I’ve been travelling for three-and-a-bit months in total, and have been fortunate enough to have visited Australia, Bali, Vietnam, Singapore and currently I’m in Malaysia. Freelancing isn’t something I openly talk about when I’m traveling because a) you’re too busy enjoying yourself and b) I never thought people would care to hear about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
A lot of people that I’ve been traveling with over the last few months I’ve realised are not so dissimilar to me, and some even considered doing freelancing for themselves (writing, photography, graphic design and translation to name a few) and asked me how much I needed to make each month to ensure I can keep going.
I don’t have any issues with sharing earnings, as I think it’s important for those who are maybe thinking to do the same thing to have some sort of an idea on how to manage and measure yourself financially.
Before going in to the details of earnings and how I budget, a few disclaimers…
- I have savings that cover my finances at home plus a small pot for emergencies: I have a financed car, phone bill, grant repayment (thanks student finance) plus of course, Netflix and a savings account I pay in to bi-monthly. I calculated how much I would need for 6 months to cover these costs so I had enough time to generate business and also enjoy my travels. I figured that after 6 months I would be making enough to cover the above. If not, I’d fly home in the worst case scenario.
- I’m living a backpackers lifestyle: I stay in dorm rooms in hostels, eat local food and haggle at markets if I want some fake North Face (very good in Vietnam, highly recommend). My hostels cost between £4-£7 a night for the majority of Asia, with Singapore and Australia around £10-£15 a night. I only fly if it’s absolutely necessary and look to use sleeper buses and other means of public transport to get by. I stayed in an AirBnB when I was in Bali for just over a week and that was my only spot of luxury.
- I part time freelanced for 6 months before I went away: Not on purpose, mostly for a side hustle that ended up being my main hustle. I came out with 1 agency and 1 SME before doing any additional projects. This gave me around £250-300 a month that I would put in my travel pot.
So, how much do I freelance to ensure that I can travel around the world?
I currently work around 1.5-2 days a week, spread across 5 days, sometimes 6. I said to myself before going away that if I had to work any more than 3, then it would interfere with my experience and I would have to start cutting down on late nights, meeting people and moving around often.
The time that I do work, is usually split in two hour chunks over the course of the week, and if I’m on a flight or a long journey by bus, train etc I will do as much as possible in this time so it doesn’t eat in to my traveling.
The easiest way to explain it, is that no one really knows that I work whilst I travel unless I tell them. I’ve never had to say no to going out somewhere, or had to rush a piece of work for a client. It’s extremely manageable and a lot of the work I can do offline or hot spotting from my phone.
How much do I have to earn?
I aim to earn a minimum of £750-£1000 per calendar month as that covers my cost of living in Asia comfortably. Anything I earn over that amount I can then bank as savings for when I come home, or for if I have a month where I win no new projects or go to somewhere expensive (Singapore being a key example, four days cost me £260).
My aim is to add £1000 that amount every 6-8 months so by the time I’m 18 months in I would be looking at £3000 a month. As mentioned in a previous blog, I was completely aware that I would be taking a huge pay cut to embrace this experience and start my own business.
Luckily traveling around Asia is fairly inexpensive, and gives me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. When I come back to the UK it will give me the opportunity to work full time and in turn, get to that number that I’m looking for so I can live comfortably at home.
Do I have to budget?
Yes and no. It depends on the country I’m in and the activities I want to do. There will be certain things I’ll skip out on because it’s a tourist attraction and a rip off, but if for example something has been a non-negotiable experience (paying $27 for a cocktail at the Marina Bay Sands) I will do it.
A lot of hostels, guest houses and hotels will do tours and experiences but I always look for a local price or recommendations from friends that have traveled as you can save a lot of money. For example, the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam cost £200 through a hostel chain, but from a recommendation I ended up spending £120. The amount I saved from asking around and doing a bit more research meant I saved the equivalent of a weeks worth of spending money in Vietnam.
Is it hard?
I guess it depends on how motivated you are. There are times when I’m waiting in the airport and honestly, I just want to take a nap. But – I think of how lucky I am to be able to have this experience, and that gives me a kick up the ass to open the laptop and crack on. Also, I believe if you really enjoy the work you are doing for a client it won’t be a chore. I find it gives me an element of stability and knowing that this is going to be my long-term career (for now) I’m determined to make it work.