This isn’t a post on how to become a freelance writer or how to make money writing about food and travel. The path to this type of career cannot be replicated, despite what other writers and bloggers may say or try to sell you. To be completely honest, I’m struggling to upkeep a steady stream of gigs while I’m here in Nicaragua…and god knows what will happen when I’m in China. Maybe my days as a paid freelance writer are limited.
I am one of the lucky ones. I get paid to write about food and travel and this path was forged by a combination of timing, pure luck, rejection, countless hours of writing and a lot of emails. I can’t give anyone advice on how to be a paid roaming writer, but I can give people advice on how to pursue their travel passions and still make it work financially:
1. Start With Your Strengths
The main reason why I’m not writing a how-to-be-a-travel-writer post: not everyone knows how to write or pitch to publications. You may be a strong writer, but if you don’t know how to find a good angle or write in AP style or pitch to the right people at the right time, then it’s very difficult to hit the ground running as a professional scribe. So start with your strengths, what you can do. Everyone has strengths — whether it’s writing or teaching English or a foreign language. Tangible, marketable skills are the best. Some examples: teaching, social media marketing skills, Photoshop, knitting (yes!), photography. Or you could just have a really good eye for things and a strong business acumen.
2. Find A Demand And Fill It
China has a bunch of rare teas? Let’s figure out how to sell that and import it into America. The undiscovered parts of Central America with tourism potential? Let’s bring people in. No one has written a story on Nicaraguan volcanoes? I’ll pitch it. No one has collected recipes from all the provinces in China? Let’s do it. Too lofty? Then think smaller. Teach English, find an organization to work at, live on farm in exchange for housing. I prefer the loftier goals, honestly, because that gives more flexibility and control.
3. Be Creative
Think outside of the box, don’t go for the traditional send-in-an-application-and-wait-route. Hundreds of other wanderlusters are doing the exact same thing. Want to teach English but don’t want to go through the paperwork? Make friends in the village, find people who need private tutors, go from there. Want to be a paid photographer? Solicit hotels and hostels ahead of time and see if they’ll pay you for photography or at least give you a free stay.
2. Get Connected And Get Rejected
This is the part where most people give up. As a freelance writer, whenever I send out pitches, I always always always always always get rejected. It’s just part of the job. When I was raising money for my China trip, I encountered (and still am encountering) a lot of negativity and people who want me to fail. Things will fall out of place. You may get an offer but that person may drop the ball on you the week afterwards. The most important element to remember about this lifestyle is that nothing is certain, but send out enough nets and eventually, I promise, something will bite.
4. Get Over Yourself
Get over yourself as in get over your fears and insecurities. Get over yourself as in realize that you will get rejected and at times, you’ll run out of money and that nothing is for certain. Money will not drop in your lap. At all times, be flexible. Realize that in exchange for your lifestyle, you will have to work hard for it and have to go through uncomfortable situations.
5. Never Start Learning
You know your strengths and what you can do. Build on it, acquire new skills. The more you know (the more languages, the more skills), but more you can do. Right now, I’m learning Spanish, about the ins-and-out of a tourism company, how to be a guide, food pricing, etc. How this will help me in the future? I’m not entirely sure, but they’re valuable skills to be had and you can bet that I am taking notes everyday.
Make the determination, set out the nets.
Buckle up, you’re in for a ride.