Freelance Freak: Work Online to Travel Longer

freelance Work Online to Travel Longer

If you have ever spoken to me, or ask what I do, chances are I said I freelance. Most people give me this confused look and often have no idea what I am talking about. The freelancing world is an awesome way to make that side cash needed to save up for a new trip, a new dress, or whatever else you might need, and it’s blowing up. If you have any skills that are able to translate to a position that you can complete with a computer, then you can probably find some freelancing work. I might be confusing you now, so let’s discuss this freelancing business further…

Let me warn you, this is a long post, but if you want to see if there are opportunities for you to work online… read on!

If you’re feeling lazy, skim it by reading everything in bold.


1) What the heck is freelancing?

So what exactly is freelancing? Let’s get that out-of-the-way. Freelancing is where you
 provide services to complete projects or short-term work for a client. This is not a long-term position and can often be done based at your own home and with your computer. 
To put it simply, freelancing is an awesome way that you can earn money without even putting pants on. Sweet!

The way freelancing works is by applying for projects on a website. There are a few 
websites that I would recommend and there are a few other options that I have not used before.



The two that I have used are: and

There are many more available and you can check them out here, here, and here.



2) OK, so what jobs can I actually find on these sites?

Well, something that I started out with was writing. I provide articles to clients about anything and everything travel.
 There are blog articles needed for an array of websites about anything from technology and electronics to gardening to first time mothers and even whole ebooks. Yes, the list of subjects and opportunities for writing seem endless.

You might say, well Nina, you suck at writing. How do you write? You don’t even have experience with this, what are you doing?! Well, you’re not wrong. I didn’t have experience writing before I signed up as a freelancer. However, I have been writing for over two years now and I  have continuous writing projects.  Plus, you’re still reading right?

There are other jobs that are offered on these sites, but I haven’t had the pleasure of working on these projects, because they are so far from what I know and I just simply don’t have the skills. However…. you might? 

Other freelancing jobs:

If you happen to know another language, there is plenty of translation work for all the popular, and even not so popular, languages of the world.
 Are you an awesome typist? Things like transcription and other dictation services are also offered for those who can bust out a million words a minute. I wish I could type quickly and accurately… These jobs are so easy!

If you are super awesome with computer
s and web design, there are plenty of opportunities for you to create websites, website programs, digital design, media and all those other super technical and computer related jobs. Think about it – all you need is your computer right? So of course you can find jobs like this without going in to an office.

If you happen to have any experience being an assistant, there are plenty of opportunities 
for doing secretarial type work like being a virtual assistant or doing some kind of technical phone support, and other customer service type positions. Besides a computer, you might need a real phone for these positions.

Other random positions like accounting, bookkeeping, legal work, project management, marketing and sales are all “freelanceable.” I just made that word up and I really like it…. There are so many freelanceable jobs out there, screw the office, work online!

These types of positions make the nomadic life that more obtainable. While these jobs are not 100% permanent, in fact, many of them are just on a per project basis however, it’s money. Money that can extend your travels. If you are really dedicated to diligently apply for jobs, complete them quick, and get some new ones, you can earn extra cash.


With that said, I have seen some long-term jobs as well. For example, I have been blogging for Thaholiday for over 7 months now as well as a few other sites. Some positions might offer work that lasts for months and possibly years. You have to just take a look.


Nong Kiaw, Laos
Nong Kiaw, Laos…. Office for the day, just outside my room



3) So how does it work?


To put it simply, the way these sites work are employers are looking for freelancers, so they post their job on the freelancing website and see who bites. The freelancers who are looking for work can apply to their job if they feel they possess the skills needed to complete the project. The employer reviews the applications submitted for their job, and they select the freelancer they want to hire. They click hire, you do the work, then get paid.


To get more into the details of the way this works….

You get a certain amount of ‘credits’, or applications, that you can submit per month. This prevents people from abusing the freelancing sites and applying to every single job on the board. So for example, let’s say that ABC freelancing site gives you 10 applications to start. This means you can only apply for 10 jobs until the new month comes around and ‘refreshes’ your applications.


