Unless you’re Bill Bryson, you’re probably not going to become a millionaire through travel writing. But you should still keep writing if you’re a passionate writer.
In Dubai, most magazines pay about Dhs1 per word for a piece, and many won’t pay you extra for the photographs, unless of course you’re an insanely talented photographer that’s recognised as one in the media industry. Of course you can try to negotiate a better rate with photos, but it won’t always work. The average magazine story is about 1,500 to 2,000 words, so you’re looking at around Dhs1,500 to Dhs2,000 for a magazine story in the UAE. Some magazines have longer pieces, and the rate might go up for those.
Do keep in mind that you’ve had a free trip, so that’s probably saved you a ton of money. And of course the whole experience was probably awesome.
Website rates vary depending on the company, but I’ve been paid around 100 pounds for a 400 to 600-word piece in the past. If you’re doing a guidebook or coffee table book, it’s likely you’ll be paid for the entire project as it might take a few weeks or months. Again, depending on the company behind the project, the fees vary. I know people who’ve been paid between Dhs10,000 to Dhs20,000 to help with guidebooks and/or coffee table books, and even up to Dhs100,000 and more to do the entire coffee table book – although this fee would usually also include managing the book’s creation, from flat planning (which is putting the page plan together) through to time management and more. These bigger projects would usually only go to really experienced people and you’d probably need to negotiate a deal according to your experience.
For blogs, you can make money through affiliates, paid partnerships, social media promotion, brand campaigns and sponsorships. I haven’t actually done this myself but there is definitely an opportunity to make money travelling and blogging. You do need to be super motivated, focused and tough.
I’ve said this 50,000 times now, but when you’re writing your piece, make sure to write it through your reader’s eyes. This is not about you; it’s about writing for your audience and giving them something they won’t read anywhere else. Unless you’re an exceptionally good writer who is intentionally writing in Gonzo style (for a publication that accepts that style), it’s better to keep things objective.
So Gonzo, for people who don’t know, is a journalism style that writer and general wild man, Hunter S Thompson – who was the inspiration behind the film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp as Hunter – coined in the 70s. In short, Gonzo journalism is ‘written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative’. (Thanks Wikipedia.)
Most people think that travel pieces are long and rambling, but they can also be short pieces of about 500 words or less. You might write copy that will act as a box out alongside a main story. The longer pieces are where competition is most fierce, so try to pitch for smaller pieces or fillers if you need to. There’s no shame! A friend of mine is the editor of a fabulous travel magazine in South Africa, and she recently asked me to write about things to do with your teenager in Dubai. The copy – around 500 words – acted as a side bar to the main story, which touched on travelling through the UAE.
When you’re writing, ask yourself: What is the point of this article? Answer the what, when, where, why and how of the piece and you’ll have covered everything you need to cover. Please remember to fact check your piece and make sure everything is 100 per cent correct, especially if there are foreign words. Again, check your spelling and grammar people!
Be creative with your words, and use the Thesaurus if you have to. Robin William’s character in Dead Poets’ Society said: “So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” ― in our case, words are used to woo your reader.
One of my favourite paragraphs is this excerpt from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
And of course Wilfred Thesiger, who explored Arabia, wrote beautifully. This is an excerpt from Arabian Sands: “I pondered on this desert hospitality and, compared it with our own. I remembered other encampments where I had slept, small tents on which I had happened in the Syrian desert and where I had spent the night. Gaunt men in rags and hungry-looking children had greeted me, and bade me welcome with the sonorous phrases of the desert. Later they had set a great dish before me, rice heaped round a sheep which they had slaughtered, over which my host poured liquid golden butter until it flowed down on to the sand; and when I protested, saying ‘Enough! Enough!’, had answered that I was a hundred times welcome. Their lavish hospitality had always made me uncomfortable, for I had known that as a result of it they would go hungry for days. Yet when I left them they had almost convinced me that I had done them a kindness by staying with them”
And of course it always helps to be funny… Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love: “To my taste, the men in Rome are ridiculously, hurtfully, stupidly beautiful. More beautiful even than Roman women, to be honest. Italian men are beautiful in the same way as French women, which is to say– no detail spared in the quest for perfection. They’re like show poodles. Sometimes they look so good I want to applaud.”
Want to get in touch for more tips on travel writing, or any other writing for that matter? Or do you want our team to write something for you? Shoot me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org