A Conversation with Cacinda Maloney

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Cacinda Maloney has traveled every six weeks for the past nineteen years, learning a lot of tricks and tips along the way. Back in 2012, she started Pointsandtravel.com and has since become a voice for finding the best in value luxury (the place where luxurious experiences and good deals meet). She has worked with multiple tourism boards, is a founding member of the Value Luxury Network and a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association and the International Travel Writers Alliance. In our interview today, Cacinda tells us her thoughts on where the travel industry is going, how digital media will impact that shift, and what advice she wishes she’d been given when she started. Enjoy!

Nineteen years ago, you say you were wisely advised to travel every six weeks of your life in order to avoid burnout. Who gave you this advice, and how did you make that prophecy a reality?

Dr. Mark Radermacher, a trainer I hired for my business, gave me this amazing advice and I love to pass it on. My husband and I are both physicians and so we used this advice to keep us motivated to work hard in our practice. It worked like a charm and before you know it, we had traveled all over the world. Each trip didn’t necessarily have to be far away, we did between 3-7 international trips a year and the rest were closer to this side of the world.

Where do you see the travel industry going in the next 5, 10 years? How will digital media impact these shifts?

I see it exploding! I think more and more people will realize that they can actually see the world if they make it a priority. Digital media has made a huge impact in the industry and opened up a gap for new ways that travelers can get information. This was crucial for opening the door for this new wave of world travelers, who don’t necessarily travel like their parents once did.

What advice would you give a hopeful freelance writer about making a living travel blogging?

It can be done! It may be meager at first, but you do have that side benefit of travel! Study hard and network, learn how to tell a story, find out what interests people and write like you are telling your best friend what an amazing trip you just had. Be professional and be consistent. Never give up, if that is what you want to do.

What do you wish you had known from the start that you know now?

Being an older generation travel blogger, I wish I had more technical knowledge about computers, software and hardware. The same goes for photography. Technology is the one Banner_New_2thing that frustrates me the most. Kids these days are trained on how to set up a website in 5th grade, so they have such a great advantage to be great travel bloggers. I was lucky, in that I knew how to run a business, had a great photography eye and knew the fundamentals of writing, so I started my blog with a business mindset right from the start.

What was the transition like from freelancer to full-time blogger? (I know you transitioned to full-time earlier this year!)

Well, I was ready for a change in my life. I had worked long and hard at the clinic for 19 years and had reached burn out. I needed a creative way to express myself, and I somehow just fell into travel writing, blogging and photography, since travel was a lifetime passion, I eased into it quite easy. In the beginning, though I was a bit unorganized and didn’t know how to spend my entire day doing this, but eventually a schedule unfolds. Before, when I was part-time travel blogging, I just wrote and edited photos every chance I had a free moment!

If you had to pick one thing, what’s the one thing you love most about travel, and why?

This may sound crazy, but it is the feeling that I get when I know I have a future trip planned. I love THAT feeling, that I have something to look forward to, to plan, to think about. Then, when I actually go on the trip, I have literally thought about each day of the trip and how it should go, so I have in my mind’s eye what will happen, yet I do allow myself some unaccounted moments! Once there too, I just don’t think about home or my troubles/worries and I just enjoy each thing that unfolds in front of me, whether it is a world-class monument, a UNESCO world heritage site, a dive trip, a new culture, crazy good food, beach or snow, it doesn’t matter. I also enjoy the people that I meet along the way; they make all the difference in a trip.

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Dr. Cacinda Maloney of PointsandTravel.com is a travel writer, blogger and photographer who has traveled the world every six weeks of her life for over 19 years.  Her niche is “value luxury”, where she gets the most from her travel dollars by using loyalty programs to travel for less at luxury properties.  She searches for the point where luxury experiences and price intersect and she shares that information with her readers.  She is price-aware, yet knows when to splurge. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Interview conducted in June, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

An Interview with John Lee

johnleeIn addition to have written 20+ guidebooks for Lonely Planet, John Lee knows the freelancing business: since 1999, he has published in over 125 newspapers, guidebooks, and online publications. His credits range from The Boston Globe to The Los Angeles Times to US Airways in-flight magazine. Today, John talks to us about transitioning from English teacher to freelance writer, how he sees the industry changing, and what tips he has for newbies. Check out his portfolio site here!

John, you’ve been published in over 125 newspaper, guidebook, and online publications throughout your career. How did you get your start?

