How to Work and Travel around the World as a Freelance Copy Writer – An Interview with Kevin Casey.
Kevin Casey is a global wilderness explorer who pays for all his adventures with freelance copywriting. Born in California, he migrated to Australia in 1991 and now lives in Brisbane, Queensland.
Kevin’s passion is exploring wild, untouched rivers around the globe. He has shared antelope stew with pygmies in Gabon, filmed wild orang-utans in Sabah, ventured up pristine tributaries in Guyana, searched for Kermode bears in British Columbia and discovered unknown waterfalls in Australia’s Kimberley region.
As the Remote River Man, Kevin has been self-filming his astonishing journeys since 2004, producing several full-length DVDs packed with adventure. Articles about Kevin’s epic (and usually solo) river expeditions have appeared in Australian Geographic Outdoor magazine, Wild magazine and Sidetracked online adventure magazine.
Kevin has also written an eBook called ‘The Jet-setting Copywriter: How to Fund All Your Overseas Adventures through Freelance Writing’, which is available on his website www.thejetsettingcopywriter.com
Sounds like a great lifestyle so I wanted to ask Kevin how he manages to combine professional writing, globe-trotting and epic wilderness journeys and find out how you can also become a freelance copy writer.
Hi Kevin, so you fund your travels with freelance copy writing, how does that work?
I’m a copywriter, mainly for larger businesses. Sometimes I work from my home in Brisbane, and sometimes I’ll cart my laptop around the world and write from anywhere I choose to go. Freelance writing is truly a global profession – as long as you have a laptop, a Wi-Fi connection and a PayPal account (Skype is useful too), you’re in business.
Sounds good! So what made you decide to work as a freelance copy writer, and how did you make it happen?
For a long while, I was just paying for my month-long. overseas wilderness trips with ‘normal’ work. Eventually, I got sick of a daily commute that was taking me over an hour each way, and decided to look for a stay-at-home or work-while-you-travel type of job. Copywriting was perfect. I’d already written a few books, including Jobs Abroad: The Australian Traveller’s Guide to Working Overseas (1992) and Australian Bush Survival Skills (2000), so knew I had the writing skill. But I’d never tried online freelance writing.
So you’re based in Australia now, but could you travel full-time with your career?
Most definitely – and I may end up doing that one day soon. I actually nabbed my highest-paying client by email while sitting with my laptop on the shores of Lake Bled, Slovenia last year, and I have written quite a few articles while wandering around overseas. It really is much easier to be a permanently jet-setting freelancer these days than people realise – the Web has changed everything.
I regularly write for clients in the UK, Canada, the US and Australia, and am paid via PayPal – but I might be spending that money on a snorkelling trip in the Solomon Islands, a traditional lamb shank dinner in a quaint Austrian village or to hire a jungle guide in the jungles of Suriname.
It sounds like a cliché, but freelance copywriting has truly become my passport to endless adventures in exotic places. I work hard for my money, but have lots of time to enjoy spending it on what I love doing.
What do you like the best about life as a freelance copy writer?
I control my own destiny. When I work from home, I get out of bed when I want to. There’s no commute. When I write during my travels, I get to enjoy a lifestyle that many just dream about. I use networking to pursue my own clients (especially Linkedin), and have set up my own writer website – Kevin Casey – Copy Writer.com so people can contact me directly for work (and many do, out of the blue).
Best of all, my copywriting work pays for 2 or 3 Remote River Man journeys each year . At the moment, I’m writing from home about half the year, writing while overseas for a couple of months during ‘normal holidays’, and spending 3-4 months each year exploring the remotest river systems on the planet, normally alone and with minimal equipment.
And what has been the greatest challenge?
That initial marketing to find your first clients as a writer is tough. I tried a couple of writing sites (Textbroker and Constant Content) to start with, but soon realised I was never going to make a living wage by competing with thousands of other desperate freelancers for peanuts.
I don’t write for content sites or job-bidding platforms at all now – I think they’re a waste of time. Setting up your own WordPress website and going after successful businesses is the way to make real money as a writer – and that’s what I do.
Great advice! Do you have one standout highlight, achievement or a favourite destination?
