5 Important Questions to Answer Before Freelance Writing Abroad

5 Important Questions to Answer Before Freelance Writing Abroad

The idea of life as a digital nomad is incredibly seductive.

As we tap away on laptops in the comfort of our living rooms, more and more independent journalists, copywriters, bloggers and editors are thinking, “Why can’t I do this abroad?”

With the prospect of working next to a tropical sea or exploring the ancient cities of Europe — all while furthering your career — it’s no wonder people are intrigued by location-independent work.

But there are practicalities to consider.

Simply being a freelancer won’t necessarily facilitate enough freedom to become a digital nomad, and while travel is usually a desirable goal, committing yourself fully to globetrotting may not be the best option.

If the convenience and ease of remote working has you thinking about traveling as you earn, here are some things you’ll have to think about before setting off as a traveling freelancer.

1. Is your client base strong enough?

It’s pretty likely you’ll have to look for new work while abroad, but having a few clients you can rely on —  either for steady work or referring others —will make working abroad much less of a headache.

This lifestyle may well open up new opportunities for you, especially as there will be huge scope to widen your writing experience by providing stories to travel magazines and websites.

But heading out entirely into the cold probably isn’t a good idea if you are trying to craft a lifestyle rather than a short holiday.

Do you have a fairly reliable stream of income?

Are your clients happy with your work enough that they’ll be willing to forgive any issues you encounter getting an internet connection? Will you need to increase your skills in order to create new opportunities to earn money?

These are all questions it’s best to answer before you go, so you don’t find yourself on the other side of the world without the career you had been carefully building in your own country.

2. Are you prepared to make sacrifices?

We are inundated with images of perfect foreign shores. Yet, while there are amazing experiences to be had from travel, there’s nowhere in the world where you can permanently escape the .

You may spend a lot of uncomfortable days traveling  between locations, lose the sense of security of having all your things around you, have to carry as little as possible, go weeks without speaking to loved ones or have real trouble finding a suitable place to work.

If you can make it work abroad, any transitory issues will be well worth it.

However, if you’re the sort of person who likes their creature comforts and you don’t have the budget to make life as easy as possible, it may be worth considering working abroad on a short-term basis in order to see if it’s for you before committing.

3. Will accommodation be an issue?

Simply having a place to sleep that’s clean and not completely awful may be all you need if you’re only going to be  away for a short time.

But if you plan to travel or settle abroad on a more long-term basis, good accommodation will be essential. There’s not much more likely to ruin your motivation and working habits than worries about where you’ll be staying that night, or living somewhere that depresses you.

Renting locally may be the most sensible and economical option if you plan on staying in certain areas for months at a time. Renting locally will also give you a much more authentic experience in an area, letting you really get to know a country. If your budget is extremely tight, house-sitting gigs or couch-surfing with the locals may be a way to facilitate your wanderlust on a shoestring.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember your surroundings will make up a huge part of your peace of mind; even in the most beautiful locations, staying somewhere that feels unsafe or unpleasant will have an impact on your enjoyment of this lifestyle.

4. Do you have an emergency fund?

Traveling on a shoestring may seem romantic (and would probably create loads of great writing material), but make sure you have the funds for any emergency that may crop up.

Being stranded, ill or completely broke in another country doesn’t seem like so much much of an adventure when you have no idea how you’re going to get out of the situation. Traveling needn’t involve having oodles of cash, but you do want enough to ensure nothing can go seriously wrong.

Keep some money squirreled away for emergencies only, avoiding the temptation dip into it if you ever fancy a treat.

5. Have you got patience for paperwork?

Unfortunately, becoming a digital nomad is one of those fun, adventurous and exciting things that involves an awful lot of incredibly boring bureaucracy.

Whether you’re sorting out taxes, trying to get visas or tackling any number of unexpected pieces of officialdom, if this is the sort of thing that drives you mad, committing to this lifestyle might be more trouble than it’s worth.

A few hours of mind-numbing form filling could be far from enough to put you off, but it’s important to be aware that a footloose and fancy-free lifestyle still comes with its own annoyances.

Have you taken your own writing work abroad? What other questions would encourage writers to ask before they pack their bags?

Filed Under: Freelancing

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11 comments

  • Alexandria says:

    We are emigrating in 2 weeks as a family and I’ve been through all these questions. I’d also recommend checking the exchange rate to help set targets. I’ve been lucky in that the current move will work out better for us as the exchange rate works in our favour. If we were doing it the other way, it would be a little harder.

  • A good, practical checklist. I’d recommend another fact to keep in mind:

    Youth flies faster than most people realize.