I had been teaching English in Japan and was looking for a big trip to finish off my year abroad. When I hopped on the Trans-Siberian Railway in Beijing – bound for Moscow – I had no idea what I was going to do next in my life. But a week of hypnotic scenery and quirky fellow-passengers meant I was soon feverishly writing in my travel journal. At the end of the journey, I wondered if I could edit this into a story. When it was later published in the travel section of a UK Sunday newspaper, I suddenly had a plan for what to do next. That train trip changed my life!

What is the key to a successful freelancing career?

Perseverance and tenacity are vital to building your business – and treating your career as a business is the first step. You also have to work really hard on developing relationships with editors by showing you are super-reliable, deliver clean copy and meet deadlines – editors are typically more overworked than ever these days and they like writers who can do a good job but are also low-maintenance. That requires two things: forever honing your skills as a writer and becoming a great self-editor of your work before you file it.

What advice would you give a hopeful freelance writer about making a living doing this kind of work?

Although there are far more places to get published these days – especially online – I think in many ways it’s harder than ever to make a decent living as a travel writer. I was very naïve when I started out but through trial and error I eventually built my business. We’re now in the “golden age of free content” which means many writers end up giving away their work for nothing, especially in the early days as they try to build a reputation. It’s very hard to move from writing for free to writing for a living but the sooner you start to make this transition the better. I would suggest starting by keeping your job and writing on the side; then transitioning to part-time work and paid writing assignments; then moving – if johnlee2possible – to full-time paid writing. But it isn’t easy and there are no short cuts. If you really want to make it work as a career, you have to fully commit and treat it like a business – or a military campaign.

What do you wish you’d known when you started that you know now?

In some ways, the business has transformed dramatically since I started 15 years ago. We’re not just writers anymore: we also have to be good at photography and video production as well as adept at running online sites and engaging in social media. I enjoy the creative processes and business challenges of many of these new skill sets, from connecting directly with readers on Twitter (@johnleewriter) to presenting videos. But – crucially – not everything has changed: you still need to be able to write. I’m from the camp that believes good writing – especially in an age where there’s so much “written noise” out there – will eventually stand out from the crowd. As for lessons I should have learned earlier: I wish I’d jumped on social media about five years before I did!

How should a writer approach an editor? What are the “rights” and “wrongs?”

It’s tough these days. Editors have more on their plates than ever. You could e-mail pitches for a year before an editor actually reads one. Since it’s more competitive than it’s ever been, you have to work really hard on attracting editors with severely limited time: make your email subject line irresistible (since this may be the only part of your e-mail they have the time to read); keep the body of your e-mail short and to the point and make sure you link to your site so editors can see your previous work; follow-up (by e-mail) after two weeks, johnleevancouverthen maybe again after four weeks. Also, consider tracking down an editor on Twitter and trying to build a relationship with them by responding to their Tweets. Finally, consider joining a professional association where you might have the chance to harangue an editor face-to-face at a social gathering or conference.

How do you see your income mix changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

It will be much more varied. I imagine a gradual slide in print publications coupled with a rise in paid online or social media writing/engagement. There will also likely be more paid work on things like video and image slideshows. In addition, I imagine more bread and butter travel copyrighting work – I think we undervalue our skills as writers and I’m ready to address that: just because everyone has a keyboard, doesn’t mean everyone can write – far from it. Other opportunities will likely also arise, from teaching to tour guiding. I am also currently redesigning my website and mulling revenue-generating ideas: I’m planning to start small and experiment with a few ideas later this year.

What is working on a guidebook like? Give us a “taste” of a day in the life of writing a Lonely Planet guidebook.

It’s a workout – a bit like running a marathon everyday! When I’m on the road in research mode, I’m darting around checking everything from museums to hotels and there’s no time to rest. The second part of the job is quite different: back at home, staring at a computer screen, crafting copy to encapsulate places for travellers. This usually means 15-hour days, seven days a week for a couple of months. The last time I did it, I grew quite the ZZ Top beard and then temporarily lost myself to drink at the end of it all.

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John Lee, a British-born travel writer living in Vancouver, Canada, has written on a diverse range of travel subjects, including beer, nightlife, food, museums, galleries, and train stops for newspapers and magazines around the world. In 2004, he became a Lonely Planet guidebook author and has written 20+ books for them. His work has appeared in over 125 newspaper, guidebook, and online publications.

