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the month in review

February – the start of a slump?

By March 4, 2020 10 Comments

It’s been an unsettling start to 2020 for lots of reasons. The year started with the terrible bushfires that ravaged so many parts of Australia and now global attention has turned to coronavirus. In some ways, my month was business as usual, but in other ways, there was the beginning of unnerving discussions about what all this means for tourism, travel, freelance writers and the world in general.

IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS, THIS MONTH I:

Pitched: 4 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)

Commissions from pitches or query letters: 2

Rejections: 1

Offers: 2 (where an editor approached me with a commission – either editorial or sponsored content)

IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR CORPORATE AND B2B CLIENTS: (I DON’T PITCH THESE)

Offers: 4

Filed: 10

I felt like I didn’t have much of a chance to work in February.

Out of a possible 20 work days, I ended up working for 8 of them.

This was because I had two work trips (one was three days and the other was four) and a dear friend was visiting from overseas, so I shelved work and spent time with her.

And I also couldn’t help doing one last bit of tinkering with my beta course (I know, I know, I need to accept that it won’t be perfect the first time around).

I have ended up rewriting the last module because I didn’t feel that it was as beneficial as it should be.

So all that meant that I didn’t spend much time writing or pitching as I probably should have.

Lowlights of February

Commissions freeze

One of the more regular outlets I write for has put a hold on commissions until the new financial year (that’s July 1 in Australia).

I probably wrote an average of one or two stories for them each month, so that’s definitely going to make a dint in the number of articles I write and my income each month is going to take a hit.

Hotel no-go

I also was tantalisingly close to staying at an incredible hotel in the USA when I’m there in a month or so, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

It’s a long, convoluted story, but the (very exclusive, very expensive) hotel said they would consider hosting me if I got a commission.

I took a chance and emailed a lovely editor and explained the chicken and egg situation and asked if she would be interested in an article, if I was able to secure hosting.

She said she was and to tell the hotel that I had a commission.

I was so excited.

I emailed the hotel to tell them I had a firm commission.

They replied letting me know they are running at full occupancy during the time I’m in the area.

Big bummer.

Test of patience

I had a great famil (or press trip as they’re also called) booked in for February.

I often think that travel writing suits chilled-out kind of people because receiving your itinerary at 4:55pm the day before you’re due to fly out (at 9am the next day) is not ideal, to say the least.

I know that PRs are busy and that it takes huge amounts of time to organise fams, but it’s hard to know exactly what to pack if you don’t have a confirmed itinerary.

My requests for the itinerary in the days before I travelled were met with “you’ll receive it ahead of time”.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I have to say that organising what to pack when I was trying to cook dinner, bath kids and get them into bed was not ideal preparation.

Highlights of February

Despite not receiving my itinerary until the last minute, I had such a great famil.

It was originally meant to be a family press trip, but because of my partner’s broken heel (he’s off crutches now – thank you to everyone who has asked and emailed) I ended up taking my dad.

I think I gave my lovely dad the wrong impression of life as a travel writer – we had a beautiful estate and private chef all to ourselves, a helicopter ride, degustation dinners and an incredible trip in a hot air balloon.

I do feel so lucky that I was able to bring him along with me and he ended up being a great travel companion.

Travmedia’s IMM

I’m not long home from TravMedia’s International Media Marketplace (IMM).

It’s always a busy, full-on day where travel writers and journalists meet with travel and tourism brands, but goodness, it’s so worthwhile.

This year I met with tourism operators from around the world – like the USA and the Maldives as well as lots of local STOs and RTOs.

But one of the highlights (in fact, the main highlight) is getting to spend time with a tribe of travel writers.

These are gorgeous, friendly, interesting, curious and thoughtful travel writers who are quickly becoming great friends.

A resource I’d recommend

I hope you’ll forgive some self-indulgent blather in this section (given that you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume you will).

I have contributed to a very exciting book that provides answers to the most common and important questions that new travel writers have – Travel Writing 101: 30+ ‘how to’ lessons from professional travel writers and editors.

