When I left my job in June 2017, I had a plan in mind. I wanted to take a break, work in a Himalayan NGO and then return with a fresh perspective for a new job inside a new cubicle.
So what when wrong/right that I am still on road, traveling covering one destination after another?
A lot of things happened that shaped my journey the way it is going on today. If you are thinking that I collaborated with brands and hotels for free stay then you are wrong. I mean look at my Instagram followers!
When I resigned from my job, I went straight to Dharmashala and joined Waste Warriors as a volunteer. I realized that NGOs keep getting applications from those who are interested in field work but hardly anyone provides any other skill. I joined Waste Warriors Dharamshala as their content manager and in return I got a chance to join the field teams on their cleaning expeditions. If you were thinking that joining a Himalayan NGO was a free pass to all my problems then imagine carrying a 10 kg bag filled with plastic bottles thrown in every nook and corner of the region’s trekking trail. Doesn’t sound like a free pass now, eh!
Time went by and I decided to give a chance to another lifelong dream of mine. I always wanted to work in Ladakh and learn more about Snow Leopards. So I joined another NGO, again as a content writer. As a reward I got to visit an untouched Ladakhi village on a field trip.
But when you are hopping between Himachal and Ladakh, NGOs don’t cover for your stay and food and transport unless you are going on a field trip. I made sure that I keep earning as I travel.
Being a content writer helps. My experience with digital media industry helped me more. I was soon pitching to brands with proposals to manage their content. This included their blogs, SEO, webs pages, if it was a travel company then I also provided services like itinerary planning. Even during this time, I didn’t think about getting my travel sponsored. I guess self-respect and not surviving on Parle-g and tea was more important than getting a night stay for free in some local stay home. I did experience this style of traveling when I was in my 20s and it lost its fun with the arrival of social media.
Slow but steady growth
It took time for my work to start. I began with two clients, an Indian travel company and a perfume manufacturing company from USA. I made sure that I charge at-least INR 1 per word for my articles. The clients that couldn’t afford it were free to leave. The work was good but the money was often scarce. I was on a verge of giving up and taking a full time job in December.
In November, after a little to and fro, I managed to get a blog contract for another travel company and soon two another contracts happened. My Instagram followers crossed 4k but by this time I realized how pretentious that world was, I lost my interest in any sort of collaboration.
December was the first month when I got my paycheck at a time when my earnings from November were still safe. I had travelled to Cherrapunjee and was moving towards Rajasthan in a few days. The first thing I did was to book AC tickets for all the trains that I was traveling on.
And Then Came The Photography Gig
December was also the time when I got my first photography assignment. I had a DSLR but it was just because travel articles look more authentic with self-clicked photographs. I had already done a small photography project in Guwahati but somehow I cracked another project for a luxury hotel launch near Mandawa. It paid better than any of my content works but it involved so much running that I didn’t take any further assignment. Photography gigs are not something to be done alone, you need an assistant and next time when I get one, I’ll make sure that I am ready with my team.
This was the time when I decided to stop pitching to get new clients and get my travel articles published on prestigious platforms. I was now pitching to newspapers and magazines. With help of some established travel bloggers, I learned the perfect way to approach a publication and get the idea for your article across. The first platform that published my article was Manorama Online, soon my work was in print, Spice Jet’s In-flight magazine published my Kila Raipur story.
The Negative Side Of Freelancing
While the work is good, as a freelancer you are never sure when your clients go away. My job gives me freedom to work from anywhere but at times traveling gives you stress and you are not able to deliver the expected result. Despite all the shiny and glittery stuff, there are clients who’ll approach you with offers of paying INR 100 for a 500 word article. I always wonder if I should just say no or give them a mouthful. There are some small time clients that have not made payment in last two months, another client gave article credit to someone else. It is a huge ordeal to send a mail and then wait for their reply. The feeling of giving up is always there.
Tips On Earning While Traveling
You don’t need to be a freelance writer or a photographer to get yourself going. Today, there are NGOs that require staff on full time basis, Hotels and hostels that require artists and even managers. While freelancing in India does take its time to get you established, my experience guarantee that in 4 to 5 months you’ll get a nice gig to sustain yourself. The demand for social media managers is at an all-time high. Recently I met a digital nomad who was providing physiological consultation in schools, another digital nomad was working with music festivals to sign up artists on a better deal. I know of a person who develops mobile apps while living in an exotic location or another for some time and then moving on. Many freelancers work at one location for three to four months and then go on month long backpacking trips. Freelance web designers are paid even better than writers but their work requires more commitment. You need to identify your jam and then make a move for it.
Patience Is The Key
It will take a lot of time. If you count the period since I am traveling, it took me at-least 5 years to get myself established. I have lost multiple social media campaigns because I don’t have Instagram followers the way these companies desire. Slowly, even I lost my interest with the kind of campaign suggestions I was getting and now I keep my expectations low. There are a majority of Indian sites for freelancing where you can keep pitching as per your interest and see how it turns out.
For me, it is not just about going to places and clicking nice pictures. I need to stay loyal to my clients and give them the product on the desired time and quality. In the lack of both, I’ll lose everything I have created and soon I’ll have to move to another cubicle job.
Feel free to come up with your queries and I’ll try to help you find a solution for the same.