How I Earn $1 Per Word as a Travel Writer

By Elen Turner

While I’ve been traveling my whole life and writing almost as long, it has only been in the last few years that I have started to make money as a ‘travel writer’. Copywriting for tour companies and hotels, writing itineraries, branded content for travel-related companies, literary travel essays, memoir-style pieces, listicles, travel advice… if it’s travel-related, I’ve written it.

I’m not exactly what you’d call a ‘seasoned pro’ of the travel writing world, in that I haven’t been doing this very long, I haven’t written any major guidebooks, and I’m not on the road full-time. But, I have been paid that magic number–$1 per word–for my work. Not all of my work by any means, but enough to know that well-paying jobs are out there for writers with the right skills, experience and networking prowess. Here’s how I got there.

First, I identified my niche…

While I’ve traveled all over the world (40 countries) and have written about destinations from North America to Europe to East Asia, I have a more specific niche. I divide my time between Nepal and New Zealand, so these two places are where I focus my travel writing energy.

It’s somewhat of a misconception that travel writers spend their whole lives jet-setting around the world to new destinations. A few operate that way, but they’re the definite minority. Most travel writers focus on places a bit closer to home, wherever that may be. While choosing a tiny niche can be limiting (both Nepal and New Zealand are small countries), it has also put me in an excellent position to claim all the work that comes along on these places.

Focusing on a niche near where you live is not only a way to develop expertise (because you’re bound to know more about a place that you’re close to than one you only visit for a week)–it’s also cheaper. Most writers can’t afford to be traveling internationally all the time, and press trips that cover expenses are not that easy for beginner writers to get in on. Hence the importance of specializing in a convenient region if you want to make any money from your travel writing.

…and set up a website

I have an author website, which started off life more as a blog while I was honing my niche. After a while I decided I didn’t want to be a blogger per se. This was largely because I didn’t want to be giving away all of my good ideas and advice for free on my blog! I wanted other publications to pay me for my work. It’s true that some bloggers make money from their blogs, but they tend to be all-round business people who are good at everything from social media to photography. I was really only interested in writing.

All writers should have a website that showcases their niche and their work. I can’t stress that enough. All writers should have a website that showcases their niche and their work.

Once I’d identified my niche, had a few articles published with low-paying publications and set up a blog/website, word seemed to get out that I was a travel writing professional. I started to get offers of work through my website. Legitimate offers of work, with clients all over the world. Some have been ongoing, others one-off jobs, but all (that I have accepted) have been interesting and worthwhile.

But none of them have offered me $1 per word (yet)….

The step up to $0.50 per word

After I’d been at it for a couple of years, a large travel insurance company who were growing their travel information pages put out a call across social media for Nepal specialists to write content for their site. As well as seeing this call myself and deciding to apply, at least half a dozen friends and acquaintances forwarded it to me, as they knew of my specialization.

I applied and was (one of several) people selected to do that work. The editor I worked with acknowledged that I was an expert on travel in Nepal. This probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d tried to stay broad in my career as a travel writer, rather than choose a niche.

The short articles I wrote for them paid 50 cents (Australian) per word, which was the highest per-word fee I’d received for any writing at that time. I made around AU$2000 for that job. Further, when opportunities arose to write further guides to India and New Zealand a few months later, I was already on the editor’s radar and I picked up more work on those projects.

This was awesome, but it wasn’t yet $1 per word. So how did I hit that next target?

Hitting $1 per word

Earning $1 per word certainly isn’t the highest fee in the travel writing world—I’ve heard rumours of $1.50-2 per word, but have yet to see them. $1 per word is a figure that newer writers are thrilled to receive, and veteran writers will comfortably accept. It’s a very respectable rate.

I broke through this barrier with a short 250-word piece on travel in New Zealand for an Australian airline magazine (so, you guessed it, I was paid AU$250). Airline magazines tend to pay very well, so most travel writers aim to be published in them. They can, however, be pretty hard nuts to crack. They have high standards, very specific requirements, and plenty of people vying to write for them.

There’s a travel media website that many travel writers and industry professionals sign up to, called TravMedia. It’s sort of like LinkedIn for travel media people; it sends out bulletins once a day, and alerts when editors post calls for pitches. I had heard mixed things about its usefulness, but as it’s easy to sign up and be sent updates, I thought it would be worth sticking with.

It was. My $1 per word assignment came from answering a call relating to a very specific topic about travel in New Zealand, which I happened to know about. I responded to the call saying that I had first-hand knowledge of the topic, and included links to a selection of my previous articles that were on a similar topic, to show my style and experience.

I can’t be certain what my role my travel writing experience played in being commissioned this, as I think having first-hand experience with the topic was more useful. But still, the fact that I could point to my articles in numerous places must have helped, and made me seem more professional.

So far, this has been my only assignment that has paid so well. But as I said, I haven’t been in this field all that long, so I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Summary of tips:

  • Identify a niche, and make sure everyone you know is aware of your niche. You will get so many referrals this way.
  • Don’t be afraid to write a few pieces for a low rate when trying to build up your body of work on your niche. But don’t do this for long.
  • Publish an author website that showcases your best work, lists how potential clients can contact you, and mentions what kind of work you’re available for. Not all travel writing is first-person travelogues. Much of it is marketing-related, and these jobs pay the bills.
  • Sign up to mailing lists and newsletters, and actually read them. You never know when someone will need a writer with precisely your experience.
  • Understand that not all—in fact, not even most—travel writing jobs will pay $1 per word. And those that do may not add up to very much (mine was a $250 job). But they do exist, and they are a good goal. Once you’ve hit this, you may feel more confident negotiating for higher rates with new clients. I know I did.

Elen Turner is a freelance travel writer and editor who divides her time between Nepal and New Zealand. Read more of her work at


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