When I first started going to travel writer conferences more than a decade ago, I was just at the point where I was backing out of a “regular job” and going full-time as a travel writer. I had already been writing articles for ages, but online publishing was starting to pick up steam and I could see that there was finally a self-directed path to real income opening up.
Back then I’d hear the same lament from almost every other travel writer, in its purest form being, “The perks are great but the money sucks.” Even the ones I met that were writing for much more famous outlets than me were leaning on a spouse’s income or retirement savings to pay the bills. The successful site owners I met back then were doing better—Max Hartshorne, Johnny Discalia, Sean Keener, Gregory Hubbs—but there only seemed to be a dozen or two running a solid travel content business. Nobody was making real money just from running a blog.
It’s a whole different world now. There are still plenty of travel writers complaining about the fact that freelance pay rates haven’t gone up in two decades and that part is true. But the counter to that is there are a lot more freelance slots available than there used to be 20 years ago. You can also go create your own opportunities to write for others because the content needs are so much more widespread. You can now publish your own book, sell it to your tribe, and make real money.
The number of bloggers making a very comfortable living has probably gone from zero to 80 in the past decade. Meanwhile plenty of site owners are plugging away behind the scenes creating SEO-friendly resource sites that fill a need. They attract huge numbers of visitors every day without having to flog the site constantly on social media. Those that do have huge followings on Instagram and other platforms though have found ways to turn that into a paycheck as well.
The Money is There if You Have Drive and a Willingness to Invest in Your Business
In other words, this is a great time to be a travel writer. It’s still tough, competitive, and tiring, yes. It still requires persistence, discipline, and goal-setting. It’s not as glamorous as the bikini-clad social media stars make it look Plus now you have to be good at 20 things instead of one or two—or be making enough to hire others to fill in the gaps.
Success is now there for the grabbing though. If you’re willing to invest some of your earning instead of spending them all, you can exponentially increase your odds by learning from those who know what they’re doing. Yes, I’m one of them, a six-figure travel writer for several years running. If you trust me, go right for the last option on this list. If you want more variety though, go for the the first or second options.
Just don’t sit on your hands or try to learn it all by trial and error and say… “The perks are great but the money sucks.” Now that’s only true for those who don’t act. Or those who try to figure it all out on their own without spending a dime.
Here are some ways to take your travel writing career to a new level of income, and what it will cost you.
#1) Two to four beers in a dive bar
If you’re broke, for a mere $9 on Kindle to $18 for a paperback, Travel Writing 2.0’s second edition has got to be the best bang-for-your-buck career kick-starter on the planet for travel writers. If you don’t believe me, read the Amazon reviews. (You’ll see a few on the UK and Canada sites also.) Besides my hard-won lessons and opinions, you get snippets of advice from more than 80 other travel writers and distilled wisdom from six years of interviews on this blog. It won’t hold your hand the whole journey, but it’ll give you a good map.
#2) Dinner and drinks at a nice non-chain U.S. restaurant
Sorry kids, this summit is over. Watch for an announcement of a more permanent access pass or just proceed to #3 or 4!
The Travel Blog Monetization Virtual Summit gathers plenty of heavy hitters together in one place to give you unvarnished advice from the sources. You’ll find me doing a session on finding less-obvious freelance jobs—including ones open to bloggers who haven’t yet written for others. But I’m appearing next to giants like Scott Eddy (who has 875,000 Twitter followers) and Natalie Sisson, the millionaire behind the Suitcase Entrepreneur podcast and website. You get Matt Gibson, Erin Bender, Nora Dunn, and plenty more telling you how they turned their blog platform into a money maker.
#3) A monthly Chevy Spark car payment
The self-study Travel Writing Overdrive course has more than 10 hours of video lessons, slideshows, and worksheets in 12 modules. It’s not just a blogging course, not just a freelancing course, but both those plus a lot of insider info about book publishing for profit. There’s also a private Facebook group for communicating with other students and me. If you don’t make your tuition money back many times over within six months of starting this, then you might just be too hopelessly lazy to make real money at this pursuit.
You see a lot of courses out there on travel writing success, but always consider the source. I just put $126,000 of income on my tax return—which doesn’t even count the big chunk I got from selling Practical Travel Gear—and I’m going to owe Uncle Sam some money. If you’d like to be in that predicament, learn from someone who walks the walk, not from someone who just talks big. Right now you’ll just see a sign-up button on there, but get on the list and you’ll be notified when it opens back up.
4) A Spirit Air ticket to Managua
For less than you’d pay for a course from Travel Blogging Success, Matador U, Book Passage, or the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, this amount will get you into the Mastermind Tier of Travel Writing Overdrive. Only 12 students are allowed in at a time for this 12-week course and it shuts down for a month and a half after that so I can give everyone my full attention. We have weekly conference calls to go over that week’s subject, participants get two private coaching sessions with me, and there’s a private Facebook group. This is the closest thing you get to having an on-demand mentor answering your questions and a support group that will hold you accountable. Right now you’ll just see a sign-up button on there, but get on the list and you’ll be notified when it opens back up.
Hope to be talking to you soon!
The FTC figures you’re too dense to realize that I will earn some money if you purchase one of these products or services, so here’s my full disclosure statement: I created three of them and appear in one of them, so yes, I will benefit. Everybody wins.