    This fact has two edges, both very sharp. It can be a reminder not to put off a dream for a “someday” that will never come unless you decide to make it “now.” However, it is also a word of caution to mind the boring pragmatic details even as you plunge into your youthful adventure. Are you putting aside money for your retirement? (You will never get back time spent NOT contributing to a fund.) Do you know how you will pay for healthcare, which becomes a more and more likely expense with every day you grow older? Are you intentional in discerning which relationships are worth investing the effort in nurturing through long periods of separation? (Be aware that your priorities may shift as you age. There’s nothing like the death of a parent to make you realize that your siblings have grown into strangers.)

    These issues are important for everyone, but they take special attention in a globetrotting lifestyle.

    No matter where you decide to work, I wish you success!

    Trish O’Connor
    Freelance Editorial Services and Writers’ Resources
    epiclesisconsulting.com
    epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  • Jerry Nelson says:

    Great article! I’m an American freelance writer and have been to — and worked in — 155 countries. When I hit Buenos Aires 3.5 years ago, I fell in love with an Argentine and settled here.

    So now, I can be found in the mornings working from any of hundreds of cafe’s and in the afternoon me and my “esposa” stroll the avenida’s and barrios. Later we feast on great Argentine meat at some of the continent’s finest restaurants.

    It’s not “Papa” and the “Lost Generation of Paris”; but it’ll do.

    Jerry Nelson

  • Hi Holly,

    Recently, I have been thinking about this subject matter as well…if I can write over here and earn substantially well to take care of my bills (and enjoy life), why not take the fun abroad?

    However, aside the tips you mentioned, I’m also considering:

    1. The local culture/language of my host country: believe me, not all cultures/languages are for everyone…when I’m ready, I must make certain that I’m traveling to a place where culture and language are no barrier.

    To start off, if the local language isn’t English, it’s a huge turn off for me 🙂

    2. Currency and cost of living: Living in places where the Dollar is inferior to the local currency is not fun, believe me…when I’m ready thus, my destination will have to be a country that the Dollar lords over the local currency with ease 🙂

    3. Power and internet stability: This needs no explanation…power and internet must be fair, cheap and constant!

    4. Foreign policy:This may be the most important, afterall. The foreign policy of some countries is ‘anti-foreigners’…why bother with such a country or location?!

    Thanks for adding to my list of ‘bothers’ I must satisfy before I board that plane.

    Make the day great!

    Always,
    Akaahan Terungwa

  • Laurette LaLiberte says:

    I know there are people who slam it, but my solution was writing content for Textbroker; I’ve done it full-time for seven years. It has provided steady, reliable weekly income, gives me time to write other things I care about, and it has allowed me to live and travel in Europe for the duration of my time with them; I intend to keep at it. All I’ve needed is a US-based address (my mother’s), a Paypal account, Internet access, and my laptop. I make my own hours, enjoy life, and answer to no one but me. I’m not a young person just starting out, either; I’m a 51-year old grandmother.

  • Tom Bentley says:

    All good tips, Holly. One other angle: house-sitting. I’ve house-sat with my girlfriend for stretches between 1-2 months in Panama, the Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii. You often have to care for a pet or plants or both, and keep the house secure, but if you use a service like mindmyhouse.com, you can usually get a feel in advance for what’s required of you. As well as see images of the house, and the homeowner for further details.

    We’ve stayed in beautiful places rent-free this way, and were able to do our copywriting work without sharp trouble, though the Internet was tricky for phases during a couple of our stays.

  • Irene says:

    What an excellent article, thank you!

    I’d like to add that traveling puts a lot of strain on one’s freelancing schedule. There’ll be whole days of work missed because of traveling, transfers, etc. We shouldn’t think that writing in a busy airport is easy – there’ll be plenty of distractions! Sightseeing and those lazy days on the beach might add their strain, too. Schedule wise, every missed hour will gradually add up to some serious deadline problems. There’s also this to consider.

  • sharmishtha says:

    Very good points. Tnxs.

  • Laura Beeby says:

    I think the most important thing to consider is whether you are ALLOWED to just go where you want. It’s a huge urban myth that becoming an expat is easy and that we’re entitled to live anywhere our hearts desire. Um, no.

    Some countries (the Netherlands, where I currently live, included) demand that you register with the municipality before renting a place to live, and that requires proof of a proper visa and/or residence permit if you stay for an extended period (A tourist in the Netherlands, for example, cannot stay longer than three months). It’s easier for citizens of an EU country who want to live for a time in another EU country. It’s easier for people from Commonwealth countries under the age of 30 to get a visa to live and work in some European and other Commonwealth countries temporarily. But you can’t just fly somewhere and set up shop wherever you want.

    If one goes into this assuming that each country has strict rules and researches them in detail prior to planning their itinerary, there’s less chance for nasty (and expensive) surprises and disappointments.

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