If you have itchy feet and a way with words, then travel writing is quite possibly the best job in the universe. Going to beautiful places and doing amazing things, and getting paid for it… sounds like heaven, right?

BUT, as with everything that sounds too good to be true, there is a catch. Travel writing is (not surprisingly) a hugely competitive industry and notoriously difficult to break into.

As a magazine journalist for over 20 years — the last 10 as a freelance features and travel writer — I’ve had stories appear in most of the UK’s top titles. Here are some of my top tips to get you started.

Know your market

Decide which publication you want to pitch to, and read the magazine to get a good feel for their style. Don’t send an idea about a party trip to Ibiza to a magazine aimed at Mums aged 35+. It’s simply a waste of your time, and will make you seem unprofessional.

Look for the unique hook

Don’t pitch a romantic break to Paris – that’s been done a million times before. Think laterally; a weekend of truffle hunting in the French countryside, learning to make paté, retracing every step of your Parisian honeymoon for your 20th wedding anniversary. Find that detail that will draw people in; something that’s never seen before, or delightfully quirky, or that encompasses a human-interest story.

Think of a snappy headline

Commissioning editors see dozens of story ideas every single day, if yours doesn’t grab their attention they might not even give it a proper read through – especially if they have a deadline and 40 other emails still to get through. Instead of ‘Romantic Break’ try ‘The Tour L’Amour’. If they can see your story as a cover line, you’re already halfway towards the commission.

Keep your pitch brief

Just a few lines – but keep the juiciest points in there. ‘Would you be interested a travel story about newlyweds travelling back to the city where they first met, and retracing the journey that caused them to fall in love?’ If they want to know more, they’ll get in touch.

Only approach one publication at a time

Give them two or three days to respond. It’s OK to follow up once: ‘Just making sure you received my email about the newlyweds travelling back to the city where they first met, and retracing the journey that caused them to fall in love?’

After that, move on

Commissioning editors are often too busy to reply to all pitches, and expect you to take the hint if you don’t hear back. If you start firing off snippy emails, you’ll go on their black list. You do NOT want to be on their black list.

Never give up!

Perseverance and a thick skin are essential for freelancing. Don’t take the rejection personally, and try not to get discouraged: even as a professional full-time freelance writer I sometimes got turned down from a dozen publications before finding ‘the one’ who loved my idea. Some ideas — regardless of how great I thought they were — never got picked up.

Try really hard not to work for free

As soon as you’ve given your time and talent away, it’s much harder to turn around and demand a reasonable fee for it next time. Unless it’s a passion/charity project, or a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity, avoid!