4 Tips For Making A Living Writing

4 Tips For Making A Living Writing

travel writer

Out on Lake Como, not a wrinkle disturbs the glassy blue waters. As I work on my second travel book, the full-length window view is perfect for a moment of reflection.

I’m back in my living room after traveling through Dresden, Prague, and Ferrara. Deadlines are buzzing, which means I have to hustle before the kids get back from school. But that’s a good thing.

Freelance writing—or freelance anything—isn’t easy. Having been on both sides of publishing, as an editor and a writer, here are a few tips if you are on a similar creative journey. Or, if you are also trying to find your niche with an online career.

  1. Modify Your Job Search Strategy

Are you spending all day on Craigslist or Upwork looking for jobs, then wasting time working with a client who may never pay properly?

In the beginning, I spent months doing exactly that.

Many folks looking for copywriters try to get away with the cheapest they can find. Simply not worth your time.

Not that you’ll never get any work on those sites. It may be a good place to start when getting used to “writing on demand”. Some places I did get better clients were Indeed.com and problogger.com

But one day, I decided to change my search strategy.

Instead of searching for “writing jobs online”,  “writer jobs online” or even “work from home writing jobs”, I googled instead for:

“Top Content Marketing Companies In the World”

And up popped this article on Inc.com:

6 Companies That Are Dominating Content Marketing

I applied to all six.

Three rejected me.

But the other three top content marketing brands in the world gave me a shot.

Today, I am swamped with writing jobs—a very happy problem!

And there’s my not-so-secret secret:

Aim for the top. Again, and again.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

–Norman Vincent Peale

remote working

2. Pitch Like Hell

This one is for travel writers looking to sell a story:

Many pitches will be rejected, and sometimes it’s just because your topic may not fit their current editorial schedule. Expect to do lots of pitching in the beginning.

Getting used to rejection is a good thing–and so is stocking your database of editors in each publication!

Don’t give up.

Expect that it will take time for you to send out query letters, write pitches, and communicate with industry pros.

Use that time to hone your skills, expanding your network within your desired field of work.


3. Nurture Real Relationships

Not all of my work came through faceless job hunting online.

Many times, I’ve been assigned work because of the network built up over the last 20 years I’ve been writing for publications. I now live in quite a remote village, so I value real friendships, keeping in touch with old friends and even ex-colleagues or bosses.

Are you stuck in the cycle of endless job searches and dreary job interviews? Try getting back in touch with other human beings.

Life has a funny way of coming around full circle. You never know who may just be the connection you needed to find.

Or, the one who needed to find you.

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”—Steve Jobs


4. Get Outside and Live

The beauty of being a writer is that your whole life becomes a series of stories to tell.

On the other hand, being a writer sometimes means that we are a little too self-centered, confined in our own world.

By choice, usually. A little introverted, you know?

We need to expand our experiences, using all of our senses.

Backpacking by train with my four-year-old daughter last weekend to Ferrara, I didn’t know what to expect. I let life surprise me and ended up in this amazing place, full of history, art, secret alleyways and spectacular castles.

We even chanced upon the oldest wine bar in the world!

Ferrara Travel

The following week, I already had editors in my inbox asking for the story for publication.

As a writer, you use up a lot of energy writing.

It can be taxing; even draining. This is because you are literally emptying your mind and heart onto the page.

You need to re-tank.

So don’t be afraid to get outside and live life!

Do things spontaneously.

Say yes to new opportunities that come your way!

Talk to strangers.

Make friends. Make new friends!


“It’s cliché!” I hear you saying…

But hear me out. Soon enough, you’ll be making money doing what you love—I promise. Or, making a living writing about things that actually matter to you.

The important thing is that you start living first.

Then, you’ll have even more fantastic experiences to write about.

And yes, the world needs your stories.

Nyx Martinez Travel

Now. Remember the list I linked to at Tip Number 1? Go click it, they’re still hiring. 😉

How A Rejection Letter From Google Was The Best Thing That Happened to Me in 2016

How A Rejection Letter From Google Was The Best Thing That Happened to Me in 2016

I lie. It was pretty devastating.

