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6 Steps to Succeed as a Travel Writer Abroad

by Rachel Signer Nov 21, 2007
If you’ve got a laptop and a thirst for living abroad, you might be able to make a buck with your travel writing skills, enabling you to enjoy life and earn an income in another country even if you can’t legally work there.

THROUGH WRITING, I was able to live decently for six months in Buenos Aires, one of the most magnificent (and chaotic) cities in the world. I found new websites and magazines to write for every few weeks, and my writing assignments defined my experience there.

For instance, one blog needed a writer to describe the restaurants and cafes in the city. So I spent a few weeks just absorbing the atmospheres of dining and drinking establishments, talking to the waiters and customers, and learning about the histories of each place.

In the process, I met some interesting people and discovered fantastic places I never knew existed. Your writing career can be whatever you want, if you only use your imagination. Here are some practical tips on how to make it as a freelance writer abroad:

1. Define Your Style

There are many kinds of freelance writing gigs, and you have to determine which ones are best suited to your style and interests. Get started by keeping a daily journal for a week or two.

Are you writing about memorable people, checking out interesting restaurants, attending theater and art shows, or doing volunteer work? No matter where you find your attention focusing, that subject is probably something that someone, somewhere will find interesting, and want to read about.

The next step is to find places to publish your work.

2. Research The Online Writing Market

Start by seeing what’s already out there. Look on Craig’s List in the writing gigs section, and you are sure to see some opportunities for freelance writers. Send writing samples, along with a letter explaining what kind of writing you want to do and how much money you hope to earn.

Some website publishers will pay you by the word, others will pay by article. Think about the local economy when you are negotiating your price. For example, you can ask for more money from websites or magazines published in Europe than you can from those based in South America.

3. Scout The Local Blog Scene

Next, get on the Internet and search for all the blogs in your language that pertain to the place where you are living or traveling. Even if these sites don’t announce their need for writers, they may be interested in hiring you to do some work.

Try e-mailing the editor with your credentials and a few writing samples. Tell the blog owners who you are and why you’d be a valuable contributor to their site. They need to see you as an investment, because most of these people are making money from their blogs. You need to explain how you’ll bring more visitors and advertisers to the site.

4. Network! Create Connections For Yourself

Whenever you are out and about, tell people you are interested in writing, and pass out a business card. Flickr makes cute ones that you can personalize. Don’t be too aggressive, but in a friendly way, tell people you are a good writer looking for work. Then get their contact information, and follow up a few days later. Over coffee, see if you can work out some sort of a contract, or a steady stream of freelance work.

5. Look Out For Traps

Not every website is a legitimate gold mine; in fact, some website owners are making a ton of money off Google ads while you are scraping by, hoping that you’ll pick up a few crumbs by contributing. You can often recognize these sites because they post want-ads for writers all over every Craig’s List Writing section. These sites are looking for hundreds of writers, so they probably don’t care very much about content, which means they are usually not a good way to get your writing career off the ground.

Also, a lot of online magazines will boast that you will get exposure by contributing, but they won’t pay you. If you are working hard to produce unique articles, you deserve to get paid, period.

Another trap is assignments without guaranteed payment. Some magazine or site owners might vaguely ask for submissions, without being specific, and then tell you the finished product is not good enough, so you won’t get paid for it. This isn’t fair to you, so unless you’re shooting for a big publication, make sure you have some sort of specific assignment or guarantee before you devote time to an article.

6. Always Move Forward

If you continually develop your writing skills and create more business for yourself, your writing career could really take you somewhere.

Start reading everything you can, and be inspired by your favorite writers. Meet other writers whenever you get the chance, and find out how they got into their careers. Take classes on writing, or just read biographies of your favorite writers.

Be inspired, and constantly try new things with your writing. Enjoy what you do, and it will always be refreshingly new. This enthusiasm is what makes writing excellent, not just mediocre.

Good luck and happy writing!

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