When I set off for college, I knew two things: I needed a job (with six younger siblings, I had to be financially independent while in school), and I needed a way to get to concerts. Music was one of my primary interests at 18, and it turned out to be a gateway to travel, employment, new friendships, and freedom. It all started with my first writing job, an unpaid gig with a music blog that got me free tickets to shows and festivals all over the West Coast. Four years later, I encourage all my friends to give freelance writing a try. Once you start, there’s no telling where you’ll end up.
When I speak to my friends, who are students, designers, musicians, and espresso artists (those with Master’s degrees), I rarely hear enthusiasm for traditional careers. Based on my experience, many 20-somethings seek alternative lifestyles, and traveling often ranks high on their to-do lists.
That’s where freelancing comes in. Thanks to the internet, writers, designers, artists, photographers, and other creatives have access to an international market for their work. There’s no longer any need to walk into the office each morning – the office comes to you.
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As a freelancer, I’ve had the chance to write about things that interest me, like Buddhism and American counter-culture and travel. More importantly, I’ve been able to work all over the world. This last year, I wrote my way across eight countries on four continents. I met my wife while studying abroad in Bangkok, which I never would have done if not for freelancing. In short, this job has opened up a world of opportunity for me.
That’s not to say that freelance writing is always interesting. I’ve written 800-word articles about credit card readers, described small towns in Indiana for realtors, and detailed the specifications of hundreds of items on eBay. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a fulfilling career option. But it makes sense for where I am right now, and I think many of my peers feel the same way.
While everyone wants different things from life, everyone has interests. What my experience with freelance writing taught me is simple: Follow your interests, and good things will come.
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Alright, so, how does one start freelancing? If you can write, draw, design, photograph, film, or make music, you can put your work online for free. That’s the best way to start. If you have a handful of favorite websites, consider asking if they need help. Even if it’s not paid, this will give you a portfolio for future job applications. Follow your interests.
Another way to find work is to scan freelancewriting.com, problogger.net, LinkedIn jobs, and similar sites — jobs are posted every day. It can take a while to get a response, but with persistence, work will come.
There’s also the Upwork.com route, which allows beginners to bid on jobs. This is for those willing to prioritize experience over pay and work their way up from there. It’s one way to gain exposure and establish yourself as a writer.
While freelancing has been great for me, it is not for everyone. There is value in having an in-house job where you can collaborate with others face-to-face. But if you want to work from anywhere in the world, it might just be right for you.