How I Partially Financed My Trip Around The World With Freelance Writing

by Shane Lee · 40 comments

Freelance Writing Around the World
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This guest post is brought to you courtesy of Shane Lee.

Since (ahem) yours truly is a freelance writer as well (somewhat by accident too) I thought Shane’s story both a fun and inspirational one to share with you.

I’d love to hear how you’ve gotten creative financing your entrepreneurial passion.

Feel free to share your story in the comments below.

I became a freelance writer very much by accident. My wife and I had saved up a little money and we quit our jobs to take a half-year travel sabbatical around Europe and South America.

While we were fortunate enough to have squirreled away enough to travel fairly comfortably, I wanted to find an alternative source of revenue to supplement our savings during our travels.

I’ve always tended to err on the side of caution. I can’t help it – I blame it on a strict Asian upbringing that emphasizes hoarding your savings. My wife just thinks it’s because I’m a cheapskate.

But that’s beside the point.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s a little embarrassing to admit but I used to be that emo teenager who scribbled in his journal and wrote cynical poetry. I even had a blog showcasing my writing on the Internet way before the term blog was even coined.

However, I’d always written for free. Getting paid to write was never on my radar. It took one fateful email to change that, and to start off my freelance writing career.

A week prior to departing, a financial blog I subscribed to, sent out an email looking for freelance writers. I’d been reading their email newsletters religiously and that innocent little email set the gears turning in my mind.

On a lark, I decided to apply for the position. One writing sample and a half hour Skype interview later, and I was a newly minted Associate Editor.

As I went about my travels, I started searching for other writing jobs. It took some time to get into the flow of things but before long I was writing copy, blog posts and feature articles.

I’m not going to lie to your face and tell you that I made boatloads of money doing it but freelance writing did provide me with a very nice supplemental income and it can do the same for you as well.

I Didn’t Ask For Your Life Story

Just Tell Me What Qualifications I Need

I’m probably the minority here but I don’t think it’s necessary to have a degree in creative writing or journalism to become a successful freelance writer. It certainly won’t hurt but it’s not a deal breaker.

My very first client wanted nothing more than a writing sample and a quick chat. Not once did he ask for my qualifications. We spoke for a good twenty minutes about the best ways to generate content for his blog but I’m pretty certain that the main reason I got hired was because of the strength of my writing sample.

The freelance world operates in a very different manner from the regular world, where prestigious degrees matter. While a top MBA can land you in a cushy job in banking, the sexiest degree in the world won’t get you anywhere in freelance writing unless you can actually produce great writing.

Owners of blogs and websites will usually be the ones looking to get work done, and most of the time, these guys are interested in one thing only – results. If you can get them the results they want, the last thing they’re going to care about is which journalism school you went to.

It definitely helps to be a native English speaker, and to have a good grasp of the language. I’m going to be brutally honest here. If English isn’t your first language or if your command of the language is weak, you’re going to have your work cut out for you.

While it’s not impossible to succeed (Bamidele Onibalusi of www.youngprepro.com is a perfect example), the odds definitely stack against you if you’re spending your time wondering why the plural of mouse isn’t ‘mouses’.

Isn’t The Economy In The Pits?

Just Tell Me How I Can Get Writing Gigs

I hate to use a tired cliché but it’s pretty apt for the situation. Google is your friend. Writing jobs are EVERYWHERE on the Internet and all you need to do is get out there and start searching. From copywriting to translation services, you can easily find something to suit your skill set as long as you show a little hustle.

Set up profiles at outsourcing websites such as Odesk, Elance and Freelancer.com

Apply for jobs that you’re interested in and craft personalized replies for each job.

Go through the blogs that you read on a regular basis and enquire whether they have writing gigs available. If you don’t have any portfolio whatsoever, offer to write a free article so that the blog owner can determine whether you guys will be a good fit.

Rummage through the many freelance writing job boards out there. There are good paid job boards and some excellent free ones as well. Off the top of my head, the Problogger Job Board and the Freelancewriting.com newsletter come to mind but there’re a lot more resources from where these came from.

You just need to be tenacious about looking for work. Writing jobs don’t just land on your lap. You’ve got to get out there and start pounding on enough doors until someone’s willing to give you a chance.

C’mon, It Can’t Be That Simple

Just Tell Me What Challenges I’ll Face?

You’re absolutely right. It’s not simple at all. You’re going to be facing rejection on a daily basis when you first start pitching for jobs. While it’s true that writing jobs are plentiful, the stark reality is that writers are a dime a dozen.

The barriers to entering the freelance writing game are pretty low, and anyone who’s barely literate can call himself a writer.

You’ll be facing a ton of competition for every job you’re interested in, especially if it’s a writing position for a prestigious blog that pays well.

You’ll face writer’s block from time to time. I can’t speak for every freelance writer but every now and then, my mind just goes blank and I need to take some time to ‘recalibrate’.

Very rarely, you’ll come across an unreasonable client. If and when you come across such a situation, I think it’s usually always better to simply part ways and move on. There will always be other jobs.

In A Nutshell

If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming that you have at least a smidgen of interest in freelance writing. It could be for passion, for getting your name out there or even solely for getting some additional coin.

Now that I think about it, I probably decided to become a freelance writer based on all of the above!

While it’s not always glamorous, a successful freelance writing career is well within your reach as long as you’re willing to work at it. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start pitching!

So… here’s where I tell you if you liked this post, please share it. That is all. 

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

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Kris M. July 5, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Great article and a valuable resource for anyone starting out as a freelancer. One thing I wanted to add was the fact that many writers don’t realize how many of their favorite sites rely on outside submissions to build content. If you want a good place to start, go through all your favorite blogs and sites to find out which ones accept submissions. Some may pay for submissions while others may only be looking for guest blogs, but it’s a quick way to get your work out there and get some experience under your belt. Plus, if you’re already familiar with the site, then you know what kind of content they’re looking for and what type of tone is appropriate.

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admin July 10, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Hey Kris.. that’s an excellent tip! :) One thing to add if you go that route.. search and see if they have guidelines before popping off an email. Makes things so much more efficient when a guest knows the blog’s guidelines as well as topic/tone.

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Nicole July 9, 2012 at 1:01 AM

Very inspiring article! I’m sure many others who are aspiring to be a freelance writer will find your article very useful and motivational. As for me I am not really hoping to become a freelance writer, instead I am looking for freelance writers to help me with some of my projects. I find my writers via iWriter, so freelance writers might want to try finding a job there as well :)

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wajahath ali July 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM

great post shane… I agree that asian upbringing does have the fundamental point of saving all you can and spending it on a rainy day and not on black fridays or cyber mondays. As you said there are many opportunities for freelance writers but those you sustain them are disciplined and networked freelancers who always produce quality content.

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admin July 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Can ya’ll share a lil of that Asian thang with me? lol I’m not nearly as disciplined as I’d like to be!

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Shane July 18, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Heh, it’s probably a pre-requisite to have at least 18 years of overbearing parenting. :)
Shane recently posted..Not Every iPhone App Developer Becomes A Millionaire: Sean Maher Spills The BeansMy Profile

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Shane July 18, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Heh, yeah it’s an Asian thang. :)

There are loads of opportunities out there. It just takes some time and a whole lot of dedication to find the right ones!
Shane recently posted..Not Every iPhone App Developer Becomes A Millionaire: Sean Maher Spills The BeansMy Profile

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Lori Taylor July 23, 2012 at 6:36 AM

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