This is a guest article written by Hannah Cooper, a content writer who works while traveling the world.
If you’re after a flexible travel job that you can do whenever and wherever you like – you might want to consider becoming a content writer.
I’ve spent entire flights knocking out content work so that I would be free to roam upon arrival. I’ve even written articles whilst squeezed into the back of a bus in Southeast Asia with my knees touching my ears.
Content writing gives you ultimate flexibility. You can work and earn money while you are (quite literally) traveling. This not only helps fund your travels, but it also gives you more time to explore when you arrive at your destination.
After quitting my full-time job in London three years ago, I cycled through a couple different digital nomad jobs before landing on content writing. Now, I’ve been working as a freelance content writer for the past 18 months, and I’m never looking back.
I started writing for fun whilst backpacking around Southeast Asia and living in my campervan in New Zealand. Gradually, it became my go-to way to earn money on the road.
In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly how you can follow in my footsteps. But before we get into how to become a content writer with no experience, let’s make sure we understand what content writing actually is.
The basics of content writing: What is it?
Every top-performing business needs a strong online presence. Every website or blog needs content. So, behind every blog, you’ll find a content writer.
Content writers create long-form articles and engaging blog articles that inspire readers to linger, click-through and return for more.
More and more businesses are choosing to outsource their content writing to professional writers. These content writers write to satisfy SEO requirements to help articles rank in Google and bring in traffic to a business’ website.
Often our work is confused with that of a copywriter. Copywriting has a different endgame to content writing but the two often run in tandem with one another. Typically the purpose of copywriting is to increase conversion rates and drive sales.
As a copywriter you will write email campaigns, product descriptions and sign-up incentives. Some writers do cover both copywriting and content writing.
Related reading: Copyhour Review: Is it the best course to learn copywriting?
What does a day in the life of a traveling content writer look like?
One great thing about being a traveling content writer is that your schedule is entirely up to you.
You can run your business as a freelancer which means that you’re not tethered to set hours. I try to book my assignments at least a week in advance so that I can align my work schedule with my travel plans.
The important thing is to always meet the clients’ deadlines and deliver quality content. This is how you secure more work! Other than that, you should be able to pick and choose your working hours.
Personally, I function at my best in the morning so I typically wake very early – sometimes as early as 6 am – and work first thing. Unless I’m swamped with work I will try to avoid working in the afternoon when my mind is more bloated. Sometimes I’ll work a few extra hours in the early evening. But that still leaves bags of time for exploring and doing other things.
Whilst I try to stick to working Monday to Friday, there are times that I jiggle my days around and work at the weekends.
How is the work/life/travel balance?
My priority was to find a nomadic job that would fund my travels and let me break from the conventional 9-5. Content writing has done exactly that.
The handy thing about content writing is that you have full authority over your working hours and where you strike the balance. The trick is to find a couple of regular clients that you’ll love writing for so that you don’t need to spend time constantly hunting for new gigs.
Some weeks are crazy and I’ll clock far more hours at my desk (or coffee shop table) than I ever did in London. But other weeks I might only have a day or two of work. Whenever that happens, I jump at the chance to get out and do something adventurous.
As a house sitter, I often try to schedule in extra work when I have a sit coming up. (Check out our full guide on how to land your first housesitting job).
How to become a content writer (with no experience)
Despite working in book publishing I didn’t write anything myself (besides email pleas to journalists to interview my authors).
It was during my New Zealand working holiday visa I started writing – mainly just about my travels and other general musings. Well, these musings turned into my first blog posts, and those blog posts helped me land my first client.
If you want to start working as a content writer, the first thing you’ll need to do is invest some time into writing in your own time. Every content writer needs a portfolio – whether that’s paid work or unpublished writing.
Tips on how to become a freelance content writer:
- Start a blog. This is a great way to showcase your talent and it also gives you the space to experiment with your writing style. You can write a personal blog or write a niche subject on a topic you either know well or wish to freelance in.
- If you don’t want to hassle with setting up a blog, you can publish your work on an open-platform such as Medium.
- Those who enjoy creative writing – reach out to publications who might publish one of your short stories or poems.
- Another way to build up your portfolio is to contact blogs or brands who you are interested in. Find out if they will accept a guest blog which will credit you as the writer.
- Read as much as you can. Blogs, books, news articles, op-eds – everything. Without reading voraciously I think anyone will struggle to work as any kind of writer.
What certifications/requirements do you need to become a content writer?
In terms of the requirements you need to become a content writer; an excellent grasp of the language you wish to write in is number one.
There’s no need to a Creative Writing degree or take a writing course to find work (although it certainly won’t hurt).
If you want to study a writing course you can find plenty of courses online which vary from free to happily affordable to expensive. Browse sites such as Udemy and Coursera as a starting point and check out the courses offered by Elna Cain.
I would recommend brushing up on the basics of SEO, as it’s so integral to the work of a content writer. Your clients will provide the necessary keywords but it helps to understand the fundamentals. Again, there are heaps of free courses online, such as Neil Patel’s.
Note from Mitch: If you’re super serious about making this into a career and are willing to invest in yourself to speed up the process, I highly recommend the CMC training. That said, before making any investments, it’s a good idea to get your feet wet and make sure you actually enjoy freelance writing.
