Travel writing and travel blogging have increasingly overlapped in the publishing landscape of recent years. Many prominent travel writers who pen stories for publications from National Geographic to BBC, also maintain blogs on the side. And many bloggers now produce content that rivals glossy magazines with their thoughtful and polished stories.
So what’s the difference between a travel writer and a travel blogger? And does it matter?
While there’s no reason to pit these titles against each other or to associate more prestige with one over the other, there are certain differences to consider — differences that are of particular importance if you’re trying to decide where to focus your efforts.
Travel blogging involves many different jobs. Travel writing focuses on one.
As most travel bloggers know well, there is an extensive list of skills that must be developed to have a successful travel blog. You must be a writer, social media marketer, salesperson, editor, website designer, and the list goes on. Most of these positions would be handled separately at an online publication, magazine, or newspaper.
If you thrive on variety and multitasking, the scope of blogging may excite you.
Travel writers, on the other hand, typically focus on the craft of writing. It can be helpful to have a large social media following as a travel writer, but most publications will be much more concerned with your writing chops than your Twitter followers.
It’s also helpful for travel writers to have a basic grasp of photography. The modest budgets of online publication often require travel writers to take their own photos. But the responsibilities of the travel writer, for the most part, are more focused on telling great stories. Other people exist behind the scenes to edit, format, market, and publish your work.
Travel writers must find a publication. Travel bloggers must find an audience.
Unless you secure a staff position at a publication, pitching is a big part of being a travel writer. Before you write a story and get paid, you have to convince an editor that your story is one that’s worth telling — and that you’re the person who should tell it! This process can be fun, but it can also be tedious and a little heartbreaking. Many pitches go unanswered, and travel writers must have the resolve to just keep pitching.
Travel bloggers don’t have to worry about finding an editor who’s interested in their story because they are the editor of their own site! That can lead to a much more efficient turnaround on stories. You write, edit, and hit publish yourself. There’s no waiting for someone to return your email, or waiting for someone to edit the story you wrote.
Bloggers don’t have to find a publication, but they do have to find an audience. As the owners of their own publishing platforms, it’s the responsibility of the blogger to attract readers through social media, email marketing, SEO, and a variety of other audience-building tactics. That can produce a lot of pressure, especially when you’re just getting started and there’s no one paying you!
Once travel writers secure a story, they negotiate payment with their editor. Bloggers must take more time to establish themselves, find their audience, and build monetization funnels that eventually lead to getting paid.
Travel bloggers own their work. Travel writers often do not.
One motivation to focus on your own blog rather than other publications is control. When you write for your own travel blog, you make the calls. You’re the writer, editor, and publisher — maybe also the designer, salesperson, tech support, etc. But most importantly, you own the content and can strategize and monetize however you see fit.
This control can grant you access to more monetization opportunities. If you have a post that goes viral, monetizing that post can bring in some big bucks. This is almost never the case when writing for other publications. If an article you write does really well for an online magazine, you might receive praise (or criticism, because trolls are everywhere), and appreciation from your editor, but you’ve likely agreed upon a rate for that story, and that rate is not going to change. (There is an exception here for publications that run on a click-based commission system in which you’re paid based on how many people read and share the article. But these aren’t common.)
Bloggers have the freedom to be creative with how they make money, while the structures of payment are already in place for travel writers.
Writing for other publications also means that editors typically have the final say on edits. Your voice might be changed to fit the brand of the publication. This can be frustrating to writers who wish to preserve their style and brand.
So, can you handle giving control to someone else when it comes to your writing? Or do you prefer to own your own work and call the shots? This is an important question to ask yourself when deciding on whether to blog or to write for someone else.
Ultimately, both travel writers and travel bloggers are in the business of sharing stories from around the world — which is a pretty sweet gig, no matter how you define it.
Do you want to branch out from your blog and write for big name publications? Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing shows you how.