Interview conducted in May, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

A Conversation with Charlene Peters

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Charlene Peters has been a freelance writer for the past twenty years–and has seen a lot of changes to the travel industry during that time! From the Boston City Guide Examiner to Gatehouse Media, Charlene has worked for a number of travel and media publications and has recently shifted a lot of her energy into blogging about travel and spas.  In our interview today, she talks about getting her start in newspaper writing and shares her advice on how to make a living doing what you love. Enjoy!

How did you get started in the travel industry, Charlene? What have been the keys to your success?

I began my career in the travel industry with a love for adventure and a degree in photography. Twenty years ago, I began to freelance as a travel stock photographer, but wanted to add writing to the mix. In my late 30s I went back to school and got my B.A. in writing, literature and publishing, with a minor in journalism at Emerson College. During my schooling, I went abroad for a summer program and studied art history between Venice and Bruges while staying in a castle in The Netherlands as a home base. The experience was inspiring. Once I returned back to Boston, I ordered business cards with my title as “travel writer” to assume the position, if you will. I also worked as an intern at a travel magazine titled Intermezzo, and because I was their “ultimate” intern, having years’ experience brought to the table, the publisher rewarded me by sending me on my first press trip to Carlisle Bay in Antigua. I was among a group of established travel writers and the experience was thrilling. I had found my passion.

Tell us a little bit about your media career and your freelancing job at the Boston City Guide Examiner. What is working there like?

Although I wanted to land a permanent position with Intermezzo Magazine, the staffing was skeletal and I was totally frustrated; I had to abandon the prospect of working there after my internship. As a single mother, what I required was a regular job close to home and with benefits. While searching for a job, I also had a goal to send out 30 pitches a week to magazines. Dealing with rejection was difficult, but I didn’t let that stop me. I finally got a freelance assignment for North Shore Living Magazine, and it paid pretty well. From there, I got a response on a job at a local Community Newspaper Company. For the next few months I freelanced, writing arts-related feature stories for very little pay, but it did eventually pay off – with a lot of persistence on my end. It seems they were seeking an arts editor on a part-time basis, and because of my study abroad experience, I was the perfect fit. Working at the newspaper in the town where I lived was a perfect fit for my lifestyle, and it soon evolved into a full-time position that offered more potential for me to write about travel. One of my feature stories was about a wine-tasting podcast that took place in a local restaurant, where I began my interest in learning more about wine. From there I began to create my own travel adventure to Napa and Sonoma, California, where I met with winemakers and sommeliers to learn as much as possible.

As examiner_Logo-1far as working at the newspaper, now called GateHouse Media, I have established myself as a syndicated travel columnist – something extra I do that is not part of my job description but it fulfills my passion. The pay is barely livable, but the perks in travel opportunities balance it out so that I’m not totally depressed about my low pay. I’ve been working at the newspaper for 9 years. I still write for Examiner on occasion, but not regularly as I have founded my blog: SipTripper.com and write everything wine-related on this, and my spa-related articles are now on my website Spavalous.com. The rest of my travel is on my syndicated GateHouse feature, Taste of Travel.

What advice do you have for budding writers who wish to become freelancers? What do you wish you’d known when you started that you know now?

My advice for budding writers is to either secure a job as an editor in a regional magazine or in communications, and freelance on the side. Better yet, get a really good paying job doing something you love outside of publishing — and freelance on the side, using your vacation time to journey the world. And then take that each journey and focus on marketable aspects and pitch to numerous editors of magazines, newspapers and online venues all over the world to get as much traction out of one visit as possible. By retirement age, you can travel write full-time if you so desire, and you’ll be established by then.

How should a writer approach an editor? What are the “rights” and “wrongs?”

