Saturday, April 23, 2011

9 Reasons Successful Freelancers Abroad Get a Real Job First

Recently, I was freelancing at an ad agency in Switzerland when we needed another English copywriter for a project. A staff art director asked me to call a copywriter based in Tuscany. Why? He had worked with him before.

So this writer in Tuscany made good money writing remotely from his Tuscan villa. In other words, living the writer’s dream.

But how does one successfully accomplish this lifestyle?

By taking a real job first.

The big question for most freelancers is how to get work. And the big answer? Through contacts. In my experience, the best freelance jobs have come through people I’ve met in Switzerland—local people in my industry.

But when you move to a new country, you probably know very few people (if any). And while some freelancers who live in relatively inexpensive countries can afford to live in a bubble and write for contacts back in their home country, those of us in expensive places like Switzerland (and with home countries whose currencies have been declining in value) need local jobs that pay in local dollars to make ends meet.

So where to start? How about with a real job? Below are nine reasons someone who wants to be a freelancer abroad should get a real job in their desired country first:

1. You’ll obtain industry contacts and get to know the locals on a first name basis. When you go freelance, it will be these very people who recommend you for jobs.

2. You’ll have a proven track record—and not just in your home country. You will be known as the local, international writer.

3. You’ll get a work permit. Many countries have policies that only issue work permits to people who have employers willing to apply for them. Switzerland is one of these countries. If you find a real job, you’ll get the coveted work permit you’ll need to freelance later.

4. You’ll build up a nest egg in local currency and be able to guard against exchange rate fluctuations. For example, if I had only been depending on income/savings in American dollars, I would be in trouble. The dollar has declined about 37% against the Swiss Franc since I moved here five years ago. Ouch. (And another reason to not depend just on jobs from your home country.

5. If you land the job before you move, your moving expenses may be paid for.

6. You’ll understand the local business culture before you go out on your own. For example, do you address people by first names or only very formally? Do you come to the meeting exactly on time or fashionably late? Do you shake hands? How fast do people work? How does one answer the phone?

7. You’ll know what to charge. Chances are, you’ll have worked with other freelancers and have a knowledge of salaries and day/hourly rates. For example, an American just moving to Switzerland may think the equivalent of $25 an hour sounds pretty good. Until they learn that’s what the grocery clerks earn.

7. You’ll understand how people market themselves and how to present yourself both online and with your CV-resume. For example, in many European countries, you are required to list your birthday, nationality, and also include a photo of yourself on your CV.

9. By getting a real job, you’ll learn the local language in a way that working from your apartment all day long just won’t let you accomplish.

What do you think? If you’re a freelancer abroad, did you get a real job first? If so, did it help you later as a freelancer?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Guest Post: What to do if you lose a passport while traveling overseas

by Ripley Daniels

Losing your U.S. passport can truly be a nightmare but imagine how much worse it would be to lose it while vacationing overseas. Every year, thousands of American travelers misplace their passports while traveling abroad so it's best to have a plan of action just in case you lose your passport on your next international trip.
  • Step #1. Find out where the U.S. Embassy is located in the country where you are currently vacationing. A quick way to find out the locations of the various U.S. Embassies around the world is by visiting

  • Step #2. As soon as you figure out the location of the U.S. Embassy, you need to make an emergency appointment to get a replacement U.S. passport. Most U.S. Embassies don't allow walk-in appointments.

  • Step #3. In order to expedite your emergency appointment, be prepared to bring with you or fill out the following documents; a completed DS-64 which is the form for the lost/stolen passport and a completed DS-11 which is the form for the new U.S. passport. If you have access to the internet, you can download these forms and fill them out before your appointment. In regards to supporting documents, you will need to have a valid U.S. Birth Certificate or a U.S. Naturalization Certificate and a form of identification i.e. driver's license, state ID, US Government ID or a Military ID.

  • Step #4. Most American travelers don't travel with their birth certificates so it is best that you make sure your birth certificate is somewhere close where a family member or friend can locate it and Fed-Ex it to you for overnight delivery.

  • Step #5. After you have submitted all of your documentation, you will need to pay the appropriate fee in order to obtain the limited U.S. passport. The fees for the limited US passport are as follows:

    • U.S. Passport New - $135

    • U.S. Passport Renewal - $110

    • U.S. Minor Passport - $105

    • Add Visa Pages - $85

    Most U.S. Embassies takes all major credit cards, cash, traveler's checks, money orders and banker's drafts, however no personal checks are allowed.

  • Step #6. Depending on the schedule at the U.S. Embassy, you may receive your limited validity U.S. passport on the same day or within one business day. This passport is only good for one year and will need to be renewed and replaced with a traditional 10-year passport once you have returned back to the United States.

    Ripley Daniels is an editor at Without The Stress, a passport, travel visa, and immigration advisory firm located in Los Angeles.


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