Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Freelancing on the Move: How to Write from Anywhere

One of the great advantages of being a freelance writer is the fact that you can write for any client, anywhere. This opens up fascinating possibilities for people who need to earn a living but don't necessarily want to spend every moment of their lives cooped up in the same office -- or even the same city. I've heard of folks writing entire book manuscripts and other large projects while roaming the country in an RV, for instance. After all, how hard could it be? All you need is email, a Web connection, and a laptop. Right?

Well, sort of. That’s a good start, but there are other considerations to think about, too. I would expand that list to include:

  • Internet/email connectivity
  • Voice connectivity
  • A writing machine
  • A solid client base
  • Peace and quiet

The technological challenges are fairly easy to overcome. Most major cell phone services have an option that enables you to use your cell phone or smart device as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot, so you can work and communicate online as long as you’re in a place that gets decent coverage. Some RV parks offer wireless connectivity as part of their service. If your “day job” boss has sent you on an assignment that includes a hotel stay, you can simply use that facility’s Internet. Then of course there are all those free hot spots in coffee houses, restaurants and libraries across the U.S. I wouldn’t want to share sensitive information over public airwaves, but for everyday writing tasks they’re safe enough.

You choice of writing device will have an impact on how easily you can do a day’s work. For me, a proper writing machine has to have a proper keyboard, so that rules out touchscreen solutions such as tablets. I’ve found Chromebooks perfectly adequate for writing on the road, at least in most situations -- especially since you can save documents to an external thumb drive or hard drive, solving the question of limited storage. If you plan on doing a large percentage of your writing offline, however, you may want to spring for a more fully functional traditional laptop.

A solid client base is always desirable for any freelancer, but it becomes an even bigger deal when you spend long periods of time away from your home base. That’s because you’re losing opportunities to network and have face-to-face meetings with local clients and prospects. Sure, you’ll meet people on your travels, but it’s harder to turn those encounters into long-term business relationships. My advice would be to develop a deep pool of strong hometown client/colleague connections before hitting the road.

Don’t discount peace and quiet as a critical factor in your success as a mobile writer. You can’t write if you can’t hear yourself think, and that isn’t always easy when you have little no control over your surroundings. The friendly hustle and bustle of a coffee shop might boost your mood and energize your imagination -- until a screaming 2-year-old sits appears at the next table. RV parks and campgrounds can be notoriously rambunctious. Even the most sophisticated executive suite may have paper-thin walls, which is pretty much like inviting all the neighbors over to party while you try to meet that writing deadline. But don't lose hope; earplugs and iPods are among the traveling writer’s best friends. You might also get good results from synchronizing your writing schedule with quieter times of day or night.

Give these issues some thought before your next great adventure -- and then have fun writing from (and for) Anywhere, U.S.A.!