gatehouseI wish I knew the answer to this question, but it varies with each editor. As an editor, I get some pitches, and I always respond. If somebody has done their research, presents a piece that needs little editing and includes good images, I’m open to looking at it. I wish all editors were as open-minded. But they’re not. I recently had an editor-in-chief approach me at a travel conference and ask me to write regular wine articles for his elite magazine. But when I followed up with him, he kept putting me off and I have no idea why. I may never find out what happened, but every few weeks I would reach out, and this went on for several months. I have finally given up, disgruntled, confused and disgusted in the fact that I was led on by this editor. I’ve also had a bad experience with Saveur Magazine. The editor wrote back, seemingly excited about a story I pitched on a balsamic vinegar producer in Modena, emailed back and forth and then dropped the ball. I found out later he was in Italy, probably writing the story personally. That one experience was enough to crush me, but you have to take these experiences and learn. And then some editors respond very quickly when it’s the right story for the upcoming issue, such as Relish Magazine, which also pays quite well. I’ve had great experiences with these editors, but get more rejections than hits. The most important message I can offer is that you can’t take it personally, as there will be many, many rejections in this business. After 10 years of travel writing, I still get more rejections than not, but I also haven’t pitched much at all, as I have my own portals for my travel stories and my full-time job takes up much of my time.

How do you see your income mix changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

I’m ready to embark on a new adventure and am planning to head to Paris this fall to get my Master’s Degree in Global Communications. Publishing is a really tough spavalousbusiness to further your career, so I am ready to move on from the newspaper business. I will continue to freelance as a travel writer and hopefully get a steady gig with a travel magazine, newspaper or online venue that pays well enough, but I will also work on two books: my Spavalous book and my compilation of stories from my Taste of Travel features. I’d also like to explore Europe as much as possible on weekends and breaks while living there for one year while in school. My hope is that my income level multiplies by 3 to 5 times the pitiful income I make at the paper, and that wouldn’t be unrealistic. Communications positions usually pay more. But know this: I don’t regret working in the newspaper business because it was a way for me to grow as a writer, make connections and prove my abilities as a  travel writing specializing in wine, food and spa.

What has writing Spavalous, your book combining your passion for travel and spas, been like?

I am still writing this book. I had written one version, but once I attended the Maui Writer’s Conference and met with a few agents, I took it in a different direction. The next year, I attended the same conference and scrapped the next version as well. At this time, I’m focused more on my Tastes of Travel book, which is basically ready for an agent – I simply need to find one and it takes time. Once I secure a publishing house, I can move forward and work on Spavalous, hopefully with an advance so I can take the time necessary to write it the way I envision it to be. Eventually, I’d like to lead tour groups for Spavalous travel adventures and through SipTripper, wine destination tours. With my experience in traveling throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Europe, I can bring much to the table in perfecting tours suitable for those who want to sign on for theme-related luxury excursions.

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When it comes to travel, Charlene Peters is always on the lookout for a compelling story, whether it be a profile on a destination, its culinary/wine scene or spa/health & wellness aspect. As an award-winning Editor of Special Features for almost 9 years, Charlene produces the Marblehead/ Swampscott-centric Arts & More section for GateHouse Media, which includes writing a full-length feature story each week. Once a month, she writes a syndicated column, Taste of Travel, focusing on destinations around the world, with recipes/wines indigenous to the area. In addition to her full-time position, Charlene freelances as Boston City Guide Examiner, reviewing wines from around the world, profiling restaurants in the Boston area and covering various lifestyle events and travel. She writes about visits to spas all over the world for her website: www.Spavalous.com and book-in-process, “Spavalous.”

Interview conducted in May, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

An Interview with Rob Goss

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Rob Goss is a freelance writer with an impressive pedigree: from publishing a number of award-winning guidebooks to writing for the likes of National Geographic Traveler and TIME, Rob knows what it’s like to juggle the many projects of a freelancer. In our interview today, he shares some of his personal success stories and offers some advice on how to work with editors and publishers. Enjoy!

You’re based in Tokyo. How did you end up there full-time?

After graduating from university in England, I spent a few months working in Norway. I was painting sewage pumping stations, so it wasn’t particularly glamorous work, but Norway was brilliant nonetheless. I really enjoyed the depth of experience you get living in a foreign country and it made me want to try working somewhere else overseas. Without knowing much at all about Japan, I ended up taking a job with an English conversation school in Tokyo (in 1999). After about six months here I then met my wife (who is Japanese). That was that!

Tell us a little bit about getting your start in the freelance writing business.

I’d been teaching for a few years, but it wasn’t the job for me, and like many other English teachers before and since I was finding out that it can be hard to get a job in Japan outside of the English teaching industry. By this time, however, I’d admitted to myself that I wanted to be a writer. That was a start. Still teaching full-time, I did a two-year post-graduate diploma in Journalism via distance learning with the University of Southern Queensland. I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of researching and writing, and while studying started picking up freelance assignments.

