The first thing to clear up here is your definition of ‘outdoor adventure writer’. What springs to mind when you read the words? Rugged traveller? Climber? Bloke?
Middle aged woman who doesn’t really like walks that are over 10km?
I’m guessing I didn’t pop up first in your imagination but that’s okay, we’re used to associating adventure with hard core images of difficulty, endurance and travel.
But for most of us, adventure isn’t really like that.
It’s a personal construct. I’m not however going to get into the discussion about what adventure means to different people here. It’s a topic well covered in adventure writing. Sometimes (not always) dictionary definitions can be more helpful than long debates. I like this one.
Adventure – An unusual and exciting or daring experience.
If this sounds like something you enjoy, and have experienced, you might be thinking about a career as an outdoor adventure writer.
Stop right there!
Getting into adventure writing isn’t so much a career move as a lifestyle choice. I’ve been a freelance adventure writer for ten years now, and it still doesn’t pay all my bills.
It does however get me outside, and improve my wellbeing.
It is good. I’m not surprised you want to try it. However, you might be surprised about what outdoor adventure writers need, and how the business actually operates.
Here we go with my observations.
Five things outdoor adventure writers need
In a market that’s becoming more crowded every day, its experience that really counts. I’m contacted every day by people who want to post articles on my Two Blondes Walking website (I’m co-author of that one). It’s ridiculously easy to spot the writers who’ve been out there, thrown themselves into an experience, and have plenty of hard-gained knowledge to fall back on.
It’s also easy to spot those who haven’t.
If you really want to write about outdoor adventures, get outside and have some yourself. They don’t have to be big, expensive or impressive, but they do need to be real.
2. Grammar and spelling
Stay with me!
Grammar and spelling might not be your thing but in the world of writing, especially online writing, they’re really important. It’s true that your knowledge and experience come first but (like it or not) you won’t be able to communicate those well with poor grammar and spelling.
No editor is going to welcome writing that’s full of mistakes.
The good news is that there are plenty of grammar tools out there to help you. Use spelling and grammar checkers, look up word definitions to make sure you’ve got them right, and learn how to find decent synonyms.
3. A blog
To some extent your gained experience should come across in your outdoor adventure writing but most editors will want to see evidence of your outdoor credentials before accepting your pitch.
One of the best ways to present this evidence is to start a blog.
Think of an outdoor blog as an expanded online CV, or the start of a great outdoor writing portfolio. A good blog doesn’t just list your outdoor achievements; it presents them in image form, demonstrates an ongoing commitment to writing, and shows off your personality.
Here’s an example I wrote recently about walking and yoga.
Most importantly a blog hones and showcases your writing talent.
If you’re thinking you can do all the above on social media, please think again. Writing high quality blogs is great for your website SEO. Writing high quality social posts isn’t.
4. An eye for opportunity
If you’re thinking about becoming an outdoor adventure writer, you probably love planning big trips and exciting adventures.
I do too!
But it often isn’t those big expeditions that conjure up my best writing ideas or get me my top writing commissions.
It’s keeping an eye out for opportunities.
If you want to write for a particular publication, think about its readership. You don’t need
statistics to work out demographic basics. More often than not readers want to access writing that inspires but could still be within their reach.
If you find yourself enjoying a walk to check out local letterboxes, the chances are other people will too. If you’ve been curious about the source of a river, you’re probably not alone.
Never underestimate the value of curiosity.
You’re not a cat so it won’t kill you. But it will take you places (in your head and on the ground) that you might not have previously been.
Here’s what happened when I got curious about a new version of the OS Maps route-planning app.
By the way. By far the easiest place to be curious is outside!
If you haven’t noticed the outdoor world’s recent switch in emphasis, you haven’t been looking. Whether you’re talking about climate change, plastic packaging, buying local, or leaving no trace, outdoor consumers are leading the way when it comes to demanding integrity.
Which means they want to see it in their reading matter too.
Integrity however doesn’t just mean writing about a topic. To be really readable you need to live the life as well. By this I don’t mean that veganism, active travel, and permaculture are all prerequisites to life as a successful outdoor writer.
But I do mean that putting profit before planet no longer works.
Whatever this means to you, find space for it in your outdoor adventure writing. Balance far flung adventures with local ones. Include tips for looking after the countryside in everything you write. Try something new and good, then be honest about what you learned.
Your readers will love you for it.
Five things outdoor adventure writers don’t need
We’re back to target markets here. People of all ages have always enjoyed the outdoors, which means that writing by and for an older demographic is in demand. Active ageing, menopause health, and stereotype busting are all hot topics.
The same could be said for age-friendly adventures.
2. Long distance travel
Roll back to January 2020, and we were all making travel and adventure plans that would take us overseas. Travel writers were hopping on planes. And as for an adventure in the UK, well that didn’t really count.
Now we all love local.
At least we’re trying to keep loving it. In truth, since the start of the pandemic, although we’ve all found more excitement and adventure nearer to home than we thought possible, we’re also secretly longing for alternative climes.
But the travel and adventure writing space has changed.
Perhaps irrevocably, and perhaps not for the worse. Successful outdoor writers used to allocate adventure to foreign environs. Now success comes from finding innovative ways to explore closer to home.
All of which makes things far more inclusive than they used to be.
3. Massive social media following
Have you been trying to build your social media following?
Me too! But I’ve stopped now.
It’s difficult isn’t it. Scouting around social media can leave you feeling like a statistical failure.
But have no fear.
Although social media does have its place in presenting your outdoor credentials, it isn’t where editors will be looking to check out your writing.
Write a blog. Build a portfolio. It’s the only way!
4. Big mortgages
I have some disappointing news.
You’re unlikely to buy your dream home with the income from your adventure and outdoor writing.
There are lots of reasons for this.
- Most of your clients won’t have big budgets
- Outdoor writing is an increasingly crowded space
- An adventure writing income is sporadic at best
Don’t let that put you off though. Outdoor writing represents a fantastic lifestyle. You’ll be having so much fun outside, you won’t mind where you live.
Sorry chaps. There are plenty of brilliant male outdoor writers out there but you no longer hold all the outdoor adventure cards.
We girls (deliberate word choice) love an adventure too.
And sometimes we like to read outdoor writing that’s been written from a female perspective.
Ready for life as an outdoor adventure writer?
Crack on with it then. One other thing you’ll definitely need is practice.
Even if you have testicles!