How to Write Your Way Around the World

Posted 12 Dec 2014, by

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A nomadic lifestyle has become a reality in the age of the Internet, and a laptop carrying nomad can work from just about anywhere in the world with decent WiFi. Inspired by the book The 4 hour work week by Tim Ferriss, there is a boom in ‘digital nomads’, ‘online entrepreneurs’ and ‘freelancers’ travelling the world and earning good money. 

Wikipedia defines digital nomads as knowledge workers who can perform their work duties irrespective of their location, and popular nomadic professionals include web designers, software designers, graphic designers and freelance writers.  

Apart from the obvious attraction of independence and travel, a great benefit is that you can earn dollars and spend in currencies valued far lower. Arbitrage is the term for taking advantage of the price differences in various markets, and this is exactly what a legion of nomads are doing. For the same weekly spend, they can enjoy a lifestyle that they couldn’t dream about back home. See the video below by Cody McKibben for a good explanation of (geo)arbitrage. 

As the owner of Global English Editing, I enjoy a nomadic life in that I am location independent and work exclusively online. I am currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and my business functions as seamlessly as it would if I worked from a fixed address in my home city.

In Chiang Mai, I am surrounded by talented writers from the US, UK, Canada and Australia who are writing their way around the world. They agree that becoming a freelance writer isn’t easy (or everyone would be doing it) but it isn’t that difficult either.

My friends shared with me their experiences in being nomadic freelance writers, and together we have come up with 10 tips to help get you started on this life-changing journey:

1) Look online

The first step to becoming a freelance writer is to research. If you know what you want to write about then find magazines and websites related to that subject, such as fashion, DIY, sports, fitness etc. Look for the ‘work with us’ or ‘contact us’ page. Sites like travelfish.org are always looking for freelance travel writers in specific countries. If it is obvious that the content of the site comes from a range of different contributors then email them and suggest an article you’d like to write for them. Don’t email asking them about how much they would pay you or demand a price, first get them interested in your idea. 

2) Write for exposure but not for free

There are very few freelance writers that have never written articles for free – being featured on prominent websites such as CNN travel, Asian Correspondent or the Tripadvisor blog, for example, can be a really big deal and lead to well paying gigs. Think about what names would look good on your CV and pitch them stories. However, there are also a lot of websites and blogs that want content for cheap or nothing. 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.

3) Write about your passion

Writing about the latest virus protection software is dull for some, to others it’s fascinating. One of the benefits of being a freelance writer is that you can choose what you write about (to an extent). It is difficult to write about subjects that don’t interest you, and it will likely be very hard work. However, it is easy, enjoyable and sometimes effortless to write about things you like and generate passion inside you. Many people get by being freelance writers by writing SEO (search engine optimization) content on random topics, but the best freelance writers write what they know about and enjoy.

4) Travel. Travel. Travel

One of the hardest things about writing is deciding what to write about, but a great way to find stories is to travel. Explore the world, your city or even neighborhood. Open your eyes to gain a new perspective. Ask questions and don’t assume you know what is happening – keep an open mind. This will allow you to experience some amazing places and dream up some amazing stories, which in turn will fund your travel around the world. It’s win win!

One writer’s daily dose of inspiration

5) Set up an online portfolio to showcase your work

If you are emailing newspapers, websites and magazines with story ideas, it is useful to also send them a link to your other writing work. Clippings.me allows writers to create an e-portfolio with links to previous articles published online. This helps potential clients see your work and writing style and will save you having to write an example article to show them your writing ability.

6) Create a personal blog or website

If you want to write for online sources then it is important to know about the online world. You don’t need to learn how to read python or code, but the skills you learn when creating a WordPress site or building your own website will be extremely useful. From choosing a site name and writing a description to SEO content and working out how to get your site to rank high in Google searches, this will be useful in making you a better writer. You can also use it as a way to showcase your stories and articles when you start freelancing.

7) Monetize your blog

If your blog becomes popular then make some money from it. Affiliate links, reviews and ad space are all useful ways to create extra revenue from your site. And why not write about your experience in travelling (while working as a freelance writer)? With a well written travel blog you can request free hotel stays, flights and tours in exchange for writing about the experience.

8) Network

If you intentionally set time aside to network then your chance of exposure is higher. Look for writers circles or online networking parties. Most writers travelling around the world will be happy to offer you something – from advice, recommendations, stories or even friendship. If you are lucky you may even meet an editor in need of a new writer for their magazine.

9) Editing and proofreading

If you are a great writer, you may also be a great editor. Although not all writers will have the skill set to edit and proofread professionally, for those that do, editing is an excellent way to earn an income and have enough spare time to work on writing projects. People of in need of editing services include students with a dissertation, thesis or other academic document, and authors who want book editing and book proofreading

Online workplaces such as Elance and oDesk are a popular option for editors, as are online editing and proofreading companies (if you’re really, really good get in touch with us as we’re a growing business in need of more editors).  

10) Find your niche

After dabbling with the first nine tips to writing your way around the world, you should know more about what you enjoy writing and what you are good at. Now it’s time to further specialise. Approach magazines or websites and ask for a weekly column (this will allow you creative writing freedom and a regular income). Focus your personal blog or start a new one focusing on your niche (this will allow people to Google and find you easily). Explore your niche and partner with companies or even start to write a book on that subject.

Once you get the hang of being a freelance writer you will want the job for life. In short, write what you love and travel where you want to – the work will follow!

Model posing on a beach (but you get the idea of what life could be like)

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