Now, while you might think it’s not enough applications, and I do agree, the more activity on these freelancing websites equals more applications. I started with I think 15 applications on Elance and now I have 40. I don’t even use all of them now.


In your application to the employer you are going to make a custom proposal. You will briefly write about why you will be great for the job, provide some of your experience, and then place your bid. Your bid is the amount of money you expect to be paid to complete their project. You get to name the price, if they agree, they hire you.


Alright, so now you applied to jobs and you got hired. Congrats! Sweet! Now get to work. It’s as simple as that. The employer provides the information needed to complete your project and there is a messaging system on the freelancing website so you can keep in touch, ask questions and send files…etc.


You are probably wondering about the money now. Of course, the most important thing. How do you get paid? The freelancing website acts as the middle man. There is a way to look at the profile of your employer to see if they have been verified and have the money in a escrow account on the website. When your work is completed, this will be released. You have an account on the website where the money is held until you transfer it to your Paypal. It’s really quite easy and I can honestly say I have never had a problem with payment. 




4) Is this a scam?


Well, from my experience, I have never been scammed. Like I said above, the money goes to a middle man, the website, and you get paid. Other websites work differently, but from the two that I used, it’s pretty cut and dry. You do the work, you get paid.


What you might find are some job postings that are scams or ethically wrong. They might be asking you to visit a site and pay money to make money….one of those things. Obviously, you just simply don’t apply to that job.


Vang Vieng, Laos
One of my fav office views…. Vang Vieng, Laos


5) So what are my chances of getting a job?


Well, I can’t give you a straight answer on this one. However, I’ll tell you what I took me to get started. For Elance, it took me nearly three months to get my first job. Talk about unmotivating! But I didn’t give up. Once I got my first job, then the ball started rolling.


On these websites you have a profile that you need to fill out. It’s pretty much like an ongoing online resume for yourself. It has your information and work history. If you have no work history on the website, it obviously makes getting a job a bit more difficult. Just wait for your break though, it will come.


With Odesk, it only took me a month to get my first job however, I had a better profile at this point. I had a few jobs on Elance and I was able to post some of my past work from that on my Odesk portfolio. So I now had some samples to show my prospective employers.


If you are less lazy than me, I would recommend doing a few samples to put in your profile. Yes, you are essentially working for a free a bit right now, but it will be worth it. Hindsight is always 20/20. If I had done this initially, I doubt it would have taken me three months to get my first gig.


Your chances of getting a job also depend on how much you are applying. If you hardly apply, you will never get hired. Once you get the ball rolling and have some jobs that you have completed, you will actually start getting INVITED to jobs which makes things easier. This way you don’t have to file through jobs and research. The employer already saw your awesome profile, liked you, and decided you might be a good fit for their job. So all you need to do is read what they want and apply if you are interested.


It only get simpler as time goes on… I promise.

freelance to work and travel.png



6) How much do I get paid?


Every job differs. Don’t get discouraged by the job posts for $3/ hour. There are some really really REALLY low paying jobs on these sites. With that said, there are really high paying ones as well as everything in between. One thing I will say, when I started, I did work for less just so I could attract an employer and get some good feedback. After 1-2 lower paying projects my price went up and up.


Just to give you an idea on how mobile and decently lucrative freelancing can be, I traveled through Laos and Cambodia for 6 weeks and I ended up SAVING money. I saw everything I wanted to see plus some, but I worked a few days out of the week on my freelance projects and made enough to pay for my travels with putting some extra cash away. Really? How can you travel and not want to freelance?!


Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia
Work spot for a few days on Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia


Last minute tips:


– Make a nice and truthful profile. Post samples if applicable, remember to update it as time goes on, and make sure it’s concise and attractive. If you copy and past some BS on there, you won’t get a bite.

