Here, There – Clients Don’t Care! Be a Freelance Writer Overseas

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By Jen Adams

Jen having dinner at Tiesto's, a local landmark known to have the best steaks in Ecuador

Jen having dinner at Tiesto’s, a local landmark known to have the best steaks in Ecuador

“Six months ago … and you didn’t even tell me?” My writing partner, Troy, was annoyed. It wasn’t a problem with my work, but with me. I’d moved to South America the previous January without telling anyone I worked with about my plans. It wasn’t until I accidentally made a comment about Cuenca on a conference call in July that my secret was out!

Troy was jealous — but the truth is that making a living as a freelance writer overseas is a lot easier than you think. You don’t need to be a famous or established writer before you make the move, and you don’t need a suitcase full of fancy equipment. With a computer, an Internet connection, and a flexible attitude, you can make it almost anywhere.

For me, the decision to come to Ecuador was part of a larger plan to travel for a year in honor of turning 30. I had been a full-time freelancer for less than 12 months when I started researching potential new homes, but I had already figured out a critical truth of the Barefoot Writer’s life: As long as you respond to email regularly and turn in your projects on time, clients don’t care where you are sitting. It can be at your desk, down at the cafe … or in another country entirely. As long as the work gets done, where it happens doesn’t matter.

Still, I was reluctant to make a big announcement to my clients about moving overseas. Feel free to call me a chicken, because I took the easy way out and just didn’t tell them! Over time, they’ve all found out, but it’s only made our relationships more interesting. In fact, one of my newest clients seems to like me more because I am overseas — it makes his business seem more global and exotic in his mind to have a “South American” on staff.

Jen with her after-school English class on Valentine's Day

Jen with her after-school English class on Valentine’s Day

To do a great job as a freelancer in Ecuador or anywhere else in the world, you don’t need much. I left the States with nothing more than a laptop computer, Dropbox account, and Skype number.

These simple tools were all I needed to enjoy true freedom. With my laptop, I can work anywhere in the city, though Cuenca natives know they’ll usually find me near the fountain at my beloved Kookaburra Cafe. Dropbox, an online storage account you can link to your desktop, protects my files from ever being lost. Skype is my favorite tool for overseas living, because you can buy a Skype number with a U.S. area code for practically nothing and mask your true location. My “Nebraska” number gives clients a way to call me without incurring international phone charges and lets me look local even though I’m not!

A flexible attitude also helps. There are days when I have to run to my local Internet cafe because my home Internet is down, and times when loud local holidays make it hard to focus on deadlines. I just try to adapt to whatever adventures the new day holds and remind myself that these minor inconveniences are a small price to pay for the chance to live where I choose and do what I want!

Jen at Ingapirca, the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador

Jen at Ingapirca, the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador

If I had it to do over again, I would have followed my dreams overseas as soon as I started freelancing. Why on earth did I put up with another winter when I didn’t have to? There was no reason to be afraid my clients would be mad or that working internationally wouldn’t work. By continuing to believe I needed to be U.S.-based to be successful, I robbed myself of the rich life I have now.

My #1 tip for anyone considering a move like mine? Just do it! Living and working overseas is a lifestyle within reach for just about anyone. Make the choice to be where you want to be, and let the Barefoot Writer’s life give you a future that truly makes you happy.

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3 Comments

  1. That is great Jen and very inspirational. I am trying to get my start as a freelance writer.
    I love to write, travel writing is where I want start, but don’t how to break into that area of writing.

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