How to Make a Living on the Road — Always the Adventure

After you’ve done a couple freelance gigs and decide that you want to further pursue the profession, here are the next steps to get started working from the road.

1. Start thinking of yourself as a business owner. You are. If you’re a freelancer, you are essentially self-employed. Your freelance business is just that: a business and you’re its sole owner.

2. Determine your name and brand. Every business needs a name, even if it’s just your name. Go beyond just the name and figure out your brand. What message do you want to convey? What story do you want to tell? What’s the unique thing that you offer that other freelancers in the same field don’t. There’s something; you just have to find it and use it to sell yourself.

For me, the fact that I live in a van and travel all over in seek of new adventures is actually a pretty big selling point. That’s how I came up with my brand and name: Always the Adventure.

3. Get a business license. Legally speaking, you need one of these. Maybe not right away, but definitely before you file your taxes for the first time as a business. The cost depends on the state through which you apply (which should be the same as the primary state through which you file taxes), but it’s usually somewhere around $50 for a year.

4. Revamp your social media presence. Or separate your personal and business accounts. Like it or not, social media is a big component of remote work these days, and a lot of our value comes from the message we portray. So make it a good one.

Your social media profiles should be in line with your brand message. They should be personal and tell a relatable story without being TOO personal; no one need to see you singing along to Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” while hammered on your Insta story.

Learn to walk the fine line between personable and professional.

5. Nail your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is exactly what it sounds like: how would you summarize your business in the time it takes to ride an elevator with a potential client. Who are you, what can you offer, and why is it unique or relevant? This is essentially what your elevator pitch should say. Susie Moore’s book What if it Does Work Out?: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life outlines the proper formula for one if you’re interested.

For fellow freelance writers, the formulation of the elevator pitch is an important part of how to pitch individual articles and stories (a skill well worth developing).

6. Build a portfolio. You need to have some compilation of your work to direct potential clients toward. If you’re just starting out, this can be a simple list of web addresses to your writing/design/[insert whatever it is you do here]. That way you have something to direct people toward to see examples your work. As that portfolio grows, get more critical about what gets include in it. Quality over quantity, much like a resume.

7. Start a website. A great way to build a concise and personalized portfolio is to start a website. Depending on the type of business you run or service you offer, website can be more or less lucrative. If you sell a product, they’re obviously super important. If you just sell a service, you may not make as much on the site itself, but it can be a very helpful self-marketing tool to generate more clients. Even a portfolio website or basic blog can still have its monetary perks, minor though they may be.

There are essentially 3 main website monetization methods:

  • ads (impressions make minimal money and clicks generate more)

  • product sales

  • affiliate links (when someone purchases a third party product through a link on your website, earning you a slight commission)

Even if you won’t be making much on your site, a website is well worth the relatively slight fee for the extreme boost in professionalism it grants you.  Through Squarespace, I pay just shy of $200 per year to see my website up and running. 

The goal is really only that it generates enough income to pay for itself (though I went years where that wasn’t the case).

8. Write a contract and list out your various levels of services. Fiverr refers to these as your “packages”, each of which differ from each other by price and extent of services offered. For example, as a writer, my basic package is a 1,000 word article with one revision. The next level is 1,500 words and two revisions, and so on. I then have additional add-ons for extra word count or random requests. These of course can be amended on an individual basis, but it’s so helpful to have a baseline to work from.

9. Know the value of what you provide. It’s soooo tempting for freelancer to lowball our own value for the sake of landing a gig. The danger is getting stuck in a gig where breaking down the number of hours worked by pay has you getting less than minimum wage. It’s an easy trap to fall in, and over the long term, it’s not only monetarily unsustainable, but can lead to early burnout.

Tell yourself this: you offer something unique and people WILL pay for it. There are lots of different methods people recommend for freelance pricing, but I find I like using $10 per hour + 20% for business upkeep expenses.

This generally translates into a flat rate per article quoted before writing it. Sometimes, more complicated commissions have me losing a bit of money, but sometimes it’s the opposite and the two tend to balance out.

10. Diversify your offerings. Aim for having both a passive and active income flow. Active income means you actively have to do something to make money (i.e. writing an article for a third party). Passive income is that generated by something you have done but now continued to make money without much intervention (i.e. selling a product you’ve already made, money generated from a website). The ideal is build up enough passive income that you have to work less to make money. My active income stream is my freelance writing; my passive income stream the stickers I design and sell at various small shops.

11. Be patient. The hardest step. Building any type of business takes time, and a remote work is no exception. There is no recipe for instant success.

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