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5 Things They Don’t Tell You about Becoming a Location Independent Writer

Sharon Hurley Hall WriterA guest post by Sharon Hurley Hall.

Living as a location independent writer may seem like a dream come true for many people – and it can be. Like any dream, though, it takes hard work to achieve it.

Despite the 4 Hour Work Week promoted by Tim Ferriss, that’s just not a reality for many people, and even those who have achieved it, had to spend a lot of time preparing the ground and tweaking things.

Here are some things people DON’T say about the location independent writing lifestyle:

1. Time Zones Are a Killer

Want to travel round the world while keeping your writing business going? You’d better get used to operating in multiple time zones. Now if you’re in the US and working with people at different ends of the country, you probably already have some experience with this. But it becomes even more challenging when you’re working with people in Europe or Australia because you will be connecting with people at times when you would normally be in the bed or relaxing.

When I was still living in the UK at the start of my full time freelancing career I attended a regular weekly online meeting that took place at 8 PM. The trouble was that the meeting was in Canada so it was one in the morning for me. Do that for a few weeks and tiredness takes on a whole new meaning. One way to solve the time zone issue is by making it clear in all your communications (say, by means of a line in your e-mail signature) what time zone you are in and what hours you will be operating. At the moment I’m in the Atlantic time zone and my British and European clients know they can only connect with me during the afternoon their time.

2. You Will Have To Work Harder Than Ever

You may be a location independent writer, but unless you have independent means, you will probably have to work harder than ever. When I first went freelance, my first priority was to convince clients that I could still do a great job for them, no matter where I happened to be. That meant being available when they needed me and delivering at times that might not always suit me. One way to handle this (and I’ll admit, this is a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’) is to develop processes for repetitive tasks and outsource them to a virtual assistant. That will free up some time for other things.

3. The Internet Is Not Always Your Friend

We’re spoiled by having mostly good internet access; in fact we almost take it for granted. Leave the major metropolitan areas and you might be in for a shock. Location independent writers soon discover that Internet connectivity is widely variable. In some countries you may still be on dial-up which is a big problem if you’re working with a lot of graphics as well. In others, connectivity might fail regularly, leaving you up the creek if a client deadline is looming.

There are several ways that you can address this. The first is by building in some time for failure into the deadlines you give clients – a couple of days ought to do it. Then buy yourself even more time by setting an earlier personal deadline. That way you can be pretty sure that you will be able to deliver at some time during the period.

Using shared web workspaces, (provided you have the bandwidth to access them) where changes to files are saved automatically, is another good option because you can provide access to clients so they can see where you are with a particular job. And it’s a good idea to get alternative contact details for your clients (like a cell phone number) so you can always send updates by SMS if there’s a real problem. In my experience, as long as you communicate regularly clients are happy.

4. You Have to Plan Your Sightseeing

OK, so those are some of the work things out of the way, but what about the location? One of the reasons for having this lifestyle is to get out and see things? But if you’re following those steps above and also building your location independent writing business, you may soon experience the bane of new freelancers everywhere – the overwhelm.

Like any new freelancer you have to resist the temptation to overbook yourself and leave yourself some free time every week. That allows you to schedule visits to the surrounding areas – and even countries – which are the reason you wanted this lifestyle in the first place. And as long as you have decent internet access, you can take your laptop anywhere with you and work if you have to.

5. There’s No Escape from You

One of the big underlying ideas of location independence is ‘escape’: escaping the rat race, escaping the nine to five, escaping your country. But there’s one idea they never examine – the fact that you take yourself with you. In other words, any issues that affected your freelancing career and your personal life when you were at home might also affect you when you travel. If you’re the kind of writer who is always overwhelmed and racing against deadline pressure, changing location won’t change that. And if you’re a laid back type whose writing business always runs smoothly, moving countries won’t change that either.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I’ve always been the kind of writer who gets caught up in a project and doesn’t want to leave it. Wherever I have been in the world, that hasn’t changed. The danger for me has been that I might miss something great because, as usual, I am chained to my desk. The solution has been to schedule time to do those other things that add the romance to the location independent writing lifestyle and help me to live the dream.

Finally, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about my feelings about location independence. I love this lifestyle, but I have a healthy respect for the work it actually takes so that others can believe I am living the dream.

What questions do you have about being location independent? Or share your experience.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a location independent writer currently based in the Caribbean. She has almost 25 years of experience writing professionally – as a journalist, an academic writer, a blogger, a ghost writer and an online copy writer. She is the author of a Kindle ebook titled Getting Started in Blogging and has been running Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help other writers improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Attribution Some rights reserved by Roberto Verzo

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    Excellent article.

  • Great article. You can also use your Windows clock to set up to 3 timezones, all of which you can quickly access at once. This helps me keep ahead of the time of day across the parts of the world important to my business. Google Calendar also lets you set meetings relevant to a timezone. I set all my meetings GMT, whereever I am in the world, Google Calendar then updates the times for me.

    • ugh… I understand gmt but I have trouble using it… didn’t know I could do that with my windows clock. That’s so cool and helpful too. Easy to do, just click on the clock then click on change settings at the bottom

    • Yes, that Windows time zone clock is useful. I use it to keep track of the most important ones, but occasionally I get tripped up by someone who wants to book in Pacific Time. 🙂
      Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Advice on Charging for Writing Blog PostsMy Profile

  • I’m not yet location independent, but that’s definitely my goal. I can see how some of the above points are relevant, but not so much the time zone one. I already deal with people in many time zones; that’s just a reality of the internet, whether you’re stationary or a nomad. For me the biggest challenge is getting enough cash together that I can get “on the road” in the first place!
    LarryC recently posted..Hire A Writer!My Profile

  • I have created a sort of time zone ruler, made of thin cardboard, with times from various regions (US Pacific/Eastern/Alaska, Canada, Australia, UK, Greece, etc) to help me have a more clear picture of the work day. It looks like a tape measure, only it’s a bit wider. Works well, I might say.

    Of course, I have a calendar, to clearly note what time(s) I am expected to do this or deliver that. The whole thing can be quite complicated sometimes.

    • Helenee, maybe you should market your ruler. Sounds good.

      • It is good – and your idea seems even better 🙂 Only, I thought people nowadays preferred digital products. I am (pleasantly) surprised.

        • That sounds like a useful tool. The online tool I use for time zones, Everytimezone.com, works on the same principle, I think.
          Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..About Writing Squared – My Favorite Writer ForumMy Profile

        • jorgekafkazar

          I can get an 8″ analog wall clock at Target for about $4.00 If I had to track other time zones, I’d get one clock for each timezone, put a large label on it, and hang the clocks on the wall above my computer.

  • Sharon,

    I can relate to the timezone difference. I joined a mastermind group some months ago without taking into account the time difference. This did not work well for me as I work during the day, and was only available weekends for our group calls. The guys were great, but I realized that it was not a good fit for me.

    You really get around on the web, and I hope to have half of your energy in 2012! 🙂
    Jaent Thomson recently posted..Selling Your Book: How to Determine Which Strategy Get SalesMy Profile

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