A 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.