Are you dreaming of launching a career as a freelancer and supporting your travels with a flexible job? I did.
I went through dozens of make-easy-money-online guides and finally ended up with the following conclusions:
- Earning money online is not as easy as it seems. Still, with enough commitment and the right set of skills, you can get some extra pennies for the road.
- You probably won’t be earning much if you don’t want to end up working for 40hrs a week, especially at the beginning.
- You need to be patient, as landing best jobs takes time.
- Don’t even bother with websites that pay you for filling up questionnaires…. it’s mostly scam & spam stuff.
So, how to really earn some additional money for travel? If you think you’re fit for it, you can try freelancing. This guide will focus on how to start using UpWork, since it’s my favorite working platform, but you can also apply this guide to some other ones.
- Step 1 – Pick your niche
Are you good at writing? What were you doing before you started travelling? What are you educated in?
Pick something that you’re good at, preferably something that you have some experience with. Make sure that you can make a portfolio out of your previous works, or at least send a sample of it to your potential clients.
I picked translation, since I graduated from linguistic studies and had a vast knowledge of English. I didn’t a have a smashing portfolio (still don’t have one), but I still managed to land some good jobs.
- Step 2 – Register on an online work platform
Pick the one that fits you most. I’d say that UpWork (formerly oDesk) is a pretty universal website, for all kinds of jobs: from IT, to graphic design and translation (just to be clear, I wasn’t paid to say it – it’s their simplicity that won me).
Another website worth checking out is Elance, which is almost as good and simple as UpWork. Freelancer is also pretty good, but for me it has quite a chaotic interface. Guru is a platform that I’d recommend mostly for designers and artists, since it allows you for a higher personalization of your profile.
All the others are too small to give you a high chance of getting a job, so I would settle for one of the above.
! Most websites will require quite a lot of information from you (such as your Tax Identification Number), not just your full name. You should also check their tax policy and all the formalities and procedures that are required from you. Don’t worry, it should be quite easy!
- Step 3 – Create a stunning profile
Pick an appropriate picture, preferably one that clearly shows your face. You don’t have to go with a stiff, official one – you can surely take one with a smile.
Create a title – several words that best describe your profession. (eg. “Translator, DE->ENG” or “Web Designer”)
Write a brief, but very informative description of yourself. The style is up to you and probably depends on your profession – you might not want to sound too casual if you specialize in the legal translation, but you should probably be more creative if you’re a game designer. Think about the clients you want to appeal to.
Don’t forget about including: your area of specialization, experience, education.
Add all the rest – an impressive portfolio, maybe an introduction video. Take some of the UpWork tests to prove your knowledge. Fill up your employment and education history, your certifications and the languages that you speak. Pick your main skills. Be sure to set you availability and the number of hours that you wish to work. Set an hourly rate. (I have it set on $16/hr, but that’s quite optimistic. I usually work for $8-$12/hr, even though it really depends on a lot of factors. You can adjust this rate for every job that you apply for.)
- Step 4 – Apply for jobs
First, you need to find an appropriate job offer. The main feed in “Find Work” shows you the jobs that fit to your previously chosen categories (you can always edit them).
You can search for a specific keyword, and then adjust the results to your preferences, eg. hourly or fixed price jobs. I used to go for the fixed ones mostly, since hourly jobs require installing a program that will track your activity and take occasional screenshots. Now, however, I prefer the hourly ones – getting used to the tracking app is not that difficult, and they are usually better paid. Also, with the fixed ones there’s always a risk that it it will take you longer than expected. (Still, you should be able to give your client an estimated time of work. Like I said – it might get tricky.)
Found the offer that is perfect for your skills? Great! Now, you need to check whether the client is reliable. You can do it by browsing through their info and feedback. I recommend working with people who are already experienced, especially if you’re just a beginner – once I ended up spending an entire evening helping my client set up the payment method, so she could pay me for the job. I’m happy I could help and I offered to do it myself, since the girl couldn’t contact the support. Still, if you’re on a tight schedule, or if you stumble upon someone trying to scam you, it might not be that nice. Thus: always check the feedback.
In the application form, you can set your preferred wage. Be reasonable; if you feel like going above their proposed rate, do it, but don’t go too far. As for the cover letter, again, be brief but informative. Write about your previous experience (especially similar jobs), education (very shortly), the time that you would need to complete the task and your work method or the programs you use (optionally). Include something that will convince them that you read their job description (and, of course, read it carefully!), as well as some sample of your work. Tell the client how you want to communicate (but remember that completing any job outside UpWork is illegal).
They might have additional questions, such as “Which part of this project most appeals to you?”.
! At first, you might have to do simple jobs for $5. It might be necessary for you to gain some positive feedback and land your first clients. Still, you can quickly move to a better rate after getting at least one good feedback.
! It takes several days for the money to reach you. The work is being reviewed by your client, and then UpWork keeps the money pending for about a week. They also charge you 10% of every payment, but they don’t have any other fees.
- Step 5 – Explore the website further
After you start working, you can find all the necessary data in Reports (mostly for hourly jobs and money info) and My Jobs (jobs overview). They also have a blog, where they publish some interesting articles on how to become a digital nomad or how to create a perfect portfolio. In case of any trouble, you can contact their support (online – no calling, yay!), which is extremely fast and helpful (at least in my experience).
These were the basic steps for setting up a freelancing profile and starting a flexible job. If being a freelancer is not for you, or you don’t have the right skills/experience – you can also try out different ways of saving money on the road, such as housesitting, volunteering, working on Organic Farms (WWOOF) or couchsurfing. Maybe it won’t bring you hundreds of dollars, but it’ll always make a difference for your wallet.