The Best Job In The World?

By James DurstonIn 2009, Tourism Queensland in Australia ran arguably one of the most successful marketing campaigns of any industry in recent years. Under the title ‘The Best Job In The World’, they arranged a recruitment drive to find a ‘caretaker’ for the Great Barrier Reef who would live in a palatial luxury villa on Hamilton Island for six months, tour the islands, blog about the activities and get paid more than US$100,000.

Nearly 35,000 people applied from all over the world, and after hundreds of media reports in all the biggest media titles, 8.6 million web hits and an estimated US$325 million in public relations value, an effervescent Brit named Ben Southall walked into the multi-million dollar villa with snorkel in hand, to the dismay of his 34,684 competitors.

Everyone, including Southall, was focused on the glamour, the luxury, the twinkling ocean, the money. It really did sound like the best job in the world.

Then, reality struck. During his half-year in paradise, Southall had to write more than 60 articles, took 2,000 photos, tweeted 1,500 times, made 47 video diaries and conducted hundreds of interviews – 124 of them in just 24 hours after he won the job. ‘It should have been called the busiest job in the world’, he said afterwards.

Southall’s experience is a good reminder to all who think they want to be travel writers or bloggers that yes it can be great, but it’s hard work, and extremely competitive.

The ‘gig economy’ as it has become known, offers freedom, and it’s booming – growing 27% faster than regular employment, according to CNBC. In the United States, it’s estimated freelancers will make up 40% of the workforce by 2020.

Travel writing and blogging have mushroomed in popularity in recent years. So if you’re one of the tribe of journalists, writers, editors, photographers and videographers who are flooding into this freelance career, here are three top tips for standing out.


If you’re a writer, also offer to help source photos, or do revisions, or extra research. A lot of freelance writers come with a noticeable sense of entitlement, and if you can stand apart by offering more not less, your editor will remember you, hire you again, and when you’re more established you can start to charge more.

Pitch Properly

Without a good pitch, your genius article might never see the light of day. If you can put together a pitch with a full but brief description of your story and send it to the right editor at the right publication, you’ll already be among the better ideas that editor gets that week. I built to help with pitching ideas.

Always Sell An Idea

Moldova is a place, not a story idea. Too many times editors get the laziest pitch that exists: ‘I’m going to XXX, do you want a story?’ Always provide details and an angle.

About The Author

James Durston is the former Senior Producer for CNN Travel, current Digital Editor for Discovery, the inflight magazine, and Founder of – a platform that helps freelance writers structure and sell their stories, and editors find writers with great ideas. James is also the author of the blog, and has written two books giving travel writing advice from the editor’s side of the desk: “How To Sell Travel Stories”, and “Why Editors Don’t Reply”.


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