8 Tips to Make Money While Traveling with Freelance Computer Work

Freelance Computer Work
One of the benefits of working anywhere:  My impromptu “office” in Barcelona, Spain

A lot of people ask me how I make money to travel so much. I contribute it to two things: Learning how to live and travel on the cheap, and learning how to make money while I’m out seeing the world. As most of you know, the first way I do this is by playing music. This works great in Europe where the economy is high enough for me to get paid a decent amount of money with my guitar. However, when you’re in somewhere like Southeast Asia or South America, I look for other routes to make extra cash. This is when I came across freelance computer work.  I first discovered freelancing sites when I was in Thailand. Honestly, it took me over a month to make a dime from it. I can’t, however, contribute that to the sites I was using, but rather my own ignorance to the way they work. If there’s one thing I’m consistent with, it’s unambiguous ignorance. But, I digress.   Here are some great tips to get you started on making some money doing freelance work with your computer from anywhere. That’s right, I use these methods to work from home as well!

1. First, Ask Yourself a Quick Question. Can You Do Any Of These Things?

• Graphic Design                        • Blog Writing

• Web Design                               • Print Design

• App Design                                • SEO Optimization

• Creative Writing                    •  Advertising

• Copy Writing                           • Business Plans & Marketing

• Video Editing                           • Customer Service & Support

• Voice Acting                             • Accounting

• Marketing                                 • Web Research

• Translating                              • Social Media Marketing


Okay, that list goes on forever. There’s a few of them, though. Here’s the full list —>Freelancer Skills

Can you do any of those? No? I guess you can still sell your body, although if you’re in Southeast Asia there’s going to be some serious competition. If you can do anything on that list, read on!



2. Join a Freelancing Website I use Odesk. A lot of people use Elance. They’re actually both owned by the same company now, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. These sites are basically your job fair for freelance work. Create a profile and connect with thousands of potential clients in search of someone with your particular skill set! Most hourly-paid jobs are guaranteed by the site, which means the client places funds in escrow and they are released upon completion of the job. This means both parties are protected! I’m focusing on this because I think it’s the best way to start making money with computer work while traveling.


3. Take Some Skills Tests I spent a lot of time doing this. Too much time probably. But it pays off, especially considering that you won’t have any reviews at first. Odesk and Elance both offer quizzes and tests for your particular skill set. Once you compete a test, it will show your score on your contractor profile. This lets potential clients know that you know what you’re doing!


4. Make a Portfolio This part is pretty straightforward–Upload examples of your best work. This was a little tricky for me because I was just getting started in the Graphic Design biz. I had done it for years for my own projects, but hadn’t done it much professionally. I went ahead and uploaded some of my own stuff on there along with the one or two client gigs I had completed. Who cares! Yes, it does look a little amateur-ish, but you’ll only need it on there until you can complete some more jobs. Plus, something looks better than nothing for the client! If you have a lot of time, maybe you could even make up some samples with fictionalized companies. If you’re in the same boat that I was, pay extra close attention on this next part:


5. Get Personal! This is where I went wrong at first. I copy/pasted pretty generic resume material for all my applications rather than taking the time to type individual, targeted job bids. Look closely at the job, present yourself professionally, and do your best to let the client know that you know exactly what they’re looking for and possess all of the qualifications to make it happen. Really highlight your skills and experience, and don’t be afraid to brag on yourself! The most useful thing I’ve found is to look for something personal and aim it towards them. An example: I recently was hired to create a logo for a Surfboard and Snowboard company because I mentioned at the end of my application: “P.S.–I’m actually a snowboarder as well! I’d love for a chance to work on something I can personally relate to.”

I am a snowboarder, but really, I didn’t have to be in order to type that. Get what I’m saying? Try to stick out from the rest of the applications and make them like you.  Sometimes I’ll see where they live and mention that–“I see you live in Kuala Lumpur. I was there while traveling last year and loved it! You have a beautiful city!”


6. Focus on References From Clients I know people who have made a living off of freelance work on Odesk for years and only worked one or two jobs. They made a great impression with the first client that hired them and subsequently have stayed busy enough with that one person or company to not have to look for other work. I’ve had such good success with referrals that I’ve even started rewarding clients for it. Offer them a discount on their next job if they give you a referral! On top of that, build a great rapport with all of your clients. That is the 100%, absolutely most important thing to focus on with freelancing. If they like you, they’ll not only hire you again, but they’ll also tell all of their friends to hire you! The more you can do this, the less time you’re going to spend typing up job applications.   Not to mention, you never know what kind of relationship you’ll build with these clients. I had a client who ended up offering me a place to stay when I was stranded in Christchurch, NZ. She and her roommates cooked me food, gave me beer and even did my laundry!

A design client named Abbi and her roommate treat me to a grilled dinner!
A design client named Abbi and her roommate treat me to a grilled dinner and beers!

7. Don’t Under-Sell Yourself This is a frequently-debated subject among freelancer forums. It’s very tempting when you’re getting started to take a job for an insanely cheap wage just to get some hours and a good review. The problem with this is that is actually devalues your skills. When you try to get hired for your next job, your new perspective client will see that you were paid significantly lower than you’re bidding on theirs. If someone told me they’d charge me $20 an hour to fix my car and I found out they’d only been getting paid $5 an hour before my job, I’d think they weren’t worth the $20 an hour. It’s very hard to get back into a normal pay scale if you start out making slave wages. Instead, I take a different route when getting started:


8. Be Honest When I finally sat down and really started trying to get jobs, and when I started to actually get them, it was because of two things: I was confident and personable, as mentioned above, and I was honest about my Odesk inexperience. I would say something to the tune of “Hey, I know I don’t have any ratings on here yet. I’m new to Odesk so I’m still in the process of building hours. However, I’ve been doing freelance graphic design for over 5 years. I know what I’m doing and I’m charging the going rate for the skill. I am happy to provide more examples of my work if it would make you more confident in my abilities.”


Well, that’s it. That’s my list of tips to help you get started making some money on the road! I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a little frustrating and time-consuming at first. I was disheartened enough to abandon my Odesk profile for almost 5 months once I returned home from traveling last year. But then I sat down, assessed what I was doing wrong and came up with a plan to make it work. That was a month ago…this week I made over $400 USD on logo designs alone! You can too. No excuses. Get out and travel!


If you’d like some more ideas for making money while traveling—specifically if you want to ditch the computer and experience the local culture while you’re earning cash—you can check out this great list of Runaway Backpacker Jobs by Leif of The Runaway Guide!


Have you used Odesk or Elance? Do you have any other good tips for readers?  Leave them in the comments below or visit me on Facebook and Twitter!


Peace and Happy Travels,



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