– Apply often. Jobs are posted every hour and even every minute. Apply Apply. Don’t forget, after a few jobs, you will get more applications.

– Use the information provided to provide a good bid. If you see they are giving you a range like: “We will pay $200- $250 for this project.” Obviously don’t bid $500. If they say, “You must have _____ qualifications…” and you don’t. Don’t waste an application, your time and their time. It’s just common sense.

– Provide a custom application. Most employers, especially the ones paying in the price range that you would be interested in, are going to know if you used a copy and pasted application. While I do copy and paste PART of my application, like my experience related to the position offered, I always customize it. I add personal touches that they will notice and see. They will see I didn’t blindly apply, I took the time to read everything and I am a serious candidate.

– Never initiate a job where an employer is asking you to do things off the website. Like, communication off the website and project completion off the website etc… This can result in a mess. You might not get paid, you might be scammed …who knows. If you keep everything on the website, you are safer. The website acts as the middle man for a reason. You might be able to do this after some time and building trust, but don’t start off this way.

– Don’t apply for jobs that you are not qualified for. Your wasting your precious applications that you don’t have many of. Also, if you do actually get hired and do a crappy job, they will give you a low rating and then your chances of being hired again plummet.


.ads in wordpress 


The online world is blowing up now. In a day in age where we can do everything from a computer why does the whole ‘get early up in the morning and go to the office’ thing still need to happen? Virtually everything can be done… well, virtually!

This trend is only increasing, definitely hop on while you can. This type of work is great even if you are a stay at home mom, someone who only works part-time, or if you are a person who has a shopping habit that needs to be funded.

However, if it’s the nomadic life you are seeking, the opportunity is really at your fingertips…Unless you type like my dad, then in that case, your fingertip.

While it might not provide you with all the riches in the world and pay your mortgage or anything super extravagant, it’s money. Money that you can make at midnight before you go to sleep, while you are bored on a rainy day, or even before you set off to a beautiful beach for the day like I am about to do right now. Have you seen my “offices?”  

Do you freelance already?

Feel free to comment/ask questions below!

chi tea, pai thailand, art in chai
It’s just me and my Macbook Air AKA My CHILD! Oh yea, and some chi tea and a mango pie.

48 thoughts on “Freelance Freak: Work Online to Travel Longer

  1. Silvia says:

    This is such an incredibly useful post! Way more details than people usually give – I’ll definitely be passing this on to some friends!

    1. Nina says:

      Fabulous Silvia, glad I could help. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dana says:

    Nina! Although we’ve already had this freelancing convo in person, I still read your entire post and loved it! One question that came to mind with the season right around the corner, is what about taxes?? Since the employer is paying you through paypal, I assume you don’t pay taxes on it?? Does it matter or is it just like getting paid under the table?

    1. Nina says:

      Yay thanks Dana!

      So the employer isn’t paying you through Paypal. The way it works is the money is transferred to your “account” on the website. The money sits there until you transfer it yourself to Paypal. Only the website knows your Paypal information.

      Regarding the taxes, it’s a bit tricky. Each site kind of has their own thing. With Odesk, there is a 1099 form that gets sent to you with your earnings so you can properly file your taxes. With Elance, it appears that only IF you work for an employer who is located in the US, will you need documentation for your taxes.

      I never worked for a US employer via Elance and never had to do anything with taxes. With Odesk, I will be finding out more of the details this tax season since I haven’t worked on that site as long yet. I have the info filled out and will be awaiting the documentation in the mail (Oh yay…)

      It also depends on how much you earn. If you only earn a few hundred bucks, I’m pretty sure you don’t need to do anything. This is what I have gathered through my research and experience… More detailed information can be found regarding the taxes on each website. Again, they all have different requirements.

      Hope this helps.

      (MISS YOU!)

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Nina,

    I like reading your blog posts and also like your writing style. Lots of useful information on this post for freelance job. Keep doing good job on your writing. Hope to have chance to meet you in Thailand.


