A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece titled Dumb Suggestons for Finding Freelance Work Overseas. In it, I disagreed strongly with the author of an article who had suggested using Craigslist, Elance.com and Freelancer.com to come up with freelance gigs to support your overseas lifestyle.
I won’t re-hash my arguments here, you can go back to the original post and read them for yourself if you’re interested. Instead, I’d like to expand on them.
A few days after I posted that piece, I was listening to a teleconference by Nick Usborne, a veteran copywriter, coach and writing teacher. Nick articulated clearly what has bothered me about these sorts of websites for a long time, but which I was not able to express nearly as well as he did.
Nick said that, if you participate in these sites you are agreeing that your skills — whether writing, editing, shooting video, photography, creating databases or any other freelance endeavor — are simply a commodity. You put yourself in the position of being one widget among many. And when you commodify your talents, the only level of competition becomes price. That is the true reason why freelancers who participate in these demeaning online auctions are severely underpaid.
In order to separate yourself from this widget crowd — to be perceived as a uniquely able freelancer and be reasonably compensated for your work — you must offer specialized knowledge and authority.
Specialized knowledge doesn’t come overnight. It’s not just another commodity. It comes with education, time and practice.
So if you want to support yourself in your new country by writing (and I keep using that as an example because that’s what I do), the time to start preparing yourself is before you leave your old country.
Perhaps you have some specialized knowledge and expertise from your home-country career you’d like to leverage after your move. Great!
What should you do if you don’t already have that authority? Decide on a specialized niche and work to develop that expertise now, before you move. Take classes, hire a coach, subscribe to websites that provide what you want. Borrow books from the library and apply what you learn. There are lots of ways to gain knowledge.
After you’ve learned something, you need to put feet on it, put it into practice. Then do it again. And again. And again. Find the freelance work you want — here, now, before you go — and start developing a reputation.
If you plan properly and implement your plan, by the time you move overseas you will have an existing client base and a well defined group of prospects who will be willing to hire you for freelance assigments at a good rate of pay.
Is it easy? No. Especially if you’re already holding down a full-time job. Will you be able to make money immediately? Probably not, unless you’re already doing similar work or have tons of insider industry contacts. It takes work and dedication.
You can use this approach to become a travel writer, a copywriter, or any other kind of freelance writer. I’m sure you can also use this approach with non-writing types of freelance work, and I’d love to hear from some of you with those other areas of expertise.
It will pay off, though. Instead of working your butt off at menial, slave-wage assignments through a site that turns you into just another widget, you can work fewer hours at assignments that pay better, and have more time to enjoy your new surroundings.
Here are some links to companies and programs I have personal experience with that may help you get started. I have done business with all of them (taken courses, enrolled in membership sites, etc.), and I’ve been writing for AWAI for several years. (Some of these links are affiliate links. That means, if you click and purchase, I receive a small commission. You pay exactly the same, but it helps me to keep this site up and running.)
If online content is more your thing, there are some excellent courses, seminars and blogging gurus out there to learn from. I’ve worked with — and recommend — the following:
There are tons more resources available, but the most important thing to remember is, if you want a freelance career and don’t want to be treated (and paid) like a commodity, you must set yourself apart.
Do you have helpful resources for aspiring freelancers you could share? Click the comment link below!