March - trying to make travel writing work
Helicopters. Stretch limos. Elaborate cheese boards that stretch across two tables. It’s fair to say that March has been quite the month. My income for March was pretty low compared to this time last year because I’ve been focusing on travel and travel writing, but that said, the non-financial perks of travel writing are pretty great. But while I had some incredible experiences this month, I also had some big lows.
March - the month of trying to make travel writing work
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 10 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 5
Offers: 5 (where an editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)
Overall, for March I filed: 11 articles
Lowlights of March
As you know, I have started to do a lot more travel writing in the past year or so.
It’s always a tricky thing to balance, especially when you have young kids like I do.
For me, travel writing is a ‘nice to do’ part of my business, but it’s not a great money spinner, nor is it a terribly efficient use of my time.
Travel writing is a challenge (for me) in lots of ways - to write articles beyond the ‘10 best places to eat and drink in X’ (and yes, I still write a lot of these), I find it hard to get wonderful, deep stories out of press trips and to get stories commissioned in this very competitive space.
This month I was working on a travel story not far from my home (well, about 2.5 hours away) for The Telegraph newspaper in the UK.
Although it’s a travel article, it’s on a topic about a fairly sensitive topic, so it took quite a bit of time to set up. I was due to travel one Friday in March and so I drove there early in the morning, only to find out (a couple of hours after I arrived) my visit had to be postponed.
These things happen.
But as you can imagine, it meant more than a day of lost income and time for me.
That day was at least five hours of driving all up, plus time spent waiting and assuming my visit was going to proceed.
Then I had to come back the next week.
When I went back the following week, I ended up having a wonderful morning, which I wrote about in my article, but all in all, I think it probably took about four days out of my month to organise, visit, and write this story.
Efficient? No. But would I do it again? Yes.
For the past few years my focus on corporate work and featuring writing (that I can do from my desk) has meant that I have rarely gone out to meet people and experience things in person.
Having this experience really made me realise the benefit of getting ‘out there’.
And while I did so much driving, I also got to listen to some of my favourite podcasts, which is not such a bad thing. There’s always a silver lining, right?
I’m still plugging away with the tech side of my course (thank you to a couple of lovely readers who got in touch to offer their help - I may just take you up on it) - it feels a bit overwhelming to be honest.
I thought the hard part would be collating and coming up with the content, but the logistics of launching a new website and putting my course on it are much, much more complex than I realised.
I’m looking forward to the month when I can put ‘my course’ under highlights of the month, rather than lowlights.
I pitched quite a bit this month, mostly off the back of my famil (see below), which I was invited on without a firm commission.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword - I’d always prefer to have a commission before I accept a famil, but there are benefits in actually going on the trip and seeing in detail the different stories you can pitch.
As I write this, I’ve had one article published online and one commissioned for a print magazine as a result of the trip, but the story I really want to tell from this particular press trip hasn’t found a home yet.
It’s never easy getting rejections (or silence) to your pitches, especially when you think you’ve got a great idea for an article.
Highlights for March
I can’t tell you how happy I was to be featured on Ed Gandia’s podcast in March.
I’ve listened to Ed’s podcast for years, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a little while you’ll know that episode 103 featuring content marketing writer Jennifer Gregory was instrumental to me realising that it’s possible to earn a great living from freelance writing.
I loved speaking with Ed because I really got to talk in depth about how I earned over $100K despite working part time in 2018 and the systems I used to get there.
I haven’t listened to the whole thing (because who likes the sound of their own voice?) but I’m really hoping that it’s useful for listeners.
I was also so thrilled that the story I mentioned above was on the Telegraph’s home page as one of the ‘editor’s picks’.
The travel editor I was writing for told me it was once of their best read pieces of the day (although I’m not flattering myself - I think a lot of it had to do with the snappy headline and the compelling image they used).
An incredible famil
If you follow me on Instagram and have kept up with my Insta stories, you’ll know that I had a pretty fun March.
In February, I was invited to go on a famil (press trip) to South East Queensland. It’s no secret that I love Queensland (here’s a Q&A I did with Shelley Winkle, the PR and publicity leader for Tourism and Events Queensland) - and welcome any opportunity to go back there.
It seems so silly, but I always forget how hectic famils are - just to give you an idea - one evening we went for a tour of a soon-to-open hotel (greeted of course with champagne), then to a nearby brewery for a tour and tasting, then to a bar for cocktails, then for pre-dinner drinks (yep, because we needed more booze) and nibbles, and then sat down for dinner at 9.30pm.
All the time, I’m making recordings, taking notes, snapping pictures and thinking of where I can pitch.
It’s full on.
But still there are perks.
We took stretch limousines, a helicopter (!), stayed at two beautiful hotels, ate incredible food and as always, it’s so lovely to meet other freelance writers, travel journalists and editors.
I’m still really finding my way with travel writing and working out what part it’s going to play in my freelancing life, but it’s such fun.
[And I’m loving Gabi Logan's Travel Magazine Database (affiliate link) - this is an incredible resource for writers to get detailed breakdowns of hundreds of travel magazines in addition to the 30 magazines new breakdowns a month for $20 USD/month. You can also save two months’ membership fees when you opt for an annual subscription.]
A resource I’d recommend
Lately I’ve really been enjoying reading Diana Kelly’s blog.
Diana is a freelance content marketing writer and digital strategist who lives in New York.
What I love about Diana’s blog is that it’s an honest and practical look at the reality of being a freelance writer.
I can’t help but like and admire writers who so selflessly share their own experiences and advice for their fellow freelancers.
My income for March
I’m still working three days a week, so I set my income target at a relatively modest $5000 for March.
I came in just a bit under that, having had $4418 worth of work commissioned.
I invoiced for $6050 in March.
It’s a lot, lot less than this time last year when I was working 3.5 days and made nearly $14K in March, but like I’ve said in previous posts, my focus on travel writing has meant that my feature writing is much less lucrative than it has been and I’m deliberately not chasing as much work as I have in the past.
While I loved the pace and the hustle of the past two years, this year I’m finding that I have so much more space and time - to go running, to watch TV, read books, to go to a friend’s book launch and so on. And I feel really grateful for that.
And thank you to everyone who got in touch with ideas and suggestions for blog content for the coming months.
It was so lovely to hear from you all, I’m looking forward to getting started and answering all your questions.
How was your March? Any particular highlights or lowlights you want to share? How’s your April looking?