Tag Archives: freelance travel writing

The Realities of Travel Writing

Omega Music Dayton Ohioby Joe Wallace

I just read a blog post on a blog that shall remain nameless that stated “travel writing is as exciting a career as it is glamorous”. Having recently finished driving cross-country as part of my Vinyl Road Rage blogging trip writing about indie record stores across the USA for Turntabling.net, I feel uniquely qualified to both agree with (slightly) and make fun of this sentiment.

Really, travel writing is NOT sparkly fun. I hate when people try to gloss over the hard work involved with this type of freelancing by saying how glamorous and exciting it can be. It’s every bit as glamorous as you think it is–as long as your idea of glamour is a 16 hour day.

On my cross-country blogging spree, in its third year now, I’d think nothing at all about touring, photographing, and writing notes on six record stores in a day. Only once did I have the pleasure of hitting those six shops in the same city. New York was cool that way, but I spent a lot of highway time getting to the rest. So many little country roads, so little time.

Then there’s the challenge of finding a place to work and post, keeping freelance clients happy while I juggled them and the travel writing. And I think I managed to eat twice a day. I’m sure of it. Snacking in the car doesn’t count as dining, in my book anyway. But I did manage to eat the free hotel breakfast and find decent places to eat somewhere near the breaking point when I just…couldn’t…drive…anymore.

But it WAS exciting, I’ll give you that. There is something about hitting the open road all by yourself, nothing but your self-imposed deadlines and client demands standing in your way. But GLAMOROUS? Well, maybe if you like the smell of your own dirty laundry as it festers away in the back seat.

And we haven’t even come to the part where you review the notes and photographs and try to remember everything that you did.

That, folks, usually comes at the end of the day after your body tells you it’s time to sleep, either behind the wheel or in the hotel bed. Sit there bleary-eyed with Jon Stewart on in the background and just try to recall which places you saw that day and the funny thing that one guy said about his craziest vintage vinyl collector customers. Was that Provo? Or Box Elder? Maybe it was back down near Woman Hollering Creek?

Honestly, the toughest part about doing that type of travel writing–as opposed to the kind where you jet off to foreign lands and such–is having to explain to the family and friends you might have scattered across the route why you can’t really spare the time for a visit. They already think we don’t have jobs, now they see us doing this glamorous and exciting travel stuff and they want us to play with the kiddies and eat barbecue, cuz we’re not THAT busy.

If only.

Joe Wallace writes about and sells rare and obscure vinyl records at Turntabling.net. He also writes for a variety of finance websites and covers military topics as a 13-year Air Force veteran. Contact him: jwallace (at) turntabling (dot) net.

Freelance Travel and the Perils of Being a Road Warrior

IndieWax Youngstown Ohio record storesI’m sitting in a hotel room in Pennsylvania watching a news report about a situation I just missed–the bomb squad was called out in Pittsburgh after a suspicious package was discovered somewhere in the city. I shudder to think of what might have happened to my deadlines if I had gotten caught in a horrific traffic snarl that probably followed. But that’s not among the perils of being a freelance road warrior I’m thinking of…

I knew this week that the second I pulled out of the driveway to go on my Chicago to New York City road trip, I’d get hit six ways from Sunday with things I had hoped to avoid dealing with until I got back. Freelance-Zone.com got several requests from potential sponsors for rate cards and other information, an interview I’d been waiting on finally came in from the cold, and I even got an offer for some additional freelance work writing copy for one of my previous clients.

Naturally all this stuff came in when I was in no-signal areas, doing my travel reviews of record stores and restaurants, or trying to write up material to make deadline for the clients that I did NOT put on hold during all of this travel and discovery.

23 record stores later, I am still trying to catch up with all the e-mails and requests for my time. And I’m STILL on the road!

The perils of freelancing from the road range from the mundane–trying to get a seat in a coffee shop next to an outlet so you can deal with a dying laptop battery and make deadline…to the serious–trying to avoid having my travel budget dinged by gotcha charges, excessive fees and highway tolls and other expenses.

Lessons learned?

Essential road warrior gear for freelancers should include a wireless headset for your cell phone, a spare battery for your laptop, and a cell phone capable of using Google Maps with the Location Services feature. I can’t tell you how many times I would have gotten hopelessly lost without the Location Services function of the iPhone displaying the little blue dot telling me exactly where I was on both my route AND in terms of the directions I had gotten from Google Maps. On or off track, the little blue dot tells all and it shows you in SECONDS whether you’ve zigged when you should have zagged.

I’ll do a complete post on essential freelance travel gear later, but for now, suffice it to say that you should always expect your battery to die when you need it most, you should always count on getting lost just when you NEED to be in a certain town on time, and never make plans to stay longer than absolutely necessary—you’ll find a way to need to be someplace else on that day you were planning to sleep in. Continue reading Freelance Travel and the Perils of Being a Road Warrior

Freelance Travel–Beware The “Gotcha” Clause

Vinyl Road Rage 2 on the road

by Joe Wallace

I am still freelancing on the road–I’m filing reports this week from all over the place. Yesterday was New York, today it’s Pittsburgh, tomorrow, who knows? It all depends on the road and how good it is to me. Today I had trouble getting my clients their daily dose of freelance deliverables because of another unexpected wrinkle–did you know Starbucks in those truck driver rest stop areas don’t always carry wi-fi? I thought the whole idea behind the success of Starbucks was standardization…but apparently not.

All was well that ended well, as I managed to meet my deadlines by stopping off in a local bar and grill in Pittsburgh before time ran out, but there’s another assumption that’s not safe to make as a road warrior–even the most (recently) dependable sources of free wi-fi can’t be depended upon for one reason or another.

But there’s a much more important issue I want to discuss today–the detestable business practice known as the “gotcha” fee. What’s a gotcha fee? Glad you asked… Continue reading Freelance Travel–Beware The “Gotcha” Clause

A Freelance Travel Writing Experiment

Travel Writing Destination NYCby Joe Wallace

I love travel, and I love travel writing. So why haven’t I done that much in 2010? Because I let myself get tied down to a freelance gig that required me to show up onsite several days a week or take meetings that tied me to the company’s secure site which was tricky to access even ONSITE.

So I wound up being tied to a desk. It was worth it financially–I built up my war chest and was able to finish the project, choose not to renew with that client and concentrate on my own work after the project was done.

And now I’m taking full advantage by doing some travel and travel blogging.

Specifically, I’m doing a cross country trek to blog about indie record stores between Chicago, Illinois and New York City. It’s called Vinyl Road Rage, and I’m taking a dozen days on the road, blogging the whole way for Turntabling.net.

But I’ll also be posting along the way for Freelance-Zone.com because the issues I’ll be facing on the road are travel writing issues. How do I connect on the road? How do I juggle my travel with my other clients–who I won’t be putting on hold during the trip? How will THAT work out? I will give reports along the way about the trials, tribulations, almost-busted deadlines and much more.

After all, the idea of being a freelancer is being FREE. If I’m true to the freelance ideal, I should be able to travel for nearly two weeks, make my freelance clients happy AND post about it all here…right? Let’s take this journey together and see what happens. My road trip begins today, Thursday August 12, 2010…time to hit the road!

–Joe Wallace