How I succeeded as an international freelance writer — and you can too

tweet share share pin email

Five years ago, I discovered I can make money with my writing. I was off to a promising start, having been hired as a regular writer for a popular tech blog.

That gig ended abruptly and I was left without a clue of how to find my next client.

After a few days of looking for writing jobs, I noticed the high-paying gigs were for those who live in North American cities.

That was a major blow to my confidence as a freelancer. I thought maybe there was no more big break for a newbie like me.

Sidenote: When you're done here, learn from 150+ freelancers who've been in your shoes with our all-new 30-day bootcamp: Zero to Freelancing. You'll love it.

Fast forward to today and I can tell you that I was wrong to think that.

I’m living proof that you can carve out your own success in freelancing — or in anything really — no matter where you are on the globe.

It was just a matter of working on being a better writer and finding the right opportunities. In my past four years of freelance writing, my work has landed on Time, Lifehack and Make A Living Writing.

It turns out I’m not the only success story in making it as an international freelancer. There’s Bamidele Onibalusi from Nigeria, Mridu Khullar Relph from India, Karol Krol from Poland and Daniel Scocco from Brazil.

In fact, a 2017 Hubstaff study includes my country, the Philippines, along with Russia and India as the top countries with the most number of freelancers outside the U.S. and the U.K. What’s even more encouraging is that freelancers are hired for half the jobs they apply for.

You'll also enjoy this episode of our new podcast...

So how can you ignore the fact that you live in a remote location and start building a successful freelancing career?

Here’s what I did and how you can do it, too.

Find the right website, publication or blog

I went for blogs that had a global audience. I also checked whether their writing staff had diversity or if they all seem like they worked in the same area.

With this information, I’m able to make a safe assumption that the publication welcomes writers from anywhere in the world.

In addition to finding the right venue, writing about a topic with a universal appeal helps. I write about technology which is something most people are interested in, regardless of where they live.

Being welcomed in a space where it doesn’t matter where you’re from is the best feeling you can have as an international freelancer. Make it your priority when looking for work.

Use your location to your advantage

Instead of looking at your location as a negative thing, learn how it can work in your favor or better yet, benefit your writing clients.

One news site I wrote for liked that I was located in Asia because I can cover tech events that other writers can’t. Another client appreciated the time zone I was in because I can finish a piece earlier than expected.

No matter what part of the globe you’re in, I’m sure it can give you an edge over other writers. It’s like a superpower that is given to you. Discover it and use it responsibly.

Improve your writing skills

It doesn’t matter where you come from. Editors will always require and appreciate a writer who knows the basic rules of grammar and style.

However, it is extra hard for international writers.

Being a non-native English writer presents a disadvantage of not knowing the language fully. You did not grow up speaking it, and you probably spent a few years in school learning some of it.

If English is your second language, then you need to learn it until you can write like it’s the only language you know.

These are just a few things you can do to work on being near-native in English writing:

  • Read books on basic English grammar and style. I recommend Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.
  • Write outside of your writing assignments. Start a blog or a diary. Practice as much as you can.
  • Install Grammarly on your browser to catch errors as you type them.
  • Learn from a mentor or a qualified friend. Listen to feedback and adjust your writing accordingly.
  • Study other writers in your field who are native English speakers. Borrow their style until you find your own.
  • Watch English movies and TV shows. Turn on the subtitles. Learn idioms and expressions and their appropriate use.

Bring a unique perspective to your work

Notice how a publication requires a short explanation on why you’re the perfect person to write about a topic?

It’s because the best writing can come from someone who has experienced the subject firsthand.

Is there something interesting in your country that the world needs to know? How do you approach universal problems like unemployment, violence or depression based on how you were raised?

Your best writing ideas may well be hidden inside a forgotten childhood memory or a life-changing moment that only you can tell. Keep this in mind when brainstorming article ideas for your next pitch.

It’s not personal when people turn you down

Don’t take it personally when your location turns out to be a deal-breaker.

Businesses and publications have their own standards for employing freelancers, and you have to respect that.

It might not even have anything to do with whether you’re a great writer. Some employers require U.S. based freelancers for tax reasons. Other clients want someone in the same town for in-person meetings.

Being location specific when hiring freelancers is a business strategy, not a way to discriminate.

Be proud of who you are

In a world that’s full of hate and prejudice, it’s scary to be our true selves, isn’t it?

As I was writing this article, I came across a blog post that raised my eyebrows. The author suggested using an American-sounding pen name to apply for freelance writing jobs. I guess it was his “strategy” for landing work he didn’t deserve.

You can go that route and maybe succeed, but won’t you feel like a fraud? Because, in essence, you are.

If you take the opposite approach and be exactly who you are, you will find more honest results. Yes, there will be rejection and that sucks. But there will also be success — one that’s satisfying because you didn’t have to hide behind a fake name.

You may not be a perfect writer, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of who you are. Your identity is what makes you valuable, not just as a freelancer, but as a human being. Take care of it and wear it with pride.

Finding success as an international freelance writer takes time. You’ll face rejection, self-doubt, and the constant pressure of delivering excellent work.

The key is to find strength knowing that you’re not alone and there are many of us out there doing the same hustle like you.

Like so many others who’ve been rejected or ignored, I can honestly tell you it’s all worth it. Work hard, be better at your craft, and never give up.

Are you looking to succeed as an international writer? Let’s talk more in the comments.

tweet share share pin email
About Kim Barloso

Kim Barloso is a freelance tech writer. She shares helpful freelance writing tips on her blog, kimthewriter.com.

Leave a Comment

*

Comments

  1. Sherwin Estrada says:

    Very inspiring Kim.

  2. Good job Kim! I wish I have your passion in writing.. Keep it up!.. soar high..aim high! 😊😊 God bless you more!

  3. Trelly Marigza says:

    Great work, Kim. I hope to learn from you.

  4. Wow! Thank you for inspiring co-Filipinos. I felt like we always have to do ghostwriting and never make it internationally. You’re a living proof that it’s doable. God bless you more and God bless all Filipino writers.