Being a freelancer is a recent phenomenon from a mass scale point of view. Once upon a time work and travel were mutually exclusive pastimes for almost everyone. You either worked or you travelled, but 99% of us really couldn’t do both. Of course back when I first travelled overseas I worked as a primary school teacher in London for two years, but that was different. I couldn’t just get up and live somewhere else one day just because I felt like it. I was living in London, in a bricks and mortar building I had to go to Monday to Friday, earning money by teaching little English kids how to read and write.
Today things are much, much different. The freelancer community is exploding and the amount of people either leaving their jobs to freelance online, or negotiating with their employer to work from home or on their travels, is in the tens of millions worldwide. For many it doesn’t matter whether you’re in your home office or on a beach in the Bahamas, as long as you have a laptop and an internet connection you can do the exact same job to the exact same standards.
Without any qualifications, Sarah and I signed up to Upwork a couple of months into our travels and it was the single best decision we made. We created a profile, offered our services as content writers, and started to apply for low paying, short term jobs. The idea was to get 4-5 of these gigs done and dusted quickly, ask for 5-star reviews and excellent comments, then up our rate accordingly. It worked exceptionally well, and we went from earning $US9 an hour to $US20 to $US35 within a couple of months. And what’s even better is clients started approaching us to work for them, meaning we didn’t have to go searching for work as much as we did at the beginning. And it was all thanks to our 5-star ratings and great comments. Coupled with tactics such as housesitting, couchsurfing and sourcing the best travel deals around, we were able to easily sustain our travels by working around 25 hours per week.
So how can you be a freelancer?
If you’re planning on being a freelancer while travelling to earn money on the way, I strongly suggest you start the process BEFORE you leave home. If I had my time again I would have built up a solid client base before leaving, because it would have meant being financially secure from the start. But that’s the beauty of travel, you learn many great lessons as you go.
However, nobody said it was going to be easy. If you don’t have any skills that you think you can offer, you’re going to need to get qualified. Investing time and potentially a little money in getting the right skills so you can become a freelancer will be the best decision you’ll ever make. And it really shouldn’t take you that long to learn the skills required. There are so many online courses you can take, many of them free, that you could potentially be qualified in a matter of weeks, or at the most 12 months. By devoting your time and energy for 12 months into education and practice, you’ll be able to travel the world indefinitely while charging clients for your highly qualified services.
What are the most popular freelancer careers?
To become proficient at graphic design, you need to spend a considerable amount of you time learning and practicing before you go searching for clients. But once you’ve got a good level of skill, you can charge accordingly. Generally speaking you’ll be required to help develop a company’s brand identity, or a coherent visual representation of their advertising campaigns. You could work on website designs, packaging, logos, brochures, posters or ads, ensuring the ‘look and feel’ of a company is consistent.
Writing content for others is what we do, and if you do a great job, the money can be pretty good. It’s all about writing different types of content for a wide range of industries that is search engine optimised. We’ve formed relationships with digital agencies in Australia, so they send us work directly and we get paid well. If you got basic SEO skills, then you’ll be in high demand because you’ll be able to research keywords trending topics for your clients and recommend articles they should have on their sites. Generally speaking they often don’t know what they want, so if you can tell them what they need then you’ll always be in work.
If you have a strong grasp of grammar, you may be employed to work on copy that has been created by someone else to ensure it’s accurate, formatted correctly and in the correct style. Often clients will hire people to write copy because they’re cheap, realise they’ve made a huge error when the get the copy back, then hire an editor to fix it.
Similar to content writers, copywriters are more focussed on writing content to sell a product. This could be in short-form copy, creating catchy headlines, and writing ads. Basically speaking, copywriters write copy that is designed to ‘encourage’ the ready to act in a particular way.
It’s easy to build a website using WordPress. You can master the art in a matter of weeks, and by using premium templates already created by numerous developers around the world, you’ll look like a superstar for your clients. Start by learning the basics (YouTube or any online education platform is a good place to start), build a few websites so you get some practice in and build up a portfolio, then start looking for clients.
If you’re already a business consultant, chances are with a few tweaks to your business model you actually never have to meet with your clients in person. With Skype and other online communication tools, you can offer the same service from the other side of the world.
If you can speak two languages fluently, then you’ve hit the jackpot. If you can write well in both languages as well, you’ll never be out of work. If you’ve ever wanted to speak a second language, this is the perfect motivation to get started. Spend a year becoming fluent by taking classes and chatting with people online, then hit the road. You may also be able to teach people to speak the language online and charge them an hourly rate. Skype is a great way to meet people teach conversational English, Spanish, French or any other language you’ve mastered.
Great for people who are a jack of all trades. You can help with email correspondence, data entry, writing copy, and organising anything your boss wants you to do. If you’ve read the ‘4-Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss, you’ll see how easy it is for assistants to work remotely, rather than being tied to your boss.
While an Illustrator could work on designs for businesses such as logos and packaging, they generally work with publishing houses, advertising agencies or comic book companies to draw, colour and create new designs. Their work often ends up as illustrations in books and comics, or in company artwork.
Do you have a great camera and can shoot exceptional footage? The amount of video footage appearing online is growing, and every business from commercial TV networks to small-time bloggers are looking for great video footage. If you can also edit then you’ll be in high demand.
Just like a videographer, if you can take great photos then you’ll be able to sell them to all sorts of clients. Who may want your images is only limited by your imagination. You can either sell them from your own website, on stock photography websites, or directly to clients.
IT Systems Support
Know your way around computer and IT systems? Like helping people fix problems? You could definitely provide IT support in the areas of computer repair, troubleshooting, system optimisation, software support, and system protection.
Making computer programs that help people complete tasks on their computers, or the actual systems that run the devices, can be done from anywhere. Take a course or two, practice your skills and become a freelancer in this growing and highly sought after field.
Social Media Manager
If you love social media, and can demonstrate that you know your way around Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a few other platforms, then you should be able to get guns as a social media manager. Clients look for people who can manage their social media platforms because they have no idea how to do it themselves, so if you know a thing or two, then you’ll be able to get work.
Search Engine Marketing
Have skills using Google Adwords, Facebook advertising and a proficiency in search engine optimisation? You’re in luck because you’ll already know it’s a growing business, and you don’t need to be in an office talking to a client face to face to get the job done.
There are many other services you can offer online, you just need to think about what skills you have, what you enjoy doing, and how you can monetise it online. But the 15 freelancer job options above are a very good start, and you should be able to find something there to help you make a living on the road. For some it might take time and money to get the required skills, but once you have them you’ll be able to travel indefinitely, and that’s the kind of lifestyle many people dream about but never actually do.