How I Earned $5,000 for Travel Writing With SEO

By Elen Turner

I’ve been writing in one form or another for several years. My writing career started with a PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities, and the academic papers that resulted from my research. After leaving academia, I wanted to broaden the type of writing I did (in fact, that was a reason I left academia). I made the transition to writing blog posts and other pieces for the web. But, it was only really when I landed three big writing jobs from a travel company in 2016 that I feel I came into my own as a writer for the web.

To get a solid understanding of how to get your start with web writing, I recommend reading my previous article for Freedom With Writing, How I Earn $1 Per Word as a Travel Writer.

This article presents how I landed a big project that paid fifty cents per word, netting me $5,000 for just a couple of days worth of work.

Let me explain.

Flexible writers can put their skills to use in a variety of genres and formats—listicles, long-form articles, profiles, personal essays, blog posts, marketing copy, and so on. But writing for the web in any format often requires some specific skills and knowledge. For example, many web articles use short paragraphs, fairly simple language, many sub-headings, and use keywords that are designed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Many companies who need writers for their web copy have large budgets (depending on the field, of course), so it’s a good kind of writing for any writer to get to grips with. But, there are a few things it’s important to know first.

Becoming an expert in SEO is a long journey, but it is helpful for all writers for the web to have a basic understanding of the purpose of SEO, if not the nitty-gritty of how it operates. I am no SEO expert by any means, and it’s not really where my skills or interests lie. But after having edited and written for a number of blogs and web publications, I broadly know how SEO operates, and this makes my job as a writer for web much easier. For those interested in learning SEO, there are many free resources available.

The travel company that I ended up doing a few projects for put out a call for writers through their own website and newsletter, and across their social media channels, including Instagram and Facebook. They were clear that they wanted specialists on particular regions/countries, meaning writers who had spent a significant amount of time there, either because they were from there or lived there. I had lived in this destination for a few years. I filled out the application form online, and heard back promptly that they wanted to commission me to write several articles on designated topics. The pay was good, at 50 cents per word, and they would pay extra for photos.

On hearing that I needed to write a 500-word article on the best national parks to visit in this place (for example), I might have thought that I would sit down and type out roughly 500 words on my experiences traveling to some national parks, including a bit of internet-based research on facts and figures to give it some detail. This is what I might have done for a simple blog post. But this assignment came with very structured and detailed instructions, which I believe is quite standard for the type of web writing I’m talking about.

I was given a list of sub-headings/topics, of which 80% had to be included. I was also given a list of keywords that had to be included. Further, the article had to be clearly structured with an introduction, several sub-headings, and a clear conclusion. There was very little room for creativity, because this is not what the company wanted. They had determined the content they needed for their site in order to get more people to view it, and they needed writers who would follow these instructions.

So why did they need highly-specialized writers who knew the destinations inside out if they had already done so much of the research themselves? My specialist knowledge of the country was valuable in a couple of ways. First, it meant I could identify where the company had made a mistake. They had suggested the inclusion of a particular national park that I knew was not accessible. I told them this, and did not need to include this example. A less knowledgeable writer might have continued to write about this park, which would have been a waste of readers’ time and potentially made the company look bad.

Second, my specialist knowledge meant I could do this writing very quickly. Other than verifying certain facts and figures, I could write out the content from my own knowledge. That made the assignment very lucrative for me, because I got paid around $2500 to write several articles that took me no more than a day’s work in total (although I didn’t sit down to do it all at once).

Some time after I had completed this job, I saw the company soliciting writers for a similar project in a writing group that I am part of on Facebook. One writer was questioning how worthwhile this type of work was, as she did not feel that writing 500-word pieces on such broad categories was possible, and that it would be constraining. She considered good travel writing to allow the writer the luxury of more words to elaborate on just one hike or national park or whatever the topic was. When I pointed out that this type of web writing was highly structured, and that specialists in the respective topics would likely find the writing very easy, quick and worthwhile work, she reiterated that she did not feel this process would result in valuable writing.

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not every writer should feel compelled to do all kinds of work, it was clear to me that she simply didn’t understand how this kind of writing for the web works. It was my task with these articles to follow a brief that would allow the company to get more visitors to their website, and to provide well-written and informed copy that would keep those readers on the site, clicking around and reading their other articles, eventually possibly purchasing their product. It wasn’t the intention to write a piece worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. If I had wanted to write a 1000-word narrative piece on my experiences in a single national park, I would pitch this elsewhere.

I had such a good experience writing web articles for this company that I landed two more assignments from them in the following months, on different destinations. While I wouldn’t want all of my writing life to be spent on web articles such as these, because I also like to be creative, these were worthwhile jobs that utilized and valued my knowledge and skills. I encourage all writers who want to make a bit more money (isn’t that everyone!?) to keep an eye out—or even approach—companies within their areas of specialization.

Elen Turner is a travel writer and editor who specializes in the countries of South Asia. Find her work at


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