You haven’t heard from me for a while, I know. Sorry about that.
I hope you missed me.
I missed you.
You didn’t even notice I wasn’t here, did you..?
OK… anyway… I’m back. ;-)
I’ve been writing, but not stuff for Raw Safari. I’ve been freelancing: doing articles and blog posts for other websites and stuff.
I’m becoming one of those digital nomad types.
(BTW: the photo at the top is the beach here near Kuantan, where I’m staying with my buddy Bob. More about that later… 😀)
This digital nomad gig is a pretty sweet way to make money as you travel, so you might want to give it a go yourself.
It’s taken me a while to figure out how to do it, but it’s starting to work, so I want to share with you what I’ve learned so far about freelancing online.
1. It IS possible to make a living as a freelance writer.
The caveat to that statement is: as long as I live in a country with a very favourable exchange rate.
Two months ago I got my first gig as a freelance writer on Upwork. It was very exciting. I wrote two short articles for an American trade journal for hair removal specialists about how to handle men who get erections during waxing appointments. I made US$150 for a day’s work and it felt amazing.
Now, 150 bucks doesn’t go far in Australia, but because I’m living in South East Asia, that’s a substantial chunk of cash (especially for someone like me who’s been living on about $10 a day for years.)
In Chiang Mai, where I’ve been living for the last six months, $150 becomes 3,878 Thai Baht; which pays your rent in a basic guesthouse room and keeps you fed for a fortnight! This is the awesome thing about being a digital nomad! You earn in one currency and spend in another.
Since that first job I’ve been able to get enough freelance writing gigs to make an average of about US$120 a week. It’s not a fortune but it feels like a good start and it’s very encouraging.
(Below: Worrorot Market in Chiang Mai – you can buy everything here!)
2. Upwork is not the work of the devil.
Upwork is the biggest freelancing and outsourcing platform in the world, but it is not universally loved. A lot of people shit on Upwork – and I can see where they’re coming from – but it isn’t all bad.
The good stuff about Upwork:
About 20% of the gigs I’ve got in the last 2 months, I found on Upwork.
Upwork is a busy freelancing platform, so there are new jobs to apply for almost every day.
Upwork has a pretty secure payment system so it’s difficult for hirers to rip you off.
The website and app are easy to use.
I’ve tried a whole bunch of different freelancer job sites and Upwork is by far the easiest to use and offers the most opportunities for me as a freelance writer.
The bad stuff about Upwork:
Upwork is expensive. They take up to 20% of what you earn on their platform. That’s just daylight robbery in my opinion. They kind of have a monopoly on the market so it will probably change if a disruptive competitive website comes along.
A lot of the jobs on Upwork are badly paid, so you have to get good at discerning which jobs are worth applying for and which are a waste of time. I only look at jobs that are classified by the hirer as ‘expert’ level. I also only apply for jobs that clearly state in the listing what the project fee is going to be up-front, so I know what I will be paid if I get the gig.
A lot of hirers on Upwork are looking to pay people bottom dollar, and presumably they aren’t too fussy about the standard of work they get.
I want to work for the people who expect a good result and are willing to pay someone to be a bit creative.
3. There are a whole bunch of freelancer job websites.
If you are interested in working as a freelance writer, check these out:
These are also potentially useful, but I haven’t had much luck with them yet:
You can also sometimes find freelance writing jobs in Facebook groups. Do a search for ‘freelance’ or ‘digital nomad’ in the ‘groups’ tab. Good, well paid jobs don’t come up very often on FB, but sometimes you get a decent one.
4. Grammarly is my new best friend.
Grammarly is an awesome web service that checks your spelling and grammar as you write. That’s really nice for someone like me who loves writing but spells at a 4th grade level. Grammarly is way beyond what a basic spell-checker can do. It identifies even subtle grammar errors in text and offers suggestions for better sentence structure. It’s free too!
(Below: beautiful Koh Chang, Thailand. This island is one of the prettiest and cleanest Thai islands I’ve been to. And not expensive either!)
5. After living in a tent, being a digital nomad feels like luxury.
I’ve been working at becoming a freelancer for about 6 months now, and it feels great to be making my living as I travel.
I could be earning a whole lot more cash if I was settled down somewhere in Australia, but freelancing gives me an awesome compromise between income and freedom.
I’m earning enough to live in comfortable hostels, eat out three times a day, and have a few beers on a Friday night. For a guy accustomed to scrounging in bins and living in a tent, this lifestyle I’m living now feels super luxurious.
If you want to check out some of the freelance writing work I’ve been doing, check out my portfolio here!
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