Getting those first couple of high-paying, long-term writing clients was really crucial. My best clients when I seriously started freelancing in 2013 were a global insurance company (they were paying me $450 a pop for long blog posts and great money for website landing pages) as well a leading app development firm (25 cents a word for various writing tasks). I also wrote for an ocean conservation/education non-profit for several months, which was both fulfilling and profitable.
My favourite destinations are definitely BC, Canada (in August, there’s not a better place to be on this earth), the Kimberley region in northwest Australia (see http://www.sidetracked.com/remote-river-man-kimberley/) and South America (see http://www.sidetracked.com/edition-07/guyana.php), which has so much to offer as far as exploring untouched rivers and filming incredible wildlife.
I’m happy to have (finally!) reached a place in life where I can work at something I love (writing), and have it pay for what I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was 10 years old – exploring the most pristine rivers on the planet. And because my business is completely portable, I’m not confined to working from home in Australia.
If I decided to pack up next month and live a permanent nomadic lifestyle, I could – and it would probably cost me less than what I spend living at home!
This is the great misconception that so many people have: that travelling (and working as you go) is more expensive than slaving away at a 9-5 job at home. I’ve met dozens of nomadic travellers who spend less money wandering the globe than they regularly spent back in their home countries. It just depends on your goals.
But nothing’s perfect, right? Are there any downsides?
When I went to Papua New Guinea, I got malaria and I also got robbed. When I was in Gabon, West Africa, I had to share a tiny boat for 3 weeks with four chain-smoking Baka pygmies, whose idea of ‘ecotourism’ was to shoot any wildlife that moved and make a stew out of it the same night. And when I paddled alone down a tributary of the Skeena River in coastal British Columbia, there was a massive flood which made life interesting for awhile – but I got some great black bear footage that trip!
As far as the writing goes, the main downside is that you have to just keep marketing yourself, and can never be complacent. Just because you just made over $7000 in a single month, doesn’t mean a $550 month isn’t just around the corner. Self-promotion never stops.
What do you wish you had known before you started working as a writer?
I wish I’d known what a complete dead end all those ‘work-from-home’ writing sites are (Elance, Guru, Scripted, etc). I made $29 by writing 6 articles for Textbroker (doh!), and under $1000 a month for my two very best months with Constant Content (which was well above the norm for writers on there).
My freelance income really soared once I ditched these ‘content mill’ sites entirely, created a writer website and sent out targeted emails to Linkedin contacts and selected businesses that I wanted to write for.
If I wanted to stay at home, work myself to a frazzle 12 months a year and make over $100,000 as a freelance business copywriter, I could. But I’d rather work a little from home, work a little from a Samoan beach or mountain hideaway in Bolivia, and spend at least 3 months a year exploring the world’s most wildlife-rich rivers.
So, what about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’m looking to reduce the amount of time I write at home, and increasing my travelling and river expedition time. With copywriting, though, the world is truly my oyster. I may even get off my butt, stop procrastinating and get my own blog going – I’ve been so busy getting paid to write other people’s blogs, I haven’t got around to starting my own!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps to work and travel as a freelance copy writer?
There are loads of different types of work that you can do while you travel. I’ve served as the caretaker for a remote wilderness cabin on Vancouver Island, run a campsite in Istanbul, Turkey for Contiki Tours (and saved over $5000 for the season), and taught English in exchange for room and board in Paraguay.
Make your dreams enormous! All sorts of overseas adventures are possible, and the Internet has now made it much easier to keep travelling while you pay for them. You can basically spend a few months in one country, a few months in another, and enjoy a portable lifestyle that’s a lot more fun than working for some demanding boss in a city office in your home country. I’m doing it, and lots of others are too.
House-sitting or caretaking positions, WWOOF placements and many other options can stretch your available income, and there are certainly many freelancers living in cheaper countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Ecuador, etc.) to cut down on living costs, while being paid good money by clients in higher-paying nations – it works well!
Thanks so much Kevin, such great advice here and such great adventures. Wish you all the best for the future and thanks for sharing your inspiring advice with us!
Are you working or volunteering abroad and want to be featured to help inspire others? Email anna [at] global-gallivanting [ dot] com
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