Travel Freelancing: The Truth
Once upon a time, I was a member of the Debate squad. It was a beautiful squad to be a part of, but alas, something more was calling my name—I wanted to join the ranks of thousands of 20-something-year-old white girls Instagramming their way around the world.
I’m Laurien, and I’m one of those freelancers who travels all the time. Sometimes you see my fellow travelling freelancers posting inspirational videos on social media that make this kind of work look glamorous AF and easy to make happen, and you know what? Maybe their version of this lifestyle is just that fabulous and they’re not doing any idealistic marketing whatsoever. But maybe they’re blocking out all of the bits that make this amazing, yet rarely glamorous lifestyle a bit hard to manage sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s so much to love about working and living this way. I’ve been to 12 countries since the start of this year, met so many inspirational people, and most importantly, drunk a lot of foreign wine. I just think since this kind of work started gaining popularity, there hasn’t been a lot of representation of the reality. I don’t want people to dip their toe into the world of travel freelancing, realise it’s not like the dream they had imagined, and then quit because they think they’re doing something wrong. If you’re well versed on the reality of the situation and still decide to go for it, you’ll be able to experience amazing opportunities that you’ll never regret. Have some free advice:
90% of it ain’t luck!
The number one phrase I hear from people who learn what I do is, “you’re so lucky”. I always wonder what people are thinking when they say that. I mean, yes, the same day I decided to do the whole freelancing thing was the same day this rando thrust a plane ticket and a laptop into my hands and said “Fly, you beautiful soul! I’ll send you a paycheck every two weeks! Love you!” But I responded like any sane person in that situation and said, “Who are you, how did you get into my room?”, and I didn’t accept the job.
To get to where I am now, I worked 90-hour work weeks for way too long and received a lot of rejection. When I actually did manage to get my first freelance client, I would receive at least two emails every day full of things I had done wrong and needed to improve on. And that was with three years of full-time experience in the writing industry behind me. Like any big dream, it doesn’t happen overnight, and you’ve gotta be willing to put in the hard yards to make it happen.
It’s One More Thing to Balance
You’ve seen all those memes about trying to balance life, work, relationships, family, etc., and how impossible it seems sometimes? Well, when you’re doing this kind of work, you’ve also got to balance being on holiday.
“Oh no, you poor thing, that sounds terrible.” This point has come out way more wanky than I meant it to, but seriously. Holidays are great but they’re jam-packed. And when you’re working in a foreign land, you have to do your full time job, keep in touch with people back home, run your daily errands, find a way to meet people, AND sign up for the island tours, day hikes, historical sites, and whatever other touristy opportunities come your way. Otherwise, why are you even travelling? It’s a lot of fun, but man, it can be a mission.
I tell you, being a strong, independent and self sufficient woman is all fun and games until you’re hungover on a Wednesday, there’s no Uber Eats, nor a loved one to bring you food, so you have to drag your corpse to the grocery store before you launch yourself into a 10-hour work day wearing your bathrobe because why laundry when you can sangria?
It Can Be Feast or Famine
This is freelancing in general, not just travel freelancing, but it’s probably the part that I’ve found the most difficult and didn’t actually think would be a huge issue before I started.
No work is ever guaranteed, so you’ll have weeks where next to nothing comes through, and weeks where too much will come through. It’s because of this that it becomes nearly impossible to say no to work, even if you’re falling asleep at your computer surrounded by snotty tissues, empty cold medicine packets, and half-eaten bowls of spicy noodle soup (completely made up example that I’ve never experienced, especially not last week).
It comes with the job description, but weeks where your workload is perfectly balanced are rare, and it’s a reality you’ve gotta be prepared to deal with no matter where you’re freelancing.
All in all, it’s an excellent way to see the world, and if you’re not expecting five-star living and a life that, if filmed, could be used as a pop star’s beachy music video, you’ll be in for an experience like no other.