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What can we do about stagnant rates of pay?
Have a poke around our bank accounts as we publish the first of four money diaries from travel writers across the industry
It doesn’t take being a veteran in the industry to know the travel media’s most insidious of truths: rates of pay have barely inched forward in the past few decades. I’ve attended enough networking events to hear talk of the good old days when writers jetted around the world powered by four-figure commissions and on a cushion of expenses. These rates do continue to exist today, but I also know enough about inflation to recognise that rates that remain the same as they were twenty years ago mean we’re all getting short changed.
Lottie and I have had heated discussions about how we can respond to this crisis of pay. Should we be petitioning editors to raise their rates and taking to Twitter to make our voices heard? Should we be decrying those amongst us who accept these miserly rates and therefore ensure that editors have a constant supply of writers willing to work for money that, for many of us, is far too low?
Would either of these strategies make one iota of difference? Probably not. Editors, on the whole, have no control over the rates they can offer, with these dictated by corporate bodies much higher up the food chain than they are. And demonising those who choose to accept mediocre rates isn’t constructive, either — there could be myriad reasons for why people need to work for low rates; after all, the pandemic hasn’t exactly been kind to most of our bank balances.
After many a wine-fuelled debate, we instead decided that being honest about how we — and colleagues across the industry — make our money would be far more helpful. It’s why, in our typical bare-all fashion, we’re publishing four money diaries this month where we delve into exactly how much writers from across the industry made in a given month last year.
Not ones to shy away from having honest, constructive conversations, we hope that by doing this, we can lift the lid on how you can actually make travel writing a viable career during a global pandemic — and an ongoing pandemic of stagnant rates, too.
Before we jump in, we’re asking you for a favour. As part of this month’s dive into earning a living, we’d also love it if you could fill in this quick Google Form about the highest and lowest rates you earned for editorial travel writing in 2021. We’ll be sharing this — and the questions it raises — with all readers in a future edition. You can rest assured that your submission will be completely anonymous.
Want to receive the rest of this month’s money diaries, where we’ll be hearing from someone earning £21,000 per year for just 20 hours a week, as well as a travel writer making over £45,000 annually? You need to be a paid subscriber, which costs just £5/month or £50 for the year.
TTW Money Diary #1
I’m a freelance travel writer with a mix of commercial clients and editorial. I live alone and have a mortgage to pay (approx £700pcm), but have no dependents other than my dog.
Role: Freelance writer
Gender identity: Woman
Did you get a degree? Yes, Multimedia Journalism from Bournemouth and NCTJ Diploma
How many years in travel writing? Nine
First job in journalism/travel writing? Web Editorial Assistant at Rough Guides
Salary/profit pre-pandemic: £52,042
Salary/profit during pandemic: £34,196
Breakdown of travel income: 50% commercial copywriting, 50% travel editorial
Do you have any other income or financial support (i.e. property/partner/parents)? No
Do you worry about money? Right now, yes. Pre-pandemic, I had fewer financial worries.
Work trips: minimum one per month (incl. UK trips)
Do you ever self-fund trips: Rarely
How often do you pitch stories: I’m lazy, perhaps once or twice per month.
My month in money: November 2021
Total income: £2,860
Commercial writing project: £1,300 | anchor client
Travel writing teaching: £700 | One-off payment for four classes
Admin fee for mentoring scheme: £50 | One-off payment for TTW mentoring scheme
2 x Telegraph hotel reviews: £200 |
2 x introductions for Telegraph: £110
Part 2 guidebook advance: £600
Total expenses: £812
Work trips: Ludlow, Stockholm
Public transport/flights: £237
Mileage @ 40p per mile: £98.40
Stationery: £91 (purchased branded stationery as gifts for clients)
Miscellaneous: £247.48 (website & digital fees)
Phone bill: £20
NUJ membership: £20
Pension contribution: £25
Do you consider this to be a fruitful month? No, I usually aim to earn at least £3,500 each month.
Can you afford to live on this money? Yes, just about!
Tweet of the week
Quick to do but potentially helpful for your business, this idea from veteran travel writer Robin McKelvie is a great way of letting PRs and editors know your upcoming schedule.
Henry Wismayer examines the roots of his own travel addiction in this lengthy but entirely readable piece that may well land a little too close to home for many of us.
Thought the pandemic had given marketers time to reflect on the way language — and sometimes lazy tropes — are used to promote destinations? Tourism Fiji’s latest campaign is an example of how this hasn’t been the case, as Lebawit Lily Girma discusses in this must-read Skift article.
Dare to relive 2021? Test your knowledge of the year in travel with The Guardian’s big 2021 travel quiz.
This is the free version of Talking Travel Writing. Want to read more enlightening money diaries from colleagues across the industry? Subscribe and you’ll receive the below:
11 Jan: find out how much a mix of editorial, travel blogging and speaking at conferences pays
18 Jan: learn how one writer earns £21,000 per year for just 20 hours’ work per week
25 Jan: look into the accounts of a prolific travel writer making over £45,000 annually
Talking Travel Writing is entirely reader funded, so we’re incredibly grateful for your continued support.