Tag Archives: travel writing

Freelancing On The Road: Preparing for Disaster Using Gmail

Vinyl Road Rage 2 on the roadby Joe Wallace

I’ve been posting a series of lessons learned from my travels as part of the Vinyl Road Rage series I’m writing over at Turntabling.net, and wanted to include a simple trick I’ve been using for several years now as a way to avoid disaster as a hard-core road warrior and writer.

It’s bound to happen to you eventually–a laptop crashes to the floor of a coffee shop, your hard drive fails, files get corrupted, viruses, you name it. The bottom line is that as a writer, you depend a hell of a lot on these often-fragile things called computers.

What happens when you’re freelancing on the road, and suddenly the contents of your hard drive are unavailable?

A lot of people back everything up to flash drives and thumb drives. It’s a good idea, but I have been burned more than once in an emergency where I was forced to deal with outdated computer gear  in a hotel lobby, airport, public library or other space where you might not be able to hook up a portable USB drive to a computer you need to use due to equipment or security limitations.

My solution? I compose everything in Gmail as a rich text e-mail and send it to myself. From Gmail I can copy/paste into Word or open up Google Documents and paste there, then download as a Word file and e-mail it on.

With Gmail, I always have my work with me, no matter what phone or computer I need to access. Unless you are limited to an old Sinclair or are trying to access the Internet using an Apple IIe, the Gmail solution is pretty useful.

It’s not the most elegant one to be sure, but it has really saved me in cases where I needed to make a deadline but couldn’t access my hard drive. You can get to Gmail from any computer, iPhone, Android, etc. make your modifications and send along. Yes, tweaking a document using an iPhone can be a major ordeal, but if it means the difference between staying on deadline or not, answering a client question or providing examples of your work in a pinch, there are much worse things that could happen.

Freelance Road Warriors: Lessons Learned While Working on the Road

Vinyl-Road-Rage-Record-Storby Joe Wallace

I’ve been working from the road as part of my cross-country blogging journey writing about indie record stores for my site Turntabling.net. The trip, called Vinyl Road Rage, isn’t a vacation–I kept working my regular freelance clients while out and about.

On this trip there was plenty to learn about the joys of extended time away from the office, using coffee shops as your office, and how to survive on the road as a freelancer.

A lot of what I filed away for future reference on this trip hasn’t been about the business of freelancing per se, but rather how to keep yourself ready to DO business as a freelancer while on the road.

One of the best investments I made in preparation for the journey? A 12-pack of bottled water that cost me $2.50. That’s the price of two gas station bottled water purchases, more or less. Every little bit counts in this economy.

Another excellent frugal traveling thing I’ve done this year was to take full advantage of the hotel continental breakfast. And I do mean “take advantage of”, as I stashed plenty of extra free fruit, oatmeal packets and other sundries to eat while on driving, sparing me a stop and a lunch bill.

Add to that a little trick I’ve learned to do over the years; one of my favorite kinds of food is Thai cuisine. Thai is extremely portable, especially if you have a cooler or ice chest with you. One Thai lunch is usually enough to split into two meals anyway (or at least it is if you eat like me) so I found myself getting double mileage out of my lunches when I did shell out for them.

Neglecting food is a bad idea for a freelancer–I try not to skip meals when I’m doing these cross-country drives, but I do like to make good time, too. From experience I’ve learned that a skipped meal equals poor productivity, reduced concentration and a higher potential for errors when working online. So I pack a lot of portable goodies like nuts, yogurt, low-fat cheese and organic peanut butter to tide me over when I’m trying to get some good driving time in.

When you’re in our line of work, it’s important to be healthy so you can perform in any required high-stress situation that needs your attention, whether that’s in the middle of a road trip or sitting in your pajamas in the living room. Find ways to stay fed, keep from getting sick, and still meet your road trip goals and you’ll have little problem making them habitual–the rewards are well worth the effort.

One last tip for a road tripping freelancer–the farther outside your destination city the hotel room is, the better the prices seem to be. Just sayin’.

Freelancing From the Road: Another Round of Lessons Learned

Vinyl-Road-Rage-Record-Storby Joe Wallace

Every year since 2009, I’ve set out on a cross-country road trip lasting from nine to 12 days blogging about independent record stores I find along the way. It’s part of the work I do for my vinyl blog Turntabling.net.

The blog series is called Vinyl Road Rage, and it’s a collection of the weird and wonderful along America’s highways. But here’s the rub. Even as I’m on this crazy journey, my freelance work does not get put on hold–I’m doing the whole freelance road warrior thing even as I’m in full-blown travel mode, blogging, reviewing, photographing, etc.

And I like to post here about the things I learn about the freelance life on the road–last year I posted a series on FZ during Vinyl Road Rage 2 from Chicago to New York City about the trials and tribulations of writing, editing, posting and promoting in the middle of a hardcore road trip.

