Monday, August 29, 2011

5 Reason Why You Should Become an Expat Freelancer

(© IKO -

Well, hello there!  Yes, I’m back after a 3-month hiatus.  That’s right – I took 3 months off from posting and I’m walking right back in here, unashamed. 

I know all the social media gurus say that taking such a break is to commit social media suicide.  That I should at least arrange to throw some old content or some guest posts in my absence.  And I daresay they’re right.  But the Expat Freelancer blog isn’t Copyblogger. And while part of me wishes that I was mistress of all that brilliant content and had an audience that runs in the tens of thousands, the other part of me is happy that I can sneak away for a nice long summer break, lounging on the beaches of Corsica and Narragansett, without feeling guilty or stressed.  

This is the beauty of being an expat freelancer.  As an expat, I have adopted that French “give me vacation or give me death” mentality.  As a freelancer, I can indulge it.  (Not that I didn’t continue to work some while I was away.  An expat freelancer at home has to take advantage of the situation, especially if you target American magazines and clients.) Okay, yes, my beach reading did the latest edition of Peter Bowerman’s “The Well-Fed Writer.”  And yes, I did outline a novel.  But none of that felt like work. Can I help that my work is also my passion?

At the moment, I’m feeling so satisfied with life as both an expat and a freelancer that I thought I’d kick of the new season of this blog with 5 reasons why being an expat freelancer totally rocks.  If you’ve been dreaming about writing abroad, maybe this will spur you to make a change!

Reason # 1: You get a fresh perspective…on everything.

Good writers do more than turn an elegant phrase; they offer a new perspective or insight to their readers. As an expat freelancer, you get new perspectives and insights in spades.  Everything from driving on a highway to standing at a bus stop can be a cultural revelation – and potential copy. Even now, I'm working on an essay about my trip to the local Stop & Shop when I was at home in the U.S.  Did anything special happen there?  Not really. But as I wandered the huge aisles, wide-eyed as a refugee, picking up tons of stuff didn't need, I suddenly had a perfect understanding of that mixture of awe and distaste that many Europeans have toward America. What an enormous, greedy, fabulous country. 

Reason #2:  You’ve got instant entry into travel writing
It’s easy to create a niche as a travel writer as an expat, even if you don’t actually travel much. Plenty of magazines and websites will pay good money for to know what’s happening in your backyard.  This is how I got my first clips as a freelancer: writing 100-word reviews of Paris attractions and restaurants.  No travel greater than a metro ride was required. 

Reason #3: Wider Client Pool
Today’s freelancer can work with clients all over the world – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to tap into a client pool in another country.  Unless you live there.  As an expat, I can market my copywriting services with facility to both France-based business as well as those in the U.S. (particularly those in my hometown).  In a sense, I’m a “local” in both locations – or at least, that’s how I spin it.

Reason #4:  Cool Office
Expat freelancers have some of the most exotic offices in the world: tropical beaches, mountaintops, or, in my case, sweet little Parisian cafés.  And if I chose to work at home? I’ve got a kick-ass view of the Seine and La Conciergerie, the tower in which Marie Antoinette was imprisoned.  I admit, I often take the beauty and history of my adopted city for granted, but when I remember, it gives me a shiver of pleasure, privilege and gratitude.  (But you know what? When I’m in the U.S., writing at my favorite Starbucks, I’m pretty thrilled too.)

Reason #5: Positive influence of local customs 
As an American it’s hard to turn off that compulsion to always be productive, to never be caught slacking.  But, as I noted in the intro to this post, living in France has been a good influence in that way. For better or worse, here, there’s no shame in just kicking back and enjoying life at the expense of productivity.  I have no doubt that my work-life balance is more evenly distributed than it would be if I lived in the U.S.  I guess you could say that being an expat helps puts the “free” in freelancer.  (Sorry – couldn’t resist!)   Just make sure you chose to reside in a country more laid-back than the one you live in!
Are you an expat freelancer? What do you love about your career/lifestyle choice?


  1. Another reason if you're a U.S. Citizen is that you get a huge tax break. The first $91,000+ of your earned income is excluded from U.S. Federal Income taxes.

    I totally agree with the different perspective. I married a lady from Belgium and we live in Germany, near the French border. We LOVE Paris and thought about moving there (it's only 4 hours from our home).

    Thanks for the great article!

  2. Hi Tom - still has to pay taxes in France. Even with the exclusion, it doesn't amount to much of a tax break. If you're pleased with your tax situation in Germany, you'd probably be better off staying there! ;-)

    Then again, Paris is Paris. Hope you make it over, if you love it. Thanks for reading!

  3. How does one attain 'freelance' status in France? What are the costs involved? I'm looking to work as a creative in advertising agencies. I really want to be hired permanently, but for the time being, a week here and there freelancing sounds like a great gig, except for the associations I am supposedly supposed to join to do it. It seems they are very expensive and I the web sites are incredibly difficult to navigate, and that's even before I go and try to deal with the French bureaucracy. Please give me any and all advice you can. Thank you so so much. All the best to you and your blog. :)

  4. Hi Jennie -

    Thanks for your comments. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond! I know of no associations you need to join to become a freelancer. If you're allowed to work legally in France, you can easily and quickly declare yourself as a "auto-entrepreneur." It costs virtually nothing to declare yourself and there's a guide (in English) that explains who is eligible, how to apply and your responsibilities as an auto-entrepreneur. Here's a link to the site with the guide: And here's a link to the auto-entrepreneur site:

    Within a week or two after declaring yourself, you'll receive a SIRET number, which is your identification number. It's really extremely simple!

    Good luck!

  5. I have got a lot of reasons to become an expat, just a few things get in the way. My biggest concern is what to do about overseas medical insurance, is this something that should be sorted out a long time in advance?

  6. Hi, Great Post

    While most of us hanker after a foreign holiday now and then, the opportunity to work abroad might just be the best way to kill two birds with one stone.

    More of my thoughts on this link...

    Keep rocking!


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