Advice for travelling and writing

Freelancing has given me the unbelievable privilege of being able to work anywhere in the world I like. As grateful as I am for my situation, there have (of course) been a few learning curves.

For anyone doing anything work-related while travelling, I hope that my learnings can help you out even a tiny bit!

1. Factor in time for writing

It is easy to get overexcited and forget that, as much as you love writing, you will need to set time aside for it.

For me, what worked well was writing while – literally – on the road. The only reason I was able to do that was my very patient boyfriend doing 90% of the driving.

If you are travelling alone, you might need to search out some great freelancing spots in advance, and allow yourself the time you need to get your projects done.

2. Extend your deadlines to deal with international clients

Clients on the other side of the world will not be able to respond to you immediately, and visa versa, so make sure you allow a few days for correspondence alone.

Even if you are in the same time zone, I recommend extending your deadlines anyway. It should help you to avoid a panicked change of your plans to fit around work – I can tell you this one from experience.

3. Don’t write in the sun

This might just be my personal opinion, and it also depends on where you are, but I categorically cannot concentrate in the hot sun. Try and find an AC or (even better) a shady spot. It might seem trivial but trust me it will have you working much more efficiently.

4. Keep clients in the loop

Give your clients notice if you know you are going away. Be honest about how much you are planning on working so that they know you might not be able to drop everything for a last-minute brief.

Letting clients know when you won’t be reachable will stop them panicking if you don’t reply for a couple of days. Even if you aren’t working on anything for them that day, keeping everyone in the loop will help you manage any additional work that pops up.

5. Be nice to yourself

You probably won’t be working as many hours as you do at home, and that is fine. If you are going to be in new places then you should allow some time for fun!

Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t earning as much as usual, because that is probably going to be a given. Before I left, I sat down and worked out the number of hours I needed to work to earn what I wanted while I was away, while still leaving time to enjoy myself. A 5-minute conversation with yourself can make this aspect of travelling much less scary.

6. Be inspired

A change of scenery was just what I needed to come up with ideas for a project I’ve been struggling with (watch this space). Seeing new things every day might keep your ideas fresh and your creativity flowing. It did for me.

Writing down new ideas while you aren’t working is a great way to remember them when you are. While I don’t tend to carry around a notepad everywhere I go (I know, I know), I literally just have a rolling notes page on my phone for random thoughts and ideas.

Juggling work and travel can be stressful, but overall it is so liberating to work and explore simultaneously. I plan to try it again sometime soon… if Corona lets me.

Shoutout to my personal chauffeur x

Writing on the road

My first week of writing on the road turned out to be pretty disastrous.

Coming from the UK, I was completely and utterly naive in my judgement of the size of Australia. You look at a map and think somewhere looks close and it then turns out to be a very bumpy 5-hour drive away…

This manifested itself beautifully in my total loss of any phone or internet signal for the first 3 days of my trip. As someone with a slight aversion to social media, this would usually be a welcome change, but as someone with projects on the go, it was a major problem.

Thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have anything completely urgent due in those 3 days, I managed to get enough signal to message any clients who were expecting communication and explain my situation. Luckily for me, all my clients are fabulously understanding.

Lessons learned:

  1. When travelling, keep deadlines loose. Just in case.
  2. The roads get bumpier as you move further inland…meaning you will not be able to work!
  3. Research which places have coverage before setting off.
  4. Such places are limited outside the cities – Australia is HUGE.

This blissful 3 days with no signal was fantastic. I visited Carnarvon Gorge and stayed in a bush camp full of kangaroos, wallabies and porcupines. I even got to see some platypi – my new favourite animal.

It did, however, mean that I had to spend the next 2 days working solidly, but as I love my job that was a small price to pay.

That leads me to my bonus lesson learned:

  1. Factor in days specifically for working!

Despite my teething problems, working whilst road-tripping has been delightful.

I have seen a lot, experienced a lot and most certainly learned a lot. In fact, I have learnt so much that I might just write a blog about it…

Paint me like one of your French girls x

My journey through the freelance marketplace

For anyone who isn’t clear, a ‘freelance marketplace’ is sort of like an online job board, where clients post one-off or long-term jobs and freelancers send a proposal to each client individually.

I first heard about the freelance marketplace midway through my post-uni supply chain job and immediately pictured myself in the infamous beach-writing scenario.

I applied that day.

And got rejected within 24 hours.

Well, that was it. I don’t have enough experience, I will leave it to the experts.

Then, one year later. Midway across the world (Vietnam to be precise) I bump into friend-of-a-friend who is just about finishing her travels.

We were out for pizza (experiencing the true Vietnamese cuisine) and she mentions her work freelancing, and it turns out she is on that very same marketplace!

Granted, she has much more experience, but this friend-of-a-friend-cum-guru encouraged me that I probably could do it.

