Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Financial Realities of being a Writer Abroad

You know how sometimes when you're in the U.S. and you call a toll-free number, someone answers that you can barely understand because you've actually just called halfway around the world?

Well, the reality is, that travel blog about London might be written by some guy living in Mumbai. That piece about the Paris metro? Written by someone in China. Why is this, when there are all of these wonderful writers living abroad in the cities people want to read about?

Financial realities. The companies running these sites (sorry, not naming names here) want the information about cities like Paris, Zurich, and London. But they don't want to pay the prices that writers living in these places need to survive. It's globalization at its finest. And sometimes as writers abroad, we lose.

For example, let's talk about living in Switzerland because that's where I live. Switzerland is an expensive place. If you don't believe me, try going to the Subway sandwich chain that just opened in my little town. The price of a foot-long value meal? $18.

Ok, so if I have to pay $18 for lunch, do you think I'm going to want to write about Switzerland for a travel blog that pays its writers $6 a post? No way. I'd make more money working as a cashier at the grocery store, because they make $20 an hour.

But if I write a blog post for a proper Swiss company, what can I expect? About $110 a post.

Before you start planning your move to Switzerland, remember: yes, you can make a decent wage writing for Swiss companies. But when you start freelancing for places outside of Switzerland, suddenly the wages you're making will barely pay for your lunch.

Something to consider before we all start moving to Panama.


  1. GREAT advice. People don't realize that outsourcing can apply to them as writers, not just when they call customer service.

    It's both cost of living and how much can you earn in your ex-pat home.

  2. Thanks, glad you found it helpful.

  3. I'm thinking "$18 foot-long" isn't as catchy a jingle as the $5 U.S. version.

  4. Hi Erika,
    No, definitely not. Especially because we'd have to translate it into four languages besides.

  5. I've known about the outsourcing of writing for awhile, but the thought of it never ceases to sadden me.

  6. It is sad to think that you can outsource creativity and writing to the lowest bidder. Luckily I think the result of hiring unqualified people usually shows.

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