Learn how to pitch your travel writing and become a content creator who travels the world.
A few years ago, I decided that life as a single, career-driven mum would be a hell of a lot easier without the domestication side of things. I’d been a freelance travel writer for a decade, but shit was harder now I was working from home with two kids under five and a three-bedroom rental house on a farm to maintain. It didn’t help either that not traveling meant, no work. I had already filled up favors from the family-and-friends babysitting bucket while I’d been in South America thrice directing a documentary, being away up to a month at times. It didn’t help that my parents live two plane rides away, and most of my friends were busy being mums to their own kids.
It became clear to me that I needed to sell up and hit the road, indefinitely, with two young sons under my wing. With just a few thousand dollars in my pocket from flogging off white goods and wetsuits, I booked one-way tickets for Colombia and we were off. Obviously, a few g’s wouldn’t sustain us long, even in Colombia, so locking in some paid travel writing work would be key to survival. And scoring paid travel writing gigs requires some clever content pitching in advance. Having been a travel editor pre and post babies, I’ve been on both ends of the pitching and have picked up a few successful methods for reaching out to magazine and online editors and digital producers. Here are my top five tips for getting it done:
My journey would start in Colombia but overtime we would clock up some 15+ countries in just over 2 years. Pitching my trips by concept has proven to be a successful formula. In Colombia, my angle was sustainable travel and wellness. A year later, we came up with ‘Crossing Asia’ (doubles as a hashtag), with the concept of crossing from India to Japan attempting to use no planes and no plastics. More recently, I pitched and am publishing pieces on innovative tech in Montreal, luxury adventure in Morocco, and I’m currently filing some pieces on the best vegan eats France’s southwest.
It’s simply not enough to email and editor and announce, “Hey I’m going to Colombia, feel free to pay me to write about it!” Have a solid understanding of the typical content published on the platform or in the magazine you’re pitching to, think about where you’re going, what you want to do, and what kind of original content concept you can pitch for your trip that will be original, entertaining and informative while appealing to the target audience. More about this in tip #2.
2. Know who you’re pitching to
Where do you want your work to be published? Knowing who you’re pitching to is key to crafting your pitches. If you haven’t already thought about this, now’s the time to start. Pull out a notebook and pen and start googling. I am always checking the Newsagencies in different cities and countries to see what travel magazines are selling and taking a photo on my phone of the cover and credits page – you want to know who the editor is and their email address, which you can usually find here. I’m also always checking in-flight magazines or searching online for what airlines fly a route to where I’m planning to travel. No point pitching a story on Iceland to Jetstar Asia’s in-flight magazine.
Once you have a list of magazines, online sites, and their editor’s, make sure you’ve done your research on the type of content they publish and style. Many publications have a style guide online or a downloadable PDF outlining their submission requirements. Read these before you pitch.
3. Headlines and single sentence pitches
Once you know your concept(s), come up with three to five headlines with an additional single sentence summary for each. Examples:
Coasting Through Colombia – connecting with Mother Nature and the beauty of our Planet in an underestimated land best known for narcos…oh, with two kids in two.
Finding Luxe and Adventure in Morocco – you can have the sand in your camel’s toes and your plunge pool, too.
These could be grouped by headlines per country or city destination, experience (if you are planning to stay at length in one destination, for example, you may have a few separate journeys planned), or theme, such as food, wellbeing, or luxury. Editors are busy and don’t need to know your full itinerary (unless they ask for it), but if you have something quite unique planned then do let them know. I sometimes include a few dot points under the headline and one-line pitch, for example (for Colombia):
· Yoga at an eco-refuge hostel in the Chichamocha Canyon in Santander;
· Permaculture farm in Minca, near Santa Marta;
· Trekking through Tayrona National Park;
· Surfing on the far north coast.
Download: Coasting Through Colombia, from Australian Natural Health Magazine (PDF).
4. Start your outreach
Draft your email and be sure to personally address the editor or producer of the publication you’re reaching out to. Don’t do a mass group email with a bunch of cc’s. You won’t get a reply. Take your time with outreach as you don’t want to send the same pitch to multiple publications and have them all say yes. Duplicating content is a big NO. Give it a day or two before you email the next person on the list, or change the angle slightly for each pitch. You should be doing this anyway depending on the audience of the publication you’re pitching to.
Begin your email with a brief introduction:
My name is Angie Davis and I am an Australian writer/director with over a decade of experience in travel and lifestyle content creation.
I will be visiting New York and California in January 2019, and would like to pitch some content for xxx Magazine.
You get the idea. Don’t blow your own horn too much but be firm in who you are and what your experience is. Be sure to include links to your personal blog or Medium page (if you don’t have a blog or Medium profile, stop reading now and go start one or both. Editors want to see any evidence that you can write), any social media handles, links to previous articles you’ve written or attach examples of your work.
5. Content beyond the written word
These days, everyone wants to be a travel writer, so the more you can offer the stronger your pitch. If you’re not taking photographs you want to either be married to a travel photographer (I tried that, and it ended in divorce), or learn to shoot yourself. I’ve had plenty of images published that I shot on my iPhone, so you definitely don’t need to spend thousands on pro equipment and photography courses. Having a good eye is a must but can be self-taught (YouTube, free online courses), and you can certainly keep the gear simple. With two kids by my side at all times, I can’t carry bags of camera gear on my travels. Aside from my iPhone which is my back-up for photos and recording any interviews on my travels I always take my Nikon D5600 with one 18-140mm lens. This baby has been around the world with me and not once kept in a fancy camera bag. I simply wrap her in a sarong and when she’s not attached to my arm, she’s on my lap on busses, trains, or tucked gently atop my carry-on luggage under the seat in front of me on planes. She shoots incredible still photography, and high def video, and I have a little Rode travel mic on top for recording audio. Having the ability to shoot and edit video (I use Premiere Pro CC for editing and am completely self-taught) has opened doors to various partnerships over the years, such as becoming an ambassador for Edge TV, and collaborating with the Australian Himalayan Foundation on the Crossing Asia adventure.
For the past year I have also added the Nikon Keymission360 to my swag. It’s the size of my hand, waterproof, and shoots 4K 360 video. My 360 videos have become a hit on Veer VR, and I can also share them with hotels and travel partners to upload on their YouTube channels.
Think outside the box when you’re pitching content. Online sites and magazines will value you more if you can share your imagery and even video (on top of your writing) to promote your piece. I am not greedy when it comes to my content and often give my editors access to a selection of photos, videos and IG stories on Dropbox for them to publish and share across their platforms. I’ve found that delivering over and above helps form ongoing relationships that only elevate your career in content creation and of course help you fund your travels around the world. This is also a way I negotiate complimentary hotel stays and sponsorships. If you’re interested in taking things further and learning how I traveled the world with kids and formed ongoing partnerships, sponsors and long-term editorial relationships, let me know in the comments below! I’m contemplating writing an e-book on the subject if the demand for information is there.