NB: This is a guest article by Stuart Lodge, director at RoundTheWorldFlights.
It was Jorge-Luis Borges, the blind Argentinian poet-writer, who called shyness "evil".
Not sure I agree, but in the last two weeks I have been asked by two separate tour operator startups about what are the going rates for professionalwriters when it comes to adding quality travel content to a website.
Both had been quoted daft prices from content farm producers to write "tailor-made" articles. It struck me that prices being quoted by the farms were similar as to what you would pay for a good travel writer.
But they were both a bit too shy (British maybe) to approach professional writers as they thought they might be way off target, price-wise.
So, as a general guide to travel companies startups, I thought publishing the rates of what we pay and what I understand newspapers pay, might shed some light on what seems a rather confused area besmirched by "shyness".
No hard and fast rules and this is a new marketplace where everyone seems to be feeling their way towards equilibrium. But this is what we pay (on average):
Put in perspective
- 1 x new destination post of 450 words = £100-£150 (around 26p-33p a word)
- 12 x new destination posts of 450 words = £1,000 (around 19p a word)
- 1 x new planning post of 450 words £150-£200+ (around 33p-44p a word)
National newspapers seem to be paying somewhere between free (for exposure - handy if you have a book out etc) and more usually 20p-60p a word. Magazines seem to be paying more, but the overall trend does seem to be towards less staff writers and more freelance work bought in.
Copy-writing versus travel writing
If you want someone to write about your products, it's copy-writing. Many writers will either back off or charge more if you want them to trot out stuff about your company or something to a rigid brief.
The travel writing I'm talking about is writing about destinations, offering general advice and guides etc. It's a tricky concept to grasp, but basically you should be commissioning like an editor rather than a travel company owner.
I like what travel writer David Whitley wrote about trust:
"The trust factor is important too. With the planning articles, we’ll agree a general topic (such as packing tips or security whilst travelling) and it’ll be left to me to get on with it.
"Similarly, with destination posts, I’ve a surprising amount of freedom. We’ll agree on three from Hong Kong and six Florida – what I actually write about depends on what I find most interesting whilst there. Theoretically, I could trot out any old crap. But I actually enjoy the freedom to write about interesting things that wouldn’t get commissioned elsewhere.
"I’m not going to write any old nonsense. It’s about of professional pride and wanting to keep the gig. From my perspective, it’s an admirably brave approach.
"But there’s a logic to it. I’m a better judge of what’s a good story than he is; I’m also there while he’s sat in an office. It also allows for the content to be genuinely distinctive rather than doing the usual prescriptive top tens and accounts of seeing the main sights."
Find a voice or personality that you like, and that suits your company. An expert on backpacking travel isn't necessarily going to fit in with a five star tour operator.
This process can take time. Start with National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust or Handstand. The British Guild of Travel Writers offers mini-profiles of it's members too - for example, here's Mary Novakovich. Look at the weekend national press, too.
Personally, I prefer Twitter - most writers are now on it. Follow them. You'll get a feel for their style and areas of expertise over time, and if you chat to them, you'll find they don't generally bite.
The agreements we have are similar to "Rights-Managed" agreements - in other words, where the writers retain copyright on all material but we can use it on any of our sites or social media platforms, and as long as they don’t resell it to a rival, then everyone stays happy.
Worth remembering that it goes without saying, for high quality content to work you also need the following to be workable too:
- User experience (UX) - on and offline
- Public relations (PR)
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Pay-per-click (PPC)
Integrating good content within your site, and working on the navigation does take a while - so it can be worth getting experts in to help on the technical aspects.
Five must read articles on creating content (and do read the comments):
- A talk on how to future-proof your site, with quality content, from last week's BrightonSEO conference in the UK is very good.
- Lara Dunston's article on a new entrepreneurial model for travel writers working in an evolving media.
- Mark Hodson wonders what the hell is quality content.
- All brands are publishers, learn how to be a good one here, from AdAge.
- The danger of low quality sites.
This is a guest article by Stuart Lodge, director at RoundTheWorldFlights
NB2: Travel writing image via Shutterstock.