Travel writing is some of the most glamorous writing out there. Travel bloggers spend most of their time on the road, spending weeks here and there, from picturesque little villages and quaint towns in the heartland to exotic destinations and vacation must-sees around the world. They can specialize in particular kinds of travel (RVing, camping, or the jet-setter, 5-star glamor lifestyle), they can focus on different aspects of the places they visit, from the arts and culture to the food to the people, and so much more.
With millions of people yearning to see the world and millions more stuck at home, tied to jobs they can't leave, families they can't bring, or just isolated by the ongoing pandemic, there's more demand to see that life through the eyes of the people who can travel than ever before. Travel blogs are big and growing.
If you run such a blog, well, chances are pretty good that you want to be the one doing the travel, seeing the sights, experiencing the cultures, and enjoying the food. You might not want to have to spend hours everyday writing, editing, preparing, publishing, keyword researching, internally linking, and managing all of the ins and outs of a web design.
It's no wonder that many of the world's most popular (and many more of the middle range) travel bloggers outsource almost all of the work. They can afford it and even make enough from the stories of their adventures to continue funding more adventures.
If you're one of these travel addicts, and you're looking to free up more time in your schedule to do the traveling, hiring a writer to take your notes and photos and turn them into blog posts can be a great way to do it. The only question is how!
Some talented travel writers can write a whole narrative adventure from whole cloth, with little more than a few pictures. Others will want full notes of your thoughts and views and even an outline or itinerary to help them put the pieces together. Which do you prefer? How much of a hand in the production of your content do you want to have? Obviously, you get to have your adventures, but how much of that time are you spending taking notes?
Other considerations might include whether or not you want to use audio recordings rather than written notes and, if so, if you should hire a transcriptionist to convert them into usable notes for your writer. Basically, decide what kind of relationship you want, how much work you want to offload (and, critically, what you want to retain for yourself), and devise a process. This might take some trial and error, and it can adjust over time as you trust your writer more, so don't stress too much about it now; you just need a baseline.
What's the difference between a documentary about a location on the Travel Channel, a tourism blog's post about that location, and a travel writer's post about that location? Assume they all cover the same handful of sights and experiences.
The answer is the voice. The character. The personality.
So, a key piece of the puzzle when hiring a freelance writer is defining your voice . What makes your voice quintessentially you? What is the point of view, what is the perspective, what are your idioms and your vocabulary choices that define you?
This can be difficult to pin down, especially if you're a very casual blogger and haven't set your style in stone. Ideally, you'll find a writer who can extract this information from your existing content, but defining the keys you find most important can help them make sure they hit all the bases. This set of characteristics will be required reading for your prospective writers.
There are a lot of different roles that a writer or freelancer can take in a travel blog relationship.
At the bare minimum, they're just a writer. They take your notes, write a narrative around them, hitting the key points you want to be mentioned, and return it so you can add your images and commentary and publish it.
Scaling up, your writer might also be something of an editor, collaborating with you back and forth on content, improving everything you write. This is a more expensive service, but it can improve not just the quality of the content on your site but your own ability to write as well.
You can also expand into additional services for your blog. Maybe you have the writer also process your images, include them in your post in relevant places, and format it all on your blog. Maybe you have them do the actual publication, or at least formatting for publication directly in WordPress, so all you have to do is review and press the button.
Maybe you have them manage more than just the content. Maybe they do research to figure out what the most asked questions are about a location and try to organically address them in your content. Maybe they look into relevant local keywords and include them in meta data for your content. Maybe they even do higher-level research and give you ideas of where to go and what to do to get the most eyes on your content.
In extreme cases, your freelancer could be an entire blog manager. You might also consider hiring a whole team rather than just a writer if you want these services but one person alone can't provide them for you. You get what you pay for, though, so make sure you know what you want and have the budget to get it.
One more decision you need to make is how public you want to be with your search for a writer.
On the one hand, you can post on your site that you're looking for a writer (or writing assistant) to help you with running your blog. People will know that you aren't writing everything yourself, but as long as enough of your personality and touch is on it, they won't be too upset in general. On the other hand, if you just post that you're hiring someone to write your blog posts for you, people will lose that bit of faith in you, and it might (just might!) hurt your blog.
On the other hand, you can be entirely secretive about it and go out looking for writers behind the scenes. There are all kinds of places you can find writers, from Fiverr to Upwork to Freelancer to Guru to my own job board.
Seeking out specific writers gives you an opportunity to see what kind of content they've created in the past, what accolades and testimonials they have, and even what rates they tend to charge. You can approach them with your project and see if they're interested.
Once you have a writer, or several writers, willing to work with you, the first thing you'll want to do is test them. Good freelancers, even if they're highly accomplished and skilled in their craft, are going to go through this process because it's about testing the relationship as much as it is testing their skills. You're looking to see if they can produce content that fits on your blog, but they're looking to see how easy you are to work with and if they can do the writing and other tasks you need to be done in a reasonable amount of time and effort.
What should your writing test be? Typically, a writing test is just the process you'll use to produce content. You have your itinerary, your outline, your notes, whatever resources and images you want to include, and your voice and style guide. All of this goes to your writer, and you see what they produce, how they reach out to you if they have questions, how quickly and effectively they get the writing done, and anything else that comes up.
Make sure you pay for your test post! Writers are often burned by clients that ask for free content and ghost them, so the best ones won't give you a second look if you don't have some very, very compelling reason not to pay for a test post.
When you receive writing from your prospective writer or writers, give it a review. I recommend a several-stage process to review both the content and the relationship.
First, consider: was the writing early, on time, or late? Did it meet your requirements in terms of length? Were there any questions from the writer, additional communications, or any reason for them to reach out? Did they update you? Was it all satisfactory?
Next, scan through the writing. Does it fit your style, or does it fit well enough to pass with some tweaks? Does it cover the topics the way you wanted it to? Are there errors or issues with the writing? Does it feel right?
You can also do some technical scans. Run it through Copyscape, just in case. Check it with Grammarly to see what issues might have slipped your notice. Most good freelancers will have zero issues with any of this.
Don't be afraid to keep looking for a different writer if something doesn't work out with the first one. Sometimes a writer is technically proficient but can't nail your style. Sometimes they're great but impossible to contact. Sometimes they're too needy or just aren't quite up to par. It's up to you if you want to keep working with them to see if you can hammer out the details and work together or if you're better off picking someone else.
Once you've chosen your writer, make things official.
Most of the time, what you want is a contract. I've covered contracts in detail here if you want a deeper analysis of the situation. In short: contracts, when done right between agreeable people, is essentially invisible. It's one of those "get it and pray you don't need it" tools. If either side of the relationship fails to uphold their end of the deal, though, a contract is an essential tool for resolving disputes.
You might also consider whether or not you want an NDA. If your entire blog and brand are based around your own personality and the veracity of your own perspective, an NDA could be a good idea to help protect you. On the other hand, if you either don't mind people knowing that you're working with a writer or you aren't that reliant on your specific perspective and personality, it might not be necessary. Usually, NDAs are pretty negligible, anyway; while they can get you recompense for a violation, the damage would be done nonetheless.
Once all is said and done, you're ready to progress your travel blogging career with a writer at your side. Ideally, you've used an excellent job board like mine to find a top-tier writer who meets your needs, and you'll be ready to roll in short order. As long as you don't try to rush the process or otherwise go with someone unsuitable because you're tired of looking, you'll be fine. But feel free to reach out to me if you want tips, want to discuss your situation, or have any questions about hiring a writer! I'm always happy to help.