The qualification also helped me get a full-time copy editing job (a great education in itself) during which time I put in a lot of late nights at home to build enough freelance work to scale down to a part-time job and then eventually go fully freelance in 2008. The staggered transition was very important. I had a young family by then, so I had to keep a steady income.

What have been the keys to your success?

Finding a niche has helped. From early on I had my own website (a simple bio with samples) and through it was getting assignments from overseas publications that my experience and ability honestly didn’t warrant. That hinted at a shortage of experienced freelance English-language writers in Japan and/or a lack of those marketing themselves effectively overseas. There was a niche to fill. These publications also tended to pay a lot more than Japan-based English-language publications. It made sense to aim internationally. It also gave me thousands of potential clients, rather than a couple of dozen.

Realizing that my writing is a business helped, too. Initially I was happy taking on any assignment. While that was a valuable learning experience, it wasn’t a suitable long-term business model. To make writing a viable full-time career, I became more selective. Is the assignment interesting? Does it pay for my time properly? If not, there are plenty more fish in the sea. If turning down work means a quiet week story-wise every so often, that’s fine. The time can be better spent coming up with ideas, robgosstokyoworking on pet projects, doing marketing or getting ahead of schedule on a book.

What advice do you have for budding writers who wish to become freelancers? What do you wish you’d known when you started that you know now?

First of all, enjoy the ride. It will be hard work at times, but it’s not supposed to be torture!

Don’t be afraid to act like a professional, even if you don’t feel like one yet. Be reliable, meet deadlines, and deliver exactly as briefed. Overcome any shyness about communicating with your editors. Good editors don’t get annoyed if you ask for guidance. It shows that you care. Before you start writing, for example, you need to be clear on what your editor wants. That can take a few emails to nail down, but it’s better for everyone than a rewrite and far less painful for you than a kill fee. Try not to react badly to their edits, either. We can all learn a lot by keeping an open mind and analyzing how editors handle our text.  Analyze other people’s writing, too. What makes each story flow and bounce? Which structures are used effectively? Or overused? How do the good pieces grab your attention and hold it?

Market yourself. Be visible online so potential clients can find you, but also chase editors for work. Work hard on your pitches and pitch often. Let publications know you are there. Also, get to know other writers. You can share ideas, experiences and rants. We are all in it together, so don’t think of them as rivals. If you aren’t available for a gig, pass it on to someone else. It makes you feel good and might trigger some nice karma.

You’ve written three travel books and have a photo book coming out. What’s the process of publishing a book been like?

Writing my first full book from scratch (Tuttle Travel Pack: Japan) was very different to anything I’d done before, even having worked on book updates and edits. Fortunately, my publisher Tuttle guided me through it well. That was invaluable. The writing part aside, everything was new ground for me, from outlining the book and planning my writing schedule for several months ahead to helping the designers and cartographers and then getting involved with marketing. I’m on my fourth book now and it’s still and ongoing learning process, but one I enjoy a lot.

How do you see your income mix changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

The last couple of years I’ve moved into books a lot more and my aim is to keep focusing on them (or book-scale digital projects) alongside features and other articles; predominantly travel, but not exclusively. Until now my income has come almost entirely from Japan-related work, but that will change a little, too. I’ve got to a point with writing about Japan where creatively I want something else to go with it.

From this year onward we will be in the UK and Europe for a couple of months each summer. That’ll be great for many reasons beyond work, but it’ll also give me the robgossjapanopportunity to write more about things unrelated to Japan. Tied into that, another goal I’ve recently become focused on is fiction; short stories in particular. Whether fiction will have any impact on my income mix, who knows? It’ll be fun finding out.

What is working on a guidebook like versus a piece for TIME or National Geographic Traveler?

With a book there’s a lot longer between the various production stages. For example, I finished the final full draft of my second book with Tuttle (Tuttle Travel Pack: Tokyo) in December and we are doing the final tweaks right now, before it soon goes to the printers and then hits stores in August/September. The photo book coming out after that was also mostly written last year. A benefit of the long gap between submission and first reviews is that I assess my own work more objectively coming back to it after a break. A potential drawback is that book deadlines can seem way off, so it requires consistent self motivation to not fall behind schedule. With a feature or short, the deadline is always in sight – it cracks the whip for you!