But let me backtrack a bit…

In November 2015, I’d heard that a Fortune 500 company was hiring. They needed remote content producers for a travel and tourism-related job.

It required at least three years in publishing, familiarity with the hotel market and global travel, and knowledge of foreign languages. Plus, all that other meticulous stuff editors need to know.

I went to the application link, submitted my CV and writing samples, and forgot about it.

A month later, the email arrived.

The company hiring turned out to be Alphabet Inc., formerly known as Google Inc. There was a new Google Travel project in the works.

They told me that I’d passed the initial application screening! Next step was the 3-part onboarding test to assess my editing and writing skills. Each stage of this test required reading the training material and watching a detailed training video.

And then, passing three laborious tests.

It was the busy Christmas season, and with two young kids at home, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I went ahead and tried—my very, very best. Studying and writing late into the night, even on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Imagine my excitement when they told me I’d passed the first test, and could move onto the second round!

…And then the third!

abbazia di piona


I’ll never forget sitting in the departure terminal in Frankfurt. One of my kids was sleeping on the bench, the other playing in the aisles, waiting for boarding time. We’d already missed our connecting flight during this trip. I was stressed, on my smartphone, corresponding with the girl handling my application. She told me I had only until the 8th of January for this final deadline.

Well, when the 8th of January came around, I’d submitted the final test and waited…

The rejection letter came three days later:

“…After thorough evaluation of your submission, we regret to inform you that your entries do not qualify you to move forward. Thank you very much for the time and effort you’ve put into this.”

Time and effort, no kidding!

Each video training course and test were done on a timed deadline, the entire process taking five days to complete. In-between that time, I was traveling solo with two kids, ages six and two.

I was gutted.

Rejection sucks, but when you’re a young mom trying to get back into the career game, it sucks so much worse.

I had put in the hours, the work, and the energy. I felt drained and discouraged.

But somewhere in that distressed state, there was a realization:

I’d passed three out of four tests to become a GOOGLE TRAVEL EDITOR, I told myself, that’s something!

From now on, NO ONE would tell me I was not qualified to move forward.

I could, and would move–just on a different path.

I decided that this writing business was what I would set out to do this entire year. From home. From anywhere in the world.

remote working

Getting rejected from the Google Project was a stepping stone in my journey.

It taught me several things:

  1. What I was capable of

I could do as little–or as much–as I wanted. Gifts like time, space and freedom were on my side. I would keep sending in applications to other companies.

I would not quit writing.


  1. That I could work from anywhere in the world

I had worked from the airport. I later worked from the football bleachers where my son practiced his sports, and in the back room of my daughter’s ballet lessons. And, at the beach.


  1. It Introduced me to the World of Virtual, Remote Working

Prior to the Google project, I hadn’t known that cloud-based technology was enabling 50% of Americans to telecommute. I didn’t know a freelancer could earn a decent living from agencies like Scripted. Or that actual movements like the Hoxby Collective, formed to champion flexible #workstyles like mine, even existed.


There were plenty of other jobs; countless other clients. Life went on and truly surprised me.

I have since had wonderful opportunities. Writing for brands like Adobe, social storytelling for groups such as the Italian Red Cross, and chatting with a NASA scientist working on the Orion Mission to Mars. Discussing philanthropy with delegates in neoclassical palaces in Milan, then learning patience while perfecting home-made risotto from friends in the tiny lakeside village where I live.

This past year, I wrote over 300 articles across the Internet and ghostwrote on multiple subjects. From Elon Musk to the Kardashians; from charity groups to medical marijuana. I get to drink wine and write about it. It’s a lot of fun!

I work with researchers, transcribers and translators in different  continents. I’ve since learned how to delegate tasks so that I can focus and do my best work. I have an amazing husband who fully supports my desire to work from home fulltime. It means he gets to have more quality time with the kids. (Besides never having to pass me his wallet anymore!)

And, in-between writing, I can paint, my other passion, and spend focused moments, even hours, with my kids. I’m doing what I love, and it has made me able to love them better, more completely.

