the month in review

March – trying to make travel writing work

By April 2, 2019 October 1st, 2019 6 Comments

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

Rejections: 2

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)

Offers: 3

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?

My course

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.

Pitching

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

Podcast preview

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.

Telegraph feedback

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.

The trip was over two nights and we travelled from Noosa to Brisbane to the Gold Coast.

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.

She covers all kinds of topics, from why an editor deleted your pitch to giving examples of pitches that got commissioned and a simple exercise to do to find content marketing clients.

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?

6 Comments

  • Rachel says:

    OMG! I am so excited to hear you’re on Ed Gandia’s podcast – it’s one of the very few I actually carve out time to listen to and I can’t wait to go listen to that episode.

    This whole post really resonates with me – I was a travel editor for a while (pre-kid) and it was such an amazing job, but it’s also a really tricky one. Managing famils (in terms of the stories you want to write and the stories the PRs want you to write / the places they want you to see). Being away from home and losing work time can be hard too. But the experiences… oh it can be magical and some of the trips I’ve been on I will NEVER forget. Great if you can keep it in the mix – as I’m sure you will!

    Thanks too for the tip on Diana Kelly’s blog, will check her out for sure.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      I don’t think I knew that you were a travel editor Rachel?! You’re exactly right about the stories that you want to tell vs. the stories the PRs/hosts want you tell (and even also the stories that editors want you tell). I know to the outside world it looks glamorous (and I know I don’t help that by posting my helicopter rides on Instagram!) but goodness, I don’t think ever worked quite so intensely as I do when I’m away on a famil.

      If you can bear to listen to my voice, then I’d love to hear what you think of the episode with Ed. He was such a great interviewer – thoughtful, insightful and gave me so much time to speak.

      I think you’ll really like Diana’s blog – it’s smart and snappy – like you!

  • Chloe says:

    Loved hearing you on Ed Gandia’s podcast! It was a great conversation.

  • M. L. Anderson says:

    Keep up the good writing Lindy. You are an inspiration. I taught two different workshops in Florida in March on Writing For Magazines. Several attendees asked about travel writing and the only source I pointed to was you. I shared that it was not a regurgitation of a visit to a touristy site, but, rather, a unique slant and a unique story that gets the editors’ attention. I love trying to keep up with you.

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