How to Earn Money Online as a Location Independent Writer
This is the second guide in a two part series about how editors and writers can earn money online while being location independent. You can read the first guide helping editors here.
I won’t talk about the lifestyle component of location independence – even though this is the prime motivation for many – as there are many other blogs and resources that cover this, and nomadic living is inherently personal.
Instead, this series focuses on how editors and writers can sustain themselves financially while being location independent.
How to Write Your Way Around the World
Are you a writer? Do you want to travel around the world, or at least not be shackled to one location, while supporting yourself financially? Then this guide is something you’ll want to read.
As the founder of two companies that provide editing and proofreading services, I work exclusively online and have chosen to be location independent. I am currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Here, I am surrounded by many people who derive their income from freelance writing, as they travel from country to country. I have hired some of them to write blogs for my websites.
Based on my own experiences and listening to their stories, I thought it would be helpful to write a comprehensive guide for writers how to earn an income online while being location independent, having written a similar guide for editors and proofreaders earlier this year.
Being a freelance writer and travelling the world requires a lot of hard work and creativity, but it certainly can be done (and I’ve met many writers who have). Here are 10 tips that can benefit any writer before they go location independent:
1. Take the leap
The very first step to becoming location independent freelance writer is to decide to do it.
The lifestyle will not suit everyone. If you are not willing to leave your comfort zone or the safety (and some would say benefits) of your friends, family, or country, then it’s probably not for you. However, if you want to challenge yourself, experience a different part(s) of the world, and live in extra-ordinary life, then wholeheartedly take the leap.
2. Find writing opportunities online
Earning money online is never easy, and a location independent freelance writer must actively find and create work opportunities.
Being a freelancer is like owning a small business and it’s up to you to market yourself to clients. The good news is that there is plenty of writing work available on the internet – some well paying and others that are not.
If you know what you want to write about, find magazines and websites that relate to those subjects. If it’s obvious that the content of the site comes from a range of contributors then email them and suggest an article you’d like to write. A friend even got published in the New York Times, writing about a Laotian woman’s experiences living among the bombs that remain from the Vietnam War.
Writing about your travel experiences is an obvious, and probably the most attractive, way to earn an income as a location independent freelancer writer.
Travel journalism has experienced rapid growth as a result of booming worldwide travel, and the growth of online travel media. However, travel writing is highly competitive, and requires patience and dedication to make a living out of it.
Freelancing platforms, such as Elance, Freelancer, and oDesk tick some boxes for freelance writer looking for work. Setting yourself up requires minimal investment, clients are already on the site looking for writers, and the platforms handle the financial transactions.
However, they are ultra competitive platforms, and it’s often a race to the bottom in terms of pay as they are chock full of (mainly ESL) writers who are willing to work for peanuts. I’d consider them only a plan B to supplement the income that you derive from other sources.
The ProBlogger Job Board is also a popular place to pick up freelance writing gigs.
Perhaps the most effective way to earn money from writing while being location independent is publishing e-books, although it does require a lot of commitment.
Become an authority in something (Google can make you an authority in just about anything) and write a resource guide or ‘how to’ book. People respect authorities, and will buy books from them if it contains valuable information on a relevant topic. You can even outsource the writing, although you’ll have to nail the promotion to earn a decent income from it.
The great thing about e-books is that they generate passive income; once a book is published it requires very little input from you, other than telling the world how great it is.
3. Create a blog
A personal blog is a popular pursuit for location independent freelance writers. In a world where there are more freelance writers than writing assignments, an online profile adds important credibility to you as a writer.
A blog is simple to create. WordPress and Blogger are two popular platforms; just choose a title, layout and start writing entries. Laura from Travelers Universe has written a great post comparing the platforms.
You’ll need to be passionate enough about a topic to write regular posts for the foreseeable future, but finding fodder to write about shouldn’t be a problem for a professional writer. I have friends who have set up a wellness blog and a coffee blog, for instance.
A blog is a great way to showcase your stories, articles and examples of your writing. If you are emailing newspapers, websites and magazines with story ideas, or contacting potential clients for writing assignments, it is important to show them examples of your work.
Monetizing a blog requires time and hard work. The bottom line for any blog is attracting traffic to the site, and you won’t get people to your site unless your marketing efforts are strong. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential to teach yourself online marketing.
For more information about being a successful blog writer, see Matt Banner’s infographic The Ultimate Writer’s Guide to Success.
4. Write for exposure but be cautious about it being free
There are very few freelance writers who have never written articles for free – as with any profession you have to earn your stripes, and have a track record to be taken seriously.
Also, being featured on prominent websites such as CNN travel, Asian Correspondent or the Tripadvisor blog is fillip and would lead to well paying gigs. Think about what names would look good on your CV and pitch stories.
However, there are also a lot of websites and blogs that want content for cheap or nothing, and it won’t be worth your while to write for them.
If you are going to write for free then pick your sites and articles carefully; writing for free can be worth your while for exposure as a writer but sometimes it is just other people benefiting from your work. No one wants to be an internet slave.
5. Choose a place to live
If you are a location independent freelancer writer then you can work from anywhere with a decent WiFi connection, but I suggest that you pick a cheap place to start.
The Nomad List of cities is a great resource as it breaks down costs and quality of life in a simple table. This will help you budget for your first few months.
Cities high on the nomad list will have other nomads around to help and guide you. Popular places to live affordably and earn money online include Chiang Mai and Bangkok in Thailand, Saigon, Bali, and Barcelona.
Although one of the biggest fears to becoming location independent is money, it is often cheaper than staying at home. In many nomad hot spots you can live a great life for less than $800 per month.
By choosing an affordable place to base yourself initially, you don’t need much money to start a nomadic lifestyle – just a plane ticket, a reliable laptop and enough savings for three months or so living expenses. After all, part of the journey involves making money.
6. Network your way to paid work
Networking, and serendipitously meeting people, are crucial in making it as a location independent freelance writer. If you make the effort to meet people, you’ll come across many potential friends and mentors from all walks of life who can give advice and direct you toward work.
The best way to network your way to paid work is to be active on social media. In particular, Facebook groups for digital nomads in location independent hot spots are becoming incredibly popular, and are a great resource.
The Chiang Mai Digital Nomad group, for example, has over 6000 members and the group is a hot bed of tips (and petty gripes). I’ve hired a number of freelance writers from that group.
7. Alternative sources of income
If you are a location independent freelance writer, you don’t have to put all your eggs in the writing basket. As a writer, you have probably developed a number of valuable and transferrable skills that can lead to meaningful new incomes streams.
Editing and proofreading is an excellent way to earn an income and have enough spare time to work on writing projects. The two most popular services to provide are academic and dissertation editing for students, and book editing and book proofreading for authors.
Online workplaces such as Elance and oDesk are a popular option for editors to offer their proofreading services, as are online editing and proofreading companies (if you’re really, really good contact us as we’re a growing business in need of more editors).
Freelance writers should at least consider starting an online business, whether you’re a soloprenuer, it’s a micro-business, or potentially something more substantial. Starting a business is never easy, but in the digital age all you need is a website, a valuable product or service and the marketing know-how to sell it.
Drop shipping, for example, is an incredibly popular way for location independent people to earn an income.
Whether you are a writer or editor, it’s possible to remove yourself from fixed-location work and become location independent, without reducing your income. I’ve met many writers who enjoy a better quality of life than had they chained themselves to one location.
There are many ways to earn money online as a writer (some obvious and many that are not), you just have to grab them, and this guide will help you do that.