    1. Nina says:

      Thank you Chris!

  4. Some guy once said “There’s nothing to writing, you just sit at your typewriter and bleed”, I always thought it had some deep poetic meaning, I guess it does, but after starting freelancing, and blogging, and and and, it took on a whole different meaning I still love the hell out of it though. Thanks for these great guidelines, it helps make the road a little straighter. Oh, and “that guy” is Hemingway. All the best.

    1. Nina says:

      Thanks for reading Ruann! I can’t even imagine life without writing now…or without traveling for that matter.
      Glad you already know what’s up and I wish you the best on your writing and travels. :)

  5. Oh wow this is a super informative post! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with freelancing as well, so inspiring!

    1. Nina says:

      Glad I could help. Thanks for reading MIchelle!

  6. Renuka says:

    I have quit my full time job and opted for freelancing. I am enjoying it a lot. I do agree that it’s not safe to freelance off the website, it should always be through the website. However, the working is far more flexible without the website. I am mean dealing with the client directly is more transparent and easy.

    1. Nina says:

      Hi Renuka- Yes I agree. Working off the website can be a bit easier and I HAVE done it before. BUT… Only after I established trust over a few months. Glad you are enjoying freelancing and thanks for reading.

  7. Ali says:

    this is basically what I am doing now. i quit my day job last month and many applications online to work as a freelancer. i got two jobs now over at odesk and am travelling :) currently at Vilankulos!!!

    1. Nina says:

      Wow! Awesome Ali! Enjoy Moz… I only got to see Biline when I was there. Can’t wait to see more…. Your pics look amazing. Have fun!

      1. Ali says:

        Thanks. have fun too

  8. Jam says:

    Thanks a lot Nina .
    This a wonderfull post.
    I tried oDesk long time back but gave up after 1 month. But your post is very encouraging .. Key is patience

    1. Nina says:

      Exactly Jam. It’s not the most fun to sit there, apply for days and get nothing. But once you do, you’re good to go! Get that profile and portfolio looking good and maybe work for a bit cheaper in the beginning. It will pay off! :)

  9. Lea Strampp says:

    Im thrilled about this article. My husband and I are teaching English in Korea and reading your article just opens up so many options for us staying abroad. THANK YOU for posting. I’m going to start my profiles tonight!

    1. Nina says:

      Very cool Lea! Stay warm up there!:-)

  10. Hi Nina
    I like your post
    I set up myself with business where I sell over the internet and over the phone.
    My phone system are over ip, so with head set to my lap top and a good internet connection I am operational. How good are the internet connection in general? Sending email it’s one thing, conversation over the internet odds something else.

    Also have you see family traveling? My daughter is 11, what about schools?
    My wife is a personal trainer, might be easy for here to find job everywhere

    What are your thought?

    Thank you


    1. Nina says:

      Thanks David. The internet out here for me is OK. I actually do some teaching online so I need to speak via the internet as well. It works just fine. You need to find it, but it is here. Not sure about being a personal trainer but anything is possible. I would look at fancy resorts and such. They might want to hire a personal trainer. I’m not the type to workout on holiday, but some people are! :)

  11. Michelle says:

    Wow, thanks for all the info! I make money through my travel blog through advertisements, but I’d love to pick up some freelance writing gigs on the side. This has helped a lot! :)

    1. Nina says:

      Ah, looks like we are on opposite sides Michelle. I make nothing from this blog and all my money comes from freelancing :-p Glad I could help!

  12. Preeti Singh says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts nina!!! loved reading everybit of it…. For a person like me who wants to be a wanderlust but at the same time i am stuck at my cubicle and the same 10 – 7 job, you are a true inspiration… Keep writing & keep traveling… Who knows, we may bump into each other some day!!! xo

    1. Nina says:

      Thanks so much!

