAQ #3: Is it OK for journalists to dabble in PR?

This is an interesting question and ultimately, the answer comes down to ethics. Journalism and PR both require a set of very similar skills: writing, editing, storytelling. Both need to be able to spot a story when they see it and run with it for the right publication. And both are very much about clear communication.

That’s why it’s natural for journalists and PRs to do a little bit of side switching. But what about if you dabble in both? Is it OK?

Well — we asked Twitter again and the resounding response seems to be yes: crack on. There’s one major caveat, though, and Becky Pokora said it best:

That means if you’re going to be doing PR for a company you’ve written about, or might write about, in a journalistic capacity, you might well be crossing a line. If you’re pitching PR stories to an editor you’ve pitched editorial stories to before, there could be some line blurring going on there, too.

Ultimately, if you’re confident you can keep doing journalism without being compromised by relationships you build with companies as a PR, then it’s fine. Just keep your integrity intact.

Pitch call-outs & jobs

Who to follow

I might be biased because I hired her to work on loveEXPLORING way back in 2017/18, but Karlina is an exceptional writer with great integrity.

Tweet of the week

This was the free version of Talking Travel Writing. Next up:

  • 7 September — Professional ghosting: what to do about it and how to cope

  • 14 September — How can we be more climate-friendly with our work?

  • 21 September — How do you structure features differently to vary your work?

Become a paid subscriber now and don’t miss out.