Freelance write as you travel the world: are you about that life?
The life of a digital, nomadic writer
The life of a freelance writer who travels the world with nothing but their laptop sounds alluring. Just you, an internet connection, a portable hard drive, and you’re ready to go. New York City this week, Hong Kong the next, and then a brief visit to Tokyo before meeting with clients in Rio De Janeiro. A digital nomad sets their own schedule and creates their own lifestyle.
It’s the career you’ve always dreamed of. Or is it?
The lifestyle of a freelance writer isn’t as glorious as it seems. To be totally honest, it isn’t glorious at all. It’s brutal. Writing is hard work. Whether it is copywriting, journalism, or getting cornered into churning out pure-SEO content, you’ll have to put in the time and effort to master your craft.
A freelance writer has to develop relationships with different people and personalities, especially editors. Even after you’ve managed to become familiar with certain editors, you need to accept constant rejection and critique of your work. You’ll have to maintain a positive attitude and focus on exceeding the expectations of editors who all seem to have one agenda — butchering your article!
Think I’m exaggerating? Check out Richard Morgan’s article Seven Years as a Freelance Writer, or, How to Make Vitamin Soup. Although he’s a stellar writer and journalist, his article humorously highlights the difficulties of a freelance writer's life. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, being overwhelmed by client demand and projects one month; scrambling to learn social media the next.
How does one get started in freelance writing and maintain their sanity?
First of all, you’ll have to adapt a writer’s lifestyle. The highly successful author Stephen King, provided the following advice in his book On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
King has provided a recommended reading list for people who are serious about the craft. Don’t have time to read 2 - 3 hours a day? Then don’t expect to be a successful writer. In his book, he further explains, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
If you’re new to writing and don’t have any clippings or published work, you’ll have to start out small. Find websites or newspapers where you can publish pieces based on familiar themes and things that interest you. Places like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse even allow you to skip the editor and connect straight to an audience and build credibility. You may not get paid much (or let's be honest, anything at all) but this will enable you to build a body of work and have something to link back to.
The Guardian's article Word Perfect: How to Become a Freelance Writer suggests that new freelancers consider websites such as Freelancer or UpWork and provides some timely advice for breaking in: “Whichever way you get into freelancing, the absolute key to success is persistence. Chances are you’ll get knocked back a fair bit, but keep going it’s the only way to ensure that you get noticed.” Just watch out for the membership fees, which seem to be climbing as of late.
A freelancer is engaged in a perpetual job hunt, constantly marketing and selling themselves. Notable Hollywood writer and producer, Lawrence Kasdan eloquently summarized the life of a writer saying “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
Breaking in isn’t easy. Freelance writing shouldn’t be something you venture into until you have some experience. Even after you’ve established yourself, you’ll have to spend considerable amounts of time refining your skills, researching, marketing, and reading others' work. But once you decide to take the plunge, and you may decide to do that before you're ready (this author certainly did), you open up a door into a fantastic world where you finally cut yourself free from cables, rent, and car payments, and can wander the world as a digitally-powered nomad, sailing where you will and as you wish. That experience can be utterly breathtaking.
Freelance writing is doable. The question is: Are you about that life?