What they have in common is also important. There’s an extra buzz about seeing your own book in a store or work in a big magazine. However, you have to go into every project with the same mindset. Book, story for TIME or freebie as a favor for your community newspaper, if you agree to do it, you agree to do your best. No matter what the pay or the “status”, every word matters just the same once you’ve said yes.

From the wilds of Hokkaido in the north to the beaches of Okinawa in the sub-tropical south, Rob Goss has been to almost every part of Japan on assignment, producing work that has ranged from this Kyoto city guide for TIME and simple Japan round-up for National Geographic Traveler to features like this  hike through the Tanzawa range, this look at the history of the Ginza district, and this search for Tokyo’s best galleries.

Interview conducted in May, 2014 by Kristin Winet.

11 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer (Who Makes Real $$)

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I did a presentation at TBEX Toronto in 2013 with a range of slides on succeeding as a travel writer in the digital age. Some of them got a chuckle, some got frowns, but the one above got a collective gasp. A rather loud one. I knew it must have gotten some attention when people pulled out their cell phones and started taking pictures to post on social media.

Note that it shows a balance, but it looks like work. I’m not a hobbyist just taking press trips for fun. This is my job. It’s a career, a business I own and run. If you want to earn real money in this hyper-competitive field called travel writing, you have to be serious about your productivity. Sure, it’s a fun gig, but that doesn’t mean you can be a slacker.

I’ve heard the excuses, I’ve watched the growing frustrations, I’ve seen the road kill along the travel writing and blogging journey. I probably know what you’re doing wrong before I even meet you. If you really want to succeed (and don’t just revel in whining about your lack of revenue), start here.

11) Turn off the TV

The average American who does watch TV reportedly spends a mind-boggling 136 hours a month in front of it. Even if you’re enlightened enough to spend half that much it’s 68 hours a month. Cut that in half again and you’ve just found 34 extra hours you can use to write something great that requires real research or insight, something that will last.

10) Have a Social Media Plan and Time Budget

What are you trying to accomplish when you log into your social media accounts. Have you even thought about it?

If you’re spending more than an hour a day farting around on Facebook, probably not. Take a good hard look at your stats if you’re a blogger or your bank account if you’re a freelancer and see what you’re actually getting out of those hours and hours you’re “networking.” Yes it’s fun to socialize, especially if you’re in a home office and are craving some human interaction. But if that’s the reason, go meet some friends for coffee or happy hour instead. Set an amount of time per day you’ll be on social media and stick to it. For me it’s generally around four hours a week tops at this point. And I have five Twitter accounts, six Facebook accounts, two G+ accounts, Pinterest boards…

9) Batch Your E-mail

Do you keep your e-mail open all day and react like a puppy every time you hear it ding? This is a sure way to work reactively instead of proactively. You’re basically saying to yourself, “Whatever anyone else out there wants from me is more important than what I want to accomplish in the next hour.”

I’m not saying don’t check your e-mail regularly, but do it in intervals (every two or three hours for instance) and block out time to do all your replies in one shot for a while. There are occasionally fires to put out and answers to give so you can get your check or book your plane ticket, but most things can wait hours, if not days.

8) Have a Blogging Schedule/Pitching Schedule

If you’re a serious blogger, one who is not doing this as a hobby, you should have at least a rough schedule. Some people are so disciplined they always have a new post go live at 9:00 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Others post whenever the mood strikes them. I’m suggesting something in the middle, where you at least say, “I’m going to post twice a week, usually on Tuesday and Friday,” or whatever. If you’re not disciplined, you won’t plan ahead, you won’t pre-post ideas to flesh out later, you won’t treat your blog like a business.

If you’re mostly a freelancer, don’t just query an editor when you’re in a productive mood. Send out x queries a week or one a day or whatever is going to get you to your goal. Make them targeted and good, of course, but having a schedule forces you to constantly look for and come up with new article ideas and keeps you in front of editors you have worked with before.

travel writer Leffel

7) Turn Off the Wi-Fi Sometimes

This is related to the social media and e-mail temptations above, but it also speaks to something more fundamental: the need to concentrate. There are several good books out there full of documented cases that multitasking makes you stupid and the people who think they’re good at it are generally the most scatterbrained of them all. (Here’s one I like.) If you’re going to be a writer, you need to write. Not 140-character quips, but real writing measured in thousands of words that flow well and engage the reader. The best way to do this is without something else tugging at your attention. If you need to, get out of your regular workspace and go to a park, a cabin, or an old-school business that doesn’t have Wi-Fi. Or do some real writing on that next long plane/bus/train trip.

