EDITOR’S NOTE: In this inspiring case study, Kacie discusses how she got started as a full-time freelance writer after taking some time away to really focus on her ambition. Freelance writing is one of those truly location independent jobs – once you’re established you can do your work anywhere, which is incredibly liberating, and exactly the kind of freelance lifestyle we like to celebrate at HomeWorkingClub.
It was the summer of 2016, and I’d perfected my hustle. There was only one problem: I was exhausted.
As a self-employed workshop facilitator, I traveled around the country teaching about topics I loved. After teaching, I returned home to a series of “per diem” and substitute employment opportunities, filling in at several workplaces when the regular employees were out of the office.
In between my workshops and jobs, I pursued freelance writing, which I’d been doing on the side for a couple of years. It’s one of those truly location independent jobs, so I could write from home, or in cities where I taught workshops.
The problem was, my other work commitments kept me busy almost every day. I moved from workplace to workplace, often getting calls at the last minute asking me to sub for a sick colleague. I stood for up to twelve hours a day working, and I spent the time I wasn’t at work resting so I didn’t collapse on the job from fatigue. I ended up with virtually no time to write.
I knew that I needed to make a drastic change if I wanted to make writing my top priority. I realized I needed an extended vacation, but not one where I did nothing but lie on the beach. I needed the space to focus exclusively on my writing, to see if I could generate enough income to live the dream of having one of those elusive but genuine location independent jobs.
That fall, I used airplane miles to live in Baltimore for two months. I planned my trip around a class that caught my eye but had minimal homework and only met weekly. When I returned home, I had a solid system for generating writing income and a completed draft of my book.
Here’s what I did on my extended vacation that made it a financial success:
1. I made my freelance writing my top priority
Freelance writing is an exceptionally flexible job, but that flexibility meant I never put it first when I had other pressing obligations. With my workshops scheduled months in advance and regular last-minute calls to work on a day rate, writing always seemed less pressing.
Now, writing was my number one commitment, and I had to make it work. During my two-month vacation, here’s what I did to make sure I generated income:
I met my book deadlines: I landed my first book contract shortly before leaving, and with it came the requirement to get it written according to the publisher’s deadlines. I knew there was no way I’d meet my obligations, or write a book I was proud of, if I was going to a new job at a different workplace every day. Instead, I stayed in regular contact with my co-author and editor, completing writing and edits as planned.
I found regular writing work: Initially, the vast majority of my freelance writing was irregular and inconsistent. It required me to pitch editors or rush to grab assignments before other writers. Without regular deadlines, it’s no shock that writing often fell by the wayside. In Baltimore, I searched for writing clients that had regular work. Finding that first recurrent client made all the difference. Suddenly, I could write without having to pitch first, giving me a steadier stream of writing income.
I strengthened relationships: I’d been an erratic writer for publications where I had pre-existing relationships, pitching irregularly and often not accepting potential assignments. Now that I had more time, I started sending new pitches off to editors of websites where I’d previously been published. I grabbed any assignment I could right away, showing my commitment to publications. When I had time, I pitched to new publications or applied to promising writing gigs.
Between all those strategies, my freelance writing income increased significantly and was more than enough to live on.
2. I saved money
I’d loved living in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years, but the reality is that it has one of the highest costs of living in the world.
Initially, I moved to the area to take traditional employment, but becoming self-employed, combined with the costs increasing exponentially with every passing year, meant I had to hustle hard just to meet my basic expenses.
Baltimore is significantly less expensive than San Francisco, so I had a two-month cushion to build up my income while living in a significantly more moderately priced area. I could temporarily rent a room as a boarder in a safe neighborhood for less than one-third of the cost of my San Francisco rent alone – and that included all the utilities!
From food to public transportation to clothing, I found that nearly all basic goods were less expensive in Baltimore, so my cost savings were even higher than anticipated. Those two months of reduced expenses gave me a window of time to develop the foundation of a solid writing career without having to maintain several other jobs to pay the bills.
3. Living somewhere new expanded my worldview
San Francisco felt like my second home after living there for so long, and it was hard to imagine being anywhere else. When I arrived in Baltimore, I felt my previously narrow focus expanding. I fell in love with Baltimore’s fall season and plentiful events and activities much more than expected.
The new scenery had a positive impact on my writing. I found myself inspired, and ideas for pitches and words came more quickly. I found myself more fully imagining what it would be like to live outside of the expensive Bay Area.
When I returned to San Francisco, I continued building my writing career, and limited my other work to no more than a couple of days a week. With less running around, I had more energy and my health improved. After the book I wrote in Baltimore was published, I decided to leverage my great experience in Baltimore and make an even bigger move. I arrived in Scotland last spring and write full-time now, developing even more ongoing relationships and steady contracts.
My ability to make freelance writing work as a business in a new city, and then a new country, shows that writing is one of the best portable, location independent jobs. All it takes is focus, commitment, and some writing ability!
Want to learn more about freelance writing? Check out our beginner’s guide.
Don’t want to freelance, but still like the idea of remote working? Take a look at opportunities on FlexJobs.
Kacie Berghoef is a freelance author and writer. She is the coauthor of The Modern Enneagram, published by Althea Press. Her writing is featured on XoJane, The Billfold, and MapQuest.