These days, there is a lot of waffle on the internet about becoming location independent.
I’ve seen countless ads pop up on my social media feeds featuring a guy relaxing by a pool with his laptop, with promises of making your dreams come true.
It is only when you click on the link do you find that it is for a dodgy MLM scheme or a course that promises to help you ‘become a digital nomad’ but provides no actionable steps.
This is not one of those posts.
A few years ago, I had reached the end of the rope with my desk job.
I was sick of working eight hours a day (minimum), five days a week, only to make money that I didn’t have time to spend.
I was in my twenties, and yet it felt like I’d reached a dead end already. I was working all day in a job that made me miserable, to make enough money to live how I wanted, but then I never had enough time to spend my money doing the things I loved.
I craved the freedom to set my own working hours, find my own clients, and to be able to up my income far quicker than the average 3 – 5% annual raise that most office workers get for their hard work.
So, I decided to make a change, and I set about building my own freelance writing business.
Oh, and I decided to fly across the world to Thailand and start traveling shortly after – there’s no better motivation to succeed than moving to a new country and leaving your cushy office job and stable salary behind!
Over the next few months, I worked – hard. I built the foundations of my freelance writing business and then continued to grow that business into a real, thriving career while I traveled the world.
Now, I’m entirely location independent and get to do a job that brings me so much joy.
That first year contained a lot of stress, long days and little sleep, but it was worth it for the freedom I’ve created for myself.
The best part? I can say, without a doubt, that anyone can build a freelance writing business – and you don’t need to buy a digital nomad course to get there. If I did could do it, anyone can.
Below, I’ve listed some of the critical steps you should take to set up a freelance writing business while traveling the world (and avoid some of the stress of figuring it out all on your own).
Ready to travel and build your freelancing business? Here is how:
1. Lay The Foundations Before You Leave
While I did manage to build a freelance business while traveling successfully, the task would have been a lot harder had I not prepared the foundations of my writing business before I left my full-time job.
If you have not yet leaped into the digital nomad lifestyle (i.e., you still have a stable income and are living in one place), my most significant piece of advice would be: lay the foundations of your business before you take any risks.
Personally, I waited until I had several long-term clients secured, and was making at least 50% of my income from my office job before I decided to hand in my notice and start traveling.
2. Build an Online Presence: Write, Connect, and Engage
A digital nomad is just someone who works exclusively online (and thus has complete location independence).
To build an online business, there is one simple thing you need to do first. Any guesses?
You’ve got to get online!
This may sound obvious for some and a lot of you may laugh, but for me, setting up social media accounts and actually using them was an alien concept.
I was always a lurker online. Now, I make time every single day to share my blog posts, connect with other freelancers, bloggers, and businesses, and get involved in my online community.
Building an online presence is essential if you want to run a freelance business successfully, and even more so if you will be relying on online interaction to connect with others as a digital nomad.
- Increase your exposure to potential clients
- Be a great showcase of your personality and skills for clients checking out your services as a freelancer
- Help you connect with leading freelancers in your niche (and maybe even lead to referrals from them!)
- Identify you as an expert in your field too
3. Create a Portfolio
Whether you’re building a freelance writing business from your home, or on the move, one thing remains the same: you need an excellent portfolio to guarantee you continue to land quality clients.
By quality clients, I mean companies that are willing to pay for your worth. There are far too many low-quality jobs online these days, and unfortunately, there are a lot of people that underestimate their worth and take low-paying jobs without seeing any other option.
Your portfolio will:
- Showcase your highest quality writing samples
- Show what styles you are most experienced at writing in (long-form articles, witty social media posts, web copy etc)
- Highlight specific brands/industries you have worked in and can offer valuable experience to future employers
One of the biggest mistakes I see many new freelance writers making is to either pitch for jobs without having a portfolio, or to pitch for a job and send one link!
So, how to build those samples for a super strong portfolio?
There are several creative ways you can build your portfolio without having to land a job first. Some of the most effective methods I used to build a solid portfolio that helped me land my very first paid writing job include:
- Blogging: Start a blog today, and start writing about any topic that really interests you. It could be anything from entrepreneurship, to pets. The key is to showcase your writing style and personality. Learn how to make a blog on WordPress platform within 10 minutes.
- Guest posting: There are many sites online that will allow you to submit a guest post to share with their readers. Some are harder to be accepted on to (thanks again, Harsh!), while others don’t necessarily require you to be an established blogger in your own right before they allow you to write for them. Guest posting is a great way to build a quality stock of writing samples on already established and respected websites.
- Write for friends and family: This was one of the first steps I took to build my freelance business while I was traveling. I contacted friends and family with their own businesses, and asked if I could write them some new web content, a blog post, or anything else I thought I could help with. At first, I did this work for free to add samples to my writing portfolio – but over time, I had enough experience behind me that I could reasonably charge for my services too.
4. Know Where You’re Going
I think many people have the romantic idea of traveling with their business to the most exotic, remote places on earth.
However, the reality is that working on the road comes with a few big obstacles: one of which is finding a secure WiFi connection so you can actually work.
This is one of the biggest differences you’ll definitely need to bear in mind between building a freelance business from home, and building yours while you’re on the road.
I recommend always researching where you’re going before you choose a new destination. It does take the spontaneity out of your trip a little, but it is so worth it for knowing you’ll be able to meet your deadlines and work comfortably.
Trust me, no one enjoys working on the road when you’re desperately trying to send off an article using your phone’s hotspot and sitting out in the middle of a paddy field at night surrounded by cows (yup, that really happened to me!).
5. Make Virtual Tools Your Best Friend
Another inevitable obstacle you’ll face when building your freelance writing business while traveling the world is having to communicate with clients and meet deadlines in completely different time zones.
If you’re not careful, you may find yourself up at 3 am frantically sending emails – or worse, accidentally missing a deadline altogether.
The best way to overcome this is to start using virtual tools which will make your life immensely easier.
I use virtual tools to manage my projects, communicate with clients, host virtual meetings, and schedule social media posts both for my blogs and for my clients automatically.
A few of my favorite virtual tools include:
- SocialPilot or AgoraPulse for social media automation
- Trello for managing projects
- Slack for instant messaging with clients/remote teams
- Google Hangouts or Zoom.us for virtual meetings
- Calendly for scheduling meeting
All of these tools have free and premium memberships (I only ever use the free one!), and make managing a business while you’re constantly on the move so much easier.
The above steps are some of the most important lessons I learned while building my freelance writing business on the road, and will make starting your own business while traveling so much easier.
To finish, I want to share a few key takeaways I’ve learned from this lifestyle that are important to remember:
Making money online and becoming location independent, whether you’re a freelance writer, blogger, or something else entirely, does not come quickly.
Those schemes you see online promising to help you earn hundreds in a matter of days seem too good to be true because they are. I built my freelance writing to the point where it is today over an entire year – it took time, and a lot of hard work, but those are the two things that really pay off.
Yes, running my freelance writing business while traveling the world is a dream come true. I wouldn’t trade this freedom for anything.
That being said, don’t believe all those glamorous ‘laptop by the beach’ shots you might see online. The reality is that I’m often working in my hotel room or a busy cafe, and then go out exploring a new city. Constantly moving around, traveling, packing light and all that comes with working on the road isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay.
Have you been thinking about setting up your own location independent freelance business? I hope these tips have helped get you one step closer!
This article is originally posted in Shout Me Loud.