A Shift In Travel Writing Strategy

I haven’t spent a lot of time posting to this blog lately.  I have a big project going on and it has taken up much of my time.  I’ve decided to shift my travel writing strategy and move towards a self-publishing model.  I enjoy writing and posting new articles on 10 Minute Travel.  I also enjoy taking pictures and putting together interesting video for the site.  So now I have invested in a website design for a new concept that I hope will be well received.  I will produce and publish the content and hopefully attract some advertisers.  It’s where I want to be in the 5-year plan I’ve put together.  When the site is ready, I’ll announce it here!

The point of this post is to continue discussing the pursuit of income, deducting expenses and ways to get your work in front of the people who can publish it, pay you and ultimately help you in your career aspirations.  I’d like to share my journey with you so we might both learn something.  The time-frame is 5 years and the project is massive (scary massive).  But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Publishing content has its advantages, since you don’t need to go through the query process and try to sell ideas to prospective magazine editors.  You establish the type of content you want to deliver to your readers and start writing!  The hard part is going to be getting readers to come to your site (or find it in the first place).  So good search engine visibility is key.  But many people want to be writers, not webmasters.  So we’ll skip the discussion of how to develop and promote a website, and focus instead on how to do the following:

1. Write good quality articles (know what the editor wants)
2. Safely and accurately deduct your allowable travel expenses
3. Be more productive

Valuable Lesson #1 – Pay attention to what the editor wants!

As a publisher myself (I get a small number of article submissions to 10 Minute Travel), I know that people don’t usually bother to try to understand the type of articles I will accept.  I have a detailed description on the site of what I am looking for, but even though I have the terms of use right on the submission page, most people don’t bother to try to understand what I am looking for.  So I end up deleting a lot of articles, tips and travel reviews because they don’t conform to the terms of use.  I hate to discard these articles, but they do not fit into the framework that I’ve worked so hard to establish.  There is also a large amount of SPAM that is deposited by people just to get links back to their own websites.  Those are deleted almost immediately, and I often delete their username if the submission is obviously SPAM.  So the point I am making here is – editors have a magazine to fill with content.  They have a certain type of content that they want writers (YOU) to send them.  If you don’t follow the same style that all the articles normally follow, the editors will not even consider your work and you are done before you even get started.  Do a little homework, ask them if they have style or submission guidelines, and read their publication to see what they are offering their readers.  You will have to write articles that fit into their way of doing things.  If you don’t, you won’t get any assignments.

Valuable Lesson #2 – Follow the editor’s instructions when you do get an assignment!

People often send me articles that aren’t right for 10 Minute Travel.  They are general in nature and wander all over the place.  There’s no real focus to the piece and I wonder why someone even took the time to write it.  In other words, the article is poorly done.  I often take the time to write a long email to the person who sent me the article, and ask them to modify it.  I provide feedback and an explanation of how the article should be changed to be acceptable.  When I get a reply back, the article has been edited, but it seems as though the person didn’t even read the directions I gave.  It is still all wrong and not something that I would even consider publishing.  So I usually send one more request for changes and hope that I get a usable article.  I bring this up because editors have it much worse than I do.  They are up against deadlines and all kinds of pressure to fill their pages.  The last thing they want to do is go back and forth with a writer who can’t follow simple directions.  If you are lucky enough to get an assignment, don’t mess up your chances of getting another writing job by being hard to work with.  People who don’t follow directions won’t be invited to write for a publication a second time.  Your livelihood depends on repeat business and a good working relationship with as many editors as possible.  If you can make the editor’s life easier (by producing good work, on time and with a minimum of hassle), then you might eventually become one of his or her go-to writers.  Make the editor’s life miserable, and you’ll have a lot more time on your hands.  Enough said?

Valuable Lesson #3 – Don’t try to fool the IRS.  Do your homework on travel deductions.

So many people are tempted to try deducting travel expenses that aren’t actually deductible.  The IRS is pretty specific about what you can and cannot do.  It’s not that hard to understand, but it can be confusing.  So always ask someone who knows the tax laws before you take a trip.  You will have a lot less trouble and sleep better at night.  Don’t try deducting your vacation because you spent some time writing, either.  Being audited is not worth it.  You can do a lot better by finding out what deductions you can take and maximizing them.  For example, you can deduct a certain part of your house if you use that area exclusively for writing and conducting your business.  This is the home office deduction.  It is useful for people who spend a lot of their time working at home in a dedicated place.  Don’t be afraid to claim this deduction if it applies to you.

Valuable Lesson #4 – Stay away from those things that waste your time.

I can’t emphasize this point enough.  Start disconnecting yourself from time-wasters.  You know – Facebook, Twitter, news websites, etc.  These things all cut into your valuable time during the week.  It’s really easy to waste two hours when no one is cracking the whip over your head.  If you spend a lot of time doing unproductive things online, it’s time to start breaking away from them and setting goals for yourself.  As a writer, you should be writing 1,000 words every day.  That’s how you stay sharp and focused.  Musicians practice every day.  Athletes work out constantly to stay in shape.  Writers need to practice their craft often to stay at the top of their game.  So should you.

I hope this helps a little bit.  I have been able to claim a few of the deductions on my taxes this year.  A good way to get all your deductions lined up is to use tax software.  It will help you get your taxes done right.

 

If you are looking for more in-depth information on travel writing, please visit Gordon Burgett’s product page for some of the best ebooks on the subject of writing. He’s one of the best!  And his book, “The Travel Writer’s Guide” is first rate!

How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days
Test Your Niche Book First!
Travel Writer’s Guide (Trade Paperback Book)
How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar (audio series)

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About Steven

Living and traveling is my goal. Why stay in one place when there are fantastic beaches, mountains, cities and wide-open spaces to see and enjoy? I can't wait to stop working and start living....!
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