This is a guest post written by Robert Schrader of Leave Your Daily Hell
How to Freelance Remotely During Travel
Becoming location independent is the ultimate goal of every long-term traveler. Obviously, this requires cultivating location-independent income sources.
I have now been location independent for almost two years. Although I earn a percentage of my income from my travel blog Leave Your Daily Hell, a significant amount of the money I use to travel comes from freelance writing gigs. Freelance work is done on a contract basis, so I can complete my work from anywhere so long as I submit it in accordance to my contract.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, opportunities for freelance work are becoming more and more plentiful — and they aren’t just limited to writing. While you’re waiting for your travel blog to take off in a big way, seek out and accept freelance gigs as a mean of financing your travel, both before and after you depart on your next trip.
Finding Freelance Work
The first step in earning freelance income to fund your travel is finding freelance work in the first place. As is the case when you start most things in life, your first freelance gig is usually the most difficult to nab.
The majority of freelance gigs are creative in nature — writing, Web design and graphic design, to name a few — so you’ll need to prepare a portfolio of your best work and send it to prospective clients along with your résumé. It’s also a good idea to write a concise cover letter explaining the depth and breadth of your skills.
After you ready your materials, the search begins. In my experience, Craigslist has provided the most and best opportunities. Since freelancing doesn’t require you to live in a certain city, one tip to keep in mind when you’re looking for gigs is not to limit yourself to one geographical location. The resource SearchTempest is indispensable for freelancers, as it allows you to search all of the Craigslists in the world with a single click of a button.
Of course, you can also pitch companies (and, if you’re a writer, publications) directly, but this can be overwhelming if you’re new to freelancing and don’t have much of a résumé. Indeed, I’ve found that companies and individuals who post to Craigslist tend to be more willing to extend opportunities to new freelancers.
Developing a Routine
Once you’ve acquired some freelancing gigs, the real challenge of freelancing begins: Becoming your own boss. If you’ve ever worked in an office, restaurant or retail environment, you’ve probably romanticized the idea of working from home or on the road. Freelancing can indeed facilitate a romantic lifestyle, but successful freelancing requires a significant amount of discipline, particularly when you’ve traveling and have lots of exciting things distracting you.
The best way to keep on track as you freelance is to develop a routine, not unlike the one that would be forced upon you if you worked a full-time job. My routine is to do all my work just after I eat breakfast, but before I start my day’s activities. This is the case whether I’m at home or traveling.
It’s also a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. If you have three gigs, for example, set aside 1-2 hours per day to complete each so that you have a target in mind as you work. If you don’t set a schedule as a freelancer, you can quickly become distracted, slack on your work and, over time, develop a backlog that is impossible to complete without losing sleep and becoming stressed.
Another strategy I’ve found works particularly well when I travel is designating “down time” for working. If I’m on a long bus journey in South America, for example, I’ll designate the first several hours to writing that I can do without an Internet connection. That way, when I arrive at my destination, all I need to do is format it, attach it to an email or post it to my blog. Obviously, this requires some forethought — you’ll need to have your laptop charged, for example — but is a great way to build freelancing into travel.
Even after you develop a freelancing routine, the burden of working diligently is yours alone. Since freelancers are paid commensurate with the amount of work they complete, money is obviously a primary source of motivation, but money alone isn’t enough for all freelancers to stay on schedule.
Personally, I use a reward system to keep myself motivated. When I’m at home, I usually aim to be done around lunchtime — and if I’m not, I don’t let myself eat until I’ve finished all my work. It sounds a bit silly, but knowing I have delicious food waiting, whether I cook it myself or get take-out, is a huge incentive to work hard and finish everything I’ve started on time.
The same reward system is valuable when you travel and in fact, is even simpler to implement. Specifically, I don’t allow myself to leave the hotel or hostel until I’ve finished all my work. Usually, this results in a fast pace of work and me getting on my way. If I know I’ll be gone for several days (such as when I camped in the Moroccan Sahara desert for three days last fall), I do several days’ work in one day so that I don’t have a backlog when I return.
Over time, another great motivator to stay productive is the new, higher-paying gigs I mentioned earlier in this article. Some of these will be with companies and individuals for whom you’ve already done work, while others are gigs new clients award you.
Troubleshooting Payment Issues
Since you aren’t employed by any company for whom you freelance, receiving payment for your work usually requires you to send invoices for all the work you complete. Staying on top of invoices is just as essential to being a successful freelancer as doing your job well and consistently is.
Of course, submitting your invoices accurately and on-time doesn’t mean the companies and individuals who pay you will do so on time. If you have to wait longer than two weeks after invoicing to get paid for a particular, it is your responsibility to contact the person in charge of payment directly and make sure payment is sent immediately.
One obstacle you may encounter freelancing during travel is that some companies and individuals, particularly smaller operations, still prefer to pay by paper check. If this is the case for you, have the checks sent to someone you trust — family members are always a good bet — who can deposit the checks into your bank account, giving you access to the money even when you’re on the road.
Occasionally headaches aside, acquiring and completing freelance work is one of the surest ways to become permanently location independent. While others slave away for months to save for short trips they take on their few vacation days per year, you can travel literally constantly if you want to, so long as you can stay motivated and productive as I’ve managed to do.
Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer and travel coach who has been location independent for two years. He edits Leave Your Daily Hell, a blog to which more than 20,000 travelers per month turn for expert advice on how to travel more often. Follow Robert on Twitter, add him to one of your Google+ circles, “Like” Leave Your Daily Hell on Facebook or subscribe to email updates for destination guides, practical advice and inspirational essays delivered daily.