Tips for surviving as a freelancer abroadDispatches from the Road, Expats Abroad, Featured, South Africa, Working Abroad — By Courtney B on February 24, 2010 at 6:00 am
By Courtney Brooks
LG International Correspondent (South Africa)
Full disclosure before giving any advice: I’m not actually surviving as a freelancer in Cape Town. Before deciding I could move here I secured a few grants to be able to afford my four months without living on peanut butter and jelly, but if I weren’t making at least some money as a freelancer I would be living very differently. I believe that with enough dedication and penny-pinching it is possible, even if just for a few months, to live purely as a freelancer. With that said, here is what I learned while in Cape Town about making ends meet while working from home.
1. Networking is crucial – My best freelancing gig ever, working for an international news wire in Cape Town, I got by hearing from a friend interning for them that they could use a writer in Cape Town. I was told they might have me cover a story or two but I eventually wrote about 12 for them. Keep your ears open and meet as many people in the field as you can.
2. Any job is better than no job – I have met freelance journalists who write for newspapers and magazines for little or no pay, and then spend their free time doing completely random online writing, including writing press releases about fertilizer. Anything that pays is worth your time, but make sure you continue to do the work you are passionate about, no matter how little you earn for it.
3. Take working holidays – If you are going away, even for the weekend, try to think of a way you can turn it into a story. This could mean a travel article, a political article, a photo slide show for a website, or even just a post on your personal blog. The most important thing is to always be learning and practicing your craft.
4. Learn a new skill – As a freelancer you are likely going to have a lot of free time, so use it constructively. While in Cape Town I took a photography class and created a photography project for my university. I didn’t earn any money doing it, but left Cape Town with a new interest and useful skill I didn’t have previously, and something I can use in my future career as the multimedia aspect of journalism becomes more and more important.
5. Learn to live like a starving artist – As a beginning writer and freelancer you are not going to have much money. That is just reality, and it’s time to embrace it. So learn to live like a starving artist: rent a tiny apartment, cook for yourself, have drinks at home with friends, and do free activities during the day, like hiking or hanging out in a park. Be sure to splurge every once in a while on something really good, like a concert, so you don’t feel too deprived!
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