Wailana Kalama

Freelance Travel Writer

Work Update: Jan-Jul 2017 as a Travel Writing Business


Champagne Café in Vilnius


It’s mid-July when I’m writing this report, where I look back these past six months and track the growth of my travel writing business. This is the time to assess my progress, to reevaluate my goals and share with the greater community  how to make money as a travel writer / copywriter.

Many freelancers do this sort of analysis of their past successes at the end of the year, but in the effort to keep my 2017 Word of the Year “Focus” alive and kicking–I’m pausing here, and looking back January to June.

These past 6 months, I’ve taken my travel writing business to new heights and new outlets.

It’s been a half-year of education, of re-strategizing, of implementation. Of Focus. Of waking up eagerly to my to-do list. Of catching up on the latest content of mentors who continue to inspire every day.

But still, I’ve been thinking continually about how I could improve, what I could strengthen. So I’m excited to announce a Monthly Newsletter for visitors to waikalama.com, the first of which will come out end of July! There will be more travel writing insights and links to awesome travel reading. Subscribe if you’d like some travel lit goodies in your inbox once a month.


January to June: Past & Ongoing Business

These past 6 months, I continued copywriting and content marketing projects for many clients, including:

– A Canadian travel tech company

– A SFO-based travel tech company

– An Icelandic tour operator

– A Stockholm travel magazine

I continue to work with, on a regular basis:

– A Portland-based travel agency

– A Stockholm-based travel aggregate

– A SFO-based startup

I wrote a few articles for Slow Travel Stockholm, quite a few on Viking history & culture in Sweden, which was a delight. Other writing credits include Go Overseas, Momondo, Urban Travel Blog, Epic Iceland, Cultured Nation, and Lucky Backpacker.

What am I working on now?

Now I’m working on some service pieces on Stockholm for a tourism aggregate. I’ve been steadily working in the editorial department of Almost Fearless, a magazine for parents who adventure. Subscribe to our print version–coming out this September–and look out for one of my pieces inside. Iceland popped up on my radar again–I’ve signed on with a new adventure travel startup, writing itineraries for hikes in Iceland, as well as conducting copywriting overhaul on another luxury tour operator based there. 


2017 is also the year of pitchinge. I’ve tracked how many pitches I sent out and happily quite a few were accepted. In an effort to write for more print publications, I’ll be targeting pitches to regional and national magazines in the second half of the year.

Pitches I sent out myself: 33

Accepted: 12

Refused: 8

No response: 13


Websites who approached me to write an article for them: 4

In this instance, a few businesses approached me, but this largely had to do with the wonderful referrals I received from fellow writers, or editors who recommended me. I’m hugely grateful to them.

What I Learned from Pitching

From the pitches that were rejected, I wrote some notes:

  • “Like the idea but only work internally.”
  • “The topic isn’t quite a fit but we could possibly do another collaboration.” > This actually led to them publishing two articles of mine later.
  • “The topic wasn’t a fit.”

This feedback told me that I had to work on my pitching skills, so I’ve been concentrating on that for the past two months. You’ll know more about those results during the next report of July-Sept, coming to an internet browser near you late Oct.

Then there was the cringe-worthy episode where I had an article accepted at an amazing publication, but my sources fell through last-minute. My story centered on a place that suddenly was closed for renovations and the publication needed a quick turnaround. In the end, to my chagrin, I had to turn down the assignment.

Prompting me to ask for the age-old journalism question: which comes first, the magazine or the source? In the end, it’s better to have a reliable source than a place to pitch the story. Because you can usually find another magazine to find a home for your story—but sometimes you only have one source.



Not surprisingly, the bulk of my income came from travel copywriting and content marketing (90%) for travel businesses. Though in this year I’ve pitched more than ever, pay ranged widely, so in the end it only amounted to 10% of my income.

Copywriting, content marketing and content strategy (90%)

I develop content strategies and then implement them in various forms of content: case studies, newsletters, sales pages, brochures, blogs, web copy, etc. This all falls under the same umbrella of “selling your travel business.”

Article writing (10%)

Article writing for different websites, mostly online but one in print. Not to be confused with blogging—that’s content marketing—these are travel articles commissioned by editors.


Professional Goals for the past 6 months: Clients, Diversify, Publications.

I wanted to increase my client roster and diversify my projects, balancing copywriting and content marketing with writing articles for magazines and websites. It was a fair balance, though in the specific outlets I wrote for, article writing awarded less payment than copywriting. Since my emphasis has been on online magazines, I did not publish in print as much I would like, so that will be a focus in the coming six months. 


Of course, I could never list the wealth of travel writers, bloggers, marketers who I check in with weekly, but here are two who have stood out in the past six months:

Gabi Logan, who runs Dream of Travel Writing. I look forward to her weekly emails and webinars, she shares a wealth of information on travel journalism behind-the-curtains. She was even gracious to accept my invitation for coffee while we were both in Stockholm.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström, who runs Slow Travel Stockholm. She’s accepted many of my articles and even referred my name for ultimately amazing projects. I’ve even based this report on her own, as well as a few others’. Her writing and business acumen continue to inspire.


As I mentioned, I’ll be putting out a monthly newsletter. I’ll also be updating this blog regularly, in an effort to be more transparent with all my travel writing education and tidbits. And, in addition to my regular work in writing for travel businesses, I’ll be focusing a lot more in the coming months on pitching print publications.

AND: I have a secret new project in the works I’m hoping to unveil in October — stay tuned!

The next six months look to be auspicious! I’ll continue to pitch, more now than ever, and grow my business. Though I’ve been writing for years, my goal this year has been to really Focus on my career, and to shape it towards a direction of more authority and authenticity, because after all, travel writing is nothing without these two qualities. 

Runestones at Broby Bro