The idea of becoming a digital nomad is no longer novel. There are millions of us who can live and work from wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection, an outlet, and a hammock to write from. There has been an exodus from cubicles, both big and small, and a movement towards the roadside café in Cambodia or the coffee shop in Belgrade.
Now that Wi-Fi connectivity is more or less ubiquitous throughout most vacation hotspots, and the idea of writing or blogging for a living is on the rise. The market for freelance writing jobs has exploded. Employers have increasingly recognized the value of extending freelance contracts to qualified remote workers.
However, this also means that the competition for a contract is also much tougher than it was just a few years ago. That said, it’s still not outlandishly hard to secure yourself a few freelance writing contracts that can serve to supplement your income or serve as your entire income. The way you play the game determines your outcome, and it’s not a hard game to play.
How I Became a Digital Nomad
As of April this year, I quit my job back in New York City with next to no money and no idea how I would pay my rent. I’d always wanted to backpack around the world – and while I was no stranger to traveling, I’d never thought about making travel (and writing about it) a lifestyle. I found a long-term subletter for my apartment and, therefore, nothing was trying me to New York City anymore.
The idea of living out of a backpack and working my way around Southeast Asia took hold… and it didn’t let go. I showed up in Hanoi one muggy afternoon in early August, bought a used motorcycle, learned how to ride it, then started working my way down the coastline, riding a hundred kilometers every day or two and spending two hours a day developing my presence in the online freelance writing community.
In the months of trial and error, I picked up a few useful tips and tricks for how to provide yourself with a reasonable travel budget (and even start saving) by simply writing your way around the world. Here, I’ll share with you 6 tips I wish I’d known when I set out on my notoriously unreliable 110cc Honda Win, confident that I would be able to provide for it and myself fully within a matter of days.
1. Your Image is Everything
Even though most of your clients aren’t going to know what you look like, or that you normally work in your PJs from the dark corner of a foreign coffee shop, you need to put your best foot forward on your online profiles.
Make sure you have a professional statement that outlines your skills, interests, and strengths, as well as communicating any relevant experiences that make you uniquely marketable. Invest time and energy into making sure your personal statement is perfect – a short little blurb will be a crucial piece of the puzzle when potential clients are looking to learn more about you.
While it’s oftentimes a pain to maintain, being able to provide clients a link to your portfolio, and having them click into a well-maintained, professional website, is probably what has made the difference between me winning a contract and being sidelined for another freelancer.
2. Your Reputation Matters. Be Picky And Learn How to Say No.
It should go without saying that you need to make sure that you set reasonable expectations for each contract you agree to. Then meet the stipulations of the contract. Exceed them whenever possible.
If you only have the capacity to write 1,000 words per day, however tempting it may be to take on more work and earn more money, don’t accept jobs that necessitate writing 5,000. There are plenty of clients out there who are looking for cheap labor at the expense of quality. Don’t fall prey to those who are only willing to pay bottom dollar and promise to pay you a flat fee of $5 for a 2,000 word article.
Trust me, I’ve made the mistake of trying to score contracts by underbidding those who might be equally qualified but charge higher rates. The only thing I succeeded in doing was undervaluing my work and demotivating myself from producing high-quality material. If you don’t feel like you are earning enough for your work, don’t take the contract.
Learn how to say ‘No’.
3. Assess Your Skills Objectively
The market for freelance writers is huge – try to find a niche and become an expert in it. If you know more than anyone about motorcycles, dual sport tires, or how to navigate the off-road terrain of the central Vietnamese mountains, then figure out a way to make that experience and knowledge applicable to your writing.
Use common sense when marketing yourself. If you have a degree in French and have traveled extensively throughout Northern Africa but never in Europe, don’t present yourself as the expert on the historical castles of Scotland. Stick to what you know and continue building on the foundation that you already have.
4. Just Because You Aren’t in an Office Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t a Professional
Not meeting clients in person leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation of tone and meaning. Strike a balance between being conversational, approachable, and professional all at once. Proofread any and all content you produce and remember that to get regular clients, you need to keep your quality, timeliness, and working relationships in great order.
There are a number of tools and apps that professional freelance writers use on a regular basis to make sure they are keeping their work-life organized. Utilizing these tools has become a vital part of a successful freelancer writer’s best practices.
It is really cool to be able to work from anywhere in the world, but places you travel can easily be more interesting than the writing you need to do. Manage your time wisely and find the balance between traveling, getting inspired, and working to make sure you can keep on traveling!
Hold yourself accountable for your time. The temptation to visit the temples in Angkor War with your new hostel buddies can derail a workday. If you need to sit out a few days, be an adult and make that decision for yourself. You are your own boss now so act like it!
5. If You Can, Start Somewhere Cheap
The stress of having to make a living off a freelance writing career can be overwhelming at times, but remember that you are most definitely not alone. One way I found to mitigate the constant worry of having money coming in was by choosing to start my travels in Southeast Asia, where the daily cost of living made it entirely possible for me to take on smaller jobs and build up my reputation as a credible and talented writer.
6. Once You Start, Don’t Stop! Endurance Matters.
There are a whole slew of websites that will connect you, the newbie freelance-world traveler and writer, with paying clients. You need to figure out which one works best for you. Sign up to Freelance Writing’s Morning Coffee Newsletter for a selection of the best freelance writing jobs delivered daily to your inbox. You can also check out Elance, oDesk, Freelancer, Upwork, Guru, Getafreelancer, Craigslist, and Indeed to start and see where it takes you.
Endurance matters in this industry. Keep at it, and you’ll break in. Don’t get discouraged and don’t let a lack of immediate responses from clients prevent you from starting down the surprisingly easy path to being able to freelance and travel for a living.
Happy writing and happy traveling, folks!
About the Author:
Over the past 10 years, Laura Knight has been a motorcycle rider. She has built up an incredible passion for travelling by motorbike and always wishes to contribute to motorcyclist and traveler community. This is the reason why she created MotorManner.com where her passion is turned into useful and interesting information to the motorcyclists and travel lovers.