It covers in specific detail, and in many cases using step-by-step examples, the processes aspiring travel writers should go through to maximise their chance of success.

My section covers how exactly to build long-term partnerships with travel PRs, but the whole book is full of useful and practical information on topics such as:

Selling multiple ideas from one trip
Finding unique story angles
Using photography to guide your story
What to do when an editor doesn’t pay
How to earn a living as a travel writer (beyond writing for magazines)
How to leverage your social media presence
How to transition from your day job into being a freelance travel writer

It’s available now on Amazon for $3.99 (e-book) or $7.99 for paperback (coming in the next few days). 

My income for February

As usual, because I’m working part time, I set my income target at $5,000 for February.

Given my very slow start to 2020, I thought $5000 was a pretty reasonable goal.

However, when I set my target I didn’t really take into consideration just how much time I’d be away from my computer this month.

So like last month, a $5K target was a stretch.

I was commissioned $4025 for January.

I invoiced for $5263.

It’s a strange old time.

As I’m writing this, my little boy is sitting next to me, drawing pictures of planes, my partner is doing preparation for work and we are listening to Natalie Merchant’s beautiful, haunting music.

The trees outside our windows are still and the last colour of the day has faded.

Then I check news websites and images of people in body suits and masks puncture my calm.

But then I read articles like this and feel reassured.

The world feels like it’s changing so rapidly. But yet, I still need to write. And people need content.

It feels like a strange balance at the moment.

How was your February? Do you feel impacted by what’s been happening?

10 Comments

  • Helen Hawkes says:

    Lovely, warm, engaging post as always Lindy. Work has picked up a bit for me this month (March) but writers are definitely living in a stranger and stranger world. Still, it is wonderful to write…. Your trip with your dad sounded magical. Helen

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Helen, I’m so glad that work has increased for you this month. Yes, I felt SO lucky to have that time with my dad. I can’t think of when I last spent that much 1-1 time with him. Thanks for your comment and hoping that work continues to go well for you.

  • Fernanda says:

    I found December so hard. I had capacity for work, but couldn’t think what *truly* mattered in the Australian landscape then, and what I could really provide. I wrote, but I didn’t pitch much. As a migrant here I wasn’t sure what I could criticise or how to direct my grief, confusion or anger. Equally the domestic violence news in January – words can make such a big difference but sometimes they feel powerless, too.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Oh Fernanda, I hear you. The bad news has just felt relentless at times. I think it would be so powerful to read a piece about your thoughts on all this as a migrant. If you write something, let me know x

  • Hi Lindy, As a freelance writer-with-training-wheels my writing February is taken up with writing what some folk say is a great feature pitch involving Coronavirus. Thanks for the spectator link BTW. Also bought the travel writing book which I hope to read sooner rather than later.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Richard, Thanks for your comment, sounds like you’re nailing the ‘newsy’ angle with your pitches. Hope you enjoy Travel Writing 101.

  • Ivy says:

    UGhhhhh. What a complete bummer that your US hotel fell through, although a little Natalie Merchant makes everything better, no?

  • Sarah Ayoub says:

    I love the transparency here, Lindy. Freelancing is such a solitary thing and I often feel like the rejections or the polite ‘holding off on commissions’ replies are just me, so I am glad to know I am not doing anything wrong when other writers are honest about their experiences, especially since I spent Feb wondering why I was ghosted by an editor after a commission. The US hotel thing sounds like a bummer, but I’m glad you got to take your Dad somewhere fun. I often feel guilty that I pursued a career in an industry that doesn’t pay too well and that I can’t do the things I would like to do for my parents, so it’s nice to see you’ve found a way around it. Can’t wait to hear more about the course.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Oh Sarah, I must admit, when I got the reply from my editor about the freeze on commissions, I thought it was just a polite way of rejecting me. But it turns out it’s true. Yes, I think there are some definite perks to travel writing if you get to bring along your loved ones. I haven’t been able to do it too many times, but when it’s happened it has felt like a real gift. Course is not too far away. Promise!

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