  13. Janet C says:

    Hi Nina

    thanks for explaining about paying taxes in home country- that’s 1 side of the equation. But I thought you have to pay also in the country you’re staying in at time of working eg. asia. How do you work that side of things? Would be really complicated I reckon to full in all those forms. Or do you just travel as a tourist and let that side of things be?

    1. Nina says:

      Hi Janet,

      I’m not making ANY money in the country I’m visiting. Zero dollars. No need to pay taxes if they aren’t supplying me with a job. One of my clients is Singaporean. I complete work for him online. I happen to live in Thailand. Why would I pay taxes in Thailand? Doesn’t make sense :)

      Now when I was a teacher in Thailand, that’s a different story. If you are employed for over a year at a school, you need to start paying taxes. The job is physically in the country of Thailand. So it makes sense. Hope that helps!

  14. Pingback: How to Get Lucky
  15. Hey Nina! Great post! I too, work as a freelancer, and got started on oDesk! It’s a great way to make money while travelling, and believe it or not, my first gig on oDesk turned into a continuing gig, so I now work as a copywriter for a marketing company. Keep adventuring!!

    x Amy

    1. Nina says:

      Yeah it’s great scoring those long term ones and the same to you! Thanks!

  16. Marysia says:

    Next time when anybody will ask me to explain what freelancing is and what freelancers actually do I’m sending them this link! Great post!
    Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #80My Profile

    1. Nina says:

      Awesome, thanks! :)

  17. Katrina says:

    I’m really glad I found this blog post! Freelance is something I’ve been considering for several years but it seemed really difficult to get started. Maybe I’ll finally take the plunge, it doesn’t seem so hard!
    Katrina recently posted…Experiencing the Umbrella Movement in Hong KongMy Profile

  18. Ken says:

    Hi Nina! Loved your article! I’m currently starting my own travel blog hoping it will take off and open some doors for me. I have a rough deadline set for myself for when I sell my car, quit my current 8-5 job, and leave my apartment for the nomadic life. I’m finding some alternate options for income, one would be teaching english, I’m currently deciding which TEFL site to sign up with. I want to get a TEFL certificate regardless just as a backup plan, so I’ll be doing this before the end of this year.

    I do have 2 questions if you don’t mind answering. 1st would be, can you (and would you recommend) write off a blog as a business and therefore write off any purchases as a business expense when tax time comes? 2nd question is, I’m currently in my 2nd month of blogging and I’m staying active on social networking sites to advertise updates and blog posts. Would it be wise for me to gain more traffic before purchasing a domain, or should I purchase a domain immediately? I’m currently using a free wordpress account.

    Ken recently posted…A Night In Hamilton, OntarioMy Profile

    1. Nina says:

      Hi Ken! Thanks so much. I’m really not the best person to ask for you first question, sorry. I’m not sure. Your second question, I would recommend getting the site name. It could get taken from you depending on how generic it is, and it’s not that expensive, so you mine as well get started on it if your goal is to do it anyway. Good luck!

  19. Just getting into the world of flexible work and freelancing and I can’t agree with you more on the profile and the fact that you need work to get work. Kind of like the whole “you need experience to get experience” out in the real world. It’s truly a brave new world we are all living in regards to being able to work from anywhere, and I hope I can follow in your footsteps boldly, especially on Perhentian Kecil!

    1. Nina says:

      Awesome! Good luck!

  20. Anni says:

    We travel with our kids 5 and 11 and left home 5 years ago in September. There are some great schools about and homeschooling can be fun or painful depending on the day.The budget and complexity is probably different to Nina’s experience. I just hope my kids will love me for it. Great website Nina!

  21. Elisa K says:

    This information is exactly what I have been looking for!! The only freelance sites I had heard of were Elance and odesk so I am so happy that you gave other options.
    Elisa K recently posted…Awesome 3 day trip to NYC…My Profile

    1. Nina says:

      Those are the only two I happen to use, but I know others have had luck on the other sites. Check out my teaching online blog post too, you might qualify for that job and if you do, it’s far easier to start there than with freelancing.

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