Get outta here: The Born Freelancer’s top 10 reasons to travel

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.

The Born Freelancer no longer makes New Year’s resolutions (an almost certain guarantee that they will never be accomplished as a result of genetic contrariness) but I hope to travel more in 2012. Travel is not only a personal adventure, it offers the freelancer many unique advantages and opportunities.

Any time I have an unexpected free chunk of time looming immediately ahead of me I think, “Where can I go?” Time and budget will be your most vexing constraints but another advantage to freelancing is that we often have unexpected time on our hands. Always keep your passport current. There are tons of travel deals for folk like us who can travel at the last minute. Check your newspaper ads or go online to find deals. Less time or less money on your hands? Go explore your own city or another nearby city or a part of the nearby countryside you’ve never seen before. It’s all good. I was recently away in another country where I always go to feel emotionally and physically recharged. I combined family and friends with some work and came back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the freelance world once again.

My top 10 reasons for freelancers to travel:

1 You can always get new ideas for pitches, stories, and projects. If you keep your eyes and ears open, how can you not? What might be commonplace elsewhere could be a new trend to watch at home. The old saying “a change is as good as a rest” I find to be absolutely true. Just a temporary change of your daily environment can open up creativity like nothing else. I keep a daily travel diary of ideas, impressions, snatches of conversations, etc. with me at all times. It can be an invaluable resource tool later.

And of course if you are a freelance travel writer, or would like to become one, then all of this is a no-brainer.

2 You can meet potential employers. When travelling I search out possible employers ahead of time and try setting up a meeting. The fact you are coming in from out of town—the greater the distance the better—will often increase your chances of scoring a meeting. But even if I only discover a local employer I’d like to meet once I’m there, I find an old-fashioned phone call explaining that I’m only in town for a limited time will often open doors that might remain firmly shut for locals.

Tip: I always carry my bio, work demos, etc. on a tiny memory stick so I can quickly print them out locally as needed.

3 You can meet with employers with whom you only have digital contact. If am going anywhere near a current or past employer I will always try to set up a meeting with them. I have written about this previously—it is so much easier to dump a freelancer who is just known as a voice or an email. Making real-life contact is invaluable for maintaining and enhancing long-distance work relationships.

I will often visit a location just because of a distant employer—and having met them go on exploring the region from there.

4 You can finally meet people you’ve always wanted to meet. Of course you can do interviews today by phone or email—most of us do. But isn’t there someone you’ve always wanted to meet in person? Again, arrange with them ahead of time to meet up. Many will be sympathetic even to freelancers who are without a firm commitment to publish or broadcast because you have come from (possibly) so far away.

During one visit to another country I arranged to meet up with a celebrity writer. She is on a whole other level: a playwright, author, broadcaster, and one-of-a-kind individual. I am still trying to place the spec interview, but the encouragement and motivation I received from meeting her was worth the cost of that entire journey.

Tip: I always record such interviews in broadcast quality for radio even if it is only for publication. Why not double your potential sales opportunities?

5 You can meet fellow freelancers. Network ahead of time, then arrange to meet up, as casually or as formally as you wish. Not only can you compare notes on work practices, craft issues, and possible markets, but fellow freelancers will also know the best deals on meals in town!

Tip: If in doubt where to begin, check in with the local office of any freelancers’ guild or union. I have never been turned away or left without some solid contacts.

6 You will gain a fresh perspective on your own situation. We all get into a rut from time to time. Even if it’s good, it’s probably what I call “a velvet rut.” You need to remove yourself from your own day-to-day existence in order to really see where you are and what you’re doing for what it is. Although this insight tends to quickly fade, it is useful in determining if where you are is where you want to be in your life—and to help you make the appropriate plans if you’re not.

Warning: This new-found perspective can be daunting on occasion, even to hardened freelancers.

7 You can combine personal with professional interests. I’m a firm believer in always mixing the two. The professional aspects of travel give you a business justification for what might otherwise be difficult in terms of time and money. But if you also want to do something strictly for pleasure—like seeing family and friends, which a freelancer should always make a priority whenever possible—then build in time to do it. And, anyway, I would argue everything in life—I mean everything—is potential research for a freelancer. It’s a useful frame of reference that has certainly got me through a lot of bad experiences.

If you travel with a partner or a friend or family you will definitely have to work harder to balance the professional and personal aspects of any travel. Don’t be intimidated about travelling alone when you can. Not only can you set your own freelance agenda 100 per cent of the time, you will also have experiences and encounters you will never have when travelling with others and staying in your comfort zone.

Caveat: Always keep safety and common sense in mind when travelling solo.

8 There may be tax benefits. Consult with your accountant or local tax office. For example if your travelling will include business meetings, business contacts, research for work—that can all be documented and corroborated—you should be able to write off some or all of it. Be sure to get everyone’s business card. Keep a business travel diary. Collect all your receipts—you never know which you can use until it is all over.

Tip: If you aren’t offered a receipt, ask for one. They’re not always offered by default these days.

9 It will be good for your physical and mental health. This should go without saying. Provided you leave enough time to enjoy the trip and build in enough personal space so that you don’t feel pressured by the work component, there is almost nothing as energizing for your well being as travel.

Travel can inspire, it can educate, it can give you a renewed perspective on life like no other activity.

10 You will be even more appreciative than ever to be a freelancer!

Feel free to thank me by sending a postcard…

Posted on January 6, 2012 at 10:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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