5 Tips For Living A Location Independent Lifestyle

The world’s leading freelance marketplace, Elance, recently released its new years’ prediction: 2013 will be the year of the freelancer.

With more college students, underemployed people and retirees seeking supplementary income, online freelance work is set to grow dramatically in 2013. According to analysts at Elance, the dollar value of freelance work will more than double the 2012 amount.

Among the causes Elance sees driving the coming online work gold rush, there are factors like:

  • More and more students opting to work part time online to offset skyrocketing tuition costs.
  • “Obamacare” opening up contract work as a real possibility for those who would have previously been uninsured.
  • The continued decline in the availability of truly stable private sector jobs.
  • Companies increasingly contracting work out rather than choosing to hire employees.

But one item that wasn’t mentioned in Elance’s predictions,is a simple factor that might be more important than all four mentioned above:

More and more people are looking to online work as a reasonable and practical way to be able to work from any location in the world.

This factor applies most obviously to people who live in countries where full time work just isn’t available, but also to a growing class of people who want the freedom to be able to work while they travel.

For young men in particular, the idea of “location independence” can seem like a dream. The ability to see new places, date a wide variety of women, and sample different cultures all while running and independent business, embodies a sort of “international playboy” fantasy straight out of old James Dean movies. But with more and more employers looking to contract their work out online every year, the “dream” of location independence is looking more and more like a very attainable reality.

The question is, how do you do it? The nagging question of whether online work is really feasible has probably kept more cubicle dwellers struggling in the trenchers than anything else. Here are five tips for being a location-independent freelancers, a group that I consider myself in…

1. Sign up for a freelance site like Elance or Odesk.

The idea that the pay on these sites is lower than elsewhere is demonstrably false. Pay for most gigs may be low, but freelancers can easily filter out low paying gigs and focus only on ones that meet their criteria.

2. Write a professional-looking profile that highlights you skills and the value you can offer your clients.

The real killshot here is to point out how you can make the client money, not how “innovative” or “pretty” your work is. If you are not a writer, consider hiring one to write your profile for you.

3. Take some skills tests.

Many clients are reluctant to hire a someone with no established track record, even if their profile is well written. Skills tests (with high scores) can help you get your foot in the door.

 4. Get a website.

A freelancer with no website looks like a job seeker. A freelancer with a website looks like a professional. Get a website, and your chances of getting hired improve. You can of course use a freelance site itself to get a website done for you (I recommend elance).

5. Pitch at least one new client every day.

So many people give up on freelancing because they throw out on or two pitches and don’t get a reply. Some may even throw out up to 20 pitches before they get hired. But when you compare this to the 1% conversion rates that most freelancers who rely on cold calling have to contend with, throwing out a dozen or so pitches a week doesn’t seem that bad at all.

As you can see, the answer is simpler than most people think. With freelance sites like Elance and oDesk offering a platform where anybody can sign up and start pitching their services to prospective employers right away, most of the historical freelancer woes like finding clients to pitch to and waiting months for pay, have evaporated. Increasingly, for location independent freelancers around the world, the question to ask about freelancing online seems to be more a “why not?” than a “why?” or a “how?”

15 thoughts on “5 Tips For Living A Location Independent Lifestyle”

  1. I have been doing freelance since getting axed from Encorpera on my 50th birthday. At the moment I actually have a job but work from my home office most of the time. I have found my niche in doing technology marketing for startups, where my strengths in proposal writing, 3D modeling, and making business connections have really paid off. With some luck I look forward to extended time next year in my wife’s homeland of Vietnam while continuing to charge for my work. As my boss and my previous boss both had foreign wives this is a very real possiblity.
    I tried to codify my personal marketing approach in some essays for The Spearhead entitled “Employment Game” :

    1. I’m guessing you are a better candidate for freelancing than most people here, who I assume to be rather young. Elance et al aside, there is a long tradition for people to move to more “independent consulting” roles as their careers’ progress. In most companies, middle age guys with lots of experience are expensive to hire, and the particular advantages they bring over younger, cheaper, guys, are not needed on a full time basis. So, high hourly pay, but low hours, consulting type situations can be a win-win. Simultaneously, a long career making connections, means there are more potential clients to call on, than for someone fresh out of school.

  2. I looked at oDesk a few years ago. Living in Maine, I can’t compete on price with guys in Indonesia, not if I want to eat and pay the Obamacare tax for not being able to afford heath coverage. Better off with a normal job, even with all the bullshit that entails.
    On the other hand, if I wanted to live in Indonesia, it might make senae.

    1. What is your service area? Most high quality Asian freelancers charge rates comparable to Westerners.

      1. I’ve given this sort of stuff a go. Can’t remember which site I used but it was similar to the ones mentioned. I do web development work, and I live in the UK.
        The main problems I’ve found are this:
        1. Price. In the UK with my skillset the minimum I’d want to charge as a freelancer would be $40/hr, while I’m looking to build a reputation for myself. I’d want to quickly double that as I build up my reputation. It’s almost impossible to compete as the average hourly rate on those sites seems to be around $20/hr. This may change as the economies of poorer countries grow. A few years ago I’m guessing $12/hr was the average, so there is some hope.
        2. Specs. Most hirers on there only have a very vague idea of what they want. To avoid the project bloating out of control and me making pennies an hour on a fixed price contract (preferred by hirers) that over runs, a lot of time would need to be spent working with the client to create a proper spec. I think most clients on these sites aren’t willing to do this.

    2. You need to offer services they can’t offer in Asia well. For example, instead of being a MySQL database admin, offer specialized consulting for tuning the database in high performance situations. That requires a lot more expertise and is harder to find in low-cost countries.

    3. imho, it would still be somewhat better than being bored to death in Maine trying to find a job over there or driving to work and back home 3 hours a day if you are lucky to get a job. Been there, done that. On the other hand, there are countries in the world much nicer than Indonesia where you can settle and live like a boss not having to earn six figures a year (or even five). Worth trying, unless you’re too emotionally attached to your cabin in the woods.

  3. Funny, I’ve been reading a book called the Wealthy Freelancer that talks about this subject. Pretty good stuff.

  4. The article is overall a bit weak for two reasons:
    1. Citing a company that makes money off freelancers for the data on freelancing doubling this year. Use an impartial source.
    2. You don’t provide any evidence that people are freelancing so they can move abroad. The data exists (state department and census bureau), so analyze it and prove your point. My guess is emigration of highly-skilled individuals has actually declined, but I have not analyzed the data.

    1. Well, I am a freelancer and I do live abroad now, expat-style. And most freelancers I know take advantage of it the same way. This lifestyle is amazing and worth trying.

  5. upon reflection though , This article should be called one tip for living a location independent lifestyle

  6. What do you recommend for the website? I mean, setting up a site for your freelancing makes sense but I’m confused about what sort of content you would put on there etc. If you have any recommendations on that aspect of building your freelancing career, I’d love to hear them.

  7. I do agree that more and more people are now looking at freelance work/working from home as it allows people to pick and choose their hours and location.
    I have found through my work and living this lifestyle myself that more and more people are spending some part of their year abroad and freelancing allows them to do this more easily. I have interviewed and spoke to many people who now live this lifestyle and there are a large number of different ways you are able to do this and not only through the freelance websites. Additionally if you look around you can find websites/jobs that pay the normal going rate for services provided and I also agree that it is vitally important to put together a professional profile with examples of work done. You may need to bid low for your first few jobs to enable you to get endorsed but once you have reviews and endorsements you can then charge what you are worth.

Comments are closed.