How to find content writing jobs while traveling
As with many of the freelance jobs that we digital nomads tend to adopt, newbies naturally flock to popular platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.
These are quite good for finding your first couple entry-level writing jobs. But honestly, there are many buyers who expect top quality content at a ridiculously fast turnaround (and ridiculously low rates). That’s even before the platforms take their cut.
Back in the day, I did have success with People Per Hour – a less crowded alternative to Upwork. It’s not a bad place to start but I would urge you to stand firm with your rates, even as a total novice. 500 words for $2? No, no, no.
Be prepared to accept lower rates for your first few jobs, but start charging your worth as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s really hard to break the habit later down the line.
Besides these platforms, I would recommend the following options for finding work as a content writer:
Facebook has a wealth of networking groups that are perfect for traveling content writers to find leads. You’ll also find a sense of community.
Join specific content writing and freelance writer groups – I recommend joining those that are managed by people in your home country. This helps understand what your peers are charging and if you get hired it can make payment easier.
Search for ‘copywriting’ groups. Yes, it’s not the same type of writing – but you will find content writing work advertised in copywriting groups too.
You should also join general ‘digital nomad’ and ‘freelancing’ groups as well as expat/digital nomad communities in your current city. Writing jobs do come up from time to time. After all, so many businesses choose to outsource their blogs these days.
LinkedIn is where you’ll find some of the best-paying clients. Make sure your profile is professional and links through to your portfolio (which can be your blog). You can also share feed-posts to attract the attention of recruiters.
Don’t be shy to follow recruiters, businesses and brands you like – and send them a message.
Wherever you are in the world, consider who in your city might benefit from a content writer. Ask your hostel if they fancy outsourcing their blog work or get a day pass to your local co-working space and drum up some contacts.
Talk to other travelers and digital nomads as well – you never know who might have a lead for you.
Once you’ve got a portfolio together, you can target brands directly that you are interested in working with.
Write a friendly email and send your resume/portfolio and enquire about whether they might like to outsource a blog or two a month.
How much do content writers earn?
This is where things get interesting… Content writers may earn anything from less than one cent per word (honestly) to over 50 cents per word. Some writers charge per word, others charge by the project, and some by the hour.
Personally, I work with ‘word bins’ and set a price for every 500 words I write. When I first started writing, I would accept $10 for 500 words (yay – work!), but now charge at least five times that much.
Nowadays, in a typical month, I aim to bring in at least $1,500. As I tend to travel in countries with a lower cost of living this is plenty for me and I save more than I spend.
Some months it fluctuates and I’ll come home with a little less, others I bring in more. This year has been a little turbulent due to the pandemic. Thus is the nature of freelancing – even with regular clients there is always some instability, pandemic or not.
Content writers do have the potential to earn a lot more than this – which is important if you plan to travel in more expensive countries.
Money-aside, the perk of content writing is that online content is in such hot demand that you can find work writing about anything. Whether you’re itching to write about personal finance, cats, beauty products, or even air-conditioning units (yup – I have) – you will find a business that will pay you to do it.
What’s your favorite part of being a content writer?
Ultimately it’s the flexibility of content writing that I absolutely love. As I said, it truly is one of the few travel jobs that enable you to work wherever and whenever you like.
Whilst we do need a bit of internet juice to research and communicate with clients, we don’t need the fastest Wi-Fi. So it’s totally acceptable to cast yourself away to a desert island now and then – as long as you still deliver the content. That said, it is a good idea to always carry one of these digital nomad mobile hotspots so you can connect whenever you need to.
I’m also fortunate that I get to write about things that I’m genuinely interested in. A number of my clients are across travel and sustainability – topics that are close to my heart.
What do you wish you would’ve known when you first started?
Bear in mind that a content writer goes by another name – a ghostwriter. Whilst businesses outsource their blogs to professional writers, the credit stays with the brand. So it’s unlikely that anything you write will have your name proudly printed next to it like those childhood stories pinned to your parents’ fridge!
This can make finding other clients more of a challenge. Which is why I recommend that all budding content writers create a blog or publish on a platform like Medium where at least you can tell the world that you wrote that.
Another tip – even if you are ghost writing and can’t drop direct links to your content, you can still create PDFs of what you wrote and add them to your portfolio.
What other advice do you have for someone who wants to travel the world as a content writer?
Traveler to traveler – keep a journal and document your travels. This is a great way to flex your skills and get into a regular writing habit.
Be firm with your rates and charge what you believe you are worth. To be honest, if you’re offered $5 to write 1,000 SEO-optimized words – your time is better spent elsewhere.
Invest that time on your blog, a short story or Instagram captions about your latest travels. This is all portfolio fodder and it will make you feel much happier than the five bucks ever could.
And please – never, ever, take your travel laptop to the beach! I learned this the hard way in New Zealand when a laptop technician charged me NZ$150 to extract the sand from my MacBook Pro.
After quitting her 9-5 in London three years ago, Hannah now lives out of her backpack and funds her travels by freelance content writing whilst on the road. She is currently riding out the pandemic in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her out hiking, scuba diving, surfing food markets, and of course, working on her blog.