An award-winner writer based in Atlanta, Jan Schroder is an editor, book author, publisher of Girl on the Go and a really pathetic packer for a travel writer. She is also editorial director of The 100 Companies, a publishing platform with 100-word stories and 100-second videos. Jan joins us this week to talk about her writing career as well as some of the challenges facing freelancers in today’s market.
You’ve been writing/editing for more than 20 years now. Share with us how you started and what led you to the place you are today.
I was the editor of a newspaper group and got a letter (remember those?) asking me to go to a resort in Turks & Caicos. I was puzzled by it as I didn’t know what a press trip was or why they were inviting me. I went, wrote about it and then did a few more travel pieces for the newspapers. A friend of mine who worked at CNN told me about a new travel magazine started in Atlanta by her former co-worker. I went to work part-time for Travelgirl magazine where I was managing editor for 12 years. I now freelance for outlets that include regional magazines, Fodor’s and Orbitz. I also have my own site, Girl on the Go.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing freelance writers today?
While content is king and there are always new online outlets looking for copy, they often don’t pay or pay very little. Most travel writers I know have other jobs to pay the bills or other means of support. Writers are also expected to do more than before – provide their own photos and social media support for example. There’s also a lot of turnover in publishing, so you may establish a relationship with an editor, who then leaves that outlet.
There’s always varying views on the value of social media platforms as a freelancer and/or blogger. What social media platforms do you rely on most for building your brand and why?
I use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. However, Pinterest is the best platform for driving traffic to my website. I am very active on it, although it’s not really a social media platform – it’s a search engine.
If someone close to you wanted to start a travel writing career in the current media landscape, what advice would you give them?
It depends which avenue they’d like to explore. Anyone can start their own travel blog and my best advice for that is to provide good content and learn everything they can about SEO. It’s all about clicks on their website. As for working for publications and outlets, they have to learn how to find the right contacts and how to craft a pitch. It’s a tough road and they will most likely need another source of income. When they do get assignments and opportunities for press trips, remember to be professional at all times.
And for fun, if money were no object, what would be your top 3 destinations?
I’d like to stay at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia and wake up with a view of the Pitons. I’d love to spend time in the Lake District in Italy and a luxury safari in Africa.
Jan worked as a paralegal, membership manager of the High Museum of Art and stay-at-home mom prior to beginning her journalism career. She is former managing editor of Travelgirl magazine, was a featured blogger on the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website and has been published in Elle magazine, Creative Loafing, Atlanta Parent, Fulton County Daily Report, the Charlotte Observer, and Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother’s Soul. Her articles have also appeared online in Miami Herald.com, Ledger-Inquirer.com, charlotteobserver.com, divinecaroline.com, Boulder Weekly.com and uptownscoop.com. Find out more about Jan on her website www.janschroder.com or connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.