What's it Like Being a Location-Independent Freelance Writer?


In my late twenties, I’ve come to accept the fact that I have the travel bug, and it’s not a fad of my youth. I always wondered if I would feel the itch to “settle down” and stay in a single place for good, but that desire hasn’t come up yet.

In the past 5 years alone, I’ve lived in:

  • Istanbul

  • Cape Town

  • Chicago

  • San Francisco

  • Seattle

  • San Diego

  • Denver

And meanwhile, I’ve spend about a third of each of those years away from my temporary home base, exploring new countries and trying new cuisines.

And trust me, these aren’t even the crazy days-- when I first graduated from college, there was about a year where I was living out of a backpack and traveling to a new country about every week.

Yet, I’m still a full-time writer. Well, when I say full-time, I mean I’m a career writer who makes a full-time income. I work more like 10-15 hours per week on average these days.

You may wonder, what’s that like? I’ve decided to answer some of the questions I get most often about being location independent as a freelance writer:

How Did You Become a Location-Independent Writer?

I was actually location independent before I started writing at all. As I detailed in another post, I originally started freelance writing because I wanted a way to support my travels. I started writing at content mills and later broke into client work once I realized I was qualified to get my own clients. So what arose out of necessity became an awesome career over time.

I feel there was no other option for me than to be location independent. It was really lucky that I stumbled upon writing at a time when I was living in Asia and my expenses were very low, so the bar was pretty low in terms of income requirements. If I had started in an office, in the US, I still would have found a way to break out of it and freelance write. I have some tips for people who think they may want to start freelancing on the side of a 9 to 5 job. That’s a great way to get your toes wet and see if you like writing before jumping right into location independence AND running your own business at the same time. Both of those things take some attitude adjustments.

Don’t Clients Mind You Traveling So Much?

Most clients don’t really care where you’re working from. They just want to make sure you’re reliable and care about turning in their work on time and putting some thought into the writing you do. That’s why writing careers are so flexible for travelers— you can literally work from anywhere. There’s nothing that’s going to make you a more productive writer by being next to your coworkers, because writing is a solo activity.

Traveling has only truly affected my work a few times. There was the time I went to El Nido, Philippines, and I didn’t realize that the whole island didn’t have cell reception or WiFi so I accidentally went awol for a week. Another time, I was stuck in a typhoon in Taipei and the power was out for a few days. I got in a motorbike accident in a third-world country and definitely missed a few deadlines then. Other than a few sporadic and unexpected incidents like these, it hasn’t been too hard to keep up with client demands and travel hasn’t been a big hindrance to working.

Sometimes it’s difficult to talk with clients on the phone if you’re abroad, and you have to be flexible about taking calls at 11 PM. You may have to answer urgent emails in the middle of the night. These are small sacrifices in light of what you gain by being able to work from anywhere.

I think there isn’t a better career for people who love to travel. You don’t need a fancy laptop or a super fast internet connection. The work is done solo, so you don’t usually need to have a bunch of calls and meetings to collaborate with other people. The projects are fairly-straightforward, self-contained, and low-stress. The pay can be great for writing careers, too.

How Do You Structure Your Time?

I like to go on trips at least every 6 weeks. During the time when I’m at home in Denver, I’m furiously working on my projects, whether it be work or creative projects or just organizing my life. I like to let all of those things go on autopilot as much as possible while I’m out traveling. I try to keep my work load light while I’m traveling because, of course, I want to experience as much as possible in the places I’m visiting.

As far as working while traveling, I’m always working when I’m on the plane or in the airport. Sometimes I work in the mornings at the hotel and explore in the afternoons. Sometimes, I plan a down week in the middle of a trip to get a bunch of work off of my plate. It helps to find places where you can be productive while in a new place, so that often involves some planning.

Working and traveling has helped me improve my focus, for sure. I can sit there in a loud, stinky hostel dorm room and crank out a white paper. I can drop everything and work on a project until it’s done… and then go lounge on the beach for the next 3 days. When you’re sitting in a hotel room wondering what’s outside of those walls… that’s certainly a motivator for you to get your work done.

On that note, more fun things to read:

Work from Anywhere: How to Find Workspaces While Traveling

Work and Fly: 8 Tips for Productivity on the Plane (and in the Airport)

How Frequent Travel Can Make You More Productive (at Work and in Life)

How Do You Afford to Travel So Much?

Meticulous budgeting. For me, travel is a priority. I have a modest apartment back home. I don’t spend much on new clothes, or going out to eat, or material goods of any kind. Much of my disposable income goes to traveling, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do You Have Other Questions About Location-Independent Writing Careers?

I’m happy to answer them in the comments below!

Who Wrote This?

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I’m Renee Hyde and I’ve been a digital nomad freelance writer since 2012. So far I’ve visited 60+ countries and counting! On this blog I share tips about dreamy travel destinations, travel hacks, ways to work remotely and travel, and advice for living your best nomadic life!


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