In the past year, I moved from Boston, to San Diego, to Silicon Valley. Not only is moving emotionally exhausting, but I was also trying to take on freelance writing jobs. It’s been an exciting year, but it hasn’t been easy.
Aside from some yearlong international adventures in Europe and Asia, I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I wanted to leave Boston to experience life elsewhere in the country, but I was leaving behind my best friends, my family, and my favorite place to get a meatball sub. I was also leaving behind a community of storytellers, marketers, and professional connections.
Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about location and its effect on freelance writing jobs. Some areas are pretty affordable—so if you’re measuring success in terms of income, you can do more with less. Some areas are more expensive, but provide more networking opportunities.
Freelancing opens up the playing field to everyone, even if you’re in a small town without much industry. But how much does your freelance career impact where you decide to live? And, once you’re there, how does freelancing affect that location?
Many choose the freelance lifestyle because they can work from wherever they want. Today’s technology makes it easy to deliver material over email, and most freelancers have tried working at the beach or beside the pool.
I have clients in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City, and Minneapolis. Even the clients who are down the street choose to communicate with me using email.
Location, however, can dictate:
Depending on where you live, freelancing is an opportunity to significantly increase your annual income in an area that may not have as many jobs. In general, online entrepreneurship opens to the playing field to everyone, and that’s wonderful.
More people are freelancing now than ever before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 15.5 million people in the US are self-employed. And that number that is expected to grow: as estimated in the Intuit 2020 report, about 60 million people will work independently as contractors and freelancers by the year 2020—that’s over 40 percent of the American workforce.
Most of these freelancers aren’t going into the office. Instead, they’re working remotely. The ramifications of more remote workers are huge: this change could lead to fewer commuters—and therefore less traffic—as well as a chance for hurting local economies to grow and flourish.
Robert Scoble, a Silicon Valley insider, predicts that the future of innovation will occur in small-town America. “Silicon Valley has traditionally come to places like this and convinced innovators and companies to come to San Francisco area to build their technologies,” he wrote in a post for Medium. “I’m seeing signs that the flow of talent from small-town America to Silicon Valley is reversing, though.”
With rising housing costs in many of America’s major cities such as San Francisco, many companies could begin to crop up in the suburbs, and local freelancers will be able to support these efforts.
When it comes to location, it’s not so much where you are, but how much you put in. I put a lot of effort into professional networking while I lived in Boston. I went to tons of events and conferences, and hung out with other marketers in the community—even if it was just to get a cup of coffee. But when I got to San Diego, I knew I might not stay for long. So even though I knew there was a vibrant community in the city, it was tough for me to get involved.
If you want to become more involved in your local community:
Arestia Rosenberg, a freelance writer and video editor, is currently participating in Remote Year, which brings 75 individuals together to work remotely and travel to one new country a month for a year. She’s diligently freelancing, and is making it work. However, she’s found that some clients have trouble understanding her situation.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to explain why I can’t just come in,” Arestia told me. “For companies that don’t get it, there is a bit of a challenge in convincing them that I am still a smart, productive freelancer.”
Arestia has made it her mission to not allow her lifestyle to affect client schedules or her work in any way. She’s sensitive to time differences, takes time to explain the situation, and works diligently to remove location from the equation.
Joel Klettke, Founder of Business Casual Copywriting and Case Study Buddy, always dreamed of freelancing abroad, so a few months ago he and his wife moved to New Zealand. But it wasn’t as magical as he’d hoped.
“I struggled—really struggled—my first month here,” he said. “I couldn’t find my focus. My back and shoulders ached as I hunched over a kitchen table instead of my absurdly comfortable setup at home (standing desk included). I slept poorly as the stress of keeping up and the adjustment to another time zone.
Even though the first month was tough, Joel still believes in the power of freelancing abroad.
He’s learning new things about himself; for example, how to be okay with less money, and how to forgive himself for taking a day off. “I’m seeing a country I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing before, and I’m slowly but surely rebuilding my routine into one that is far more balanced and focused on happiness than any monetary figure.”
Where you live is a personal decision, one that is influenced by many factors. Despite our list of the best places to live for freelance writing jobs, you have to weigh what’s most important to you. Many freelancers feel they don’t have much of a choice of where they live. They may have mortgages, children in school in certain areas, or spouses working in offices. They don’t have the funds to pick up and move across the country or around the world. Some want to stay near their tight-knit communities of friends and family; others want to embark on adventures, whether domestic or abroad.
Location defines the lives of some freelance writers. “Location is everything,” said Charles Daly, a freelance writer living in Ireland. “I started freelancing while I was teaching English in Korea. Since freelancing became my full-time gig, I’ve used location to leverage my income, cut down living expenses, and keep things simple.”
Others feel that location is barely a factor. Kaleigh Moore, who was born and raised in Central Illinois, has always had an entrepreneurial streak and doesn’t feel that her location helps or hurts. “Almost no one—neither clients nor other freelancers—asks where I live,” she said. “All of my work is referral based, and I actually now prefer not to work with any new local clients. I have two on retainer, but other than that, my working relationships in my hometown are minimal.”
No matter where you are in the world, you can make freelancing work. I’d love to hear about where you live, and how it affects your freelancing career.