Adventure, Business, New Orleans, Writing

Adjusting to a New Life

Image by Lucia Whittaker

I don’t usually talk about finances.

It seems too personal, and for me it changes so often it’s hard to know what to say. But travel and adventure bloggers need to be honest about this topic. A lot of blogs exist just to convince you how easy it will be to travel the world—if you buy their product.

By policy, I no longer run affiliate links on Rogue Priest. I have no product for you.

I’ve worked on a freelance basis for over a year. I last had a full time job in August 2011. I don’t regret leaving my job, but it hasn’t been all mojitos and lattes, either.

The way I make money is by writing ad copy, PR pieces and press releases. This is surprisingly fun work. I’m fortunate to be able to do it.

But it’s not consistent.

A Penny a Word

When I started I was paid $4 per article. These were short articles, but still—you have to write a lot to make a living wage at that rate. I ate into my savings, chalked it up to “getting started” and soldiered on.

As my reputation grew, so did my pay. It’s not uncommon for me to earn $50-70 an hour. That sounds fantastic, but how many hours a week do I work? If clients slow down, maybe four. Maybe none.

While bicycling I set aside 2 – 3 days per week for writing. Often, people were amazed and impressed that I worked on the road. I guess they figured only wealthy people can travel like that. When they discovered I worked for a living, it changed their attitude toward me—sometimes substantially.

(I continue to find this unsettling, by the way. What if I was rich? I wouldn’t be worth talking to?)

During those 2 – 3 days I had to do client work, blog posts, columns, and work on my books and personal projects. My total income declined, but it wasn’t a problem: expenses were so low while living on a bicycle that I actually came out ahead.

Then came New Orleans.

I knew I’d need to work more to cover the cost of rent, groceries, utilities, and all the other realities of having a fixed home again. But while expenses rose sharply, my income hasn’t. It takes time to build up a strong client base, and some reliable clients are in a slow spell of their own. Is this is the life of a freelancer?

I think many travel bloggers find themselves in this circumstance. Most don’t talk about it, because it’s bad for business. They’re supposed to look successful and carefree. But whether they do freelance work of their own or promote product after product, it’s a tenuous and unstable line of income.

In this case, it’s landed me somewhere scary.

Clouds of Worry

November is one-half over. I have exactly one-half of what I need for monthly bills December 1. That is too close to the edge.

So this is what it means to arrive in a bohemian lifestyle. Adventure isn’t just travel. If adventure means facing fear—maybe this is it.

But an adventurer’s art is to overcome challenges, not just suffer them. One of my objectives for my time in New Orleans has to be smoothing out the business side of what I do: finding some combination of freelance and creative projects that will be reliable anywhere I go.

For the present I’m reaching out to more clients, feeling out local venues to sell my artwork, and working like mad on my novella. Want to help? You can become a patron of my work, which comes with some pretty cool benefits.

I feel like I’ve joined a long and storied lineage of writers who suffered for their art. It’s not something I chose, but it’s not something I’m afraid of either—not entirely. Amid the clouds of worry there are sometimes flashes of certainty, a strange certainty that it will all come together exactly as it should.

Is that crazy?

Or, more accurate, I should ask: is it rational?


20 thoughts on “Adjusting to a New Life

    • Acting rational, to me, means doing things that will have good consequences. I have a feeling that things will “work out,” but why? Is it just hope, and leading me to make bad choices about how to earn and spend money? Or is it a meaningful instinct, indicating that the work I’m doing is building and will pay off?

      From here it’s hard to say.

      • I don’t know… I’ve worked incredibly hard to overcome external training that my instincts are crap. Today, I tend to trust the feeling that things will work. I also live by the principle that things work out the way they’re supposed to, present circumstances to the contrary notwithstanding. I’ve learned through great trial that the ultimate result generally is one that pleases me a great deal.

  1. Well, i’m guessing you’re already cutting the things you don’t really need. Electric and stuff like that can be done without, and I can’t imagine NO is that cold in winter.

    Hate to say this man, but you might want to look into a part time job while down there if you can. I know it’s not a lot of adventure, but…you never know what you’ll find.

    Keep the faith.

    • Hate to say this man, but you might want to look into a part time job while down there if you can. I know it’s not a lot of adventure, but…you never know what you’ll find.

      I’m open to that.

      It presents an interesting quandary. My freelance work pays more than any part time job ever will; but it’s not always a reliable revenue source. Given that there are only so many hours in a week, it’s a choice between a steady small income or gambling on my own ability to find clients.

      Not an easy choice.

      • Arden says:

        That’s the quandary! I’ve done freelance, contract work, and full-time work, and they all have such serious perks and downsides! What works for you and your goals is highly contextual, I think…

        But another thing to consider is this: I’ve freelanced in writing and another field, e-Learning. Writing is, comparatively, quite difficult to make work: it’s very very saturated. There is less work available even if you can command high fees. Certain highly persistent people have succeeded, of course. But getting e-Learning jobs is such a cakewalk by comparison. The default rates are rates you generally have to fight for tooth and nail with writing, and the work is more involved, so it is more reliable/long-term. I imagine that may be the case for some other computer-based fields.

        The problem is that writing requires OpenOffice and other computer-based fields, including mine, require complicated software. I don’t know if that can be made to work when you’re traveling long distances by bike or foot..

        I’m not sure how much of a priority it is for you, right now, to present your life as a viable way to live, but this if it is a crucial part of this adventure, it makes your case all the more convincing to have struggled with this.

