Stacey Wittig, who goes by the moniker Vagabonding Lulu, is an award-winning journalist who dishes on everything from girlfriend getaways to the best hiking spots. She’s also an avid user of social media and makes it a personal goal to tweet at least three times a day. In this interview, Stacey and I talked about becoming a freelance writer, best practices for using social media, and ways to use Twitter to branch out and grow a readership. Check out our conversation below!
How did you “break in to travel writing”? What have been the keys to your success?
In 1971, my French exchange-program “Dad” opened a heavy wooden door in the kitchen of his country home on the coast of Normandy. I followed Monsieur Bonamie down dark narrow wooden stairs to a musky-smelling hide-away: his wine cellar. There he taught me my first lessons on champagne, Bordeaux and port. I have been learning about wine ever since.
I say it is my own father’s fault that I have traveling in my blood. He is Norwegian and his Viking ancestors could not sit still. It is Viking blood that pulses in my veins and keeps me wandering. Five years ago when I opted to leave my corporate job, I had a chance to choose my next career path. I wanted to write and I thought to myself, “The place where you write best is in the seat of an airplane, so let’s take a stab at this travel writer thing.” Since then, I work hard at honing my writing, marketing my articles to paying publications and sharpening my editing skills. I’ve won several awards and landed spots for my travel column — Vagabonding Lulu — in three print publications.
Three years from now, I hope to have my travel column in ten publications. I hope to have published at least one book with print, ebook and smart phone editions. I continue to build my platform using Twitter (I tweet as @Travelwriter and @hikernerd), Facebook, and my travel blog www.vagabondinglulu.com.
Knowing what you do now, if you were starting from scratch today to become established as a travel writer, what steps would you take to ensure success?
I wouldn’t do much different than what I have done in the past five years: write and keep on writing, research what other travel writers have to say about the craft, join travel writing organizations and, did I mention, write? I truly believe that marketing is a huge component of my success. Twitter, Facebook, blogging and pitching articles is all part of that. I keyed in on my niche and branded myself as Vagabonding Lulu, trippy travel guru.
What advice would you give to someone near and dear to you who wanted to become a travel writer—assuming they had zero credits to their name. (Besides “Don’t do it”?)
1.) Write authentically – write from the heart. That means write about what you love and what you enjoy. Figure out how your voice is different from the other travel content out there.
2.) Start building a platform using social media and blogs.
3.) Get some credits to your name. Keep building the credits. Start small, but keep stacking them up – as if you’re building the Pyramids in Egypt.
4.) Once you’ve got enough credentials, join a travel writers group. There are many – choose a group that addresses the desires of your heart: food, wine, outdoors, budget, luxury, etc.
5.) Don’t count on travel writing for your sole income. Develop multiple streams of income that all relate to travel and writing. In the past, I have supported my writing habit by serving as a tour guide, tour driver, copywriter and marketing strategist.
Last time we talked, you mentioned that you used to do a lot of writing for Examiner.com—and made decent money doing it for a while. What happened to that income stream and why have some many writers given up on writing for what Tim calls “content mills?”
I don’t think Examiner.com fits into the “content mill” genre, although I’ve tried my hand at the content mill scene. Examiner has changed the way it pays so I don’t make as much as in the past. I continue to write as Grand Canyon National Park Examiner and National Hiking Examiner. If readers are interested in writing about their expertise at Examiner, they may email me at email@example.com to get hooked up.
From your website, I see you make it a point to tweet at least three times a day. Why, in your opinion, is this a good marketing strategy? What other social media tips and strategies do you have for writers trying to increase their visibility in the online market?
I use Twitter to announce articles that I have just published online. It is a great way to build an audience for your niche work. I recommend that you publish articles and photos online that help build traffic to your paid pieces. Your publishers will appreciate the traffic and you will build a platform or audience of supporters that are ready to buy your next book or travel article. Facebook is a good way to meet others of like interests. Your Facebook friends recommend your work to their friends and your works starts to “go viral.” I have developed good friendships over Twitter and Facebook by authentically sharing my travel experiences.
Stacey Wittig, “Vagabonding Lulu,” is an award-winning travel writer based in Flagstaff, AZ. Her trekking adventures have led her up the Inca Trail in Peru eating fried caterpillars and roasted guinea pig, across the plains of northern Spain on El Camino de Santiago enjoying steamed barnacles, and through the vineyards of Cinque Terre sipping Chianti Classico.
Interview conducted in June, 2012 by Kristin Mock.