A month later, after cutting my travels short and moving to Australia early (thanks, Corona) I was applying for ‘normal’ roles (in analytics, and definitely not freelancing) when my mind wandered back to that marketplace.

Having literally nothing to lose, I went back to my profile and put a bit more effort into it.

24 hours later I wake my very unimpressed boyfriend up “omg they accepted me!!!!” and there began my journey to freelance.

Anyone who knows these freelance marketplaces knows the – ahem – quality of many of the jobs on there. My first job paid $10 per article, which I accepted because it was writing about a topic that I loved.

This client became long-term, and gave me the stepping stone to charging what I was actually worth, and as instructed by aforementioned guru.

Selling myself out and accepting low-paid work to get a foot in the door is something I would never recommend to anyone, but, unfortunately, it is the expected reality in many industries.

Anyway, the holy grail of the early freelancer is the 5* reviews, which is what I really needed, rather than the $10 per article.

So, with a couple of 5* reviews to build myself some credibility, and enough pieces to build myself a portfolio, the freelance marketplace allowed me to actually earn a living for something I loved doing.

The marketplace itself offers many perks. They do all your invoicing for you, make sure the client pays, reward you for doing well and let you vet potential clients before sending them a proposal.

Although these are all great, the main benefit is the abundance of work on these sites. There is no way I would have had the time to cold-pitch even 1% of the clients that there are on these sites, and god knows what percentage of those would have led to actual work (with no portfolio, I might add).

That said, it is not without its drawbacks.

For every 1 client with a great job, there are 5 more wanting an expert developer with 10 years experience, 5 languages and a PhD in intergalactic travel, for $5 an hour.

Not only does this make the good clients harder to find, but it makes the competition on the good jobs much more fierce.

This is the reason that so many freelancers get sick of it. Not so much the fact that lower-quality jobs exist, but that there are people willing to do this type of work for such a low price.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the hypocrisy of this statement – did I not just say that my first job paid a measly $10?

I get it. But, due to the volume of freelancers and the nature of the marketplace, this is one of your only options as a beginner.

Although necessary, this was my first red flag of freelance marketplaces.

After connecting with a few clients from my website, rather than from a marketplace, I have realised that I much prefer these types of relationships.

Although freelance marketplaces offer a fantastic stepping stone, ease of use and payment protection, the saturation of low-quality clients has ultimately put me off.

So, I have recently decided to move away from the marketplace that I started on (hence the blog) and I am very much enjoying where I’m at for now.

All thanks to guru, you know who you are x

Why I’ve decided to write

After finishing university, which included a one year placement, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in consumer insights.

Everyone who knew me well was pretty shocked by this revelation, after beginning my degree with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist.

Nevertheless, working at Disney instilled in me a love of research that was firmly cemented when writing my dissertation. Combining my passion for understanding people with my interest in statistics seemed like a no-brainer.

That said, I have loved writing since primary school (literally, although all my stories back then were about orphans becoming rich) and have always wondered in the back of my mind, ‘what if?’.

Also in the back of my mind was my commitment to fulfilling my dream of almost 10 years: move to Australia. This dream was so certain that it was even shared with my boyfriend early doors (“I am moving to Australia in a few years by the way, please come with me. But, if you don’t, I’m still going”).

While planning my move, he wanted to travel for a few months on the way (seemed like a fair deal), so we ended up leaving in December 2019, with no clue as to the carnage about to be unleashed on the world.

My goal was still to get insights contracts but, when Coronavirus struck, we cut our travels short and arrived in Australia the day they shut their borders. We were very lucky, but any prospect of being choosey about work completely disintegrated.

Moving to Australia amid a pandemic sounds like something only a crazy person would do, and I am definitely not the hedonist that the idea conjures up. But, here I was, no longer with much chance of getting a role in insights, but still with a passion for writing.

I won’t lie, freelance writing is not something I thought would be possible for me. Not only do I lack the (what I thought were) necessary qualifications, but I also did not think anyone would ever want to pay for my writing. This imposter syndrome is something I have learnt that practically everyone in creative industries face at some point.

The idea of sitting on the beach and writing was (obviously) very appealing, but I always felt like it was a saturated market. The ones who had got in early were the lucky ones who became successful, and there was no point in anyone else trying now.

But, that tiny ‘what if’ became a little bit stronger when mandatory isolation forced me to stop.

The ‘what if’ became a slightly less rhetorical question and I began to come up with actual, real answers.

I LOVE writing.

I’m actually OK at it.

I won’t have to commute.

I won’t have to sit at the same desk from 9-5, 5 days a week.

I can do it anywhere. If I keep it going, I can travel for longer!

If I don’t do it now, I will be forever stuck in the commercial world (that I hate, no offence commercial world).

So, I took the plunge when I got to Australia with dwindling savings, less than perfect employment prospects and nothing to lose, and I can honestly say that I haven’t looked back.

Watch this space x