I've written for Webflow from Paris, New York, and a beer festival in southern Germany. While working full-time. But I haven’t been making work/life compromises.
If earning money while traveling the world appeals to you, then I'm writing this to convince you to take the plunge.
If you’re a designer working as a full-time employee, maybe you need convincing — I’m here to do that too. If you’re already a full-on freelancer, maybe you'll pick up a few new ideas.
The really good news is that, if you’re a web designer, you have it far easier than most other professions. Why? Because your skills are in demand. Every business needs and wants a site. Your web design skills can be used on short-term projects or for ongoing, long-term work. This means you can coordinate the types of freelancing contracts you take to fit your travel schedule.
And since everything relating to web design is web-based anyway, you don’t need to be in any particular location for a set amount of time.
The benefits of freelancing are all about freedom:
Freedom from commuting – save yourself the cost, stress, and time of commuting.
Freedom to choose who you work with – avoid office drama.
Freedom of schedule – work when you want, as much as you want.
Freedom of location – work wherever you want, in whatever space you want.
Let’s see if I can convince you to take the plunge.
The average commute to work in the US is 50 minutes a day. Working from home saves you more than 5 full working weeks per year ... spent alone in your car or crammed on public transit like a sardine.
I propose using those 50 extra minutes a day to actually work. And then take the 5 weeks you saved to travel the world. The math just makes sense!
Commuting can also be harmful to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It increases your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, depression, back pain, anxiety, and reduces the quality of your sleep. I sound like a drug commercial, but I’m not exaggerating.
And commuting is expensive. The average cost of car ownership in the US is around $8,776 per year. If your city has great public transit or a good “walkability” score, you could ditch this expense and put it towards a more centrally located apartment. Or a vacation. (I keep mentioning vacations because you should be taking them!) I recently spent 7 months backpacking throughout 17 countries on 3 continents. That was certainly more memorable than owning a Ford Focus.
I work full-time while traveling. For me, and for many others, this is by far the most attractive aspect of the freelancer lifestyle: being remote.
I could work from my home in Canada, a Parisian cafe, or a beach bungalow in Thailand. As a freelancer, you get the best of both worlds. You get to explore different cuisines and cultures, make diverse friends from around the world, and immerse yourself in alternative ways of life. All while earning money to pay for it. And if you’re from a more developed region, you can easily find relatively inexpensive countries to live in. This means you get to pocket a lot of extra income.
For example, if you currently live in New York, spending time in a city like Budapest would result in a 72% cost reduction. Earning $1,400 per month there would support the same standard of living you had in New York costing you $5,000 per month.
Not bad for living in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I bet there are also quite a few things you’d love to do with that $3,600 per month in savings.
For those wanting to work away from home, cafes are a common option for workspaces, but co-work locations are my preference. They're great for meeting other interesting and motivated people, and generally only cost a couple hundred dollars per month. This fee often covers desk space, monitor usage, high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and full-time access. You don’t need to bring anything else with you.
No matter how great a job is, there’s usually someone at the office you'd just rather not have in your life. This person might be your boss or the coworker two desks over. Colleagues are generally the people we interact with the most in life, so why do we leave it to someone else to decide who they are?
Luckily, as a freelancer, you get to choose everyone you work and interact with. If they annoy you, just break ties and move on. Life is too short to waste your energy dealing with people you don’t like.
And you shouldn’t have to listen to endless stories about people’s pets, or be repeatedly interrupted by unsatisfied coworkers looking for an excuse to procrastinate. It’s killing your productivity and enjoyment of your work (and not to mention your life)!
When you're freelancing, no one is there to tell you how many hours you have to work — it’s up to you. If you want to save for a house or an extended holiday, you're free to work more than the standard 40-hour week. If you want time to write a book or explore cities, you can work less. It’s up to you.
You can also choose what time of day, and even which days, you work. I enjoy the flexibility of making myself a nice lunch, having coffee with a friend, or going for a run whenever I feel like it. I also enjoy being able to take a long weekend here or there to camp with friends without having to clear it with a boss.
Remember, freelancing doesn’t mean you have to be traveling. There’s nothing wrong with staying home. If you have a family, freelancing still means you can easily make time to attend your kid's events and go for ice cream, without giving your coworkers an excuse.
If you’re single — like me — you can be home to feed and love your cat. Mittens Jr. will love you for it.
Not only can you save money by getting rid of your car or by living in less expensive countries, you can also earn more as a freelancer.
The average salary of a full-time, desk-sitting web designer in the US is $66,000. This ranges from interns earning little more than minimum wage to senior designers in San Francisco earning over $120,000. Regardless, $66k USD is much lower than what a skilled, confident, smart designer can make per year as even a moderately successful freelancer. (Read "How to find freelance design work" for more on that.)
A fairly junior web designer can charge $50 an hour for their services. That’s already over $100,000 per year. An experienced designer can get up to $100 per hour or more — which brings us to at least $200,000 per year. If you use a site builder like Webflow to speed up your workflow, and continue to charge at market rates, you could earn even more.
Yeah, that’s a brash plug for Webflow, but it’s the truth. Most Webflow users are professional designers and businesspeople. We rely on Webflow as our exclusive means of designing professional sites because it makes prototyping, designing, pushing to production, and team collaboration way quicker.
Considering your happiness peaks at around $75,000 a year, you might want to consider working part-time and using the extra 20 hours a week pursuing other passions. Or sleeping — I hear that’s pretty good for your health too.
As a freelancer, you’re in charge — of almost everything. You make all your work decisions, including who your clients and coworkers are, where and when you work, which software you use, and how much vacation time you get and when you take it.
The only other person you need to consider and listen to is your client, and you get to choose them too. But remember, once you have chosen them, you need to listen to and respect them. Your clients are your business — without them, you’re unemployed. Just choose wisely and you should be fine.
More than fine, you’ll be a freelancer.