Hope you had a great Easter weekend – however you celebrate it in your country!
I’m currently in Spain where they have a very weird, devout, and deadly serious 7-day celebration called Semana Santa…
Yep – I know what you’re thinking, but this has nothing to do with the KKK – who somehow stole the pointy hat idea and used it for evil.
Over here it’s all about solemn drumming, incense, and carrying statues of Jesus around town. Not a marshmallow chocolate egg in sight—which I’m pretty upset about.
Want to grow your online presence and stand out to clients as an awesome writer?Making your business “different” is one of the most powerful ways you can grow your business online. But…how do you actually do that?
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Today’s email is brought to you by Doug Paton, who’s a freelance tech copywriter, but also writes content for National Geographic (I am so jealous!) and the US Airforce.
So if you’re curious about whether you can multi-niche, you’re going to want to read this! Take it away Doug!
Greetings Rachael’s email list! I’m Doug.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a tech writer. I do all the usual stuff in the B2B tech and SaaS world that you’re used to hearing about, for companies that you’ve probably heard of (and a bunch you probably haven’t).
Beyond that, though, I’ve been writing professionally now for nearly 25 years. I started out as a journalist writing for local papers and sci-fi magazines, then I wrote for children (educational content and fiction) for a while, and now I’m mostly writing B2B tech and SaaS stuff (like everyone else apparently).
Actual footage of my first year as a writer, nearly 25 years ago, when
dinosaurs roamed the earth.
On the side, however, I write travel and outdoors articles for places like National Geographic, IHG Hotel group, and the US Air Force.
That’s what we’re talking about today.
Like a lot of things, getting started in travel and outdoors writing can seem like a daunting task. And, to some degree, it is. There are a lot of people out there who think this is a dream job and they’re willing to grind away for free.
But that’s not what you’re looking for, is it? I wasn’t either.
So how do you end up writing for the travel and outdoors industry?
Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to be a copywriter — that is someone who writes emails, web pages, and social copy –- you do what any other B2B writer does.
The advice that Rachael offers up works for any industry. The more you know the industry and the people in it, the more successful you’ll end up being.I know folks who write for high-end yacht companies and fly fishing companies. Heck, I’ve written for fishing charters.
Do the marketing writer thing in the niche you’re interested in (it doesn’t matter if it’s B2B or B2C) and you’ll find what you’re looking for (most of the time).Things get interesting when you start looking to write articles (not blog posts) in this niche.
First: You gotta build up a network
This is universal writing advice. Every great opportunity I’ve had is less about what I’m capable of and more about who I’ve known.
This covers most of my career writing for kids, writing for tech, and (a lot of) my journalism writing.
The best way to do this these days is to follow people in your desired niche and engage with them. It doesn’t have to be over the top, but casual engagement goes a long way.
I don’t love it. I’d rather spend my time focused on writing, but spending time goofing off on Facebook led to me getting in with National Geographic (for example). I wasn’t looking for an opp, but I saw one in a copywriting group and went for it.
You don’t have to necessarily focus on just connecting with people, though. Your networking efforts can be putting the content out there.
Take a look at my Instagram feed. You’d never know I was primarily a tech writer. That’s the point. My network here is almost entirely people who fly fish, including writers, publishers, marketers, and friends.
Second: You need to think like a marketer, but write like a writer.
I can hear you asking, “What the hell does that mean?”
Well, it’s simple. Travel writing is designed to make you want to explore the world. You need to understand what makes people want to travel and, more importantly, why they’d want to travel to a particular place.
That’s where the marketer in you needs to shine. You need to think about the story. It’s rarely going to be “I went here and did this…”
There is a market for that, but you need to go deeper. For example, this piece for Nat Geo was about eco-tourism in Thailand. The hook here was limiting your impact while traveling to places that are increasingly being overwhelmed by tourism.
Writing like a writer means ditching the marketing chatter. Nothing will get an article shut down faster than if it reads like it’s been written by a PR company (even if it’s sponsored content, like the Nat Geo article).
When I first started writing for the US Air Force, they needed someone to help promote their outdoor recreation program.
I interviewed someone in Osaka, Japan, and wrote about scuba diving there. The intro felt flowery and filled with prose. As a guy who spends his days writing tech blogs where fluff is frowned upon, it felt weird.
But the client loved it. Descriptive writing is your friend here, so don’t be afraid to use it.
Third: Get good at pitching.
This is probably the hardest part of writing for travel and outdoors. Pitching sucks. It’s a long game, you spend most of your time waiting, and you’re going to hear “No” a lot. But it’s a necessary evil.
Being good at pitching means making it easy to knock it out of the park
(Fun fact: I don’t know anything about baseball)
Being good at pitching means a couple of things.
The first is that you have to know what the story is. Not where you’re going, that’s only part of it. What’s the actual story you’re telling?
I spend a lot of time writing about fly fishing, but fishing is rarely the point of the pieces I write. It’s the journey. It’s the people. It’s the food. There’s always some other reason why beyond just “I’m going here. Let me write about it.”
The other piece is knowing where to pitch. This is partly where having a good network can come in handy. If you don’t have a network, there are newsletters that cover who’s accepting pitches.
These are a goldmine because a lot of good ideas can get stuck because you send them to someone who isn’t looking for pitches at the moment (or because an organization has closed down or because they’re not accepting pitches at all).
These newsletters help you cut through the clutter and find the right publication/person.Most importantly, show up authentically. We’re all a little weird and your particular kind of weird is going to help you.
The last call I had as a tech writer included moments about banjos and fishing (because you can see both behind me on video calls). A lot of folks who know even a little know I spend a lot of time fly fishing (and I’ve gotten work because of it).
I’ve landed clients after posting videos of me playing guitar.
When you put out a version of yourself that doesn’t exist, it eventually catches up to you. People can tell if you’ve never done a certain thing or if you’re not who you say you are, especially in the travel and outdoors world.
You’ll be called out pretty quickly (like this video, which isn’t even the video I was looking for—this happens a lot). If you’re writing about mountain climbing or traveling to India or even mountain climbing in India, it helps to have at least done something similar, otherwise, you’ll struggle to accurately capture the moment you’re writing about.
Good luck out there, Doug
PS: Got questions? Hit me up. I’m on Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram (plus Facebook, but I’m rarely there anymore).
PPS: Like what I have to say? I’ve got my own email list where I break down my experiences as a writer over the last 25 years. You can find me here.
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