5 ways 'specializing' can boost your freelance travel writing career

By David Hammond
When I started writing full time, I still had much to learn.

My career got traction thanks to a magazine editor who took time to help guide my efforts.

Why did he go to the trouble?

Part of the reason probably stemmed from kindness. He could see I was serious about writing and wanted to help.

However, it didn’t hurt that I was a specialist—with expertise on a travel-related topic in strong demand with his publication’s readers.

My first travel writing specialty was expat life in Uruguay   Photo by David Hammond

Travel writing is a writing niche that covers an expansive range of topics

Think about it. Travel writers report on beach resorts. They also report on ski resorts, on golf resorts, and on cruise ship lines.

They provide suggestions for luxury getaways, outdoor adventure, and health retreats.

You’ll find travel writers who advise readers on the best places to shop for local crafts, see a live show, or attend a festival.

It’s travel writers that share opportunities on where to study abroad, teach English abroad, and volunteer abroad.

Travel writers among our ranks recommend places to rent a car, rent a boat, or rent a bicycle.

It’s in articles written by travel writers where you find buying recommendations for travel accessories, backpacking gear, and luggage.

And, it’s often freelance travel writers who propose good places to vacation on a budget, retire abroad for less, or undergo medical and dental procedures for a fraction of the cost back home.

How can a travel-writing generalist claim the ability to properly cover such a vast spectrum of topics?

Good question.

Breaking into travel writing as a generalist 

A growing number of aspiring freelance travel writers are catching on to the advantages of specializing.

However, most new travel writers, especially young ones, still attempt to break into travel writing as generalists.

As generalists, they entertain every article idea that crosses their mind and grasp at every opportunity to make a publishing-industry contact.

They cast their net as wide as possible, believing it will improve their chances of getting “something.”

But here's the rub: Generalists compete for assignments in a pool of other generalists.

Since travel writing is one of the most coveted lifestyle jobs on earth, it’s no surprise the pool of travel-writing generalists includes plenty of experienced writers, many with a long list of published articles to their credit.

While it’s tough work to break in as a generalist, it’s not impossible.

With dogged persistence, some rise through the ranks, working up to a full schedule of assignments.

However, a more common experience for new travel writers breaking in as generalists is to get published once and a while but never build up momentum.

Even after a few years of effort, many spend more time writing article proposals than writing articles.

Fortunately, there’s another way.

Breaking into travel writing as a travel niche specialist  

As you enter the world of freelance travel writing, you’ll be one writer among many.

So, how do you stand out to editors and win assignments?

You guessed it: Don’t present yourself merely as a travel writer—and a new one at that. Instead, differentiate yourself by approaching an editor as a travel niche specialist who can write.

1. As a travel topic specialist, you add greater value 

You come to the table with background information, firsthand experience, and connections. You also stay updated on trends and changes on your topic.

This deep sense of your specialty enables you to furnish publications and readers with added value—providing an accurate story with seasoned insights that only come with an insider’s perspective.

While you may not have as much writing experience as some other freelance travel writers; when it comes to your specialty, you write with greater authority than a generalist.

Plus, if you possess genuine enthusiasm and interest for your topic, it often comes through in your writing, adding even more value.

2. Specializing can help you win assignments 

Editorial teams can spruce up writing. They can’t compensate for a shallow understanding of a subject.

So, when it comes to proposing articles and seeking assignments on your travel-related specialty, your expertise will weigh in your favor, giving you an edge with editors.

And once you break in and establish industry relationships, editors may come to you when they want dependable work on your topic.

3. Specializing focuses your efforts 

As a travel-writing specialist, you don't consider every article idea that passes through your mind, wondering if it’s the one that could lead to a break.

Instead, you quickly identify ideas and opportunities that serve your aim as a topic specialist. It makes your efforts more concentrated and effective.

4. Specializing enables you to produce better work with less research time

Once you've made the initial time investment to develop your expertise, you’ll be writing on a travel topic you already know well and follow.

And when additional research is required, it adds to your growing expertise.

5. Specializing encourages a following of readers

If your writing appears in the same publications on the same travel-related topic, you’ll likely develop a following of readers who appreciate your work and remember your name.

It’s like a magnifying glass. You’ll create more heat if you keep your focus in one place as opposed moving it around.