On most days, there is creative space, and joy.



But let me be honest. This past year, I also:

–cried a lot

–shouted excessively at my children

–was tired, short-tempered, impatient, complex

–was only human.

Love and forgiveness–this is what keeps us living. Keeps us making sense of it all.

Disappointments ensure we stay on the right path. Our children give us meaning and remain our purpose, our source. Our muses.

My wish for you, dear reader, dear moms, or if you are still trying to decide which path in life to journey on, is simply this:

Allow yourself opportunities for just being human.



Accept the various stages of growth, just as you accept the growth phases of your children.

Where there’s life, they say there’s hope.

But there’s also rejection, rawness, ugliness, even darkness, disappointment and deaths. That’s all a part of our being.

Let’s not let the year end without knowing we gave it our best shot at living.

December isn’t over yet. There are gifts waiting to be unwrapped. Some of them will be disappointing; others will bring us sheer joy. But let’s accept them all. Let’s learn from each one.

Even if it’s a letter of rejection in our inbox.

Yes, you are qualified, every day, to keep moving forward.





(Traveling Uganda in 2004)

It’s a word that best describes the constant feeling in my heart during this lifetime journey of living my passions and following my dreams.

I am grateful for the guides I met on this journey, who lent their advice, wisdom, and the occasional shoulder to cry on.

I’m grateful for the mistakes that taught me to always to move forward, regardless.

I’m grateful for the second chances, the people who come back into your life because they were meant to be there, and the ones who keep journeying with you because they share your dreams.

I’m grateful for the love I learned my heart was capable of giving. When I first held my son on my chest and he raised his head to look around. I knew it was the beginning of his own journey, and I would need to let him explore.

I’m grateful for the chance to share, through this blog, the memories I’ve kept, in words, in pictures, in paintings, and hope that you find something here to enjoy.

I’m grateful for the little things I am blessed to wake up to each morning: my window view of banana leaves and a rice plantation; a cheeky, boyish smile beside me; coffee.

Just grateful.

3 Quick Tips for Aspiring Magazine Writers (Who Want To See Their Work in Print)

3 Quick Tips for Aspiring Magazine Writers (Who Want To See Their Work in Print)

Since becoming managing editor of Philippine Airline’s Inflight magazine in early 2010, I learned what it meant to be on the other side of the fence.

The writers may get the bylines, but the editor has to do the dirty work of fixing up articles and making sure they are written properly before going into print. Even the best writers in the world still depend on editors for their final product.

Even the best writers in the world still depend on editors for their final product.

You know, I used to hate editors; they seemed to take out all the “personality” out of my piece. But now, I appreciate a good one because I know my writing needs it, too! Here are some things to keep in mind if you are sending an editor your copy and hope to get it published.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are sending an editor your copy and hope to get it published.

1.    Stick to the word count.

One of the worst things an editor can receive is a 3,000-word article from someone whom they specifically asked to write a 600-word story.

I’ve been guilty of this, too.

We always have so much to say, and so many words to say it with. Reality:

(Reality check: If your piece is published, it will be cut down to 600 words (or less) for layout space, and you will most likely be unhappy.)

2.    Sleep on it before sending the editor your draft. The next day, edit away.

You always see things with new eyes the next day. So many times, I have written words that I wish I edited again and again and again before hitting “Send”.

So many times, I have written words that I wish I edited again and again and again before hitting “Send”.

3.    Send a few good photographs to go with your article.

They may or may not end up getting published, but you’ll get more gigs (especially as a travel-writer) if you can do both writing and photography.

If you are on a trip with a friend who does travel photography, refer them when pitching your story.

Another thing you can do is get in touch with tourism offices of the place you visited and see if they can provide high-quality photos for your article. They are usually happy to do so.

Lastly, remember in this industry, expect rejection, but don’t give up.  

A big mistake writers make is taking rejection personally.

Many times, your story may just not fit in with the theme of the magazine, the page count, or the overall concept the editor has in mind. But it may fit next week, or next month. Keep trying!