This time I will do the same. Even as you read this, I’m already behind the wheel and driving down the road to my first record shop stops. What kinds of experiences will I have earning a buck in the freelance jungle while on the two-lane blacktop? I’ll be sharing them with you here…my journey goes from April 21 (today) to May 1 2011, which should be plenty of time to explore a freelance travel issue or three. Stay tuned for that,  but in the meantime:

One thing I can tell you is that for any extended travel, pre-positioning content for blogs, social media and print is key. In the last three weeks I’ve put in some overtime to write and prepare content that I’d otherwise do on a daily basis so I can have a bit more freedom on the road. The problem with such pre-positioned content is that you can’t be timely, but fortunately for me I have clients who require plenty of “evergreen” material, so that’s what I concentrated on.

Being ahead of the game before you hit the road is a VERY good feeling indeed.

But what happens if you don’t have connectivity where you’re pulling off for lunch and can’t use your laptop to post material to a blog or social media account?

My trick is to pre-load any content into a blog that would be tough to type or cut-and-paste using an iPhone. I save this material as a draft or schedule it to post automatically via WordPress. The material saved as a draft can be posted easily from my iPhone, and the scheduled posts are a no-brainer. I try not to rely on borrowed wi-fi at truck stops and coffee shops without some kind of safety net in case I need it.

That way, the client is happy and my angles are covered until I can get to a hotel with dependable wi-fi to get more work done.

15 Words & Phrases To Leave Out of Your Travel Writing

working on the beach jcdoll

“One of the best-kept secrets of the Andaman Island’s is the exotic Havelock Island. Its breathtaking sunsets are a jewel that is a must-see for every traveler.”

If you’ve done your share of travel writing or reading, you may have been rolling your eyes at my description. (If not, think about if it invokes any sort of non-generic sense of what the Andaman Islands are like.)

Over in the Matador U Resource Section, I recently came across a couple of fun articles discussing 15 words and phrases they never want to see in travel writing again. As someone who has read a lot of travel writing, I must say that the author really nailed it. Here are a few of my favorites from the article:

Best-kept secret — Really? Are you sure The Purple Dinosaur Bar is Denver’s best-kept secret? You found it, after all, and now you’re publishing its location, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a secret, much less a well-kept one.

don’t-miss/ must-see — A bit of a bully, are you? What are you going to do to us if we miss it, huh?

Just give us your experience. Let us decide for ourselves if South Dakota’s Corn Palace is a must-see or a see-maybe-if-I-happen-to-be-driving-through-South-Dakota-someday-and-need-to-use-the-bathroom.

Mecca — Mecca is of course an actual place you might travel to or make reference to, and in either of those cases, it’s a perfectly appropriate word to use. But a Shopping Mecca? A Snowboarding Mecca? Really?

Would you ever refer to a “Shopping Basilica of Guadalupe?” Or a “Snowboarding Konark Sun Temple?” Sounds dumb, right? Okay, then.

exotic — “Exotic” is relative—it just means “different” or “foreign”, and depending who your reader is, that could mean ao dai, guayaberas, or blue jeans—so focus on describing your experience, and let your readers murmur, “oooh—how exotic!” if they so choose.

breathtaking — Was your breath literally taken away by the beauty of that sunset? Probably not, so this word is overkill. Unless you’re blue in the face and suffering from awe-induced oxygen deprivation, look for another word.

You can check out the entire list of 15 words over on the Matador U Blog:

Photo Credit: Jcdoll

Jason Demant is the co-founder of Unanchor.com, where you can find self-guided tour itineraries for your next trip. For the latest on travel-writing you can follow him on Twitter @Unanchor, or join the I Love Travel Writing Facebook group.

Become a Paid Travel Writer at Unanchor.com

writing in the park

I’ve previously written that the best way to become a paid travel writer is to find demand first and write second. Here’s a perfect example; my company, Unanchor.com, has announced that we are paying writers up to $100 to write travel itineraries. In the following post, I’ll tell you a little about Unanchor.com and why you should consider writing for us. Continue reading Become a Paid Travel Writer at Unanchor.com

The Revolution Continues…

by Mike O’Mary

Crime Spree Mag coverTwo weeks ago, I talked about the revolution in the book publishing industry. No big secret, right? Everybody knows that we are in the midst of a major shift from print to digital in the publishing industry. And everybody is speculating about what that means for the “industry” – from the big publishing houses to indie publishers to agents to best-selling authors (who are now passing on six-figure advances because they don’t want to give up their digital rights!) to self-published authors (who would probably gladly give up their digital rights for a six-figure advance!).

Below are links to a couple of really great recent blog posts about changes in the publishing industry, and about the possible ramifications. Read them when you have a few minutes, but then come back because I have some really exciting news for freelancers, even if you’ve never written a book and never plan to… Continue reading The Revolution Continues…