Despite that slide at the top with all the content I’m cranking out, every year I win a slew of “best travel writing” awards for my longer narratives. That’s only possible because I know how and when to shut everything off and concentrate. One. Task. Only.

6) Accomplish Two or Three Important Things Each Day

There are a hundred ways to compile and organize a to-do list and I’m not going to tell you which one works for you. But know that nearly all successful people keep one of some kind and they refer to it regularly. What the really successful people do though is prioritize. They separate the project-oriented, big accomplishment tasks from the million little “nice to get done today” things that may be easier, but less important.

If you accomplish two or three big things today—a good blog post, a finished article, a contract signed and sent, an ad deal closed, a pitch accepted—forget the rest of the list if you’re out of time. The other stuff can wait. Those of us who are entrepreneurs could work 24 hours a day if we had no family, no friends, and didn’t need sleep. There’s always something that can fill up the time. The key is knowing what will move you forward and what is just a task that needs to be dealt with someday, eventually. You’re your own boss, so take advantage of it. Do things that matter instead of things on someone else’s priority list.

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Naps are good (especially in a hammock)

5) Pay Attention to Your Body Clock

Are you super-productive at 10 am and nodding off at 3 pm? Recharged and full of creative juices at 9 pm? Then recognize that and don’t fight it. Do your important creative work mid-morning, take a nap or go for a walk in the afternoon. Turn off the TV at 9 and go write a blog post. If you’re a night owl by nature, work at night. If you’re up at 6 am to get the kids to school and are wide awake at 7:30 am, knock some stuff out first thing. Again, if you’re not in an office, forget the confines of a “normal” work day and do great things when your body and brain are ready. Do the things that require little to no thinking (social media, for example) when you’re at a low energy point. And remember, naps are good for you.

4) Get Plenty of Rest and Exercise

You don’t need my wife the personal trainer to tell you to get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, and eat healthy food regularly. You inherently know all these things are good for you and that you need to do them. This is just a reminder that as a creative person—a writer or blogger—you are putting yourself at a serious mental disadvantage if you’re sleep-deprived, out of shape, and eating junk food all day. Besides, every good creative person and most honest business owners know you never get your best ideas while sitting in a chair. You need movement.

Your brain needs this.

3) Never Stop Learning

Great writers work at their craft for a lifetime. Few are so arrogant that they think they have nothing to learn. Most good writers read voraciously: novels, non-fiction, magazines, blogs. They also go to conferences to get advice, join mastermind groups, seek out advice from peers, subscribe to newsletters like this.

2) Pay for Things That Save You Time and Hassles

Writers who whine the most about working for crap money are, in my experience, the ones least likely to invest in themselves and their business. Not all apps, software, and services are free. A lot of useful ones require you to put down some real money. I pay monthly for an e-mail distribution service, a business phone/fax service for one of my websites, Feedblitz RSS service, Boing0 Wi-Fi, LeadPages, and more. But they’re all worth it. They all enable me to do more in fewer hours more effectively. My best investment though…

farming out WordPress

You’d rather work 2 days than pay this guy $50? Really?

1) Pay Others to Do Things Better/Faster/More Than You Can

Few of us are going to try to rewire our house if there’s an electrical problem or give ourselves an x-ray. Yet we bloggers and website builders are constantly trying to play superman and do anything and everything ourselves for our business. This is not only a serious time-suck, but it also results in frequent frustration. Go to eLance, ODesk, Microlancer, or a similar service and find someone really qualified to move your blog, redesign the template, design a logo, create a book cover, reformat your book for Kindle, and on and on. If you need someone to do something regularly, go get a virtual assistant and delegate. Open your damn wallet and pay some other freelancers to go beyond a one-person blog.

I certainly couldn’t accomplish all those things at the top without Jaime for Perceptive Travel, Kristin for this Travel Writing 2.0 site, and Lydia for everything else. I couldn’t have brought the sites under the Al Centro Media umbrella the success and profitability they’ve enjoyed without all those posts and articles someone besides me contributed. You’ve heard it a hundred times for a good reason: You’ve got to spend money to make money.

Last, I rarely go online on Saturdays unless I’m traveling alone, I spend lots of time with my family, and I frequently get eight hours of sleep. You don’t need to kill yourself to be successful. You just need to leverage your time and resources.