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?

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