        • To your last point first, Arden, I think my life is closely tied up with the philosophy and, to some extent, represents what other people on this path will have to face. Overcoming this thus takes on added significance to me.

          I’d love to learn more about E-learning work. If you have any links you can share, please do.

          Thanks for such an insightful response.

  2. The more I read your blog the more charming and fascinating I find you to be.

    As most of us are challenged by finance one way or the other regardless of lifestyle, I am certain this will be prove to be a popular post.

    I too chooseto not write about the “f” word, but the truth of it is that it is currently a major cloud of worry (this year more than ever) and reading your take on it brought me comfort.

    I wish that the words I write bring comfort to people also. And I hope that there is someone that brings you comfort too.

    • I’m glad it’s comforting in some way. Financial concern is almost universal. I see that more and more. Even though I have been an independent, working adult ever since college, I’m starting to realize how sheltered I really was. I expect I’ll only see this more and more when I leave the country.

      In some way, undesired, I’ve ended up right in the middle of the human condition.

  3. nickiofcourse says:

    It is interesting, isn’t it, that just like Setken said, most people struggle at some point, with finances. Hell, people don’t even need to be living on the road for it to happen!
    Here is how I look at it. When it happens over here in Nickiland, I decide that it’s making me look to see if I’m seriously convicted about whatever it is that is causing the brokeness. Was the thing I overspent on worth it? (that usually never happens anyway, being as I’m about as *amish* as I can get in my circumstances) Do I REALLY want to continue doing whatever I’m doing?
    In your case, you get to look around you and yell to the universe I AM ADVENTURER, HEAR ME ROAR! and “CLIENTS, I SHALL HAVE, MORE THAN I KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH AND I WILL NEVER FEEL UNABUNDANT FINANCIALLY AGAIN!” Plus, if I was a bettin’ girl, I would bet that by simply putting it out there like you did, you will soon meet some (non) soul who you resonate with so strongly that you will practically be able to see into the future. And some new amazing partnership will form, and some of your fantastic writing and artwork will be publicized and bought, or some such. Get ready, I can feel it coming!
    What also helps, even though you didn’t ask, is to count those blessings. The roof, the friends, the music, the sky, the dirt, the shower, the toothpaste, the toilet paper, the whatever. Sometimes I love my own Taking-It-All-For-Granted moments, but mostly I find myself just blown away by how many things have come together just right to make any of this, and all of this possible at all.
    CARRY ON, CHIN UP, HANDS OUT. Receive your gifts as you give them!

    • you will soon meet some (non) soul who you resonate with

      Hahaha, Oh Nicki, I laughed so much at this. I think this might be the very first inside Rogue Priest joke ever to appear in a reader comment.

      Also, thank you so much for what you wrote here. It matters to me, a lot, and you really do help me with perspective.

  4. nickiofcourse says:

    I have to admit that I giggled when I wrote it too. :) Can’t wait to hear about …everything that happens next! Happy Sunday!

  5. Rua Lupa says:

    I hope things stabilize for you and your creature comforts are met.

    I really appreciate your honesty of your situation – it is really refreshing.

    I also wonder at the whole wealth judgment thing too. For me, its all in how you go about having wealth that draws my perspective on it. I know folks from throughout the spectrum of income and in the circles I run in they all tend to be earthy folk and use their income in response to that outlook. Seeing how their wealth is distributed within this spectrum with a highly similar outlook I find fascinating. Depending on how much money you can spread around, are the priorities the same? Are there different expectations of others? How do you contribute to your community, if at all? I just enjoy learning what makes people tick and tick differently from one another and I can’t deny that money can play a big role in this from personal experience.

    There is a common overarching perspective from the lower middle class and lower that those above are frivolous with money. In that they don’t think too much about where their money is going and have no excuses for the money troubles they get themselves into – if they do have any. Causing lack of sympathy, feeling justified in leaving those who have gotten themselves in trouble to deal with it on their own.

    For your circumstantial example, it appears that the view is only wealthy people can just up and travel where ever they want, how ever they want – especially when its unconventional. Possibly because wealth implies they don’t have to work 2 or more jobs or a highly time demanding job to just get by. Which means, a) they have more time to actually conceive of doing something other than make ends meet, b) Are able to financially get the equipment needed to achieve what is wanted, and c) to pay for and have time to get the training they need to accomplish the activities they want to do. It is not much different from the nobles of the 16th-18th Century being primarily the only ones that were able to do what they wanted because they simply had the time to do it. While every one else was working because they had to to get by. It is only fairly recently that technology has made travel and making ends meet at the same time more possible. So it is not difficult to see that this perception of travel for self = wealthy is something that just has to take time to change because it simply has been the case for so long.

  6. Morpheus Ravenna says:

    Hey Drew,
    I don’t have any answers really. Rational? Maybe. I am fond of the philosophy that the Gods favor the bold. I think you’re doing the right thing. Your post reminded me that I’d wanted to send in a contribution as a patron, so I just did that. It isn’t much, but as another priest and creative person hoping to make my way in the world through arts and spiritual work, I feel we need to support each other.
    May your road rise to meet you!

    • Thank you so much for your patron gift, Morpheus.

      Your words mean a lot to me. “I am fond of the philosophy that the Gods favor the bold. I think you’re doing the right thing.” This is a rare injection of reassurance and it comes at a decisive time. Thank you… I’m glad you’re here.

  7. Pingback: In the Morning I Panic «   Rogue Priest

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